A look at one player per NFC West team with much at stake as offseason workout programs begin this week (teams with new head coaches began their programs two weeks ago):
Daryl Washington, ILB: Recent news that Washington faces a four-game suspension calls into question his standing with the team in relation to the contract he signed last season. That contract carried $5 million in guaranteed money, with the potential for much more if Arizona exercised a $10 million option. The offseason program provides Washington a first chance to build equity with a new coaching staff. It's important for him to make a positive impression and to back it up through his actions off the field.
Rokevious Watkins, G: Watkins has a shot at earning a starting job at left guard if his conditioning improves significantly this offseason. He reported to camp overweight as a rookie fifth-round pick last season, then landed on injured reserve for the final 15 games. This could be a make-or-break offseason for Watkins. We could expand this item to include the rest of the offensive line, come to think of it. Rodger Saffold, Scott Wells, Harvey Dahl and Jake Long are all coming off injury-shortened seasons. Quarterback Sam Bradford has much at stake during the regular season, but less to gain now.
A.J. Jenkins, WR: In researching this item, I went through salary sheets looking for players whose recent production hasn't matched their guaranteed money. To the 49ers' credit, there really weren't many solid candidates. Carlos Rogers might come to mind for those concerned about the 49ers' coverage problems late last season, but I tend to think those problems reflected an injury-depleted pass rush. Jenkins, chosen 31st overall in the 2012 draft, was an obvious candidate after making zero receptions as a rookie. This marks Jenkins' first full offseason in an NFL conditioning program. Improving upper-body strength has been a priority for him.
Red Bryant, DL: James Carpenter would be an easy and worthy choice here, but Bryant is the far more pivotal player for Seattle after team gave him $14.5 million in guaranteed money with a new contract signed before last season. Bryant played hurt last season and had a hard time changing direction. The Seahawks will be looking for him to re-establish his health. Bryant is a big, big man. His size is an asset as long as his conditioning is right. This is an important offseason for Bryant. The team is counting on him.