25 NFC West free agents to watch

Sean writes via Facebook: Mike, yesterday on 710ESPN here in Seattle, Brock and Salk had a guest talking about the number of free agents this year is around 500, which is more than double most years because of the amount of unrestricted free agents last offseason. Seattle has 27 going into this offseason. Is it a disadvantage or advantage with the free-agent pool as large as it is to have a lot of free agents this offseason? Also, how many does San Francisco have?

Mike Sando: There are a few key points to keep in mind here. One, there is no free agency without a new labor agreement. Two, the next labor agreement will define terms for free agents. About 500 players with four accrued seasons could become unrestricted under the previous system. Another roughly 100 players will have three accrued seasons.

Teams have had a long time to anticipate a work stoppage. It's never a good time to have a long list of good players without contracts. But in most cases, teams have already re-signed the players they think they absolutely have to keep. Some teams have a long list of free agents by design. I would put Seattle in that category.

The Seahawks promoted competition during the 2010 season by shortening contracts in a few cases. They re-signed a couple players they wanted to target, but overall, I think they feel just fine going into the labor period with unsigned players. The number you cited -- 27 -- is in the right ballpark. The totals are unofficial until the league releases its annual list.

The 49ers have a shorter projected list featuring five starters from last season: Takeo Spikes, Aubrayo Franklin, Manny Lawson, Alex Smith and Dashon Goldson.

I've put together an initial list of 25 projected NFC West free agents to watch. These are not necessarily ranked in order of abilities. A couple "name" players did not make the list, and I'm noting there are only two St. Louis Rams on there (could have considered Adam Goldberg, Billy Bajema, Gary Gibson, Daniel Fells, Laurent Robinson, Clifton Ryan, etc.).

2011 NFL Free Agency: 25 NFC West UFAs to Watch