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!
Mike Sando (1:01 PM)
Welcome to the NFC West chat.
Why didn't the 49ers re-sign Aubrayo Franklin? Did they think he would cost too much? Or that he was too old? What's the deal? Doesn't make a lot of sense.
Mike Sando (1:03 PM)
My feeling is that the organization wasn't convinced Franklin would perform at a high level for the long term. Some players are better with a carrot dangling in front of them. I recall Shaun Alexander putting up monster numbers when playing for a new contract. Once Franklin realized the 49ers weren't going to give him what he wanted on a long-term deal, he wasn't going to take a one-year deal from them. So he took one elsewhere. The 49ers would have been better off had they been able to sign Franklin to a shorter-term deal.
jim (st louis)
I could not be happier with Rams in free agency. They had a plan and executed to perfection. They knew where to spend money (not running back), where to take injury chances (linebacker) and where to get cheap depth (defensive tackle). Seems like they actually benefited from the lockout and having the draft before free agency. Go Rams!
Mike Sando (1:05 PM)
We're thinking similarly here, Jim. You phrased it very well. I do think Sidney Rice would have looked good in a Rams uniform, however. He has the physical ability to give Sam Bradford something no receiver on the roster can give him. Getting a talented 24-year-old receiver such as Rice would have made the Rams a clearer favorite in the NFC West, I think.
I've seen ESPN suggest that Arizona and Seattle were winners in free agency. The Cards give up a very good cornerback and second-round draft pick for an unproven QB. Seattle backs up the truck for a one-year stud receiver with major injury concerns, and Tarvaris Jackson is now their starting quarterback? What am I missing? The Rams were clear winners in free agency!
Mike Sando (1:10 PM)
There are risks involved with free agency across the board. The Rams took risks with all of their free-agent signings. Theses were not necessarily bad risks. They were low-risk, low-reward moves. The Seahawks and Cardinals made higher-risk, higher-reward moves. Seattle also landed a 25-year-old Pro Bowl tight end without taking much risk at all. I can see where you are coming from, but without knowing how the risks will play out, Arizona and Seattle did come out of free agency with greater potential for good things (and bad things too). I also think the Rams were in a different spot. They did not need a quarterback.
Mike, do you think Kolb to Fitz will be a solid combination this season or will they have growing pains?
Mike Sando (1:11 PM)
There will definitely be growing pains as Kevin Kolb gets familiar in a new offense. His offensive line is not the best in the league, either. I think Kolb will play well enough for Arizona to compete for the division title.
Hey Mike, I was wondering if you could comment on how Golden Tate, Deon Butler and Kris Durham have each looked in camp so far? Has anyone separated themselves as a the third receiver/slot guy? Thanks for answering and keep up the good work!
Mike Sando (1:16 PM)
Thanks, Pierre. Butler was watching from the sideline when I was at Seahawks camp. He's coming back from that terrible leg injury. Tate did not stand out to me. Durham did catch my attention. At first I thought he looked like a skinny tight end. He generally caught the ball well. At one point, I thought he injured himself while laying out for an end-zone pass he could not quite reach. Undrafted free-agent receiver Ricardo Lockette stood out to me for his athleticism. As I recall, the Seahawks had him rated as a draftable prospect. They were happy to get him, I know that.
Mark (Sunny San Diego)
Can you give me a couple of things you think are signs the Niners are on a path to better days(more competitive days) ahead? Or are you kind of shaking your head right now too?
Mike Sando (1:17 PM)
Yeah, there's a seemingly sharp offensive-minded head coach in place, and he understands the quarterback position. Colin Kaepernick should give you some hope for the long term until we have reason to doubt him. Harbaugh comes into this job with some credibility on quarterbacks.
Vicki Thor (Buckeye, AZ)
Good morning, Mike. After evaluating the changes all four teams made this offseason, which team's running game would improve the most?
Mike Sando (1:20 PM)
Arizona and Seattle come to mind. I'll go with Seattle because the Seahawks were so bad on the ground last season. They have the most room for improvement. The Seahawks averaged only 3.7 yards per carry last season. Arizona averaged 4.3.
Amaan (New Jersey)
What is the atmosphere with the Cardinals? How is Kolb settling in and how does everyone like him?
Mike Sando (1:20 PM)
I've spoken to Larry Fitzgerald and Stewart Bradley about Kevin Kolb. They like him. Now, what else are they going to say? My take: Kolb seems to have a very laid-back demeanor. That should serve him well.
Carlos (Los Angeles,CA)
With the recent additions for San Francisco, do you see them better or think they got worse? Thanks.
Mike Sando (1:22 PM)
I think they'll have a hard time being as good on defense, but the offensive direction should be positive ultimately. I don't think the 49ers will be worse in the standings from a won-lost standpoint.
How big of an impact could Jim Harbaugh realistically have on Alex Smith?
Mike Sando (1:25 PM)
Smith did not like Mike Singletary's emotional sideline antics. Harbaugh is pretty intense, too. I think a coach can do only so much. Smith should get better. Could see him managing games better.
Have the 49ers officially moved out of the cellar in the free agency sweepstakes?
Mike Sando (1:29 PM)
A lot of bad money gets spent in free agency. The Eagles are getting lots of acclaim this offseason, but it's far too early to make declarations. I just didn't see any reason for the 49ers to lose so many players on defense.
Mike Sando (1:31 PM)
Back in a second.
What do the Rams expect from Mike Sims-Walker? #1 guy, or just a contributor?
Mike Sando (1:34 PM)
I think the Rams hope Sims-Walker will be a starter for them, and that is realistic. He has 14 touchdown receptions over the last couple seasons.
Carlos (Los Angeles, CA)
Sando, who will be the biggest loss for San Francisco?
Mike Sando (1:36 PM)
For one season, Takeo Spikes. He was so solid.
Sue (WA state)
Any word on Ben Leber and his status? Heard the SeaHawks were looking to sign him along with 4 other teams. Is there a front-runner? Is he close to a deal? Seahawks really seem to need some veteran leadership in their defensive secondary. What's your take?
Mike Sando (1:38 PM)
Yeah, the Seahawks like him. I think the price comes down every day. Seattle likes its young linebackers, though. Doubt the team would spend a great deal for him. But veteran depth at linebacker is a consideration. I do think, however, there is appeal to turning loose a bunch of young linebackers.
Does Seattle focusing primarily on offense early in the draft and FA indicate that PC is not just another defensive minded head coach but has a big picture view of the team and what it takes to succeed in the NFL?
Mike Sando (1:40 PM)
That's stronger than I would word it. He does have a view of the big picture, particularly during the offseason. And John Schneider is very much involved and very much interested in building a young team. One thing to watch: To what degree Carroll's defensive leanings make him shape the offense toward being run-oriented, etc.
Agree or disagree with the Seahawks QB plan?
Mike Sando (1:44 PM)
I think their plan at quarterback is greatly misunderstood. It's a mistake to evaluate the Tarvaris Jackson acquisition as though the Seahawks have declared him their franchise quarterback. They haven't done that, but some of the criticisms seem to proceed as if that were the case. I've got no problem getting through a season with a questionable quarterback when that quarterback knows the system and the team is rebuilding, particularly when there isn't a clear franchise quarterback available to them.
Kyle (St. Louis)
Mike, I'm going to call you out over Sidney Rice. More than once I've asked you if the Rams made a mistake by not trading for Vincent Jackson. Each time, you've defended the Rams by saying either he wasn't worth the contract he was asking or that Josh McDaniels could get good production from less-established WR's. Now, you're being somewhat critical of them for not going after Sindey Rice, who got an even larger contract than what Jackson was asking for. What gives?
Mike Sando (1:47 PM)
One big difference: Jackson would have commanded something in return via trade. Another big difference: Jackson has had significant off-field issues. I'm not ripping the Rams for not going after Sidney Rice. I just think making a move like that for a 24-year-old player with so much talent would have had some appeal.
Chris (Broadview Heights, OH)
Does Arizona not feel they need quality WR's outside of Larry Fitzgerald? They've basically let Anquan Boldin and Steve Breaston walk for nothing or what is comprable to some magic beans.
Mike Sando (1:49 PM)
I spoke with Ken Whisenhunt about that after practice yesterday. He thinks the Cardinals' receivers beyond Fitzgerald are vastly underrated. And he might have a point. Andre Roberts showed quite a bit last season, particularly under the circumstances. Early Doucet can be a factor. They like some things about Stephen Williams. A rookie, DeMarco Sampson, is looking good (practice squad guy, probably). And then the complexion of the team has changed. They suddenly have Todd Heap as a receiving option. They drafted Rob Housler. I think the point you raise is a good one to discuss, but some of the factors I mentioned come into play.
Any news on Braylon Edwards, us 49ers fans need to see them doing SOMETHING in FA .. so far I've seen us lose some players that I'm not to happy about losing -- without adding great replacements.
Mike Sando (1:50 PM)
On the other hand, how many victories does the typical second-tier free-agent receiver add to the bottom line? I agree that Edwards would help, but the entire offseason does not ride on getting him.
Scott (Northglenn, CO)
Do you believe Whiz saying Beanie is the starter, or is this just a motivation ploy?
Mike Sando (1:51 PM)
Ryan Williams has to win the job. Wells is returning. It is early. Performance will dictate the answer to that. Also, how well will those guys handle blitz pickup? A big question mark.
I LOVE the new total QBR. What do you personally think of it, and do you think that it will catch on?
Mike Sando (1:53 PM)
I've had some discussions about this with colleagues. One concern raised was that such an in-depth, complicated formula could be difficult to understand. However, once the criteria is established as legitimate, the formula itself matters not so much. All we need to know is that 50 is average, 65 is Pro Bowl-caliber and it's impossible to score 100. I'm very excited about QBR and think it will take off.
Shaun (Camarillo, CA)
Mike, I am so pleased with this offseason. Hasselbeck and Tatupu were aging pieces that were not going to be part of the next great Seahawks team, and they let them go without looking back. They have built a very young and potentially great line, with a young Pro Bowl tight end and receiver. Their WRs are huge targets for an inaccurate QB. Brandon Mebane is back, the front seven only upgraded (David Hawthorne replacing Tatupu), the young secondary is a year older. I was bracing for a long rebuilding process, but now I feel we could sneak the division again this year, and then find a QB, and we are SET!
Mike Sando (1:56 PM)
We can see the makings of a plan in place. It's tough for some of the locals to see the situation clearly given long-established allegiances to Matt Hasselbeck, Lofa Tatupu, how things were done under Mike Holmgren, etc. It is also debatable whether the team made the right move at quarterback. Matt Hasselbeck might have perked up for a year or two longer with Zach Miller, Sidney Rice and an improved line. I can see that logic as well.
Scott (Northglenn, CO)
Any indication how the Rams plan to use Lance Kendricks? Kind of a hybrid? I was suprised that Josh McDaniels wanted to draft him, since he historically doesn't use the tight end and they have Iron Mike.
Mike Sando (1:58 PM)
Iron Mike also being Illinois Mike, short for Mike Hoomanawanui, for those unfamiliar with him. Kendricks has been taking tons of reps. Sounds like they plan to move him around. Sam Bradford had some comments on this in detail recently. Check out the NFC West blog from Tuesday night, as I recall.
Jeff (Peoria, Az)
Do you know how much wieght Deuce needs to lose? He can be a good gaurd when he is in shape.
Mike Sando (2:01 PM)
My guess would be 30 pounds. The Cardinals came out OK on Deuce Lutui. There was no sense in paying big money on a long-term deal to a player who doesn't report in shape even when he has ample motivation to do so. The way things worked out, Arizona got him back relatively cheaply and on a one-year deal. The team can now try to do something longer-term on its terms, possibly with weight clauses. Lutui has already tasted free agency. It could not have been very appealing, even for a guy known for his appetite.
Mike Sando (2:01 PM)
Thanks for dropping by the NFC West chat. Great questions.