NFL Nation: Chris Chambers

We have to wonder if Johnathan Joseph's agreement with Houston means Oakland free-agent cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha is headed to the New York Jets or elsewhere. The Texans were considered a favorite along with the Jets to land Asomugha.

The Texans’ agreement with Joseph means Houston didn’t feel like it could get Asomugha. The Jets reportedly want to hear an answer from the top free-agent prize, one way or another. Here is a thought that Asomugha is holding the Jets hostage. It seems like the Jets are getting antsy and they may soon decide to move away from Asomugha if he doesn’t come to a decision soon.

Of course, as long as he is still out there, the Raiders still have a chance. Could Asomugha be waiting to see if the Raiders can clear the cap room to sign him? Who knows, but the longer this drags on, the more reasonable of a question it becomes.

Meanwhile, no surprise that Kansas City cut receiver Chris Chambers and cornerback Jackie Bates. They clearly weren’t in the team’s plans. Chambers played well when the Chiefs claimed him in the second half of the 2009 season off waivers from San Diego. But he didn’t do much last season.

Greg Olsen's trade from Chicago to Carolina means another tight end is off the market. This hasn’t been a hot market for tight ends so that is good news for the Raiders, who are trying to keep Zach Miller.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter is reporting freshly cut Vince Young wants to play for the Eagles. Earlier in the day, Schefter listed the Eagles and Raiders as potential suitors for the former Titans’ quarterback.
KC Joyner isn’t sure we’ll see a repeat playoff performance by the Kansas City Chiefs in 2011.

[+] EnlargeMatt Cassel
John Rieger/US PresswireThe Chiefs need Matt Cassel to hit more deep passes if they hope to return to the playoffs next season.
In an ESPN.com Insider piece, Joyner points to quarterback Matt Cassel’s struggles to complete long passes as a major reason why he thinks the Chiefs -- who went 10-6 and won the 2011 AFC West title after winning a grand total of 10 games in the previous three seasons combined -- could slip this season.

Here is some of what worries Joyner about Cassel: His metrics in this category range from mediocre to abysmal. His 10.2 vertical YPA (vertical being defined as passes thrown 11 or more yards downfield) ranked 20th in the league last season. His 9.0 stretch vertical YPA (defined as passes thrown 20 or more yards) was even worse, as it ranked next to last among qualifying quarterbacks (175 pass attempts needed to qualify). (Note: these numbers include attempts and yardage totals posted on pass penalties such as defensive holding, illegal contact, pass interference, etc.)

Many might come to Cassel's defense by pointing out the subpar state of the Kansas City wide receiver/tight ends corps last season. It would seem awfully difficult to put together an effective vertical passing game when mediocre pass catchers such as Chris Chambers, Terrance Copper, Verran Tucker, Leonard Pope and Tim Castille all post at least 10 targets, as was the case last season.

Some will point to the addition of former Pitt wide receiver Jonathan Baldwin in the first round of the 2011 draft as a reason for optimism here.

However, the primary counter to that statement would be that Baldwin's first-year learning curve could be steep, given that a) the lockout could prevent him from getting much practice time prior to the start of the season and b) Scouts Inc. said that he is inconsistent and erratic in many areas.

Throw in the fact that Baldwin's 15.51 yards per reception average last season ranked him 68th among FBS pass catchers and it shows just how far he has to go before he can be considered an answer to the Chiefs' vertical receiving woes.

My thoughts? Cassel’s inability to complete the deep pass is clearly an issue. That’s why Baldwin was drafted in the first round. Kansas City recognized the issue and tried to fix it. That’s what good teams do.

The key is how fast Baldwin can make a difference in this area. Joyner points out the learning curve and he’s right, but he will be given every chance to succeed.

This season surely will not be easy for Kansas City. It is now the hunted. It has a tougher schedule than it did in 2010. But, in the end, this is a balanced team with good coaching. The Chiefs appear to be headed in the right direction, regardless of potential obstacles.
KANSAS CITY –- There was only one mild surprise on the Kansas City Chiefs’ inactive list Sunday for their AFC wild-card game against visiting Baltimore.

Veteran receiver Chris Chambers was inactive, while newly signed veteran receiver Kevin Curtis is active. Chambers has been disappointing this season and he might have played his final game in Kansas City. Curtis was signed Wednesday.

Also, Brodie Croyle is back to being the Chiefs’ backup quarterback while Tyler Palko is the emergency quarterback. Palko was the backup last week against Oakland. Here are Kansas City’s other inactives: receiver Quinten Lawrence, fullback Mike Cox, safety Reshard Langford, linebacker Charlie Anderson, center Rudy Niswanger and defensive tackle Anthony Toribio. Baltimore had no surprises on its inactive list.
Jamaal CharlesAP Photo/Ed ZurgaThe Chiefs have built a division champion featuring young, talented players like Jamaal Charles.
Brian Waters had nothing to do but ride and watch.

Nursing an injury for much of training camp, the Kansas City Chiefs Pro Bowl guard was relegated to jockeying an exercise bike instead of practicing with his teammates. With a perfect sideline view, Waters noticed something develop in the summer heat as he pedaled for countless hours.

The Chiefs had some extremely talented young players.

“Sitting there on the bike, our young guys really stood out to me,” Waters said this week. “I noticed the 2008 class was really developing out there, and then there was the rookie class. They were really something. The combination of those two classes really gave me hope that we might be on to something. Those two classes are a big reason why we’re where we are.”

There are several reasons why the 10-6 Chiefs – who won a total of 10 games in the previous three seasons – went from worst to first in the AFC West and will play host to the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday in the AFC wild-card round. The Chiefs are well coached, quarterback Matt Cassel has developed, the running game was tops in the NFL, the offensive line was strong, they didn’t make many mistakes, and the defense was aggressive and improved its pass rush. A lot of those reasons can be attributed to the development of Kansas City’s third-year players and rookie class.

“The Chiefs have some very good young players,” Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. said. “I think a big reason why this team improved so much is because of those two classes. There’s a ton of guys who are giving the Chiefs big-time contributions from 2008 and 2010.”

The 2008 draft -- buoyed by the Jared Allen trade to Minnesota – was the final contribution of the 20-year Carl Peterson era in Kansas City. Many league observers thought that draft class had a chance to be special. But it looked anything but special for the first two seasons, although second-round pick Brandon Flowers (cornerback) and third-round pick Jamaal Charles (running back) showed signs of being excellent players early on.

The two first-round picks, defensive lineman Glenn Dorsey (No. 5 overall) and left tackle Branden Albert (No. 15), were nothing special in their first two years. However, Dorsey and Albert have both made big progress this season.

Dorsey has flourished in defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel’s 3-4 defense after struggling in the 3-4 under Clancy Pendergast last season. Dorsey has been the anchor of the defense, and he plays with a high motor. Many scouts thought the LSU star was the best player available in the 2008 draft, and he is now showing how good he is. Albert has melded well with the veterans on Kansas City’s line, and also has made major strides in 2010. There had been talk before the 2010 draft that the Chiefs would take Russell Okung with the No. 5 pick (who went one pick later to Seattle) and move Albert to right tackle.

The Chiefs have to be thrilled they didn’t make that move. Kansas City has its left tackle for the next several years, and it seems to have scored big with safety Eric Berry, the team’s top pick in 2010.

“Dorsey and Albert are showing why they were such high picks,” Williamson said. “Dorsey has been much better in the 3-4 than I thought he would be. He’s playing with a great purpose, and Albert is the best player on a good line.”

The showcase player of the Chiefs’ 2008 class, of course, is Charles. Kansas City drafted Charles out of Texas because of his blazing speed. The Chiefs hoped he’d be a nice change-of-pace player. In his third NFL season, Charles -- who along with Albert was a prize from the Allen trade -- has developed into the NFL’s premier game-breaker.

Charles was second in the NFL in rushing this season with 1,467 yards. His 6.38 per-carry average was the second highest single-season average behind the legendary Jim Brown, who averaged 6.4 yards a carry in 1963. If the Chiefs have a chance to beat the Ravens, it will start with Charles’ big-play threat.

The class, which also features right tackle Barry Richardson, also netted Kansas City’s two cornerbacks, who have a chance to be with the team for several years. While Flowers showed strong signs of being a good player (Williamson says he thinks Flowers can be a top-five cornerback), right cornerback Brandon Carr has come on strong this season. The fifth-round pick led the Chiefs with 19 passes defended, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

While Peterson and coach Herm Edwards’ swan song presented Kansas City with a terrific parting gift, the second draft class of the Scott Pioli-Todd Haley era has been a jackpot. Their first class was small and so far uninspiring besides kicker Ryan Succop, the final pick of the entire 2009 draft. But their second class has been one of the best rookie classes in the NFL, along with those of Oakland, New England and Tampa Bay.

In June, Haley said he didn’t think the task was too big for his draft class, and that was before he had seen the players in training camp. Through the regular season, Haley had to feel the same way. This class has been extremely productive.

It starts with Berry. While he is still learning, he has been a complete player and has the look of being a fierce player for a long time. Gary Horton of Scouts Inc. notes that Berry, who was named the NFL's defensive rookie of the month for December, is an excellent blitzer, strong in run support and continues to improve in coverage. Berry had four interceptions as a rookie. It’s noteworthy that Berry will be on the same field as the Ravens’ Ed Reed in his first postseason game. Berry has a chance to a have a Reed-like impact on the Chiefs in the coming years.

Second-round picks Javier Arenas and Dexter McCluster are both fine returners. Arenas has been decent as a nickel cornerback, and McCluster, when healthy, is a downfield target.

Next to Berry, perhaps the next most productive rookie has been third-round pick Tony Moeaki. Cassel looks to have complete trust in Moeaki, a tight end who can split the field and has soft hands. How good has Moeaki been? His rookie season has been much better than former Chiefs tight end Tony Gonzalez, the NFL record holder for all relevant tight end receiving marks.

Moeaki had 47 catches for 556 yards this season. His reception total was a team rookie record by 14 catches, and his yardage total was three yards off the team’s rookie mark. Safety Kendrick Lewis also has been a contributor this season.

“You have to give a lot of credit to the young kids,” veteran receiver Chris Chambers said. “They’ve come in here and acted like pros. They are a big reason why we’ve been so successful this season, no doubt about it.”
Matt CasselJeff Curry/US PresswireLess than two weeks after an appendectomy, Matt Cassel led the Chiefs to a critical win over the Rams.
ST. LOUIS –- Brian Waters wants Kansas City Chiefs fans to fully appreciate what they witnessed Sunday and what they have in their quarterback.

Eleven days after having an appendectomy that limited him in practice and kept his availability for Sunday’s crucial game against the St. Louis Rams in question until moments before kickoff, Matt Cassel lifted the Chiefs to a crucial 27-13 win. The victory was an important step toward securing Kansas City's first AFC West championship since 2003.

“After today, fans have to appreciate this guy,” said Waters, the Chiefs’ standout 11-year guard. “I know a lot of people doubted Matt, but they shouldn't doubt him anymore. There’s no question he’s our leader and he’s a very good football player. I told him before the game that he didn’t need to be Superman out here today ... but on a few plays, he actually looked like Superman.”

Added Kansas City running back Thomas Jones on Cassel’s performance: “For a guy to come back, after having an organ removed from his body ... it’s definitely extraordinary.”

If the Chiefs end up going to the playoffs, Cassel’s performance Sunday will go down in Kansas City annals as one of the more heroic performances in its professional sports history. Cassel never truly tested his strength all week and sat out a portion of pregame warm-ups just to save energy.

“This is not a common thing,” Kansas City coach Todd Haley said. “[It’s] not a thing we have had a lot of experience with, so you have to depend on the medical staff and be sure that you are not putting someone in a compromising situation.”

Well after backups Brodie Croyle and Tyler Palko were on the field throwing balls to receivers, Cassel gingerly entered the field and played short toss with a Kansas City support member. Yet, when the game started, it was clear Cassel was on the field for more than a cameo appearance or merely moral support. He was playing to energize Kansas City's playoff hopes.

Cassel moved without pain and led Kansas City to 20 unanswered points. In the end, Cassel was his usual efficient self, completing 15 of 29 passes for 184 yards. He threw for one touchdown and was intercepted once. Those aren’t exactly classic star numbers. But without Cassel leading this offense, the Chiefs have proved they can’t move the ball.

“I knew he was either going to be throwing up blood or making plays,” Waters said of Cassel.

Added St. Louis coach Steve Spagnuolo: “I think his statement was, 'Hey, I’m not afraid to run it, I’m not afraid to throw it. I’m here to play ball.’ "

On Sunday, Cassel led Kansas City to 27 points. Last week, with Cassel resting on his couch, the Chiefs had 67 yards offense as the Croyle-led squad was brutalized, 31-0, against San Diego.

After Cassel’s performance and its bounce back from last week's disaster-by-the-sea, Kansas City is now 9-5. If the Chiefs win their final two games -- at home next week against Tennessee and on Jan. 2 against Oakland -- they will win the division. If the Chiefs -- who are 6-0 at home this season -- lose once and San Diego (8-6) wins its final two games, the Chargers will win the division. San Diego plays at Cincinnati next week and at Denver to close out the season. (Check out ESPN's NFL Playoff Machine and playoff standings.)

“As the quarterback, I certainly want to be out there as much as possible,” Cassel said. “Any chance I had to play this week, I was going to do it.”

Cassel’s presence clearly lifted Kansas City.

“To see our quarterback rush back after an injury like that was impressive,” Kansas City receiver Chris Chambers said. “It made us all elevate our game. Matt showed he’s something special.”

Last season and earlier this season, many Kansas City fans were dissatisfied with Cassel, who was acquired from New England in 2009 and was given a $40 million deal. After a sluggish start in 2010, many thought the Chiefs should not exercise the option on Cassel after this season and perhaps pursue Philadelphia’s Kevin Kolb in the offseason. Over the past two months, though, Cassel has been one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL. He has thrown 24 touchdown passes with just five interceptions this season.

Kansas City has the NFL’s best running game (it added 210 yards on the ground Sunday) and a surprisingly stout defense -- the basis of a solid team. On Sunday, Cassel showed he’s the nucleus of the team. It is clear he is going to be the Chiefs’ quarterback for the long term. If Kansas City is still playing in January, Cassel will give them a fighting chance.

“He was [a hero],” Waters said. “What he did out there and how he lifted us today was a big deal.”

'07 Dolphins know power of one Bills win

November, 12, 2010
11/12/10
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Greg Camarillo Gary Rothstein/Icon SMIThe 2007 Miami Dolphins flirted with 0-16 before beating Baltimore in overtime in Week 15.
When the 11 o'clock news came on that night, Vonnie Holliday sat back with a smile on his face and relived the glorious moment.

He watched his teammates go bonkers in celebration. They jumped. They hugged. They raised their fists -- even a few index fingers -- in self salute.

The Miami Dolphins hadn't won just any game. They had won their first game. It was Week 15.

"I remember watching how crazy we were acting out there," said Holliday, the veteran defensive tackle. "I don't know if people could really appreciate it. If you weren't a part of that team or one of those guys who went out every day and worked as hard as we did to get it, you wouldn't understand it."

"That was just one win, but it was our Super Bowl."

The power of one victory is immense.

Members of that '07 Dolphins team know what the Buffalo Bills are going through this year -- and then some.

The Bills are the NFL's only winless team. They're 0-8 heading into Sunday's game against the Detroit Lions in Ralph Wilson Stadium.

The '07 Dolphins lost their first 13 games before they pulled out a dramatic victory, beating the Baltimore Ravens when undrafted quarterback Cleo Lemon connected with undrafted receiver Greg Camarillo for a 64-yard touchdown in sudden death. Camarillo hadn't scored a touchdown since high school.

That's how thin the Dolphins' margin for error was.

"That day, we made a play," said Lemon, now playing for the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League. "It was a great moment. But as a professional you never want to have a season like that."

The '07 Dolphins lost six games by a field goal that year. The Bills have lost each of their past three games by three points, two of them in overtime.

Bills tight end David Martin tells his teammates how much a single "W" can wash away the pressure, the doubt, the feelings of inadequacy and the ridicule that builds with each passing defeat.

Martin played on the '07 Dolphins, too.

"One win would make a big difference," Martin said by phone Thursday from One Bills Drive. "We have a young team, and I'm sure right now it feels like we're doing all this for nothing. But one win will lift everybody's spirits.

"Every game you lose is heartbreaking. That first win in 2007 felt like the Super Bowl. That's what one win will do."

In speaking this week with some players from the '07 Dolphins, I heard them unapologetically compare winning their first game to the feeling of winning a championship. They insisted they weren't being hyperbolic.

I thought the best way to quantify achieving victory late in the season would be to ask somebody with a Stanford engineering degree. I put the question to Camarillo in algebraic terms.

If the value of any victory is "x," then what is the exponential value of a victory when a team is 0-8 or, in the '07 Dolphins' case, 0-13?

I'm not sure if Camarillo pulled out a pad of paper and a slide rule, but he paused for a few moments to weigh the equation.

"If you get it in your first five weeks, it's not that big," Camarillo said after Minnesota Vikings practice Wednesday afternoon. "When you're 0-8, it starts getting really bad. When you're 0-5, you still have time to get things rolling.

"That one win in our 14th game was the equivalent of winning 10 games. That win for us was as good as winning a playoff game."

At 0-8, Camarillo thought a victory might be worth five to the Bills.

Camarillo bemoaned that losing so many close games is mentally grueling. He sounded exhausted just talking about 2007.

Without inside knowledge of the Bills, Camarillo surmised how they're feeling right now. He said they're working hard each week, sacrificing and stressing over that first victory. To repeatedly come close and then have the game slip away on the final play -- or in the waning moments -- becomes torture.

"You go into each week actually thinking 'OK, this is going to be the week. We're going to get our victory this week,' " Camarillo said. "As the season wears on, you're still a professional. You might turn from thinking you're going to win to hoping you're going to win. But you're ready to compete.

"Then as soon as something goes wrong -- you're 0-8 and throw a pick six or fumble the ball -- you drop your head and say 'Oh, no. Here we go again.' It's that mentality that causes you to lose more games."

The '07 Dolphins dealt with greater pressure than this year's Bills are encountering. Imagine what it must've felt like to get so close to becoming the first team in NFL history to go 0-16 -- the Lions didn't pull their oh-fer until a season later -- when your franchise's claim to fame is being the only team to go undefeated and win the Super Bowl. Meanwhile, the New England Patriots were making their run at surpassing the '72 Dolphins' perfect season.

Miami was plagued by significant injuries in 2007. They lost their starting quarterback (Trent Green), best two running backs (Ronnie Brown, Ricky Williams), star linebacker (Zach Thomas) and several other starters to major injuries. They traded top receiver Chris Chambers. First-year head coach Cam Cameron seemed overmatched.

"Week in and week out ,you're the butt of the joke," said Holliday, a 13-year pro who's now in his first season with the Washington Redskins. "It gets frustrating.

"These guys are tremendous competitors, and everybody's watching. Every conversation you're having with your friends, your family, the media, the fans is about you losing. That gets very tiring."

Jay Leno already is using the Bills as a punch line in his monologues.

One victory would put an end to that. One win and the Bills go from being an obvious laughingstock to one of many, including the Dallas Cowboys, Carolina Panthers, San Francisco 49ers and others.

"If you're 1-9, they will stop talking about you and that 0-16 talk," Camarillo said. "As soon as you've won you're just a bad team. You're not the worst team."

In Western New York, however, there's an undercurrent of support for the Bills to avoid winning. Talk-radio shows, message boards and my e-mail inbox are inundated with aspirations of 0-16 to ensure the top pick in next April's draft.

For those who feel that way, know the players don't agree with you.

"If you're thinking about going 0-16, there's going to be some major changes on that team," Camarillo said. "Players aren't planning for next year because half the people won't be back."

Another recurring concept in my conversations for this story was the idea of momentum. The Dolphins didn't win again after stunning the Ravens in December 2007. They had only two more chances, though, and Cameron became a dead man coaching when Bill Parcells was hired to oversee football operations right about then.

"We have more pieces to the puzzle here," said Martin, comparing the teams. "I think when we get that first one we can string a few in a row and get that winning feeling around here."

Lemon is close friends with Bills cornerback Drayton Florence and gets the impression when speaking to his former San Diego Chargers and Jacksonville Jaguars teammate the Bills have their heads in the right place.

"These guys are fighting hard," Lemon said. "They just haven't been able to finish games and just seem to find a way to lose. Unlike us in 2007, they're healthy. They're making plays. If they can get just one win, they can easily turn it around and have a respectable season."

Even if the Bills can't win half of their remaining games and cobble together a 4-12 record, they still have something to look forward to every Sunday for the next two months.

One win at this stage won't earn the Bills any kind of trophy. But they probably will run around the field in jubilation like they'd just won the Super Bowl.

"I did feel like it, though," Holliday said with a laugh. "It felt really, really good."
Desperate for a deep threat, the Vikings went for the home run but ended up striking out on Randy Moss.

The cost was a third-round pick and considerable embarrassment. After the Vikings decided Monday that they will waive Moss, the question is whether another team is willing to pay $3.388 million to rent Moss for the rest of the season with the hopes he can make an impact.

Moss' name did not appear on the league's official waiver report Monday. If Moss doesn't appear on the waiver report until Tuesday, the soonest he could be awarded to a team is Wednesday. Waiver claims are made in inverse order of the current standings, so Buffalo, the team with the worst record in the league, has the first shot to claim Moss. A team can claim him and pick up the final year of a contract that pays him $6.4 million a year. If no one claims him, the Vikings owe him the remaining $3.388 million of his deal and he’s available for about $450,000, with Moss picking the team he would like to join.

Whether it’s by waiver claim or a signing, here are the options available for Moss:

St. Louis Rams: This might not sound like a Rams-like move, but Moss has to be a consideration. Remember, the Rams were in the final mix to sign Terrell Owens before he went to the Cincinnati Bengals. Offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur knew Owens from their days together in Philadelphia. There isn’t a similar Moss connection with the current Rams staff. Thanks to the rapid development of rookie quarterback Sam Bradford, the Rams are 4-4 even though they don’t have much left at receiver after injuries to Donnie Avery, Mark Clayton and Danario Alexander. Moss could be worth the gamble in a waiver claim.

Seattle Seahawks: The team might be over budget after paying T.J. Houshmandzadeh not to be a Seahawk, but Moss would be the deep threat this team lacks. The Seahawks looked into acquiring Vincent Jackson. They made a bold move in the trade for running back Marshawn Lynch. Pete Carroll is the type of coach who wouldn’t mind Moss being a little bit of a risk. At USC, Carroll worked with many different personalities and egos.

Washington Redskins: This would be a natural move to claim Moss on waivers if owner Dan Snyder had his way. At wide receiver, the Redskins have Santana Moss, Joey Galloway and a lot of no-names. Money wouldn’t be an issue, so if the Redskins don’t claim him, count them out. But Moss would make great sense. Donovan McNabb has a good deep arm. If he could get some healthy running backs, McNabb would work some play-action passes to Moss. The question is whether coach Mike Shanahan is on board.

Miami Dolphins: After adding Brandon Marshall, the Dolphins aren’t looking for another receiver, but they could put in a waiver claim to prevent him from going back to the New England Patriots. Even with Marshall, the Dolphins have been among the worst teams in the league for explosive plays, so they could justify the move from the offensive standpoint too.

New England Patriots: For economic reasons, the Patriots probably wouldn’t claim him, but if he’s available for about $450,000, how fitting would it be to bring back Moss? The Patriots fleeced the Vikings for a third-round choice, and they could end up with the player for nine games.

Kansas City Chiefs: A year ago, the Chiefs got some positive results picking up wide receiver Chris Chambers. Moss makes even more sense. The Chiefs are 5-2 and in a good position to win the AFC West. General manager Scott Pioli knows Moss from their days together in New England. Matt Cassel might not have the deep arm that works best for Moss, but Moss could make the Chiefs even more dangerous on offense if they make the playoffs.

John Clayton, a recipient of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's McCann Award for distinguished reporting, is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

Final Word: AFC West

October, 29, 2010
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NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 8:

Playing time has to be earned in Haley’s world: It will be interesting to see if Kansas City receiver Chris Chambers and defensive end Tyson Jackson play this Sunday against Buffalo. Both players have been healthy scratches in recent weeks. Jackson was the No. 3 overall draft pick in 2009 and Chambers was re-signed at a healthy price this offseason. Still, that’s the way it works on Todd Haley’s team. If you don’t produce, you don’t play, no matter when you were picked or how much money you make. It is working because the Chiefs are 4-2 and a very united team. So, unless Jackson and Chambers start working harder in practice, the team will move on without them.

[+] EnlargeChris Johnson
AP Photo/ Joe MahoneyChris Johnson, who returned this interception 30 yards for a touchdown against the Broncos, says the Raiders are the most talented team in the league.
Could Chris Johnson be right? The day after Oakland whipped host Denver 59-14 for the team’s greatest moment since the 2002 season, talkative right cornerback Chris Johnson said the Raiders are the most talented team in the NFL. It’s time for Johnson and his teammates to back up that talk. Oakland hasn’t won two straight games in the past 23 games. If the Raiders can beat visiting Seattle, even their record at 4-4 and win back-to-back games, perhaps the Raiders will be ready to take the next step. If not, Johnson’s big talk will sound rather empty.

A weekend in London: The Broncos’ reward for a 45-point home loss to Oakland? A long flight to London, where they will face San Francisco in the NFL’s annual regular-season game in England. Unlike other teams in the past, the Broncos are not spending the entire week in London. They departed after Thursday’s practice. The 49ers left earlier in the week. Denver coach Josh McDaniels said the organization researched the situation and decided to go this route. The idea is to make the week as normal as possible and keep the players comfortable working in their own surroundings as long as possible. Let’s see if it works.

Are the Chargers tough enough? Gary Horton of Scouts Inc. doesn’t think so. Horton thinks a big reason why the Chargers are 2-5 despite being ranked No. 1 in the NFL in both offense and defense is a lack of toughness. The Chargers have made countless mistakes this season. Here’s a taste of what Horton had to say: “When a team is not mentally tough and doesn’t do the little things to win, bad things usually happen. That is the story of the Chargers ... even though this team shows glimpses of being a good team on both sides of the ball, they don’t do it consistently and all those gaudy stats are meaningless.”

Chiefs have found the right mix on offense: In the past two weeks, the Chiefs’ offense has been balanced and the result has been very encouraging. After scoring just three field goals in a loss at Indianapolis, the Chiefs have scored 73 points in the past two games. A big reason for the offensive explosion is the pass is being setup by the run. The Chiefs have the No, 1 ranked run offense in the NFL. When the Chiefs scored 42 points in a win over Jacksonville on Sunday, they had 236 yards on the ground. That gave quarterback Matt Cassel the ability to make plays and he completed 13 of 18 passes. If the run continues to setup the pass in Kansas City, Cassel and the entire offense may thrive.

Tyson Jackson is out again

October, 17, 2010
10/17/10
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HOUSTON -- Kansas City Chiefs defensive end Tyson Jackson will miss his fourth straight game Sunday against the Houston Texans with a knee injury.

Jackson, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2009 draft, was hurt opening night against the Chargers. After a poor rookie season, Jackson was playing well in that game.

Starting Kansas City receiver Chris Chambers is out with a finger injury. He is expected to be replaced by Terrance Copper. Right tackle Ryan O'Callaghan is out again and will be replaced by Barry Richardson. Key Kansas City rookie safety Kendrick Lewis is also out.

Deion Branch and the price of receivers

October, 13, 2010
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Deion BranchThomas Campbell/US PresswireSeahawks receiver Deion Branch was worth a fourth-round pick to the Patriots.
Deion Branch suspected the Seattle Seahawks might release him last season.

The team's general manager at the time, Tim Ruskell, repeatedly assured Branch that the organization had no such plans. Ruskell wasn't lying. The Seahawks held onto Branch, but if they had cut ties with the veteran receiver in 2009 following three years of declining production, not even Branch could have expressed shock.

When the post-Ruskell Seahawks finally unloaded Branch this week, the biggest surprise came in the price New England paid in reacquiring the 31-year-old receiver. Branch will return the higher of the Patriots' 2011 fourth-round choices: the one acquired from Denver or the one originally belonging to New England. Wasn't that a little steep?

Randy Moss had commanded a third-round choice when New England traded him to Minnesota last week, an indication Seattle might be lucky to get a fifth-rounder for Branch. As Branch himself told reporters Tuesday, "I’m not Randy Moss. I wasn’t Randy Moss when I was here. And I’m not here to replace him."

The lesson, as always, is that any commodity is worth whatever someone can get for it at a given time. There is no sliding scale or reference chart based on a wide receiver's past production or anything else. Branch's value to the Patriots increased once New England determined keeping Moss was no longer tenable.

For perspective, and with an assist from Keith Hawkins of ESPN Stats & Information, I've classified 17 receiver trades since 2007 by compensation levels:

1. Roy E. Williams to Dallas (2008)

Price paid: Dallas sent 2009 first-, third- and sixth-round choices to Detroit for Williams and a seventh-rounder.

Comment: This one sets the standard for overspending. Williams is on pace for his first 1,000-yard season in Dallas, but this deal marked the last time (for now) an NFL team traded a first-round choice for a wide receiver.

2. Randy Moss to Oakland (2005)

Price paid: Oakland sent 2005 first- and seventh-round picks, plus linebacker Napoleon Harris, to Minnesota.

Comment: The Raiders never had the supporting cast to maximize this investment. Moss didn't hold up his end, of course, but the Patriots later proved Moss could function at a high level in the right environment.

3. Deion Branch to Seattle (2006)

Price paid: Seattle sent its 2007 first-round choice to New England.

Comment: Ruskell hoped Branch would add character and leadership to a position group he viewed as lacking in those areas. Branch did not have the talent to justify the price, however, and injury problems diminished what returns Seattle got from its over-investment.

[+] EnlargeBrandon Marshall
Richard C. Lewis/Icon SMIDenver traded away a 100 catch per year receiver in Brandon Marshall.
4. Brandon Marshall to Miami (2010)

Price paid: Miami sent 2010 and 2011 second-round choices to Denver.

Comment: Marshall is on pace for another 100-catch season, although he has only one touchdown reception in his first four games with Miami. Broncos coach Josh McDaniels comes from the New England tree. Both organizations like to load up on second-round draft choices.

5. Wes Welker to New England (2007)

Price paid: The Patriots sent 2007 second- and seventh-round choices to Miami.

Comment: Welker is on pace for his fourth consecutive 100-catch season since joining the Patriots. He had caught 96 passes over two seasons with Miami previously. The quarterback situation in New England allowed the Patriots to maximize this trade.

6. Chris Chambers to San Diego (2007)

Price paid: San Diego sent a 2008 second-round choice to Miami.

Comment: This deal never worked out the way San Diego planned. Chambers made some solid contributions early, but an ankle injury altered the course of his career with the Chargers. Malcolm Floyd emerged as a big-play threat, and San Diego cut Chambers during the 2009 season.

7. Braylon Edwards to the New York Jets (2009)

Price paid: The Jets sent 2010 third- and fifth-round choices, plus Jason Trusnik and Chansi Stuckey, to Cleveland.

Comment: Edwards probably had run his course in Cleveland. The Browns were starting over. Edwards has 52 receptions, seven for touchdowns, in 17 games with the Jets. Check back later on this one.

8. Anquan Boldin to Baltimore (2010)

Price paid: Baltimore sent its 2010 third- and fourth-round choices to Arizona for Boldin and a fifth-round pick.

Comment: So far, so good for the Ravens. Boldin has 28 catches for 363 yards and three touchdowns in his first three games with Baltimore. Long-term durability concerns played into Arizona's decision to make the trade. Can Boldin hold up?

9. Randy Moss to Minnesota (2010)

Price paid: Minnesota sent a 2011 third-round choice to New England.

Comment: Moss had become unhappy and the Patriots decided to get value for him while they could, possibly at the expense of their 2010 on-field production. The Patriots spent only a fourth-round choice for Moss, used his immense talent for three-plus seasons, then got a third-rounder out of him. Not bad. But at what short-term cost?

10. Randy Moss to New England (2007)

Price paid: The Patriots sent a 2007 fourth-round choice to the Raiders.

Comment: Moss' relationship with the Raiders had deteriorated to the point that Oakland needed to unload him despite the high price it paid for Moss in 2005. Getting a fourth-round choice wasn't bad under the circumstances, although the price was a bargain from the Patriots' perspective.

11. Darrell Jackson to San Francisco (2007)

Price paid: The 49ers sent a 2007 fourth-round choice to Seattle.

Comment: Viewed as a risky move within the division at the time, Seattle came out OK. Jackson didn't fit the 49ers' offense and his deteriorating knee was another hindrance.

[+] EnlargeTed Ginn
Jason O. Watson/US PresswireThe 49ers hope they get better production from Tedd Ginn Jr. than they did from Darrell Jackson.
12. Ted Ginn Jr. to San Francisco (2010)

Price paid: The 49ers sent a 2010 fifth-round choice to Miami.

Comment: Ginn enjoyed a strong training camp before suffering a sprained knee in the regular-season opener. He has made a positive impact in the return game since coming back from the injury. San Francisco needs Ginn to emerge as a deep threat, too.

13. Deion Branch to New England (2010)

Price paid: The Patriots sent a fourth-round choice to Seattle.

Comment: The Seahawks got more in return for Branch than expected, but the Patriots can still come out OK. They've got Tom Brady, after all.

14. Santonio Holmes to the New York Jets (2010)

Price paid: The Jets sent a 2010 fifth-round choice to Pittsburgh.

Comment: Holmes served a four-game suspension to open the season. He caught three passes for 41 yards in his Jets debut Monday night. The Steelers had enough off-field concerns while dealing with the Ben Roethlisberger situation. Parting with Holmes made more sense in that context.

15. Greg Lewis to New England (2009)

Price paid: The Patriots sent a 2009 fifth-round choice to Philadelphia for Lewis and a seventh-rounder.

Comment: Oops. The Patriots cut Lewis before he played a regular-season game for them.

16. Mark Clayton to St. Louis (2010)

Price paid: The Rams sent a 2011 sixth-round choice to the Ravens for Clayton and a seventh-rounder.

Comment: This deal was working out very well for the Rams until Clayton suffered a season-ending knee injury against Detroit in Week 5. Clayton appeared to be a natural fit for the Rams' offense and he worked well with No. 1 overall choice Sam Bradford.

17. Troy Williamson to Jacksonville (2008)

Price paid: The Jaguars sent a 2008 sixth-round choice to Minnesota.

Comment: Williamson caught eight passes over two seasons for the Jaguars.

Breaking out in the AFC West

July, 9, 2010
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It is going to be a crucial season for several young players in the AFC West, where training camp begins in three weeks. Here's a look at 10 division players who are expected to have breakout years:

[+] EnlargeBrandon Albert
Harry How/Getty ImagesBranden Albert will need to shine as the starting left tackle in Kansas City.
Branden Albert, left tackle, Kansas City: This is Albert’s third year with the Chiefs, who took him with the No. 15 overall pick in 2008. He was inconsistent as a rookie, but he made improvements as last season went on. If he continues to make strides, he should be fine. Kansas City gave him a big vote of confidence when it didn’t take left tackle Russell Okung in the first round of the draft this year and move Albert to right tackle. Kansas City selected safety Eric Berry instead with the No. 5 pick.

Antoine Cason, cornerback, San Diego: The Chargers felt good enough about Cason to trade Antonio Cromartie to the Jets this offseason. Cason, the No. 28 pick in 2008, takes over as starting right cornerback in San Diego. He played extensively in his first two seasons and lost playing time early in 2009, but bounced back and finished strong. The Chargers want more consistency and toughness than Cromartie provided. Cason, a smart playmaker, should be up to the task.

Glenn Dorsey, defensive lineman, Kansas City: Dorsey probably shouldn’t be on this list anymore. The No. 5 overall pick in 2008 was expected to already be an established stud going into his third season. While Dorsey has played well occasionally, he has been far from a dominant player. Many scouts and coaches thought he was the top player in the 2008 draft, but he has been a big disappointment. He has had two different coaching staffs in the past two seasons and had a hard time adjusting to the 3-4 defense in 2009. He may be moved around the defensive line this year as the Chiefs try to find the best spot for him. He must perform this season or it could be his last in Kansas City.

[+] EnlargeMalcom Floyd
Donald Miralle/Getty ImagesMalcom Floyd finished 2009 with 45 catches, 776 yards and one touchdown.
Malcom Floyd, receiver, San Diego: Floyd, who had 45 catches for 776 yards in 2009, came on strong last season as he took over for Chris Chambers as San Diego’s No. 2 receiver. More is expected out of this late bloomer in 2010. Star receiver Vincent Jackson is expected to hold out for several weeks. That means Floyd, who will turn 29 in September, may be Philip Rivers’ top receiving option outside of tight end Antonio Gates. The ball will be flying out of Rivers’ hand and Floyd will be expected to play like a No. 1 receiver. (Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. has more on Floyd here in his Pressure Point story.)

Darren McFadden, running back, Oakland: Like Dorsey, McFadden has been disappointing. Drafted one pick behind Dorsey in 2008, he has had only one good NFL game, in the second week of his rookie season (164 rushing yards). A practice star, McFadden has not made an impact in games and has been injury prone. Running backs have short shelf lives, and the talented McFadden must get it going. The Raiders expect him to shine along with Michael Bush.

Knowshon Moreno, running back, Denver: There also is a lot of pressure on Moreno, the No. 12 overall pick last year. After starting the season fairly well, Moreno nosedived dramatically. He was terrible in the final month of the season as Denver fell out of the playoff race after starting 6-0. He had 173 rushing yards and averaged 2.7 yards a carry in the final four games of the season. He is the starter again, but he must show he can carry the load for the entire season.

Legedu Naanee, receiver, San Diego: Like his teammate Floyd, Naanee will have a lot resting on his shoulders if Jackson decides to sit. Naanee will likely be the No. 2 receiver in that scenario and, in many ways, will have more pressure than Floyd. At least Floyd had nine starts in 2009. Naanee, who only had one start in 2009, must take the leap from role player to starter.

Eddie Royal
Doug Pensinger/Getty ImagesEddie Royal failed to live up to a promising rookie season.
Eddie Royal, receiver, Denver: No one would have expected Royal to be on this list a year ago. After his rookie campaign, Royal already looked established. He had 91 catches and was a spark plug for Mike Shanahan’s offense in 2008 after being a second-round pick. Shanahan’s decision to draft Royal over DeSean Jackson seemed warranted. Now that pick is being questioned after Royal stumbled in Josh McDaniels’ offense, netting only 37 catches for 345 yards last season. Royal, who was the targeted receiver 79 times last season opposed to 129 times the season before, will probably play in the slot this season. Denver thinks he can bounce back. If not, he just may end up being a small backup receiver/return man, which is acceptable, but so much more was expected from him after his breakout year.

Chaz Schilens, receiver, Oakland: Schilens was a seventh-round pick in 2008 and showed promise as a rookie with 15 catches. Because of Oakland’s young receiving crew, Schilens, 24, was Oakland’s No. 1 receiver last season. While he missed the first half of the season with a broken foot, he had a decent finish with 29 catches for 365 yards in eight games. Schilens has the look of a player who can become a fine receiver. But he is still green and must show he can stay healthy. If so, he could be on his way to a big career.

Trevor Scott, linebacker, Oakland: The sixth-round pick in 2008 has 12 sacks in two NFL seasons, including seven last season. He was moved from defensive end to outside linebacker and will be given a chance to start in 2010. If Scott can show he can hold his own in coverage and in running situations, he could be a standout. He has terrific pass-rush skills.

Marshall alters Dolphins immediately

April, 14, 2010
4/14/10
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For years, fans have begged the Miami Dolphins to acquire a downfield threat.

They Dolphins finally have done so, acquiring Brandon Marshall from the Denver Broncos for a 2010 second-round draft pick and what sources tell ESPN's Adam Schefter will be a second-round pick in 2011.

Marshall's arrival will change Miami's offensive dynamic immediately.

Chad Henne, who played with a receiving corps designed for Chad Pennington's soft-toss arm, has a legitimate deep target to stretch the field and snag jump balls in the red zone.

Marshall has been the NFL's most prolific receiver, topping triple digits in receptions three times in his four NFL seasons. Over the past three years, he has averaged 102 receptions for 1,237 yards and eight touchdowns.

Miami's top two receivers in the past two seasons have aggregate numbers not substantially better.

Last season, Davone Bess and Greg Camarillo (two undrafted players) combined for 126 receptions and 1,310 yards with two touchdowns.

In 2008, Ted Ginn and Camarillo combined for 111 receptions and 1,403 yards with four touchdowns.

The Dolphins had a single 1,000-yard receiver in the aughts. Chris Chambers gained 1,118 yards in 2005.

Draft Watch: AFC West

March, 17, 2010
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NFC Needs Revisited: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Draft Watch: Biggest needs (2/17) | Busts/gems (2/24) | Schemes, themes (3/3) | Recent history (3/10) | Needs revisited (3/17) | Under-the-radar needs (3/26) | History in that spot (3/31) | Draft approach (4/7) | Decision-makers (4/14) | Dream scenario/Plan B (4/21)

Each Wednesday leading up to the NFL draft (April 22-24), the ESPN.com blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today’s topic: Biggest needs revisited.

Denver: The Broncos have added three potential starting defensive linemen and a backup quarterback (at least for the time being) in Brady Quinn. Those two positions are probably out of the question for Denver in the early rounds. The Broncos do have plenty of needs, though. The Broncos will be looking for an inside linebacker after the release of starter Andra Davis. Alabama’s Rolando McClain has to be considered a possibility at No. 11. Denver is also looking for help on the offensive line at guard and at center. The Broncos will surely take a young interior offensive linemen early. With Pro Bowl receiver Brandon Marshall’s future in flux, Denver has to be on the hunt for a receiver. This is a position the Broncos could address early.

Kansas City: The Chiefs have been aggressive in free agency. But because the Chiefs have to improve in many areas, there is plenty to target in the draft. Kansas City has been targeting several veteran offensive linemen, but I think it will try to draft an offensive lineman in the first round or with one of its two second-round picks. The Chiefs still have a big need at safety. If he is available, Tennessee’s Eric Berry has to be a real possibility with the No. 5 pick. I wouldn’t be surprised if Kansas City looked at a linebacker in the first three rounds, either. Even though veteran receiver Chris Chambers has re-signed, look for the Chiefs to try to get younger at the position, perhaps in the second round. The team’s need for a running back was filled with veteran Thomas Jones in free agency.

Oakland: The Raiders have been shedding veterans much more than they have been bringing in players so far in free agency. The need wish list still starts at tackle. The Raiders have long had a dearth there. There probably will be several solid choices at tackle with the No. 8 overall pick. Oakland has to consider this a priority position. The Raiders could also use a young quarterback in the early-to-middle rounds. With running back Justin Fargas cut, the Raiders also could use another running back, but it won’t be a high-round priority. With veteran Gerard Warren cut, Oakland will need a defensive tackle, probably in the early rounds. Linebacker is also an area Oakland may try to address early.

San Diego: The Chargers have as many draft needs as they’ve had in several years. The Chargers have seen several veterans leave through free agency, trade or release. The team has a lot of depth, but reinforcements are needed at several areas. The two main areas of need remain running back and nose tackle. San Diego will address these areas early. It just depends how early. The Chargers could potentially take two running backs early. It is a deep running back class, so San Diego will have options. San Diego really needs a nose tackle now that veteran Jamal Williams has been released and signed by Denver. Because nose tackles are more difficult to find than running backs, the Chargers may address this area first. San Diego could use help at tight end in the middle rounds and perhaps even a third-string quarterback. Linebacker and cornerback could also be addressed in the late rounds.
LaDainian Tomlinson, Thomas Jones and Brandon MarshallUS Presswire/Icon SMI/US PresswireLaDainian Tomlinson is out in San Diego, Thomas Jones has a new home in Kansas City and Brandon Marshall's future in Denver remains uncertain.
We’re a week into free agency. Here is a look at the key aspects of the offseason for each team in the division so far and what’s ahead:

Denver

Big news: Brandon Marshall. The Broncos set the stage for Marshall’s departure by putting the first-round tender on him. It didn’t take long for Marshall to attract interest. Seattle set up a visit to bring in Marshall on the first day of free agency. The Marshall situation could drag on, especially if other teams show interest. But the fact that Marshall was in another team’s building over the weekend is big news.

Surprise: The new-look defensive line. Last year, in his first as Denver’s coach, Josh McDaniels remade the Broncos’ defensive line. He is doing it again in his second year. The Broncos have signed defensive linemen Justin Bannan, Jarvis Green and Jamal Williams. All three of these players are expected to play major roles.

Best decision: Giving Elvis Dumervil the high tender. Dumervil, 26, represents the future for Denver. He led the NFL with 17 sacks last season. Had Denver not put the high tender of a first- and third-round pick on Dumervil, he would be popular in free agency. With the high tender, Dumervil probably is staying put.

Worst decision: Not being flexible on Marshall’s compensation. It has been reported that the Broncos will keep Marshall if they don’t get a first-round pick in return for him. Perhaps this is posturing. But unless other teams start pursuing him, I don’t see Seattle giving up a first-round pick. Yet, the Seahawks could offer other creative compensation. Ultimately, the Broncos want to part ways with Marshall, but this high price tag could prevent that from happening.

What’s needed: Continue to get bigger. The Broncos added size to the defensive front. Now, they have to do so on the offensive line. Denver is moving away from the zone-blocking scheme to a more traditional power-blocking attack. The Broncos need a left guard and a center.

Kansas City

Big news: Thomas Jones signing. Next to the trade for quarterback Matt Cassel last year, this is the biggest move of the Scot Pioli era to date. The addition of Jones shows Kansas City is willing to spend and it wants to get better. The veteran running back will help this offense.

Surprise: How aggressive the Chiefs planned to be. Last year, the Chiefs were criticized for not being active. This year has been a different story. They were planning to pursue San Diego’s Darren Sproles had he hit the open market, and they tried to trade for receiver Anquan Boldin. Before signing Jones, Kansas City also was considering fellow running backs Justin Fargas and Willie Parker. It is clear the Chiefs are determined to get better.

Best decision: Re-signing Chris Chambers. Adding Jones and keeping Chambers will help Kansas City’s offense evolve in the first year under new offensive coordinator Charlie Weis. Chambers was Cassel’s favorite target when he was claimed off waivers by San Diego in November. A full season of playing with Chambers should help Cassel.

Worst decision: Not trading for Boldin. A receiving crew of Chambers, Boldin and Dwayne Bowe would have been formidable. The Chiefs have two second-round picks next month. It might have been worth it to trade one to get Boldin and really open up the offense.

What’s needed: Keep spending. The Chiefs are on the right track. But they need more talent throughout the team. They need to add more pieces, perhaps on the offensive line and in the defensive back eight.

Oakland

Big news: No big spending. For the second year in a row, the Raiders are watching free agency as bystanders. Two years ago, the Raiders spent wildly. It didn’t work, and most of their 2008 free-agency class has been cut. The Raiders are sitting on the sideline in this uncapped year. You would think Al Davis would make a splash or two, but he has been very quiet.

Surprise: The release of Greg Ellis. The defensive end was cut after one season with the team. Ellis had seven sacks last year, but he dealt with injuries. Still, he may have a year or two left. Yet, the Raiders decided to go with youth at the position. Perhaps that is a good sign of things to come. Of course, they gave another 30-year-old defensive end, Richard Seymour, the franchise tag after giving up a 2011 first-round pick for him. You never know the thought process in Oakland.

Best decision: The release of Javon Walker. This move was a long time coming. Walker was one of the worst free-agent decisions in NFL history. Oakland gave him a six-year, $55 million deal with $16 million in guaranteed money in 2008. He had 15 catches in two seasons in Oakland. He never helped.

Worst decision: Giving Stanford Routt the high tender. The backup cornerback was given the high tender of a first- and third-round pick. Routt is not a starter and is a marginal backup. Even if Oakland put the first-round tender on Routt, he wouldn’t have attracted interested. The move simply cost the Raiders money and served no purpose.

What’s needed: The Raiders have to spend some. It’s admirable that Oakland has learned its lesson from its horrible spending spree of two years ago. But the Raiders need help. This isn’t a playoff- quality roster. The team needs help in several areas. The Raiders don’t have to spend huge, but they do need some new players.

San Diego

Big news: The team is losing numbers. The Chargers cut former stars LaDainian Tomlinson and Jamal Williams. Then they traded cornerback Antonio Cromartie and lost free agents Kassim Osgood and Brandon Manumaleuna. The Chargers have not added any players of note. San Diego prides itself on its depth and none of these players are irreplaceable, but the Chargers could miss some of them.

Surprise: The Chargers gave the high tender to running back Darren Sproles. San Diego was expected to let the change-of-pace running back/return star test the market, but Sproles was tendered at the deadline. Good thing for San Diego, because Sproles probably would have been signed within 48 hours on the open market.

Best decision: Trading Antonio Cromartie. The team grew tired of the cornerback, who struggled at times on the field and had some off-field issues. Cromartie was sent to the Jets for a 2011 third-round pick that could turn into a second-round pick, depending on playing time. It was a good value for a player San Diego couldn’t wait to part ways with.

Worst decision: Not re-signing Jamal Williams. Only because it allowed Denver to sign him. Williams probably doesn’t have much left. But if he does, the Chargers will regret seeing Williams play well for a rival.

What’s needed: A running back. The Chargers are taking a calculated risk. They are not impressed with the free-agent class, so they are waiting for the draft. It is a deep draft. The Chargers clearly feel they can get a primary back then. Still, it is a tad scary waiting for an unknown rookie to be the primary back.
NFC Stock Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Falling

Veteran lead rusher in San Diego: It is becoming apparent that San Diego is leaning toward putting its primary tailback duties in the hands of a rookie. The Chargers have not made a move on a veteran back. Yes, it is a weak free-agent class, but the Chargers aren’t forcing the issue. They have stayed away from the likes of Chester Taylor and Thomas Jones. Things can change, and you never know if a veteran will become available. But it seems as if the Chargers are excited about the rookie tailback class and what it offers. The class is deep and the Chargers should get a solid player in ether the first or second round to pair with change-of-pace back Darren Sproles, if he doesn’t get a huge offer in restricted free agency.

Rising

Chambers’ value: Last November, former Pro Bowl receiver Chris Chambers was on the scrapheap. It seemed like his days as a relevant receiver were over. San Diego dumped him during the season after his play slipped. But that seems like a long time ago. This week, Kansas City signed Chambers to a three-year deal that could net him up to $15 million. Chambers deserved his reversal of fortune. He was terrific for the Chiefs in nine games after he was claimed off waivers from San Diego. He was a game-breaker and he was a favorite target of Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel. He was a free-agent priority for the Chiefs and his signing shows he very much has an NFL future.

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