AFC NOTES: Chargers GM sees Steelers, seethes

The Scout network has sent SteelCityInsider.com a mountain of information about each NFL team written by beat writers in each NFL market. We condensed the info with fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers in mind. Following is one of four stories:

Chargers general manager A.J. Smith is still burning over his team failing to make the playoffs for the ninth time in the last 10 years, especially after seeing the Pittsburgh Steelers, a team the Chargers nearly beat during the regular season, win it all.

"I'm extremely disappointed that, as talented as we are, this football team wasn't given the opportunity to get into the postseason and make a run for it."

The Chargers believe this could be their year. They expect QB Drew Brees to make his first throw off an injured throwing shoulder in May. Brees's torn labrum was repaired and the team is hopefulhe'll be full strength by July's training camp.

"I'm ahead of schedule," said Brees, "but I still probably won't start throwing until May," he said.

Backup QB Philip Rivers, the subject of countless trade rumors, isn't going anywhere. "I don't know how many times I have to say it, we aren't trading Philip Rivers," Smith stressed.

The Chargers will also jump into the free-agent market. They're eyeballing Saints C LeCharles Bentley, who's fond of offensive line coach Jack Henry, who was hired by the Chargers after working last year with Bentley in New Orleans.

INTERESTING UFA

--WR Reche Caldwell has never lived up to his second-round drafting status, instead failing to produce on a consistent basis - like many University of Florida wide outs who came before him. He's not expected back.

DENVER BRONCOS

INTERESTING UFAs

--RB Ron Dayne fits the Broncos' offense well, he just didn't get many opportunities because Mike Anderson and Tatum Bell were ahead of him. Denver would like him back.

--T Matt Lepsis doesn't get a lot of recognition but he is a top left tackle. The Broncos want him back.

--DT Gerard Warren had a good first year in Denver, but will get interest on the open market. The Broncos want him back but Warren's price tag could get high.

--S Chris Young was injured last season, but he was a promising player and could return.

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

INTERESTING UFAs

--S William Bartee showed promise in his transition from CB to safety last year and could return for the right low-dollar price.

--QB Damon Huard probably lost his No. 3 spot when the Chiefs lured promising youngster Casey Printers out of Canada.

--LB Gary Stills' special teams stock fell as KC's special teams performance did in both returns and coverage last year. The Chiefs were bad on both ends.

--FB Tony Richardson seems ready to return at age 34. He's not the offensive threat he once was, but his blocking and calming influence on Larry Johnson remain big reasons to bring him back.

MEDICAL WATCH: The Chiefs are waiting to hear from Priest Holmes after his latest consultations with neurological specialists whose advice will go a long way in Holmes decision about whether to return -- initially as a backup to Larry Johnson -- from the head and neck injuries that cut his '06 season in half.

OAKLAND RAIDERS

The Raiders announced the hiring of head coach Art Shell the night before a Saturday press conference, and only one Raiders player showed up.

At least 20 players had secured passes that day for the Pebble Beach Pro-Am. That, coupled with the fact that many live out of the area during the offseason, made for a disappointing turnout.

Linebacker Kirk Morrison, who grew up and went to high school in Oakland, was the only Oakland player to attend the press conference.

INTERESTING UFAs

--CB Charles Woodson believes he is worthy of Champ Bailey money, and he should get the chance to find out if he's right.

--S Jarrod Cooper proved he could play safety in a reserve role in addition to his considerable abilities as a special teams player and team energy source. Desperately wants to return, the Raiders will likely grant his wish.

--RB Omar Easy is strictly a special teams player who provided no depth as a running back.

--DE-LB Grant Irons was miscast as a starting outside linebacker in training camp but had troubles in pass coverage. Used in goal line situations in regular season.

--LB-DE DeLawrence Grant has been a classic tweener who has not distinguished himself either as a 4-3 end or a 3-4 outside linebacker.

--S-CB Renaldo Hill was a pleasant surprise as a starter, as Oakland used the nickel as its primary alignment. He wants to return and presumably the Raiders want him back.

--S Reggie Tongue was signed Nov. 2 and on injured reserve with a knee injury Nov. 29, but in those 27 days moved had moved into the dime rotation.

--DT Terdell Sands is a huge nose tackle with a funny name.

MEDICAL WATCH: The club reports DT Warren Sapp (rotator cuff surgery) and WR Ronald Curry (Achilles' tear) are making progress, with Sapp likely to be ready to go at training camp.

BUFFALO BILLS

New coach Dick Jauron hopes to have a starting quarterback picked between veteran Kelly Holcomb and third-year pro J.P. Losman before training camp opens in July.

INTERESTING UFAs

--CB Nate Clements wants to be NFL's highest paid corner but did not have a great year. Someone will overpay for him, but not Buffalo, which is OK with slapping the franchise tag on him.

--DE Ryan Denney came on with four sacks this season but that's not worth big money.

--WR Josh Reed rebounded with a good season and is worth retaining as a No. 3 or 4.

MEDICAL WATCH: LB Takeo Spikes (Achilles' tendon), is shooting to be ready for summer training camp.

MIAMI DOLPHINS

INTERESTING UFAs

--OT Stockar McDougle went from a preseason starter to a seldom-used reserve because of a penchant for penalties and mental mistakes.

--RB Sammy Morris is one of the team's most valuable backups because of his special teams contributions and ability to play both running back positions.

--FS Lance Schulters is hoping for a nice raise after a nice season (76 tackles, four interceptions).

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

Jets UFA CB Ty Law has talked about eventually switching to safety, which would make him a perfect fit for a reunion with the Patriots. However, Law wants more lucrative cornerback money right now, and the team is unlikely to pay him what he says he wants.

INTERESTING UFAs

--OT Tom Ashworth is a valuable swingman who has seen most of his action on the right side but filled in at LT for three games, including the playoff loss in Denver.

--WR Troy Brown turns 35 in July and might retire. He is no longer is the player who caught 97 passes in 2002, but he's still a pro's pro who again filled in at CB in a pinch last season.

--WR Andre' Davis caught only 9 passes after being acquired in a trade with Cleveland. Still, he's got speed, and the Patriots' cupboard is looking bare at receiver.

--TE Christian Fauria didn't have a catch until Dan Graham got banged up in the second half of the season. As the third option behind Graham and Benjamin Watson he's in danger of being replaced by someone younger and cheaper.

--WR David Givens is a star in the Patriots' no-star system. Re-signing him is the No. 1 priority, but he might price himself out of the Pats' picture.

--RG Stephen Neal, a former NCAA champion wrestler, has made great strides after not playing college football. He could command serious interest from other clubs.

--CB Hank Poteat, an in-season acquisition each of the last two years, was quietly effective. Should compete for a backup spot.

--CB Chad Scott drew rave reviews from coach Bill Belichick in training camp but got hurt early and was a non-factor. Veteran has little bargaining power and should return.

--SS Michael Stone shared the job with Hawkins. His special teams work makes him attractive, but there won't be a bidding war for his services.

--K Adam Vinatieri is too valuable to let get away. He could be franchised again.

MEDICAL WATCH: QB Tom Brady (sports hernia) is the only player known to be facing offseason surgery. DE Richard Seymour said the knee pain that led him to skip the Pro Bowl will not require an operation. SS Rodney Harrison continues to rehab his major knee injury, although there is no timetable for his return.

NEW YORK JETS

The Jets have asked Pennington to take an $8 million pay cut for 2006. However, Pennington would have the chance to earn much of the money back with incentive bonuses, but not all of it.

Pennington, 29, has undergone rotator cuff surgery twice since Feb. 2005, and the player whom the Jets once considered their franchise quarterback for years to come has turned into an injury-plagued question mark. The quarterback signed an eight-year, $64 million contract in 2003.

Pennington is set to make a $6 million base salary in 2006, as well as a $3 million roster bonus on March 3. The club wants to reduce his base salary to $1 million.

If Pennington doesn't agree, the Jets could release him, and take a $12 million salary-cap hit for the 2006 season. That is unlikely to happen.

INTERESTING UFAs

--CB Ty Law will leave after his one-year stint with the Jets, according to published reports. Law, who led the NFL with 10 interceptions but also led the Jets with 10 penalties, most of them from illegal contact, is unwilling to restructure his contract, which calls for an $11 million roster bonus in March.

Possible landing spots for the soon-to-be-former Jet include his old team, New England, as well as Kansas City. Law apparently enjoyed new Kansas City coach Herm Edwards' laissez-faire approach, which allowed the veteran Law often to skip meetings.

--DE John Abraham likely won't be back. The question is whether the Jets franchise him and then trade him, or if they just let him walk. He will leave a big hole on the defensive line.

MEDICAL WATCH: Curtis Martin is rehabbing from knee surgery and should be ready for training camp and will likely have reduced role in 2006. … C Kevin Mawae is rehabbing from biceps injury. He should be ready for training camp, although he also could be released.

HOUSTON TEXANS

Last week, the Texans exercised a three-year, $8 million option on Carr. They talked about how they believe he is the quarterback that can take them to the Super Bowl. And while owner Bob McNair hardly sounded like an owner shopping for a new quarterback, McNair made it clear the Texans were still looking carefully at Vince Young.

The Texans are also still looking closely at running back Reggie Bush. During next week's National Football Combine in Indianapolis, they also plan to start hearing from a number of teams hoping to make a trade for the No. 1 pick.

INTERESTING UFAs

--SS Ramon Walker is a playmaker on special teams and a solid backup at safety. He will likely return to provide depth.

--RB Jonathan Wells would be the Texans' biggest priority if Reggie Bush were not on their draft board. Wells will likely command more playing time and more money elsewhere, but if the Texans decide against drafting Bush they will make a run for him. He was one of their most valuable and versatile players last season. INTERESTING RFA

--LB Antwan Peek is very much a part of the Texans' future. He will likely switch to defensive end and focus on rushing the passer.

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS

:INTERESTING UFAs

--WR Reggie Wayne will probably be given the franchise tag if a long-term deal can't work worked out. Team president Bill Polian says that Wayne isn't going anywhere.

--RB Edgerrin James will probably not be brought back, although a final decision has yet to be made on his future with the team.

--DE Raheem Brock has proven to be a valuable and versatile player as he can play both outside and inside, is expected to return.

--S Joseph Jefferson has displayed loads of potential as both a cornerback and safety but has been continually bothered by nagging injuries every year. The Colts' patience may be running thin.

--RB James Mungro has been a fairly dependable short-yardage and goal-line runner when called upon. Will probably return next season.

--LB David Thornton was moved from weak-side to strong-side linebacker prior to the 2005 season. Team officials may decide to let him test the free agent market.

--DT Larry Tripplett had his best season in 2005 after dropping weight and showing improved quickness off the ball. Likely to return next season.

--PK Mike Vanderjagt has had his run-ins with the Colts front office the past couple of seasons and his missed 46-yard field goal against Pittsburgh in the playoffs may not have helped his standing with team officials.

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS

Jimmy Smith led the league in third and long receptions. He had 16 receptions in third and long (eight yards or longer) for 263 yards and a 16.4 average. Three other players, Erron Kinney of the Titans, Chester Taylor of the Ravens and Plaxico Burress of the Giants, were tied for second with 15.

INTERESTING UFAs

--S Deke Cooper is a backup who'll be signed for the right price.

--LT Mike Pearson hasn't recovered from a severe 2004 knee injury and is expendable.

TENNESSEE TITANS

The four-year deal signed by DE Kyle Vanden Bosch is worth roughly $22million, including $14.5 million guaranteed, including a $4.75 million signing bonus. His base salary in 2006 will be about $2.8 million.

INTERESTING UFA

--S Tank Williams had a poor year coming of knee surgery, they have to at least consider an alternative.


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