The NFL offseason hasn’t taken a break since the Super Bowl ended. Aaron Rodgers returned to the Green Bay Packers, Tom Brady retired, then unretired, Deshaun Watson and Russell Wilson got traded, and the list continues. One of the most active divisions in free agency and the trade market was the AFC West.
The Kansas City Chiefs, Las Vegas Raiders, Los Angeles Chargers, and Denver Broncos all have a ton of new faces, and some watched familiar faces leave for new opportunities. The ripple effect in the AFC West should make for an exciting race in 2022 and beyond after years of Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs entering as the favorites.
Yet, here we are, just a couple of weeks away from the NFL Draft, and the entire landscape of the division has shifted dramatically. Let’s rank the AFC West after a flurry of acquisitions by every one of the four teams.
4. Las Vegas Raiders
Key Additions: Davante Adams, Chandler Jones, Brandon Bolden, Rock Ya-Sin, Demarcus Robinson
Key Departures: Yannick Ngakoue, Zay Jones, Alec Ingold, Casey Hayward, Brandon Facyson, Cory Littleton, Marcus Mariota
The Raiders might be a surprise at this spot on the rankings. But, let’s explain.
The blockbuster trade of Davante Adams was a stunning move for the entire NFL, and the reunion of Derek Carr and Adams is a welcomed sight. The former Fresno State pairing finally gets to play together in the NFL and hopefully for a long time, if Carr and the Raiders can ink a long-term deal.
The addition of Chandler Jones is a big one, and pairing him with Maxx Crosby is a dangerous duo. Rock Ya-Sin was an excellent trade acquisition, and Brandon Bolden is a solid change of pace back familiar with Josh McDaniels’ system.
However, the Raiders have failed to address their most pressing need: the offensive line.
The Raiders don’t have a first or second-round pick due to the Adams trade, and there is no question they need help upfront to protect Carr. That is a significant concern, and the secondary in Las Vegas is also somewhat of a problem. There is no doubt the offense got better with the addition of Adams, but the patchy offensive line might be a troubling factor in Sin City.
On the other hand, the Raiders have a path to another playoff trip, and who knows, this looks more and more like three teams make the playoffs from the AFC West.
3. Denver Broncos
Key Additions: Russell Wilson, Randy Gregory, Alex Singleton
Key Departures: Noah Fant, Shelby Harris
The Broncos missed out on Rodgers but wasted no time acquiring Wilson in a massive trade with the Seattle Seahawks. For years, Denver has been playing quarterback hot potato, and they finally solved those issues by landing Wilson.
That is a massive get, and bringing on Randy Gregory is a significant addition for their defense, even if the contract is a little questionable.
Those moves are enormous bonuses, but the Broncos still have question marks. How will Wilson fit in with first-year head coach Nathaniel Hackett? How will the wide receivers in Denver perform?
All three of Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, and Tim Patrick have been on and off during their NFL careers, although a large part of that could be due to the quarterback limbo in the Mile High City.
It is also worth noting that Wilson is coming off a hand injury that bothered him a ton in his final year with the Seahawks, although he should be ready to roll with new threads for the first time in his career.
The Broncos are making the playoffs, assuming everything goes as planned, and could be on top of this division.
2. Kansas City Chiefs
Key Additions: JuJu Smith-Schuster, Ronald Jones, Justin Reid, Marquez Valdes-Scantling
Key Departures: Tyreek Hill, Tyrann Mathieu, Austin Blythe, Charvarius Ward, Byron Pringle, Demarcus Robinson
The Kansas City Chiefs can quickly go from the AFC West division winners in 2021 to the bottom of the division in 2022. That is how topsy-turvy this division is.
The loss of Tyreek Hill is a massive one for them, and they also saw wide receivers Demarcus Robinson and Byron Pringle leave. But, they brought in JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling in a revamped WR room, so there is some hope.
The Chiefs also let Tyrann Mathieu walk, and he remains unsigned as of March 31. Justin Reid is an excellent replacement for Mathieu, but losing him, Hill, and Charvarius Ward in the same offseason are tough losses.
Nonetheless, it is hard to count against a team that still has Mahomes and Travis Kelce, not to mention a defense that was much improved down the stretch in 2021. Until Mahomes slows down, the Chiefs will be competitive, but the loss of Hill is more than enough to kick them out of the top spot of this division — and it could derail them altogether.
1. Los Angeles Chargers
Key Additions: Khalil Mack, J.C. Jackson, Sebastian Joseph-Day, Gerald Everett, Austin Johnson
Key Departures: Uchenna Nwosu, Justin Jones, Kyzir White
The Chargers have been one of the biggest winners in the entire NFL this offseason. They brought back wide receiver Mike Williams on a three-year deal and engineered a brilliant trade for Chicago Bears pass rusher Khalil Mack.
In doing so, they have formed one of the best pass-rushing duos in the NFL with Mack and Joey Bosa. If that weren’t enough, they landed the best cornerback on the market in J.C. Jackson and added depth on the defensive line with the other two.
Gerald Everett is a massive upgrade over aging veteran Jared Cook, and the Chargers still have the 17th overall pick in the draft to add another key piece.
To sum it up, the Chargers brought in a ton of weapons and addressed their biggest needs on defense while keeping Williams in town and adding a quality tight end. On top of that, they haven’t lost much this offseason, and Mack essentially replaces Nwosu on the edge.
The Chargers missed the playoffs last year, thanks to the Raiders edging them out in a thrilling Week 18 game. But make no mistake, this team is going all-in for a Super Bowl run, and they are expected to be the top contender in the AFC West and can even make a run for the entire conference if things go their way.
Stats Courtesy of Pro Football Reference