Mailbag: Draft-pick signings no issue

If only the NFL's current labor deal had been in place when Andre Wadsworth, Chris McIntosh, Michael Crabtree and so many other rookies from current NFC West teams missed valuable training camp time.

Teams no longer must worry about draft choices failing to report on time while their agents hammer out complicated contracts. It's a huge relief for coaches in particular.

Only three NFC West draft choices remain unsigned with nearly two full months remaining before training camp. Update: For some reason, I mistakenly thought the Rams, like the Seahawks, had signed all their picks. That is not true, but several of them are signing or agreeing to terms. My apologies.

Receiver Michael Floyd (Arizona), receiver A.J. Jenkins (San Francisco) and cornerback Jamell Fleming (Arizona) will almost certainly sign in time. Seattle has all their rookies under contract. The Rams have reportedly reached agreement with fourth-rounder Chris Givens, fifth-rounder Rokevious Watkins and seventh-rounders Aaron Brown and Daryl Richardson.

This might seem like a roundabout way to get into an NFC West mailbag, but Raymond from Oregon gets the credit/blame for the idea.

"With the reports of some first-rounders signing, what team has signed all their 2012 draft class?" Raymond wanted to know. "I thought I saw that the Seahawks had all theirs signed, and yet I've heard no tracking or reporting on that."

There's little tracking or reporting because it's a given teams will have their choices signed when it matters.

Mouse from Denver thinks Jim Harbaugh's recent comments are part of a master plan designed to create an us-against-the-world mentality.

"Harbaugh is playing the media and you guys don't even see it," Mouse writes. "Everyone has the Niners as an NFC favorite, and he doesn't like it. Bill Walsh used to create animosity between his team and the media all the time. Harbaugh is going to say and do things to make you dislike him and dislike the 49ers, and you will ridicule and criticize. It will keep them hungry and focused in training camp, and by the time the opener rolls around, the 49ers will be riled up by all the negative commentary."

Mike Sando: That could be. Seems to me Harbaugh could accomplish the same thing without risking any credibility. What he said was obviously deliberate. There's no downside if the 49ers remain successful. If the team struggles -- and every team has a down season from time to time -- perceptions tend to matter more.

We know Harbaugh is highly invested in Smith and looking for ways to show his support. We know the organization showed interest in Manning and then signed Smith to a relatively modest contract, and that these actions showed the 49ers' support for Smith was conditional. We can safely assume other players in the 49ers locker room are watching to see whether Harbaugh believes in Smith as much as Harbaugh said he did last season.

As a former quarterback, Harbaugh should have a good feel for the position and everything that goes into playing it well. He might have felt his comments were what Smith and the 49ers' other players needed to hear at this point, for whatever reason. And if outsiders reacted with derision, sure, that could be a good thing for the 49ers as well.

Brian from Washington, D.C. takes another tack on the Harbaugh comments. He raises questions about the 49ers' ability to handle success. He sees a coach (Harbaugh) and quarterback (Alex Smith) with chips on their shoulders, and he likes it, but ...

"As a big-time Niners fan, I love it, but it does make me worry about their ability to handle success/expectations," Brian writes. "Both Smith's unprompted mention of the Panthers/Cam Newton, and Harbaugh's unprompted re-hashing of the Peyton Manning drama have shades of worrying too much about what others are thinking, not just putting your head down, giving cliche responses to questions, and then proving your worth out there on the field.

"Now that they're a popular Super Bowl pick, after a decade without a playoff appearance, is this a storyline to watch? They're not the Steelers, Patriots, Giants, Packers. They're not used to this amount of scrutiny, having the bull's eye on their back."

Mike Sando: It's definitely a storyline to watch, but nothing more at this point. Thoughts similar to yours have crept into my mind. I'm really undecided on it, but we'll be watching closely for signs that might indicate a pattern. Harbaugh's comments about Michael Crabtree's hands also carried some shock value. But we should also guard against reading too much into such things. How the team fares on the field might be totally unrelated. Beware the convenient narrative, right?

Ray from St. Louis assures the NFC West community that there are indeed Rams fans "out here living and dying with our team" even though we don't hear from enough of them on the blog.

"We've got high hopes this year for Sam Bradford and a much improved 'D' under Coach Fisher," Ray writes.

Mike Sando: I'm sure we have quite a few Rams fans lurking, just waiting to join the conversation when the team gives them something to talk about. It's been good to see the division improve, and it'll be even better if/when the Rams take a big step forward.

I like how the Rams have again become the youngest team in the NFL. They've loaded up on draft picks and decided the best way for a rebuilding team to develop young talent is to let that young talent play.

Former coach Steve Spagnuolo had little choice but to patch holes with veterans in an effort to save his job last season. Jeff Fisher faces none of that pressure. He's an established head coach entering his first year with the Rams. Now is the time to go young, and the Rams are doing that.

The chart shows all 2012 NFC West draft choices. Shading identifies those without contracts.

2012 NFC West Picks