Lock’s arrival, Rivers’ exit creates new quarterback hierarchy in AFC West

Denver Broncos linebacker Shaquil Barrett (48) sacks Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers (17) in the second half at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
Sep 11, 2017; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos linebacker Shaquil Barrett (48) sacks Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers (17) in the second half at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

There’s uncertainty around who will start at quarterback in 2020 for multiple AFC West teams this offseason and finally, the Broncos aren’t one of them.

Patrick Mahomes’ play should leave Broncos fans concerned for the foreseeable future, but Denver’s other AFC foes find themselves in turmoil, moving to new stadiums, possibly with new quarterbacks.

With that in mind, let’s go around the AFC West and look at each team’s quarterback situation from least stable to most stable.

Los Angeles Chargers

Just one year removed from going 12-4, tied for the third-most wins in franchise history and the best record in the AFC, the Chargers find themselves at a crossroads after moving on from Philip Rivers.

The team faces more problems than having to find a new starting quarterback though. The team won seven fewer games in 2019 — good for the biggest drop off in the entire NFL — and the Los Angeles experiment has been a tremendous failure.

Fortunately for the Chargers, they’ll have the sixth pick in this year’s draft to find that next guy, and according to Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller, Utah State’s Jordan Love is their target.

Selecting Love sixth overall would be a hefty gamble, but one that could pay huge dividends. The raw Mountain West gunslinger drew comparisons to Mahomes in his junior season with his elite athleticism but threw more interceptions than touchdowns in 2019, and often looked overwhelmed.

Las Vegas Raiders

Speaking of teams in flux, the Raiders are finally making their move to Sin City, and Derek Carr might not make the trip.

Following the Raiders’ last-second loss to the Broncos in Week 17, head coach Jon Gruden wouldn’t commit to Carr returning as the team’s quarterback in 2020. This isn’t the first sign of Gruden’s desire to move on. Last season they did their due diligence on most of the first-round quarterbacks and earlier this month the team was connected to impending free agent Jameis Winston.

Like the Chargers, the Raiders are in range to find their quarterback of the future, holding the draft’s 12th and 19th picks. That being said, the Raiders are more likely to target one of the veteran free-agent quarterbacks such as Winston or even Tom Brady.

Dating back to Gruden’s original head coaching run with the Raiders and Buccaneers, he never liked dealing with young quarterbacks. Gruden’s system is complex, so he always targeted veterans like Brad Johnson or Rich Gannon, but it may be time to buck that trend.

Denver Broncos

It’s so refreshing to enter an offseason and not having to talk about the quarterback position. The Broncos finally have stability at the position, lifting a huge weight off the shoulders of Denver’s fans.

That being said, there’s a difference between having stability at quarterback and having a franchise quarterback that can lead your team for the next decade. Drew Lock flashed plenty of potential that leads you to believe he could be the former, but for now, he’s just the latter.

It’s easy to get caught up in the win-loss record, but remember, he performed poorly during the blizzard against the Chiefs, and was just fine against the Chargers and Raiders.

He has all the tools to be the quarterback we saw against the Texans, but very few young quarterbacks are able to string together performances like that with consistency, and Broncos Country would be wise to keep that in mind.

Kansas City Chiefs

The top dog in the AFC West at quarterback is undeniably Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs. Outside of Brett Favre and Dan Marino, it’s hard to remember coming into the league and dominating to the level that Mahomes has.

This week he’ll become the fifth-youngest quarterback to ever start a Super Bowl, putting him in a club with Ben Roethlisberger, Marino, Jared Goff and David Woodley.

It seems the only thing that might be able to stop Kansas City’s General Sherman-esque march through the AFC at this point could be Mahomes’ own contractual value. Analysts are already forecasting outrageous numbers for Mahomes’ deal, which could limit the Chiefs’ ability to resign other key players.

There are forecasts that Mahomes deal will land him a $50-$60 million dollar annual average and there’s even some speculation he could ask for a set percentage of the cap. That would mean that even while the cap continues to expand, Mahomes’ deal would expand with it, allowing him to remain one of the league’s highest-paid signal-callers for the duration of the deal.

While shelling out for their star quarterback, the Chiefs will also have to find a way to pay Chris Jones, Demarcus Robinson, Sammy Watkins, Charvarius Ward, Travis Kelce, Mitchell Schwartz, Eric Fisher, Derrick Nnadi, Martinas Rankin and Tyrann Mathieu in the next three seasons.

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