Free Agency Needs: AFC West
With the 2020 NFL season finally over, the preparation for the 2021 season has finally begun. The 2021 NFL salary cap will be at $182.5 million, and will likely be making strategic moves to make sure they are under the cap before the season starts. The Tactician analyzes which positions each team should target and what free agents are affordable and can fit that role. We will cover the AFC West in this article.
Offensive EPA/Play (Rank): -0.071 (31st)
Defensive EPA/Play (Rank): 0.041 (17th)
Draft Position: 9th
The Broncos recently released AJ Bouye, and while Bryce Callahan is one of the best slot corners in the league, they will likely need to use their first-round pick on Caleb Farley or Patrick Surtain to fill a need
Drew Lock has had small flashes of being a franchise QB but has never shown the consistency to warrant a full-time starting gig. Dating back to 2019, Lock ranks 35th out of 39 QBs in EPA + CPOE (Completion Percentage over Expected) composite highlighting his accuracy problems.
Shelby Harris is currently a FA, and while he is expected to be back, the lack of a secondary interior defender is holding this defense back from being an elite unit under Vic Fangio.
Los Angeles Chargers:
Offensive EPA/Play (Rank): 0.044 (15th)
Defensive EPA/Play (Rank): 0.028 (12th)
Draft Position: 13th
Team Needs: OT, IOL, Edge
The Chargers have the reigning OROY in Justin Herbert but must secure protection for him this upcoming offseason as 3 of their starters will be hitting the open market. Their offensive line finished 31st in pass block win rate. Look for them to draft an OL at pick 13 and sign a cheap FA to fill other open positions.
They should also look to address the interior offensive line as they released Trai Turner meaning there is a new hole to fill at guard.
Longtime edge rusher Melvin Ingram will be hitting FA and with the new Brandon Staley wants to implement, having impact edge rushers is necessary. Leonard Floyd moving laterally from the Rams to the Chargers to reunite with Staley could be a possible option as well as going edge at pick 13.
Las Vegas Raiders:
Offensive EPA/Play (Rank): 0.065 (13th)
Defensive EPA/Play (Rank): 0.137 (29th)
Draft Position: 18th
Team Needs: IDL, Edge, S
Since trading Khalil Mack, the Raiders have been the worst defense in the league. The interior defensive line has been headed by Johnathan Hankins for the past couple of years and he is set to be a FA so finding his replacement such as Christian Barmore through the draft is necessary
While the Raiders drafted Clelin Ferrell and Maxx Crosby to improve their edge position, they still have never been able to pressure the QB on a consistent basis. They should look to FA to make a big signing like reuniting Melvin Ingram with his former DC in Gus Bradley
FS Erik Harris is a FA and in this stacked safety FA class, the Raiders should be willing to dole out big money to a guy like Marcus Maye, Marcus Williams, or Justin Simmons who would all be the perfect center fielder in Gus Bradley’s Cover 3 scheme.
Kansas City Chiefs:
Offensive EPA/Play (Rank): 0.174 (3rd)
Defensive EPA/Play (Rank): 0.068 (19th)
Draft Position: 9th
Team Needs: OT, CB, WR
After seeing Patrick Mahomes running for his life all game during the Super Bowl, the Chiefs will need to bolster the Offensive Line. The Chiefs recently cut longtime starters Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz to make matters worse. They will need a significant investment in the trenches to get back to the Super Bowl
Another major flaw that was on full display during the Super Bowl, was the Chiefs CB play. Whether it was penalty after penalty or letting guys run wide open, the Chiefs will need to upgrade there. The draft could be a good spot to fill needs early but also build into the future.
As weird as it might seem, the Chiefs could use a more reliable playmaker. We all know how good Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill are, but there was a noticeable drop-off after Sammy Watkins went down with an injury (and is also a UFA this offseason). Mecole Hardman is a flashy playmaker with speed but hasn’t put it together to be a meaningful, dependable contributor. Getting an upgrade at the 2nd or 3rd WR spot would make the Chiefs an even scarier sight for defenses.
Contributors: Arjun Menon, Ray Matera, Anthony Molina, and Sam Mattson.