Posted by: mdegeorge | August 12, 2011

NFL Free Agency Diagnosis: AFC West

The 2011 NFL season has come courtesy of an unprecedented time in the league’s history. Essentially two offseasons worth of transactions have been jammed into around two weeks to completely reshape the entire league in the blink of an offseason eye. Most of what you thought you knew about a team can be thrown out, with some teams having close to 40 percent of their rosters overhauled instantly.

Let’s try and bring some order to this mess, since the pressure is going to ratchet up starting Thursday when the first round of preseason games kicks off and the hot stove might cool a bit. Below are the lists of departures and arrivals for each of the 32 NFL teams and just what they mean for teams.

We’ll wrap things up with the AFC West.

Tamba Hali is a veteran leader on a talented but young Chiefs defense. (Courtesy of Creative Commons)

Denver Bronocs

Signed: TE Daniel Fells, K Matt Prater, TE Dante Rosario, DE Marcus Thomas, DT Ty Warren, DT Broderick Bunkley, DE Jeremy Jarmon, RB Willis McGahee, DE Derrick Harvey

Lost: DT Ronald Fields, TE Daniel Graham, OT Ryan Harris, WR Jabar Gaffney

Diagnosis: The quarterback controversy in Denver is dominating the headlines, with everyone seeming to file into either the Kyle Orton or Tim Tebow camp (Orton did lead the seventh best passing game in the league in 2010; just sayin’). Whoever the starter is, he’ll receive a boost in the running game with McGahee able to share the carries more evenly with Knowshon Moreno and hope to prevent repeating as one of the ten worst running attacks in the league. The story of Denver’s offseason is on the other side of the ball, however. A 3-4 defense that was demoralized by the injury to Elvis Dumervil was one of the worst in the league a season ago against the pass and the run. Dumervil is back this year; he’ll be joined up front by Warren and Harvey, two castoffs looking to restart their careers. The Broncos were also active in trading for Jarmon and Bunkley to solidify the line and add linebacker Von Miller through the draft. The offense, in whatever iteration, will have some growing pains, but the defense should be greatly improved.

Kansas City Chiefs

Signed: RB Jackie Battle, WR Steve Breaston, CB Brandon Carr, WR Terrance Cooper, FB Mike Cox, CB Travis Daniels, DE Wallace Gilberry, DT Amon Gordon, LB Tamba Hali, FB Le’Ron McClain, S Jon McGraw, OT Ryan O’Callaghan, S Sabby Piscitelli, TE Leonard Pope, OT Barry Richardson, LB Brandon Siler, C Casey Wiegmann

Lost: DT Ron Edwards, CB Maurice Leggett, DT Shaun Smith

Diagnosis: With such a talented young core of players, the changes needed to be minor in KC. They maintain the offensive line by resigning starters O’Callaghan and Wiegmann. The defense is bolstered by the re-upping of McGraw, Hali long-term, Daniels and Gilberry. Siler is a nice piece to add to the linebacking core. Breaston’s signing gives them a glut of offensive options for Matt Cassel to choose from. He joins the resurgent Dwayne Bowe and first-rounder Jonathan Baldwin as a slot receiver, with playmaker Dexter McCluster also in the fold. McClain gives them a pass-catching option out of the backfield and provides blocking for Jamaal Charles in what was the most productive rushing offense a year ago. Expect the third-worst passing attack to improve significantly and the Chiefs to possibly sneak out of this division.

Oakland Raiders

Signed: OT Khalif Barnes, TE Kevin Boss, RB Michael Bush, LS Jon Condo, QB Trent Edwards, WR Derek Hagan, OT Stephon Heyer, S Michael Huff, DE Jarvis Moss, C Samson Satele, LB Sam Williams

Lost: CB Nnamdi Asomugha, G Robert Gallery, QB Bruce Gradkowski, WR Johnnie Lee Higgins, LB Thomas Howard, TE Zach Miller

Diagnosis: The Raiders had the league’s second-best rushing attack a season ago, making the retention of Bush to go along with Darren McFadden a no-brainer. They lose Miller from the passing game but replace him with Boss to give Jason Campbell a decent set of receivers. They also shuffle veteran backups with Gradkowski leaving and Edwards in. What is concerning, though, is that they’ll likely be going with two rookies in the offensive line – Stefen Wisniewski and Joe Barksdale. They lose Asomugha, but resign Huff long-term, the only major change in a defense that was the second-best against the pass a year ago.

San Diego Chargers

Signed: LB Antwan Barnes, DE Jacques Cesaire, OT Jeromey Clark, WR Malcom Floyd, CB Dante Hughes, WR Vincent Jackson, LB Travis LaBoy, TE Randy McMichael, C Scott Mruczkowski, WR Laurent Robinson, LB Takeo Spikes, FB Mike Tolbert, QB Billy Volek, WR Kelley Washington, S Eric Weddle

Lost: LB Antwan Applewhite, LB Kevin Burnett, WR Legedu Naanee, S Paul Oliver, LB Brandon Siler, RB Darren Sproles

Diagnosis: The Chargers basically had to rebuild their entire linebacking corps, losing Burnett, Applewhite and Siler and picking up LaBoy and Spikes. They also manage to tie up Weddle long-term to solidify the secondary. Negotiations were easy on offensive this year. Philip Rivers’ top two wideouts, Floyd and Jackson, were brought back, while Robinson and Washington provide depth, with Robinson essentially replacing Naanee. McMichael is also back as Antonio Gates’ understudy. The one departure they fail to replace is Sproles’ returnman/third-down back role. Expect more carries from Jacob Hester, especially with Tolbert back to fill the fullback role.

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