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Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Mailbag: Hasselbeck too low in QB rankings?

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Devin from Burlington, Conn., writes: Sando, Matt Hasselbeck at 15????! If you were going to start a franchise tomorrow, you would take Aaron Rodgers over Matt Hasselbeck? I think your GM career would be short lived. Hasselbeck struggled with injuries to his receivers and a crummy offensive line over the last two years. He is top six easy.

Mike Sando: My GM career might be short lived, but not for that reason. Any general manager starting a franchise would select the 25-year-old quarterback coming off a 4,000-yard, 28-touchdown season over the nearly 35-year-old veteran coming off two down seasons in the last three years, plus a back injury.

You mentioned injuries to Hasselbeck's receivers and problems on his offensive line. I think you're overlooking the fact that Hasselbeck has struggled with his own injuries. Let's see how well he bounces back this summer and into the season before assuming that two of the past three seasons were aberrations.

We all know Hasselbeck is a Pro Bowl-caliber quarterback and one of the 10 best in the game when he is at his best. It's just been a while since he's been at his best -- long enough, I think, to not blindly assume he'll be at his best this season.


Jeremy from Phoenix writes: Hey Mike. Thanks for posting your ranking of all the QBs in the league. Glad to see Kurt Warner in the top five. My question doesn't necessarily relate to the NFC West. However, it relates to former Cardinals OC Todd Haley, so I will ask and hope for an answer. What do you think about the Chiefs giving Matt Cassel such a big, long-term contract this soon?

Speculation in the media has had the Chiefs waiting to see how well Cassel performs for at least 4-6 games before throwing a big contract at him. What if Cassel was successful last season simply because he was on the Patriots? What if the Chiefs start the season 0-6 or 1-5 and Cassel posts terrible numbers?

I understand the Chiefs are in a rebuilding phase and losses are expected in that process. But do you think it was a mistake to pull the trigger on a big contract so soon? Is there any particular reason or advantage the Chiefs would have for getting Cassel taken care of now? Or does Scott Pioli just have that much faith in him?

Mike Sando: The Chiefs were already paying $14.65 million per year to Cassel. The extension brings down the average and redefines Cassel as an average starter in terms of compensation. If you're willing to trade a second-round draft choice for a player earning $14.65 million per year, you had better think highly of the player.


Gilldog from Boston writes: Keep hyping up Dominque Rogers Cromartie. It's a good way to get him in the Pro Bowl. It's the same method DeAngelo Hall used to fool everyone that he was a top tier-corner, when he was really a stiff who proved he couldn't cover man on man. DRC played OK last year. Give me a break, he got beat a pretty decent amount, too. But with all this hype, he'll make the Pro Bowl because the Pro Bowl voting is a joke, too.

Mike Sando: I wouldn't put him in the Pro Bowl yet, but I would identify him as an ascending young player with all the tools to get there.


Clu from Phoenix writes: Do you think the Cardinals should go after Bubba Franks? I honestly feel OK about the tight end postion. It's just that I feel that Coach Whisenhunt does not. If you had to name three of our tight ends to make the team, which ones would they be? I also heard that Willie McGinest wants back into the NFL. The Cardinals need depth at that position.

Mike Sando: I had that thought when the Jets cut Franks. Even though Franks seems to have dropped off considerably, it seems like adding him to the current pile wouldn't hurt. I tend to think Anthony Becht, Leonard Pope and Stephen Spach will stick around, with Ben Patrick serving that suspension. Patrick would then figure into the mix, most likely, upon his return. Injury issues could help Arizona make a decision at that point.

If Becht plays well, Spach could seemingly be affected. Both are blocking tight ends. Pope is more of a receiver. Patrick has the potential to be more versatile.


Luke from Vancouver, Wash., writes: A lot has been made about the Seahawks' injury situation last year, and I agree that it was a horrible situation. What I don't understand is why they still have the same strength and conditioning coaches: Mike Clark and Darren Krein?

Should they not accept some of the responsibility for the situation and be held accountable? There were too many injuries for it to just be a weird coincidence? Have you ever done any research on strength and conditioning coaches with the lowest injury ratios? It has been on my mind, and I thought that it might make for an interesting blog topic for you. Keep up the good work, Mike.

Mike Sando: I would not make wholesale changes to the conditioning staff based on one bad season. Mike Clark was the Seahawks' strength coach when the team went to the Super Bowl. As for injury studies, I know Football Outsiders tracks some of that. I could incorporate some of that into the blog.

Let's watch this season to see if multiple players suffer from the same sorts of injuries.


Greg from Seattle writes: Hi Mike. With the word on Derrick Mason's retirement, I am sure we are going to be treated to a new wave of Anquan Boldin-to-the-Ravens chatter. But I'm wondering about another NFC West receiver possibly heading back east: Arnaz Battle.

Battle is in the last year of his contract and is staring up at a very deep (if not necessarily top-heavy just yet) receiving group. Josh Morgan, Michael Crabtree, Jason Hill and Dominique Zeigler have all shown some intriguing potential. Jones is young and just signed a fairly large contract. Isaac Bruce seems to have unseated Battle in the role of veteran presence and reliable receiving outlet.

When healthy, Battle is a more reliable receiver than anyone on the Ravens' roster at present. He would struggle to replace Mason's yardage tota
ls, but should be able to put up something in the ballpark of 700 yards and 5-6 TDs as a primary target (if he can stay healthy). And he is one of the better blocking receivers in the game, which should appeal to a team that leans on its defense and the run game.

Best of all, he could likely be had for a fifth- or sixth-round pick. While Baltimore is perhaps more likely to go with a free agent like Marvin Harrison or Amani Toomer, the Niners and Ravens have strong ties, and if I were in the front office, I would pick up the phone in a couple days. Curious to hear your thoughts, Mike.

Mike Sando: Not a bad idea. That would be a good move for the 49ers to consider deeper into training camp. At that point, the team would know for sure what it has at receiver. If the 49ers decided to keep five -- Crabtree, Morgan, Jones, Bruce and Hill -- they would be wise to get something for Battle instead of simply cutting him. I am not sure how much the Ravens would give up in return, however.


Greg from Seattle writes: Hi Mike, I wanted to return to the Colin Cole discussion and dedicate a comment to it. I just don't get how he can in any way be considered an upgrade over Rocky Bernard. Bernard is far from an elite player, but he is a good all-around DT and has been the most consistent performer on the Hawks' DL for years.

Over the past four years, he has 51 starts. He can play the run and get after the QB. His team has ranked as high as fourth and as low as 22nd against the run. They have averaged 14th. By contrast, Cole has 7 starts in the past four years. He has produced little in terms of pass rush (3.5 sacks in four years). His teams have ranked as high as 13th and as low as 26th against the run. They have averaged 19th.

And Cole never started more than four games in a season for those teams. Now, if the additions of Cole and Redding are taken together, I would say they more than compensate for the loss of Bernard. But Cole for Bernard? That's a net loss without a doubt.

Mike Sando: The Seahawks wanted a two-gap nose tackle. Cole fits the profile on paper. Bernard is more of an up-the-field guy. Redding gives them a player with the versatility to move back and forth between end and tackle, depending on the situation.

I think Bernard can be a very good player. I will not be surprised at all if he's better for the Giants than he would have been for the Seahawks, and better than he was last season.