AFC West: Peyton Hillis

Running back Peyton Hillis signed with Tampa Bay on Tuesday. The 27-year-old spent last season with the Chiefs, but the new Kansas City regime had no interest in bringing him back. The Chiefs took running back Knile Davis (from Hillis’ alma mater, Arkansas) in the third round as a backup for star Jamaal Charles.

The previous regime brought Hillis to Kansas City on a one-year deal, with the idea of him being a dynamic backup to Charles. Hillis, a former standout in Cleveland, had 309 yards on 85 carries last season.

Meanwhile, the Chiefs suffered a blow on the first day of rookie training camp. The Kansas City Star reported that the team's fifth-round pick, defensive back Sanders Commings, fractured his left collarbone and will likely miss all of camp. He has a chance to help this season, but this is surely a setback. Commings had a strong offseason session.

In other AFC West notes:

The Raiders cut cornerback Coye Francies and linebacker Travis Goethel -- Francies because of a failure to disclose a physical condition. Both were backups last year. Goethel was once considered a promising prospect, but injuries derailed his Raiders career. He will most be remembered in Oakland for a disastrous night as a long-snapper in the opening loss to San Diego last season, after standout Jon Condo was hurt.

Buffalo cut pass-rusher Mark Anderson. He was injured last season. He had 10 sacks for the Patriots in 2011. Oakland needs a pass-rusher badly; perhaps it could show some interest in Anderson.

ESPN.com columnist Jeffri Chadiha thinks the Broncos can handle a four-game NFL suspension of star linebacker Von Miller.

AFC West notes

March, 13, 2013
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CBSSports.com is reporting Kansas City is visiting with receiver Donnie Avery. He had 60 catches for the Colts last season.

Yahoo! Sports reports Oakland defensive tackle Richard Seymour may retire if he doesn’t get a big deal. Denver is reportedly interested. Seymour is 33, injury-prone and on the decline. I’m not sure he will command a big contract.

ESPN’s Andrew Brandt reports the Raiders are operating with more than $30 million in dead money, thus their actual salary cap is more in the $90 million range. Brutal.

The Raiders reportedly have re-signed cornerback Coye Francies. He is a bottom-of-the-roster type.

San Diego cornerback Antoine Cason may be out of the mix in Detroit now that the Lions have re-signed Chris Houston.

There were reports Tuesday that Kansas City running back Peyton Hillis was visiting the Packers. Now those reports are being disputed. I don’t think he’s much of a priority for the Chiefs.

The Giants are reportedly interested in defensive end Dave Tollefson. He was cut by Oakland on Tuesday. He left the Giants to sign with Oakland last year.

AFC West notes

March, 12, 2013
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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.
All four AFC West teams will have interest in a running back in some form. It is not a strong free agency class. One player who could attract some interest is Peyton Hillis.

Hillis
Hillis
Hillis was not effective in Kansas City last season. He had just 309 yards on 85 carries. He did have 101 yards on 15 carries in Week 16. Hillis, just 27, is a 6-foot-2, 250 pounds. He will get another chance elsewhere. He has already played for Denver and Kansas City (he signed with the Chiefs last season on a one-year deal). Let’s see if Hillis could continue his AFC West tour:

Denver: The Broncos could use a short-yardage back like Hillis. He did not play for this current regime, and he would reunite with just a handful of teammates. But the seventh-round pick in 2008 would likely be welcomed back by the fan base.

Kansas City: If the new regime likes Hillis as a complement to Jamaal Charles, I could see some interest. It all depends on Hillis and the new regime being on the same page.

Oakland: This would reunite Hills with Arkansas backfield mate Darren McFadden. It would be interesting. Oakland could use a big back, and Hillis likely won’t be expensive. I could see this being a real fit.

San Diego: New Chargers’ head coach Mike McCoy was Denver’s offensive coordinator in 2009 when Hillis fell out of favor with head coach Josh McDaniels. He went from being a rookie star for Mike Shanahan to being a forgotten man under McDaniels, who traded Hillis to Cleveland the next year. If McCoy felt the same way about Hillis that McDaniels did, then this is not a fit. Otherwise, he could be intrigued by Hillis as a situational player.

Shonn Greene and the AFC West

January, 31, 2013
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NFL free agency starts March 12. We will look at potential fits in the AFC West leading up to that date.

Greene
One position where all four teams in the AFC West will have a varying amount of interest in free agency is at running back. This year's is not a great class of running backs, but one player that intrigues me is Shonn Greene of the New York Jets.

At 226 pounds, the 27-year-old Greene is a big back. He had 1,063 yards rushing last season, his fourth in the league. Let’s see if he could fit in the AFC West:

Denver: The Broncos will be an interesting team to follow this offseason when it comes to running backs. Willis McGahee is coming off a knee injury and is 31. Knowshon Moreno performed well late in the season and may get a chance. Rookie Ronnie Hillman played well in the playoff loss to Baltimore and will get more carries in 2013. It will be up to Denver to decide it wants to bring in an established veteran. If so, Greene could fit.

Kansas City: The Chiefs could use a complement to star Jamaal Charles and that could be Peyton Hillis, who is a free agent after an underwhelming season with the Chiefs. Greene might be too pricey to be just a complementary part to Charles.

Oakland: I like this fit. But, like everything in Oakland, it will come down to getting Greene under a tight salary cap, particularly since Oakland will need to fill defensive needs first. But Oakland could use a big back to help Darren McFadden. Plus, Greene played for new Oakland offensive line coach Tony Sparano in New York in 2012.

San Diego: This fit makes sense. The Chargers need a legitimate running back because Ryan Mathews is just not durable. If healthy, I think Mathews and Greene could be a good combination. The Chargers have other needs and some cap limitations, but this might something to look into for San Diego.

Chat wrap: Good San Diego fit

December, 27, 2012
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Here are some highlights from our AFC West chat, which was held earlier Thursday:

Denver

John from Neb.: With the way he's played, do you see Knowshon Moreno back in Denver next season?

Bill Williamson: Why not? Now that he is finally producing, you have to keep him, right?

Kansas City

Trevor from Hutchinson, KS.: Do you think Peyton Hillis will be a chief next year?

BW: It depends on who is leading the Chiefs. His star has fallen, so I don't think he will get big money elsewhere So if he likes working with Charles and the Chiefs want him back, I could see him returning at a modest piece.

Oakland

Tarek from NYC: If Dennis Allen stays in Oakland for another year, do Tarver and Knapp comeback as well? Hopefully we have seen the end of Knapp in Oakland.

BW: I'd think Knapp may be in some trouble. I could see Tarver getting more time. But it may be above Allen. If Mark Davis wants anybody gone, they'll be gone.

San Diego

Coast Guard Guy from Seattle: If you had to pick one guy who could realistically be the replacement for Norv next season who would you think it would be?

BW: I think there are a few guys out there, but I can see Bruce Arians being at the top of the list.

Kansas City: Moving On

December, 24, 2012
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Here are some areas the Kansas City Chiefs need to focus on after a 20-13 home loss to the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday:

Recap: The Chiefs played tough, but they couldn’t stop the Colts from clinching a playoff berth. Kansas City is 2-13. It will clinch the No. 1 overall pick in the draft with a loss or a Jacksonville Jaguars loss to the Tennessee Titans.

Biggest area to fix: Passing offense. It was awful Sunday and it has been awful all season. It is the Chiefs’ biggest issues to address in the offseason.

Biggest area to build on: Run offense. The Chiefs had 352 yards rushing. It was the most in game in team history since 1966. It was also the most an NFL team has ever run for in a loss. Jamaal Charles and Peyton Hillis were the dynamic duo the team envisioned when they put the pair together this year.

What to watch for: The Chiefs play at the Denver Broncos with hopes of affecting Denver's playoff seeding.

Wrap-up: Colts 20, Chiefs 13

December, 23, 2012
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A look at the final home game in Kansas City this season:

What it means: The Chiefs were game but they fell to the Colts, who clinched a playoff berth. Kansas City is now 2-13. The Chiefs will get the No. 1 pick in the draft with a loss at Denver next week or a Jacksonville win at Tennessee. They went 1-7 at Arrowhead Stadium this season.

Charles sets mark: Kansas City running back Jamaal Charles has been a star on a terrible team. Charles had 226 yards rushing on 22 carries. He also set an NFL mark. He has averaged 5.82 yards per carry in his career. That is the best in NFL history. Take a bow, sir. It was a great overall day on the ground for the Chiefs as Peyton Hillis added 101 yards. The Chiefs had 352 rushing yards on 44 carries. That’s an average of eight yards per tote. That was what the Chiefs envisioned when they paired Charles with Hillis.

Turnovers: The Chiefs had three turnovers. They had gone six games without committing more than one turnover. The Chiefs committed 29 turnovers in the first half of the season.

What’s next: The Chiefs finish the season at Denver as they try to play spoiler against the Broncos.

Wrap-up: Browns 30, Chiefs 7

December, 9, 2012
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A look at another Kansas City Chiefs loss:

What it means: The Chiefs couldn’t find a way to win their second straight game after a horrific tragedy that has affected the team. The Chiefs beat Carolina last week a day after starting linebacker Jovan Belcher killed his girlfriend, Kasandra M. Perkins, and then killed himself in front of key figures of the team's brass. Belcher's memorial service was Wednesday and many in the organization attended Perkins’ funeral in Austin, Texas, on Saturday and then flew to Cleveland. The Chiefs were flat Sunday and they fell to 2-11. They are on pace for the No. 1 overall pick in the draft. It was a lousy return to Cleveland for several Chiefs including head coach Romeo Crennel, offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, quarterback Brady Quinn and running back Peyton Hillis. Hillis was booed loudly because of the rocky ending of his time in Cleveland last year.

Big day for Charles: Kansas City running back Jamaal Charles had 165 yards on 18 carries, including an 80-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage. Charles was among those at Perkins’ funeral. Charles has had at least 107 yards rushing in the past three games. He has 1,220 rushing yards this season.

New streak: Last week the Chiefs scored a touchdown on their first drive of the game for the first time since Dec. 2010. Charles' touchdown made it two straight games that the Chiefs have scored a touchdown on their first drive.

Quinn not effective: A week after being the AFC Offensive Player of the Week, Quinn struggled. He completed 10 of 21 passes for 159 yards and tossed an interception.

Bowe hurt: Star Kansas City receiver Dwayne Bowe left the game with an injury to his ribs and did not return.

Turnover problem getting better: Quinn wasn’t good, but the Chiefs are more careful with the ball than when Matt Cassel was the starter. The Chiefs have committed four turnovers in the past five games after committing 29 turnovers in the first eight games. Cassel was a big reason for the turnovers.

What’s next: The Chiefs play at 3-10 Oakland in a game that will have draft-choice implications.

More reports of Chargers changes

December, 6, 2012
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This is what happens when a team is 4-8 in a season that it must make the playoffs.

Reports of demise flood in.

In the latest evidence that coach Norv Turner and general manager A.J. Smith are entering their final four games with the team, U-T San Diego reported that ownership has decided to fire both. The report said that the decision to fire Smith has come after the decision to ax Turner, but both will suffer the same fate. This jibes with what ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported Sunday.

This is no surprise and few in San Diego will complain. In our AFC West poll this week, a whopping 94 percent voted that both Turner and Smith should go. The two were given a surprising reprieve last year. That won’t happen this year after yet another disappointing season.

Like Mortensen did, U-T San Diego reported that San Diego personnel man Jimmy Raye will take over for Smith. The Chargers will search for a new coach in January.

What’s left for Turner and Smith in San Diego? Four more uncomfortable weeks.

UPDATE: San Diego owner Dean Spanos just released this statement: “There is only one person in this organization who will make those decisions and that’s me, and I haven’t shared my thoughts with anyone. I will make my evaluations at the end of the season. Anything coming out now -- from sources or otherwise -- is pure speculation.”

In other AFC West news:
  • Linebacker Derrick Johnson (hamstring), safety Abram Elam (quad), cornerback Brandon Flowers (hamstring) and center Ryan Lilja (knee) all missed practice for the second straight day Thursday.
  • For San Diego, tackle Mike Harris and linebacker Donald Butler (groin) were among the players who missed a second straight day of practice. Butler is likely out. Harris has a slight chance to play Sunday at Pittsburgh.
  • As expected, the Chargers will face Pittsburgh starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger on Sunday. He has missed the past three games with rib and shoulder injuries.
  • Kansas City running back Peyton Hillis had a humorous retort to the comments of Cleveland tackle Joe Thomas, who said Hillis let his contract situation affect the team. Hillis and the Chiefs visit Thomas and the Browns on Sunday.

Chargers have missed Vincent Brown

December, 6, 2012
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U-T San Diego reports Vincent Brown likely won’t play until next year. He broke his ankle in the preseason. Brown finished last season strong and he was great in training camp. The San Diego offense has missed him.

There is hope for the future though with Brown and flier Danario Alexander, who has been tremendous since being signed at midseason. That likely won’t help coach Norv Turner, but there is some potentially strong firepower in San Diego.

In other AFC West news:

Kansas City Chiefs running back Peyton Hillis will not get a welcome from left tackle Joe Thomas in Cleveland. Thomas said Hillis let his contract situation become a distraction to the team. He left the Browns for a one-year deal in Kansas City this year.

KC Joyner writes why Insider the Broncos are a serious threat in the AFC.

The Chiefs put defensive end Allen Bailey on the injured reserve and signed linebacker Leon Williams. Williams was with the team in camp.

Wrap-up: Chiefs 27, Panthers 21

December, 2, 2012
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A look at an emotional win for the Kansas City Chiefs.

What it means: Oh, it means so much. This has to be one of the most memorable, emotional days in franchise history. The Chiefs won their second game of the season, just a day after a horrific tragedy. Saturday, starting linebacker Jovan Belcher killed his girlfriend, Kasandra M. Perkins, and then he went to the team’s facility (adjacent to Arrowhead Stadium) and killed himself in front of general manager Scott Pioli, head coach Romeo Crennel and defensive coordinator Gary Gibbs. There was a lot of talk that the game shouldn’t be played. But the Chiefs decided they wanted to play. This is just a game and it doesn’t change anything, but for three hours, it did help in some way. It was the Chiefs’ first home win of the season after starting 0-6 there. They snapped an eight-game losing streak, which was the longest current losing streak in the league.

Charles has big game despite major sadness: The tragedy had to hit Kansas City running back Jamaal Charles especially hard. ESPN’s Ed Werder reported that Perkins was a cousin of Charles’ wife and they introduced Perkins to Belcher, who Charles was close with. Despite the incredible grief, Charles had 127 yards on 27 carries.

Quinn is effective: Kansas City quarterback Brady Quinn was 19-of-23 for 201 yards. It was perfect game management and what the team wants from him. It was Quinn’s first win as a starting quarterback in three years.

Streak is over: The Chiefs scored a touchdown on their first drive of the game Sunday. That hadn’t happened since 2010.

Touchdown party: Peyton Hillis, Tony Moeaki and Jon Baldwin all scored their first touchdowns of the season for Kansas City.

Milestone for Bowe: Kansas City receiver Dwayne Bowe passed the great Otis Taylor for third on the Chiefs’ all-time receptions list. Bowe now has 412 career catches.

What’s next: Crennel goes back to Cleveland as the Chiefs meet the Browns.

One guy to watch

November, 15, 2012
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One player from each AFC West team to watch in Week 11:

Denver returner Trindon Holliday: Holliday has been a Bronco for a month, but he has become a must-see attraction. He has scored on a kickoff return in Week 9 and on a punt return in Week 10. Having a dynamic returner causes much angst for opponents.

Kansas City running back Peyton Hillis: Hillis ran hard against Pittsburgh on Monday night. He had just 30 yards on 10 carries, but he did offer a good complement to Jamaal Charles, which was the entire idea of bringing in Hillis. The Chiefs need to pound the rock with Charles and Hillis at Cincinnati.

Oakland running back Marcel Reece: The fullback had 48 yards on 13 carries at Baltimore. With Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson still dealing with ankle injuries, expect to see the fullback carry a big load on Sunday against the Saints.

San Diego receiver Danario Alexander: He is becoming a fantastic story. Picked up off the streets a few weeks ago, Alexander had eight catches for 195 yards in the past two games. He started at Tampa Bay and he made a big impact. He is suddenly a starter. This is a big, young receiver who is worth watching moving forward.

Wrap-up: Steelers 16, Chiefs 13 (OT)

November, 13, 2012
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A look at an unexpectedly close "Monday Night Football" game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Kansas City Chiefs:

What it means: This game was the Chiefs' season in a nutshell. They played the Steelers close but made way too many mistakes in the end. On a rainy night, the Chiefs fell early in overtime to the Steelers and former head coach Todd Haley, the Steelers' offensive coordinator. Kansas City is 1-8 and is still on pace for the No. 1 pick in the draft. Kansas City coach Romeo Crennel is 0-9 lifetime against the Steelers. His first eight losses came as Cleveland’s coach.

Cassel bad when it counts: Matt Cassel wasn’t terrible in regulation and he made a huge play on fourth-and-15 in the final seconds that set up a field goal that sent the game to overtime. But in the first seconds of the extra period, Cassel threw an inexcusable interception. The pick resulted in a game-winning field goal just 55 seconds into OT. It was the Chiefs' first turnover of the game but their NFL-high 30th of the season.

So many mistakes: The Chiefs outplayed Pittsburgh but had too many dumb mistakes, penalties and drops. The Chiefs did it all. Yes, there were some questionable calls, but the Chiefs looked like a team that is supposed to be 1-8.

Embarrassing streak is over: The Chiefs took a 7-0 lead in the first quarter and extended it to 10-0 in the second. It was the first time Kansas City led during a game all season. It tied the 1929 Buffalo Bisons for the longest such drought in NFL history.

Can’t take advantage of Roethlisberger’s injury: Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger went down with a shoulder injury, and the Steelers had to play much of the game with backup Byron Leftwich. Despite the major downgrade, Kansas City couldn’t take advantage.

Defense plays well: In the first game since Crennel replaced himself as defensive coordinate with linebackers coach Gary Gibbs, the defense played pretty well. It was suffocating at times. This unit has had its moments this season and it clearly has talent. Linebacker Derrick Johnson had a tremendous game with 13 tackles.

Chiefs run game shows life: Jamaal Charles had 100 yards on 23 carries and Peyton Hillis ran hard, adding 30 yards on 10 carries. The Chiefs have to rely on these players.

Baldwin hurt: Kansas City receiver Jon Baldwin suffered neck and head injuries going for a ball late and he did not return.

What’s next: The Chiefs host Cincinnati on Sunday.

Final Word: AFC West

November, 9, 2012
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NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 10:

Audition time for Mike McCoy? Denver coach John Fox clearly is going to be motivated to win Sunday at Carolina. He was the Panthers' coach for nine years before getting fired after the 2010 season. And he isn’t the only Denver coach with something to prove. Offensive coordinator Mike McCoy was an assistant in Carolina from 2000 to 2008. He likely is going to be a head coaching candidate in a couple of months. If the Panthers fire Ron Rivera, I’d think McCoy would be on their short list. He could impress ownership with a good showing by his unit Sunday.

[+] EnlargeDenver's Mike McCoy
Byron Hetzler/US PRESSWIREBroncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy served as a coach of the Panthers from 2000 to 2008.
Chargers hope for three-receiver success: San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers had great success (10-for-10 passing for 143 yards) in the three-receiver set in Week 9 against Kansas City. It was his best effort using the set in 16 weeks. In the first seven games of the year, according to ESPN Stats & Information, Rivers completed 63.5 percent of his passes and averaged 6.8 yards per completion using three receivers. In Week 9, Rivers averaged 14.3 yards per completion. Expect the Chargers to have a lot of confidence using the set against the Buccaneers.

Raiders try for rare win in Baltimore: The Raiders have not beaten the Ravens in Baltimore in four tries. The previous time the Raiders won in Baltimore (when it was the Colts) was in the 1977 postseason in the famous “Ghost to the Post” playoff game. The Raiders won on Christmas Eve in double overtime. (I remember it like it was 35 years ago.) Will things change for Oakland? It won’t be easy. The Ravens have won 14 straight home games, the longest current home streak in the NFL.

Chiefs going down easy: If the Chiefs are going to pull off a massive upset at Pittsburgh Monday night, their running backs must be tougher. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Chiefs have gained an average of 3.3 yards per rush before first contact this season. It is the fourth-best rate in the league. However, the Chiefs have gained an average of just 1.4 yards per rush after first contact. That is tied for the sixth-lowest in the league. Perhaps getting bigger back Peyton Hillis back after he missed several weeks with an ankle injury will help. Hillis had some decent runs in Week 9. He was brought in for his toughness, and the Chiefs are still looking for it.

The power of Manning: We’ve all seen several statistics showing the impact Peyton Manning has made on Denver’s offense in the first half of the season. But this one is stunning: Denver has punted 31 times this season and is on pace for 62. Last season, Denver punted 101 times. Anyone in Denver miss all of those Tim Tebow-led three-and-outs? Didn’t think so.

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