Wrapping up the AFC, it’s time to preview free agency for the AFC West. This division has two stacked teams vying for a Super Bowl title (Chiefs, Chargers), a consistently mediocre team (Broncos), and a currently awful team that could make headlines this offseason (Raiders). It’s an interesting dynamic, and it will be interesting to see how it all plays out. Let’s take a look at free agency for each team in the AFC West!
Kansas City Chiefs
Top Needs: CB, S, RB
Without a doubt, the Chiefs must upgrade their defense this offseason. That unit ranked 31st in yards allowed, and struggled both versus the pass and versus the run. New defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo will help that issue, but he needs talent to be able to utilize. The entire safety needs to be overhauled, and Kansas City should look to bring in at least two new cornerbacks and one to two new safeties. After that, finding a more established running back to pair with Damien Williams will help take the pressure and focus off of Patrick Mahomes, who can only do so much. The Chiefs are limited with just $24 million in cap space, but they need to find away to add impact defensive players regardless; it could be the difference between winning the Super Bowl and falling short in the division.
Player They Need To Re-Sign: CB Steven Nelson
*EDGE Dee Ford was franchise tagged before this article was published
A bright spot on a very weak secondary, Steven Nelson rose up to the challenge as Kansas City’s top cornerback this past season. He earned a 72.1 grade from Pro Football Focus, and had four interceptions. The Chiefs cannot afford to get any worse in the secondary, meaning re-signing Nelson is a must.
Top Free Agent Target: FS Adrian Amos
The Chiefs need a starting safety opposite of Eric Berry badly, and Adrian Amos is a terrific fit. The 25-year-old ranked as the eighth best safety, according to Pro Football Focus, and will likely reach the open market since the Bears do not have the finances to re-sign him. He’s the perfect ball-hawk/center field type safety that Kansas City needed last season to stop the downfield passing game, and with Amos leading the defense, the Chiefs could be unstoppable next season. Plus, safeties don’t usually earn a ton in free agency, so he’s an affordable splash signing that a starting-caliber corner back would be.
Los Angeles Chargers
Top Needs: T, DT, LB
The Chargers are a very well-rounded team, but they still need to upgrade in certain positions to make a Super Bowl run. Right tackle Sam Tevi was a liability last year, ranking as a below average tackle by Pro Football Focus. Acquiring a better right tackle should definitely be the priority. Meanwhile, Los Angeles was exposed in the trenches in their divisional round playoff loss to the Patriots, and with both Brandon Mebane and Darius Philon set to be free agents, improving at defensive tackle should also be a must. That’s about it for major needs, but the Chargers also stand to lose Denzel Perryman and Kyle Emmanuel in free agency, so they should also try to find their replacement on the open market. It’s going to be difficult with just around $23 million in cap space, but if Los Angeles wants to get Phillip Rivers a Super Bowl title, they’ll find a way to make the moves needed to do so.
Player They Need To Re-Sign: DT Darius Philon
The 25-year-old Philon is coming off of a season in which he posted 4 sacks and graded out as above average by Pro Football Focus. Los Angeles cannot afford to get any worse in the trenches defensively, and Philon is an excellent fit in defensive coordinator Gus Bradley’s scheme, and it would be ideal for both sides for a reunion to take place.
Top Free Agent Target: T Daryl Williams
The Chargers obviously cannot go into next season with Tevi as their starter, and there aren’t many starting-caliber tackles in the draft. Therefore, Los Angeles needs to look to free agency to find a starting right tackle, and Daryl Williams makes a lot of sense. The 26-year-old missed all but one game last season due to a MCL injury, but is a very solid player when healthy. Due to the injury, he’ll likely be overshadowed by tackles Trent Brown and Ja’Wuan James, but that just makes him a better fit for the Chargers; he’ll fit their price range.
Top Needs: TE, OL, CB
After trading for quarterback Joe Flacco, it’s likely that the Broncos are still in “win-now mode”, rather that going through a much-needed rebuild. If so, they need to get Flacco a new target over the middle; the Broncos have no proven options at tight end right now. Flacco also needs better protection, and the Broncos could use upgrades at both right tackle and right guard. After that, Denver can turn their attention to the defense, and with Chris Harris regressing and Bradley Roby a free agent, they need to find a starting-caliber corner back to play on the outside.
Player They Need To Re-Sign: C Matt Paradis
Paradis ranked as the second best center last season, and is easily Denver’s best offensive lineman. They cannot afford to get worse up front, and although rumors are that John Elway doesn’t want to pay up for Paradis, he has no choice but to offer whatever Paradis wants. If he really believes the Broncos can make a playoff run, it makes no sense to get rid of arguably the Broncos’ best offensive player.
Top Free Agent Target: CB Bryce Callahan
While the Broncos need an outside corner, they also could definitely use an elite slot corner. Bryce Callahan was stellar last season, ranking as the 7th best corner in all of football, according to Pro Football Focus. He’s an all-around playmaker, and would provide an incredible jolt to a Denver defense that is starting to age. New head coach Vic Fangio will be trying to implement his defensive system, so who better to help do that than someone he just coached with the Bears? It’s a perfect fit, and although there will be a lot of competition for Callahan, being comfortable in Fangio’s scheme could give them the edge in negotiations.
Top Needs: WR, DE, FS
For the rebuilding Raiders under head coach Jon Gruden, every position is a need. However, none stand out more than at wide receiver; Oakland has zero starting-caliber receivers after the mid-season Amari Cooper trade. No matter if it’s Derek Carr or a young quarterback under center for the Raiders, they don’t stand a chance unless at least two starting-caliber receivers are brought in via free agency. Rushing the passer was also a huge issue for Oakland in 2018, as they ranked dead last by a comfortable margin with just 0.8 sacks per game. Luckily for them, there are plenty of quality pass rushers in the open market, and the same goes for free safety, a position in which the Raiders should look to upgrade to pair with strong safety Karl Joseph. Oakland has $73 million in cap space, and already looks to be very aggressive in free agency. They have a lot of work to do, so it’ll be exciting to see how they spend their available funds.
Player They Need To Re-Sign: TE Jared Cook
The 31-year-old Cook had a career high 896 receiving yards and six touchdowns for Oakland last season. He meshed really well with Gruden’s scheme, and is the perfect security blanket for whoever lines up under center for the Raiders in 2019. Both sides seem to have mutual interest in reuniting, so expect a deal to get done at some point.
Top Free Agent Target: DE Dante Fowler Jr.
The Raiders need pass rushers badly, and Fowler Jr. makes a lot of sense. At just 24-years-old, he fits perfectly with Oakland’s rebuilding timeline, and his upside as the former 3rd overall pick in the draft makes sense for a non-contending team to bet on. Fowler had eight sacks as recently as 2017, and graded out solid as an above average edge defender last year, per Pro Football Focus. Oakland will, and should be in on every edge rusher, but Fowler Jr. looks to be the most logical fit for them.