Dwight Freeney signed with the first team that got desperate enough to meet his financial demands. (Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports)

Mile High Monday: Keeping Up With The Joneses in the AFC West

It looks like the other teams in the AFC West are tired of seeing the Denver Broncos make all the splashes.

Dwight Freeney was signed by the San Diego Chargers over the weekend after losing Melvin Ingram for the season due to injury, and the Oakland Raiders have surprisingly jumped into the Charles Woodson hunt.

Previously it has been the Broncos making the most noise in free agency and the draft and they’ve been established as a favorite to win the AFC and the Super Bowl.

Denver showed last season they’re only a couple of pieces away from winning a championship. They were also in pretty good shape in regards to the salary cap when the offseason started. A team like that can afford to be aggressive in free agency and it can be good strategy.

But when you’re in financial purgatory like the Raiders, or if you’re more like 11 players away rather than one like the Chargers, spending big in free agency can end up hurting more than it helps.

In the Chargers’ case they were desperate and it showed with Freeney’s contract numbers. They have a lot of holes on their roster but the loss of Ingram meant they didn’t have a single legitimate pass rusher. They absolutely had to get one of the few big-name defensive ends left in the free agent market.

Considering the Chargers have one of the worst offensive lines in the league, seeing them spend a maximum of $13.35 million over two years on an old defensive end is good news for the rest of the division. Not to mention the Chargers will have to adjust their defensive scheme to accommodate him since he doesn’t fit well in a 3-4 alignment.

It also makes the one-year $1.4 million deal the Broncos gave ex-Charger Shaun Phillips look like an absolute steal. It will be interesting to see whether Phillips or Freeney ends up with more sacks in 2013.

As far as the Raiders go they need to do something to give their fans hope. But bringing Woodson to Oakland wouldn’t do much in terms of wins and losses. This year is a complete bust for them regardless of what they do before the start of the season and their front office knows it. A big name would give their fans something to cheer about and a reason to get dressed up like clowns on Sundays.

Woodson would bring value for sure, but Oakland is looking way beyond the one or two years he has left in the league. Other than to mentor the young guys he wouldn’t make a meaningful impact on the big picture. It just doesn’t seem that a stud like Woodson would be okay with that. It’s hard to imagine a scenario where he would choose to languish through a 2 to 4 win season when his career is coming to a close.

Even though Woodson may make a visit to Oakland tomorrow it’s highly doubtful he ends up there. The Raiders don’t have much money to spend and they certainly can’t give him the chance to compete for a Super Bowl. This looks like an obvious leverage tactic by the Woodson camp. They’re using the Raiders to get every last drop of cash they can out of a good team.

Odds are that Woodson will end up with a contender, and my guess is he’ll sign exactly where he’s wanted to sign all along; in Denver. He just wants John Elway to open that wallet a little bit wider before he does so.

With a club like the Denver Broncos living on the block teams will do almost anything to keep up, even if they’re just covering up crumbling houses with layers of paint.

The recent developments show that the rest of the division is pulling out all the stops. And at the very least they want to their fan bases to see they’re giving it a try. A lot of things come down to image in the NFL and these moves provide the right image.

Unfortunately for them any image they project won’t make a bit of difference. The Broncos have the AFC West locked down until Peyton Manning hangs up his cleats.

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Tags: Charles Woodson Denver Broncos Dwight Freeney John Elway Mile High Monday Oakland Raiders Peyton Manning San Diego Chargers Shaun Phillips

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