Eight in the Box: Must-keep free agents

February, 15, 2013
2/15/13
11:30
AM ET
NFC Eight in the Box: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Welcome to “Eight in the Box,” a new NFL Nation feature that will appear each Friday during the offseason. This week’s topic: Which free agent is essential for each team to keep from its 2012 roster?

Denver, left tackle Ryan Clady: Clady was brilliant in 2012 as he protected Peyton Manning's blindside. Keeping Manning upright is paramount, which makes keeping Clady essential. If he gets to the open market, Clady will be heavily sought after because premium pass protectors are crucial in today’s NFL.

Kansas City, receiver Dwayne Bowe: I went with Bowe over standout left tackle Branden Albert. If Bowe leaves in free agency, the Chiefs will have a lot to figure out at receiver, which is not a stable position for them as the Andy Reid era begins. If Albert cannot be re-signed, the Chiefs could easily take Texas A&M left tackle Luke Joeckel with the No.1 pick. If Bowe walks, there are no top receiving options in the draft. The Chiefs are talking to both players and want to keep both, but it starts with Bowe.

Oakland, tight end Brandon Myers: Myers developed into a top receiving option in 2012. Myers had 75 catches and, at 27, is entering his prime. Finding tight ends who can grab 75 balls a season is not always easy. For an offense that needs to find the end zone more, keeping Myers is pivotal.

San Diego, Louis Vasquez, guard: The Chargers have several free agents, but few are irreplaceable. Vasquez may fit in that category. He is the Chargers’ best offensive lineman on a unit that needs to be reconstructed. Letting Vasquez walk would create another problem the Chargers don’t need.

Bill Williamson | email

ESPN San Francisco 49ers reporter

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