A billboard over the city of Denver shows why the Broncos will win the AFC West in 2012; Quarterback Peyton Manning. Credit: Ron Chenoy-US PRESSWIRE
As the 2012 Free Agency period continues and Bronco fans doggedly wait for the NFL Draft, it's time for a look at the changes within the AFC West division. There has been a lot of movement so far and it is always wise to measure up one's opponents. Through this we should be able to see who got better and who didn't. If parity in the National Football League has taught us anything, remaining stagnant spells doom. So without further ado, here are the new faces in the AFC West.
Denver retained RB Lance Ball ($540K/1 yr), LB Joe Mays ($12M/3 yrs), C/G Manny Ramirez (unknown) and fan favorite LB Wesley Woodyard (2 yrs)
New faces on the Broncos are of course the plum of Free Agency QB Peyton Manning ($96M/5 yrs, $18M guaranteed), S Mike Adams (2 yrs), WR Andre Caldwell ($1.8M,2 yrs), OG C.J. Davis (unknown), TE Joel Dreessen ($8.5M, 3 yrs), QB Caleb Hanie (2 yrs), WR Jason Hill ($700K, 1 yr), CB Tracy Porter ($4M, 1 yr) and TE Jacob Tamme ($9M/3 yrs, $3.5M guaranteed)
The Broncos lost DT Brodrick Bunkley to the Saints, TE Daniel Fells to the Patriots, DE Derrick Harvey to the Bengals, FB Spencer Larsen to the Patriots, QB Brady Quinn to the Chiefs, TE Dante Rosario and WR Eddie Royal to the Chargers and traded QB Tim Tebow to the Jets.
Brady Quinn going to Kansas City may not hurt too bad, but it is still addition by subtraction for the division. Rosario and Royal bolting to the Chargers helps San Diego as much as it takes away from the Broncos. Replacing those three players with Caleb Hanie, Jacob Tamme, Joel Dreesen and Andre Caldwell and I'd call it a wash.
Kansas City re-signed LB Jovan Belcher, DT Amon Gordon and TE Jake O'Connell. Belcher ranked 2nd on the team in Tackles last year and the Chiefs get great value at his RFA contract valued at $1.927 M. Amon Gordon played in all 16 games for the first time in his 5 year career and rotated with Kelly Gregg. The Chiefs re-signed him to a 2 year, $1.45M deal. Jake O'Connell took up some slack when Tony Moeaki went to the Injured Reserve. Leonard Pope walked in Free Agency, so O'Connell will resume 3rd string with new addition Kevin Boss in town.
The Chiefs acquired TE Kevin Boss ($9M/3 yrs) and CB Stanford Routt ($19.6M/3 yrs) from the Raiders, RB Peyton Hillis from the Browns on a 1 year $2.6M deal, Brady Quinn ($1.5M/1 yr), CB Jacques Reeves and pried OT Eric Winston away from the Texans for $22M over 4 years.
They lost CB Brandon Carr to the Cowboys, NT Kelly Gregg retired, FB Le'Ron McClain was picked up by the Chargers, QB Kyle Orton rode off with the Cowboys and LB Demorrio Williams was released for salary cap reasons.
The Chiefs did rather well solidifying the backfield on both sides of the ball with Routt and Hillis. Scoring Kevin Boss makes them a tougher Offense to defend with another weapon to go with Tony Moeaki, Dwayne Bowe, Steve Breaston Jonathan Baldwin, Jamaal Charles and Dexter McCluster. And with Eric Winston, Kansas City definitely gained some ground on the rest of the division. They have a legitimate shot at the AFC West crown.
The Raiders re-signed OT Khalif Barnes ($2M/1 yr) and OG Cooper Carlisle after previously releasing the former Bronco.
The acquired CB Ron Bartell from the Rams ($3M/1 yr), QB Rhett Bomar, OG Mike Brisiel from the Texans ($20M/5 yrs), CB Pat Lee from the Packers, CB Shawntae Spencer from the 49ers and CB Brandon Underwood.
Because Oakland was around $40M over the Salary Cap, they were forced to release TE Kevin Boss, S Hiram Eugene, DT John Henderson, CB Chris Johnson and CB Stanford Routt. Boss and Routt are now in Kansas City, Henderson retired and Eugene, Johnson and McCluskey remain Free Agents.
Losses in Free Agency included RB Michael Bush and QB Jason Campbell to the Bears, RB Rock Cartwright to the 49ers, C Samson Satele to the Colts, WR Chaz Schilens yo the Jets and DL Trevor Scott to the Patriots.
The Raiders are restructuring and rebuilding after the demise of Maverick owner and pioneer Al Davis. They will no longer be operating in the same fashion and it will take a few years for them to expedite their new direction. But with new blood in the ownership, General Manager and Head coaching positions, they have started their refurbishing process from the top down. This isn't to say they won't be competitive in 2012, but I don't expect them to finish higher than 3rd in the West.
The Chargers re-signed LT Jared Gaither (4 yrs, $9M guaranteed), C Nick Hardwick ($13.5M/3 yrs), TE Randy McMichael ($2.7M/2 yrs) and TE Kory Sperry.
They went out and got S Atari Bigby from the Seahawks (2.5M/2 yrs), OLB Jarret Johnson from the Ravens ($19M/4 yrs), FB Le'Ron McClain from the Chiefs, WR Robert Meachem from the Saints ($25.9M/4 yrs), WR Eddie Royal ($13.5M/3 yrs) and TE Dante Rosario from the Broncos, QB Charlie Whitehurst from the Seahawks ($4M/2 yrs) and LB Demorrio Williams from the Chiefs.
San Diego released LB Everette Brown, DE Luis Castillo, CB Dante Hughes, OT Marcus McNeill, LB Nate Triplett, QB Billy Volek, WR Bryan Walters and lost LG Kris Dielman to retirement.
SS Steve Gregory was snatched away by the Patriots ($8.5M/3 yrs) and WR Vincent Jackson got his $10M per year like he wanted from the Buccaneers, but the one that got away was RB Mike Tolbert, who got a 4 year, $10M deal out of the Carolina Panthers.
The Chargers did what they could to fortify an aging Offensive Line and back up Antonio Gates, who is 32, but still has some left in the tank. They signed Booby Meacham to fill the void of V-Jax and Head coach Norv Turner is calling him a legit #1 Wide Receiver. Personally, I don't think the two are even close to comparison. I guess that's why the Chargers always win the Super Bowl on paper every pre-season.
I can't see how San Diego has gotten any better so far through Free Agency, but like Yogi Berra said, "It ain't over til it's over."