Weekly roundup of the AFC West, keeping tabs on the Oakland Raiders and the rest of the division. Post-season and pre-Free Agency edition.
The AFC West was officially eliminated from the ranks of active NFL teams when the Steelers beat the Chiefs in Arrowhead, but that doesn’t mean that the division has been dormant since the regular season ended.
Quite the contrary, actually. With one team moving now, another probably moving soon, a multitude of Pro Bowl and All-Pro accolades, and a coaching carousel that reads like an NFL soap opera, it’s been the NFL’s busiest and most intriguing division since 2017 started.
So what’s happening with our friends in the good old AFC West? And our beloved Raiders?
Let’s find out.
After months of speculation, the Raiders formally filed papers for relocation to Las Vegas on January 19, 2017. It will take time to get the money in order and a facility built, and the Raiders have a year-to-year lease at the Oakland Coliseum that will keep them there for a couple of years.
But Vegas looks inevitable, and it sounds and feels strange. That’s one offseason change fans will have a difficult time adjusting to as this team continues to build toward contention.
An offseason change fans will embrace is an NFL Network report that the Raiders are prioritizing long-term deals for both Derek Carr and Khalil Mack. Reggie McKenzie has said keeping the core of this team is priority #1 and this just confirms how serious the Raiders are at staying relevant.
Carr is the type of player who can command top-end QB money, but may not so the team can sign other players. He’s definitely a winning is more important than money guy, and Mack is the same. The Raiders are lucky to have two young cornerstone players that are unselfish and likely will be easy to negotiate with — relative as that is in NFL terms.
The team is also heavily focusing on interior defensive lineman, linebackers and secondary help. They have a cadre of scouts at the Senior Bowl this week and are keeping an eye out for their defensive Jalen Richard, that diamond in the rough that makes an immediate impact.
The Raiders also have their fair share of free agents to consider, both with the team and out on the market. Check out Maliik Obee and other Just Blog Baby write-ups for more on that.
In player news, Derek Carr is healing nicely. Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper are skipping the Pro Bowl. Austin Howard and Sean Smith both had successful shoulder surgeries in the past week. Marquette King has, alas, made amends with Travis Kelce.
The Raiders have made a few moves of significance. Much was said about the departure of OC Bill Musgrave in favor of promoting incumbent QB coach Todd Downing. Keeping Ken Norton Jr. was a surprise to some, but the hiring of John Pagano to assist him was a brilliant coup by the Raiders staff.
The Chargers defense was held together with duct tape and glue last season and still produced solid numbers and kept the team in a lot of games. Pagano is an aggressive, no-nonsense play-caller who will instill some passion into this squad and utilize the pass rush a little better than Norton. Plus, coming from a division rival is always key.
Which brings me to…