AFC West: free agency 2010

Chargers lock up Sproles

April, 2, 2010
Four days after showing up early for the Chargers’ offseason workout program, running back/returner Darren Sproles signed his restricted free-agent tender.

He was given a first- and third-round tender. He could still be traded by San Diego, but it appears he is focused on playing in San Diego this season.

San Diego gave four other players -- Malcom Floyd, Vincent Jackson, Marcus McNeill and Shawne Merriman – were also given the high tender. None of those players have signed their tender. Jackson is not expected to attend the offseason workout program, which begins in earnest Monday. Many restricted free agents who have not signed their tenders are staying away from conditioning programs throughout the league. It is not known if Floyd, McNeill and Merriman will attend Monday or not.

Meanwhile, LaDainian Tomlinson’s complaints about his final days in San Diego have caught the attention of the Chargers. This is too bad. Tomlinson will be remembered as a Charger for the rest of his life. It’s too bad petty comments are clouding his legacy.
LaDainian Tomlinson has moved on after being cut from the San Diego Chargers in February.



Or has he?

It seems the New York Jets’ newest running back can’t get over his final days in San Diego.

Tomlinson said Thursday that "everything was taken away from me" in San Diego. Tomlinson’s production has declined the past couple of years. In 2009, Tomlinson, 30, had a career low 730 yards and he didn’t have a 100-yard game all season. San Diego had the 31st ranked running offense in 2009. Tomlinson had 24 yards on 12 carries in San Diego’s upset loss to the Jets in the AFC divisional playoffs.

Yet, Tomlinson said the team took the running game away from him. That is only partially true. If he was effective, he would have been given more chances. San Diego, with coach Norv Turner and quarterback Philip Rivers, are a pass-first offense. Turner clearly wanted the run game to come along and help. But it didn’t.

Tomlinson has to take some of the blame. Does he really think the Chargers didn’t want him to be a star last year?

Now that he is gone, Tomlinson should embrace the future and not rehash his failures in San Diego. He had a Hall of Fame career in San Diego. He should look back on it fondly and focus on showing he can still be a solid player for the Jets. Blaming others for his San Diego failures doesn’t help anyone.


Seattle's trade for San Diego third-string quarterback Charlie Whitehurst could affect its pursuit of Denver receiver Brandon Marshall.

Seattle swapped second-round picks and gave San Diego a third-round pick next year for Whitehurst, who has never thrown an NFL pass. San Diego now has the No. 40 pick overall and Seattle has the 60th pick.

Seattle visited with Marshall, a Pro Bowl restricted free agent, on the first weekend of free agency. Denver gave Marshall a first-round tender. It wants a first-round pick back. Seattle has the No. 6 and No. 14 overall picks and it have been reluctant to surrender either choice.

If Denver were to come off its need for a first-round pick, Seattle has less bargaining power now. Trading No. 40 would have been much easier than No. 60. There are still ways for Seattle to get creative if Denver were to play ball, but a Marshall-to-Seattle deal has just gotten a little more difficult.
The Raiders made an interesting move Sunday by trading for Cleveland outside linebacker Kamerion Wimbley.



Oakland sent a third-round pick for Wimbley -- the third-round pick it acquired in the Derrick Burgess trade last year with New England. Oakland will keep its own pick in the third round.

That's why I don’t think this was a bad move for a player who has not lived up to his rookie success. Wimbley, the No. 13 overall pick in 2006, had 11 sacks as a rookie. He has had 15.5 sacks since.

He is not a bad player, but he may not be an ascending player, either. Wimbley has to show he can still improve. He will have to transition from the 3-4 that Cleveland ran to the 4-3 in Oakland. He is supposed to play outside linebacker, but he could also possibly play defensive end.

Oakland has some decent, young pass-rushers. If Wimbley can regain his pass-rushing groove this will be a decent trade.

On the flip side, this draft is considered to be very deep. So, there will be good players available in the third round. Oakland may have been served well to take four players in the top 100 picks instead of a player who was given up on by Cleveland.

The Raiders gave up their 2011 first-round pick to New England for Richard Seymour last September. It needs to get more young talent. Trading top picks is not the way to get younger.
My reaction to the Denver Broncos’ decision to trade for Brady Quinn?

Why not?

It's worth taking a chance on this former No. 1 pick. Denver did not give up much for Quinn, swapping backup running back Peyton Hillis, a sixth-round pick in 2011 and a conditional 2012 pick for Quinn.

That’s not a whole lot for a former first-round pick who is just 25 years old. Quinn may be heading toward bust status, but he has not been officially written off as a wasted prospect.

Denver coach Josh McDaniels has a great reputation for working with quarterbacks. Quinn fits McDaniels’ system. McDaniels made Matt Cassel a strong player in New England in 2008 and Kyle Orton performed well much of last season under McDaniels.

Maybe McDaniels can help Quinn reach his potential. Quinn will likely be very comfortable with McDaniels coaching him. Quinn played for Charlie Weis at Notre Dame. McDaniels is a Weis protégée.

Denver considered making a run at Quinn last year. The price tag would have been much higher. Denver got Quinn at a bargain basement price Sunday because Cleveland washed its hands of him. Quinn was 2-7 as Cleveland’s starter last year. He was mistake prone.

It does say something that new Cleveland head honcho Mike Holmgren had no interest in keeping Quinn. Holmgren knows his way around a quarterback room.

Still, McDaniels sees something in Quinn and he didn’t overspend to get him. It is worth it. If Quinn is the same bumbling player in practice in Denver as he was in games in Cleveland, it will go down as a low-cost mistake.

Orton will likely go into the 2010 season as the starter, but Quinn will be given the chance to compete with him and make his case to be the long-term quarterback. At the very least, Quinn appears to be an upgrade at backup quarterback over Chris Simms, who was atrocious last year when he had to play for an injured Orton.

Orton will surely feel more heat from Quinn this summer than he did from Simms last year. Denver brought in Quinn to see if he can become a solid starter at some point. Orton has to know it. Simms was never a threat.

It will be interesting to see if Orton shows up for Denver’s offseason conditioning program that starts Monday. Orton is a restricted free agent (he was given the first-round tender) and most restricted free agents aren’t expected to report to the offseason programs because they won’t sign their tenders until the summer. Perhaps Orton will feel the need to show up.

Or perhaps he will stay away as a form of protest.

I don’t expect Quinn to be ready to beat out Orton right away. It may take McDaniels some time to help Quinn erase his past on-field demons. But if Quinn has a good training camp and a better preseason than Orton, Denver might want to give him a chance to become the long-term answer at quarterback.

Quinn’s arrival in Denver may mean the Broncos won’t draft a quarterback early and go with a trio of Orton, Quinn and 2009 sixth-round pick Tom Brandstater in 2010.

In short, this move gives Denver options and it gives it a chance to resurrect the career of a player who was considered a top-flight prospect just three years ago.

At the price, it was a worthy trade.

Chiefs bring back Wiegmann

March, 12, 2010
The Chiefs continued to be aggressive in free agency by signing center Casey Wiegmann.

He was cut by Denver recently because the Broncos are trying to get bigger on the offensive line. This will be Wiegmann’s second tour in Kansas City. He spent seven of his 14 NFL seasons with the team from 2001-07.

Wiegmann, 37, will likely compete with incumbent Rudy Niswanger for the starting job. Niswanger is a restricted free agent. Wiegmann is not the backup type, though.

As the Chiefs pointed in the release announcing his signing, Wiegmann has started 143 straight games and he has taken 9,078 consecutive snaps. So, it’s clear Wiegmann has a chance to be the starter in Kansas City.

This one-year deal is a solid signing for the Chiefs. They needed to upgrade on the offensive line and Wiegmann provides tough, veteran leadership. This is another sign that the Chiefs are making solid strides this offseason. The team signed veteran running back Thomas Jones earlier this week.

Owens to Oakland?

March, 11, 2010
I just got off the telephone with ESPN’s John Clayton.

To be clear, Clayton is not reporting that the Raiders will soon be visiting with free agent receiver Terrell Owens. Clayton said that it is his opinion that Oakland could be interested in Owens.

It wouldn’t surprise me, either.

The Raiders have been very quiet this offseason and that is not Al Davis’ style. He likes to create a stir, at least, once an offseason.

Plus, Owens would be a veteran presence on an otherwise young receiving crew. He’d fill a role, even though his production has been declining.

I don’t think the Raiders need to make this move. But with Owens on the market and there being little interest in him, I agree with Clayton. Oakland could be an option.
The Broncos have been busy revamping their defensive line with the signing of Jarvis Green and Justin Bannan, who will likely start at the end positions, and Jamal Williams, who will play nose tackle.

The group is an improvement from last season. Still, the new players are making Denver a very old defense.

A lot will happen in free agency and in the draft, but there is a chance Denver will have nine defensive starters over the age of 30. Six of Denver’s starters last season __ Champ Bailey (31), Brian Dawkins (36), Andra Davis (31), Andre Goodman (31), Mario Haggan (30) and Renaldo Hill (31) – will be 30 or older by the start of the 2010 season. Bannan will be 31 next month, Williams will be 34 next month and Green is 31.

The only current key Denver defenders are linebackers Elvis Dumervil (26) and D.J. Williams (27). Apparently, Denver believes this unit is built to win now. It better be because this group won’t be around together for long.
The Oakland Raiders have to be, at least, intrigued by the idea of pursuing former Cleveland Pro Bowl quarterback Derek Anderson.

He was cut Tuesday by the Browns. Anderson instantly becomes the best free agent quarterback on the market. That’s not saying a whole lot, but it might be worth it to Oakland to bring him in.

Right now, the Raiders are planning to have Bruce Gradkowski and JaMarcus Russell compete for the job. Oakland needs to throw another quarterback in the mix, whether it’s a veteran or a draft pick.

Anderson may be a worthy competitor to Gradkowski and Russell. If Gradkowski can pick up from where he left off before he was hurt in December, he could start. The Raiders’ offensive players really believe in Gradkowski. If the journeyman can show improvement, it should be Gradkowski’s job.

But the Raiders needs a backup plan. Yes, they need a backup plan past Russell. If Russell is really losing weight and working on his fundamentals this offseason, perhaps the former No.1 overall pick can salvage his career.

But Russell has proven he can’t be counted on.

The Raiders need more. Anderson is no superstar, but he may be worth a look in Oakland.
The Chargers made a move at running back, but it wasn't the major pickup that expected by a team that needs a couple new running backs.

San Diego claimed Marcus Mason off of waivers from Washington. In nine games last season, Mason ran for 127 yards on 32 carries. He has a chance to make the roster. Still, expect San Diego to draft a running back in the early rounds.

The Colts cut starting left guard Ryan Lilja on Monday. I think he could be a good fit in Kansas City. The Chiefs are looking for offensive linemen and Lilja started his career in Kansas City and he is a Kansas City native.

Buffalo signed former Oakland tackle Cornell Green. The Raiders were going to try to replace Green, anyway.

Could Minnesota be interested in former Chargers star LaDainian Tomlinson?

Former Charger star in Denver

March, 8, 2010
After it was reported that former San Diego star defensive tackle Jamaal Williams is set to visit New Orleans, the Denver Post reported that Williams is currently visiting Denver.

The 348-pound Williams would be a great fit on paper for Denver, which is going into its second year using the 3-4 defense. In his prime, Williams was the premier 3-4 nose tackle in the NFL. He was a fabulous run stuffer and he set the tone for San Diego’s defense. He played for Denver defensive line coach Wayne Nunnely in San Diego.

Yet, there are questions about Williams. He turns 34 next month and he missed all but one game last year with a triceps injury. He also has dealt with recent knee injuries.

Still, if Denver uses him in a rotation, Williams could help. San Diego reportedly wants Williams back at a reduced price. Perhaps seeing that Williams is in Denver will cause San Diego to make a move. He was released last week right before he was due to receive a roster bonus.

Denver is also set to bring in New England defensive lineman Jarvis Green for a visit.

Will Bengals pursue Marshall?

March, 7, 2010
Are the Seattle Seahawks getting competition for Brandon Marshall?

ESPN’s Adam Schefter is reporting Cincinnati is considering making a move on Marshall. The Pro Bowl receiver has been visiting with Seattle this weekend.

The Broncos put the first-round tender on Marshall. If the Bengals are going to be in play with Marshall, they may want to act quickly. Seattle could expedite the process.

If Cincinnati, which has the No. 21 pick in the first round, does pursue Marshall, it will give Denver some leverage and could result in a bidding war between Seattle and Cincinnati.
In their effort to get bigger, the Broncos have agreed to a five-year deal with nose tackle Justin Bannan, the Denver Post reports.

Bannan is 6-3, 310 pounds. Bannan, 30, was with Baltimore. He had 29 tackles last seasons. He has been a starter one of his eight NFL seasons. He is a rotational player.

Denver started Ronald Fields last season and he did well. Bannan is a big, strong player who can stuff the run. Perhaps Bannan will play end and nose tackle in the 3-4.

Denver was the busiest team in free agency last year. Expect Denver to busy, but not at the same pace as last year. Thus far, Denver isn’t pursuing any big-name players. But its goal is to get deeper and bigger on the interior lines.
It is clear Brandon Marshall is on his way out of Denver.

Seattle is bringing in Marshall for a visit on Saturday. If the Seahawks are acting this quickly, expect them to try to hammer out a new extension for Marshall and offer Denver trade compensation.

Denver gave Marshall a first-round tender. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean Seattle will send a first-round pick to Denver. The Seahawks have the No. 6 and No. 14 picks (acquired from Denver on draft day last year) in the first round. If the Seahawks sign Marshall to an offer sheet, they will have to send Denver the No. 6 pick.

It would be a shock if that happens. I expect a trade for lesser compensation to be worked out if Seattle decides to pull the trigger on acquiring Marshall.

Perhaps the No. 14 pick could be in play or maybe Seattle will send a second-round pick and a player to Denver. Other teams could also get involved with Denver on a potential trade. This quick action shows that there is an aggressive market for Marshall. So, expect his turbulent Denver career to end soon.
The Denver Post reports the Broncos have brought back running back J.J. Arrington. He was signed by the Broncos last year but the deal was scuttled because he was hurt. Arrington will have a chance to a third-down back.