MORT'S MAILBAG: Nov. 14
Q: I know Ricky Watters is a possible Hall of Famer, according to Mike Holmgren, but can the Seattle Seahawks truly take Shaun Alexander out of the starting lineup? I don't know what their contract situations are, but is there a chance Alexander is the 2002 starter? -- Paul Gierman, Chicago
|Seahawks RB Shaun Alexander rushed for 266 yards and three TDs on 35 carries Sunday vs. the Raiders.|
MORT -- Paul, even though Holmgren earlier characterized Watters as the team's best offensive player, it is hard to envision Alexander returning to his reserve role when Watters comes back healthy. I think Watters can complement Alexander and probably fill the traditional third-down back role (and then some). But if Holmgren can get Alexander, QB Matt Hasselbeck and WR Koren Robinson developed this season, the Seahawks will be among the teams to beat in 2002.
Q: Is there really a question about who will be the New England Patriots' QB next year? I don't think so based on talent (Drew Bledsoe is better), and no team can or wants to deal with Bledsoe's contract. So my question is, can the Patriots build up Tom Brady enough to trade him for a first-round draft pick, similar to Trent Green or Scott Mitchell when he filled in for Marino? -- Jay Tobin, Washington, D.C.
MORT -- Jay, first, there is a question as to whether the Patriots' quarterback will be Drew Bledsoe or Tom Brady next season. Bledsoe may have more physical talent throwing the football, but Brady has good skills and has the coaching staff enamored with his ability to simply play the game very well. Next, Bledsoe's contract is not as prohibitive as has been reported. It's really three contracts in one, and if the Pats choose to trade Bledsoe after this season, they would take a $6 million cap hit but save $5 million on his base salary. So it would cost them about $1 million to deal Bledsoe. A team trading for Bledsoe could restructure the deal if they wanted, but the Patriots have already paid $8 million of his signing-bonus money. Now, if they decide to keep Bledsoe, then I think Brady could bring them some value. Your examples of Trent Green and Scott Mitchell are off base -- those guys never were traded (they became free agents when their contracts expired). The example you're looking for is Rob Johnson -- Jacksonville got first- and fourth-round draft picks for him.
Q: When the Denver Broncos get rookie wide receiver Kevin Kasper back, do you expect him to step into the No. 2 spot behind Rod Smith, or will he be further down the depth chart? This is assuming that Eddie Kennison remains retired (or if he gets cut by Denver for this "stunt"). -- Ian Elllingson, Highland, Utah
MORT -- Ian, you are correct. Kasper is the guy that Mike Shanahan believes can become that No. 2 receiver. He's a very explosive guy who obviously needs experience, but Shanahan is high on him.
Q: I looked at your preseason picks, and you had the San Francisco 49ers finishing 5-11? -- Mike 49ersfan, Syracuse, New York
MORT -- Mike, I think that must have been a typographical error on my 49ers prediction (I wish). You know, I really based that prediction on a couple of factors. I thought losing Charlie Garner was huge, and those picks were made around the time that the team almost cut Garrison Hearst. I also spoke with Steve Mariucci during that time, and he will tell you even today that he had "no idea" what to expect from the team because of a shaky training camp and preseason. I sensed a lack of confidence in Mooch, but he has done a terrific job, Hearst is coming on and Jeff Garcia is the most underrated player in the NFL.
Q: I've been really impressed with Troy Hambrick of the Cowboys so far this season. I know it's early, but what are you thoughts on him? Probable successor to Emmitt Smith? -- Tony, Suisun, Calif.
MORT -- Tony, Hambrick has a chance to be Emmitt's successor, but I fully expect the Cowboys to go with Smith for another year.
Q: What's up with the Browns? They seem out of line on this incident with the Steelers' Hines Ward. Looked to me like a perfectly clean hit, and while Ward did stand over Earl Little for a moment, it's hard to believe he realized Little was hurt that quickly. I haven't followed too closely, but it seems the Browns have quickly developed a punkish reputation this year under Butch Davis. Now they're up in arms over this? Am I seeing this through (admittedly) Steeler-tinted glasses? -- Mark Biller, Louisville, Ky.
MORT -- Mark, I think Hines Ward had a spontaneous reaction to a great hit. Ward is a very classy player -- and probably the best blocking receiver in football. Still, you must understand the emotions of the game and the reaction to players (i.e., the Browns) who see an injured teammate lying motionless on the ground. I think the more shameful incident -- by far -- was Steelers coach Bill Cowher arguing with Corey Fuller of the Browns. Based on everything I've heard, it was an embarrassment to the game, Cowher's apology notwithstanding.