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Chiefs face tough free-agent choices before making No.1 pick

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Associated Press
2/21/2013 7:41:33 PM
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INDIANAPOLIS -- The Kansas City Chiefs are still deciding what do with receiver Dwayne Bowe and left tackle Branden Albert and it could have an impact on how they use the No. 1 pick in April's draft.

Bowe and Albert could both become free agents next month. And with a top-heavy class of offensive linemen available, including Luke Joeckel of Texas A&M, what the Chiefs do over the next two weeks could dictate how the draft falls.

"I did have a chance to look at him, and I'll tell you, he's a pretty good football player," Chiefs coach Andy Reid said of Joeckel. "I haven't had an opportunity to meet him. I look forward to having that opportunity."

Bowe played in only 13 games last season because of injuries, but he still had 59 catches for 801 yards and three touchdowns. The former first-round draft pick has been the Chiefs' top wide receiver almost since his arrival, catching 415 passes over the past six seasons.

Last season, the Chiefs kept him with the franchise tag. When the two sides couldn't work out a long-term deal, Bowe refused to report to the team until midway through training camp.

Reid said Thursday at the NFL's annual scouting combine that no decision has been made on Bowe, though it appears franchising him again is a possibility if they can't sign him to a new deal. The only other option is to let him test the free-agent market.

"We are going through that right now," Reid said. "Free agency kicks off here in a little bit (March 12) and we will see what happens before free agency. The main thing is, there is communication there and we'll just see how it works out over the next few weeks."

The bigger question might be what the Chiefs will do with Albert. He was limited to 11 starts last season because of a back injury and has only played in 16 games once in the last five seasons. But he recently travelled to Kansas City to undergo a physical, and Reid said the team is still discussing his situation.

"I had him in because he had a fairly significant injury, so we've kind of got to work through that," Reid said. "Our doctors were able to evaluate him, we're talking through it and we'll kind of reconvene after we're done with this week down here."

Another option would be trading out of the No. 1 pick, something Reid did not discount.

"We're going to evaluate everything," he said. "We're just not going to give it away, so we'd have to see what people throw our way. It's a pretty valuable pick."

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PEY-OFF: Broncos coach John Fox dropped some bad news on the rest of the league Thursday when he said Peyton Manning could be even better in 2013 than he was in 2012.

The reasoning is simple. A year ago, as Manning worked out at Duke, he was still trying to regain strength in his right arm after multiple surgeries to repair nerve damage in his neck. Now Manning will have another off-season to recover, another off-season to fine-tune the Denver offence and work with teammates.

"The reality was that it was a nerve situation and it takes the nerves a while to grow," Fox said. "He is getting better every day and health-wise I believe he will be even better next year."

Whether that translates to better numbers on the field is the great unknown.

The only four-time MVP in league history was the runner-up in that category to Adrian Peterson, but still came away with the Comeback Player of the Year award after throwing for 4,679 yards, 37 touchdowns and just 11 interceptions. He led the Broncos to the AFC's best record (13-3) but again lost in the playoffs, to eventual champion Baltimore.

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TRADE TALK: San Francisco general manager Trent Baalke did nothing to dissuade talk about a possible Alex Smith trade.

The obvious predicament the 49ers face this off-season has Colin Kaepernick firmly entrenched as the starter, and Smith, the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2005, serving as an expensive backup. San Francisco would like to keep both, but might not be able to afford it.

"I can't say enough good things about him (Smith), he is a pro's pro. I have great respect for him and his family and we're going to do everything in our power to make the best decision for everyone involved," Baalke said, explaining that he, Smith and Smith's wife had dinner a couple days after the Super Bowl. "Trading him is a possibility, but we don't know for sure yet."

The debate over Smith's future has raged since coach Jim Harbaugh changed quarterbacks late last season, moving Kaepernick, who led the 49ers to the Super Bowl, ahead of Smith, who led San Francisco to the NFC title game after the 2011 season.

Smith's actions seem to suggest his career is over in the Bay Area. When the 49ers returned home from the loss to Baltimore, Smith packed up his locker room belongings, including a game ball from San Francisco's season-opening win at Green Bay, and did not speak to reporters.

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QUOTE OF THE DAY: When Lions coach Jim Schwartz was asked about the concern over BYU defensive lineman Ezekiel "Ziggy" Ansah's practice habits, Schwartz answered: "Allen Iverson."

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TITANIC CHECK: Tennessee didn't make a snap decision -- or a snap judgment -- when it hired Gregg Williams as its new senior assistant coach.

Instead, the Titans did their homework before hiring the bounty-scandal-tainted assistant.

"There was hesitation in that we had to do our research," Titans general manager Ruston Webster said. "We had to do our background work. Fortunately, him having spent so much time in Tennessee, we had a lot of people who know him well and felt comfortable bringing him in."

Coach Mike Munchak later acknowledged that while Williams will not be making the defensive calls, he will have input.

Williams' hiring might not be the only change coming to Nashville. The Titans apparently would like to find a complementary back to speedster Chris Johnson.

One thing that will not change is the quarterback.

"I think Jake (Locker) has done a good job," he said. "One of the things we have to do is have more consistency around him. When your offensive line is in flux and you change your co-ordinators, doing all those types of things, and he gets hurt -- another thing is to keep him healthy -- I don't think that does anything for any quarterback's development."

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QUOTE OF THE DAY II: When Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians was asked about assistant coach Tom Pratt, a 34-year coaching veteran who was on Hank Stram's staff with the Chiefs in the 1960s, Moore said: "Nobody else can say they've got a guy who coached in Super Bowl I."

Dwayne Bowe (Photo: Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images)
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