JOHN CLAYTON

Clayton: Flurry of news from NFC West adds intrigue for Seahawks

Feb 10, 2017, 9:08 AM | Updated: 9:10 am
Carson Palmer announced Thursday he will return to quarterback the Arizona Cardinals in 2017. (AP)...
Carson Palmer announced Thursday he will return to quarterback the Arizona Cardinals in 2017. (AP)
(AP)

Thursday was an interesting day for the Seahawks and the NFC West. The storylines were either huge or interesting.

It started with Carson Palmer officially announcing he was going to play in 2017 for the Arizona Cardinals. Palmer had been going back and forth on whether he wanted to play this season, which is understandable. He’s been around since 2003 and fought back from serious football injuries, so Palmer had to determine if he wanted to put his body through the long, hard process of training for another year and the eventual pain he would suffer during the regular season.

The return of Palmer and wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald gives the Cardinals hopes of challenging the Seahawks for the division title. Defensively, the Cardinals are solid, but they could lose Calais Campbell if they put a franchise tag on defensive end Chandler Jones. The loss of Campbell would weaken the Cardinals defense, but not to a point that they will lose their chances of being good.

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Nevertheless, you get the feeling that the window is about ready to close for the Cardinals. Palmer and Fitzgerald are probably in their last seasons, and head coach Bruce Arians has had health issues so he is on a year-by-year basis. At least he will be back this year.

Story No. 2 involved the San Francisco 49ers. New head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch held their first press conference to discuss the future of the team. What you got out of the press conference that it is going to take some time before the 49ers will be a challenger in the division.

“We’re a two-win team right now,” 49ers owner Jed York said.

York realizes the 49ers can’t turn things around overnight. Their roster is depleted. Their quarterback position is in shambles. Lynch and Shanahan didn’t dodge any questions about the job ahead of them.

“How long it takes, I don’t know,” Lynch said when asked about how long it will take to fix the 49ers. “We will put together a team that plays fast and plays physical.”

York is going to give Lynch and Shanahan plenty of time to get it right. For the Seahawks, that has to be good news. If you believe the Seahawks’ Super Bowl window is around three years, it will probably take until the third year for the 49ers to climb back into contention, and there is no guarantee it will happen in that time frame.

The Los Angeles Rams are also in rebuilding mode, but they are further ahead of the 49ers. Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips takes over a unit that is great along the defensive line and has the talent to hold opponents under 22 points a game. It’s the offense that needs to be rebuilt, and the Rams are doing it with a promising 31-year-old head coach in Sean McVay.

At the Super Bowl, I had a chance to talk to McVay, and I was impressed. He reminds me of a young Jon Gruden. Shanahan and Josh McDaniels of the New England Patriots were considered the two best assistants on the market, but McVay might have done the best job of a new head coach hiring a staff.

In the long run, the NFC West might have picked up two of the better young head coaches in the league, but they take over their jobs at a time when the Seahawks still have a great chance to control the division and maybe come out with a 5-1 or 4-2 divisional record over the next couple of seasons.

Story No. 3 was word that the Seahawks signed former Minnesota Vikings kicker Blair Walsh, who missed a potential game-winning field goal in the final seconds of last year’s wild-card game to allow the Seahawks to advance into the divisional round.

Walsh’s signing doesn’t mean Steven Hauschka won’t be re-signed, but it indicates that the Seahawks might be ready to part with him. Hauschka struggled all season with extra points. He’s a free agent and probably will be gone.

Overall, Thursday was an interesting day in this division.

Want more John Clayton? Listen on-demand to his weekday and Saturday shows as well as his “Cold Hard Facts” and “Clayton’s Morning Drive” segments on 710 ESPN Seattle. Also, check out his all-new “Schooled” podcast and look for his columns twice a week on 710Sports.com.

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