FA Recap: AFC West

Kev Connaghan looks over the moves made by each AFC West team to this point in the free agency period.

| 2 years ago

FA Recap: AFC West

As free agency starts to slow down, it’s time to take inventory of last week’s craziness. The moves were fast and furious (and perhaps a bit premature), as a few teams were extremely aggressive in pursuit of turning around their fortunes while others took to free agency with constraint. Here’s a look at where we stand after a week of free agency:

Denver Broncos

FA-Recap-danielsKey Losses:
DI Terrance Knighton
G Orlando Franklin
S Rahim Moore
TE Julius Thomas
WR Wes Welker
C Will Montgomery
LB Nate Irving

Key Re-Signings:
TE Virgil Green
WR Demaryius Thomas (franchise tag)

Key Additions:
G Shelley Smith
S Darian Stewart
DI Vance Walker
TE Owen Daniels

With an number of key performers out of contract, the Broncos found themselves in an awkward position this offseason as it was impossible to bring them all back. They started by wisely slapping the franchise tag on star receiver Demaryius Thomas, and then re-signing blocking tight end Virgil Green. However, after that it was all one-way traffic as Julius Thomas, Orlando Franklin, Rahim Moore and Terrance Knighton sought pastures new.

The Broncos responded by signing a quartet of veterans to help replace them, but they weren’t exactly like for like. Where Thomas is a dynamic receiving tight end capable of stretching a defense, Owen Daniels is a more rounded player, a good receiver on short and intermediate routes, and a decent blocker. Daniels does possess great familiarity with Gary Kubiak’s offense which will be valuable. Franklin was versatile and balanced, whereas Shelley Smith has been more of a one-dimensional run blocking guard to date. Smith struggled in Miami in 2014 (-10.1), but was much more impressive a year earlier in St. Louis (+7.2). Darian Stewart was solid at safety (+3.0) for the Ravens, and fared better against run than pass, but he’s not a natural center fielder like Moore. Knighton is a big loss, in more ways than one, a mammoth run stopper he had an +11.2 grade in that area. Walker lacks Knighton’s size, but did well against the run in 2014 (+6.8) and has experience in the three-man front that the Broncos are expected to utilize even more often in 2015.

The Bronco’s have added some useful players, but have experienced net loss of talent; they will have to address that through the draft.

Kansas City Chiefs

FA-Recap-maclinKey Losses:
C Rodney Hudson
TE Anthony Fasano
WR Dwayne Bowe
S Kurt Coleman
CB Chris Owens
DI Vance Walker
G Mike McGlynn
OT Ryan Harris

Key Re-Signings:
ED Justin Houston (franchise tag)
WR Jason Avant
LB Josh Mauga
S Ron Parker
S Kelcie McCray

Key Additions:
WR Jeremy Maclin
G Ben Grubbs
G Paul Fanaika
S Tyvon Branch

It’s been a relatively low-key offseason in Kansas City. As with the Broncos, the Chiefs’ smartest move was using the franchise tag to keep hold of a key player; no team can afford to let a pass rusher of Justin Houston’s calibre hit the open market.

Their biggest actual signing was undoubtedly that of ex-Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin; a direct replacement for longtime Chief, Dwayne Bowe. There can’t be many sports fans in the country who aren’t aware that the Chiefs managed to go through the entire 2014 season without a wide receiver catching a touchdown pass while Maclin caught 10 of them in Philadelphia. DeAnthony Thomas (+1.4) was the sole Chiefs receiver with a positive grade in the passing game, whereas Maclin finished 14th in the league with a +9.0 receiving grade.

The Chiefs had mixed fortunes on the offensive line – they lose one of the better centers in the league in Rodney Hudson, but have somewhat upgraded at guard with the additions of Ben Grubbs and Paul Fanaika. Coming off a -0.2 season, Grubbs hasn’t always performed like a former first-round pick, but he is solid and a definite improvement for the Chiefs. The same can’t really be said of Fanaika, he did grade better in 2014 (-20.9) than the man he replaces, Mike McGlynn (-32.6), but it’s not a signing that will fill Chiefs fans with confidence.

Former Raider Tyvon Branch has also ended up in Kansas City, having played just five games across two injury-shortened seasons. If fit, he can be a solid run defender and capable contributor for the Chiefs, and if not it’s a low-risk deal that doesn’t really hurt them.

Aside from Hudson and Bowe, TE Anthony Fasano is the team’s biggest loss, but his departure should mean even more snaps for the dynamic Travis Kelce, which can only be a good thing.

Oakland Raiders

FA-Recap-hudsonKey Losses:
C Stefen Wisniewski
CB Tarell Brown
HB Darren McFadden
HB Maurice Jones-Drew
QB Matt Schaub
CB Carlos Rogers
DI Pat Sims
ED Lamarr Woodley

Key Re-Signings:
S Charles Woodson

Key Additions:
C Rodney Hudson
S Nate Allen
LB Curtis Lofton
DI Dan Williams
HB Trent Richardson
HB Roy Helu
TE Lee Smith
QB Christian Ponder

It’s easy to look at the offseason moves in Oakland and dismiss this as a typical Raiders free agent group. They have effectively exchanged Darren McFadden for Trent Richardson, swapping one disappointing first-round running back for another. They have also added an inside linebacker in Curtis Lofton, who struggled to a -21.5 grade in 2014; it’s an upgrade over the incumbent Miles Burris, but probably not the long-term solution for a problem position.

However, they’ve also made some astute signings. They lose a decent center in Stefen Wisniewski (-2.5), but have replaced him with Rodney Hudson (+13.0), giving the team an upgrade and a player with his best years ahead of him. They likely overpaid for Hudson, but had the cap space to do so. The Raiders also strengthened the middle of their defensive line with the addition of nose tackle Dan Williams. Williams excels against the run (+11.7) and possesses the raw size and strength to make life easier for those around him. He may also find he has an expanded role in Oakland, with increased opportunity to play on passing downs. He has two sacks and 28 total pressures from 322 pass rush snaps over the past two seasons, respectable enough numbers.

Free safety Nate Allen is not the secure last line of defense that you’d want, but with a +1.6 grade over the past two seasons he’s decent and should be an upgrade at the position, albeit one that comes with a lofty price tag. They have also added running back Roy Helu, who impressed on limited carries in Washington and has shown talent as a receiver out of the backfield. Helu forced 26 missed tackles on just 82 touches in 2014, giving him an impressive 108.6 Elusive Rating. The sample size is small and it would be unwise to read too much into it, but it will be interesting to see how he responds if he gets an expanded role in Oakland.

This is still a roster full of holes and not all the moves will be home runs, but in Hudson and Williams the Raiders have added some talented pieces to build around.

San Diego Chargers

FA-Recap-franklinKey Losses:
S Marcus Gilchrist
G Chad Rinehart
CB Shareece Wright
WR Eddie Royal
ED Dwight Freeney
ED Jarrett Johnson
HB Ryan Mathews
C Rich Ohrnberger
C Nick Hardwick
G Jeromey Clary

Key Re-Signings:
OT King Dunlap
CB Brandon Flowers

Key Additions:
G Orlando Franklin
CB Jimmy Wilson
WR Stevie Johnson
DI Mitch Unrein
WR Jacoby Jones

Now in his third year in San Diego, it’s the first time that Chargers general manager Tom Telesco has had the luxury of significant cap space to work with. However, that hasn’t resulted in a spending spree, rather the Chargers have opted for a lower key approach to free agency.

A dearth of left tackle talent in free agency made the re-signing of King Dunlap a necessity. Dunlap (+6.8) is only average in pass protection, but is strong in the run game and would have been difficult to replace. The Chargers have let Chad Rinehart and Rich Ohrnberger walk, and lose Nick Hardwick and Jeromey Clary to retirement. Neither Hardwick (16 snaps) nor Clary (0 snaps) were factors in the 2014 season, and the others struggled badly, but that is still a lot of turnover on the line, and to date, the only addition has been left guard Orlando Franklin (+12.0). Franklin has the versatility to play at right tackle if needed, and possesses a balanced skill set, being solid as both a pass protector and a run blocker.

The secondary has seen a similarly dramatic overhaul. They keep Brandon Flowers (+8.2) but lose starting corner Shareece Wright (-16.8) and safety/slot corner Marcus Gilchrist (-5.5). Wright’s replacement is already on the roster in the form of 2014 first rounder Jason Verrett, while Jimmy Wilson (-7.9) appears to be a direct replacement for Gilchrist.

The Chargers lose WR Eddie Royal who was productive out of the slot, but have more than replaced him with the additions of Stevie Johnson and Jacoby Jones. They have also added defensive line depth with the addition of Mitch Unrein. Unrein barely played in 2014, seeing just 46 snaps all season, but played 826 snaps over the previous two seasons. However, no replacements have been signed for running back Ryan Mathews or outside linebackers Dwight Freeney and Jarret Johnson. The team will expect Branden Oliver, Melvin Ingram and Jerry Attaochu to step up, but they could stand to reinforce both positions.


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Kevin has been an analyst at Pro Football Focus since 2014, with a particular focus on college football.

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