San Diego Chargers: Shaun Phillips

Top free-agent roundup: AFC West

March, 10, 2014
Mar 10
The AFC West produced three playoff teams and the eventual AFC title winner in the Denver Broncos, so it should come as no surprise that many top free agents come from the division. Oakland Raiders reporter Paul Gutierrez, Broncos reporter Jeff Legwold, Kansas City Chiefs reporter Adam Teicher and San Diego Chargers reporter Eric D. Williams break down the top 15:

1. Branden Albert, Chiefs offensive tackle: Kansas City won’t franchise him this year. Albert will get a nice contract elsewhere.

2. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Broncos cornerback: He’s not yet 30 and still a top-tier athlete.

3. Eric Decker, Broncos wide receiver: Productive in scoring zone, will be one of the biggest wide receivers on open market, but rarely faced opponents’ top cornerback in Broncos offense.

4. Lamarr Houston, Raiders defensive end: Better suited to the left side because he’s not the prototypical speed-rusher.

5. Knowshon Moreno, Broncos running back: Has had multiple knee surgeries, including one on a torn ACL in 2011, but he runs with passion, is solid in pass protection and a productive receiver.

6. Jared Veldheer, Raiders offensive tackle: Didn’t have a very good season in 2013 but would attract some attention as a free agent.

7. Geoff Schwartz, Chiefs guard: Was a free-agent find for Kansas City last season. Can play right tackle if needed.

8. Jon Asamoah, Chiefs guard: A better pass-protector than run-blocker. He will be only 26 in July.

9. Shaun Phillips, Broncos linebacker: He’ll be 33 in May but showed last season that he can still be an effective situational pass-rusher.

10. Zane Beadles, Broncos guard: For a movement-based front, he’s a smart, durable option who played in every game while with Denver.

11. Dexter McCluster, Chiefs wide receiver/punt returner: Hasn’t had a huge impact on the offense in Kansas City, but he will be only 26 in August.

12. Robert Ayers, Broncos defensive end: Had his best season in 2013, so maybe he’s a late bloomer.

13. Tyson Jackson, Chiefs defensive end: Like Ayers, he had his best season in 2013, so maybe he’s figuring it out as well.

14. Tracy Porter, Raiders cornerback: He’s versatile enough to cover the slot receiver, and he had one of his better seasons in 2013.

15. Kendrick Lewis, Chiefs safety: He’s only 25 but was a better player earlier in his career. He hasn’t been the same since a shoulder injury in 2012.
DENVER -- Turns out Shaun Phillips still has some gas left in the tank.

[+] EnlargeShaun Phillips
Ed Szczepanski/USA TODAY SportsShaun Phillips has an interception and two forced fumbles this season with the Broncos.
Selected in the fourth round by San Diego as part of a talented 2004 draft class that included Philip Rivers, Nate Kaeding, Nick Hardwick and Michael Turner, Phillips totaled 69.5 sacks in nine seasons for the Chargers.

Phillips finished with 9.5 sacks his final year in San Diego in 2012. But the Chargers did not re-sign Phillips, 32, last offseason because they liked younger players already on the roster better and did not consider the Purdue product part of the team’s long-term plans moving forward.

“They didn’t re-sign me,” Phillips said. “So if they don’t re-sign me, I’m going to go to my best option. And my best option was to come to Denver. So for me, there’s no hard feelings. Obviously, they felt they had someone better than me -- therefore one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”

The Chargers proved to be thin at edge rusher this season. Dwight Freeney and Larry English suffered season-ending injuries and Melvin Ingram returned from anterior cruciate ligament knee surgery just last week. Meanwhile, Phillips has thrived in Denver.

He signed a 1-year, $1 million deal with the Broncos in free agency. He leads Denver with nine sacks, the most since totaling 11 sacks in his only Pro Bowl season in 2010. Phillips also has an interception and two forced fumbles.

Phillips played mostly as a stand-up, outside linebacker in a 3-4 for the Chargers, so he had to adjust to rushing the passer with his hand down for the Broncos as a weak-side defensive end.

Phillips said it took a couple months to make the adjustment.

“As I learned the whole technique and how they wanted me to play it, it helped me out a lot,” Phillips said. “Again, football at the end of the day is you getting after the man with the ball. And that’s still my philosophy.”

Phillips sacked his former teammate Rivers for the first time when the two teams met earlier this season in San Diego.

“It was good,” Phillips said. “Hopefully I can get him again this week. It’s always good. Philip’s one of those guys who talks a lot. And I talk a lot. He’s a good friend of mine, so it was more like ‘I got you this time.’ We laughed it off and went to the next play.”

A terror competing against the Broncos in years past, now Phillips will get after his former teammates when the Chargers show up on Thursday. But he says it’s nothing personal.

“I used to kick their butt all the time, and now it’s my turn to try and kick the Chargers’ butt,” Phillips said. “So it doesn’t really matter what helmet or what jersey I have on. Whatever one I have on, that’s the team I’m going to give all my heart and effort to.”