The latest NFC West chat was the funnest in a while. We can thank free agency for providing additional angles for consideration. I'll pass along a few highlights before following up with additional thoughts at the bottom.
Nathan from Washington, D.C., wonders why the San Francisco 49ers did not re-sign nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin. Was the price too high? Was he too old? The thinking did not make sense to him on the surface.
Mike Sando: My feeling is that the organization wasn't convinced Franklin would perform at a high level for the long term. Some players are better with a carrot dangling in front of them. I recall Shaun Alexander putting up monster numbers when playing for a new contract. Once Franklin realized the 49ers weren't going to give him what he wanted on a long-term deal, he wasn't going to take a one-year deal from them. So he took one elsewhere. The 49ers would have been better off had they been able to sign Franklin to a shorter-term deal.
Jim from St. Louis thinks the St. Louis Rams have done a tremendous job in free agency. The way he sees things, they knew where to spend money (not running back), where to take injury chances (linebacker) and where to get cheap depth (defensive tackle).
Mike Sando: We're thinking similarly here, Jim. I do think Sidney Rice would have looked good in a Rams uniform, however. He has the physical ability to give Sam Bradford something no receiver on the roster can give him. Getting a talented 24-year-old receiver such as Rice would have made the Rams a clearer favorite in the NFC West, I think.
Nathan from Washington, D.C., was back with another question, this one about the Seattle Seahawks. He wanted to know whether I agreed with their plan at quarterback.
Mike Sando: I think their plan at quarterback is greatly misunderstood. It's a mistake to evaluate the Tarvaris Jackson acquisition as though the Seahawks have declared him their franchise quarterback. They haven't done that, but some of the criticisms seem to proceed as if that were the case. I've got no problem getting through a season with a questionable quarterback when that quarterback knows the system and the team is rebuilding, particularly when there isn't a clear franchise quarterback available to them.
Chris from Broadview Heights, Ohio has questions about the Arizona Cardinals' receiver situation beyond Larry Fitzgerald. "They've basically let Anquan Boldin and Steve Breaston walk for nothing or what is comparable to some magic beans," Chris wrote.
Mike Sando: I spoke with Ken Whisenhunt about that after practice yesterday. He thinks the Cardinals' receivers beyond Fitzgerald are vastly underrated. And he might have a point. Andre Roberts showed quite a bit last season, particularly under the circumstances. Early Doucet can be a factor. They like some things about Stephen Williams. A rookie, DeMarco Sampson, is looking good (practice squad guy, probably). And then the complexion of the team has changed. They suddenly have Todd Heap as a receiving option. They drafted Rob Housler. I think the point you raise is a good one to discuss, but some of the factors I mentioned come into play.
My answer regarding Rice and the Rams drew strong reaction. Kyle from St. Louis thought my logic was inconsistent with a previous statement discouraging the Rams from considering Vincent Jackson. That situation was different on multiple fronts. One, Rice was a free agent, while Jackson was available only by trade. Two, Jackson has had significant off-field issues. Rice is 24 years old and highly talented.
Let's look at it this way: If the Seahawks, Cardinals and 49ers could vote yes or no regarding Rice teaming up with Bradford, how do you think they would vote? I guarantee the answer would be 3-0 against Rice joining the Rams.
Rules surrounding free agency this year made it tougher for teams to build their plans around Rice. Players could not make free-agent visits until the signing period opened. That would have made it tough for teams to fully assess Rice's surgically repaired hip. Seattle agreed to terms with Rice before the signing period opened. The Seahawks had a better feel for Rice's health because their offensive coordinator, Darrell Bevell, had been with Rice in Minnesota.