Say what you will about Alex Smith, and the San Francisco 49ers' long-ago decision to name him their quarterback of the future, but as the NFL lockout finally ended he was somehow the second-best quarterback in the beleaguered NFC West. As free agency begins, a respite from John Skelton and Charlie Whitehurst: The Seattle Seahawks signed Tarvaris Jackson, making the division even more wide open than it was before. With Kevin Kolb and others (Brett Favre? Yeah?) still on the market, there's still time for the Arizona Cardinals, post-Derek-Anderson, to join the ranks of the contenders.
Jackson isn't Sam Bradford, but after a strange career with the Minnesota Vikings the Seahawks are in decent position to reap the benefits of a change-of-scenery, no-Brett-Favre-involved career year. Likewise, Kevin Kolb isn't going to make a Pro Bowl, but he could convert the hopeless Cardinals of 2010 into a team that might at least make some waves in 2011.
The St. Louis Rams have their own problems to deal with in this abbreviated free agency--chief among them a running back and a wide receiver--but their competitors' quarterback situation will have the biggest impact on the 2011 NFC West.