AFC West: Mike Vrabel

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. -- When it was time for Kelly Gregg to consider signing with other teams after being cut by Baltimore, the 12-year veteran stopped looking when he heard the Kansas City Chiefs were interested.

The nose tackle was looking to go to a team in which he could be a leader, but also still have a legitimate chance to win.

“I wanted to go to an up-and-comer,” the outgoing Gregg said Tuesday. “When you think of up-and-comers, the Chiefs are the first team to roll off your lips.

“I love it here. There is so much talent here on both sides of the ball. This team is going to be really good. I’m glad to be here.”

The Chiefs coaching staff is thrilled to have Gregg. He has been a standout at camp and is a standout run stuffer. He solidifies the Chiefs’ defensive front. Kansas City was looking for a nose tackle since before the lockout, and when Gregg was a salary-cap casualty in Baltimore, the Chiefs jumped on him.

Gregg helps fill a leadership void left after linebacker Mike Vrabel retired. He has taken to the role well and his presence in the young defensive-line meeting room has been welcome, coaches say.

“I’m happy to be a leader,” Gregg said. “I had a lot of guys in Baltimore help me over the years, so now it’s my turn to help the young guys here. It’s easy because they are all good players.”
The Kansas City Chiefs signing of nose tackle Kelly Gregg might not get much attention or hoopla.

That’s fine. That’s what Gregg is all about.

This is a dirty-work player who was an underappreciated part of the Baltimore Ravens’ vicious defense. This guy was the constant space eater in the Ravens’ defense who made life much easier for linebackers. Now, he will be doing it in Kansas City. Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson will love this guy. The Chiefs signed Gregg to a one-year deal. He was just cut by the Ravens.

Gregg will turn 35 this year, so this a short-term fix, but it will help. He will make the Chiefs better at the position and serve as a terrific mentor to rookie Jerrell Powe. For a defense that lost Mike Vrabel to retirement, the addition of Gregg will only help in the leadership department.

I know many Chiefs fans wanted them to sign San Francisco big-dollar free agent Aubrayo Franklin, and he would be better for the long term, but Gregg solves the problem now. The Chiefs have wanted a nose tackle since the end of the season and tried to sign Shaun Rogers before the lockout.

In Gregg they get a proven nose tackle that has been a part of a great defense. While it might not be splashy or long-term, the 2011 Chiefs just got better.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that the New York Jets are still heavily pursuing Oakland free-agent cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha despite just spending big dollars to keep receiver Santonio Holmes.

The Jets emerged as a serious pursuer of Asomugha on Tuesday. NFL.com is reporting that the Jets and Asomugha talks are “serious.”

Expect much more on Asomugha’s talks as Wednesday develops. Schefter also named Houston, Baltimore and Dallas as among the teams that are trying to secure Asomugha. Tampa Bay may be careful in its pursuit.

Meanwhile, the Raiders have kept one of their own. Schefter reported Oakland re-signed long-snapper Jon Condo. He is a reliable snapper who is part of a strong special-teams unit. It was a terrific re-sign.

ESPN’s John Clayton reports the Chiefs re-signed safety Jon McGraw to a one-year deal. He is a role player and a fine leader. With linebacker Mike Vrabel retiring, McGraw’s leadership will be needed in Kansas City.

Defensive tackle Ron Edwards left the Chiefs for a three-year deal with Carolina. The Chiefs weren’t overly excited about keeping Edwards and they are looking for an upgrade.

Raiders tackle Langston Walker said he is talking to the Raiders about returning. Yet, the Raiders are pursuing Baltimore’s Jared Gaither, who’d be a major upgrade.

We’ve seen lists from San Diego and Oakland, but here is a list of the undrafted free agents signed by all 32 teams.

Expect talks with San Diego safety Eric Weddle to heat up today. He has a lot of interest, but I think he’d like to return to the Chargers. San Diego agreed to terms with three players Tuesday, but Weddle remains a priority.

Chiefs back-to-work FYI

July, 25, 2011
7/25/11
2:04
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NFC: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South Unrestricted FAs

Readiness factor: The Chiefs are in pretty good shape. They didn’t have many major changes. New offensive coordinator Bill Muir was on the staff last year, and big pockets of players worked out together on a few occasions. I don’t think there will be any major obstacles to this team getting rolling quickly.

Biggest challenge: Quarterback Matt Cassel's progression is vital for this team. He made great progress last season, but he stalled in the Chiefs' final two games after offensive coordinator Charlie Weis announced he was leaving for the University of Florida. New quarterbacks coach Jim Zorn is charged with working with Cassel. The two have met briefly, but they will have to get on the same page quickly to ensure Cassel can continue to lead the offense effectively.

Getting rookies ready: The Chiefs are excited about their draft class. Players such as receiver Jon Baldwin, center/guard Rodney Hudson and front-seven defenders Justin Houston and Allen Bailey have a chance to play right away. They must get up to speed without the benefit of an offseason program.

Key players without contracts for 2011: Center Casey Wiegmann.
In an interesting interview on Fox Radio, Kansas City Chiefs’ owner Clark Hunt admitted the relationship between the teams and players could be a little testy for the short term after the lockout finally ends.

“It was a stressful process,” Hunt said “The emotions I think at times on both sides were stressed. I think clearly there is going to be a little bit of time needed for the organizations and the players to get back on the same page. I think the best way we can do that is to get training camp open and get our coaching staff in and our players going and get the fans out there and really get the 2011 season kicked off.”

I think it is a reasonable assumption by Hunt. He was involved in the talks that included Kansas City guard Brian Waters and recently retired Kansas City linebacker Mike Vrabel. He knows the emotions of the talks. But I’m sure once everyone gets back to work, everyone will be pleased and will settle into the task at hand quickly.

But Hunt’s words show just how raw this nearly five-month saga has been.

AFC West links: Breakthrough in Oakland?

July, 13, 2011
7/13/11
9:12
AM ET
Denver Broncos

Jeff Legwold of The Denver Post says the Broncos plan to be active in free agency once the market opens.

Lawyers for Perrish Cox urged police not to release an affidavit that "lays out evidence supporting sexual-assault charges against the cornerback."

Kansas City Chiefs

Chiefs cornerback Donald Washington is nervous that the lockout will continue to drag on.

With Mike Vrabel out of the picture, the Chiefs need to find someone to play opposite Tamba Hali.

Oakland Raiders

Steve Corkran of the Sporting News: "The Raiders are convinced they are on the precipice of a major breakthrough this season. However, they face a much tougher schedule in 2011 and will be hard pressed to duplicate their impressive feat of going undefeated in the AFC West."

San Diego Chargers

Jay Clemons of the National Football Post uses Ryan Mathews as an example of a player who didn't live up to expectations in his rookie season.

Brian Wright compiles a list of the 11 worst excuses in NFL history, and Shawne Merriman comes in at No. 11.

AFC West links: Vrabel will be missed

July, 12, 2011
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12:16
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Denver Broncos

Jeff Legwold of the Denver Post says signing draft picks figures to be a rush job for the Broncos when a labor agreement is reached.

Former Broncos tight end Shannon Sharpe will be presented by his older brother Sterling Sharpe at the Hall of Fame ceremonies Aug. 6. Sterling Sharpe played seven seasons for the Green Bay Packers.

Defensive Coordinator Dennis Allen expects his group to be feared on the field.

Former Broncos defensive lineman Pete Duranko dies at 67 after battling ALS.

Kansas City Chiefs

Former Chiefs defensive end Art Still is among the retired NFL players seeking improved health benefits in the labor negotiations.

Josh Looney writes that retiring linebacker Mike Vrabel was at the heart of the Chiefs' turnaround last season.

Vrabel discusses his decision to retire.

Oakland Raiders

Memories of a last-second Raiders win against the Jets in December of 1970.

Coach Hugh Jackson answers questions about new offensive coordinator Al Saunders, stopping the run and more.

San Diego Chargers

Christopher Smith of Chargers.com writes about quarterback Philip Rivers' legacy.
The Columbus Dispatch is reporting that Ohio State has tentatively scheduled a news conference for Monday to announce the hiring of Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Mike Vrabel as an assistant coach on Luke Fickell’s staff. Vrabel and Fickell are close friends and were teammates at the school. College Football Talk reported Vrabel was close to taking the job Thursday.

If the reports are accurate, Vrabel would be announcing the end of a decorated NFL career at the same time. Vrabel, 35, played in the NFL for 14 seasons and he was a major part of the New England Patriots’ dynasty last decade.

However, he played in Kansas City the past two years after being traded with quarterback Matt Cassel to the Chiefs in 2009. It was Scott Pioli’s first player move as the Chiefs' general manager. Pioli was with the two players in New England.

Vrabel gave Pioli exactly what he wanted in his two seasons. His immense leadership ability impacted the young defense. On Friday, we looked at Vrabel’s impact on the Chiefs in his two years there.

The Chiefs have some young players at outside linebacker, including third-round pick Justin Houston, so they should be fine, but they will miss Vrabel’s leadership.

Meanwhile, the Chiefs' website has a look at other former players who became coaches.

Good luck to Vrabel as he turns a chapter in his life.
Free agent Kansas City linebacker Mike Vrabel is close to becoming an assistant coach at Ohio State, College Football Talk reported Thursday.

This move makes sense in some regards. He attended Ohio State and one of Vrabel's best friends is new Buckeyes coach Luke Fickell. The 35-year-old Vrabel is also nearing the end of his career. However, Vrabel has said he wants to play in 2011 and he is heavily involved in the lockout talks as a NFLPA executive committee member.

But if Vrabel's career is at an end, I wanted to look at how it would affect the Chiefs:

I think the biggest hit would be in the leadership department. Vrabel was basically a coach on the field and he was relied upon by the Kansas City coaching staff to instruct his teammates on the field. The Chiefs have a young roster and Vrabel’s leadership ability helped the defense quickly develop into a unit that played a huge part of a surprise AFC West title last season.

The Chiefs received two years of leadership out of Vrabel and he helped. If he is leaving, the young unit has learned from him and it should be OK because it does have vocal leaders like Derrick Johnson, Glenn Dorsey, Eric Berry and Brandon Flowers on the unit. But his daily presence would be missed.

I think the Chiefs would like him back in a certain role, but I don’t think the Chiefs would miss Vrabel much on the field. But the Chiefs have several young players, including third-round pick Justin Houston who they want to use as a 3-4 outside linebacker.

If this is the end for Vrabel in Kansas City, it has been a good ride. He was acquired with Matt Cassel for a second-round pick from New England on the first day former Patriots’ executive Scott Pioli could make a move as general manager of the Chiefs in 2009. Vrabel gave the Chiefs what they needed. He was a veteran presence on a young team. He helped the Chiefs become a division champion.

Vrabel could have lost interest after going from a perennial winner in New England to a team that was rebuilding. But he was a consummate professional in Kansas City. If Vrabel is going back to his alma mater, the Chiefs should have nothing but good memories of him.

Evening AFC West notes

July, 7, 2011
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Mary Porter, the 89-year-old grandmother of Denver Hall of Fame-elect tight end Shannon Sharpe, has died. She raised Sharpe. A large focus on his Hall of Fame acceptance speech next month will focus on his grandmother, Sharpe said. Our condolences go out to Sharpe and his family.
  • College Football Talk reports that there is a good chance Kansas City free-agent linebacker Mike Vrabel will join Ohio State’s coaching staff. Vrabel, who will turn 36, has said he still wants to play. He is former teammates and close friends with new Ohio State coach Luke Fickell. The Chiefs would like Vrabel back because of his leadership ability. If he doesn’t come back, though, the Chiefs should be able to move on at least on the field. Vrabel’s ability is waning. He came over from New England in a trade along with Matt Cassel two years ago. Vrabel has been heavily involved in the lockout talks. He is on the NFLPA executive committee.
  • The San Diego Union Tribune looks at the freedom the Chargers may have in free agency. The Chargers have plenty to do, so it will need the freedom.
  • Former Denver washout Maurice Clarett is back in the UFL. He signed with the Omaha franchise.
This is the seventh in our series of position-by-position rankings. It is a little different this season because we’re ranking the players before free agency starts and before rosters are set. We will adjust accordingly as we go along. On to a solid group of linebackers:

1. Tamba Hali, Kansas City: Hali is a special player and a big reason why the Chiefs have had a resurgence.

2. Derrick Johnson, Kansas City: Johnson had a terrific bounce-back season in 2010. He is a playmaker.

3. D.J. Williams, Denver: Williams is an underrated player and a bright spot on a poor defense.

4. Shaun Phillips, San Diego: Phillips is a solid pass-rusher who brings energy to the NFL’s top-ranked defense.

5. Rolando McClain, Oakland: McClain is a hard-nosed player, and it looks as though he has a bright future.

6. Von Miller, Denver: This is just the starting spot for the No. 2 overall pick in 2011. He should zoom up this list quickly.

7. Kamerion Wimbley, Oakland: Not a complete player, but he has made an impact as a pass-rusher.

8. Stephen Cooper, San Diego: Solid player, but he may leave as a free agent.

9. Kevin Burnett, San Diego: The same goes for Burnett.

10. Brandon Siler, San Diego: The same goes for Siler.

11. Quentin Groves, Oakland: He’s a high-energy player. He’s decent, not great.

12. Larry English, San Diego: It is time for the No. 16 pick of the 2009 to show his worth.

13. Jovan Belcher, Kansas City: He’s an under-the-radar player who made a lot of plays for the Chiefs.

14. Justin Houston, Kansas City: Kansas City has high hopes for this third-round pick. Expect him to play right away.

15. Mike Vrabel, Kansas City: The Chiefs want to bring back this 35-year-old veteran for one more season in a reduced role.

16. Nate Irving, Denver: The third-round pick is expected to start right away at middle linebacker.

17. Jonas Mouton, San Diego: The Chargers are very high on this second-round pick.

18. Travis Goethel, Oakland: A special teams standout, Goethel has big potential.
There is still a long way to go before a new labor agreement is reached. But there appears to be progress between the owners and players.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter tweeted that the expectation is that any player with 4-6 years of experience with an expiring contract would become an unrestricted free agent. There are some interesting names in the AFC West that would be affected. ESPN Stats & Information prepared a free-agent primer. Listed below are key AFC West players who would be affected if Schefter’s expectation plays out:

QUARTERBACKS

6 or more seasons: Billy Volek

4 to 5 seasons: Brodie Croyle, Bruce Gradkowski

RUNNING BACKS

6 or more seasons: Darren Sproles

4 to 5 seasons: Laurence Maroney

WIDE RECEIVERS

4 to 5 seasons: Malcom Floyd

TIGHT ENDS

6 or more seasons: Randy McMichael

4 to 5 seasons: Zach Miller

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN

6 or more seasons: G Robert Gallery, T Langston Walker, C Casey Wiegmann

4 to 5 seasons: T Jeromey Clary, C Samson Satele

DEFENSIVE TACKLES

6 or more seasons: Jamal Williams

LINEBACKERS

6 or more seasons: Kevin Burnett, Mike Vrabel

CORNERBACKS

6 or more seasons: Nnamdi Asomugha

SAFETIES

4 to 5 seasons: Michael Huff, Eric Weddle

San Diego’s Vincent Jackson, Kansas City’s Tamba Hali and Oakland’s Kamerion Wimbley were given the franchise tag. Schefter expects the franchise tag to be part of a new deal. Wimbley has already signed his tender, while Jackson and Hali haven’t.
Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Mike Vrabel said he wants to continue playing. Vrabel is a free agent and he has been very active in the collective bargaining agreement negotiations during the lockout. It would be a surprise if Vrabel put in all this work without the desire to play.

“My contract is up with the Chiefs, so I’ll be looking for a job as soon as this lockout ends,” he told reporters in Columbus, Ohio.

I think the Chiefs would be interested in bringing back Vrabel in a reduced role. They like his leadership ability. Vrabel will turn 36 in August.

In other AFC West news Friday night:

Baltimore coach Jim Harbaugh discussed Oakland free-agent cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha in a roundabout manner.

The San Diego Union Tribune has a look at the week in a review in the Chargers’ search for a new stadium.

The Denver Post looks at the top Denver Broncos of all time. Check it out. What do you think?

Evening AFC West notes

June, 8, 2011
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9:05
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Kansas City owner Clark Hunt and San Diego owner Dean Spanos were among a small group that participated during Wednesday’s labor talks. Kansas City linebacker Mike Vrabel continued to represent the players.
  • The Steelers will not pursue Oakland cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha in free agency. It’s not a shock. Going after a big name in free agency is generally not the Steelers’ style.
  • Denver rookie safety Quentin Carter is making a big impact off the field. The fourth-round pick from Oklahoma has a strong chance to start right away.

Evening AFC West notes

June, 7, 2011
6/07/11
9:40
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Former Oakland linebacker Kirk Morrison gave some AFC West love as he chimed in on our toughest NFL venue Power Rankings.
  • It looks like the Denver Broncos will use orange as their primary home jersey in 2012.
  • Kansas City’s Mike Vrabel and Denver’s Brian Dawkins were at Tuesday’s labor meeting. Both Vrabel and Dawkins are part of the NFLPA’s Executive Committee.

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