Arizona Cardinals lead NFC West in splashy offseason moves

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SEATTLE — If you had to grade the NFC West’s winners and losers this offseason based solely on players they added and lost, it wouldn’t be hard.

The Cardinals, bolstered by the additions of left tackle Jared Veldheer, wide receiver Ted Ginn and cornerback Antonio Cromartie, have made the biggest splash. Already there’s been talk of the Cardinals competing for the division title under second-year coach Bruce Arians.

On the other side of the spectrum stand the Seahawks.

The list of those who have packed their things and left reads long and meaningful: wide receiver Golden Tate (Detroit), defensive end Red Bryant (Jacksonville), defensive end Chris Clemons (Jacksonville), defensive tackle Clinton McDonald (Tampa), offensive tackle Breno Giacomini (Jets) and cornerback Walter Thurmond (Giants).

The list of those who joined the Seahawks through free agency is neither particularly long nor meaningful: offensive lineman Stephen Schilling, wide receiver Taylor Price, cornerback Phillip Adams.

But free agency is by no means a predictor of future success. In fact, it can often be fool’s gold. The Seahawks went hard — or as hard as their financial situation allowed them — after defensive end Jared Allen. Their offer was short of the money dangled by the Chicago Bears.

Other than that, the Seahawks have been relatively quiet.

General manager John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll understand better than anyone the reality awaiting them after this season: Some of their best players will become free agents after this season (and the season after that), and they must be careful with how they allocate their resources because of that. It’s the reality of life with the salary cap.

As we straddle the rough halfway point between the start of free agency and the start of the NFL draft on May 8, here’s a look at how the teams in the NFC West have handled their business this offseason:

Arizona Cardinals

Key additions: LT Jared Veldheer, WR Ted Ginn, CB Antonio Cromartie, RB Jonathan Dwyer.

Key losses: LB Karlos Dansby, CB/KR Javier Arenas, WR Andre Roberts, RB Rashard Mendenhall.

Thoughts: The Cardinals added some bigger names, but the most important addition is Veldheer, who fills a void at left tackle that has plagued the organization for years. The Cardinals should be contenders for the NFC West title.

San Francisco 49ers

Key additions: S Antoine Bethea, CB Chris Cook, QB Blaine Gabbertt, OT Jonathan Martin.

Key losses: S Donte Whitner, CB Tarell Brown, WR Mario Manningham, RB Anthony Dixon.

Thoughts: The 49ers signed Bethea to replace the hard-hitting Whitner, but San Francisco’s biggest move was retaining WR Anquan Boldin. It wasn’t a splashy free-agency period for the 49ers, but they’re still prime to compete for the division title and a Super Bowl.

St. Louis Rams

Key additions: WR Kenny Britt, DL Alex Carrington, CB/KR Greg Reid, QB Shaun Hill.

Key losses: G Chris Williams, QB Kellen Clemens, CB Cortland Finnegan, G Shelley Smith.

Thoughts: In arguably the toughest division in football, the Rams chose not to do much in free agency. They did retain starting offensive lineman Roger Saffold, and Britt is a big-body receiver and former first-round pick, although he has struggled with injuries. But remember: The Rams have the draft’s No. 2 pick.

Seattle Seahawks

Key additions: OL Stephen Schilling, WR Taylor Price, CB Phillip Adams.

Key losses: WR Golden Tate, DE Red Bryant, DE Chris Clemons, OT Breno Giacomini, DL Clinton McDonald, CB Walter Thurmond.

Thoughts: The Seahawks’ biggest move was re-signing DL Michael Bennett. Other than making a push for free-agent DE Jared Allen, the Seahawks were relatively quiet in free agency. That’s because of the guys on their roster who become free agents after next season: S Earl Thomas, CB Richard Sherman, CB Byron Maxwell, DE Cliff Avril, LB K.J. Wright.

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