A lot of big name free agents are finding their new homes in the AFC West. Our beloved San Diego Chargers are standing pat, preferring to add depth and build through the draft. Its hard to look at the names settling into Kansas City and Denver and not be concerned about the Chargers strategy.
Peyton Manning cruised into Denver this past season and propelled the Broncos into the number one seed in the AFC West, highlighted by a ten game winning streak to finish the season. In the offseason, the Broncos continue to add weapons. The major coup is the acquisition of slot receiver Wes Welker from New England. They also added DT Terrance Knighton from Jacksonville and CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in addition to swiping OG Louis Vasquez from the Chargers. The Broncos have added big names to offense and defense in addition to weakening a division rival in a primary need area. The Broncos are also currently in the mix to bring in DE Dwight Freeney from Indianapolis.
Kansas City inexplicably went 2-14 last season, a season that looked promising with the return of feature back Jamaal Charles, TE Tony Moeaki, and S Eric Berry; all of whom missed the season before with devastating injuries. The Chiefs failed to live up to their potential despite sending six players to the Pro Bowl last season. In the offseason the Chiefs decided quarterback Matt Cassel was not the answer and signed free agent QB Alex Smith of the 49ers, expendable after the meteoric rise of Colin Kaepernick. The Chiefs have also added CB Sean Smith, TE Anthony Fasano, DB Dunta Robinson, WR Donnie Avery and QB Chase Daniel.
The Oakland Raiders…remain the Oakland Raiders. Their biggest free agent signing has been OLB Kevin Burnett. They have been busy letting their few good players go. CB Michael Huff, WR Darius Heyward-Bey, P Shane Lechler have all been shown the door and quarterback Carson Palmer is on his way out as well. The punchline is the Raiders are kicking the tires on the return of…Vince Young?
So, for at least two of the other three teams in the division, lots of heavy hitters and impact players are signing up while the Chargers are content with CB Derek Cox as the only sure fire starter signing. Are the Chargers right to follow this path? Consider these observations.
The Raiders deserve no consideration. The Chargers have beaten the Raiders 15 out of their last 17 games with the only aberration being a Raiders sweep in 2011. The beatings will continue. Vince Young. Nuff said.
Even with the return of their injured Pro Bowlers, Kansas City was an abject failure, unable to execute in any facet of the game. Cassel was terrible, eventually losing his job to Brady Quinn. Charles has a nice comeback season but was missing in the box score some games. The Chiefs were swept by the Chargers by a total combined score of 68-33. The Chiefs have to overhaul their team and they’re starting by signing every free agent who will get on a plane. To Kansas City, San Diego is the Joneses. Forget Denver, KC must revamp the lineup just to keep up with the Chargers!
In Denver, the rich get richer. Peyton Manning is gifted the most dangerous slot receiver in Welker. Manning had the most completions to the slot receiver of any quarterback in the league which could make Welker even more lethal than he was in New England. Cromartie and Knighton were once bigger names than they are now but they are names fans know. Freeney’s best days are behind him but Manning wants him in Denver and usually what Peyton wants, Peyton gets. Signing Vasquez had the dual purpose of adding even more protection to an already sturdy Broncos offensive line while weakening the Chargers even more at their most vulnerable position.
Denver has ascended to the top of the division and are the team to beat. Lots of flashy names are rolling by but the Chargers are still the team to challenge them for the division. Even with their many shortcomings, the Chargers were one dropped pass, one failed 4th and 29 stop and one helmet to helmet hit from being a ten win team last season. That’s not considering the Monday Night meltdown in San Diego against the Broncos. The Chargers dominated the Broncos to the tune of 24-0 at halftime before the wheels fell off and Denver ran off five unanswered touchdowns in the second half. The Broncos only won the second game by a touchdown. More importantly, losing DE Elvis Dumervil and OLB DJ Williams can have an adverse effect on the defense that allowed the Chargers 23.5 points against them last season.
The point in this diatribe is do not be distracted by all the flashy cars passing us on the highway headed to Denver and Kansas City. The Chargers are taking the right approach. The Chargers are still the second best team in the AFC West. General Manager Tom Telesco is plodding along and adding solid, versatile players undaunted by the high volume of signings in the division. Beware the “Dream Team” style rash of big name signings going to one team ala the 2011 Eagles. This could be one more example of the tortoise (Telesco) catching the hare (Elway).