A Look At The Chiefs' AFC West Rivals Going Into Free Agency

Is anybody else sick and tired of talking about the NFL lockout and new CBA agreement? Me too, that’s why I am promising not to use the words “lockout” or “CBA” for the rest of this piece. If I absolutely feel the need to reference them I will simply refer to them as the “situation”. Otherwise this post will stick to some good old-fashioned NFL offseason talk. With free agency about to begin most of us have a pretty good grasp of where the Chiefs stand. If you feel behind, I’ll catch you up. We have a ton of money to spend, we need to resign Tamba Hali, and we still need a nose tackle (and depending on who you talk to, maybe a RT or WR too). There, you’re good to go.

The rest of this post will give you a look at where our AFC West rivals stand. I’ll show you how much cap space they have to work with, what players they have that are free agents, and what their top needs currently are. The goal of every team is to win the Super Bowl. The first step to meeting that goal is making the playoffs and the only way you can insure that you do that is to win your division. Last year the Chiefs were able to do that despite the fact that the Chargers were seen as the “better” team and the Raiders went undefeated in the division. Then there were the Broncos (insert Tebow/Elway/McDaniels joke of your choice here). So will the Chiefs be able to maintain their hold on the division now that the other teams will be gunning for them? Obviously there will be many factors that determine the answer to that question, but how each team handles the upcoming free agent frenzy will have a major impact for sure.

A look at each of the Chiefs’ rivals after the break.

Before we get started I’ll let you know where I am getting the information for these breakdowns.

For each team’s current salary cap situation I used THIS article from ESPN’s John Clayton.

For the current team needs going into free agency I used THIS breakdown by Scout Inc.’s Matt Williamson.

For the list of each teams’ free agents I used THIS database from Pro Football Focus.

Now let’s take a look at the AFC West regarding the salary cap and free agents.

Denver Broncos

Let’s start with the team most of us see as the weakest in the division, the Broncos. I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but I actually feel bad for Broncos fans. First, because they’re Broncos fans, that just has to stink in general. More specifically, I feel bad for them because Josh McDaniels acted like a spoiled 17 year old who got handed the keys to a brand new Camaro and then went out and crashed it into a telephone pole at 70 MPH. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m still thrilled it happened because its better for the Chiefs, but ouch that was painful to watch. Now they are in full rebuild mold, which may or may not include turning over the QB spot to the “golden boy” Tim Tebow.

When you look at their roster, free agents, and salary cap space it doesn’t look like they will be big players on the free agent market.

Salary Cap Space: About 1 Million Under the Cap

Free Agents: (Name, Position, Status) * indicates a starter in 2010
Justin Bannan, DE*, Cut
Kyle Eckel, FB, UFA
Ronald Fields, DT, UFA
Daniel Graham, TE*, Cut
Ryan Harris, RT*, UFA
Laurence Maroney, RB, UFA
Matt Prater, K*, RFA
Marcus Thomas, DL, UFA
Jamal Williams, NT, Cut

Top Current Needs: DT, RB, OL

Summary:
The Broncos have the fewest in house free agents of everyone in the division. That’s good because they are only about a million dollars under the cap. They will likely have to trim some current players off the roster in order to resign or sign players to fill their major needs that include DT, RB, and a RT.

Oakland Raiders

Next up, let’s look at the team that went undefeated in the division and still has a hard time being taken seriously, the Oakland Raiders. What the Raiders have going for them: they went undefeated in the division last year, Darren McFadden, Jacoby Ford, Richard Seymore, and a tough and physical attitude. What they have going against them: Crazy Al Davis, a new head coach with no OTAs, Jason Campbell, and a bad salary cap number.

Salary Cap Space: About 10 Million OVER the Cap

Free Agents:
Nnamdi Asomugha, CB*, UFA
Khalif Barnes, OT, UFA
Ricky Brown, LB, UFA
Michael Bush, RB, RFA
Jon Condo, LS, UFA
Charlie Frye, QB, UFA
Robert Gallery, G*, UFA
Bruce Gradkowski, QB, UFA
Mario Henderson, OT, UFA
Johnnie Lee Higgins, WR, UFA
Thomas Howard, LB, UFA
Michael Huff, S*, UFA
Zach Miller, TE*, UFA
Jarvis Moss, DE, UFA
JT O’Sullivan, QB, UFA
Samson Satele, C*, UFA
Langston Walker, OT*, UFA
Sam Williams, LB, UFA

Top Current Needs: TE, OL, DB

Summary:
The Raiders have major problem with their free agent to cap space ratio. Forget Asomugha, the Raiders have other free agents that were starters like Gallery, Huff, and Miller that they either have to cut players to clear space to sign or allow them to walk. The Raiders have a lot of young talented players and if Hue Jackson can get them to play up to their talent they will be a solid team. However, it appears they will lose the best cover CB in the game and that will hurt. It will also take some impressive cap management just to keep in house talent like Huff and Miller. I don’t see any way the Raiders are major players with any big name free agents, they just don’t have the cap space. Since their draft wasn’t exactly amazing if their roster talent is just going to be as good as it was last year, it is going to take a great coaching job by a first time head coach.

San Diego Chargers

Finally, we have the team that most experts will once again pick to win the AFC West, the San Diego Chargers. Even if you don’t like the Chargers, you have to admit they have some very good players. Last year they used a revolving door of players at both WR and RB and yet Phillip Rivers was still able to lead their offense to some of the best numbers in the league. They do have several key free agents, but of all the Chiefs’ AFC West rivals, the Chargers have the most money to spend.

Salary Cap Space: About 19.4 Million Under the Cap

Free Agents:
Antwan Applewhite, LB*, RFA
Antwan Barnes, LB, UFA
Kevin Burnett, LB*, UFA
Tyrone Carter, S, UFA
Jacques Carter, DE*, UFA
Jeromey Clary, OT*, UFA
Stephen Cooper, LB*, UFA
James Dearth, LS, UFA
Malcom Floyd, WR*, UFA
Dante Hughes, CB, UFA
Vincent Jackson, WR*, Fran. Tag
Travis Johnson, DE, UFA
Randy McMichael, TE, UFA
Brandon Moore, LB, UFA
Scott Mruczkowski, C, UFA
Legedu Naanee, WR, UFA
Ryan Neill, LS, UFA
Paul Oliver, S, UFA
Brandon Siler, LB, UFA
Darren Sproles, RB, UFA
Mike Tolbert, RB*, RFA
Billy Volek, QB, UFA
Kelley Washington, WR, UFA
Pat Watkins, S, UFA
Eric Weddle, S*, UFA

Top Current Needs: OLB, FS, WR

Summary:
The Chargers have some serious holes to fill. They have 6 FA LBs, 3 of which have started multiple games (Applewhite, Burnett, and Cooper). They also have their three best WRs as FAs (Jackson, Floyd, and Naanee). Finally, if they don’t resign Weddle, they will have to sign someone because it doesn’t appear that his replacement is on the roster. The good news for the Chargers is that with over 19 million dollars they should be able to fill those spots. Jackson will cost them if they do in fact keep him and the good news for the Chiefs is that it may take most of their cap space just to sign their draft picks and keep or replace the key free agents that they have. So much like the Raiders (or even more so) their improvement will likely rely on developing the talent they have (or just maximizing it for once).

Kansas City Chiefs

So how do the situations of our hated rivals compare to that of the Chiefs? Let’s take a quick look and see.

Salary Cap Space: 34.3 Million Dollars Under the Cap

Free Agents:
Charlie Anderson, LB, UFA
Jackie Battle, RB, RFA
Brandon Carr, CB*, RFA
Tim Castille, FB, UFA
Terrance Copper, WR, UFA
Brad Cottam, TE, RFA
Mike Cox, FB*, UFA
Brodie Croyle, QB, UFA
Kevin Curtis, WR, UFA
Travis Daniels, CB, UFA
Ron Edwards, NT*, UFA
Wallace Gilberry, DE, RFA
Tamba Hali, LB, Fran. Tag
Maurice Leggett, CB, RFA
Corey Mays, LB, UFA
Jon McGraw, S, UFA
Rudy Niswanger, C, UFA
Ryan O’Callaghan, OT, UFA
Leonard Pope, TE, UFA
Barry Richardson, OT*, RFA
Shaun Smith, DL, UFA
Mike Vrabel, LB*, retired
Casey Wiegmann, C*, UFA

Top Current Needs: NT, OL, OLB

Summary:
Hali will be on the roster next year either via the franchise tag or a new contract, either way it will take a chunk or our cap space. After that the Chiefs will have to address the NT and OL spots. They could be filled in house (Edwards, Smith, Wiegmann, Richardson, etc.) or via free agency (or both). The difference with the Chiefs is that they have the cap space to sign every one of their current free agents, their draft picks, and will have enough left over to bring in a couple high priced free agents. So yes, the Chiefs have a harder schedule this year and must improve to win the division again this year. The good news for the Chiefs is that their team is made up of young talented players that should only get better AND they have the money to add additional talent to the roster. If Scott Pioli is as good as his reputation, he should come away from this frantic free agency period with a clear upper hand over the other AFC West teams.

So now you have an idea what to watch for when this “situation” clears up and football is officially back on.

As always, thanks for reading and GO CHIEFS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Tags: Denver Broncos Free Agency Kansas City Chiefs Oakland Raiders Salary Cap San Diego Chargers

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