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Sunday, March 1, 2009
Mailbag: Rams still have shot at Bartell

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Powering my way through the mailbag. Some of these were submitted prior to the start of free agency. I've singled out the ones that held up over time.

Thomas from Antigonish writes: Hi Mike. The Rams are well documented in not drafting pretty much any good players, and so one draft pick of the old regime -- Ron Bartell -- has finally developed, and the team will probably lose him to FA ... this just seems so disappointing.

Mike Sando: The Rams might come out OK on this one, after all. Bartell left the Saints without a contract. The Rams would appear to be in better position to re-sign him as a result. They wanted him. They just couldn't justify paying established corner money to an emerging corner their coaches didn't know very well.

I understand both sides on this one. The corner market was hot enough for Bartell to take a look, but if he didn't find what he wanted, perhaps the Rams will find him more affordable.


Jason from Greeley, Colo., writes: Hey, Mike. With free agency upon us, can you give us some insight into its importance. Who would say have been the biggest free-agent pick ups in the NFC West in the past 3-4 seasons?

Kurt Warner comes immediately to mind, but who else do you feel has made a big impact in the division as a free agent? I am going to assume that there wouldn't be that many names as most of the time impact players are built through the draft and not found in free agency.

Would you agree that more often than not free agents do not meet expectations, i.e Edgerrin James in Arizona?

Mike Sando: Yes, I would agree that most free agents do not meet expectations. Teams pay so much more money for free agents than they do for draft choices.

Nate Clements is a good cornerback for the 49ers. Has he met expectations? No. Edgerrin James pretty much met expectations. Kurt Warner exceeded them. Patrick Kerney met them until injuries intervened. Julian Peterson has generally met expectations. Justin Smith played well for the 49ers last season, albeit at a high price.

The Steelers generally are not big players in free agency. They're confident enough in their drafting ability to let players leave instead of overpaying. The Steelers have also won two of the last four Super Bowls. Meanwhile, the Cowboys collect Pro Bowl players at great expense. They haven't won a playoff game since the 1990s.


James from Springfield writes: I've always been curious as to the role Head Coaches play when it comes to drafting rookie talent. Do most coaches go along with scouts to get a firsthand feel for the players they would be getting on their team? Are they more likely to sit back and let the General Manager make these sorts of decisions for them? Heck, they might even approach this like a College Football recruiter (just hopefully not like Lane Kiffin). How do head coaches go through this whole drafting thing?

Mike Sando: The general managers try to find players to fit what the head coach and coordinators want to do offensively and defensively. The head coach would have quite a bit of input in most cases. The Cardinals drafted Levi Brown over Adrian Peterson a couple years ago because coaches really wanted Brown. The personnel people favored Peterson. In Seattle last year, Mike Holmgren was adamant about drafting John Carlson. General manager Tim Ruskell took that into consideration in making the selection.


Brad from San Jose writes: I enjoy reading your blog and had a question about your post about the 7 million dollar guard. Have you looked at other positions to see which ones provides the best bang for the buck? You had the top 4 paid guards on the list, but which position has given the new team (or current team) the best chance of success? I wonder if it has been looked at by teams in the NFL.

Also in response to your question of the 1989 49ers vs the 1978 Steelers on February 1st, I believe the 1989 49ers would've been more successful. It might be my personal bias to the 49ers (as well as not being old enough to remember the 1978 Steelers team), but examining the stats, the 49ers had a better overall offense, point differential, and turnover margin than the Steelers.

Both teams had MVP with their quarterbacks, but Joe Montana had one of the better seasons for a quarterback in the NFL with only 8 Interceptions vs Terry Bradshaw throwing 20. It would've been an interesting game.

Mike Sando: I looked through some of the positions and didn't see clear patterns right away. There were hits and misses throughout.

I wouldn't want to suggest that paying a guard or anyone else prevents a team from winning. I do like going back and seeing how teams have fared after making some of these investments. And in quite a few cases, the money didn't buy playoff success.

The teams that seem to win in the offseason often do not win in the postseason. It's a point I'll hit on every so often.


Adam from Sacramento, Calif., writes: Sandman! The 49ers seem to be in a good spot at #10 to draft a stud OT, OLB, or WR who will probably be an immediate starter or at least an impact player. The draft "experts" keep saying that the draft is also very deep in those 3 positions. My question is which of those positions has the biggest dropoff from 1st to 2nd round talent? In other words, which position would the 49ers be best served filling @ #10 instead of waiting until #42? thanks Sandman!

Mike Sando: That will depend upon which players might fall to the 49ers. One of the top players at one of those positions might last until the 10th overall choice. In that case, the 49ers would need to consider the best value, regardless of position.

To answer your question more specifically, I entered the top 100 prospects into a spreadsheet, as ranked by NFL Draft Scout (I had their top 100 handy). I then looked at the sixth through 50th overall prospects. Within that range, we had six receivers, five outside linebackers and four offensive tackles. Pretty close, in other words.


Mike from Oakland, Calif., writes: Sent this a couple of times to your chat. Don't mean to pester, but very curious as to whether the Niners may be in play for Olshansky. I know you said you don't think they're going to go heavy into the free agent market, but he fits a need and would likely sign here given that he's from the city.

Mike Sando: So far, we have no indication the 49ers will make a play for Igor Olshansky. They did not make contact with him when free agency opened.


Jim from South Dakota writes: I am a long time Rams fan and I would like to know how much "dead money" they are currently paying to players not on the roster. The recent Drew Bennett release made me think of this. I guess you can do it for the rest of the losers in the NFC West, I would be real interested to see how the Rams compare to other teams in the NFC. Thanks!!!!

Mike Sando: I do not have the latest information for dead money, but Drew Bennett's release adds the Rams' figure in that department. Releasing Orlando Pace and Torry Holt would also leave some dead money against the cap. Overall, I do not think the Rams have piles of dead money. It's something I'll keep in mind for the future.


Clint from parts unknown writes: Is there any way the Seahawks to beef up their o-line with the 4th pick in the draft?

Mike Sando: They would only consider a tackle, not a guard or center, that early in the draft. They have committed quite a bit of money to their current tackles. The question becomes whether they would be wise to find Walter Jones' successor now or later. If Jones plays two more seasons, the Seahawks might not have a place for the youngster. I think that makes it harder to take an offensive lineman in that spot.


Orion from Arcata, Calif., writes: I see D.J. Hackett is available again. Any chance Seattle re-signs him? I realize he had a string of injuries with the Seahawks, but he was great big-play receiver. The contract he had with Carolina wasn't huge, so I'm thinking they could probably get him for cheap. Thoughts?

Mike Sando: That ship has probably sailed. The Seahawks have a new coaching staff now and that means the team would probably be less likely to consider Hackett or other former Seahawks. That is my impression. If Hackett came back, it would be for the minimum, most likely.


Craig from Tacoma writes: Am I the only Seahawk Fan who remembers that the team had a problem with dropped balls and alligator arms before all the receivers got hurt? We need guys who catch everything thrown at them like Robiskie of Ohio State.

Mike Sando: Before the receivers got hurt? That must have been in 2007, because they were hurt from the beginning last season. I'll agree with you to a certain extent. The Seahawks do need their receivers to become more reliable. Deion Branch has played well when healthy.


Alex from Woodinville, Wash., writes: What are the chances the Hawks sign Derrick Brooks for veteran depth? The hawks will be implementing a Tampa 2 and that is the system that Brooks has thrived in his whole career. Obviously he won't start but his playing in certain situations could certainly help. I just think low contract paired with a player who still has some games in him is a great move for Seattle. Keep up the good work!

Mike Sando: Brooks will presumably find a starting job. The Seahawks already have their starting linebackers. For that reason, I'm thinking Brooks probably would not surface in Seattle.


Martin from Nashville writes: I have been reading your articles for a while now but this is the first time i have asked a question. It is kind of a broad one though. CB Vontae Davis (Verrnon's brother) is one of the top players in his position in the draft. Do you think the 49ers would consider drafting him with te #10 pick? and if they are considering him, how much weight (positive or negative) does the fact that his bother plays for the 49ers have to do with their decision?

Mike Sando: I don't think the 49ers will go in that direction and in general I would think teams might be skeptical about having brothers on the same team. Vontae Davis is on record talking about how he doesn't want to be known as Vernon's little brother. And most projections seem to have Davis going later in the round than 10th overall.

The 49ers' relationship with Vernon Davis is probably complicated enough without introducing another dynamic.


Rich from Bellevue, Wash., writes: Who? Just WHO would be willing to part with precious draft picks to get Boldin? Can we get a list of the likely suspects? Maybe something like the piece James Walker recently did in the AFC North about where Houshmandzadeh may land, with pros and cons for each team? Thanks, and keep up the great work!

Mike Sando: Good idea. Perhaps we can get into that before the draft and after the dust settles in free agency. The Eagles were a team we singled out earlier because they held an extra first-round pick. They added to their draft capital through the Lito Sheppard trade. Perhaps they are accumulating ammunition to have the flexibility to make that sort of move. The Cardinals still have to decide they're willing to trade him, though.


Mark from El Cerrito writes: Hi Mike, I have a question about the Seahawks re-signing Leonard Weaver. Is Weaver in their plans? Are the Seahawks just trying to determine Weaver's market value before resigning him or do the Seahawks just intend to let him go? Based on Weaver's running and catching abilities in addition to his improved blocking, I'm confused why the Seahawks would not bring him back. Even with Owen Schmidt, the Seahawks would lose depth as well as talent at fullback if Weaver leaves.

Mike Sando: Weaver doesn't seem to fit into the Seahawks' plans as much. I think T.J. Duckett will get the carries Weaver might have gotten.


Mike from Richmond writes: Do you think his terrible combine performance will drop Malcolm Jenkins all the way to the second round? If so, could you see the Niners drafting him as a safety?

Mike Sando: I would not expect Jenkins to drop from the first round.


John from New York writes: After running disappointing 40 times, how do you think Malcolm Jenkins' draft status will be affected? If he drops as far as 10, what are the chances that the 49ers consider drafting him as a safety? They have bigger needs, and Dashon Goldson has potential to step up, but I don't see how you let that kind of value slip by. There are only so many ball-hawking safeties in the league, and this guy has all the tools to be the next great one if he's willing to make the transition.

Mike Sando: I just don't see the 49ers using the 10th pick on a safety. I would be very interested in hearing the 49ers' explanation if they went in that direction early in the draft.


Blue Lou from Montreal writes: What about Larry Johnson to complement Frank Gore?

Mike Sando: Larry Johnson wants the ball all the time, like most big-time backs. The 49ers want to work young talent into their backfield. I expect them to use the draft to find that secondary back. They expect to go that route.


Ayaz from the Valley writes: Mike, Can you speculate on the current niners r
oster. Do you foresee them making any cuts to their current roster. Also do you think that the niners might go after T.J. from Cincy and give him some big money and then draft a speed guy on the first day of the draft. That would give them a pretty nice receiving core for the upcoming season. J. Morgan, Bruce, TJ, Hill, and Bryant plus a speed rookie and Frank Gore catching passes makes for a formidable offense.

Mike Sando: General manager Scot McCloughan provided an answer since you submitted this question. He said the 49ers were not expecting to release anyone right away. Jonas Jennings will be a candidate. Alex Smith could become a candidate, depending upon what happens with his contract. The 49ers do not appear likely to throw big money at T.J. Houshmandzadeh.

Houshmandzadeh