- Bill Williamson, ESPN Staff Writer
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Welcome to Eight in the Box, an NFL Nation feature that will appear each Friday during the offseason. This week’s topic: How each AFC West team needs to address the quarterback position.
Denver: A year ago, the Broncos' brass was quietly putting together a plan to court Peyton Manning and rid itself of the albatross known as Tim Tebow. The plan worked perfectly. Manning agreed to join the Broncos on March 19, and Tebow was traded to the Jets two days later. It was the story of the 2012 NFL offseason. The Broncos will make no such dramatic quarterback headlines this year. They are set with Manning as their quarterback and second-year player Brock Osweiler as backup. The Broncos love Osweiler and think he will be ready to start when Manning retires in two or three years. Thus, the Broncos are set here.
Kansas City: The Chiefs’ quarterback situation was as murky as any in the NFL, but the issue has been solved. The team has agreed to trade for former San Francisco starter Alex Smith. The Chiefs targeted Smith, and I think it was a smart move. First, he fits the team’s West Coast system, and he is game manager who doesn’t turn the ball over. He should fit with this roster and give the Chiefs a chance to improve. Also, Smith was the best option in a bad year to pick up a quarterback. Smith is far from great, but he is more than serviceable. The Chiefs could do a lot worse. Perhaps backups Brady Quinn and Ricky Stanzi could be brought back, but there will be a new starter in Smith as Andy Reid begins his Kansas City tenure.
Oakland: The Raiders plan to go to training camp with Carson Palmer as the starter. Third-year quarterback Terrelle Pryor will be given a chance to be the backup; Oakland will be looking closely to gauge whether he is ready to push Palmer. The Raiders say it will be a competition, but coach Dennis Allen has said that Palmer will go to camp as the starter. The Raiders liked Pryor’s poise and command in a Week 17 start in place of an injured Palmer but still think Pryor is raw. Still, Palmer is 33 and not getting better, so Pryor will get his chance at some point. But for now -- assuming he restructures his contract from its current $13 million-plus salary-cap number -- Palmer is the starter.
San Diego: The focus here is making Philip Rivers a top-level quarterback again. Both new coach Mike McCoy and new general manager Tom Telesco said the presence of Rivers was a major selling point for their respective jobs with the Chargers. Rivers, 31, has been subpar the past two seasons -- though he has lost a lot of weapons and his offensive line has been a shambles. The Chargers believe Rivers will be fine if they build around him. That will be the focal point of the offseason. Charlie Whitehurst, a favorite of the previous regime, was Rivers’ backup last season. It remains to be seen how this brass feels about Whitehurst. I wouldn’t be shocked if San Diego looks for another backup in someone like Matt Moore (who was in Carolina with McCoy) or in the form of a developmental quarterback in the draft.
1dEric D. Williams