Chat with Mike Sando
Welcome to SportsNation! On Thursday, we'll have ESPN.com NFL Insider 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 (1:01 PM)
Greetings. It's good to be here. Just finished watching the Johnny Manziel pro day. I previously watched Manziel work out for Jon Gruden for the QB Camp that runs for the first time tonight. Lots to discuss here overall.
With the FA additions the Bears made to the DL (Jared Allen, Lamarr Houston, Willie Young, Israel Idonije, Austen Lane, Nate Collins, Jeremiah Ratliff) and the incumbent players currently on the roster (David Bass, Stephen Paea), if you were leading the Bears draft day war room would you focus on drafting the best DL available or would you look to other areas of need S, CB, or LB?
Mike Sando (1:03 PM)
I would not dramatically adjust my thinking based on one of those positions. Just draft the highest-impact defensive player and feel good about it. If there were one player at each position that was equally talented, I tend to still lean toward the defensive line. Building a good rotation with younger players has great value.
Ciscoskid (Folsom, CA)
Sando, doesn't Desean Jackson make all the sense in the world for the Raiders to trade for? If they can get him for a 4th round pick doesn't it make sense to take on the salary to give Schaub a legit WR?
Mike Sando (1:06 PM)
I thought the Raiders should consider adding younger players. Also thought they should consider taking on salary as they do need to spend. And when you can spend on younger players, that is where you should spend the money. That is why I did not like seeing Jared Veldheer and Lamarr Houston leave in free agency. With Jackson, I do think there must be serious concerns. Who gets rid of a young, dynamic player in his prime when that player is coming off a highly productive season? I know Minnesota got rid of Percy Harvin, who was having a great season with the Vikings until he got hurt. But the Seahawks already had a strong foundation in place with a coach skilled at handling personalities. The Raiders might need to consider the risks and whether they would be in prime position to take on whatever it is that Philadelphia apparently wants to dump.
Pete (Right here)
Seattle soundly defeats Denver and everyone thinks the answer is to bulk up their defenses. Do you really think the Broncos would have won the SB with the defense they've mortgaged their future to compile? Seems to me Seattle would still have stuffed Peyton.
Mike Sando (1:07 PM)
The Broncos did not mortgage their future. They signed Aqib Talib to a pay-as-you-go contract, one they could escape after even just one year without incurring future cap damage. On Demarcus Ware, they did guarantee more than I would have expected. But if they get a couple years from him, that is all they need. They should not be incurring long-range cap troubles.
Now that free agency is over, what position(s) do Cardinals target at #20 in the draft?
Mike Sando (1:08 PM)
They don't have a glaring need to address. I think they could justify taking an impact safety in that range. I would have no trouble with them taking another offensive lineman, either. They've done a good enough job in free agency to enter the draft with some flexibility in the first round.
Do you see the Skins having a "bounce back" year with a healthy RGIII and new head coach Jay Gruden?
Mike Sando (1:11 PM)
I expect their record to improve and I applaud them for showing some restraint in free agency, counter to the reputation they developed years ago. I still think Philly has the best outlook in the division. Gruden should be good for RG III. He gets along with people very well. One potential concern is that Gruden had a reputation for really favoring the passing game. Cincy expects to become more run-oriented with Hue Jackson running its offense. And I think we all agree that RG III might be best from more of a run-oriented offense. How much will the run game factor there in 2014?
Ciscoskid (Folsom, CA)
My worry with the 49ers is that their offense is lacking that "dynamic" factor to it. Seattle obviously has it when Harvin is on the field. Can another year of Kap at QB and with all his weapons give their O that explosive offense?
Mike Sando (1:13 PM)
It's interesting you say that when you consider where they are at from a QB standpoint. They made the switch to Colin Kaepernick because he made them more dynamic. But with that dynamism came the capacity for making errors such as the ones that doomed the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game. From a weapons standpoint, Vernon Davis is pretty dynamic. I would like to see them add a more dynamic receiver, yes. This draft is strong at that position. I think they'll draft someone to enable them to move on from Michael Crabtree if there is no new contract. Also, Anquan Boldin is down to his last couple years. That is a position the 49ers need to address in the draft.
Has anyone ever considered that DeSean Jackson is only as available via trade as ANY player is? And that the Philadelphia media, in a desperate attempt to gain attention/clicks, has blown this thing WAAAAY out of proportion. Unbelievable.
Mike Sando (1:15 PM)
I think it's still OK to answer questions about Jackson's situation.
Tom Denver [via mobile]
Hey Mike. What improves the Rams offense more for the coming year: a giant, plug and play Tackle (Robinson) or a legit number 1 receiver (Watkins)?
Mike Sando (1:17 PM)
Probably the tackle. Receivers sometimes need more time. They are more dependent on their QBs. I think a tackle taken early -- say, No. 2 overall -- would help right away. I say that knowing Jason Smith did not play well, and Eric Fisher was not a star as a highly drafted tackle last year. But the feeling among people in the league is that the tackles in this draft are special, or at least that Greg Robinson is special. And we know that Jake Long has injury concerns and might not be consistently available for the long run. I spoke with a GM from another team who said he thought they really needed the OL help. That is a consensus opinion.
Ed (Queens Village)
Of four teams that played in conference championship this past January who is likely to miss playoffs this year?
Mike Sando (1:19 PM)
I think all four teams are highly likely to return. Oddly, the Seahawks could have the toughest road back just because their division is so strong. But I think they all make it back. Now, I also think Seattle is better positioned than the others to remain competitive if something happened to its quarterback.
Harry (Babylon, NY)
Is there a FA you are surprised is not signed as of today?
Mike Sando (1:22 PM)
Yeah, I didn't know the RB market would move THIS slowly. LeGarrette Blount was one of the 25 priority free agents I listed a couple months ago. of those 25, he is the only one without a contract (a few others were given one-year franchise or transition offers, effectively taking them off the market).
Jon (Seattle, WA)
Thanks for the chat Mike. So often it seems like the teams that spend the most money and have significant turnover are the ones that get the highest grades in Free Agency (not that any of this matters, but it's still fun to discuss). Give me a team that you thought did a good job, while still being resourceful. Many are criticizing the Jets for not being a bigger player in F.A. and doing more to improve their CB situation, but I wanted no part of DRC's contract and there still are other options available via the draft and bringing Cromartie back at a discount.
Mike Sando (1:24 PM)
Arizona got a high grade in our recent free-agency analysis, in part because the team showed restraint in letting Karlos Dansby get away. Now, the Cardinals were aggressive early in getting a left tackle, which was a high-need position they could not address as effectively in the draft. So they did move boldly. But they took a measured approach. Get the LT, show restraint on a 32-year-old Dansby (knowing you have Kevin Minter ready to go), then waiting for Antonio Cromartie to sign at a reasonable rate.
Scott (Westminster, CO)
If you were a betting man and were choosing the AFC's representaive this coming season - would you take either Denver, New Eng and Indy, or the fied?
Mike Sando (1:27 PM)
I would probably lean toward New England on the thinking that the Patriots stayed competitive last season under tough circumstances, and now they should get healthier and have time to regroup at the offensive skill positions after losing Aaron Hernandez and Wes Welker.
Mike Sando (1:29 PM)
The one caveat to my thinking on the Patriots is that this team went 6-1 in games decided by 1-3 points. That is an incredible record, and not sustainable. So maybe they slip back if they aren't quite as good in the close ones. But the way I see things, they'll improve enough to win some of those and avoid being in some other close ones.
jim va.beach [via mobile]
Mike, who in the NFC east has improved themselves in free agents so far?
Mike Sando (1:31 PM)
We gave the Eagles high marks overall but a lot of that had to do with re-signing their own guys, including Jason Peters, Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper. Those were good moves, but they will not necessarily lead to huge improvements. I would say the Giants' moves could lead to the greatest improvements in the division. Now, we did not give the Giants quite as high of a grade, largely because we did not like the values in some cases. But I think the Giants had more room for improvement and probably did the most to address some of the deficiencies.
Harry (Babylon, NY)
Do any of this year's top QB's in the draft have a chance to make a Luck/Griffin/Wilson type of impact or is it more about if the "right" team drafts them?
Mike Sando (1:34 PM)
Johnny Manziel seems like the guy who is dynamic enough athletically to make a big impact quickly. My sense after watching Jon Gruden break down Manziel's game for about five hours recently was that Manziel could wind up in quite a few highlight reels -- not just for his team, but for the other team.
What are the Raiders doing? Seems like I could GM this team better right now. They had all that cap space and let their younger players leave and then went out and signed a bunch of 30+ year old veterans.
Mike Sando (1:37 PM)
They players they added and re-signed averaged 30.5 years old. That was the highest figure in the league. In the Raiders' defense, Oakland is not an attractive destination for free agents right now. Other teams have been in that position before. Tampa Bay, which got our highest grade in free agency, was in that position until Tony Dungy really got things going there. It can be done. But I am with you. They lost their two talented younger guys (Veldheer, Houston) and then added quite a few guys who will not factor longer term. This was a case where I think the Raiders got better in some areas, probably including at QB, but I don't really feel better about the longer term.
What did Manziel's pro day do for his draft stock?
Mike Sando (1:39 PM)
I would think it would have a positive impact, making teams feel better about taking him early. And not just because he threw the ball well. I liked the way he seemed genuinely self-critical when Bill Polian and those guys raised legitimate questions about his ability to stay healthy. The more he interacts with teams, the more he can show them that he has a good head on his shoulders.
If you were to create a coach measuring metric - let's call it WARc (Wins Above Replacement coaching) - would you prefer for a baseline Wally Lemm, Weeb Ewbank, or Lou Saban? And, how many WARc per year is the Hoodie good for?
Mike Sando (1:41 PM)
I love the idea but think so much of it has to do with what a coach has to work with in a given year. Bill Belichick should get high marks for schematic flexibility on both sides of the ball and team building, but he has also had Tom Brady, which sort of helps. I really haven't thought about such a coaching metric and suspect there are too many variables to really measure one coach against another. I'm open-minded on it, though.
B Mand (Sarasota, FL)
What positions do the Bucs still need to address via free agency and the draft?
Mike Sando (1:42 PM)
SAM linebacker was one position to consider.
Knowsean was a beast last year.... how much is Peyton's effect souring the market?
Mike Sando (1:44 PM)
I think it is a combination of factors working against him: RB position not highly valued; some other players available at the position; history of injury; inconsistent production over life of the rookie deal.
Let me clarify - I have no problem with you answering the questions at all. I just don't understand the shock at him not being traded yet. IMO he hasn't been traded because they aren't really actively shopping him. Could he be had for a high first round pick? Sure, but there aren't many players who couldn't.
Mike Sando (1:46 PM)
Right, I get it. It's an odd situation where a player has three years left on his deal and a very high base salary without remaining guarantees -- right after the team re-signed a couple other receivers on the roster.
Tony (Richmond, CA)
Do the Raiders draft one of the young quarterbacks in the first round and allow him to sit behind Schaub until he's ready? Or take a guy like Garoppolo or Carr in the second round while selecting Watkins or the best available defender with their first Pick?
Mike Sando (1:48 PM)
Could depend on who is available when Oakland picks in the first round. I would generally advocate taking a non-QB with one of those top picks, just given the nature of the QB position in this draft. Then come back and consider taking one later. Oakland might not be in prime position to trade up into the late first for a shot at a QB there, but I have advocated that thinking in general terms. Any team going that route would get the QB on a five-year deal instead of a four-year deal, allowing additional time for development.
Scott (Westminster, CO)
What do you think the Seahawks offered Jared Allen in terms of contract? If he was decidng between the Raiders and the Bears, sure, that's an easy one, especially if it was over a couple million. But to me, the Seahawks should have been his choice if they were even halfway competiive with a contract..your thoughts?
Mike Sando (1:51 PM)
I could not see Seattle offering nearly the second-year commitment that Allen got from Chicago. Bigger picture, the fit wasn't right in Seattle because Allen really wants to remain an every-down player getting 1,000 snaps a year. Seattle wants to play with a rotation. Over the past six years, Allen is the only defensive lineman in ESPN's database to play 1,000+ snaps in a season at age 31 or older. Last season, Allen played about the combined snaps of Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril, two players who were very fresh and big difference-makers in the playoffs.
Tom Denver [via mobile]
What kind of seasons do you think the NFCW little guys (T Austin and T Mathieu) have this year?
Mike Sando (1:53 PM)
Mathieu has a major knee rehab ahead of him. I'd be surprised if he factored early in the season. On Austin, after watching him last season, I'm not sure what he is going to be. Is he too small? They could sure use some QB stability there in St. Louis. To answer the question directly, I'm cautiously optimistic on Austin, while thinking Mathieu will have a harder time for a while.
Mike Sando (1:55 PM)
Thanks for dropping by the chat. My pleasure as always. I need to sneak out a few minutes early today. I'll remain here in Orlando for a few days as the Gruden QB Camps continue. Carr and Bortles on the schedule soon. Manziel airs tonight.