AFC West: Brad Cottam

Chiefs ink Jonathan Baldwin

July, 29, 2011
7/29/11
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The Kansas City Chiefs have announced they have signed receiver Jon Baldwin. The Pitt receiver was the No. 26 overall pick.

Baldwin is expected to star opposite Dwayne Bowe. Baldwin is a vertical threat that the team has high hopes for. He can start practicing immediately.

The Chiefs have upgraded their passing game with the addition of Baldwin and slot receiver Steve Breaston. The former Arizona receiver agreed to terms earlier this week.

Baldwin is the second 2011 first-round pick to sign in the AFC West. Denver’s Von Miller signed Thursday. Only San Diego’s Corey Liuget remains unsigned. Oakland signed its top pick, Stefen Wisniewski, and the rest of its draft class. Third-round pick Justin Houston is the Chiefs’ lone remaining unsigned draft pick.

Meanwhile, the Chiefs released 2008 third-round pick Brad Cottam. He suffered a serious vertebra injury in 2009 and he couldn’t come back from it.

In other AFC West nuggets on a predictably busy Friday:

ESPN’s John Clayton reports that the Broncos have more cap room than expected.

It doesn’t look like the Broncos are going to end up with Seattle defensive tackle Brandon Mebane. I don’t think Denver wanted to give him the big money he wanted.

The Broncos are reportedly one of five teams that are trying to secure Houston standout fullback Vonta Leach. He has made it know he wants to stay with the Texans.

Evening AFC West notes

May, 5, 2011
5/05/11
8:50
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In a conference call with some Kansas City Chiefs’ season-ticket holders, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and Chiefs’ owner Clark Hunt talked about the importance of parity in the NFL.
    • The Denver Post gives Broncos’ fans a chance to get to know second-round pick, UCLA safety Rahim Moore.
    • It looks like tight end Brad Cottam is going to attempt a comeback in Kansas City after missing last season with a neck injury. Why else would he be working out with his teammates?
    • San Diego kicker Nate Kaeding is working out with several other kicking specialists in California during the lockout.

    2008 AFC West draft rewind

    February, 4, 2011
    2/04/11
    12:00
    PM ET
    On the next three Fridays we will present a three-part series examining the past three draft classes of each AFC West team leading up to the NFL Scouting combine at the end of the month.

    Our first part is the 2008 class:

    Denver

    First pick: No. 12, left tackle, Ryan Clady

    Total picks: 9

    Stars: Clady is the standout of this class. He is one of the NFL’s best left tackles and one of the prizes of Denver’s roster as it begins the John Fox era. Receiver Eddie Royal had a great rookie season under Mike Shanahan in 2008 and bounced back with a positive third season after a sluggish 2009 season. There’s still time for him to be a consistent, quality NFL receiver.

    Duds: There are no players on this list that stand out as being terrible value picks. However, that doesn’t mean this was a productive draft for the long haul.

    Not much left: Shanahan’s final draft class in Denver was one of his best. Denver got great production out of this class in 2008. But once he came to Denver in January 2009, Shanahan’s replacement, Josh McDaniels, had no interest in moving forward with many of Shanahan’s players. McDaniels jettisoned running backs Peyton Hillis and Ryan Torain, center Kory Lichtensteiger and cornerback Jack Williams. They all caught on elsewhere and Hillis -- who showed signs of stardom under Shanahan -- has become a star in Cleveland. Promising safety Josh Barrett was lost on waivers because McDaniels didn’t follow normal protocol when the player was put on the injured reserve.

    What’s the future of this class? Fox doesn’t have much to work with. Only fullback Spencer Larsen, Clady and Royal remain. They are three good players, but this class had so much promise.

    Kansas City

    First pick: No. 5, defensive lineman, Glenn Dorsey

    Total picks: 12

    Stars: Dorsey, left tackle Branden Albert, cornerback Brandon Flowers, running back Jamaal Charles, cornerback Brandon Carr and right tackle Barry Richardson all were key players on the Chiefs’ first AFC West championship team in seven years in 2010.

    Duds: There were really not any major whiffs on this list. Third-round pick, tight end Brad Cottam, had dealt with a serious neck injury, but he was showing signs of becoming a decent player before his injury.

    The Jared Allen payoff: Albert and Charles were drafted with pieces obtained in the Allen trade with Minnesota. Losing Allen was difficult, but the Chiefs wanted to reload and spend the money it would take to secure Allen. Kansas City received two very good players in the trade. Charles and Albert are the type of talents that can help Kansas City for the much of this decade.

    What’s the future of this class? This was the final class of the Carl Peterson era, and it was a good one. A big reason why the Scott Pioli-Todd Haley era looks bright is this class. I’ve heard some league observers say this class was one of the best of its decade. I’m not sure if that will pan out, but if the Chiefs continue to grow as an organization, the 2008 class will be seen as a nucleus draft. It was the best class in the AFC West in 2008.

    Oakland

    First pick: No. 4, running back, Darren McFadden

    Total picks: 5

    Stars: McFadden is the centerpiece of this class. After an injury-plagued two-year start to his NFL career, McFadden became the player he was expected to be when Oakland took him. The former Arkansas star was one of the NFL’s most dynamic running backs in 2010. He is very versatile, and he is a matchup headache. He’s a bright spot for this organization. Safety Tyvon Branch has a nice future. He was better in 2009 than in 2010, but he’s a keeper. Pass-rusher Trevor Scott (sixth round) and receiver Chaz Schilens (seventh round) have potential to be good players.

    Duds: McFadden was in danger of being known as a bust, but that notion is off the table. The only pick from this class not on the roster is receiver Arman Shields. He never played for Oakland and that hurt because he was a fourth-round pick, but it wasn’t a colossal loss.

    Hall trade hurt: The Raiders gave up second- and fifth-round picks to Atlanta for cornerback DeAngelo Hall. He played eight games in Oakland before the Raiders shocked the league and cut him because of a sluggish start. That second-round pick would have been nice to keep around.

    What’s the future of this class? It could end up being a dandy even though it was such a small class. McFadden looks like a star. If Branch can make strides and if Scott and Schilens can become reliable contributors, this will end up being a solid class.

    San Diego

    First pick: No. 28, cornerback, Antoine Cason

    Total picks: 5

    Stars: Cason is the best of this small, uninspiring class. Cason started for the first time in 2010 and showed great promise. He took over for the traded Antonio Cromartie. The assignment wasn’t too big for Cason at all.

    Duds: The worst part of this class is that there just wasn't enough that came out of it. Only Cason and fullback/special teams player Jacob Hester are still with the team. The other three picks, taken in the fifth, sixth and seventh rounds, never made any contribution.

    Was Hester worth it? San Diego traded a second-round pick in 2009 and a fifth-round pick in 2008 to take Hester with the No. 69 pick of the draft. San Diego general manager A.J. Smith said at the time that Hester was a longtime target. He replaced Michael Turner, who went to free agency. Hester hasn’t developed into a consistent rushing threat. But he plays often and he has a role on the team. The development of 2008 undrafted rookie Mike Tolbert has limited Hester’s role.

    What’s the future of this class? The Chargers will have to hope Cason sticks around as a long-term starter. That way, San Diego could be getting something from this class. This, overall, was the worst class of the division in 2008. Saving this class are undrafted players Tolbert, who could soon get a lucrative new deal from the team, and offensive lineman Brandyn Dombrowski, who provides valuable depth.
    When he was taken in the third round in 2008, the Kansas City Chiefs had high hopes for tight end Brad Cottam.

    But the blocking tight end never truly established himself in his first two seasons and he likely won’t play in his third. The Chiefs put him on the reserve/physically unable-to-perform list, which likely ends his season. He broke his neck in Week 15 during a game against Cleveland. Cottam didn’t practice in the offseason program. The Chiefs’ top tight ends now are Leonard Pope and rookie Tony Moeaki, who the coaching staff has high hopes for.

    Meanwhile, ESPN’s Adam Schefter is reporting that the Chiefs and No. 5 overall pick Eric Berry may be closing in on a deal.

    Oakland receiver Chaz Schilens left the afternoon practice and did not return. He was seen walking into the team’s field house several minutes later and he didn’t have an apparent limp or any other issue. The team said they had no word on Schilens’ status. He missed eight games last year with a broken foot and had offseason surgery.

    Former Dallas tackle Flozell Adams signed with Pittsburgh. He previously visited Denver, but the Broncos never pursued him any further. The Broncos were looking at Adams as a potential issuance policy for Ryan Clady, who is recovering from a knee injury and who may miss some time at the start of the season.

    Going back to school

    February, 11, 2010
    2/11/10
    2:05
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    Seven AFC West players are among the 77 players who will participate in the NFL’s Business Management and Entrepreneurial Program this spring.

    The program started five years ago to give players business-school experience during their players days to help prepare them for their post-football life. The session will be held next week.

    The AFC West players going to participate in the program at the Harvard Business school are Denver’s Brandon Gorin, Spencer Larsen and LeKevin Smith and Kansas City’s Brad Cottam, Corey Mays and Kolby Smith. Kansas City receiver Bobby Wade will attend the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

    AFC West training camp preview

    July, 24, 2009
    7/24/09
    11:00
    AM ET

    Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

    Division Camp Previews
    Tuesday: NFC North | AFC North
    Wednesday: NFC East | AFC East
    Thursday: NFC South | AFC South
    Friday: NFC West | AFC West

    MORE
    Camp battles: AFC | NFC

    Schedule: Training camp dates

    Denver Broncos
    Training camp site: Englewood, Colo.

    Campfires: A key to camp will be how well rookie running back Knowshon Moreno adjusts. The Broncos drafted him with the No. 12 overall pick because they wanted him to have a major role in the offense. Denver coach Josh McDaniels envisions Moreno as a three-down back. Even though Denver is deep at running back, Moreno wasn't drafted to be a complementary piece.

    The Broncos' offense is changing and the Georgia product can be the centerpiece of the unit if he has a strong camp. Moreno was impressive in the offseason and Denver wants to see him lock down a starting job in camp.

    The Broncos want to see second-round pick Alphonso Smith take command of the nickel cornerback job. The team sent its first-round pick in next year's draft to Seattle to acquire Smith with the No. 37 pick. He failed to solidify the nickel spot in the offseason, battling with second-year player Jack Williams for the job. Expect the playmaking Smith to pull away from Williams as camp marches on.

     
      Ron Chenoy/US Presswire
      Knowshon Moreno could become the workhorse in Denver's offense if he has a good camp.

    Camp will be a downer if ... starting quarterback Kyle Orton doesn't make strides in McDaniels' system. McDaniels picked Orton to be his first quarterback in Denver after the Jay Cutler fiasco. McDaniels chose Orton over several other options because he thought the former Chicago quarterback could excel in his system.

    Orton was named the starter over Chris Simms in June, partly to give him the most time in training camp with the first team. If Orton doesn't respond well to McDaniels' offense during camp and in the preseason, the Broncos will be quite nervous about their once-solid quarterback position heading into the season.

    Camp will be a success if ... receiver Brandon Marshall doesn't miss any time due to a holdout and is recovered from a late March hip surgery. Marshall has asked to be traded. Yet, he recently said he planned to report to training camp on time -- he is due Monday because he is an injured player -- to avoid being fined.

    If Marshall shows up with a good attitude and doesn't show any wear from the surgery -- as the team expects the case will be -- it will be a positive development after a rocky start to McDaniels' era.

    Aged secondary: There is no doubt Denver improved its secondary this offseason. The unit, which featured seven different starting safeties in 2008, was revamped. Veteran Andre' Goodman will now start opposite left cornerback Champ Bailey, the lone holdover. Veterans Brian Dawkins and Renaldo Hill were brought in at safety.

    This is a solid group. But it is an old group. Dawkins turns 36 in October. Bailey is 31. Goodman will turn 31 next month and Hill will turn 31 in November. It is the oldest secondary in the NFL since at least 2000. The unit may be improved, but it will be interesting to see how this group's legs hold up late in the season.


    Kansas City Chiefs
    Training camp site:
    River Falls, Wis.

    Campfires: The Chiefs will be interested to see how their defensive line, which they have invested so much in, adjusts to the 3-4 alignment that the new regime has installed in Kansas City.

    Former LSU stars Glenn Dorsey and Tyson Jackson are the centerpieces of the line. Dorsey was the No. 5 overall pick in the 2008 draft. Jackson was the No. 3 overall pick this year. Dorsey is a natural 4-3 tackle who will likely be tried at end. Jackson will play end. If Dorsey, who was so-so as a rookie, can make the transition to the 3-4, the Chiefs have a chance for an excellent line. Jackson may not be a dynamic pass-rusher, but he is an excellent run-stuffer and is expected to bring toughness to the line. Both of these former top picks have to show they are ready during camp to bring life to a defense that set an NFL
    record for fewest sacks last season with 10.

    Replacing the legendary Tony Gonzalez, traded to Atlanta in April for a second-round draft choice next year, will be a big part of training camp. Second-year player Brad Cottam may have an edge. He is a blocking specialist. Journeymen Tony Curtis and Sean Ryan should get a chance to show what they can do. Whoever wins the job likely won't be a major part of the passing offense. New coach Todd Haley was not a big proponent of the position as the offensive coordinator in Arizona last season.

     
      Kirby Lee/US Presswire
      Dwayne Bowe has had some problems with hanging on to the ball.

    Camp will be a downer if ... Matt Cassel flops. Cassel is the guy in Kansas City. That became evident when the Chiefs gave him a monster contract earlier this month. Cassel will be paid more than $40 million in guaranteed money in the next three years.

    Cassel was a surprise star for New England last season after he took over for an injured Tom Brady in the first game. The Chiefs, led by new general manager Scott Pioli, who witnessed Cassel's success first hand as a New England executive, are hoping the quarterback can enjoy the same success this year. Still, Cassel has a lot fewer weapons than he had with New England, and he will be working behind a young and unsettled offensive line. If Cassel takes his lumps in camp and in the preseason, the Chiefs may have some buyer's remorse.

    Camp will be a success if ... the team buys into Haley's approach. The Chiefs were shell-shocked as they transitioned to the tough Haley, who was groomed by Bill Parcells. The Chiefs were used to the easy-going ways of Herm Edwards. Haley is much more demanding and harsher than Edwards ever was.

    Haley is a certified screamer and he has expressed this offseason that his team -- which won a total of six games over the past two seasons -- needs to be better in all phases of the game. He also directed a mass weight-loss program because he thought his team was too heavy and too soft. A coach like Haley can either light a fire under a team or alienate it. His first training camp could indicate which way it will go. If the team is behind Haley, the Chiefs' rebuilding period could be shorter than expected.

    Hold onto the ball: Cassel's best weapon is receiver Dwayne Bowe. He is a talented player and has a chance to emerge as one of the best young receivers in the game and team with Cassel as a top pass-catch tandem. However, he needs to learn to catch the ball consistently.

    Bowe needs to work on his hands during camp. He struggled with dropped ball some during the offseason. He has struggled holding onto the ball in the past. While Larry Johnson appears to have some NFL life left, Bowe is the Chiefs' top weapon. If he drops balls during the season, Cassel's job will be even more difficult. Camp has to be a time where Bowe finds his ball-catching groove.


    Oakland Raiders
    Training camp site:
    Napa, Calif.

     
      AP Photo/Paul Sakuma
      The Raiders are hoping first-round pick Darrius Heyward-Bey can shore up their receiving corps.

    Campfires: The Raiders have tried to upgrade an offensive line that has struggled in recent years, especially in pass protection. The team has added several pieces and the situation at tackle will be watched closely.

    The team brought in talented and massive tackle Khalif Barnes as a free agent from Jacksonville to compete on the left side. However, there were indications after the minicamp season that young Mario Henderson was playing well enough to be considered the favorite to win the job over Barnes. Barnes could still be in the mix at right tackle if Henderson wins the job on the left side.

    The Raiders will also need to get some clarity at receiver. The unit has been one of the team's weakest areas for years and the Raiders need some reliable players to emerge during camp. The team is counting on youngsters Chaz Schilens, Johnnie Lee Higgins and Darrius Heyward-Bey. If these young players show they are ready to take the next step, Oakland's offense has a chance to be balanced.

    Camp will be a downer if ... quarterback JaMarcus Russell doesn't make strides. Russell has to show he is ready to be an NFL quarterback this season, and training camp and the preseason will go a long way toward telling whether he is ready to make a move. This is Russell's second full season as a starter. He has had some moments, but he has been mostly inconsistent, including during this offseason.

    Russell will have extra pressure on him in the presence of veteran backup Jeff Garcia. Garcia has not been shy in expressing that he thinks he should be the starter. However, the Raiders will only be masking a problem if Garcia, 39, is the quarterback. If Russell doesn't have a good camp and he doesn't show consistency is his passing and improved leadership, the Raiders will be in a tough spot.

    Camp will be a success if ... the Raiders develop a strong plan on how to use their tailbacks. The Raiders have three solid runners in Darren McFadden, Justin Fargas and Michael Bush. All three players possess rare talents that can help Oakland's offense. The Raiders struggled to use all three well last season.

    Training camp must be used to find a suitable role for all three players. This may be the NFL's deepest running back group if all three stay healt
    hy. The Raiders can find their niche on offense with McFadden, Fargas and Bush. Finding a way to do it has to be a goal of camp.

    Ready or not: All eyes will be on Heyward-Bey, a receiver who was Oakland's first-round pick, and Mike Mitchell, the safety who was Oakland's second-round pick. The selections of both players were roundly criticized on draft day. Heyward-Bey was the first receiver taken at No. 7, but he was considered a low first-round talent. Mitchell was not on the draft board of several teams, yet the hard-hitting Ohio University product was taken with the No. 47 pick.

    The Raiders believe both players can be special and it is clear both players have some skills. Yet, because of the negative hype stemming from their selections, extra pressure will be on both players. Their every move will be watched in camp. Welcome to the NFL, fellas.


    San Diego Chargers
    Training camp site:
    San Diego, Calif.

    Campfires: This camp will be about seeing what a promising rookie class can do in San Diego. For a veteran-based team, there is an intriguing influx of young talent coming to town.

     
      Christopher Hanewinckel/US Presswire
      The Chargers' secondary needs Antonio Cromartie to return to Pro Bowl form in 2009.

    First-round pick Larry English is expected to start right away and be part of an intriguing threesome of pass-rushing linebackers that includes Shawne Merriman and Shaun Phillips. Defensive coordinator Ron Rivera, in his first full season in his role, has been scheming ways all offseason to use all three together. The Chargers believe English is ready to step in and make an impact right away.

    Keep an eye out for two other rookies. Third-round pick Louis Vasquez will be given a chance to emerge as a starter at guard. Sixth-round pick Kevin Ellison will have the same chance at safety. He may have a steeper climb up the depth chart than Vasquez, but the Chargers think Ellison can make an impact as a rookie. The USC product was downgraded in the draft because of injuries, but he is skilled and he is a feared hitter. He could be the answer at one of the Chargers' few weak spots. But he needs to show his ability during camp.

    Camp will be a downer if ... Merriman doesn't make strides from a serious knee injury he suffered last year. Merriman missed all but one game last season.

    The Chargers have been cautiously optimistic about Merriman, but they have been bringing him along slowly. He has been working out on his own and the team will likely be cautious with him during camp. However, Merriman looks fantastic and he reports that he is doing well. The team expects him to be ready for the regular season. The Chargers' entire pass defense missed Merriman last year. If Merriman can't show he is getting ready for the season, the Chargers may be in store for another rocky season on defense.

    Camp will be a success if ... cornerback Antonio Cromartie has a big camp and preseason. Cromartie had a disappointing season in 2008 after being a star in 2007. He suffered with injuries and off-field issues last season. He has worked out very hard this year and the Chargers were thrilled with him during the offseason. If he has a big camp, the Chargers should be in great shape on defense, especially if Merriman doesn't have a setback.

    Is this it for LT? The Chargers and star running back LaDainian Tomlinson nearly parted ways this offseason before agreeing on a restructured new contract. Tomlinson just turned 30. He is coming off an injury-plagued season in which his production slipped.

    He has said often this offseason he feels great. He needs to show he still has the skills that made him one of the greatest running backs in recent memory.

    The Replacements: AFC West

    June, 16, 2009
    6/16/09
    12:00
    PM ET

    Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

    A look at the key loss and his replacement for each team in the division:

    Denver Broncos

    Who's out: Jay Cutler, quarterback, traded to Chicago.

     Cutler
     Orton

    Who's in: Kyle Orton, quarterback, acquired from Chicago.

    Outlook: It would be impossible for Broncos fans to expect Orton to have the same impact that Cutler had. Orton simply isn't as talented as Cutler.

    But in new Denver coach Josh McDaniels' system, the team is confident Orton, who was named Denver's starting quarterback over Chris Simms on Saturday, can manage games and help win games.

    The Replacements
    Tuesday: AFC North | West
    Wednesday: AFC South | East
    Thursday: NFC South | East
    Friday: NFC North | NFC West

    Orton was a decent player in Chicago. Cutler was becoming a great player in Denver before he butted heads with McDaniels. Orton probably never will make the highlight-film plays that Cutler does and he never will amass the passing yardage Cutler does. But McDaniels believes Orton will work well in the system. Denver wants the run to set up the pass and Orton has the best receiving weapons of his career. He may not be fancy and he won't make people forget about Cutler's arm, but Orton has a chance to succeed in Denver because of the system that helped Matt Cassel enjoy fast success in New England last year.

    Kansas City Chiefs

     Gonzalez
     Cottam

    Who's out: Tony Gonzalez, tight end, traded to Atlanta.

    Who's in: Brad Cottam, tight end.

    Outlook: Cottam will have some competition, including journeymen Sean Ryan and Tony Curtis. But the team likes Cottam, who was a third-round pick last year. The thing is, Cottam is more of a blocking tight end and will not remind anyone of Gonzalez, who is the greatest receiving tight end of all time.

    But Cottam will get dirty and help in the running game. New Kansas City coach Todd Haley used the tight end sparingly as the offensive coordinator in Arizona. So, Cottam won't have that much pressure on him to make an impact in the receiving game.

    Oakland Raiders

     Harris
     Henderson

    Who's out: Kwame Harris, left tackle, cut.

    Who's in: Mario Henderson, left tackle.

    Outlook: Khalif Barnes was signed as a free agent to replace Harris, who flopped in one season in Oakland. However, the San Francisco Chronicle reports that Henderson is beating out Barnes heading to training camp.

    Oakland coach Tom Cable likes Henderson, a third-year player. Still, Barnes was brought in to start. So, Henderson will have to earn the job. This has long been a problem position for Oakland. Perhaps it will be the young Henderson who offers stability.

    San Diego Chargers

     Goff
     Vasquez

    Who's out: Mike Goff, guard, signed with Kansas City as a free agent.

    Who's in: Louis Vasquez, guard.

    Outlook: Vasquez will battle with veteran Kynan Forney, who was originally expected to replace Goff, whom the team did not pursue in free agency.

    However, Vasquez, a third-round pick, has been outstanding in the spring. If Vasquez has a strong training camp and preseason, expect him to win the job. The Chargers are looking for a long-term answer at the position and they believe it could be Vasquez.

    AFC West mailbag

    June, 13, 2009
    6/13/09
    12:00
    PM ET

    Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

    Joe from Royersford wants an update on where AFC West teams stand with signing their rookie classes.

    BW: Denver got the ball rolling for the division Friday by signing seventh-round pick Blake Schlueter. Usually, most teams don't start knocking off draft picks until after the Fourth of July. However, there has been a recent flurry of signings around the league. Really, there is no urgency and most teams will likely sign their picks in the days before training camp starts in late July. I don't really expect any AFC West teams to have many problems with draft choices. The contract of No. 3 overall pick Tyson Jackson in Kansas City could be somewhat tricky after the Jets gave No. 5 overall pick Mark Sanchez $28 million guaranteed. But it shouldn't be anything to cause a major delay.


    Ken from Elizabethtown, KY wants to know what's in store in Oakland for backup quarterback Andrew Walter.

    BW: I think the writing is on the wall for Walter; I think he is out of there. The team has six quarterbacks on the roster now after it signed Charlie Frye, who will likely be the No. 3 quarterback. Walter has been staying away from voluntary camps this offseason. He didn't receive any repetitions in the mandatory minicamp. I expect Walter to either be traded or cut sometime this summer. I don't think Oakland could get a lot in return, perhaps just a low-round draft pick. Given a fresh start elsewhere, Walter, a former starter in Oakland, could have a chance as a backup.


    Aaron from Syracuse wants to know if Tony Curtis has a chance to be in the tight end mix in Kansas City.

    BW: The tight end competition is wide open as the Chiefs try to find a replacement for Tony Gonzalez. Curtis is a journeyman, but he has a history with new Kansas City coach Todd Haley. He has good hands, but he has never been a steady weapon. Keep an eye out for veteran Sean Ryan, who also has a history with Haley. Still, I think second-year player Brad Cottam, who is a better blocker than receiver, will get most of the playing time at tight end. Really, Haley's history is not to use the tight end much, so don't expect a whole lot of receiving production from whoever is the primary tight end in Kansas City.


    Michael from Colorado wants to know if former Denver safety Steve Atwater will ever make the Hall of Fame.

    BW: Atwater was a great Bronco. He has a hard-hitting safety who goes down as one of the team's best defensive players. He deserves consideration for the Hall of Fame, but it may take a while. There is a logjam of quality players. Atwater has to be on the list, but just don't expect a quick induction.

    Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

    Kansas City

    There is a competition to replace Tony Gonzalez.

    My take: This will be interesting to watch as several little-known players are vying to replace the greatest tight end ever to play in the NFL. Gonzalez was traded to Atlanta for a second-round draft pick in 2010. The truth is, new Kansas City coach Todd Haley doesn't use the tight end much. As the offensive coordinator in Arizona, Haley used the tight end sparingly. So, whoever wins the job (my bet is on second-year player Brad Cottam) may not be a huge part of the offense, anyway.

    San Diego

    Norv Turner likes where his team is at.

    My take: Last year, the Chargers were a sexy Super Bowl pick (I was one of many to buy in). But after an 8-8 regular season in 2008, I believe the team may be flying under the radar nationally heading into the 2009 season. That may be a mistake. I'm not ready to predict the Super Bowl for this team again quite yet, but this is a strong roster. Remember, the Chargers were as hot as any team in the league at the end of the season and they are getting Shawne Merriman back. If the team stays healthy and the pass defense rebounds (which should happen with Merriman back), the Chargers will be a team to reckon with.

    Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson
     
    Denver

    Rookie cornerback Alphonso Smith is watching and learning from Champ Bailey.

    My take: Very shrewd move, rookie. Watching and learning from Bailey is the best decision Smith could have made. He needs to continue doing so all season. Bailey is a pro's pro and he's a future Hall of Famer. He does everything that has to do with being an NFL player the right way. Smith will only get better by following Bailey's actions both on the field and in the locker room.

    Kansas City

    Brad Cottam is not trying to be the replacement for Tony Gonzalez.

    My take: That is a good decision by the second-year tight end. It would be a no-win proposition for Cottam to go out and tell Chiefs fans he'll be able to make them forget about Gonzalez, who was traded to Atlanta for a second-round pick in 2010. Gonzalez is a living legend in Kansas City and he is still a productive player. Cottam is a project and will likely never be a top-flight receiver. He is more of a blocker. He was never brought to Kansas City to be another Gonzalez, so he shouldn't be expected to be a Gonzalez clone now.

    Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

    We're continuing our periodic AFC West position rankings with the tight ends, kicking off the post-Tony Gonzalez era in the division.

    We're ranking these players on combined receiving and blocking abilities.

    1. Antonio Gates, San Diego: Gates and Gonzalez were always the best two tight ends in football, but now Gates is the best tight end in his division. If Gates can stay healthy, expect a huge season in 2009.

    2. Zach Miller, Oakland: I'm giving Miller a slight edge over Daniel Graham. I think Miller can be one of the next wave of Pro Bowl tight ends. He is an outstanding receiving option. He is and needs to be the favorite target of Oakland quarterback JaMarcus Russell.

    3. Daniel Graham, Denver: Astute football people know the true value of Graham. He is one of the best blocking tight ends in the NFL. He is essentially another offensive lineman. He is also a decent receiving option when it counts.

    4. Tony Scheffler, Denver: Scheffler is a field-stretching receiver who is a dangerous weapon. He can become a favorite target of Denver's new quarterback as he was for Jay Cutler.

    5. Brandon Manumaleuna, San Diego: Manumaleuna is a strong blocking tight end, who is always there when the Chargers call upon him.

    6. Brad Cottam, Kansas City: The second-year player will have a lot of pressure on him as he replaces Gonzalez. But Cottam is more of a blocker than a receiver, so don't expect Gonzalez-like numbers.

    Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

    For those who are hoping Brad Cottam would give the Chiefs a Tony Gonzalez-like presence in the Kansas City passing game, think again.

    Recent history shows that new Kansas City coach Todd Haley, formerly the offensive coordinator in Arizona, doesn't throw the ball much to the tight end. Perhaps that's why the Chiefs felt compelled to trade Gonzalez to Atlanta for a second-round pick next year.

    According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Cardinals' tight ends accounted for just 25 catches for 237 receiving yards in 2008 -- both totals were second lowest in the league. Ironically, Atlanta had the league's lowest totals in both categories.

    In the past two years under Haley, Arizona attempted 84 passes, completed 62 passes and accounted for 594 yards to the tight end. All three were the lowest in the NFL over the two-season span.

    Cottam, a second-year player, is known as a much better blocker than a receiver. That seems to fit in with what Haley wants from tight ends.

    Gonzalez trade odds and ends

    April, 23, 2009
    4/23/09
    6:30
    PM ET

    Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

    Some additional thoughts on the Tony Gonzalez trade to Atlanta:

    Perhaps the Chiefs will consider drafting Texas Tech receiver Michael Crabtree with the No. 3 overall to make up for the lost receptions that trading Tony Gonzalez creates.

    I've been getting the feeling that the Chiefs are trying to talk themselves out of taking Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry. Maybe this trade opens the door for Crabtree in Kansas City. He'd make a nice receiving tandem with Dwayne Bowe. They are similar receivers and would give opposing cornerbacks fits.

    • With Gonzalez gone, I wonder if the Chiefs will continue to make trades before and during the draft? Guard Brian Waters, who wants to be traded and who didn't go to the voluntary minicamp in Kansas City last week, could be on the move as well. If the Chiefs had the nerve to trade Gonzalez, they could trade the Pro Bowl offensive lineman as well.
    • There are even reports that defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey could be on the move. Dorsey was the No. 5 overall pick last year but there are concerns that he doesn't fit in the 3-4 defense Kansas City is transitioning to.
    • He has great value. There are teams that want defensive tackles in this draft. If Dorsey was available this year he'd surely be a top-10 pick. There could be a market for Dorsey if the Chiefs want to trade him. But equal value needs to be obtained.
    • At this point, the new tight end in Kansas City will be Brad Cottam. He was a third-round pick last season out of Tennessee. He played in all 16 games last season and he had seven catches. He is 6-7. 269 pounds and is an outstanding blocker. The team believes he can develop into a solid receiver.
    • At the Pro Bowl in February, Denver quarterback Jay Cutler was throwing passes to Gonzalez. It could happen again next winter for the NFC squad.
    • Here is a transcript of Chiefs' general manager Scott Pioli and coach Todd Haley discussing the trade.
    • The Chiefs and Falcons played last season. They will not meet again until 2012. Unlike Cutler and the Broncos, Gonzalez will not meet the Chiefs this preseason.
    • The trade of Gonzalez means San Diego tight end Antonio Gates is now, by far, the best tight end in the AFC. First, the Philip Rivers-Cutler rivalry ends and now the Gonzalez-Gates rivalry is history.

    No Gonzalez deal good for young TE

    October, 14, 2008
    10/14/08
    5:54
    PM ET

    Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

    Memo to Brad Cottam: Soak up as much of Tony Gonzalez as you can.

    Perhaps no Kansas City player will benefit more from the Chiefs not trading Gonzalez than Cottam. Sure, Cottam would have played more this season if the Chiefs traded Gonzalez before the deadline. But Cottam will have plenty of time to play down the line.

    He will have limited time to learn from and watch Gonzalez, the greatest receiving tight end of all time. Kansas City drafted Cottam in the third round this year to be Gonzalez's eventual replacement. The early word on Cottam has been positive and Gonzalez has been complimentary of the 6-foot-7 Tennessee product.

    Cottam has to take advantage of this extra time with Gonzalez. He needs to take advantage of it.

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