Following a big offseason full of moves, let’s break down which AFC West team has set themselves the best for next season.
It was only a matter of time before opposing teams in the AFC West began to rebuild their teams in order to defeat the Kansas City Chiefs. After hosting the AFC Championship Game for a record fourth time in a row it was inevitable that changes would be made during the offseason. Changes took place across the entire league, especially within the AFC West. Every team in the AFC West had significant roster changes, headlined by a big move by each squad.
The Raiders traded for a star wide receiver to pair with Derek Carr after acquiring Davante Adams. Brandon Staley will roll out a retooled defense after signing J.C. Jackson and trading for Khalil Mack to Los Angeles. Denver finally found their quarterback for the foreseeable future in Russell Wilson and Kansas City shipped off their WR1 to Miami.
You could make an argument for each team on why they’re the “scariest” in the AFC West. I’m going to break down each team and let the answer be open-ended for your interpretation.
The Broncos started their offseason with a bang when they fired head coach Vic Fangio and began to clean house within their coaching staff. They hired a man by the name of Nathaniel Hackett who spent last season as the offensive coordinator for the Green Bay Packers. This started a slur of rumors about Aaron Rodgers potentially being on his way out west to a different snowy city. Ultimately, they worked out a trade package to acquire Russell Wilson from the Seattle Seahawks in exchange for Drew Lock, Noah Fant, Shelby Harris, and draft compensation.
Denver also had several solid signings in free agency, signing defensive linemen D.J. Jones and Randy Gregory to help fill the void left by Jonathan Harris on the defensive line. Along with a couple of signings to fill out their depth chart, leaving Wilson as the biggest offseason move the Broncos have made since they got Peyton Manning in 2012.
A lot of weight will be put on the shoulders of Wilson to help revive the Broncos’ offense in 2022. Wilson will be joined by Javonte Williams, Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, Tim Patrick, and Albert Okwuegbunam on that side of the ball. The defense is young as well, headlined by Justin Simmons and Patrick Surtain. This team will win themselves a handful of games this upcoming season but they might finish last in what might be considered the best division in the NFL next season.
Las Vegas Raiders
Believe it or not, the Raiders made the playoffs last season after they defeated the Chargers in the last week of the season. Only to lose to the eventual AFC Champs in the first round of the playoffs on the road. They also fired their head coach not soon after the season ended and hired Josh McDaniels from New England to replace their interim head coach at the time.
With a new general manager at the helm in the front office, a splash needed to be made and it was indeed made when Davante Adams was traded from Green Bay to Las Vegas. Reuniting the former Fresno State teammates in Adams and Raiders quarterback Derek Carr. Las Vegas also turned heads when they announced they signed former Cardinals pass rusher Chandler Jones to join Maxx Crosby on the Raiders defensive line.
Adams will join Hunter Renfrow, Darren Waller, and Demarcus Robinson in the Raiders’ receiving core. Carr will have tons of targets to work the ball to within this offense. The familiarity of having Adams back as Carr’s right-hand man will be something to watch on Sundays as he looks to continue his run as one of, if not, the best wide receivers in the league.
Los Angeles Chargers
Justin Herbert is one of the best young quarterbacks in the entire NFL. He has slotted into one of the most passing-friendly offenses in the NFL. Keenan Allen and Mike Williams are a top 10 wide receiver duo in the league. The pair both amassed 1,100 receiving yards last season as Herbert threw for over 5,000 yards. Austin Ekeler is one of the most versatile running backs in the league who found the endzone 20 times last season while combining for over 1,500 total yards. This offense is becoming one of the scariest in the league with all of the talents they have across the board.
On the other side of the ball, the Chargers went out and signed the best free-agent defensive back when they lured J.C. Jackson out from the New England Patriots. Khalil Mack now has a new home in Los Angeles after an injury-plagued season in Chicago. He will look for a fresh start within the revamped defense. The Chargers have now officially decided to push all their chips in and go after a Super Bowl now. They also signed former Rams defensive tackle Sebastian Joseph-Day who will only have to switch home locker rooms at SoFi Stadium to join his new team.
The Chargers will be one of the top teams in the AFC but it seems like we always have this conversation during the offseason. So who knows how things will pan out in Los Angeles once the fall comes around but the future is bright for both teams at SoFi.
Kansas City Chiefs
As long as Patrick Mahomes is the quarterback for the Kansas City Chiefs they will always have one of the scariest offenses in the entire league. Combine that with Andy Reid and his former offensive coordinator Matt Nagy, there will be a lot to watch in Kansas City this upcoming season. The biggest headline surrounding the Chiefs this offseason was the decision to trade Tyreek Hill to the Miami Dolphins after contract extension discussions came to a halt.
The receiving core once headlined by Hill will now roll out JuJu Smith-Schuster, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Mecole Hardman, Skyy Moore, Josh Gordon, and Justin Ross. The best tight end in the league, Travis Kelce will remain vital to the Chiefs’ offense yet again, having come off of his seventh consecutive 1,000-yard season. Giving the Chiefs endless possibilities for plays to design around their new weapons on offense. The offensive line will only continue to get better as they work together more in upcoming seasons after being constructed this past offseason.
Kansas City focused primarily on defense during the NFL Draft selecting Trent McDuffie and George Karlaftis in the first round. McDuffie will help add depth to a shallow Chiefs’ defensive secondary, while Karlaftis will be able to work opposite Frank Clark as an edge. The Chiefs will send out one of the most athletic linebacker cores in the league next season with Willie Gay, Nick Bolton, Jermaine Carter Jr., and Leo Chenal all rotating and filling gaps on the defensive side of the ball. The Chiefs’ defense got younger really fast by signing multiple players who are younger and cheaper, and they seem to have a versatile defense that will try to match up with any team. The quest to host a fifth straight AFC Championship Game at Arrowhead Stadium starts now.