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2012 NFL Team Needs: AFC West

By: Roshan Bhagat

Denver Broncos: CB, S, DL depth ,QB, RB, TE, OL depth
In trying to improve the roster and working their way to an eventual Super Bowl run, the Broncos could really get there in one of two ways. The first, they can continue to master the low-scoring, ball-control games and see how Tim Tebow develops as a passer. Going this route, they will want to ensure teams don't come out of the game and march up and down the field putting points on the board and forcing the Broncos to become the wrong type of one-dimensional. To play this game, they'll need to shore up their secondary, which was dominated by New England in the postseason. Champ Bailey and Andre Goodman will both be 34 by the start of next season and while they have some depth behind them, it's not enough where they can compensate for a drop in production by either starter. At safety, Brian Dawkins is 38 and an unrestricted free agent. If he doesn't retire, they're still left with a situation in which their expected starter down the road, Rahim Moore, was benched early in the year for poor play. Up front, the defensive line will need to fill out and help Miller and Dumervil generate some pressure. The second route to the Super Bowl expects the offense to make big strides in putting points on the board. While this may come through Tim Tebow as well, they'll want to consider looking for alternatives in case his learning curve flattens and little progress is made in terms of moving the ball through the air. Perhaps adding a new school receiving tight end could help improve the combustibility of the offense. In any case, John Fox's preference will be to improve the talent and depth at running back and the Broncos' philosophy in building the offensive line requires spending one or two mid-late round picks to keep the unit high in potential and low in age.

Kansas City Chiefs: QB, NT, RT, C, RB depth, S, CB depth
At 29 years of age with 4 years of starting experience under his belt, Matt Cassel looks minimally better today than he did several years back and his marriage with the Chiefs appears to be nearing an end. With several options available in free agency and a couple more in the draft, this seems like the offseason to make a play for an upgrade at the position. If they can do just that, they should be a strong playoff contender with a number of key players returning from injury. Aside from quarterback play, if 2011 served any lesson to the organization, it's that they can't become too reliant on Jamaal Charles as the run game stalled without him. Making moves on the offensive line could also help lessen their reliance on Charles and boost the productivity of the run game. Even if the Chiefs decide to bring Richardson back, one of the worst starting right tackles a year ago, they will be certain to at least force him into competition to earn the job back this year. Inside, free agent center Casey Wiegmann will turn 39 before the start of the season and is likely to retire. On defense, the Chiefs have managed to field a competitive defense while lacking strong play from nose tackle. With the likely retirement of free agent Kelly Gregg, their options and production from the position will dwindle. In the secondary, Eric Berry's return will be a huge elevation for Romeo Crennel's defense. Next to him, Kendrick Lewis could be upgraded with the right player, but the options this offseason seem limited. At corner, the Chiefs' early signing of Stanford Routt won't diminish their interest in returning Brandon Carr, but rather provide insurance against the many teams that will look to steal him away. If he finds a richer contract elsewhere, it opens up another void on defense for the Chiefs.

Oakland Raiders: CB, OLB, OL Depth, TE Depth, RB depth, S
New General Manager Reggie McKenzie from the Green Bay Packers quickly began putting his Packers-esque stamp on the Raiders organization by releasing Stanford Routt to save some cap. A team that once seemed volatile and easy with the checkbook will have a far more conservative, even-keeled approach in the front office. That means this offseason and next, even players who received recent contract extensions aren't safe. After cutting Stanford Routt, the Raiders do expose a need at cornerback. Historically, this is a position Al Davis has hit several home runs on, and the new regime could sure use his help to get another one this year. At outside linebacker, the Raiders are expected to use $17 million on the combination of Kamerion Wimbley and Aaron Curry, which seems untenable. While the Raiders have no one waiting to take the position—a big reason they traded for Curry in the first place—the future cap space they gain by making moves at the position may be worth the gamble and short term loss. At safety, Michael Huff is another potential cap casualty, which would increase the need in the secondary. On offense, the Raiders are committed to Carson Palmer and seem to have a great corps of young, talented, speedy receivers. If they want to make him even happier, they could try to provide him with the vertical tight end he never had in Cincinnati. On the offensive line center Samson Satele and right tackle Khalif Barnes are free agents, while right guard Cooper Carlisle will be 35 before next season, making the unit a likely area of emphasis this offseason. At running back, Michael Bush may very well be searching for an expanded role as a free agent making depth behind the injury-prone Darren McFadden crucial.

San Diego Chargers: 3-4 OLB, OT, SS, WR, Interior OL, RB depth, DL depth
With so many expiring contracts, including those of 4 starters, the Chargers will be busy trying to retain their key players while trying to address changing positions of needs as free agency progresses. At left tackle, there's a decision to be made. If they release Marcus McNeill the Chargers will save $10 million, but they would have to ensure that back-up Jared Gaither, who played tremendously in his absence, would have at least a handshake agreement in place. Of course adding to the troubles are injury concerns for both players. At center, Nick Hardwick is a free agent and the guards on either side of him haven't shown anything special outside of small stretches. At wide receiver, the team decided not to use the franchise tag on Vincent Jackson making him a free agent. He will be heavily pursued and in the likely event he signs elsewhere, the Chargers better begin looking at other downfield threats they can find to keep their vertical offense thriving. In short yardage situations, free agent Mike Tolbert may be missed if he decides to look for more opportunities elsewhere and would increase the need for a back-up in San Diego. Defensively, the Chargers hold several needs that have been lingering for years. Finding a productive pass-rushing linebacker opposite Shaun Phillips will help alleviate some of the struggles the secondary had a year ago. Meanwhile at strong safety, the Chargers really haven't had a great player since they allowed Rodney Harrison to leave nearly a decade ago. Fortunately Eric Weddle really stepped up his game at free safety a year ago. At nose tackle, Antonio Garay took a step backward a year ago and is currently a free agent. Besides potentially replacing him, depth up front will certainly help.

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