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AFC Teams Are Overspending to Compete With the Chiefs

AFC teams are scared of the Chiefs, and they are overspending to try and play catch-up.

The Kansas City Chiefs have struck a nerve with the rest of the AFC. The Chiefs have put a legitimate fear into other teams and their front offices. A majority of AFC teams have gone out in the first week of free agency and spent so much money to try and catch up with the Chiefs that it is quite mind-boggling.

Who can blame them, though? The Chiefs have hosted four straight AFC Championship games at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium and are the last AFC team to win a Super Bowl. At this point, everyone knows the AFC goes through the Chiefs — until it doesn’t.

Last week, there was a lot of discussion about the moves happening in the AFC West with Russell Wilson and Khalil Mack being traded into the division. Even more action occurred this week when the Raiders added pass-rusher Chandler Jones. The Raiders also traded their first two picks in the 2022 NFL Draft for star wide receiver Davante Adams. Adams is reunited with his former college teammate, Derek Carr, and the Raiders gave him the highest-paid wide receiver contract in NFL history. The Raiders are trying their hardest to keep up.

Dec 2, 2018; Oakland, CA, USA; Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) meets with Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) after the game at Oakland Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Deshaun Watson’s situation continued to unfold this past week, and he will end up staying in the AFC. The Browns are giving him a massive contract after trading three first-round picks along with a future third- and fourth-round pick as well. 

The AFC North is now locked and loaded with young quarterback talent between Watson, the Cincinnati Bengals’ Joe Burrow and the Baltimore Ravens’ Lamar Jackson. Mitchell Trubisky was added to the Pittsburgh Steelers' roster this week, but the jury is still out on the former No. 2 overall draft pick from 2017. He didn’t have a great start to his career with the Chicago Bears before going to the Buffalo Bills and sitting behind Josh Allen in 2021. Perhaps the change of scenery and weapons surrounding him will finally give him a chance to reach his ceiling.

Another AFC contender has been making moves as well. The Bills' most significant move of the offseason thus far was adding pass-rusher Von Miller to the fold. Every contract has its own nuances, but the initial numbers were eye-popping.

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Along with the Chiefs, a few other teams that could be lumped into the "contender" category haven’t made any splash moves with the first wave of free agency. The Patriots' biggest move thus far was retaining running back James White. The Titans' biggest move so far has been retaining OLB Harold Landry.

By the end of the week, the Chiefs made a couple of necessary moves. The team added safety Justin Reid, a free agent from the Houston Texans. This move sent the signal that former Chief Tyrann Mathieu would not likely be back in Kansas City. As of the publishing of this article, Mathieu still has not signed with a team despite most of the other big-name free agent safeties having found a new home.

Oct 24, 2021; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Houston Texans safety Justin Reid (20) against the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Chiefs fans held their breath for most of the week waiting for another big move, whether it be a pass rusher or another wide receiver. Most of the big-time pass rushers had been picked up by other teams by the end of the workday on Thursday, so the general consensus is the Chiefs will look there later in free agency, through a trade or through the draft.

While a few of the notable wide receivers were snatched up early in the free agency process this week, the Chiefs ended up landing JuJu Smith-Schuster (former wide receiver from the Steelers). Smith-Schuster is coming to Kansas City on a one-year deal that seems to be a very team-friendly contract. He will be a perfect third receiving option behind wide receiver Tyreek Hill and tight end Travis Kelce. He'll have a chance to thrive in that role and the Chiefs could legitimately have three pass catchers reach the 1,000-yard receiving mark in 2022.

Aug 17, 2019; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (left) and Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (right) talk on the field before playing at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Chiefs general manager Brett Veach has a plan. The public doesn’t get a sneak peek behind the curtain, so sometimes it is hard on fans and media members alike to wait on some of these moves that everyone within the organization could feel coming. There is still plenty of time left in free agency, and there is still a loaded draft coming up in a month. There will be more veteran players released post-draft. There will be another wave of potential players that could be added to round out the roster before training camp. Ultimately, Veach will have the roster set up just the way he wants it by the time the season starts.

One thing is certain: Much of the AFC is playing scared while potentially overspending to compete with the Chiefs. The rest of the AFC is improving, but the Chiefs continue to be the top dog and won’t give up their title of “odds-on favorite” without a fight. The AFC will continue to run through Kansas City until someone takes it from them.