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2020 AFC West Preview

Jared Block
by in NFL on

After the first week of the NFL’s Free Agency period, let’s breakdown the moves that were made and how the AFC West shapes up pre-draft for the 2020-21 season.

–  Denver Broncos (2019-20 Record: 7-9 / 2nd in Division)  –  

Gained: CB- A.J. Bouye, DL- Jurrell Casey, OG- Graham Glasgow, RB- Melvin Gordon, P- Sam Martin, TE- Nick Vannett
Lost: QB- Brandon Allen, QB- Joe Flacco, OG- Ronald Leary, C- Connor McGovern, DE- Derek Wolfe, CB- Chris Harris Jr., CB- Cyrus Jones, S- Will Parks

The Denver Broncos have had a very busy offseason so far. After letting elite corner Chris Harris Jr. explore his options, they launched themselves into “spend, spend, spend” mode during free agency. The Broncos top 5 cap availability in the league, and they sure put that money to good use. The biggest signings of the offseason so far have been running back Melvin Gordon (LA Chargers), guard Graham Glasgow (Detroit Lions), and corner A.J. Bouye (Jacksonville Jaguars). Those three players will bring immediate impact to their respective positions this season.

The big moves of the offseason for the Broncos involved letting go of Super Bowl XLVII Champion QB Joe Flacco and Super Bowl L Champion Chris Harris Jr., who will both explore their options with other teams this season. This brings an end to the “No Fly Zone”, the secondary that was part of the elite defense that won Denver’s Super Bowl in 2015-16. The departure of Flacco and backup QB Brandon Allen means that John Elway is full steam ahead on young gunslinger Drew Lock. This is Lock’s team now and for the foreseeable future, so we’ll see what he can do to take the Broncos back to the playoffs starting this year.

*Denver Broncos +800 to win the AFC West*

–  Kansas City Chiefs (2019-20 Record: 12-4 / 1st in Division)  – 

Gained: CB- Antonio Hamilton
Lost: QB- Matt Moore, RB- LeSean McCoy, RB- Spencer Ware, OG- Stefen Wisniewski, OG- Cameron Erving, DE- Emmanuel Ogbah, LB- Darron Lee, LB- Reggie Ragland, CB- Bashaud Breeland, CB- Morris Claiborne, CB- Kendall Fuller

The Super Bowl LIV Champs are primed and ready for another chance at the title in 2020. While they are in the bottom 10 of the league in cap space, they are arguably in the top 3 locations for free agency destination. They will do what they can with their cap space to sign veterans who want to win now, and who doesn’t want to play on a team that has Patrick Mahomes? The biggest free agency issue they had this offseason was what they were going to decide to do with defensive tackle Chris Jones. They chose to franchise tag Jones, pick up the option on running back Damien Williams, and re-signed Demarcus Robinson, keeping the core of this team intact for the 2020 season.

With Travis Kelce and Patrick Mahomes’ renegotiations on the horizon, I’d expect the Chiefs to be cautious on how they approach their signings from here on out. We saw them part ways with running backs LeSean McCoy and Spencer Ware, while also letting several defensive players go from this title-winning squad (Emmanuel Ogbah, Bashaud Breeland, Kendall Fuller, Morris Claiborne). Kansas City hasn’t signed anyone of eye-popping value outside of corner Antonio Hamilton, but I expect we see a few more moves before the summer hits. The majority of this team is coming back, and the only real teams they have to keep an eye out for are the Baltimore Ravens and the Tennessee Titans, who are both out of division.

*Kansas City Chiefs -350 to win the AFC West*

–  Las Vegas Raiders (2019-20 Record: 7-9 / 3rd in Division)  –  

Gained: WR- Nelson Agholor, CB- Eli Apple, DT- Maliek Collins, S- Jeff Heath, OL- Eric Kush, LB- Nick Kwiatkowski, LB- Cory Littleton, QB- Marcus Mariota, DE- Carl Nassib, TE- Jason Witten
Lost: QB- Mike Glennon, WR- Dwayne Harris, LB- Vontaze Burfict, LB- Tahir Whitehead, CB- Daryl Worley, S- Karl Joseph

Entering their first season in Las Vegas, the Raiders (formerly of Oakland, CA), are sitting in a pretty decent spot to improve this offseason. They didn’t have any key free agent deals to work out on their current roster, and with the move to Las Vegas, you could argue whether or not that helps attract free agents.

The Raiders did a decent job of bringing in quite a bit of help on both sides of the ball during the first week of free agency. They boosted the offense with signing receiver Nelson Agholor, lineman Eric Kush, tight end Jason Witten (dual threat with Darren Waller), and QB Marcus Mariota. Mariota will no-doubt try to compete with Derek Carr for the starting job (Gruden has had his eye on Mariota since coming out of college at Oregon).

On the defensive side, the Raiders decided to part ways with linebackers Vontaze Burfict and Tahir Whitehead, while also letting defensive backs Karl Joseph and Daryl Worley go as well. Mike Glennon is also departing from Oakland and will not be joining the Raiders in their new home. Corner Eli Apple and safety Jeff Heath will bring immediate improvement to this team’s bottom of the barrel secondary. The defensive line also will see some changes, as Las Vegas added defensive tackle Maliek Collins and edge rusher Carl Nassib, thus strengthening areas that hindered them in 2019.
While Oakland still has a lot to figure out (especially at Quarterback), the jump is there’s to make as the second-best team in the division.

*Las Vegas Raiders +800 to win the AFC West*

–  Los Angeles Chargers (2019-20 Record: 5-11 / 4th in Division)  –  

Gained: OT- Bryan Bulaga, CB- Chris Harris, DT- Linval Joseph, OG- Trai Turner
Lost: QB- Philip Rivers, RB- Melvin Gordon, FB- Derek Watt, WR- Travis Benjamin, OG- Michael Schofield, OT- Russell Okung, DT- Brandon Mebane, LB- Jatavis Brown, LB- Thomas Davis, S- Adrian Phillips, S- Jaylen Watkins

While the Chargers have quite a bit of cap space available, there are quite a number of factors that are prohibiting free agents to come play for them. While LA is a destination city for free agency, the lack of a a QB plan, a head coach that not many want to play for, and a stadium that has literally no home field advantage are just a few of the roadblocks holding the Chargers back.

The end of the Chargers / Philip Rivers era is officially here, as Rivers chose to mutually part ways with LA and will play with the Indianapolis Colts in 2020. In addition, All-Pro running back Melvin Gordon has left the Chargers and will stay in division to play with the Denver Broncos. As of today, March 30th, it looks like the QB1 for LA will be former Browns/Bills QB Tyrod Taylor. Austin Ekeler agreed to a multi-year deal and looks to be the star in this offense moving forward. The Chargers still have Kennan Allen, Mike Williams, and Hunter Henry (who they franchise tagged this offseason), so the offensive pieces are in place for the time being.

LA let quite a few players walk this year (besides aforementioned Rivers/Gordon), most notably OT Russell Okung, FB Derek Watt, and LB Jatavis Brown, which will be pillars that could be extremely hard to replace. Signing OT Bryan Bulaga (Packers) helps strengthen the O-Line and adding Chris Harris/Linval Joseph definitely doesn’t hurt. The Chargers will most likely be a middling 8-8 team along with the Denver Broncos and Las Vegas Raiders, but it’ll sure be interesting to see if Tyrod Taylor can take control of this team and turn this sinking ship around.

*Los Angeles Chargers +800 to win the AFC West*

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