Mailbag: Competitive balance lost in NFL?

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Egravning from Santa Monica writes: This might seem like an out-of-division comment, but trust me, if you root for the Rams, you hate the Patriots, and if you root for the Seahawks, you hate the Raiders. So, what do you make of this trade between the Patriots and the Raiders? I mean, an aging vet, Richard Seymour, for a 2011 first-round pick? And the Raiders are such a poorly run organization, we can almost assume that the Patriots will land a Top 5 guy. This is ridiculous!

There's no underestimating what Al Davis has contributed to the world of football, but it's time to take away the keys. The NFL needs to institute a fantasy-league rule whereby other owners can veto a trade. Davis has lost his mind, and competitive balance is at stake here.

Mike Sando: That's a fun idea. Can you imagine the hostility that would create within the league if, say, the 49ers cast the deciding vote to block, say, the Cardinals from acquiring a player considered key to Arizona's success?

Regarding Al Davis, I've met Raiders fans who also feel he has lost the edge. While I do not know Davis, I did speak with him informally at the league meetings. He was physically frail, but mentally sharp. At least that was the impression I got. I was among several reporters kidding with him about paying all that money to Nnamdi Asomugha. Davis joked about how he was catching grief from "the great Willie Brown" -- the Raiders Hall of Famer who never made anywhere close to what Asomugha is making.

After several minutes, Davis asked each reporter to introduce himself. He shook each of our hands. The last reporter worked for the rival Chargers' Web site. Davis, upon learning this, withdrew his hand and said, "We'll see you in the opener." It was vintage Al and perfectly hilarious, evidence to me that his mind remained nimble. Remember, too, that people were saying the game had passed him by 10 years ago, before the Raiders returned to the Super bowl.

That doesn't mean Davis made the right move on Seymour. The move looks like a "win" for the Patriots and less promising for the Raiders. Seymour turns 30 in October and his contract expires after this season. The Raiders' recent draft record at the top hasn't been great, though, so perhaps a high pick in 2011 is less valuable to Oakland than even one good season from an excellent defensive lineman.

Josh from Richmond, Calif., writes: Gene Wojciechowski's predictions had the NFC West ending with 1-Seattle, 2-Arizona, 3-St. Louis, 4-San Francisco. I can respect Seattle bouncing back (it would be hard not to), I can see Arizona slipping a bit, I know St. Louis has a lot of room to do better than last year ... but San Francisco fourth? If San Francisco commits to the run and keeps the defense off the field, Shaun Hill won't have to throw more than 150 yards a game to win. It won't win them the division, but it should help them to finish ahead of the Rams (who will need to do a lot more than this to win some games) and possibly finish second. Your take?

Mike Sando: Gene had the Rams third and said he thought five or six victories would not be out of the question for them. He then ranked the 49ers below the Rams, implying San Francisco would win fewer games. I'm with you. The 49ers should learn how not to lose this season. I'm not sure they'll learn how to win, but they shouldn't throw away games the way they did last season. And I think that's enough for them to beat out the Rams.

Josh from Oklahoma City writes: What is the status of Michael Lewis? Would it make sense for San Francisco to chase some guys like Bernard Pollard or Brian Russell to replace him or to give him a rest? Pollard is years younger and, according to Scouts, Inc., much better than Michael Lewis.

Mike Sando: I thought the 49ers would get through this season with Lewis before seeking a replacement beginning in 2010. Changing over both safety spots might be a little much unless Lewis' recent concussions become problematic. The 49ers have already turned over the free safety and right cornerback spots this offseason. I might want to see how Dashon Goldson fares alongside Michael Lewis before changing over both spots. Everything changes if Lewis' concussions take on significant longer-term meaning.

Rob from Susanville, Calif., writes: After watching Deion Sanders' comments on NFL Network, I'm seeing some serious red flags about the status of the Michael Crabtree-49ers contract impasse. If Deion's comments are true, at least two teams are definitely tampering with the 49ers' attemps to sign Michael Crabtree. If Deion's comments are false, then a league employee is blatenly and publicly lying about his 'inside' information regarding this issue. The NFL issued a statement that they will not look further into this matter. Am I missing something here? I am a huge fan of the NFL, not to mention your NFC West blog. This reeks of a scandal. Any way you can dig a little into this situation give us fans some insight?

Mike Sando: Sanders said two teams contacted the 49ers and those teams would meet Crabtree's demands. He never said anything about teams making direct contact with Crabtree or his agents. Sanders could not know that bit of information -- two teams reached out to the 49ers, a notion the team denied -- unless the 49ers told him or unless the 49ers shared that information with Crabtree's camp or unless the two inquiring teams let it be known.

The first two scenarios seem unlikely. The third would be difficult to verify. Sanders' close ties to Crabtree -- they share an agent and Sanders has mentored the former Texas Tech receiver -- also affect how we view what he says. It sounds more like Sanders trying to help Crabtree than it sounds like NFL teams tampering.

Ocho from Seattle writes: Why did the Seahawks cut D.D. Lewis over Lance Laury or Will Herring?

Mike Sando: That one surprised me a little. Herring's emergence during preseason was pretty apparent. Perhaps he looks more likely to contribute as more than just a special-teams player, meaning he could project at linebacker if injuries created a need. Laury has never projected that way. The fact that he was known for his special-teams ability seemed more a reflection of what he didn't offer as a linebacker, I thought. But there's no question the Seahawks have gotten younger at linebacker.

Lewis' versatility was always what made him valuable. Perhaps Aaron Curry offers some flexibility that way. I would like to hear it directly from Jim Mora.

Leafnose from Hollywood writes: You've become a key component to keeping up with the NFC West race. With 9 years of covering the Seahawks, do you feel you can be an objective observer of the NFC West?

Also, we're still without a football team in Los Angeles. Regarding the recent story of Jerry Jones paying some attention to Ziggy Wilf's effort to gain a new stadium for the Vikings: Failing that, do you see that as a option for Wilf to entertain moving the Vikings?

If you're the Rams' head coach, how do you feel about the Adam Carriker injury? For a longtime fan, Carriker's number of game-changing plays are so minimal that I can't for a second miss him. On face value, you've got the Tye Hill trade, and the Klopenstein cut, so perhaps having not relied on Carriker throughout the preseason already is it actually a bonus to know what you've got on the team? Pretty much, less Leonard Little, you've been playing your first-team defense the entire preseason already.

Mike Sando: I would rather be transparent than strive for absolute objectivity. I grew up rooting for the Rams in the 1970s. Pictures exist of me wearing Los Angeles Rams pajamas and Jack Youngblood uniforms. My dad went to high school in Van Nuys and my grandfather worked at Cal State Los Angeles. They liked the L.A. teams. So did I.

Once I was old enough to choose my own rooting interests, and given that I was living in Sacramento, I followed the Raiders and eventually held season tickets in Oakland as recently as 1997. I then started covering one of the Raiders' then-AFC West rivals, Seattle, in 1998.

My fan-based biases would be toward the players I rooted for when I was a fan. Every one of those players has retired, most of them long ago.

Hopefully this blog stands as evidence that I don't have time to be a fan. All my energies go to my family and covering the NFC West. I don't care who wins individual games. Overall, I'd like to see the four NFC West teams competitive enough to hold interest outside the division. That's good for the blog.

On the L.A. stadium issue, I'm still skeptical. There have been so many ill-fated plans over the years. Remember the Irwindale Raiders? Wake me up when something actually happens.

On Carriker, I agree with your suggestion that the staff probably wasn't counting on him anyway. They were hoping he would emerge to realize his potential, but nothing about Carriker's career to this point suggested he would be healthy enough to succeed, let alone succeed. There's no way the Rams were counting on him.