The Kansas City Chiefs have not lost the AFC West since 2015. That’s seven straight seasons of victory, and when you have a run of dominance like that, your greatest rivals are going to try and figure out ways to beat you.
Last offseason, the Los Angeles Chargers and Las Vegas Raiders attempted to do this by bringing in big-name pass rushers like Khalil Mack and Chandler Jones. The Denver Broncos tried to compete by going all-in on a blockbuster trade for quarterback Russell Wilson. LAC also spent huge money on cornerback J.C. Jackson and LVR traded for a playmaker in Davante Adams — among other moves around the division.
In the end, none of these plans have worked, but that won’t stop a team like the Raiders from trying again in 2023. Las Vegas reportedly needs a number two wide receiver to pair with their superstar, Adams, and slot-threat Hunter Renfrow. Vincent Bonsignore of the Las Vegas Review-Journal listed some free agent options, suggesting that the top candidate is Chiefs fan favorite JuJu Smith-Schuster.
He explained: “Smith-Schuster, 26, wouldn’t satisfy the Raiders’ need for speed, but he would be a great fit as a second option to complement Adams. He had 78 catches for 933 yards and three touchdowns this season. He played on a one-year, $3.7 million contract, so he will be looking for a pay raise. That will come into play for the Raiders.”
Analyst Says Raiders Should Poach Chiefs’ Jerick McKinnon
This idea of the Raiders poaching Kansas City players is a growing theme of the 2023 offseason — and the Chiefs haven’t even begun their offseason yet!
About a month ago on January 5, Bleacher Report’s Kristopher Knox named KC running back Jerick McKinnon as a player that Las Vegas should target.
“While McKinnon’s skill set is a perfect match for Andy Reid’s offense, he’d look good with the Las Vegas Raiders as well,” Knox detailed at the time. “The Raiders have a fantastic dual-threat back in Jacobs, but he’s set to become a free agent in March. Even if the Raiders retain Jacobs, McKinnon could be a huge asset as a pass-catching complement.”
The basic idea was that McKinnon would replace the Raiders’ current third-down back, Ameer Abdullah, upgrading the underrated role within the offense for Las Vegas.
“Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels has traditionally utilized multiple backs with specialized roles, dating back to his time as the New England Patriots offensive coordinator,” Knox continued, concluding that: “McKinnon would provide him with a lot of options, and he wouldn’t impact Las Vegas’ financial ability to re-sign Jacobs.”
Hard to See Chiefs’ JuJu Smith-Schuster or Jerick McKinnon Joining the Raiders in 2023
Considering the bad blood between these two franchises, it’s hard to see Smith-Schuster or McKinnon joining the dark side in 2023. Both are well-liked within this organization, fanbase and locker room — and it’s much more likely that they re-sign than leave for a division rival.
Don’t get me wrong, the Raiders pursuing these players is easier to fathom but head coach Andy Reid and quarterback Patrick Mahomes II tend to have a certain amount of pull with their playmakers so long as the compensation is fair. Smith-Schuster and McKinnon are definitely due for a raise, but they also know that they have a better chance of winning and putting up big numbers in KC.
It should be fairly simple retaining McKinnon in 2023. Ronald Jones II will come off the books this spring, and general manager Brett Veach could theoretically part ways with Clyde Edwards-Helaire if they get the right trade offer.
All of that, plus having Isiah Pacheco as a very affordable lead back, makes the veteran team leader — and postseason captain — a near shoe-in to return.
Smith-Schuster could be more of a challenge, considering the wide receiver market is currently more expensive than ever. JuJu feels like a priority for Mahomes and Veach, however, and it’s hard to see them losing out to the Raiders in a bidding war.