The latest NFC West chat came live from Seattle Seahawks headquarters, where the lockout has given an abandoned feel to hallways and the team's sprawling locker room. I was conducting an interview for a piece scheduled to run next week.
In the meantime, I'll pass along a few chat highlights, one per NFC West team, as well as the transcript link.
Mike Sando: Chris was first with a question this week, and it's a familiar one. Asomugha will be prized if he does hit the market. I just haven't seen anything from the 49ers over the last couple seasons suggesting they're going to splurge for free agents in general. The 49ers are in the first year under Jim Harbaugh. They have taken a pretty methodical approach to their roster over the last couple seasons. They are not brimming with cash right now, most likely, as they push for a new stadium and prepare to possibly miss regular-season games. For those reasons, I would be surprised to see the 49ers open the vault in this case.
Prince Pineda (Spokane, WA) thinks the Seahawks should steer clear of Kevin Kolb because the team needs its draft choices to continue building a solid foundation. He also thinks Seattle will be in position to draft a quarterback in 2012.
Mike Sando: You make valid points all the way around. There is also a sense Pete Carroll wants to get the running game going first, and might even think he can win without a top quarterback. After the draft, the Seahawks indicated they were not in position to invest heavily in a quarterback. They are in slightly better position to do so now because they've drafted players at other positions, notably on the line.
Shane (Los Angeles, CA) asks whether I think Arizona has more talent than any other team searching for a quarterback. He sees question marks on the offensive line and at linebacker, but overall, he sees Pro Bowl-caliber talent at running back (potentially), receiver, defensive line, the secondary and on special teams.
Mike Sando: I've had this discussion with Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. Williamson has said at various points this offseason that he thought the Cardinals' roster was not very strong at all. I tend to side more with your line of thinking, but the offensive line is a bigger concern, in my view, than coach Ken Whisenhunt would have us believe. Whisenhunt was right when he said the line wasn't among the team's biggest problems last season. Overall, though, the team hasn't invested in your prospects, multiple linemen could be eligible for free agency and Levi Brown has not yet shown he's the answer at left tackle.
Jordan (Boise) acknowledges that Patrick Willis is the best defensive player in the NFC West, but he think the Rams have the post defensive players in line for breakout seasons. He sees Chris Long, Fred Robbins, James Hall and Robert Quinn giving offenses problems on third down. He thinks additions through the draft and free agency could vault the defense among the NFL's top five, particularly with James Laurinaitis, Ron Bartell and Bradley Fletcher in place.
Mike Sando: The Rams are in a good situation defensively because their head coach knows exactly what he wants in terms of personnel, and exactly what he wants scheme-wise. He inherited a good player in Chris Long, drafted a good one in James Laurinaitis and has seemingly schemed the secondary quite well. I see the makings of a top 10 defense here if the team does make some of the moves you suggested. An improved offense would also make that easier.
The Arizona question intrigues me the most. Williamson's criticisms of the Cardinals' roster deserve revisiting as we try to get an improved feel for what to expect from Arizona, particularly if the team upgrades at quarterback.
I overestimated Arizona last season. The team's strong personalities impressed me during camp, enough to make me think quarterback issues would not drag the team all the way down. The quarterback issues were more profound than anyone could have reasonably expected. But does this team have other issues significant enough to prevent a revival?