AFC West: Dre' Bly

Raiders news and notes

August, 19, 2009

Posted by's Bill Williamson

While covering the Chiefs' camp, I have kept up to date to what has been happening in Oakland.

According to an NFL source, Oakland receiver Chaz Schilens was set to have surgery on his broken foot Wednesday. He broke the foot in practice Tuesday. Schilens, the Raiders' No. 1 receiver, is expected to be out 6-8 weeks.

However, these types of injuries can often linger. The Raiders will miss Schilens no matter how long he will be out. He was having an excellent training camp.

Meanwhile, top pick Darius Heyward-Bey will be asked to step it up with Schilens out. Heyward-Bey's hands have become an issue again. He dropped at least five passes in the two practice days against San Francisco.

The Oakland Tribune reports that the Raiders' offense struggled mightily against the 49ers' defense on Wednesday. Oakland quarterback JaMarcus Russell was intercepted three times. San Francisco cornerback Dre' Bly said it was "total domination."

What does this mean? Not much. The Raiders' offense and Russell had a bad day. No big deal if improvements are made. But this did make Saturday's preseason game between the two teams more interesting.

Rookie safety Mike Mitchell's hamstring injury could potentially endanger his chances of playing in the regular season opener.

  Ron Chenoy/US Presswire
  Josh McDaniels plans on doing things his way as head coach of the Broncos.

Posted by's Bill Williamson

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- There's no doubt: Josh McDaniels means business in Denver. At 33, the former New England golden child is the man in charge.

"It's his team," said receiver Eddie Royal.

We found that out very early in McDaniels' regime, after the former New England offensive coordinator was hired to replace Mike Shanahan following a 14-year run in Denver. Even though both are regarded as offensive masters, Shanahan and McDaniels see the football world differently.

Camp Confidential: AFC West
Raiders: Fri., July 31
Chargers: Tues., Aug. 4
Broncos: Wed., Aug. 12
Chiefs: Thurs., Aug. 20
Training camp index

McDaniels shook up the roster, including the offense, which was ranked second in the NFL last year. Of course, the biggest shake-up of the entire NFL offseason was McDaniels' public feud with Pro Bowl quarterback Jay Cutler, one that resulted in the Broncos trading Cutler to Chicago.

The Cutler trade and several other offseason moves showed McDaniels is bent on doing things his way. It has continued on the practice field in training camp.

McDaniels is a man with his own plan and he believes in his way. Players are amazed by the swift and precise manner in which practices are held. Under Shanahan, camp practices were fairly relaxed. Shanahan believed in making sure his troops were ready for Sundays.

Every day is Sunday for McDaniels, who often keeps his team on the field for 30 minutes more than the practice is scheduled for.

"He really spends a lot of time in game situations," Royal said. "We are practicing real game stuff all the time. He doesn't want us to panic when we get to a situation. It's all very well prepared."

McDaniels can't wait to see how his practice ploys play out in the Broncos' preseason opener Friday in San Francisco.

"I hope there are six or eight of these [situations] that come up in the game on Friday night," McDaniels said. "Because then, we will get to actually go out there and see what we learned from all of these practices."

  AP Photo/David Zalubowski
  The Broncos are counting on quarterback Kyle Orton to lead the offense this season.

Some veterans this week said that Shanahan's way got stale. They are willing to give the McDaniels way a whirl. They have no choice, however. He's going to do it anyway -- whether they like it or not.

Key Questions

1. Is Kyle Orton the answer at quarterback?

Orton was given the starting job over Chris Simms in June. It gave him extra time to learn McDaniels' intricate system. Still, Orton is having his ups and downs. He was booed by fans at a scrimmage last week but has since bounced back. Orton is never going to wow anyone, but if he can get a handle on McDaniels' system, he may be a decent game manager. But don't expect anything spectacular.

2. Can the defense turn it around?

The Broncos' fortune may depend on whether the defense can rebound. The team has compiled a sold back eight, if everyone stays healthy. But the key in defensive coordinator Mike Nolan's 3-4 defense is the front three, and the unit is inexperienced. The current starters -- Kenny Peterson and Ryan McBean at end and Ronald Fields at nose tackle -- have two combined starts in the past two NFL seasons. The three starters are big and stout, but none is a proven starter yet.

3. Will Brandon Marshall be ready to contribute?

  AP Photo/David Zalubowski
  Denver needs Brandon Marshall to be healthy and focused.

Ultimately, I believe he will. Marshall has been a big story this offseason. First, he had hip surgery in March, and then in June he asked to be traded. Still, he reported to training camp. Yet, he hasn't practiced in 10 days because of an apparent hamstring injury. Marshall is expected to be fully ready to go by the season opener in Cincinnati on Sept. 13. If Marshall is mentally and physically prepared, he is one of Denver's best players.

Market watch

Orton may be a question mark and there are unknowns about Marshall as well. But we know this: The Denver receiving crew is going to be good.

Orton will have plenty of weapons to work with. The offense will be even more stacked if Marshall is physically and mentally into the game.

Let's face it: Marshall is the jewel of this group and Denver needs him. But the Broncos are very excited about their other receivers.

It starts with Royal, who may play several roles in McDaniels' offense. Royal caught 91 passes as a rookie and he could have a Wes Welker-type role in McDaniels' offense.

The Broncos will also find a way to get mileage out of veterans Brandon Stokley and Jabar Gaffney. The savvy veterans could be perfect fits in McDaniels' system that sprays the ball around the field.

Newcomer to watch

There are a ton of newcomers on this team and players like Orton and rookie tailback Knowshon Moreno will be watched closely, but here is a player to watch who could help determine if the defense is going to be improved or not: Andre' Goodman.


The right cornerback was signed as a free agent from Miami. The Broncos released the overpriced and underproductive Dre' Bly and believe they got a much better player in Goodman. After a wild free-agent signing spree, Goodman could be one of the best buys. Along with star left cornerback Champ Bailey, Goodman could complete a nice cornerback tandem in Denver.

Goodman has excelled in training camp. He is a ball magnet. Plus, he is a bright player and a leader who is not afraid to take chances. The only real question about Goodman in his career is if he can stay healthy. If Goodman has a big year, it will go a long way in this defense making strides.

Observation deck

The Broncos are sticking with kicker Matt Prater even though he struggled at the end of last season and he has been inconsistent in camp. Prater has a strong leg and he is good on kickoffs. Still, if he struggles in the preseason, Denver may be forced to look elsewhere. ... First-round pick Robert Ayers has shown good pass-rush burst thus far. ... Moreno has been returning kickoffs in camp. McDaniels said on draft weekend that Moreno could be used as a returner as well as a three-down back. It's clear Denver will get its money's worth from him. ... Linebacker Andra Davis has looked good in camp. The Broncos believe their linebacker crew will be much improved as a unit. ... Elvis Dumervil is coming along as a linebacker in the 3-4 defense. He has natural pass-rush skills and the Broncos think he can be a terror in their scheme. ... Rookie receiver Kenny McKinley, a fifth-round pick, has looked impressive. ... The Broncos are pleased with the caliber of people the team has brought in this offseason. The last few years of the Shanahan era were marred by several players having legal issues.

Posted by staff

Denver Broncos

The Chicago Tribune's Vaughn McClure transcribes Champ Bailey's radio interview in which the Broncos DB offers up his thoughts on former Denver quarterback Jay Cutler. Said Bailey: "Well he's definitely in the top 10 as far as what he's done to this point. Now where he can be, he can be the best in the game, he has that ability."

Kansas City Chiefs

On Aug. 8, the ribbon will be cut on the new "Lamar Hunt Super Bowl gallery" at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The Sporting News' Adam Teicher and Vinnie Iyer write that with Scott Pioli and Matt Cassel now in Kansas City, the Chiefs are on the rebound.

Oakland Raiders

Raiders legends are tired of seeing the Oakland lose and have some advice for the team's young players.

Cam Inman remembers Steve McNair's grit in Tennessee's loss to the Raiders in the 2002 AFC Championship Game. Inman also cleans out his mailbox.

San Diego Chargers

San Diego has passed new restrictions on how elected officials are allowed to use Chargers game tickets.

Posted by staff

Denver Broncos

  • After a disappointing season in Denver left Dre Bly unemployed, the veteran corner is looking to bounce back with the 49ers.
Kansas City Chiefs
Oakland Raiders
  • Jeff Garcia believes he's the best quarterback on the Raiders.
  • Inside the Oakland Raiders has a partial transcript of a two-hour interview with Al Davis in which the 80-year-old Raiders owner talks about his youth in Brooklyn.
San Diego Chargers
  • After recently announcing that their summer training camp would be closed to the public, the Chargers announced they will hold practices on Aug. 5, 8 and 12 at Qualcomm Stadium that will be free and open to the public.

Posted by's Bill Williamson

The winner of the blockbuster 2007 trade between the Denver Broncos and the Detroit Lions is ... neither team.

The final chapter of the lackluster trade came Monday when the Lions cut tackle George Foster. Foster and running back Tatum Bell were traded to Detroit by the Broncos for cornerback Dre' Bly. The trade was a highlight of the NFL offseason. Three starting quality players usually don't get dealt in the same trade.

But all three players were disappointing in their new homes. Bell -- who finished last season back with Denver -- was cut after one season with the Lions.

Bly, who had several teams interested before Denver won a bidding war, was just so-so in two seasons in Denver. The former Pro Bowl player was cut in a salary-cap move earlier this year. He was recently signed by San Francisco to a one-year deal.

Foster, a former first-round draft choice, fell out of favor in Denver. He couldn't re-energize his career in Detroit.

Posted by's Bill Williamson

  • The Raiders signed veteran safety Keith Davis. The former Dallas player will give Oakland depth and he could help on special teams. This is a decent veteran signing.
  • It is being reported that Tampa Bay has talked about free-agent receiver Plaxico Burress. His agent, Drew Rosenhaus, has said there were two teams interested in the troubled receiver. The Jets were identified as one of the two teams. With the Buccaneers in the picture, perhaps this may end speculation that Oakland could be interested in Burress. The Raiders could still be interested, but I have my doubts that this pairing would work.
  • The Chargers aren't thrilled with the latest movement on a potential new stadium in San Diego.
  • Former Denver cornerback Dre' Bly has signed with San Francisco. He was cut by the Broncos earlier this offseason.

Posted by's Bill Williamson


Former Denver cornerback Dre' Bly is meeting with San Francisco.

My take: Bly was somewhat of a whipping boy in his two seasons in Denver. Sure, he gave up some big plays (Denver fans will never forget the loss to Green Bay in overtime in 2007), but he is still a decent pro. Bly, who was cut by Denver early in the offseason in a salary-cap move, can help someone for the short term. The 49ers could do worse than Bly at this point. 


Ken Stabler believes in JaMarcus Russell.

My take: Russell needs all the supporters he can get. I just get the feeling the heat is going to be on Russell often this season. It has already started with the shadow of Jeff Garcia. If Russell does not improve, his Oakland tenure will be in question. The fact that one of the most popular figures in Oakland history is behind Russell can only help the young quarterback as he enters a crucial year.

AFC West mailbag

March, 18, 2009

Posted by's Bill Williamson

Mid-week mail call:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AFC West news and notes

March, 1, 2009

Posted by's Bill Williamson

The Broncos agreed to terms with Miami cornerback Andre Goodman Sunday evening, their ninth free agent acquisition. Goodman agreed to a five-year deal worth $25 million and a little more than $10 million in guarantees.

Goodman is the third new starter in the secondary and will join Champ Bailey at cornerback. The Broncos signed safeties Brian Dawkins and Renaldo Hill.

Goodman replaces salary cap causality Dre' Bly. Goodman had a fine season with Miami but he is 30. He is known as a good locker room presence and should be able to play alongside Bailey for a couple of seasons, at least.

The team is still working on trying to save the contract of running back J.J. Arrington and it is still talking to free agent Derrick Ward.

Meanwhile, Oakland guard Cooper Carlisle visit to Tampa Bay is still on and has been pushed back a few days. Oakland is still trying to re-sign him.

Here is a chilling story on Oakland linebacker Marquis Cooper who is missing at sea in Florida.

Posted by's Bill Williamson

The fact that Denver has cut five defensive starters in the past couple of days may appear more drastic than it really is.

  Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images
  Less than a year after acquiring Dewayne Robertson from the Jets, the Broncos discarded the former first-round draft pick.

Yes, replacing at least five starters is no easy task. But the truth is the new Denver regime can't wait to do it. The team needs a huge facelift on defense.

It began this week when the team waved goodbye to starters Dre' Bly (cornerback), Dewayne Robertson (defensive tackle), Jamie Winborn (linebacker), Marquand Manuel (safety) and John Engelberger (defensive end). Only Bly and Robertson could have conceivably been part of the makeover, but both were high-priced and neither made much of an impact last season.

So they're out.

There is more change to come. Outside linebacker Boss Bailey, who is injured, could be a candidate to be cut. Starters Ebenezer Ekuban (defensive end), Nate Webster (linebacker) and Marlon McCree (safety) are free agents and are not expected to return.

But again, many of these players were starters in 2008 because the team had no other choice.

Under new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan -- the former San Francisco head coach and longtime assistant -- the Broncos are moving toward becoming a 3-4 defense. Few of the above-mentioned players fit in the new scheme.

The Broncos have two cornerstones on defense: cornerback Champ Bailey and linebacker D.J. Williams. Other than that, it's an open audition.

Pass-rush specialist Elvis Dumervil should have a place on the defense and could be moved to linebacker from defensive end. Young defensive linemen Marcus Thomas and Jarvis Moss (the team's first-round pick in 2007) will likely get a chance to play in the new scheme.

Thomas has been fairly productive the past two years and has a chance to be a good player. Moss has been a major disappointment, but he has natural pass-rush skills so there's hope he could flourish in the new system.

Young linebackers Wesley Woodyard and Spencer Larsen may get a chance to fit in the 3-4 attack. Woodyard, an undrafted free agent signed last season, is a natural playmaker and was a tackling machine last year. Larsen, a sixth-round pick last season, is a hard-nosed, versatile player. Still, there will be new competition for both.

Other than Bailey, the Broncos will likely be looking for help in the secondary.

Expect Denver to try to get at least two defensive linemen, at least one linebacker and three new defensive backs through free agency, trades and the draft. While big names such as defensive end Julius Peppers and defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth will be tempting, the Broncos may opt to target several more reasonably priced free agents than one big-ticket item because of their numerous needs on defense.

Whatever happens, the change is going to be drastic. The release of five starters this week only begins the sea change on Denver's defense.

Posted by's Bill Williamson

After cutting seven players, including five defensive starters in the past two days, Denver is clearly preparing for free agency where it is has more than $25 million in functional salary-cap room.

Denver will likely try to get multiple defensive starters in free agency.

The new Denver regime, coach Josh McDaniels and general manager Brian Xanders, need to learn from the past several offseasons of the Mike Shanahan era. The Broncos made several major free agent and trade mistakes in the final few years of Shanahan's tenure. If the Broncos, who were 24-24 the past three seasons, are going to turn around their fortunes quickly under McDaniels and Xanders, they need to avoid the mistakes that have been made in recent seasons in Denver.

Here is a list of some of the big-name, little-impact players the Broncos swung and missed on:

Dre' Bly

  • Cornerback
  • Acquired: Trade with Detroit, March 2007
  • Breakup: Bly was cut Tuesday with three years remaining on his contract. The release of Bly cost Denver more than $2 million in salary-cap room. Bly was never the top-flight cornerback Denver hoped he would be.

Travis Henry

  • Running back
  • Acquired: Free agent, March 2007
  • Breakup: He was cut last June after one disastrous season in which he was injured often and embroiled in drug issues with the league. He was cut after he stopped going to work. He is now dealing with a criminal drug case.

Dewayne Robertson

  • Defensive tackle
  • Acquired: Trade with New York Jets, April 2008.
  • Breakup: Robertson was cut Monday in move that saved Denver $16 million in cap room. He made very little impact during his one season in Denver,

Javon Walker

  • Wide receiver
  • Acquired: Trade with Green Bay, April 2006.
  • Breakup: He was cut after the 2007 season in which he was riddled by injury and in which he criticized the franchise. Like Denver's other big-name trade acquisitions in recent years, Walker came in with a brand new, big contract.

Gerard Warren

  • Defensive tackle
  • Acquired: Trade with Cleveland, March 2005
  • Breakup: Warren was traded to Oakland in training camp in 2007 after the team decided he didn't fit in a year after signing a six-year, $30-plus million deal. Warren had been solid in Oakland and the Broncos miss him.

Posted by's Bill Williamson

A day after the Denver Broncos cut six players -- four of whom started on defense -- to save money, Denver cut another defensive starter.


This time it wasn't done to save money. The Broncos cut cornerback Dre' Bly because they want to upgrade at right cornerback. Bly had three years remaining on his contract.

Awash in salary cap room, Denver was easily able to absorb a $2.6 million salary-cap hit to part ways with Bly, an 11-year veteran who has lost considerable speed. Bly had more than $9 million in dead money. The Broncos now have more than $17 million in dead money, including the contract of former running back Travis Henry, which is currently the highest in the league.

Still, Denver has more than $25 million in functional salary-cap room, and it is expected to try to fill several needs on defense in free agency. Denver will need to find five or six defensive starters through free agency and the draft. Expect Denver to look for cornerbacks in free agency. One possibility may be St. Louis' Ronald Bartell.

Bly never made the impact in Denver the Broncos had hoped for when he was acquired from Detroit for running back Tatum Bell and tackle George Foster in March 2007. The deal was considered a blockbuster for Denver, which emerged from a large list of teams pursuing Bly. The Broncos thought Bly would team with star Champ Bailey to make one of the best cornerback tandems in the league.

Yet, Bly, who is now an unrestricted free agent, was just average in Denver. However, he did play fairly well in the second half of 2008 when Bailey was hurt. In the end, Bly was another in a long line of big-name flops in Denver in the final years of the Mike Shanahan era.

The new Denver regime was so anxious to get rid of Bly that it paid to do it.

Broncos' moves open up cap space

February, 16, 2009

Posted by's Bill Williamson

The purge has begun in Denver.

The word around the organization was that the bloodletting would be severe in Denver and it began with a bang Monday. The team cut six players and saved more than $25 million in salary cap space in the process. The Broncos, who cut several lower level, low pay players last week, now have more than $28 million in cap space with the number fluctuating nearly on a daily basis.

These moves mean Denver will have plenty of room to pick up some key free agents once free agency begins Feb. 27. Denver will need to add several defensive players. Four of the players cut were starters at least part of the season in 2008.

The cut players were defensive tackle Dewayne Robertson, defensive end John Engelberger, linebacker Jamie Winborn, safety Marquand Manuel, linebacker Niko Koutouvides and tight end Nate Jackson.

The cuts illustrate the rough free agency period Denver had in 2008. The team drafted very well last season but made several mistakes in free agency. Koutouvides and Manuel were brought in through free agency and Engelberger and Jackson were both re-signed by Denver last year. Robertson was brought in through a draft day eve trade with the Jets. Denver won't owe New York any compensation for Robertson. His release alone gives Denver more than $16 million in cap relief.

Several of these players played significant time but they were not effective and it was clear Denver was going to have to replace them. The Broncos will likely need five or six new starters and these cuts were the beginning of the change in Denver on the defensive side of the ball.

The team may also soon cut cornerback Dre' Bly. His release would clear several million alone.

Expect Denver, which has cash issues like many teams around the league during this economic downturn, to try to get at least a couple of defensive starters (there are needs on all three phases of the unit). The Broncos could be intrigued by a big name free agent, but Monday's purge shows the Broncos needs for quantity as much as quality this offseason.

Denver salary cap glance

February, 16, 2009

Posted by's Bill Williamson

Denver Broncos

Most recent salary cap availability: $7.16 million.

How can they get more cap room: The Broncos are expected to be in fine salary cap shape once they shed the contracts of some veterans and the word around Denver is it could be a bloodletting. The team is almost certain to cut defensive tackle Dewayne Robertson and cornerback Dre' Bly. Cutting Robertson would give Denver about $16 million and cutting Bly, which could happen this week, would give Denver more than $6 million in cap room. Other veterans who could potentially be salary-cap causality include guard Ben Hamilton.

Biggest free agency needs: Defensive line, linebacker, safety.

Dream date: Albert Haynesworth, defensive tackle, Tennessee Titans.

Hot Button: AFC West

February, 14, 2009

Posted by's Bill Williamson

The top issues facing each team in the division:

Denver Broncos

  Dustin Snipes/Icon SMI
  Rey Maualuga might fit the mold of what Denver is looking for on defense.

Primary issue: It's all about moving forward in Denver as the Josh McDaniels era starts, ending Mike Shanahan's 14-season run in Denver. If the Broncos are going to be successful early in McDaniels' tenure, they will have to address their problems on defense.

If the season started now, the Broncos would have a difficult time lining up 11 quality starters. The defense has been terrible for the last two seasons and there are only a few quality starters on the roster. Further complicating matters is that the Broncos want to run a 3-4 defense under new coordinator Mike Nolan, the former San Francisco head coach. Thus, Denver has to find players in that mold.

The team has star left cornerback Champ Bailey, linebacker D.J. Williams and defensive end Elvis Dumervil, who could be moved to linebacker in the new scheme. Other than those players, the Broncos need a bunch of pieces. And players such as defensive tackle Dewayne Robertson and cornerback Dre' Bly could be on their way out as salary-cap casualties.

Solution: The Broncos have the No. 12 pick and need to secure a quality player such as a middle linebacker like USC's Rey Maualuga or a defensive tackle such as Boston College's B.J. Raji. Also, Denver needs to pick up a couple of starters through free agency. Free agents such as defensive tackle Grady Jackson, and perhaps, if Bly is cut, a young cornerback such as the Rams' Ronald Bartell could be interesting fits.

Hot Button Archive
Kuharsky: AFC South
Yasinskas: NFC South
Seifert: NFC North
Walker: AFC North
Sando: NFC West
Williamson: AFC West
Graham: AFC East
Mosley: NFC East

Secondary concern: While the majority of the work to be done in the offseason in Denver is on the defensive side, McDaniels is an offensive-minded coach and he needs to put his stamp on the team. He needs to get his key offensive players, such as quarterback Jay Cutler and receiver Brandon Marshall, acquainted with his system.

The Broncos put up a ton of yards in the final couple of seasons of Shanahan's regime, but they didn't score enough points to go along with those copious yards. McDaniels has to find a way to get the most out of his talent.

Solution: Offseason study sessions and practice in minicamps should get this offense in touch with what McDaniels -- who had raging success as the offensive coordinator in New England -- wants to get done in Denver.

Kansas City Chiefs

Primary issue: Although the Chiefs have many issues on defense that need to be addressed immediately, there are much more pressing issues with existing players on the opposite side of the ball.

  Evan Pinkus/Getty Images
  Tony Gonzalez's future in Kansas City remains uncertain.

Kansas City needs to figure out if it wants to convince future Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez to remain with the team for a 13th season or trade him. The Chiefs also need to make a decision on running back Larry Johnson, who wants to be cut or traded. And finally, Kansas City has to figure out whether it will stick with young quarterback Tyler Thigpen or if it will try to get a franchise quarterback through the draft or through a trade.

New Kansas City general manager Scott Pioli could very well be tempted to go get New England's Matt Cassel through a trade.

Solution: The Chiefs can retain Gonzalez if they convince him that they can compete immediately and they could do that by getting defensive players. If not, he'll likely ask to be traded. If the Chiefs decide to trade Gonzalez, they will proba
bly get a fairly high draft pick for him. Johnson needs to be cut or traded, and he likely will be, so don't expect him to be back.

Thigpen could probably fill the Chiefs' need at quarterback for a year or so while they work to fill other positions. The team, however, may be tempted to trade for Cassel or draft Georgia's Matthew Stafford. Thigpen should be kept in Kansas City, and the Chiefs should address the needs on defense by drafting Wake Forest outside linebacker Aaron Curry with the third pick.

  2008: Best of Tony Gonzalez Video
  The best moments from Tony Gonzalez in 2008.

Secondary concern: The Chiefs need several new starters on defense. They are happy with their cornerbacks, but they could use help nearly everywhere else. Kansas City's front seven has been particularly weak. Kansas City set an NFL record for the fewest sacks in a season with 10 in 2008.

A complete overhaul is needed in Kansas City. There is enough talent for this team to start competing offensively. But unless Kansas City gets legitimate defensive help, it will be a long season.

Solution: The Chiefs need to draft a player like Curry and concentrate the early rounds on defense. Also, they need to sign two or three starters in free agency. Carolina defensive end Julius Peppers would be a dream addition and Arizona linebacker Karlos Dansby would be an outstanding pickup.

Oakland Raiders

  Charles Small/US Presswire
  The Raiders need to get JaMarcus Russell some help.

Primary issue: The Raiders have an outstanding running game, but their passing game needs to improve greatly. Quarterback JaMarcus Russell still has a long way to go to prove he could be a capable NFL quarterback. But he also needs help.

Oakland needs to give him better blocking and better receivers. Oakland's receiving corps was embarrassing at many points last season. Coupled with poor pass protection and bad receiver play, Russell didn't have much of a chance to succeed a lot of the time in 2008.

With better protection and legitimate NFL receivers, the Raiders will be able to find out if Russell, the No. 1 overall pick in 2007, can become a legitimate NFL standout.

Solution: There are several receivers who are or will be available through free agency and the draft. Perhaps Oakland will try to trade for Arizona's Anquan Boldin or Cincinnati's Chad Johnson. The Raiders could also try to draft Michael Crabtree with the No. 7 pick. Oakland also needs to find offensive line help early in the draft.

Secondary concern: To be able to be active in the offseason, the Raiders are going to have to do some bookkeeping. There are several players who may end up being cut to clear salary-cap room.

The Raiders went on a wild spending spree last year. They won't be able to do the same thing this year, but that spending spree didn't answer a lot of issues, so the Raiders have nearly as many holes now as they did before they spent all their money. Thus, some room needs to be made.

Solution: Cutting players like defensive back Michael Huff, receivers Ronald Curry and Javon Walker, and tackle Kwame Harris could help clear cap space and begin the process of making amends for past financial blunders.

San Diego Chargers

Primary issue: This offseason is all about finding a way to keep the Chargers' stars happy financially.

  Scott A. Miller/US PRESSWIRE
  LaDainian Tomlinson may need to restructure his contract in order to remain in San Diego.

The Chargers are going to be working on contracts for future Hall of Fame running back LaDainian Tomlinson, key backup running back and dynamic return man Darren Sproles and franchise quarterback Philip Rivers, who is the third priority because he's under contract for 2009.

If Tomlinson doesn't restructure his contract and give the Chargers a more cap-friendly deal, he will likely be cut. But both sides want to make something work, and keeping Tomlinson in San Diego is a high priority for both him and the team.

Sproles could be given the franchise tag if he doesn't sign a long-term deal in the coming days. He's too valuable for the Chargers to allow him to hit the street. He is an asset in the running, receiving and return games. The Chargers want to re-sign Rivers to get it out of the way and allow him to play the final year of his contract without any issues.

Solution: The Chargers can redo Tomlinson's contract so it cuts down his salary-cap number but allows him to make up the money in bonuses and incentives. Sproles can be franchised and both players will be happy. Although none of this will be easy, the Chargers can still find a way extend Rivers and keep everyone pleased.

Secondary concern: The Chargers don't have a ton of needs, but there are some issues on defense, where the team needs to reload.

The Chargers can use help in all three phases of the defense with inside linebacker and, perhaps, free safety being the most pressing.

Solution: The Chargers should try to go afte
r a veteran in free agency, such as Baltimore's Bart Scott. The Chargers will also likely try to address the needs on defense with the No. 16 overall pick.



Sunday, 1/25