AFC West Free Agency Grades
Updated: Aug 24, 2020
Chiefs - A-
- DT Chris Jones, franchise tag
- RB Damien Williams, option picked up
- 20 of 22 super bowl starters re-signed
- CB Kendall Fuller, signed by Redskins
- EDGE Emmanuel Ogbah, signed by Miami
The reigning Super Bowl champions are attempting to run it back and had a great free agency. Usually when you win a super bowl you see an outflux of players signing big contracts on the free agent market. However, the Kansas City Chiefs are returning 20 of their 22 starters, whilst they are not household names players such as Mike Pennel, Anthony Sherman and Breshaud Breeland are solid players who contributed to the Chiefs success.
The Chiefs also placed the franchise tag on superstar interior defensive lineman Chris Jones. The 2019 Pro Bowler has amounted 24.5 sacks, 27 tackles for loss, 49 quarterback hits and 132 pressures over the past 2 seasons. This puts him 3rdin pressures and 2nd in sacks amongst interior defenders. Jones is in my view 2nd to only two-time defensive player of the year Aaron Donald in interior lineman. Since 2018 he has a pressure rate of 14% and a sack rate of 2.7% which is 2nd to Donald with 16% and 3% respectively. Further, the fact Jones is double teamed on nearly 70% of pass rushing snaps shows how highly respected he is amongst opposing teams. Jones demands have not been reported but will likely demand north of $21 million annually as that was the deal Colts star lineman DeForest Buckner signed this offseason. It’s unclear whether the Chiefs will be able to get a long-term deal done with Jones given their cap situation and Patrick Mahomes’ looming contract.
Raiders - B
- LB Cory Littleton, 3-years, $36 million
- LB Nick Kwiatksoki, 3- years, $21 million, $13.5 million guaranteed
- QB Marcus Mariota, 2-years, 17.6 million, $8.8 million guaranteed
- TE Jason Witten, 1-year, $4.75 million
- EDGE Carl Nassib, 3-years, $25 million, $17 million guaranteed
- WR Nelson Agholor, 1-year, $1 million
- S Karl Joseph, signed by the Browns
The Raiders had a good free agency adding numerous role players and potential starters. While a lot of teams fall into the trap of overpaying in free agency the raiders didn’t. Whilst the contracts may seem to be a bit much given the players production up to this point in their career the raiders are betting on them flourishing into good starters.
The Raiders lacked depth at inside line-backer heading into the 2020 season, hence the additions of Cory Littleton and Nick Kwiatkoski. Both are in my opinion great signings. Littleton had his breakout year in 2018 making the Pro Bowl, over the last 2 years Littleton has totalled 259 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks and 5 interceptions. He is an elite coverage linebacker as well a good tackler, in 2019 he only missed one tackle. Unlike Littleton, Kwiatkoski played in a rotational role through his time in Chicago, starting only 22 games in 4 years. Despite playing in a rotational role he has proven to be a good run defender, pass-rusher and coverage linebacker, proving he is more than adequate to play as a starting linebacker.
The signing of Marucs Mariota is an underrated one in my view. In his 5 years in the league he’s thrown 76 touchdowns to 44 interceptions along with 206 yards per game with a 63% completion rate. In 2019 he had 33.7 QBR and has a career average of 51. Mariota is also 29-32 in his career as a starter, yet unlike many quarterbacks Mariota has won a play-off game. While Mariota’s stats don’t leap of the page his potential does, Mariota is an elite athlete rushing for 1,399 yards and 11 touchdowns in his 5 years. Given Mariota’s potential and the value a quarterback possess I love the move. Although the Raiders have taken a risk investing $17.6 million into Mariota over the next two years, the potential payback if Mariota turns out to reach his potential is well worth the risk.
Nassib and Agholor are both good signings in my view. Despite starting 32 games in the last 4 years, over the previous 2 Nassib has 12.5 sacks, 20 tackles for loss and 25 quarterback hits. Also, at $8.33 million annually he has a similar cap hit to 2019 first round pick Clelin Ferrel who earns $7.8 million annually, therefore, for a good 4 year veteran a contract that sits favourably against a rookie is a great value move. Although, Agholor is known for his drops, at $1 million he has a big upside. Between 2017 and 18 he averaged 750 receiving yards and 6 touchdowns; however, he did drop off in 2019 with only 363 yards.
Chargers - B
- OT Bryan Bulaga, 3-years, $30 million, $19 million guaranteed
- OT Trai Turner, via trade
- TE Hunter Henry, franchise tag
- RB Austin Ekeler, 4-years, $24.5 million, $15 million guaranteed
- CB Chris Harris Jr, 2-years, $20 million, $7.5 million guaranteed
- DT Linval Joseph, 2-years, $17 million, $9.5 million guaranteed
- OT Russel Okung, traded
- QB Phillip Rivers, signed by the Colts
- RB Melvin Gordon III, signed by the Broncos
- S Adrian Phillips, signed by the Patriots
- LB Thomas Davis, signed by the Redskins
Although I think the Chargers had a great free agency, I also think it was a questionable one. Whilst bolstering the offensive line is a wise move regardless of your record and ambitions, the signings of Chris Harris Jr and Linval Joseph are those of a team that are in win now mode and given the Chargers head into 2020 with Tyrod Taylor as their starting quarterback the signings are slightly head scratching.
Heading into free agency the Chargers had one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL Whilst the left side of the line is still poor the additions of Trai Turner and Brian Bulaga secure the right side. Bulaga is a top right tackle, in 2019 he faced 612 pass blocking attempts allowing only 3.5 sacks, 4 quarterback hits and 27 pressures whilst also playing against some top edge rushers such as Danielle Hunter and Khalil Mack, however, throughout his career Bulaga has been banged up or injured quite a bit, playing 111 of 144 games in his 9 year career as a starter, despite this at $10 million annually I think this deal is great value. The trade that exchanged Russel Okung and Trai Turner is arguably good for both sides but undeniably great for the Chargers. Although offensive guard is a less valuable position than left tackle Turner is 26 with 5 Pro Bowls the last 5 years and while Okung is still a starting left tackle he is 32 and not what he once was, he also carries a $13 million cap hit, so moving on from Okung to get a top offensive guard in return is a great move.
Chris Harris Jr is a great signing at 2 years $20 million, although Harris is 30 his level of play is yet to fall off, with him making his 4th Pro Bowl in 2018. Whilst he has never reached the level, he was playing at between 2014-16 in which he made 3 Pro Bowls and 1 first team All-Pro, he remains good on the outside and elite in the slot. Harris has also proven to be very durable missing only 6 games since 2014 making him in my view a steal in free agency.
Whilst Linval Joseph’s affect doesn’t appear much on the stat sheet the 2016 and 17 Pro Bowler is a top run stuffer in the interior defensive line. He will bring an immediate presence in the inside alongside Justin Jones and Jerry Tillery which will help Ingram and Bosa on the outside. At 2 years $17 million I believe the Chargers got another great deal and another durable player who has only missed 8 games since 2014.
Austin Ekeler is one of the most underrated running backs in the NFL, racking up 2508 scrimmage yards and 17 total touchdowns over the past 2 years, so to tie him up for the next 4 years at $6.1 million annually is another superb deal.
Broncos - B-
- S Justin Simmons, franchise tag
- DE Jurrell Casey, via trade
- CB A.J. Bouye, via trade
- OG Graham Glasgow, 4-years, $44 million, $25 million guaranteed
- RB Melvin Gordon III, 2-years, $16 million, $13.5 million guaranteed
- CB Chris Harris Jr, signed by Chargers
- C Connor McGovern, signed by Jets
Placing the franchise tag on Justin Simmons was a great move. He was a huge Pro Bowl snub in 2019 and truly elite, over the last 4 years he has 11 interceptions and 289 tackles. Simmons will almost certainly sign a big deal in Denver that will top Eddie Jacksons $14.6 million annually, Vic Fangio the Broncos Head Coach called Simmons “a really good football player, a really good person and a really good teammate” as well as “everything we want in a player”.
Trading for Jurrell Casey and A.J. Bouye were great moves, despite their large cap hits, the Broncos have Drew Lock on a rookie quarterback contract. For a 5th round pick an elite 3-4 defensive end who has made the Pro Bowl the last 5 years is a great deal. Further, for a 4th round pick A.J. Bouye is a top corner. Between 2016-18 he was an elite corner playing opposite Jalen Ramsey, despite down year in 2019 Bouye still possess the skills to go toe for toe with some of the best receivers in the game.
Signing Melvin Gordon III gives the Broncos a good running back duo in Lindsay and Gordon. At 2 years $16 million the 2-time Pro Bowler is a good signing. However, in 5 years he has only played 63 games due to being consistently banged up. Gordon is by no means an elite running back but at $8 million annually and playing with Lindsay the Broncos could have a deadly running game.