AFC West Free Agency Preview
NFL Free Agency Preview
The following is a 2019 NFL Free Agency breakdown written by Anthony Cervino. Throughout this NFL Free Agency preview, Anthony tries to identify team needs from each and every NFL franchise. He also takes a stab at trying to accurately predict logical landing spots for impending free agents and connect the dots for some surprising moves that we may not see coming.
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NFC West Free Agency Preview
Salary Cap Space: $37,334,909
Notable Impending Free Agents:
- OLB Shaq Barrett (26)
- S Darian Stewart (31) — released
- CB Tramaine Brock (30)
- OL Billy Turner (27) — was informed that the Broncos will not re-sign him
- G Max Garcia (27)
- C Matt Paradis (29)
- NT Zach Kerr (26)
- NT Domata Peko (34)
- TE Jeff Heuerman (26)
- OLB Shaq Barrett (26)
- CB Bradley Roby (26)
- OT Jared Veldheer (31)
- DT Shelby Harris (27)
- WR Jordan Taylor (27)
- LS Casey Kreiter (28) — re-signed to a one-year deal
- QB Kevin Hogan (26)
- OLB Deiontrez Mount (26)
- DT Shelby Harris(27) — RFA
- TE Matt LaCosse (26) — RFA
- TE Brian Parker (26) — an RFA who was not offered a tender, making him a free agent
Tight End — While Jake Butt remains an upside talent, his checkered injury past is a cause for concern. And since Jeff Heuerman and Matt LaCosse are free agents, look for the Broncos to add a tight end this offseason. While this is a deep draft class for tight ends, the Broncos could target a short-term stopgap on the open market to fill the immediate need. Free agent players that include Jesse James and Tyler Kroft could bring red zone upside at a value price. But if the Broncos were smart they’d target Maxx Williams, who already has a rapport and familiarity with Joe Flacco from their time together in Baltimore.
Offensive Line — PFF graded Denver’s front five as the ninth worst in the NFL last season. And while it didn’t help that their two best linemen Ronald Leary and Matt Paradis finished the year on the injured reserve list, the line should be amongst the top of the Broncos’ priority list, especially since G Max Garcia, OT Jared Veldheer and Paradis are impending free agents. The Broncos could look to the draft to retool their offensive line, but could also add depth to the position by adding swingmen Eric Kush or Byron Bell.
Secondary — At one time the Denver secondary was a no-fly zone. But since losing Aqib Talib, they haven’t looked the same. Since CB Tramaine Brock, CB Jamar Taylor and Bradley Roby are free agents, plus, the fact that Chris Harris is entering his walk year and Darian Stewart was just released, the Broncos will need to replenish their secondary if Vic Fangio’s philosophies are going to be a success. To help his cause, Fangio could attempt to lure one or both of impending Bears free agent defensive backs Adrian Amos and Bryce Callahan over to the AFC West to rejoin their old DC.
- WR Tim Patrick — Patrick was an exclusive rights free agent re-signed to a one year deal
- OL Elijah Wilkinson — re-signed to a one-year deal
- DE Derek Wolfe — team picked up his 2019 option
Kansas City Chiefs
Salary Cap Space: $26,397,985
Notable Impending Free Agents:
- DT Allen Bailey (30)
- WR Kelvin Benjamin (28)
- WR Chris Conley (26)
- OLB Dee Ford (28) — received the franchise tag
- TE Demetrius Harris (27)
- CB Orlando Scandrick (32)
- C Mitch Morse (26)
- CB Steve Nelson (25)
- RB Spencer Ware (27)
- OLB Frank Zombo (27)
- S Jordan Lucas (25) — RFA
- OLB Terrance Smith (26) — RFA
Defense — Yes, defense in its entirety is a need for the Chiefs. Not only did they finish 2018 as the second-worst unit in total defense — they gave up the second-most yards (6,488) and ninth-most points per game (26.3) — but they have also moved on from DC Bob Sutton and his 3-4 base defense in favor of Steve Spagnuolo, formerly of the Giants, who runs a 4-3. And although the Chiefs accumulated a league-high 52 sacks, I believe they had success in that category because they are used to playing with a respectable lead, causing their opponent to play one-dimensional football, which makes it easy for them to pin their ears back and send pressure. While the Chiefs placed the franchise tag on Dee Ford, he could be on his way out. Reports suggest that they are shopping him in a possible trade. If Ford is ultimately moved, look for the Chiefs to bring in a K. J. Wright if they want to pay-up or even a Damien Wilson at a lesser rate. Both Wright and Wilson played on teams who run a 4-3 scheme. For Wilson, he played in Dallas with Anthony Hitchens in the past. Kansas City signed Hitchens during last year’s free agent signing period. However, if the Giants make Olivier Vernon available, he could be a nice fit as he played under Spagnuolo in New York… The Chiefs also need help in their secondary, which conceded the third most passing yards last season (4,955). With CBs Orlando Scandrick and Steve Nelson set to hit the open market. Plus, the fact that Eric Berry is showing signs of aging coming off of multiple Achilles injuries, expect a lot of turnover on the back-end of the defense. Since the Giants are not placing the franchise tag on Landon Collins, he would make for a splash addition at safety if the Chiefs could make the money work. One thing is for sure, the Chiefs have a terrific offense to navigate the team to the postseason, but if their defense doesn’t improve, they’ll continue to stall out in the AFC Championship.
Wide Receiver — While the Chiefs have quite a few weapons in Pat Mahomes’ arsenal that include Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins, they don’t have very much quality depth behind them. And since Chris Conley and Kelvin Benjamin are impending free agents, the perennial need for a WR3 is magnified. But since they have so many holes on the defense and already have a lot of cash invested into their ridiculous offense, I don’t see the Chiefs spending up for a wideout in free agency as they did last year with Watkins. Instead, the WR3 spot could be filled in a deep wide receiver draft. Another option for the Chiefs could be Michael Crabtree, who is coming off of an awful season in Baltimore and is on the wrong side of 30. But since he won’t be a featured wideout in Kansas City, he could make a low-end impact as a role player behind the young studs.
Running Back — Although the Chiefs signed Damien Williams to an extension and deemed the RB1 spot “his job to lose,” running back depth is indeed an issue with Spencer Ware and Charcandrick West heading into free agency. And despite the fact that Williams’ fantastic run as the starter was only a seven-game (including the playoffs) sample size, I still can’t see the Chiefs spending up in free agency for another offensive piece, especially since he played so well in his featured role. If Kansas City loses both Ware and West in free agency, they would only be left with Darrel Williams behind [Damien] Williams. Whether it is via the draft or in free agency, expect the Chiefs to find another rusher to add to their backfield. If they can get Ty Montgomery at a value — and they could — I’d love to see what Andy Reid could do with a player with his versatile skillet. Even Tavon Austin, who took snaps at running back in Dallas last season, could be a fun toy for Reid to exploit because if he can’t, no one ever will.
- QB E.J. Manuel – signed to futures/ reserve contract
Los Angeles Chargers
Salary Cap Space: $18,417,356
Notable Impending Free Agents:
- DT Brandon Mebane (34)
- LB Denzel Perryman (27) — re-signed to a one-year deal
- DT Darius Philon (25)
- TE Antonio Gates (38)
- P Donnie Jones (38)
- CB Jason Verrett (27)
- WR Tyrell Williams (27)
- CB Trevor Williams (25) — RFA
Wide Receiver — The Chargers don’t have a lot of needs, but one of their voids will be at wide receiver assuming Tyrell Williams signs elsewhere in free agency. If he indeed walks, which is the likeliest scenario, the Chargers will be left with question marks on their WR depth chart behind Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, who don’t exactly have the cleanest bills of health. And although Travis Benjamin remains on the roster, he is another player with a checkered past in the injury department. Of his seven years as a pro, Benjamin has only played in full 16 game slates three times. While the Chargers could draft a wideout, it wouldn’t surprise me if they brought one in via the open market. Perhaps they take a one-year flier on a quality veteran like Pierre Garcon or Michael Crabtree, who are both coming off of down years, are north of the age of 30 and could be had without breaking the bank.
Quarterback — While Phillip Rivers is coming off one of the best seasons of his 15-year career, he is also entering his age-37 season and the Chargers don’t have much behind him. In fact, Cardale Jones is the only other QB on the roster as we sit. Should anything happen to Rivers, the Chargers season would collapse. However, since Rivers is so reliable and durable that he’s never missed a game in 13 years as their starter, finding a veteran on the open market might not be the way to go, especially since they don’t have a ton of cap room and have to pay Melvin Gordon. Thus, the Chargers are in a position to target Rivers’ heir apparent in the 2019 NFL Draft. If the right prospect falls to them, don’t be surprised if they make their move.
Offensive Line — Although the Chargers were one of the most productive offenses in the NFL last season — they finished 2018 with the 11th best offense with 5,962 total yards — PFF ranked their offensive line as the third worst in the league at the conclusion of the campaign. In fact, RT Sam Tevi and LG Dan Feeney have allowed a combined 16 sacks and 20 QB hits last season, which isn’t going to fly with a QB who is going to turn 38 in December and isn’t exactly the poster-child of mobility anyway. If the Chargers want to attempt to make another run at a Super Bowl before Rivers’ time expires, they must better-protect their aging signal-caller, who at this juncture of his career, is only one hit away from a season-ending injury. If I’m the Chargers, I’m using both the NFL Draft and free agency to reinforce my front five. Perhaps they target Jordan Mills, who played under Anthony Lynn in Buffalo in 2016.
Salary Cap Space: $71,234,430
Notable Impending Free Agents:
- TE Jared Cook (31)
- S Marcus Gilchrist (30)
- LB Emmanuel Lamur (29)
- RB Marshawn Lynch (32)
- CB Rashaan Melvin (29)
- CB Bene Benwikere (27)
- OT Denzelle Good (28)
- OT Chaz Green (27)
- CB Leon Hall (34)
- DL Johnathan Hankins (27)
- CB Reggie Nelson (35)
- WR Dwayne Harris (31)
- WR Brandon LaFell (32)
- RB Doug Martin (30)
- RB Jalen Richard (25) — received a second-round tender
- CB Daryl Worley (24) — received a second-round tender
- S Erik Harris (29) — re-signed to a one-year deal
- WR Martavis Bryant (27) — RFA
- OLB Shilique Calhoun (27) — RFA
Running Back — The Raiders have a plethora of needs. In fact, it is difficult to think os a position that doesn’t don’t have a need at. But since Marshawn Lynch and Doug Martin are free agents, the Raiders must add a rusher to their backfield. While it helps that Oakland tendered Jalen Richard, he is more or less a primary pass-catching back, which leaves a void for an early-down banger. And although there is a chance that Lynch elects to continue his playing career and Martin re-signs, they are both on the wrong side of 30 and are definitely not long-term solutions. While Oakland has the cap room to bring in a Le’Veon Bell type of talent, I’m not sure that it is in their best interest due to all of their needs. The best decision might be to address running back in the draft. However, if they do decide to pursue a back on the open market, perhaps they decide to bring back Latavius Murray, who already has a history with the Raiders and is dependable.
Pass Catcher — Since Jordy Nelson isn’t getting younger, Jared Cook is a free agent and Amari Cooper was traded to Dallas last season, the Raiders are short for a quality pass catcher. I mean, when Marcell Ateman is a projected starter, you know you have issues. In a draft chock full of wideouts and tight ends, the Raiders can use one of their many early draft assets to address these needs. However, since they have been named as a possible suitor for Antonio Brown, it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if they brought in veteran talent on the open market. A quality upside at receiver could be Tyrell Williams, who will bolster the position but won’t break the bank compared to what others may command.
Pass Rusher — After trading away Khalil Mack to the Bears and releasing Bruce Irvin last season, the Raiders left themselves without a strong presence at pass rusher. And it showed. The Raiders recorded the fewest sacks as a team in 2018 (13), an embarrassingly low number when you take into consideration that 11 players finished with that amount of sacks individually last season. needless to say, the Raiders are in dire need of an elite pass rusher. With Paul Guenther retained as defensive coordinator, the Raiders could pursue Vincent Rey and Micahel Johnson in free agency, who both played under Guenther in Cincinnati and are already accustomed to his scheme.
- OL Denzelle Good — re-signed to a one-year deal
- K Daniel Carlson — re-sgined to a one-year deal
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