Mailbag: Josh Johnson and 49ers QBs

Andrew from Hong Kong leads off the mailbag with a question about the San Francisco 49ers' potential interest in Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Johnson. Andrew cites Johnson's connections to 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh in asking whether San Francisco and Tampa Bay could agree in principle to a trade before the draft, then execute the deal once the lockout ended.

Mike Sando: Teams could not enter into an official, binding trade agreement. No one would know if they had conversations about trades and wound up making those trades later. But nothing could be firm.

Johnson did play for Harbaugh at the University of San Diego. We've routinely seen new head coaches pursue quarterbacks from their pasts. Arizona's Ken Whisenhunt brought in Brian St. Pierre, whom he had known in Pittsburgh. Mike Holmgren brought Matt Hasselbeck from Green Bay to Seattle. Steve Spagnuolo signed A.J. Feeley, a quarterback he knew from Philadelphia.

Johnson is entering the final year of his contract with Tampa Bay. The 49ers would presumably want to extend that contract if they were going to acquire Johnson in a trade of any consequence. They could not do that during a lockout, which would complicate any unofficial talks they had with Tampa Bay.

I've gone back through the Pro Football Weekly draft guides I keep around to re-read Nolan Nawrocki's assessment on Johnson coming out of the 2008 draft. The report lauded Johnson's intelligence, quick release, athleticism, improvisational ability, vision, work ethic, leadership, ability in the clutch and background in a pro-style offense.

The report raised concerns about the competition Johnson faced in college before concluding with, "Could take a few years to digest an NFL playbook, but could be very effective in a West Coast offense and develop into a dynamic starter. Has as much upside as any passer in the draft."

That is a glowing assessment and one that supports the thinking that Harbaugh could have interest.

Will from Bloomington, Ind., read the recent NFC West transcript and wondered whether Florida offensive lineman Mike Pouncey could be a sleeper consideration for the St. Louis Rams with the 14th overall choice in the 2011 draft.

Mike Sando: Wow, what a surprise selection that would be. Pouncey has played center and right guard. The Rams have their center in Jason Brown, but they could use a front-line starter at right guard. Pouncey would provide insurance at center and could even start there in the future.

These sorts of scenarios gain appeal when the quarterback is in place. Taking a quarterback was everything for the Rams a year ago. Now, they are in better position to pluck a player from any number of positions, based on value more than specific need.

Sure, they could use an outside receiver to open up their offense. They could use a change-of-pace running back. They need a defensive tackle and outside linebacker. A defensive end could make sense.

Addressing the offensive line at No. 14 might qualify as overkill after the team used the second and 33rd choices for linemen in recent drafts. I wouldn't do it unless I thought Pouncey were a Pro Bowl-caliber guard and a natural leader -- and the other options appeared much riskier.

Mick from Brooklyn, N.Y., wonders why we haven't heard more about the Seahawks possibly having interest in quarterback Ricky Stanzi. He sees a tall, smart, poised leader who has stepped up against better competition and wouldn't need a strong arm playing in a West Coast system.

Mike Sando: So much draft coverage focuses on the first round at the expense of players available later. Some have projected Stanzi as a third-round choice; Seattle does not own a selection in that round after sending its pick to San Diego in the Charlie Whitehurst deal.

With Whitehurst already in the No. 1 or No. 2 role pending Matt Hasselbeck's status, would Seattle be adding any clarity to the position given that Stanzi would be more of a developmental player?

There's also some uncertainty about how much Seattle will change its offense with Darrell Bevell and Tom Cable assuming leadership roles.

Those are a few potential reasons we haven't heard much linking Skanzi to Seattle more than to other teams.

Josh from Redding, Calif., wonders whether the Cardinals would use the fifth overall pick for A.J. Green or Patrick Peterson if they were available, both top quarterbacks were off the board and trading down were not a realistic option.

Mike Sando: The Cardinals have been pretty adamant about making sure their early draft choices fill needs. Texas A&M pass-rusher Von Miller would be a logical choice if he were available under that scenario. The perceived value and need would line up with that selection.

The Cardinals have invested heavily at receiver and hope to do so again by extending Larry Fitzgerald's deal. Selecting Green could throw off the balance, although the team did select Fitzgerald when Anquan Boldin was an emerging star. The team used a first-round selection for cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in 2008, so it might be a little soon to select another one in the first round, particularly with needs elsewhere.