Before Tuesday, a gap existed between the Broncos and Chiefs. On Tuesday, that gap widened.
The Broncos added safety T.J. Ward and, in one of the biggest surprises of the day, cornerback Aqib Talib. While the Broncos saw guard Zane Beadles leave for Jacksonville and likely will lose linebacker Wesley Woodyard (who lost his starting job in the middle last season), those aren’t major departures. Likewise, the Broncos realize receiver Eric Decker won’t be back; with Demaryius Thomas and Julius Thomas in their contract years, it makes no sense to pay all three.
In Kansas City, that sign in the photo may have been taken a bit too literally.
Five players ran for the exits in the first 90 minutes of free agency. Gone are three offensive linemen: left tackle Branden Albert, guard Geoff Schwartz, and guard Jon Asamoah. Receiver/punt returner Dexter McCluster took off for Tennessee. On defense, end Tyson Jackson went to Atlanta, likely lured in part by Falcons assistant G.M. Scott Pioli, who made Jackson the third overall pick in the 2009 draft.
The Chiefs have kept in recent days linebacker Frank Zombo and safety Husain Abdullah.
While the loss of Asamoah and Schwartz essentially amount to losing one full-time player, since they essentially shared the right guard job last year, the Chiefs now must find a way to replace both players and, more importantly, their long-time left tackle. Tackle Eric Fisher became the first overall pick in the 2013 draft under the apparent assumption that he’d succeed Albert. Based on Fisher’s struggles last year and the performance of Donald Stephenson in place of Albert, Fisher may stay on the right side.
With the Raiders making a big push to improve their overmatched roster and the Chargers doing what they can with the cap space they have, the Chiefs may have to worry less about catching Denver in 2014 — and more about being caught by San Diego and Oakland.