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!
stanley (cleveland ohio)
Do the Cardinals have to give up draft picks with a Pro Bowl player in order to get Kevin Kolb.
Mike Sando (1:00 PM)
It is premature to say what Arizona would have to give up in a trade for Kevin Kolb. Market forces could affect the price.
Hey Mike, loved the Nnamdi Asomugha-to-San Francisco article. I read that the 49ers are $25 million under the cap, plus cutting Nate Clements would give them another $12 million of cap room. Isn't that enough to sign Aubrayo Franklin and get Nnamdi as well as have some other room? That would be a nice defense for at least five years. Your thoughts?
Mike Sando (1:04 PM)
Thanks, Roy. My thoughts are along these lines: Cap space is fluid pending escalator clauses and restricted free-agent tenders. The $25 million figure you cited is about $6 million higher than what ESPN's John Clayton projected. But we should set aside the cap issue. Limitations with the salary cap will not force the 49ers' hand when it comes to their ability to sign players. Teams have left tens of millions in cap space unused in recent seasons. Why? Because they didn't value players highly enough to pay them more. If the 49ers want to pay huge money to Aubrayo Franklin, they can do that. The reality is that they value him at "X" amount, and that amount does not closely correlate with cap space. They are not going to pay Franklin whatever it takes to sign him just because they have the cap flexibility to do so, in other words, just as you probably would not spend an extra $500 at the grocery store just because you had $500 in your bank account.
Well Mike, after the Rams call all their own free agents who do you think the first call they make should be. Thanks
Mike Sando (1:07 PM)
I'd recommend the Rams closing a deal with a defensive tackle they know and trust, such as Barry Cofield. I'd also see reason for excitement if they went after a good running back to give Steven Jackson occasional relief, and to give the Rams a potential successor to him.
Steve (San Jose)
Hey Sando, what are the chances that the Niners retain Troy Smith as their 3rd QB? With limited time because of the lockout, Troy will be a step ahead of other QB?s (the same argument for Alex Smith). If not Troy, how about someone with fire and brimstone, like Bruce Gradkowski? Even though I'm not a Raiders fan, I really liked seeing him play.
Mike Sando (1:10 PM)
The 49ers did not tender Troy Smith this offseason, an indication he is not in their plans. I'd say there's very little to no chance they re-sign him. Bruce Gradkowski would give the 49ers another Shaun Hill -- someone the organization would not want to build around, but someone who would have a good shot at beating out Alex Smith. Right now, I'm not sure the 49ers want anyone other than Colin Kaepernick to beat out Smith. I'd expect them to sign an undrafted free agent quarterback. Roster sizes could provide some flexibility as well.
Are you planning on going to the 49ers vs Seahawks game in week 1? And who you got winning the first NFC West battle of the season?
Mike Sando (1:12 PM)
Yes, I do expect to attend the Seahawks-Rams game in San Francisco in Week 1. The Rams are home against Philadelphia, which also has some appeal, and the Cardinals will be breaking in a new quarterback against Carolina. Those are the choices. I usually lean toward division games when deciding which ones to attend. Right now, I'd lean toward the 49ers winning that one at home.
Scott (Northglenn, CO)
Incidentally, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is a fine young player, but saying "a Pro Bowl player" is misleading. I mean, MeAngelo Hall is a multiple Pro Bowler. QBs are in short supply.
Mike Sando (1:15 PM)
Rodgers-Cromartie is certainly a Pro Bowl talent. He has one more Pro Bowl on his resume than Kevin Kolb is likely to experience even if Kolb becomes a good starter. Now, your last point is the key variable. A good quarterback is worth more than a good cornerback any day of the week.
Everyone knows that the Card's No. 1 priority is a QB, but I think a close second needs to be addressing the offensive line. No matter who the QB is, he'll need better protection than the line gave last year. How many starters do you think the Cards add to the O-line in free agency? Any thoughts on specific targets?
Mike Sando (1:18 PM)
The line takes a back seat in the conversation because the Cardinals haven't lost their own free agents yet. There's an assumption they'll re-sign Lyle Sendlein or Deuce Lutui, or both, and that Rex Hadnot could play left guard. Lutui and Sendlein are the free agents I'd expect Arizona to consider first. The Steelers' Trai Essex is headed to free agency and has ties to the Cardinals' staff.
Over or under, 100 carries for Kendall Hunter next season?
Mike Sando (1:21 PM)
Under if Frank Gore is healthy. Under, most likely, even if Gore gets hurt for a stretch. No other running back on the team has hit 100 carries since 2005, when Gore was a rookie and shared time with Kevan Barlow.
Everyone saying Steven Jackson is going to decline this year because of Josh McDaniels couldn't be farther from the truth. It's like everyone has forgotten what happened the last time Josh had an elite running back with an unproven receiving core. Oh, yeah, Corey Dillon ran for over 1,600 yards and was in double digits on touchdowns for the three years with Mcdaniels. Add Steven Jackson's ability as a receiver and every-down player and we could be looking at an eye-popping season from him. This will be the year the Steven Jackson haters see what all of us have gotten to see since 2004. Which is one of the hardest running, most versatile backs the game may have ever seen. MVP for a running back is a hell of a stretch, but I'm calling it. He will at least have MVP-worthy numbers. What are your thoughts? PS: Bradley Fletcher also is one of the most underrated corners in the league had to add that in there!!
Mike Sando (1:26 PM)
I'm better off for reading your thoughts on this, but just to be clear, McDaniels was in his first season as the Patriots' quarterbacks coach in 2004 when Corey Dillon had his only 1,600-yard season. Dillon did produce double-digit rushing touchdowns for the 2004-2006 seasons, and McDaniels was on that staff the whole time as quarterbacks coach. But Dillon did not reach 1,600 yards combined in his final two seasons with New England (2005 and 2006). I'd conclude by saying reports of Steven Jackson's demise are premature, but it's fair to wonder if he's wearing down. If he puts up MVP-caliber numbers, I'll pull up this chat and give you credit.
Besides the QB position (Hasselbeck), who is the No.l free-agent target the Hawks go after?
Mike Sando (1:29 PM)
Brandon Mebane would be in that mix. They'll be wise to go after a veteran guard to place next to Russell Okung. Robert Gallery is a natural choice there given his ties to Tom Cable. Daryn Colledge of the Packers has ties to the Seahawks' general manager, but Gallery would be a bigger prize. And then I think we could see the team shake up things at cornerback. Johnathan Joseph, perhaps?
If you had to guess, who will be the Seahawks starting qb this year? thanks!
Mike Sando (1:30 PM)
I've leaned toward Matt Hasselbeck for most of the offseason, but lately I've come off that a bit. How about a camp battle between Charlie Whitehurst and Matt Leinart? How about a camp battle between Charlie Whitehurst and Tarvaris Jackson? I do think we could see Seattle head in that direction for a season.
Alex (Davis, CA)
You are right that a good QB is better than a good cornerback, but the trade proposed (DRC for Kolb) is trading a good CB for an unknown QB that obviously Philly doesn't believe has the potential to be really good or great. I'm against the trade straight up, but I'll trust Rod Graves and Ken Whisenhunt if they make that decision. If they trade more than that, then they're as foolish as the crazy Philly fans that think a backup QB is worth Patrick Peterson as well as next year's first- and third-round pick. The EPA seriously needs to check the air quality in Philly.
Mike Sando (1:34 PM)
Beggars cannot be choosers here. The Cardinals are desperate for a quarterback. They'll have to pay a premium if they want a younger one with some promise, such as Kevin Kolb. They'll have to give up value. I agree with you, however. If the Eagles thought Kolb were an elite, franchise quarterback, they would have signed him to a long-term deal previously. They're not sure, either.
Scott (Northglenn, CO)
Are you plugged into the Ariz RB situation? I would think that Beanie would be motivated, but do you see any RB taking over, or will it be an ugly committee situation?
Mike Sando (1:37 PM)
Beanie Wells' health is the top issue. He'll compete and show if he is healthy, I believe. But he hasn't shown he can stay healthy enough. This has to be a committee situation to an extent. They likely would not trust a rookie such as Ryan Williams across all downs and situations. Williams does have a real chance to take charge, though. Wells and Tim Hightower haven't shown they can play well enough to this point.
Del Mar Dennis (Pinole)
Hey, Mike. Don't know if you're a betting man, but the sportsbooks have the 49ers as the favorites to win the NFC West. How can a team that's planning on starting Alex Smith at QB be favored? Is the fix in?
Mike Sando (1:40 PM)
I have not seen odds. In general, oddsmakers set betting lines in the manner they suspect will generate the most action on both sides. Public perceptions about the 49ers -- based on size of fan base and other factors -- can influence betting lines. Betting lines do not necessarily say the house thinks Team A is "X" amount better than Team B.
True, but if there was a $450 minimum (salary floor) at the grocery store, I would spend that. My point is that seems like a lot of money they need to spend, but Baalke says they wont be active in free agency. Doesn't that contradict itself?
Mike Sando (1:43 PM)
It could, but not necessarily. One, we do not know the rules for sure. Baalke could be talking in relative terms. Compared to some teams, the 49ers do not plan to go all out. My understanding is that teams would not have to comply with a salary floor right away. They would have time to comply with it. They could do what the 49ers have done in recent seasons, which is re-sign their own young players (Vernon Davis, Patrick Willis, Joe Staley) before their contracts became a big issue. The 49ers do not have a long list of such players on their roster, but if they re-signed Dashon Goldson and moved money around on other contracts -- say, by accelerating payments -- they could in theory comply without going on a big spending spree in free agency.
Scott (Northglenn, CO)
Should also be mentioned that Eagles have a reputation for always having to clearly "win" a trade. Kyle Orton for a 3rd that can rise to a second is so much more logical on many levels.
Mike Sando (1:47 PM)
The Eagles did not win the Darryl Tapp-for-Chris Clemons trade in which Philly threw in a fourth-round draft choice.
Who is more likely to ever win a championship, Kevin Kolb or Michael Vick?
Mike Sando (1:48 PM)
Eric (Sydney, Australia)
Huge Seahawks fan down under! If the hawks sign Matt Hasselbeck, Brandon Mebane, and free agents Robert Gallery and Jonathan Joseph, don't they look to win the division once again?
Mike Sando (1:50 PM)
I'd put them right in contention, but contention means getting around 8-8 in this division. The question is this: Is enough gained from going with Matt Hasselbeck another season to justify not taking a longer look at someone younger?
Not a fan of any team in this division (Cowboys all the way), but looking at the Rams, why would they not go after WRs like Sidney Rice, or Malcolm Floyd? They have a young up-and-coming QB, and any one of them would be an upgrade over their current cast at WR. Is that just not their philosophy??
Mike Sando (1:53 PM)
The Rams have better quantity than quality at receiver right now. Donnie Avery's return to health could help them quite a bit from a speed standpoint. I'm with you, though. They need quality at the position. Rice's hip injury is a key variable there. Overall, though, the Rams need to add dynamic weapons for Bradford. One thing to note: Josh McDaniels' teams have done pretty well maximizing talent at the position.
Alex (Davis, CA)
Alex Smith is still better than Derek Anderson/Max Hall/John Skelton and is more proven than Charlie Whitehurst. Plus, the 49ers have the best defense in the division. I think they have a good shot at winning the division.
Mike Sando (1:55 PM)
They do have a good shot based on what we know right now. Smith has greater appeal when separated from his draft status and first few years in the league. He's been the highest-rated regular starter in the division over the last couple seasons.
Saw the recent piece on helmet safety, are you in favor of the league mandating a stricter safety rating scale or you okay with freedom of choice?
Mike Sando (1:57 PM)
I'd be in favor of the league banning those helmets that fell short of a set standard, but letting players choose from the others. I asked Justin Forsett about this yesterday. He said he knew he had a Riddell, but wasn't sure of the model. He added that he liked the helmet, had fortunately never suffered a concussion and planned to stick with it. Most of the Riddell helmets tested fared very well in testing. One of the older, more familiar models did not. I'm additionally interested in the angle because one of my sons is playing tackle football for the first time. His team issued a Riddell youth model to him. I'm on the case.
Paul (San Fran)
Do you think the current 49er coaching staff will find a way to get Gore and Hunter in the backfield at the same time, like all of us were dreaming about last year with Gore/Westbrook? That combo could pose some problems for defenses!!
Mike Sando (2:00 PM)
Jim Harbaugh would be the guy to do that sort of thing. People who studied his offense at Stanford said he used a very high number of formations in the running game. Teams typically do not use two halfbacks at once because only one can carry the ball, and halfbacks generally aren't exceptional blockers. The two-halfback concept has been more appealing to fans than to coaches, in my experience.
How good would Fitz be with a healthy, motivated Randy Moss opposite him? If Breaston takes more money from somewhere else, does Arizona explore a big receiver free-agent signing?
Mike Sando (2:04 PM)
Larry Fitzgerald would be great with Randy Moss taking up residence on the moon. Fitzgerald doesn't need another top target. He needs a quarterback and he'll benefit from a running game strong enough to make the play-action game relevant, as it was when Kurt Warner was leading Arizona to the playoffs. I don't think the Cardinals are going to funnel significant resources toward another receiver, even if Steve Breaston departs. Andre Roberts showed promise. They finally drafted a receiving tight end in Rob Housler. Early Doucet has some experience. I just see Arizona focusing its most serious resources toward re-signing Fitzgerald and patching other areas. Just my feel.
Absolutely ridiculous to think the 49ers could win the division with Alex Smith, or even win Game 1 against Seattle. Any Seattle quarterback is better than Alex Smith.
Mike Sando (2:08 PM)
The 49ers have had plenty of chances to win the division with Alex Smith, and it has not happened, so precedent is on your side. As for any Seattle quarterback being better than Smith, name one with a higher rating over the last couple seasons?
Mike Sando (2:09 PM)
Thanks for dropping by the NFC West chat today. My pleasure, as always.