The AFC west does have its share of battles, regardless of what everyone thinks, it’s a tough division to win. During the 2012 NFL Free Agency frenzy, the landscape of the NFL can change overnight.
Let's review the recent moves from the Denver Broncos, Kansas City Chiefs, Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers on the open market.
Kansas City Chiefs
Kansas City has been pretty busy from the get-go. In addition to re-signing veteran defensive lineman Amon Gordon, the team also added Peyton Hillis on a one-year, $3 million deal to bolster its backfield.
Peyton Hillis was haunted by the Madden Curse (or just had a lot of bad luck) last season, appearing in just 10 contests (nine starts), as he ran for 587 yards on 161 carries (3.6 YPC) and three touchdowns with 22 receptions for 130 yards through the air to boot.
Hillis started 14 games in 2010, when he unleashed a breakout season with 1,177 yards and 11 scores on 270 carries (4.4 YPC) with 61 receptions for 477 yards and two touchdowns. The 6-2, 250-pound back reunites with Chiefs offensive coordinator Brian Daboll as he enters his fifth season and joins his third different team in the NFL.
The Chiefs also stole quarterback Brady Quinn from the Broncos, tight end Kevin Boss from the Raiders and found an elite right tackle in Eric Winston from Houston. This team could be dangerous next season.
During the weekend they continue to plug in their holes and improved their offensive unit the Chiefs announced the signing of free agent quarterback Brady Quinn formerly with the Broncos and the team also signed former Houston Texans Offensive lineman Eric Winston, who is expected to be the Chiefs starting right offensive tackle.
It looks like the era of the Tebows (Tebow-led Broncos) is coming to an end. Tim Tebow could stick around and learn behind one of the greatest players to ever play the quarterback position, but if the Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, Jacksonville Jaguars, Kansas City Chiefs or any other club offers a sweet deal that's worthwhile for the Broncos, Tebow and the team interested, his era in Denver will be over as fast as you can say, "Sally sold seashells by the seashore."
In addition to reportedly inking Peyton Manning to a five-year deal worth $96 million, the Broncos have also signed safety Mike Adams (formerly with the Browns) to a two-year contract, which was followed by re-signing linebacker Joe Mays.
A two-down inside linebacker, Mays was third in tackles on the team last season. Denver also re-signed guard Manual Ramirez and linebacker Wesley Woodyard after announcing on Monday that Manning would be joining the franchise. In seven starts in 2010, Woodyard, 25, racked up a career-high 97 tackles and forced two fumbles.
San Diego Chargers
The Bolts haven't taken the open market by storm, but overall they've struck well during this free agency frenzy.
While a few holes flashed in front of the Chargers before the first few days had passed as star receiver Vincent Jackson took his talents to Tampa Bay, A.J. Smith and company made some heads-up moves, signing Robert Meachem to a four-year, $25.9 million contract and bringing in ex-Broncos wide out Eddie Royal as well with a three-year, $13.5 million deal.
San Diego also replaced Mike Tolbert, who took his services to Carolina with ex-Ravens back Le'Ron McClain to a three-year deal. McClain also spent last season with the Chiefs. In addition, the team applied the mentality of first things first, as the Bolts struck a $13.5 million deal for three years with center Nick Hardwick and brought back offensive tackle Jared Gaither on a four-year contract worth $16.5 million.
The team also signed tight end Dante Rosario to a one-year contract and retained Randy McMichael to a two-year deal. The Chargers would easily be classified as the most active club within the division if not for Manning heading to Denver. Nevertheless, despite the departures of V-Jax and Tolbert, this team could be much more explosive next season if it can finally get off to a good start.
In terms of player personnel, Oakland's biggest needs entering the off-season were at cornerback and filling in their holes in linebacker core and offensive line.
After kicking out Stanford Routt, the Raiders signed Shawtae Spencer and Ron Bartell. While both aging veteran are coming off injuries, they will provide an immediate impact in the secondary. The added veteran presence will also help Chimdi Chekwa and DeMarcus Van Dyke as they both enter their sophomore season. In addition, Oakland brought back guard Cooper Carlisie and added Mike Brisiel from the Houston Texans.
The cap-strapped Raiders look to continue to grow, instill additional discipline and add more pieces as they go during the off-season. Not having any picks in the upcoming 2012 NFL Draft until a compensation selection at the tail-end of the third round won't make it easy for Reggie McKenzie and company, but expect to pull the trigger on selecting a long term solution at corner and adding a linebacker and defensive-end through free agency.
For all teams in the AFC west the eventful off-season will continue. Look ahead to seeing lots of old faces but in different places and the NFL draft is just around the corner.