Month: September 2018

Offseason In Review: Denver Broncos

Notable signings:

Notable losses:

Trades:

  • Acquired a second-round pick (No. 56) and a seventh-round pick (No. 242) from the 49ers in exchange for a second-round pick (No. 63), a fifth-round pick (No. 171), and a 2015 fourth-round pick.

Draft picks:

  • Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State (1.31): Signed
  • Cody Latimer, WR, Indiana (2.56): Signed
  • Michael Schofield, OT, Michigan (3.95): Signed
  • Lamin Barrow, LB, LSU (5.156): Signed
  • Matt Paradis, C, Boise State (6.207): Signed
  • Corey Nelson, LB, Oklahoma (7.242): Signed

Other:

After acquiring living legend Peyton Manning two years ago, the Broncos probably thought they would have another Lombardi Trophy in their collection by now. But after being upset by Baltimore in a double-overtime thriller in the 2012 playoffs, Denver was blindsided by Seattle’s suffocating defense one year later in Super Bowl XLVIII. In an attempt to get his team over the hump, GM John Elway was very aggressive in free agency, landing a number of marquee pieces to ensure that the Broncos get another crack at the title.

DeMarcus Ware

On offense, Elway made the difficult decision to let wide receiver Eric Decker walk in free agency. Decker had put up over 1,000 yards and double-digit touchdowns in each of the past two seasons, but the Broncos knew they would be unable to meet Decker’s open-market price (especially since they are also mulling extensions to dynamic receiving threats Demaryius Thomas and Julius Thomas). The team did sign former Steeler’s wideout Emmanuel Sanders, who offers a different skillset than Decker and whose speed and elusiveness, combined with Manning’s accuracy, could create nightmarish problems over the middle of the field.

Along the offensive line, Denver added veteran center Will Montgomery and will reshuffle the unit with the return of Ryan Clady from injury and the departure of left guard Zane Beadles. Clady will resume his post at left tackle, so Chris Clark–who replaced Clady at that spot last season–will move over to right tackle. Orlando Franklin, last year’s right tackle, gets bumped inside to left guard to replace Beadles. The mix-up might have created a bit of confusion and disappointment for Franklin, but it should not negatively impact what was a tremendous offensive line in 2013. The group excelled in pass protection, giving up just 20 sacks–though Manning’s quick trigger surely played a significant part in that–and they were effective in run blocking as well.

Speaking of the running game, the Broncos let running back Knowshon Moreno leave in free agency–he ultimately signed a modest deal with the Dolphins–and have not attempted to replace him with a veteran. Instead, they seem comfortable riding their stable of young backs, none of whom have started a game in the NFL. But all the Broncos really need from their run game is the ability to pick up first downs off of short yardage and touchdowns off of goal-to-go situations. Talented but unproven runners like Montee Ball, Ronnie Hillman, and C.J. Anderson should be able to carry the load.

The defensive side of the ball is where the Broncos made the biggest splashes in free agency. According to Football Outsiders’ metrics, Denver had a middle of the pack defense in 2013, ranking 9th against the run–as measured by Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA)–but 21st against the pass and 15th overall. Those evaluations were supported by Pro Football Focus’ advanced metrics (subscription required), which ranked the Broncos’ defense second-best in the league against the run but just 17th in coverage and 14th in pass rushing.

Enter DeMarcus Ware. Released by the Cowboys, the perennial All-Pro found a home in the Mile High City, where he and Von Miller will create a formidable pass rush duo that should boost the team’s sack total (the Broncos racked up 41 sacks in 2013, tied for 13th-most in the league). In the secondary, although Denver lost Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to the Giants, they replaced him with Aqib Talib, who resurrected his career with back-to-back solid seasons in New England. Although Pro Football Focus (subscription required) suggests this is something of a downgrade–Talib was ranked 57th out of 110 qualified corners, whereas Rodgers-Cromartie was ranked 6th-best–it would be surprising if Talib did not perform at least as well as the man affectionately known as DRC. This is not to mention, of course, the addition of first-round selection Bradley Roby, a talented cornerback in his own right.

The Broncos also added safety T.J. Ward to boost the back end of the defense. Ward thrives against both the run and the pass, and he adds some much-needed athleticism to a defense that said goodbye to aging veterans Mike Adams, Champ Bailey, and Quentin Jammer.

Manning, who is an aging veteran himself, shows no signs of slowing down and said that he plans to play out his current contract, which runs through the 2016 season (when Manning will be 40). Because of Manning’s age and the age of other key players–Ware and Wes Welker, for instance–there is a belief that Denver’s window to win it all is fairly small. However, as shown above, the Broncos are also getting younger and more athletic in some areas, and should they reach extensions with Demaryius and Julius Thomas, they will have secured a key part of their offensive future.

In any event, barring an injury to Manning, this team is not going anywhere in the next several years. They should take home the AFC West title again this season, and, although it is rare for such things to happen in the NFL, we may see a Super Bowl XLVIII rematch in Super Bowl XLIX. The Broncos are certainly favorites to represent the AFC in the big game again, and if they do, their offseason additions may just be enough to bring a third title to Denver.

Spotrac and Over The Cap were used in the creation of this post.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images

Monday Roundup: Graham, Taylor, Dolphins

Let’s take a look at some links from around the league on this Monday evening:

  • Arbitrator Stephen Burbank will issue his decision on Saints tight end Jimmy Graham‘s franchise tag grievance on Thursday, according to Adam Schefter and Mike Triplett of ESPN.com.
  • Steelers‘ cornerback Ike Taylor, who agreed to reduce his 2014 salary from $7MM to $2.5MM in March, and who seemed at peace when speaking with reporters about his decision just a month ago–he simply said “my [new] salary is a lot of money”–has apparently had a change of heart. As Mark Kaboly of The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writes, Taylor recently appeared on The Jim Rome Show and stated, “Did it hurt me? Hell yeah. Does it still hurt? Yeah, it hurts, but hopefully I can go in and bounce back this year, do what I need to do on the field and we will see what happens after.” Of course, there is nothing Taylor can do about it now, and both he and the Steelers are hoping for a bounce-back year in 2014.
  • ESPN’s Adam Caplan tweets a couple of options for the Eagles as they make to shuffle their offensive line in the wake of the Lane Johnson suspension.
  • Jason Fitzgerald of OverTheCap.com continues his Best Contract/Worst Contract series with the Falcons. He explains why the team’s best contract is with wideout Roddy White, and the worst is with LT Sam Baker.
  • Dr. David Chao, whose piece for the National Football Post we referenced earlier today with regards to the dangers associated with playing football on dirt–as they do in the Oakland Coliseum–also passed along a couple of Dolphins injury notes. Chao confirms that running back Knowshon Moreno has had his knee scoped and should return in time for the majority of training camp, but he expects center Mike Pouncey to wind up on the PUP list, requiring him to miss at least the first six weeks of the season.

Fittipaldo On The Steelers

Ray Fittipaldo of The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette hosted a chat with fans this afternoon, and some noteworthy tidbits came out of it. For instance, he says it was not foolish for the Steelers to not make a run at Brandon Flowers. Flowers can make up to $5MM this year in incentives and the club has only $6MM of cap space, which it would like to keep for potential signings or extensions.

Speaking of which, Fittipaldo believes Cortez Allen may be the next player to get an extension. He writes, “[Allen] hasn’t exactly been a model of consistency but he has the raw skills to be a good corner in this defense. The last time the Steelers let a CB play out the final year of his deal [Keenan Lewis] they could not afford to keep him.”

Here are some more highlights from Fittipaldo:

  • Fittipaldo does not believe Pittsburgh is done signing free agents, but, as with most teams, any signings at this point would probably be to replace a player who gets injured in camp.
  • Brett Keisel remains a possibility for the club, but, as Fittipaldo observes, “if [the Steelers] really thought they absolutely had to have him back they would have done it June 2 when they got the cap relief.” A Kesiel signing becomes more likely if there is an injury or if the team’s younger defensive linemen do not impress in camp.
  • In response to a reader’s speculation that 2014 could be the last year for Troy Polamalu in a Steeler’s uniform, Fittipaldo notes that there is dead money on Polamalu’s contract through 2016, so if he plays well enough, there is incentive to keep him. On the other hand, he plays a position where speed and quickness is essential, and you never know “when a player’s wheels are going to fall off.”
  • As he has noted in previous pieces, Fittipaldo writes that the Steelers are changing their approach when it comes to younger players. Rather than waiting until their third year in the league to learn about them, the Steelers will throw those players into the fire and cope with their growing pains. That certainly seems to be their approach with first-round pick Ryan Shazier.
  • Fittipaldo points to the team’s lack of depth along the defensive line as a pressing concern, and, to that end, notes that NT Steve McLendon could have a breakthrough season. Considering the importance of the nose tackle in the Steelers’ defense, they desperately need him to emerge as a quality starter.

 

Offseason In Review: Kansas City Chiefs

Notable signings:

Notable losses:

Draft picks:

  • Dee Ford, DE, Auburn (1.23): Signed
  • Phillip Gaines, CB, Rice (3.87): Signed
  • De’Anthony Thomas, RB, Oregon (4.124): Signed
  • Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia (5.163): Signed
  • Zach Fulton, G, Tennessee (6.193): Signed
  • Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, OT, McGill (6.200): Signed

Other:

On December 30th, 2012, 3 days after six Chiefs had been named to the AFC Pro Bowl team, the Romeo Crennel-led squad crawled to a 38-3 defeat against the Broncos to end their season at 2-14. The team’s shortcomings were obvious: Matt Cassel and Brady Quinn took turns leading a completely stagnant offense while the defense vastly underperformed against the expectation set by the play of its four Pro Bowlers. The detrimental organizational culture had long-been questioned– with horror stories of General Manager Scott Pioli‘s intense nature and accusations of inter-departmental spying. Kansas City fans had even formed a group that received national media attention called ‘Save Our Chiefs’ that organized blackouts at home games and plane-dragged banners demanding Pioli’s firing. A regime change was imminent.

Fast forward four months:  General manager John Dorsey and head coach Andy Reid have been hired, bringing with them high profile assistant coaches Doug Pederson, Bob Sutton, and Brad Childress, and Alex Smith has taken the reins at quarterback. A nine-game win-streak to start the 2013 Season affirmed that the massive overhaul from owner Clark Hunt had been a decidedly successful move. Although the season ended in a catastrophic Wild Card round loss to the Colts, the Chiefs entered the 2013-2014 offseason in a surprisingly stable position given the dire straits in which the franchise had found itself in 12 months prior. That said– the Chiefs still moved some pieces around this past offseason.

On the offensive side of the ball, the Chiefs’ O-line will have the most new faces of any positional unit heading into next season after the departures of three starters- Branden Albert to the Dolphins, Jon Asamoah to the Falcons, and Geoff Schwartz to the Giants. 2013 first overall pick Eric Fisher will slide over to left tackle to replace Albert, while ex-Colt Jeff Linkenbach and third-year Donald Stephenson, a former swingman, will comprise the new right side of the line.

One of the biggest headlines of the Chiefs’ offseason was the decision to let Pro Bowl return man Dexter McCluster become a free agent and sign with the Tennessee Titans. One would reasonably suspect the Chiefs to try out rookie speedster De’Anthony Thomas to fill McCluster’s void. Free agent signing Weston Dressler, who has dominated the CFL for the past few years, has also been projected to take over some of McCluster’s leftover snaps. The return of 2013 third-round pick Travis Kelce, who missed his entire rookie season with a knee injury, at the tight end position could also prove to be a boon to the offense, given Reid’s historical propensity toward using tight ends.

Defensively, the Chiefs shook up their secondary significantly, parting ways with Pro Bowl cornerback Brandon Flowers, free safety Kendrick Lewis, and nickelback Dunta Robinson. Many expect 2014 third-round pick Phillip Gaines out of Rice and hard-nosed veteran Husain Abdullah to factor significantly into the Chiefs’ 2014 defensive backfield.

Up front, the Chiefs’ defense made a few moves along the line, which had proved vulnerable at times last season after injuries to Pro Bowl outside linebackers Tamba Hali and Justin Houston. The defensive end position left vacated by former third overall pick Tyson Jackson will be fought over by Allen Bailey and Vance Walker, whom Chiefs fan will recall played with the Raiders last season. The Chiefs also hoped to provide depth to their outside linebacking corps by drafting pass rush specialist Dee Ford in the first round of the 2014 Draft. Additionally, former Alabama standout linebacker Nico Johnson will look to start alongside All Pro Derrick Johnson at the interior of Sutton‘s 3-4 defense.

The Chiefs stayed relatively quiet this offseason: although at one point they mistakenly thought that they had made waves by signing Emmanuel Sanders, the reigning AFC Wild Card team made no major acquisitions despite losing three starters on the offensive line and a Pro Bowl cornerback. In order to succeed, big strides will need to be made by Andy Reid’s young pair of bookend offensive linemen- Stephenson and Fisher. Off the field, Alex Smith’s contract renewal situation will increasingly loom over the franchise until the former 49er receives a new deal.

As long as Jamaal Charles stays healthy, the Kansas City offense possesses one of the most dangerous weapons in the NFL, and the defense should continue to improve after last season’s renaissance. Although the Broncos are still clearly a superior team and will likely dominate the AFC West once again, the Chiefs will be a popular pick to win a return trip to the AFC Wild Card round.

Spotrac and Over The Cap were used in the creation of this post.

Extra Points: Johnson, Carter, Facemasks

Former All-Pro wide receiver Chad Johnson only caught a pair of passes in his CFL regular-season debut with the Montreal Alouettes. That didn’t matter to the 36-year-old, who just was thrilled to be playing football again. Johnson spoke to Peter King of TheMMQB.com about the feeling that accompanies playing professional football for the first time in nearly three years:

“A joy,” he said. “A joy. That feeling, as a kid, you wake up on Christmas, the excitement. I’m just thankful to have a chance to play again. I didn’t care about catches, I didn’t care about the ball. I mean, the feeling just being part of something again, being part of this organization … I mean, words really can’t describe how it felt, to lose something that I worked for all my life and have it snatched from me because of my irresponsibilities and my mistakes. A lesson was learned. Humbling experience. I don’t know what to say. It’s awesome.”

Let’s check out some more assorted notes from the CFL and NFL…

  • Meanwhile, Alouettes general manager Jim Popp is more excited about another one of his wideouts: Duron Carter. Popp talked to King and described his infatuation with the 23-year-old: Every NFL team should be after Cris Carter‘s son. Duron Carter is a phenomenal athlete. He’s got every measurable. He’s fast, 6-foot-4, can be a punt returner in the NFL with his size, can run with the ball, has got tremendous body control.” 
  • Today is the deadline for players to renew their therapeutic use exemption, writes Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com. The exemption (along with a prescription from a doctor) allows players to take otherwise banned substances.
  • Barring medical exemption, the NFL has banned “non-standard and overbuilt face masks,” tweets NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport. As the writer notes, the decision was based on research and will likely only impact the four players who wore such masks last season.

Rookie Notes: 49ers, Bills, Steelers

While it could just be pure coincidence, former Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland had a handful of successful seventh-round draft selections. As ESPN.com’s James Walker explores on Twitter, linebacker Austin Spitler, wide receiver Rishard Matthews and defensive backs Don Jones and Jimmy Wilson were all solid finds. 

For all the criticism that Ireland has received, as least he can claim that he has a keen eye for under-the-radar talent.

Here are some more notes regarding some of the league’s youngest players…

  • The 49ers have filled their open roster spot by adding guard Al Netter, tweets Bill Williamson of ESPN.com. The team waived Netter about a month ago to clear room for Blake Costanzo. The team had an extra roster spot following Eric Wright‘s retirement.
  • Bills rookie linebacker Randell Johnson has signed with agents Drew Rosenhaus and Michael Katz of Rosenhaus Sports, tweets Liz Mullen of the Sports Business Journal.
  • Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review focuses on the young Steelers who could be “training camp phenoms” (via Twitter): Justin Brown, Dri Archer, Mike Mitchell, Brian Arnfelt, Tauren Poole.

Browns Interested In Extending Brian Hoyer

3:45pm: Linta tells Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com that November 1 would be the earliest that the two sides could assess Hoyer’s value. It seems like this story is likely to play out into the season, so stay tuned.

1:18pm: Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal also talked to Linta, and the agent implied that Hoyer may just hold out for free agency. Via Twitter

Had a couple of conversations with [the Browns]. Very difficult to move forward until we see how the season plays out.”

If Hoyer inked a contract prior reaching free agency, he’d certainly be looking to protect himself. Former agent (and current CBSSports.com writer) Joel Corry details a potential contract on his Twitter, stating it “must contain” escalators or incentives and “possibly a way to void.”

10:57am: Linta confirmed to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com that discussions have taken place with the Browns about an extension for his client, but said it’ll be a “difficult deal” to negotiate. As I pointed out earlier this month, it’s hard to assess Hoyer’s true value when his role for the coming season and beyond isn’t yet clear — the Browns could push for a modest backup-type contract based on the presence of Manziel, while Hoyer’s camp could pursue a larger extension based on the fact that the veteran is currently atop the depth chart.

“We’re always open to talking with the Browns, but we’re content to wait and see what happens down the road,” Linta said.

If the two sides attempt to reach an agreement this summer, a bridge deal like Henne’s two-year, $8MM pact with the Jaguars could be a point of comparison. As an executive from another team tells Rapoport though, Hoyer’s value could shift by as much as about $7MM per year depending on whether he establishes himself as a starter or backup.

9:26am: The Browns may have used a first-round pick on their potential quarterback of the future in Johnny Manziel last month, but that doesn’t mean the quarterback of the present is necessarily going anywhere. According to ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter, Cleveland is trying to extend the contract of QB Brian Hoyer, who is entering the final season of a two-year deal with the club.

Hoyer, who started three games for the Browns last year before suffering an ACL injury, is penciled in as the team’s No. 1 quarterback heading into training camp, though Manziel is expected to challenge for that job. Whether or not Hoyer hangs on to the starting role in 2014 or beyond, it makes sense that the Browns are interested in pairing a veteran they like with the inexperienced Manziel.

On his current two-year contract, Hoyer is only making a total of about $2MM, so even if he receives a sizable raise, the Browns wouldn’t necessarily need to commit to paying him more than backup money. Many top-end backups or borderline starters around the league, such as Chad Henne, Matt Moore, Matt Hasselbeck, and Kyle Orton, are making between $3.5-4MM per year.

A deal in that range for Hoyer wouldn’t break the bank for the Browns, and would represent a nice payday for the signal-caller, whose salaries in his first few NFL seasons have been modest. Cleveland could also push for a smaller base value on a contract that includes incentives for playing time and production, which would allow Hoyer to earn bonuses if he sees the field more than expected.

Earlier in June, Hoyer’s agent, Joe Linta, told Tony Grossi of ESPNCleveland.com that, if all other factors are equal, his client would prefer to remain in Cleveland with the Browns.

“I think if it’s backup to backup, I think he would (want to stay),” Linta said. “If you’re comparing apples to apples, it’s always Cleveland. If it’s backup in Cleveland vs. starter somewhere else, I’m sure he’d like to start.”

NFC Links: Giants, Lions, Packers

Eli Manning was the most overpaid NFL player during the 2013 season, at least according to Nathan Jahnke of Pro Football Focus (ESPN Insider subscription required). The Giants’ 57.5 accuracy percentage was the second-worst in the league (behind the RaidersMatt McGloin), and his 27 interceptions were the most by a quarterback in nearly ten years. The writer utilized the “Jahnke Valuation Model” – a formula that measures a player’s potential salary based on production – and came to the conclusion that Manning deserved about $5.4MM. That’s a far cry from his 2013 cap hit of $20.8MM.

Second on the list also came from the NFC, albeit on the defensive side of the ball. Rams linebacker James Laurinaitis earned this honor, even though he compiled 116 tackles last season. Jahnke points to the player’s 13 missed tackles and estimates he should have earned about $1.3MM – a more than $11MM difference from his $12.4MM cap hit.

Three other NFC players – Falcons wideout Roddy White, Buccaneers safety Dashon Goldson and Vikings running back Adrian Peterson – made this list. For the AFC, Jets linebacker David Harris led the way, followed by Raiders quarterback Matt Schaub, Texans cornerback Johnathan Joseph, Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor and Bills defensive end Mario Williams.

Let’s see what else is going on around the NFC…

  • Giants wideout Odell Beckham Jr. and Bears defensive tackle Ego Ferguson were previously represented by the Morgan Advisory Group’s Ryan Morgan & Zeke Sandhu. However, as Sports Business Journal’s Liz Mullen points out (via Twitter), the two players are now unaffiliated with MAG and are only represented by Sandhu.
  • History suggests that Lions head coach Jim Caldwell will only carry two quarterbacks, writes Justin Rogers of MLive.com. In his ten seasons with the Colts, Caldwell carried a trio of quarterbacks four times, including the 2011 season when he held on to an injured Peyton Manning. The competition is likely between veterans Dan Orlovsky and Kellen Moore, as well as rookie James Franklin. As Rogers notes, Franklin could stick around on the practice squad.
  • 12 linebackers were taken ahead of Packers rookie Carl Bradford, and Tyler Dunne of the Journal Sentinel writes that the player won’t forget about those taken in front of him. I keep track of it, man,” Bradford said. “And I use that as motivation…We’ll see where I land at the end of all this.”

Raiders Notes: Coliseum, Tuck, Hayden

The ten-year lease that would have kept the Oakland Athletics playing in the Coliseum for at least a decade has not been made official. That’s because Oakland representatives and Alameda County representatives can’t decide whether they want to continue with the deal. The four Oakland officials failed to show up to Friday’s vote, boycotting the process. As a result, neither side is too pleased. Via Matthew Artz of the Oakland Tribune

“We are constantly frustrated by the actions of our partners,” the Alameda County supervisor, Nate Miley, said. “Not being able to vote on this deal today, I think that sends a chilling message… to Major League Baseball that is very disappointing.”

Oakland representative Larry Reid responded:

“Nate shouldn’t be trying to run the [Joint Powers Authority] like a dictatorship.”

Meanwhile, A’s co-owner Lew Wolff remains optimistic:

“We understand the city will take one last look at the transaction early next week. And we would expect a formal vote by the JPA by the end of the week.”

The Raiders are certainly monitoring the entire situation. As Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com points out, the team only has a one-year lease and can move anywhere as soon as 2015.

Let’s check out some more Coliseum and Raiders news…

  • Dr. David Chao, a former NFL head team physician with 17 years of experience, wrote a piece for the National Football Post detailing the injury risks associated with playing in the Coliseum. He particularly focused on the risks of playing on dirt, which could lead to leg injuries, risky skin abrasions and severe concussions. Furthermore, the 50-year-old stadium doesn’t cater to injured players, who have to climb three flights of stairs to reach the stadium’s x-ray room.
  • Justin Tuck is enjoying his time in the Bay Area, but he admitted to Conor Orr of the Star-Ledger that he expected to be back with the Giants. You spend nine years in one place. You have a lot of success there and a lot of great friends. So yeah, it’s going to be weird but I understand the business side of things and you need to move forward…To answer your question, I am still surprised I’m not a New York Giant.”
  • The Raiders were very active this offseason, but ESPN.com’s Paul Gutierrez says the team still could have improved their wide receiver and tight end depth. The writer brings up an analogy from head coach Dennis Allen, who compared it to “sitting on Santa’s lap and not getting quite everything you asked for.”
  • The Raiders’ lack of interest in Brandon Flowers indicates that the team is comfortable with D.J. Hayden and may not pursue a veteran cornerback, Gutierrez writes.

Poll: Who Will Win The AFC West?

Despite the fact that the Broncos were the AFC’s top seed in 2013, finishing with a 13-3 record, the AFC West race was actually the tightest of the four in the conference. The Chiefs and Chargers both joined Denver as playoff teams out of the West, in what was arguably the NFL’s second-best division behind the NFC West.

The Broncos head into the 2014 season as the favorites to repeat as division champs, and could be even stronger on the defensive side of the ball than they were a year ago. Aqib Talib replaces departed cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in a secondary that also added playmaking safety T.J. Ward. Meanwhile, DeMarcus Ware will join Von Miller to lead one of the league’s more dangerous pass rushes. Denver lost some key contributors, including wideout Eric Decker and guard Zane Beadles, but the Broncos are still deep and talented enough to go as far as Peyton Manning can lead them. Coming off a record-setting MVP season, Manning should be in line for another big year assuming he stays healthy, which is no given at age 38.

While Denver may be the frontrunner in the AFC West, the Chiefs and Chargers shouldn’t be overlooked. Neither club made the sort of big splashes that the Broncos did in the offseason, and Kansas City’s offensive line exodus is a cause for concern, with Branden Albert, Geoff Schwartz, and Jon Asamoah all moving on in free agency. However, these are still talented clubs that will be looking to return to the postseason in 2014. San Diego, in particular, could be a dark horse to make some noise in the regular season and the playoffs, having added cornerbacks Brandon Flowers and Jason Verrett to a secondary that struggled a year ago.

As for the Raiders, they were an afterthought at 4-12 in 2013, and will be a long shot in the West again in 2014 — betting site Bovada.lv gives Oakland 18:1 odds at winning the division. But Matt Schaub could provide some stability at the quarterback position if he benefits from a change of scenery in Oakland. First-round linebacker Khalil Mack should have an immediate impact. And the Raiders brought in a number of interesting veterans in free agency, including Justin Tuck, LaMarr Woodley, James Jones, Austin Howard, and Maurice Jones-Drew. A lot would have to break right for the Raiders to have a chance at the division title, but it’s not a totally inconceivable scenario.

What do you think? Which team will win the AFC West in 2014?

Previously:
Who will win the AFC North?