The AFC West division has been in the headlines for a while now because, after the dominance of the Denver Broncos, Patrick Mahomes’ era began, and the Kansas City Chiefs took the AFC throne from the Broncos. Meanwhile, after the Raiders franchise relocated from Oakland to Las Vegas, the new Raiders franchise started transitioning into a better team on its own. Finally, the Los Angeles Chargers hit the jackpot with Justin Herbert, who was drafted sixth overall in the 2020 NFL draft and became an instant starter winning the rookie of the year award.
The only team left with below-average performance was the Denver Broncos, who had only managed to win 12 games in their last two seasons. But in the 2022 offseason, the Broncos made their team equal (if not better) to the rest of the AFC West division. In today’s article, we will discuss the moves that made the AFC West the most competitive division in the NFL and is there any weak link among the four teams.
The Broncos were the most successful in making moves, and their most significant acquisition was the future hall of fame quarterback Russell Wilson. The Broncos made the trade with the Seahawks to acquire Wilson for Drew Lock, Shelby Harris, and Noah Fant, along with a good number of draft picks, but it was a perfect draft pick because Wilson is the kind of player around which the entire offense can be built. From the offensive standpoint, the Broncos are on par with the rest of the AFC West teams.
In addition, Broncos also signed Defensive Tackle D.J. Jones (49ers), Cornerback K’Waun Williams (49ers), DT (Edge), Randy Gregory (Cowboys), and Linebacker Alex Singleton (Eagles). All these signees significantly impacted their former teams in the 2021 season. The Broncos also signed RT Billy Turner to provide extra protection to quarterback Russel Wilson. All these moves made the Broncos a serious contender not just in AFC West but in the entire AFC conference.
Las Vegas Raiders
After Jon Gruden’s departure, the Raiders managed to perform well under the interim head coach Rich Bisaccia. In the 2022 offseason, the team managed to get Josh McDaniels (OC and QB coach from the Patriots). The front office remained busy and got Dave Ziegler as their new GM. Las Vegas made significant additions defensively and signed (Defensive Tackle) Chandler Jones, Vernon Butler, Bilal Nichols, (and linebacker) Jayon Brown and traded for (Cornerback) Rock Ya-Sin.
However, the most critical transactions were made on offense. First, the Raiders traded for the ace wide receiver, Davante Adams. This was significant for many reasons. Adams has been a top WR since he was drafted into the league. He was the favorite target of Aaron Rodgers due to his ability, and Adams is also a former college teammate and good friend of the Raiders QB Derek Carr.
So, there is also a good history between both players. Apart from Adams, the Raiders also signed running back Brandon Bolden and wide receiver Demarcus Robinson. On the other side, their backup QB Marcus Mariota, LB Marquel Lee, and DE Yannick Ngakoue left the team. So, it looks like the current Raiders roster is the best they have had in years, but how they perform remains to be seen.
Kansas City Chiefs
The trade of Davante Adams between the Raiders and the Packers had an adverse effect on the Chiefs. The contract of Davante Adams made him the wealthiest wide receiver in the history of the NFL in terms of annual salary. In the agreement, Adams is being paid $28 million per year. This did not sit well with Tyreek Hill, who wanted to be paid equal to or more than Adams. The result was a trade between the Chiefs and the Miami Dolphins. The Chiefs did sign JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling, but that’s not a correct match for Hill.
It will all come down to Patrick Mahomes and how he carries the team. After all, they still have Travis Kelce. In other notable moves, Tyrann Mathieu left the franchise, which is also a massive loss for the team, but the Chiefs have signed Justin Reid, so we can say that balance has been restored. The Chiefs have a weaker defense which will affect their offense as well, but we will have to wait and see the results in the upcoming season.
Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers are continuously improving. There is no doubt about it. They went from 5-11 in 2019 to 7-9 in 2020 to a moderately successful 9-8 record in 2021. Justin Herbert has been great for the Chargers, and it looks like he will carry the team to ultimate success. In the 2022 offseason, the Chargers made some significant changes. The biggest one was extending the contract of star-wideout Mike Williams. They also signed former Patriots cornerback J.C. Jackson to a big contract and managed to get Khalil Mack from a trade with the Bears. In addition, Kyle Van Noy, Bryce Callahan, and Gerald Everett joined the team.
The coach of the LA Chargers, Brandon Staley, is still young, but apart from a few questionable decisions, he has proven that he can coach the team with confidence. Staley also got some good picks in the 2022 NFL draft, where he drafted (OG) Zion Johnson, (Safety) J.T. Woods, (RB) Isaiah Spiller, (OT) Otito Ogbonnia, (OG) Jamaree Salyer, and (CB) Deane Leonard. The draft has completed the Chargers’ rosters to an almost perfect team, and we will once again see what they are capable of in the 2022 season.
Is There A Weak Link?
Considering everything, it may come down to a few moments where small moves can make a huge difference, and the team that will be unable to take advantage of those small moments will be the weakest of the bunch, and we believe that that team will be the LA Chargers. It’s not that they are good. As stated above, they are one of the most improved teams in recent years, but they are not on the level of other teams in the AFC West Division. In addition, they lack the killer the instinct to put away teams, and Staley has issues making good decisions when facing pressure.
In the 18th week of the 2021 season, the Chargers lost the game at hand and gave the win to the Raiders, which eliminated them from the playoff spot. Staley failed to get his mind in order, costing him a significant game. To become at the level of other teams in the AFC West, the Chargers, Staley, and Herbert would have to match the maturity, talent, and competitiveness of Mahomes, Wilson, and Carr.