Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Kevin Roberts of Fantasy Football Overdose. You can follow the Fantasy Football Overdose Google+ Page, and for more on Denver Broncos stats, news and rumors visit Fantasy Football Overdose.
Ranking the Top 10 AFC West Free Agents
The 2014 NFL Free Agency period is already alive and well, as many teams have cut loose some big name players or re-signed key players, while other players have already latched on with new teams.
There is still a lot of work to be done on the open market for the AFC West teams, especially if the San Diego Chargers, Oakland Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs are serious about closing the gap between themselves and the Denver Broncos.
Denver will be getting Peyton Manning back in 2014 thanks to a successful March neck exam, but they could look a little different with some key free agents potentially jetting for more cash elsewhere. They’re not the only team that could lose some big name talent, though, so let’s take a look at the collective free agency talent in the AFC West this offseason:
1. Jared Veldheer, OT, Oakland Raiders
An elite tackle in his prime, Veldheer is without a doubt the top available AFC West player on the open market. Brandon Albert will give him a run for his money, but Veldheer is the better pure talent. He’d be doing himself a huge favor by getting out of Oakland. He’ll be getting paid no matter where he goes. Anyone looking for tackle help will show interest.
2. Branden Albert, OT, Kansas City Chiefs
A stud right tackle who is just as good on the left side of the line, Albert is barely behind Veldheer to take the number two spot in our AFC West free agency rankings. Albert has gone under appreciated for far too long and will be seeking big money on the open market. The Miami Dolphins have had their sights on him for over a year now and are arguably the leading candidate for his services. He’s not expected back with the Chiefs.
3. Eric Decker, WR, Denver Broncos
Decker didn’t top the list, but he’s easily the sexiest name and will make a huge impact wherever he lands in 2014. After two straight studly seasons with over 80+ receptions, 1,000+ receiving yards and 10+ touchdowns, he’s priced himself out of Denver as a true number one receiver candidate. The Broncos already have Demaryius Thomas and need to worry about keeping him around beyond next year, so Decker will end up being a casualty of making that happen.
That may keep Decker from playing for a Super Bowl again in 2014, but at least he’ll get paid like a champ and will have an even bigger role than he’s grown accustomed to. There have been whispers that the Indianapolis Colts are interested in nabbing Decker as a long-term replacement for the aging and injured Reggie Wayne, while a slew of wide receiver-needy teams will be willing to pay for his services.The St. Louis Rams, New York Jets, Baltimore Ravens and Carolina Panthers are just four of the many teams that should express interest.
While some don’t view Decker as a true number one wide receiver, he’s at worst a high-end #2 option. As long as the team he’s going to has some decent talent around him and a competent quarterback, he’ll do just fine. He’s blessed with good size, underrated speed and solid ball skills.
4. Geoff Schwartz, OG, Kansas City Chiefs
Kansas City will let Albert walk but they need to make sure they keep Schwartz. Guards don’t normally make it rain when it comes to money and they usually can be replaced, but Schwartz is an elite guard worth paying for.
5. Lamarr Houston, DE, Oakland Raiders
Houston is versatile enough to play in a 4-3 or 3-4 and is coming off an excellent season in Oakland where he tallied six sacks and registered 69 tackles. He won’t be on the open market for long.
6. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, CB, Denver Broncos
Rodgers-Cromartie has always been an elite talent that struggled with consistency, but he seemed to put it all together in 2013 with the Broncos. A lot of that could be that he was in a contract year, but the talent is absolutely there for him to continue playing well in the right system. For a certain price, of course. Teams looking for corner help like the San Diego Chargers and Detroit Lions could show interest, while a return to Denver certainly shouldn’t be ruled out.
7. Knowshon Moreno, RB, Denver Broncos
Moreno is in his prime and is coming off easily his best season in Denver, but it’s at least a little troubling that it happened in a contract year. Moreno has struggled to stay healthy or produce consistently throughout his career and isn’t an overly special talent to begin with. Anyone considering signing him will have to hope his 2013 season wasn’t a fluke.
8. Darren McFadden, RB, Oakland Raiders
Run DMC is easily one of the best pure talents out on the open market, but he’s never played more than 13 games in a season and has especially struggled the past two seasons. He’s still immensely talented, though, so he won’t have much trouble finding a new team in 2014. The only question is what the price tag will be. The Cincinnati Bengals are the only team that has been tied to McFadden so far, but numerous teams should express interest – especially if McFadden doesn’t try to break the bank.
9. Rashad Jennings, RB, Oakland Raiders
Jennings is older than McFadden and has less upside, but he’s actually the one that is more likely to return to Oakland in 2014. Whether he does or not at all remains to be seen, but someone will pay to land him after a very productive 2013 season showed he still has something left in the tank.
10. Shaun Phillips, DE, Denver Broncos
Phillips is 33 and could easily hit a wall in 2014, but he’s coming off an effective season in which he registered 10 sacks. He’s a hybrid pass-rusher who can slide into most schemes, but teams will want to be careful they don’t pay too much for a player that could quickly decline.
Kansas City’s Dexter McCluster is a versatile weapon that should be snatched up quickly, while recently released Denver corner Champ Bailey offers veteran experience and leadership to the right suitor – probably a legit Super Bowl contender.