Will division opponents gain on 49ers? NFC West free-agent shopping list

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Los Angeles Rams coach Sean McVay and GM Les Snead believe they are ready for a deep postseason run after guiding the franchise to a playoff berth few NFL observers expected in a rebuilding year.

After spending last year purging bloated veteran salaries to get below the salary cap and leaning on a younger roster, the Rams currently sit at nearly $30 million below the projected salary cap of $255 million. They are ready to make some splashy deals in free agency.

“The goal was always [to] get back to the point where we had draft capital, where we had salary cap space,” Rams COO Kevin Demoff said. “We had flexibility to allow Sean and Les to do what they do best, which is dream big, get crazy and have an offseason. So, we sit at the precipice of that.”

Added Snead: “We like to attack. We believe in being aggressive. Hopefully, there’s some reason there.”

The Rams will have competition for players on the open market from division opponents, with the Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks among the top half of the league in salary cap space, while the San Francisco 49ers are attempting to reload for another Super Bowl run despite being near the bottom in cap space. 

Here’s a look at where each NFC West team sits at the start of the NFL’s legal tampering period and the free agents who would be a fit.

Arizona Cardinals
Cap space: $56 million (according to Overthecap.com)
Pending free agents: LB Krys Barnes, LS Aaron Brewer, WR Marquise Brown, C Trystan Colon, C Pat Elflein, CB Rashad Fenton, DT Leki Fotu, CB Antonio Hamilton, RB Marlon Mack, TE Geoff Swaim, LB Ezekiel Turner, DE Carlos Watkins, OL Elijah Wilkinson, LB Josh Woods, C Keith Ismael (restricted free agent), DE Jonathan Ledbetter (exclusive rights free agent) 
Signings: DE L.J. Collier (one-year deal), WR Greg Dortch (exclusive rights tender)
Needs: DE, CB, WR, OL, DT

Players who make sense for Cardinals

DT Christian Wilkins: The Cardinals lost interior defensive linemen J.J. Watt to retirement and Zach Allen to the Denver Broncos in free agency last season and never replaced that production up front. Wilkins is the best defensive tackle on the market and would provide an effective inside pass rush for head coach Jonathan Gannon’s defense. 

Where will Kirk Cousins, Christian Wilkins, other free agents land?

Where will Kirk Cousins, Christian Wilkins, other free agents land?

CB Kendall Fuller: The Commanders corner provides versatility, with the ability to play nickel defender and on the perimeter. At 29 years old and with 16 career interceptions, Fuller still has some gas left in the tank. 

WR K.J. Osborn: He played four seasons with the Minnesota Vikings and turns 27 in June. Osborn is familiar with offensive coordinator Drew Petzing’s scheme and provides depth as a back-end roster guy in the receiving room who can work the middle of the field. However, Osborn did have a career-high seven drops in 2023.

Los Angeles Rams
Cap space: $29 million
Pending free agents: C Brian Allen, OL Tremayne Anchrum, S Jordan Fuller, TE Brycen Hopkins, S John Johnson, DL Larrell Murchison, LB Troy Reeder, CB Duke Shelley, QB Carson Wentz, CB Ahkello Witherspoon, WR Austin Trammell (exclusive rights free agent), DE Jonah Williams (restricted free agent), LB Christian Rozeboom (restricted free agent), OT Alaric Jackson (restricted free agent), DL Michael Hoecht (restricted free agent)
Signings: OL Kevin Dotson (three years, $48 million), WR Demarcus Robinson (one year, $5 million)
Needs: C, CB, OLB, RB 

Players who make sense for Rams

OLB Leonard Floyd: Before spending last season with the Bills, Floyd his three most productive NFL seasons with the Rams, totaling 29 sacks and earning a Super Bowl ring. Playing next to Aaron Donald, the 31-year-old Floyd could once again be an effective player for the Rams in obvious pass situations. 

CB Darious Williams: Like Floyd, Williams had some of his best years with the Rams before playing for Jacksonville and is familiar with L.A.’s scheme.

OLB Danielle Hunter: Securing perhaps the top edge rusher on the market would send a strong message that the Rams believe they are ready to chase a Super Bowl. 

QB Sam Darnold: The addition of Darnold would provide the Rams a veteran backup to Matthew Stafford who is familiar with McVay’s scheme. 

San Francisco 49ers
Cap space: -$285,000
Pending free agents: QB Brandon Allen, DT Arik Armstead, LB Oren Burks, WR Chris Conley, QB Sam Darnold, TE Ross Dwelley, OL Jon Feliciano, DE Clelin Ferrell, LB Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles, S Tashaun Gipson, DT Kevin Givens, DE Randy Gregory, DT Sebastian Joseph-Day, DT Javon Kinlaw, WR Ray-Ray McCloud, CB Terrance Mitchell, OL Matt Pryor, DB Logan Ryan, TE Charlie Woerner, DE Chase Young, WR Jauan Jennings (restricted free agent). 
Signings: DL Earnest Brown IV (one-year deal), DL Raymond Johnson III (one-year deal), G/C Ben Bartch (one-year deal)
Needs: CB, OL, DL, LB, WR

Players who make sense for 49ers

CB Adoree Jackson: The 49ers could use an experienced cornerback to play nickel defender, and the USC product could be that guy for San Francisco. 

LB Troy Reeder: Smart, serviceable backup linebacker who can start in a pinch and knows the NFC West well from his time playing in Los Angeles. Brandon Staley, recently added to the Rams’ coaching staff, is familiar with Reeder from his time with the Rams and Chargers. 

DT Shelby Harris: Defensive line coach Kris Kocurek could get Harris to play at a productive level as a rotational lineman. The 49ers must find players to help replace the production lost by veteran Arik Armstead, who asked for his release rather than take a reported significant reduction from his $17.4 million salary for the 2024 season. At 30 years old, Armstead hits a hot free-agent market for defensive tackles. 

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Seattle Seahawks
Cap space: $42 million
Pending free agents: S Jamal Adams, LB Nick Bellore, LB Jordyn Books, OL Evan Brown, LB Devin Bush, RB DeeJay Dallas, S Quandre Diggs, TE Will Dissly, DE Mario Edwards, TE Noah Fant, OL Phil Haynes, OL Damien Lewis, QB Drew Lock, DT Bryan Mone, TE Colby Parkinson, LB Bobby Wagner, DL Leonard Williams, OLB Darrell Taylor (restricted free agent), CB Michael Jackson (restricted free agent), OL Jake Curhan (exclusive rights free agent), DT Myles Adams (exclusive rights free agent), DE Joshua Onujiogu (exclusive rights free agent), TE Brady Russell (exclusive rights free agents).
Needs: LB, S, WR, OL, DL, TE

Players who make sense for Seahawks

LB Patrick Queen: GM John Schneider appears to have moved on from Bobby Wagner and Jordyn Brooks, so it only makes sense for new head coach Mike Macdonald to add a player to Seattle’s defense who knows his system from Baltimore. 

S Geno Stone: The Seahawks released Diggs and Adams, so adding a player in the back end like Stone who is familiar with Macdonald’s scheme would benefit the transition in Seattle.

Edge Kyle Van Noy: The veteran, who spent last season with the Ravens, is a smart, productive player who could be a tone-setter for Macdonald in the locker room.

Eric D. Williams has reported on the NFL for more than a decade, covering the Los Angeles Rams for Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Chargers for ESPN and the Seattle Seahawks for the Tacoma News Tribune. Follow him on Twitter at @eric_d_williams.

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