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Friday, April 5, 2013
Eight in the Box: Under the radar

By Bill Williamson

NFC Eight in the Box: East | West | North | SouthAFC: East | West | North | South

A look at the top under-the-radar move made by each AFC West team thus far this offseason:

Denver: defensive tackle Terrance Knighton. The Broncos have made some big-ticket moves, including the signings of receiver Wes Welker, cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and guard Louis Vasquez. But landing Knighton should not be overlooked. He fills a big need. He is a massive hole-plugger who should make a good defense even better. He was a favorite of former Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio, now Denver’s defensive coordinator. Knighton will be used correctly and should instantly be comfortable in Denver’s system. A run-stuffer was one of Denver’s greatest needs after last season. Theáposition is now a strength.

Kansas City: defensive end Mike DeVito. DeVito wasn’t a big name to the average fan, but he is a favorite of NFL scouts. He was expected to be a hot commodity in free agency and the Chiefs made an immediate, winning run at him. DeVito reunites with former Jets assistant coach Bob Sutton, now Kansas City’s defensive coordinator. DeVito is a strong run defender and a relentless player overall. He is versatile and can rotate with 2012 first-round pick Dontari Poe. This could make Poe, who played well at the end of last season, even better. Strong move.

Oakland: defensive tackle Pat Sims. The football people I’ve spoken with believe Sims has among the best upside of the players the Raiders have brought in this offseason -- affordable, young, fringe-starter types who will be asked to take the next step in Oakland. Sims has a chance to stand out. If he can stay healthy and prove he can handle the rigors of being a full-time starter -- he was mostly a rotational player in Cincinnati -- Sims has a chance to be among Oakland’s better players. He is highly skilled, and he can be disruptive.

San Diego: guard Chad Rinehart. Scouts really like this signing. Yes, the Chargers’ offensive line still has question marks and yes, seeing Vasquez go to Denver hurts. But if he can stay healthy, Rinehart has a chance to step in at guard and provide a strong, stable presence. Many scouts thought he was one of the best bargain players available in free agency. He has a chance to develop into a strong starter. He played for new San Diego offensive line coach Joe D'Alessandris in Buffalo. D'Alessandris pushed for Rinehart, and there is probably good reason he did so.