Mailbag -- Branch and the PUP list

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Mark from parts unknown writes: Hi Mike, regarding the Seahawks' current roster predicament with both Deion Branch and Bobby Engram injured, would the Seahawks gain some roster flexibility by keeping Branch on the PUP list? Despite the reports of Branch being a "fast healer", I think he could benefit from more time rehabbing from his serious knee injury. The potential roster flexibility could be an additional reason to keep Branch on the PUP and not rush him back.
Mike Sando: Leaving Branch on the physically unable to perform list is an option, but doing so would force him to sit out well into October. I think they'll want him activated before then, but they do have time to assess the situation. As you implied, Engram is not eligible for PUP because he has already passed a physical and practiced.

Dean from Laramie, Wyo., writes: Everyone is overly concerned about the niners offense. I have been a little concerned about the defense. Nolan is no doubt a defensive minded coach (Baltimore), but the team really hasn't been very good on that side of the ball. Is there a chance the defense will move into the top 10 this year. Will an improved offense give the defense a break?
Mike Sando: Adding Justin Smith and getting back Manny Lawson from injury helps. Takeo Spikes probably helps. First-round draft choice Kentwan Balmer helps. Ray McDonald has enjoyed a strong camp. These are all positive signs. The top 10 might be a little high for a 3-4 team without a dominant nose tackle (the 49ers run more of a 5-2 sometimes, but the nose tackle is still important).

Eric from Lodi, Calif., writes: Hey Mike i was just wondering what you thought of the 49ers rookie WR Josh Morgan so far? Do you think he has a shot of becoming a starter an if so was he a steal in the sixth round??? thanks

Mike Sando: Morgan does have a chance to start this season, and not just because so many receivers are missing time with injuries. He is looking like a draft-day steal.

Pavlos from San Francisco writes: Thanks for the really impressive coverage. The spreadsheets were great. Two questions, one, will you be providing a rookie update for the Niners as you did with the Rams and Seahawks? I thought the info was great, so I am interested. Second, I really think Chris Simms would be an upgrade at QB for the Niners. Regardless of the Nolan situation or the salary they are paying Smith, how do you think he stacks up to the quarterbacks on the roster currently? I would love to see him in SF, but I wanted someone else's opinion.

Mike Sando: We did run an analysis of the 49ers' draft choices. The current 49ers quarterbacks haven't shown much. Simms might be at least as good, but adding a quarterback this late could be difficult given the time it takes to learn an offense.

Ryan from Reno, Nev., writes: Yo, Sando! Great stuff man, appreciate the effort. I was wondering, with the 49ers QB situation so screwed up, how far out of the question would it be for them to go get a young guy with a lot of upside who may be on the outs in his town, say, John Beck? I think Beck has massive potential and the Fins are giving up on him a bit early. I mean, for the price of say a 6th rounder one would think this would be a logical move for a 49ers situation that has been completely illogical to this point, considering they could take their time and groom him to be an NFL caliber stud. Thoughts?

Mike Sando: Adding another young quarterback does make sense from an organizational standpoint, but Nolan isn't coaching with the long term in mind. He is trying to save his job. Therein lies a conflict for the 49ers. Organizationally, they should be doing everything possible to develop Smith, the player they drafted first overall in 2005. Nolan can't afford to worry about the long term, however, and so he'll start someone else if it helps him in the short term. That's why I'm not sure about adding a youngster at this point, as much as it makes sense.

Jason from Hartford, Conn., writes: hey mike i think that san fran should start hill because i think that smith is overrated. they need to take a look at the back up qbs.

Mike Sando: Taking a look at the backups is easy when you have three of them. I still don't see a clear-cut starter in this race. Neither do the 49ers. Otherwise, they would name one officially instead of waiting into mid-August.