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Around the AFC West: Shade wars, contracts talks and more

(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

The Broncos wrapped up their mandatory minicamp this week. They now take a break until mid-July, when training camp begins. In the meantime, other teams will continue to work around the league and in the AFC West.

Even though news is slower, there are still notes to go over from the Broncos main competition. Two of these teams (Chargers, Chiefs) are among the best of the league, so the Broncos have to make sure to first keep up with their own division.

Let’s take a spin around the AFC West to see what the competition is up to.

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Kansas City Chiefs

Not much happened with the Chiefs this week, but they did sign third-round pick defensive tackle Khalen Saunders on Monday. Saunders is your traditional run-stuffing nose tackle.

Measuring in at 6-feet tall and a whopping 324 pounds, Saunders is difficult to move on the inside. He does get off the line of scrimmage quickly for a big man and gets a bit of interior pressure because of that burst.

Saunders was a third-round pick out of Western Illinois in the 2019 NFL Draft. I watched him earlier this year at the Reese’s Senior Bowl and Saunders proved that he could compete against the nation’s best seniors. He looked powerful and disruptive in one-on-one drills and showed that trademark quickness at the snap.

The Chiefs defense was not good last season. They have worked diligently to upgrade that side of the ball this offseason and Saunders is part of that effort. The Broncos want to run the ball early and often in 2019, and a guy like Saunders is going to do his best to shut down the middle of the field when facing Denver (and other opponents) this season.

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Los Angeles Chargers

The Chargers have begun contract negotiations with starting running back Melvin Gordon. He has been wanting a contract extension for quite some time now, and reports earlier this year indicated that Gordon was waiting for Le’Veon Bell to sign his deal.

Bell inked a contract with the Jets that was four years, $52.5 million total with $35 million guaranteed. It will be interesting to see if the Chargers give Gordon that type of deal, but his numbers should be around those totals. The Chargers don’t let their good free agents go historically, so we should see something done for Gordon in good time.

It was also revelead this week that fullback Derek Watt underwent shoulder surgery about two weeks ago. Watt is a battering ram fullback and lead blocker for Gordon. This shoulder injury will have him sidelined during minicamp but the team expects him to be ready some time in training camp.

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Oakland Raiders

Raiders wide receiver Antonio Brown is still beefing with former teammate, Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster. It’s a “shade war” that doesn’t seem to be stopping anytime soon.

It didn’t start with this tweet from Brown, but this is an ongoing back-and-forth between the two.

Fans are now getting involved in the beef. Smith-Schuster recently attended a fan’s prom and profane chants against Brown started from the high school crowd.

Unfortunately, we won’t get to see the Steelers play the Raiders in 2019 unless the two meet in the postseason – and that seems quite unlikely at the time.