Chat with Mike Sando
Welcome to SportsNation! On Thursday, we'll have ESPN.com NFC West blogger Mike Sando stopping by to talk about the latest NFL happenings.
Sando joined ESPN.com in 2007 after nine seasons covering the Seattle Seahawks for the Tacoma (Wash.) News Tribune. He previously covered Washington State University football and basketball for the Spokane (Wash.) Spokesman-Review. Mike grew up in Northern California before attending Whitworth College, graduating in 1992 with a B.A. in political studies. He lives in the Seattle-Tacoma area with his wife and their two sons.
Send your questions now and join Sando on Thursday at 1 p.m. ET!
The Dude in Brooklyn (Kampala)
Hey Sando,Dude here in sunny Kampala. I was shocked to see Rod Graves here in Kampala the other day. He was disheveled and muttering about getting away from it all and his international search for free agent linebackers. My question is this...should he be that concerned? He's got players worth an NFL-high 80 starts in UFA, Warner retired, he's got Hayes and some rusty nails at LB, and the Final Eight rule can only make his life harder. Can the Cards get to .500 in 2010?
Mike Sando (1:01 PM)
We're on the same page, Dude. I just put together a blog item showing how "at risk" the Cardinals are this offseason. Their UFA list doesn't even include Kurt Warner, their most important player, and of course we do not know what will happen with Antrel Rolle, either. As I said in my Around the NFC West item this morning, it's a tribute to this coaching staff and organization if they get to .500 in 2010.
Chad (Denver, CO)
Could you justify the 49ers taking a defensive player with one of their two first round picks? Niners have to address the O-Line and return game/offense...right?
Mike Sando (1:03 PM)
Yes, I can justify it easily if the value is right, just as I could justify them taking Michael Crabtree last offseason when the offensive line and pass-rusher seemed to be bigger needs. The 49ers can get "A" grades on day-after-draft report cards by reaching for needs. People will talk about what a great job they did filling holes. But the important thing is getting good players and the teams cannot control which players will be available at which positions. So, if the best defensive player is vastly better than the best offensive player in the 49ers' eyes, they need to take the defensive player.
Paul (Albany, OR)
Mike, are you hearing any more out of Rams camp for the top pick? Are they thinking more defense than QB? Seems silly to pass up on Suh when your "franchise" QB would get killed behind that o line if you threw him in there this quickly. Thanks.
Mike Sando (1:04 PM)
They absolutely need to take a franchise QB if one is available. But that is the question. I'm not sure they will see a safe quarterback prospect worthy of the top pick. If they do, great, take him. If not, go with the best player.
Dom (Bay Area, CA)
Hey Sando, love the blog. Got a trade question for you. Do you think the Niners should make a move for Antonio Cromartie? Chargers need a RB and my offer would be Glen Coffee and a third-round pick for Cromartie. What do you think? Who would you offer?
Mike Sando (1:06 PM)
I'm skeptical as to why Cromartie is available. The Chargers wouldn't dump a good player just because they needed a running back. The 49ers should be wary. They can find a cornerback -- and possibly one that doubles as a return specialist -- in the draft. And they shouldn't just give up on Coffee because he had some issues running the ball in a one-dimensional offense early in the year.
Luke D (Boston, MA)
Sando, you seem to always be overly critical of the Rams. I know, as a hardcore Rams fan, they are in dire straits. Do you not feel with a new owner, GM, and coach they are facing the right direction? Why would they ever do a trade of arguably their best defender (Atogwe) for Vick, a player with a 5M salary and likely to be cut by his current team? Give us some optimism for the Rams!
Mike Sando (1:09 PM)
I gave the Rams close to a free pass last year because I realized what they were doing. They were blowing up the roster and I thought it was the right move. The trade scenarios we threw around on the blog were fun. The fact that I threw Oshiomogho Atogwe into a deal for Michael Vick doesn't show disrespect for Atogwe or the Rams in any way. Atogwe is a good player. What impact did he make last season, though? He made some plays against Seattle in the opener and then I don't remember a whole lot of consistent production before the injury. I think he's a good player, but I have questions about how good he is based on what type of impact he can have on games consistently. The elite safeties affect games. The RFA number for Atogwe climbs near $7 million in most scenarios. That's a lot of money for a good player who might not be an impact player.
Kalen (Kodiak, Alaska)
Since Seattle has two first round picks and also has one of the worst offensive lines in football, do you think there is a chance they use both picks to strengthen the line? Maybe with Davis and Iupati?
Mike Sando (1:11 PM)
I will be shocked if the Seahawks use both first-round choices for their offensive line. They are more likely to use zero or one of those first-round choices for the line, in my view, and then have Alex Gibbs coach 'em up.
Do you think the 49ers should use on of their first-round picks to trade for Donovan McNabb? And should they trade Glen Coffee for Antonio Cromartie and draft C.J. Spiller?
Mike Sando (1:13 PM)
It's easy to make the case that a first-round pick would be too much to give. However, I think McNabb would have a dramatic impact on the 49ers. Adding him would make the 49ers an obvious favorite to win the division. I think McNabb's personality and leadership would energize that team on both sides of the ball. On the Cromartie front, I ask this question: Why are the Chargers eager to dump him?
Jake (Muncie, In)
Mike, when are the niners going to give Nate Davis a chance? He's athletic, accurate, and has a strong arm. Plus he was considered a 2nd rounder at one point prior to the draft. Shouldn't he have some opportunity to play?
Mike Sando (1:16 PM)
I get this question quite a bit. The 49ers, like most teams, do not want their third-string quarterbacks on the field because it's much harder to win games with them. Davis is a developmental prospect. It's unlikely they'll turn to him in his second season unless things go badly wrong.
kin (hong kong)
Hi mike. Now that Warner has retired and Dansby is likely to test the market, what does AZ have to do to stay competitive? Any trade you can see happening that would help the team? Thanks!
Mike Sando (1:18 PM)
The draft is where the Cardinals need to build their team. It's highly unlikely another Kurt Warner-type quarterback is going to come their way in free agency. The QB change alone puts them on par with other teams lacking proven talent at that position. It's going to be much tougher. I think they could consider trading Anquan Boldin just to get something in return for him before he leaves. And if that player could help their defensive front seven, all the better.
Jay (Cincinnati, OH)
Does trading down with at least one of their two first round picks make any sense for the niners? Obviously at this point there's no telling who will be available at what spot, but there's a handful of positions the niners could use solid talent to upgrade: RT, OG (maybe), CB, S, pass rusher, return-guy/change of pace back. I think it'd make sense to trade down (if possible) and try to pick up a couple more players in the 2nd-3rd round range, as long as there isn't a star player that falls to us when we pick in the first. Your thoughts?
Mike Sando (1:20 PM)
I understand your thinking, but the 49ers would have to be careful about sacrificing quality. They have a pretty good core. I would rather have a player with a 75 percent chance of starting than two players each with a 30 percent chance.
Marco (LC, NM)
With so many potential free agents turning out to be restricted free agents do you think we'll see more of the "poison pills"? You had said previously that they are frowned upon but not actually banned. Is that still the case?
Mike Sando (1:22 PM)
I was speaking with an agent and a team executive (separately) about that subject Wednesday. The feeling I get is that the league's reaction to what the Vikings did should deter other teams from going the same route. However, I do think it's still possible.
Jay (Cincinnat, OH)
Right now Alex Smith is a middle of the road starter. Does solidifying the offensive line and giving him another year in the (gasp!) same offensive system cause him to take another step up the ladder? Regardless of whether he'll get there or not, do you believe he has the potential to be a star quarterback? Or is he destined to become above average at best?
Mike Sando (1:23 PM)
I don't see "star" qualities but he's their best option right now. They should be looking to upgrade the position longer term while finding out this season whether Smith can get it done over the course of a full season.
Mike,What can you tell me about the DE that the Seahawks recently signed out of Canada?Thanks mike
Mike Sando (1:24 PM)
Ricky Foley sounds like a guy with the potential to help in a situational role. It's an upset if he becomes more than that and it might even be an upset if he earns a roster spot.
Ray A. (San Francisco, CA)
I think it would be a smart strategy for the 49ers to take C.J. Spiller. Not only could he return kicks, but we also block the Seahawks from drafting him with Pick 14. We own them with 13!
Mike Sando (1:25 PM)
The 49ers should have a decent feel for the Seahawks' intentions given that both teams' general managers worked together previously in Green Bay.
Mike G (Bakersfield,CA)
Hey Mike im reading all about the 49ers needing a return man and corner(which they do) but also they have needs at o-line, safety, and pass rusher.. Why not draft those early and in the 4th or 5th round grab a guy like AJ Jefferson from Fresno St. who is a super athletic CB who led the NCAA in Kick Returns 2 years ago? He shut Kenny Britt down and many other top WR, he has super potential!
Mike Sando (1:26 PM)
That thinking makes some sense. The Cardinals found LaRod Stephens-Howling late in the draft last year -- 240th overall -- and he became a very good player on special teams. His touchdown return at Tennessee was a clutch play.
Jay (Cincinnat, OH)
As a niner fan I'm actually a bit cautious about the upcoming season. It feels almost like 2007 when everyone was expecting the niners to take a big step forward into the playoffs, based on how they finished 2006. Then we regressed. Do you foresee this time it being any different? Obviously the talent is vastly better, but expectations and complacency can take their toll, no?
Mike Sando (1:29 PM)
I felt that way in looking at the 49ers coming out of that 2006 season. They absolutely struck me at that time as a team that was getting ahead of itself. The difference now has more to do with the rest of the division than with the 49ers. Yes, the 49ers need to not get ahead of themselves. I've written that a few times, noting that they need to approach this season as if they haven't proven anything. And, in fact, they have not proven anything. But when you take away Kurt Warner and probably a few other key contributors from Arizona, the immediate future does look brighter for San Francisco.
The Rams have been behind the eight ball for some time at QB. They have let good QBs slip through their fingers while Bulger continues to struggle year after year. The QB is the most important position. If Bradford's shoulder is good to go, how do you not pick him? The Rams desperately need to take a chance. They are not good enough to play it safe. They need to put butts in the seats. Suh or McCoy won't do that. Bradford will. Vick is a waste of time.
Mike Sando (1:32 PM)
Marc Bulger had $8.5 million of his 2009 salary guaranteed and that tied the Rams' hands to a degree, particularly with Matthew Stafford coming off the board first and the Rams having so many other needs on the roster. I don't know how good Sam Bradford will become. I do know the Rams aren't going to have a good record with him starting games in 2010, so the butts-in-seats angle might not work in the short term. Michael Vick would put butts in seats right away, but you could be right about his longer-term prospects.
Being that Seattle is in a (at the least) partial rebuild, should they draft for need or best available?
Mike Sando (1:32 PM)
John (Santa Clara, CA)
Would Donovan Mcnabb want to come to the 49ers? And what would that meen for Alex Smith?
Mike Sando (1:34 PM)
I've been skeptical about whether the Eagles would trade McNabb this offseason, but if the price were right and the team knew it wanted to go in another direction at QB after the 2010 season, perhaps something could be worked out. I'm still skeptical. Would McNabb want to come to the 49ers? Why not? They have a good young wide receiver, a Pro Bowl tight end and the makings of a good defense.
Do you think it would be possible and/or a good move for Cards to trade Tim Hightower now for someone like Antonio Cromartie or another defensive position?
Mike Sando (1:38 PM)
It's easy to forget that three-fourths of the Cardinals' starting secondary earned Pro Bowl honors last season. Adrian Wilson and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie made it on the first call. Antrel Rolle made it as an alternate. I think injuries late in the year severely affected the Cardinals' secondary and defense overall. Rolle could leave and that would be a big hit, but if I'm the Cardinals, I'm much more interested in solidifying the front seven.
Do you think Seattle will make a play towards Atogwe? Could a poison pill be used in that situation?
Mike Sando (1:39 PM)
I don't know what the Seahawks think of Oshiomogho Atogwe, but when I think of the positions Seattle needs to address, that one isn't highest on the list. On the poison-pill front, there's no way the Seahawks would use that tactic, in my opinion, based on the complaints they levied when the Vikings used a poison pill against Seattle.
Chad (Las Vegas)
Would St. Louis be smart to trade their 1st pick to say Tampa Bay who really wants Suh and get more picks and perhaps a veteran player to lead that team.
Mike Sando (1:40 PM)
Yes, that would be a good move for the Rams, in my opinion. But would a team really trade into the top spot? Not convinced.
Jay (Cincinnati, OH)
I know this has been discussed previously, but what are your thoughts on Singletary's long term prospects as a head coach? There's not much to grade him on at this point, but I get the impression that while he seems open to changing and improving, there might be a ceiling in terms of his effectiveness, since he's not much of an "X's and O's" coach.
Mike Sando (1:42 PM)
Singletary is very genuine and that makes him authentic, which is important. Let's see over time how he handles his coaching staff. Any coach without coordinating experience probably has to rely more heavily on his staff.
Chad (Las Vegas)
McNabb to the 49ers? There would be 1 reason for that and that is Singletary. He is a D coach but he is also a players coach and McNabb would play his heart out for someone like him.
Mike Sando (1:43 PM)
I think the fit would be excellent.
Mark (San Jose, CA)
Is it just me or is Alex Smith the most coddled QB ever? Seems like we're here in year 6 and he still hasn't had a chance to show his real stuff. If changing systems gets you a free excuse to stink then how did Brees, Favre, Pennington, Warner, etc do well when they changed teams/systems? I know schemes are complicated and all but come on, it's still just football. We can tell you don't have it Alex.
Mike Sando (1:44 PM)
Most coddled ever? The 49ers ground him to bits early in his career. Now they're trying to revive him. He's getting extra chances for three reasons: 1) he was the No. 1 overall choice; 2) injuries prevented the 49ers from taking a longer look at him; and 3) the 49ers have nobody better.
J (Biloxi, MS)
Do you think Pete Carroll will have much success in his first year in Seatle?
Mike Sando (1:45 PM)
The Seahawks were 5-11 last season. I could see them winning a couple more games and even getting to .500 possibly, at which point Carroll will get the credit, even though no one will know for sure how the team would have fared without hiring him. People will just assume the team would have been 5-11 again otherwise.
Kyle (San Diego)
How could Josh Cribbs potentially fit into the Niners offense? (we certainly know what hes capable of in the return game)
Mike Sando (1:47 PM)
Cribbs carried the ball 55 times and had a 6.9-yard average last season. He had 20 receptions. I think a lot of his carries were from the Wildcat offense, though I did not watch enough Browns games to know the breakdowns. Seems like he could be on the field in some capacity as an "X" factor of sorts. They could find packages for him, seemingly.
I agree that Vick would bring people in, even if it's just curiosity. But at what cost? The Rams may not have a good record next year with a rookie QB, but I thought they were building for the future. Does Vick really do that? I understand Bulgers' contract may have swayed their decision to stay with him, but that is no longer an excuse. Suh may be great but who knows if he'll pan out. Kiper really liked Glen Dorsey too. Take a chance Rams. Draft the QB.
Mike Sando (1:50 PM)
If the Rams do not find their long-term quarterback in the draft, and even if they do, they need a stopgap guy to get them through this season, right? Whether that's Chad Pennington or Michael Vick or someone, I think they need that guy for at least one season. That guy will need to make less money than the $8.5 million Marc Bulger would make. I don't think signing Vick or someone along those lines means the Rams would be hitching their wagon to him and declaring anything about their long-term future. They just need to win some games while they continue to build.
Carroll ... better or worse than he was with the Pats?
Mike Sando (1:53 PM)
Carroll has to be much better this time around. I think most talented coaches should improve at their jobs over time.
Jay (Cincinnati, OH)
In terms of Singletary relying on his staff more, how do you think he's done with his coaching hires thus far? Obviously the biggest (and most controversial) was the O-coordinator, but I think the one thing that Nolan really had a handle on was locating and procuring good assistant coaches. Do you feel like Singletary has that kind of knack?
Mike Sando (1:54 PM)
It's not always a knack. Sometimes it's about the connections you've made over time, and that is another potential weak spot for Singletary given his relative lack of experience in coaching relative to other head coaches. That said, he landed Mike Solari to coach the offensive line and I would consider that to be a strong hire. His handling of special-teams coach Al Everest was curious. Greg Manusky is a good defensive coordinator, I think, but Singletary doesn't get credit for hiring him.
Chris (Danville, Ca)
Hey Mike. Some good stuff lately. Daniel Jeremiah's analysis of the 49ers seems to push towards going Spiller, then Williams at OT. Do you think that would be the best route for them right now?
Mike Sando (1:55 PM)
I would have no trouble with such an approach based on what I know now.
Although I'm a diehard Niner fan, I just don't understand the supposed love-fest with Vick and the Rams? Has someone seen something I haven't? Vick had a scatter shot arm 3 years ago and somehow I doubt his accuracy has improved with 2 yrs in prison and a year riding the pine. His best attribute was his speed and in watching him play this year, that speed was no longer apparent. Is some team really going to trade for a guy who has barely played in 3 years and accounted for a total of around 200 yards of offense last SEASON? I dont get it, can you explain this to me Mike?
Mike Sando (1:57 PM)
There's some projecting that would go into it, for sure. I don't necessarily disagree with you. But I also would not just write off Vick based on his time away from the game. He does have one season in the Rams' offense, which is the same offense the Eagles run, and I think teammates would respond to him initially. Bottom line, can he play? There's risk involved but as I've mentioned, this would be a one-year gamble on a stopgap quarterback. If Vick proves better than that, great, the Rams could try to keep him longer term.
Ken (Scottsdale, AZ)
With the recent news that Rolle and the Cards are working on an extension, do you think that Rolle came to his senses and realized that his best deal may be to stay in AZ?
Mike Sando (1:59 PM)
Came to his senses? Rolle has the leverage in this relationship. He can sit back, do nothing and the worst-case scenario is that he enters free agency with a Pro Bowl on his resume. The other option is for the Cardinals to pay him $4 million next month, with an $8.1 million salary for looming for 2010. Rolle is in a great position here.
I think it is funny that fans think teams can just trade out of their spot. They need a trade partner, and most teams don't want to pay the cost it takes to move, and then have to pay top 5 money on top of it.