Chat with Mike Sando
Welcome to SportsNation! On Thursday, we'll have ESPN.com NFC West blogger Mike Sando stopping by to talk about the latest NFL happenings.
Sando joined ESPN.com in 2007 after nine seasons covering the Seattle Seahawks for the Tacoma (Wash.) News Tribune. He previously covered Washington State University football and basketball for the Spokane (Wash.) Spokesman-Review. Mike grew up in Northern California before attending Whitworth College, graduating in 1992 with a B.A. in political studies. He lives in the Seattle-Tacoma area with his wife and their two sons.
Send your questions now and join Sando on Thursday at 1 p.m. ET!
Mike Sando (12:58 PM)
All right, let's dive in here. Eager to get this thing going here on another June day in the NFL offseason. Wait, it's not June? That's right, it only feels like it, given the lack of free-agent action. Not to worry. The draft is still out there. Lots to talk about.
Hi Mike, like most Rams fans, I'm crossing my fingers Julio Jones is available to us, but I am not sure trading away a second-round pick to move into position for A.J. Green or Jones is a bad idea. This team must give Bradford a WR to grow with like Peyton Manning had in Marvin Harrison. I know this team has needs all over, and I also know we have found some gems recently in the second. What do you think?
Mike Sando (1:01 PM)
I don't think the situation at receiver is desperate enough for the Rams to spend a second-rounder for a big move up the board. The team picked up a starting left tackle (Rodger Saffold) and defensive leader (James Laurinaitis) in the last two second rounds. Those are tremendous value picks based on what those players provide. We should remember, too, that new offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels has gotten quite a bit from receivers who disappointed elsewhere. Deion Branch and Brandon Lloyd come to mind. The Rams have to figure one or two of their injured wideouts will return to form. They could get more from a healthier Mike Hoomanawanui at tight end. Take the receiver if he is there, but don't spend too much in an effort to move up.
It's interesting that nobody seems to be reporting on the ownership belief about the lockout and negotiations in relation to the 2008 financial crisis and the impact that had on the CEO class around the world. There's been a hunger to increase margins and cash flow, reduce debt, sit on cash, or generally get your company better positioned for extended lean times. There was a time when CBS and News Corp, both with a lot of debt and moreso in 2008, looked in danger of bankruptcy. If you are an owner with some 7+ year contracts and multi-year player deals, you alone (not shareholders) are on the hook for those liabilities. The owner may have large amounts of money outside of their NFL team, but in order to fund the team in a panic they don't want to sell assets at fire sale prices. This should be a perspective more sports reporters who don't really venture into finance have when covering the lockout.
Mike Sando (1:05 PM)
Thanks for that, JC. There is not a ton I can add. You're right about sports reporters not having the necessary finance backgrounds to cover this story with the depth it deserves.
Justin (Shadow of Qwest (or Century link?!))
Will Lynch be a solid back (1,200-plus yards) with a few more offensive line pieces in place, or is he a stopgap? Are the Seahawks' biggest needs OL, DL, QB, CB?
Mike Sando (1:07 PM)
Marshawn Lynch should be better than stopgap, but not an elite back. I would take the "under" if you set the over-under at 1,200 yards. But I think he can get more than 1,000 yards with an improved line. The Seahawks think their line depth has already improved through the lower-profile pieces they have put together. Having Russell Okung healthy will help as well.
Aarron- Waukesha, Wisconsin [via mobile]
Hey Mike, who do you think the Cardinals should take, Blaine Gabbert or Cam Newton? I think Newton has more raw talent, but we do need a QB who can be accurate. Your thoughts?
Mike Sando (1:12 PM)
I haven't studied the players the way personnel people study them. My feel is that Arizona would prefer Gabbert over Newton, but I'm not sure whether they would take him at No. 5 overall. Newton can throw accurately. He had a high completion percentage in college. Teams look for functional accuracy, though, and I think there are some questions about his accuracy in some game situations. That could improve as Newton gains a better feel for the game through experience. He has not played as much as some college quarterbacks.
Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)
Will the NFL lockout affect the NFL draft?
Mike Sando (1:14 PM)
Definitely. If a lockout continues through the draft, teams will not be able to trade players. Each year, we see teams swap picks for veteran players. Those types of trades would not happen. Also, teams would not trade 2012 picks during the 2011 draft, to my knowledge.
DJ (San Diego)
How different will Seahawks' offense will be from last year?
Mike Sando (1:15 PM)
I would expect fewer throws well downfield. The running game almost has to improve. The situation at left guard last season was at times brutal. It almost has to be better by default.
Do you think Jim Harbaugh/Trent Baalke will be looking to add a quarterback in the second or later rounds to mold? Or will they be resorting to free agency or both? Because I don't see them using the seventh pick on a quarterback.
Mike Sando (1:17 PM)
My feel upon returning from the NFL owners meeting was that the 49ers definitely would not trade the seventh overall pick for, say, Kevin Kolb. As for when they would take one, I would say this: Harbaugh likes a challenge and could be comfortable coaching up a less talented passer. I think they'll add one in free agency -- it could be Alex Smith -- and draft one, probably outside the first round.
Ruben (Highland, Ca)
Mike,Now that the Rams have announced that McDaniels was going to be this years QB coach, would it still give a bad impression if Ben Mc Daniels begins to work with Bradford in the next few weeks if no CBA? I understand the spirit of the rule, but Bradford could hire another coach/ex-player with knowledge of the offense and no one would have a problem with that?
Mike Sando (1:22 PM)
There is just no way, in my view, that the Rams would condone that type of arrangement. Sam Bradford didn't know the rules -- nor did I -- when he told me during Super Bowl week that he planned to meet with Josh McDaniels for a couple days. The Rams did know the rules. My sense is that they've tried to avoid even the appearance of anything going on outside the spirit of the rules. As for the rules themselves, I did not know about them because the collective bargaining agreement did not spell them out. Teams are working off a supplemental interpretation of those rules that, to my knowledge, exists outside the 35th article of the CBA and league handbook.
Derrick B. (CA Rams fan)
Sando, if you were the Rams' front office, what would you target as your No. 1 pick?
Mike Sando (1:23 PM)
The defensive line would be my target. The draft has good depth at that position and at offensive tackle, according to personnel people. The Rams have already invested in offensive tackle. If the depth on the defensive line lets them get a top-10 type defensive lineman at No. 14, do it.
Ben O (NYC)
How different will the 49ers' offense be under Harbaugh?
Mike Sando (1:25 PM)
We'll still see quite a few two-back sets. This will still be a power-based offense. I suspect the play-calling will be more creative, the quarterbacks will be better prepared and the playbook will give the quarterbacks better bailout options so that Alex Smith or whichever player is under center doesn't have to eat the football while all his receiving options run downfield with their backs to him.
Kubes (San Diego)
What's your take on Ryan Mallett's draft prospects? Has he moved beyond the rumors that were prevalent during the combines? His footwork seems to need improvement. Any chance he could be around for the 49ers in the second round?
Mike Sando (1:27 PM)
Yeah, he could be available then. Everything I've heard from teams about Mallett says they're scared of him and fear he'll have off-field issues.
Steve (San Jose)
Hi Mike, if the Niners are fined for Harbaugh's meetings with Alex Smith, then it was money well spent. My question is, when can we expect to hear anything about the 49ers' QB situation and Smith? Thanks.
Mike Sando (1:28 PM)
We'll hear about the QB situation as soon as we have the draft and/or free agency, whichever comes first. Otherwise, we will not hear about it.
john m (yakima wa)
Mike, with the emergence of the NFL Network, Sirius NFL Radio and live blogs like this, I'm wondering if the powers that be (owners and players) realize that maybe the popularity and huge revenues could be attributed to the fact that this is a year-round sport now. I want my free-agent signings, pre-draft and draft trades, OTAs, etc.. Without these thing my team (go Hawks) isn't getting better. Are they killing the golden goose now? Interest is waning.
Mike Sando (1:33 PM)
NFL owners feared the worst when the courts forced free agency upon them nearly 20 years ago. As you pointed out, and as no one anticipated back then (to my knowledge), free agency did help turn the NFL into a year-round sport. When people less familiar with the NFL learn what I do for a living, they almost always ask what I do during the offseason. I tell them that's when all the action is, and that is when NFL coverage generates some of its strongest traffic numbers. There's no question it's different right now. The golden goose will not die, but it could suffer injuries that linger for a long time.
Mike, do you believe that the Seahawks would be better served trying to use their first-round pick getting either a cornerback or offensive lineman, rather than trying to trade it, plus who knows what, for Kevin Kolb? If we can't get Matt Hasselback, then how about trading a later pick for another QB like Flynn from Green Bay at a much cheaper price than Kolb?
Mike Sando (1:36 PM)
To my knowledge, Seattle did not pursue Flynn last offseason even though the Seahawks' new general manager, John Schneider, had come directly from Green Bay. Flynn might not be viewed in the same light as Kolb, for whatever reasons. I do not know how good Kolb could become, but if the Seahawks thought they could win with him, the 25th overall pick would not be too high a price. I don't see how they could give up more than that. They're already without a third-rounder (although they hold a pick very early in the fourth).
It sounds like the Seahawks have been pretty transparent about negotiating a trade for Kolb. How would a hypothetical trade go down? Wouldn't it have to wait until a new CBA is in place? Wouldn't that likely rule out the use of 2011 picks?
Mike Sando (1:38 PM)
Yep. There could be no trade before or during the draft without a new labor agreement in place or an injunction wiping out the lockout. Which means we could be talking about something that is not even possible. Which would mean the Seahawks would need to address their quarterback situation through the draft and/or by promoting Charlie Whitehurst and using free agency whenever it begins. This is a subject worth breaking out on the blog at some point.
Qwest is going to be renamed by a company based in Louisiana. Worst thing to happen to the Seahawks or worst thing to happen ever?
Mike Sando (1:41 PM)
To review, a company called CenturyTel acquired Qwest Communications last year, and it's been unclear how that would affect naming rights agreements. CenturyTel Field? Doesn't have the same ring to it.
Justin (Shadow of Qwest (or Century link?!))
Why does it feel like Chris Spencer is on the outside looking in? He's coming off his best season and finally shaken that bust label. Don't the Hawks need him?
Mike Sando (1:43 PM)
The Seahawks could decide they want something different from the center position, which is traditionally a leadership position. Spencer has not played at a high level consistently enough to command a lucrative long-term deal. He is not a tone setter or leadership guy. The team has Max Unger in position to take over, and he is under contract at a reasonable price. Those could be some reasons to consider moving on.
Shane (Los Angeles, CA)
Sando, I think the majority of NFL fans will continue to watch the game. I will still watch the draft, because boycotting does nothing to decrease the revenue the NFL receives (since they have already been paid for the broadcasting rights). Where the NFL is going to feel it is for people like me who, everytime I go home on leave from the Air Force, I try to grab a Cards ticket and attend the game. I likely won't do this anymore as my game experience is just as good (if not better) at a sports bar or at home with friends. Thoughts?
Mike Sando (1:44 PM)
Yeah, I could see the NFL permanently losing the benefit of the doubt with some fans while turning off others altogether.
Shane (Los Angeles, CA)
Sando, if the Cards, 49ers or even Seattle are considering drafting a QB, doesn't Kevin Kolb make more sense than Blaine Gabbert or Cam Newton? That being said, I don't think any QB (Kolb, Gabbert, Newton) is worth a top-10 pick this year. I'd rather the Cards grab Von Miller, draft best player available, sign a vet QB and build strategically rather than gamble on a QB they aren't sure will be "it."
Mike Sando (1:46 PM)
That is well said, and my sense is that the Cardinals agree. This could appear silly in the future if Gabbert or Newton turns into an elite quarterback. But we do not know whether that will happen and it's risky to assume it will. The tough part comes when a team feels pretty confident in a quarterback's future, but not all the way confident.
Mike: What's the latest word on what the Cards are planning to do to fix their QB situation? Thanks.
Mike Sando (1:48 PM)
They are just waiting to see what happens with the labor situation. Having the lockout run through the draft would complicate things. I do not think the team would take a quarterback early in the draft just to address the position, though. Whenever free agency opens, the Cardinals will consider the trade market and free-agent market.
Eric (Culver City)
Is it possible that the Rams let Atogwe walk because, as much as they liked him as a person, he wasn't a scheme fit in Spags' defense? Jim Thomas reported that the $8 million bonus that the Rams declined to pay was structured in such a way that it would have counted against last year's (non-existent) cap, so I don't think the break-up was strictly over money.
Mike Sando (1:51 PM)
The breakup was mostly about money, but not about cap dynamics. The Rams thought he was good, but not a big difference maker. Their valuation of him got out of whack when they used the franchise tag to keep him. The move worked -- they kept him for a couple more years -- but it made his departure more likely because they weren't going to pay that kind of money over the long term. As for whether he fits in the scheme, yes, that is part of the equation to this extent: Atogwe was at his best as a ball-hawk, but that wasn't as big a part of his role.
Shane (Los Angeles, CA)
I find the renaming of Mile High Stadium to be the biggest naming travesty in the NFL.
Mike Sando (1:51 PM)
Pat Bowlen's wallet disagrees.
Mike - Have you thought about how boring these chats could be if we go into pre-season and the regular season with no CBA in place? At least the draft and FA possibilities give us something to ponder...at least for now.
Mike Sando (1:52 PM)
I have thought about it every day!
Unless the Seahawks believe they can win a Super Bowl in 2011-12, why keep Matt Hasselbeck, albeit that could have been a question in 2010 but there weren't many QB options in last year's draft compared to now.
Mike Sando (1:53 PM)
Good question. My thought is this: Do not get worse if you do not have to get worse. That would be the reason to consider keeping him. But there are price considerations, too. The Seahawks shouldn't overpay for him given where they're at in their development. At a certain price, it's just more feasible to move in another direction.
Jason (Pleasanton, CA)
JC from Seattle - your rant reminds me of that scene in the bar in Good Will Hunting. Where the Harvard student just regurgitates lines he read in a book to "sound" smart.
Mike Sando (1:55 PM)
Are you sure you have the debt-to-equity ratio required to make such a statement without consulting effective annualized seven-day yields?
When you click on Jim Harbaugh and check his stats on ESPN.com he was a middle of the road QB. Is that why he's so good at "developing" an average QB?
Mike Sando (1:57 PM)
It is part of the equation. He downplays his own abilities at every turn and marvels at Lindy Infante's ability to get decent play out of him. Harbaugh is, somewhat amazingly, a member of the Colts' ring of honor.
Richard (Greensboro, NC)
Is there any reason to believe there will be a CBA in place for the draft? Before the union dissolved and the players were locked out there was a chance things could get done, but given the current situation, do you see any major movement like that in the next month?
Mike Sando (1:58 PM)
The sense going into the league meetings was that something could get done. The sense now is that lawyers have taken over and it's time to dig in. None of this makes much sense, so I'm not reading too much into the feel of the moment. We now must see what happens with that April 6 hearing. It is possible free agency could open sometime after that, and in response to that.
Hey Mike. Love the blog. With everything that has been going on in the league, there is still one question that needs an answer. Do you think your wife will beat you again this year in Fantasy Football?
Mike Sando (2:00 PM)
For the record, I crushed her in 2009, but you're right, she got me this past season. There's a good chance. These things are hard to predict. It's sort of like Matt Hasselbeck benching himself in fantasy the week he tossed four scoring passes against Jacksonville. Now, he's watching his 5-year-old son rank 103 out of nearly six million people in the NCAA Tournament Challenge -- after picking winners based on whether he liked their mascots.
What are the odds the Seahawks move down 15 picks with that first-rounder to get back that missing third-round pick?
Mike Sando (2:01 PM)
Sure, that could happen, but remember, too that the team has extra picks after the third round, and stands to gain more through compensatory choices (which cannot be traded). That puts the team in position to trade up in to the third, as well.
Boring? This could be the Niners best fall in years!!!
Mike Sando (2:02 PM)
Ouch. I can see the headlines now: Niners undefeated through September.
Gabriel Alvarado (Kettering, OH)
I'm probably missing some key thing in my logic, but can't Carson Palmer just retire and unretire to sign with another team. At least, I think that's what Brett Favre did when he came back with the Jets. Or was that only because the Packers released him first? Because if not, then maybe Palmer could do that to sign with another team.
Mike Sando (2:04 PM)
The Packers traded Favre. Once a player retires, his rights stay with his team. The player often goes onto a reserve/retired list at that point. The team would have to release him from that list for the player to sign with another team on his own.
Mike Sando (2:05 PM)
Thanks for dropping by the NFC West chat. Hope your Thursday treats you well.