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Waiver claim madness in AFC West

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

It was an interesting day of roster shuffling in the AFC West.

And the division-leading Denver Broncos were trumped twice by division opponents. The Broncos tried to claim two players on waivers. However, they were beat to the punch by division foes.

Oakland claimed cornerback/returner Justin Miller off waivers from the Jets. Denver also tried to get Miller. Had Oakland not picked up Miller, he would have landed in Denver. The same goes for running back Michael Bennett, who was waived by Tampa Bay on Tuesday.

The Broncos, desperate for a tailback, put a claim on Bennett, but so did San Diego. Bennett is now the newest member of the Chargers. Had San Diego not claimed Bennett, he'd be a member of the Broncos. Waiver claims are awarded based on record. Teams with the worst record are awarded the player when multiple claims are made.

To make room for Bennett, San Diego cut linebacker Derek Smith who was signed to a modest contract this offseason. Smith will go through the waiver process Thursday. There could be a scenario where Denver would be interested. The Broncos are playing without all three of their linebackers. Starter Boss Bailey is out for the season and fellow starters D.J. Williams and Nate Webster may be out for another three weeks or so.

Smith really doesn't fit Denver's scheme. He has been more of a 3-4 linebacker lately and he may be nearing the end of the line at 33. But he is experienced and he is a leader. He could be attractive in Denver's time of need at the position. Kansas City also needs linebackers but it has been staying away from older players.

It's been speculated San Diego could have claimed Bennett because it knew Denver is in such a huge need of running backs. Denver has lost three tailbacks for the season in the past two games and it is down to rookie fullback Peyton Hillis at tailback. The team just re-signed Tatum Bell and he is expected to play Sunday at Atlanta. Bennett would have had a chance to play in Denver.

The Chargers have long liked Bennett and have been looking for running backs all season. The Chargers tried to trade for Michael Bush from the Raiders at the trade deadline so the team does want some more talent behind LaDainian Tomlinson and Darren Sproles. Sproles has been excellent, but he is small and he has some durability issues.

Bennett, a speedster, will likely be worked into the backfield behind Sproles. It also can't be lost that Sproles is a free agent at the end of the season. Bennett has another season on his contract. The Chargers always look to the future so this could be a good insurance policy move.

Oakland didn't claim Miller to keep him away from anyone. The Raiders needed Miller. He could be used as a backup cornerback and as a punt returner. Miller is a skilled player and Oakland needs depth at cornerback in light of the DeAngelo Hall release. With returner Johnnie Lee Higgins losing the opening kickoff Sunday against Carolina, the presence of Miller gives the Raiders another option.

Denver was interested in Miller when he came out in the 2005 draft. The Broncos selected the late Darrent Williams over Miller with the No. 56 overall pick (the Broncos were also considering San Diego receiver Vincent Jackson with the pick). The Jets took Miller with the next pick. With Champ Bailey likely out another couple of weeks, Denver was looking at Miller for depth reasons. He would have also given Denver the option of taking standout rookie receiver Eddie Royal out of the returning mix.

But Denver was trumped. Twice.