There's been a little too much skepticism toward Steven Jackson this offseason. The pendulum swung back the other way during our NFC West chat Thursday. Let's get right to the highlights. I'll follow up at the end with additional thoughts.
Jordan from Boise expects Jackson to put up MVP-caliber numbers under the St. Louis Rams' new offensive coordinator, Josh McDaniels. He points to Corey Dillon's 1,600-yard season for New England as evidence that McDaniels' offense can maximize production for a highly talented running back, and particularly one as skilled as Jackson as a receiver. "MVP for a running back is a hell of a stretch, but I'm calling it," Jordan wrote. "He will at least have MVP-worthy numbers."
Mike Sando: I'm better off for reading your thoughts on this, but just to be clear, McDaniels was in his first season as the Patriots' quarterbacks coach in 2004 when Corey Dillon had his only 1,600-yard season. Dillon did produce double-digit rushing touchdowns for the 2004-2006 seasons, and McDaniels was on that staff the whole time as quarterbacks coach. But Dillon did not reach 1,600 yards combined in his final two seasons with New England (2005 and 2006). I'd conclude by saying reports of Steven Jackson's demise are premature, but it's fair to wonder if he's wearing down. If he puts up MVP-caliber numbers, I'll pull up this chat and give you credit.
Roy (SF): Hey, Mike, loved the Nnamdi Asomugha-to-San Francisco article. I read that the 49ers are $25 million under the cap, plus cutting Nate Clements would give them another $12 million of cap room. Isn't that enough to sign Aubrayo Franklin and get Nnamdi as well as have some other room? That would be a nice defense for at least five years. Your thoughts?
Mike Sando: Thanks, Roy. Cap space is fluid pending escalator clauses and restricted free-agent tenders. The $25 million figure you cited is about $6 million higher than what ESPN's John Clayton projected. But we should set aside the cap issue. Limitations with the salary cap will not force the 49ers' hand when it comes to their ability to sign players. Teams have left tens of millions in cap space unused in recent seasons. Why? Because they didn't value players highly enough to pay them more. If the 49ers want to pay huge money to Aubrayo Franklin, they can do that. The reality is that they value him at "X" amount, and that amount does not closely correlate with cap space. They are not going to pay Franklin whatever it takes to sign him just because they have the cap flexibility to do so, in other words, just as you probably would not spend an extra $500 at the grocery store just because you had $500 in your bank account.
Ray from Arizona asked how good Larry Fitzgerald might be with a healthy, motivated Randy Moss lined up opposite him in a Cardinals uniform. He also asked whether the Cardinals would invest heavily in a free-agent receiver if Steve Breaston were to depart.
Mike Sando: Larry Fitzgerald would be great with Randy Moss taking up residence on the moon. Fitzgerald doesn't need another top target. He needs a quarterback and he'll benefit from a running game strong enough to make the play-action game relevant, as it was when Kurt Warner was leading Arizona to the playoffs. I don't think the Cardinals are going to funnel significant resources toward another receiver, even if Steve Breaston departs. Andre Roberts showed promise. They finally drafted a receiving tight end in Rob Housler. Early Doucet has some experience. I just see Arizona focusing its most serious resources toward re-signing Fitzgerald and patching other areas. Just my feel.
Josh from Seattle asked me to predict which quarterback will start for the Seattle Seahawks this season.
Mike Sando: I've leaned toward Matt Hasselbeck for most of the offseason, but lately I've come off that a bit. How about a camp battle between Charlie Whitehurst and Matt Leinart? How about a camp battle between Charlie Whitehurst and Tarvaris Jackson? I do think we could see Seattle head in that direction for a season.
As much as the Rams could use a back to take pressure off Jackson, what they really need, in my view, is an upgraded situation at wide receiver. Giving quarterback Sam Bradford additional weapons would make Jackson harder to defend. Think back to the Rams' season-ending defeat at Seattle. The team had run too low on talent at receiver, paralyzing the offense. Jackson might be winding down some, and injuries have limited him at times, but a more dynamic passing game would help maximize his ability, even if Jackson didn't fare well enough to factor into MVP discussions.