How 49ers, other NFC powers should fare in division races next season

How 49ers, other NFC powers should fare in division races next season originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

The 49ers made several moves during NFL free agency in order to chase their hopes of another Super Bowl run. The challenge for the organization is keeping the upcoming 2024 NFL Draft in mind while also staying conscious of quarterback Brock Purdy’s impending mega-contract in 2025.

General manager John Lynch and the front office added to the roster in order to fill holes left by free agents, all while trying not to break the bank. San Francisco is $13.5 million under the 2024 salary cap, per, after restructuring the contracts of linebacker Fred Warner and tight end George Kittle.

The 49ers’ conference counterparts had the same purpose in mind to compete with the reigning NFC champions next season. Here is a look at how the NFC shapes up following free agency.

NFC East

The Cowboys were relatively quiet during free agency, lacking available money due to quarterback Dak Prescott’s sizable contract. The team is banking on their incoming draft picks to add production in 2024, which is never guaranteed.


LB Eric Kendricks


CB C.J. Goodwin

CB Jourdan Lewis

DT Carl Davis

LS Trent Sieg


WR Michael Gallup

LB Leighton Vander Esch

After a fast start to the 2023 NFL season, the Eagles lost to the the 49ers in Week 13 and never bounced back, eventually losing to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during Super Wild Card Weekend. Philadelphia was very active during free agency, signing several players to lucrative contacts — including the addition of All-Pro running back Saquon Barkley in hopes of getting back to the Super Bowl.


RB Saquon Barkley

DE Bryce Huff

OLB Zack Baun

S C.J. Gardner Johnson

LB Devin White

G Matt Hennessy

WR DeVante Parker

QB Kenny Pickett


DE Brandon Graham

TE Albert Okwuegbunam

P Braden Mann

K Jake Elliott (extended)


S Kevin Byard

CB Avonte Maddox

C Jason Kelce (retired)

DT Fletcher Cox (retired)

S Kevin Byard

After a 6-11 season in 2023, the Giants are trying to do what they can to help quarterback Daniel Jones improve. While Barkley is a significant loss for the offense, the team brought in Devin Singletary to fill the void along with significant help on the interior of the offensive line. New York has improved on paper, but the East will be a tough division to win.


RB Devin Singletary

QB Drew Lock

S Jalen Mills

TE Jack Stoll

TE Chris Manhertz

C Aaron Stinnie

C Austin Schlottmann

G Jon Runyan

T Jermaine Eluemunor


LB Carter Coulghlin

LS Casey Kreiter

WR Gunner Olszewski


G Mark Glowinski

Former 49ers assistant general manager Adam Peters’ plan in his first season with Washington is to help improve the Commanders’ 4-13 record from 2023 with protection and tools for the quarterback they will likely select with the No. 2 overall pick. New head coach Dan Quinn and offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury will have a lot of new pieces to play with on both sides of the ball.


DE Dorance Armstrong

C Taylor Biadasz

RB Austin Ekeler

G Nick Allegretti

TE Zach Ertz

LB Frankie Luvu

DE Clelin Ferrell

QB Marcus Mariota

LS Tyler Ott

S Jeremy Chinn

LB Bobby Wagner

OLB Anthony Pittman

K Brandon McManus


S Jeremey Reaves

OLB Efe Obada


T Charles Leno

TE Logan Thomas

C Nick Gates

Who will win the NFC East:

While Philadelphia is likely to be a contender once again, Washington could be the dark horse to win the division if their rookie quarterback can step in quickly and perform successfully.

NFC North

Last year’s divisional winner likely will be back in the spotlight after re-signing several of the players that helped them rack up a division-best 12-5 season. There will be a lot of competition in the conference, but the Lions have a lot of momentum and a solid roster to get them back to the top of their division.


CB Carlton Davis

DT D.J. Reader

DE Marcus Davenport

CB Amik Robertson


LB Jalen Reeves-Maybin

CB Emmanuel Moseley

G Dan Skipper

RB Zonovan Knight

TE Shane Zylstra

G Graham Glasgow

K Michael Badgley


S Tracy Walker

The Packers played their way into the playoffs in 2023, but the 49ers crushed their dreams in the divisional round. Green Bay’s talent on its young roster was noticeable, and the team will see quite a few players returning to the squad in 2024. Expect the Packers to be contenders with Josh Jacobs lining up in the backfield behind Jordan Love.


RB Josh Jacobs

S Xavier McKinney


CB Keisean Nixon

CB Corey Ballentine

TE Tyler Davis

RB A.J. Dillon


LB De’Vondre Campbell

RB Aaron Jones

After the departure of quarterback Kirk Cousins, the Vikings likely will use their No. 11 overall pick in the upcoming draft on a quarterback. Meanwhile, during free agency, Minnesota has been working diligently to provide a support system for whomever might be under center, including Sam Darnold, who they signed on a one-year contract worth $10 million.


RB Aaron Jones

DL Jonathan Greenard

DE Andrew Van Ginkel

LB Blake Cashman

QB Sam Darnold

K John Paker Romo

WR Brandon Powell

DL Jerry Tillery

WR Trent Sherfield


TE Nick Muse

TE Johnny Mundt

G Blake Brandel

T David Quessenberry

DE Jonathan Bullard


RB Alexander Mattison

DL Dean Lowry

The Bears own the No. 1 overall pick of the 2024 draft, and all signs point to them using it to select USC quarterback Caleb Williams. Even if it isn’t the 2022 Heisman winner, it will be a young play-caller — and the team used free agency to build protection and bring in targets for whomever it might be. Keenan Allen’s presence at Southern Cal’s pro day was a clear sign of support for the talented quarterback, and Chicago will need better productivity from the offense to get out of the basement of its division.


WR Keenan Allen

C Ryan Bates

S Tarvarius Moore

S Kevin Byard

RB D’Andre Swift

TE Gerald Everett

S Jonathan Owens

T Matt Pryor

QB Brett Rypien

LB Amen Ogbongbemiga

C Coleman Shelton

T Jake Curhan


CB Jaylon Johnson

LS Patrick Scales

WR Dante Pettis


G Cody Whitehair

S Eddie Jackson

Who will win the NFC North:

Both the Lions and the Packers are the front runners in their division, with young, talented rosters that played into the 2023 postseason. But Jordan Love seemed to just be getting into his stride mid-season and has yet to reach his potential.

NFC South

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Buccaneers topped the division and rewarded quarterback Baker Mayfield with a three-year, $100 million contract while bringing back his No. 1 target, Mike Evans. The team will have a tougher road in 2024 with Cousins leading the Atlanta Falcons’ offense, but Tampa Bay can add receiver support for Mayfield in the draft.


S Jordan Whitehead

CB Bryce Hall

G Ben Bredeson

G Sua Opeta

QB John Wolford


WR Mike Evans

QB Baker Mayfield

K Chase McLaughlin

DT Greg Gaines

RB Chase Edmonds

LB Lavonte David

Franchise tag:

S Antoine Winfield Jr.


OLB Shaquil Barrett

The Saints finished with the same overall record as the Buccaneers, but ended up second in the division. While the team wasn’t too active during free agency, New Orleans could pick up targets for quarterback Derek Carr from the very talented wide receiver group coming out in the draft, adding support for running backs Alvin Kamara and Jamaal Williams and receiver Chris Olave in the process.


DE Chase Young

FB Zander Horvath

LB Willie Gay

QB Nathan Peterman

WR Cedrick Wilson Jr.

WR Stanley Morgan


S Tyrann Mathieu (extended)


WR Michael Thomas

S Marcus Maye

Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons made the biggest splash in the South, and maybe even the entire NFL, by signing Cousins to a four-year, $180 million contract. They also brought in former 49ers tight end Charlie Woerner, who will offer blocking support and protection, and Ray-Ray McCloud, who will step in as the team’s returner.


QB Kirk Cousins

TE Charlie Woerner

WR Darnell Mooney

WR Rondale Moore

WR Ray-Ray McCloud


LB Nate Landman

T Storm Norton

WR KhaDarel Hodge


TE Jonnu Smith

The Panthers needed better protection for quarterback Bryce Young, and adding two veteran guards should help. They also added to their defensive line by signing A’Shawn Robinson to stuff runs up the middle, while Brian Burns and D.J. Wonnum seal off the edges. The Panthers will have linebacker Josey Jewell, too, who can cover and stop anyone who gets to the second level.


DE D.J. Wonnum

G Robert Hunt

G Damien Lewis

DT A’Shawn Robinson

LB Josey Jewell

WR Deontae Johnson

CB Dane Jackson

OLB K’Lavon Chaisson

S Jordan Fuller


LS J.J. Jansen

WR Ihmir Smith-Marsette


DE Brian Burns


TE Hayden Hurst

C Bradley Bozeman

S Vonn Bell

Who will win the NFC South:

The Panthers look much improved on paper, but the arrival of Cousins in Atlanta threw the whole division a curve ball –and the Falcons will be the team to beat.


After a rough 2023 season that landed the Cardinals in the NFC West basement, they are attempting to rebuild through the trenches. Arizona’s priciest free-agent contracts were for their two defensive tackles — Bilal Nichols and Justin Jones — offensive tackle Jonah Williams and corner back Sean Murphy-Bunting. That likely still is not enough to win the West.


T Jonah Williams

S Sean Murphy-Bunting

DT Bilal Nichols

DT Justin Jones

LB Mack Wilson

RB DeeJay Dallas

QB Desmond Ridder

WR Chris Moore


DE L.J. Collier

C Keith Ismael (extended)


T D.J. Humphries

The Seahawks added a little bit of protection for quarterback Geno Smith on the offensive line by reuniting the Fant brothers, but that might not be enough to help them return to dominating the West. Their rise could depend on the young talent they are likely to draft at defensive back, and how quickly those players adjust to the speed of the NFL after the team walked away from both Quandre Diggs and Jamal Adams.


C Nick Harris

S Rayshawn Jenkins

T George Fant

QB Sam Howell

LB Tyrel Dodson


TE Noah Fant

DT Leonard Williams

CB Artie Burns

DE Darrell Taylor


TE Will Dissly

S Quandre Diggs

S Jamal Adams

DT Bryan Moore

FB Nick Bellore

It was a celebration for quarterbacks and offensive linemen everywhere when Aaron Donald announced his retirement, but obviously not for the Rams. The team wasn’t able to do much in free agency and likely is banking on finding both a tackle and an edge rusher in the draft.


G Jonah Jackson

TE Colby Parkinson

CB Darious Williams

S Kamren Curl


WR Demarcus Robinson

G Kevin Dotson

LB Christian Rozebloom


DT Aaron Donald (retired)

C Brian Allen

San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers did what they could to add talent to the defensive line after releasing Arik Armstead to free up cap space. Each of the team’s free-agent signees play on the defensive side of the ball, which should help them return to their previous levels of domination. San Francisco also brought back both Colton McKivitz and Jon Feliciano to keep the offensive line combination the same.


DE Leonard Floyd

DE Yetur Gross-Matos

DT Jordan Elliott

DT Maliek Collins

CB Chase Lucas


T Colton McKivitz (extended)

QB Brandon Allen

S George Odum

DT Kevin Givens

G Jon Feliciano

LB Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles


DT Arik Armstead

CB Isaiah Oliver

Who will win the West:

The 49ers are set to continue their dominant ways in the West, but it won’t be without challenges in the division. If Leonard Floyd and Yetur Gross-Matos can seal the edge opposite of Nick Bosa, the defense once again will thrive under new defensive coordinator Nick Sorenson, who was internally promoted.

The Rams are always competitive and probably will be the one team that could pose an issue for the reigning NFC champions. The Cardinals are still in a rebuilding mode, and the Seahawks, while talented, could spend time adjusting to new coach Mike Macdonald and a hefty personnel turnover on the defense.

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