KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Linebacker Justin Houston was named 2014 Most Valuable Player and De'Anthony Thomas rookie of the year by the Kansas City Chiefs on Saturday.

Cornerback Gary Green, who played for the Chiefs from 1977 through 1983, is this year’s entrant to the Chiefs Hall of Fame.

Thomas
Joseph
Houston
Houston, 26, had the greatest season of any pass rusher in Chiefs history. He led the NFL with 22 sacks, finishing a half-sack from the NFL record set by Michael Strahan of the New York Giants in 2001.

But Houston was more than just an outstanding pass-rusher. He also excelled at playing the run and in pass coverage. He was far and away the top-rated 3-4 outside linebacker by Pro Football Focus in 2014 as an overall player and pass rusher. Houston rated fourth as a run defender and tied for fourth in coverage.

Thomas, the Chiefs’ fourth-round draft pick from Oregon, won the award mainly for his special-teams contributions. On offense, he caught 23 passes for 156 yards and rushed 14 times for 113 yards and a touchdown.

Thomas was one of the NFL’s most dangerous kick returners. He was third in the league in punt-return average at 11.9 yards and had an 81-yard touchdown in December against the Oakland Raiders. His 30.6-yard average on kickoff returns would have tied him for second in the league, but he didn’t have enough attempts to qualify.

Green intercepted 24 passes in his seven seasons for the Chiefs. Green was traded to the Los Angeles Rams after the 1983 season. He played two seasons for the Rams.

“This is the biggest award I’ve ever received," said Green, now a high school coach and teacher in his native San Antonio. “Growing up playing football, we always want to be the best. ... This is the culmination of everything."
In need of an every-down running back, should they let Ryan Mathews go in free agency, the San Diego Chargers picked a good year to find one in this year’s draft.

“You can get those guys pretty much at any point in the draft that you want because there’s such great depth this year at the running back position,” ESPN NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said, “Every year you can find them. You can get a guy like Javorius 'Buck' Allen from USC in the third or fourth round. I think even a T.J. Yeldon from Alabama drops down into the fifth or sixth round. Terrell Watson of Azusa Pacific will be a nice, late-round pick, as will Cameron Artis-Payne from Auburn. Mike Davis of South Carolina might be a late-round pick. So you can find running backs.”

Among those players suggested by Kiper, the Chargers need to find a workhorse thumper who can grind out yards between the tackles. Here are a handful of options the Chargers could be targeting in this year’s draft.

Click here for an updated list of all the measurables for the running back draft prospects.

Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin: At 6-foot-1 and 215 pounds, Gordon is deservedly considered the top running back prospect in this year’s draft. He put up video-game numbers in his final season at Wisconsin, rushing for an NCAA-record 408 yards against Nebraska, finishing with 4,915 rushing yards and averaging 7.8 yards per carry during his career with the Badgers. Gordon backed up those numbers with a solid workout at the scouting combine. You’d like to see a little more top-end speed, but a 4.52-second time in the 40-yard dash is fast enough. The only question about Gordon is his pass-catching and pass-protection ability on third down. Gordon is a true home run threat who could serve as an every-down back for the Chargers.

Jay Ajayi, Boise State: The Texas native finished with 3,796 rushing yards and 55 total touchdowns during his career for the Broncos, averaging 5.6 yards per carry. A tough, between-the-tackles runner, Ajayi compares himself to Marshawn Lynch because of his willingness to fight for every yard. At 6-foot and 221 pounds, Ajayi ran a 4.57-second time in the 40-yard dash and posted a 39-inch vertical jump. He’s also a good receiver, finishing with 50 receptions for 535 yards in his final season at Boise State.

Tevin Coleman, Indiana: At 5-11 and 206 pounds, Coleman rushed for a school-record 2,036 yards and 15 touchdowns, averaging 7.5 yards per carry. Half of Coleman’s 28 career touchdowns gained 40-plus yards. Coleman also showed toughness, playing half of the season with a broken toe. He did not participate in on-field workouts at the scouting combine because of the injury, but pushed up 225 pounds 25 times on the bench press. Coleman is a one-cut, downhill runner with outstanding burst once he gets to the second level of the defense.

Duke Johnson, Miami: At 5-9 and 207 pounds, Johnson is electric when he gets into the open field. He finished with 1,652 yards and 10 rushing touchdowns in his final season at Miami, averaging 6.8 yards per carry. Johnson also caught 38 passes for 421 yards and three receiving touchdowns in 2014. Johnson’s 4.54 in the 40 was a bit disappointing, considering how fast he plays on film. But his production, vision and ability to make defenders miss clearly translates to the next level.

Buck Allen, USC: At 6-foot and 221 pounds, Allen is physical enough to serve as a workhorse running back in the NFL. And he’s fast enough, running a 4.53 in the 40 at the combine -- good speed for his size. Allen finished with 1,489 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns in his final season with the Trojans. He also totaled 41 receptions for 458 yards and a receiving touchdown, so he can contribute in the passing game. Allen has good feet and short-area quickness for a bigger back.

David Johnson, Northern Iowa: At 6-1 and 224 pounds, Johnson is an easy strider with good, long speed once he reaches the open field. Johnson ran the 40 in 4.50 seconds at the scouting combine, so the speed is there. He finished with 1,553 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns in his final season at Northern Iowa, so the production is there. Johnson also totaled 38 receptions for 536 yards and two receiving touchdowns, so he has some ability as a third-down back as well. Johnson could be a mid-to-late-round sleeper for the Chargers if they are looking for running back depth later in the draft.
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – As teams around the league continue to jettison veteran players to take some contracts off the books in advance of the formal opening of free agency, the Denver Broncos will always take a look at the list if they believe a player will fill a need.

But most of the time, the players simply do not fit the profile of what the Broncos are usually searching for in free agency, as in they are often in the 30-something club, coming off big-money, multiyear deals and hoping for another.

In short, the Broncos prefer players heading into their second NFL contracts, or the kind of players who usually aren’t getting released before the start of free agency.

[+] EnlargeJohn Elway
AP Photo/Jack DempseyJohn Elway and the Broncos typically aren't major players on the opening days of free agency.
And while this new era of the salary cap – estimates are that it will come in between $143 million and $145 million per team, a significant jump from the $133-million limit in 2014 – has forced plenty of decision-makers across the league to wrap their heads around the idea of what is “too much" to pay a player at a given position. The Broncos have stuck to their profile for the most part.

At least in the big-ticket signings. You can take quarterback Peyton Manning’s signing in 2012 as the outlier, as Hall of Fame quarterbacks with football left in the tank don’t see the open market, so the Broncos dove in with a $96-million deal.

But overall, for much of John Elway’s early tenure with the Broncos, the team’s signings for those older free agents were usually on one-year contracts, usually well after the opening bell of free agency, especially if the player was well beyond his first contract in the league.

The players signed in the 2011, 2012 and 2013 free agency classes were largely veterans on one-year deals – Keith Brooking, Justin Bannan, Jim Leonhard, Dan Koppen, Brandon Stokley, Stewart Bradley and Shaun Phillips, just to name a few. Most of the exceptions didn't get much longer deals. Wes Welker got a two-year deal, Terrance Knighton got a two-year deal and cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie got a two-year deal on paper, but the second year was voided five days after the Super Bowl following the 2013 season.

The exceptions in those earlier seasons were Manning and guard Louis Vasquez. But Vasquez was a 20-something was making his first venture into free agency, and the Broncos gave him a four-year deal for what was his second contract in the league.

He has been a starter, an All-Pro, the kind of return the Broncos want. Even in the 2014 splurge in free agency of the four high-profile, big-money, multi-year signings – Aqib Talib, T.J. Ward, Emmanuel Sanders and DeMarcus Ware – only Ware was older than 28 when the contracts were signed while Ward and Sanders were signing their second NFL contracts.

All four of those players went on to play in the Pro Bowl this past January.

So, when you see all of the veteran players released now, before free agency opens, the Broncos aren’t going to be all that active with those players because the price is the highest. Yes, they've already had tight end James Casey in for a visit, but only because Casey has played four seasons in Gary Kubiak’s offense.

The Broncos are looking to free agents more in line with Ward, Sanders and Vasquez, players just completing their initial contracts, players still ascending. Those are the kinds of players who will be shown the Broncos' checkbook in the coming weeks.

They’ll fill with older players later if they feel they need to, with "later" being some time after the initial flurry of free agency dies down.

Because with some of their needs, Elway has already said the Broncos will look within as well, especially to those in the 2014 draft class who didn’t play much last season – such as wide receiver Cody Latimer – or at all last season – such as tackle Michael Schofield.

As Elway put it: “They’re going to have expectations for those young guys to be able to step in and be able to contribute early. That’s the coaching staff, that’s Gary’s mindset, the coaching staff’s mindset -- they’re not afraid to play young guys. They’ll get them trained up to play, which is going to be beneficial to us."

So, as the list of veteran free agents already on the market grows, as teams shave their salary caps and send signed contracts into the wind, the Broncos will look. Just don’t expect them to dive in on most of the most familiar names.
Jack Del RioJustin Sullivan/Getty ImagesNew coach Jack Del Rio knows adding quality free agents is a key to turning around the franchise.
The Reggie McKenzie era with the Oakland Raiders is at a crossroads.

McKenzie, entering his fourth season as the team’s general manager, is either going to start winning and prove he deserves to keep his job as the Raiders’ primary football decision-maker since the death of legendary owner Al Davis, or he will eventually lose his job.

A key to McKenzie’s fate is the upcoming free agency period, which begins March 10. The Raiders could have upwards of $60 million in salary-cap room -- among the most in the NFL. It should be enough to help this team with many needs, (McKenzie recently said his checklist is "big") rebuild what is widely considered one of the most meager rosters in the NFL.

The Raiders have been connected to free agents such as Green Bay receiver Randall Cobb, Kansas City center Rodney Hudson and Denver defensive tackle Terrance Knighton, among others.

However, the NFL is taking a wait-and-see approach when it comes to Oakland’s ability to add impact players. Last year, Oakland had a record amount of salary-cap room (almost $70 million). Yet, Oakland let left tackle Jared Veldheer and pass-rusher Lamarr Houston walk, and it didn’t sign any top talent. Instead, Oakland spent its money on aging veterans. Though a couple, such as Donald Penn and Justin Tuck helped, the free-agent class as a whole was a bust, and the Raiders went from 4-12 to 3-13. Essentially, the Raiders wasted their cache of cap room.

The Raiders seem bent on changing that this year. McKenzie, who recently said he will be looking for "some real players" this year, added he hopes to sign multiple starting-quality players.

He said a key to selling the Raiders to perspective free agents is the hope of building young players, such as quarterback Derek Carr and linebacker Khalil Mack, into stars.

"We’re in the recruiting stage. Free agency, money, is major recruiting," McKenzie said. "It’s like colleges, [players] want to see what you got. They want to see where we play, where we practice, where we meet. It’s all important. What city you’ll be in. Highlight the positives, and that’s a part of it. And really, it gets to the point where they talk amongst themselves and everybody is positive. The energy is all about that, it’s all about the vibe that they get when they’re around current players. They see each other throughout, where they train, where they live. It’s up to us to try and help facilitate that.

"I’m going to try and go after good players. I don’t think last year, I felt like we need more role players. Now we’re looking for some guys who can come in and be impact (players)."

New Oakland coach Jack Del Rio is confident the Raiders will have success in free agency. In fact, it seems like he’s counting on it. Del Rio, who thinks the renovation of the team’s facility is a step in the right direction, said they are all on on the same page: The Raiders know they have to spend money to get better.

"Those are things I talked about in the interview process that were important, and they’ve been followed up with actual commitment of capital, which I’m excited about," Del Rio said. "So as you go into this phase of free agency and acquiring players, we have cap space and we have a new staff full of teachers. We have a young quarterback. We have a good, young man off the edge in Khalil Mack. We’ve got a good left tackle. We’ve got corners. The things that we need to get started, we have. So, now we have to start adding good, quality people that are fired up to be part of the Raiders. I’m excited about part of that process that we’re just getting into."

The NFL agent community is taking a measured approach because of the Raiders’ recent history of losing and odd free-agent moves.

"I think Oakland will have to overpay to get guys," one agent said. "There’s California’s high taxes, the losing, the poor facility, the bad stadium, the question of the team’s future home. All of those are reasons why the Raiders will need to be at the top of the market to attract guys."

However, another agent thinks the Raiders could be close to becoming attractive in free agency.

"Yes, Oakland is a tough sell, but if I had one of the top guys this year, I’d listen, because they have the room and the need," the agent said. "Oakland just has to convince that first big free agent, then it will get easier. Oakland is not a dream destination for guys, but if they could get a Ndamukong Suh to come, things will change in a hurry. The Raiders have to pull the trigger on a big name. They have to."

For example, there has been league conjecture that believes the Raiders will have to pay Cobb an average of $12 million a year if he gets to free agency. That is considered an overpay, but perhaps it will needed.

Oakland will have motivation to spend as well. It needs to get close to reaching the league’s minimum spending floor of 89 percent of the cap in cash from 2013 to 2016. The Raiders will likely need to spend big in the next two years to get there. The Raiders are aware of the many reasons they need to score in free agency. Now, it’s time to see if they can execute.
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – The Denver Broncos have one of the longer lists of free agents in the league and just under two weeks out from the formal opening of the NFL’s festival of checks, it’s a good time to take a one-a-day look at some of the impending Broncos’ free agents.

Today: Terrance Knighton
Saturday: Orlando Franklin

Ayodele
Knighton
Knighton has made his free agency parameters abundantly clear. The 28-year-old defensive tackle would like to play for a team “that can win, because losing sucks, even if you have a big contract. It's better to have a contract you like and have a chance to win."

He’d like that to be in Denver, “because this is a great spot, a great locker room."

And, of course, the Broncos' defensive captain would like to maximize his earning potential in what is a short career window for players, because “you do have to think about down the road, taking care of things, getting yourself in a good position."

Whether all of that adds up to Knighton and the Broncos eventually putting pen to paper, with smiles all around, remains to be seen. Knighton, on several fronts, has expressed his frustration in recent weeks with a lack of movement on that front from team officials.

The Broncos have had some discussions with representatives for wide receiver Demaryius Thomas and tight end Julius Thomas -- the team's highest-profile free agents -- in recent weeks and months. Team officials, including director of football administration Mike Sullivan, who handles the team’s contract negotiations with players, made the rounds at the scouting combine with a variety of agents, including Knighton's.

But for the most part, Broncos executive vice president of football operations/general manager John Elway said he’s going to let the market open and then see what kinds of salary numbers are swirling around the players, and that includes Knighton.

“Obviously, players want all the money and they want to play where they want to play," Elway said in Indianapolis. “Heck, I’ve been a player; I understand that, but I can’t calm the frustration because we have to do what’s best for the Broncos and also know we would love to have him back, but we’ve got to see what that number is."

Elway said, in the end, it’s about “what we can fit and who can fit in there."

It means Knighton, who played 48.5 percent of the defensive snaps this past season (520 in all) as most often an early-down player, will almost certainly face a decision about a little more money somewhere else or a Broncos team that had 11 players named to the Pro Bowl with Peyton Manning poised to formally return for the 2015 season. Oakland, with former Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio now the team's coach, is expected to make an offer.

Knighton thinks highly of Del Rio and Del Rio has now made it a point to have Knighton in his defense in both Jacksonville and Denver. Knighton fits, as a nose tackle, in Wade Phillips’ defense for the Broncos, but he’s also at a position where the Broncos believe Sylvester Williams, their first-round pick in 2013, is ready for more – he played 39.7 percent of the defensive snaps last season.

The Broncos also have, with Manning’s imminent return, needs along the offensive line to address with the hunt for at least two and possibly three new starters as well as at tight end, where the team’s top three players at the position are all scheduled to be free agents.

It’s why Knighton has also said “it’s a business at the end of the day and they’re going to do what they think is best and I’ll do what I think is best."
NFL free agency begins in 12 days and the Oakland Raiders will be flush with salary-cap room for the second straight year.

According to ESPN resources, the Raiders are currently set to have $53,280,995 in salary-cap room when free agency starts, and Oakland can add substantial cap room if they cut several veterans. However, they could hold on to some into free agency because they are trying to reach the NFL’s cash/cap threshold minimum.

Regardless of the approach, Oakland will have plenty to spend. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Raiders have the fourth-most cap room in the league, and just $1.5 million from having the second-most cap room in the league. Overall, the league is flush with cap room. Ten teams have at least $32 million in cap room according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Thus, there will be competition for the top free agents.
Hawk
Here are some thoughts of why it would be beneficial and not beneficial for the Oakland Raiders to sign inside linebacker A.J. Hawk. He was cut Wednesday by the Green Bay Packers after nine seasons.

PROS

Familiarity: Oakland general manager Reggie McKenzie was with the Packers when they took Hawk with the No. 5 overall pick in 2006. McKenzie hasn’t had a heavy reliance on former Packers in his tenure in Oakland, but he isn’t afraid of going to that well, either. McKenzie surely has fond memories of Hawk. They won a Super Bowl together and Hawk is a leader. Because Nick Roach has not been cleared from a concussion he suffered in August that cost him the entire 2014 season and his future is in major doubt, the Raiders need a middle linebacker. It could be worth McKenzie’s while to investigate Hawk, who has been a 3-4 inside linebacker in Green Bay’s scheme. However, he was a 4-3 middle linebacker in his first three NFL seasons, so he’d fit Oakland’s system.

Still productive: Hawk is tough and durable. He has missed just two games in nine NFL seasons. Pairing him with outside linebackers Khalil Mack and Sio Moore would give Oakland a solid group of linebackers, playing for former NFL linebackers in head coach Jack Del Rio and defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. Hawk had 89 tackles last season. He could help in 2015.

CONS

Short-term answer: Hawk is 31 and he has lost some speed. The word is he is on the back nine. The Raiders might be better off going for a young player at the position who could grow with Mack and Moore. Some possible free-agent targets include Denver’s Nate Irving, Cincinnati’s Rey Maualuga, Tampa Bay’s Mason Foster and Seattle’s Malcolm Smith. Going that route might be better in the long run.

Would continue bad trend: The Raiders squandered great salary-cap space last year by signing older, declining players to short-term deals. It didn’t help. Oakland needs to sign younger, roster-building players. Signing Hawk would be a sign that McKenzie is not over last year’s poor habits.

Conclusion: While Hawk could help Oakland now, I’d lean on taking a pass. I think the Raiders could find a younger option at middle linebacker who could give the same production as Hawk now and help down the road.

In other free-agent news, the Eagles are cutting guard Todd Herremans. He could be a player to keep an eye for Oakland. He was part of the Eagles’ fast-paced offense that new Oakland offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave, who was Philadelphia’s quarterbacks coach last season, is adopting. Plus, Oakland is looking for a guard. However, Herremans is 32 and has an injury history.
video
SAN DIEGO -- In his latest mock draft Insider, ESPN NFL draft guru Todd McShay has the San Diego Chargers selecting University of Texas defensive tackle Malcom Brown.

McShay had the Chargers selecting Florida State defensive tackle Eddie Goldman in the mock draft before this one.

At 6-foot-2 and 319 pounds, Brown could be the stout run stuffer the Chargers are looking for in the middle of John Pagano’s 3-4 defensive scheme. Brown was productive in 2014, finishing with 71 tackles -- including 13 for a loss -- and 6.5 sacks.

A consensus first-team All-American, Brown finished as a finalist for both the Nagurski Trophy, honoring the nation's top defensive player, and the Outland Trophy, honoring the nation's top interior lineman. Married with two children, Brown is a mature player who fits the culture general manager Tom Telesco and coach Mike McCoy continue to develop in San Diego.

Brown had a strong combine, running a 5.05-second, 40-yard time and bench pressing 225 pounds 26 times.

The Chargers could use help along the interior of the team’s defensive line. The Chargers allowed 4.53 yards per rush, which was No. 29 in the NFL in 2014. San Diego also finished 29th in the league in sacks with 26.

However, the team’s personnel department might not value the defensive tackle position enough to select Brown in the first round. San Diego drafted a developmental prospect at defensive tackle in the fifth round of last year’s draft, Arkansas State product Ryan Carrethers.

Carrethers was inactive for the first three games as he learned Pagano’s system, but earned a start midway through the year before suffering a dislocated elbow that cut short his rookie campaign. Carrethers could be part of the solution for the Chargers at nose tackle.
The Oakland Raiders have a lot of reasons to spend most of their salary cap room in the next two years.

Of course, a primary reason is their rebuilding roster needs help at several spots. But, as the NFL Player’s Association pointed out this week in an email, Oakland has some to spend as part of the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement.

NFL teams, spanning the 2013-16 season, most spend at least 89 percent of the salary cap in cash. According to the NFLPA, the Raiders have spent 80.19 of the cap in cash with half of that time expired. Thus, they have to spend nearly all of their cap room in the next two years to meet the threshold. If by the end of the 2016 season Oakland doesn’t meet the cash/cap threshold, they will owe all of their players on the roster at the end of the 2016 a check to make up for the remaining balance.

Thus, it would be a waste of cap room. The rule was implemented to force teams to use their cash and cap instead of sitting on it.

Oakland, which used a large chunk of the cap last year on aging, unproductive players, could have upwards of $60 million in salary-cap room. Most teams do spend most of their cap each year. For the next two seasons, Oakland needs to be one of those teams.

One bummer for the Raiders is they can’t use any of their cap room in the next two years on potential young stars in quarterback Derek Carr and linebacker Khalil Mack. By rule, players can’t get new contracts in their first three seasons in the league.
SAN DIEGO -- Jarret Johnson, who announced his retirement from professional football on Tuesday, talked with Steve Hartman and Mike Costa of Xtra 1360 Fox Sports radio about that and the future of the San Diego Chargers.

Johnson said nagging injuries in 2013, along with the Chargers asking him to take a pay cut heading into the 2014 season, were signals that the end of his career was near.

“Everything kind of pointed toward this year being my last year,” he said. “And as the year wore on, I had a blast. I played as hard as I could, and I came to work every day with a smile on my face, knowing that this could be it. I played and practiced like this could be the last one. And once the season is over, you look at your family, and I have a daughter that starts kindergarten next year. And I’m ready. I’m ready to start the next phase of my life.”

[+] EnlargeGeno Smith
AP Photo/Chris CarlsonJarret Johnson spoke highly of Chargers linebackers coach Mike Nolan.
Johnson had good things to say about recently hired Chargers linebackers coach Mike Nolan, whom he played for when Nolan served as the Baltimore Ravens' defensive coordinator from 2002 to 2004.

“Mike Nolan is a huge hire for the Chargers,” Johnson said. “Mike Nolan was my defensive coordinator for my first two years in Baltimore and he’s just an unbelievable guy. He’s kind of a hard-nosed guy. He’s going to get the best out of you, but he does it in a way that you respect. He’s really good at communicating and getting the best out of players. So he’s going to be a huge help to that staff.”

Johnson said the addition of Nolan should help elevate the play of a young linebackers unit that has a lot of potential with players like Melvin Ingram, Manti Te'o, Donald Butler and Jeremiah Attaochu.

But the main thing that needs to happen is for those players to stay healthy. Ingram, the team’s best pass-rusher, missed seven games last season with a hip issue. Te’o missed six games with a foot injury. Butler finished the season on IR, missing the last two games with a dislocated elbow. Attaochu missed five games of his rookie season with a hamstring injury.

“In my mind, this linebackers core is where you want it -- young, athletic and fast,” Johnson said. “It has a ton of upside. They all have had so many injury issues that they all have dealt with, but hopefully that’s all in the past. Hopefully those are all things that they’ve kind of played through.

“Melvin has flashed and shown when he’s healthy how dominant he can be. Jerry had a very productive year when he was healthy. Manti has done nothing but get better since he’s been here. It’s amazing to see how far he’s come since his first year, especially on the physical side of the ball – his physical mindset. When he first came, he kind of avoided contact and tried to steer around guys and now he’s just going to get it.”

Johnson also was complimentary of third-year pro Tourek Williams, whom he believes will get the first crack at filling his spot at strongside outside linebacker.

“He’s going to get a shot,” Johnson said. “I’m excited to see where he goes. He’s got a ton of upside.”
SAN DIEGO -- The citizens' stadium advisory group tasked with finding a location and finance plan for a new stadium to house the San Diego Chargers met for a third time on Tuesday.

The nine-member group appointed by San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer heard from San Diego State University president Elliot Hirshman and San Diego County Supervisor Ron Roberts, as the group continues to gather information in order to reach a decision in the next three months.

The next major decision the group must reach is where the new stadium will be built -- at the current Qualcomm Stadium site, or at downtown location next to the San Diego Padres' Petco Park.

The Chargers indicated that the team prefers the downtown location as part of a stadium proposal for a joint-use facility that would also house the non-contiguous expansion of the convention center.

However, escalating real estate prices downtown, the threat of legal action and friction with both the hoteliers and the Unified Port of San Diego could have the stadium advisory group pointing to Qualcomm as the best option for a new stadium.

Further, representatives of the Metropolitan Transit System sent a letter to the stadium advisory group detailing that relocating the bus yards, part of a parcel of land that would be needed to build a stadium downtown, would take five-to-seven years, with a projected price tag of $100 to $150 million to complete the relocation.

However, Mark Fabiani, point person for the Chargers on the stadium issue, refuted those figures.

"Our analysis of the site, performed by a well-known national construction and engineering firm, was not nearly so pessimistic," Fabiani said. "But, having said that, there is simply no sign that the hotel lobby is willing to support a joint-use facility downtown, and we understand that (San Diego Convention Chair) Steve Cushman is now preparing an alternative convention center financing plan. In light of those facts, discussion of a downtown site is quickly becoming academic."

Fabiani indicated in his conversation with the advisory group last week that they should pick a site early in the process in order for the group to sharpen its focus on putting together a finance plan.

"If everyone had decided on a site, and were able to buy in on a particular site, that would be the solution, because then you could spend all of your time on that site," Fabiani told The Mighty 1090 AM radio. "So I think one of the hard decisions the task force is going to have to make -- and when we spoke to the task force last week, we suggested that they do this -- is don't explore multiple sites at this point, because you don't have the time or the resources to do that.

"Your best option is to pick one site, and focus all of your time and energy on that site."

Once the group identifies a site, the next major hurdle will be securing a funding source that covers the public portion of the stadium proposal.

Two days after the team announced a collaborative effort with the Oakland Raiders to build a $1.7 billion NFL stadium in Carson, California, Chargers team president Dean Spanos and Faulconer had a cordial, hour-long discussion in the offices of San Diego Padres owner Ron Fowler at Petco Park on Sunday, with the two sides agreeing to work cooperatively on a stadium deal that potentially keeps the team in San Diego.

And with the timeline moved up from September to the end of May, Adam Day, chairman of the stadium advisory group, said they are focused on reaching that goal. Day said the group still has not settled on a location for a new stadium, and remains scheduled to hold a public forum at Qualcomm Stadium on Monday.

"As I said from the first day, we felt like we could beat the mayor's September deadline," Day said. "We had in our mind a June time frame, and we're confident we can beat the mayor's May deadline."
The Oakland Raiders have signed a training camp leg in the form of Giorgio Tavecchio.

He was with the Raiders late in the preseason last year. Of course, Sebastian Janikowski remains under contract. NFL teams almost always carry two kickers during training camp.

In other Raiders notes:
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – Over the past three seasons, or since Peyton Manning signed on to be the quarterback, the Denver Broncos have largely used two personnel groupings on offense – the three-wide receiver set and a two-tight end package.

And while there is no disputing the Broncos' win output -- 38 in the last three years -- or scoring output, in the last years in particular when they have averaged 34 points per game over their last 32 regular-season games, both executive vice president of football operations/general manager John Elway and coach Gary Kubiak say that’s going to change.

[+] EnlargePeyton Manning, Ryan Clady, Orlando Franklin, Virgil Green, C.J. Anderson
Isaiah J. Downing/USA TODAY SportsThe Broncos' offensive huddle will include a fullback with frequency in 2015.
Kubiak said in the past week that he alwayshas had a fullback in the offense and intends to with the Broncos as well. And Elway added; “I think to be really effective in the run game, you’ve got to run with the fullback … We’ll have people who can play fullback.’’

Then asked if he believed there was still a place for a two-back offense in these pass happy times, he said; “Without a doubt I do.’’

With James Casey, a tight end who could line up as a fullback as well, set to be the first free agent the Broncos sit down with face to face with in the coming days -- Casey was released by the Eagles last week so he already is in the open market -- it's clear how much of a priority being able to staff the two-back look is at the moment. So, as the Broncos go about melding the playbook for quarterback Peyton Manning’s expected return with what Kubiak wants in the offense, it’s clear the Broncos will look different in how they go about things.

Over the last two seasons the Broncos have preferred the three-wide look to be their base formation. They had just two games last season when they lined up more with two tight ends than with three wide receivers – the season-opening win over the Indianapolis Colts and the Oct. 12 win over the New York Jets – and the difference was just one snap and three snaps, respectively.

It was far more common to lean almost exclusively on the three-wide look over the two tight end – 49 snaps to one in the first meeting with Kansas City, 63 to 10 against Arizona, 49-0 against San Francisco, 77-0 in the first meeting with Oakland, 63-3 against St. Louis and 41-9 against Cincinnati.

The totals against St. Louis and Cincinnati came in losses -- the loss against the Bengals in a period in the season when the Broncos were trying to run the ball more efficiently and they looked disjointed doing it at times.

And by the time the Broncos’ playoff loss to the Colts rolled around, they had a far different approach against the Colts. Last month they were in a three-wide look 56 times, penalty snaps included, as compared to two tight ends on 15 snaps, a far different ratio than they had used in the season-opening win over the same team.

From a football perspective once of the adjustments more two-back looks would bring would have to come from Manning. He could be under center more and face more crowded looks around the line of scrimmage than defenses have played against the Broncos over the last two seasons especially.

Kubiak, for one, says Manning would flourish in the offense because “he’s one of the best play-action quarterbacks ever to play the game. He can run whatever scheme he’s in.’’

But Kubiak did add; “We’re going to run whatever makes sense, whatever we think will get first downs and touchdowns, we’re going to run an offense that fits the personnel we have. Some of it could be different and some of it could look the same.’’
After talking with several scouts, the consensus is that the Oakland Raiders' Derek Carr would be the third quarterback taken in the 2015 draft behind Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota.

Carr started every game last season after being the No. 36 overall pick. He was the fourth quarterback taken in 2014.

Just for kicks, below is a look how Carr’s combine numbers from last year compared to those of Winston and Mariota from this year. The bottom line is Carr is smaller than this year’s top prospects -- both Winston and Mariota might be top-five picks -- but Carr seemed to be in the middle when it came to the athletic measures at the combine.

.

AFC West musical chairs at center?

February, 24, 2015
Feb 24
12:00
PM ET
Last week, Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie was non-committal about whether the team will re-sign center Stefen Wisniewski.

McKenzie said that it was too early to tell if Wisniewski, an offensive line anchor since being picked in the second round in 2011, will re-sign before free agency or if he will hit the market when it starts March 10.

Wisniewski
“I don’t know yet,” McKenzie said last Wednesday at the NFL combine in Indianapolis. “Our guys have talked to him and we’ve been talking to Wiz since last summer. But we’re going to see how it plays out. There’s always a right price to everything. Everybody sees value differently. We’ll see how it goes. And it’s not just with Wiz, it’s with every free agent, restricted guys, even future free agents from other teams. They’re going to have their own value from what they perceive they deserve if it fits what we want.”

There has been some recent speculation that Wisniewski and the Raiders aren’t close on a deal and he will test the market. If so, he could quickly be gobbled up.

If the Raiders move on from Wisniewski, a top target could be Kansas City center Rodney Hudson. Hudson is considered one of the best centers available and could fit in the Raiders’ plan of using more no-huddle offense. However, Hudson could be very expensive. Centers normally aren’t super high-priced. Pittsburgh’s Maurkice Pouncey averages $8.8 million, making him the highest-paid center. Hudson could potentially command a deal in the $7-8 million range, while Wisniewski is expected to fall in the $6 million range.

The Raiders are expected to have about $60 million in salary-cap room, so if they think Hudson is a better fit and opt for him over Wisniewski, they could afford it. If that happens, there could be some criticism around the league, as it would mean Oakland failed to keep/opted to let go yet another high draft choice.

If Wisniewski hits the open market, ESPN’s Adam Caplan reported Denver could be interested. Clearly, the movement at center will be among the early intrigue in free agency.

SPONSORED HEADLINES