Mailbag: Hope for your team

NFL offseasons offer hope, one reason fans follow free agency and the draft with so much interest. Teams are hoping right along with them.

That was the common thread running through the three newest items in the NFC West mailbag even though the subjects differed.

Dan from California writes: Hi Mike, I'm wondering why the Seahawks had/have so little interest in the two Browns QBs but they are going after an unproven guy like Charlie Whitehurst. Derek Anderson would just cost money. Brady Quinn went for a seventh-round pick (the same as Seneca Wallace -- why didn't they swap), while Whitehurst will cost a third-round pick! I know you'll say they like Whitehurst better than Anderson or Quinn, but why? What are they seeing that the rest of us aren't?

Mike Sando: The Seahawks have shown interest in Anderson and they do not even have a third-round choice to offer for Whitehurst, but those are not the points I want to focus upon here. I think the Seahawks like Whitehurst precisely because he has not played. The slate appears blank. There's no evidence against him. Teams see hope in the unknown.

Colton from Friendsville, Pa., writes: I was wondering why nobody seems to make a move in the RFA market. You would think the investment of picks into more proven commodities would be appealing. I suppose you could make the case that they require an almost immediate contract negotiation, but then again, the same would apply to a rookie.

Mike Sando: Those unused draft choices offer more hope. Teams value those picks for what they might become. The upside appears unlimited before a draft. Teams see the limitations when they look at the "proven commodities" you mentioned. They also figure -- correctly in some cases -- that drafting a player affords more return on the dollar for a player's prime years.

Drew from Seattle writes: Can you give me any possible or logical reasoning for thinking either Alex Smith or David Carr could be successful? There is a reason Carr is still trying to find a team to start for -- he is no good. Smith has already proven he doesn't have the skills to be a reliable starter.

Not only are they wasting time, there is nothing to look foward to in the future because they continue to try and band-aid the situation and now it's just getting worse. You could argue that Alex Smith is a worse pick than Ryan Leaf was given that they have refused to cut ties and move on. He is still a thorn in the offense five years later.

Mike Sando: The 49ers traded Shaun Hill because they thought they had already seen all he could offer, and it wasn't good enough for them. They added David Carr because they think Carr, a No. 1 overall draft choice, hasn't showed all he can offer (even though Carr has played far more extensively than Hill). It's the allure of the unknown -- what a highly drafted player might do if the circumstances are right -- that gets the 49ers' excited.

Same thing goes for Smith. He was a No. 1 overall choice and he hasn't started a full season in the offensive system he ran the previous year. Might he finally break through if given that chance? The 49ers have enough hope to give him another try. In Smith's case, though, the 49ers do know and acknowledge his limitations. That is why they haven't extended his contract past 2010 and why they'll probably move on to the next quarterback without hesitation if Smith doesn't seize the opportunity this season.

In the meantime, they can hope Smith or Carr finally breaks through.