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Top 10 Questions Facing the AFC West in Free Agency

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Top 10 Questions Facing the AFC West in Free Agency
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A flurry of high-profile moves have already dominated headlines around the NFL at the relative start of free agency.

In the foggy mist of an uncapped season, most fans and commentators are still making sense of the rule adjustments and scenery changes in the league.

However, one expected occurrence has been made blatantly clear: The gap between the haves and the have-nots has certainly widened.

How this affects the AFC West is still somewhat of a mystery, but certain patterns have emerged.

At this point, only a number of small to mid-major transactions have been completed, with talk focusing more on player departures (LaDainian Tomlinson, Brandon Marshall) within the division.

With plenty of time to go, just what are the biggest questions facing Denver, Kansas City, Oakland, and San Diego in the free agency period?

 

1) Will San Diego "attack" free agency?

Whether it's been because of an imposed budget conscience or strictly due to philosophy, Chargers president Dean Spanos and general manager A.J. Smith have not been eager to pull the trigger on many big moves in free agency over the past few seasons.

Last season's biggest acquisition, for instance, was LB Kevin Burnett, a former second-string player for the Dallas Cowboys who was given the chance to start for San Diego in 2009.

Now that we have an idea of who's leaving southern California, several holes have sprung up in San Diego's depth chart.

In the past, said holes were tended to in the draft. This year, there might not be enough picks (or talent) to plug the deficiencies on the roster.

A weak and already dwindling RB market already pushed San Diego to tender Darren Sproles, but the Chargers could be shopping for defensive and special teams help, with Jamal Williams and Kassim Osgood gone.

While you shouldn't expect any blockbuster moves, expect an increased presence in the market from Spanos, Smith and Co.

 

2) Where will Brandon Marshall end up?

The disgruntled Denver WR will finally get his wish after a drama-heavy '09 campaign.

It became very clear last season that the Broncos were Josh McDaniels' team, and thus the talented but controversy-prone, outspoken playmaker will be sent the way of Jay Cutler.

Speaking of which, with Chicago's blitzkrieg of the market so far, is it possible that Marshall and Cutler could be headed for a Windy City reunion?

Seattle has also emerged as contenders for Marshall's services, with owner Paul Allen's deep pockets and T.J. Houshmanzadeh on the other sideline boons morsels in Brandon's food for thought.

Unlike last season's debacle though, expect one thing to be certain: Marshall definitely will not be a Denver Bronco in 2010.

 

3) Where will Nnamdi Asomugha play next season?

The non New York-based members of the AFC East were spared a major blow when it was Antonio Cromartie and not Asomugha heading to the Big Apple via trade.

Even with that possibility nixed, rumors have still swirled around the All-Pro cornerback's potential destination.

One of the best corners in the league—bar none—teams will be faced with a pretty steep price in order to acquire Asomugha.

A price that the Jets were obviously turned off by when it took them just a third (potentially second) round pick to wrestle Cromartie away from the Chargers.

With Al Davis at the helm, fans are always bracing to expect the unexpected, but unless the right offer comes around, Nnamdi should remain an Oakland Raider this coming fall.

 

4) Is Jamal Williams a boom or bust signing for Denver?

There's no questioning the amount of talent for football that former San Diego NT Jamal Williams has in his 350-pound body.

It is also no question that injuries and age have slowed down the former All-Pro to the point of missing 18 games in the past three seasons.

Denver's outgoing defensive coordinator Mike Nolan set up a 3-4 scheme in Denver, and now the current staff is surely banking to get the 2008 version of Williams, who started all 16 games for the division rival Chargers, than the 2009 model who only played in one.

For years, San Diego anchored its version of the 3-4 around Williams' massive run-stopping power.

The Broncos already impressed many observers with their stifling defense in 2009 before collapsing late in the season. Is Williams the missing piece to their defensive puzzle?

 

5) Does the Chiefs re-signing Chris Chambers mean a halt to other WR pursuits?

There was talk of Anquan Boldin becoming a Chief before his eventual trade to Baltimore.

When that possibility was squashed, KC personnel guru Scott Pioli turned to his existing roster and re-upped Chris Chambers to a multi-year deal.

An intriguing possibility might be New Orleans' Lance Moore, who was tendered with a second-round pick by the defending Super Bowl champions.

The Chiefs hold an extra second-round pick stemming from their trade of Tony Gonzalez to the Falcons last season, and could easily part with it if it means obtaining Moore.

Beyond that, it's a thin market both in free agency. Perhaps Dez Bryant would be acceptable to Chiefs fans?

 

6) Is Stephen Jackson to the Chargers a real possibility?

It is definitely a talent-rich draft if you're low on running backs this year.

And while this label definitely applies to San Diego, the Bolts also hold a relatively low first-round pick (28) and have many other needs (offensive line, defensive line, cornerback, safety).

The Chargers might be turned on by Jackson's obvious talent, but they might equally be turned off by what St. Louis might ask in return.

Also, this year's market features other solid backs like Cadillac Williams and LenDale White, who fit the mold of physical backs who could succeed behind San Diego's underwhelming offensive line.

This, however, could be a major draft-day move should top RB prospects be gone by the time San Diego's on the clock.

 

7) Will Oakland shop for a quarterback?

To be honest, there's not much out there in the QB market.

It's clear to everyone except Al Davis that JaMarcus Russell is not the solution and the rest of Oakland's depth chart isn't too impressive, either.

There's no way anyone gives up a first-round pick for Jason Campbell, and while Oakland fared well with a former Cleveland QB this season (Bruce Gradkowski), chances of Derek Anderson arriving in the Bay Area are slim.

Al Davis values veteran leadership, so there's a chance a guy like Jake Delhomme or Rex Grossman to get a shot at a backup role.

Then again, the last time Davis brought a veteran QB in (Jeff Garcia), things got ugly fast.

 

8) Is the Darren Sproles sign-and-trade deal still a possibility?

It becomes increasingly apparent that San Diego brass don't know what they want to do with Darren Sproles.

San Diego needs to hold on to any semblance of running backs on its depth chart, and Sproles is an excellent return man/backfield receiver, but he is far from a full-time, front-line back.

As mentioned before, San Diego is dealing with a lot of holes going into next season. Sproles continues to be a luxury at this point for the Chargers more so than a necessity.

Should a team be willing to offer up something useful to San Diego, say, offensive or defensive line help, it should be no surprise to anyone to see Sproles in a different uniform next season.

 

9) How will Kansas City continue to approach the market?

The Chiefs are a young team undergoing a rebuilding process in the way of new front-office and head coaching philosophies.

They have some good talent in place at the right positions, but still lack depth and a couple of game breakers on each side of the ball.

It's clear they have some money and that, under Pioli, are willing to make a big splash (i.e. trading Tony Gonzalez last season) in order to get better.

However, most of the big fish are spoken for at this point and they have too many holes to plug using solely the draft.

At this point, it looks as if they're content with filling their roster with the Thomas Jones' of the world.

 

10) Will the Broncos shop for offensive help?

Again, Brandon Marshall will most likely be out of Denver in the coming weeks. Kyle Orton showed to be effective over stretches of the 2009 campaign, and Knowshon Moreno appears to be talented enough to blossom into a top back, but will that be enough?

With Marshall gone, teams will be able to zero in on Eddie Royal and Tony Scheffler in the passing game.

Denver's emphasis in free agency so far has been defense, but there is no reason to suspect that, for head coach Josh McDaniels, addition might come in the way of subtraction in the Marshall situation.

Expect a couple of fringe signings at the very least, a major upgrade via the draft, or a trade involving Marshall that sees some pieces go Denver's way.

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