NFC West: Carl Nicks

Tigre from "South of the Border" asks about new provisions allowing NFL teams to carry over unused salary-cap space to future years. He wonders why a team would ever decide against carrying over some of the unused allotment.

Mike Sando: NFL teams have, for years, tried to push unused cap space into future seasons. They previously did this by writing into players' contracts "likely to be earned" incentives that were, despite the label, very unlikely to be achieved. John Clayton explained the practice in detail back in 2004.

The new labor agreement legitimizes how teams carry over unused cap space. Teams simply tell the league how much unused cap space they would like to carry over.

Kansas City Chiefs owner Clark Hunt recently explained some of the particulars. Clayton provided numbers as they pertain to the 2012 season in this update.

Any team failing to carry over unused space might appear cheap, but carrying over the maximum would not necessarily make a team less cheap. It would not affect spending, only the amount a team could spend.

Salary-cap machinations are not always straightforward. A team could conceivably decide against carrying over unused room to accommodate late-hitting incentives, a contract option or the acceleration of guaranteed money.


Charlie from St. Louis asks whether the Rams might be wise to "secretly" make Sam Bradford available to teams intending to draft Griffin. "Don't get me wrong," Charlie writes, "I think Bradford will be a good player. But given how expensive he is, the new regime in St. Louis could make a shrewd move by starting over with Robert Griffin III."

Mike Sando: The Rams are on the record saying they will not trade Bradford. The rest of us are free to debate the merits of that stance, so here goes.

First, would such a move even be doable? I think it would be.

The Browns might logically prefer Bradford to RG3. Browns coach Pat Shurmur already has a strong background with Bradford from Shurmur's time as the Rams' offensive coordinator. As impressive as RG3 has been to this point in the process, the Browns would know with greater confidence what they were getting with Bradford, a player they know well. Bradford also has a verifiable track record in the West Coast offense Cleveland is running, a selling point for Shurmur and also for Browns president Mike Holmgren.

There would be risks. The Rams have already said Bradford is off-limits. Dangling him as trade bait would damage the new regime's relationship with Bradford if such a trade fell through. Also, Bradford's traded contract would count nearly as much against the Rams' salary cap as it counts right now.

What could the Rams get for Bradford? Could they get the fourth overall pick from Cleveland, or would they have to settle for a package worth less? That is tough to know, and pivotal to any imaginary deal.


Craig from Knoxville has a theory as to why the Cardinals did not offer more power to Todd Haley, letting Haley go to Pittsburgh. He thinks adding Haley would have made it tougher for the team to bring on another strong personality in Peyton Manning. "I know Haley and Kurt Warner were a good mix," Craig writes, "but that was because they grew together. If we signed Haley, I think that would have been negative toward Manning."

Mike Sando: Interesting point. Ultimately, I think coach Ken Whisenhunt wasn't comfortable rearranging his offensive staff and essentially demoting the current coordinator, Mike Miller. It would have been a bit awkward. The team did make a Manning-friendly move by adding Manning's former position coach, Frank Reich, as receivers coach.


Ryan from Atlanta wants to know what Ahmad Brooks' new contract with the San Francisco 49ers means for teammate and fellow outside linebacker Parys Haralson.

Mike Sando: Haralson and Brooks played on opposite sides. The plan was for Aldon Smith to take Haralson's starting job no matter what happened with Brooks. Haralson is scheduled to earn $2.45 million in base salary and $300,000 in offseason bonuses. The combined number is not prohibitive for a part-time player or backup. We can safely say Haralson's playing time will decline and his future with the team is in some question.


Fox from San Jose says New Orleans' Marques Colston and Carl Nicks could hit the market if the Saints use their franchise tag for quarterback Drew Brees. Under that scenario, he wonders whether Nicks could fit for the 49ers in free agency.

Mike Sando: Doubtful, in my view. Nicks would cost a lot of money. The 49ers drafted Daniel Kilgore with the thought Kilgore could grow into the starting role at right guard if needed. San Francisco has not been a team that overspends in free agency, at least of late. Signing Nicks would go against their recent approach.


Joey from Hawaii asks whether Brock Osweiler would be a good second-round choice for the Seahawks. Would he be better than current third-stringer Josh Portis? Or should the Seahawks keep building their roster, then do what it takes to land Matt Barkley in 2013?

Mike Sando: The Seahawks have been 7-9 twice while rebuilding. They probably aren't going to finish with a poor enough record in 2012 to position themselves for Barkley or another top quarterback. They cannot put off the decision simply because Barkley could be an option next year. Osweiler does have the mobility Seattle's Pete Carroll values in quarterbacks. Todd McShay says Osweiler is highly competitive, another must for Carroll. Based on those things, then, Osweiler might be an intriguing prospect.


Jason from Coeur d'Alene, Idaho thinks Seattle should try to acquire the second overall pick from the Rams, then shop it around. They could always take RG3 in that spot. Jason thinks Matt Flynn or Peyton Manning will go to Miami, leaving Washington and Cleveland desperate. He does not think the Seahawks can "out-Alex Smith" the 49ers with Tarvaris Jackson behind center.

Mike Sando: The Rams most likely will not trade the second overall pick to a division rival. The Seahawks most likely will not give up what it would take to get into that No. 2 spot. Those are my opinions. Why would the Rams arm a division rival with a potential franchise quarterback?


Nick from Salt Lake City asks whether teams with interest in Robert Griffin III might "call the Rams' bluff" in the 2012 draft. Instead of acquiring the No. 2 overall choice from St. Louis, these teams might trade into the third spot, figuring the Rams weren't going to take a quarterback, anyway. Nick asks whether the Rams might get more value by drafting Robert Griffin III, then trading his rights.

Mike Sando: The question shows why the Rams will want to trade the pick before the draft and possibly before free agency. There's no use taking undue chances when getting value for the choice is the most important thing. The Rams do not need to get a huge bounty in return. They need a fair trade.

Any team trading into the third spot to select Griffin would have to worry about the Rams trading the second pick to another team with the same intentions. But if the Rams wait around, some teams will have addressed their quarterback situations, perhaps in ways that diminished their appetite for Griffin. That could lower the price for the second pick.


Fabian from Germany asks whether the Rams should trade the second overall choice, plus the first pick of the second round.

Mike Sando: Depends what they could get in return. They would not want to give away too much quality just to acquire additional picks.

Mailbag: Backlash against QB desperation

February, 21, 2012
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Frequent hand-wringing over the Seattle Seahawks' quarterback situation has struck a nerve with some.

"After seeing the 'Why not trade up for a QB' piece, I have to say I am getting a little frustrated with all the talk of how Seattle HAS to get a QB," Javier from Renton, Wash., wrote.

Javier then ran through all the first-round quarterbacks drafted from 1998 through 2007, noting that only about one-third of them met expectations.

"My question to you is, would you make a trade for a 34 percent chance on getting a franchise QB?" Javier asked.

There's no sense in taking the wrong quarterback just to say you addressed a need. But would you rather have a 34 percent chance or a zero percent chance? At some point, a team has to risk failure for a shot at success.

History might ultimately vindicate Seattle for drafting James Carpenter over Andy Dalton last year. Which one would you rather have right now? Only one of them has a shot at becoming a top quarterback.

The Seahawks haven't drafted even one quarterback since Pete Carroll became head coach. That has actually helped them build up their roster in a short period of time.

Instead of taking a chance on quarterback Ricky Stanzi in the fourth round last year, they found a starting linebacker in K.J. Wright. Instead of using a fifth-round pick for quarterback Nathan Enderle, the Seahawks found a terrific cornerback in Richard Sherman.

Instead of taking a chance on Tim Tebow in the 2010 first round, the Seahawks found a Pro Bowl safety in Earl Thomas. They took Golden Tate when Colt McCoy was available. They took Walter Thurmond when Mike Kafka was on the board. They went with Kam Chancellor when they could have had John Skelton.

Most of those moves were the right ones under the circumstances. The team does need to find a quarterback, however.

Hashem from Palestine thinks the Arizona Cardinals should cut ties with Kevin Kolb and go all in for Peyton Manning. He thinks Skelton would benefit from working under Manning, and he thinks the Cardinals are built to win now.

Mike Sando: What if Manning isn't ready for minicamps or training camps? What if he never plays again? What if he plays one more season and never recaptures previous form? Those scenarios seem plausible given Manning's long layoff and repeated surgeries.

The risk would be worth taking if the Cardinals thought Kolb would be no better than Skelton. If Arizona does think Kolb can become a top player, however, it's tougher to part with him amid serious questions about Manning's health.

Arizona must make a decision on Kolb by March 17. What will teams know about Manning by then?


Brian from Visalia, Calif., wonders whether the St. Louis Rams would consider trading Sam Bradford to Cleveland, where Bradford would be reunited with Pat Shurmur. Under this scenario, the Rams' new leadership would draft its own quarterback.

Mike Sando: We discussed this during the regular season, before the Rams made a coaching change. The Browns have additional picks this year, giving them leverage for trading. They need a quarterback. Bradford would fit with Shurmur.

I do not think the Rams would do this, however. Salary-cap implications would come into play. To my knowledge, the team still thinks Bradford will become a top quarterback.

These are fun scenarios to consider, but in my opinion, Bradford will stay put.


Bill from Clearwater, Fla., wants to know which direction the Rams might go in the draft with Jeff Fisher and Les Snead in place.

Mike Sando: Bill asked this question a few days ago. I honestly did not see it before putting together an item addressing this very subject.

Fisher and Snead have worked for teams that never (Fisher) or rarely (Snead) used a first-round choice for an offensive lineman. Fisher and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams will want to add swagger to the defense. Fisher and Snead will want to add a playmaking element to the offense.

What the Rams do in free agency will influence their draft plan. I lean toward thinking the Rams will wind up with Oklahoma State receiver Justin Blackmon, figuring they need help for Bradford. But it's still too early to have a great feel.


Steven from Lakeville, Minn., wants to know which players, besides their own, the San Francisco 49ers might target in free agency. He thinks New Orleans Saints guard Carl Nicks would shore up the line for years to come, allowing them to target receivers and defensive backs in the draft.

Mike Sando: I'm thinking the 49ers will target middle-tier free agents. Carlos Rogers was one of them last offseason, and a good one. Nicks would be a luxury signing and more expensive than the free agents San Francisco has targeted recently. I would expect the 49ers to develop their younger offensive linemen instead. Daniel Kilgore is a candidate to start at right guard if he develops this offseason.

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This was indeed a special season for the San Francisco 49ers and, by extension, the NFC West overall.

The Associated Press All-Pro Team, announced Friday, includes five 49ers, a league high for any team. Arizona's Patrick Peterson made the team as the return specialist, joining the 49ers' David Akers and Andy Lee to give the NFC West all three specialists.

The 49ers' Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman made it as inside linebackers. Teammate Justin Smith made it as a defensive tackle. He also got votes at defensive end. Smith moves around the line, playing end in the base 3-4.

Aaron Rodgers won 47.5 out of 50 votes at quarterback, a strong indication Rodgers will emerge as the leader in MVP balloting. Those results have not yet been revealed, but they draw from the same group of voters.

The chart shows All-Pro counts by division.

Also making the team: fullback Vonta Leach, center Maurkice Pouncey, guard Carl Nicks, guard Jahri Evans, running back Maurice Jones-Drew, running back LeSean McCoy, tackle Joe Thomas, tackle Jason Peters, tight end Rob Gronkowski, receiver Wes Welker, receiver Calvin Johnson, cornerback Darrelle Revis, cornerback Charles Woodson, defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, defensive end Jared Allen, defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, linebacker Derrick Johnson, outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware safety Troy Polamalu and safety Eric Weddle.

2011 NFL draft: Value of seventh pick

March, 14, 2011
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This is the second in a series of items revisiting relatively recent NFL trades involving first-round draft choices in the slots NFC West teams occupy this year.

The ongoing NFL lockout prevents trades involving players, but teams can still trade draft choices. Primarily for that reason, I've excluded from consideration trades involving picks and veteran players.

The seventh pick boasts a colorful recent history featuring three of the four teams currently in the NFC West. My apologies in advance if any of these trades revive painful memories.

The pick: Seventh overall

Held by: San Francisco 49ers

Most recent trade involving only picks: 2008. The New England Patriots sent the seventh and 164th choice to the New Orleans Saints for the 10th and 78th selections. This trade was close to even on paper, according to the draft-value chart. The seventh and 164th choices add up to 1,526.8 points. The 10th and 78th selections add up to 1,500. The Saints used the seventh choice, which originated with San Francisco, for defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis. They drafted guard Carl Nicks with the 164th choice. New England came away with linebackers Jerod Mayo (10th) and Shawn Crable (78th).

Bill Walsh, Mike Holmgren and the 2001 draft: The Seattle Seahawks were one year away from joining the NFC West when the Walsh-run 49ers acquired the seventh overall choice from Holmgren's Seahawks. The value chart agreed with the deal. Seattle gave up picks worth 1,516 points for picks worth 1,533.6 points, a wash. The 49ers drafted defensive end Andre Carter in the seventh slot and defensive tackle Menson Holloway at No. 191. The Seahawks drafted receiver Koren Robinson ninth, fullback Heath Evans 82nd and center Dennis Norman 222nd. Carter, Evans and Norman remain active for different teams. Robinson flamed out prematurely. Holloway never played.

Mamula, Sapp and the 1995 draft: The Philadelphia Eagles moved up five spots to draft linebacker Mike Mamula seventh overall. This was bad move for the Eagles even if Tampa Bay hadn't drafted defensive tackle Warren Sapp with one of the picks from Philly. The Bucs did get Sapp, however, and Mamula didn't last. The trade-value chart says the Eagles gave up picks worth 1,946 points for picks worth 1,730 points. Philadelphia got the 72nd pick, used for defensive tackle Greg Jefferson, who became a starter. Beyond Sapp, the Bucs received the 43rd choice, used for safety Melvin Johnson, and the 63rd choice, used for guard Shane Hannah. Johnson became a starter.

The Bryant Young deal: The Los Angeles Rams were in full retreat during the 1994 draft. Having already traded back two spots into the seventh overall slot, they moved back eight more spots to No. 15 in a deal that helped the 49ers' defensive line. San Francisco used the seventh choice for Young, who became a second-team all-decade selection for the 1990s. The Rams landed the 15th choice, used for durable offensive tackle Wayne Gandy, plus the 56th (defensive end Brad Ottis) and 100th (linebacker Ernest Jones) picks. The trade chart says the Rams gave up 1,500 points for picks worth 1,490 points -- pretty much a wash. Gandy was a starter in 14 of his 15 NFL seasons.

The price of an elite cornerback: The 49ers could be in the market for a cornerback with the seventh overall choice this year. They'll be fortunate to fare as well as the Washington Redskins fared in the 1999 draft when they moved up five spots to No. 7 and drafted Champ Bailey. Chicago commanded the 12th (quarterback Cade McNown), 71st (receiver D'Wayne Bates), 106th (linebacker Warrick Holdman) and 143rd (tackle Jerry Wisne) choices, worth 51.5 points more than the seventh choice on the value chart. The Redskins also threw in a third-rounder in the 2000 draft (tight end Dustin Lyman). Quality trumped quantity in this exchange, something the 49ers will have to weigh if one of the top cornerbacks is available in the seventh slot this year.

Moving on up: Cleveland sent the seventh and 37th choices in the 2004 draft to Detroit for the sixth pick, which the Browns used for tight end Kellen Winslow. The Lions drafted receiver Roy Williams seventh and linebacker Teddy Lehman at No. 37. The value chart says the Browns spent 2,030 points to receive a pick worth 1,600 points. The 430-point difference equated to the 47th overall choice. A decade earlier, Indianapolis sent the seventh and 83rd choices to the Rams for the fifth pick, a wash on the value chart. The Colts took linebacker Trev Alberts fifth. The Rams kept dealing.

NFC West Penalty Watch: Saints edition

January, 7, 2011
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I've spun off the usual NFC West penalty file for a look at the New Orleans Saints' 2010 leaders heading into the Seattle Seahawks' wild-card game Saturday.

Only six NFL teams have committed fewer penalties for false starts than the Saints, but left tackle Jermon Bushrod has six of them.

The chart shows accepted and declined penalties, courtesy of ESPN Stats & Information.

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