It was the usual suspects once again in 2014 for the American Football Conference’s Western Division. But it still made for a very interesting NFL season last year. The Denver Broncos (12-4) ran away with the AFC West title once again (only to falter in the playoffs), the Kansas City Chiefs (9-7) couldn’t find a way to beat Denver for consecutive seasons under Andy Reid, the San Diego Chargers (9-7) improved but once again couldn’t get past K.C., while the Oakland Raiders (3-13) continue to fail in the post-Al Davis era.
The Broncos are looking for a way to get back to the Promised Land, the Chiefs are looking to finally take down the Broncos, the Chargers need a way to do both, while the Raiders need a new lease on life. Here are the biggest offseason moves to date within the AFC West….
With the Broncos there were moves on several fronts. First, last year’s head coach John Fox and his offensive coordinator Adam Gase were hired to those same positions with the Chicago Bears. Fox was replaced by former Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak, who ironically enough was the O.C. for Denver during the Mike Shanahan era.
Even though quarterback Peyton Manning is signed through the 2016 season, he restructured his contract to take a slight pay cut. John Elway will need that money because right now Manning doesn’t have anyone to throw the ball to.
Tight end Julius Thomas signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars, wide receiver Demaryius Thomas was given the franchise tag but has yet to sign it, and the franchise is undecided in whether or not to bring back the aging and sometimes injury prone Wes Welker.
The Chiefs haven’t made a ton of noise yet this offseason. At first, there was plenty of buzz when their top receiver over the last few seasons –Dwayne Bowe- signed with the hapless Cleveland Browns. But that buzz quickly died down when Jeremy Maclin was brought in from Philadelphia to replace him.
There was also some concern about their decision to cut Donnie Avery. But that was all forgotten when Jason Avant was re-signed. K.C. also gave the franchise tag to highly coveted, pass rush specialist outside linebacker Justin Houston.
He’s still free to negotiate with other teams, so it’s uncertain as to if he’ll stay in a Chiefs uniform or not. So far, this doesn’t prove that they’re ready to finally take down Denver.
The Chargers haven’t exactly taken big steps either. They still have numerous free agents to either sign or cut loose with linebacker Dwight Freeney, running back Ronnie Brown, offensive tackle Willie Smith, center Rich Ohrnberger and punter Mat McBriar.
They’ve already lost running back Ryan Mathews (Philadelphia), wide receiver Eddie Royal (Chicago), defensive backs Shareece Wright (San Francisco) and Marcus Gilchrist (New York Jets), along with linebacker Andrew Gachkar (Dallas).
San Diego did however manage to re-sign cornerback Brandon Flowers, add offensive tackle Orlando Franklin, bring in receiver Stevie Johnson, acquire corner Patrick Robinson, and bring back offensive tackle King Dunlap.
It’s a start but the “Super Chargers” still have a few ways to go.
The Raiders have plugged a few holes here and there but it’s nowhere near their old slogan of “Commitment To Excellence”. They added safety Nate Allen, running backs Roy Helu and Trent Richardson, offensive lineman Rodney Hudson, linebackers Curtis Lofton and Lamarr Woodley, and re-signed defensive end C.J. Wilson.
They are all role players if anything, but perhaps they could gel together over time. Will find out soon enough.
In closing; unless some really major moves are made, we could see yet another AFC West repeat in 2015.