Like the Patriots and the AFC East during the Tom Brady-Bill Belichick era, the Kansas City Chiefs of the Patrick Mahomes-Andy Reid era have had their way with the AFC West. Really, the Chiefs have pretty much dominated the entire AFC since Mahomes became Kansas City’s starting quarterback in 2018.
The defending champion Chiefs are the early favorite to repeat in 2023. To do that, the Chiefs will first have to capture a division that they have won each year since 2016. The Chiefs will also have to address several positions this offseason during free agency and the draft.
The West’s three other teams are also trying to strengthen their rosters in order to challenge the Chiefs for divisional supremacy. The Chiefs’ main challenger in the West, the Los Angeles Chargers, are hoping to make it further in the playoffs in 2023 after failing to protect a 27-0 in their eventual wild card playoff loss to the Jaguars. The Raiders and Broncos are also looking to be a factor in 2023 after both clubs endured highly disappointing 2022 seasons.
The 2023 offseason is a pivotal one for each AFC West team. With that in mind, here’s a look at each team’s biggest needs with free agency and the draft just around the corner.
Needs: LG, C, RT, LB, DT, TE
Projected cap space: $11.95 million (12th)
Without a first round pick, the Broncos will have to be extra diligent in free agency. Offensive line is undoubtedly GM George Paton’s top priority this offseason.
Fortunately for Denver, there are several good offensive linemen who are set to enter free agency. Included in that group are guard Matt Pryor, tackles George Fant, Mike McGlinchey and Jawaan Taylor, and centers Ethan Pocic and Austin Blythe, among others.
Linebacker is another area that needs bolstered after trading Bradley Chubb last year and with Alex Singleton set to enter free agency. There are a slew of talented and affordable inside linebackers in this year’s free agent class, including Tremaine Edmunds, Anthony Walker Jr., Devin Bush, and Kyle Van Noy.
While they’re set at receiver, the Broncos should consider giving Russell Wilson one or two reliable tight ends. They’ll have their choice in free agency, starting with former Dolphin Mike Gesicki. More affordable options here include Austin Hooper, Robert Tonyan Jr. and Hayden Hurst.
Kansas City Chiefs
Needs: WR, OT, S
Projected cap space: $526,422 (17th)
Mahomes put up an MVP season despite not having a wide receiver reach 1,000 yards. Even if they re-sign JuJu Smith-Schuster and Mecole Hardman, receiver is a position the Chiefs will surely add to this offseason.
Fortunately for them, there are several notable wide receivers who are expected to be shopping their wears in free agency. Robert Woods, DJ Chark, Jakobi Myers, Allen Lazard, Mack Hollins, and Darius Slayton are among the Chiefs’ possible options in free agency.
On the offensive line, starting tackles Orlando Brown and Andrew Wylie are slated to enter free agency. So is Nick Allegretti, the team’s top backup interior lineman. Basically, the Chiefs will likely need linemen at every position heading into next season.
The Chiefs have options here in free agency. Taylor Lewan recently hit the open market, but money is going to play a role in where he ends up. Mike McGlinchey, a starter with the 49ers each of the last five years, is a a more affordable option at tackle.
CBS draft projections: Each of our draft experts have the Chiefs taking a different player with the 31st overall pick. Ryan Wilson has them addressing their need on the defensive line by taking Georgia Tech’s Keion White. Chris Trapasso has Kansas City using this pick to address the offensive line by selecting Tennessee’s Darnell Wright. Josh Edwards has the Chiefs beefing up their pass rush here with Georgia’s Nolan Smith. Kyle Stackpole went bold with his pick and has the Chiefs adding to their backfield here with Alabama’s Jahmyr Gibbs.
Las Vegas Raiders
Needs: QB, OT, WR, EDGE, LB
Projected cap space: $46,309,005 (3rd)
Las Vegas has quite a few holes to fill, none bigger than at quarterback. The Raiders will likely address this need with the No. 7 overall pick in April’s draft (more on that in a little bit).
At receiver, the Raiders may need some secondary options alongside Davante Adams with Mack Hollins and Keelan Cole set to enter free agency. Look for the Raiders to add to their receivers room via the draft as well as in free agency. Smith-Schuster, who last year enjoyed the second most productive year of his career, would be an interesting fit here.
Offensive line will surely be a focus for the Raiders with starters Alex Bars and Jermaine Eluemunor set to enter free agency. Las Vegas also needs more pass rushers after Maxx Crosby accounted for nearly half of the team’s 27 sacks in 2022. Jadeveon Clowney, a former No. 1 overall pick, would feel like a natural fit with the silver and black.
CBS draft projections: Edwards and Stackpole have the Raiders selecting Northwestern offensive tackle Peter Skoronski with the No. 7 overall pick. Trapasso has former TCU wideout Quentin Johnston taking his talents to Las Vegas. Wilson thinks that the Raiders will use the pick to select quarterback Will Levis, who completed nearly 66% of his passes during time at Kentucky.
Los Angles Chargers
Needs: OT, DT, WR
Projected cap space: $19,672,446 (27th)
Los Angeles is slowly becoming a contender, and they could make a considerable jump this year if they have a solid offseason. Strengthening their running game and both trenches while replenishing their receiving corps would go a long way making the Chargers a legitimate threat to the Chiefs’ crown.
When healthy, Mike Williams and Keenan Allen make up one of the league’s top receiving duos. But they missed a total of 11 games last year, which contributed to Justin Herbert throwing a career-low 25 touchdowns last year. Rest assured that the Chargers will give Herbert a new wideout early in the draft.
Los Angeles will also address their defensive line this offseason after finishing last in the NFL in average yards-per-carry allowed in 2022. Their salary cap situation makes it hard for the Chargers to pursue players like Fletcher Cox and Javon Hargrave. They could, however, make a run at recently released Michael Brockers is they are able to shed some cap space. Da’Ron Payne and Derrick Ndadi are also more affordable options here.
CBS draft projections: Wilson and Edwards have the Chargers prioritizing the offensive line in the draft and taking Georgia tackle Broderick Jeons and Ohio State’s Dawand Jones with the 21st overall pick, respectively. Trapasso and Stackpole went the receiver route. Trapasso has Tennessee’s Jailin Hyatt going to Los Angeles. Stackpole has the Chargers selecting Ohio State’s Jaxon Smith-Njigba, who burst onto the scene in college after catching 15 passes for 347 yards and three touchdowns in the 2022 Rose Bowl.