Three years out, projecting NFC West titles and the team best set at QB

From ESPN - February 15, 2018

Now that the San Francisco 49ers have locked up their franchise quarterback for the near future in Jimmy Garoppolo, it's a good time to see how the NFC West stacks up.

ESPN's NFC West reporters Alden Gonzalez (Los Angeles Rams), Brady Henderson (Seattle Seahawks), Nick Wagoner (49ers) and Josh Weinfuss (Arizona Cardinals) answer two key questions about how the division and its teams will be set up for the immediate future. These projections are based on a three-year window because the teams are on the cusp of changes with upcoming free agency and the draft, and Garoppolo's contract altered the 49ers' long-term outlook more than their immediate one because it was a safe bet that the QB would stay in San Francisco.

Three years from now, which team will have the best quarterback situation?

Gonzalez: Three years from now, Jared Goff will be finished with his rookie contract. If he performs the way the Rams hope, his price tag could be exorbitant. How exorbitant? Well, in the previous three-year stretch, from 2015 to 2017, the highest average annual value went from $22 million (Aaron Rodgers) to $24.6 million (Andrew Luck) to $27 million (Matthew Stafford). Now, early in 2018, it's $27.5 million (Garoppolo). That's 25 percent growth (and it could be even higher after Kirk Cousins signs). If that trend continues, the highest average annual value could top $34 million heading into the 2021 season. A price tag such as that could belong to Goff, which is my long-winded way of saying that the 49ers will be better off with Garoppolo. He's going to shine under coach Kyle Shanahan, so much so that he might just be a bargain by then. Russell Wilson may be the best right now, but hell be 30 this year, and his contract expires after only two more seasons.

Henderson: The Seahawks currently have the best quarterback situation, and there's no reason to believe that anything short of a major injury to Wilson should change that over the next three years. Yes, another massive bill for Wilson will soon come due. He has two years left on his deal, which puts him in position next offseason for an extension that could be in excess of $30 million per season with the way the quarterback market is trending. That will make it difficult to retain talented players elsewhere on the roster, just like it has since Wilson signed his second contract in 2015. But that's the cost of doing business with an elite, proven QB. The 49ers, meanwhile, just paid a fortune to Garoppolo after only seven starts, albeit seven impressive starts. Neither he nor Goff has won a playoff game. Wilson is 8-4 in the playoffs, with a pair of Super Bowl appearances and one championship. He's also coming off another strong season in which he was in the MVP conversation until the final few weeks, so there's plenty of good football ahead of him. Until Garoppolo or Goff shows the ability to take a team all the way, like Wilson has, the Seahawks will have the best quarterback situation, even if it's also the most expensive one.

Wagoner: The safe bet would still have to be on Seattle and Wilson. Put simply, he's the most accomplished quarterback in the division, and there's an argument to be made that he is the player most valuable to his team in the NFC West. In three years, Wilson will be only 32 and should still have a lot of good football in front of him. But if you are looking for the most upside, Garoppolo and Goff are well-positioned to be emerging superstars at the game's most important position, especially because they both work with QB whisperers in Shanahan and Sean McVay, respectively. Given what Garoppolo did with a lacking supporting cast last season, he looks to have the most potential if the Niners can bolster what's around him. Goff took a big step in part because the Rams did a nice job of improving what's around him. He figures to keep improving as well. Seattle would be wise to give Wilson more help to ensure that he keeps performing at his current level. If not, Garoppolo and Goff could surpass him.

Which team will win the most division titles in the next three years?


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