Mailbag: Dansby, Hill parallels are gone

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Ezra from Las Vegas writes: Mike, Do you think that Karlos Dansby might be more compelled to sign now that Leroy Hill has a contract, seeing as his agent works for Hill too?

I am hoping that he will, but I think that Dansby is significantly better than Hill, so his contract would need to be better. Or do you think Dansby still wants to leave the Cards because of what he said about making a splash?

I know if next year comes around, I would value Adrian Wilson over Dansby and tag him instead. Thanks, Ezra

Mike Sando: Dansby has much more leverage than Hill because he signed the one-year franchise tender, worth $9.678 million in his case, and the Cardinals did not select Aaron Curry in the first round of the draft.

The $9.678 million became guaranteed when Dansby signed the tender. That makes it pretty easy for Dansby to play out the 2009 season and take his chances in free agency. The Cardinals might have more incentive than Dansby to work out a long-term deal because doing so would help their salary-cap situation in the short term (although the team does not appear to be in desperate need of additional cap space).

Dansby had a better season than Hill enjoyed in 2008. While the gap between the players isn't enormous, the gap between their salaries will be significant. Dansby will make a much more money than Hill over the next two seasons. Hill erred in failing to sign the franchise tender, set at $8.3 million for him. The Seahawks used the error to secure Hill for a bargain price. Unlike Hill, who had lost all leverage, Dansby would never accept a deal that essentially allows the team to release him after two seasons without significant cap consequences.

Aaron from Redmond, Wash., writes: I was looking at what the rules are for signing free agents in the upcoming capless season, and it sounds like the more successful teams will be handcuffed on what they can spend next year. Starting next year, the league will institute the "FINAL EIGHT PLAN". This plan affects the teams that make it past the first round of the playoffs this upcoming year. These teams will have limitations placed on signing UFAs next year. There isn't room to quote it, but I'm talking about section 4 of ARTICLE XXI listed in this link from the nfl players association website.
My question is, do you have a list of players for the NFC West who will become UFA next year? I'd be curious to see which teams would be most restricted if they fell under this rule due to a lack of UFAs of their own that could sign with other clubs. I can't help wondering if [Seahawks GM Tim] Ruskell likes his chances of being a "final eight" team, and that's why he's going after so many players this year, now apparently including Levi Jones.

Maybe he thinks he needs to look a little further ahead to next offseason as well.

Mike Sando: It's an interesting thought and one I'd like to explore in greater detail.

Among NFC West teams, the Cardinals have the longest list of players entering the final years of their contracts in 2009. That list would include Dansby, Chike Okeafor, Mike Gandy, Adrian Wilson, Neil Rackers, Gabe Watson, Bertrand Berry, Bryan Robinson, Leonard Pope, Brian St. Pierre, Deuce Lutui, Sean Morey, Anthony Becht, Ralph Brown, Dan Kreider, Matt Ware, Elton Brown and Victor Hobson.

The Rams' list would feature Leonard Little, Randy McMichael, Alex Barron, James Hall, Kyle Boller and Chris Draft.

The Seahwks' list would feature Cory Redding, Olindo Mare, Chris Spencer, D.D. Lewis, Darryl Tapp and Rob Sims.

The 49ers' list would feature Isaac Bruce, Walt Harris, Arnaz Battle, Joe Nedney, Mark Roman, Barry Sims, Allen Rossum, David Baas, Jeff Ulbrich, Damon Huard, Brian Jennings, Zak Keasey and Ahmad Brooks.

These are unofficial lists, based on quick counts I made in looking at rosters. I'll seek to verify them. Again, this is something worth exploring in greater detail. Thanks for the thought.

John from St. Louis writes: Sando, come on, man. Randy Mcmichael will get the most receptions at the tight end position (among NFC West players). He's a great player and great guy and a GREAT competitor. I never saw anyone more devastated to be injured then him. He'll have a monster season especially with the Rams new offencs, but not to take away from the other great Tight ends in the league.

Mike Sando: You might be right. I would build a case for McMichael on a few pillars.

  • He has produced at the position fairly consistently for multiple years. The other tight ends in this division can't make that claim.

  • He is more established as a receiver than any of the wide receivers on the Rams' roster. That could translate to more opportunities.

  • The Rams' other tight ends are less likely to siphon catches than the 49ers' and Cardinals' backups.

Peter from Modesto writes: Sando -- I don't think I will ever understand how people can judge Alex Smith so harshly considering the circumstances he's endured in San Francisco. As a rookie, Urban Meyer said that because of his cerebral nature, he would have to be able to delve in and digest a playbook, which takes time. After 4 years and 4 different offensive coordinators, Meyer's prediction is coming true.

Being the #1 pick brings instant expectations that are unrealistic, especially for a quarterback. No one is doubting he has the physical tools to be successful -- I think his struggles are more a consequence of the 49ers lack of continuity on offense. He's also ONLY 24 years old.

Based on all that, how can the 49ers not give him the starting job and try to make good on their sizable investment?

Mike Sando: That was the question I kept asking last offseason. The 49ers refused to install him as the starter early in the process. I can't say Smith stepped up and proved he deserved to be the starter, but I also thought the organization needed to rally behind him in helping him realize his potential. That never happened.

The situation is a little different this time. Shaun Hill played pretty well. Smith is coming off another injury. His salary is much lower. For those reasons, I think it's easier to go in another direction at the position. But if Smith is healthy and the quarterback race is close, why not see if Smith can emerge as a legitimate starter?