AFC West: Antonio Garay
In a move that had been expected, the Chargers released the former Pittsburgh starter. He was the biggest name among the 11 players San Diego cut Friday. They still have to trim 11 players to get down to the 53-man limit Saturday.
Starks was never really in the race at left tackle. Fellow free-agent pickup King Dunlap took control of the battle early. In the end, Starks lost his job because he couldn’t hold off second-year player Mike Harris. Harris, an emergency starter at left tackle last season as an undrafted free agent, will be the swing tackle.
Meanwhile, the Jets reportedly have cut defensive tackle Antonio Garay, who had spent the past four seasons with the Chargers. The Chargers don’t have much depth on the defensive line, and Garay knows the San Diego system if the team is looking for a veteran.
Indianapolis Colts defense tackle Antonio Johnson recently visited the San Diego Chargers. Telesco was an executive with the Colts before being hired as San Diego’s general manager this year. The Chargers need some depth at nose tackle after Aubrayo Franklin and Vaughn Martin left in free agency. The team also cut Antonio Garay.
Cam Thomas is currently set to start. Johnson is a solid veteran with experience, but is not an impact player. The Chargers could also add a nose tackle early in the draft.
In other AFC West notes:
Some teams may make a run at San Diego's restricted free agent receiver Danario Alexander by next week’s deadline. The Chargers should be nervous because Alexander, despite injury issues, has big potential and he was one of the team’s best receivers in limited action last season.
The Denver Post thinks the Denver Broncos should consider signing free agent running back Ahmad Bradshaw at some point. Bradshaw has been dealing with injuries.
He was more of a rotational player, but he had skills. The Chargers have seen defensive tackles Aubrayo Franklin (free agency) and Antonio Garay (he was cut) leave the team. The team has hopes for Cam Thomas. But there is a need at the position.
The Chargers have a solid starting front three of ends Corey Liuget, Kendall Reyes and Thomas. But depth is needed.
Meanwhile, U-T San Diego reports the Chargers still have interest in right tackle Eric Winston. But no deal is imminent. He was recently cut by the Kansas City Chiefs.
New Kansas City comeback Dunta Robinson made it clear he will be a nickel cornerback and not a safety.
Former San Diego defensive tackle Antonio Garay signed with the Jets. He was cut earlier this week.
Good move by the Chargers to secure Danny Woodhead and Ronnie Brown on Friday. They are set on third down and can save Ryan Mathews for first and second downs. Smart because of his durability issues.
This is a move that strengthens the best team in the division and hurts the Chargers.
Vasquez is considered a tough, hard-nosed player and a solid pro. He signed for four years with a deal worth nearly $6 million a year. I would think this means the end of the Chris Kuper era in Denver. Kuper has been dealing with injuries, and there had been talk that Orlando Franklin would move from right tackle to guard.
Now, I’d expect Vasquez and Franklin to combine to be one of the better run-blocking right sides of a line. Both are big road graders.
I know the Chargers want to get more athletic on the offensive line, and they didn’t have much contact with Vasquez. But the truth is, he was their best offensive lineman, and the Chargers now may have as many as four holes on the O-line. This is a position group that has to be addressed soon.
In other AFC West news:
U-T San Diego is reporting the Chargers signed Dallas tight end John Phillips, who will likely play in a backup role. He has 30 catches in three NFL seasons.
The Alex Smith trade to Kansas City from San Francisco, as expected, became official.
The Chargers claimed running back Fozzy Whittaker, who was cut by the Cardinals on Monday. He was with new San Diego offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt in Arizona. But Whittaker will have to prove he deserves a spot on San Diego's roster.
As expected, the Chargers cut defensive tackle Antonio Garay. The move saves them $5 million.
ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter reports Kansas City defensive end Glenn Dorsey will visit the 49ers.
A favorite of former coach Norv Turner, McMichael is a journeyman. He is 33 and he had just nine catches last season. He is release gave the Chargers a modest $1,5 salary-cap savings. The team is expected to cut defensive tackle Antonio Garay soon. His release will save the team another $5 million.
In other AFC West notes:
CBS Sports reports the Chiefs are interested in New Orleans backup Chase Daniel. The Missouri product has scouts intrigued and he’s expected to be sought after in free agency. He’d backup new quarterback Alex Smith in Kansas City.
The USA Today reports the Chargers’ medical staff has been cleared in the concussion case of former guard Kris Dielman.
In an Insider piece, here is a look at the Chiefs’ offseason needs.
Cap Status: The Broncos are in decent position to make some additions. They do have to account for $9.7 million for the franchise tag of left tackle Ryan Clady. Denver will also get more cap room if it cuts defensive end Elvis Dumervil. He is due $12 million this season and the team is trying to pare down his contract. Linebacker D.J. Williams also is expected to be cut.
Strategy: I expect the Broncos to be fairly busy in free agency. There has been some speculation Denver could be big players in free agency and get a high-profile player such as New England receiver Wes Welker. The team reportedly has interest in trading for Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis. But Denver has a lot of wants, so it may be reluctant to spend too much in one place. Denver may look to add at defensive tackle, linebacker, cornerback, safety, the offensive line, receiver and running back. So there is a chance we'll see a lot of midlevel-type players. Among the players already connected to Denver are Pittsburgh running back Rashard Mendenhall and Colts pass-rusher Dwight Freeney, if Dumervil is cut.
Cap Status: The Chiefs have done a lot of spending already. They still have some room and will get more with the expected cut of quarterback Matt Cassel.
Strategy: No NFL team has been busier than the Chiefs thus far. The new regime found a way to keep three key free agents: receiver Dwayne Bowe, punter Dustin Colquitt and left tackle Branden Albert. But the Chiefs also kept defensive end Tyson Jackson with a much more manageable contract, traded for quarterback Alex Smith and signed cornerback Dunta Robinson. The team is also reportedly close to keeping defensive end Glenn Dorsey. So the new brass is clearly interested in keeping the core of this team while adding at key positions such as quarterback and cornerback. I expect the Chiefs to strike a couple of more times on the open market. But there is no doubt the heavy lifting has already been done.
Cap Status: The Raiders have about $8 million in cap room. More can come with the expected cut of defensive tackle Tommy Kelly. Quarterback Carson Palmer and receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey could also be cut if they don't take pay reductions in the coming days.
Strategy: The Raiders are in a tough spot. They have massive holes throughout the roster. They don't have a ton of cap room, but they also have an impatient owner in Mark Davis. He wants to see the team improve. But the Raiders have been in salary-cap jail for years. There is light at the end of the tunnel for next year. But Oakland has to be smart. McKenzie restructured the deal of safety Tyvon Branch (that McKenzie did last year) just to get some immediate relief. But there is now dead money in future years. Oakland cannot repeat its vicious cycle. But it does have to get some things done now. The good news for Oakland is that this is a deep free-agent class and not a lot of teams are going to spend much. There could be some decent bargains out there. I expect Oakland to pick up a few solid players. Cornerback is certainly a strong position that Oakland will try to improve at.
Cap Status: The Chargers should have about $17 million to spend after the expected cut of defensive tackle Antonio Garay.
Strategy: The Chargers will be interesting to watch. This is a new brass, and thus far, it's been awfully quiet. But things should change once the open market starts. Truth be told, San Diego has to get a lot of work done. It has major holes on the offensive line and at cornerback. Between those two areas, the team may need to add up to five players. But the needs don't stop there. The Chargers also can use a safety, an inside linebacker, a running back and a receiver. Telesco has a strong reputation for being a talent evaluator. We will quickly get a look at how he can add pieces to his new team.
With Eddie Royal and Robert Meachem hurt, Malcom Floyd, Danario Alexander and Seyi Ajirotutu will be the Chargers’ receivers; Alexander and Ajirotutu are new to the roster. This will be a challenge for struggling quarterback Philip Rivers.
San Diego defensive tackle Antonio Garay is playing for the first time this season. Linebacker Larry English, a first-round pick in 2009, is a healthy scratch for San Diego.
For Kansas City, defensive end Glenn Dorsey is back after dealing with a calf injury. Meanwhile, Javier Arenas will play cornerback in place of Stanford Routt, who suffered a hamstring injury in practice this week.
In other AFC West news:
Players are happy that the Raiders' offensive coaching staff is finally incorporating some power-blocking schemes to go along with the team's zone-blocking schemes. Oakland has had better ground success using the power-blocking schemes and I’m sure we will see more of it as the season goes on.
Starting receiver Denarius Moore, however, has practiced all week. Barring a setback, he should be able to play. Rookie receiver Juron Criner is also dealing with a leg injury.
Oakland may have to rely on starter Darrius Heyward-Bey, undrafted rookie Rod Streater -- who was reportedly working with the starters Saturday -- and newly signed Derek Hagan.
It could be difficult, especially with an inexperienced group at tight end. But if Moore can shake off the rust of not playing during the preseason, Oakland could get by in the passing game.
Meanwhile, San Diego defensive tackle Antonio Garay is listed as questionable with an ankle injury. He practiced on a limited basis all week. As expected left tackle Jared Gaither (back) and running back Ryan Mathews (shoulder) are out. Mathews may play next week against Tennessee. There is no real timetable for Gaither’s return, but the team is still hoping he can play this season.
In other AFC West news, the Chiefs re-signed seventh-round pick Junior Hemingway to the practice squad and cut offensive lineman Rich Ranglin on Saturday. Last week, the Chiefs made the exact opposite move.
San Diego defensive tackle Antonio Garay injured his ankle Saturday, but he thinks he will be fine.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter is reporting free-agent receiver Plaxico Burress is going to work out for New England. He had been linked with Oakland, but I’m not convinced the Raiders had or have serious interest.
Schefter reported that Green Bay has officially signed running back Cedric Benson. He was on the verge of signing there since Friday. He has been linked to Oakland for months, but the Raiders never made a move on him. So, it is clear they never really wanted him.
This unit has a chance to be good in 2012 and terrific in the future. The line is one of San Diego’s deepest areas and it has a chance to set the tone for much improved overall play by the defense. What stands out about the group is the mixture of youth and veteran experience. This is a unit that can offer a lot of different looks and personnel sets.
A player who has been a standout is second-round pick Kendall Reyes. While it is early, all indications are the Chargers have potentially found something special in Reyes.
The Connecticut product has fit right into camp and does not look overmatched so far. He has a combination of pass-rushing and run-stuffing ability that gives him the chance to be a complete player for a long time. While he has yet to prove anything, I think the Chargers feel comfortable playing him right away.
The team also feels good about 2011 first-round pick Corey Liuget. They think he will make strides under new defensive coordinator John Pagano. Along with 2012 first-round pick Melvin Ingram, who will play some on the line, but will also be a rush linebacker, the Chargers have a terrific young building blocks on the edge. They also feel good about youngsters Cam Thomas and Vaughn Martin on the line.
San Diego’s depth and talent on the defensive line is not relegated to the youth, though. The team is thrilled about recent signing Aubrayo Franklin because of the depth it creates at nose tackle. Thomas, Franklin and veteran Antonio Garay will rotate and will give the Chargers a lot of strength in the middle of the line.
If we see a vast improvement on defense in San Diego, a major reason may be because of the front three.
Examining a position group that could exceed its preseason expectations:
The San Diego defensive line has been kind of flat in recent years.
It lost a lot of talent and it hasn’t been a difference-making unit in the Chargers’ 3-4 set.
I think that is changing. There are some interesting young players on this unit that will help improve this group.
It starts with 2011 first-round pick Corey Liuget. The end has progressed and the Chargers are expected to unleash him. Young nose tackle Cam Thomas is an underrated player who is solid. Fellow young player Vaughn Martin is coming into his own and he is a strong rotational player.
Add players like veterans Antonio Garay, Luis Castillo, Jacques Cesaire and rookie Kendall Reyes (who has big-time potential) and this unit has plenty of talent to be a difference-maker right now.
1. Richard Seymour, Oakland: Seymour is aging, his play is slipping some and this may be his last year in Oakland. But he is still at the top of this list.
2. Elvis Dumervil, Denver: A dynamic pass-rusher who is a game changer.
3. Tommy Kelly, Oakland: Underrated player. He may play nose tackle in 3-4 looks.
4. Lamarr Houston, Oakland: A potential star has ability to take over.
5. Glenn Dorsey, Kansas City: He was supposed to be great. He’s not, but he’s solid.
6. Matt Shaughnessy, Oakland: The Raiders missed this pass-rusher when he was injured last year.
7. Tyson Jackson, Kansas City: See Dorsey.
8. Robert Ayers, Denver: He became a solid player against the run last season.
9. Corey Liuget, San Diego: The Chargers expect big things from him in his second season.
10. Dontari Poe, Kansas City: Let’s see what this immensely talented rookie can do.
11. Cam Thomas, San Diego: An underrated player. He has a real future.
12. Antonio Garay, San Diego: It was important that the Chargers re-signed this rotational standout.
13. Vaughn Martin, San Diego: The Chargers think he has a chance to flourish soon.
14. Derek Wolfe, Denver: The second-round pick will be given the chance to make an instant impact.
15. Justin Bannan, Denver: A valuable rotational piece.
16. Luis Castillo, San Diego: The Chargers think he can still help.
17. Dave Tollefson, Oakland: A valuable backup on a strong line.
18. Jacques Cesaire, San Diego: The veteran is heady and he can make plays.
19. Desmond Bryant, Oakland: A solid part of the Raiders’ line.
20. Ty Warren, Denver: The Broncos hope he can make an impact after missing the past two seasons.
21. Kevin Vickerson, Denver: He gained weight to help in the middle.
22. Jason Hunter, Denver: A limited player, who has some play-making ability.
23. Allen Bailey, Kansas City: The Chiefs think he can develop quickly.
24. Kendall Reyes, San Diego: I wouldn’t be surprised if this second-round pick makes some plays right away.
I thought Garay was the last priority free agent remaining in the division and he was my 10th-best unrestricted free agent in the division. The Chargers had several priority free agents and Garay was one of them. It was essential that he was kept.
Garay is an interesting player. He is 32, but he didn’t really become a viable NFL player until 2010 when he joined the Chargers. The journeyman became a big part of the Chargers’ defense that season and he has since been a cog to the defensive line. He had 57 tackles in 2011. He is a run stuffer, who is very tough. Garay is most effective when his snaps are limited so he doesn’t wear down.
The Chargers are trying to get younger on the defensive line, but Garay has an essential role and his re-signing was pivotal.
Kubiak is worried about Elway and Manning combining forces in Denver, where the veteran quarterback signed last week. Here is what Kubiak, head coach of the Houston Texans, thinks of the pairing:
"That's a hell of a combination there,” Kubiak said the NFL owners meetings. “That's powerful. It's great for their organization. It's a big move by John and the organization on this guy, probably the greatest quarterback ever to play the game. He seems healthy, ready to go, so it's a big move by them. They've got a good football team already. They're sitting in the playoffs last year. Their defense played well over the course of the season.
“I think everybody had better worry about it. It's a very powerful combination."
Other AFC West news:
ESPN’s John Clayton reports that the Chargers are continuing to talk to their free-agent defensive tackle Antonio Garay.
Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel told the Kansas City Star that his team has no glaring holes and will wait until after the draft to see where it stands at nose tackle.
San Diego coach Norv Turner likes being under the radar in the AFC West chase.
Unless there is a dramatic change, it appears Cincinnati defensive end/linebacker Manny Lawson will not be signing with the Raiders. Oakland is looking for a starting strongside linebacker, and may wait for the draft to get one. Another player in whom Oakland has reportedly shown interest, Giants defensive end Dave Tollefson, reportedly will visit the Packers.
Adam Caplan reports that Cincinnati backup linebacker and special-teams player Dan Skuta visited the Chiefs. He is a restricted free agent, but Kansas City would not owe the Bengals any compensation if the Chiefs signed him to one because he was an undrafted free agent.
The Raiders will reportedly have a pre-draft visit with Alabama defensive tackle Josh Chapman, a good run-stuffer from a great defense. All teams typically conduct several pre-draft meetings, so a visit with a college player might not necessarily mean much.