AFC West: Chaz Schilens

The Oakland Raiders are seemingly in a never-ending quest for a wide receiver to develop.

The Raiders have swung on and missed with the likes of Darrius Heyward-Bey, Louis Murphy and Chaz Schilens in recent years.

There is a new group of young, unproven receivers in Oakland. All have talent, but none are sure things. The Raiders are totally open at the spot and are hoping some of these players develop. Oakland may have trouble keeping six at the position because of the possibility the team will keep extra players at quarterback and at tight end. Below is a look at what Oakland’s receiving corps may look like as we approach the 53-man cut Saturday:

Rod Streater: He has been quiet in the preseason and is now dealing with a possible concussion. He may have the most upside on roster.

Denarius Moore: Oakland wants to see this third-year talent become more consistent and more mature on the field. He has big potential.

Jacoby Ford: The Raiders made a commitment to Ford by cutting Josh Cribbs, as they're both similar players. The key for the explosive Ford is his health, which has been a problem.

Juron Criner: A camp star last year who has been injured and fairly quiet. Still, I’d be surprised if he isn’t kept.

Brice Butler: Seventh-round pick has been impressive. He has all the tools, but can he make an instant impact?

Andre Holmes: He has been impressive and has good size. Holmes is facing a four-game suspension to start season, but I could see him in Oakland’s long-term plans.

Greg Jenkins: He has some ability, but he may be caught in numbers game.

Conner Vernon: An undrafted pick who was an early favorite to stick, but he might be practice-squad material.
Moore-Streater USA TODAY SportsDenarius Moore (left) and Rod Streater could be the vanguard of a receiving rivalry in Oakland.
One of the bigger issues for the Oakland Raiders in their decadelong malaise has been the inability to develop a dynamic group of receivers.

Oakland, which has not had a winning record since the 2002 season when it went to the Super Bowl, bypassed future superstars Larry Fitzgerald (2004) and Calvin Johnson (2007) high in the draft in favor of busts Robert Gallery and JaMarcus Russell. The Raiders made a blockbuster trade for Randy Moss. He essentially took a two-year vacation when he was in Oakland before re-energizing his career after he was dealt to New England.

Particularly in the past five years, Oakland has drafted a slew of young receivers in hopes of striking it rich. Promising players such as Chaz Schilens, Darrius Heyward-Bey and Louis Murphy have all come and gone without making a major impact.

Although the receivers in Oakland’s current stable are young and, for the most part, unproven, there is hope for a franchise that is perpetually waiting for receivers to reach their potential. The Raiders enter the 2013 season hopeful the wait is nearing its end.

“It’s as green as grass,” Oakland coach Dennis Allen recently said of his group. “But there is all kinds of talent here.”

I asked Allen whether he could see himself waking up one morning in the near future and proclaiming that his group of receivers has finally arrived.

“Absolutely,” Allen said. “It’s coming. We just need the guys to step up.”

Oakland has done a nice job of drafting promising receivers late in the draft or adding them as undrafted free agents. All of the receivers projected to make the Raiders’ 53-man roster have potential to be impact players. But they also have to show they can be consistent threats.

The focal points of Oakland’s receiving group are third-year player Denarius Moore and second-year player Rod Streater. They are expected to be the starters. Moore was a fifth-round pick in 2011, and Streater was an undrafted free agent last year. Although both were training camp stars and have shown glimpses of their potential, neither has proved he is an impact player.

A lot of that has to do with their youth. Moore was a bit inconsistent last year, and he had some hands problems. Streater was incredibly fluid for an undrafted rookie, but, as to be expected, he didn’t always show up. Moore ended up with 51 catches for 741 yards and seven touchdown catches. Streater had 39 catches for 584 yards and three TDs. Oakland is hoping both players will make significant strides in 2013.

“I think we have a chance to be a good group,” Streater said. “There are a lot of good athletes in this group. We all are trying to get better together.”

ESPN analyst Matt Williamson likes the potential of Moore and Streater as a long-term starting tandem.

“I am really high on Moore, but he needs to stay healthy and be more consistent as a route runner,” Williamson said. “[Can he be] a true No. 1? That might be a bit of a stretch, since I rarely throw that term around, but he’s right on that cusp in terms of talent. Streater is a good complement to Moore, as he is bigger and more physical. He’s a possession guy to Moore’s explosiveness.”

Although the Raiders’ receiving success starts with Moore and Streater, the group has more to offer. Jacoby Ford has shown he can be a dynamic No. 3 receiver with explosive big-play ability. But he has had trouble staying healthy. He missed nearly the past season and a half with foot problems.

Juron Criner, a fifth-round pick last year, impressed on a daily basis last summer with one phenomenal catch after another. Yet he was pretty quiet in the regular season. Oakland added two more prospects this year with seventh-round pick Brice Butler and undrafted rookie Conner Vernon. Vernon is a prototype slot receiver who looked good in the offseason camps.

All of these players will have the time to develop together and show they belong on their own merits. New quarterback Matt Flynn thinks positive results are possible this season.

“We have some weapons on this offense that I think we can really take advantage of this season,” Flynn said.
NFC Eight in the Box: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

How does each team look at wide receiver and what still needs to be done?

Denver

The Broncos made the biggest free-agency splash in the AFC West by signing New England slot machine Wes Welker.

He has led the NFL in receptions over the past six seasons and is joining a quarterback, Peyton Manning, who has long had a connection with his slot receivers. The Welker addition gives Denver arguably the best group of receivers in the NFL.

Welker joins young receivers Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker. Both players flourished while playing with Manning last season. With these skilled players, someone is going to be open. Finding a way to defend this trio will be a major task for every defensive coordinator that faces Denver.

Kansas City

This position is going to be in the spotlight because new head coach Andy Reid loves the passing game.

It all starts with top receiver Dwayne Bowe. There is a reason the new Kansas City brass gave Bowe a huge contract to keep him from leaving in free agency. Reid is going to build his passing game around Bowe. Bowe has big ability and can be a top receiver. Yes, he still drops passes and he has to show he will still be hungry after getting the big contract. But he can play.

The Chiefs made an underrated addition in Donnie Avery. He had 60 catches for the Colts last season. He can stretch the field. Reid will find ways for Avery to help. Reid is also a fan of tiny Dexter McCluster, who can line up in several different spots. Perhaps he can fill a DeSean Jackson-like role for Reid.

The team also has a slot option in Devon Wylie. A big question mark, of course, is 2011 first-round pick Jon Baldwin. He has made little impact. He looks good in camp but disappears on the field. Reid gave him a lukewarm endorsement recently. Baldwin has talent, but it’s time he shows it. I think we could see the Chiefs draft another bigger receiver in the middle rounds, but I think the team will try to rely on Bowe, Avery and McCluster this season and hope others develop.

Oakland

The Raiders have a familiar theme at this position. They are young and promising, but they are also unproven. That has been the story with this unit for a few years. They Raiders have loaded up on young receivers, but none have shown they can be a proven starter.

The team released 2009 No. 7 overall pick Darrius Heyward-Bey this year. He joins fellow young, promising receivers Chaz Schilens and Louis Murphy as those who have been jettisoned in the recent past after not fulfilling hopes. But the cupboard is not bare. Again, we need to see these players take the next step.

The two players who probably will get the first chance are Denarius Moore and Rod Streater. Moore, a fifth-round pick in 2011, had a decent season last year -- 51 catches for 741 yards and seven touchdowns. But he was inconsistent and didn’t make the expected strides after his rookie season. Still, he has ability, and the Raiders need him to show he can be a No. 1 receiver. Streater had 39 catches as an undrafted rookie. He looks very promising and is a hard worker. If Streater and Moore can grow together, the Raiders might be onto something for the future.

Small receiver Jacoby Ford has big-play capability, but he is injury prone. Still, he will get a chance to show he can help. Juron Criner, a fifth-round pick last year, was a camp star and made a few plays in the season. He has a chance to develop as well. The Raiders have a lot of needs, but I can see them adding another receiver to the mix. Again, this group is full of potential. Now it’s time Oakland gets major production from that potential.

San Diego

The Chargers can use some receiving help. They have other needs, but I can see them taking a receiver as early as the second round. If the season started now, Malcom Floyd would be the team’s No. 1 receiver and he is more of a No. 2 receiver.

But there is hope. Danario Alexander made an impact last season. He was a former prospect who fell through the cracks because of injuries. He is a restricted free agent, and it wouldn't be out of the question for another team to sign him to an offer sheet. The Chargers would like to keep him. He has great size, big ability and he forged a nice chemistry with quarterback Philip Rivers.

The team is also excited about Vince Brown. He missed all of last season after suffering a broken ankle in the preseason. He came on strong as a rookie and will have a role. There also are Robert Meachem and Eddie Royal. Both signed last year and both gave minimal production.

They will be given a chance, but the Chargers want to see Alexander and Brown continue to develop. It would not hurt the team to go find a young receiver it could try to develop quickly.

Have the Raiders fallen behind?

March, 30, 2012
3/30/12
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Reggie McKenzie, Dennis AllenAP Photo/Paul SakumaOakland's salary-cap woes have Reggie McKenzie, left, and Dennis Allen in a tough spot.

The Oakland Raiders are one of the most intriguing franchises in the NFL these days. How will the post-Al Davis Raiders evolve?

After Davis' death in October, the much-less-involved Mark Davis turned his father’s beloved franchise over to Reggie McKenzie, a respected personnel man from Green Bay, who is embarking on his first journey as a general manager. McKenzie has entrusted former Denver defensive coordinator Dennis Allen, who at 39 is the youngest coach in the league, to be the next coach of a team that finished 8-8 last season and barely missed the playoffs.

The first focus for McKenzie has been clearing the Raiders’ roster of bloated contracts given to players as the Raiders desperately, and unsuccessfully, chased championships in Davis’ final years.

It has been a necessary exercise as Oakland begins the process of getting out of salary-cap jail. But Oakland has lost more talent than it has brought in the past month.

The question begs to be asked: Has Oakland fallen behind the rest of the AFC West for the 2012 season? It depends on whom you ask, of course. Asked this week if his team will be stronger or weaker in 2012, McKenzie, without explanation, said this: “Honestly, I envision it being stronger.”

However, many folks around the league wonder how.

“I think they have fallen behind,” Gary Horton of Scouts Inc. said. “They are in a tough salary-cap position and they are paying for it now. I just don’t see the improvement.”

Added Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc.: “I do think they have slipped.” Williamson, in an Insider piece, gave the Raiders one of the worst free-agent grades in the AFC.

It’s difficult to look at the list of players Oakland has added and lost and not come to the same conclusion. Even given the need for salary-cap repair, a loss of talent mustn’t be brushed aside.

Here are some of the key players who were either cut or departed Oakland as free agents: linebacker Kamerion Wimbley, running back Michael Bush, quarterback Jason Campbell, cornerback Stanford Routt, tight end Kevin Boss, defensive tackle John Henderson, running back Rock Cartwright, receiver Chaz Schilens, defensive end Trevor Scott and cornerback Chris Johnson.

The projected starters who have been brought in: guard Mike Brisiel and cornerbacks Ron Bartell and Shawntae Spencer.

“You look who has come and who has gone, and it’s scary,” Horton said. “I like Mike Brisiel. He will help. But the two cornerbacks are just guys. They are not starters for a good team. The defense needs improvement and I don’t see it. All I see is the loss of talent. Where is the coverage coming from? Where is the pass-rush coming from?”

In addition to not having much cap room, the Raiders have a small draft class. They have five picks and their first pick is No. 95, at the end of the third round. McKenzie has said the Raiders need a starting outside linebacker. He might not know who that player is for some time.

Compounding the concern in Oakland is the fact that the rest of the AFC West has been aggressive this offseason.

[+] EnlargeDarren McFadden
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty ImagesDarren McFadden is an elite running back when healthy -- but the Raiders are an injury or two away, at many positions, from serious trouble.
Denver added the big prize of the NFL offseason -- quarterback Peyton Manning. Kansas City added several players, including Routt and Boss after they were jettisoned by Oakland. The Chargers lost star receiver Vincent Jackson and key backup running back Mike Tolbert, but added several pieces and have been lauded by scouts around the league for using their resources properly and adding to their overall talent level. Speaking this week solely about his own team, Kansas City general manager Scott Pioli said he felt the need to improve his roster because of the improvement around him in the division.

Meanwhile, McKenzie and Allen are seemingly beginning their tenure in Oakland by taking a step back. Asked about the loss of talent while at the NFL owners meetings this week, Allen took a realistic approach.

“You know what, we knew what the situation was when we were going into it,” Allen said. “We knew it was going to be a tough situation. I think Reggie’s done a great job of managing everything as we’ve gone through this. You go through it every year. Every year, you have good players that you lose. And you’ve got to find a way to regroup and replace those guys, and that’s what we’re trying to get done.”

The problem is that Oakland has more holes than it did at the end of last season. In the past couple of seasons, the Raiders were intriguing because they were young and didn’t have many glaring needs. All they needed was their young talent to continue to improve. Now, though, Oakland has holes at tight end and linebacker and depth issues at all layers of the defense, at running back, along the offensive line and at quarterback.

“What if this team gets hurt a lot?” Horton asked. “There is no depth in this team.”

Still, not all is lost in Oakland. Running back Darren McFadden is an elite runner when healthy, the defensive line is an upper-echelon unit, the interior offensive line is strong, the special teams are top-notch, the receiver crew is potentially dynamic and the team believes quarterback Carson Palmer will benefit from a full offseason in the program.

The Raiders are hopeful that their talent can withstand this necessary offseason of cap repair. In a couple of years, if McKenzie continues to be financially prudent, the Raiders should be out of cap jail.

“This team wasn’t far away when I got here,” Allen said at the owners meetings. “We’re excited about trying to build on that and develop this team into a playoff-caliber team. Obviously, we took a couple hits because of the cap situation, but we’re looking forward to trying to develop the team and the players.”

The only question: Has the rest of the AFC West left the Raiders behind in the immediate future?

AFC West free-agency assessment

March, 29, 2012
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AFC Assessments: East | West | North | South NFC: East | West | North | South

Denver Broncos

Key additions: QB Peyton Manning, CB Tracy Porter, TE Joel Dreessen, TE Jacob Tamme, S Mike Adams, QB Caleb Hanie, WR Andre Caldwell.

Key losses: DT Brodrick Bunkley, WR, Eddie Royal, TE Daniel Fells, QB Tim Tebow, QB Brady Quinn, TE Dante Rosario.

Did they get better? The Broncos added Manning and that move changes the course of the entire division. Denver is instantly the favorite to win the AFC West again because of this addition. Yes, there are risks as the 36-year-old Manning missed the entire 2011 season with a neck injury that required several surgeries. Denver is convinced Manning is fully recovered and has been cleared to play.

If the 2012 Manning is anything like the Manning we last saw, Denver will be in good shape and the offense will be dangerous. The key is on defense. It has improved greatly and the Porter and Adams additions should help, even while losing Bunkley will hurt. Overall, this team made huge strides in the offseason.

What’s next: Denver’s biggest need areas are at defensive tackle (the Broncos may need two), running back, safety, receiver and linebacker. However, much of that need is for depth purposes.

Denver’s only true glaring hole is at defensive tackle. Expect the Broncos to use their No. 25 pick on the position. I wouldn’t be surprised if the team’s second-round pick is used on a running back unless the Broncos like one of the remaining veterans on the market.

Kansas City Chiefs

Key additions: CB Stanford Routt, RT Eric Winston, RB Peyton Hillis, TE Kevin Boss, QB Brady Quinn.

Key losses: CB Brandon Carr, QB Kyle Orton, FB Le'Ron McClain, LB Demorrio Williams.

Did they get better? Had it not been for the Manning blockbuster, everybody would be taking about what the Chiefs did. I think the Chiefs’ work in free agency was among the best five in the NFL.

Instead of giving quarterback Matt Cassel serious competition, the Chiefs further committed to him by giving him some strong pieces on offense. Hillis will team with Jamaal Charles to make a dangerous running tandem. Winston is one of the league’s better right tackles and Boss and Tony Moeaki will give opposing defenses fits in double tight end sets. This will be a varied offense that will have many weapons. The Chiefs are solid on defense and Routt is a veteran who is comparable to Carr, but more experienced and is less expensive.

What’s next: The Chiefs could use a nose tackle, help at inside linebacker, secondary depth and offensive line depth. They will get a good player with the 11th pick and I think they will try to solidify the middle of the defensive line with someone like Memphis’ Dontari Poe. If the Chiefs can add an impact defender with that pick, it will complete an outstanding offseason.

Oakland Raiders

Key additions: G Mike Brisiel, CB Ron Bartell, CB Shawntae Spencer, CB Pat Lee.

Key losses: LB Kamerion Wimbley, RB Michael Bush, QB Jason Campbell, CB Stanford Routt, TE Kevin Boss, DT John Henderson, RB Rock Cartwright, WR Chaz Schilens, DE Trevor Scott, CB Chris Johnson.

Did they get better? It’s difficult to argue this team improved. Just look at all the losses. It’s a pure fact of numbers, Oakland lost much more than it brought in. This team has more questions than it did at the end of last season and it has more holes. With limited cap space and the fact Oakland doesn’t pick in the draft until No. 95, the Raiders will have a difficult time adding any more impact players. Depth can be an issue.

I understand why this has happened. The new Oakland regime had to get things in order, and sometimes, before a team can make major steps forward as an organization, it may have to take a step back. There is still a lot of talent in Oakland, but it is clear the other three teams made more impactful additions.

What’s next: Oakland will be challenged to find impact players, but it will need to add depth at several places after finding a starting outside linebacker. Oakland needs depth at linebacker, the secondary, offensive line, running back and at quarterback. I think we will see Oakland be patient and add at spots all the way up into the season.

San Diego Chargers

Key additions: WR Robert Meachem, LB Jarret Johnson, WR Eddie Royal, FB Le’Ron McClain, QB Charlie Whitehurst, S Atari Bigby, TE Dante Rosario, LB Demorrio Williams

Key losses: WR Vincent Jackson, RB Mike Tolbert, G Kris Dielman, S Steve Gregory, QB Billy Volek.

Did they get better? I’ve talked to a lot of scouts who believe the Chargers improved. The truth is they lost two good players in Jackson and Tolbert and so did not improve as much as Denver and Kansas City did. But the Chargers did get creative and added a lot of pieces for the price it would have cost to keep Jackson. They also retained key offensive linemen Nick Hardwick and Jared Gaither. Meachem and Royal give quarterback Philip Rivers some interesting weapons.

Johnson will help the defense and he will make it tougher. The Chargers may have gotten a little deeper while losing some star power.

What’s next: The Chargers still haven’t addressed their greatest need outside of keeping its offensive line intact. San Diego will no doubt use its No. 18 pick on the best available pass-rusher to help Johnson is not a great pass-rusher.

Other needs include a big backup running back, offensive line depth and some more depth in all layers of the defense.
Marcus McNeill said he is planning to visit the Kansas City Chiefs. He was cut by the Chargers earlier in the week.

Marcus McNeill
McNeill
McNeill broke the news on his visit with the Detroit Lions. He is also scheduled to visit the Falcons and he said he won’t sign until he weighs all of his options. The news of the Kansas City visit begs some questions. The Chiefs are visiting with right tackle Eric Winston on Friday.

If Winston signs, the only way McNeill would join the Chiefs is if they want to replace Branden Albert at left tackle. I wouldn’t think they would want to replace Albert right now. If Winston doesn’t sign in Kansas City and McNeill does, McNeill would play left tackle and Albert could slide to right tackle. An Albert move to the right side has been discussed for a few years.

McNeill maintains he is now healthy following last season, which was cut short due to a neck injury last season. The Chargers cut him because he was owed a huge signing bonus. Interestingly, McNeill’s replacement is Jared Gaither, who was cut by the Chiefs during last season.

In other AFC West news:

NFL Network is reporting Oakland receiver Chaz Schilens is close to signing with the Jets. He was once a promising player for Oakland, but injuries derailed his Oakland career. UPDATE: Schilens is officially a Jet. He signed a one-year deal. He reunites with former Oakland position coach Sanjay Lal, who has the same job with the Jets.

ESPN’s Suzy Kolber reports the Cardinals are exercising a huge option for quarterback Kevin Kolb, so the Cardinals are out of the running for Peyton Manning. However, the 49ers have joined the race. For now, it appears the Manning chase is down to Denver, Tennessee and San Francisco.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports pass-rusher John Abraham is staying in Atlanta. Denver had been interested. Denver is also interested in Baltimore linebacker Jameel McClain, Tampa Bay linebacker Geno Hayes and Seattle cornerback Marcus Trufant.
As soon as free agency began Tuesday afternoon, the Buffalo Bills had a plane waiting for New Orleans free agent receiver Robert Meachem.

The Bills flew him north and dined with him Tuesday night. The Bills had a full itinerary waiting for him Wednesday. Then, Vincent Jackson left the Chargers. All Buffalo bets were off.


With Jackson and several other receivers off the market quickly Tuesday, the San Diego Chargers -- who NFL.com reports showed late interest in Pierre Garcon before he signed with the Redskins -- went from showing no interest in Meachem early in free agency to becoming his most ardent pursuer. In addition to Buffalo, the Chargers blew away two other teams with a huge offer for Meachem.

And now the speedster is going to be Philip Rivers’ newest toy.

Meachem agreed to a four-year, $25.9 million deal with $14 million guaranteed in the first two years of the deal. The agreement came hours after Jackson signed with the Buccaneers for five years and $55.5 million.

There is no doubt Meachem is not as accomplished as Jackson and the Chargers would be best served to add another receiver in free agency. The best options are Brandon Lloyd, Laurent Robinson and Mario Manningham. They also could use their first-round pick on someone such as Notre Dame’s Michael Floyd. I think Lloyd could be an interesting option.

Pittsburgh's Mike Wallace would cost a first-round pick as a restricted free agent if the Steelers didn’t match a deal. I think the Meachem agreement ends that possibility. Perhaps San Diego could look at Oakland’s Chaz Schilens, who played at San Diego State. He’d fit the Chargers’ mold of big receivers.

Meachem does give the Chargers a terrific vertical threat. He has 4.3-second speed in the 40-yard dash. He will be a good fit with Rivers and No. 2 starter Malcom Floyd, who also is a field stretcher. Like Floyd, Meachem has had some durability issues. Vincent Brown likely will be the No. 3 receiver in his second season.

Meachem had 40 catches for 620 yards last season for the Saints, where he often was lost in a strong receiving crew. Meachem, the Saints’ first-round pick in 2007, had 129 catches and 20 touchdowns in the past three seasons, and has averaged 16.1 yards per catch in his career. There is no doubt Meachem has big-play flair and he will fit in Norv Turner’s system, but I still believe the Chargers need to add to their receiving crew.

UPDATE: I caught up with Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. on Wednesday morning. Here are his thoughts on the Chargers’ day at receiver:

“Meachem isn’t Vincent Jackson. He is very talented, though, and I do think his most productive football might be in front of him. He also is a deep threat, which is absolutely key in San Diego’s deep passing attack. But, to me, there was only one No. 1 receiver on the market, and he just signed with Tampa Bay.”
The Oakland Raiders have been quiet in free agency so far Tuesday, other than seeing former starting quarterback Jason Campbell leave for Chicago.

This may be a reason: ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports when free agency opened Tuesday the Raiders had a league low $639,966 of cap space.

Now, that will improve when the release of tight end Kevin Boss kicks in. Oakland could also cut linebacker Kamerion Wimbley and defensive tackle John Henderson. So, Oakland (which already cut three other players and restructured the contracts of several players) will get some enough cap room to sign a few players and sign their small draft class.

But the question for rookie general manager Reggie McKenzie is this: Why didn’t he do all of his salary-cap shaving prior to free agency starting. Players are signing at a fast rate. I know Oakland is going to bargain shop, but there is no reason why it should give other teams a head start for any player. The Raiders’ don’t have a starting quality cornerback on the roster and top cornerbacks like Cortland Finnegan and Carlos Rogers are already off the market.

In other AFC West news:
ESPN’s Adam Schefter is reporting San Francisco is battling Dallas for Kansas City cornerback Brandon Carr. There is little chance Carr will return to Kansas City. The Chiefs chose instead to sign former Oakland cornerback Stanford Routt last month.

If Carr goes to San Francisco, perhaps Oakland could get in on 49ers’ free agent cornerback Carlos Rogers. The Rams are talking to Saints cornerback Tracy Porter. He has been considered a possible candidate for Oakland, because he played for new Raiders coach Dennis Allen in New Orleans.

In other AFC West news:

Oakland free-agent Michael Bush tweeted that he has just arrived in Arizona. He did not indicate whether he is visiting with the Cardinals. However, with free agency open, it’s a possibility. UPDATE: Bush later tweeted that he is in Arizona to train.

NFL.com is reporting Kansas City quarterback Kyle Orton is getting interest from Washington and Dallas. The Redskins are expected to draft Robert Griffin III, so Orton would likely be a backup in both spots. Kansas City has said it would like to see Orton return and compete with Matt Cassel. If Orton doesn’t opt to stay, perhaps it is because he thinks Cassel will be the starter in Kansas City.

NFL.com is reporting Oakland receiver Chaz Schilens will visit Arizona and the Jets. Schilens is from the Phoenix area.

ESPN's John Clayton is reporting Washington is talking to Denver receiver Eddie Royal. That makes total sense. Washington coach Mike Shanahan drafted Royal in 2008, and Royal excelled under Shanahan as a rookie.

AFC West: Free-agency primer

March, 7, 2012
3/07/12
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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.
Trevor Scott and Chaz Schilens may not be the Oakland Raiders' highest profile free agents, but they are two players who I’ll be watching in free agency.

Both are former late-round draft picks who the Raiders, at one point, where very high on. But because both players have dealt with injuries, they have yet to reach their potential. The Raiders' new regime may not make Scott and Schilens top priorities because of other needs and salary cap limitations. Reports out of the Bay Area suggest Scott and Schilens could be playing elsewhere in 2012.

They would be affordable targets for teams looking for solid role players and I think the Raiders should consider keeping both.

Scott, a sixth-round pick in 2008, played in all 16 games last season, but ended up with just seven tackles. Scott tore his ACL in 2010. He had a total of 12 sacks in a limited role in his first two NFL seasons. Given an opportunity, he could regain his pass-rushing ability.

Schilens, a seventh-round pick in 2008, was considered a potential No. 1 receiver. He is big and fast and he runs smooth routes. However, Schilens has never been able to stay healthy. He did play in 15 games in 2011, but Schilens played only a total of 13 games in the previous two seasons.

Schilens had 23 catches for 271 yards in a backup role in 2011. Because the Raiders have seen other young receivers develop, they may feel comfortable letting Schilens walk as well as Scott. Still, it could be somewhat risky. The last thing Oakland would want to see is Scott and Schilens reach their potential in other uniforms.

Do the Raiders need a top receiver?

February, 20, 2012
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There has been a lot of talk this offseason that the Oakland Raiders should try to add a No. 1 receiver in free agency.

There has been talk that Oakland will make a run at New Orleans' Marques Colston, who will be one of the top free-agent receivers available. It is a deep receiver class that also may include Kansas City’s Dwayne Bowe and San Diego’s Vincent Jackson. So, Oakland will have some options if it wants to get into the receiver game in free agency.

While adding a player of Colston’s caliber would certainly help any offense, I don’t think the Raiders should make receiver a priority position.

The Raiders, who at last check were $11 million over the salary cap and one of four teams that still has to get under the cap, will eventually get under the cap. But don’t expect them to be able to be one of the NFL’s biggest spenders. That means Oakland must be prudent in its spending and address the defense first. There is immediate help needed at cornerback and perhaps at linebacker and at safety.

As appealing as adding a big-name receiver may be, the Raiders aren’t in horrible shape at the position. Yes, they do not have a legitimate No. 1 receiver on the roster. But they perhaps have one in the making.

Darrius Heyward-Bey, the No. 7 overall pick of the 2009 draft, made major strides in 2011. After catching a pitiful 35 passes in his first 26 games, Heyward-Bey broke out for 64 catches and 975 yards in 2011. Yes, he is still somewhat inconsistent. But Heyward-Bey deserves a chance to show what he can do in 2012.

There is also 2011 fifth-round pick Denarius Moore. He had 35 catches last season and made some special plays.

I think having Heyward-Bey and Moore as the starters in 2012 is a pretty good start, especially considering the presence of the dynamic, but small Jacoby Ford and the reliable Louis Murphy. The Raiders will probably let former top prospect Chaz Schilens -- whose career has been marred by numerous injuries -- walk in free agency.

A core of Heyward-Bey, Moore, Ford and Murphy (I’m sure other role players will be added) will suffice this season. The Raiders’ offseason must concentrate on defense. Adding a receiver is a luxury that can become a priority in 2013 if either Heyward-Bey and/or Moore fail to progress.

Early AFC West notes

December, 12, 2011
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It was a costly loss for Oakland in Green Bay. According to CSN Bay Area, receivers Chaz Schilens (foot) and Darrius Heyward-Bey (heel), center Samson Satele (shoulder) and free safety Michael Huff (hamstring) were unable to finish the Raiders’ 46-16 loss to the unbeaten Packers.

The status of those players will likely be updated during the week. Oakland was already without running backs Darren McFadden (foot) and Taiwan Jones (hamstring) and receivers Jacoby Ford (foot) and Denarius Moore (foot). All of those players hope to return soon.

Like a leader should, Oakland quarterback Carson Palmer took blame for the loss. Palmer threw four interceptions Sunday.

A Kansas City Star columnist thinks the Chiefs need to fire coach Todd Haley. I don’t agree, but I wouldn’t be shocked if Haley is entering his final days as the Chiefs’ coach.

Raiders need to revive run attack

December, 8, 2011
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It does not look like Darren McFadden will play Sunday at Green Bay. The Raiders’ star running back has missed five straight games due to a foot injury and he has missed both days of practice this week.

The Raiders, who are 7-5 and who are tied with the Broncos for first place in the AFC West, need to get McFadden back as soon as possible. Their run game, one of the best in the NFL, has sagged in recent weeks. Backup Michael Bush did a fantastic job in the first three games without McFadden, but Oakland’s run-game efficiency has been lacking in the past two games.

According to ESPN Stats and Information, the Raiders averaged 32.5 carries, 156.8 yards per game and 4.8 yards per carry in the first 10 games of the season. However, in the past two games, Oakland has averaged 20.5 carries (last in the NFL), 59.5 yards per game and 2.9 yards per attempt in the past two games. Oakland had to abandon the run in a loss at Miami on Sunday because it fell way behind Miami in an eventual 34-14 loss.

Even without McFadden, Oakland will have to find a way to reestablish the run at Green Bay. The Raiders are going to have to sustain some long drives to keep the ball out of Aaron Rodgers’ hands.

Meanwhile, it looks like the Raiders will continue to be without receivers Jacoby Ford (foot) and Denarius Moore (foot) and running back Taiwan Jones (hamstring) barring a major change. All three players missed practice Thursday and they have all missed recent game time. The Raiders clearly missed all the speed these players possessed at Miami. Now, it looks like the Raiders will have to try to be the first team to beat the Packers this season without their world-class speed.

Not all is lost for Oakland on the injury front. Receiver Chaz Schilens (foot) and defensive tackle John Henderson (knee) were back at practice Thursday.

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