AFC West Free Agency Recap
The first week of NFL free agency has been one for the ages, consisting of some of the most spending-crazed days that have ever been seen. According to Sports Illustrated’s Peter King, NFL teams spent just over $1 billion within the first nine hours of free agency, which opened at 4 p.m., on March 11th.
Many teams made big splash acquisitions, but the teams in the AFC West have had different outcomes in the last three days.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs, like most teams, had some of their better players walk away, such as LT Branden Albert and RB/WR Dexter McCluster. Albert was almost a given to leave the Chiefs, after playing under the franchise tag last season, while McCluster probably could’ve been retained, but decided to sign elsewhere.
General Manager John Dorsey must replace those two, but has managed to fill other spots on a team coming off an 11-5 season. The last week has been slow, but they re-signed SS Husain Abdullah, brought in G Jeffery Linkenbach from the Colts, who will most likely serve as a backup, and ILB Joe Mays, who last played for the Texans.
As for their draft plans, the Chiefs probably haven’t changed too much. They addressed their need for some ILB depth, but Mays isn’t going to be a guaranteed starter.
The need for targets for QB Alex Smith has gotten even worse now that McCluster is gone. In 15 games, he totaled 53 receptions for just over 500 yards, and his return skills were an added bonus. Look for the Chiefs to take a receiver or two in the draft to help Smith: someone like Marqise Lee from USC or Odell Beckham Jr. from LSU, if they are available at the 23rd spot.
One other problem the Chiefs had last season was the defensive line. Yes, they have Tamba Hali and Justin Houston to rush the passer, but defensive ends Allen Bailey and Mike DeVito are not enough of a complement and are not good enough to be deemed every down players.
San Diego Chargers
The Chargers had a surprising 2013 season under new head coach Mike McCoy, but still have some improving to do if they want to compete with the likes of Denver and Kansas City for the division crown.
San Diego avoided one problem that the Chiefs couldn’t: they kept their best potential free agent from even leaving town. Inside linebacker Donald Butler was re-signed by the team on a multi-year deal, locking him up for the foreseeable future.
The other two notable additions that the team made were RB Donald Brown and QB Kellen Clemens. Both players had some of the bigger years in their careers, but will not come in and immediately carry the team to a Lombardi Trophy. Brown, formerly with the Colts, rushed for 537 yards, the second highest in his career, but also had career highs in yards per carry, with 5.3, and touchdowns, with six. He provides the team with a solid backup for the injury-prone Ryan Mathews, and will definitely see the field near the red zone.
Kellen Clemens comes to San Diego to be the backup to Philip Rivers, but showed last year that he could step in at any moment to fill in, which he did for Sam Bradford and the Rams. Clemens posted just under 1,700 yards, eight touchdowns, seven interceptions, and a completion percentage of just under 60 in 10 games.
The Chargers didn’t make any huge moves that could alter their draft plans, but they still added some pieces that could help them this season. They still need to address the cornerback position along with the outside linebacker position, and they need to protect Rivers by adding some offensive line depth.
The Raiders are by far, the worst team in the AFC West, and need a lot of help all over the field. Luckily for them, they had the most cap space out of all the teams in the NFL with around $60 million to spend. They lost a few players of significance to free agency, such as their rushing leader, Rashad Jennings and CB Tracy Porter, who was tied for the team lead in interceptions.
The team re-signed RB Darren McFadden, who repeatedly gets injured after showing signs of promise, to a one year- $4 million deal.
They added veteran defensive players Justin Tuck from the Giants and linebacker Lamar Woodley from the Steelers, along with adding some offensive pieces. Tackle Austin Howard from the Jets and WR James Jones formerly of the Packers, were added last week.
The Raiders still have a ton of money to spend, and there is still plenty of talent out on the market. The ball is basically in their court, but their front office seems like they can’t pull the trigger on signing anyone. This was shown when the team failed T Rodger Saffold’s physical evaluation. They had agreed with Saffold on a five year- $42.5 million contract, which was voided because of his physical. Many of the major NFL insiders are saying that the front office was split on the signing, which led to the deal being cancelled.
The one good thing that Raiders fans can look at is the draft. Although the team has whiffed in the past, they can add a franchise player with the fifth pick in the draft, and in reality, anyone can help.
Realistically, the team should take the best available player, because there is no player on the team that can’t be replaced. Whoever is there at five should be able to step in and make an impact, whether it is Sammy Watkins, Teddy Bridgewater, Johnny Manziel, or Jadeveon Clowney.
Out of all the teams in the AFC West, the Broncos haven’t made the most moves, but they certainly made some of the biggest. So far, the team has signed four players, but three of them are Pro-Bowl caliber. Denver made big splashes by adding CB Aqib Talib from the Patriots, DE DeMarcus Ware from the Cowboys, and SS T.J. Ward from the Browns.
Obviously the team is trying to make a push for a return to the Super Bowl, where they were beat up by the Seattle Seahawks last year.
The Broncos defense was in the bottom half of the league in allowed yards per game, and gave up an average of 24.9 points per game. Granted, with Peyton Manning at the helm, scoring 30 points per game is almost a given based on how he led that offense last season, but it isn’t always going to be a definite. The three playmakers that they added should make the defense more stout and harder to score against.
To replace WR Eric Decker, who left for the New York Jets, the Broncos went out and signed former Steelers WR Emmanuel Sanders in what was one of the most controversial signings of the week, as reports surfaced that Sanders had verbally agreed with other teams in the league before meeting with the Broncos. In the end, he is now in Denver and will be another piece in Peyton Manning’s arsenal of weapons.
The draft is going to be interesting for Denver, as there are no glaring holes that they need to fill. The main piece to their Super Bowl puzzle is Manning, so they need to do all they can to protect him. Plan on the Broncos taking either an offensive lineman or maybe even trading out of the first round.
Trevor Newcomb is a junior majoring in Broadcast Journalism. To reach him, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org or you can find him on twitter @TNewcomb92