Getting back to this after a few days off. Looking at the needs across the AFC West, one of the more powerful divisions in football – aside from the Raiders….
Kansas City Chiefs
There’s one glaring priority for this team – the defence. Dee Ford’s contract is up and if they can’t get a long term deal done then franchise tagging Ford would be a wise first move. The Chiefs are rumoured to be considering cutting long term pass rusher Justin Houston to save some money. Whilst he is on the wrong side of 30 he is still a formidable player and the experience and leadership will be difficult. Getting better in the backfield is also a must for the Chiefs who were 31st in pass defence in 2019. Kendall Fuller was a good acquisition in the trade that saw quarterback AleX Smith head to Washington, but he needs help. Eric Berry is another veteran that might be jettisoned in the offseason. Before his injury, the Chiefs were rumoured to be interested in a trade to bring Earl Thomas to Kansas. Now Thomas is a free agent, they could revive the move providing they’re happy with his rehabilitation.
On the offence, the only hole they have is at running back after they cut Kareem Hunt for his off the field issues. Like many teams have done in the past (including the Chiefs), they could look to the later rounds of the draft to find a replacement, or if he’s there when they’re picking in round one – Josh Jacobs out fo Alabama.
The Raiders have four picks in the top 35 selections in the draft and they need to hit on all of them if they’re to get back to winning ways after a less than successful first season back in the league for Jon Gruden. Might be easier to write up what the Raiders don’t need……
It’s been said many a time (on this website and in our podcast), good pass rushers are hard to find. Pass rush is a massive need for the Raiders who were ranked last in getting to the opposing quarterback last year. With the cap space available they could look to both free agency and the draft to build their pass rushing capabilities. They could also do with some new linebackers – Anthony Barr maybe? And the backfield needs work where the current crop of cornerbacks and safeties in Oakland are far from productive.
On the other side of the ball, the O-Line isn’t terrible but it’s not great. With everything else needing attention you would say that quarterback would be the least of their problems, but there are rumours that they could be open to trading current incumbent Derek Carr. What Carr does need is some decent players to throw to, which is unfortunate as the wide receiver class in the draft isn’t stellar though there could be some potential there. The free agency class might be even worse. Lastly, at running back, Marshawn Lynch is apparently coming back but at his age and fitness levels it might not be wise to rely solely on him.
This is another pretty stacked team but there are areas that could be improved upon.
No great shock that Philip Rivers isn’t getting any younger. Getting some more protection for him in the shape of reinforcements of the offensive line would be a sensible move. As would bringing in a long term replacement. Rivers is still playing at a high level but ensuring the succession plan is in place would be good. Melvin Gordon has become a solid running back option but ended the year with fitness issues. The Chargers will need to decide whether to extend his contract or else look for a replacement, in the worst case they need to ensure they have a suitable backup.
On the defensive side, the interior of the line could need some work with both Corey Liuget and Brandon Mebane set to hit free agency. The first rounds of the draft could be the perfect place to replace one of the two and then, they could even look to keep Suh in LA by bringing him in from free agency should they wish to. Cornerback Jason Verrett has been injured for the best part of the last two seasons and is now set to hit free agency. On his days he’s a quality player and given his history of injuries they could bring him back on a cheap ‘prove it’ deal.
Is Joe Flacco the answer at quarterback? Probably not. He might be a short term fix but I would not be shocked if Elway drafted Drew Lock in the first round of the draft this year, a player with whom the Bronco’s were connected with a lot before they traded for the Ravens veteran quarterback. Whatever happens, there’s still a massive question mark over the offensive line – something that doesn’t bode well when you consider that Flacco has rarely shown the ability to scramble out of the pocket. Offering a new contract to centre Matt Paradis would be my first priority. He’s quietly developed into a good centre and is at least something for them to build around. Using free agency and the draft to fill other holes would also be in order and then, if they can, finding a new receiver for Flacco to throw to. On the basis that Demaryius Thomas has gone and there are plenty of rumours that Emmanuel Sanders will also be cut, Flacco is going to need someone to throw to – so add a receiver or two onto the Denver shopping list.
On the defensive side of the ball, they’re set at pass rush with Von Miller and Bradley Chubb. The middle of the line may need some attention with man mountain Domata Peko set to hit free agency. At 34 years old I don’t anticipate the Broncos re-signing him. A more difficult decision will be whether to retain cornerback Bradley Roby. The former first round pick hasn’t lived up to his billing but has shown occasional signs of potential – he’s certainly not the worst option available and with all the other needs on this team, the Broncos may be wise to try and keep him on an affordable deal.Embed from Getty Images