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Does Tyreek Hill Trade Close Gap in AFC West

  • Justin Melo
  • March 23, 2022
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The Kansas City Chiefs sent shockwaves around the league by agreeing to trade six-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Tyreek Hill to the Miami Dolphins in a blockbuster move that netted an astounding five draft picks for Kansas City, including first-and-second round selections in April’s draft. It was the result of an unforeseen and unexpected fallout during contract negotiations between Kansas City, Hill and his representation. Just like LeBron before him, the speedy receiver has promptly taken his talents to South Beach. It’s yet another groundbreaking shakeup in an AFC West division that has experienced arguably the wackiest offseason in football history.

Let’s make one thing clear: the Chiefs will be a good, potentially great football team in 2022. The everlasting presence of Head Coach Andy Reid, superstar quarterback Patrick Mahomes and elite tight end Travis Kelce guarantees continued success for a Chiefs franchise that has reached two Super Bowls in three seasons, capturing one. Hill’s departure doesn’t destroy Kansas City’s chances of making yet another impressive postseason run but it should help the Denver Broncos, Los Angeles Chargers and Las Vegas Raiders close the gap.

A Broncos franchise that has annually felt they were a quarterback away from truly competing since Peyton Manning’s departure made an extremely aggressive move to solve their signal-caller issues once for and all by acquiring Russell Wilson. New Head Coach Nathaniel Hackett is a forward-thinking, offensive-minded leader that should quickly place Wilson in an environment best suited for success. Of course the excellent supporting cast of Jerry Jeudy, Courtland Sutton, Tim Patrick and Javonte Williams helps. General Manager George Paton then swiftly turned his attention to the defensive side of the ball, where he bolstered his front seven by signing free-agent pass rusher Randy Gregory and stout interior defender D.J. Jones. The signing of ex-San Francisco 49ers cornerback K’Waun Williams was a shrewd move that should help make their secondary more competitive going forward as well.

The Raiders seemed to be the forgotten franchise in the AFC West until they began making sizable splashes of their own. A playoff team in 2021, they had already improved by hiring Josh McDaniels as their new head coach. McDaniels is an excellent fit for a franchise that already possessed several high-level offensive pieces. Derek Carr is a legitimate top-15 starting quarterback that should benefit from McDaniels’ offensive mind. Tight end Darren Waller and wide receiver Hunter Renfrow provide Carr with exciting weapons in the passing game but the lack of a dominant boundary receiver had people feeling rather bullish on the Raiders’ overall offensive outlook. The acquisition of the game’s premier receiver in Davante Adams changed everything. Adams reunites in Vegas with his former Fresno State teammate and quarterback in Carr and should help elevate this Raiders offense to the next level. The addition of perennial double-digit sack artist Chandler Jones was another high-quality move. Pairing Jones with Maxx Crosby, who recently signed a sizable new contract extension, gives the Raiders one of the more feared pass rushing duos across the league in a division that is loaded with top-notch quarterbacks. The Raiders are undeniably ready to compete for the division crown.

Brandon Staley’s Chargers have been as aggressive as any franchise in the National Football League this offseason. General Manager Tom Telesco seems hellbent on maximizing the financial freedom Justin Herbert’s rookie contract currently awards them, making for a wise strategy that has benefited various Super Bowl contenders in recent memory. Telesco swiftly improved the defensive side of the ball by signing free-agent cornerback J.C. Jackson to a lucrative contract. Jackson may be the best boundary press-man cornerback in the game today and his addition should immediately transform Los Angeles’ back end.

And Telesco wasn’t done there.

A blockbuster trade with the Chicago Bears saw the Chargers acquire edge rusher Khalil Mack, pairing him with Joey Bosa to make for defensive bookends that should have no issues getting after quarterbacks in 2022. A defensive line that struggled to stop the run a year ago by allowing 138.9 yards per contest (the third-worst mark in the league) received a pair of underrated boosts in the form of interior linemen Sebastian Joseph-Day and Austin Johnson. An offensive supporting cast that already included Keenan Allen, Austin Ekeler and Mike Williams improved by adding underrated tight end Gerald Everett via a reasonable two-year, $12 million contract.

Prior to Hill’s trade, talks of how the Broncos, Chargers and Raiders had “caught up” to the Chiefs in the AFC West felt awfully premature given their long-lasting reign in the division. Mahomes and the Chiefs became a bit more human in the wake of Hill’s departure and perhaps that’s all their three competing rivals required in order to strike fear in their hearts. Talk is cheap and actual tangible results are priceless but those discussions no longer feel as inappropriate after Wednesday’s staggering dealings.