COACH: Kyle Shanahan (7th year)
LAST SEASON: 13-4, first place; NFC runner-up
ARRIVALS: DT Javon Hargrave (Eagles), QB Sam Darnold (Panthers), QB Brandon Allen (Bengals), CB Isaiah Oliver (Falcons), DE Clelin Ferrell (Raiders), OT Matt Pryor (Colts), OL Jon Feliciano (Giants), DL Austin Bryant (Lions), K Zane Gonzalez (Panthers), DL Darryl Johnson Jr. (Seahawks), DB Myles Hartsfield (Panthers), S Ji’Ayir Brown (second round), K Jake Moody (third round), TE Cameron Latu (third round).
DEPARTURES: QB Jimmy Garoppolo, RT Mike McGlinchey, DB Jimmie Ward, K Robbie Gould, LB Azeez Al-Shaair, DE Samson Ebukam, DE Charles Omenihu, DE Jordan Willis, DT Hassan Ridgeway, CB Emmanuel Moseley, OL Daniel Brunskill, DB Tarvarius Moore, TE Tyler Kroft, DL Maurice Hurst, QB Josh Johnson.
Analysis: Perpetual quarterback mystery hasn’t derailed Kyle Shanahan from choreographing a high-scoring, yard-chewing offense, which is doable thanks to top-tier talent such as Trent Williams, Christian McCaffrey, Kyle Juszczyk, Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, and George Kittle.
New defensive coordinator Steve Wilks inherits the league’s top-ranked unit in terms of points and yards allowed last season, when it was led by NFL Defensive Player of the Year Nick Bosa and fellow All-Pros Fred Warner and Talanoa Hufanga. One of the biggest changes comes at kicker, with rookie Jake Moody replacing playoff-perfect Robbie Gould.
PREDICTED FINISH: 13-4, Super Bowl champions (33-17 over Bengals)
COACH: Pete Carroll (14th year)
LAST SEASON: 9-8, second place; lost in wild-card playoffs to 49ers (41-23)
ARRIVALS: LB Bobby Wagner (Rams), DL Jarran Reed (Packers), LB Devin Bush (Steelers), CB Devon Witherspoon (first round), WR Jackson Smith-Njigba (first round), DE Derick Hall (second round), RB Zach Charbonnet (second round), DL Dre’Mont Jones (Broncos), S Julian Love (Giants), DL Mario Edwards Jr. (Titans)
DEPARTURES: RB Rashaad Penny, RB Travis Homer, LB Cody Barton, G Phil Haynes, DL Quinton Jefferson, DL Poona Ford, DL Al Woods, S Ryan Neal, WR Marquise Goodwin, DL L.J. Collier, DE Darryl Johnson Jr.
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith (7) is pressured by San Francisco 49ers’ Charles Omenihu (94) in the fourth quarter of their NFC wild-card playoff game, Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023, at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)
ANALYSIS: The draft brought more skill-position talent (WR Smith-Njigba, RB Charbonnet) to complement D.K. Metcalf, Tyler Lockett and Kenneth Walker. Seattle invested in an encore from quarterback Geno Smith, who won NFL Comeback Player of the Year (but went 0-3 vs. the 49ers). Defensively, the young secondary is resembling Legion Of Boom 2.0, and the linebacker corps brings back Wagner to pair with Jordyn Brooks. But the overhauled defensive line must prove it can stop the run better than last year’s unit, which yielded over 170 rushing yards in each of the three losses to the 49ers.
PREDICTED FINISH: 9-8, second place
Los Angeles Rams
COACH: Sean McVay (7th year)
LAST SEASON: 5-12, third place
ARRIVALS: G Steve Avila (second round), DE Byron Young (third round), TE Hunter Long (Dolphins), QB Brett Rypien (Broncos), WR Demarcus Robinson.
DEPARTURES: CB Jalen Ramsey, K Matt Gay, DE Leonard Floyd, WR Allen Robinson, LB Bobby Wagner, DL A’Shawn Robinson, QB Baker Mayfield, S Nick Scott, S Taylor Rapp. (19 FA signed elsewhere)
San Francisco 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa (97) tackles Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) during an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 30, 2022, in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)
ANALYSIS: After sinking to 5-12 last year as reigning Super Bowl champs, the Rams haven’t made drastic upgrades. Their defense bid farewell to big-time talent this offseason but still touts three-time NFL defensive player of the year Aaron Donald. Offensively, they’ll squeeze as much more as they can out of Matthew Stafford’s arm (Stetson Bennet is the backup), and the feeble supporting cast led by former Super Bowl MVP Cooper Kupp, who is coming off ankle surgery.
PREDICTED FINISH: 8-9, third place
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COACH: Jonathan Gannon (first year)
LAST SEASON: 4-13, fourth place
ARRIVALS: LB Kyzir White (Eagles), OT Paris Johnson Jr. (first round), OLB B.J. Ojulari (second round), WR Michael Wilson (third round; Stanford), WR Zach Pascal (Eagles), G Hjalte Froholdt (Browns), OT Elijah Wilkinson (Falcons).
Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray greets wide receiver Greg Dortch (83) after a play during the second half of an NFL preseason football game against the Kansas City Chiefs, Saturday, Aug. 19, 2023, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
DEPARTURES: DL J.J. Watt, WR DeAndre Hopkins, DL Zach Allen, CB Byron Murphy, WR A.J. Green, WR Chosen Anderson, DE Markus Golden, C Rodney Hudson.
ANALYSIS: Kyler Murray likely won’t be recovered from an ACL tear by the start of the season, which isn’t helping the Cardinals’ long-shot chances. The new regime of Gannon and general manager Monti Ossenfort inherited a dearth of talent, and they jettisoned their best receiver, Hopkins, with nothing in return. This moribund franchise has seven playoff wins in 104 seasons; the 49ers have six since 2019.
PREDICTED FINISH: 3-14, fourth place