Free-agency grades for each AFC West team

Analyst Mike Renner assigns a free-agency grade to the Chargers, Chiefs, Broncos, and Raiders.

| 6 months ago
(Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

(Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

Free-agency grades for each AFC West team


With the initial fury of NFL free agency beginning to quiet down, the PFF staff is taking a look at how each team fared through the first few weeks. Signings, re-signings, players lost to other franchises, and the dollar amounts for each of these transactions have been taken into account when assigning a grade (“A” through “F”).

We’ve been rolling out grades for every division throughout the week, and now we’ve moved on to our defending Super Bowl champs and the rest of the AFC West.

Denver Broncos

Grade: D

Key additions: OT Donald Stephenson, OT Russell Okung, QB Mark Sanchez

Key retentions: RB C.J. Anderson, WR Jordan Norwood

Key losses: DT Malik Jackson, QB Brock Osweiler, G Evan Mathis, LB Danny Trevathan, DT Antonio Smith, QB Peyton Manning (retired), TE Owen Daniels (cut), RB Ronnie Hillman, S David Bruton

No team in the NFL lost more talent through free agency than the Broncos—frankly, it’s not even close. The good news is, though, that Denver’s Super Bowl roster was utterly stacked with talent to begin with. But their still solid roster is missing one giant piece: a quarterback. Letting Osweiler walk for a ridiculous price tag may have been the correct move, but now they’re left scrambling to pick up the pieces. On the defensive side of the ball, Malik Jackson may have been the single biggest loss any team experienced this offseason. Couple that with losing Trevathan to the Bears, and it’s unlikely the Broncos’ defense will retain its utter dominance, though they still have more than enough be a top-10 unit.

If there is any silver lining, it’s that they signed a competent left tackle in Russell Okung to one of the most team-friendly deals of the offseason. That contract gives them flexibility should Ryan Clady not come back fully healthy.

Kansas City Chiefs

Grade: B-

Key additions: T Mitchell Schwartz, WR Rod Streater

Key retentions: LB Derrick Johnson, OLB Tamba Hali, DE Jaye Howard

Key losses: G Jeff Allen, CB Sean Smith, S Husain Abdullah, DT Mike DeVito, QB Chase Daniel, S Tyvon Branch, T Donald Stephenson

Of all the key losses, only Sean Smith really seems irreplaceable with their current roster. The Chiefs did well by their offensive line, adding our highest-graded right tackle from a year ago in Mitchell Schwartz for fairly cheap. Outside of him, much of their free-agency dollars were spent simply retaining their defense. Tamba Hali and Derrick Johnson signed team-friendly deals that should see them retiring in Chiefs’ uniforms, while they tagged Eric Berry and brought back Jaye Howard.

Oakland Raiders

Grade: B

Key additions: CB Sean Smith, G Kelechi Osemele, LB Bruce Irvin

Key retentions: P Marquette King, WR Andre Holmes, S Nate Allen, LT Donald Penn

Key losses: LB Curtis Lofton (cut), ED Justin Tuck (retired), S Charles Woodson (retired), G J’Marcus Webb, ED Aldon Smith

Can you feel the balance of power shifting in the AFC West? Losing a future Hall-of-Famer that was still playing at a high level like Charles Woodson won’t help an already struggling secondary, but adding a cornerback of Sean Smith’s caliber (and taking him off a division rival’s roster) should soften that drop-off. The big (literally) signing, though, is guard Kelechi Osemele. Along with the re-signing of Donald Penn, Osemele rounds out what looks like a top-three offensive line that will provide a nice, balanced offense in Oakland. The former Raven has been a top-five run-blocking guard each of the past two seasons.

The only real issue I have with the Raiders’ signings is that Bruce Irvin might hinder them from re-signing Aldon Smith, who has been a superior player over the course of his career, but it still looks like they may reunite. The Raiders are the only team in this division that you can feel confident saying they got better in free agency.

San Diego Chargers

Grade: C

Key additions: WR Travis Benjamin, S Dwight Lowery, CB Casey Hayward, DT Brandon Mebane

Key retentions: TE Antonio Gates, T Joe Barksdale

Key losses: TE Ladarius Green, LB Donald Butler (cut), S Eric Weddle, DT Kendall Reyes, WR Malcom Floyd (retired), CB Patrick Robinson

It’s addition by subtraction with the releases of Donald Butler and Kendall Reyes, though the same can’t be said for the losses of Green and Weddle. While the writing was on the wall for Weddle, letting Green walk for mid-tier tight end money in favor of the 35-year-old Antonio Gates is particularly head-scratching. I understand wanting Gates to end his career as a Charger, but that shouldn’t take precedence over the future of your football team. Green has the dynamic receiving ability to allow them to transition seamlessly from Gates, but apparently San Diego didn’t see it the same way.

The saving grace for the Chargers in this free-agency period is the signing of Casey Hayward from the Packers for a shade over $5 million a year. Grade-wise, he was better than guys like Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson, who both signed massive deals. He might not have the size or speed that teams love, but few are better in zone coverage. Hayward is an upgrade over Robinson in the slot and showed the ability to play full-time outside as well last season.

 

More free-agency grades by division:

– AFC East

– NFC East

AFC North

NFC North

AFC South

NFC South

NFC West

| Senior Analyst

Mike is a Senior Analyst at Pro Football Focus. His work has also been featured on The Washington Post, ESPN Insider, and 120 Sports.

  • Tim Edell

    I think it’s safe to say that Clady will not be back in Denver.

    • Names Unimportant

      I would’ve agreed until I saw the details of the Okung contract. If Clady is healthy, he’s probably still superior and Okung can be waived at final cut day for a (relatively) inexpensive $1 million cap hit. Hmmm…

    • Adam Fogarty

      I think they should keep him and move him or okung to guard

      • John

        If they keep both, I would put one of them at RT. I am not sure if Donald Stephenson is that good. He (like Sambrailo) may be better at G than T. I saw a highlight on NFL Network where Stephenson was getting manhandled in pass pro.

        • Adam Fogarty

          Stephenson is a backup easily, I’m sure sambrailo can be a quality starting tackle they just thrust him into the left tackle spot too early, most rookies can’t handle left tackle right off the bat, if they start him at guard then right tackle then left I think he would be fine

    • Relatively True

      Yeah, now that RG III has signed with Cleveland, the Jets will sign Fitzpatrick soon, so the Broncos will have no choice but to trade for Kap. At that point, they’ll have to cut Clady to fit Kap under da cap.

  • Adam Fogarty

    I don’t understand why the Raiders keep dragging their feet on the safety position and just sign Reggie Nelson or Walter Thurmond already

    • Johnny Rotten

      Word is Thurmond is contemplating retirement. Reggie Nelson is turning 33 in a few months so they could be weary of him. Although I think he’d be worth the risk if it were for a short term team friendly deal. But will he sign a contract like that after a season where he lead the league in INTs and made the Pro Bowl?

      • Dan Y

        You think this means that the Carrie experiment at safety will happen again this year? If Amerson plays like he did last year and Smith plays to his average, defensive backfield is looking good. Maybe add one in the draft.
        I also like how the knock on the Raiders is that signing Irvin MIGHT mean they don’t re-sign Aldon. Dude is grading his future thoughts rather than what happened in Free Agency.

        • Adam Fogarty

          If the Raiders somehow bring back aldon smith too that’s arguably the best pass rush in the league

          • Dan Y

            Well well well, looks like they did JUST THAT!

    • Mike

      It really is mind-boggling. I’m guessing they see Hayden (should be cut already!), Sean Smith and Amerson as starting corners, with Carrie and Allen as starting safeties. Then, I suppose, they’ll look to draft some DB’s in the first couple rounds. You would think they’d bring in at least 2 more DB’s (Safety or CB) to provide some depth and veteran leadership back there.
      Allen and Hayden are terrible. Amerson was once graded as the worst CB in the entire NFL, so who knows what we really have with him.
      Of course, with a vicious pass rush we can afford to not have pro-bowl DB’s, but it’s still a risky strategy…. meh….what do I know?!

      • Adam Fogarty

        I think they found a gem in amerson, they’re outside corners are good, I think they could’ve gone after a Patrick Robinson to play slot, I never liked the dj hayden pick even before I saw him play

      • Tito Puente

        Safety is one of the weakest positions in this draft, so i would love to see the Raiders sign one. Reggie Nelson on a short-term deal sounds great, but, he and Del Rio did not get along when Nelson played for him in Jacksonville, you can google that, not sure if that’s the reason we haven’t heard about Raiders contacting him.

        How the Raiders feel about TJ Carrie may affect how they address the other positions — do they see him as a starting safety, depth at safety, as a big nickel corner? It’s not clear.

        I disagree (sort of) with those saying they should cut DJ Hayden, while DJ’s clearly struggled, and he doesn’t look like he’ll ever be good/big enough to play outside, he may still develop into a nickel CB, or even a fourth CB. (And if you think about him as a 7th round draft pick, with only 23 starts in three years, i do think he’s showed flashed of talent, and they should still have him on the roster for depth… the 1st round bust colors our assessment, i think).

        They should def draft competition (what round is affected by decision on TJ, but they already have two quality starters now, Amerson is a quality starter), and perhaps cut DJ if necessary. But this is DJ’s last year under contract, and they can either pay his dead money of $2,147,000 and let him walk before training camp, but he only costs $1 million more to have him under contract all year, which isn’t much when you have tons of cap space. (And i still have hopes he re-signs for an inexpensive contract, because the Raiders have stuck with him, and turns into long-term nickel solution, maybe =.)

        • Alfredo Cota

          It’s a rather deep safety class. Not top heavy, but definitely a quality class, better than the last couple of years.

          • Tito Puente

            From your lips to God’s ears.

  • Tito Puente

    Safety is one of the weakest positions in this draft, so i would love to them sign one. Reggie Nelson on a short-term deal sounds great, but, he and Del Rio did not get along when Nelson played for him in Jacksonville, not sure if that’s the reason we haven’t heard about Raiders contacting him.

    How the Raiders feel about TJ Carrie may affect how they address the other positions, do they see him as a starting safety, depth at safety, as a big nickel corner? It’s not clear.

    I disagree (sort of) with those saying they should cut DJ Hayden, while DJ’s clearly struggled, and he doesn’t look like he’ll ever be good/big enough to play outside, he may still develop into a nickel CB, or even a fourth CB. (If you think about him as a 7th round draft pick, with only 23 starts in three years, i’d still have him on the roster for depth).

    They should def draft competition (what round is affected by decision on TJ, but they already have two quality starters now), and perhaps cut DJ if necessary. But this is DJ’s last year under contract, and they can either pay his dead money of $2,147,000 and let him walk before training camp, but he only costs $1 million more to have him under contract all year, which isn’t much when you have tons of cap space. (And i still have hopes he re-signs for an inexpensive contract and turns into long-term nickel guy, maybe =.)

  • Calijustice

    It would be nice to see the Raiders pick up a Veteran S. Nelson would be nice despite rumored conflicts with JDR. Thurmond would probably cost too much. Abdullah retired. Michael Griffin would have been nice. Sign one and draft his replacement. ILB can stand to be upgraded but not at the point they need to overdraft of grab one early. We could definitely use another CB to solidify the Secondary. Didn’t address it last year and cost us at least 2-3 games. That Pittsburgh game definitely.

  • Thomas Bell

    Denver retained Derek Wolfe, by choice, over Jackson. I wouldn’t expect you to give them a C for not overpaying for Brock….but in years past, some of Elway’s bigger free agent signings have come in spring and summer.

  • BoltDaddy

    You did not account for SD TE Green’s history of concussions and injuries. He is talented however the most valued ability is availability and he lacked in that dept.