NFC West teams added or re-signed 38 unrestricted free agents during the recently completed UFA signing period. They lost or did not re-sign 47 such players.
One key difference between those groups: age.
The St. Louis Rams in particular used the UFA signing period to get younger. The 12 UFAs they added (11) or re-signed (one) averaged 2.49 years younger than the 20 UFAs they lost (six) or have not re-signed (14). The gap was 1.39 years younger on average throughout the division. The Rams have the youngest roster in the NFL, based on averages I maintain for every team in the league.
Some older UFAs never sign another NFL contract. They disappear from rosters and realize, perhaps a year or two later, that they've been retired.
Getting Younger: UFA Age Averages
The chart shows age differences for the 38 UFA players added or re-signed versus the 47 lost to other teams or still unsigned. According to the NFL, 143 UFAs changed teams across the league this offseason. Another 112 re-signed with their 2011 teams.
Unsigned players remain free to sign with another team, but the NFL will not count them as UFA signings. The distinction matters in part because only UFA additions and losses count toward the formula for determining compensatory draft choices. That formula relies heavily on player salaries. UFAs available this late in the process generally wouldn't command enough money to affect compensatory picks, anyway.
A quick look at which UFA players from NFC West teams did not sign or re-sign as UFAs:
St. Louis Rams (14): receiver Mark Clayton, tackle Mark LeVoir, tackle Adam Goldberg, tight end Billy Bajema, safety James Butler, cornerback Al Harris (retired), cornerback Rod Hood, cornerback Justin King, quarterback A.J. Feeley, running back Jerious Norwood, linebacker Brady Poppinga, tight end Stephen Spach, running back Cadillac Williams and center Tony Wragge.
Seattle Seahawks (4): defensive end Raheem Brock, defensive tackle Jimmy Wilkerson, linebacker David Vobora and running back Justin Forsett. Forsett reached agreement with the Houston Texans following the UFA period. The Seahawks had already given his jersey number (20) to free-agent running back Kregg Lumpkin.
Arizona Cardinals (7): defensive lineman Vonnie Holliday, tackle Floyd Womack, tackle Brandon Keith, outside linebacker Joey Porter, outside linebacker Clark Haggans, running back Chester Taylor and safety Hamza Abdullah.
The 27 unsigned UFAs from the NFC West average 31.38 years old, about 3.3 years older than the 22 UFAs signed from other teams.
Nine of the 27 are at least 33 years old. Another 12 are between 29 and 32. Justin King, former cornerback for the Rams, is the youngest at 25 years old.