|ESPN.com: NFC West||[Print without images]|
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Brian from Maryland writes: Hey Mike, been reading since you started the blog, first time posting though. I wanted to cover the long-looming question about the Niners' first round pick. Everyone keeps stressing the "obvious needs" like SAM, OT, WR, QB ... the list goes on. We have heard names ranging from Orakpo, Maybin, Brown, A. Smith, Oher, Sanchez, Maclin ... the list seems to go on and on.
What I think people fail to realize is that the Niners will fill multiple positions in the draft, so it is important to find where the largest drop-off occurs per position.
So, the Niners go Orakpo/Brown in 1st and Loadholt in 2nd. Sounds like a quality draft to me ... fairly easy on the cap too.
Mike Sando: Great stuff, Brian. You have done the heavy lifting here. Not much more for me to say, other than to keep it coming. I agree that the 10th overall choice is too high for targeting a right tackle. The team should probably focus on a linebacker with pass-rush ability in that spot. And if someone falls to them unexpectedly, reconsider.
Mike Sando: Thanks. I don't think the Cardinals are realistically in the market for a quarterback after committing enough money to make Kurt Warner the starter for the 2009 and probably 2010 seasons. The team paid another $1 million to Brian St. Pierre.
If you think Cutler is upset about his name being floated in trade rumors, imagine how he would respond to the news that his next team planned to sit him on the bench for one or two seasons. And think what kind of distraction that would be for the Cardinals.
Arizona would be courting disaster at the most important position. Now, if Warner were retired, perhaps I would be more sympathetic to your position.
Mike Sando: Ruskell has watched six players sign with other teams in free agency: Rocky Bernard, Bobby Engram, Floyd Womack, Maurice Morris, Will Heller and Howard Green. Holmgren would have wanted to keep Engram and Morris for sure. The others were not necessarily core players, although Bernard could have been, at his best.
I do not know what Holmgren thought of Julian Peterson's play during the 2008 season. However, I do know Holmgren once thought Peterson gave Seattle a dynamism unseen from other defensive players in Seattle. He felt as though other teams had to alter their game plans for Peterson, and he had long coveted that type of player.
Of course, Ruskell was the general manager when the Seahawks signed Peterson, so it's not like he was dumping a Holmgren guy. It's somewhat ironic, too, that Ruskell traded Peterson for a player the organization envisions as a 285-pound defensive end. Holmgren was the one who coveted big defensive e
nds in his early years with the team (Lamar King, for example).
Overall, I think it's important for Ruskell to arm the new coaching staff with the types of players they want to run their schemes. He is doing that now. The weird transitional year was tough because the franchise was trying to set up things for the future coach [Jim Mora] while accommodating the existing one [Holmgren]. And so we saw some incongruent moves [carrying two kickers, signing T.J. Duckett when the staff didn't have a real plan for him].
Ruskell's strength can also be a weakness. There's a fine line between being aggressive and being impatient. When Ruskell sees a problem, he attacks it full force. I think it's fair to wonder if he acted too quickly in trading Peterson after one less-than-stellar season. I'm not convinced he did, but those are the types of questions we need to raise.
Gabe from Oakland writes: Mike, Love what your doing over here for ESPN. I wanted to know your opinion on Ricky Manning Jr. He is a free agent and I can really see him in a 49er uniform. Veteran player that can make some plays. I think he's a player Singletary would like. I also think this move could fill that void on the other side of Clements. Your thoughts?
Mike Sando: Manning is a short corner and that can be a concern in this division -- well, twice a year against Arizona, anyway. I've liked Manning's game as well, but did not watch him extensively last season. It's possibly telling that the Rams haven't signed him even though they don't have a starting cornerback opposite Ron Bartell.
As far as being a Whisenhunt-type of QB, last time I checked, Whisenhunt's offense is more about balance, yet Kurt Warner is his QB, so in that regard I think Leinart is a better fit to that offense, yet Warner is the starter, because Whisenhunt will always let the player who gives him a better chance to win be on the field ... and let's be fair here, Leinart lost his job to a HOF QB, not Gus Ferrote or Kerry Collins.
I agree that the Cardinals are not drafting a QB early in the draft, they need to fill needs, specially RB and Defense, this team has the potential to be dominant if they can find a running game, keep the passing game at a high level and improve the defense, specially at the OLB and NT positions.
Mike Sando: The Cardinals did hand a nice raise to St. Pierre while telling him he could compete with Leinart for the No. 2 job. That doesn't necessarily mean they've written off Leinart, but neither is it much of an endorsement. They bent over backward trying to help him win the job before last season. He faltered.
Rich from Bellevue, Wash., writes: Said you (in recent mailbag): "Byron Leftwich? He played well in relief for the Steelers, but he hasn't been a long-term starter for the last few seasons." So? I fail to see the significance. He played very well for the Steelers last year (frankly, I was a bit surprised at how well), on multiple occasions. What difference do the previous couple years make in this what-have-you-done-for-me-lately league? I'm frankly agog that none of the qb-needy teams have made a play for this guy. I really don't understand your take.
Mike Sando: I just wouldn't necessarily count on him to hold up for a full season. He doesn't move very well and he's had injury problems when he's been asked to start. That seems to make him a valuable backup.
Mike Sando: Thanks, and you're welcome. I get the feeling the Seahawks hope to help their cornerbacks by modifying their scheme and improving their pass rush. That said, these guys were often in position and simply unable to make plays on the ball. That is a concern.
Kyle from parts unknown writes: Hey Mike, I have a question regarding Housh's new contract with the Hawks. His contract is frequently reported as having $15 million guaranteed. However, you said his signing bonus was only $2 million. I'm just curious, how does this work out? Is most of the guaranteed money in roster bonuses? Any clarification would be appreciated. I'm a long-time reader from your TNT days and have been happy to see your hard work continue through another forum. Keep up the hard work!
Mike Sando: Thanks, and will do! Teams have been guaranteeing more of these base salaries in the first and sometimes second seasons of these contracts. The total guaranteed money for Houshmandzadeh would be $14.5 million if the team guaranteed the first two seasons.
Mike Sando: I respect the same things you respect in him. I thought his initial approach was over the top and unsustainable, and I said so, and some people interpreted this as disrespect, which it was not intended to be. Singletary has since tempered his approach, which I think was wise. I credit Singletary for making the 49ers a smarter team once he became head coach. His heart is in the right place. He has obvious leadership qualities. I think he will also have to grow in other areas to succeed for the long term.
Mike Sando: I thought Smith was the obvious choice a year ago. At this point, he needs to prove he can get healthy and stay healthy. If he can do those things, yes, I think he is the logical favorit
e to win the job and get one last chance to prove he's the man.
Oscar from Monterrey, Mexico writes: Mike, First off, thank you for your great job with this blog, keep up the great work! I'm pretty excited with the Niners' strong finish last year heading into the 2009 season, but I just can't seem to figure out their position on QB.
If they are not committed to Hill, why do they shop for a 38-year-old QB who will maybe only give them 2 more years at best, instead of trying to sign a younger QB at the same or even less price who could be the QB of the future? Some examples could be Derek Anderson or Brady Quinn, Jay Cutler supposedly in the mix, Chris Simms, why not Matt Leinart, Matt Cassel in the right time.
Mike Sando: I thought the Warner pursuit didn't make great sense from a practical scheme standpoint. However, I do think the 49ers' approach to the position has otherwise been pragmatic. They wanted to re-sign Alex Smith for less money, which meant promising him a chance to start. Right or wrong, the 49ers haven't viewed most of those quarterbacks you mentioned as obviously superior to the ones already on the roster. Mike Singletary said as much when asked about Jeff Garcia. Not sure I agree with him, but that is the thinking.
Ryan from Denton, Texas writes: Hey Mike, thanks for the updates on our teams, you are doing a great job. My question is about how the Rams have been using players outside of their natural position. I wrote to you near the end of last season about how Chris Long was more effective while playing LE for Leonard Little when he was out of the game. It's actually when he got his first sack while they were playing the Giants, I believe.
I feel this is the same thing with Barron, who is a "natural" LT from FSU. I feel that while he has played very sub-par so far in his career, perhaps that is because of his position at RT. I don't disagree with the choice of an OT at #2, but if this move to LT shows that he is much better at that position, then I think they would be smarter to grab a Raji or Curry at 2. Then they could get a good quality OT like Loadholt in the second.
Of course, most of this would depend on how well Barron looks from now until draft day. What do you think?
Mike Sando: Barron has the size and talent to play left tackle in the NFL, in my view. You just wonder if he'll ever become a consistent, disciplined and technically sound player. The penalties make him an easy target for criticism. I think it would be a bonus at this point if Barron realized his potential. It's not something I would necessarily count on. He is also entering the final year of his deal and we haven't seen enough from him to justify a long-term extension, so the team might need to start lining up contingencies.
Sheldon from Santa Ana writes: The Rams need receivers. Your writings lack imagination and insight. We know what Bruce, Holt, Arizona receivers have DONE, what has that got to do with the Rams next step re: receivers? You don't have to be a Harvard MBA to figure out that if the current receivera are thrown to more, thay will have more receptions. Stick to Arizona, your coverage of the Rams is second rate.
Mike Sando: I promise not to judge you based on one mailbag note. Hopefully you'll return the favor and acknowledge that some of the Rams stuff found on this blog goes deeper than what you found in that one item and deeper than what you're likely to find most places, frankly (examples: 1, 2, 3). Also feel free to download one of my Rams-related personnel reports, such as this one.
As for the blog entry you singled out, it closed with your very point: "Past receptions aren't going to help the Rams in 2009, but this team clearly needs more firepower at the position." Heck, Billy Devaney was the one joking about needing to adopt the wishbone.
Mike Sando: Drafting Donnie Avery was a start. I know from speaking with Al Saunders last season that he thought Avery had star potential. The Rams will need to draft another immediate contributor, probably not right away in the draft. That could mean targeting a polished receiver who lacks some of the physical attributes associated with the receivers taken at the top of the draft.