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The Replacements: AFC West

6/16/2009

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

A look at the key loss and his replacement for each team in the division:

Denver Broncos

Who's out: Jay Cutler, quarterback, traded to Chicago.

 Cutler  Orton
Who's in: Kyle Orton, quarterback, acquired from Chicago.

Outlook: It would be impossible for Broncos fans to expect Orton to have the same impact that Cutler had. Orton simply isn't as talented as Cutler.

But in new Denver coach Josh McDaniels' system, the team is confident Orton, who was named Denver's starting quarterback over Chris Simms on Saturday, can manage games and help win games.

Orton was a decent player in Chicago. Cutler was becoming a great player in Denver before he butted heads with McDaniels. Orton probably never will make the highlight-film plays that Cutler does and he never will amass the passing yardage Cutler does. But McDaniels believes Orton will work well in the system. Denver wants the run to set up the pass and Orton has the best receiving weapons of his career. He may not be fancy and he won't make people forget about Cutler's arm, but Orton has a chance to succeed in Denver because of the system that helped Matt Cassel enjoy fast success in New England last year.

Kansas City Chiefs

 Gonzalez  Cottam
Who's out: Tony Gonzalez, tight end, traded to Atlanta.

Who's in: Brad Cottam, tight end.

Outlook: Cottam will have some competition, including journeymen Sean Ryan and Tony Curtis. But the team likes Cottam, who was a third-round pick last year. The thing is, Cottam is more of a blocking tight end and will not remind anyone of Gonzalez, who is the greatest receiving tight end of all time.

But Cottam will get dirty and help in the running game. New Kansas City coach Todd Haley used the tight end sparingly as the offensive coordinator in Arizona. So, Cottam won't have that much pressure on him to make an impact in the receiving game.

Oakland Raiders

 Harris  Henderson
Who's out: Kwame Harris, left tackle, cut.

Who's in: Mario Henderson, left tackle.

Outlook: Khalif Barnes was signed as a free agent to replace Harris, who flopped in one season in Oakland. However, the San Francisco Chronicle reports that Henderson is beating out Barnes heading to training camp.

Oakland coach Tom Cable likes Henderson, a third-year player. Still, Barnes was brought in to start. So, Henderson will have to earn the job. This has long been a problem position for Oakland. Perhaps it will be the young Henderson who offers stability.

San Diego Chargers

 Goff  Vasquez
Who's out: Mike Goff, guard, signed with Kansas City as a free agent.

Who's in: Louis Vasquez, guard.

Outlook: Vasquez will battle with veteran Kynan Forney, who was originally expected to replace Goff, whom the team did not pursue in free agency.

However, Vasquez, a third-round pick, has been outstanding in the spring. If Vasquez has a strong training camp and preseason, expect him to win the job. The Chargers are looking for a long-term answer at the position and they believe it could be Vasquez.