Mailbag: Draft or trade for QB acquisition?

Brad from Portland writes: Hey, Mike, thanks for the constant stream of info! All this clamoring for Kevin Kolb reminds me of a few years ago when Matt Schaub was such a hot commodity. A backup quarterback who showed in a couple of games he can play. While Schaub would be an upgrade in San Francisco, Arizona or Seattle, he has not exactly lit the league on fire since coming to Houston. It seems like drafting a QB would be less of a gamble, especially now that we know there will be a rookie wage scale. Your thoughts?

Mike Sando: You're welcome, Brad. Thanks for tuning in.

That rookie wage scale is an interesting part of the equation. Whiffing on a quarterback near the top of the draft might not hamstring an organization to the same degree.

That makes some sense in theory, but the reality is that teams long ago became smarter in allocating resources within a salary cap. Huge chunks of cap space have gone unused in recent years. Some teams even figured out how to temporarily eat up cap space by writing phony bonuses into contracts, allowing them to recoup the cap room a year later when the incentives went unfulfilled.

What I'm saying, in short, is that cap room has not and probably will not be an issue. A rookie wage scale would still reduce the pain for franchises making mistakes near the top of the draft. It might become easier to take a chance on a talented quarterback with a few question marks.

As for Shaub, his career is a work in progress, with ups and downs to this point. I suspect every team in the NFC West, minus the St. Louis Rams, would strongly consider trading its first-round choice for Schaub right now. And I'm pretty sure the Texans would not trade Schaub for any of those first-round selections. They would rather have Schaub.

Schaub ranks fifth in yards passing per game (267.1), sixth in total passing yards (14,424), eighth in yards per attempt (7.9), 10th in passer rating (93.5), 11th in starts (54) and 13th in touchdown passes (77) among NFL quarterbacks since the start of the 2007 season, according to Pro Football Reference. He has led the NFL in passing yards once and made one Pro Bowl appearance.

Kolb is not necessarily Schaub. I think he'd be a safer bet than most of the quarterbacks available in a given draft. At least he has had some seasoning and shown enough for Philadelphia to sign him as a starter before Michael Vick took over and won the job.

Brad from Seattle writes: Is it crazy that I think it would be a really, really bad idea for us to lose Matt Hasselbeck, especially to the 49ers or Cardinals? Although I don't think Charlie Whitehurst is the future of the franchise, and Kevin Kolb could be, would it be crazy to have both Hasselbeck and Kolb compete for the starting job? Or would we ship Hasselbeck in that situation?

Mike Sando: Hasselbeck should finish his career in Seattle. Seeing Hasselbeck wearing 49ers or Cardinals colors wouldn't seem right. Unfortunately, established players routinely finish their careers elsewhere. Money and pride get in the way.

The Seahawks wouldn't want to see Hasselbeck playing elsewhere in the division, but I also think they wouldn't necessarily shudder at the thought from a pure personnel standpoint. Should they? Hasselbeck has not produced consistently in recent seasons for a variety of reasons. Would he suddenly flourish in a new environment with new teammates and a new playbook? Not necessarily.

As for keeping Hasselbeck and acquiring Kolb, Hasselbeck will be looking for some assurances that he can be the starter in 2011, for sure, and probably beyond. He played well in the postseason and that gives him some momentum in negotiations. It's easier for him to ask for those assurances. And Kolb likely would not sign a new deal with a team without assurances he would start.

Teams do not want to pay starting money to two quarterbacks.

Zach from Rexburg, Idaho, writes: Hey Mike, I like your input on the play of the safeties for the 49ers. What do you think will happen back there for them this year? Reggie Smith played into the starting role and Dashon Goldson was a disappointment. Do you see the 49ers dropping Goldson and moving Taylor Mays to his position? Imagine if they did that and drafted, say, Patrick Peterson. That would be a very young secondary with a lot of potential. Your thoughts?

Mike Sando: Thanks, Zach. Mays' coverage skills were a liability at strong safety. There's just no way he would project as a free safety, which demands even better coverage skills.

Having a new coaching staff wipes the slate clean for some of these players. The previous staff might have had grand plans for Mays. The current staff may or may not think highly of him. We'll have a better feel once players get on the field for minicamps and training camp.

The 49ers' new defensive coordinator, Vic Fangio, has experience shuffling personnel in the secondary. He was with Houston when the Texans moved cornerback Marcus Coleman to free safety, a revelation that should generate a few more hundred questions about the 49ers' Nate Clements (presumably still not a candidate to play safety, by the way). Fangio's Texans also patched for injuries at strong safety by moving Glenn Earl into the lineup as a rookie. Side note: Once Fangio left Houston and an injury sidelined Earl, the Texans acquired Michael Boulware from Seattle as a potential replacement.

Back to the 49ers. Their secondary is in flux. Clements' salary makes a return close to prohibitive. Goldson has no contract for next season. Mays remains an unknown. The new staff hasn't gotten any of these guys onto the field or even in meetings yet.