The AFC West arms race is heating up. With teams such as the Kansas City Chiefs and the new-look Denver Broncos competing in the division, the pressure is building for all teams to make upgrades to their roster in order to secure a spot in the playoffs.
The Los Angeles Chargers were a tie away from joining the Chiefs and Raiders in the NFL playoffs this past season, however would ultimately fall just short of a bid, going 9-8. This upcoming season, Los Angeles has looked to become aggressive in building a championship-caliber team around franchise quarterback Justin Herbert while he is still on his rookie contract.
The first week of free-agency has backed that sentiment up, as general manager Tom Telesco has already spent significant money and draft capital to go all in on this team. This article will cover the team’s moves so far, as well as my opinion on how these decisions will affect the team going forward.
Re-signing of Mike Williams
A sneaky large move before the opening of free agency, retaining Mike Williams gives young quarterback Justin Herbert a loaded weapons arsenal for the distant future. Williams had by far his best season as a pro and 2021, posting a career high in yards, catches, and touchdowns.
Williams is a large wide receiver who has proven to be a big play threat, which is a perfect compliment to Keenan Allen, who is a technical route runner who is best when getting targets in volume. With Justin Herbert setting a franchise record for passing touchdowns and only his second year Williams should have no problem repeating his production from a year ago.
While all the offenses of the AFC West feature great playmakers, the three headed monster of Williams, Allen, and Austin Ekeler allows Los Angeles to compete in shootouts against anyone.
Acquisition of Khalil Mack
While the Russell Wilson trade has made more headlines, the acquisition of Khalil Mack will prove to be just as influential in the AFC West division race. The 2016 defensive player of the year still has much left in the tank at the age of 31 as he remains of the best pass rushers of the edge.
Mack has recorded the fourth most sacks since 2015, and is in prime position to put together another double digit sack season in 2022. The pass rush duo of Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack is terrifying to say the least.
Following the loss of Melvin Ingram, Los Angeles has been unable to find a true pass rushing partner to Bosa, despite the excess draft capital spent attempting to replicate Ingram’s production. Trading a second round pick for the hall of famer is a bargain, and can help transform Los Angeles into one of the league’s best defensive units.
Signing of J.C. Jackson
One of the largest free-agent signings in the early days of free agency, Los Angeles was able to require Mr. INT, cornerback JC Jackson. The former New England Patriots has secured 17 interceptions over the past two seasons, the most in the entire NFL.
With the Chargers he will join a secondary that already includes former All-Pros Derwin James and Chris Harris Jr.. Los Angeles is desperately trying to correct their horrific defense from a year ago, which finished fourth worst in the entire league in points allowed per game.
Jackson is most efficient in man coverage, but has proven to be versatile and a variety of zone schemes as well under Bill Belichick. In a division that includes Tyreek Hill, Jerry Judy, and a ton of talent at the quarterback position, Jackson is the perfect acquisition to slow down these high flying offenses.
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