The Broncos have won the AFC West title four seasons in a row, and they are going to be the favorites for 2015. However, free-agent losses have clearly weakened the team. Let's analyze the free-agent moves in the AFC West with futures odds.
First off, I consider this offseason a success overall for Denver because Peyton Manning decided not to retire, although I don't think anyone truly thought he would off that terrible performance in the divisional-round upset home loss to Indianapolis. I do expect 2015 to be Manning's last, especially if he somehow wins a second Super Bowl ring. Manning also agreed to cut his salary by about $4 million to help the Broncos re-sign some key guys. Manning's main concern was bringing back Pro Bowl tight end Julius Thomas, but the Jacksonville Jaguars wildly overpaid Thomas to come to Florida. Thomas had 24 touchdown catches combined the past two years. Was he partly a creation of Manning much like Eric Decker was? Yes. But neither Manning nor the Broncos were the same last year when Thomas was hurt or playing at less than 100 percent late in the year. It's a loss and it can't be ignored when you make your NFL Picks. Denver will keep All-Pro receiver Demaryius Thomas after slapping the franchise tag on him. That was a no-brainer move. The Broncos signed former Ravens tight end Owen Daniels to replace Thomas. Daniels has trouble staying healthy but is solid when on the field. He had 48 catches for 527 yards and four TDs in 2014. As for the other losses, defensive tackle Terrance Knight, a good run stopper, left for Washington, safety Rahim Moore signed with Houston and right tackle Orlando Franklin with San Diego. Receiver Wes Welker is a free agent but likely to retire with concussion problems.
Current Super Bowl odds: +1500
San Diego Chargers
The Bolts have made a handful of moves, but I still have no idea what their plan is at running back. Probably the team's No. 1 deal was re-signing top cornerback Brandon Flowers. He led San Diego with three interceptions and 11 passes defensed while appearing in 14 games. Flowers held slot receivers to seven catches for 115 yards, according to Pro Football Focus. Thanks in large part to him, the San Diego defense was No. 4 against the pass. The team also brought back left tackle King Dunlap. He started all 16 games and allowed only three sacks on 625 passing plays. Those were San Diego's top two priorities. The team will have a new right tackle, weakening Denver by signing Orlando Franklin. The addition of receiver Stevie Johnson (49ers) and receiver/return man Jacoby Jones (Ravens) are low-risk, potentially high-reward deals that could help them compete in the AFC. San Diego needed a receiver after losing Eddie Royal to Chicago. As for running back, talented but injury-prone Ryan Mathews signed with Philadelphia. Expect the Chargers to add a back early in the draft as their top two right now are likely Danny Woodhead and Branden Oliver.
Current Super Bowl odds: +5000
Kansas City Chiefs
Did you know that a Chiefs receiver didn't have a single touchdown catch last season? The last Kansas City wideout who did was when Alex Smith hit Dwayne Bowe for a 22-yard touchdown in the first quarter of a 45-10 win over the Redskins on Dec. 8, 2013. The last team to go a full season without a TD from a receiver was the New York Giants in 1964. The NFL wasn't exactly a big-time passing league then. So Kansas City sought to remedy that by adding big-play Jeremy Maclin from Philadelphia. After missing all of the 2013 season, Maclin had 85 catches for 1,318 yards and 10 scores in '14. He should be a massive upgrade over Dwayne Bowe, who was cut. This move could impact the NFL Odds. Also on offense, the Chiefs traded with the Saints for two-time Pro Bowl guard Grubbs for a fifth-round pick. The Chiefs slapped the franchise tag on linebacker Justin Houston, who led the NFL with 22 sacks, just one-half sack shy of the league record.
Current Super Bowl odds: +4000
The Raiders had as much money to spend this offseason as just about anyone, but they couldn't get any of the big names to come to Oakland -- losing year after year will do that. Thus this again looks like the worst team in the division. Probably the two biggest names to sign are running back Trent Richardson (Colts) and quarterback Christian Ponder (Vikings), both former first-round picks who have proven busts. Neither will start, however. Richardson will backup Latavius Murray and Ponder will backup Derek Carr. The Raiders got a nice third-down back in Roy Helu, formerly of Washington. Tackle Dan Williams (Cardinals), linebacker Curtis Lofton (Saints) and cornerback Nate Allen (Eagles) can only help the defense. All three could start.
Current Super Bowl odds: +10000