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Friday, March 22, 2013
Eight in the Box: FA winners or losers?

By Bill Williamson

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A look at whether each AFC West team has been a winner or a loser in free agency:

Denver Broncos: Yes, the Elvis Dumervil fax-machine fiasco will long be remembered. The Broncos may be guilty by association, but the ball was in the court of Dumervil's now-fired agent at the deadline, so Denver really was a frustrated bystander when it mattered. That incident shouldn’t sully an otherwise-terrific offseason by Denver. The Broncos had a plan and executed it well. It starts with Wes Welker. The slot receiver is a perfect weapon for Peyton Manning. Welker’s signing was affordable and hurt AFC rival New England -- a strong addition for a team that has Super Bowl designs. Former San Diego guard Louis Vasquez, former Philadelphia cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and defensive tackle Terrance Knighton were all smart, impact signings. This was a winning offseason.

Kansas City Chiefs: It’s difficult to find anyone who would argue that this wasn’t a winning offseason. In fact, the Chiefs might be among the biggest winners in free agency in the entire league. The Chiefs were aggressive and addressed every big need. First, they traded for quarterback Alex Smith, answering their most glaring hole with the best available player at the position. Then, they kept three key free agents in receiver Dwayne Bowe, punter Dustin Colquitt and left tackle Branden Albert. And after that, the Chiefs jumped aggressively into free agency. The additions of Dunta Robinson and Sean Smith could give Kansas City the best group of cornerbacks in the NFL. The Chiefs added in several other areas, including field-stretching receiver Donnie Avery and run-stuffing defensive lineman Mike DeVito. The new brass is determined to move on from the 2-14 disaster that was 2012.

Oakland Raiders: This is a difficult one. For the second consecutive year, the Raiders have been strapped by lingering salary-cap issues. They were forced to cut some players and saw several others leave as free agents. The exodus of young, talented players included tight end Brandon Myers, defensive linemen Desmond Bryant and Matt Shaughnessy and linebacker Philip Wheeler. The Raiders responded nicely by adding three linebackers and three defensive linemen as they totally reconstruct their defense. Players such as linebacker Nick Roach and defensive linemen Vance Walker and Pat Sims have a chance to help immediately. And yet it is difficult to think that this team, which went 4-12, has improved. Yes, the Raiders got some good players, but many holes remain. Again, it’s just a fact of life for this strapped team, whose reconstruction is very much under way.

San Diego Chargers: It would be difficult to make a case that this team has been either a winner or a loser in free agency. The Chargers have just kind of been hanging around. They haven’t lost much, but they haven’t added much, at least in terms signing players sure to fill holes. But new general manager Tom Telesco is known for finding good players at a good rate. The Chargers haven’t had a ton of cap space and have been fairly conservative. They have added some good players, starting with cornerback Derek Cox and guard Chad Rinehart; both are highly respected around the league. Running back Danny Woodhead also will help the offense. Questions remain on the offensive line and in the secondary, but it seems as though Telesco is going to work selectively to build a program his way. It remains to be seen if it will help the Chargers improve immediately.