Better. Reggie McKenzie has quietly put together one of the best offseasons in all of football this spring. Few seem to realize just how big of a hole the past regime put the second-year general manager in.
In 2012, the team had very little salary cap space and didn’t have a draft pick until the compensatory picks in the third round. McKenzie went to work in March bringing in the right kind of players at the right prices (Matt Flynn, Nick Roach, Tracy Porter, Jason Hunter, Mike Jenkins), while shedding the roster of potential toxic personalities and contracts.
On Day 1 of the NFL Draft, McKenzie got the guy he coveted (former Houston CB D.J. Hayden) and picked up a second-round pick in the process. Dennis Allen must have really had his eye on Hayden, too, as the head coach is a longtime defensive backs coach. Hayden’s story, an incredible one, makes for a wonderful narrative.
On Day 2, the Raiders picked up former Florida State offensive lineman Menelik Watson, a potential starter at tackle, and a linebacker in Sio Moore. Then, the Raiders spent a fourth-round pick on quarterback Tyler Wilson, who could spell the end of Terrelle Pryor’s time in Oakland.
There hasn’t been much buzz about Oakland’s offseason, but McKenzie has brought in the right type of guys since March. The Raiders are still probably another year away from the playoffs, but they’re certainly headed in the right direction.
Better. Nobody loved the signing of Wes Welker in Denver more than me.
Peyton Manning gets arguably the best slot receiver in NFL history and steals him from Tom Brady, in the process. But I hated the loss of Elvis Dumervil.
An elite pass rusher coming off another strong season, the botched fax machine situation made for quite the storyline. Dumervil’s former agent, Marty Magid, caught the worst of it, losing his top client and a mighty big commission. But the Broncos lost an elite pass rusher and took a massive salary cap hit, too. I like the additions of Terrance Knighton and Sylvester Williams on the defensive line, but I am not sure they’re enough to offset the loss of Dumervil. The Shaun Phillips signing will help the pass rush, but it doesn’t replace Elvis.
Kansas City Chiefs
Better. The Chiefs had two wins in 2012, but managed to have five Pro Bowl players on the AFC team. What does that mean? There is some talent on the roster. That talent just hasn’t put it all together.
Head coach Andy Reid and general manager John Dorsey decided to keep Dwayne Bowe and pay him handsomely to do so. They also traded a second-round pick for Alex Smith after the Combine and signed Chase Daniel on the first day of NFL free agency, addressing their quarterback position early on. I loved the signings of Mike DeVito and Sean Smith on defense in free agency, and think both Anthony Fasano and Donnie Avery can play roles in the new West Coast offense.
I wasn’t blown away by the Chiefs’ draft, but if you consider Alex Smith as their second rounder, it was a good one.
The Branden Albert situation is the elephant in the room. It needs to be resolved in the coming weeks.
San Diego Chargers
Worse. The Chargers were awfully quiet at the start of the offseason, failing to make any big signings during the first week of free agency. One of several teams with a new general manager and a new head coach, I was waiting to see what they did to address the offensive line, which was an absolute mess last season.
It’s been two months since the start of the NFL free agency period, and outside of first-round pick D.J. Fluker, I don’t think Philip Rivers got the protection he needed. I am not sure what type of NFL player Manti Te’o will be, but I like him going to San Diego. Pro Bowl safety Eric Weddle, a devout Mormon, has already said that he’s going to take Te’o under his wing.
All eyes are on Rivers and after losing Vincent Brown to injury a season ago, and Darren Sproles and Vincent Jackson in recent offseasons, I was hoping to see the franchise add some weapons and big boys up front. Though third-round pick Keenan Allen could make an impact in Year 1, I’m not sure San Diego did that. And who’s playing cornerback?
Editor’s Note: This is Part 1 of an 8-part series, grading each division on the offseason.