AFC West: Matt Cassel

Allen not sure if future QB on roster

December, 30, 2013
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- While Dennis Allen anticipates he will return in 2014 as the Oakland Raiders coach, he is not sure about the prospects of the Raiders' quarterback position.

"Yeah, well, I think that's a position that we've got to make sure that we address," Allen said in his season-ending media conference Monday.

"I'm not sure that we have the quarterback of the future in the building right now, but again I think we'll go through the offseason evaluation process, I think we'll go back through all the tapes, we'll comb through everything. I do think we have a better idea of what we have at the quarterback position, but again I think, listen, that's the most important position on the football field."

Allen has already said that he believes Matt McGloin has a future with the team but has not been so outwardly encouraging about Terrelle Pryor.

McGloin finished with a passer rating of 76.1 after completing 55.9 percent of his passes (118-of-211) for 1,547 yards, eight touchdowns and eight interceptions in seven games, six starts.

Did he prove he was a capable NFL starter?

"I think so," McGloin said. "I thought I did some pretty good things out there. I also did some poor things that I need to work on and improve. That will come. I know I will get better, I'll continue to learn. I know our team will continue to improve and get better. I'm looking forward to it."

Then does he look at the Raiders as "his" team going forward?

"I think you have to look at it that way," he said. "Like I said, Terrelle and I played well at times this year and played bad at times this year. We have a very healthy relationship. He and I are always helping each other out and trying to do what's best for the team. The mindset whether it's my team or not my team, that's out of my control that decision.

"What I can do is try to improve and continue to get better as a leader and get better as a quarterback."

Pryor, who started eight of the Raiders' first nine games and then the season finale against the Denver Broncos, had a QB rating was 69.1. He completed 57.4 percent of his passes (156-272) for 1,798 yards with seven TDs and 11 INTs. Pryor also rushed for a franchise record-for-a-quarterback 576 yards, including an NFL record-for-a-quarterback 93-yard touchdown run, against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Oct. 27.

"I feel very confident," he said. "I had a lot of experiences this year. That's what it's all about, experiencing and understanding that you're going to have good experiences and bad experiences. It's what you do and how you study your craft off that, those experiences.

"That's how I'm going to look at it and that's how I'm going to work on my craft."

But if Allen is indeed retained and the Raiders have to get into the quarterback market, do they draft one early (Blake Bortles? Johnny Manziel? Derek Carr?) or do they play the free-agent market (Josh McKown? Matt Cassel? Josh Freeman? Maybe even a soon-to-be-cut Mark Sanchez?)

Cassel deserved better legacy with Chiefs

September, 27, 2013
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Though legions of Kansas City Chiefs fans will disagree, it’s good to see Matt Cassel getting another chance. He will start for the Minnesota Vikings against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday in place of the injured Christian Ponder.

Cassel didn’t work out for the Chiefs. No argument there. The Chiefs needed to move on, for his sake and their own, and credit to John Dorsey and Andy Reid for wasting no time in doing so.

As for his time with the Chiefs, I’m not sure there was a quarterback alive who could have done much more in a rotten situation than Cassel did. He quarterbacked one division championship team in four seasons and for a peek at how that season would have turned out without him, take a look at the one 2010 game the Chiefs played when Cassel was out with appendicitis. They were shut out in San Diego.

The atmosphere was hardly conducive to winning during those four seasons, the same years the Chiefs were guided by Scott Pioli. So many different agendas, so many people pulling in different directions, so many offensive coordinators (five) over four seasons. Then there was the irritating style of Todd Haley, who by the way is in the process of ruining Ben Roethlisberger. What might have happened had Haley not run off Charlie Weis, who left a job as an offensive coordinator for an NFL playoff team to become an assistant in college?

There’s a reason Peyton Manning, once he became a free agent last year, wanted no part of playing for the Chiefs. He’s no smarter than the rest of us, but it was impossible to mistake the signs of a hopeless situation.

No matter how solid the situation was, Cassel wasn’t going to be a Hall of Famer. He clearly doesn’t have that kind of ability. But even a Hall of Famer wouldn’t have been successful the last four seasons in Kansas City.
Gud Bradley, Andy ReidAP PhotoGus Bradley and Andy Reid are looking to get off to fast starts with their new teams.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Fans know a lot about their favorite teams, but they don’t have the same depth of knowledge of the 31 other teams in the NFL. That’s not going to be a problem any longer.

Each week the NFL Nation writers will team up Q&A style to help you get a handle on each team. Today, Kansas City Chiefs reporter Adam Teicher and Jacksonville Jaguars reporter Michael DiRocco help break down Sunday’s matchup.

Michael DiRocco: Is Alex Smith really an upgrade over Matt Cassel?

Adam Teicher: He had better be or the Chiefs are in some trouble. Cassel and Brady Quinn turned over the ball far too many times last season. One thing we know about Smith is that he hasn’t thrown many interceptions. He threw just 10 in his last 25 starts with the 49ers. So he’s been a quarterback who protects the ball, and if he can just do that, he’s already an upgrade over Cassel and Quinn. Another thing: Andy Reid’s West Coast offense will succeed if the quarterback completes a high percentage of throws. Smith completed 70 percent last season. If he can get close to that number this season, he’s even more of an upgrade.

Teicher: How patient will the Jaguars be with Blaine Gabbert on Sunday and this season?

DiRocco: This is a make-or-break season for Gabbert, who must prove he’s capable of being a franchise quarterback. That’s the team’s No. 1 goal for the season, so there will be a certain amount of patience. It does no good to give him a half or one game and yank him because the team will essentially be where it was heading into the season. That being said, if Gabbert really struggles during the first two months of the season, then the team will have its answer and may turn to Chad Henne or the recently signed Ricky Stanzi for the remainder of the season.

DiRocco: What’s the biggest change Andy Reid has brought to Kansas City?

Teicher: It’s a change brought by Reid and John Dorsey, the new general manager. Everybody seems to be pulling in the same direction. The Chiefs went through plenty of infighting the past few years and it was dragging them down. People often had their own agendas or felt they had to align themselves with one person or another. Dorsey and Reid swept that out the door. Winning looks to be the only goal and it certainly appears everybody is on board with that. Of course, it’s easy for a new administration to have everybody on board when it’s undefeated. So it’s an issue to keep an eye on once the Chiefs start losing some games.

Teicher: What are the biggest changes Gus Bradley and Dave Caldwell have brought to the Jags?

DiRocco: On the field, it’s on defense, where Bradley is implementing a more aggressive attitude and trying to rebuild the secondary with bigger, more physical cornerbacks -- essentially what he did in Seattle. Off the field, Bradley and Caldwell have changed the culture in the locker room. There’s a lot of energy and enthusiasm around the franchise even though everyone knows that the talent level needs a significant upgrade and the team likely isn’t going to reach .500. It was a much-needed boost, because the atmosphere around the team the past few seasons under Jack Del Rio and Mike Mularkey had become somewhat stale.

DiRocco: Some NFL experts have pegged the Chiefs as a playoff team just one season after finishing 2-14. What are a few things that have to happen for that to become a reality?

Teicher: They have many good players, but from the GM to the coach to the coordinators to the offensive and defensive system to the quarterback to 29 other players who didn’t play for the Chiefs last season, there’s a lot new here. How quickly Reid and his staff can pull everything together will be a key. The Chiefs have a favorable schedule the first half of the season and they need to take advantage because it gets more difficult after that. On the field, the Chiefs have to fix a turnover differential that was minus-24 last season. Their defense and special teams have to do a better job of providing better field position for the offense. This offense won’t make a lot of big plays, and if it has to go 80 yards on every possession, it will be a struggle.

Teicher: What are realistic expectations for the Jags this season in terms of number of wins?

DiRocco: I kind of let that slip in my earlier answer, but a six-win season would be the best-case scenario for the Jaguars. Four or five victories seems more likely, though, especially considering the team has back-to-back road games on the West Coast, plays San Francisco in London, and has to play at Denver, Indianapolis and Houston.

The Chiefs are going to be better on offense in 2013. The wide receivers -- outside of Dwayne Bowe -- are a concern, but the team will be better coached on that side of the ball and have a better quarterback, offensive line and improved tight-end play. The Chiefs probably will have a more timely and effective rushing attack, too.

Andy Reid’s track record as an offensive creator and play-caller speaks for itself. The Chiefs' new head coach will coordinate a West Coast offense with a high percentage of passing plays, but with less predictability than we saw in Kansas City last season. The Chiefs will throw safe timing passes to set up the run while also taking a few shots deep downfield. The running backs should catch plenty of passes.

I am not the biggest Alex Smith fan -- and he certainly has some passing limitations -- but his skill set is a good fit for what Reid wants to do. Smith will get the ball out quickly -- and most importantly, we can pretty much guarantee that he will make fewer mistakes than Matt Cassel did a year ago. Turnovers from the quarterback position crippled this team in 2012. Smith will also throw more for the Chiefs than he did with San Francisco. Kansas City also brought in a high-end backup quarterback, Chase Daniel.

After Kansas City selected Eric Fisher first overall in April's draft, the offensive line should be one of the better groups in the NFL and should have with two outstanding offensive tackles, even though Fisher is just a rookie. Overall, there is excellent line depth. This group is quite athletic, which is key in getting out on screens and other movement-based plays that Reid likes to dial up.

Tony Moeaki’s health is always a question mark, but the Chiefs could have the best threesome of tight ends in football, and Reid is sure to use a lot of double- and even triple-tight-end sets. Anthony Fasano is an underrated addition as an edge blocker, which is key for a runner like Jamaal Charles. Moeaki is also a reliable target. I am also extremely high on Travis Kelce.

Knile Davis doesn’t excite me, and I thought there were better running back choices on the draft board when Kansas City selected him, but he does possess a rare combination of size and speed. But Charles is the guy you want on your fantasy football (as well as NFL!) team; the only back in the league whom I forecast to have more production this year is Adrian Peterson. Although Reid isn’t a run-first coach, he certainly has shown he knows how to use backs like LeSean McCoy and Brian Westbrook. Charles is similar, but with much better pure speed.

The Chiefs’ offense does have some areas of concern, but this unit will be noticeably better in 2013.
A look at the Kansas City Chiefs as they begin the Andy Reid era:

Biggest change to expect: This will be a professional, well-prepared squad. Andy Reid’s tenure in Philadelphia may have ended poorly, but there is no denying Reid is a top-level coach. His 14-year era in Philadelphia was mostly successful: He is known as a strong leader and as a coach who knows how to run a program. Expect Reid to stick with what worked for him in Philadelphia. He will run his version of the West Coast offense. He likes to throw more than run, but he will not waste star running back Jamaal Charles. Charles will get his carries, but expect Reid to find a happy medium and use Charles as a receiving weapon out of the backfield. Defensively, Reid is showing flexibility and keeping the Chiefs in their 3-4 defense. Reid has a good staff and he has added Brad Childress and Chris Ault as consultants. Preparation is paramount in Reid’s approach.

[+] EnlargeReid
AP Photo/Charlie RiedelExpect the biggest changes for the Chiefs under Andy Reid to come on offense.
What success would look like: If the Chiefs make a big improvement in 2013 under Reid, it will be because of the offense. The Chiefs' offense has been lacking in recent years (particularly in the passing game). Reid is an offensive specialist and has had a lot of NFL success. The key is new quarterback Alex Smith. Reid has always liked Smith, who was the best quarterback available in the offseason. Smith is a smart, controlled quarterback who should fit in well in Reid’s offense. Smith will not be asked to do too much and will be given the opportunity to do what he does best. The Chiefs failed in the past because quarterback Matt Cassel was a turnover machine. If Reid can direct Smith to play clean football, this offense has a chance to score a lot of points, and in turn, win a lot of games.

Burned out or re-energized? Reid will be watched closely in his first season in Kansas City. Many league observers thought Reid should have taken a year off after his long Eagles tenure ended. His son died last summer and it was an emotional last few years in Philadelphia. Yet, Reid said many times he felt the need to start fresh immediately. Friends say he is refreshed and energized. Time will tell.

More or fewer wins? The bar is not set high at all. Romeo Crennel’s team went 2-14 last season. Reid’s team should easily surpass that total. If all goes right, the Chiefs could contend for a wild-card spot.
NFC Eight in the Box: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

What are the three key camp issues facing each AFC West team?


Offense: The Wes Welker Factor
Peyton Manning has a new toy. But with the wealth of options in this offense, it seems unlikely Welker will match his production from his days with Tom Brady. Manning will love exploiting the mismatches Welker creates from the slot. Welker’s experience in New England's up-tempo offense should pay off as Denver transitions to a similar pace. It is difficult to find weaknesses in the Broncos’ offense right now.

Defense: Pass-rush issue
Elvis Dumervil is now playing for Baltimore. Von Miller is one of the league’s premier defensive players and pass-rushers, but more is needed. Where will it come from? Derek Wolfe showed some flashes as an inside pass-rusher during his rookie season and on passing downs. Robert Ayers should also be effective when moved inside. Will the edge player opposite Miller -- Ayers on early downs and Shaun Phillips, most likely, on passing downs -- be able to produce? The wild card here is rookie Quanterus Smith.

Wild card: Pass coverage in the middle
Denver had a lot of problems last season covering opposing tight ends in the middle of the field. On paper, it doesn’t look as though the problem has been addressed. Denver’s safety play is average at best, but the middle linebacker spot manned by Joe Mays is the real issue. Look for opposing offenses to keep Denver in base defensive personnel and attack the middle of the field.


Offense: The Alex Smith Factor
Smith needs plenty of resources to be successful. But if he just makes fewer mistakes at the position than Matt Cassel did a year ago -- something that seems highly likely -- then Kansas City will be much more competitive. Smith also has underrated running skills, and the Chiefs should orchestrate plenty of designed quarterback movement and runs.

Defense: Interior pass rush
The Chiefs were among the worst defenses in the NFL last season at creating pressure on the quarterback between the tackles. Although the team made drastic changes across the roster, this area was not addressed. Unless Dontari Poe steps up in his second season -- and pass rush isn’t really his game -- little should change for Kansas City.

Wild card: Secondary receivers
The Chiefs are very light at wide receiver outside of Dwayne Bowe. They have three strong tight ends and could employ plenty of multiple-tight end sets. Jamaal Charles should see plenty of passes thrown his way, but another outside threat needs to step up. Donnie Avery has the speed to open up room for others, but his hands are highly inconsistent. Jon Baldwin and Dexter McCluster have yet to find their place in this league. Keep an eye on Devon Wylie.


Offense: Man-blocking scheme
For some unknown reason, the Raiders switched in 2012 from a predominantly man-blocking scheme, in which Darren McFadden thrived, to a zone-blocking scheme. That was a failed experiment, especially for McFadden, who is entering the final year of his contract. Switching back could allow him to be the foundation of Oakland’s offense.

Defense: No pass rush
I fear the Raiders will be among the worst defenses in the NFL next season at rushing the passer. Lamarr Houston is a very talented player, capable of greatness, but he isn’t a typical edge pass-rushing defensive end. Andre Carter has had success in this area, but his best days are behind him. I like the additions of Pat Sims and Vance Walker at defensive tackle, but both are run-stuffers. Opposing quarterbacks are going to have a lot of unobstructed time in the pocket this season. Calling Jadeveon Clowney ...

Wild card: Building blocks
The Raiders are not going to win the Super Bowl. Instead, they must determine which players are their building blocks. I was impressed by the way the front office, despite many limitations, addressed the team's needs during the offseason. But many of their signings were only one-year deals. Which players do they want to bring back? Many players on Oakland’s roster are auditioning this season.


Offense: Pass protection
Philip Rivers needs to be protected, which San Diego hasn’t been able to do lately. Although the Chargers used a first-round pick on D.J. Fluker, who is a much better run-blocker than pass-blocker, I don’t see noticeable upgrades on the offensive line. I also don’t see much upside or potential star power in the group. Changing the scheme could help by getting the ball out of Rivers’ hands quicker, but he could be headed for another punishing season.

Defense: Time to step up
The Chargers have several promising young defensive players who could be ready to break out. Eric Weddle is among the league’s best safeties, and Corey Liuget has already established himself as a real force on San Diego’s defensive line. Kendall Reyes might not be far behind Liuget and should become more of a household name this season. Manti Te’o could have an instant impact in his rookie season and pair with Donald Butler to be one of the better inside linebacker tandems in the league.

Wild card: Receiver situation
Antonio Gates isn’t what he once was, but he still makes plays and Rivers trusts him. The Chargers have many other receiving options now: Danario Alexander, Malcom Floyd, Keenan Allen, Vincent Brown, Robert Meachem, Eddie Royal, John Phillips, Ladarius Green, Danny Woodhead and Ronnie Brown. How will that sort out? My favorites are Allen, Vincent Brown and Green. Getting these young weapons plenty of reps could pay off in the long term for San Diego.
There is a ton of excitement in Kansas City as the Chiefs turn to Alex Smith at quarterback.

The Chiefs acquired Smith ( the best quarterback available this offseason) and he should be a major upgrade over Matt Cassel and Brady Quinn. Smith showed in San Francisco he can be a solid system quarterback. I expect new Kansa City coach Andy Reid to play to Smith’s strengths.

Smith is certainly not an elite quarterback but he can win. In his quarterback ratings, ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski has Smith ranked as the 20th best quarterback in the NFL. I think that’s fair. This is a good quarterback league these days. Smith is the second AFC West quarterback on the list so far. New Oakland quarterback Matt Flynn is ranked No. 32.

Here is Jaworski’s analysis on Smith:

“Now it gets interesting. My top 20. My 20th-ranked quarterback is Alex Smith. A year ago, Smith was coming off his best season in the NFL, having led the 49ers to the NFC Championship. This year, he’s the starting quarterback for the Kansas City Chiefs. It was a great move by Andy Reid to acquire Smith.

“The defining element of Smith’s play is efficiency. He executes the offense the way it’s designed, and he makes very few mistakes. Last season -- for the second year in a row -- he was exceptional on first down. In 2012 he led the NFL in first-down passing, with a quarterback rating of 119. Much of it came off play-action, or in the case of the 49ers, hard run-action out of base personnel. There was no better play-action quarterback last season than Smith. He had a quarterback rating of over 132.

“Smith has been outstanding out of multiple tight end personnel over the last couple of seasons. No quarterback has thrown the ball more with three tight ends on the field. You don’t see that very often in today’s NFL.

“This play was beautifully designed with all three tight ends to the same side. First, look at the impact of the run-action on the two linebackers and the safety. This was hard run-action. Then you see that Delanie Walker’s vertical route occupied the corner. That left Vernon Davis matched on a safety, a safety that initially reacted to run. He had no chance on Davis’ wheel route.

“One area Smith improved in 2012 was in the pre-snap phase of the game. He was much better at the line of scrimmage checking and audibling.

“It will be interesting to see what Andy Reid does in Kansas City. Don’t be surprised if he turns Smith loose a little bit and features an up-tempo offense with an emphasis on quick throws. Remember, Alex Smith played for Urban Meyer at Utah.”
» NFC Eight in the Box: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

The major question facing each team in the division as summer break looms.

Denver Broncos: How long will the Super Bowl window be open? The talk at Denver’s minicamp this week is that there is a sense of urgency in the building because this might be the team’s one year to make it to the Super Bowl. If it doesn’t happen, all will be lost in Denver. I think that is a little off base. Of course, this current team’s window is not wide. It all revolves around quarterback Peyton Manning, who is 37. So, the window is narrow. It’s probably two years. Denver signed Manning last year with the short term in mind. The brain trust thought Manning gave the team its best chance to win for the next few years and it went for it. The same thinking prevailed when the Broncos signed receiver Wes Welker for two years. He was the best player available to help the team win now. Denver also brought in some other veterans. But if you look at Denver’s roster, there is plenty of young talent, as well. The bottom line is the current window will be open as long as Manning is healthy and effective.

Kansas City Chiefs: Can Alex Smith be the difference-maker? There is excitement in Kansas City. The new regime added several pieces to a roster that was much better than the Chiefs’ 2-14 record indicated. The coaching staff is also much improved with head coach Andy Reid leading the way. But in the NFL, ultimate success starts with the quarterback. There is no doubt Smith, acquired in a trade with San Francisco, is an upgrade over Matt Cassel and Brady Quinn. He will make the Chiefs better. But how much better? Can Smith help the Chiefs make the playoffs? At the end of the day, he is more of a game manager than a game-changer. But Smith has won before. He seems to be a good fit for Reid’s system, and he does not turn the ball over. The Chiefs have a shot to be a contender this year, and it’s up to Smith to make it happen.

Oakland Raiders: Is this young roster ready to compete? There are few established NFL starters on Oakland's roster. The Raiders do have several players who have potential to become good players. That can be said at virtually every position. This is a team at the beginning of a rebuild. In two or three years, coupled with the youngsters getting experience and a refreshed salary-cap outlook, Oakland appears to be on the right track for the long haul. But all that matters now is the 2013 season. Can this roster compete now? I think the coaching staff feels good about it because the roster, as a whole, loves football and the players want to get better. There are holes, so being competitive on a regular basis won’t be easy. But if these young players take advantage of their opportunity, Oakland could become competitive faster than some think.

San Diego Chargers: Can the Chargers protect Philip Rivers? New San Diego coach Mike McCoy said this week that there is not a doubt in his mind that Rivers will have a great season. Rivers has struggled for big chunks of the past two seasons. A major reason is a lack of protection. The Chargers' offensive line has been riddled by injuries the past two seasons, which has hurt Rivers. The Chargers have tried to improve on the offensive line, namely taking Alabama right tackle D.J. Fluker with the No. 11 overall pick. The line should be better, and it is deeper than in recent years. But it is not an above-average unit yet, so there still may be growing pains. But the bottom line is Rivers needs better protection or the offense will continue to suffer.

Take solace, Raider Nation, the tuck rule may be no more.

The NFL Competition ĺCommittee has proposed getting rid of the rule next week at the NFL owners meetings.

If it is passed, when quarterback pumps the ball and loses possession while bringing the ball back into his body, it will be ruled a fumbled. The controversial rule was inspired by a Tom Brady fumble in an eventual New England win over Oakland in the 2001 playoffs in a game the Raiders were close to securing.

The tuck rule has forever sent Oakland fans cringing. It seems like the pain may soon be over.

In other AFC West notes:
  • Denver safety Quinton Carter faces felony charges in Las Vegas on allegations that he cheated while playing craps at a casino. He missed last season with a knee injury, but the team thinks he has a future.
  • ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports Matt Cassel will compete with Christian Ponder for the starting job in Minnesota. He was cut by the Chiefs after four years on Thursday morning. The quick action to sign Cassel shows the Vikings like him.
  • The Chicago Tribune reports the Raiders are still visiting with linebacker Nick Roach. He’s a starting quality player.
  • Running back Steven Jackson has signed with Atlanta. There has been speculation Denver could be interested. The Broncos may wait until the draft to find a running back.
  • The chances for a quick return to Los Angeles for the NFL took a hit. The Raiders and Chargers are considered the favorite to relocate there.
  • The run on cornerbacks has begun with several being signed Thursday. The Raiders and Chargers are looking for cornerbacks.
This has been a foregone conclusion for months, so the cheering from Chiefs fans in Kansas City may be somewhat muted.

But make no mistake; this is not a sad day in Kansas City. Matt Cassel is officially a former Chief as the team cut him Thursday morning. Again, no surprise here. The Chiefs agreed to trade for Alex Smith to be the new starter weeks ago. But Cassel’s time in Kansas City actually expired last season when he was replaced by Brady Quinn.

The once-hopeful franchise quarterback bottomed out in 2012, and his failure to become the Chiefs' answer was a primary reason general manager Scott Pioli was jettisoned after the season.

Cassel was Pioli’s first big pickup in 2009. The two had success together in New England. Cassel became hot when he played well in 2008 as an injury replacement for Tom Brady. Cassel did play well in Kansas City in 2010 as he led the team to the AFC West title, but he did little to progress following that season. In 2012, he was a turnover machine (12 interceptions) and he seemed to lose his teammates' confidence.

A nice guy off the field (he once alerted a Kansas City neighbor to escape her burning home), Cassel just didn’t seem like he could lead his team, and he became the center of the fans' disdain. It was a national story when right tackle Eric Winston (who was cut last week) passionately ripped some fans who he accused of cheering when Cassel went down with a concussion. All the negative attention was nothing new for Cassel, as he once was booed at a Major league Baseball All-Star event in Kansas City last summer.

The new Kansas City regime truly had no intention of keeping Cassel, but he was kept around in a futile attempt to get a late-round draft pick for him. When that dream ended, Cassel was cut.

He will get some looks as a backup with Minnesota, Tampa Bay and Arizona, all teams who have been mentioned as possible destinations.

As for Kansas City, Cassel's tenure will be nothing but memories of a failed experiment.

Chiefs add Donnie Avery to mix

March, 13, 2013
Alex Smith has another weapon to work with in Kansas City.

The busy Kansas City Chiefs have agreed to terms with receiver Donnie Avery, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Avery is a nice player who can stretch the field. He had 60 catches for the Colts last season.

He should be a solid No. 2 option behind Dwayne Bowe. I expect 2011 first-round pick Jon Baldwin will be the No. 3 receiver and the team also has the likes of Dexter McCluster and Devon Wylie. All three of those players have potential.

Avery does have issues with drops, but he can also make big plays. He is a solid addition in Kansas City, which appears serious about improving from a disastrous 2-14 season in 2012. The Chiefs have been one of the busiest team in the NFL in recent weeks.

In other news, NFL Network is reporting potential trade partners with Kansas City for quarterback Matt Cassel are Minnesota, Arizona and Tampa Bay. All the Chiefs would get is a late-round pick. If a trade is not made, he will be cut.

Meanwhile, the Chiefs released a statement from Smith about coming to Kansas City.

“I’m happy to be joining the Chiefs family,” Smith said. “I’d like to thank the Hunt family, John Dorsey and Coach [Andy] Reid for giving me the opportunity to play football for such a proud franchise. I know from experience that Chiefs fans are among the greatest in the NFL, and I’m really looking forward to Sundays at Arrowhead Stadium.”

AFC West notes

March, 12, 2013
ESPN’s Adam Schefter is reporting the Broncos have re-signed defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson. He is a solid player. The team is still interested in Jacksonville’s Terrance Knighton. The Denver Post reports the Broncos and pass-rusher Elvis Dumervil are still far apart, even though Dumervil is open to a pay cut.

Schefter reported Denver could make a run at Shaun Philips of the Charges if Dumervil is cut. Dwight Freeney is in play as well.

The Chiefs still have interest in Miami cornerback Sean Smith.

The Kansas City Star is reporting the Chiefs are trying to trade quarterback Matt Cassel. There would be a few teams interested in him on the market. Maybe the Chiefs can get a late-round pick. If not, expect him to be cut soon.

Kansas City running back Peyton Hillis is visiting Green Bay.

Defensive end Chris Canty signed with the Ravens. He visited the Chiefs several weeks ago.

San Diego cornerback Antoine Cason’s market may be heating up. He's still a long shot to return to the Chargers.

UT-San Diego reports the Chargers are still interested in former Kansas City right tackle Eric Winston. He visited the Chargers a few days ago. The team signed King Dunlap on Tuesday, but he may be viewed as a player who gives the team depth.

There have been some conflicting reports on Oakland’s salary cap situation. ESPN’s John Clayton is reporting the Raiders are $14.66 million under the cap. They can make some more cuts to increase that number.

Sports Illustrated reports Oakland running back Mike Goodson is getting interest from the Jets, Bengals and Cowboys.
I like the Kansas City Chiefs’ move to get Chase Daniel to be their backup quarterback.

With the Alex Smith trade official, the Chiefs are in much better shape at quarterback than they were a year ago. Smith and Daniel are big upgrades over Matt Cassel (who should be cut any time now) and Brady Quinn. Ricky Stanzi is currently still the No. 3 quarterback in Kansas City.

Daniel -- a former star at Missouri -- like Smith, is a good fit for Andy Reid’s West Coast offense. Daniel was sought after in free agency and I consider it a coup for the Chiefs to get him.

The Chiefs probably don’t need to address the quarterback position in the draft this year, at least not in the high rounds. I’m not saying the Smith-Daniel combination will solve the Chiefs’ quarterback issues for the next several years. But it is an upgrade at the most important position on the field.

AFC West free-agency primer

March, 11, 2013
» NFC Free Agency: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

Denver Broncos

Cap Status: The Broncos are in decent position to make some additions. They do have to account for $9.7 million for the franchise tag of left tackle Ryan Clady. Denver will also get more cap room if it cuts defensive end Elvis Dumervil. He is due $12 million this season and the team is trying to pare down his contract. Linebacker D.J. Williams also is expected to be cut.

Strategy: I expect the Broncos to be fairly busy in free agency. There has been some speculation Denver could be big players in free agency and get a high-profile player such as New England receiver Wes Welker. The team reportedly has interest in trading for Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis. But Denver has a lot of wants, so it may be reluctant to spend too much in one place. Denver may look to add at defensive tackle, linebacker, cornerback, safety, the offensive line, receiver and running back. So there is a chance we'll see a lot of midlevel-type players. Among the players already connected to Denver are Pittsburgh running back Rashard Mendenhall and Colts pass-rusher Dwight Freeney, if Dumervil is cut.

Kansas City Chiefs

Cap Status: The Chiefs have done a lot of spending already. They still have some room and will get more with the expected cut of quarterback Matt Cassel.

Strategy: No NFL team has been busier than the Chiefs thus far. The new regime found a way to keep three key free agents: receiver Dwayne Bowe, punter Dustin Colquitt and left tackle Branden Albert. But the Chiefs also kept defensive end Tyson Jackson with a much more manageable contract, traded for quarterback Alex Smith and signed cornerback Dunta Robinson. The team is also reportedly close to keeping defensive end Glenn Dorsey. So the new brass is clearly interested in keeping the core of this team while adding at key positions such as quarterback and cornerback. I expect the Chiefs to strike a couple of more times on the open market. But there is no doubt the heavy lifting has already been done.

Oakland Raiders
HEAD COACH: Dennis Allen

Cap Status: The Raiders have about $8 million in cap room. More can come with the expected cut of defensive tackle Tommy Kelly. Quarterback Carson Palmer and receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey could also be cut if they don't take pay reductions in the coming days.

Strategy: The Raiders are in a tough spot. They have massive holes throughout the roster. They don't have a ton of cap room, but they also have an impatient owner in Mark Davis. He wants to see the team improve. But the Raiders have been in salary-cap jail for years. There is light at the end of the tunnel for next year. But Oakland has to be smart. McKenzie restructured the deal of safety Tyvon Branch (that McKenzie did last year) just to get some immediate relief. But there is now dead money in future years. Oakland cannot repeat its vicious cycle. But it does have to get some things done now. The good news for Oakland is that this is a deep free-agent class and not a lot of teams are going to spend much. There could be some decent bargains out there. I expect Oakland to pick up a few solid players. Cornerback is certainly a strong position that Oakland will try to improve at.

San Diego Chargers

Cap Status: The Chargers should have about $17 million to spend after the expected cut of defensive tackle Antonio Garay.

Strategy: The Chargers will be interesting to watch. This is a new brass, and thus far, it's been awfully quiet. But things should change once the open market starts. Truth be told, San Diego has to get a lot of work done. It has major holes on the offensive line and at cornerback. Between those two areas, the team may need to add up to five players. But the needs don't stop there. The Chargers also can use a safety, an inside linebacker, a running back and a receiver. Telesco has a strong reputation for being a talent evaluator. We will quickly get a look at how he can add pieces to his new team.

After keeping four key players in the past two days, the new regime in Kansas City shed a big name in a move that could have an effect on the No. 1 pick in April's NFL draft.

The Chiefs cut right tackle Eric Winston on Wednesday night. His signing last year by the previous regime was considered a coup. He was particularly good in run blocking last season, but struggled some in the pass offense. His release saves a reported $3.5 million as the Chiefs march toward free agency.

Monday, the Chiefs signed two impending free agents, receiver Dwayne Bowe and punter Dustin Colquitt, and gave left tackle Branden Albert the franchise tag. Defensive end Tyson Jackson redid his deal Tuesday to stick with the team.

By jettisoning Winston, the Chiefs have a hole at right tackle. They have options, though. They could use 2012 third-round pick Donald Stephenson there. They could sign a veteran, or use the top overall draft pick on Texas A&M’s Luke Joeckel or Central Michigan’s Eric Fisher.

Those two are considered left-tackle prospects; their chances of going to Kansas City decreased when Albert was given the franchise tag. But with an opening now on the right side, one of the two (Joeckel is the bigger possibility) could be moved to the right side, then to left tackle if Albert doesn’t sign a long-term deal. Albert has no intentions of playing on the right side.

I’m not totally sold on the idea of taking a player at No. 1 and moving him to right tackle. But I think the Chiefs are totally open-minded about the pick, and this is one option. I think they want to trade the pick, but if they keep it, they will take the best player. If that means moving Joeckel or Fisher to the right side, that will be the case.

This move clearly caught Winston by surprise. He recently expressed excitement about the opportunity of blocking for new Kansas City quarterback Alex Smith. In the end, Winston will be remembered for a verbal outburst. Winston ripped some Kansas City fans for booing quarterback Matt Cassel when he was injured in a game; his comments made national news.

I think Winston, 29, will get some opportunities. He could be a nice fit in San Diego if the Chargers want to replace Jeromey Clary. The Chargers are expected to make major changes on the offensive line. I could even see Winston being a fit in Oakland and Denver in the right circumstances, but if he stays in the AFC West, I’d say San Diego makes the most sense.