AFC West: Cedric Benson

The injuries are piling up for the Denver Broncos.

Starting defensive end Jason Hunter has reportedly suffered a significant triceps injury and he will be out for at least two months and perhaps the season.

Hunter is not a core defensive player for Denver, but he is a high-effort player who has become a favorite of new defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio. Hunter took over for struggling former first-round pick Robert Ayers earlier in camp. Now, Ayers will likely get another chance. The key with Ayers is often effort, so perhaps this second chance will ignite him.

Hunter’s injury comes a day after standout guard Chris Kuper suffered a fractured forearm. He is out 4-6 weeks.

In other AFC West news:

Cedric Benson won't be a Raider

August, 10, 2012
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The most talked about would-be AFC West tailback is apparently not coming out west.

Free-agent running back Cedric Benson is on the verge of signing with Green Bay, according to ESPN’s Chris Mortensen. Oakland has been linked to Benson for a couple of months. Also, his name was linked to San Diego earlier Friday, a day after the Chargers lost starting running back Ryan Mathews for 4-6 weeks with a broken clavicle. However, San Diego coach Norv Turner said Friday the Chargers aren’t going to bring in a veteran.

With Benson likely off the market, the top available running back is former Green Bay tailback Ryan Grant.

This can’t be crushing news for Oakland. Even though the Raiders reportedly talked to Benson earlier this offseason, he'd be a Raider by now if Oakland really wanted him. He hadn’t gotten much interest on the market, but the Raiders clearly didn’t feel the need for Benson.

With the veteran market all but dried up, it is a bit scary for the Raiders who are inexperienced behind of-injured starting tailback Darren McFadden. But Oakland knew this and it was comfortable, so seeing Benson go to Green Bay can’t be overly troublesome for the Oakland brass.

In other AFC West news:
  • Oakland running back Mike Goodson was riding a bike at practice Friday. It's a sign he's on the mend from a neck injury that caused him to be temporarily hospitalized Tuesday.
  • Oakland tight end Brandon Myers was shaken up in practice Friday. Oakland coach Dennis Allen said Myers, a favorite to start at tight end, has a shoulder surgery. It could be a concern for the team.

Chargers not looking for new RB

August, 10, 2012
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Naturally, a big question amongst San Diego Chargers fans Friday is will the team pursue a veteran running back with Ryan Mathews out for 4-6 weeks with a broken clavicle.

Mathews
Well, the question has been answered.

According to U-T San Diego, Chargers coach Norv Turner said Friday that the team wouldn’t pursue a veteran running back while Mathews is out. Mathews could miss the first two games of the season. The top running backs available are Cedric Benson and Ryan Grant.

Turner explained that the Chargers won’t look for a veteran because the team has depth behind Mathews. Among the running backs in camp are Ronnie Brown, Jackie Battle and Curtis Brinkley. Rookies Michael Hayes and Edwin Baker are also in the mix. Fullback Le’Ron McClain can also run the ball.

I’d think that if Mathews’ injury was more serious the Chargers would look to add another back. But because he will be ready for most of the season, I can see why the Chargers are going to plan to stick with their stable of backups in the short term.

Also, I wonder if Benson and/or Grant would be interested in signing with a team in which the starter is out for a short period of time. They might want to stay patient and see if a better situation opened. Also, Benson and Grant aren’t great fits, according to Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. He said neither player offers anything as a receiver and wouldn’t be a fit for Turner’s offense.

So there are a lot of reasons why the Chargers are leaning to stand pat while Mathews is out.
NAPA, Calif. -- There is no doubt Darren McFadden is 100 percent healthy, now the Oakland Raiders must hope the premier running back keeps his health all season.

McFadden
McFadden
McFadden looked fantastic on Monday as the Raiders opened training camp. His performance Monday followed up a strong offseason program in which he displayed his health. He missed the final nine games of last season with a foot injury.

After his first training camp practice as the Raiders’ head coach, Dennis Allen dropped an understatement while discussing McFadden: “We all understand that he’s an explosive playmaker for us, and we need him to be healthy for the entire season.”

The Raiders are inexperienced behind McFadden since Michael Bush departed to Chicago in free agency. The team has Mike Goodson and Taiwan Jones as McFadden’s backups. Allen reiterated the team’s confidence in McFadden’s backups.

Yet, I wouldn’t be shocked if the Raiders jumped on a veteran running back at some time. The team has talked to Cedric Benson, but there is a reason why Oakland hasn’t signed him yet. If the Raiders were really interested in signing Benson, he’d be signed by now.

I think Oakland is going to evaluate the position often to see if it needs to upgrade, but right now, it is standing pat as it hopes McFadden can stay healthy.

Evening AFC West notes

July, 26, 2012
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The first day of the San Diego Chargers’ training camp saw left tackle Jared Gaither and backup quarterback Charlie Whitehurst get injured.

However, U-T San Diego reports the team is hopeful neither injury is serious. They will be monitored and even if both players are fine, I wouldn’t be surprised if they get some time off.
  • CBS Sports reports Washington has discussed signing free-agent running back Cedric Benson. He has been linked to the Raiders for weeks. Oakland now has the salary-cap room to add Benson. They could use more experience behind injury prone starter Darren McFadden.
  • Former Denver safety John Lynch spoke to the team on Wednesday night.
  • Now that assistant offensive line coach Steve Wisniewski has resigned because of personal reasons, the Raiders are one of nine teams in the NFL without an assistant line coach. Frank Pollack is the line coach.
  • U-T San Diego reports that Chargers’ reserve offensive lineman Brandyn Dombrowski is likely headed to the physically unable to perform list with a foot injury. He faces an uphill battle to make the 53-man roster.
  • Denver defensive lineman Mitch Unrein got some work with the first-team defense Thursday.

Reviewing what I missed

July, 23, 2012
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Let’s look back at some of the stories that occurred in the AFC West during the past two weeks while I was on vacation:

Denver:
My take: Dumervil’s attorney has said he doesn’t expect charges to be pursued in the case. Still, the NFL will likely investigate, and Dumervil could face a potential short suspension.
  • New Denver quarterback Peyton Manning bought a home for nearly $5 million in the Denver area.
My take: This news is significant because it shows Manning is planning to be in Denver for awhile. At 36, Manning signed a five-year deal with the Broncos. If he thought he wouldn’t be able to fulfill much of the contract, there is little chance Manning would have made such a commitment to the area.

Kansas City
  • Receiver Dwayne Bowe did not sign an extension before the deadline for franchised players. He has yet to sign his tender and report to the team.
My take: Bowe was not expected to sign an extension. Now, he must go prove he is worth a new deal with a big 2012 season. My take: There has been a rash of drunk driving arrests by NFL players this offseason. I’m sure commissioner Roger Goodell is ready to throw the book at alleged perpetrators such as Washington, a reserve in Kansas City.

Oakland
  • Franchised safety Tyvon Branch signed a four-year contract extension.
My take: Securing a talented player like Branch for the future is a smart move. He is a key component of the Oakland defense. Plus, the signing opened up a reported $3.8 million in salary cap room. The Raiders will be able to sign some players to help for depth reasons this summer, perhaps starting with running back Cedric Benson, who has been linked to the Raiders for weeks.

San Diego
My take: I think both Franklin and Battle will fill nice depth roles for the Chargers. Both players can help. Franklin is a solid 3-4 defensive tackle who will be part of a strong rotation. Battle gives the Chargers more depth at backup running back and he can play special teams. As for Castillo, it is clear the Chargers don’t think he can play anymore. He was cut twice this offseason.

AFC West links: Ryan Clady contract talks

July, 18, 2012
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Denver Broncos

Contract negotiations with tackle Ryan Clady have hit a snag, and Mike Klis of the Denver Post says a new deal before camp begins next week doesn't seem likely.

Defensive end Elvis Dumervil tells the Denver Post he's confident the "truth will come out" about his arrest.

Kansas City Chiefs

Josh Looney of KCChiefs.com examines three questions surrounding the running back position.

Adam Teicher of the Kansas City Star says the Chiefs need Dwayne Bowe more than the wide receiver needs the Chiefs.

Oakland Raiders

Running back Cedric Benson remains unemployed, but says the Raiders are one team to show interest in him this offseason. "I think I can make any situation work," Benson told SiriusXM NFL Radio. "I'm not against anything. I just want to play ball. I just want to be on a team that wants to win football games."

San Diego Chargers

With Vincent Jackson out of the picture, will Robert Meachem become Philip Rivers' No. 1 option?
Here are some highlights from our AFC West chat, which was held earlier Thursday:

Denver

Scott from Carrizo Springs, TX.: I was reading your position battle blog the other day and you said the one to watch in Denver is safety. Is there any other position battles in Denver that could be intriguing to watch?

Bill Williamson: D.J. Williams' OLB spot during his six-game suspension. Woodyard, Irving and Trevathan will battle for it with Woodyard having the edge going to camp.

Kansas City

Stephen Mancuso from Denver: Can you see Jonathan Baldwin becoming a good #1 WR, especially if Bowe decides to hold out?

Bill Williamson: Yes, but he has to show it. I think if Baldwin has a big year, the Chiefs could decide to move away from Bowe after 2012.

Oakland

David Stephens from Long Beach: Are the Raiders still contemplating picking up Cedric Benson and if not are they looking at any other running backs to back up DMC ?

BW: They are still considering him. They need to clear some money, though. If they don't sign him, I can see them looking at the waiver wire in early September for some more backup help.

San Diego

Sergio from Tijuana, Mexico: Hi Bill, what are your expectations for the chargers defense under new DC John Pagano? is 20 points per game, and under 340 yards a reasonable expectation?

BW: I think the key there is third-down play and sack numbers need to increase. If that happens, the Chargers will be fine.
A lot of Oakland Raiders’ fans ask me what is going on with the team’s pursuit of free-agent running back Cedric Benson.

Benson
Buckle in, it could take some time. There are no indications his signing with any team is imminent. Benson has been available since free agency began in March, and there has been no market for him despite his experience and success.

Last week, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported the Raiders were among the teams that have been monitoring and showing the most interest in Benson.

Oakland’s potential pursuit makes sense. Starter Darren McFadden has had durability issues and he's coming off a season in which he missed the final nine games with a foot injury. Oakland’s current backup running backs Mike Goodson and Taiwan Jones are unproven.

There is likely a place for Benson with the Raiders, but Oakland has salary cap and money issues and it has two draft picks to sign. So, Oakland may have it do some maneuvering to sign Benson, and that could take time.

There is a risk involved. While the market has been slow for Benson, interest could pick up during training camp time. So, while the Raiders' interest in Benson continues, there are no guarantees he'll end up wearing silver and black.
The Oakland Raiders are considering upgrading their backup running back situation with free agent Cedric Benson.

It would be a good idea. I think Oakland needs to get better at that spot. Actually, I think most of the division is in less than great shape at backup running back.

I think Kansas City has the best backup running back situation with Peyton Hillis. He is a perfect complement for Jamaal Charles. Charles is a speed guy and Hillis is a power back. They both will get plenty of carries.

Denver has third-round pick Ronnie Hillman behind starter Willis McGahee and then there’s 2009 first-round pick Knowshon Moreno, who could potentially be cut this summer. Oakland needs Benson, I think, because Mike Goodson is fairly unproven and Taiwan Jones is a change-of-pace guy.

I am nervous about the Chargers’ running back situation now that Mike Tolbert has signed with Carolina. Ronnie Brown is nearing the end. Curtis Brinkley is interesting, but is he ready? Rookie Edwin Baker and fullback Le’Ron McClain are also in the mix.

I asked Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. what he thought of the backup running backs in the division. He has similar concerns that I do. Here is what he said:
I agree with you that Kansas City is far and away the best team for running back depth. Benson to Oakland makes sense. If/when Darren McFadden goes down, Benson would get a ton of carries. I can’t say I condone what San Diego has done at this position, considering Ryan Mathews’ injury history. It makes no sense to me. As for Denver, I don’t like Moreno, but I think Hillman can be a true No. 1 running back, making Willie McGahee a high quality No. 2.

I asked Williamson if he thinks Hillman can actually take over for McGahee this year and his answer was yes.

“I do,” Williamson said. “Hillman might not be a 300-carry type of guy in Year 1, but he doesn’t have to be. Also, Hillman is a better fit in the Colts/Manning stretch running game than McGahee.”
I have been waiting for months for this one to develop.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports that the Oakland Raiders are showing interest in free agent running back Cedric Benson.

I’ve long thought this is a logical pairing. The Raiders lost backup Michael Bush to Chicago in free agency, and while starter Darren McFadden is a star, he is not durable.

McFadden’s backups are Mike Goodson and Taiwan Jones. Goodson didn’t have any carries with Carolina last year and Jones is more of a change-of-pace back. If signed, Benson would provide terrific experience as a backup and as an injury replacement.

Benson, 29, had 1,067 yards last season. He has not garnered much interest in free agency but Schefter reports that some other teams have been looking. Oakland has shown the most interest. At this point, Benson will likely have to sign a modest contract and Oakland should pursue him.

In other AFC West news:

New Kansas City right tackle Eric Winston regrets that the players allowed NFL commissioner Roger Goodell absolute power in decisions such as player discipline.

Former Denver quarterback Tim Tebow won the annual Good Guy award from the Pro Football Writers of America for his cooperation with the media while with the Broncos in the 2011 season.
The running back class was one of the slowest to develop in the early stages of free agency, and there are still a few capable players available on the market.

Don’t be surprised if some of the AFC West teams look into the position now that the draft is complete. Denver drafted San Diego State’s Ronnie Hillman in the third round, and San Diego draft Michigan State’s Edwin Baker in the seventh. Oakland didn’t draft a running back. Kansas City, which drafted Cyrus Gray of Texas A&M, appears set at the position.

Yet, I could see the Broncos, Chargers and Raiders looking for a veteran with Oakland being the most likely to add a veteran as they try to replace Michael Bush, who left for Chicago in free agency. As of now, Taiwan Jones and Mike Goodson are backing up the great, but oft-injured Darren McFadden

Among the best names available are Cedric Benson, Ryan Grant and Joseph Addai. Other running backs available include Tim Hightower, Justin Forsett and Ronnie Brown.

I think Benson can help any team, and I think he’d be a great fit in Oakland. He had 1,067 yards last season. He’d be a strong insurance policy for McFadden. Finances are an issue for Oakland, but, at this point, Benson would likely take what he can get.

The Addai-Peyton Manning connection from Indianapolis always makes it possible that Addai could join Willis McGahee and Hillman in Denver’s backfield. San Diego could add a veteran, and they have talked to Kansas City free agent Jackie Battle.

AFC West draft thoughts

April, 28, 2012
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The Kansas City Chiefs are obviously happy with Matt Cassel as their quarterback. They inspected several of the top quarterbacks, but in the end, Kansas City did not add one in the draft.

Instead, like they did in free agency, the Chiefs built around Cassel. Thus, Cassel has at least one more year in Kansas City to prove he can be a difference-maker.

With the 250th pick, the Chargers stole Michigan State running back Edwin Baker. ESPN analyst Mel Kiper thought Baker was the eighth best running back in the draft. He has some fumbling issues, but he has real ability and he can grow into a good player.

San Diego got a potential future starter in Michigan center David Molk. He is very strong and he is battler. He could be Nick Hardwick’s eventual successor. The Chiefs got nice value in Michigan receiver Junior Hemingway. He was the Sugar Bowl MVP and he is a strong possession receiver. He was way under-valued.

Chiefs’ fourth-round pick, Fresno State receiver Devon Wylie, has often drawn comparisons to New England’s Wes Welker. The man who picked Wylie, Scott Pioli, of course, was in New England with Welker.

Wylie and Oakland fourth-round pick, San Diego State linebacker Miles Burris went to high school together in Granite Bay, California, near Sacramento.

Denver could use their fourth-round pick, center Philip Blake, at guard as well.

I wonder if the Chargers will still look for a veteran running back with Baker on board. The Chargers, and perhaps Oakland, are looking for a veteran free agent running back since they didn’t add one in the draft. There are some solid veterans available who can fill a backup role. Among the veterans available are Ryan Grant, Cedric Benson, Joseph Addai and Tim Hightower.

The Raiders did not draft any cornerbacks despite studying several extensively. The Raiders’ two starting cornerbacks are Ronald Barrtell and Shawntae Spencer. They are both 30 and are both signed to one-year deals.

Denver sixth-round pick, Kentucky linebacker, Danny Trevathan, compiled 287 tackles in the past two seasons. Watch him make an impact on special teams as a rookie.

New Denver quarterback Brock Osweiler worked out with Tim Tebow earlier this offseason when Tebow was still a Bronco.

Denver third-round pick, running back Ronnie Hillman, won’t turn 21 until September.

Oakland seventh-round pick, linebacker Nathan Stupar, is the nephew of former Oakland quarterback Jeff Hostetler.
Here are some highlights from our AFC West chat, which was held Thursday:

Denver

Jared from DC: Denver looking for RBs only in Draft? See Any WRs for Denver coming there?

Bill Williamson: Likely look at RBs in the draft. I think the added WRS will be vets. Just signed Andre Caldwell. Stokley may be next.

Kansas City

Kevin from Kansas City, Mo.: With the added strength at OL and all our starters coming back off injury, can the Chiefs or any other AFC West team compete with Peyton and the Broncos over the next five years? Or should we all just take 5 and come back when the West isn't won? UGH can't stand PM why did he have to choose the AFC West?

BW: You are fine. I think Manning will be very good for three years. But the Chiefs are going to be good as well. I really like what your team did in free agency. Manning is the big fish, but Kansas City has done well.

Oakland

Chuck from New York City: With Bush now in Chicago, do you envision the Raiders signing another backup RB in addition to the injury-prone Jones or trying to get another through the draft?

BW: Oakland, Denver and San Diego all need a backup. Here are some of the best players available: Cedric Benson, Brandon Jacobs, Ryan Grant, Joseph Addai, Justin Forsett, Jackie Battle and Kevin Smith. The market has been slow so some of these players could come cheaply. I think Jacobs would be a nice replacement for Bush if the price is right.

San Diego

Andrew De Fazio from Canada: Who do you think the Chargers will draft with the 18th overall pick? or will they trade up?

BW: They will probably stay put. They will have a lot of choices. However, if they far in love with someone like Melvin Ingram or Courtney Upshaw, they may need to move up.
It was almost 12 hours ago when I first reported that San Diego Chargers running back Mike Tolbert has signed a four-year deal with the Carolina Panthers. I ended the short post by saying I would have more on the story later.

I should have indicated it would be much, much later. I guess I got sidetracked by another little story that developed in the AFC West.

Anyway, without further ado, here are some thoughts on Tolbert’s departure:

I don’t like it.

Last month, I wrote the Chargers couldn’t afford to lose another running back. Last year, they saw Darren Sproles go to New Orleans and he was missed. So will Tolbert.

He is a stud in short yardage, he has nice hands, he is a fine blocker, and he is great on special teams. Winning teams have players like Tolbert.

Ryan Mathews will need a new complement. Two names to keep an eye on are Kansas City’s Jackie Battle and Oakland’s Michael Bush. Bush is getting interest from the Bengals, Bears and Seahawks. Perhaps the Chargers will join the party. Other running backs available include Cedric Benson, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Brandon Jacobs, Ryan Grant and Joseph Addai.

The Chargers will see a lot of familiar faces when they play the NFC South in 2012. They will see Tolbert and Sproles as they will see recently departed star receiver Vincent Jackson in Tampa Bay and will face former backup running back Michael Turner when they play the Falcons.

The Chargers' last real priority in-house free agent is defensive tackle Antonio Garay.

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