AFC West: Grady Jackson

Fox Sports believes St. Louis could end up offering the No. 33 overall pick to Denver for restricted free agent receiver Brandon Marshall. It’s not a first-round pick, but it’s the next best thing.

Denver could ultimately agree to something like this. This is something to monitor.

There is a lot of intriguing draft news here. It looks like the Raiders are not done looking at young receiver help.

Don’t expect Pro Bowl receiver Vincent Jackson to report to San Diego’s offseason program, which begins in earnest Monday. He is a restricted free agent.

Jackson currently has no plans of reporting for the program. Many restricted free agents around the league are not attending the program.

San Diego restricted free agent Darren Sproles is attending the program. It is not known if San Diego’s other high-profile restricted free agents, Shawne Merriman, Marcus McNeill and Malcom Floyd, will attend when the program officially kicks off Monday.

Teams want their restricted free agents to attend, but as long as these players show for mandatory camps, it’s not that big of an issue.

Former Kansas City coach and current ESPN analyst Herm Edwards has a couple of ideas for San Francisco that would affect the AFC West. Sounds good to me.

Chicago cut defensive end Alex Brown. The only team in the division I could see looking into him is Oakland. I do think the Raiders could still take a look at free agent defensive tackle Grady Jackson. Oakland needs a big man in the middle and Jackson could be intriguing.
LaDainian Tomlinson’s visit with the Jets is extending to Saturday. Tomlinson could potentially choose between playing for the Vikings (who he visited Thursday) and the Jets over the weekend.

I have confirmed that the Chiefs will visit with free-agent guard Ryan Lilja on Monday. He is from Kansas City and he started his career with the Chiefs. Lilja was cut by the Colts on Monday.

Here’s a report that says former Oakland running back Justin Fargas will not sign with the Eagles.

The more I think about it, the more I think Oakland could be interested in bringing back defensive tackle Grady Jackson. He was cut by Detroit last week. Oakland has a hole in the middle after cutting Gerard Warren this week.

Tampa Bay signed former Oakland linebacker Jon Alston.

Arizona signed free-agent center Rex Hadnot. Denver had interest in him. The Broncos are still looking for a starting center.

ESPN.com has a fun way to keep up with the NFL draft.
Denver signed Miami nickel cornerback Nathan Jones on Friday evening. He has three interceptions in six NFL seasons.

This may be a sign that second-year player Alphonso Smith may not be completley ready to contribute. Smith was replaced by undrafted free agent Tony Carter late last season. Denver gave up its 2010 No. 1 pick (No. 14 overall) to Seattle to draft Smith at No. 37 last year.

  • Kansas City re-signed backup running back Jackie Battle. He played in 17 games the past three seasons for the Chiefs.
  • Here is a chance to keep up with all the free- agency movement on ESPN.com.
  • Oakland brought back left tackle Khalif Barnes. He was hurt last year, his first in Oakland. If he stays healthy, he could vie for playing time.
  • Oakland hired Kevin Ross to work with the secondary. He replaces Clancy Pendergast, who quit Oakland two weeks after he took over as the defensive coordinator at Cal.
  • Detroit cut massive defensive tackle Grady Jackson. Jackson, 37, could interest both Oakland and San Diego. He could fit both the 4-3 and 3-4 defenses.

AFC West news and notes

March, 3, 2009
3/03/09
9:50
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Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

With the Broncos trying to mend fences with starting quarterback Jay Cutler, the team is reportedly going to visit with Titans quarterback Chris Simms.

Simms would be brought in as Cutler's backup. The team is not going to re-sign Patrick Ramsey, who was Cutler's backup the past two years. New Denver coach Josh McDaniels must feel that Simms fits his system well.

The word out of San Diego is that the Chargers and the agents for LaDainian Tomlinson are still chugging away at a restructured contract that would keep Tomlinson in town but there is no timetable for a decision.

The Raiders re-signed guard Cooper Carlisle and tight end Tony Stewart. Re-signing Carlisle was big for Oakland. Many thought Carlisle was the team's best lineman last season and he was being courted by other teams. Oakland is looking at several other linemen as well, including Buffalo's Duke Preston.

The Kansas City Star reports receiver Bobby Engram has left his visit with the Chiefs without a contract and that the team is looking at linebacker Clark Haggans. The linebacker would be a nice addition for the team that needs a ton of defensive help.

Defensive tackle Grady Jackson is close to joining Detroit. Denver had an interest in him.

Buffalo has agreed to terms with cornerback Drayton Florence. San Diego was considering signing him.

Former Broncos running back Ron Dayne is looking for a job after mending from an injury last year.

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

On a busy Monday night:

The San Diego Union Tribune reports that the Chargers would consider trading cornerback Antonio Cromartie if they bring back Drayton Florence. The word around the league Monday night is that the Chargers would take a third-rounder for Cromartie, who had 10 interceptions in 2007 but whose production and cover ability suffered in 2008.

It makes sense. The team would then likely make Antoine Cason, the first-round pick from 2008, the starter. Even though he had a poor season in 2008, Cromartie would likely get interest around the league in trade talks.

New Kansas City coach Todd Haley said that new quarterback Matt Cassel won't be handed the starting job and that Tyler Thigpen, who ended last season as the starter, will compete for the job. That's all well and fine, but it would be a shock if Cassel wasn't the starter in Kansas City.
The Chiefs didn't acquire Cassel to be the backup but Haley's words are smart. It helps Thigpen stay hungry and it keeps Cassel on his toes.

The Miami Herald is reporting that the Dolphins are close to signing Raiders' center Jake Grove.

Former Oakland cornerback and NFL hall of famer Mike Haynes has cancer.

It is being reported that former Browns head coach Romeo Crennel is still in the mix to be the Chiefs' defensive coordinator. If he doesn't take the job, it wouldn't be a surprise if Crennel reunites with Scott Pioli and Mike Vrabel in Kansas City. They were all in New England together.
Josh McDaniels has been collecting older defensive players so it wouldn't be a shock if the Broncos tried to pursue Jason Taylor, who was cut by Washington on Monday. Taylor would fit Denver's scheme as well. The Broncos are still considering bringing in defensive tackle Grady Jackson. Denver did sign San Francisco defensive tackle Ronald Fields on Monday. He will likely be a rotation player.

The Broncos and the agents for running back J.J. Arrington may try to fix the problems his contract and try to finalize the deal. Denver lost out on running back Derrick Ward, who agreed to terms with Tampa Bay on Monday. With Ward out of the picture, talks between Denver and Arrington could intensify.

AFC West news and notes

February, 25, 2009
2/25/09
8:57
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

• The word out of San Diego is, barring unexpected progress, a resolution to the LaDainian Tomlinson restructured contract talks will not be done by the time general manger A.J. Smith speaks to the media. Smith will address the media at 12 p.m. PT. Smith will discuss the team's free-agency issues. The Tomlinson situation may take a couple of more days to resolve.

• I don't expect recently released Tampa Bay linebacker Derrick Brooks to end up in the AFC West. Anything could happen, but I don't see him being a great fit for an AFC West team. One player who was purged in Tampa on Wednesday who could fit in the division is receiver Ike Hilliard. He could potentially get interest from Oakland, as could Joey Galloway. Hilliard would be less expensive though. The Oakland Tribune looks at a couple of other receiving possibilities for the Raiders.

• If Shaun Rogers can wiggle his way out of Cleveland, both Denver and Kansas City could be players for the massive defensive tackle. Last year, while under the Mike Shanahan regime, Denver tried to trade for Rogers while he was with Detroit.

• While it is a fluid situation, the word Wednesday is that Raiders receiver Javon Walker is leaning toward playing this season and is open to taking a pay cut from Oakland. This situation could be cleared in the coming days. Meanwhile, the Raiders are trying to re-sign guard Cooper Carlisle, one of the team's best offensive lineman. If he becomes a free agent, Carlisle could be popular on the open market.

• In addition to Grady Jackson, other defensive tackles Denver may look at in free agency include Mike Wright and Colin Cole.

• The Chargers gave tenders to two restricted free agents.

Denver free agency primer

February, 24, 2009
2/24/09
11:00
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Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

Over the course of the next few hours we are going to take a final pre-free agency look at what may be expected from each team. We'll go in alphabetical order beginning with the Broncos.

Denver Broncos

Salary cap situation: Very strong. Denver cut five defensive starters and will have copious salary cap room. They should be able to do whatever they want in free agency. But the team is cash cautious so don't expect any huge signing bonuses being thrown around this year in the wake of several bad deals in recent years.

Needs: Defensive tackle, linebacker, defensive end, safety, cornerback, receiver depth, running back.

Possible targets: Atlanta defensive tackle Grady Jackson; St. Louis cornerback Ronald Bartell; Pittsburgh cornerback Bryant McFadden; free agent safety Gibril Wilson; Giants running back Derrick Ward.

Biggest possible departures: Defensive end Ebenezer Ekuban; Linebacker Nate Webster

How active will they be?: The Broncos are going to be very active. They will need about six new defensive starters so expect them to compile several defensive players in free agency.

AFC West combine concerns

February, 20, 2009
2/20/09
1:01
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

With the NFL combine going on for the next several days in Indianapolis, here is a look at the key goals of each team in the AFC West. Free agency (which begins Feb. 27) and the draft (April 25-26) are looming.

Denver

The Broncos cut five defensive starters earlier this week and carved several million dollars in salary-cap room, so the team is at the combine in full reload mode.

The combine is supposed to be about the draft, but it is just as much about free agency. With free agency a week away, many teams spend the time in Indianapolis finalizing their game plans for free agency. That's what Denver surely is doing.

The Broncos need five or six defensive starters and they need help at every layer of their defense. The list could include nose tackle Grady Jackson and cornerback Ronald Bartell. The draft is also of major importance to Denver, so its scouting department will be keeping a keen eye on what's happening on the field in Indianapolis.

The Broncos have the No. 12 overall pick and nine draft picks total. Like in free agency, expect defense to be the focus. Players Denver will study the most are Boston College defensive tackle B.J. Raji and USC middle linebacker Rey Maualuga. Denver would likely be thrilled to draft either player.

Kansas City

The future of tight end Tony Gonzalez and running back Larry Johnson are huge issues, but the new regime will be heavily focused on the draft this weekend.

Kansas City has the No. 3 pick and what it does with it will help define the early portion of the Scott Pioli and Todd Haley era.

Expect the Chiefs to seriously eye quarterbacks. The Chiefs may not take one because of the presence of Tyler Thigpen, who's a capable player, and their huge need for impact players on defense. But the Chiefs may be romanced by the memory of what last year's No. 3 pick, quarterback Matt Ryan, did for Atlanta.

The Chiefs will no doubt spend a lot of time with Georgia's Matt Stafford and USC's Mark Sanchez, the top quarterback prospects. There is also the idea of trading for New England's Matt Cassel, who obviously has a history with Pioli.

Also expect the Chiefs to spend a lot of time with Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry this week. He could be the best defensive player available.

Other burning issues for Kansas City in Indianapolis include the likelihood of the Chiefs talking to teams about trading for Johnson. Because of his price tag and off-field baggage, Johnson may difficult to move. He may end up getting cut.

Oakland

The Raiders' job is fairly simple. They must pick up an impact offensive player with the No. 7 pick. Because there are about eight can't-miss offensive players, Oakland, which has failed often this decade with its first choices, has a chance to get a quality player who can make an instant impact on offense.

The Raiders will likely choose between a receiver and an offensive tackle with the No. 7 pick. The top choices at receiver are Texas Tech's Michael Crabtree and Missouri's Jeremy Maclin. Seattle may take Crabtree at No. 4; otherwise, Oakland might be able to choose between the two receivers.

Still, Oakland needs a dominant left tackle nearly as much as it needs a game-breaking receiver. The top tackles available are Alabama's Andre Smith, Baylor's Jason Smith and Virginia's Eugene Monroe. One of these three tackles, at least, should be available. So, the Raiders should be able to pick between at least two of five players who could instantly help them. This week's work will help Oakland decipher what it wants to do in the draft.

San Diego

The Chargers are going to have an interesting weekend as they try to resolve the LaDainian Tomlinson situation and prepare for the future.

The team is expected to have serious talks with Tomlinson's agent. The two sides are expected to try to hash out a restructured contract that will keep Tomlinson in San Diego. If a new deal can't be reworked by Thursday night, Tomlinson will be released. But both sides want to avoid that sad scenario.

A new deal may be tricky but not impossible. The in-person talks in Indianapolis could have the team and Tomlinson come to a resolution. Also, it wouldn't be a shock if the Chargers continue talks about a long-term deal with quarterback Philip Rivers while at the combine.

As far as draft business this weekend, the Chargers, who have the No. 16 overall pick, have plenty of options. If Tomlinson returns, the team will likely not pursue a running back such as Georgia's Knowshon Moreno or Ohio State's Chris Wells.

The Chargers will likely focus on linebackers this weekend, including Maualuga and his USC teammate, Brian Cushing, and Ohio State's James Laurinaitis.

Hot Button: AFC West

February, 14, 2009
2/14/09
2:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com'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
  NFL.com 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.

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

If the Raiders want to add a veteran defensive tackle, it will not be Grady Jackson. He signed with Atlanta on Monday night.

The Raiders had some interest in Jackson earlier this offseason. If Oakland is still interested in pursuing a veteran defensive tackle, the most recognizable name available is Sam Adams, who was on the Raiders' Super Bowl team in 2002.

At this point, though, Oakland may have to suffer an injury during training camp for it to make a move in the middle of its defensive line, especially with Tommy Kelly looking decent in his return from a torn ACL.

 Sam AdamsGrady Jackson 
AdamsJackson
Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

The word around the league is that the Raiders are looking for some veteran depth at defensive tackle. If so, Oakland may consider going back to a familiar name. Tommy Kelly is expected to return from a torn ACL injury but he will have to work himself back into playing shape during training camp.

There are two veterans out there that Oakland knows plenty about: Sam Adams and Grady Jackson. Jackson played his first five NFL seasons, from 1997-2001, with Oakland. Adams played in Oakland in 2002 and was a big part of the Raiders' Super Bowl team.

Both players are free agents and both have an interest in playing. If Oakland feels like it needs to sign a veteran at the position, Adams or Jackson may be players it turns to.

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