Updated March 23, 2022 - 9:21 am
The banter began Tuesday morning in Costa Mesa, California. Well before the Raiders formally introduced All-Pro wideout Davante Adams at their Henderson headquarters.
“They better be ready for us,” Chargers Pro Bowl cornerback J.C. Jackson proclaimed during the introductory news conference he conducted a few hours before Adams’.
“I don’t want to talk about (Adams). They better be ready for us.”
Welcome, gentlemen, to the wild, wild AFC West.
The Chargers loaded up during free agency. As did the Broncos and Raiders, prompting Adams to call the AFC West “the best division in football right now” during his 20-minute news conference with members of the local media.
He’s right. His mere presence bolsters a division that already featured one Super Bowl contender in Kansas City — along with playoff-caliber teams in Las Vegas and Los Angeles.
But Denver should be good now, too, with Russell Wilson under center. And the Chargers and Raiders even better after adding players like Jackson and Adams to their respective rosters.
“It’s loaded. It’s not going to be easy, but it’s definitely something I’m looking forward to. I’m always looking for a challenge,” Adams said. “We’ve stacked over here. It’s exciting to see what’s ahead.”
The Chiefs in 2021 were a historic collapse away from their third consecutive Super Bowl appearance. The Raiders a goal-to-go away from their first playoff victory since 2002. The Chargers an uncanny overtime away from their first playoff berth with Justin Herbert under center. The Broncos a quarterback away from viable contention.
The division was already good. Maybe the best in the AFC from top to bottom. It didn’t need an injection of All-Pros to maintain that standing.
But the NFC West was better, boasting three playoff teams — including the eventual Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams, who built a winner with an aggressive approach that seemingly made its way to the AFC West.
The Chargers, taking advantage of the value in Herbert’s rookie contract, signed Jackson after trading for All-Pro pass rusher Khalil Mack. The Broncos forfeited two future first-round draft picks and two starters to acquire Wilson, who will quarterback a roster that had a positive point differential last year with Teddy Bridgewater under center for most of the season.
The Chiefs are the Chiefs. That shouldn’t change so long as Mahomes is behind center and coach Andy Reid on the sideline. And they, too, added former Pro Bowl wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster.
The status quo wouldn’t have been good enough for the Raiders, who reached the postseason with a minus-65 scoring differential. New general manager Dave Ziegler and coach Josh McDaniels knew it and operated accordingly.
Er, aggressively now that they’re in a division that could feature three playoff teams.
Adams is an All-Pro, doubling as the most complete receiver in the NFL. So is Chandler Jones, the vaunted pass rusher who preceded Adams’ arrival in Las Vegas. He joins other AFC West sack specialists like teammate Maxx Crosby, Mack, Joey Bosa, Chris Jones, Frank Clark and Bradley Chubb.
They’ll collectively hunt Mahomes, Wilson, Herbert and Raiders quarterback Derek Carr, who all measure among the league’s top 12 or so signal callers.
Free agency, by the way, is far from finished.
“I don’t know where to start. We have a pretty good team. I’m excited to get around those guys, those great football players. I’m all in. I’m ready to get dialed in,” said Jackson, though the quote is apropos for any of the high-profile newcomers in the AFC West.
“It’s going to be a good season to watch.”