Despite losing in the AFC Championship game to the eventual Super Bowl winning New England Patriots, a case can be made for the Kansas City Chiefs being the best team in the NFL last season.
With Patrick Mahomes looking like the next big thing at the quarterback position, it seems likely that the Chiefs will be one of the top teams in the league for the foreseeable future; but regardless the heights this offense can reach, it’ll be nearly impossible for Kansas City to reach the ultimate goal unless significant improvement is shown on the defensive side of the ball.
So let’s begin there in the AFC West, with the defending division champions.
Kansas City Chiefs
12-4, 1st place AFC West
Lost in AFC Championship
First pick in 2019 NFL Draft: Round 1, Pick 29
Biggest Need: Cornerback
Flip a coin here between help in the secondary or adding to the defensive line, but regardless, the Chiefs need make addressing the defensive side of the ball a priority this offseason.
Adding to the secondary gets a slight edge for me since the Chiefs ranked 31st in passing yards allowed per game last season and haven’t been able to replace Marcus Peters with another ball-hawking cornerback since dealing him to the Los Angeles Rams.
Defense, defense and more defense seems like the logical path for the Chiefs this offseason, so expect quite a few changes on that side of the ball for Kansas City following free agency and the NFL Draft.
Top Free Agents: Ronald Darby, Pierre Desir, Bradley Roby, Darqueze Dennard, Kareem Jackson
Top NFL Draft Prospects: Greedy Williams (LSU), Deandre Baker (Georgia), Byron Murphy (Washington), Trayvon Mullen (Clemson)
Los Angeles Chargers
12-4, 2nd place AFC West
Lost in AFC Divisional Round
First pick in 2019 NFL Draft: Round 1, Pick 28
Biggest Need: Interior Defensive Line
The Chargers have one of the best tandem of edge rushers in the entire NFL in Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, but adding new bodies to the interior of that defensive line will be a top priority this offseason, especially if they’re unable to re-sign defensive tackle, Corey Liuget.
If L.A. can bring Liuget back on a team-friendly deal then the offseason priority may shift from interior defensive line to offensive line or linebacker, but the Chargers will likely join the Chiefs in making defense a priority this offseason.
Would the Chargers entertain the idea of bringing in the eventual replacement of Philip Rivers this offseason?
Possibly, but only if they are truly enamored with one of this draft’s top quarterbacks, which doesn’t seem likely. So it seems more likely that the Chargers will look to add players who can help sooner rather than later in an attempt to win Rivers that coveted Super Bowl ring.
Top Free Agents: Grady Jarrett, Ndamukong Suh, Sheldon Richardson, Darius Philon, David Irving
Top NFL Draft Prospects: Quinnen Williams (Alabama), Ed Oliver (Houston), Rashan Gary (Michigan), Christian Wilkins (Clemson), Dexter Lawrence (Clemson)
6-10, 3rd place AFC West
First pick in 2019 NFL Draft: Round 1, Pick 10
Biggest Need: Offensive Line
The 2019 offseason is off to an interesting start for the Broncos after the impeding trade for Baltimore’s Joe Flacco.
While neither Flacco or Case Keenum are the future at quarterback for this team, the Broncos can get ahead of the game and start building an offensive line for the eventual franchise quarterback by adding multiple players at both guard and tackle this offseason.
There are some quality options at guard and tackle in both free agency and the NFL draft, so I’d expect a mix of veterans and rookies to be brought in to help bolster this relatively weak unit.
Top Free Agents: Trent Brown, Donovan Smith, Ja’Wuan James, Mitch Morse, Matt Paradis
Top NFL Draft Prospects: Jonah Williams (Alabama), Jawaan Taylor (Florida), Cody Ford (Oklahoma), Greg Little (Mississippi), Andre Dillard (Washington St.)
4-12, 4th place AFC West
First pick in 2019 NFL Draft: Round 1, Pick 4
Biggest Need: Edge Rusher
The Oakland Raiders finished dead last in the NFL with just 13 sacks last season; no other team finished with less than 30.
Trading Khalil Mack was likely a mistake since he is the exact player you hope your draft picks turn into, but doing so ensured the Raiders three first-round picks this April, so there’s no excuse for this team to not find help at edge rusher this offseason.
An array of positions can be selected as a top priority for a team that only finished with four wins the previous season, but edge rusher, wide receiver, and help in the secondary comprise my top three with edge rusher sitting atop the list.
Top Free Agents: DeMarcus Lawrence, Jadeveon Clowney, Frank Clark, Dee Ford, Trey Flowers
Top NFL Draft Prospects: Nick Bosa (Ohio St.), Clelin Ferrell (Clemson), Montez Sweat (Mississippi St.), Jachai Polite (Florida), Brian Burns (Florida State)
Did you miss the biggest offseason needs for those in the AFC East? Check it out HERE
Be sure to check out the latest episode of the Loaded Box Podcast as the guys discuss the most-recent news in the NFL and preview the offseason for the Oakland Raiders!