NFC West: Omar Jacobs
Mike Sando: Warner led the Cardinals to the Super Bowl and gave his team the lead in the final minutes. If the 49ers thought McNabb could take them to that level, they should acquire him right now. We already know McNabb can be a productive, Pro Bowl-caliber quarterback. I also think a team could win a championship with him. Too much is made of the fact that McNabb lost a Super Bowl and hasn't gotten the Eagles back to one since. Five Super Bowls have passed since Tom Brady won one and no one is saying the Patriots need a new quarterback. They're tough to win!
The evidence on Smith and Carr suggests neither will become productive perennially. I do think the 49ers have enough invested in Smith to have an interest in seeing him through this season. They've strived for continuity for so long. Another quarterback change would entail starting over once again.
The question is really whether McNabb could take the 49ers to a level they likely wouldn't reach with Smith or Carr. My money would be on McNabb. But if I had invested the first overall choice in Smith and felt as though he might be on the verge of finally breaking through, I wouldn't replace him lightly.
Jason from Rochester, N.Y., writes: Hey Mike, even though Seattle signed Charlie Whitehurst, we know that general manager John Schneider likes to draft a QB every year. Any chance they use a late-rounder on local boy, Matt Nichols? Also, aren't they showing their hand a bit on where they will be drafting by purging both Cory Redding and Darryl Tapp? Edge pass rush was their most obvious need even with those two on the roster. With Julius Peppers signed, the pickings are slim in the free-agent market. Do you think No. 14 is going to be used for a defensive end?
Mike Sando: I agree that the Seahawks have subtracted somewhat unnecessarily as if determining what they don't want before having adequate reinforcements on board. This is what teams tend to do when new regimes take over. It's not just a Seattle thing. It also might tell us where the previous regime overvalued certain players. And then when you factor in changes made for scheme reasons, it's another reminder that NFL franchise makeovers come at a high price.
Nichols does project as a late-round prospect, but there's nothing to say the Seahawks would value him over another late-rounder at the position. I do think Seattle will probably draft a quarterback for the No. 3 role. That is also pretty typical. It makes sense because if you hit on a player at that position, the payoff can be great, even if he never starts for you.
I could see the Seahawks drafting a pass-rusher at No. 6 or No. 14. It's an area the team needs to address and with two picks that early, this is the chance.
Phillip from Olympia, Wash., writes: What's going on with the Seahawks' offensive line? I thought the new regime was going to transform the group. Any news on Rob Sims since the Jim Mora tirade and the Chicago trade rumer?
Mike Sando: I've been expecting Seattle to sign a Ben Hamilton or Chester Pitts type. That could still happen. Then I think we'll see the team draft for the position as well. Sims could return, but only if the Seahawks cannot get value for him. A trade probably remains the most likely scenario.
Peyson from Shelley, Idaho writes: Why don't the Seahawks get Brandon Marshall for their 14th pick? I mean, it is like giving back their pick to the Broncos and that would solidify the wide receiver position for us for the next couple years. Then we could use the sixth pick on an offensive linemen and use our second on a defensive linemen. This year is a deep year for big running backs, so we could pick one up in the fourth round. That's the way I look at it. What do you think?
Mike Sando: Seattle would have to risk the sixth pick in signing Marshall to an offer sheet. If you're talking about a trade, why pay the 14th overall choice for Marshall now if the price drops later? I don't see a long line of teams itching for a shot to acquire Marshall. Seattle would be better off trying to use the sixth and 14th picks for starters, using a later pick for Marshall, if possible.
Michael from Phoenix writes: Mike, with the 49ers looking for help in the return game and employing a 'best player available' strategy in the draft, how can they pass up a talent like Dez Bryant? I know receiver is not a pressing need, but with Bryant's stock falling because of off-field issues, he could be a steal that they can't afford to pass up. He would provide immediate help in the return game and most scouts have him rated higher than Michael Crabtree. The more talent assembled around Alex Smith can only help his development. Although those targets would look even better with McNabb -- I'm crossing my fingers -- they can still draft a tackle with the other first-round pick and sign free agent Chester Pitts to shore up the offensive line. What do you think?
Mike Sando: The 49ers did benefit from some of the red flags surrounding Crabtree a year ago. I also agree with the thinking that a team should arm its quarterback with more and more weapons. The Colts have done an excellent job drafting playmakers to help Peyton Manning.
The question is really whether targeting for value at No. 13 would prevent the 49ers from matching value to need at No. 17, the assumption being that San Francisco needs to help its offensive line with one of those first two selections. If the 49ers can address the line with one of those choices, I do think they can feel better about adding more of a luxury item with the other first-round choice.
Mike from Costa Mesa, Calif., writes: Sando! What do you think the chances are that Arizona will select a QB with one of its two third-round picks or in later rounds? I for one am intrigued by John Skelton of Fordham and would love to see him go to the Cards. I'm pretty sure that Skelton would be there for the third round, but is there a chance that he could still be on the board in the fifth or sixth rounds?
Mike Sando: Yeah, there's a chance he could be there after the third round. He's a big guy, 6-foot-5 and 240-plus pounds. Any player taken that late is going to come with some question marks. Skelton didn't face the best competition at Fordham. He played from the shotgun quite a bit, so there would be some projecting for the offense the Cardinals want to run. Sooner or later, though, the Cardinals need to draft a developmental quarterback.
Whisenhunt's teams have drafted six quarterbacks over the years: Tim Couch, Ben Roethlisberger, Chad Pennington, Brian St. Pierre, Omar Jacobs and Wally Richardson. The Cardinals haven't drafted one since Whisenhunt got there. It's probably time.
Frank from Los Angeles wants to know whether the Rams might avoid drafting Sam Bradford over fears that they wouldn't be able to sign him before the draft.
Mike Sando: The Rams can't let that stop them from drafting a franchise quarterback if they indeed think Bradford can be that type of player. Whether Bradford is signed in April or July shouldn't matter a great deal at this stage of the evaluation process.
Take the best player, particularly if he is a quarterback, and worry about the details later.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
The 49ers' recent decision to release veteran quarterback Damon Huard, keeping rookie Nate Davis in the No. 3 role, comes as little surprise after Davis played well against the Cowboys in the third exhibition game.
NFL teams drafted 19 quarterbacks in the fifth round from the 2000 through 2008 drafts. All but one earned spots on opening-day rosters as rookies. The Steelers' Omar Jacobs was an exception in 2006, the year Ben Roethlisberger opened on the bench following a motorcycle accident.
Huard gave the 49ers an experienced backup with a winning record, but he wasn't going to play unless something happened to Shaun Hill and Alex Smith, or if both faltered badly. Without Huard, 36, the offensive players on the 49ers' roster go from 23rd-oldest to 29th-oldest among NFL teams.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
The race for the No. 3 job behind them deserves some attention. Veteran Damon Huard has a 15-12 record as an NFL starter. He provides value as an experienced backup. The team also wants to develop fifth-round rookie quarterback Nate Davis.
What to do?
Davis is a project. He will not help the 49ers this season. The question becomes whether another team would sign him to its 53-man roster if the 49ers waived Davis and tried to sign him to their practice squad.
As noted, NFL teams selected 19 quarterbacks in the fifth round from the 2000 through 2008 drafts. Eighteen earned opening-day spots on 53-man rosters as rookies. The Steelers' Omar Jacobs was an exception in 2006, the year Ben Roethlisberger opened on the bench following a motorcycle accident.
The factors that pushed down Davis in the draft -- notably a learning disability that the 49ers see as overstated -- still exist. If teams fear Davis might struggle to learn their system -- and for the sake of this discussion, it doesn't matter if such fears are justified -- the 49ers might have an easier time getting
Davis onto their practice squad.
What would you do?
The chart shows all 31 current 49ers players with eligibility, arranged by position. I left first-round choice Michael Crabtree off the chart because he has not signed with the team.
NFL teams must reduce rosters from 80 to 75 players Sept. 1. They must reduce to 53 players Sept. 5. They can begin forming eight-man practice squads Sept. 6 at noon ET.
As the NFL puts it:
After 12 noon, New York time, clubs may establish a practice squad of eight players by signing free agents who do not have an accrued season of free-agency credit or who were on the 45-player active list for less than nine regular-season games during their only accrued season(s). A player cannot participate on the practice squad for more than three seasons.
The 49ers also face dilemmas at other positions, including what to do at receiver while Crabtree and Brandon Jones are not available, but that third quarterback race stands out.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Scott Fontaine of the Tacoma News Tribune followed the Seahawks through an Army obstacle course at North Fort Lewis. Fontaine: "Another member of the 595th, Sgt. Jeremy Bugher, normally yells at soldiers as they navigate the course. On Thursday, he stood near the edge of a scaling wall and shouted at players to pick up the pace. He conceded that a fresh-out-of-basic-training private likely would receive harsher treatment."
Gregg Bell of the Associated Press says some Seahawks reflected on Pat Tillman's sacrifice while meeting with Army personnel. T.J. Houshmandzadeh called it "unbelievable." Bell: "Houshmandzadeh spent his morning with combat medics carrying fictitiously wounded colleagues under 2-foot high barbed wire amid simulated gun fire. After lunch in unit mess hall, Houshmandzadeh was trying to weave his body over and under a series of horizontal logs to the top of the A-frame and back down."John Morgan of Field Gulls continues his evaluation of Seahawks rookie Aaron Curry. Morgan: "Curry is fast. Curry is rare fast for a linebacker, but the thing that pops for Curry, the thing that makes him special among the special is power. Pure, athletic power. They say you can't teach speed, but truth is you can't teach power either."
Hugo Kugiya of the Seattle Times previews the Craig Terrill Band's performance at the Triple Door in Seattle. Terrill, 28, has seven sacks in five seasons with the Seahawks.
John Crumpacker of the San Francisco Chronicle says re-signing Patrick Willis would make sense next after the 49ers extended Joe Staley's contract. Staley: "They came to me early in the offseason. I really want to stay here. I believe in what we got going here. I believe in the coaching staff and the franchise. I'm really excited to get this deal done. Hopefully, we can move forward and get some other guys signed."
David Fucillo of Niners Nation wonders what's in store for 49ers cornerback Shawntae Spencer.
Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says Staley expects to remain at left tackle. Maiocco: "I've had meetings with coaches and the indication is I'm the left tackle here, and that's what I'm going to be. That's my position. Everybody else can compete for other spots on the line."
Also from Maiocco: Expect the 49ers' Nate Clements to miss additional practice time while recovering from pneumonia.
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee considers the 49ers' options with quarterback Nate Davis, a fifth-round choice. To review: NFL teams drafted 19 quarterbacks in the fifth round from the 2000 through 2008 drafts. Eighteen earned opening-day spots on 53-man rosters as rookies. The Steelers' Omar Jacobs was an exception in 2006, the year Ben Roethlisberger opened on the bench following a motorcycle accident.
Bill McClellan of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch questions whether Rams owner Chip Rosenbloom is sincere in saying he wants to keep the team in St. Louis.
Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch checks in with Rams defensive tackle Adam Carriker, who hopes to bounce back from injuries to realize his first-round potential.
Also from Coats: Rams rookie receiver Brooks Foster is trying to land a spot in the rotation.
More from Coats: Center Jason Brown warns against counting out the Rams.
VanRam of Turf Show Times explains differences in the Rams' defensive scheme this year. VanRam: "The fundamental change we're going to see is the role of the defensive front. Rather than moving side-to-side or relying on a few set plays and reacting to the offense, the system being implemented by Spags and [defensive coordinator Ken] Flajole calls for players in the front to move forward and attack."
Nick Wagoner of stlouisrams.com checks in with the Rams' secondary. A simple glance at what the Rams did in this offseason is all it takes to know that they have made the secondary one of their first priorities. Wagoner: "Consider for a moment that in this most recent free agent market, the Rams placed the franchise tag on safety Oshiomogho Atogwe, forked over $28 million to keep cornerback Ron Bartell and inked safety James Butler to a lucrative four-year contract."
Bob Young of the Arizona Republic quotes the Cardinals' Karlos Dansby as saying he's happy for newly re-signed teammate Adrian Wilson. General manager Rod Graves says the Cardinals will evaluate Anquan Boldin's situation after resolving Dansby's situation.
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals now have three players with 2009 cap figures of $10 million or more. Dansby isn't far behind. Somers: "I don't know exactly where the Cardinals stand under the cap now. Before Wilson signed, they were about $6.2 million under and the difference between his old cap number and the new one is about $4.7 million. So that would leave them about $1.5 million under. Clearly, they are going to have to make adjustments going forward."
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says Wilson wasn't too concerned about missing Game 1 of the NBA Finals under the circumstances. Wilson's new deal also provided an opportunity to reflect. Wilson: "Every line sweep, every stroke of the pen when you sign your name, you think of the players that have been here and left, or the opportun
ities you left on the field, some of the bad games you have been in, Sun Devil Stadium, whatever you can name, I've thought about it. It's been a long time, and I think I've witnessed more than a lot of players have just from the standpoint of building a team."
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic checks in with Brian St. Pierre, who hopes to unseat Matt Leinart as the Cardinals' No. 2 quarterback. Arizona signed St. Pierre to a one-year deal worth $1 million, including $200,000 in bonuses. Somers: "St. Pierre assumes he's been running with the third team in voluntary practices because a bad back forced him to miss minicamp earlier this month. St. Pierre has never risen above third on the depth chart in his NFL career, which has included stints in Pittsburgh and Baltimore. He turns 30 in November and has played in only one game, throwing one pass [incomplete]. He's eager for a chance to prove himself."
Also from Somers: Gabe Watson underwent another knee surgery after playing and practicing through pain last season.
More from Somers: Thoughts on Anquan Boldin's situation and observations from organized team activities. Lance Long keeps making impressive catches.
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says Watson feels "100 times better" than he did last season, according to Watson.
David Fucillo of Niners Nation examines the 49ers' situation at quarterback in terms of which players will earn roster spots. He wonders if he is overvaluing Davis by assuming the fifth-round rookie will earn a spot on the 53-man roster. History says: "The assumption that fifth-round quarterback Nate Davis will earn a spot on the 53-man roster appears sound. NFL teams drafted 19 quarterbacks in the fifth round from the 2000 through 2008 drafts. Eighteen earned opening-day spots on 53-man rosters as rookies. The Steelers' Omar Jacobs was an exception in 2006, the year Ben Roethlisberger opened on the bench following a motorcycle accident."
John Morgan of Field Gulls revisits John Carlson's rookie season with the Seahawks, declaring Carlson one of the 10 best tight ends in the NFL. Carlson's potential was obvious as early as this time last offseason. Mike Holmgren couldn't wait to get him on the field. Carlson might get fewer opportunities as a receiver this season given that Seattle should have better options at wide receiver. That's why we shouldn't measure Carlson strictly by the numbers.
Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says linebackers David Vobora and Chris Chamberlain split first-team reps in practice this week. Larry Grant and Quinton Culberson are also candidates. Coats: "Chamberlain, 23, has been working with the second unit on the weak side. His value mainly is on special teams, where he led the team with 19 tackles last year. He saw action on defense in eight games, adding two tackles."
Tim Klutsarits of examiner.com cites a radio interview in which former Saints running back Deuce McAllister expressed interest in signing with the Rams as a backup. McAllister wants to serve as a backup behind a workhorse back. He played with new Rams fullback Mike Karney in New Orleans. His agent even lives in St. Louis. "It definitely sounds like a pretty good fit," McAllister said. The Rams have been going with younger players in most cases. Klutsarits touches on pros and cons associated with McAllister, who continues to recover from his latest knee injury.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
MudaChainS from parts unknown writes: Mike, could you do a breakdown of what Anquan would have made through his first six years in the league had the Cards made him play out his rookie deal, then hit him with a restricted free agent tag with a first round tender and then slapped him with a franchise tag vs Boldin getting extended two years into his rookie deal?
I think you will find the results very interesting. Especially considering Boldin could have had a career-ending injury in his fourth year in the league. Huge fan and season ticket holder. Love the NFC West blog.
Mike Sando: Thanks, Muda. My kind of homework assignment.
To review, Boldin entered the NFL as a second-round choice in 2003. His rookie deal was set to expire after the 2006 season. The Cardinals renegotiated the deal before the 2005 season.
Boldin's four-year rookie deal was worth about $2.6 million. He would have graduated directly to unrestricted free agency had it matured, so there would have been no RFA tender (players need four accrued seasons to become unrestricted free agents if there is a salary cap and five in an uncapped year). The Cardinals could have named Boldin their franchise player for 2007 at a one-year price of $6.172 million.
Under that scenario, Boldin would have earned less than $8.8 million over the first five years of his career.
Thanks to the 2005 renegotiation, Boldin earned about $17 million over the first five years of his career. He earned another $2.5 million in salary last season. His deal pays $2.75 million in 2009 and $3 million in 2010. If forced to play out his deal, Boldin will have earned about $25 million in his first eight NFL seasons.
That sounds great until Boldin considers how much teammate Larry Fitzgerald is earning: $40 million over the 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 seasons.
Former Redskins cap analyst Jimmy Halsell's latest post details the financial perils young players face when they renegotiate their contracts.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
The Dude in Brooklyn writes: Sando, Sando, Sando. The Dude cannot abide. You cannot write "let's consult the games" and consult only one game before determining that offense wins championships. You're disappointing the Dude ...
The only Super Bowl teams this decade without a top-10 defense were the 2005 Seahawks (a slightly below average D), the 2007 Colts (the sole winner) and the 2008 Cards (considered a fluke by most and a miracle by all).
Since the merger in 1970, only three teams have won a Super Bowl with a below average defense: the '76 Raiders (18th of 28), '87 Redskins (18th of 28), and the 2007 Colts (21st of 32). The only defenses to play in the Super Bowl after finishing in the bottom 30th percentile in the NFL were the losing '91 Bills (27th of 28), losing '93 Bills (27th of 28), and losing 2008 Cards (28th of 32).
The Super Bowl teams without a top-10 offense include the 2000 Giants & Ravens (Champs), 2001 Patriots (Champs), 2002 Bucs (Champs), 2003 Panthers & Patriots (Champs), 2005 Steelers (Champs), 2006 Bears, 2007 Giants (Champs) and the 2008 Steelers (Champs). That's 10 of the last 18 Super Bowl teams and seven of the last nine winners. Those Super Bowls featured borderline quarterbacks such as Rex Grossman, Jake Delhomme, Brad Johnson (Champ), Trent Dilfer (Champ) and Kerry Collins.
Offense wins championships?! If you believe that, I've got some Chrysler stock and a PT Cruiser to sell you.
Mike Sando: I have proof that we do not necessarily disagree here. Scoring defense might be the most important statistic. I've made the case on this site, with the following notation:
I think the importance of strong quarterback play grows in the postseason. The Jets didn't trade up to No. 6 to take a quarterback because they hoped he would become the next Rex Grossman.
Proclaiming that defense wins championships doesn't diminish the importance of other aspects of the game. Offensive categories have become more strongly correlated with victories over the past two seasons, particularly with Tom Brady and the Patriots' posting a 16-0 record this year [story was written in January 2008].
John from St. Louis writes: Hey Mike. I saw your story about the rookies and who will stay. My question to you is what rookies do you think will have the biggest impact on there teams in the NFC west? I know its early but could you go out on a limb and try to pick rookie of the year awards? Thanks a lot sando keep up the good work!
Mike Sando: You're welcome. Chris Wells will probably get the most touches of the NFC West rookies. For that reason, and because he'll be joining a high-powered offense, I think Wells has the best chance to make the biggest impact among NFC West rookies.
Michael Crabtree would qualify as a close second. He could become the favorite depending on how the 49ers structure their offense. Aaron Curry and Jason Smith will have a harder time competing for such awards because of the nature of their positions, unles the Seahawks find ways for Curry to collect multiple sacks and interceptions.
I'm just not sure the 49ers' offense or the Seahawks' defense will perform as well as the Cardinals' offense. That could also help Wells.