AFC West: 2011 NFL free agency

Evening AFC West notes

August, 10, 2011
The Chiefs made two minor additions. They signed veteran receiver Keary Colbert. He has 49 career starts since 2004, but he hasn’t played since 2008. Colbert played at USC with Chiefs’ quarterback Matt Cassel. They also added kicker Todd Carter. He was claimed off waivers from Carolina. He played in one game with Carolina last year. He has virtually no chance of beating out Ryan Succop.
  • Denver tight end Richard Quinn has a knee injury that could potentially keep him out for some time. The Broncos are crowded at tight end, so the role of Quinn, a former second-round pick, may not be major, anyway.
  • Oakland coach Hue Jackson isn’t giving the media much information on how he plans to approach Thursday night’s preseason opener against Arizona. Don’t expect to see too many starters, which is common for the first preseason games.

AFC West notes

August, 10, 2011
ESPN’s John Clayton is reporting that Oakland's interest in free-agent Langston Walker is picking up. The Raiders have a need at the position and they’ve aggressively pursued re-signing many of their players, so if Walker leaves, the team likely won’t fret.
  • The man who coached basketball-players-turned-NFL tight ends Antonio Gates and Julius Thomas warns that folks should not compare the two quite yet. Thomas has been a star at Denver’s camp despite playing just one year of college football.
  • The television blackout has been lifted in San Diego for Thursday’s preseason opener against Seattle. The game will be telecast on ESPN.
  • With eight days remaining until the supplemental draft, former Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor has not been added to the draft. He has often been connected as a possible fit with Oakland if he is eligible.
  • The Raiders released their unofficial depth chart. Interestingly, Darrius Heyward-Bey and Jacoby Ford were listed as the starting receivers. Ford is out with a broken hand. He is expected to be ready for the season opener Sept. 12 at Denver. Heyward-Bey has just started practicing after sitting out several days with an unannounced injury. My thoughts? These type of preseason depth charts mean very little. Lots can and will happen.
  • The NFL in Los Angeles has taken a step closer to becoming reality. San Diego and Oakland have been reportedly connected to the city.
  • Kansas City star pass-rusher Tamba Hali is thankful to the Chiefs for his renew, $60 million contract. The Chiefs will be thankful to him if he leads the AFC in sacks again. He had 14.5 sacks last season.

Evening AFC West notes

August, 6, 2011
The Raiders reportedly have signed former New England second-round pick Chad Jackson. The receiver has played with Denver. He was in the UFL for part of last season. He has 14 career catches. He will likely have an uphill battle to make the team.
  • Kansas City signed journeyman defensive tackle Amon Gordon. He has played in 17 games since 2004. He spent time with Seattle last season. He will have an uphill battle to make the team.
  • New Oakland tight end Kevin Boss is on board with Oakland coach Hue Jackson. The feeling seems to be mutual.
Kudos to Oakland for quickly filling its hole at tight end.

Don’t kid yourself, Oakland is not in the same position it was at tight end before Zach Miller stung the team by signing with Seattle. Kevin Boss is not in Miller’s class. But he is a professional tight end and the Raiders no longer have a major deficiency at the position.

Boss is a workman’s player. He is solid as a receiver, runner and as a blocker. Again, he is not a Pro Bowl player like Miller, but he won’t embarrass the Raiders, either. Give the Raiders credit for giving Boss a four-year, $16 million deal, three days after Miller got $34 million over five years from Seattle.

Boss, who is from the West Coast, has 119 catches in four seasons and he has 18 touchdown catches, proving he is a red-zone weapon. He earned the trust from New York quarterback Eli Manning and he will have a chance to flourish with Jason Campbell as his quarterback.

Campbell had a great working relationship with tight end Chris Cooley in Washington and he had a special on-field relationship with Miller. Combine the fact that Oakland’s receiver are young and Campbell loves throwing to the tight end, and it's clear Boss will have an opportunity to make an impact in Oakland.

Thus, this is a good move by both the Raiders and by Boss.

UPDATE: Here is the take of Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. on the Boss signing:“He’s nowhere close to the dynamic receiving threat that Miller is, but the best word to describe Boss is solid. He is solid in every area. His blocking should help the Oakland’s tackles quite a bit too on edge runs and pass protection. He’s a solid receiver.”
If they lose receiver Malcom Floyd, as expected, the San Diego Chargers likely will add another receiver at some point.

Keep this name in mind: Jerricho Cotchery. He is expected to be released by the New York Jets as soon as Thursday.

I’m sure Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers is paying attention. Cotchery and Rivers were a lethal combination at North Carolina State, and they remain friends. Their relationship goes all the way back to high school in Alabama when they battled against each other in basketball.

“He was my guy,” Rivers once said of Cotchery about their college days. “It got to the point where, we were within the scheme, but it was just me-to-you, backyard stuff.”

Added Cotchery about Rivers: “He's a cool dude. We had a great chemistry. When you're on the same page, it's hard to stop. Philip and I developed that. There were times when we weren't even talking, just looking at the coverage or looking at the cornerback; he'd give a look and I'd know where to run.”

It’s just seems perfect, doesn’t it?

Cotchery, 29, has seen his production dip some. He had 41 catches last season. Still, I’m sure he’d feel energized in San Diego. He wouldn’t be the first or even the second receiving option. The pressure would be off him.

I’m not saying Cotchery is definitely going to land in San Diego. But if you add the team’s need there, his availability and his deep roots with the star quarterback, it would be foolish not to think it is a real possibility.

AFC West notes

August, 4, 2011
The San Diego Union Tribune is reporting that free-agent receiver Malcom Floyd is close to signing with Baltimore. The Chargers do not want to overpay for Floyd. They did sign Laurent Robinson, who had 34 catches last year. He isn’t a replacement for Floyd, but he will be in the rotation whether Floyd is back or not.
  • The Raiders signed linebacker Darryl Blackstock. He hasn’t played in the NFL in three years. He played for new Oakland defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan in the UFL. It’s a low-risk look-see. Why not?
  • ESPN’s John Clayton reported that the Chiefs worked out running back Jason Snelling before signing Le’Ron McClain. It is clear the Chiefs were looking for someone to eat-up some carries.
  • Denver coach John Fox said defensive end Elvis Dumervil has looked outstanding in camp. He missed all of last season with a pectoral injury he suffered early in camp.
  • Denver rookie tight end Julius Thomas is catching on quickly. The fourth-round pick played one year of college football after playing college basketball. He is a project, but he is showing that he belongs in the NFL.

Chiefs give Tamba Hali huge deal

August, 3, 2011
ESPN’'s John Clayton is reporting Kansas City star linebacker Tamba Hali just agreed to a five-year extension.

It is worth $60 million with $35 guaranteed. He is now the second highest paid outside linebacker in the NFL behind Dallas’ DeMarcus Ware. Hali led the AFC with 14.5 sacks last season.

I will be back shortly with some thoughts on the deal.
I commend the Oakland Raiders for quickly looking into replacing Zach Miller.

Bay Area media members are reporting that the New York Giants free-agent tight end arrived toward the end of the Raiders’ camp practice Wednesday. He was working out for the team after the practice. Oakland quarterback Jason Campbell -- whose favorite target was Miller -- closely watched the work out.

If Boss, who is from the West Coast, is healthy, I expect the Raiders to sign him. He is one of the best tight end options available. I mentioned Boss as a likely replacement for Miler as soon as Miller stunned the Raiders and signed with Seattle on Tuesday.

The Raiders have to make sure Boss is healthy. He had hip surgery in the offseason. We remember the Jared Gaither false start last week, so Boss will have to pass his physical,

If Boss is signed it surely will help Oakland’s offense. The only tight end on Oakland’s roster with a catch in the NFL is Brandon Myers and he has 16 in two seasons.

Make no mistake; Boss will not fully replace the Pro Bowl talent of Miller. But Boss is a capable receiver, who knows how to make plays. He had 119 catches in four seasons with the Giants. If he can catch 40 balls for Oakland that would be a plus.

Campbell loves to throw to his tight end and with Oakland’s young receivers; there is an opportunity for the tight end to make an impression in Oakland.

This is a move surely worth exploring for the Raiders.
Where is Justin Houston?

I’ve been getting that question a lot lately from curious (and perplexed) Kansas City Chiefs’ fans.

It’s a fair question. After all, according to the Mr. NFL Detail, John Clayton, there are just four unsigned rookies in this world of the new rookie pay scale. Three are first rounders (including San Diego defensive end Corey Liuget) and Houston. What’s wrong with this picture?

I understand that there are a few stragglers in the first round. But the fact that there is a third-round pick among the final four unsigned players, it’s a bit strange.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not placing blame on Houston. But the truth is, he better gets himself to St. Joe and get with the rest of the team.

Whether the team is being unfair or Houston is being unreasonable, it doesn’t matter. There is pressure on Houston. Third-round holdouts don’t get much leeway from the team. If Houston misses much more time. He could lose a chance to contribute early in the season.

The Georgia product has pass-rushing skills and he has a chance to make an impact. But he has to get on the practice field.

I see how there could be a disagreement in the negotiations. Houston was considered a much better prospect than a third rounder. Yet, he had some off-field concerns that made him fall. But in the end, the rookie pay scale is what it is and the Chiefs have an exact amount of its rookie allotment left. Houston is going to eventually have to take it.

So, he might as well accept the deal now and move on and try to make an impact. Third-round picks really don’t have any other choice.
The Kansas City Chiefs continue to make under-the-radar moves. Yet, the defending AFC West champions continue to improve their team.

The Chiefs’ latest move was signing former Baltimore fullback Le'Ron McClain for a one-year deal. This is an interesting signing.

McClain has value as both as a runner and a blocker, so he isn’t a typical fullback although his weight is usually in the 250 -270 range. He had 920 rushing yards in 2008. His carries went down in the past two seasons.

In Kansas City, he gives bulk behind star Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones. Charles is expected to get more carries than Jones this season, so I can see a situation in which Jones and McClain split Jones’ carries from last season. In 2010, Jones had 245 carries and Charles had 230 carries. I could see Charles getting a few more carries than last year, although the Chiefs like to keep him fresh. Jones’ production slipped at the end of the season. With McClain in the mix, it could refresh all three players.

The Chiefs have been selective in free agency. They know they have a good, young roster. Yet, they have cherry picked valuable veterans when they see a good fit. McClain joins receiver Steve Breaston, nose tackle Kelly Gregg and linebacker Brandon Siler as new Chiefs.

Again, there are no headlines stars in the group, but they should make Kansas City a better team.
The San Diego Union Tribune is reporting that Pro Bowl tight end Antonio Gates is hoping to practice Thursday.

He has been on the physically unable to perform list since the start of training camp with a plantar fascias injury that hampered him all of last season.

I know that Gates being out has caused a bit of an uproar, but he was just sitting as a precaution and it was not a big deal. The fact that he is expected to come back should restore calm in San Diego.

Now, if he suffers a setback, then hit the panic button again. But, for now, all appears good for Gates.

In other AFC West nuggets:

In an Inside piece,Insider Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. thinks the Chargers have had the best free-agency period of the four AFC West teams so far.
  • ESPN’s John Clayton reports the Raiders guaranteed the first two years of safety Michael Huff’s contract. In all, Huff received $32 million over four years. The Raiders saw Pro Bowl tight end Zach Miller go to Seattle for $34 million over five years. Miller is a much more valuable player than Huff.
The Denver Broncos continue to try to reconstruct their defensive line.



ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported the Broncos have agreed to terms with former New England defensive lineman Ty Warren (see, the Broncos add ex-Pats even after the Josh McDaniels era). Warren, 30, was cut last week. Denver is paying him $10 million over two years with $2.5 million guaranteed.

The Broncos need Warren to still have something in the tank. If so, he will give leadership to a new-look line. Denver has added Jeremy Jarmon and Brodrick Bunkley through trades, and has signed Derrick Harvey. Marcus Thomas also was re-signed.

The line, defensive tackle in particular, has been Denver’s biggest need area this offseason as it tries to improve the NFL’s worst defense from last season.

Denver won a battle with Kansas City to land Warren. The Chiefs had to be confident they would land Warren since he has New England ties with Scott Pioli and Romeo Crennel.

Yet it’s doubtful the Chiefs were willing to match Denver’s generous contract.

UPDATE: This is what Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. has to say about Denver inking Warren: “Considered a 3-4 defensive end, Warren will work in a rotation at defensive tackle in Denver's new 4-3 scheme. It is all about health with Warren, though, so not putting a ton of strain on him would probably be wise, as would using him just on early downs."
ESPN’s John Clayton reported that Denver free-agent tackle Ryan Harris has agreed to terms with the Philadelphia Eagles.

No, it’s not your imagination. The Eagles actually are signing everybody.

Harris was a third-round pick by Denver in 2007. He played well in Mike Shanahan’s zone-blocking scheme, but he fell out of favor after dealing with injuries under former coach Josh McDaniels.

The Broncos did not make signing Harris a priority. The Broncos will use second-round pick Orlando Franklin at right tackle this season.
Zach MillerMark J. Rebilas/US PresswireThe Raiders said goodbye to another star on Tuesday, losing tight end Zach Miller to Seattle.
The 2011 Oakland Raiders season is not over before it started, but there is no denying the team’s outlook is a lot less hopeful than it was the day the lockout ended.

Arguably no other team has suffered as many high-profile hits in free agency as the Raiders, who raised expectations with an encouraging 8-8 record in 2010. On Tuesday, four days after superstar cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha departed to Philadelphia in unrestricted free agency, Pro Bowl (and potential top-five) tight end Zach Miller has bailed. He agreed to terms with Seattle on Tuesday. In my opinion, the Raiders lost their best and fourth-best players -- for nothing other than a couple of likely 2012 third-round compensatory picks.

That doesn’t help Hue Jackson’s first team in Oakland, though.

While Asomugha is a better player, the loss of Miller (who joins former Oakland coach Tom Cable and former Oakland guard Robert Gallery in Seattle) might sting Oakland more. The Raiders were essentially resigned all offseason to losing Asomugha because of his huge price tag. But Miller, who appeared to be Oakland’s next great tight end, was the team’s top free-agency target and the Raiders had been trying to lock him up since before the lockout. It had long been assumed that Miller would return to the Raiders, who picked him in the second round in 2007. On Sunday, Jackson indicated the deal was close to being done.

Miller received curiously little interest on the open market in the first few days of free agency. The way I understand it, after the dust of the initial free-agency period settled, the Seahawks looked at the market and couldn’t believe a player of Miller’s ability was still available and decided to take a hard run at him. The Raiders likely couldn’t keep up financially because of salary-cap issues. ESPN’s Adam Schefter is reporting Miller's agreement with Seattle is for five years and $34 million with $17 million in guaranteed money.

Zach Miller
Cary Edmondson/US PresswireZach Miller made 226 catches for 2,712 yards and 12 touchdowns in four seasons with the Raiders.
Oakland gave franchised player Kamerion Wimbley a five-year, $43 million deal with a reported $29 million in guarantees (I hear much of that money is actually tied into roster bonuses) on Monday in an attempt to clear cap room to sign Miller. According to a source, the Wimbley deal was expected to clear about $8 million. ESPN’s John Clayton reported Tuesday that the Raiders were $17.3 million over the cap before the Wimbley deal. So, the Raiders were likely limited and Miller jumped at Seattle’s offer.

The Raiders gambled and thought Miller would be a restricted free agent, but the new CBA made players with four years of experience unrestricted free agents, not restricted. One has to wonder whether the Raiders would have been better off to secure Miller with the franchise tag in February and work out a deal with Wimbley later. I know pass-rushers are valued more than tight ends, but Miller is a special player.

He made the Raiders’ passing offense go. He might not be as talented as running back Darren McFadden, but he was as important to Oakland’s offense as McFadden.

“It’s brutal,” Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. said of Miller’s departure to Seattle. “He was the only thing [receiver-wise] that Oakland could count on. ... He is exceptional in the passing game and is probably only getting better.”

Miller helped the No. 2 run offense in the NFL by being Oakland’s most reliable receiver and quarterback Jason Campbell’s favorite target. The sure-handed Miller had a team-high 60 catches for 685 yards last season. When Campbell was in trouble, often he would find Miller, who came down with one chain-moving catch after another.

When speaking to Campbell on Monday, I could tell how much he wanted Miller back. Miller’s departure puts immense pressure on Oakland’s young receivers. Someone has to emerge as Campbell’s bail-out receiver now that Miller has headed north.

The move has to taste especially sweet for Cable, who was kicked to the curb by Raiders owner Al Davis after last season despite improving the team. The Cable connection has to add to the pain in Oakland of losing Miller. The Raiders visit Seattle on Sept. 2 in the preseason finale.

This was a challenging offseason for the Raiders, who signed many players -- including Richard Seymour, Stanford Routt, John Henderson and Michael Huff. They did some good things. But there’s little doubt that they suffered a blow by losing Asomugha and Miller in a span of four days.

This will do nothing to relieve the sting of losing Miller, but the San Francisco Chronicle is reporting the Raiders signed former Washington offensive lineman Stephon Heyer. He gives them much-needed depth on the line and perhaps he could vie for a starting job.

AFC West notes

August, 2, 2011
The Chiefs signed restricted free-agent tackle Barry Richardson.
  • Chargers cornerback and punt returner Antoine Cason is now expected to miss 2-4 weeks with a broken finger. He could still potentially be kept out of the preseason.
  • The word is the Raiders may revisit bringing back offensive lineman Mario Henderson. The key for Henderson is controlling his weight.
  • The Chargers special teams' unit has a new name. I’m not interested in cute names. Here’s my question: Is the unit going to stop costing the team games this season?
  • Miami fans want Kyle Orton. But unless the Dolphins and Orton can come to a contract accord, trade talks will stay dead.