Chris Wesseling

Offseason Low Down

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Team Notes: AFC South, West

Tuesday, March 29, 2011




AFC West:

Broncos: Veteran loving head coach John Fox has placed Kyle Orton atop the depth chart "right now" with Tim Tebow still viewed as a developmental QB. If the two are still on the roster by training camp, expect a battle for the starting job. The league's top fantasy QB in the last three games of 2010, Tebow is a nice trade target in Dynasty leagues while Fox publicly waffles. … Fox has also made it clear that Knowshon Moreno will have company in the backfield, which is hardly a surprise. Correll Buckhalter is a candidate for release, leaving the cupboard bare behind Moreno. It's too early to say with confidence that the Broncos will move to a committee attack. Moreno has three-down skills if he can shake injuries. … Promising young play-maker Demaryius Thomas is undraftable after tearing his Achilles' tendon in February. Though the injury is no longer an automatic death sentence, NFL skill position players struggle to stay healthy and regain pre-injury form after surgery. … Joining Thomas in the operating room was Eddie Royal, who underwent hip surgery with a six-month recovery timetable. He'll be touch-and-go for the start of training camp. … Brandon Lloyd is locked in as the No. 1 receiver, but he's not going to repeat last year's fantasy success with the run-heavy Fox replacing the most pass-happy play-caller in the league. … Veteran Daniel Graham was released, leaving Denver with a void at tight end.

Chargers: Free agent QB Billy Volek could end up following Ron Rivera to Carolina. … Ryan Mathews and restricted free agent Mike Tolbert are expected to rotate early next season based on matchups and the hot hand. We suspect Mathews will start with Tolbert worked in for short-yardage and third downs. Mathews will be a high-risk bounceback candidate while constantly looking over his shoulder at Tolbert. … Free agent change-of-pace back Darren Sproles will be allowed to seek greener pastures on the open market. … GM A.J. Smith has found a way to keep Vincent Jackson in San Diego for one more season, applying the franchise tag last month. V-Jax is once again knocking on the door to WR1 status as Philip Rivers' top receiver. … The Bolts aim to keep Malcom Floyd, and he was tendered as a restricted free agent despite his five years of service. His freedom hinges on the CBA deal. … Antonio Gates avoided surgery on his painful plantar fascia injury, and he's expected to be healthy through rest and rehab by training camp. Gates had essentially lapped the field at tight end before the injury popped up at mid-season last year.

Chiefs: The Chiefs are expected to pick up Matt Cassel's $7.5 million option bonus this offseason after his 27:7 TD-to-INT ratio last year. Note that he was still just 26th in completion percentage (58.2) despite playing the league's softest pass defense schedule. He's not a fantasy starter. … Coach Todd Haley confirmed that Thomas Jones, owner of a 2.3 YPC over the final quarter of the season, will return at age 33 in 2011. … Haley has also considered making Dexter McCluster his designated third-down back. Don't let any of this scare you off Jamaal Charles, who is simply too talented to keep off the field. Charles will pick up early-down carries at Jones' expense and remains a top-six fantasy pick. With 2010 play-caller Charlie Weis out of the picture, Haley wants to run a "meat and potatoes" offense, relying on the ground game to compliment an improving defense. … After spending most of the 2010 season in the doghouse, Chris Chambers is expected to be released this summer. The Chiefs will look to the draft or free agency to find a starter opposite Dwayne Bowe. … NFL sack leader Tamba Hali was hit with the franchise tag.

Raiders: Cross QB of the Raiders' shopping list. Owner Al Davis and head coach Hue Jackson are moving on from Bruce Gradkowski, making it abundantly clear that Jason Campbell is the undisputed offensive leader for 2011. Gradkowski will sign elsewhere as a backup after being non-tendered. … Even after a February DWI arrest, free agent Michael Bush was tendered at the highest possible level (first- and third-round). There's some sentiment that Bush's free agency will be restricted regardless of the CBA outcome because he missed his first year in the NFL while recovering from a broken leg. The upshot is that Bush will likely return to Oakland as Darren McFadden's handcuff. … Hue Jackson stated emphatically that late-season star Jacoby Ford will become a bigger part of the offense in 2011. Ford should be the first Oakland receiver off the board in fantasy drafts this summer, return-yardage leagues or no. Ford posted as many combined receiving and rushing yards in the second half of his rookie year as Darrius Heyward-Bey has recorded in two full seasons. … Like Bush, free agent TE Zach Miller was tendered at the highest possible level. Unlike Bush, there's a good chance he will hit the open market if four-year veterans end up unrestricted. The Raiders are expected to do "everything in their power" to keep him.

Follow Chris Wesseling on Twitter.


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Chris Wesseling is a senior football editor and Dynasty league analyst for Rotoworld.com. The 2011 NFL season marks his fifth year with Rotoworld and his third year contributing to NBCSports.com. He can be found on Twitter @ChrisWesseling.
Email :Chris Wesseling



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