AFC West: Antoine Cason

NFC Eight in the Box: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

How does each AFC West team look in the secondary, and what still needs to be done?

Denver Broncos: The Broncos are set in the secondary. Denver added key pieces throughout the roster as it tries to make a Super Bowl run. It signed Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie -- who joins a strong group of cornerbacks -- and former San Diego standout Quentin Jammer, who will be moved from corner to safety and play sort of a roaming role. Denver believes Champ Bailey, who turns 35 on Saturday, can still play at a high level. Helping Bailey and Rodgers-Cromartie are the underrated Chris Harris and Tony Carter. The team also has third-round pick Kayvon Webster and 2012 fourth-round pick Omar Bolden. That’s a pretty deep group. Right now, the starting safeties are Rahim Moore and Mike Adams. But in addition to Jammer, Denver has David Bruton, who was getting first-team work in the offseason, and Quinton Carter. As with the cornerbacks, this is a deep group. Overall, the entire unit gives Denver great flexibility for different packages and in case of injury.

Kansas City Chiefs: The Chiefs boast one of the best secondaries in the NFL. It starts with the cornerbacks, who form arguably the top unit in the league. The new Chiefs regime went to work in free agency, adding Dunta Robinson and Sean Smith, two of the better cornerbacks available. Combine Robinson and Smith with incumbent Brandon Flowers -- known around the scouting community as one of the NFL's better corners -- and it’s a powerful group. Expect all three to be on the field often. The Chiefs aren’t too shabby at safety, either. They have Eric Berry, one of the best in the game, who came on strong at the end of last season after missing virtually all of 2011 with a torn ACL. Kendrick Lewis is injury-prone but solid; any team where a player like Lewis is the weak link in the secondary is in pretty nice shape. The Chiefs also expect fifth-round pick Sanders Commings to play a big role, likely at safety.

Oakland Raiders: Last season, Oakland had perhaps the worst secondary situation in the NFL, especially at cornerback. That is no longer the case: The rebuilding Raiders are significantly better there in 2013. Oakland added Mike Jenkins and Tracy Porter via free agency and D.J. Hayden with the No. 12 overall pick in the draft; they figure to be the Raiders' top three cornerbacks, with Hayden and Jenkins the starters. Hayden, though, must show he can stay healthy after a life-threatening heart surgery last November. He missed the past few weeks of the offseason program after undergoing a procedure to repair scar tissue in his stomach, a side effect of the heart surgery. The team expects him back for training camp in late July. Jenkins and Porter fell out of favor in recent seasons and are not upper-level cornerbacks -- but they are professionals and will help. The safeties have a chance to be strong. Tyvon Branch is a very solid player, and Oakland’s shining moment of the offseason was when it brought back Charles Woodson. Yes, he turns 37 in October, but he can still help this team. This unit may not be elite, but it will be competitive and not hamper Oakland’s defense.

San Diego Chargers: This is probably the thinnest group in the AFC West -- but it is top-heavy. Safety Eric Weddle is an elite player and a tremendous anchor for this unit. San Diego let 2012 starters Jammer and Antoine Cason walk via free agency without a fight -- but did a nice job in bringing aboard former Jaguars cornerback Derek Cox, a scout favorite. Young Shareece Wright has a chance to start at the other cornerback spot. Opposite Weddle could be 2012 third-round pick Brandon Taylor, if he recovers from a torn ACL, or Darrell Stuckey. Marcus Gilchrist could also be in the mix. This unit has a chance to be competitive as the season goes on and has some interesting youth. For now, though, there are probably more questions about it than any of the division's other secondaries.
The Oakland Raiders have done a nice job by filling their starting linebacking crew in free agency. Now they must work on their defensive line, among other areas.

Oakland, which has six holes in the defensive starting lineup, has three openings on the defensive line for players to join holdover Lamarr Houston. Matt Shaughnessy, a former mid-round pick, signed a one-year deal with Arizona.

Shaughnessy had potential and played well for Oakland, but he did not play well last season and was replaced by journeyman Andre Carter late in the season. Still, the Raiders have holes on the defensive line. Richard Seymour is a free agent and Tommy Kelly expects to be cut.

Second-year players Christo Bilukidi and Jack Crawford might get a chance. Oakland might draft Flordia’s Sharriff Floyd with the No. 3 pick. The Raiders signed Cincinnati’s Pat Sims at defensive tackle, but Sims has started just one game in the past two years.

Thus, defensive line is a priority for Oakland.

In other AFC West notes:

The Chargers re-signed running back Ronnie Brown and signed Danny Woodhead on Friday. Both are different types of backs who will back up Ryan Mathews. I can still see the Chargers bringing in a running back (probably a bigger one) in free agency or in the draft.

Arizona signed former San Diego starting cornerback Antoine Cason to a one-year deal. The Chargers didn’t have much interest in bringing him back.

San Diego pass-rusher Antwan Barnes left his visit with the Jets without a deal.

Wes Welker's pitch to Broncos

March, 14, 2013
Wes Welker met the Denver media Thursday, and he made it clear he wanted the Broncos as much they wanted him.

Asked what John Elway, Denver’s executive vice president of football operations, pitched to him, Welker said: “I was probably the one pitching to him, trying to make this happen. Finally, we were able to kind of get together and get a deal done … That I want to win. That above everything. We’d figure out the money part and all that stuff later, but that winning was a big thing for me.”

Many league observers think the addition of Welker will make Denver a winner. Welker loves the idea of playing with fellow Denver receivers Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker. The receivers give quarterback Peyton Manning a tremendous group to throw to.

“I think they were another big part of me wanting to come here, just their styles and watching them on film and how good of young receivers they are,” Welker said. “I think it’s a good starting point for all of us. They did a great job last year, and hopefully I can just come in and try and help out.”

In other AFC West notes:
  • The Elvis Dumervil situation, which will be resolved by Friday, is about the only thing left for the Broncos at this point. If Dumervil is cut, forget the notion of Connor Barwin joining the Broncos. He signed with the Eagles. It had been reported Denver could pursue Barwin.
  • San Diego cornerback Antoine Cason could end up in Arizona or Jacksonville. If the Chargers don’t sign another cornerback, Shareece Wright could start opposite Derek Cox.

Chargers spend to answer CB need

March, 14, 2013
The San Diego Chargers have made their biggest splash in free agency thus far.

Late Wednesday night, San Diego agreed on a deal with former Jacksonville cornerback Derek Cox. Cox is considered a solid corner, although he has had some injury issues.

Cox will likely be the Chargers’ No. 1 cornerback -- unless they make another signing or draft someone such as Alabama’s Dee Milliner with the No. 11 overall pick in April. Milliner, though, is expected to be gone by then.

The Chargers’ two starting cornerbacks, Antoine Cason and Quentin Jammer, are free agents and not expected back. The team still could be in the market for another cornerback in free agency, but it probably won’t be one as pricey as Cox.

Cox, 26, signed a four-year, $20 million deal -- which qualifies as a pretty big payday thus far from the Chargers, who have been riding under the radar, getting solid but cheaper players. I expect that to continue as San Diego adds to the offensive line and secondary.

But the Cox signing shows how much the team wanted him.

In other AFC West notes:

The word is the Kansas City Chiefs are still considering adding a cornerback in some form.

The New York Jets are reportedly meeting with San Diego pass-rusher Antwan Barnes on Thursday.
The San Diego Chargers' need for a cornerback remains after Jerraud Powers signed with the Cardinals.

The Chargers had targeted Powers, who played in Indianapolis while new San Diego general manager Tom Telesco was in the front office there. But Powers followed former Colts interim coach Bruce Arians to Arizona. He was to visit with the Chargers after going to Arizona, but signed with the Cardinals.

San Diego cornerback Antoine Cason is also visiting Arizona. Carolina could also show interest. While it is not out of the question that Cason returns to San Diego, it doesn’t seem likely.

The Chargers need two cornerbacks and more offensive lineman. The cornerback market may yet see some bargains. The Chargers are not spending wildly, so expect them to watch that market closely.

AFC West notes

March, 13, 2013
PM ET is reporting Kansas City is visiting with receiver Donnie Avery. He had 60 catches for the Colts last season.

Yahoo! Sports reports Oakland defensive tackle Richard Seymour may retire if he doesn’t get a big deal. Denver is reportedly interested. Seymour is 33, injury-prone and on the decline. I’m not sure he will command a big contract.

ESPN’s Andrew Brandt reports the Raiders are operating with more than $30 million in dead money, thus their actual salary cap is more in the $90 million range. Brutal.

The Raiders reportedly have re-signed cornerback Coye Francies. He is a bottom-of-the-roster type.

San Diego cornerback Antoine Cason may be out of the mix in Detroit now that the Lions have re-signed Chris Houston.

There were reports Tuesday that Kansas City running back Peyton Hillis was visiting the Packers. Now those reports are being disputed. I don’t think he’s much of a priority for the Chiefs.

The Giants are reportedly interested in defensive end Dave Tollefson. He was cut by Oakland on Tuesday. He left the Giants to sign with Oakland last year.

AFC West notes

March, 12, 2013
ESPN’s Adam Schefter is reporting the Broncos have re-signed defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson. He is a solid player. The team is still interested in Jacksonville’s Terrance Knighton. The Denver Post reports the Broncos and pass-rusher Elvis Dumervil are still far apart, even though Dumervil is open to a pay cut.

Schefter reported Denver could make a run at Shaun Philips of the Charges if Dumervil is cut. Dwight Freeney is in play as well.

The Chiefs still have interest in Miami cornerback Sean Smith.

The Kansas City Star is reporting the Chiefs are trying to trade quarterback Matt Cassel. There would be a few teams interested in him on the market. Maybe the Chiefs can get a late-round pick. If not, expect him to be cut soon.

Kansas City running back Peyton Hillis is visiting Green Bay.

Defensive end Chris Canty signed with the Ravens. He visited the Chiefs several weeks ago.

San Diego cornerback Antoine Cason’s market may be heating up. He's still a long shot to return to the Chargers.

UT-San Diego reports the Chargers are still interested in former Kansas City right tackle Eric Winston. He visited the Chargers a few days ago. The team signed King Dunlap on Tuesday, but he may be viewed as a player who gives the team depth.

There have been some conflicting reports on Oakland’s salary cap situation. ESPN’s John Clayton is reporting the Raiders are $14.66 million under the cap. They can make some more cuts to increase that number.

Sports Illustrated reports Oakland running back Mike Goodson is getting interest from the Jets, Bengals and Cowboys.
The Cleveland Browns reportedly are one of the teams interested in San Diego Chargers cornerback Antoine Cason. There are a few teams interested, and Cason will probably leave the Chargers.

I expect the Chargers to have deep talks with Colts cornerback Jerraud Powers. He was with the Indianapolis Colts with new San Diego general manager Tom Telesco. Don’t be surprised if the Chargers can eventually work something out with him.

Meanwhile, the Chargers are reportedly re-signing kicker Nick Novak to a four-year deal. He has been reliable for San Diego in the past two years.

For those connecting the dots of Anquan Boldin to San Diego: Remember, Boldin and former Cardinals coach and new San Diego offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt weren’t always on good terms in Arizona.

In other AFC West notes:

I could see a scenario where the Kansas City Chiefs decide to revisit pursuing Miami cornerback Sean Smith despite signing Dunta Robinson.
The San Diego Chargers continue to make cuts, as they have jettisoned safety Atari Bigby.

This move is not a big surprise. Bigby, who had 79 tackles last season, was not considered a top starter. The Chargers probably will be able to easily find a replacement. In-house candidates Darrell Stuckey and Brandon Taylor are possibilities. One potential replacement could be former Arizona safety Adrian Wilson, who was cut Friday. Former Arizona head coach Ken Whisenhunt is now on San Diego’s staff.

On Thursday, San Diego cut linebacker Takeo Spikes. The Chargers also will likely cut defensive tackle Antonio Garay and left tackle Jared Gaither.

As for free agency, don’t be surprised if the team shows interest in Colts cornerback Jerraud Powers. He was in Indianapolis with new San Diego general manager Tom Telesco. The team will let starting cornerbacks Antoine Cason and Quentin Jammer test the market.

Top 10 AFC West UFAs

March, 5, 2013
NFL free agency starts March 12. The list of the top 10 unrestricted free agents in the AFC West has changed dramatically recently. Here is the list I compiled a month ago before re-signings and franchise tag decisions. The group is nowhere near as deep as it was.

1. Brandon Myers, Oakland, TE: Myers had a breakout receiving season in 2012 and he will draw interest on the open market. The Raiders will try to keep him, but it may not be easy. It could help Oakland that it is a strong tight end free agent class.

2. Louis Vasquez, San Diego, OG: Scouts love this player. He is the Chargers’ best offensive lineman and will be sought.

3. Antoine Cason, San Diego, CB: The word around the league is Cason will get interest. He could price himself out of San Diego as free agency is always kind to cornerbacks.

4. Philip Wheeler, Oakland, LB: Wheeler is a solid starter who the Raiders will want to keep.

5. Desmond Bryant, Oakland, DL: He is a rotational player, but he has ability and I can see him getting a good offer elsewhere.

6. Quentin Jammer, San Diego, CB: He may move to safety at the age of 33, but Jammer can still play.

7. Shaun Phillips, San Diego, LB: Phillips is streaky, but he can still rush the passer and plenty teams will pay for that skill.

8. Shane Lechler, Oakland, P: Lechler is one of the great all-time punters, but he is 36 and coming off an injury. It will be interesting to see his market develop.

9. Aubrayo Franklin, San Diego, DT: He is a tough, hard-nosed plugger that teams seek.

10. Glenn Dorsey, Kansas City, DL: The former No. 5 overall draft pick may get interest from 4-3 teams. Denver and Oakland could be interested.

CB-needy Chargers make claim

February, 20, 2013
Catching up on a travel day:

New San Diego general manager Tom Telesco made a potentially intriguing move Wednesday by claiming cornerback Johnny Patrick off waivers from New Orleans.

Patrick was a third-round pick in 2011 and he is just 24. Talented cornerbacks are always worth taking a flier on. It is especially intriguing in San Diego because the Chargers need depth at the position. Starting cornerbacks Quentin Jammer and Antoine Cason are both free agents. At least one of the two is expected to sign elsewhere. So, giving Patrick a chance may be worthwhile.

In other AFC West news:

Free-agent pass-rusher Dwight Freeney told that former Colts teammate and current Denver quarterback Peyton Manning has begun to try to recruit him to the Broncos. Freeney, though, said he thinks the Broncos might be set with pass-rushers with standouts Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil. Still, I think if Freeney, 32, doesn’t get an opportunity to be a primary pass-rusher, Denver could be interested in him as a rotational pass-rusher.

In an Insider piece, ESPN analyst Bill Polian takes a look at some of the biggest needs for each AFC West team.Insider

Former Kansas City general manager Scott Pioli has joined SiriusXM NFL Radio as an analyst.

Top 10 free agents from AFC West

February, 7, 2013
NFL free agency starts March 12. Some players will be re-signed and some will be given the franchise tag. But, as of now, I’m ranking the top 10 players who are set to be unrestricted free agents from the AFC West:

1. Ryan Clady, Denver, LT: He is a premier player. He made All-Pro this season. Denver will either extend him or give him the franchise tag.

2. Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City, WR: Bowe can be a top-level receiver. There will be fast interest if he hits the open market.

3. Branden Albert, Kansas City, LT: Albert came into his own in 2012. He is going to be a rich man, whether it’s from the Chiefs or on the open market.

4. Brandon Myers, Oakland, TE; Myers has a breakout receiving season in 2012. There will be interest on the open market. The Raiders will try to keep him, but it may not be easy. It could help Oakland that it is a strong tight end free agent class.

5. Louis Vasquez, San Diego, OG: Scouts love this player. He is the Chargers’ best offensive lineman.

6. Antoine Cason, San Diego, CB: The word around the league is Cason will get interest. He could price himself out of San Diego as free agency is always kind to cornerbacks.

7. Philip Wheeler, Oakland, LB: Wheeler is a solid starter who the Raiders will want to keep.

8. Quentin Jammer, San Diego, CB: He may move to safety at the age of 33. But Jammer can still play.

9. Shaun Phillips, San Diego, LB: Phillips is streaky, but he can still rush the passer and plenty teams will pay for that skill.

10. Dustin Colquitt, Kansas City, P: Colquitt made the Pro Bowl this season. He is underrated, but appreciated in Kansas City. The Chiefs will try to keep him.

AFC West franchise tag options

February, 4, 2013
The franchise tag signing period will open later this month. Let’s look at possible franchise tag options for the AFC West teams:

Denver Broncos: Star left tackle Ryan Clady would be a free-agent prize on the open market, but there's no way he's reaching it. The Broncos will try to sign Clady to a long-term deal. If not, he will be given the franchise tag. It is as simple as that. If Clady is extended, I don’t see Denver giving another pending free agent the franchise tag.

Kansas City Chiefs: The Chiefs will probably end up giving somebody the tag. Their top free agents are receiver, Dwayne Bowe, left tackle Branden Albert and punter Dustin Colquitt. Albert and Colquitt are major priorities. Bowe could be as well. New Kansas City coach Andy Reid has money to spend and I doubt he’d want a weapon like Bowe, who was franchised last year, to leave town. If the former brass was kept, I bet Bowe would leave. He is, by far, the Chiefs’ most reliable receiver and I can see Reid wanting him back. If Bowe is franchised, it would be at more than $11 million.

Oakland Raiders: The Raiders’ top free agents are tight end Brandon Myers and linebacker Philip Wheeler. Both are quality players and Oakland wants them back. But the Raiders have a lot of needs and a tight salary cap, so giving either one the franchise tag might be a stretch. I think Myers, who broke out as a top receiving option in 2012, would be more likely than Wheeler to get the tag. The tight end franchise tag is tentatively set at $5.962 million. The linebacker tag at set at more than $9 million. Wheeler is a good starter, but it would be surprising if he is given the franchise tag. There is an outside chance Oakland could use the tag on punter Shane Lechler, even though he is 36 and who showed signs of slowing down in 2012.

San Diego Chargers: I doubt the Chargers give anybody the tag. They have some solid free agents such as cornerbacks Quentin Jammer and Antoine Cason, linebacker Shaun Phillips, guard Louis Vasquez and defensive tackle Aubrayo Franklin. I don’t see any of them being deem invaluable enough to be tagged.

AFC West fits for Darrelle Revis

January, 24, 2013
AM ET is reporting that the New York Jets are exploring the idea of trading star cornerback Darrelle Revis.

Revis, 27, is considered one of the best defensive players in the NFL. He suffered a serious knee injury last season, but is expected to return healthy.

Revis would likely be expensive in both compensation and in the terms of a contract. His contract is pricey and voids after two seasons. Any team that wants to acquire him would likely need to give him a new deal. Even with the obstacles, I think Revis will be highly sought-after. A case could be made for all four AFC West teams having interest in him.

Let’s take a look at how he’d fit with each team in the division:

Denver: The Broncos have more than $18 million in cap room, the most in the division -- and they could use Revis. Champ Bailey still has a couple of years left, but he will be 35 when next season starts and is coming off a rough game in the playoff loss to Baltimore. Denver has Chris Harris and Tony Carter, but adding a piece like Revis would be huge. He could be worth the Broncos' No. 28 pick in the draft.

Kansas City: The Chiefs don’t have a ton of pressing needs other than quarterback, so that's where they must look first. But adding Revis to Brandon Flowers and a strong defense would be pretty tempting. I could see the Chiefs giving up the No. 34 pick in the draft, for starters. Is their No. 1 overall pick worth dealing for Revis? Maybe in some type of package deal that gets the Chiefs a little more than Revis, sure.

Oakland: Cornerback is Oakland’s greatest need. Revis would fit great, but the Raiders are not in strong salary-cap shape and don’t have a lot to offer in a trade. Plus, they have a lot of other needs. Revis would be a terrific addition, but there are a lot of obstacles here.

San Diego: San Diego’s two starting cornerbacks, Quentin Jammer and Antoine Cason, are free agents. This is a need area -- but only one of many such trouble spots. Unless they get creative in both trade compensation and in a new contract for Revis, this might be a tad difficult to maneuver.

One guy to watch

December, 13, 2012
One player to watch from each AFC West team in Week 15:

Denver, Rahim Moore, safety: The second-year safety has made noticeable strides this season after struggling as a second-round pick last year. He is becoming a solid part of a good defense heading into a big game at Baltimore.

Kansas City, Jamaal Charles, running back: Charles has had at least 100 yards per game in four of the past five games. He is easily on pace to become the NFL all-time leader in yards per carry when he qualifies with 11 more touches. He is a bright spot in a miserable season in Kansas City.

Oakland, Rod Streater, receiver: The undrafted rookie has shown some progress at times this season and he made some big plays against Denver last week. The Raiders are playing for the future, I’d like to see Streater get the chance to make more plays against the Chiefs on Sunday.

San Diego, Antoine Cason, cornerback: Cason has improved steadily and he has been playing at a high level for the past several weeks. He is a free agent, but don’t be surprised if the Chargers make a big push to keep him.