Josh from Yakima, Wash., writes: What are the Seahawks' plans for Leroy Hill? Are they wanting to keep him, trade him or release him? I personally like David Hawthorne and think that the Seahawks should trade Hill for more draft picks. What kind of value could the hawks get for Hill?
Mike Sando: No value. Hill has no contract for 2011 and he's coming off a season-ending injury. The Seahawks could not trade him even if there were a labor agreement.
The situation at linebacker bears monitoring. Lofa Tatupu is to earn $4.35 million in salary for the 2011 season, a number negotiated when Tatupu was coming off three consecutive Pro Bowl seasons. He is now coming off two surgeries, one on each knee, and his ability to hold up physically over a 16-game season is in question.
Aaron Curry arrived with great expectations in 2009, but the coaching staff has turned over and it's unclear how prominently Curry will fit into the defense -- all while he works under a deal paying $8 million per season. Will Seattle find a place for him, as it did for Red Bryant? Or will the organization determine Curry isn't a good enough fit to justify the investment made by the previous regime? I do not know.
Hawthorne has indeed become the most productive linebacker on the team. He has improved, and the play around him at the position has leveled off.
Asad from St. Louis writes: If the Rams have a good draft and if free agency happens, do you see them winning the NFC West?
Mike Sando: I see the Rams as the most promising team in the division because they have the quarterback, a running game, building blocks on the offensive line, and a foundation on defense.
The San Francisco 49ers could improve quite a bit with upgraded quarterback play and coaching. The quarterback situation in Arizona has to improve almost by default. The Seahawks won the division in the first year of a rebuild, so we should not rule out Seattle, either.
I would probably pick the Rams if forced to do so, but let's see how these teams improve or regress in the coming months.
Newell from Tempe, Ariz., writes: Would Alex Smith be an option for the Cardinals? Not a long-term option, but 2-3 years until John Skelton is ready? I was always impressed with his play whenever he would play us. I know everyone is all up in arms for Kevin Kolb and Marc Bulger, etc. Would it be a good move in your opinion to get Alex if the 49ers dump him?
Mike Sando: I'm all for upgrading any position. Alex Smith would be one of the three best quarterbacks on the Cardinals if Arizona signed him. I would not sign him as a two- or three-year starter, though. It would be more along the lines of adding him to the mix for depth and possible spot starting duty.
Randy from Peoria, Ariz., writes: Rhetorical question here. When will Ken Whisenhunt finally wise up? The Pittsburgh Steelers are the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Arizona Cardinals cannot be or become the Pittsburgh Steelers of the West.
I can tolerate him (Coach Whiz) a lot more easily if he'd have taken the approach of, "We'll be the best Arizona Cardinals we can be." I just hope I'm blown away by what a great choice he makes for defensive coordinator. I'll be happy to apologize for my increasingly dismissive attitude about Coach Whiz if that occurs.
Mike Sando: A little balance is in order here. The Cardinals have won two division titles and gone 4-2 in the postseason under Whisenhunt. He gets significant credit for that. Whisenhunt made some mistakes during the 2010 season and he deserves criticism for that, and getting the wrong defensive coordinator would set him back further. But I have no problem, on the surface, with him reaching back into his Pittsburgh roots. He knows the staff there and would be in position to evaluate what those coaches might offer.