Free Agency 2011 – Two Views on the AFC West

| July 19, 2011

Just another year in the AFC West. Two new head coaches, one defensive scheme change and a whole lot of question marks.
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The biggest question right now? What are these teams going to do in free agency.
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The Chargers have a number of free agents they need to re-sign, while the Broncos look like a team best served to spend some cash and upgrade a number of positions. Then you have teams like the Chiefs who need to bridge the gap between themselves and the top teams, and a unit like the Raiders who have to be primed to turn the corner.
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Two of our top guys, Khaled Elsayed and Sam Monson, sat down to discuss what they should do.
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Denver Broncos
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Which player do they need to re-sign?

Sam: Denver isn’t losing a tremendous amount to free agency, but Ryan Harris has shown himself to be a capable right tackle at times, there’s no reason not to try and lock him up.

Khaled: I’d agree here. With Denver having quite a few holes, it may make the most sense not to give themselves another one with a guy who can be pretty solid.
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What area is the team’s biggest need to upgrade?

Sam: With rumblings that nobody in the organization trusts Knowshon Moreno as the answer at running back, and with John Fox’s propensity for running with a pair of backs, they need to go after somebody that can carry the load.

Khaled: Who will be playing defensive tackle for these guys? Fox was in a similar situation last year and it contributed to the worst record in football.
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How do they upgrade that area?

Sam: It makes too much sense to happen, but Fox knows what DeAngelo Williams can do at his best, and he can dominate. He’s also able to carry the kind of load that means they don’t have to lean on Moreno if they don’t trust him to get the job done.

Khaled: It also makes a lot of sense that Brandon Mebane becomes a Bronco. They need a guy who can contribute on every down and Mebane is that guy.
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Kansas City Chiefs
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Which player do they need to re-sign?

Khaled: The Chiefs are somewhat fortunate that the three guys they would want to tie down, are either restricted free agents or franchised (Carr, Gilberry and Hali). They could live without any of the others, though the impressive run defense of Shaun Smith that should be considered. He’s not getting any younger, but he’s a consistent two-down player.

Sam: I think they take this opportunity to aggressively target one of those guys they’ll already have around for another season. Locking up Brandon Carr gives them a potentially fearsome young secondary … and gives them a year to figure out how they’re going to pay Tamba Hali.
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What area is the team’s biggest need to upgrade?

Khaled: Matt Cassel struggles under pressure. His tackles give up lots of pressure. So unless the Chiefs are going to give up on Cassel (which they won’t, given all the money he’s got), they need to limit the pressure he faces. One way to do that, if you’re not prepared to move Brandon Albert inside, is to upgrade the right tackle spot. Quickly.

Sam: Again, my learned friend speaks sense. The Chiefs fixed a lot of holes in the draft, but they didn’t go after that right tackle spot, and that needs a major overhaul.
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How do they upgrade that area?

Khaled: Personally, I’d like to see them make a play for Jared Gaither, but Gaither is a left tackle and teams are loathe to give up on first round picks. Instead, I’d take a chance on Willie Colon. He’s not a punishing run blocker, but he has been one of the better right tackles at keeping his QB upright. I’d get him in for a medical first, mind.

Sam: I think Gaither is wasted on the right side anyway, how about looking at any of the legitimate right tackles out there. Someone like Willie Colon would be a massive upgrade, and the talk is the Steelers aren’t going to fall over themselves to keep him around.
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Oakland Raiders
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Which player do they need to re-sign?

Sam: Assuming there’s no hope they keep Asomugha around, having completely broken the barometer for his value with the last contract they handed him, they really need to focus on Zach Miller on offense, especially as long as their wide receiver corps continues to underwhelm outside of Jacoby Ford.

Khaled: No team did a better job tying down some of their players before the lockout, so credit to Oakland (how many other teams wish they had been more aggressive now). Still, they have a couple of top talents, and I think it would be a shame to lose Michael Huff when he has finally looked like becoming the player they drafted him to be.
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What area is the team’s biggest need to upgrade?

Sam: You could pretty much pick any part of the offense to take a swing at, but let’s assume any QB needs some protection in order to function, and they don’t have that at the moment behind the Raiders’ O-line. That line is bad enough that you don’t need to be position specific, there’s not a spot on it that couldn’t take an upgrade.

Khaled: That offensive line is brutal. Even with some of the young guys getting better, it won’t be good enough to help them. They need an injection of talent now.
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How do they upgrade that area?

Sam: Jared Gaither is the kind of physical freak we all know the Raiders covet, but they might be scared off by his injuries. There are plenty of alternatives around though, with Willie Colon, Doug Free, Marshal Yanda and Damien Woody all providing massive upgrades if the Raiders want to go O-line.

Khaled: I’d argue that they wouldn’t be scared off by Jared Gaither’s injuries, but rather they’ll keep faith in Veldheer. They could do with getting a bit nastier, which to me means bringing in guard Harvey Dahl.
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San Diego Chargers
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Which player do they need to re-sign?

Khaled: I want to say Eric Weddle, but since they snapped up Bob Sanders, they don’t seem prepared to pay him what he’s worth. Instead, I think they’ll do well to resign the underrated Antwan Barnes. He came on leaps and bounds as a pass rusher this year. The Chargers have relied on the adequate work of Shaun Phillips, so having someone to take the load off him would be a double bonus.

Sam: Time to stop messing around and pay Vincent Jackson what he’s worth. They can afford to let Malcom Floyd walk if they lock up Jackson, and even if they can survive without him, why on earth would they want to?
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What area is the team’s biggest need to upgrade?

Khaled: A tricky one. A lot would depend on how many players they are able to re-sign, but presuming they can’t secure any (other than Barnes), I worry about them across their linebacker spots. I’m a big Brandon Siler fan, but he’s a two-down guy and they will really lack some talent if they lose Stephen Cooper and Kevin Burnett.

Sam: I think Eric Weddle is going to get paid elsewhere, and if he does, he’ll leave a gaping hole, because – let’s be honest – we can’t rely on Bob Sanders staying on the field for long. They’ve definitely got to look at retaining their own players, but this is one I think they’ll lose and feel the impact from it.
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How do they upgrade that area?

Khaled: Is it cheating to say Kevin Burnett? Essentially, the Chargers don’t need to worry about upgrading their team as much as they need to worry about retaining their unrestricted free agents.

Sam: If they’re not going to pay Weddle, they’re not going to pay someone like Quintin Mikell either, so let’s look a little more bargain basement. Danieal Manning looked like more of an athlete than a football player for most of his time in Chicago, but was finally in his element last season when they played him much deeper and allowed him to use his range to best effect.
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Follow Khaled on Twitter: @PFF_Khaled, and for Sam, it’s: @SamMonson … and be sure to follow our main Twitter feed as well: @ProFootbalFocus
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  • R.Q.E.

    I keep hearing about Antwan Barnes’ pass rushing, but I haven’t seen a single snap of the Chargers. Does he mostly rush from 2-point or 3-point? I know he comes in as a situational pass rusher, but he has to play the run occasionally, how is he at it? What about coverage?

    • Neil Hornsby

      First off, forget coverage (he dropped 5 times) – it’s a bit like asking how good is Joe Thomas at tackling because he might have to make a few on the odd occasion Colt chucks up an interception.

      Last year loads of Dolphins fans started questioning Cameron Wake’s ability in the running game without any evidence he had issues. If there are people out there saying he can’t play the run (and I’m not saying that’s your intimation by the way) my view is that’s complete speculation and what hard fact there is, suggests otherwise.
      Whilst again it’s a small sample (50ish plays), He’s OK actually and does pretty much what’s asked of him; he’s not the sort of guy to just lean on Tackles when he’s got force for example.

  • uppercut

    to give you a quick (& rough) fan-observation answer – he did a lot of his work from a DE (on a 4-man line) position (RE, with Shaun Philips downing at LE), and I’d imagine in more “obvious” passing situations (to expose him to the run as little as possible). Mostly basing all that on the game VS NE, where he rushed pretty well vs Matt Light. So basically on base downs it was only Garay getting good pressure, and only Barnes on sub-packages…..because it’s not like we wanted to get to the QB or anything @_@.

    • Rick Drummond

      uh oh, uppercut is a Chargers fan … knew there was something I didn’t like about him. ;)

      • uppercut

        yay, I’m notorious! haha