Of all the divisions in the NFL, perhaps none had a busier offseason than the AFC West. The Chargers were the only team in the division that didn’t change their head coach or starting quarterback. Each team had their own clear strategy for navigating the spring, but only one will emerge as the top dog in the division next season.
The Raiders kicked off a new era in January when they signed Jon Gruden to a ten-year deal to be their new head coach. Over the last few months, Gruden has totally remade the team to fit his vision of a squad with lots of veteran leaders, while getting rid of some players whose personalities he didn’t like such as Michael Crabtree and Marquette King. They’ve signed a slew of aging veterans like Doug Martin, Jordy Nelson, and Leon Hall. They added offensive tackle Kolton Miller with their first-round pick to help bolster their offensive line and keep Derek Carr upright. The 2018 season will be the team’s first without Sebastian Janikowski as their kicker since 1999, as the team let the longtime fan favorite walk in free-agency. This Raiders team will be one of the oldest in recent league history, but with some top-line talent in Carr, Amari Cooper, and Khalil Mack, along with a very experienced locker room, they have the potential to make some noise in the AFC.
The Chargers had by far the quietest offseason of all the AFC West teams. They opted to mostly stand pat in free agency, although they did sign Mike Pouncey after he was cut by the Dolphins. The Chargers are mostly counting on the talent from last year’s team being able to get them over the hump this year. They got what many considered to be the steal of the draft when Florida State safety Derwin James fell to them at the 17th pick in the first-round. They’ve sought to address the kicking game, the team’s biggest weakness in 2017, by bringing in Caleb Sturgis and former second-round pick Roberto Aguayo to compete. On paper, the Chargers are one of the most talented teams in the league. A couple of missed field goals at the end of games was the only thing stopping them from being a playoff team last year. They’ve been a popular media pick so far to win the AFC West in 2018, and could make a deep playoff run if they can put it all together.
The Chiefs kicked off the NFL offseason by making a blockbuster trade with the Redskins, shipping out quarterback Alex Smith and officially starting the Patrick Mahomes era in Kansas City. The team had no first-round pick, but did make a splash in free agency. They signed Sammy Watkins to a three-year deal to pair with Tyreek Hill on the outside. They lost offensive coordinator Matt Nagy, who took a head coaching job with the Bears. They also traded All-Pro cornerback Marcus Peters to the Rams, in part due to his clashes with the coaching staff. It was a tumultuous offseason for the Chiefs as they look to restart rather than rebuild. Mahomes showed flashes of brilliance during his lone regular season start last year, but it will be hard to win in a tough division with a quarterback making his first meaningful starts. Still, if any coach could pull it off, it’s probably Andy Reid.
The Broncos are coming off one of the most disappointing seasons in franchise history. Following their Super Bowl win in 2015, they went 9-7 in 2016 only for the wheels to come off this past year. They ended up starting three different quarterbacks, and none of Trevor Siemian, Paxton Lynch, and Brock Osweiler were effective. Siemian and Osweiler are gone now, and Lynch will be fighting for a roster spot this summer. The team brought in Case Keenum to be their new starting quarterback, and added defensive end Bradley Chubb with the fifth overall pick. They traded Aqib Talib, a former staple of their legendary “No Fly Zone” to the Rams, and traded for former second-round safety Su’a Cravens. While the Broncos didn’t do anything crazy to revamp their roster other than bringing in Keenum, things tend to change quickly in the NFL, so it wouldn’t be at all surprising to see the Broncos rebound fast from their dismal 5-11 season.
Which team do you think had the best offseason in the AFC West? Vote in PFR’s poll below and weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section!
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.