After the major waves of free agency and before the draft commences, the AFC West looks different. With the exception of the Denver Broncos, the division took a drastic turn into improving during the winter. As a result, the Oakland Raiders face new threats on their road back to the playoffs.
Los Angeles Chargers
Mike Pouncey, Center
Two years, fifteen million dollars
What He Brings
By nature, fans do not regard a center as an integral part of an offense. However, they are usually the ones calling out line protections and are viewed as the unquestioned leader of the line. In Los Angeles, Pouncey gives the Chargers their first legitimate center since Nick Hardwick retired. In addition, he solidifies and turns an above-average line into a potentially dominant one. The Chargers can now boast a group of young talent mixed with skilled veterans.
At this writing, Oakland still does not employ a quality 3-technique. Moreover, they re-signed Justin Ellis to a long-term deal. With Vita Vea potentially sitting at ten, the Raiders will not draft him. Meanwhile, Pouncey will help open holes and mitigate middle pressure. Pouncey’s signing should alert Oakland to what the Chargers are trying to accomplish.
Kansas City Chiefs
Sammy Watkins, Wide Receiver
Three years, 48 million
While the contract appears rather steep, the Chiefs improved their receiving corps. With Watkins, the Chiefs have another threat that can stretch the field. Moreover, Watkins will allow Travis Kelce to work the middle of the field without the clutter of extra defenders.
Granted, Tyreek Hill already poses a myriad of issues for the Raiders. He feasts off the secondary to the tune of an 82 percent catch rate and 15.89 yards per catch. If you add in Watkins, Oakland’s already think corner depth is tested. Whom does Rashaan Melvin cover? Gareon Conley? The Chiefs will attack the Raiders at their most vulnerable point, the secondary. Can the Raiders survive this?
In reality, the Raiders cannot avoid the Chargers and Chiefs’ additions. If Paul Guenther is to succeed with the defense, Oakland needs to account for these players. Whether schematically or improving personnel, the Raiders will see Pouncey and Watkins a minimum of four time in the next two seasons.