Will Tashaun Gipson Remain in San Francisco?
NFL Offseason - In these editions of Four Downs, we'll review the biggest hole on each team in the division and then give a short look at each team's major free agents for 2023.
Biggest Need: Offensive Line
Three starters here (left guard Justin Pugh, right guard Will Hernandez, and right tackle Kelvin Beachum) are headed for free agency. A fourth, center Rodney Hudson, will likely be cut or retire; he turns 34 in July, he has no guaranteed money left on his deal, and he has missed 18 games in the past two seasons. Presuming Hudson is gone, that would leave the following linemen signed for Arizona in 2023, in approximate order of relevance:
- D.J. Humphries, starting left tackle who missed nine games last season but is only 29 years old and is signed through 2025.
- Josh Jones, a 2020 third-rounder who has started 21 games in the past two years, mostly in place of Humphries.
- Lecitus Smith, a sixth-round rookie last season who started two games at right guard.
- Marquis Hayes, a seventh-round draft pick out of Oklahoma who spent his entire rookie season on IR with a knee injury.
- Julie'n Davenport, a former starter for the Texans, Dolphins, and Colts who was cut by the Bears (we emphasize: HE WAS CUT BY THE BEARS) in training camp and ended the year on Arizona's practice squad.
- Badara Traore, former practice squad member in Jacksonville and Arizona who has played exactly five snaps in the NFL, all on special teams.
- Lachavious Simmons, a seventh-round draft pick by the Bears in 2020 who has only played in two NFL games, both in 2021 in Chicago.
That's it. That's barely enough warm bodies to even play a game, let alone compete in the NFL. When major portions of your depth chart are composed of second-stringers from the Second City, you know you're in trouble. The Cardinals could still re-sign some of last year's starters (Beachum seems the most likely candidate), but a lot of work remains to be done.
The Cards are in the middle of the pack in cap space, but they do have the third pick in the draft. If they can find a partner, trading down to the middle of the first round would allow them to add multiple high-upside players, and Lord knows they need them.
Major Free Agents: LG Justin Pugh, K Matt Prater, RT Kelvin Beachum, CB Byron Murphy, P Andy Lee, RG Will Hernandez, LS Aaron Brewer, LG Max Garcia, DL Zach Allen, QB Trace McSorley, QB David Blough, WR Greg Dortch
Right, so … in addition to most of their offensive line, the Cardinals are on the verge of losing their No. 3 wide receiver; their No. 3 and No. 4 quarterbacks (relevant because Kyler Murray's torn ACL will keep him out until the middle of the season, and Colt McCoy is expected to miss much of the offseason after surgery); their No. 2 edge rusher; their No. 1 cornerback; and their entire special teams battery to free agency. That's not even counting the losses of their best edge rusher (J.J. Watt, retired) and wide receiver (DeAndre Hopkins, expected to be traded). Good luck, Jonathan Gannon.
Los Angeles Rams
Biggest Need: Secondary
Jalen Ramsey will probably be traded. Troy Hill and David Long will be unrestricted free agents; Grant Haley, an RFA. Those departures would leave a pair of 2022 rookies as the top corners left standing in L.A. Derion Kendrick, a sixth-round draftee who won national titles at Clemson and Georgia in college, started six games early in the year when Hill and Long were injured but was banished to special teams duties by the end of the season. Cobie Durant, a fourth-rounder out of South Carolina State, went the other direction: nearly all of his playing time came after Thanksgiving, but he still led the NFL with 151 yards on interception returns, most of which came on an 85-yard pick-six in the Christmas Day massacre against Denver. Not bad, as Day 3 rookies go, but not the experience or pedigree you're looking for over a full season.
Oh, and starting safeties Taylor Rapp and Nick Scott? Yeah, they're free agents too. Should they leave, Jordan Fuller would presumably replace one of them; he started 28 games for L.A. in 2020 and 2021, but missed most of last year with a hamstring injury. Two other 2022 rookies—sixth-rounder Quentin Lake and seventh-rounder Russ Yeast—would probably battle for the other spot.
Major Free Agents: QB Baker Mayfield, DL A'Shawn Robinson, CB Troy Hill, K Matt Gay, RG Coleman Shelton, S Taylor Rapp, LG Oday Aboushi, LT Ty Nsekhe, C Matt Skura, P Riley Dixon, QB John Wolford, DL Greg Gaines, DL Michael Hoecht, QB Bryce Perkins, DL Marquise Copeland, LG David Edwards, S Nick Scott,
We talked about the imminent departures on the back end of L.A.'s defense, but they're likely to lose a lot of talent up front too—the defensive line trio of A'Shawn Robinson, Greg Gaines, and Marquise Copeland combined to make 28 starts last season. On the other side of the ball, the Rams' offensive line was a total mess, but Coleman Shelton (13 starts) and David Edwards (four) were both theoretical first-stringers; journeymen Oday Aboushi, Ty Nsekhe, and Matt Skura combined for 20 starts themselves. And at quarterback, Baker Mayfield, John Wolford, and Bryce Perkins each started for the Rams in 2022. Did we mention that the Rams traded away their first-, fourth, and fifth-round picks in April's draft years ago? Or that they're in the bottom 10 in effective cap space? Well, banners fly forever and whatnot.
San Francisco 49ers
Biggest Need: Secondary
The real answer here might be "a half-dozen starting-quality quarterbacks," but as that seems impractical, so the 49ers' plan at that position is "Lance and Purdy, pray neither gets hurt-y." (Or, if you prefer, "Purdy or Lance, either gives us a chance.") So let's turn instead to the defensive backfield, perhaps San Francisco's biggest weakness over the course of last season and the site of an imminent talent drain. Free safety Tashaun Gipson, who started each of San Francisco's 20 games last year, is about to hit free agency. (He may also retire, though John Lynch expects him to play again and left the door open for a return.) So is Emmanuel Moseley, a starting cornerback whose season ended in early October. So is Jimmie Ward, a former starter at both positions who was basically a full-timer in a nickel role in 2022.
If San Francisco had a game tomorrow, the starting safety across from Talanoa Hufanga would be George Odum, a two-time All-Pro special-teamer who has started only 10 games in five NFL seasons. Deommodore Lenoir, a 2021 fifth-rounder who filled in for Moseley, would hold onto his starting role across from Charvarius Ward. He finished the season strong, allowing only five catches for 85 yards in three playoff games, according to Niners Nation. Ambry Thomas, who started five games as a rookie in 2021 but was relegated to special teams in 2022, would be the nickel.
Major Free Agents: S Jimmie Ward, QB Jimmy Garoppolo, ER Samson Ebukam, CB Emmanuel Moseley, RT Mike McGlinchey, LB Azeez Al-Shaair, K Robbie Gould, DL Hassan Ridgeway, S Tashaun Gipson, C Jake Brendel, DL Kevin Givens
Bye, Jimmy! Have fun in Houston or Las Vegas or New York or the other New York!
Besides defensive backs and Garoppolo, the 49ers' major free-agent names are in the trenches on either side of the ball. Mike McGlinchey has been a cornerstone of the Lynch-Shanahan era in San Francisco, and Jake Brendel went from three starts in his first six NFL seasons to 20 last year. Samson Ebukam's 5.0 sacks were second on the team behind Nick Bosa (a distant second, but still) in 2022, while Hassan Ridgeway and Kevin Givens provided quality depth on the defensive line, starting 18 games between them (but none in the playoffs). Azeez Al-Shaair, the third linebacker in San Francisco behind Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw, would be the top player at the position for a lot of teams.
Biggest Need: Interior Run Defenders
Let's assume Geno Smith is back in Seattle in 2023. He'll be an unrestricted free agent, but he has said he wants to return and the Seahawks have made it clear they want him back, indicating at the combine that the franchise tag remains a possibility. Once that gets sorted out, Seattle's next priority is fixing the run defense.
The Seahawks were 25th in both run defense DVOA and adjusted line yards. Their conventional stats were even worse: 30th with over 150 rushing yards allowed per game and 26th with 4.9 yards allowed per carry. And now their list of major free agents includes starters at defensive tackle (Poona Ford) and linebacker (Cody Barton). Ford, who entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent in 2018, will look to cash in after starting 63 games in the past four seasons. The Seahawks moved Ford all over the line last year, but have said that nose tackle would be his ideal position going forward. Barton, a third-round draft pick in 2019, disappointed in his first season as a starter alongside Jordyn Brooks. There may not be much competition for his services, but Seattle would likely prefer to upgrade anyway.
Major Free Agents: DL Poona Ford, RB Rashaad Penny, C Austin Blythe (retired), QB Geno Smith, ER L.J. Collier, QB Drew Lock, WR Marquise Goodwin, ER Bruce Irvin, S Ryan Neal (RFA), LB Cody Barton, CB Michael Jackson
If the middle of the defense is not Seattle's biggest need, then the middle of the offensive line is—center Austin Blythe would have hit free agency but instead announced his retirement earlier this week. Marquise Goodwin proved to be a reliable third receiver, a rarity for the Seahawks in recent years. On defense, Bruce Irvin started his third stint in Seattle in Week 8 and started every game from that point forward, finishing third on the team in sacks over that span. The secondary is at risk of losing two key players: Michael Jackson, who started zero games in his first three NFL seasons but every game for Seattle last year, and Ryan Neal, who has started 19 games in the past three seasons in place of the often-injured Jamal Adams. And speaking of often-injured players, Rashaad Penny and L.J. Collier, a pair of disappointing first-round picks, look to be done in Seattle.
10 comments, Last at 03 Mar 2023, 9:07am
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