AFC West: Darrius Heyward-Bey

Raiders' Hayden has a rocky beginning

September, 10, 2013
9/10/13
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That D.J. Hayden played in a professional football game less than a year after nearly dying on a college football practice field is a story in and of itself.

Hayden
But the Oakland Raiders' top draft pick wants to leave that storyline behind and be judged solely on his performance on the field. So how did the cornerback fare in the Raiders’ 21-17 loss to Indianapolis?

“I thought overall, it was OK,” said Raiders coach Dennis Allen. “I think, when you look at it, he had a couple opportunities to make some plays and he was just off just a little bit. So I think D.J.’s going to be fine.”

Hayden did not start -- he was not expected to -- and mostly saw time coming in as a third cornerback in Oakland’s nickel defense, playing left corner with Tracy Porter sliding into the slot.

Still, while Hayden was credited with three solo tackles, they came on completions he allowed … for a total of 37 yards.

What stung was when they came … all three were third downs the Colts converted.

Perhaps the most glaring completion Hayden surrendered was the first … because it was to former Raiders first-rounder Darrius Heyward-Bey (remember him?), and it was a 16-yard pickup, on third-and-5. And it was the fourth play in the Colts’ eventual 10-play, 89-yard scoring drive to open the game.

The second completion came on third-and-8 in the fourth quarter, when Hayden gave up a 12-yard completion to T.Y. Hilton.

Later in the same series, Hayden was beaten by Reggie Wayne for a nine-yard completion on third-and-2.

The last two completions came during the Colts’ game-winning drive.

“D.J.’s going to have to continue to learn, continue to improve, continue to get better,” Allen added. “For the first time out, not bad. But there’s a couple of plays in there you’d like to see him make.

“As he continues to grow, I think you’ll see him make a few more of those plays.”
Terrelle Pryor and Andrew LuckUSA TODAY SportsTerrelle Pryor will lead a rebuilding team while Andrew Luck and the Colts will try to build on last season's success.
The Indianapolis Colts surprised the league by finishing with an 11-5 record and making the playoffs behind rookie quarterback Andrew Luck. The Oakland Raiders struggled with a 4-12 record. They're expected to have problems again this season as the rebuilding project continues for the Raiders. The teams open the season facing each other on Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Mike Wells: So much was made about who the Raiders would start at quarterback earlier this week. It looks like it’ll be Terrelle Pryor. Does he give Oakland the best chance to win, and if so, what makes him so dangerous as a quarterback?

Paul Gutierrez: It appears as though it will be TP2 Time for the Raiders in the opener. And really, it should be. Now, that’s not necessarily an endorsement, but with this team, at this moment, Pryor does at least represent some semblance of hope, what with his skill set. His ability to run should keep the Colts' front seven honest and they won’t be able to simply pin their ears back and rush, like they could Matt Flynn. I believe Flynn is probably a better NFL quarterback at this stage, but with the deficiencies around Oakland’s pocket -- leaky line, inconsistent receivers, injury-prone running back -- Pryor gives the Raiders a better chance. And being that this is a quarterback-driven league, how has Luck dealt with stepping into those huge shoes left by Peyton Manning, and how can Luck avoid the sophomore jinx?

Wells: I’m sure you probably watched Luck one or two times out there in the Bay Area while he was at Stanford, so you know his work ethic should never be questioned, and his demeanor doesn’t allow him to get caught up with the hype. The offensive weapons the Colts put around Luck will make it difficult for him to struggle. Reggie Wayne, T.Y. Hilton and Oakland’s favorite former receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey at receiver; Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen at tight end to go with the duo of Ahmad Bradshaw and Vick Ballard at running back. So the words “sophomore slump” and “Andrew Luck” shouldn’t be on anybody’s mind. Of course that’s if the offensive line does its job and blocks. A lot is being made of Pryor’s ability to be creative with his feet, but what about Darren McFadden -- isn’t he the real threat with running the ball, especially with the Colts being near the bottom of the league in rush defense last season?

Gutierrez: No doubt, especially in a perfect world for the Raiders' offense. If all is working right, and opposing defenses have to at least respect the quarterback’s ability to take off, they can’t key on the quarterback. And that sets up the play-action pass. But for the Raiders to have any success offensively this season, it all starts and ends with a guy who has yet to play more than 13 games in a season.

Yeah, Run DMC had been more Limp DMC of late, but when he’s right, he’s nice. Two years ago, he was playing like a league MVP candidate. Then came the Lisfranc injury that ended his campaign after just six-plus games. And last year, in perhaps the greatest failing of the Raiders’ new regime’s plans, they changed the offense on McFadden from a power scheme to the zone-blocking philosophy. McFadden’s average yards per carry went from a career-high 5.4 yards to 3.3 yards. McFadden is also entering a contract year so yeah, he has something to prove as the Raiders return to the power running game. Speaking of something to prove, you mentioned him earlier: The artist formerly known as DHB around these parts left a lot to be desired after four nondescript seasons in Oakland. Hey, it wasn’t his fault he was drafted so high. How has he adapted to a change of scenery, and how strong is his desire to prove something to the Raiders after they cut him this spring?

Wells: I thought Heyward-Bey would come to Indy with a chip on his shoulder because, well, he did play for the Raiders, where more bad than good comes out of that organization. But Heyward-Bey has only good things to say about the Raiders. He blames himself for a lot of his struggles during his four years in Oakland. He also knows he needs to produce to get rid of that “bust” label. As you know, Heyward-Bey has an incredible work ethic.

The biggest difference here is that he now has a mentor. Wayne is the perfect veteran to guide him. The future Hall of Famer's professional demeanor is exactly what Heyward-Bey needs. The other thing is, Heyward-Bey doesn’t have the pressure of being the No. 1 receiver. Wayne isn’t slowing down any time soon, and the Colts have so many other offensive weapons, as I mentioned earlier, that Heyward-Bey can just let the game come to him. Fans will likely see a number of those weapons because the Raiders don’t have much of a defense. Will nine new starters help them from giving up almost 28 points a game again this season?

Gutierrez: That’s the plan. At least, that’s the hope for the Raiders. Yeah, they have nine new starters on defense, with the only two returning starters being defensive end Lamarr Houston, who is moving from the left side to the more pass rush-specific right side, and strong safety Tyvon Branch, who endured an injury-plagued season for the first time in his career. Of course, a million times of course, the Raiders kept their defense vanilla in the preseason ... and not just for what coach Dennis Allen would term "competitive reasons." In fact, Sunday will be only the first time the Raiders will field their entire starting defense at the same time. Injuries wreaked havoc in exhibition games.

There was a glimmer of hope, though, with the run-stuffing play of defensive tackle Pat Sims in the exhibition finale. And if Nick Roach, who will wear the green dot on his helmet, can rally the defense from his middle linebacker position, the Raiders' defense should be better this season. Emphasis on "could." Can the Raiders -- with virtually an entire new defense and defensive coordinator Jason Tarver, who schemed daily against Luck at Stanford -- be a detriment to the Colts? Or are they simply of the mindset that they have to worry only about themselves?

Wells: The only way the Raiders will be able to rattle Luck is if the offensive line doesn’t do its job and allows its quarterback to take a pounding all game long. And even then, that may not be enough to beat the Colts. Let’s not forget, Luck was sacked 41 times and hit more than 100 times last season. That didn’t stop him from setting a rookie record for passing yards, attempts and 300-yard games. So I don’t think the Raiders will be to do much against Luck & Co. on Sunday afternoon.

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.

AFC West checkpoint

May, 4, 2013
5/04/13
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Now that the NFL draft has wrapped, the rosters are essentially set for each AFC West team heading into the 2013 season. Sure, each team will make some tweaks, but the heavy lifting has been done.

Let’s take a look at the offseason and where each AFC West team stands:

Denver Broncos

What was good about the offseason? Denver went 13-3 in 2012 and followed up by adding several terrific pieces in free agency and the draft. There aren’t a ton of glaring holes on this team. The Broncos are strong in all phases of the game. And they upgraded in some big ways. Of course, the big prize was slot-receiving star Wes Welker in free agency. He makes Denver’s passing offense even more dangerous. But Denver also upgraded the roster by adding cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, defensive tackle Terrance Knighton, guard Louis Vasquez and pass-rusher Shaun Phillips in free agency and defensive tackle Sylvester Williams and running back Montee Ball via the draft.

What was bad about the offseason? The lone blemish on Denver’s offseason was the bizarre departure of pass-rusher Elvis Dumervil. Dumervil was set to return before the infamous fax-machine gaffe paved the way for him to go to Baltimore. Denver signed Phillips and drafted Quanterus Smith in the fifth round. Phillips will probably be a situational player and Robert Ayers will probably start in Dumervil’s old spot. Smith was leading the nation in sacks last season for Western Kentucky when he tore an anterior cruciate ligament. He is expected to be ready for training camp. The Broncos will miss Dumervil, but they think they got enough help for Von Miller.

How should they feel moving forward? The Broncos should believe they are ready to make a Super Bowl run. Is Denver flawless? Certainly not, but no NFL team is these days. Denver did enough in the offseason to be considered one of the better teams in the league.

Kansas City Chiefs

What was good about the offseason? A horrible 2-14 mark in 2012 seems like a long time ago. The Chiefs upgraded with the hiring of Andy Reid as coach and John Dorsey as general manager. Then they added quarterback Alex Smith -- the best quarterback available in the offseason, including the draft -- and several other pieces on both sides of the ball. The Chiefs' roster was already solid and it got better; what the Chiefs lacked was coaching and quarterback play. Meanwhile, the signing of cornerbacks Dunta Robinson and Sean Smith could, in combination with holdover Brandon Flowers, give Kansas City the best cornerback group in the NFL.

What was bad about the offseason? The situation with left tackle Branden Albert should be resolved by now. He will probably stay with the team and No. 1 overall pick Eric Fisher will play right tackle. The Chiefs tried to trade Albert, who was given and has signed the franchise tag, but a deal fell through with the Dolphins. A swap could still happen but more likely, Albert will return. The team is interested in signing him to a long-term deal and keeping both him and Fisher, but questions remain. In a clean offseason, this has been the one sticky situation.

How should they feel moving forward? The Chiefs should feel great. There are few holes on this team. How many squads coming off a 2-14 season can say that? I’m not sure the Chiefs are playoff contenders. It depends on how Smith fits with the offense and how quickly the defense comes together. But this team should be much improved. Reid’s program is on the right track.

Oakland Raiders

What was good about the offseason? The Raiders had a good draft. General manager Reggie McKenzie worked the process well, turning seven picks into 10. Because this outfit is being totally rebuilt, I would not be shocked if all 10 draft picks made the 53-man roster. Oakland's first-round pick, cornerback D.J. Hayden, and its third-round pick, linebacker Sio Moore, have a chance to start right away and make an impact. Adding Hayden to free-agent signees Tracy Porter and Mike Jenkins is a big upgrade at the cornerback spot. The linebacking crew has a chance to be better too.

What was bad about the offseason? Salary-cap problems made it very difficult for Oakland. It had to cut several players, including defensive back Michael Huff and receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey; it traded quarterback Carson Palmer; and it saw solid free agents like Philip Wheeler, Brandon Myers, Shane Lechler and Desmond Bryant go elsewhere. The Raiders did the best they could under the circumstances, but a lot of talent left the team.

How should they feel moving forward? The Raiders should feel like a work in progress. The NFL has become a quick-turnaround league. That is not, however, likely to happen in Oakland this year -- the Raiders are probably a three-year project. McKenzie tore it down and is starting to build it up. The Raiders have made their salary-cap situation right for the future and have some promising players. But if the Raiders made a playoff push this year, it would be a major surprise.

San Diego Chargers

What was good about the offseason? The Chargers had a great draft -- arguably the best in the league. They drafted right tackle D.J. Fluker in the first round, inside linebacker Manti Te'o in the second round and receiver Keenan Allen in the third. All three were considered first-round talents and should start this fall. The franchise is headed in a new direction, and these players will have paved the way. The Chargers also added some nice pieces in free agency in the form of cornerback Derek Cox, running back Danny Woodhead and guard Chad Rinehart.

What was bad about the offseason? Yes, the Chargers did have some success in free agency, but because of salary-cap worries, they didn’t do too much. The Chargers need an infusion of talent, and free agency didn’t solve all the problems. The offensive line in particular is still a work in progress. They badly need a left tackle with few options available. That's a problem.

How should they feel moving forward? The solid draft gives the Chargers some good vibes heading into the summer. But this is not a complete roster. The offensive line is not great, and there are some concerns in the secondary. Yes, the Chargers are improving. But as with Oakland, the promise may be more long term than immediate.
The Oakland Raiders officially dumped Rolando McClain less than three years after the team made him the No. 8 overall pick in the draft.

However, McClain has been out the door in Oakland for more than four months.

The team suspended the middle linebacker for conduct detrimental in November for two games. Once his suspension was lifted, McClain never saw the field again. He was relegated to a scout team running back in practice. The Raiders held onto him for salary-cap purposes and finally dumped him Friday.

He asked permission to seek a trade, but that was almost comical. No team was going to give Oakland anything for a player who was a bust on the field and who has been arrested twice since he was drafted. Perhaps a team will give him a chance to revive his career (I’d be surprised if that happened in the AFC West) but the Raiders are not going to get anything for it. The Raiders will take a $7.26 million cap hit.

McClain was a problem on and off the field and was a disaster. He had to go. Oakland signed Nick Roach from Chicago to play middle linebacker.

This signifies another first-round bust for this franchise. The frustrating part of this one is McClain was considered a safe pick when he was drafted after several previous questionable decisions in the first round. He was a star at Alabama and there didn’t seem to be many negatives about him.

But McClain was overmatched in the NFL from the start and his surly personality never made him a favorite in any circle in Oakland.

Oakland has just two first-round picks left on the roster. Kicker Sebastian Janikowski (2000) and running back Darren McFadden (2008). McClain is the third first-round pick Oakland has jettisoned this offseason as he joins safety Michael Huff (2006) and receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey (2009).

Because of trades for defensive lineman Richard Seymour and quarterback Carson Palmer (they both left the team this year too) Oakland hasn’t had a first-round pick in the past two years. Reggie McKenzie will get his first first-round pick with the No. 3 selection later this month. Cutting McClain is another reminder of how important this first choice will be for the Raiders.
The Oakland Raiders’ salary-cap troubles have been well documented.

But after paying the price for years of wild spending, the Raiders will be paroled from salary-cap jail. Next year, after shedding several contracts and being unable to build their program by keeping their own coveted free agents, the Raiders will be in better shape.

ESPN’s John Clayton has a strong grasp on the salary cap and figures that Oakland will have about $69 million in cap space for 2014. That number will likely change based on several things, but it is clear that Oakland will have an abundance of cap room next year as it continues to rebuild its roster. For the first time since Reggie McKenzie took over as general manager in 2012, Oakland will not have to cut players to get under the cap.

Before you start fantasizing about a Pro Bowl stable of free agents coming to the East Bay, a surplus of cap room doesn’t automatically mean that team can sign all the best players. Many teams have cap space good enough to do what they wish; some don’t use their surplus just because they have it. Jacksonville, for example, still has more than $25 million remaining in cap room for this season but has completed virtually all its significant spending.

I expect McKenzie to take a measured approach next year with his newfound salary-cap good fortune. He cut his teeth in Green Bay under Ted Thompson -- who built Green Bay into an elite team by not pursuing outside free agents and keeping his best players.

That’s how McKenzie aims to operate.

So there's no reason to think that good homegrown players will leave the Raiders after the 2013 season. They don’t have a ton of core players, but there are some. Defensive lineman Lamarr Houston, offensive lineman Jared Veldheer and Stefen Wisniewski and receiver Denarius Moore are among the players who should be in line for long-term contracts as the Raiders build from within. Running back Darren McFadden is entering the final season of his contract and if he can stay healthy, Oakland will likely be interested in keeping him.

Once the Raiders identify these types of players and lock them up, Oakland will complement the roster with some outside purchases. But it starts from within for McKenzie.

Two things have hurt Oakland: past wild spending on veterans and poor first-round drafting. We’ve seen that with the departures of such players as Richard Seymour, Tommy Kelly, Carson Palmer, Darrius Heyward-Bey and the likely release of Rolando McClain. Had those players not crippled Oakland’s cap, the Raiders would have been able to keep solid players such as Philip Wheeler, Desmond Bryant and Brandon Myers in free agency this year.

This nasty process has depleted Oakland’s roster. The healing begins next year, when Oakland won't be motivated by pure financial necessity and can start making prudent decisions to build the franchise the right way.
Earlier today it seemed that the Oakland Raiders' trade of quarterback Carson Palmer to the Arizona Cardinals was a formality. However, Monday night CBS Sports reported that while the two teams are still talking, negotiations have hit a snag. The Cardinals are trying to give Palmer a new contract as part of the deal.

If an agreement cannot be reached, the Raiders could try to find another trade partner or be forced to cut Palmer without any compensation. The Raiders traded for Matt Flynn on Monday because Palmer refused to take a pay cut from the Raiders.

It will be difficult for the Raiders to find a new trade partner because most of the teams wanting Palmer would likely only want him as a backup at this point. The Raiders don’t have to immediately make a move on Palmer. His salary-cap hit is what it is and there is no deadline. The Raiders could sit on Palmer for a while if the Arizona talks fizzle.

In other AFC West news:

The Colts signed former Oakland receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey. The No. 7 overall pick of the 2009 draft was recently cut by the Raiders.

A teammate didn’t love the comments San Diego running back Ryan Mathews made about the 2012 Chargers.
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.
  • ESPN’s Adam Schefter is reporting Denver cornerback Tracy Porter visited the New Orleans Saints (his original team) on Monday. The Raiders are also interested. Porter is not expected to return to Denver.
  • Former Oakland receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey is reportedly visiting Detroit. He visited the Colts on Monday. The former No. 7 overall draft pick was recently cut by Oakland.
  • CBS Sports thinks the Broncos are the best team in the NFL of right now. Yes, it’s early. Very, very early.
  • Elvis Dumervil will wear No. 58 with the Ravens. Perhaps it is a nod to former Denver teammate Von Miller.
The Kansas City Chiefs' college tour has hit Gainesville, Fla., as ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports the team’s brass is working out Florida defensive lineman Sharrif Floyd on Monday.

The Chiefs have the No. 1 overall pick in April's NFL draft and are doing their due dilligence. They are expected to work out up to 10 of the top prospects.

The most likely scenarios are for Kansas City to either draft Texas A&M left tackle Luke Joeckel or look to trade the pick to the highest bidder. But Floyd has been a workout monster this offseason, and the Chiefs could be tempted to take him. Floyd has been listed as a favorite to land in Oakland with the No. 3 pick if he's still available.

In other AFC West news:

Tight end Kellen Winslow said the Oakland Raiders are among the teams that have expressed interest in him. He has been connected to the Raiders for about a week. The Raiders don’t have a proven in-house replacement for Brandon Myers, who signed with the Giants. Winslow played just one game last season because of a knee injury.

Former Oakland receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey is visiting the Colts, and former Oakland safety Michael Huff is visiting his hometown Cowboys. Both players were cut recently.

Kansas City free agent defensive lineman Ropati Pitoitua has signed with the Titans.
The Oakland Raiders’ roster is getting younger as the team rebuilds and tries to find the right pieces for the future.

Streater
One of those players may be second-year receiver Rod Streater. He opened eyes last season as an undrafted rookie from Temple. A raw player in college, Streater impressed Oakland from minicamps on. He finished his first NFL season with 39 catches.

With Darrius Heyward-Bey released because of salary-cap issues and Jacoby Ford coming off a foot injury, Streater has a chance to start alongside Denarius Moore. Oakland coach Dennis Allen said recently he hopes Streater continues to make strides.

“I want to see him start where he left off, but I want to see continued improvement,” Allen said. “I think the guy's got talent. I think he's a good route-runner. I think he's got good ball skills. I think he'll go up and attack the ball. I think he's a tough kid. I think he believes in a lot of the things I'm looking for in a football player.”

As Oakland rebuilds, Streater has a chance to show he can help the team not only in the immediate future, but down the road.
Sports Illustrated's Peter King mentioned in his Monday column that the Kansas City Chiefs would listen to trade offers for Branden Albert.

Albert
Albert
Here is a trade partner that makes sense: The Miami Dolphins.

The Dolphins were unable to retain left tackle Jake Long, after he signed a deal with St. Louis late Sunday night.

Albert would be a perfect fit for the Dolphins, and he lives in Miami in the offseason. I’m sure he’d be happy to sign a long-term deal with Miami, which would make trading for him a smart move for the Dolphins.

I would think the Chiefs should be open to trading Albert for a second-round pick. That would make up for the lost second-round pick the Chiefs handed over to San Francisco in exchange for starting quarterback Alex Smith. Also, Miami had two second-round pick, No. 42 and No. 54, so it would likely easily give up one of the two for Albert.

Then, the Chiefs could draft either Texas A&M’s Luke Joeckel or Central Michigan’s Eric Fisher (Joeckel is the likely choice) and insert that player at left tackle.

It makes sense for the Chiefs to trade Albert, who they gave the franchise tag, and it makes sense for Miami being the landing spot.

In other AFC West news:

On Saturday, we discussed what it would mean if the Kevin Burnett deal was finalized in Oakland. Well, now the deal is done and we will discuss what changes could be in store for the Raiders' defense in an upcoming post.

Denver coach John Fox told reporters at the NFL owners meetings that the team isn’t closing the door on re-signing Elvis Dumervil. Add the Steelers to the list of the teams interested in Dumervil.

The Jets reportedly are interested in signing former Oakland receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey, who was recently cut by the team.

In an Insider piece, Matt Williamson thinks the Chiefs can make a playoff run Insider after all of the work they’ve accomplished this offseason.

Evening AFC West notes

March, 13, 2013
3/13/13
10:11
PM ET
Linebacker Dan Connor, cut by Dallas, is going to visit the Raiders. He started eight games last season and had 56 tackles. He fits the profile of the players Oakland is pursuing: young and inexpensive.

U-T San Diego is reporting the Chargers will visit with Jacksonville cornerback Derek Cox on Friday.

The Eagles reportedly have interest in receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey, who was cut by the Raiders. Speed piece for Chip Kelly’s breakneck offense?

Philip Wheeler told media members in Miami that the Chiefs were interested in him before he left the Raiders for the Dolphins. It’s interesting because he is a 4-3 outside linebacker and the Chiefs are a 3-4 team that is set at outside linebacker. I haven’t heard the Chiefs being interested in any other linebackers to this point. Perhaps that will change.
A look at some of the storylines that stood out most in the first day of free agency Tuesday:

Where’s the defense in Oakland? As of now, the Oakland Raiders have just three set starters on defense -- lineman Lamarr Houston, linebacker Miles Burris and safety Tyvon Branch. That’s scary. Yes, Oakland will add players and will field a defense, but that fact shows you how much work needs to be done.

Where’s the offensive line in San Diego? The San Diego Chargers’ offensive line is in just as bad a shape as Oakland’s defense. The team’s best offensive lineman, guard Louis Vasquez, defected to the Denver Broncos on Tuesday. The Chargers might need to find starters everywhere on the line but center. They have to get to work, although new signee King Dunlap could be in the mix somewhere.

Another "dream team" for Reid? The Chiefs have been wildly busy all offseason. Some detractors are saying new Kansas City coach Andy Reid is taking the same “dream team” approach his Eagles took two years ago when they stockpiled many big-name free agents. It didn’t work. This is a much different approach. The Chiefs had to keep their top free agents, had to get a quarterback in Alex Smith and have added some key rotational players in free agency. There isn’t a ton of flash here. A solid roster is being built.

Vasquez's signing is big for Denver: Thus far, the Vasquez signing in Denver was the best work we've seen in the AFC West since the opening of free agency. He toughens the offensive line in Denver and makes it better. Vasquez and tackle Orlando Franklin on the right side are going to be a load in the running game. Plus, the signing hurt a division rival. Very solid move.

Lack of first-round impact hurts Oakland: The Raiders cut a pair of former first-round picks, safety Michael Huff (2006) and receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey (2009), on Tuesday; linebacker Rolando McClain (2010) is expected to be cut soon. That would leave just running back Darren McFadden (2008) and kicker Sebastian Janikowski (2000) as the only Raiders first-round picks on the roster. That is not the way to build a team. The Raiders have the No. 3 pick in April's draft. They must get this one correct. Right now, I’d say the top options there are either Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd or Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner.
There is no doubt the Oakland Raiders are in a tough spot.

For the second straight year the Raiders are facing a tough salary-cap situation because of wild, irresponsible spending by the previous regime. The result is a second year of tough decisions.

As the Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs worked to improve Tuesday, the Raiders had to hit the refresh button again.

Oakland cut safety Michael Huff, receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey and defensive end Dave Tollefson. The Heyward-Bey (Oakland has other young receivers) and Tollefson cuts were not surprising. But the Huff cut was. He played well at cornerback in an emergency last year and the team was moving him back to safety. He didn’t want to take a pay cut.

The team also saw linebacker Philip Wheeler (Miami) and defensive tackle Desmond Bryant (Cleveland) sign lucrative five-year deals. Huff and Wheeler were among the best players on a porous defense in 2012 and Bryant is expected to have a strong future.

Oakland will likely either get a pay reduction from quarterback Carson Palmer or cut him. Defensive tackle Tommy Kelly and linebacker Rolando McClain are expected to be cut.

ESPN’s John Clayton reports Oakland is $14.66 million under the cap. They will be able to do some things. But the problem is that they have many holes. They have to restock this roster.

I understand all of these moves. But the truth is, this team can’t afford to lose good players. Wheeler and Huff were good players.

I expect Huff to attract interest on the open market. Heyward-Bey -- a big disappointment after being the No. 7 overall pick in 2009 -- will likely get some mild interest on the open market because of his speed.

The part of these moves that has to be a tad worrisome is the new regime is still dealing with decisions it made last year. Safety Tyvon Branch and guard Mike Brisiel did big restructures and Tollefson was cut. During a time of flux like this, the moves that are being made must work or the trouble will continue.

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