AFC West mailbag

Weekend Mail call:

Michael from Iowa wants to know if I think the Chargers’ special teams would take a big hit if running back Darren Sproles were to leave in free agency.

Bill Williamson: Sure, it would. You are right, Michael, after losing special-teams ace Kassim Osgood to free agency last year, it wouldn’t be great for the Chargers to lose their top-notch returner. San Diego’s special teams were awful last year, and losing Sproles wouldn’t help. But because Sproles also plays running back and he might cost more than the Chargers are willing to pay, he might be difficult to keep. If Sproles leaves, I could see the Chargers drafting a young returner.

Christopher from Eugene, Ore. wants to know if I think the Raiders could snag Oregon State defensive tackle Stephen Paea with a bargain pick because he was hurt at the Senior Bowl.

BW: Paea hurt his knee at the Senior Bowl. His ability to participate in the combine later this month could be affected. But unless there is a serious setback, I don’t think his draft status will be severely affected. He was expected to go in 20-30 range. The injury could cause him to fall a few spots, but I don’t think it will make him fall all the way to No. 48 where the Raiders pick.

Breezy from Hampton, Va., wants to know if the Raiders could use the franchise tag on guard Robert Gallery to keep him from joining former Oakland head coach Tom Cable in Seattle.

BW: I don’t think Oakland would put the franchise tag on Gallery. I think it would put it on defensive tackle Richard Semyour again if a long-term deal can't be agreed upon. Oakland can’t put the franchise tag on cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha. Gallery is one of Oakland’s better free agents, but it will also have to try to sign cornerback Stanford Routt, safety Michael Huff and running back Michael Bush. I don’t think any of those players, including Gallery, are candidates to get the franchise tag. Placing the franchise tag on those players would likely be more expensive (in the short term) than giving those players a long-term deal.