Ever since Patrick Mahomes ascended to the top of the AFC west as a starter in 2018, the rest of the west has been inhaling the turf off his cleats. Mahomes has a 27-3 record against the AFC west thus far in his career. At a 90%-win rate, his letter grade is an A for his first six years in the league. This dominance has made the heads of the other AFC west General Managers roll. So much, they made massive roster moves before the beginning of the 2022 season. Let’s look at some of those moves, and how they impacted the teams making the moves and the Chiefs.
LA Chargers 10-7
Let’s start with the 2022 runner-up in the AFC west the LA Chargers. The Chargers extended Mike Williams on a three-year deal for $60 million. This would have been a good deal if Williams could have stayed healthy. Despite playing in thirteen games in 2022, Williams was often hampered by injury and never impacted the Charger’s offense like he was predicted to. The receiver suffered ankle injuries and a back fracture that sidelined him throughout the season and ultimately ended his hopes of participating in the postseason. Not a total bust of a season, Williams was able to amass 895 receiving yards and four touchdowns.
With the defensive side of the ball being the weakest link, the Chargers signed top free-agent cornerback JC Jackson. Jackson signed a five-year $82 million deal. Coming off a pro-bowl year, and a second-team all-pro selection, Jackson was supposed to sure up a Charger defensive secondary that was torched the previous season. Understanding that slowing down the opposition’s passing game is to have good coverage in the secondary and QB pressure, the Chargers continue their spending binge. In another major defensive move, they sent a second-round pick and a sixth-round pick to the Chicago Bears for pass rusher Khalil Mack. Were these moves worth the expense? The answer is no. Williams had 895 yards receiving and four touchdowns, and Mack had eight sacks in seventeen games this year. For what the Chargers paid, that is not the return on investment they were seeking. Those moves did not close the gap between them and the Chiefs but may have widened the gap between the two. Also, the moves put the Chargers in a cap situation causing restructuring for those two contracts and several more.
Los Vegas Raider 6-11
Coming off a 10-7 regular season in 2021 and a wild card loss to the eventual AFC Super Bowl representative Cincinnati Bengals, the Raiders had high hopes coming into the 2022 season. High hopes lead to bold moves as the Raiders looked to make transactions that would put them into the elite of the AFC and NFL. To compete with the Chiefs’ offensive power, the Raiders decided to reunite college teammates Derek Carr and Devante Adams. The Raiders traded a first and second-round pick to acquire Adams. Not only was there a ton of daft capital expended, but the Raider signed Adams to a 5-year deal for $140 million with an average annual salary of $28 million per year. I must say that this trade, very costly, lived-up to expectations in year one. Devante Adams was able to collect 100 receptions in 2022 for a total of 1,516 yards and 14 touchdowns. Adams is a true #1 receiver that is an absolute beast to cover every game. This addition helped move the Raiders from the 18th-ranked offense in 2021 to the 12th-ranked offense in the 2022 season.
Defensively the Raiders needed a way to slow down the vaunted passing game of the Kansas City Chiefs. So, they signed free agent pash rusher Chandler Jones to match with Maxx Crosby. Jones signed a three-year contract for $52.5 million with $34 million guaranteed. Jones’ 2022 stats were abysmal. He played in 15 games and only was able to amass 38 total tackles, 15 QB hits, and 4.5 sacks. To pour salt in the wound, the Raider’s defense took a step backward. They were ranked 26th in 2021 and 28th in 2022. Needless to say, the Raiders bleep-show continues to be a bleep-show with no end in sight. Also, their cap position is not in a good place.
Denver Broncos 5-12
The last and the least of the AFC west, the cellar-dwelling Denver Broncos. Defensively,
Denver is in a good place. They finished third in total defense in 2021, and 14th in 2022. Without a doubt, the decline in defensive proficiency was directly related to the lack of performance of the Broncos’ offense. Their inability to stay on the field caused the defense to be on the field more. In turn, this caused a significant increase in yardage given up by the Bronco defense. So, those numbers are a bit skewed.
The offense is where the Denver Broncos needed the biggest boost. Their offense finished ranked 23rd in the 2021 season. Understanding that elevating their offense to the middle of the pack in the NFL would ultimately increase their chances of being an elite team, the Broncos swung for the fences in the off-season before the start of the 2022 season. In a QB-driven league, the Broncos were missing a franchise quarterback, and saw the opportunity to fill this role. Denver sought after the seemingly disgruntled quarterback of the Seattle Seahawks, Russel Wilson. Wilson had led the Seahawks to two Super Bowl appearances and one victory. Known for his mobility and beautiful deep ball, Wilson was a perfect match for Denver’s need for a leader on the offensive side of the ball.
What would it cost to get Wilson from Seattle? A whole bunch! To get the Seattle QB, the Broncos gave up their 2022 1st round pick, a 2023 1st round pick, a 2022 2nd round pick, a 2023 2nd round pick, a 2022 5th round pick, TE Noah Fant, DE Shelby Harris, and QB Drew Lock. In return, the Broncos received Russel Wilson and a 2022 4th-round pick from the Seahawks. In hindsight, it is safe to say that Seattle won this trade. There is always the possibility that Wilson could play better, right? If so, he will have to play a lot better. With Wilson’s addition, the Broncos finished 32nd in offense in 2022, and this doesn’t begin to explain the atrocity they were on the field. Even if Wilson’s play increases dramatically, unless he wins a Super Bowl, he will never live up to his contract. The contract is seven years for $296 million. Wilson will make $49 million yearly through 2028. I can hear Bronco fans vomiting in and out of their mouths as they read this. The Broncos’ 2022 off-season moves have not proven to be positive for the team’s performance or closing the gap between them and the Chiefs.
As we move deeper into the 2022 off-season, Chiefs’ fans are screaming about signing a veteran wide receiver even though the price tags are very expensive at this point. Looking at the rest of the AFC West’s 2021 off-season where they spent millions upon millions of dollars to get the same or worse results, the Chiefs are in a good position going into the draft. Also, understand that the draft is going to produce contributors in their year-one campaigns. Let us not forget that once we get closer to the draft and beyond, there will be more pieces become available via free agency. Patience is not the easiest thing to have, but it appears to be the smartest to this point.