AFC West Notes: JuJu, Chargers, Broncos

After two years of low-level deals in free agency, J.J. Smith-Schuster finally cashed in via his Patriots pact. The seventh-year wide receiver signed a three-year, $25.5MM deal that came with $16MM fully guaranteed. The Pats guaranteed Smith-Schuster exactly what the Raiders locked in for Jakobi Meyers, and they will expect upper-echelon performance. Smith-Schuster, 26, increased his market through his 78-reception, 933-yard Chiefs season, becoming the Super Bowl champions’ top Tyreek Hill replacement. Smith-Schuster wanted to stay in Kansas City, and the Chiefs aimed to keep him. While Andy Reid confirmed the sides discussed a deal all the way up to the Patriots agreement, the Chiefs are going with lower-cost options at receiver presently.

You’ve got to manage all the cap stuff. We couldn’t give him what they gave him,” Reid said, via the Boston Globe’s Ben Volin, of matching the Patriots’ offer. “We talked all the way through it. It’s good for him; he deserves that opportunity.”

The Chiefs have been connected to both Odell Beckham Jr. and DeAndre Hopkins, but the OBJ path is now closed after the Ravens handed the injury-prone receiver a surprising $15MM guaranteed. Kansas City is planning bigger roles for Kadarius Toney and Skyy Moore, and the team has Marquez Valdes-Scantling attached to what is now a pay-as-you-go contract. Valdes-Scantling’s deal runs through 2024. Here is the latest from the rest of the AFC West:

  • While the Chiefs may be looking to add a piece at receiver in the draft, the Chargers appear ready to add an early-round target. The Bolts are believed to be looking for pass-catching help early in the draft, Jordan Reid of notes. Holding the No. 21 overall pick, the Chargers are coming off a season in which Keenan Allen and Mike Williams both missed extended stretches. While Tom Telesco pushed back against an Allen trade, the Pro Bowler is going into his age-31 season. The Chargers still roster Josh Palmer as a WR3, while DeAndre Carter signed with the Raiders. The Bolts, who have deep threat Jalen Guyton coming off an ACL tear, are seeking perimeter speed, per Reid, who adds Jordan Addison could be a name to watch. Chargers wideouts coach Chris Beatty recruited Addison while at Pitt.
  • The Broncos appear to have four locked-in starters on their offensive line, having signed Mike McGlinchey and Ben Powers to go with left tackle Garett Bolles and guard Quinn Meinerz. Center Lloyd Cushenberry has struggled during his Denver tenure and is going into a contract year after an injury-plagued 2022. The Broncos are doing work on centers ahead of this draft, Reid adds. The team holds the Nos. 67 and 68 overall picks. Beyond top center John Michael Schmitz, ESPN’s Scouts Inc. views second- and third-ranked centers Olusegun Oluwatimi (Michigan) and Luke Wypler (Ohio State) as third-round-caliber snappers.
  • One of the Broncos’ stopgap O-line solutions last year, Billy Turner, is not expected back with the team. Turner, whom the Broncos used at right tackle in 2022, told the Denver Gazette’s Chris Tomasson he is not in the team’s 2023 plans (Twitter link). Turner, 31, has enjoyed two Denver stints but followed Nathaniel Hackett over from Green Bay last year. The nine-year veteran said he is 100% after knee trouble limited him last season.
  • Broncos cornerback Faion Hicks was arrested earlier this month for carrying a concealed firearm, Mike Klis of 9News notes. This is a third-degree felony charge; the arrest occurred in Hallandale, Florida. Hicks is free on bond. The Broncos drafted Hicks in the 2022 seventh round; he saw action in only two games and did not play a defensive snap.
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