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Mailbag: Reality bites for Cardinals?

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Leesters from Phoenix writes: Mike, this offseason has sobered up the rum-inspired dream of a Cardinals Dynasty. Instead of building for the future, they are stacking up for a 2009 run. With Dansby wanting the moon, we'll be out of our vital linebacker after this year. Anquan Boldin still hasn't been contacted, after the team went through 30+ million in salary cap spending. Adrian Wilson still has one left year on his deal, and the Cardinals have no money left, as they've stacked the roster with FA signings in Bryant McFadden (5M) and every UFA from last years SB team they could get their checkbooks into.

Assuming that they could lower Dansby's franchise hit with him signing something less than a spectacular long-term contract was a huge mistake. Now they're stuck with less than 2M in cap space available to extend two AllPro's, AND worry about replacing a guy next year, that is costing them 9.7M this year. They have left themselves very vulnerable to relying on the draft to clear Edgerrin James' (5M) and Chike Okeafor's (6M+) cap space if they have any chance at extending vital players' contracts.

If Boldin, Dansby, and Wilson leave, its over. That's half of your Pro Bowlers. Those are vital cogs to being good enough to win playoff games. If they can keep Warner, Fitz, Boldin, Dockett, Wilson, Dansby and DRC intact, they can be playoff-good for years. If they sell out the cap for this year's run, next year's offseason will have been the inevitable delayed, and vital players will be lost. The Cardinals need a OLB and RB in the first two rounds now, or Boldin and/or Wilson will not get a new deal, and will most likely be gon--

Mike Sando: Looks like your message exceeded the character limit. Sorry to cut you off, but I think we have plenty to work with here.

I happen to think the Cardinals were still in the early stages of building this thing when all of a sudden they got hot, secured the NFC title game at home against long odds and made a run to the Super Bowl. Great for them, but I never assumed this would be a dynasty. That's not how it works in the NFL for most franchises.

If Ken Whisenhunt has his way, the Cardinals will try to take a Steelers-like approach to building their roster. That means they'll lose some well-known contributors to the highest bidder during free agency. This team needs to continue drafting well while trying to figure out the quarterback situation beyond Warner.

Boldin has two years left on his deal, so he will not be gone unless the Cardinals decide he will be gone. That is not a crisis situation. Chike Okeafor's deal was scheduled to count $5.4 million against the cap, not more than $6 million. Failing to get a deal done with Dansby would indeed chew up a lot of cap space, but we shouldn't write off that one just yet. Let's see who Dansby hires and whether a new deal gets done.

The Steelers' winning tradition provides political cover to weather offseason talent losses without incurring harsh criticism. The Cardinals haven't earned that yet. They'll come off as cheap to some when they decline to pay a premium for some players.

Remember, though: The teams that spend most aggressively often buy themselves a front-row seat for the games that matter.


MHandshear from parts unknown writes: Mr. Sando, As a Rams fan, I have continued to hear the talk of the club selecting a second-tier QB in this year's draft. I've even heard a Billy Devaney interview in which he endorsed the idea of taking at least one signal-caller in every draft. While I completely agree with this thinking, why haven't we heard anything about the possibility of bringing in Pat White?
Especially with the Kyle Boller signing, the club could bring in White simply as a developmental third QB. At the same time, he could be utilized as a back-up/Wildcat runner to Jackson, a possible slot receiver, and dynamic return man.

I would love the idea ... but my question is, how high do you feel the Rams would have to target him, and would he be worth that value in your mind? Thanks for reading and your response.

Mike Sando: That would qualify as a luxury pick and I'm just not sure the Rams have that type of luxury based on their other needs. I've seen White projected to go in the second or third round. The Rams need to find starters with those picks. White would not start for them at quarterback or running back, and he would need time to adjust as a receiver. Worth the investment? Probably for a team that could justify using White situationally. I'm just not sure the Rams are one of those teams at this point.


Hannan from Hershey, Pa., writes: Hey Mike. Love the blog. So I've been scheming about the draft now, and I've been wondering about these scenarios for Seattle. If Aaron Curry is at #4, he's the obvious pick, but if he's not there, will we take Monroe/Smith or Stafford? Is Crabtree still an option? Tell me what your opinion is on this.

Mike Sando: Thanks. Who would go 1-2-3 under these scenarios? And can we really assume Aaron Curry would be the obvious pick? He might be a logical pick. Adding an impact player on defense would make more sense to me, at least in theory, than drafting someone who might not even start as a rookie.


Dave from Ukiah, Calif., writes: Mike, When do teams start laying groundwork for draft day trades? I have always wondered when you hear a trade being announced in the first round, when did the teams start talking about it? Is it something they talk about weeks before so they know if they are in the ballpark or do they wait until the last minute to trade up or down in the draft depending on if the guy they are after is still available?
Now that the pick time in round #1 is reduced from 15 min to 10 min, there won't be a lot of time to haggle so it seems they might already have parameters set and only have to fine tune a deal in the 10 min allowed. It seems my 49ers are in a great spot to see if a top talent like Crabtree, Raji or even Andre Smith falls or maybe trade down if Sanchez is there for a team hot after a QB. We can still get a great player and get extra picks to bolster depth but there won't be much time to do it. Have you heard anything along those lines yet?

Mike Sando: Teams are already calling around to see which teams might be willing to move around. Usually, more teams would like to move back than forward at the top of the draft. That will certainly be the case this year. By draft day, teams have talked through potential scenarios in a lot of cases.

You'll sometimes see trades between teams whose front-office people share connections. The Rams and 49ers have a connection now that Mike Williams has left San Francisco's front office to work for the Rams. The trust between Williams and the 49ers' front-office people would make it easier and more likely for those teams to work out a deal than if Williams had remaine
d with the 49ers for this draft.

If you watch that video we analyzed from a Seahawks' draft meeting, you'll notice how general manager Tim Ruskell mentioned that pro personnel director Will Lewis had been calling around to see which teams might want to move.


Harry from San Francisco writes: Hi Mike. I saw the "How to fix the top of the draft (revisited)" post and was wondering what your thoughts were on this idea. Seemingly, a rookie salary cap is absolutely necessary to take the risk out of deals for teams. The NFLPA would strongly object to this as its constituents would be giving money back.
But, as a concession, what if the lengths of rookie contracts are also limited? For most rookies, it takes about 3 years before they truly blossom into full fledged stars. So how about limiting rookie contracts to 3 years or less? Also, make it such that teams are not allowed to put the franchise tag on players whose rookie contracts have just expired. Thus, they would be free to cash in. This would help redirect the salary cap money to more established or up and coming players.

Mike Sando: Teams wouldn't want to give up their franchise-player rights on those early draft choices. They wouldn't want to watch first-round picks leave after three years. I do not think owners would go for that. Seems to me they could propose shifting the money to those who have earned it -- say, by increasing what franchise players receive, or what veterans receive on minimum salaries.


Jim from Sacramento writes: Mike- I really value your insight on the Seahawks. I'm a lifelong 'Hawks fan and hoping they will bounce back. It looks like many continue to suggest Michael Crabtree as the likely #4 pick, although there are rumblings of 'character concerns'. In terms of ability, risk and these alleged character concerns, how comfortable would you be in drafting Crabtree fourth overall? Thanks for your fine work.
Mike Sando: You're welcome. I do not know Michael Crabtree. My experience with him is limited to seeing him up close at the combine during media interviews. He seemed less socially mature than some of the other prospects. I wouldn't judge his character based on that, however. Jerramy Stevens could say the right things and say them with polish, but his actions did not measure up.

The addition of T.J. Houshmandzadeh probably puts Seattle in better position to bring along a young receiver. However, it's also fair to question the fit for Crabtree in Seattle if you think this offense already has the middle of the field covered. Houshamandzadeh and John Carlson should be very strong over the middle. If the offense needs raw speed on the outside, perhaps Crabtree isn't the answer that early in the draft.


Jed from San Francisco writes: If Stafford or Sanchez are available at 10, I could see a situation where the Niners trade down with the Jets and pick up the Jets 2nd round pick. There are a lot of good players at pick 17. Thoughts?
Mike Sando: It's an upset if Stafford remains available that late. If both quarterbacks were there, however, the 49ers would have to consider such an offer. I think they would also have to strongly consider drafting one of them even though 2005 remains fresh in their minds.


Tom from Bellevue, Wash., writes: I have seen several breakdowns of what was on the white board in the background [in the Seahawks' draft room]. The collective Seahawks bloggers are all hoping the list of safties is in depth chart order. Brian Russell is the most disliked player I have seen in a long, long time.
Mike Sando: Brian Russell? The name sounds familiar. Wasn't he the guy who supposedly helped stabilize the safety position in 2007?

For safeties, it's all about the pass rush and what the defense requires of them. Those variables changed more than Russell changed last season, most likely. That doesn't mean the Seahawks should stand pat. They definitely need to develop a young safety. Like the 49ers, they could use more speed at the position.


Philip from Olympia writes: Yo Mike, love your work. With the draft right around the corner, what do you think of the this possible scenerio for Seattle? Draft Crabtree with the the number four pick and sign Derrick Brooks to be our OLB for the next couple years?
Mike Sando: Good in theory, but how about drafting a younger linebacker somehwere in the first three rounds? Worked pretty well when they drafted Lofa Tatupu and Leroy Hill.


Brent from Montana writes: Hi Mike, i read your stuff habitually. I love the niners and i had a question for you since you're the pro. What do you think about taking moreno at 10. he isnt all that much bigger but he would be a change of pace kinda guy to help gore. The two headed monster can work with two great rb's no matter what style they have. Is that too early for him? Maybe trade down and get him then. Just seems to me that having two RBs in this league is very productive. Jaguars, panthers, minnesota,ect. Would you take Moreno or wells if you had the chance? thanks so much man
Mike Sando: You're welcome. I think No. 10 is too early to go that route when you have Frank Gore on the roster and the ability to target another back later in the draft. Gore has been the heart and soul of the 49ers. No need to marginalize him while drafting a player who might never beat him out.


Bronson from Montana writes: Hey there Sando ... Thanks for trashing the niners, but it seems to me a few teams think some of the browns can help them at a few positions. Didn't one former brown just sign the highest contract for a TE ever? That team must be pretty hard up if they want a former brown!!! The same brown team that had a lot of talent to begin last year if i seem to remember. I am pretty sure some experts picked them to make the playoffs last year, but what do they know? see here

Mike Sando: Trashing the 49ers? I don't think that mailbag item qualifies at all.

The Browns were overrated and I said so on TV while discussing their offseason, based on my feeling that teams cannot assume they'll pick up where they left off the year before. The Browns made that assumption. Their offseason moves reflected a short-term push.

All the while, it was unreasonable to expect the same level of quarterback play, and I also questioned their decision to trade away draft choices.

Some of the other power-rankings picks made last offseason indeed became laughable, but that w
as inevitable. I had the Cardinals ranked 16th in our July 2008 power rankings. I had them ranked 13th in our final power rankings, which ran Dec. 30. Things change quickly in the NFL and that is one of the reasons it's fun to follow.