Mailbag: Ultimate Building Blocks revisited

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Josh from North Dakota writes: Sando, I don't see how Kurt Warner is not on your [Ultimate Building Blocks] list! This is one of the top QBs in the NFL last year returning from an excellent postseason, with the same receiving corps. Let's not forget he's a two-time league MVP. He threw for 4,583 yards and 30 TD's last regular season. And to top that off he threw for 1,147 yards and 11 TDs in the post season. He posted a postseason passer rating of 112.2. He was third in the NFL in passer rating last year, secnd in yards and third in touchdowns. I find it asinine that he doesn't make your top 10!

Mike Sando: I questioned myself on that one after filing the Ultimate Building Blocks piece. My original thinking remains defensible. Warner might not play for the entire three-year window in question. His contract runs two seasons and he has already considered retirement. It's tough to build around a player unlikely to stick around.

On the other hand, if I were building a team, I would want a quarterback, and that would mean drafting Warner. I probably could have justified drafting Warner and Matt Hasselbeck as insurance against one another, figuring at least one of them will likely produce all season.

Jake from Lebanon, Pa., writes: You're an idiot for not including Anquan Boldin. Repeat, idiot.
Mike Sando: Boldin isn't even under contract for all of the three-year window in question and I'd be surprised if he remained with Arizona for the full term. That makes it tough to build around him. Also, Larry Fitzgerald is a better player at this point. Once I "drafted" him, there wasn't as much need for another wideout.

George from San Francisco writes: Hey Sando, in regard to your Ultimate Building Block piece, shouldn't it matter if the team were to run a 4-3 versus a 3-4 scheme on defense? I assumed you were in a 4-3 due to the two defensive linemen and only one linebacker [Patrick Willis], but I think you would need to choose a coach to lead the team because it would solidify which system the team would run.

Mike Sando: I didn't really settle on a scheme in part because this division lacks pass-rushers to build around, both at outside linebacker and defensive end.

Max from Pullman, Wash., writes: Sando, longtime fan of your roster analyses, but going into the 2009 season, previous Seahawks roster numbers become somewhat irrelevant for obvious reasons. My question is, what has been the norm for offensive coordinator Greg Knapp the last couple seasons as far as the number of skill players he's held onto going into the season? With our running backs pretty much set (unfortunately), I'm most concerned with wideouts and if there are any tendencies we should be aware of?

Mike Sando: Thanks, Max. Knapp is on the record saying he wants five running backs total, counting fullbacks. The Raiders kept five receivers, three halfbacks and two fullbacks on their opening-day roster last season when Knapp was their offensive coordinator. The Seahawks are in a different situation. They have a veteran quarterback and better quality depth at receiver than running back. The Raiders had a young quarterback and better quality depth at running back than receiver.

Ken from Bellevue, Wash., writes: I'm a huge Seahawks fan and I root on just about every player on the team. But I have a feeling that Lawrence Jackson is going to continue to be subpar. I think he's going to be a bust again this year. What do you think? I don't see Jackson outplaying Cory Redding [or Darryl Tapp, for that matter]. Any other players that you think are not going to live up to expectations?
Mike Sando: Jackson did not show much last season. He has to be better than that in his second season, even if he doesn't validate his first-round standing. I'd be surprised if Chris Spencer suddenly lived up to his first-round status.

Kris from Jacksonville writes: Mike, I've seen two articles now on Foxsports.com saying the Jason Brown signing was bad. They claim the Rams overpaid. But I haven't seen anything else saying it was a bad move by the Rams. So, did they pay Brown too much or not?
Mike Sando: Coming off a 2-14 season, the Rams weren't in position to get quality players on the cheap. The Rams paid what they needed to pay. Their new contract negotiator, Kevin Demoff, might value centers higher than some others value players at the position. Demoff was with Tampa when the Bucs paid significant money to Jeff Faine in free agency.

I didn't have a big problem with the Rams' decision to invest heavily in an anchor for their offensive line. Anyone familiar with the Rams' problems at center in recent seasons understood the urgency in addressing the situation. Brown will give the Rams needed power in the middle of their line. Brown also has a strong personality, something every offensive line needs.

JC from San Jose writes: Hey Mike, I know that the signing of Mark Sanchez by the Jets affects the contract negotiations of the other unsigned top 5 draft picks [Jason Smith, Aaron Curry and Tyson Jackson], but I think that Darrius Heyward-Bey's contract will affect them more should the Raiders sign him prior to the other three I mentioned. It's no secret that Al Davis is infamous in doling out huge contracts, and if Heyward-Bey gets a huge contract, the teams that drafted Smith, Curry and Jackson can no longer use the QB premium as a negotiating tool.
Mike Sando: Fair point. On the other hand, the deal Oakland did with Nnamdi Asomugha didn't entitle other cornerbacks to that type of money. The deal Oakland did with punter Shane Lechler didn't put other punters in that price range. A case can be made that Oakland's deals aren't necessarily indicative of the broader market.

TripleH49er from Marin County writes: Greetings, Mike. How did you
come away from the 49ers OTA/practice session? Does it look a lot better than last year?
My concern is while they may look great in practice, something goes wrong and they wind up finishing poorly. Would you say the practices may be too soft, or not enough is done to correct problems? On the QB situation, is 'experience' better -- as in, Alex Smith is experienced -- or should the 49ers start Shaun Hill? My concern on Hill is if the 49ers start him and then struggle. Do they just pull him? I'm not sure if that's wise to start one and wind up pulling him and then cutting him. But I still feel Smith deserves a chance.

Who do you see as the 49ers' go-to WR? I feel it's going to be Michael Crabtree, but it'll be late in the season. Do you see a good go-to WR by 2010 on the 49ers, and will they draft a new QB in 2010?

Mike Sando: The practices are not soft. Nothing about Mike Singletary as a coach is soft. The practice session I watched seemed similar to other practice sessions. I wouldn't draw conclusions from it.

At quarterback, I would start Hill going into the season unless Smith clearly outperformed him, including in exhibition games, between now and the regular-season opener. The team could always turn to Smith in a pinch.

Isaac Bruce will presumably be the go-to receiver starting out. That could change based on how Brandon Jones and Josh Morgan fare during camp. We'll have a much better idea after seeing how the offense evolves this summer.

The decision San Francisco makes at quarterback could affect the receivers. Smith's stronger arm might allow him to strike farther downfield.

Jason from St. Louis writes: I love that note at the end of the mailbag about no Cardinals-related submissions in the last two weeks. The Rams may have only been in St Louis since 1995, but this town in general has loyal sports fans. We have embraced and mostly supported them through the good [short as that period was] and the bad [what we have seen the last several years].
During that insane run Arizona went on last year, you had people coming out of nowhere saying they were lifelong Cardinals fans and how happy they were to see the team doing so well. First off, the only way you could be a lifelong fan there is if you were born in 1986. Second off, where are those fans now?

If Arizona starts next season 1-2 or something like that, that bandwagon will be emptier than a Florida Marlins home game. Love the work you do. Please join me in hoping some trillionaire doesn't pull the Rams out of St Louis. It hasn't even been 15 years yet.

Mike Sando: Thanks for the support. We've had fewer Rams-related mailbag submissions than any other, by a wide margin. I suspect the team's 5-27 record over the last two seasons largely explains their silence. Here's hoping Cardinals and Rams fans challenge 49ers and Seahawks fans for activity here.