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KChiefs1
05-19-2005, 12:08 PM
http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/columns/story?columnist=clayton_john&id=2062902&CMP=OTC-DT9705204233

By John Clayton
ESPN.com

Offseasons in the AFC West never lack for excitement. Last year, the biggest offseason trade involved the division when the Denver Broncos sent halfback Clinton Portis to Washington for cornerback Champ Bailey. The Raiders might have topped that this offseason by acquiring wide receiver Randy Moss from the Vikings.

Traditionally, the AFC West has always been a bastion of offseason competition for personnel. Moss, cornerback Patrick Surtain and Kendrell Bell are among the main acquisitions this offseason. Why is the AFC West so competitive? For one, the owners generally stay out of the fray and let football people make the personnel decisions. That said, the owners are competitive enough to spend the needed dollars to get those players. Oakland's Al Davis, a former coach, has set the tone for decades for being aggressive and going after big-name players. These four franchises have been competing against each other since the 1960s when they were in the American Football League. Being aggressive in the offseason is just a given in the AFC West. Here's a look at how the four AFC West teams shape up so far this offseason:

San Diego Chargers:
Best move: General manager A.J. Smith made sure there was enough salary cap room to keep Drew Brees at quarterback. Coming off a Pro Bowl and 12-win season, Brees deserved another year with the club. Philip Rivers is the quarterback of the future, but Smith is only concerned about the present. He'll sort out the quarterback questions after this season. Brees defied all odds last year. He knew management wasn't totally behind him because the team drafted Rivers. He knew fans questioned his arm strength. However, Brees focused on leading his teammates and getting the offense moving. Who knows? Maybe Brees can lead the Chargers back into the playoffs and put the pressure on Smith to deal Rivers after the season.

Biggest surprise: To some, the Chargers' limited dabbling in free agency was a little surprising. Free safety Bhawoh Jue was the only free agency acquisition this offseason. However, the Chargers were passive early in free agency last year but made some big moves after training camp started. The Chargers picked up wide receiver Keenan McCardell and left tackle Roman Oben in trades. Though those two are short-term fixes for the next couple of years, the Chargers preferred to keep salary cap room available to re-sign their best players and add others through the draft. Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips has established a quality 3-4 scheme that ranked 10th overall, sixth against the run. Smith hopes linebacker Shawne Merriman and defensive end Luis Castillo will provide some impact from the draft.

Bottom line: The Chargers realize how difficult it will be to repeat a 12-win season. The schedule is tougher. The stakes are higher. But Marty Schottenheimer knows how to manage teams after playoff seasons. He did it in Cleveland and Kansas City. His plans for continued success in San Diego start with a great running game, sparked by LaDainian Tomlinson. Reche Caldwell's return from another injury-plagued season and second-round choice Vincent Jackson's arrival add some excitement to the passing game. And of course, the Chargers are counting on another productive year from the defense. At the very least, Schottenheimer and Co. hope the components are good enough for a 10-win season and wild-card berth.

Denver Broncos:
Best move: The Broncos struck gold when they re-signed linebacker Ian Gold, a 2000 second-round choice who took a one-year sabbatical in Tampa Bay. The Broncos were hesitant about giving Gold a contract worth $4 million-plus a year in 2004 after he was coming off a knee injury. Gold signed what turned out to be a one-year deal with the Bucs and re-established himself as a playmaker. Because he's only 225 pounds, Gold is a more natural fit on the weak side of a 4-3 defense, where he doesn't have to go against a tight end. That wasn't going to happen in Tampa Bay because Derrick Brooks is one of the best weak-side linebackers of this era. Gold's departure allowed the Broncos to draft D.J. Williams last year and, along with middle linebacker Al Wilson, Denver has perhaps the best linebacking corps in the league.

Biggest surprise: What is it about the Cleveland Browns' defensive line that appealed to Mike Shanahan? The Browns finished 32nd against the run. They had only 32 team sacks. Yet, Shanahan liked what he saw on tape and picked up Courtney Brown, Gerard Warren, Ebenezer Ekuban and Michael Myers for what turned out to be a fourth-round choice and halfback Reuben Droughns. That's three first-rounders for a fourth and a back who started last season as a fullback. Either the Broncos hit the lottery with these moves or it could lead to the same disappointments that occurred in Cleveland.

Bottom line: Shanahan needs to swing for the home run fences to get the franchise out of a perceived rut. Denver has made the playoffs in six of the 10 seasons under his leadership, but that creates the drafting problem of being in the lower parts of rounds and not getting premier players at the key positions. He has to take chances to move past the first round of the playoffs. In 2004, the move was to get Bailey as a shutdown cornerback if he ever wanted to beat the Colts in a playoff games. The strategy failed as Peyton Manning torched Shanahan's defense more in 2004 than he did in 2003. Now, the coach is counting on the former Browns defensive line. Interesting.

Kansas City Chiefs:
Best move: The Chiefs needed to acquire Pro Bowl cornerback Patrick Surtain from the Miami Dolphins. Sure, the second-round cost was a lot, but the stakes went up this offseason. Randy Moss is in the division. The Chiefs finished 32nd in pass defense in 2004, and it's not as though the AFC West was loaded with the deepest group of wide receiving threats in football. Tight ends were the leading pass-catchers on half of the teams. Surtain is 28 and still in the prime of his career. He probably needed a change of scenery to give himself a new challenge. Defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham can put Surtain on the opponent's best receiver and has the option of using Dexter McCleon, Eric Warfield and William Bartee to handle the rest of the threats.

Biggest surprise: That the Chiefs didn't get any better at wide receiver. In fact, things could get worse if Johnnie Morton doesn't take a pay cut and is released in June. Offensive coordinator Al Saunders does it with mirrors. He has the league's leading offense, but he does it with limited production from his outside receivers: Morton and Eddie Kennison. The Chiefs haven't invested anything higher than a fourth-round choice in the past couple of years to get younger or get better at the position. Defense was a priority this offseason. At some point, though, the Chiefs need some young but proven threats at wide receiver.

Bottom line: Coach Dick Vermeil says this is his final season. Everyone knows he might stick around if the team is close to getting to a Super Bowl, but no one can count on it. The roster is getting old, and once the offensive line, featuring Willie Roaf and Will Shields, fades, the Chiefs' contender status is likely over. Still, the roster is loaded with talent. K.C. has seven offensive Pro Bowlers who are starters. With the additions of Surtain, Bell and safety Sammy Knight, 11 of the Chiefs starting 22 have been to the Pro Bowl. However, Vermeil only cares about the game that is played one week before the Pro Bowl. He's trying to get this aging group to the Super Bowl.

Mr. Kotter
05-19-2005, 12:14 PM
Two words: Marty Schottenheimer

KChiefs1
05-19-2005, 12:22 PM
Oakland Raiders:
Best move: The Raiders made the best move of the offseason by acquiring wide receiver Randy Moss. Even Vikings owner Red McCombs conceded he didn't get full value for Moss, the game's most dangerous deep threat. The Raiders willingly gave up the seventh pick in the first round and linebacker Napoleon Harris because Harris didn't fit into their defensive schemes. Moss's acquisition generated so much excitement the Raiders were given four prime-time games this year despite coming off a five-win season. The Raiders have the threats to be an offensive force. Moss, Jerry Porter and Ronald Curry form the best three-receiver group in the AFC West. LaMont Jordan is a physical back who should gain 1,200 or more yards in Norv Turner's offense.

Biggest surprise: The trade of cornerback Phillip Buchanon was a curious one. Buchanon failed to deliver on his bold talk of intercepting 15 passes a season. Too often, he was torched for big gains. But he was talented, young and had great potential as a returner. With cornerback Charles Woodson being "franchised" at $10.5 million this season, the Raiders could be turning over their starting cornerback spots in 2006 if they don't re-tag Woodson after the season. That would leave the team with Nnamdi Asomugha and Fabian Washington as the future starting cornerbacks. Including Buchanon, the Raiders have invested four first-round picks and a second-rounder on cornerbacks since 1998. It's a surprise to see such turnover for a valued position.

Bottom line: The success of the team will depend on the success of the defense, and that's the worry. The Raiders finished 30th in defense last year. They appear to be switching back to a 4-3 after a horrible year in the 3-4. The linebacking corps doesn't have a known entity. The switches between the 3-4 and the 4-3 have at least two players playing out of position. Warren Sapp is a 4-3 "three technique" defensive tackle who doesn't get full effectiveness as a 3-4 defensive end. Tyler Brayton is getting lost shuffling between being a 4-3 end and a 3-4 linebacker. The Raiders will be exciting on offense, but their defense could create too much negative excitement if it doesn't come together.

AFC WEST
FANTASY FOOTBALL:
Denver's Tatum Bell is expected to assume the role of featured back. Any Broncos RB that is expected to start should post fine numbers, but the team's open-field style of running has often exposed ballcarriers to big hits and injury concerns. Keep the names Quentin Griffin, Mike Anderson, Ron Dayne and even Maurice Clarett in mind. Any of them could get a chance to play at any time. Priest Holmes (knee) expects to return in good health, but Larry Johnson will give him some needed breathers. Fearless Holmes is unlikely to abandon his all-out running style, so Johnson has a good chance at starting some games in 2005. Everyone is excited about Oakland's offense, but keep in mind the key players will take some time to learn each other's tendencies. So if Randy Moss, Jerry Porter or LaMont Jordan starts slowly, don't panic. Antonio Gates should prove his great 2004 campaign was no mirage. Tony Gonzalez has new company atop the TE rankings.
-- Scott Engel, associate editor of Fantasy Games

Mr. Laz
05-19-2005, 12:32 PM
Two words: Marty Schottenheimer

both shottenheimer and peterson luv to stand pat whenever they get the chance.

no shock

King_Chief_Fan
05-19-2005, 12:36 PM
I was reading a link on a Raider board commenting on the Chargers and the Cowboys are trying to secure the services of Simeon Rice........sorry I don't have the link.

King_Chief_Fan
05-19-2005, 12:38 PM
I was reading a link on a Raider board commenting on the Chargers and the Cowboys are trying to secure the services of Simeon Rice........sorry I don't have the link.

http://www.bradenton.com/mld/bradenton/sports/11681282.htm is the link

Fruit Ninja
05-19-2005, 12:58 PM
I dont know why the raiders did the best offseason moves, sure they got Randy Moss, and he is a great wide out. THey still have NO ****ING defense.

Mr. Kotter
05-19-2005, 01:23 PM
both shottenheimer and peterson luv to stand pat whenever they get the chance.

no shock

Exactly.

keg in kc
05-19-2005, 01:36 PM
But Marty Schottenheimer knows how to manage teams after playoff seasons. He did it in Cleveland and Kansas City.Someone correct me if I'm wrong (I wasn't here at the time) but didn't Marty's last three playoff teams in KC go something like 9-7, 9-7 and 7-9 the following season?

KCTitus
05-19-2005, 01:43 PM
Someone correct me if I'm wrong (I wasn't here at the time) but didn't Marty's last three playoff teams in KC go something like 9-7, 9-7 and 7-9 the following season?

Yes.

1993 playoffs, 1994: 9-7 (actually lost wildcard that year)
1995 playoffs, 1996: 9-7
1997 playoffs, 1998: 7-9

KChiefs1
05-19-2005, 01:56 PM
1993 13-3 playoffs - lost AFC Championship game in Buffalo
1994: 9-7 playoffs - lost to Miami(Montana's last game)
1995 13-3 playoffs - lost to Colts in Lin Elliott game
1996: 9-7
1997 13-3 playoffs - lost to Donk's
1998: 7-9

Mr. Laz
05-19-2005, 01:58 PM
1993 13-3 playoffs - lost AFC Championship game in Buffalo
1994: 9-7 playoffs - lost to Miami(Montana's last game)
1995 13-3 playoffs - lost to Colts in Lin Elliott game
1996: 9-7
1997 13-3 playoffs - lost to Donk's
1998: 7-9

because everytime we had a good season the front office relaxed and paid the price the next season.