AFC West mailbag

Derek from Orange County wants to know what’s San Diego’s biggest offseason need?

Bill Williamson: I think it is to keep its potential unrestricted or restricted free agents. Receiver Vincent Jackson, linebacker Shawne Merriman, running back Darren Sproles and left tackle Marcus McNeill are among the team’s top priorities. Keeping Jackson and McNeill is a must. Merriman and Sproles are also high priorities. This is a team that doesn’t add many outside free agents. The Chargers are a home-grown team. So, it is imperative for them to keep their key players. As for the draft, I think San Diego needs to look at defensive linemen and running backs in the early rounds.

Benny Gonzalez from Kansas City want to know if I think linebacker Derrick Johnson will return to Kansas City.

BW: I’m not sure how much the Chiefs want him back and I’m not sure how much Johnson wants to come back. It was a tough season in Kansas City for the former top pick. He was benched for most of the season. He admitted that it was a struggle. Yet, the season ended on a high note for him. Johnson tied an NFL record with two interception returns for touchdowns in the final game of the season against Denver. Johnson can be salvaged in Kansas City. He can help this team. Perhaps the addition of Romeo Crennel can ignite his career in Kansas City. I think it would be good for both the team and for Johnson if he stayed.

Barry from Colorado Springs wants to know what I think about Mike Nolan’s departure from Denver.

BW: Well, Barry, it was shocking, to say the least. I thought the presence of Nolan was one of the best things going for Josh McDaniels heading into 2010. But sources close to both McDaniels and Nolan said that the two men mutually decided they were better off working separately. McDaniels and Nolan got along decently, but they have different coaching philosophies. Both men wanted to separate. It is somewhat concerning to think McDaniels had to part ways with an effective top assistant after one year. But if McDaniels and Nolan both think it’s best to separate, well, then they should separate. Still, the pressure is on McDaniels to hire a replacement -- a likely candidate is former Patriots defensive coordinator Dean Pees -- who he both can work well with and who he can succeed with.