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Thursday, December 10, 2009
Mailbag: Dansby key for Cardinals' defense

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

Nick from Phoenix writes: I know it's early, but with the Cardinals all but locking up the division last week, I have a question about their offseason. With Antrel Rolle's cap number soaring, impending free agency for Karlos Dansby, and Darnell Dockett wanting Albert Haynesworth money, who can they keep and how good can their defense be next year? Since they locked up Adrian Wilson, can they afford to give a big contract to another safety? Are Will Davis, Cody Brown or Rashad Johnson progressing towards stepping in as a starter next year if they lose Rolle or Dansby? I can't see the Cardinals keeping more than one of Dansby or Rolle, and with two years left on Dockett's deal, I see him making a lot of noise this offseason and am wondering what your opinion is on the situation?

Mike Sando: Dansby's situation is the most pressing one in the immediate term. The Cardinals do not have adequate young depth at linebacker to feel good about their situation if Dansby leaves. They certainly missed Dansby when the Titans were marching down the field for the winning touchdown a couple weeks ago. I'm not convinced the organization will pay Dansby huge money on a long-term deal, but neither am I convinced the team has a good fallback option if Dansby does not return.

At safety, Johnson will have to prove he can be a hard-nosed player and a consistent one. It's a stretch right now to say he would be ready to fill Rolle's shoes. Brown and Davis look like they have good potential. Brown was quite raw when healthy, and now he is dealing with rehabilitation from a serious wrist injury.

The Cardinals were able to get Calais Campbell ready quickly, mitigating Antonio Smith's loss in free agency. It is possible to plug in young players. But Campbell might be an exception more than the rule.

The situation with Rolle is tough because the team is already paying so much to its other safety. Can a team really justify having two highly paid safeties? Might that money be better spent elsewhere if it's true the team cannot realistically pay everyone?


Chris from Surprise, Ariz., writes: If the Cardinals and the Vikings meet in the playoffs, do you think that the Vikings' loss last week will have a greater effect on the Cardinals or Vikings? I.e. will it give the Cardinals the confidence to know they can beat them, or do you think it will fuel the fire of the Vikings and make them play with greater intensity? Or possibly cause doubts within the Vikings and make them play out of their comfort zone?

Mike Sando: The Cardinals strike me as a team that doesn't really care about what other teams might be thinking. They are an unapologetic team. Flash back to Sunday night. Brett Favre tried to get in Calais Campbell's face after what he thought was unnecessary roughness. Campbell didn't even notice him. Typical Cardinals, and I mean that in a good way. Darnell Dockett already said he was anticipating people coming out of that Sunday night game wondering what was wrong with the Vikings, not what was right with the Cardinals. Arizona seems to find a way to have a chip on its shoulder when it matters.


Klaas from Phoenix writes: Hey Mike, longtime die-hard Seahawk fan here. I have a few questions for you. One, do you think the Seahawks can win out and with a little help make the playoffs? Two, what direction do you think the Seahawks go in the 2010 draft? Three, how strong do you feel about Mike Holmgren coming back as GM and when do you think they will hire and announce him or the new GM? Love reading your articles. Keep it up. Thanks.

Mike Sando: You're welcome. The Seahawks have no realistic shot at winning out and earning a playoff berth this season, based on what I have seen from them and the other NFC contenders. If the draft falls right for Seattle, the team will bolster its pass rush and its offensive line. Those two areas jump out to me. Quarterback could be a consideration as well. On Mike Holmgren, I think the Seahawks will consider him, but initial indications suggest the team will not just hand the job to him.

No one knows what owner Paul Allen is thinking. CEO Tod Leiweke seemed to suggest that the Seahawks would not necessarily be seeking a high-profile candidate. He said the GM would be joining the Seahawks (as opposed to the Seahawks joining the GM). At the very least, that means the next GM will not be immediately shaking up the football operation with sweeping changes.

The Seahawks know Holmgren wants the job. I think they can afford to interview multiple candidates and make sure the person they hire takes the job on their terms, even if it is Holmgren.


gmaster4444 from Monroe, N.Y., writes: Yo, why are the Rams bad? I know they have been injury-prone, but even when they're healthy, they still can't win. With some of the names they have/had, how does that transfer into three horrible years? This team just crashed from 8-8 with upside to six wins in three years with the only hope being when someone says "next year". The coaching is there, too. They have playmakers that just don't make plays. I don't get it. I find myself being a bigger Dolphins fan than Rams lately and I want to root and brag for my team again.

Mike Sando: The Rams' recent drafts say plenty about the current state of the team. The 2006 draft class featured cornerback Tye Hill, tight end Joe Klopfenstein, defensive tackle Claude Wroten, linebacker Jon Alston and tight end Dominique Byrd all in the first three rounds. The team simply hasn't drafted well enough to compete.


Kevin from Union City writes: Hey Sando, love the blog! Along with Vince Young, does Alex Smith have a chance at the Comeback Player of the Year? He has been effecient this year, averaging almost two  TDs a game and only one interception. He is on pace to have career highs in completion percentage and in TD passes (he'll probably come close to or around 20) and he'll only have played in 10 games. Finishing up the year playing Detroit and St. Louis certainly won't hurt his numbers, especially if he is playing to start next year and beyond. Your thoughts?

Mike Sando: Thanks for the support. Tom Brady and Carson Palmer will get serious consideration as comeback players. I hadn't really thought of Smith in that vein. He realistically does not have a shot because the 49ers aren't winning enough and Smith hasn't yet established himself as the 49ers' franchise quarterback. But if he does finish strong, it's a great story for the 49ers.