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Mailbag: Rethinking Hill's camp absence

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Andrew from Arlington, Va., writes: Mike - I thought it was a little unfair to question why Hill wasn't at minicamp. Maybe you know more and, judging by the fact that others in the media are doing the same, maybe there is more to the story. But when [GM Tim] Ruskell franchised Hill, he said they'd continue negotiating with him for a long term deal. Why would Hill give up his leverage in a long-term deal by practicing and possibly getting injured?

I think it is great to read what Atogwe says. But it seems a little odd he is risking injury when he hasn't even signed his tender. I guess if he is injured in practice the tender becomes guaranteed. But why give up the long-term deal possibility? Yeah, it would be nice if he was at least standing on the sideline to be there even if not practicing. But there could be a lot of other explanations. Is there more to the story?

Mike Sando: Jim Mora went out of his way to say this was a business decision by Hill and not reflective of an acrimonioius situation. If there were more to the story, the Seahawks should know about it, and they did not. I think Hill's apology following his arrest on a marijuana charge would seem stronger if he were on the field with his teammates at every opportunity.

If Hill were a perennial Pro Bowl talent with a spotless off-field record, as Walter Jones was when he refused to sign the franchise tender years ago, he would get the benefit of the doubt. Hill is neither of those things. Instead, he's a talented young player with much to prove, on and off the field. He could sign the tender and be assured the $8.3 million while he continues to angle toward a long-term deal with the team.

From a business standpoint, I suppose Hill could be looking to maximize his leverage after the Seahawks became weaker at linebacker by trading Julian Peterson. He might also want to avoid playing on the one-year deal without a collective-bargaining agreement in place for the long term. Without a new CBA, players will need six seasons to qualify as unrestricted free agents. Hill could, in theory, become a restricted free agent after playing the 2009 season under terms of the one-year franchise deal. That would stink for him, but at least he would have that $8.3 million on a guaranteed franchise contract.

Hill could have made a powerful statement by showing up for camp and vowing to prove himself worthy of the investment. Instead, he was the only player absent for the first practice of the Jim Mora era. This isn't a huge deal, but I do think Hill missed an opportunity.


Andrew from Seattle writes: With the news out that Leroy Hill is skipping the voluntary workouts, I am reminded of the thing that bugs me most about the pre-season, that no news is news. That set aside, though, I am disappointed in Hill. With his off field troubles, a defensive-minded head coach, and everything the team is putting on his shoulders this year (Peterson gone, franchise tag) one would think Hill would jump at the opportunity to become a defensive leader. In your opinion, is this another sign of character flaws on the part of Hill, or lack of confidence in the new coach?

Mike Sando: I wouldn't call it a character flaw or lack of confidence in the coach. Hill is probably following the advice of his business advisers.


J.P. from Scottsdale, Ariz., writes: Mike, should I have my head examined for actually preferring that Karlos Dansby not sign a long term deal with the Cards? Until last year, Dansby never quite seemed to live up to expectations, but the "contract year" scenario seemed to elevate his level of play. With an uncapped 2010 season on the horizon and some key, aging veterans, I'm OK with Dansby playing his guts out on the franchise tag. It never, ever seems to hurt to have a few guys trying to earn their next big money deal instead of sitting on a new, fat multi-year contract. Thoughts?

Mike Sando: You are not crazy at all. Shaun Alexander played his best on a one-year deal. The Titans got Albert Haynesworth's best under those circumstances.


Rick from Charleston, W.V., writes: Hey Mike. Being a Cardinals fan in a state loaded with Steelers supporters, I am constantly getting the "Super Bowl losers always miss the playoffs the next year" speech. I went back and looked at possible reasons why this "curse" exists, and it seems like QB issues and lack of continuity (a Super Bowl team likely has some good players who become Free Agents, start thinking they are better than they are, and get huge paydays elsewhere).

The Cardinals locked up almost ALL of their key UFA's (losing Smith was an expected blow, and I think they safeguarded well against that by drafting Calais Campbell last year) and are bringing back Warner. Do you think that gives them a good chance to buck the trend, especially since they play in an NFC West that still seems to be a year away from scaring anyone. Your thoughts?

Mike Sando: What are the chances Warner will stay healthy all season? He started every game last season despite taking quite a bit of punishment.

Going back over the last 10 seasons, as we did two months ago, we saw how some of these Super Bowl losers have fared at the quarterback position:

  • 1999 Falcons: Three quarterbacks started games.

  • 2002 Rams: Three quarterbacks started games.

  • 2003 Raiders: Three quarterbacks started games.

  • 2004 Eagles: Donovan McNabb missed seven games.

  • 2007 Bears: Three quarterbacks started games.

  • 2008 Patriots: Tom Brady missed the final 15 games.

Instability at quarterback was the common denominator for a disproportionately high number of recent Super Bowl losers. There is also the little-known curse haunting teams that beat the Eagles in the playoffs, if you're into curses.


Nate from Sacramento writes: Thanks for putting up such a great blog Mike! I enjoy how you write and feel privileged to have my division covered by someone so knowledgeable. I've got a couple of questions to run by you about the 49ers' draft options. Why do you think the organization still wants to steer clear of a QB with #10?

I take a look at their situation and see no commitment to Shaun Hill, Alex Smith now signed to low-risk backup money, significant cap room, a first-year head coach at the reins, and seemingly workable solutions on the roster for most of the glaring needs. I understand why the 49ers might be gun-shy about drafting a QB, but it seems having 2 first-round QB picks on the roster would increase their chances of getting their guy at their most critical position.

Also, what are the chances of Stafford dropping to #10? I haven't seen a mock of this, but if the Lions indeed avoid a QB with #1 and Seattle takes Curry or Crabtree, I don't see any other teams especially hungry for a QB before the Niners pick. The Jags have a huge money contract in David Garrard after all. Barring a trade before he drops, do you think San Francisco would take Stafford there, gun-shy or not? Thanks for your time and input!

Mike Sando: Thanks much. First, we don't know for certain whether the 49ers will avoid drafting a quarterback. I have wondered whether their experience with Alex Smith might dissuade them from taking another quarterback near the top of the draft, at least for a while.

Smith's draft class didn't feature a clear-cut No. 1 prospect. The 49ers drafted him in part because they needed a quarterback. They also probably figured a quarterback could have the greatest long-term impact on their organization. And so they drafted Smith with the first overall choice even though there was no consensus he would be the next great quarterback.

Four years later, the 2009 draft class doesn't feature a clear-cut No. 1 prospect. The 49ers still need a quarterback, at least for the long term. They could make the case that a quarterback could have the greatest long-term impact on their organization. And so they could decide, again, to take a quarterback in the first round.

Or, the 49ers could go in another direction, at least in part to avoid repeating history.


Peter from San Francisco writes: Hey mike, if the niners decide to pass on sanchez at 10 (assuming hes available) how many picks do you think they can command for the spot to draft him and where would they land after dealing those picks? who would they look at later in the first/with the compensation who would be left? thanks!

Mike Sando: I don't know how strongly other teams truly value Sanchez. No one knows. We do know how much other teams have paid to move into a similar range. In 2006, the Broncos sent the 15th and 68th choices to the 49ers for the 11th choice, which Denver used for Jay Cutler. The 11th pick was worth 1,250 points on the draft-value chart. The 15th choice was worth 1,050 points. The 68th pick was worth 250 points.

The 10th pick is worth 1,300 points. The Broncos are sitting at No. 12, which is worth 1,200 points. Denver holds the 84th overall pick, which is worth 170 points. Would the Broncos give up that pick, in the third round, to move up two spots for Sanchez? I do not know, but if the 49ers weren't interested in a quarterback, that exchange would work out pretty well for them.


Joe from Davis, Calif., writes: Sando, I just read that Matt Hasselbeck will be available for the Seattle Seahawks off-season workouts, the first practice sessions organized by Jim Mora Jr. What is the status with Hasselbeck's back and can we assume that his participation means that his injury last season is a relative non-factor this season? Also, do you expect Hasselbeck to be 100% by that start of the season?

Mike Sando: Hasselbeck seems fine. I think the constant questions about his back through the remainder of the offseason are going to become more of annoyance to him than the back. What we do not know is how well his back will hold up to punishment, particularly if the Seahawks have problems in protection. We could see Hasselbeck enter the season feeling terrific, but we cannot project how his back will respond to punishment.


Jake from San Jose writes: I concur with your opinion about mock drafts and trying to foresee team picks being imprecise since we don't really understand a team's player evaluation. Another problem is that there are inevitably going to be many draft day trades. These mock drafts are predicated on the idea that teams pick where they stand on the day of the draft. I was doing a bit of research on wikipedia and found that last year 15 of the 31 first round draft picks were traded on draft day. Is this accurate?

If so, that means that 48% of the teams did not pick in the spot where they were projected before the draft. That will really destroy a mock draft. It seems like there may have been more activity in last year's draft compared to others. I also noticed that there were no trades higher than the 7th pick. I was hoping you had some more draft day trade information from drafts going back a few more years.

Would it be possible to extrapolate the past data and give a percent chance that any given team will trade their pick? Furthermore, would it be possible to adjust the percentage for the number of the draft choice. For instance, it appears that the likelihood of the Rams trading their #2 pick overall (probably not very likely) might be around 5% whereas Arizona #31 trading their pick (far more likely) might be more like 70%. Thanks for the time.

Mike Sando: I think 14 of the 2008 first-round choices were traded before or during the draft, but your point stands. I can also tell you how serious mock drafters measure their abilities. They don't worry so much about direct hits because they know it's impossible to project trades. Instead, they measure the number of first-round hits. In other words, of the 32 players they projected for the first round, how many wound up being first-round choices? I have never done better than 28 or 29 first-round hits, as I recall. There will always be some surprises.

I like your idea about using past trades to project the likelihood of future ones. I've sent an e-mail to Mark Francescutti of ESPN Stats & Analysis. I'll let you know what he says.


Elroy from Cleveland writes: I am 17 and I am the most loyal Rams fan in the world. Will the Rams go defense or offense? I am thinking Aaron Curry.

Mike Sando: I think they'll probably lean toward taking an offensive tackle. I base my thinking on a few factors. One, offensive linemen drafted that early tend to start for a long time, even if they do not become great players. Robert Gallery comes to mind. As a result, the risk factor is lower when drafting for that position. Two, the Rams have a tremendous need for a starting offensive tackle. Three, as Jim Thomas of the Post-Dispatch pointed out in his recent chat, Steve Spagnuolo strongly believes teams are build from the lines out.

As for being the most loyal Rams fan in the world, please provide some evidence. I'd be interested in knowing what makes you feel so strongly about a team that hasn't enjoyed great success since you were quite young.