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Armando Salguero: Talent Infusion This Offseason Has Turned AFC West Into AFC Best

If there was any uncertainty about what’s happening in the American Football Conference’s western most division, then Russell Wilson put it in perspective minutes after he was introduced as the new Denver Broncos quarterback.

“My goal is to play 10 or 12 more years and hopefully win three, four more Super Bowls. That’s the plan,” Wilson said. “That’s the mindset. That’s why I came here, to finish my career here and hopefully finish on top as a champion.

“And do it multiple times.”

Alrightie, then.

At about the same time, the Los Angeles Chargers, who like Denver didn’t make the playoffs in 2021, were introducing perennial Pro Bowl outside linebacker Khalil Mack to their local media.

And it didn’t take long for the accomplished edge rusher with 76.5 sacks in 116 starts to tell us what we all see in the Chargers defense: that it’s stacked.

“When you talk about Joey Bosa, Derwin James, J.C. Jackson, Asante Samuel Jr., all of these different intangibles — and these guys are very explosive players and explosive playmakers — I’m looking forward to it,” Mack said. “Like I said, that’s the easy part, to talk about it. But I’m an action guy. That’s what I’m looking forward to, putting in the work and winning ball games, ultimately.”

The Las Vegas Raiders didn’t have a big introductory presser on Wednesday, but that’s coming later this week because they also made a big splash into the pool of free agency talent.

All they did was sign defensive end Chandler Jones, whose 107.5 sacks since 2012 make him the NFL leader in the category over that time.

The Raiders are paying him, according to the NFL Network, $52.5 million over three years including $34 million guaranteed so Jones can team up with Pro Bowl defensive end Maxx Crosby on the other side of the Las Vegas defensive line.

Because, you know, one outstanding pass rusher is good, but two on the same team is better.

And what we’re seeing here is a talent arms race in mostly one division.

The Kansas City Chiefs, Raiders, Chargers and Broncos are dueling each other for elite, big-name talent in the offseason so when they play during the 2022 regular season, it’s potentially going to be amazing.

Or a blood bath.

Either is good for fans.

All four of these teams are loaded now.

All four of these teams have an outstanding quarterback.

All four of these teams, recognizing their rivals have an outstanding quarterback, have collected multiple outstanding pass rushers to deploy against those quarterbacks.

Consider:

Chiefs: Patrick Mahomes at quarterback, Chris Jones and Frank Clark as their pass rushers.

Chargers: Justin Herbert at quarterback, Joey Bosa and Mack as their pass rushers.

Broncos: Wilson at quarterback, Bradley Chubb and recently signed Randy Gregory as their pass rushers.

Raiders: Derek Carr at quarterback, Crosby and Jones as their pass rushers.

This is bonkers.

AFC West?

This division looks more like the AFC Best.

“There are a lot of good quarterbacks. There’s great quarterback play,” Mack said. “A lot of great schemes when you’re talking about [Chiefs head coach] Andy [Reid] and all of these different coaches.

“It’s going to be fun. I’m looking forward to the challenges ahead.”

Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero

Written by Armando Salguero

Armando Salguero has covered the NFL since 1990 for the Palm Beach Post, Miami Herald and ESPN. He was a 2016 Associated Press Sports Editors Top 10 columnist. He is a Pro Football Hall of Fame selector and AP All-Pro team voter.

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