Mailbag: Assessing the Seahawks' needs

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Greg from Vancouver, Wash., writes: Starting the post-Holmgren era in Seattle, what do you see as the three biggest needs for the Seahawks this offseason, and how would you address them in the draft and free agency?

Mike Sando: Getting healthy doesn't really count as a traditional need, but the Seahawks need Patrick Kerney, Walter Jones and Matt Hasselbeck to succeed in their rehabilitations.

Beyond that, the Seahawks should upgrade their pass rush, find another strong defensive tackle to pair with Brandon Mebane, stabilize the situation at receiver and rebuild continuity on the offensive line. Every team wants to upgrade its pass rush, but the Seahawks badly need to do this if they hope to maximize substantial investments at linebacker and cornerback.

Seattle will try to achieve these things through the draft, obviously, and through coaching changes. They think their new staff can realize production gains by pushing players harder. If this happens, Tim Ruskell and Ruston Webster will become better personnel people overnight. Some of the players they selected haven't met expectations to this point. The new coaches need to maximize those players' talent.

I'll be watching to see if the Seahawks take chances in free agency. They invested lots in Kerney and he has rewarded them with top-notch play when healthy, but they might wind up getting only two or three really good years from him.

Nathan from parts unknown writes: If the Cardinals do not pick up Warner (which would be a shame) could Haley try to pick him in order to maybe have a chance at the playoffs especially with a veteran like Gonzalez and a stud like Bowe? And better yet if they could get rid of Johnson and replace him with Brandon Jacobs wouldn't this make the Kansas City offense a very good one?

Mike Sando: Agreed, the Chiefs would be instantly competitive on offense if that were to happen. I just do not expect Kurt Warner to uproot his family and start over with new teammates. The Cardinals need to protect themselves from losing Warner, even if it means naming him their franchise player.

Joe from Pennsylvania writes: Hey Mike, quick question. What type of compensatory draft pick do you suppose the Rams might get for losing Isaac Bruce last season? By that I mean 'how high,' if anything.

Mike Sando: The Rams released Isaac Bruce, so they will receive no compensation. The formula for compensatory picks reflects overall net gains minus overall net losses in free agency. The Rams signed Josh Brown, Jacob Bell, Anthony Becht, David Macklin and Reche Caldwell. They lost Milford Brown and Brandon Chillar.

Bob from Atlanta writes: During this year's Super Bowl, on the play in the first half where Ben Roethlisberger was ruled to have scored but the play was overturned, why was there not a penalty against Pittsburgh? One of the Steelers' offensive lineman clearly pulled Ben across the goal line. That has always been against the rules. Even stranger, neither announcer commented on the fact. Has the rule been changed to allow another offensive player to pull a runner forward?

Mike Sando: I did see that, but lots of things happen during pileups and that is not a penalty we see called frequently.

David from Abbotsford writes: Hey I was wondering how you think the Seahawks will use Justin Forsett next year. He was only a punt/kick returner this year. But I think he has potential to become a back that gets to play lots. Earth/Wind/Thunder (Ducket/Jones/Forsett) Thanks for taking the time to read the question!

Mike Sando: You're welcome, David. I don't necessarily see a role in the offense for Forsett. He hung around the fringes of the roster last season. I suppose the Seahawks could find a spot for him, particularly with Maurice Morris possibly leaving in free agency. Some of these scenarios are difficult to anticipate because the new coaching staff is still evaluating the talent and putting together the playbooks.

Clu from Phoenix writes: Do you believe the Cardinals will make a splash in free agency or will they spend little money figuring they just went to the Super Bowl. If so, which need will be filled in the offseason: Tight End, Running Back, Right Guard, Center, Line Backer, Nickel Back. Thank You

Mike Sando: I see no reason to expect the Cardinals to make a splash in free agency. Ken Whisenhunt came from the Steelers, who did not build teams that way. The Cardinals have quite a few of their own free agents to worry about, starting with Warner. Arizona was tighter against the cap when it signed veteran role players in free agency last offseason. The team will have the cap flexibility this offseason to pursue free agents from other teams. And with two new coordinators, perhaps they will seek out a few players to suit those coordinators. I'm just not sure how big of a splash those players might make.

Jacob from parts unknown writes: Do you think it would be a good idea for the Rams to sign Brandon Jacobs? Maybe his presence will fuel Steven Jackson to perform better, and it would make more targets in the backfield for the opposing defenses. lol. Poor ... poor... poor Marc Bulger. Does it sound reasonable to play both running backs and have one act as halfback while the other is rushing?

Mike Sando: It's harder to go that route after you've invested so much money in the starter, but I do think the Rams need to have a strong 1-2 punch in the backfield. Jackson has had some injury problems.

Jeff from Brulington, Ontario writes: Hey Mike, Miss you over at the Tribune but you are doing a great job here. What do you think the chances are Seattle heads into the '09 season without adding a potential starting RB to Duckett and Jones? I haven't seen anything from Jones that excites me for this season.

Mike Sando: Thanks, Jeff. I could see the Seahawks going into the 2009 season without making a starting-caliber investment in another running back. T.J. Duckett averaged more than 100 carries for the Falcons in 2004 and 2005, when Greg Knapp was offensive coordinator in Atlanta. The difference then was that Michael Vick also ran the ball frequently. Some of this could depend on whether the Seahawks re-sign Leonard Weaver.

Scott from Bremerton writes: Sando, Could you do a breakdown of the biggest flags thrown in a XL v. XLIII comparison? I'd be curious to see a comprehensive breakdown of all the calls, both for and against, each NFC West team in their respective Super Bowl losses to the Steelers. (P.S. This wouldn't be about who got "screwed more" by the refs).

Mike Sando: I do not plan to do that in part because I didn't think officiating was decisive in either game. The officiating issues that caused such an uproar during Super Bowl XL did not strike me as horrible during the game itself. In retrospect, there were probably three bad calls against Seattle in that game. I just thought the dropped passes meant so much more. In the end, Seattle did not do enough to win the game. And in Super Bowl XLIII, the Cardinals had a chance to stop the Steelers late in the game. They did not do it, and they lost.

Ian from San Francisco writes: Hey Sando, I'm wondering why Roger Craig isn't in the HOF yet. It's starting to get ridiculous. Back in the day, Matt Millen (yes, I know his credibility is somewhat shot now) used to say the only running back that came close to Craig was Marcus Allen, and Roger Craig took it that much further.

People would fear him on the football field. No one ever wanted to be anywhere near those kicking legs. First guy to get both 1,000 rushing and 1,000 receiving. I can go on. But here's the kicker. The Pro Football Hall of Fame voters thought highly enough of him to name him to the 1980s All-Decade Team. Of the 4 running backs on the list, he is the only not yet in the HOF.

Mike Sando: I do think players named to all-decade teams should receive special consideration. Gary Zimmerman was on two of them and it still took him quite some time to enter the Hall of Fame. As versatile as Craig was, he wasn't prolific enough as a runner or receiver to stand out among the greats in either category. Also, the Hall of Fame selectors have too many great players and too few annual slots to consider borderline candidates. Cris Carter hasn't even made it in yet. I think Craig is a long shot.

ArizonaCheats49er from parts unknown writes: Hey Matt, Reading into Dennis' question, I agree that the 49ers have to hold an honest QB competition, not the sham that Nolan passed off and Martz whispered JT O Sullivan in his ear. But what is also key is the games. The 7 and 9 under Nolan, @Rams was the pivotal game we lost, and then dropped other games/playoff hopes. The 7 and 9 under Singletary, dropped 2 pivotal games to both Ari/Mia, also road. The 49ers have 5 dome games, and 2 games possibly in the snow (GB/Phi).
That to me makes or breaks the season if we win only the Rams contest and lose the 7 others. Unless we go 8 and 0 at home, and with the status quo, I see no playoffs. Prime time prediction: 2 roads, what do you see? Do you think the 49ers will finally address Pass Rush and WR needs, yes or no, and where should they address it at, FA or draft? Please answer, thanks.

Mike Sando: First off, it's Mike, not Matt. Glancing at the 49ers' opponents, I could see them going 5-3 at home and 2-6 on the road, which would get them to 7-9. They would likely need to get to 6-2 at home to take the next step in terms of avoiding a losing record. And if they want to have a inning season, they'll need to steal another one on the road. That would be my preliminary feel for this team, but it's early. The 49ers haven't even named a quarterback.

Jeremy from Aurora writes: Do you think that Shaun Hill deserves to be the 49ers starter? Because I do. I think he has shown that he has what it takes to play in the NFL no matter the situation. I think that the job should be his to lose. Your thoughts?

Mike Sando: Yes, I think the job should be his to lose unless the 49ers sign an obviously superior quarterback. We all know Hil tends to look bad in practice. That makes it tough to win over a new coordinator, one reason Hill probably didn't get serious consideration last offseason. That could hurt him again with Jimmy Raye, although Mike Singletary and general manager Scot McCloughan will presumably steer this decision as well.

Don from Hamilton, Ontario writes: Hi again Mike, great work with the blog as always. I was wondering if you could do a breakdown of the GM/Coach's philosophies on drafting and Free Agency. Such as what positions they most value, what their tendencies are and such. Thanks, Don

Mike Sando: Thanks, Don. I love the idea, but we would have a hard time establishing tendencies for Ken Whisenhunt, Steve Spagnuolo, Mike Singletary and probably even Jim Mora. That might be something for me to pursue at the combine.

Brendan from Westbrook, Maine, writes: Hey Mike, big fan of your NFC West blog. What do you think is the best move for the Niners at quarterback, and what do you think they will do in reality? Also, is there any hope for Alex Smith or is he officially a huge bust?

Mike Sando: Thanks much, Brendan. Quality quarterbacks can be hard to find in free agency and I'm not sure any would necessarily mark a huge upgrade over what Shaun Hill provided last season. I might suggest drafting a quarterback and trying to salvage Smith while naming Hill the starter for 2009. The 49ers will probably be averse to throwing a rookie onto the field right away, given what happened to Smith.

I do think Smith has time to become a good quarterback, but I wonder about his ability to stay healthy. The shoulder injury he suffered last summer -- without sustaining contact -- seemed like a bad sign.

Nick from Calgary writes: Trade Boldin for LaDainian Tomlinson. What are your thoughts?

Mike Sando: Acquiring a high-priced running back about to turn 30 is a risk the Cardinals might want to think hard about before taking.

Javier from parts unknown writes: I know that everyone thinks that the Seahawks need a WR and therefore should go after Crabtree in the draft. However, I think they have too many other concerns, (DT, CB, S, OL). Wouldn't it be wiser to trade down in the draft for multiple picks so they can address multiple needs rather than just WR especially since there are some teams that would drool to get a shot at Crabtree (Giants, 49ers, Ravens, Jaguars)? What are the chances Seattle goes this route?

Mike Sando: I'm not entirely convinced. Teams have been reluctant to trade into those top spots. Also, shouldn't the Seahawks use this opportunity to find a player whose impact will be immediate? Do they really need more of what they already have in terms of still-developing players drafted later in the first round (Lawrence Jackson, Kelly Jennings, etc.)? That would be the counter to your proposal.

Hannan from Hershey, Pa., writes: Hi Mike. A couple questions. Regarding TJ Houshmandzadeh and Reggie Williams, have talks actually started between them and the Seahawks? What are the chances of them acquiring one of these WRs? If they do acquire one of these WRs, will the Seahawks go with Malcolm Jenkins or someone of the sort in the draft? Also, what will happen of Anquan Boldin? Will the Cards just let him run free in Free Agency, or tag him? This is a wacky thought, but what is your opinion on the Seahawks pursuing him? I'm sure he'd like a chance to go against (and haunt) his former team. Not sure about cap space though. That may be a problem.

Mike Sando: The Seahawks will address the receiver position, no question. Houshmandzadeh and Williams could be candidates there. Seattle's new receivers coach, Robert Prince, was with Williams in Jacksonville.

The thinking on a cover corner early in the draft could change based on the scheme Seattle adopts. Jim Mora would certainly have an appreciation for that type of player. At the same time, the new defensive coordinator, Gus Bradley, came from Tampa, where the scheme did not rely upon that type of corner. That is something to consider.

Boldin is not a free agent, so the Cardinals will not consider naming him their franchise player. And if they did trade him, they presumably would not do so within the division.

Brian from Utah writes: Hey Mike! Love your coverage of the the NFC west. What do you think of my Niners drafting Andre Smith at the 10 spot? We know the Coach Sing wants to run the ball, but I think the combo of Chilo Rachal, Andre Smith, and on occasion Vernon Davis could be a nightmare right side of a line. Talk about smash mouth football. I would personally love it.

Mike Sando: Thank you. The 10th spot might be a little early for the 49ers' tastes given that they found their current left tackle, Joe Staley, much later in the round. I do expect the 49ers to make right tackle a top priority. I just think they might target a more dynamic athlete with the 10th overall selection. I've wondered if they would consider moving Staley back to right tackle if they had a shot at a more natural left tackle in the draft.

Scott from Phoenix writes: Mike, now that it's official that both Todd Haley and Clancy Pendergast are out, does that mean that part of the cap space will go to new coordinators or do coaches salaries not qualify under a team's payroll...? Thx

Mike Sando: Coaches' salaries do not affect the salary cap. The Cardinals have good cap flexibility this offseason even though their functional cap space will be considerably lower than the actual space they currently enjoy.