The NFC West has been something of an anomaly in recent history. The division hasn't been very good for very long, with the winning team seeming to win almost by default at times. Despite that, the division sent multiple teams to the Super Bowl, like the 2008 Arizona Cardinals, lending credibility to the thought that anything can happen once you're in the playoffs.
But more recently, one team has risen to the top of the division in the San Francisco 49ers. They've won the last two seasons and made it at least as far as the NFC Championship Game both times. In 2012 though, they had some competition in the Seattle Seahawks, who made a splash by challenging for the division crown down the stretch and making the playoffs as a wildcard.
Matchups between the four teams in the division are always fun to watch, as all four teams have the mantra of "beat the division, win the division," and the rosters are clearly set up for that.
But each team has to make adjustments this season. Every one of them needs to take a look at their roster, free agency and the NFL Draft and make the decisions they need to make to try and take it all in 2013. It's a clean slate, and some bad teams will become good, some good teams will become bad, and everything in between.
That said, we're going to take a look at what the perfect offseason would be for each team. In other words, what needs to go right for these teams to come out and really compete in 2013. We'll start with the 49ers, the losers of Super Bowl 47 this past season.
San Francisco 49ers
Of course, the ultimate goal for each team every season is to win the Super Bowl. They build the roster for that purpose and crazily enough, you can actually directly compare the 49ers' team needs this offseason to what went wrong in the Super Bowl.
Safety Donte Whitner struggled, Chris Culliver and Carlos Rogers were bad at the cornerback position, Justin Smith played hurt and there wasn't anybody behind him and Randy Moss shouldn't have been anywhere near a starting position at this point in his career.
All of those things hurt the 49ers and all of those things are things that need to be fixed for the perfect offseason to take place for the 49ers. A perfect offseason for them would be one of the top safeties like Florida's Matt Elam or Kenny Vaccaro of Texas to fall to their pick at No. 31.
Then, they'd ideally get safety Dashon Goldson signed to a long-term contract in lieu of another franchise tag. There's not a lot of big name guys in free agency that would really make sense for the 49ers, but if they could find a way to land someone in a trade like Percy Harvin or sign one of the top wide receivers in free agency, that would be, as we say, perfect.
Lastly, the 49ers could find a new spot for Alex Smith. He's making starter money and is now the backup to Colin Kaepernick. Ideally, a team will fall for their bluff of not releasing Smith, and they'll give up a relatively high draft pick to bring Smith in.
As David Fucillo of Niners Nation wrote, safety has been a popular pick for the 49ers in a number of recent mock drafts.
For the 49ers, one such position will be the secondary, and safety in particular. If the 49ers lock up Dashon Goldson to a multi-year deal, maybe safety comes off most boards. The team will likely need a long-term replacement for Donte Whitner, who is a free agent next year, but we could see safety take a bit more of a backseat.
I mention safety in particular because we have safety showing up a few times in our database. This is led by Mocking the Draft's look at Florida International's Jonathan Cyprien. He shows up three times and has a chance to make some noise this week at the Combine.
Perfection: Top safety falls to No. 31, Smith nets high draft pick in trade, Goldson gets a new contract.
The Seahawks were a surprise team in 2013. They entered the season with an above-average defense and an offense that didn't have a quarterback to throw the ball to a less-than stellar group of receivers.
Then Russell Wilson happened and the Seahawks were suddenly contenders and more than that, they were very, very dangerous. Now, they will look to improve on certain aspects of the team to make the next jump and possibly unseat the 49ers atop the division.
Now what do they need to do to have a perfect offseason? Ideally, they'd find a way to get some pass rush on the interior of their defensive line. Now, some have suggested they'd take one in the draft, but in a perfect world, they'd be able to extend Jason Jones for a reasonable dollar amount and will be able to work from there.
They don't have many other pending free agents worth discussing and they aren't working with a large amount of cap room, so the next step to perfection would be one of the top receivers, like Tavon Austin, falling to them late in the first round of the draft.
Tavon Austin is one wide receiver who could fit in Seattle as Ben Harbaugh of Field Gulls wrote:
If Austin has a champion within the Seahawks' inner circle, it's not difficult identify who that would be. When Darrell Bevell arrived two years ago, we all had visions of Golden Tate being used how Percy Harvin was used in '09 and '10 with bubble screens, end arounds, and lining up at running back. This season we saw Tate used on bubble screens and the occasional trick play, with success, but for the most part he ran conventional receiver routes.
Perfection: Extend Jason Jones so he doesn't hit free agency, draft top-flight wide receiver in first round.
The Rams were surprisingly competitive in 2012. Their defense kept them in games and they only lost two games by more than two touchdowns all season, which is a great stat. They finished with a 7-8-1 mark, but they did some serious damage to their NFC West rivals, which is important.
Unfortunately, they have a lacking offense and they haven't been able to find a solution at the wide receiver position. But they have two first round picks in the draft and there are definitely some options available.
Getting some protection for Sam Bradford would be a good idea, as the offensive line struggled last season. They're sticking with Bradford, and hope he can make some serious strides next season. Bringing in a big body to keep Bradford upright would be nice.
In the draft, it would be fantastic for the Rams if a guy like Kenny Vaccaro fell to them with the pick they got from the Washington Redskin's. They need a safety badly and Vaccaro is the best in this class.
Lastly, they'd get a restraining order on Craig Dahl to ensure that he doesn't sneak into team headquarters and re-sign himself to the team in 2013. He was so very bad.
In addition to adding some talent, Jeff Fisher said the team is hopeful it will be able to bring back a number of its own free agents including Steven Jackson and Danny Amendola.
Perfection: Big body to protect Sam Bradford, Kenny Vaccaro falling and Craig Dahl restraining order.
The Cardinals got off to a 4-0 start to the 2012 season and most felt that it might just be a three-team race in the NFC West. Then they collectively remembered that they didn't have a quarterback and proceeded to lose game after game. They finished with a 5-11 record.
So obviously, the perfect offseason would be to find a quarterback. Now we can be tongue-in-cheek and suggest that the perfect offseason would entail all six teams before the Cardinals taking the top six quarterbacks so Arizona doesn't draft one in this relatively weak class, but they have to get one from somewhere.
While it's hard to equate any of those quarterbacks to perfection, we'll just have to say that the Cardinals get the quarterback that they want, and that, for them, will be "perfect."
Unfortunately, the Cardinals don't have much cap space so it's not likely they can conceivably go out and get a big-name free agent to help improve the team. So we're just down to the quarterback.
At this point, the best thing the Cardinals can hope for is that Bruce Arians, the new head coach, is the truth and gets his guys ready efficiently and effectively, to put the team in the best position to win.
As Tyler Nickel of Revenge of the Birds wrote, fixing the quarterback problem isn't just a priority, it's the reason there was change in Arizona this offseason.
Fixing the quarterback.
That is why Steve Keim was hired as the team's general manager. It is also why Ken Whisenhunt was fired and why Bruce Arians was made the new head coach of the Arizona Cardinals. Kevin Kolb hasn't panned out yet and proven that he can be a reliable starter for the team. John Skelton is as good as gone and Ryan Lindley, if the team decides to keep him, is a long term project.
Perfection: A magical fix at the quarterback position and quick learning for Arians' players.