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Around the AFC West: Ekeler wants trade, Garoppolo goes Vegas, Broncos upgrade O-Line

Taking a look at Kansas City’s division rivals during the first week of free agency.

Los Angeles Chargers v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

Let’s see what AFC West teams have done to try and dethrone the defending Super Bowl champions during the first week of free agency.

Denver Broncos

After fielding a terrible offensive line in 2022, the Broncos are upgrading it.

Former Baltimore Ravens guard Ben Powers inked a four-year, $52 million deal that had $28.5 million guaranteed. Former San Francisco 49ers right tackle Mike McGlinchey signed a five-year, $87.5 million contract with $50 million promised. For Denver, I like this move a lot. McGlinchey went to war in San Francisco, learning from Trent Williams — one of the league’s best tackles. Now, he is arguably the Broncos’ best offensive lineman.

Denver also secured its backup signal-caller: former Las Vegas quarterback Jarrett Stidham was signed to a two-year, $10 million contract. He started two games last year — both of them losses — and given that Russell Wilson hasn’t played a full season since 2020, we might see Stidham start a couple of Broncos games.

Former Jacksonville Jaguars tight end Chris Manhertz signed a two-year, $6 million contract with Denver. A journeyman, Manhertz is touted for his blocking ability.

For the defense, former Arizona Cardinals defensive end Zach Allen came on board with a three-year, $45.8 million contract. This will help replace Bradley Chubb, whom the Broncos traded away halfway through last season.

Linebacker Alex Singleton was re-signed to a three-year $18 million deal. While he wasn’t a starter in 2022, he was thrust into the starting lineup when Jonas Griffith went down, ultimately leading the team with 163 tackles.

Las Vegas Raiders

After signing a $67.5 million contract that has $34 million guaranteed, former 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo will lead the Raiders’ offense for the next three years. This probably means Las Vegas will not draft a quarterback in April.

Since Garoppolo has a history with head coach Josh McDaniels’ complicated offensive system, this is a smart scheme fit. A great RPO quarterback, Garoppolo usually hands it off to the running back. That will help the Raiders’ offensive weapons be successful in play-action reps.

A move that might have helped determine whether Las Vegas went after Garoppolo was placing the franchise tag on running back Josh Jacobs. Garoppolo is accustomed to having a great running game around him. Now he’ll have last year’s rushing champion in the backfield.

Former New England Patriots wide receiver Jakobi Meyers signed a three-year deal worth $33 million. He’ll be behind Davante Adams and Hunter Renfrow on the depth chart. The Raiders also signed veteran wideout Phillip Dorsett. McDaniels coached the seven-year veteran during his time with the New England Patriots from 2017-2019

Meanwhile... star tight end Darren Waller was dealt to the New York Giants for the 100th overall pick in April’s NFL Draft — the pick that Kansas City gave up to acquire wideout Kadarius Toney.

Los Angeles Chargers

In the first hour of the so-called “legal tampering period,” running back Austin Ekeler requested permission to seek a trade.

He’s been a crucial part of the Los Angeles offense, serving as a checkdown security blanket for quarterback Justin Herber — and has led the league in total touchdowns in each of the last two seasons. He has been asking for a new contract. If he and the Chargers can’t figure it out, expect to see him in a new uniform.

With Drue Tranquill and Kyle Van Noy both hitting free agency, Los Angeles signed former Minnesota Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks to a two-year, $13.5 million deal. Entering his ninth season, the 31-year-old linebacker is expected to improve the team’s underperforming 2022 defense.

Which move has surprised you the most?

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