Free agency is off and running, as half of the AFC West teams have made big splashes. Of course, the Oakland Raiders have yet to make a big move, but they have seen two-time defending division champion Kansas City come out swinging and cellar-dwelling Denver address their starting quarterback spot.
What does all this early free-agency movement mean for the Oakland Raiders in the AFC West?
Well, it’s a work in progress and teams are just starting to work on their 2018 rosters. But there are a couple of major questions already answered about Oakland’s division foes.
First, the Chiefs are freaking loaded on offense. Receiver Sammy Watkins was considered one of the best receiving options available (he would have made the Raiders better), and now he’s in Kansas City. I know the easy defense mechanism is to say Watkins hasn’t done much and he has been oft injured. But he is an explosive player who is just 24.
Plus, he is going to an offense that can exploit his abilities. Chiefs head coach Andy Reid, perhaps the most underrated offensive mind in the game, now has Watkins, fellow receiver Tyreek Hill, sublime tight end Travis Kelce and workhorse running back Kareem Hunt to help along first-time starting quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
Mahomes, no doubt, will have growing pains, but he has big skills, most notably his rocket arm. Hill and Watkins are major deep threats. Add the Kelce and Hunt elements and the Chiefs offense is going to be a problem for opposing teams.
Of course, Oakland’s defense has long been a problem. So, the Raiders are going to have their hands full twice a year against Kansas City’s offense. The Chiefs’ move to get Watkins and lengthen their offensive weaponry makes Oakland’s need for secondary help even more pressing.
The good news for Oakland is the cornerback market hasn’t moved too much yet. They have been connected to the Rams’ Trumaine Johnson, and Johnson is still available as is New England’s Malcolm Butler and others. Oakland may need to get in on this market now.
That brings us to the Broncos and their new quarterback, Case Keenum. The Broncos clearly thought the Kirk Cousins sweepstakes was too wild for them. So. Denver settled for Keenum, a journeyman who found sudden success with the Vikings last year.
Full disclosure: I’m not a Keenum guy. I don’t think he will move the needle much in Denver, but a lot of smart football people I trust like the Keenum-Denver match. So, I’m willing to give it a try.
“Denver is a contender in the division with Keenum,” longtime scout Matt Williamson told me this morning.
The thing I like about the Keenum signing for the Broncos is it allows them to build around him. So, Denver takes Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson at No. 5 and ad some other pieces around Keenum. Well, then the Broncos are much improved.
Again, this thing is just getting going, but the intrigue in the AFC West is already on high alert.