National Football League
AFC West Offseason Preview
National Football League

AFC West Offseason Preview

Published Feb. 19, 2010 12:00 a.m. ET

In today's parity-filled NFL, every team is one solid offseason away from being a playoff contender. With every team doing their homework for 2010, check out our daily look at each team's offseason to-do lists by division.

Denver Broncos

There are few teams whose offseason plan will be affected as much by the labor uncertainty than the Broncos. Denver's biggest free agents -- quarterback Kyle Orton, linebacker Elvis Dumervil, receiver Brandon Marshall, guard Chris Kuper and tight end Tony Scheffler -- will all be restricted if there's no new agreement, or unrestricted with a new collective-bargaining agreement. With that in mind, the Broncos have devised two offseason plans -- one for if there is a new agreement and one without the new agreement. It would be almost impossible for them to keep all their free agents if they are unrestricted.

The unusual contrast with the Broncos this offseason is that while they have plenty of key free agents, they don't have many important free agents who are definitely going to be unrestricted. So while the team waits to see what happens on the labor front, the biggest unrestricted free agent it has is guard Russ Hochstein, who is coming off a season-ending knee injury. Unless the team wants to reward a player like Elvis Dumervil with a long-term contract before the free-agency period begins, they might not make many signings before March.

1. Receiver: If Brandon Marshall returns, this position might not top the list, but either way the Broncos could use some help here. The Broncos don't have many receivers that can stretch the field, which hurt the offense in 2009.

2. Defensive line: The Broncos could use depth at nose tackle and at both end positions. The starters were solid, but there may not be a future Pro Bowl player in the group. Denver should look long and hard at investing in the line this offseason.

3. Guard/center: The Broncos are moving away from the zone-blocking scheme, which means they need to get bigger up front. The team is set at tackle with Ryan Clady and Ryan Harris, but there will be some tinkering with the three interior line spots.

Kansas City Chiefs


Now that the changes have come down in the Chiefs' coaching staff, the attention turns towards improving a roster that did not produce a Pro Bowl player in 2009 and has won 10 games in the last three years. Whether it comes via free agency or the draft, an injection of talent is needed. The only positions where the Chiefs appear solid are punter with Dustin Colquitt and kicker, with rookie Ryan Succop coming off his big season. Every other spot needs help, even positions like quarterback with starter Matt Cassel and running back, where Jamaal Charles showed in the '09 season he could be a lead back.

In unrestricted free agency, the Chiefs would like to re-sign WR Chris Chambers and they appear to want a return of OLB Mike Vrabel, who will also be a UFA. Among the restricted free agents, they must decide if they want to re-sign LB Derrick Johnson, who wants to go somewhere he can start and not be a part-time player. It's hard to imagine anyone on the club's roster being considered for the franchise tag, or even a transition designation. As the Pioli/Haley regime continues to cleanse the roster and find their players, there are few holdovers that have a future with the Chiefs.

1. Offensive line: While the rise of Jamaal Charles helped the offensive line in the second half of the season, they still allowed far too many sacks and it took far too long for the running game to come into shape. The key spots where the team needs help is on the right side, at both guard and tackle.

2. Inside Linebacker: The Chiefs' defense struggled against the run last season and while starters Corey Mays and Demorrio Williams were productive, they are not the type of top-line backers needed to plug the gaps.

3. Wide Receiver: Matt Cassel needs weapons to help the offense, specifically at wide receiver, where Dwayne Bowe can't always be counted on and veteran Chris Chambers is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent.

Oakland Raiders

Raiders defensive coordinator John Marshall began to experiment with defensive alignments that put Trevor Scott, an end turned linebacker, in situations where he could either rush the passer or drop back in coverage. With Richard Seymour aboard (and likely aboard again should he be franchised or signed to a long-term contract), might the Raiders employ a 3-4 defense, or at least have it as an option? The signing of Waufle as defensive-line coach makes that unlikely. Waufle was strictly a four-man line coach in New York, as he was with the Raiders from 1998 through 2003.

The Raiders' first order of business looks similar to a year ago, when Nnamdi Asomugha and Shane Lechler were both up for free agency and it looked as if the club would franchise one and possibly lose the other. Instead, the Raiders made Asomugha the richest cornerback in NFL history with a three-year, $45.3 million deal ($28.5 guaranteed) and Lechler the richest punter in NFL history with a four-year, $16 million deal ($9 million guaranteed). This time around, the same situation exists with Richard Seymour and kicker Sebastian Janikowski. Seymour was a Pro Bowl alternate, and although he wasn't a force whose presence transformed an entire defense, he was still the Raiders' top lineman. Janikowski missed only three field-goal attempts all season, the shortest from 45 yards out, and had the best year of his career. The Raiders will be exploring long-term deals with one or both and then using franchise and/or transition designations if necessary. Both can expect to be back.

The Raiders will need to identify the quarterback or quarterbacks they want to compete with JaMarcus Russell as well as look to free agency. Bruce Gradkowski is a restricted free agent who wants to return and expects to return, and Charlie Frye will be restricted as well in the absence of a collective bargaining agreement.

1. Offensive tackle: Right tackle Cornell Green needs to be replaced, and left tackle Mario Henderson faded in 2009.

2. Linebacker: With improved play at safety and plenty of talent up front, the Raiders could use a hard-nosed linebacker who could stop the run. Alabama's Rolando McClain could look good at No. 8 overall.

3. Wide receiver: Incumbents Chaz Schilens, Louis Murphy and Darrius Heyward-Bey need a veteran presence for both guidance and additional first downs.

San Diego Chargers

The biggest focus here will be on players as coach Norv Turner was granted a three-year extension the day after the Chargers were eliminated from the playoffs. There doesn't appear to be any imminent changes to the staff, despite the fact defensive coordinator Ron Rivera was among Chargers coaches on other team's radars.

The biggest news, early on, will be the Chargers parting ways with running back LaDainian Tomlinson. It's clear the future Hall of Famer isn't going to return at any price, as his pride was wounded during a season in which he was an afterthought in the offense. The team also has to decide how to attack Darren Sproles, another running back. He was given $6 million last year, and that seems to be a little rich for a guy who can't rush every down -- but is a heck of a returner and receiver out of the backfield.

It was believed the Chargers wouldn't bring back outside linebacker Shawne Merriman, but in an uncapped year, his return is more plausible. The team also needs to structure a long-term deal for left tackle Marcus McNeill, a key part of an offense which leans so heavily on the pass.

1. Running back: With LaDainian Tomlinson not expected to return and Darren Sproles not being an every-down back, the Chargers need to shore up this position.

2. Defensive tackle: Jamal Williams missed all but one game last year injured; the Chargers have to face the fact he is returning for his 13th season this year. A replacement here is needed.

3. Cornerback: If the Chargers go a different direction in regard to starter Antonio Cromartie, a replacement needs to be found. He may not be on the roster, and that includes former first-round pick Antoine Cason.


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