The AFC West was one of the best divisions in the NFL in 2013, putting three teams into the postseason. That means it could be a bit of an arms race this offseason, as the teams know that competition within the division will be tough in 2014. Let’s take a look at the offseason plans for the four teams in the AFC West.
Denver Broncos – As long as Peyton Manning is still around the Broncos are going to do everything they can to win in the short term. Eric Decker may leave in free agency and Wes Welker is getting old, so Denver needs to find a receiver that can team up with Demaryius Thomas and Julius Thomas to make sure Manning still has an elite arsenal of receivers at his disposal. The Broncos also have a few free agents along their offensive line, and whether they re-sign those guys or bring in new players, they have to make sure that unit is strong and Manning is well protected. On defense, something has to give at cornerback, where the Broncos need help, regardless of whether or not they’re able to bring back Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Denver also needs to invest in a young pass rusher to complement Von Miller, who will need some help next season after coming off an ACL injury.
Kansas City Chiefs – The Chiefs have a team that can reach the playoffs, but they won’t have a team that can play at a championship level until they address certain areas. Alex Smith is likely to stay at quarterback, who is fine for now, but Kansas City needs to get him more help around him outside of Dwayne Bowe and Jamaal Charles. The Chiefs should explore the free agent market for wide receivers while also taking advantage of a deep class of wide receivers in the draft, which should help them pick up at least two talented wide outs this offseason. The Chiefs also have a few starters along the offensive line approaching free agency, which is something they’ll have to adequately address if they’re going to remain competitive in 2014. Defensively, the Chiefs are in relatively good shape, except in the secondary, where they got exposed late in the season when their pass rush wasn’t quite as dominant as they were early in the season. If Kansas City can get more talent around safety Eric Berry they’ll be in good shape on the back end of their defense.
Oakland Raiders – Dennis Allen has one more season to start turning things around in Oakland or he’s going to be unemployed. The first thing Allen will have to do is decide on a course of action at quarterback, because if he doesn’t want to commit to Terrelle Pryor or Matt McGloin in 2014, the Raiders may have to use their first round pick on a new quarterback. Once the quarterback position is figured out, Oakland may have to make due with the rest of the offense as is, because their defense needs a lot of attention. Oakland had a terrible pass defense last year, and they’ll not only need to overhaul their secondary, but they’re going to need to find pass rushers along the defensive line. On the off chance Jadeveon Clowney falls to them in the draft, they may need to take him, even if it means waiting until later in the draft to pick a quarterback, because generating a pass rush may be equally important to becoming a competitive team in 2014.
San Diego Chargers – The resurgence of Philip Rivers and the emergence of rookie receiver Keenan Allen have given the Chargers a boost and a chance to remain competitive for a few more years. Some improvement to the offensive line could be made this offseason, and it also wouldn’t hurt San Diego to add another receiver or two, perhaps a tight end that can ultimately take over for Antonio Gates. But the biggest priority for the Chargers this offseason could be cornerback, where the team may need to invest an early round draft pick while also acquiring one or two players in free agency to give that position a boost. Finally, San Diego could use another pass rusher, and if they can find a way to make a splash in that area, it could go a long way towards helping them challenge for a division title in 2014 if Rivers can continue to perform at the level he did in 2013.