AFC West: Michael Huff

INDIANAPOLIS -- With the NFL's scouting combine now underway and free agency to follow on March 11, today marks the eighth installment of a series looking at where the Denver Broncos stand at each position group on the depth chart, the salary-cap commitments and where their needs are greatest.

Today: Defensive backs
Saturday: Specialists

There is no spot on the Broncos' depth chart that needs more attention or faces more potential turnover than the secondary.

The Broncos have six defensive backs who are in line for free agency, either as unrestricted or restricted free agents, and the team could be facing some kind of decision over Champ Bailey's future as well. So the Broncos may have to give the secondary a little more attention in the early part of the draft. And that's not something they've done that much over the past 25 years, especially in the first round.

[+] EnlargeDenver's Champ Bailey
Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty ImagesWith Champ Bailey set to turn 36 before the season, the Broncos need an infusion of youth at cornerback.
The Broncos selected cornerbacks in the first round in back-to-back drafts in 2000 and 2001 -- Deltha O'Neal and Willie Middlebrooks, respectively -- and have not taken a cornerback in the opening round since. In the three drafts under John Elway's watch, the Broncos selected cornerback Kayvon Webster in the third round of the 2013 draft and Omar Bolden in the fourth round in 2012 -- Bolden has since moved to safety. The last safety the Broncos selected in the first round of the draft was Steve Atwater in 1989.

In a passing-first league, the Broncos have plenty of questions to answer when it comes to slowing down opposing quarterbacks.

The Alpha: It has, for the last decade, been Bailey. But he played in just five games during the 2013 regular season due to a foot injury, and he's now approaching his 36th birthday. Bailey has a $10 million salary-cap figure for the coming season, something the Broncos are expected to try to address in the coming weeks. After Bailey, Chris Harris Jr. has steadily evolved from undrafted rookie in 2011 to a leader in the secondary due to the competitiveness and toughness in his game.

Salary cap: Bailey leads the way in what is the final year of his current contract. Webster is the only other cornerback who finished the past season on the 53-man roster and is under contract for 2014. He has a $641,950 cap figure. At safety David Bruton leads the way at $1.65 million with Rahim Moore at $1.415 million, Quinton Carter at $758,750 and Bolden at $688,607.

Pending free agents: The list is long and full of regulars. Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, safety Mike Adams, safety Michael Huff and cornerback Quentin Jammer are all unrestricted free agents while Harris and cornerback Tony Carter are restricted free agents. Safety Duke Ihenacho is an exclusive rights free agent who can only negotiate with the Broncos.

Who could stay: The Broncos could make Rodgers-Cromartie some kind of offer. The Broncos also got more out of him than he showed in his time in Philadelphia, so they have enhanced Rodgers-Cromartie's potential in the open market as well.

They are expected to tender Harris, who is working his way back from recent ACL surgery, with enough attached compensation to chase any potential suitors away. The Broncos believe he will return from his injury to his former place in the lineup and that's significant since he plays in both the Broncos' base defense and all of the specialty packages.

Who could go: They will have some competition for Rodgers-Cromartie that could affect their ability to bring him back. But they are expected to let Jammer, Adams and Huff test the market. Adams would be a consideration to return if he doesn't have a deal in place after the initial wave of free agency.

Adams started 23 regular-season games for the Broncos in the past two seasons, including seven in 2013. He's a quality player in the locker room and understands the team's scheme, but the team will look hard to add more speed and athleticism at the position.

What they like/want: Defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio is always willing to mix-and-match several personnel groupings to address what's happening across the line of scrimmage from his defense.

And he will have some new faces in the secondary in the coming season. The Broncos will need to have enough speed and athleticism in coverage to deal with the three-wide-receiver sets they'll face, but they will need options to play the run as well.

The schedule rotation means they will make the lap through the NFC West next season. Though they defended the run with effectiveness in the Super Bowl loss to the Seattle Seahawks -- one of the few things that went right -- they will likely have to play more run looks in 2014 to be in position to play for the title again. In 2013, they had just two games in the regular season -– wins over Washington and Tennessee -- where they were in their base defense for more snaps than they were in their specialty looks (five, six or seven defensive backs).

But overall, Broncos head coach John Fox, a secondary coach when he broke into the league on Hall of Famer Chuck Noll's staff, prefers coverage players with enough reach and size to match up with the bigger receivers in the league and some of the bigger cornerbacks on this draft board will get a long look.

Need index (1 is low priority, 5 the highest): 5

It is the position of highest need on the roster. The Broncos have two cornerbacks under contract at the moment, one of those being Bailey, and four safeties.

Two of those safeties, Moore and Carter, were on injured reserve this past season. And Carter has played just three games over the past two seasons because of injuries.

A look at Raiders' top cap figures

February, 12, 2014
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For the first time since Reggie McKenzie became the Oakland Raiders' general manager two years ago, he does not have to spend his offseason figuring out which players to cut, how to slash salary cap numbers to get under the salary cap.

Indeed, in past years, the fact that two guys no longer with the team would account for more than $8.8 million in dead money would cause much handwringing. But the financial footprints left by Michael Huff ($6,208,750) and McKenzie acquisition Matt Flynn ($2,625,000) are palatable with Oakland boasting more than $61.7 million in cap space, per overthecap.com.

McKenzie need not go through any couch cushions to find spare change to re-sign those of his 18 unrestricted free agents he deems worthy, or make runs at front-line free agents on the market. But it is interesting to see which players currently under contract boast the largest cap numbers for 2014.

Tyvon Branch ($7.157 million) -- the strong safety appeared in all of two games a year ago, breaking his lower right leg in the first quarter of the Raiders' home opener. He attempted a late-season comeback but could not get right and was placed on injured reserve before appearing in another game.

Mike Brisiel ($5.310 million) -- a potential cut? The right guard was a warrior in 2013, albeit a wounded one. Tony Bergstrom, McKenzie's first-ever draft pick, beating out Brisiel would not necessarily be a bad thing for the future of the franchise.

Kevin Burnett ($4.142 million) -- Veteran presence in the linebacker corps, a potential place to save money ... if the Raiders needed to save money.

Marcel Reece ($3.980 milion) -- The face of the franchise's future, an absolute bargain for a two-time Pro Bowl fullback.

Nick Roach ($3.771 million) -- Played every defensive snap in his first year as a Raider, team defensive MVP, made fans forget about Rolando What's His Name.

Sebastian Janikowski ($3.060 million) -- Highest-paid kicker in the game has a lot to prove after struggling with nine missed field goals in his first season with new contract.

-financial figures from overthecap.com

It was 236 days ago when Joe Flacco threw that fateful, 70-yard touchdown pass to Jacoby Jones, leading the Baltimore Ravens to a double-overtime playoff win at the Denver Broncos. The Ravens went on to win the Super Bowl, and the Broncos were left to think of what might have been. Flacco and the Ravens return to Denver's Sports Authority Stadium on Thursday night to kick off the 2013 season in a rematch of two of the top teams in the AFC.

The stakes are different, and so are the teams. Gone are Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and Anquan Boldin from the Ravens. Baltimore is expected to have 10 different starters from the team that hoisted up the Lombardi trophy, and that doesn't include former Broncos defensive standout Elvis Dumervil, who is expected to play in passing situations.

The Broncos won't have Dumervil or Von Miller, who has been suspended for six games, rushing after Flacco this time. But Peyton Manning is back, along with the addition of Wes Welker to an already dangerous wide receiver group.

Broncos team reporter Jeff Legwold and Ravens team reporter Jamison Hensley discuss whether the opener will be a repeat of that memorable AFC divisional playoff game.

Hensley: Much has been made of the 50-foot Flacco banner hanging at the Broncos' stadium. Flacco has embraced the hate, saying it's not a bad thing for opposing fans to dislike you. The Ravens' focus, as it has been all offseason, has been to move forward. It's the start of a different era in many ways for the Ravens in their first game without Lewis and Reed. But it's easier to move forward when you're the ones sitting on top of the football world. How much will the "revenge factor" play into this game for the Broncos?

Legwold: Broncos coach John Fox, much like John Harbaugh with his "What's Important Now" mantra to leave the championship season behind, has tried to leave the past in the past. But questions about the kneel-down in the waning seconds despite Manning at quarterback and two timeouts in hand, as well as a third-and-7 running play late in the game, have trailed him all through the offseason. A lot of the Broncos players are willing to say memories of the playoff loss pushed them through the tedium of May and June. But over the past two weeks, they've stuck to the script -- that it's a new year, a new team -- but deep down they all know they let a potential Super Bowl trip, home-field advantage and a seven-point lead with less than a minute to play get away. And Dumervil's departure does add a little spice as well. How has Dumervil fit in and what kind of year do you think he'll have?

Hensley: Terrell Suggs has talked about Dumervil having the right mentality to play for the Ravens, and Harbaugh commented how Dumervil is already taking a leadership role. He really is a perfect fit for the Ravens on the field, too, where they have never had an elite pass-rusher to pair with Suggs. Over the past six seasons, Suggs has had only one teammate record more than seven sacks in a season. And being a pass-rusher is Dumervil's primary role. The Ravens will use Courtney Upshaw on early downs to set the edge against the run, which should keep Dumervil's legs fresh in pass-rushing situations. The Ravens have a familiarity with Dumervil because inside linebackers coach Don Martindale was Denver's defensive coordinator in 2010 and was Dumervil's position coach in 2009, when the linebacker-end led the NFL with 17 sacks. Baltimore is catching a break Thursday night with Dumervil now wearing purple and Miller serving his suspension. How are the Broncos going to generate a pass rush on Flacco?

[+] EnlargeElvis Dumervil
AP Photo/Patrick SemanskyPass-rusher Elvis Dumervil was one of the Ravens' high-profile offseason acquisitions, and has become a leader on the field and off for Baltimore.
Legwold: That is the $380,687.50 question, which is how much of Miller's base salary he'll surrender during the six-game suspension. But without Miller (18.5 sacks in '12) and Dumervil (11.0 last season), the Broncos will mix and match on a variety of down-and-distances. Derek Wolfe is a key player, because of his ability to play inside and outside along the defensive line and still create matchup problems. Jack Del Rio believes Wolfe is ready to take an enormous step in his development, and among the defensive linemen only Dumervil played more snaps up front than Wolfe did as a rookie last year. The Broncos will ask Shaun Phillips, who they think has plenty left to give after 9.5 sacks for the struggling Chargers last season, to be a spot rusher. And Robert Ayers, who was a first-round pick in 2009, has always said he could put up the sack numbers if given the chance. He's played through four different coordinators -- Del Rio is his first to be on the job for two consecutive seasons -- but has just 6.5 career sacks. Now is his time. On Flacco, how has he dealt with all that comes with a Lombardi trophy and a nine-digit contract?

Hensley: The money and increased notoriety haven't really affected Flacco. If anything, he's become more vocal. There was a playful trash-talking exchange during training camp between Flacco and Suggs, who told his quarterback that the defense's "swag is on a thousand million." Flacco responded: "Then what's my swag at? I get paid more than you. A lot more!" What has really changed is the wide receiver group around Flacco. This unfamiliarity led to four interceptions in six quarters of work this preseason. His top two receivers from a year ago won't be there Thursday. Boldin was traded to San Francisco, and tight end Dennis Pitta is out indefinitely with a dislocated hip. They accounted for 36 receptions in the postseason, which was nearly half of Flacco's completions. That being said, it was Torrey Smith and Jones who did the most damage in the playoff game in Denver. The Ravens are hoping wide receiver Brandon Stokley can move the chains on third downs and tight end Ed Dickson (hamstring) can contribute in the season opener. There has to be more confidence in the Broncos' passing attack with Manning and his bunch of talented receivers.

Legwold: There is plenty of confidence in what the potential can be with Welker in the mix. The Broncos loved Stokley as a slot receiver, but Welker is younger and offers a bigger upside in terms of production. Welker will also have the best receivers to his outside shoulders in Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas, the best combo he's had since the Patriots decided they didn't want Randy Moss around any longer. The 229-pound Thomas and the 214-pound Decker make the Broncos a tough matchup for any secondary. In the preseason, teams simply backed off into coverage and took their chances they could allow the catch and make the tackle before too much damage was done. The pace, especially at altitude, is a little something new as well. The Broncos ran 49 plays, excluding penalties, in the first half alone against the Rams in the preseason. They won't always go that fast, but if they get the look they want from a defense, they'll put the pedal to the floor and not allow a substitution. The key issue will be protection: Left tackle Ryan Clady missed plenty of the preseason after offseason surgery, and Denver has surrendered pressure in the middle of the field at times. The three-wide look is what the Broncos want their base formation to be on offense, but they can't do it if they can't protect Manning. It has to be a strange thing for a Baltimore defense that has been the franchise's signature for so long to have so many changes.

Hensley: There were a lot of changes to the Ravens' defense, but there were necessary changes. The Ravens weren't a top-10 defense for the first time since 2002. This defense had slumped to No. 17 in the NFL. It's never easy to part ways with the likes of Lewis and Reed. But the Ravens aren't replacing two Hall of Fame players in their prime. Baltimore had to replace two aging players who weren't the same playmakers from a few years ago. The additions of Dumervil, defensive lineman Chris Canty, linebacker Daryl Smith and safety Michael Huff have made this a stronger and more athletic defense. The Ravens' defense is going to be significantly better in two areas: stopping the run and pressuring the quarterback. The biggest concern, especially when you're starting two new safeties, is the communication in the secondary. One mistake there and Manning will burn you for a touchdown. How is the Broncos' secondary holding up this summer?

Legwold: The Broncos would feel better if Bailey felt better. Bailey did not practice Sunday or Monday because of a left foot injury he suffered in the preseason loss in Seattle and is still a major question mark for Thursday's game. Bailey has been on the field for practice, but has not participated in any of the drills. The end result means Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie would likely line up much of the time in Bailey's left cornerback spot. Rodgers-Cromartie is one of the more athletic sidekicks the Broncos have had for Bailey since Bailey arrived in 2004. Chris Harris and Tony Carter, the player who gave Jones a free release off the line of scrimmage on the game-tying bomb last January, will play in the nickel and dime as well. But overall the Broncos kept 11 defensive backs -- six corners, five safeties -- and can mix and match for almost every situation. They have flexibility and use it, so every defensive back in uniform Thursday night could see some action in the defense.

The San Diego Chargers completed a couple of AFC West rookie class firsts Wednesday.

The Chargers announced they have agreed to terms with their first-round pick, tackle D.J. Fluker of Alabama. He was the No. 11 overall pick in the April draft.

He was the last of San Diego’s draft picks to sign. It is the first team in the AFC West to sign its entire draft class. Fluker was the first first-round pick in the division to sign. Denver and Kansas City has both signed about half of its draft class. Oakland has yet to sign a draft pick, but it should soon start doing so because it received cap relief on June 1 as part of the Michael Huff cut.

As for Fluker, he is currently earmarked to start at right tackle. However, there has been some talk he could be moved to right guard. Regardless, Fluker will instantly be a big part of San Diego’s offense.
Reggie McKenzie’s first draft pick in Oakland is facing some spring competition.

The Bay Area News Group reported that Lucas Nix was working ahead of Tony Bergstrom at left guard Tuesday at the Raiders’ organized team activities (OTAs). Of course, it is early, and I’d expect both to compete through the summer at the spot previously occupied by Cooper Carlisle, who has since been released.

That said, it has to be a bit disappointing that Bergstrom, a third-round pick in 2012, is not taking the early lead. Nix was an undrafted free agent signing last year out of Pittsburgh.

The Raiders drafted Bergstrom as a fit for the zone-blocking scheme Oakland used on offense last season -- an unsuccessful approach the team has since scrapped in favor of a more traditional power-blocking scheme. In February, I asked McKenzie, who took over as general manager in 2012, if he was confident Bergstrom could be part of the future. He was firm in his belief that Bergstrom could indeed fit in the new scheme.

Bergstrom failed to make to a push for major playing time as a rookie. Now it appears he will have to fight Nix moving forward.

In another interesting Oakland OTA note, second-year player Christo Bilukidi and free-agent pickup Vance Walker were working with the first unit at defensive tackle. Bilukidi showed flashes as a rookie late in the season. Walker was a productive situational player in Atlanta.

As at many positions in Oakland, the Raiders want to see some players take the next step and grab a lead role at defensive tackle. While it is early, Bilukidi and Walker are getting the chance to show they deserve to start.

In other AFC West notes:

Peyton Manning is enjoying this offseason much more than last, when he was recovering from four neck surgeries and adjusting to life in Denver.

Former No. 3 overall pick Tyson Jackson is impressing the new Kansas City brass at defensive end.

Some bookkeeping reminders: Oakland gets $8 million in salary-cap relief for the Michael Huff cut and San Diego gets $4.5 million relief after cutting Jared Gaither on Saturday. Both teams will primarily use the money to sign draft picks.

AFC West checkpoint

May, 4, 2013
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Now that the NFL draft has wrapped, the rosters are essentially set for each AFC West team heading into the 2013 season. Sure, each team will make some tweaks, but the heavy lifting has been done.

Let’s take a look at the offseason and where each AFC West team stands:

Denver Broncos

What was good about the offseason? Denver went 13-3 in 2012 and followed up by adding several terrific pieces in free agency and the draft. There aren’t a ton of glaring holes on this team. The Broncos are strong in all phases of the game. And they upgraded in some big ways. Of course, the big prize was slot-receiving star Wes Welker in free agency. He makes Denver’s passing offense even more dangerous. But Denver also upgraded the roster by adding cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, defensive tackle Terrance Knighton, guard Louis Vasquez and pass-rusher Shaun Phillips in free agency and defensive tackle Sylvester Williams and running back Montee Ball via the draft.

What was bad about the offseason? The lone blemish on Denver’s offseason was the bizarre departure of pass-rusher Elvis Dumervil. Dumervil was set to return before the infamous fax-machine gaffe paved the way for him to go to Baltimore. Denver signed Phillips and drafted Quanterus Smith in the fifth round. Phillips will probably be a situational player and Robert Ayers will probably start in Dumervil’s old spot. Smith was leading the nation in sacks last season for Western Kentucky when he tore an anterior cruciate ligament. He is expected to be ready for training camp. The Broncos will miss Dumervil, but they think they got enough help for Von Miller.

How should they feel moving forward? The Broncos should believe they are ready to make a Super Bowl run. Is Denver flawless? Certainly not, but no NFL team is these days. Denver did enough in the offseason to be considered one of the better teams in the league.

Kansas City Chiefs

What was good about the offseason? A horrible 2-14 mark in 2012 seems like a long time ago. The Chiefs upgraded with the hiring of Andy Reid as coach and John Dorsey as general manager. Then they added quarterback Alex Smith -- the best quarterback available in the offseason, including the draft -- and several other pieces on both sides of the ball. The Chiefs' roster was already solid and it got better; what the Chiefs lacked was coaching and quarterback play. Meanwhile, the signing of cornerbacks Dunta Robinson and Sean Smith could, in combination with holdover Brandon Flowers, give Kansas City the best cornerback group in the NFL.

What was bad about the offseason? The situation with left tackle Branden Albert should be resolved by now. He will probably stay with the team and No. 1 overall pick Eric Fisher will play right tackle. The Chiefs tried to trade Albert, who was given and has signed the franchise tag, but a deal fell through with the Dolphins. A swap could still happen but more likely, Albert will return. The team is interested in signing him to a long-term deal and keeping both him and Fisher, but questions remain. In a clean offseason, this has been the one sticky situation.

How should they feel moving forward? The Chiefs should feel great. There are few holes on this team. How many squads coming off a 2-14 season can say that? I’m not sure the Chiefs are playoff contenders. It depends on how Smith fits with the offense and how quickly the defense comes together. But this team should be much improved. Reid’s program is on the right track.

Oakland Raiders

What was good about the offseason? The Raiders had a good draft. General manager Reggie McKenzie worked the process well, turning seven picks into 10. Because this outfit is being totally rebuilt, I would not be shocked if all 10 draft picks made the 53-man roster. Oakland's first-round pick, cornerback D.J. Hayden, and its third-round pick, linebacker Sio Moore, have a chance to start right away and make an impact. Adding Hayden to free-agent signees Tracy Porter and Mike Jenkins is a big upgrade at the cornerback spot. The linebacking crew has a chance to be better too.

What was bad about the offseason? Salary-cap problems made it very difficult for Oakland. It had to cut several players, including defensive back Michael Huff and receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey; it traded quarterback Carson Palmer; and it saw solid free agents like Philip Wheeler, Brandon Myers, Shane Lechler and Desmond Bryant go elsewhere. The Raiders did the best they could under the circumstances, but a lot of talent left the team.

How should they feel moving forward? The Raiders should feel like a work in progress. The NFL has become a quick-turnaround league. That is not, however, likely to happen in Oakland this year -- the Raiders are probably a three-year project. McKenzie tore it down and is starting to build it up. The Raiders have made their salary-cap situation right for the future and have some promising players. But if the Raiders made a playoff push this year, it would be a major surprise.

San Diego Chargers

What was good about the offseason? The Chargers had a great draft -- arguably the best in the league. They drafted right tackle D.J. Fluker in the first round, inside linebacker Manti Te'o in the second round and receiver Keenan Allen in the third. All three were considered first-round talents and should start this fall. The franchise is headed in a new direction, and these players will have paved the way. The Chargers also added some nice pieces in free agency in the form of cornerback Derek Cox, running back Danny Woodhead and guard Chad Rinehart.

What was bad about the offseason? Yes, the Chargers did have some success in free agency, but because of salary-cap worries, they didn’t do too much. The Chargers need an infusion of talent, and free agency didn’t solve all the problems. The offensive line in particular is still a work in progress. They badly need a left tackle with few options available. That's a problem.

How should they feel moving forward? The solid draft gives the Chargers some good vibes heading into the summer. But this is not a complete roster. The offensive line is not great, and there are some concerns in the secondary. Yes, the Chargers are improving. But as with Oakland, the promise may be more long term than immediate.
The Oakland Raiders officially dumped Rolando McClain less than three years after the team made him the No. 8 overall pick in the draft.

However, McClain has been out the door in Oakland for more than four months.

The team suspended the middle linebacker for conduct detrimental in November for two games. Once his suspension was lifted, McClain never saw the field again. He was relegated to a scout team running back in practice. The Raiders held onto him for salary-cap purposes and finally dumped him Friday.

He asked permission to seek a trade, but that was almost comical. No team was going to give Oakland anything for a player who was a bust on the field and who has been arrested twice since he was drafted. Perhaps a team will give him a chance to revive his career (I’d be surprised if that happened in the AFC West) but the Raiders are not going to get anything for it. The Raiders will take a $7.26 million cap hit.

McClain was a problem on and off the field and was a disaster. He had to go. Oakland signed Nick Roach from Chicago to play middle linebacker.

This signifies another first-round bust for this franchise. The frustrating part of this one is McClain was considered a safe pick when he was drafted after several previous questionable decisions in the first round. He was a star at Alabama and there didn’t seem to be many negatives about him.

But McClain was overmatched in the NFL from the start and his surly personality never made him a favorite in any circle in Oakland.

Oakland has just two first-round picks left on the roster. Kicker Sebastian Janikowski (2000) and running back Darren McFadden (2008). McClain is the third first-round pick Oakland has jettisoned this offseason as he joins safety Michael Huff (2006) and receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey (2009).

Because of trades for defensive lineman Richard Seymour and quarterback Carson Palmer (they both left the team this year too) Oakland hasn’t had a first-round pick in the past two years. Reggie McKenzie will get his first first-round pick with the No. 3 selection later this month. Cutting McClain is another reminder of how important this first choice will be for the Raiders.
Andy Reid said he will do his due diligence before deciding on the No. 1 pick in the draft and he is doing it.

NFL Network reports the team will bring West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith and Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner in for visits. They went to the campuses of several other top prospects. None of this is a surprise. Reid said he would look at right to 10 prospects and Smith would be one of them.

The Smith visit will spark speculation that he is a favorite to be the No. 1 pick. The NFL Network report states Kansas City scouts are fascinated by him and think he can be a bigger Donovan McNabb. He, of course, was the No. 2 overall draft choice in Philadelphia in 1999. It was Reid’s first season there.

I don’t think the Chiefs are close to figuring out what they want to do. If Smith blows them away, he could be the pick. But right now I wouldn’t say he is the favorite. I still think it is Texas A&M left tackle Luke Joeckel.

If Geno Smith was the choice, I wouldn’t have a big problem with it because the Chiefs don’t have huge pressing needs. So if they think they can get a great player, they should take it. Alex Smith was traded for to be the immediate starter and I think he will still be even if Geno Smith is taken. But Geno Smith could be stashed away. Remember, Kansas City general manager John Dorsey comes from Green Bay where that approach worked with Aaron Rodgers behind Brett Favre.

Still, I think Geno Smith would have to completely blow away the Chiefs for him to be the choice. Also, the team is interested in trading the pick. Talking up Geno Smith could be a way of drumming up interest.

In other AFC West news:

Former Oakland defensive back Michael Huff has agreed to a deal with the Baltimore Ravens. He replaces star safety Ed Reed. Huff is the second AFC West player the Ravens signed to rebuild their defense. Elvis Dumervil was signed earlier in the week.

Meanwhile, the Denver Post explains that Dumervil took less guaranteed money from the Ravens than what the Broncos were offering.
The Oakland Raiders’ search for a cornerback is taking the next step.

Denver cornerback Tracy Porter is visiting the Raiders on Wednesday, according to an NFL source. He visited the New Orleans Saints on Monday. Both teams have strong interest in Porter. He is expected to decide his future soon. He left the Saints for Denver last year. He fell out of favor in Denver. Oakland head coach Dennis Allen was Porter’s position coach in New Orleans.

Meanwhile, Dallas cornerback Mike Jenkins is visiting Jacksonville. Oakland reportedly also has interest in Jenkins. Oakland has two starting cornerback openings. It has visited with Terence Newman. He has been expected to decide between the Bengals and the Raiders for several days.

In other AFC West news:

Former Oakland punter Shane Lechler told San Francisco radio station, 95.7 The Game that he was surprised Oakland did not pursue him. He signed with Houston on Friday.

“This was my first time in free agency. To tell you the truth, man it’s nerve-racking,” Lechler told the radio station. “I didn’t know where I was going to go, where I was going to live or where my kids were going to go to school. I wasn’t hearing anything from Oakland. After giving them 13 years, and plus what the Davis family has done for me, I thought I would at least have a conversation with someone there or something before all of this went down. That was the frustrating part of it. I can’t say that I turned a contract down or anything because I was never really offered one. That was frustrating but I understand. Reggie’s running that thing now like he wants to run it and it’s pretty safe to say I don’t believe I was in the plans.”

Lecher, who was making $4 million a season in Oakland, signed a three-year, $5.5 million deal with Houston. Lechler is from Texas. Oakland is expected to give talented, but unproven Marquette King a chance to replace Lechler.
The Kansas City Chiefs' college tour has hit Gainesville, Fla., as ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports the team’s brass is working out Florida defensive lineman Sharrif Floyd on Monday.

The Chiefs have the No. 1 overall pick in April's NFL draft and are doing their due dilligence. They are expected to work out up to 10 of the top prospects.

The most likely scenarios are for Kansas City to either draft Texas A&M left tackle Luke Joeckel or look to trade the pick to the highest bidder. But Floyd has been a workout monster this offseason, and the Chiefs could be tempted to take him. Floyd has been listed as a favorite to land in Oakland with the No. 3 pick if he's still available.

In other AFC West news:

Tight end Kellen Winslow said the Oakland Raiders are among the teams that have expressed interest in him. He has been connected to the Raiders for about a week. The Raiders don’t have a proven in-house replacement for Brandon Myers, who signed with the Giants. Winslow played just one game last season because of a knee injury.

Former Oakland receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey is visiting the Colts, and former Oakland safety Michael Huff is visiting his hometown Cowboys. Both players were cut recently.

Kansas City free agent defensive lineman Ropati Pitoitua has signed with the Titans.

Raiders keep Khalif Barnes

March, 20, 2013
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After seeing several younger players leave through free agency, the Oakland Raiders kept their first in-house free agent.

The Raiders have signed journeyman right tackle Khalif Barnes. He has been with the Raiders for four seasons. He was a starter when healthy last season. He should be in the mix again, and he can play guard as well.

In other AFC West news:

ESPN’s Adam Schefter is reporting right tackle Eric Winston, cut recently by the Kansas City Chiefs, is visiting Miami. He has visited the San Diego Chargers, and they remain interested. Winston played collegiately at Miami, so the Dolphins could have an edge.

Former Oakland safety Michael Huff is expected to meet with the Baltimore Ravens.

U-T San Diego expects the Chargers to release left tackle Jared Gaither in the next couple of weeks. It’s not a surprise. He has been expected to be cut at some point.
Elvis Dumervil’s new agent, Tom Condon, and the Denver Broncos lost an appeal to get the verbal agreement honored by the NFL. The agreement was turned in after the league's deadline on Friday.

It was considered a longshot, anyway because had the NFL honored the deal the rest of the league would have been upset.

The Denver Post reports that the Baltimore Ravens are currently negotiating with Dumervil. The Broncos want Dumervil back and he wants to return, but there are salary issues.

The Denver Post reports the Broncos' first choice to replace Dumervil, 29, if he signs elsewhere will be former Atlanta pass-rusher John Abraham. He was productive last season, but he will turn 35 in May.

In other AFC West notes:

Cornerback Terence Newman tweeted he may make his decision on a team later in the week, choosing between the Bengals and Raiders.

The Baltimore Sun reports former Oakland safety Michael Huff, who was cut last week, is receiving interest from Baltimore, Green Bay, Dallas and Tennessee.

Dallas reportedly is talking to Jets guard Matt Slauson. He reportedly received interest from Oakland early in free agency.

Raiders linebacker Nick Roach got a four-year with $5 million in guaranteed money.

Patriots owner Robert Kraft said receiver Wes Welker signed with Denver for less than what New England offered him. Welker signed a two-year, $12 million deal with the Broncos.

The Boston Globe reports the Patriots have shown some interest in right tackle Eric Winston, who was cut by the Chiefs. Winston has also visited with the Chargers.

Former San Diego pass-rusher Antwan Barnes has signed with the Jets on a three-year contract.
The Oakland Raiders need starters and overall depth on defense and on Wednesday they acted to help fill that void.

The team signed defensive end Jason Hunter (Denver), linebacker Kaluka Maiava (Cleveland) and defensive tackle Pat Sims (Cincinnati).

“We’re excited to add three veterans through free agency,” Oakland general manager Reggie McKenzie said in a statement. “(They help) to create depth and competition on defense. We’ll continue to add free agents as the opportunity surfaces.”

The team has also visited with Chicago linebacker Nick Roach. Oakland cut safety Michael Huff and lost linebackers Philip Wheeler (Miami) and defensive tackle Desmond Bryant (Cleveland) on Tuesday. They ended the day with just three sure starters in the form of defensive lineman Lamarr Houston, linebacker Miles Burris and safety Tyvon Branch.

The three new additions will help Oakland. I think Sims and Maiava could be starters and Hunter is a decent rotational player.

Scouts like Sims, who started one game last season and who is injury prone. But he has talent. Maiava started most of last season in Cleveland. Hunter played in Denver under Oakland head coach Dennis Allen.

I’m not sure if these are upgrades. But they are NFL-quality players who should make contributions in Oakland. I expect the Raiders to continue to add these types of younger, fairly inexpensive players to the roster in this time of flux.
A look at some of the storylines that stood out most in the first day of free agency Tuesday:

Where’s the defense in Oakland? As of now, the Oakland Raiders have just three set starters on defense -- lineman Lamarr Houston, linebacker Miles Burris and safety Tyvon Branch. That’s scary. Yes, Oakland will add players and will field a defense, but that fact shows you how much work needs to be done.

Where’s the offensive line in San Diego? The San Diego Chargers’ offensive line is in just as bad a shape as Oakland’s defense. The team’s best offensive lineman, guard Louis Vasquez, defected to the Denver Broncos on Tuesday. The Chargers might need to find starters everywhere on the line but center. They have to get to work, although new signee King Dunlap could be in the mix somewhere.

Another "dream team" for Reid? The Chiefs have been wildly busy all offseason. Some detractors are saying new Kansas City coach Andy Reid is taking the same “dream team” approach his Eagles took two years ago when they stockpiled many big-name free agents. It didn’t work. This is a much different approach. The Chiefs had to keep their top free agents, had to get a quarterback in Alex Smith and have added some key rotational players in free agency. There isn’t a ton of flash here. A solid roster is being built.

Vasquez's signing is big for Denver: Thus far, the Vasquez signing in Denver was the best work we've seen in the AFC West since the opening of free agency. He toughens the offensive line in Denver and makes it better. Vasquez and tackle Orlando Franklin on the right side are going to be a load in the running game. Plus, the signing hurt a division rival. Very solid move.

Lack of first-round impact hurts Oakland: The Raiders cut a pair of former first-round picks, safety Michael Huff (2006) and receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey (2009), on Tuesday; linebacker Rolando McClain (2010) is expected to be cut soon. That would leave just running back Darren McFadden (2008) and kicker Sebastian Janikowski (2000) as the only Raiders first-round picks on the roster. That is not the way to build a team. The Raiders have the No. 3 pick in April's draft. They must get this one correct. Right now, I’d say the top options there are either Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd or Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner.
There is no doubt the Oakland Raiders are in a tough spot.

For the second straight year the Raiders are facing a tough salary-cap situation because of wild, irresponsible spending by the previous regime. The result is a second year of tough decisions.

As the Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs worked to improve Tuesday, the Raiders had to hit the refresh button again.

Oakland cut safety Michael Huff, receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey and defensive end Dave Tollefson. The Heyward-Bey (Oakland has other young receivers) and Tollefson cuts were not surprising. But the Huff cut was. He played well at cornerback in an emergency last year and the team was moving him back to safety. He didn’t want to take a pay cut.

The team also saw linebacker Philip Wheeler (Miami) and defensive tackle Desmond Bryant (Cleveland) sign lucrative five-year deals. Huff and Wheeler were among the best players on a porous defense in 2012 and Bryant is expected to have a strong future.

Oakland will likely either get a pay reduction from quarterback Carson Palmer or cut him. Defensive tackle Tommy Kelly and linebacker Rolando McClain are expected to be cut.

ESPN’s John Clayton reports Oakland is $14.66 million under the cap. They will be able to do some things. But the problem is that they have many holes. They have to restock this roster.

I understand all of these moves. But the truth is, this team can’t afford to lose good players. Wheeler and Huff were good players.

I expect Huff to attract interest on the open market. Heyward-Bey -- a big disappointment after being the No. 7 overall pick in 2009 -- will likely get some mild interest on the open market because of his speed.

The part of these moves that has to be a tad worrisome is the new regime is still dealing with decisions it made last year. Safety Tyvon Branch and guard Mike Brisiel did big restructures and Tollefson was cut. During a time of flux like this, the moves that are being made must work or the trouble will continue.

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