AFC West: Bobby Engram

Posted by’s Bill Williamson

DENVER -- Let’s catch up on some division notes before Monday night’s game:

Cornerback Jack Williams was awarded to Detroit on waivers. Denver cut the second-year player Saturday to make room for veteran cornerback Ty Law. Williams played in every game this season. Williams was popular on the waiver wire. Cleveland, Indianapolis and Philadelphia all put a claim in for him. Detroit was awarded him based on record.

Oakland signed defensive lineman William Joseph and cut guard Paul McQuistan.

Receiver Bobby Engram cleared waivers after being cut by Kansas City.

The Chargers have announced that Sunday’s game against Philadelphia has been sold out.

Kansas City coach Todd Haley addressed the release of running back Larry Johnson in a video.

The Raiders are entering the second half of the season in good health.

Evening AFC West news and notes

November, 7, 2009
Posted by’s Bill Williamson

Kansas City activated running back Kolby Smith off the physically unable to perform list as expected. Smith should get some action Sunday against Jacksonville as he backs up Jamaal Charles. Charles is starting due to a one-game suspension being served by Larry Johnson.

Should Charles and/or Smith play well against Jacksonville, Johnson’s role with the team could lessen.

To make room for Smith, Kansas City waived veteran receiver Bobby Engram. Engram was signed in the offseason to be a veteran leader, but he had little impact. Engram, 36, played in five games and had just five catches this season.
  • Ty Law may play Monday against Pittsburgh, 48 hours after signing with Denver.
  • Denver defensive lineman Ryan McBean was ruled out of the Pittsburgh game with a knee injury. LeKevin Smith will start in his place.
  • Oakland had a visit with defensive lineman William Joseph on Friday. Joseph has bounced on and off the Raiders’ roster this year.
Posted by’s Bill Williamson

The Kansas City Chiefs latest search for a productive veteran wide receiver began in San Diego on Monday.

The Chargers surprised the league by cutting veteran receiver Chris Chambers, one day after he was demoted as a starter after a sluggish start to the season. Because of a healthy contract, Chambers, 31, was only expected to garner waiver interest from a contender. But the odds were on him becoming a free agent.

Yet, Kansas City, near the top of the waiver priority list thanks to their 1-6 record, jumped at the chance to add Chambers. Looking at the recent history of the Chiefs, it's not a surprise the team added Chambers, who until a year or so ago was considered one of the better possession receivers in the league.

Under new general manager Scott Pioli and new coach Todd Haley, the team has marched several veteran receivers into town, including Amani Toomer, Ashley Lelie, Bobby Engram and Bobby Wade, in recent months. Only Wade and Engram remain on the roster.

Chambers is probably the best of Kansas City’s veteran receiver additions. While he has lost speed, he should be decent No. 2 receiver to Dwayne Bowe and give quarterback Matt Cassel some much-needed help.

A change of scenery from San Diego could serve Chambers well. Chambers believes he may have been cut partly because of a personal issue. If he can regain some of his ability, this will be a good move for the Chiefs. At the very least, he’ll be in the Chiefs’ rotation.

The Chargers also will benefit from Kansas City claiming Chambers, who’ll be a free agent at the end of the season. The Chiefs have taken on the remaining portion of Chambers’ $4.55 million salary by claiming him. San Diego would have been on the hook for the salary had Chambers not been claimed.

Sources: Chiefs may sign Toomer

August, 3, 2009

Posted by's Bill Williamson

The Kansas City Chiefs are leaning toward signing veteran receiver Amani Toomer, according to two NFL sources.

Toomer could be signed as soon as Tuesday if the Chiefs follow through their current thinking, the sources said. Toomer was one of three veteran receivers Kansas City worked out Monday as their early training-camp work showed the team they may need more help for new quarterback Matt Cassel.

Kansas City also looked at receivers D.J. Hackett and David Terrell. Toomer is the most accomplished of the three. Despite the fact that he will turn 35 next month, Toomer can still be productive. He had 48 catches for the Giants last season, which was his 13th with the club.

Adding Toomer would be similar to what the Chiefs are doing on defense: Loading up on veteran leadership. With the core of the Kansas City roster on the young side, new general manager Scott Pioli and head coach Todd Haley, are adding leadership at key spots. The team has added linebackers Zach Thomas and Mike Vrabel and safety Mike Brown. All three players are known leaders.

Earlier this offseason, the Chiefs signed veteran receiver Bobby Engram. Toomer would likely play a similar role and give Cassel another steady hand to play with. Toomer is not going to burn teams with his speed, but he will come up with some solid plays and he can help this team take the next step.

He has a reputation as being a leader who helps young players. He has 668 career catches and a Super Bowl ring to show his young teammates if he ends up in Kansas City. He is less than two years removed from winning a Super Bowl (over Pioli's Patriots). That type of veteran experience can only help.

If the Chiefs get this deal done, it won't make them an instant playoff contender. But it will be another positive step made by the new regime.

AFC West mailbag

July, 25, 2009

Posted by's Bill Williamson

Weekend mail call:

Leialoha from San Diego wants to know if Matt Cassel's contract will impact Philip Rivers' negotiations with the Chargers.

Bill Williamson: Cassel's huge contract - he will get paid more than $40 million guaranteed in three years - was surely noted by Rivers and his agents. He is due to be a free agent after this season. He and the Chargers have chatted some about a deal, but from what I hear, there is nothing on the horizon. There is plenty of time and if a deal isn't finalized by next year, he will, in all likelihood, end up being given the franchise tag by San Diego. I wouldn't be surprised if both the Chargers and Rivers' agents are waiting to see what kind of extension Eli Manning may get from the Giants before doing anything. While getting Rivers extended is surely a priority for the Chargers, there is plenty of time before a decision has to be made.

John from Shingle Springs, Ca. is not happy that the NFL draft will be a three-day affair now and the first round will be shown in prime time in the East Coast on a Thursday night. John believes a West Coast bias may be at work.

BW: You make an interesting point, John. Look, the NFL and television networks are going to do what they think is best for coverage and revenue. The NFL draft has become a major attraction for television. So, clearly, the powers that be believe making it a prime-time affair during the week is a good move. But I feel your pain. I think your only choice is to skip out of work early once a year on a Thursday afternoon. Or move to the East Coast, of course. Good luck. Hang in there.

Big J in Sacramento wants to know if the Chiefs still have time to make a run at Arizona receiver Anquan Boldin.

BW: It's never too late. But the Boldin saga has been going on for a long long time. I am not sure there is any reason to believe that there will be a break now. If anything happens, it will likely result in Boldin signing a long-term contract with the Cardinals, taking him off the market. I don't think the Chiefs can count on getting Boldin. Kansas City will probably go into the season with Dwayne Bowe, Bobby Engram and Mark Bradley as their top veteran receivers.

Posted by's Bill Williamson

Let's rank the offenses in the AFC West.

In making our decision, we considered every aspect of the unit. We took into account the passing game, the running game, blocking and coaching. Here is how we saw it:

  Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images
  The Chargers' offense runs through Philip Rivers.
San Diego: The Chargers, by far, have the best offense in the division. It is a complete unit. San Diego has a ton of weapons and can win games either in the air or on the ground.

Of course, it all starts with quarterback Philip Rivers. Rivers, 27, is emerging as one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL after three seasons as a starter. He threw for 4,009 yards last season.

His top targets are tight end Antonio Gates, who remains a premier player at his position, and receiver Vincent Jackson. A big receiver, Jackson is a deep threat who has a penchant for making big plays in important games.

Rivers works well in Norv Turner's system. Turner might have his detractors based on his work as a head coach, but his prowess as an offensive coach cannot be denied. Rivers has made strides under Turner.

The Chargers' run game is also top notch, even though superstar running back LaDainian Tomlinson is showing signs of decline. Still, Tomlinson, who turned 30 in June, has to be counted as a 1,100-plus yard rusher until he proves he can no longer produce. His backup, Darren Sproles, is a key.

The diminutive Sproles is a terrific change-of-pace back who has proven he can help win games when Tomlinson is out. Expect to see Sproles get more carries this season as Turner tries to utilize both running backs.

San Diego's offensive line isn't as strong as it was a couple of years ago, but if the unit can stay healthy and rookie Louis Vasquez can come along at guard, it should be fine.

Overall, this is a strong group and the best offense in a division that is fairly decent on that side of the ball.

(Read full post)

AFC West mailbag

June, 3, 2009
Posted by's Bill Williamson

Mid-week mail call:

David from San Diego wants to know what position Denver second-year player Spencer Larsen will play in 2009.

BW: In an interview with the Broncos' website on Tuesday, Larsen said he is preparing to play both fullback and linebacker this season as he did last season. He played both offense and defense last season. He started a game in Atlanta in November on both sides of the ball. Larsen is a tough player, who can make plays on both sides of the ball. I could see the new Denver coaching staff deciding to put Larsen exclusively at either fullback or at linebacker at some point. But until then, Larsen will be put in a position to help the team on both sides of the ball.

James from Upper Marlboro, MD wants to know if who'll be the Chiefs' top receivers this season.

BW: A lot will be expected from Dwayne Bowe, of course. After that, the Chiefs will be looking or players to emerge. The team hopes free-agent signee Bobby Engram can stay healthy and make an impact. He is a good fit for Todd Haley's offense, so he will be given a chance. Holdover Mark Bradley, who played well after signing with the team during last season, could also be a possibility. I wouldn't be surprised if the Chiefs continue to look for receiving help as the season approaches.

Greg wants to know the status of Drew Carter in Oakland.

BW: Carter is a free agent. The Raiders had high hopes for Carter but his history of knee injuries resurfaces last summer and he was lost for the year. Carter tailed off in training camp after starting off hot. He was considered a perfect fit for Oakland because of his great speed. Now, though, he remains unsigned. I'd think if Oakland wanted him back, it would have signed him already. Perhaps if Carter can show he is healthy down the road, Oakland could revisit the idea.

Posted by's Bill Williamson

With free agency mostly in the books and the draft approaching, we take a look at three reasons for optimism and three reasons for pessimism for each of the AFC West teams.

Denver Broncos

Three reasons to be optimistic

  • The safeties are better. Veteran free-agent signees Brian Dawkins and Renaldo Hill give instant improvement to one of the worst groups of safeties in the NFL last season.
  • Mike Nolan should help. The former San Francisco head coach should improve a defense that has been awful for the past two years. Nolan is changing the team's scheme to a 3-4 defense.
  • There are plenty of running backs. The Broncos signed veterans Correll Buckhalter, J.J. Arrington and LaMont Jordan. They all should play a role.

Three reasons to be pessimistic

  • The Jay Cutler trade. This is not a good situation for anyone and it certainly is not the ideal way for new coach Josh McDaniels to begin his NFL head-coaching career.
  • The Brandon Marshall situation may not be good. After another arrest on domestic violence charges, which were ultimately dropped, Marshall could be facing a league suspension.
  • The defensive line hasn't improved. The unit isn't very strong and significant improvements have yet to be made. If Denver's defense is going to improve, the defensive front needs to improve.

Kansas City Chiefs

Three reasons to be optimistic

  • The new leadership. New general manager Scott Pioli is respected around the league and new coach Todd Haley has gotten good reviews.
  • The Chiefs got their quarterback. Matt Cassel gives Kansas City a quarterback the team's leadership is comfortable with for the long term.
  • Receiving depth. The signing of veteran Bobby Engram gives the Chiefs a good option in the receiving game. Haley's offense revolves around his receivers, so this could be a good move.

Three reasons to be pessimistic

  • The Chiefs have done very little to improve their pass rush. Kansas City set an NFL record a year ago for fewest sacks in a season (10).
  • Despite having about $50 million in salary-cap room, the Chiefs haven't added many impact players beyond Cassel, Engram and linebacker Mike Vrabel. Most of Kansas City's additions have been lesser-name, system players.
  • There is uncertainty. It is still unknown if veterans Tony Gonzalez, Larry Johnson and Brian Waters will return.

Oakland Raiders

Three reasons to be optimistic

  • The stars have returned. The Raiders have re-signed cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha and punter Shane Lechler to record contracts for their positions. Both were prospective free agents.
  • The team made offensive line additions, signing tackle Khalif Barnes and trading for center Samson Satele to improve one of the team's weakest areas.
  • The Raiders won their final two games under then-interim coach Tom Cable. The enthusiastic Cable has taken over on a permanent basis and has vowed to bring stability to the program.

Three reasons to be pessimistic

  • There haven't been many big additions to the team. Other than keeping their own players and signing the two offensive linemen, there hasn't been much change for Oakland.
  • There are still big receiver questions. The team will definitely need to draft a top receiving option.
  • The defensive line needs improvement. This problem area has yet to be addressed.

San Diego Chargers

Three reasons to be optimistic

  • They have the best roster in the division. Even though San Diego didn't make many moves, it still has top talent.
  • The running backs were kept. San Diego restructured the contract of Pro Bowl running back LaDainian Tomlinson and franchised backup Darren Sproles. The two can be a deadly pair.
  • The Kevin Burnett signing. The usually free-agency shy Chargers did sign Burnett, an inside linebacker from Dallas. He is expected to help on third down.

Three reasons to be pessimistic

  • The team needs a defensive end. Igor Olshansky signed with Dallas as a free agent and the team could use a replacement.
  • A strong safety is needed. The team tried to sign Tampa Bay's Jermaine Phillips, but he re-signed with the Buccaneers. Safety will be an area of need in the draft.
  • The offensive line. The Chargers still may be an offensive lineman, right tackle or guard away from having a solid blocking crew.

AFC West mailbag

March, 18, 2009

Posted by's Bill Williamson

Mid-week mail call:

Chris from Brooklyn: Bill, have you seen my Broncos' list of opponents for next season? Outside of our division opponents we will be facing teams including the Giants, Patriots, Colts, Steelers, Ravens, Eagles, and Cowboys. With this fiasco that is the McDaniels/Cutler feud and our schedule next season, what are your predictions for our record next season? At this point, assuming Cutler gets traded, I'm HOPING for 6-10. It's never too early, right?

BW: You're right, Chris. This is not an easy schedule. If the Broncos don't have Cutler and they have a stop-gap or a green quarterback and the defense doesn't improve greatly, it could be a long year in the Rocky Mountains.

Andrew from Kansas City: If you were on the KC Chiefs P.R. staff, what would you tell Chiefs fans so that they would want to support the team in 2009 and buy tickets?

BW: I'd tell them it's a new era with a new coaching staff and new leadership. Plus, Matt Cassel is an exciting new quarterback. There is plenty to be excited about in Kansas City. Are the Chiefs a contender? No, probably not, but they are trying to get better.

Mike from West Des Moines: Hi Bill! I love the blog! I am curious what is going on with Dre Bly and Jamie Winborn in free agency. I thought with the way Winborn played last year he would have signed with someone by now. Do you have any updates? Thanks!

BW: Winborn has visited Tennessee and I haven't heard anything about Bly. One of the reasons why Denver cut these two players is neither are high-caliber players any longer they are role players.

Chris from San Diego: Hey Bill, if the Chargers draft a running back in the first round, do you think it would cause some tension between LT and upper management? Some mock drafts are still suggesting that is possible.

BW: It could, sure. But Tomlinson is here on a year-by-year basis at this point. If he continues to get hurt at key times and his production dips, he will likely not be in town in 2010 whether San Diego drafts a running back in the first round or not.

Denver via KC: Hey Bill, love your stuff! Do you think there is any chance that my beloved "re-building" Chiefs will go and try to get Roy Williams since he was freshly cut from the Boys'? We all know that Bowe and Gonzo could use some serious help... and for that matter so could Cassell. The Chiefs have plenty of cap space and haven't really made that much of a splash in FA. I know there have been rumors of Bobby Engram, Tory Holt, and Marvin Harrison - but they are all pretty well used up - What are the chances that they try to give LJ and a pick or two to Arizona for Boldin? We have all seen how much Pioli likes dealing with his old team, maybe Haley will do the same... Thanks a lot, Collin

BW: Thank you, maybe on Williams. He is still out there and the team could use a safety. But it isn't one of the Chiefs' greatest needs. As for Boldin, we'll see. It could make sense but Engram has been signed and veteran Marty Booker could also be on the way to complement No. 1 receiver Dwayne Bowe.

Could Booker be next in KC?

March, 17, 2009

Posted by's Bill Williamson

Now that the Kansas City Chiefs have secured Bobby Engram to be the No. 2 receiver or No. 3 receiver, here is another name to remember if the Chiefs are going to pursue another veteran wide receiver: Marty Booker.

Booker, who is available after being cut by Chicago, was developed in Chicago under new Kansas City coach Todd Haley early in this decade. Booker became a big-play threat under Haley and the two had a close relationship.

Plus, Booker could probably be had close to the league minimum and would be a worthy investment. Haley loved multiple receiver sets as the offensive coordinator in Arizona and new Kansas City quarterback Matt Cassel benefitted from triple-receiver sets while in New England.

So the Chiefs can use all the established receivers they can get. Kansas City is in a rebuilding mode, but it needs savvy veterans at key places. A veteran such as Booker, who has a history with Haley, just might be the type of player Kansas City pursues.

Posted by's Bill Williamson

The Kansas City Chiefs have salary cap room and needs on both sides of the ball.

Yet, aside from a trade early in the free agency period that netted quarterback Matt Cassel and linebacker Mike Vrabel, the Chiefs were quiet. Kansas City's free agent signings were mostly little-known bottom-of-the-roster types.

Tuesday, however, Kansas City got busy.

The Chefs signed receiver Bobby Engram, linebacker Monty Beisel, and receiver Terrance Copper, who will fight to make the roster.

The signing of Engram and Beisel won't rival the additions of Cassel and Vrabel in terms of impact but both should be decent role players.

Engram could battle for the No. 2 receiver spot if he stays healthy, or be a top backup. He has 113 starts in 13 NFL seasons. He has 645 careers catches, including 94 in 2007. He was injured often in 2008. He will be a reliable target for Cassel.

Beisel started his career in 2001 in Kansas City and stayed for four seasons. He has 19 career starts in eight seasons. He could vie for a starting role on a weak Kansas City linebackers unit but most likely will be a backup and a special teams player.

Beisel has ties to the Chiefs' new management. He played in New England in 2005 under new Chiefs' general manager Scott Pioli. He was in Arizona the past three years. He played there for new Chiefs' coach Todd Haley and new Kansas City defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast.

Copper played in Dallas when Haley was the receivers coach.

Meanwhile, San Diego free agent Mike Goff visited the Chiefs on Tuesday. The Chargers are not going to bring Goff back but he could start in Kansas City.

AFC West mailbag

March, 7, 2009

Posted by's Bill Williamson

Bill from Hampton, VA: Bill, Do you think the Chargers will make any big moves during free agency or are they okay with letting every team in the AFC west better themselves while they field last year's team?

BW: It doesn't look like it at this point. Most of the big names are accounted for. The Chargers have talked to a few players but nothing major has happened. The front office likes the roster and it feels it can make some improvements through the draft.

Ryan from Lincoln, NE: Hi Bill, Love the blog and your coverage of the division. Do you think the chiefs could benefit from signing a veteran wide receiver and if so which available players do you think would be a good fit?

BW: Thanks, Ryan. They are talking to Bobby Engram, so he may be the player the team is most focusing on at receiver.

San Jose: Hey bill i'am a huge raider fan what do you think about signing tank johnson and go after a hard hitting safety by trading fargas and draft picks? and do you see the raiders makeing any other moves in the free agency?

BW: The Raiders have Gerard Warren and Tommy Kelly, but Johnson could fit if he can be had at a bargain price. It looks like Fargas is staying, though, after redoing his contract.

Sacramento: Bill, love your blogs and coverage on the AFC West. Does it seem to you that Josh McDaniels is focusing more on bringing in his New England buddies versus bringing in marquee talent? Gaffney? Jordan? How many more RB's does Denver need? Cassel over Cutler? C'mon!!

BW: Yes, he does seem to be relying on his New England ties. I'm with you. I don't think Lonie Paxton is a major upgrade over Mike Leach at long snapper and I don't think Cassel would be an upgrade over Cutler.

Mike from Denver: Bill, love the blog man!! Who needs NFL Network when we have you! After his comments recently about being out of Baltimore, could you see Matt Stover coming in to Denver to replace Prater? Prater has a hell of a leg but could never seem to find a rhythm inside of 30 yards - Stover would be a veteran presence that could be counted on it tight spots and Denver has the cap room.

BW: Thanks for the kind words, Mike. From what I gather is Denver wants to have competition for Prater in training camp and not replace him yet. So an experienced kicker like Stover may not be interested in coming into a situation where he would have to compete for a job.

Kansas City: I know Matt Cassel was able to put up some pretty respectable stats with Patriots for his first year on the job. But, do you really think he will be successful with the Chiefs? I mean, Does he make the Superstar-caliber throws? I was reading an article that said that he was a system quarterback just like Thigpen-- He doesn't have the arm strength to play under center and he throws erratically sometimes. Plus, he played well with a juggernaut O-line and Randy Moss in New England. But, Kansas City is a different story about the O-line, but I could see a great duo in Dwayne Bowe and Cassel. I just want to know if in the future, he can develope to become in same league as guys like Brady, Manning (both), Brees, Warner, and Rivers. So give me your thoughts please.

BW: I do expect Cassel to have success in Kansas City. He may not be great, but the team will build its system around him and give him a chance to succeed. Don't expect miracles but expect Cassel to do a nice job as the Chiefs' quarterback.

Posted by's Bill Williamson

The San Diego Union-Tribune reports San Diego running back LaDainian Tomlinson said Wednesday night that he is optimistic that he and the Chargers will come to an agreement on a restructured contract.

Still, Tomlinson said he realizes the NFL is a business. It seems that Tomlinson is preparing himself for whatever happens. But he remains hopeful to stay in San Diego. The two sides have been trying to come to an agreement for several days.

Meanwhile, Oakland is still pursuing Buffalo center Duke Preston.

The Oakland Tribune has a transcript of Oakland coach Tom Cable's press briefing today regarding linebacker Marquis Cooper, who is missing at sea.

The Raiders are visiting with Khalif Barnes, an athletic tackle who the team has been considering signing for days. There could be movement on the Barnes front in Oakland on Thursday. The team is concentrating on Barnes and not Pittsburgh's Marvel Smith at this point.

The Raiders and Chargers are both vying for the services of Dallas linebacker Kevin Burnett, who could make a decision on where he'll play at any time.

Even though Seattle receiver Bobby Engram departed Kansas City without a contract, the two sides could still make a deal.

AFC West news and notes

March, 3, 2009

Posted by's Bill Williamson

With the Broncos trying to mend fences with starting quarterback Jay Cutler, the team is reportedly going to visit with Titans quarterback Chris Simms.

Simms would be brought in as Cutler's backup. The team is not going to re-sign Patrick Ramsey, who was Cutler's backup the past two years. New Denver coach Josh McDaniels must feel that Simms fits his system well.

The word out of San Diego is that the Chargers and the agents for LaDainian Tomlinson are still chugging away at a restructured contract that would keep Tomlinson in town but there is no timetable for a decision.

The Raiders re-signed guard Cooper Carlisle and tight end Tony Stewart. Re-signing Carlisle was big for Oakland. Many thought Carlisle was the team's best lineman last season and he was being courted by other teams. Oakland is looking at several other linemen as well, including Buffalo's Duke Preston.

The Kansas City Star reports receiver Bobby Engram has left his visit with the Chiefs without a contract and that the team is looking at linebacker Clark Haggans. The linebacker would be a nice addition for the team that needs a ton of defensive help.

Defensive tackle Grady Jackson is close to joining Detroit. Denver had an interest in him.

Buffalo has agreed to terms with cornerback Drayton Florence. San Diego was considering signing him.

Former Broncos running back Ron Dayne is looking for a job after mending from an injury last year.

Posted by's Bill Williamson

The NFL Network is reporting that former Seattle receiver Bobby Engram is visiting Kansas City. The Chiefs have been very quiet in free agency despite a truckload of salary-cap room.

Engram would likely vie for the No. 2 or No. 3 receiving job in Kansas City and be eased into new coach Todd Haley's system.

Meanwhile, the Chiefs have added two more coaches to Haley's staff.

The team has hired former Denver special-teams coach Ronnie Bradford to be a defensive assistant and Nick Sirianni as the offensive quality control coach. This is Sirianni's first NFL coaching job.