Barnwell’s NFC West report cards: 49ers’ rebuild on schedule?

It’s time to reflect on the 2017 offseason. There are a few stray veterans left in the free-agent pool, and teams could still execute something unexpected if injuries arise, but organizations have mostly closed their checkbooks and built the rosters they will take onto the field in September.

Of course, we can know only so much right now. This time last year, there was no way anybody knew that the Cowboys had drafted a franchise quarterback. Kyle Shanahan was lucky to survive the offseason in Atlanta as an offensive coordinator, let alone be considering head-coaching roles.

At the same time, we can look at what each team’s goals were (or should have been) heading into March and gain a sense of whether teams did enough to address those concerns. In most cases, we also can plot what they have to do before Week 1.

It’s time for our last divisional breakdown (see above for links to the others). Let’s head to the NFC West, where everyone is still chasing the Seahawks.

To go directly to your favorite team, click the link below:

Cardinals | Rams | 49ers | Seahawks

What Went Right

They didn’t trade Richard Sherman. After a bizarre series of months that saw the Seahawks publicly shop a 29-year-old future Hall of Famer, Seattle wasn’t able to find the sort of haul it wanted and decided to hold on to its superstar cornerback. There was never really a strong case to trade Sherman, at least at this point of his career, given the lack of cornerback depth on the Seattle roster.

It’s more plausible that the Seahawks do something about Sherman in 2018, given that he’ll be a year older and entering the final season of the four-year, $56 million extension he signed in May 2014. Seattle drafted three defensive backs in the first four rounds of this year’s draft, including UCF corner Shaquill Griffin, so it’s clear they’re at least preparing for a future after the Legion of Boom. With Kam Chancellor an unrestricted free agent after this season, it’s likely this could be the final year we see this version of the Seahawks’ defense do its thing.

The Seahawks amassed all kinds of draft picks. What was once one of the deepest rosters in football had been shredded by retirements, free agency and trades, so Seahawks general manager John Schneider went to work during the draft weekend. He repeatedly traded down in what was widely regarded to be a deep draft. In the end, Schneider dealt the 26th, 131st and 225th selections for picks 35, 95, 111, 147, 187, 243 and 249. That’s getting paid $1.50 on the dollar, per the Chase Stuart draft model. Racking up a ton of third-, fourth- and fifth-round picks doesn’t seem exciting on paper, but when you consider the Seahawks have turned those selections into guys such as Sherman, Chancellor, K.J. Wright, Tyler Lockett and Russell Wilson, the trades might seem more appealing.

What Went Wrong

The low-reward deals Schneider handed out in free agency. It’s hard to see the logic in the Seahawks handing out one-year deals to stopgaps, especially ones who might not be very good. Seattle badly needed offensive line help after seeing its line decay over the past two seasons, but the one-year, $8 million deal the Seahawks gave Luke Joeckel defied belief. Joeckel was one of the league’s worst left tackles during his time in Jacksonville and, contrary to what Tom Cable says, wasn’t very good in three games at guard before suffering a catastrophic knee injury. Seattle plans to move him back to left tackle, which seems like a passive-aggressive way of expressing anger at Wilson.

Eddie Lacy was effective last year after losing weight in Green Bay, but he also missed most of the season with a serious ankle injury and came in on a one-year, $4.3 million deal. Putting aside the obvious health risks with Lacy and Joeckel, if they actually do well, the Seahawks won’t have them under contract for any future seasons, preventing Seattle from reaping any long-term benefits unless it outbids the market again.

What’s Next?

Re-sign Justin Britt. Britt has been the lone Seahawks lineman to actually look interested in protecting Wilson at times over the past few seasons. His versatility and effectiveness at the pivot make him a valuable part of the Seattle offense. The Seahawks used a second-round pick on Ethan Pocic, who played center at LSU, but positions are an arbitrary construct on the Seattle offensive line. Pocic is going to compete for a spot at tackle, and by this time next year, Britt might be outside and Pocic might be back on the interior. It’s not worth moving on from a talented player solely because the Seahawks appear to have drafted a replacement. Britt is worth keeping around.

Grade: C

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