On Now
Coming Up
Print
RSS

AFC West Roundup: How the division shapes up after free agency's first wave

Posted Mar 19, 2018

What changes are coming to the AFC West?

Denver Broncos

2017 record: 5-11 | 2017 division ranking: fourth

Additions: QB Case Keenum, CB Tramaine Brock
Departures:
CB Aqib Talib (trade), TE Virgil Green, QB Trevor Siemian, T Donald Stephenson

The Broncos' first move in free agency was to secure a starting quarterback, and they signed quarterback Case Keenum, who led the Vikings to an 11-3 record while minimizing turnovers. Should Keenum remain reliable like he was in Minnesota, the Broncos' offense should be able to avoid the kind of turnovers that not only short-circuited drives but also set up the defense in treacherous short-field situations.

On the other side, the Broncos traded Aqib Talib, but Bradley Roby's experience and talent should allow him to step into the starting role with little drop-off. The signing of veteran cornerback Tramaine Brock should also add to the secondary's depth. Tight end Virgil Green stayed in the division, signing with the Chargers, but Jake Butt's long-awaited return from a torn ACL he suffered in the 2016 Orange Bowl could help provide more production at tight end for Denver.

The team also re-signed inside linebacker Todd Davis, a key member of the team's run defense, as President of Football Operations/General Manager John Elway mentioned in his press conference on Friday.

"Todd Davis is the middle of that defense," Elway said. "We’ll rely on him to be him. A big part of that is the leadership side of it. That was as much of his playing ability, but also the leadership qualities that Todd brings on that side of the ball and the physicality that he plays with."

Kansas City Chiefs

2017 record: 10-6 | 2017 division ranking: first

Additions: CB Kendall Fuller (trade), WR Sammy Watkins, LB Anthony Hitchens, CB David Amerson, QB Chad Henne
Departures:
CB Marcus Peters (trade), QB Alex Smith (trade), WR Albert Wilson, CB Terrance Mitchell, C Zach Fulton, LB Tamba Hali (released), S Ron Parker (released)

Beginning the trade that sent Alex Smith to Washington, the Chiefs set out to remake their roster this offseason. The Smith move opened the door for the team to unleash Patrick Mahomes in his second season and add a top-10 cornerback in Kendall Fuller, who ranked sixth in Pro Football Focus' grading of cornerbacks who played at least 25 percent of their team's defensive snaps. But they weren't done dealing yet; after that, they traded cornerback Marcus Peters, perhaps the top ballhawk in the NFL, to the Rams. Fuller may not deliver the interception numbers that Peters did, but he's still a very good cornerback who can hold his own, and he's a couple years younger than Peters.

In free agency, the Chiefs made a number of moves to get younger on defense, releasing pass rusher Tamba Hali and safety Ron Parker and moving on from linebacker Derrick Johnson, who is a free agent. In Johnson's place, Kansas City added former Cowboys inside linebacker Anthony Hitchens, who is an exceptional run-stopper. On offense, they signed wide receivers Sammy Watkins, who, along with TE Travis Kelce and WR Tyreek Hill, adds another receiving threat for Mahomes.

Los Angeles Chargers

2017 record: 9-7 | 2017 division ranking: second

Additions: TE Virgil Green, K Caleb Sturgis
Departures:
DE Jeremiah Attaochu

The Chargers haven't made too many moves in free agency so far, as their biggest move has been signing kicker Caleb Sturgis. Los Angeles utilized four kickers in 2017 and desperately needed stability at the position. The Chargers had a potential game-tying field goal blocked in their season opener and they missed a potential game-winning attempt from 44 yards in Week 2. As Los Angeles chased a wild-card spot late in the season, those missed opportunities game back to haunt them. Sturgis developed into a reliable kicker over his first four NFL seasons, connecting on 85.4 percent of his tries in 2016 before he was placed on injured reserve with a hip injury after the Eagles' season opener.

Meanwhile, Antonio Gates' fate is still up in the air, as the 15-year veteran has not decided whether he'll return to the Chargers. Hunter Henry was 10th among tight ends in the NFL in receiving yards last year, and Virgil Green should provide a versatile veteran presence on offense for Los Angeles.

Oakland Raiders

2017 record: 5-11 | 2017 division ranking: third

Additions: RB Doug Martin, CB Rashaan Melvin, WR Jordy Nelson, OLB Tahir Whitehead, S Marcus Gilchrist, DE Tank Carradine
Departures:
WR Michael Crabtree, CB T.J. Carrie, CB David Amerson, DE Denico Autry

The Raiders, ahead of their final season in Oakland before moving to Las Vegas, have continued to make big-name moves in the offseason. While Michael Crabtree signed with Baltimore, Oakland brought in former Packers receiver Jordy Nelson, whose productivity suffered in his final season with Green Bay after Aaron Rodgers suffered a season-ending injury. To complement bruising back Marshawn Lynch, the Raiders also signed former Buccaneers running back Doug Martin, who has averaged 4 yards per attempt in his career but is also coming off the two worst seasons of his career.

Defensively, the Raiders must improve in the passing game. Their defense ranked 28th in yards per passing play allowed and 32nd in interception rate. Rashaan Melvin and Marcus Gilchrist have the potential to start, but if the Raiders don't re-sign NaVorro Bowman, they'll need to find a new option in the later waves of free agency or in the draft to patrol the middle of the field.