AFC WEST: HOT NEWS

Notes from around the division on free-agent players, new coaches, surgeries and keys to success for certain teams, as we compile Hot News from around the AFC West.


The San Diego Chargers:

Injuries don't help contract status

One thing going for the Chargers, who are an estimated $2 million over the cap, is they don't have any front-line players to hassle with regarding free agency. The only key player is left tackle Damion McIntosh, and his leverage is dampened by him missing a chunk of games late last year with an ankle injury, and him being only a restricted free agent.

Move would still be risky

There's been talk of moving demoted free safety Rogers Beckett to strong safety. That scenario might play out if Rodney Harrison isn't retained. But Beckett has hardly been stellar in his secondary play.

Two arguments for not returning

At safety, the team has to decide if Rodney Harrison is worth bringing back -- especially at a $4.3 million cap number and especially if the Chargers decide to stay in their cover-2 scheme which robs Harrison of playing close to the line to give solid run support. He's not much of a floater, which the team is looking for at this spot if they stay with the zone look.

Flutie restructures

Doug Flutie has restructured his contract to stay with the Chargers thus ending any speculation that he would go on to play in the CFL with his brother. He had been scheduled to make $4.5 million in 2003. He will now have a guaranteed base salary of $655K with a $500K roster bonus next month. An additional $345K bonus will be given to Flutie if he's on the roster when the regular season begins. A total of $15. million will be on tap for Flutie should he make the opening day roster. The total cap savings amounts to around $3 million, putting the Chargers under the cap. More restructuring to come...

Not against trading down

Chargers General Manager John Butler is not against trading down from the 15th spot in the Draft if he feels the player he wants will not be a good value at that spot, or that he can gain valuable picks. Several teams, including the New York Giants, are thought to be considering trading up. Butler has proven he is not shy...just look at his trade down from the #1 overall spot with Michael Vick on the line

Expected to be fine by May

Linebacker Junior Seau had his ankle surgery, and according to the club it was of the arthroscopic variety. He might be restricted in the May minicamp, but is expected to be fit for July's training camp.

Return anything but certain

The corners, Ryan McNeil and Alex Molden, are hardly locks to return. McNeil is starting to show his age, and he could be moved to safety. Molden rebounded from a dismal 2001 season, but he could be on shaky ground as well.

Married to practice

"I'll be practicing on a Thursday in Tampa. I'll be flying back to Sacramento on Friday for the rehearsal. I get married Saturday (March 1) and fly back to Tampa at noon on Sunday."

I am sure his fiance is ecstatic (she should be since she will spend the spring in Spain). This is the opportunity Burford can capitalize on as he will be practicing for the Barcelona Dragons of NFL Europe.

Video of each NFL Europe game is made available to every NFL team. These are the scouts who search the waiver wire and practice squads in search of that one potential gem. These games are worth as much as college was in weighing the future of a prospect.

"Guys are going over there to try to get noticed," Burford said. "If you can perform, they're going to see what you can do. But if I do well over there, I still have to do well over here. It's an opportunity to improve. It's a chance to play."

Marty on Burford

San Diego Chargers Head Coach Marty Schottenheimer spoke in an excited tone on Seth Burford going to play in NFL Europe this offseason. "I think at the quarterback position, more than any other, the only way to get better is to go do it. I'm excited about the fact that he's going to get a chance to play quite a bit."

"He has a very strong arm, as we know," Schottenheimer said. "The accuracy isn't quite where he needs to be. But as he gets more experience, he should get more accuracy.

"The quality that stands out about him that will give him the chance to develop is his intelligence. He's a very bright guy, a very diligent guy."

The Kansas City Chiefs

Knee scope

Rookie FB Omar Easy will have a knee scoped.

Needs surgery

Reserve offensive tackle Marcus Spears needs some chips on his elbow removed.

Contract a complex dilemma

The NFL's most productive all-purpose running back over the course of his two seasons in Kansas City, Priest Holmes has three years remaining on the five-year, $8 million deal he signed upon joining the Chiefs in April of 2001 That was, of course, before he amassed 5,456 total yards over the past two seasons, including last year's when he was named the league's Offensive Player of the Year. Holmes says he'd like a new contract, and the Chiefs know he deserves one.

"I know this is a game of production and results," Holmes said. "Long before I started playing this game, the rules were already written. I know there's a certain way you do things, and if a guy is performing, there's a certain respect you show him.

"You have to show that you're a team that's going to pay a guy so you'll have more guys wanting to improve and play at the top of their game so they can get paid."

Complicating this decision is the status of Holmes' injured hip, which kept him out of the season's final two games and cost him his chance at a couple of NFL records (for total yards from scrimmage and total touchdowns). Even Holmes acknowledges that his injury -- which both he and the team say involves only the tissue around the hip, as opposed to the ball and socket of the joint -- has been slow to heal. But he and the team also remain confident that the injury will heal over time without surgery. But, is this the time for the Chiefs to offer Holmes the new contract he and they know he deserves?

Will Holmes return to his full ability after the injury? How many more hits can he take after carrying the ball 772 times (as a runner or receiver) over the past two years alone? Don't forget, Holmes has had two major knee injuries in his past at the University of Texas and with Baltimore. It's a complex issue the Chiefs must address, and it likely will have to be settled before the Chiefs know what they'll have available for defensive free agents.

Team eager to re-do contract

The Chiefs' next big offseason issue involves quarterback Trent Green. He's due to receive an $8 million roster bonus in March, and the Chiefs are anxious to change that in a signing bonus they can prorate over the course of a new contract. They want Green as their QB next year, and Green wants to stay, so look for this deal to get done.

Candidate to be cut

Duane Clemons has been the starter on the right end of the defensive line for three season, where he has continued to be a disappointment. Clemons is due to receive a $3.5 million roster bonus and another $3.5 million in salary next season. However, if he were to be cut, Clemons would only count about $2 million against the cap.

The Oakland Raiders

Tampa might be option

Free agent RB Randy Jordan is a special teams captain who probably won't garner a lot of interes on the market, unless it is by Jon Gruden in Tampa.

Specialist might not be hot commodity

Free agent RB Zack Crockett is a reserve the club molded into a touchdown producer but may inspire little outside interest.

Ready to test the waters?

RB Tyrone Wheatley may want to test the free agent waters for a starting spot elsewhere and the Raiders may allow him to do so before making an offer.

Re-signing could prove difficult

RG Mo Collins has been injury-prone the last two years but has been a force when healthy. The Raiders would like to keep him but may be unwilling or unable financially to go to the wall to sign him.

Team not ready to address future

According to his agent, center Barret Robbins remains hospitalized in the aftermath of a relapse from bi-polar syndrome that resulted in his dismissal from the team the day of the Super Bowl. "It's a tough situation," coach Bill Callahan said. "There's ongoing dialogue and conversation with his wife and his family. I feel terrible in a lot of respects for the situation and very disappointed, as I am sure Barret is." The team continues to avoid specifics of the case, citing privacy issues. Callahan's only comments, aside from detailing the timing of his decision, was to state that Robbins' return in 2003 was "viable." He denied one report that said he had wanted to bench Robbins in weeks leading up to the Super Bowl. "That is totally false," he said. As for comments by teammates that they didn't know if they could play with him in the future, Callahan said "let's just wait and see what happens ... in the off-season. Let's see what happens in Barret's life. I don't want to pass judgment on any individual right now. I don't think that's right."

Hot News compiled from ChargersUpdate.com, ChiefsInsider.com, Silver & Black Illustrated Online.


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