Last offseason must feel like forever ago to 49ers fans. They were top Super Bowl contenders then. Now, after a year of player/coach losses, it looks like a semi-rebuilding year in the Bay Area.
San Francisco 49ers
Thanks to a power struggle with the front office, the 49ers decided not to bring back incredibly successful head coach Jim Harbaugh, who said he would have stayed if welcomed. Instead Harbaugh is coaching his alma mater Michigan. No other than Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said he was rather happy to see his rival leave the division. The Niners' replacement was rather uninspiring: the team's defensive line coach Jim Tomsula (whose first media appearance was an epic disaster). Maybe he's a good coach, but most believe Tomsula is simply a yes-man to the front office. Former Niners defensive coordinator Vic Fangio had a much better resume, but he also was allowed to leave for Chicago. Now as for the player losses. Gone for sure are excellent running back Frank Gore and one of the league's better guards in Mike Iupati. Cornerback Chris Culliver also is expected to sign elsewhere. Receiver Michael Crabtree could. Then on Monday, the team got the shocking double-whammy of the reported retirements of All-Pro linebacker Patrick Willis and the anchor of the defensive line, Justin Smith. That Smith is calling it quits isn't a huge shock as he will be 36 this September. However, Willis is still in his prime at age 30. The seven-time Pro Bowler was the heart-and-soul of that defense since winning Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2007. Apparently QB Colin Kaepernick will stick around amid rumors the Niners gauged the market for him. And thus far the only major signing has been former Cardinals defensive tackle Darnell Dockett. Good player but a bit past his prime. The club looks exponentially worse than it did a year ago today.
Current Super Bowl Odds: +3000 (way overvalued in my opinion)
It's rather amazing how well-run the Seahawks are. They didn't lose a ton off their Super Bowl team from the 2013 season and it doesn't appear that any super important pieces from last year's club that lost in the Super Bowl to New England will be leaving. The big question was running back Marshawn Lynch, but the Seahawks locked him up to a one-year, $11 million extension. Smart deal because there's a lot of tread on those tires so I don't expect Lynch back in 2016. The only significant loss as been cornerback Byron Maxwell, but he was wildly overpaid by Philadelphia. So the Seahawks simply stole a cornerback from Philly in Carey Williams in addition to adding cornerback Will Blackmon from Jacksonville. The Seahawks just reload, and with the Niners taking a major step back I don't see how the NFC West isn't Seattle's again in 2015.
Current Super Bowl Odds: +750
As of this writing, Arizona has not addressed a big need at running back yet in free agency but I expect that to happen. You hear the Cardinals are very interested in former Cowboy DeMarco Murray, last season's league rushing leader. They also might look at former Bills tailback C.J. Spiller or Minnesota's Adrian Peterson if he's cut free by the Vikings. The Cardinals' big addition thus far has been guard Mike Iupati. Just 27, he's a three-time Pro Bowl selection. Iupati is just so-so in pass-blocking but one of the league's best run-blockers and that's where the Cardinals must improve. Arizona also re-signed receiver Larry Fitzgerald. The team cut defensive tackle Darnell Dockett and probably loses free-agent cornerback Antonio Cromartie. If the Cards get a top running back to add to a healthy QB Carson Palmer, Fitzgerald and fellow receiver Michael Floyd, look out because the defense is already excellent even with the loss of coordinator Todd Bowles.
Current Super Bowl Odds: +3300
St. Louis Rams
The Rams might have been the quietest team in the league thus far. All they have really done of note is waive offensive tackle Jake Long and center Scott Wells. Those deals freed up $12.5 million in salary cap space, giving the Rams a total of about $16 million in room. Apparently St. Louis is more focused on re-signing its own free agents. The Rams are going to give injury-prone quarterback Sam Bradford one more year to prove himself, although surely at a restructured contract. I can't believe the Rams didn't add a receiver, at a minimum. Maybe that's their draft strategy. The defense looks set.
Current Super Bowl Odds: +5000