The Denver Broncos are signing a new quarterback. The Kansas City Chiefs are going to pay for another deep threat for their new starting passer.
Welcome to the AFC West, where change has been the norm this offseason, with hot head coaching hires (hello, Jon Gruden) and big-time quarterback changes (see ya, Alex Smith).
The free agency quarterback dominoes began to fall in Denver, with the Broncos agreeing to sign veteran journeyman quarterback Case Keenum, who won 11 games with the Vikings last season and led Minnesota to the NFC Championship Game.
The Broncos entered the offseason in the market for a new starting passer after a disastrous 2017 season featured a rotation of three different starters. If Keenum can come even close to replicating his success in Minnesota, where he threw for 3,547 yards and 22 touchdowns, both career highs, and just seven interceptions, that would be a significant upgrade from the trio of Trevor Siemian, Paxton Lynch and Brock Osweiler, who combined for just 19 touchdown passes and 22 interceptions.
But it’s hard to get too excited about the Keenum deal given the stretch of uncertainty in Denver since Peyton Manning retired two years ago. Lynch, a first-round pick in 2016, has thus far been a bust, and Broncos general manager John Elway has yet to prove he can draft a franchise quarterback.
The biggest question now for the Broncos is how the team plans to use with the No. 5 pick in the draft now that Keenum is in the fold. Elway and his staff have closely scouted the top quarterbacks in the class, including coaching Baker Mayfield and Josh Allen at the Senior Bowl, but there might be a high cost in taking one at No. 5 and have him sit behind Keenum.
While the Broncos are in transition, including on defense following the trade of cornerback Aqib Talib to the Los Angeles Rams last week, Elway doesn’t want to rebuild, and finding a capable starting quarterback is the biggest piece – especially when the rest of the division is settled at the position.
In Kansas City, Patrick Mahomes is unproven (his Week 17 start against the Broncos last season was his lone appearance of the year), but the Chiefs are clearly building around him following the trade that sent Smith to Washington.
The move on Tuesday to agree to a massive contract to wide receiver Sammy Watkins –three years for $48 million with $30 million guaranteed, per multiple reports – is a sign head coach Andy Reid is committed to giving Mahomes a full arsenal of downfield weapons.
Watkins is an intriguing piece to add to an offense that already includes speedy receiver Tyreek Hill, tight end Travis Kelce and running back Kareem Hunt, but that’s a massive price tag for a player who has averaged just 48 catches per year during his three seasons in Buffalo and one with the Los Angeles Rams.
Neither the Oakland Raiders nor the Los Angeles Chargers have made a splash in the early free agency period. The Chargers' biggest move came in signing star cornerback Casey Hayward to a three-year extension on Sunday. Los Angeles fans will surely be watching to see if the team can find a veteran free agent kicker given the team's special teams woes in 2017.
The Raiders, meanwhile, made their big move in January in hiring Gruden, but could be in the market for help at defensive line and in the secondary when the market officially opens on Wednesday.
Follow Lindsay H. Jones on Twitter @bylindsayhjones.