AFC West Season Preview
Kansas City Chiefs
Let’s start out with the defending Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs, which sent shockwaves through the NFL months ago with the money they spent to keep the championship core.
First, the Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes became the highest paid player in the NFL when he signed a 10-year deal worth $450 million, which could go over $500 million if certain incentives are met. On the defensive side, the Chiefs gave defensive tackle Chris Jones $80 million over four years to stick around for the long term as their best defensive player. First-round draft pick and new starting running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire became a popular fantasy pick after previous starter Damien Williams opted out for the upcoming season.
Aside from starting cornerback Kendall Fuller, the Chiefs didn’t lose any major pieces from last year’s team, and they look poised to make another run at the Super Bowl.
Probably the most active team in this division, the Broncos made it their number one goal this offseason to give Drew Lock as many weapons as possible.
In free agency, they decided to poach disgruntled running back Melvin Gordon from the rival Chargers after a failed holdout for a new contract. The Broncos were also the only team in this year’s draft to take back-to-back receivers in the first two rounds. First, they went with Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy, who was ranked anywhere from the best to the third-best receiver in the draft. They followed that up with Penn State speedster KJ Hamler, who could see time in the slot this year.
With the offense looking stacked, the Broncos did have to part with some big names on defense who have been around since their Super Bowl run in 2015. Cornerback Chris Harris Jr. was sent off to the Chargers, and defensive end Derek Wolfe left for the Baltimore Ravens.
While they improved on offense, the Broncos weakened defense means there won’t be much of an overall improvement this season.
Las Vegas Raiders
A new city wasn’t the only flashy change made by the Raiders this offseason. They also focused on flashy signings and drafting, as they start a new beginning in Sin City.
In true Al Davis fashion, the Raiders took Henry Ruggs in the first round, as he received plenty of pre-draft hype for his elite speed as a receiver at Alabama. The Raiders also signed big-name veteran Jason Witten, who will spend a season out of Dallas for the first time in his career. Las Vegas also took a chance on quarterback Marcus Mariota after he lost the starting job in Tennessee to Ryan Tannehill.
The Raiders didn’t lose any major pieces, but they also didn’t add any pieces big enough to help make a push at the division. It looks like another year of missing the playoffs for Vegas.
Los Angeles Chargers
After falling from a divisional round loss to last place in the division last year, the Chargers chose to say goodbye to longtime starting quarterback Philip Rivers following a rough 2019. With Rivers gone to Indianapolis, the Chargers drafted his replacement in Oregon’s Justin Herbert with the sixth overall pick. While Herbert won’t start right away, his development behind veteran Tyrod Taylor will be the biggest story for the Chargers season.
Also leaving in the offseason was starting running back Melvin Gordon, meaning the Chargers will start Austin Ekeler at the position. Although they sent Gordon to divisional rival Denver, the Chargers did receive Chris Harris Jr. in return. He’ll fill a big hole in the secondary with star safety Derwin James being ruled out for the season with a torn meniscus.
The ceiling for this team won’t be too high in a rebuilding year, especially if Tyrod Taylor starts the whole season, but once Justin Herbert steps in, it should be a fun ride.
Logan Bourandas is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Contributors
Sophomore / Broadcast Journalism