Two of the biggest names on the free agent market -- cornerback Ty Law and linebacker Peter Boulware -- are still available because of injury concerns.
Free agent such as linebackers Ed Hartwell (Atlanta) and Antonio Pierce (Giants) and cornerback Ken Lucas (Carolina) could prove to be difference-makers, but TRULY desperate teams went a rare rout in the NFL -- the trade.
Few teams were in more dire need of a defensive overhaul than Oakland and Kansas City. The Raiders finished 30th in total defense last season and the Chiefs 31st, and both were ranked in the bottom four in scoring defense, each allowing more than 27 points per game.
The Chiefs used the free agency route to improve their overall talent, signing linebacker Kendrell Bell, end Carlos Hall and safety Sammy Knight, and used a first-round pick on linebacker Derrick Johnson. But it was the second-round draft pick they sent to Miami in exchange for top-level cornerback Patrick Surtain that was their biggest splash of the offseason.
The Raiders failed to land much in free agency outside of end Derrick Burgess, and then used the trade rout to shuttle a pair of former first-round draft picks out of town in cornerback Phillip Buchanon and linebacker Napoleon Harris. Perhaps the theory of addition by subtraction will serve the Raiders well as Buchanon was a headache in the locker room and Harris had become an injury-prone underachiever in the eyes of many.
The Raiders have opted to go the speed route, using their first two draft picks on cornerbacks Fabian Washington and Stanford Routt. But Oakland is pinning its hopes on a second year under defensive coordinator Rob Ryan making the players more comfortable and a big free agent season from cornerback Charles Woodson.
"Teams that think they know what the Raider defense is all about (based on last year) have got a big surprise coming," said Stuart Schweigert, who is expected to take over for Ray Buchanan at free safety. "We know what we're doing now. Last year, we didn't."
And really, the Raiders defense shouldn't need to be more than decent, considering they expect to score points by the truckload with wide receiver Randy Moss and running back LaMont Jordan joining an already explosive offense.
Denver Broncos running back Quentin Griffin is a long way from where he was at the start of training camp last year, when he was the team's starting tailback.
Griffin started last season with a 156-yard game against Kansas City. Four weeks later he had lost his starting job, and in Week 7 he tore the ACL and meniscus in his right knee, ending his season.
After months of rehab, Griffin is ready to compete again.
"You'll see what I'm made of in a little bit," Griffin said. "I'm either going to lay down or I'm going to triumph over this injury."
Griffin was limited in Denver's offseason camps until the team's early July minicamp, when he was able to participate in every drill.
Griffin's strength as a runner is his ability to cut, which makes the major knee injury he suffered a concern. Even he admitted that he didn't know how the injury would affect him long term.
"That question plagues me all the time," Griffin said. "Every day I think I'm getting a little bit better. I'm stopping, I'm starting (while running the ball), that's what I do. If I don't do that, maybe (the media) can get me a job."
Griffin worked as the third-team tailback in the July minicamp, behind Mike Anderson and Tatum Bell and ahead of Ron Dayne and Maurice Clarett. Although he is an underdog to reclaim his starting spot, he said he thinks he can be Denver's starting tailback once again.
"I do," Griffin said. "And I think that's what counts."
-- Punter Todd Sauerbrun reported to the team's minicamp after agreeing to a restructured deal. He didn't attend the team's June camp because of a contract dispute after he was traded from Carolina to Denver.
Sauerbrun, who has stirred up plenty of controversy in his career, has let it be known he has no interest in talking to the Denver media.
"I've got no comment, guys, I'm sorry," Sauerbrun said after his first day of practice. "I'm happy to be here, that's all."
-- Denver was the only team to hold a minicamp in July. Some players liked the idea, but others were wary because the minicamp was so close to the start of training camp.
"It's hard with camp 20 days away," defensive end Trevor Pryce said. "It's pretty hard."
-- Defensive coordinator Larry Coyer has given up his dual role of coaching linebackers, which he has done since 2000. Kirk Doll will coach the linebackers this season. Coyer will oversee the entire defense during practice.
"I think the time was right for the new approach," Coyer said. "There were times a year ago when I felt like I might have cheated the linebackers a little bit trying to do both jobs."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "You'll know when I'm back. You'll see it." -- RB Quentin Griffin, who is returning from knee surgery.