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Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Ryan from Phoenix writes via Facebook: Some of the talk radio guys were saying there's a chance that boldin will hold out to get a new contract. Have you heard anything about that and do you think that the fact no one came out and offered much for Boldin during the draft that plays in favor for the Cards saving some money?
Mike Sando: The Cardinals said from the beginning they weren't shopping Anquan Boldin. They were willing to listen if teams wanted to initiate talks. It's tough for the Cardinals to know what they could really get for Boldin -- his ultimate value to another team -- without the Cardinals actively trying to find out what they could really get for Boldin. In that respect, the process worked against Boldin. He comes out of this looking like a guy no one wants seriously to acquire. And that diminishes his leverage in future negotiations with the Cardinals.
The deck is stacked against Boldin right now. He has two years left on his deal, he'll be 30 when it expires and Larry Fitzgerald has supplanted him as the Cardinals' best receiver. The team is coming off a Super Bowl season. The head coach is highly popular. The Cardinals were generally effective without Boldin last season, so there's no pressure on management to move quickly.
If Boldin holds out and the Cardinals open quickly while playing three of their first four at home, then what?
Let's start with the Seahawks ... deep playoff run?! With what defense? Gaining Curry, Redding, Cole and Lucas and losing Peterson, Bernard, and Hill is a wash at best for a horrible D.
Hasselback may still have something left, but not enough to stop the other team from scoring. How are the Cardinals "slightly better" when they've lost their coordinators, lost A. Smith, and still have huge holes on defense? They are the class of the division until proven otherwise but you must be chugging Beanie's Kool-Aid by the gallon to say the Cards are better.
I agree with your Rams and 49ers analysis but the 49ers are way more likely to make a deep run than the Seahawks. Ever heard of "defense wins championships?"
Mike Sando: You had me laughing -- with you, not at you. Love the questionairre. I think you're a better writer than you are a reader on this one, though.
Let's revisit what I wrote after noting that Seattle's best-case scenario would include a deep playoff run: "I'm not predicting a deep playoff run, but Seattle does have the quarterback to make one if Matt Hasselbeck is healthy." Again, not predicting one. Just allowing that it could happen. If Hasselbeck played well enough for Seattle to win the division, the Seahawks would have at least one playoff game at home. They would have a chance.
You then accused me of saying the Cardinals would be "slightly better" this season, but the questionairre asked how I thought Cardinals fans should feel about their team compared to last year. The question was open to interpretation. I do think Cardinals fans can feel slightly better about their team. That doesn't mean I'm predicting a better outcome. My initial look at the Cardinals' schedule revealed a potential 9-7 record, same as last season.As for defense winning championships, let's consult the games. Offense won the Super Bowl. Arizona's offense put the Cardinals in the lead with a couple minutes left. The Steelers' offense answered with a touchdown drive. I didn't see a whole lot of defense late in that game, although James Harrison's interception return before halftime certainly helped.
I think the 49ers need better quarterback play than they have gotten recently to reach the playoffs, let alone win when they get there.
Furthermore with Crabtree drafted and Brandon Jones recently signed, who is on the chopping block come summer cuts? Obviously guys like Spurlock won't be around, but they have to keep the two I already mentioned, plus Bruce, Morgan and Hill (based on they always talk about their young up and comers) could Battle be on the outs? And I'm thinking Ziegler is once again doomed to the Practice Squad, or worse. Any thoughts?
Mike Sando: Good observations. I do have Spurlock on the 49ers' roster, but I am listing him as a kick returner. That's why the WR count comes up one short.
The receiver position in San Francisco appears pretty straightforward. We know they'll keep five or six, no more. Arnaz Battle would indeed appear to be the sixth man here unless the competition pushes his game to a higher level.
Michael Crabtree, Jones, Isaac Bruce, Josh Morgan and Jason Hill are the favored five. Crabtree makes it no matter what. Any one of the other guys would have to suffer an injury or go in the tank to miss the cut to 53.
Ben from Durham, N.C., writes: I'm a long time reader from the TNT days and really enjoy your coverage. Ruskell rescinding the franchise tag on Leroy Hill seems like a calculated risk with the potential to pay big dividends. It forces Hill and his agent into contract negotiations with limited time and a limited market of teams willing to invest the type of money he would have commanded at the beginning of free agency.
Is there any early word on which teams have the cap space and need at LB to compete with the Seahawks for Hill? Are they potentially entering a situation similar to the LA Dodgers with Manny Ramirez where there is not a very competitive market for his services at this point in free agency and they are only competing against themselves?
Do you see Leroy Hill and his agent in a situation where they need to negotiate a deal with the Seahawks they can declare a "win" in order to save face for their mis-handling of this situation? Thanks for your time and thoughts.
Mike Sando: Thanks, Ben. The last part of what you said appears quite relevant in this situation. If the Seahawks want to re-sign Hill, they need to find a way to make Hill and his agent feel better about what happened Saturday.
I would be surprised if Hill, as a relatively young player, understood all the nuances of the franchise tag. This is my 12th year covering the NFL. I keep a copy of the CBA on hand for reference. I've closely followed and written in detail about multiple situations involving franchise players. I knew the Seahawks could withdraw the tag. But I didn't know for sure why the Seahawks acted so quickly in withdrawing the tag once they drafted Aaron Curry.
I have no indication another team will step up and pay Hill more per year than he could get from the Seahawks. Perhaps the solution is to work out a two-year deal that puts some money in Hill's pocket without preventing him from exploring the market again soon. I see no reason for Seattle to put down the hammer and crush Hill just because the market is soft. He's a good player and one of their draft choices.
On the other hand, the team could easily appease fans by making a play for Derrick Brooks if Hill's demands are unreasonable. Brooks would know the defense. His presence would prove valuable to Curry, Lofa Tatupu and the rest of the defense.
Mike Sando: Well said, John. In fact, you sent me back in time to read Sports Illustrated's 1999 season preview for the Rams. No mention of Kurt Warner. Instead, reporter Michael Silver offered this passage:
[Dick] Vermeil overhauled the offense during the off-season, bringing in a new coordinator, Mike Martz, and a new quarterback, Trent Green, both of whom were with the Redskins last year. Green, who was signed to a four-year, $16.5 million free-agent deal, is expected to be a steadier performer than his predecessor, Tony Banks, whom St. Louis traded to Baltimore after three erratic seasons as the starter.
That sums it up. Green was expected to be steadier than Tony Banks. Those were the Rams' expectations at quarterback, and look what happened.