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Peter King
May 08, 1995
The college draft, free-agent signings and the addition of two expansion teams have changed pro football's balance of power
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May 08, 1995

Nfl Plus

The college draft, free-agent signings and the addition of two expansion teams have changed pro football's balance of power

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Washington made over its secondary like no other nonexpansion team, signing strong safety Stanley Richard of the San Diego Chargers and free safety James Washington of the Cowboys. The Redskins are better, but they need to be a lot better to start playing with Dallas.

AFC West

Chiefs: Michigan tackle Trezelle Jenkins made the smartest move of the 1995 rookie class by agreeing in principle to contract terms before Kansas City even drafted him. Some agents and players will decry the fact that Jenkins, the 31st pick, got only a 2% raise over last year's 31st pick, tackle Tre Johnson of Washington. But instead of risking that the Chiefs wouldn't pick him if he rejected predraft terms or holding out until August for an extra $50,000 a year that might never have materialized and thereby falling behind in his rookie-year development, Jenkins agreed to a four-year, $1,975 million deal. "I look at what happened to other guys who've signed late," said Jenkins, who graduated from Michigan at the end of April, "and I decided I wasn't going to miss camp. It can cause so many problems. I look at Heath Shuler with Washington last year, holding out and missing so much time, and for what?"

The 6'7", 317-pound Jenkins could give the Chiefs a long-term fix at left tackle, where John Alt may be in his final season. Jenkins will be tutored by new offensive line coach Art Shell, who semi-recruited Jenkins, dining with him twice and watching films of him at length before the draft.

The Chiefs are full of other questions. For starters, they begin Life After Joe with all eyes on quarterback Steve Bono, who, at 32, has never entered a season as a starter.

Broncos: The media played Pictionary at Bronco headquarters on day one of the draft, because Denver had traded its high picks for tackle Gary Zimmerman, wideout Mike Pritchard and safety Ben Smith. On day two the Broncos traded the 111th pick and didn't get a player until the 121st pick, 6'7", 340-pound left tackle Jamie Brown from Nate Newton's old school, Florida A&M.

New coach Mike Shanahan may have found a pair of staunch defensive tackles—Cleveland refugees Michael Dean Perry and James Jones—for what has traditionally been a feeble run defense. If Perry's chronic ankle problems don't hinder him and Jones plays as well as he practiced in Cleveland, those are good signings.

Chargers: General manager Bobby Beathard has had a quiet off-season. San Diego signed just one free agent of substance: safety Shaun Gayle. In the draft Beathard traded next year's first-round pick to Detroit, but only so he could get a backup for Natrone Means, Wisconsin running back Terrell Fletcher. The Chargers also selected two receivers—TCU smurf Jimmy Oliver and somebody named Brandon Harrison from Howard Payne University. Guess you know what you're doing, Bobby.

Raiders: If new coach Mike White can resuscitate 1991 NFL Defensive Player of the Year Pat Swilling, L.A. will have had a successful off-season. Swilling got mad at the Lions after being benched last year, but the pass-rushing linebacker must share much of the blame. He hasn't been truly productive since his 17-sack season in New Orleans four years ago.

New quarterback coach Jim Fassel will be reunited with former Giant pupil Jeff Hostetler, who finally appears to have a running game behind him. Al Davis picked a running back with the first pick for the first time since taking Marcus Allen 13 years ago and got a guy who looks like a scatback—5'8½", 182-pound Napoleon Kaufman of Washington.

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