Mailbag: Bradford, Fitzgerald and more

Blake from St. Louis writes: In a vote of 617 NFL players and head coaches conducted by the Sporting News, Ndamukong Suh was named the NFL's top rookie. Suh received 260 votes. Sam Bradford received 221 votes. Devin McCourty received 49 votes.

How could Bradford possibly lose? He broke multiple rookie records. How many records did Suh break? Should I be worried about Bradford not winning the rookie of the year award from the NFL?

Mike Sando: Suh was more dominant and Bradford was more valuable. Suh was better at the one thing he could control -- his level of play. Bradford's value was greater through the nature of his position. Playing quarterback carries more demands than playing defensive tackle.

I would favor Bradford in this debate largely because the Rams went from 6-42 over three seasons without him to 7-9 in their first season with Bradford under center. Bradford played every offensive snap. He made players around him better, which is tough to do from that position.

Matt Ryan, Vince Young and Ben Roethlisberger won the award over the past six seasons. Ryan and Roethlisberger went to the playoffs as rookie starters. The Titans finished 8-8 with Young starting 13 games. Roethlisberger went 13-0 as a rookie starter for a good team. The chart shows where Bradford's rookie season ranks compared to rookie seasons by those players.

Rookie Comparison: Bradford vs. R.O.Y Winners

Bradford still has a good chance at winning the award. The voters will presumably take into account what Bradford meant to the Rams. However, I think you could have felt a lot better about Bradford's chances if the Rams had beaten Seattle on national TV in Week 17 and advanced to the playoffs. That probably would have cemented Bradford as the clear choice.

Ben from Seattle writes: At this point in the season, it is hard not to question whether the Josh Wilson trade was a good idea or not. The Seahawks play a lot of defensive backs, Kelly Jennings is still struggling, Walter Thurmond is promising (but is still not of starting caliber), Roy Lewis is on injured reserve and we could use some game-changers on defense.

Wilson seems to be doing well for Baltimore. One thing that would make things more palatable for the Seahawk fan is what we get in return for Wilson. I recall that the pick was a fifth-rounder, but was conditional on playing time. Do you have any idea whether that fifth rounder will become a fourth? Thanks. Love the blog.

Mike Sando: Thanks, Ben. Seattle will receive a fifth-round choice in return for Wilson. The pick would have upgraded to a fourth-rounder if Wilson had started at least 10 games. He wound up starting nine -- the final eight games, plus a game against Cleveland in Week 3.

Did the Ravens make sure Wilson started fewer than 10 games? That is difficult to know. The Ravens benched Fabian Washington at halftime of their Nov. 7 victory against the Miami Dolphins. Wilson had three passes defensed and one interception in relief. Wilson then started the remaining eight regular-season games, giving him nine starts for the regular season.

I questioned the Wilson trade at the time because I thought the team lacked depth at the position and might wind up needing Wilson in the return game as well. Leon Washington's return to health meant Seattle never needed Wilson on returns. In retrospect, I do not think the Seahawks badly missed Wilson this season. Lewis played pretty well for them and became a leader.

Jeff from Raleigh writes: What is your opinion on the potential of Golden Tate for next year and the years beyond that? I know a lot of times it is very difficult for a rookie wide receiver to learn the intricacies of the position. And, I read on one of the Seahawks outlets that during his inactive time of the season, Tate started to look within and began to act a little more like a professional in his approach to studying his teammates and film.

Do you think it will be likely that one of Seattle's receivers would get traded or released this offseason, thus allowing Tate to move up the charts? Also, from speaking with him and the rest of the team, does it seem like he is maturing a little since the preseason and early weeks of the regular season? Thanks for all of your input throughout the year and travel safe during your coverage.

Mike Sando: Thanks, Jeff. I don't think Tate is going to move up the depth chart based on any trades. Seattle has recently signed Mike Williams and Ben Obomanu to three-year extensions. Those deals should have gotten Tate's attention. Both players justified their playing time.

Tate is obviously gifted. I was watching him field punts after practice this week and can share a story reflecting his pure athleticism and the athleticism of pro athletes in general. Tate was fielding punts from a "Jugs" machine. He took one ball and threw it back toward the machine on a trajectory similar to the one it followed on the simulated punt. The ball traveled about 50 yards and hit the machine precisely at the launch point between the two rotating discs. I just shook my head in amazement.

The Seahawks are not going to hand anything to Tate. The light bulb will have to come on for him. I think we saw it flicker at times during the season. He will need a full offseason of renewed dedication and professionalism to get the playing time he wants.

Peter from Arizona writes: Larry Fitzgerald CAN be traded. Media everywhere reports that he cannot. In 2009, when he restructured his deal, the no-trade clause was dropped!

Mike Sando: You are partially correct. I had forgotten about this aspect of the renegotiation, which took place in August 2009. Thanks for the reminder.

The no-trade clause remained in effect for the 2009 and 2010 contract years. No-trade clauses were removed from the 2011 and voidable 2012 years of the contract. The deal still prevents the Cardinals from naming Fitzgerald their franchise or transition player should those designations remain available to NFL teams once Fitzgerald's deal voids or otherwise ends.

This means the Cardinals could, indeed, attempt to trade Fitzgerald during the 2011 season. However, any team agreeing to give up anything of consequence in return for Fitzgerald would first want to work out a long-term deal with him. That would effectively give Fitzgerald veto power over trades.

But the possibility remains for the Cardinals to seek value for Fitzgerald if they cannot work out a long-term deal with him. Thanks for the heads-up.

Update: The no-trade clause remains in place for 2011. The previously referenced report was subsequently corrected. Information on file with the players' association is apparently source for the confusion. An agent told me the information mentions the no-trade clauses for the 2009 and 2010 seasons only even though the clause applies to 2011 as well. So, all the previous items about a no-trade clause were indeed correct. Sorry about that, Peter.

Jim from San Francisco writes: Hi Mike, love the blog. Do you think cutting Matt Leinart effectively cost the Cardinals any shot at the playoffs in what turned out to be a weak NFC West season? Also, are any QB-needy teams looking at him as an option? How did his star fade so quickly? Thanks.

Mike Sando: It's possible the Cardinals might have won a couple more games with Leinart as their quarterback this season. It's possible that would have been enough to get them into the playoffs, provided those additional victories came against Seattle and San Francisco. Overall, however, I do not think Leinart would have made the Cardinals a contending team.

The question I have is whether coach Ken Whisenhunt hastily subtracted a player from his roster without having better options. To use an analogy, it looks like Whisenhunt decided to sell his beater of a car without realizing he would be walking to work in the future. I also wonder if he is headed down a similar path after firing defensive coordinator Bill Davis. Did Whisenhunt sell another car without lining up alternate means of transportation?

Ian from Washington, D.C., writes: Hey Sando, would love to get your take on the rest of the 49ers' offseason "plan". Mainly, do you think that either Ryan Mallett, Cam Newton or Jake Locker might slip to the 49ers in round two? That way, they could grab Nebraska corner Prince Amakamara or LSU's Patrick Peterson (if they are lucky) in round one, and sign Donovan McNabb for now. Man, that sure is my dream situation.

Mike Sando: I thought the 49ers should have acquired Donovan McNabb last offseason and I suspect they would have won the NFC West had they gone that route, even though McNabb didn't do much with a rebuilding Washington Redskins team. It's becoming clearer, however, that McNabb might not be as attractive an option as he once appeared to be.

Getting some sort of veteran quarterback for the 2011 season would upgrade the roster, however. I would rather have McNabb as my one-year rental than Alex Smith or David Carr.

The college quarterbacks you listed would presumably be gone by the second round. It seems as though Locker's stock has already tumbled quite a bit since last season, putting him in position to potentially rise, if anything. He's a tremendous athlete. Does he throw accurately enough? That is a fair question.

I suspect the combine process will affect Mallett and Newton in particular as NFL teams get a better feel for their personalities and backgrounds. Mallett has an arrest for public intoxication on his record. Newton's experience at Auburn raised questions about NCAA rules violations. What more is there to know about these guys?

Alex from San Francisco writes: Jim Harbaugh runs a version of the West Coast offense. Assuming the 49ers will bring in one veteran at minimum (even if they do draft a QB), what other teams in the NFL currently run the West Coast and what potential QBs could the 49ers pick up in free agency or via trade? I'm holding out for Jeff Garcia personally.

Mike Sando: Garcia is 40 years old and probably not the guy you want on your team as a backup. He wants to start and that is why he is playing in the UFL instead of finishing out his career on an NFL roster.

Green Bay, Minnesota, St. Louis and Philadephia run offenses with West Coast roots. Cleveland will run one now that Pat Shurmur is head coach.

Mike Shanahan favors a version featuring zone blocking schemes and requiring more mobility from the quarterback. Washington, Houston and Seattle have head coaches and/or offensive coordinators with roots in this system. The Packers' scheme also favors zone blocking.

Harbaugh has favored a power running game setting up play-action passes. I'm not yet sure what kind of quarterback he'll pursue.