AFC West: Benjarvis Green-Ellis

AFC West: Free-agency primer

March, 7, 2012
3/07/12
12:00
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AFC Free-Agency Primer: East | West | North | South NFC: East | West | North | South

Free agency begins Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET

Denver Broncos

Key free agents: K Matt Prater (franchised), DT Brodrick Bunkley, S Brian Dawkins, TE Daniel Fells, FB Spencer Larsen, WR Eddie Royal, QB Brady Quinn, DT Marcus Thomas, LB Wesley Woodyard, P Britton Colquitt (restricted).

Where they stand: The Broncos will have plenty of salary-cap room. For a team that went from 4-12 with the No. 2 overall pick in the draft to winning the AFC West and a playoff game in John Fox’s first season as coach, the Broncos are in position to improve through free agency. With Prater franchised, the team’s only priority unrestricted free agent is Bunkley.

What to expect: Don’t expect a huge spending spree. The Broncos are cash conscious and I think the franchise is still recovering from some undisciplined spending during the Mike Shanahan era that ended in 2008. We will see the Broncos try to add several pieces at lower prices. Denver could address needs at safety, running back, receiver, tight end, linebacker and quarterback. Keep an eye on players such as Washington safety LaRon Landry, Seattle tight end John Carlson, quarterbacks Chad Henne (Miami), Dennis Dixon (Pittsburgh) or Josh Johnson (Tampa), running backs Michael Bush (Oakland) and Mike Tolbert (San Diego), and defensive lineman Jonathan Fanene Cincinnati.

Kansas City Chiefs

Key free agents: WR Dwayne Bowe (franchised), CB Brandon Carr, QB Kyle Orton, RB Jackie Battle, LB Jovan Belcher, S Jon McGraw, C Casey Wiegmann, RB Thomas Jones, DE Wallace Gilberry, DT Kelly Gregg

Where they stand: The Chiefs are in great shape on cap space even after signing cornerback Stanford Routt and franchising Bowe. They have already done a nice job in free agency with these two moves and have a good, young roster. Kansas City can become a serious playoff contender with the right moves. It is likely Carr will leave in free agency, but the Chiefs should be able to re-sign most of their other free agents if they wish.

What to expect: I’m not sure we will see the Chiefs break the bank for any of the super-hot free agents, but I expect them to do some significant shopping. I think we could see Kansas City look for help at nose tackle, linebacker, safety, tackle, running back and quarterback. Of course, the intrigue could start if the team gets in on the Peyton Manning sweepstakes. But they could also look at several other quarterbacks, including Orton, Henne, Jason Campbell (Oakland) or even Quinn. They could also be in the mix for Miami nose tackle Paul Soliai, Saints guard Carl Nicks and running backs BenJarvus Green-Ellis (New England), Bush and Tolbert.

Oakland Raiders

Key free agents: S Tyvon Branch (franchised), RB Michael Bush, QB Jason Campbell, LB Quentin Groves, C Samson Satele, WR Chaz Schilens, DE Trevor Scott, FB Marcel Reece (restricted).

Where they stand: The Raiders are one of the few teams that must get under the salary cap. Oakland coach Dennis Allen recently acknowledged the team has work to do. The Raiders have some contracts that can be easily restructured, but they also may have to cut some players, particularly on defense. Linebacker Kamerion Wimbley and defensive tackle John Henderson are among the top candidates.

What to expect: The Raiders likely face some limitations once they get under the cap, but they can add two or three starting-quality players under the right circumstances. Their primary needs are on defense, starting at cornerback and linebacker. The offensive line could be upgraded as well. I think they can be in on the second wave of cornerbacks. A player to watch is New Orleans cornerback Tracy Porter, who previously played for Allen. There are some solid second-tier cornerbacks Oakland could be interested in other than Porter. There will be some good players available on both sides of the ball after the initial wave of free agency for short-term deals. Expect the Raiders to do some bargain picking during that time. I think Oakland will be interested in signing several of its free agents, but I expect Bush and Campbell will leave.

San Diego Chargers

Key free agents: WR Vincent Jackson, C Nick Hardwick, RB Tolbert, DT Antonio Garay, OT Jared Gaither, FB Jacob Hester.

Where they stand: The Chargers will be in decent shape and they are getting even better after cutting Luis Castillo, the retirement of guard Kris Dielman and the expected release of tackle Marcus McNeill. But San Diego still has a lot of work to do. They have the most priority free agents of any team in the division. Signing Jackson, Hardwick, Gaither, Tolbert and Garay will be a challenge.

What to expect: The Chargers will likely stick to their usual plan and concentrate first on their own free agents. But they also have other needs and they will likely spend more in free agency than they have done before under general manager A.J. Smith. I get the sense from some agents that the Chargers may spend wildy in an attempt to win back the fan base’s trust after the unpopular contract extensions for Smith and coach Norv Turner. The pair were brought back even after missing the playoffs for a second consecutive season. I also get the sense from inside the organization, however, that the Chargers will not act out of desperation. Look for the team to consider pass-rushers, nose tackles, safeties and offensive linemen if Hardwick and Gaither aren’t brought back. A receiver will also become a major need if Jackson goes. The Colts' Reggie Wayne could be an option in that case. A running back such as Cadillac Williams (St. Louis) reportedly will be in the mix if Tolbert walks. Soliai could interest the team as well. Chicago special teams ace Corey Graham may also be a target. If the Chargers want to make a huge splash, they could try to get in on Houston pass-rusher Mario Williams, who is widely considered the best player on the market.

Talking with Scott Pioli

February, 24, 2012
2/24/12
5:30
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INDIANAPOLIS -- Kansas City Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli met with the media on Friday afternoon. In addition to talking about the team’s quarterback situation, here are some other highlights:

Pioli said the Chiefs’ three injured stars -- running back Jamaal Charles, safety Eric Berry and tight end Tony Moeaki -- are on schedule to be ready for training camp. All three suffered torn ACLs in their knees in September. Pioli said there aren’t any guarantees that all three will be ready for camp, but the team feels good about each player’s progress.

Pioli said that he thinks this is a strong draft overall, and he really likes the running backs. I expect the Chiefs to look at a running back fairly early in the draft or in free agency. With Charles coming back from injury and Jackie Battle and Thomas Jones being free agents, the Chiefs will need help there. One possibility, I think, is to sign New England’s Benjarvus Green-Ellis in free agency. Pioli signed him as an undrafted free agent in New England.

Pioli said he believes second-year player Rodney Hudson is ready to start at center or guard. His best bet might be at center. Casey Wiegmann is considering retirement, and the team might be ready to move to Hudson, anyway.

Pioli said 2011 first-round pick Jonathan Baldwin has made progress, and is expected to be a contributor in 2012.

Pioli reiterated that he wants to keep receiver Dwayne Bowe and cornerback Brandon Carr, who are headed for free agency. With the Chiefs signing cornerback Stanford Routt this week, the odds of Carr coming back have lessened considerably.

Pioli said he was “heartbroken” to see college scouting director Phil Emery leave to become the Bears’ general manager. Pioli praised Emery extensively and said he will make the city of Chicago proud.
NFL Free agency starts four weeks from today. We will be discussing possibilities often leading up to it.

Recently, I received a mailbag question from David G. of Topeka, who asked if I think New England free-agent running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis would be a good fit in Kansas City.

Green-Ellis
Yes, David, I do. I could easily see The Law Firm practicing in Kansas City in 2012. The Chiefs will likely be looking for a running back to pair with Jamaal Charles, who is coming back from a torn ACL he suffered in Week 2. Veteran Thomas Jones likely won’t be brought back and while Jackie Battle likely could have a future in Kansas City, an upgrade may be needed.

A Charles-Green-Ellis pairing would work well in Kansas City. Green-Ellis, 5-11, 215 pounds, is a reliable, solid back. While Charles is a game breaker, Green-Ellis is the type who can wear down a defense and set up Charles. Green-Ellis, 26, had 667 yards on 181 carries and he scored 11 touchdowns. In 2010, Green-Ellis had 1,008 yards and 13 touchdowns.

I asked Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. if he thought Green-Ellis would be a good fit in Kansas City, and he was a fan of the notion.

“Yeah, I like that,” Williamson said. “He is far from spectacular and he has very little big-play flair, but BJGE is very reliable and tough. He’s a big-bodied running back to complement what Jamaal Charles brings to the table.”

Also, don’t discount the New England connection here. Kansas City general manager Scott Pioli was in New England when it signed Green-Ellis as an undrafted free agent. He played with Kansas City quarterback Matt Cassel in his rookie year in New England.

The Chiefs have $62 million in salary-cap room and will be able to do a lot of things. Giving Charles a solid backfield partner like Green-Ellis would be an affordable, smart move by Kansas City.

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