NFL Free Agency Grades: The AFC West

Case Keenum looks over his new jersey during a news conference to introduce him as the new starting quarterback of the Denver Broncos at the team’s headquarters Friday, March 16, 2018, in Englewood, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Denver finds a QB

Our Free Agency grading period continues!

NFC West

Denver Broncos

Lost: TE Virgil Green, LT Donald Stephenson

Signed: QB Case Keenum, CB Tramaine Brock

Still unsigned: QB Brock Osweiler

The Denver Broncos came into this offseason in a weird position. They knew they needed a quarterback to stabilize the offense, yet despite a disappointing 2017 season they didn’t land the kind of draft pick necessary to ensure one of the highly-touted quarterbacks of this year’s class would fall to them.

Finding free agent quarterbacks who can start on potential playoff teams is generally unheard-of, but this season is different. All sorts of quarterbacks are sitting out there to be had by teams that want them, and to that end Denver jumped on Minnesota signal-caller Case Keenum.

Keenum had a stellar season with the Vikings, leading Minnesota all the way to the NFC Championship before falling to Philadelphia. With the Vikings looking at a surplus of quarterbacks, they left Keenum out to be had. Denver being one of the teams with the most pressing needs under center, they jumped on the passer as soon as they could.

While Denver went 5-11 last season, they look to be in a position to get back in contention in a hurry if Keenum can produce like he did last season. The problem now is protecting that quarterback. Denver’s passers were sacked 52 times in 2017, tied for the third most in football in that span. The Broncos have to look at upgrading their offensive line for 2018 or the celebrated signing of Keenum might not be enough.

Overall grade: C – The Broncos got what they needed most, but now they need to put their new quarterback in a position to succeed.

Kansas City Chiefs

Lost: CB Darrelle Revis, G Zach Fulton, WR Albert Wilson, CB Terrance Mitchell, OLB Kevin Pierre-Louis

Signed: WR Sammy Watkins, ILB Anthony Hitchens, CB David Amerson

Still unsigned: OLB Tamba Hali

The Chiefs were a team that made their biggest move via trade. The Chiefs parted ways with quarterback Alex Smith, choosing to move on with Pat Mahomes II after the rookie had a year of seasoning.

Mahomes will have an upgraded group of pass targets, now headlined by Watkins. The wideout is fast and elusive, and Watkins is likely to be one of Mahomes’ favorite pass targets from the get go.

After a great 2017 season, Kansas City didn’t feel the need to make a big splash in free agency. Outside of signing Watkins, they mostly focused on cap space and retaining important players like punter Dustin Colquitt.

There is still work to be done, in that Kansas City needs to work to maintain its defense. To do that, they’ll have an abundance of draft picks.

Overall grade: B – The Chiefs largely stayed the course in free agency. Adding Watkins will help the offense, and Kansas City is likely to come into next season with a loaded roster.

Los Angeles Chargers

Lost: G Kenny Wiggins, G Matt Slauson, OLB Jeremiah Attaochu

Signed: C Mike Pouncey, K Caleb Sturgis, TE Virgil Green

Still unsigned: TE Antonio Gates

The Chargers were one of the teams with the least to do in free agency. There wasn’t much turnover in their existing roster, and like many teams they came into the offseason looking to improve through the draft.

Pouncey is going to be a critical signing for the Chargers. Pouncey was one of the more coveted offensive linemen in this particular offseason. His presence will continue to boost an offensive line that surrendered the fewest sacks in the NFL in 2017. Protection like that will prolong the career of Phillip Rivers.

The big question left in free agency is whether Antonio Gates will retire. There has been no decision from the tight end, though he is reportedly leaning toward playing again in 2018. Whether he will do that playing for the Chargers is another matter left up in the air. The Chargers brought in Virgil Green partly to protect against Gates retiring, but if he opts to come back they still may move forward without the franchise legend.

Overall Grade: B- – Los Angeles will likely return in 2018 with a stellar offensive line, and Pouncey could make it even better than last season’s version.

Oakland Raiders

Lost: CB Travis Carrie, WR Michael Crabtree, DE Denico Autry, OLB Aldon Smith

Signed: RB Doug Martin, WR Jordy Nelson, CB Rashaan Melvin, OLB Tahir Whitehead

Still unsigned: K Sebastian Janikowski

Thus far, the first free agency period for Oakland since bringing back Jon Gruden has been a busy one.

The Raiders went out and got Doug Martin to add to their running game, though in many ways it’s unclear just what they’re getting in Martin at this point. Martin had an awful season with the Buccaneers last year, and combined with a suspension that carried over into the 2017 season it spelled the end of his time in Tampa Bay. For Oakland, that made Martin an affordable back that they could take a flyer on. Being that the Raiders turned to luring Marshawn Lynch out of retirement last year, they could use some help in the running game. Perhaps this will be a better fit for Martin.

Travis Carrie and Michael Crabtree were serious contributors for the Raiders, but Melvin and Nelson can fill in and in some ways could provide an upgrade. Nelson brings leadership qualities to Oakland with him, having been one of Aaron Rodgers’ preferred pass targets leading up to this season.

Whitehead became a necessary signing with all that’s going on around Aldon Smith, making it a no-brainer for the Raiders to part ways with Smith and move on building their team without him.

Grade: B+ – The Raiders dealt with some high turnover this offseason without having to go out and break the bank to do it, leaving room against the cap both for this season and future seasons.