AFC West team needs

Posted March 04, 2010 @ 10:35 a.m.
Posted By PFW staff

Updated April 15, 2010 @ 7:26 p.m. ET

Seventh in a series of analyses of team needs, by division.

Denver Broncos

Quarterbacks: The Broncos are expected to stick with Kyle Orton as their starter for at least one more season. Orton is a restricted free agent, but he has been tendered. Denver acquired Brady Quinn in a trade, but he's expected to back up Orton.

Running backs: The Broncos have made some changes to their backfield. Denver cut LaMont Jordan, traded Peyton Hillis to the Browns and signed J.J. Arrington. The team could add another back in free agency or late in the draft, but it's not a pressing need.

Receivers: Dealing Brandon Marshall away left a gaping hole at the WR position, which will require serious attention. Denver will likely stand pat at tight end with Daniel Graham and Richard Quinn. Meanwhile, Tony Scheffler, who was tendered at a second-round level, will likely be traded.

Offensive line: Head coach Josh McDaniels is in the process of remodeling the interior O-line with bigger, more powerful players, rather than the smaller guards and centers that Mike Shanahan favored. Denver could use more depth at guard and center.

Defensive line: The D-line struggled late last season, and adding a talented, young nose tackle or an end with the size and tools to play in the 3-4 scheme will be something the team considers in the draft. Denver has beefed up its D-line in free agency by signing NT Jamal Williams and DEs Jarvis Green and Justin Bannan.

Linebackers: The Broncos surprised observers by cutting ILB Andra Davis, and the team might address that position at some point in the draft. There aren't any other glaring holes at linebacker, assuming RFA OLB Elvis Dumervil is re-signed.

Defensive backs: Denver already started planning for the future, drafting a corner and two safeties last season to groom in their secondary, which is led by veteran starters Champ Bailey and Brian Dawkins. Getting additional young players into the mix in the secondary is something sure to be on McDaniels' mind.

Special teams: The Broncos cut P Brett Kern last year and replaced him with Mitch Berger, but Berger isn't expected to return in 2010. Denver could spend a late pick on a punter if there is one it really likes, and it also could use a receiver with return ability.

Summary: Replacing Marshall will be a priority for the Broncos along with finding a center and adding pieces on defense.


Kansas City Chiefs

Quarterbacks: The Chiefs are set with Matt Cassel as their starter, but they could look to improve their backup situation, especially with Brodie Croyle becoming a free agent. It's likely something they'd address in free agency, if at all.

Running backs: Jamaal Charles proved in 2009 that he has star potential, but the team can't rely on the diminutive back to carry the load for 16 games. That's why the Chiefs brought in veteran free agent Thomas Jones, who is coming off a career year with the Jets. The pair should split the workload in 2010.

Receivers: Despite the fact that Kansas City re-signed free agent Chris Chambers, they are in dire need of talent at wideout. It's likely the team takes one relatively early in the draft and also brings in a couple of veterans to pair with Dwayne Bowe. It started by adding free agent Jerheme Urban, whom Todd Haley coached in Arizona.

Offensive line: As the offense's biggest need, the Chiefs could give their line a drastic offseason overhaul. Odds are they'll use the fifth overall pick on a tackle, then add more big bodies in the draft and through free agency. Kansas City has already gotten into gear here, signing free agents Ryan Lilja, who's likely to start at ORG, and Casey Wiegmann, who should compete for the starting center job. Among 2009 starters, only Branden Albert and Brian Waters are safe.

Defensive line: It looks like they are set with Glenn Dorsey and Tyson Jackson at the ends, but a young nose tackle is a certain need. Ron Edwards is getting older and is not a typical 3-4 nose tackle. Free-agent pickup Shaun Smith gives them a veteran option up front.

Linebackers: Tamba Hali and Demorrio Williams played well, but the rest of the group mostly struggled in '09. With Derrick Johnson hitting free agency, K.C. needs a stout tackling machine inside to handle the run. Another pass rusher outside wouldn't hurt.

Defensive backs: The club is set with young CBs Brandon Flowers and Brandon Carr, but the cupboard is bare at safety. It's a near lock that it will draft one in the early going, and it could also try to find an impact safety in free agency.

Special teams: P Dustin Colquitt and PK Ryan Succop are two of the team's better players, but the return game struggled mightily last season. A speedy return man could be targeted late in the draft.

Summary: The 4-12 Chiefs have needs all over, but it's imperative that they improve their O-line and defensive backfield this offseason. Once they do that, they can concentrate on upgrading their receiving corps and front seven on defense, as well.


Oakland Raiders

Quarterbacks: It doesn't look as though there's a long-term answer at quarterback in Oakland, although the team doesn't appear prepared to admit it — the Raiders aren't willing to cut the cord with JaMarcus Russell. RFAs Bruce Gradkowski and Charlie Frye have signed their tenders.

Running backs: The Raiders are still hoping 2008 first-round pick Darren McFadden will live up to his potential, but he hasn't come close to doing so in his first two seasons. Oakland needs to add depth at running back after releasing Justin Fargas.

Receivers: Rookie WRs Darrius Heyward-Bey and Louis Murphy endured their share of growing pains last season. Oakland is still confident, though, that both will develop into star players. This position was a glaring need for the Raiders last offseason, but they're going to allow Murphy and Heyward-Bey to develop before they go back to the well.

Offensive line: The Raiders have needed to improve their personnel at offensive tackle for some time now, but they've opted to address other needs in the draft of late. OT Cornell Green signed with the Bills and will need to be replaced.

Defensive line: Managing general partner Al Davis traded a first-round pick last September for DE Richard Seymour, and last month he placed an exclusive franchise tag on Seymour to prevent him from escaping after just one season. They could spend a pick on a defensive end to groom as Seymour's eventual replacement. The Tommy Kelly-Gerard Warren DT combination hasn't been very productive in the past couple of years, and the team cut Warren. This is a spot that requires some tinkering in the draft or free agency.

Linebackers: The Raiders acquired OLB Kamerion Wimbley from the Browns in a trade and MLB Kirk Morrison has signed his tender. Oakland could still look to find a new middle ’backer.

Defensive backs: The secondary is one of the stronger parts of the defense. They could spend a late pick on a corner for Nnamdi Asomugha to groom, but they likely will address needs elsewhere.

Special teams: Oakland gave Sebastian Janikowski the largest contract ever for a placekicker in February, which prevented him from hitting the open market. The Raiders already have addressed their most pressing special-teams issue.

Summary: Oakland has needs to fill on both sides of the ball. The Raiders need to give whoever is starting at quarterback for them next season some help in the form of a stouter offensive line. In addition, the defensive front seven must improve vs. the run for the team to become a winning one.


San Diego Chargers

Quarterbacks: The Chargers are completely set here, with starter Philip Rivers locked up with a long-term deal and reliable backup Billy Volek still under contract.

Running backs: With LaDainian Tomlinson having been released, the Bolts are in desperate need of a new lead back and could use their first-round pick on one. On the eve of the free-agent signing period, the team reversed course on RFA Darren Sproles and tendered him at the highest level, contrary to its previously announced intention. Sproles, whom the team views as only a situational offensive player, will cost the team $7.27 million in 2010 unless the two sides agree on a new contract.

Receivers: Starters Vincent Jackson and Malcom Floyd are both RFAs, and the team is doing all it can to bring them back by putting the highest tender on both. With some depth at this spot, San Diego won't be clamoring for wideout help this offseason.

Offensive line: Although free-agent OLT Marcus McNeill is likely to be re-signed, the club needs an upgrade at right tackle for Jeromey Clary. It's a move likely to be made on Draft Day. OLG Kris Dielman and C Nick Hardwick are rock-solid in the middle.

Defensive line: The line is the No. 1 defensive weak spot. In addition to a lack of depth at end behind Luis Castillo, the team has to find a replacement for NT Jamal Williams, who was released and subsequently signed by the Broncos. The club will definitely be searching for a nose tackle in the draft.

Linebackers: The Bolts are strong here and have 2009 first-rounder Larry English ready in case they lose RFA Shawne Merriman, although that's unlikely after they assigned him the highest possible tender. The only thing they might need is depth, as Shaun Phillips and Stephen Cooper are top-notch starters.

Defensive backs: Although it has a nice group of talent here, the team might look to add a couple more bodies in the secondary, as it tends to do during draft weekend. Cornerback has become a slightly bigger need after Antonio Cromartie was traded to the Jets. Although the Chargers have Antoine Cason ready to step into the starting job, they likely will look to bring in someone to push him. They've added former Bear Nathan Vasher and ex-Jets CB Donald Strickland for depth.

Special teams: PK Nate Kaeding and P Mike Scifres are two of the best at their positions, but the return game could take a huge hit if Sproles isn't brought back, although that appears unlikely. Also, the departure of Pro Bowl special-teamer Kassim Osgood through free agency weakens the coverage units.

Summary: Outside of a major hole at RB, the Chargers don't have many glaring needs this offseason. Their main focus will be retaining high-priority free agents like Jackson and McNeill and possibly upgrading both lines.


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