Gary from Phoenix writes: How about Anquan Boldin to the Patriots for Matt Light? Supposedly, Sebastian Vollmer is the future at left tackle for the Pats, and with Wes Welker unlikely to be ready at season's start, they could use a good veteran inside receiver. If I recall correctly, both Light and Boldin have one year left on their contracts at similar salaries. Seems like this trade would help both teams at areas of need. Thanks.
Mike Sando: This one looks better on paper than it might look in reality. The Patriots would be fortunate to make such a move. Light appears to be on his way down, as you surmised. His salary is $4.5 million, compared to $3 million for Boldin. That salary difference isn't a huge deal, but I just don't think the Cardinals would be getting good enough value in return. When I think of Light, I see Ravens pass-rusher Terrell Suggs beating him to sack Tom Brady and forcing a fumble in the wild-card round. I don't see an upgrade, particularly given the price.
Ty from Washington, D.C., writes: Mike, the problem with overtime rules starts with kicking. When the first sudden-death game was played in 1958, kickers were making about 47 percent of their field-goal attempts. Even when the overtime rules were expanded in 1974 to include the regular season, kickers were averaging less than 61 percent on all field-goal attempts and less than 40 percent beyond 40 yards. Those percentages have been trending upward ever since. Even in a supposed down year in 2009, kickers made 73 percent of their attempts from 40-49 yards and 53 percent from beyond 50.
With percentages like that, all a team needs in overtime is a good kick return and one or two first downs to have a nearly three-in-four chance of winning. The obvious, though most controversial solution to sudden death is to eliminate a victory by field goal. It can either be eliminated from scoring altogether, or a hybrid version of overtime can be created, in which a touchdown or safety is sudden death but a field goal allows the opponent another possession to respond. Thoughts?
Mike Sando: I like the last option. Kick a field goal and be prepared to let the other team have the ball. Score a touchdown and the game ends in your favor. Makes some sense. Outlawing field goals changes the game more dramatically. A team facing, say, fourth-and-20 at the 38 should still have a field goal as an option. Thanks for weighing in. I'll put together another mailbag-type item focusing on this issue in greater depth.
Dan from Scottsdale, Ariz., writes: Mike, I would like nothing more than to have Mike Vick as our QB for the next five years here in Arizona. However, you have to remember a few things. This is the state that really doesn't like trouble, as was obvious when we gave away Jason Kidd (domestic), Stephon Marbury (DUI, although he stinks anyways), forced Mike Tyson to move to Las Vegas (my favorite athlete), put Charles Barkley in jail, etc. It's just always been a state where the people didn't like athletes with checkered histories. The Bidwill family is huge on this as well. I can't see it happening. However, Donovan McNabb lives here and I can see that happening.
Mike Sando: I might have said the Cardinals could do worse than having Vick and Matt Leinart compete if Warner retired. That is presumably what prompted your line of thinking here. McNabb would make lots of sense in Arizona if the Eagles were willing to part with him. I've been a little skeptical on that happening, though.
CowboyP893 from Dallas writes: In past years, teams have released many players in the week just prior to the start of Free agency, at the end of February, with the term "cap casualty" often used. But with the uncapped year of 2010, won't teams just keep these players, at least until the draft (and likely longer), as their is no reason to cut these players that early, without a salary cap.
Mike Sando: That makes some sense. Organizations will need to protect themselves from having these players suffer injuries. Sometimes you see teams release players before the first minicamps. That could happen. Injured players can sometimes command all or part of their scheduled salaries.
Nate from Danville, Va., writes: Needing both a change of pace back and help in the return game, do you think the 49ers should target Leon Washington. I know he will probably end up a RFA, however with the emegrence of Shonn Greene the Jets may let him walk.
Mike Sando: Washington was with Jimmy Raye for a bit, too. On the other hand, Washington's production in the return game has diminished substantially since his breakout season of 2007, and now he is coming off a broken leg.
Allen from Phoenix writes: Hey, Sando, I heard something I found rather interesting on local sports talk radio the other day. They were saying that the departure of Kurt Warner (retirement), Antrel Rolle and Karlos Dansby (free agency) would be the equivalent of about $35 million freed up next year and that some of that could be used to sign Darnell Dockett long term and bring in some big-time free agents in need areas. I've heard something about the top eight teams not being able to go after some unrestricted free agents. Can you tell me more about this and how it would affect the Cards and your thoughts on extra money the Cards might have should Warner, Rolle and Dansby all depart?
Mike Sando: Teams that lost in the divisional round can sign one unrestricted free agent for $5.5 million or more in the first year of the deal, plus however many of their own UFAs sign elsewhere. These teams can also sign any UFAs for less than $3.7 million in the first year of the deal, with limitations on the annual increases, according to an NFL primer on the situation. "In the case of all final eight teams," the primer said, "the first year salary of UFAs they sign to replace those lost cannot exceed the first year salary of the player lost with limitations on the per-year increases."
On Dockett, there are no guarantees the Cardinals will move quickly. Dockett has two years left on his deal.
Colton from Friendsville, Pa., writes: Someone mentioned the possibility of moving Levi Brown over to the left side of the Cardinals' line and it brought up some old thoughts. I remember OTAs and training camp the year Brown was drafted. The coaching staff made the point of moving him over to the right side so he could be groomed as a blindside protector. To be more precise, Matt Leinart's blindside protector. Of course, we all know the story of who eventually won the Arizona starting QB gig.
Moving further back in time, when Leinart was drafted I was under the impression (and still am to some degree) that he would need a system revolving around him and his left-handedness in order to succeed. So, two questions for you: How much does a quarterback's throwing arm truly affect the offense? And ... do you think if and when Kurt Warner retires do you think a guy like Jim Zorn could fill the long-vacant offensive coordinator's job in Arizona?
Mike Sando: Yes, the Cardinals did think Matt Leinart would be their starter, and Brown would protect his blind side. NFL offenses are traditionally "right-handed" because most quarterbacks throw with their right hands. That is where quarterbacks have traditionally been more comfortable throwing. The right side is the side of the field they see the best. A great quarterback probably transcends such things. Leinart is not a great quarterback, so it's possible the offense could become more left-handed.
As for Zorn, he would probably be a good quarterbacks coach for Leinart. I'm not so sure about being a coordinator in that system, though, given that Zorn is so closely associated with the West Coast principles he learned from Mike Holmgren. Plus, Ken Whisenhunt likes to call the plays, and has had success doing so.