Each Wednesday, NFP will take a look at how one of the NFL’s eight divisions did in the offseason. Today, the AFC West.
Most improved team: Chiefs.
They added some quality players every way you can add them. By trade (Alex Smith), by free agency (Geoff Schwartz, Donnie Avery, Anthony Fasano, Chase Daniel, Mike DeVito, Akeem Jordan, Dunta Robinson, Sean Smith) and by draft (Eric Fisher, Travis Kelce). Given the influx of talent and coaching ability with Andy Reid and his staff, the Chiefs could make a major leap in the standings in 2013. They were considered by many to be one of the biggest underachieving teams in the league one year ago. And the new additions could help bring out the best in some holdovers who are capable of more, including Jonathan Baldwin, Tony Moeaki, Dontari Poe and Justin Houston.
Biggest veteran move: Alex Smith, Chiefs.
There are some mixed opinions on Smith, but it is difficult to argue that he is a solid professional veteran who takes good care of the football. He isn’t going to be the reason the Chiefs are losing many games. Smith’s skill set is well above average. And there is a chance he could play his best football under Reid in Kansas City as he comes into the sweet spot of his career. Remember this: he just turned 29.
Best draft addition: Eric Fisher, Chiefs.
Sorry to go so Chiefs-heavy on you. But the facts are the facts. There is a reason Fisher was the first overall pick. He should be a long term starter who excels in Kansas City. It will be interesting to see if he sticks on the right side or if the Chiefs move him to left at some point before the season begins. Right now, their motive is to get the best five on the field. D.J. Fluker also should be an excellent draft addition by the Chargers.
Best under the radar move: Terrance Knighton, Broncos.
There were a number of nice under the radar moves in the West. In fact, every team had one. I liked the Raiders’ signing of Nick Roach, a solid, steady linebacker who can play the run and pass. The Chargers did well to land Derek Cox, a big, physical cornerback who can match up with some of the tall wide receivers. DeVito should pick up the intensity on the K.C. defensive line. And Louis Vasquez will upgrade the Broncos’ offensive line after coming over from the Chargers. But the Broncos’ signing of Knighton may have been the best move of all of these. Knighton was drafted in Jacksonville by current Denver defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio, so he is a perfect fit in the Broncos’ front. His ability to absorb blockers should help the other Broncos’ linemen.
Dan Pompei covers pro football for the Chicago Tribune at chicagotribune.com.