With the NFL Draft Combine underway, this is speculation season all around. The ever-interesting AFC West has a lot of questions to answer before next fall. They have the defending champion and cap-concerned Kansas City Chiefs. The Los Angeles Chargers have a new head coach and philosophy under Jim Harbaugh. Antonio Pierce is now the permanent head coach for the Las Vegas Raiders who are looking for a new franchise quarterback. Finally, the Denver Broncos have to answer the QB question for year 2 under Sean Payton. These teams would have unlimited money and perfect decision-making in an ideal world. Alas, the three teams chasing Kansas City Chiefs will have to take home run swings if they hope to unseat the 8-time defending division champions. Let’s look at why this offseason is critical in the AFC West.

Kansas City Chiefs

The back-to-back Super Bowl champions have several questions to answer before starting their quest for a three-peat. The Chiefs recently released Wide Receiver Marquez Valdez-Scantling, which saves the team $12 million against the salary cap. Chris Jones signed a 5-year deal that will make him the highest-paid defensive tackle in league history. Now, L’Jarius Sneed has become the big question mark for Kansas City. He was given the franchise tag and received permission to seek a trade. If the Chiefs solve their Sneed question then the wide receiver position should be next on the to-do list. With MVS gone and Hollywood Brown added to the fold, it will be up to GM Brett Veach to find more weapons for Patrick Mahomes to utilize. We’ve seen the last two seasons that Mahomes can make any pass catcher work. So don’t expect the big splash necessarily from the two-time defending champs.

Los Angeles Chargers

After a disappointing 2023 season, the LA Chargers are making wholesale changes. New head coach Jim Harbaugh is fresh off winning the National Championship with Michigan this past season. Austin Ekeler is a Commander, Keenan Allen is a Chicago Bear, while Mike Williams was cut to save $20 million against the salary cap. Khalil Mack and Joey Bosa restructured their deals to remain with the team. All these moves were to get the Chargers back under the salary cap. The Chargers hold the 5th pick which holds several options like Georgia tight end Brock Bowers, Notre Dame offensive tackle Joe Alt, or trading the pick for a team looking for a quarterback. A new sheriff is joining Sean McVay in Sofi Stadium, and he won’t want to play second fiddle for long. These wholesale changes so soon may not bring excitement for the 2024 Chargers.

Las Vegas Raiders

The Las Vegas Raiders listened to the players and culture built towards the season’s end. Antonio Pierce returns as the head coach with the quarterback position on the field as his big question for 2024. Jimmy Garoppolo has been suspended for 2 games and was released by the Raiders. Aidan O’Connell stepped in for 11 starts during the season, but doesn’t appear to be the starter next year. In a dream world, Pierce would reunite with Jayden Daniels, but that would take a massive trade-up. In the meantime, Gardner Minshew has been given a two-year deal worth $25 million to compete for the starting job. Maxx Crosby and Davante Adams are the headliners for this franchise that may look to continue the rebuild as opposed to tearing it down. It may end up in a middling 2024, but it’s better to be closer to the top than bottoming out again.

Denver Broncos

Ever since Peyton Manning led the Broncos to a Super Bowl title the quarterback position has been in flux in the Mile High City. From Brock Osweiler to Russell Wilson, the franchise has been unable to find the answer. Insert Sean Payton for year 2 at the helm, and changes feel inevitable. Wilson has been released before the 2024 League Year begins on March 13th. Denver holds the 12th pick in the draft and outside of a major trade takes them out of big game quarterback hunting. The Broncos’ offence needs to be rebuilt starting from the pivot. Outside of a 70-point drubbing against Miami, not much needs to change on the defensive end. Sean Payton will likely have more control over the Broncos’ offseason moves which seems promising. Without a QB, it means no chance of competing in this division.

There is a head-and-shoulders leader in this division with many question marks sitting behind Kansas City. The Chargers seem like the team that has the closest recipe to dethroning the Chiefs. The Broncos and Raiders have too many questions at QB to be considered playoff teams for next year. Running a division for almost a decade is another feather in the Chiefs’ current dynasty-esque run. Unless major moves are made it is their division to win for a 9th straight year.

Keep it locked on Area 51 Sports Network as the NFL Offseason Progresses.