AFC West: 2014 NFL Offseason Wrap-up

Broncos offseason wrap-up

May, 23, 2014
May 23
10:00
AM ET
» NFC Wrap: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South » Grades

With free agency and the NFL draft in the rearview mirror and training camp just a couple of months away, we assess the Denver Broncos' offseason moves.

Ware
Best move: The Broncos dove into free agency with purpose and handled their draft board with discipline, but the best move was a Canton repeat of sorts for football boss John Elway. When Elway signed quarterback Peyton Manning in 2012, he said: “I like to get Hall of Fame players with a chip on their shoulders."

Elway repeated that phrase this past March, when the team signed defensive end DeMarcus Ware. The former Cowboy, set to enter his 10th season, is coming off an injury-marred year in which he finished with a career-low six sacks.

But this is a 100-sack player over his career who has missed just three games in the past nine years. The Broncos' defense -- in addition to their locker room -- is far better with him in it.

Riskiest move: First, the Broncos let their leading rusher, Knowshon Moreno, test the market. Frankly, any offer Moreno would get from another team was going to be more than anything the Broncos would have considered.

Ball
Then, Denver let seven rounds of the draft pass without selecting a running back. And while the Broncos still have Manning at quarterback, their running back depth chart has a significant dropoff after Montee Ball. Especially if Ronnie Hillman can’t regain his momentum -- at least at the moment -- as the team's primary backup. It’s also why running backs Kapri Bibbs and Juwan Thompson -- both undrafted rookies -- have a legit chance to make the roster.

Most surprising move: The Broncos had worked toward getting an agreement with free-agent cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie as the offseason got underway. Proposals and counter-proposals were made, and at one point the Broncos put forth an offer they thought was as high as they were willing to go -- $54 million over six years. The deal was really more like three years, $24 million, with Rodgers-Cromartie unlikely to see the final $30 million unless he was on the roster.

Talib
Talib
Rodgers-Cromartie balked and the Broncos moved on. The team moved so quickly that in the space of roughly four hours, Aqib Talib went from not hearing from the Broncos to agreeing to terms on a six-year deal with the team.

Get ready: Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders was the last of the top-tier free agents to sign with the Broncos in the initial wave of spending in March.

But Sanders, who can play on the outside or in the slot and is explosive after the catch, projects for a career year in this offense. Already in workouts, Manning has commented on Sanders' explosiveness and how the Broncos will be creative to get their newest wideout the ball.

Chargers offseason wrap-up

May, 23, 2014
May 23
10:00
AM ET
» NFC Wrap: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South » Grades

With free agency and the draft in the rearview mirror and training camp just a couple of months away, we assess the San Diego Chargers’ offseason moves.

Best move: Some NFL analysts panned San Diego's signing of running back Donald Brown to a three-year, $10.4 million deal in free agency. Critics surmised that San Diego had more pressing needs on defense and the Chargers could get a cheaper alternative through the draft. But by signing Brown, Chargers general manager Tom Telesco locked up a known entity that will lessen the load for workhorse Ryan Mathews, particularly if San Diego advances deep in the playoffs for a second straight season.

[+] EnlargeDonald Brown
Kirby Lee/USA TODAY SportsDonald Brown, 31, adds depth to a Chargers backfield that already includes Ryan Mathews.
Brown also protects the Chargers should Mathews or Danny Woodhead not come back after the 2014 season. Both are set to hit free agency in 2015. Finally, with as much as head coach Mike McCoy likes to run the ball, the Chargers cannot have too much depth at running back and actually drafted Marion Grice in the sixth round to further bolster that group.

Riskiest move: There is no doubt cornerback Jason Verrett has the skills and mentality to be an effective cover cornerback in the NFL. Still, drafting a smaller cornerback when the trend is to use bigger players on the perimeter is a risky proposition for the Chargers. That Verrett is coming off shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum and will not be ready to practice until August could leave San Diego looking at a slow transition for the TCU product. That is not good news for a defense that needs immediate help in the secondary.

Most surprising move: Perhaps the most surprising move is one San Diego chose not to make by passing on bringing in a big-name receiver in free agency and waiting until the seventh round to select Baylor speedster Tevin Reese. Receiver was considered a need position for the Chargers heading into this offseason. But as a seventh-round pick, Reese is not guaranteed to make the final roster. So perhaps the Chargers believe Vincent Brown will finally play up to his potential in 2014 and Malcom Floyd can return healthy from a serious neck injury that cut short his 2013 season. The Chargers need a consistent deep threat to emerge opposite second-year pro Keenan Allen.

Double-digit sack guy needed: Corey Liuget led the Chargers in sacks for the second year in a row with 5.5 in 2013. That can’t happen again in 2014. Someone from among a group of edge-rushers that includes Dwight Freeney, Melvin Ingram and Jeremiah Attaochu must emerge as double-digit sack guy for this team to generate a more consistent pass rush and help a young secondary.

Raiders offseason wrap-up

May, 23, 2014
May 23
10:00
AM ET
» NFC Wrap: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South » Grades

With free agency and the draft in the rearview mirror and training camp just a couple of months away, we assess the Oakland Raiders' offseason moves.

[+] EnlargeKhalil Mack
AP Photo/Michael ConroThe Raiders were happy to land versatile linebacker Khalil Mack in the first round.
Best move: Letting the NFL draft come to them. By sitting tight in the first round, the Raiders saw playmaking linebacker Khalil Mack fall into their laps at No. 5 overall. By sitting tight in the second round, the Raiders saw their quarterback of the future fall into their laps at No. 36 overall. General manager Reggie McKenzie gets high marks for not overthinking things and staying true to his gut and drafting for need as well as snagging the best player available a year after trading down and taking injured cornerback D.J. Hayden.

Riskiest move: Call it semantics or claim that someone -- either McKenzie or the player’s mom -- was not telling the whole truth as to whether the Raiders presented a respectable offer, but the Raiders allowing left tackle Jared Veldheer to leave and reunite with quarterback Carson Palmer in Arizona was not a good way to begin free agency. In Veldheer, the Raiders had a known commodity. In his wake Oakland had to rebuild the offensive line. Replacing Veldheer was seemingly an unnecessary distraction, and though Donald Penn seems a suitable replacement, left tackle will be a need again soon enough.

Most surprising move: Getting an established, respected and accomplished veteran like two-time Super Bowl-winning defensive end Justin Tuck to buy in early and sign with a rebuilding team in the Raiders. The signing of Tuck, who put pen to paper a day after Austin Howard was signed, gave legitimacy to Oakland’s efforts in free agency and opened the doors for the likes of other vets LaMarr Woodley, Antonio Smith, James Jones and Maurice Jones-Drew to also choose Oakland as their destination ... without Oakland overpaying. They are all on the back ends of their careers, but they should have enough left in the tank.

About face? Early in his tenure, McKenzie spoke of signing “high character” players with little to no baggage. So it was a surprise when he spent the third day of the draft taking players with questionable pasts, be it legal spats or getting kicked out of school or off a team. It reached a crescendo with this week’s signing of oft-troubled receiver Greg Little. But McKenzie believes he has built a strong enough locker room to withstand a wild card or two. Besides, if a guy can contribute and has convinced McKenzie he has changed, he deserves another shot, right?

Chiefs offseason wrap-up

May, 23, 2014
May 23
10:00
AM ET
» NFC Wrap: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South » Grades

With free agency and the draft in the rearview mirror and training camp just a couple of months away, we assess the Kansas City Chiefs' offseason moves.

Best move: It wasn't a popular move for the Chiefs to allow five of last season's regulars to depart in the opening moments of free agency and another a few days later, but the Chiefs did the right thing in each case. The players are more valuable to their new teams, and Kansas City would have had to overpay to keep them. The Chiefs had also built enough depth to withstand the losses.

[+] EnlargeAaron Murray
AP Photo/John BazemoreAaron Murray's selection by the Chiefs is surprising, but Andy Reid has been known to develop QBs.
Riskiest move: The Chiefs failed to add a proven wide receiver, a decision they could easily come to regret later. They had one of the NFL's least productive groups of wide receivers last season and then lost slot receiver Dexter McCluster to free agency. They have hopes for improvement from young A.J. Jenkins and acquired CFL veteran Weston Dressler and speedy rookie De'Anthony Thomas, but their needs would have been better served by adding a player with proven production.

Most surprising move: The drafting of Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray was a reasonable gamble because it happened in the fifth round, but the Chiefs looked to be set at the position without him. They have their starter in Alex Smith, a veteran backup in Chase Daniel and a developmental prospect in Tyler Bray. But Murray appears to have the skills to succeed in the offense of coach Andy Reid, who has shown a nice touch in developing quarterbacks. The addition of Murray sets up an interesting training camp battle at the position.

Progress from young players: It's clear the Chiefs are counting on improvement from a group that includes three of last season's draft picks. Foremost is tackle Eric Fisher, who moves to the left side after a rocky rookie season on the right. Tight end Travis Kelce missed all of last season with a knee ailment after showing impressive receiving skills in the offseason and training camp. Sanders Commings also missed most of his rookie season with an injury but could wind up starting at free safety.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

AFC WEST SCOREBOARD