2014 NFL Offseason Review: AFC West

Continuing my offseason review, here’s a look at the defending AFC Champions division: the AFC West.

 

broncos

Free Agency:
The Broncos lost plenty of players in free agency and signed only a handful in return, but they made those signings count. The secondary was strengthened thanks to the addition of CB Aqib Talib (Patriots) & SS T.J. Ward (Browns), both have plenty of years ahead of them. A pair of Cowboys join the D-Line with up-and-coming DT Marvin Austin and veteran DE DeMarcus Ware. Steelers WR Emmanuel Sanders adds more speed and youth to the offense.

Grade: A

Draft:
Despite picking very late in the draft, the Broncos were able to find value. Ohio State CB Bradley Roby is a good prospect and will get plenty of time to develop. Indiana WR Cody Latimer shot up the draft charts in the offseason and could be an instant impact, and the other OT from Michigan, Michael Schofield, was a solid under the radar pick. Louisiana State LB, Lamin Barrow, was a good late round pick.

Grade: B

Overview:
Eric Decker, Champ Bailey, Zane Beadles, Robert Ayers, Shaun Phillips, Knowshon Moreno, Wesley Woodyard & Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie are all gone. That’s a lot to lose, but instead of moping over those losses, the Broncos went out and got proven replacements. The defense has been bolstered with more youth, and Peyton Manning is still the QB. Will that be enough to go from the best in the AFC, to the best in the NFL? We’ll see.

 

Kansas-City-Chiefs

Free Agency:
Texans LB Joe Mays & Raiders DT Vance Walker bolster an already strong defense. The Chiefs needed O-Lineman badly and got four of them: OT’s J’Marcus Webb (Vikings) & Ryan McKee (Rams), and OG’s Jeffrey Linkenbach (Colts) & Otis Hudson (Bengals). Not all big names, but there was little out there.

Grade: C

Draft:
Auburn LB Dee Ford & Rice CB Phillip Gaines are good young additions that the defense will need. Oregon RB De’Anthony Thomas adds more speed out of the backfield & OT Laurent Duvernay-Tardif from McGill (Canada) is a project. But the most intriguing pick, is Georgia QB Aaron Murray, who despite injuries, has a lot of starting experience and could be the Chiefs future signal caller.

Grade: B

Overview:
The loss of Branden Albert, Jon Asamoah & Geoff Schwartz can not be taken lightly, as the Chiefs will be looking at a completely different offensive line. Unless QB Alex Smith can be consistent, the Chiefs will have to rely on their monster defense to win games for them again.

 

Oakland-Raiders

Free Agency:
The Raiders had the most salary cap money to spend this offseason. Problem is, they didn’t spend it wisely. WR James Jones (Packers) & OT Austin Howard (Jets) is the good news, as these players will help the offense. Now the bad news: DE Justin Tuck (Giants), LB LaMarr Woodley (Steelers), RB Maurice Jones-Drew (Jaguars), CB Carlos Rogers (49’ers), OT Donald Penn (Buccaneers), CB Tarell Brown (49’ers), OG Kevin Boothe (Giants) & DE Antonio Smith (Texans). All prominent names, but also all at the age of 30 or above. If the Raiders were primed for a Super Bowl run, these signings would make more sense. But the Raiders aren’t, so they don’t.

Grade: D

Draft:
Ironically, the Raiders draft was miles better, in fact, it was one of the best. Buffalo LB Khalil Mack could be a terror for years to come. Fresno State QB Derek Carr had a first round grade and went in the second round. Mississippi State OG Gabe Jackson is a mauler, and Utah CB Keith McGill & Louisiana Tech DT Justin Ellis are excellent 4th round picks. Western Kentucky S Jonathan Dowling, could be a steal.

Grade: A+

Overview:
For the first time since Rich Gannon, the Raiders finally have a real QB. While Matt Schaub is on the downside of his career, he can give the Raiders something they have been lacking at QB, consistency. If Schaub doesn’t work out, Derek Carr is waiting in the wings. Despite an outstanding draft, the highly questionable free agent signings and inability to keep players, make the Raiders an enigma. How with over $60 million in cap space, could they let Lamarr Houston & Jared Veldheer walk?

 

sd

Free Agency:
Colts RB Donald Brown gives the Chargers much needed balance in the backfield and QB Kellen Clemens (Rams) adds a veteran presence in case of emergency.

Grade: C+

Draft:
Texas Christian CB Jason Verrett is unheralded but is a good prospect. Georgia Tech LB Jeremiah Attouchu adds more youth to the LB corps and could be an instant impact. Arkansas State DT Ryan Carrethers & Arizona State RB Marion Grice are good late round picks, and Baylor WR Tevin Reese could surprise.

Grade: B-

Overview:
Once again, the success of the Chargers hinges on the play of QB Phillip Rivers, who willed the Chargers to the playoffs last season. While the Chargers did not add many players to the roster, they re-signed most of their core players. This is an underrated team that may just need a few more breaks to go their way, if they are to reach Arizona in February.

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