The AFC West isn’t going to be as easy as it was last season for the Denver Broncos, or at least the San Diego Chargers and especially the Oakland Raiders won’t be as bad as they were. The Chargers added a much needed left tackle in Max Starks, while the Raiders brought home Charles Woodson, finally finding himself a team.
The Raiders had a 4-12 season (not even the worse in the AFC West in 2012), and have worked hard on improving all areas on the field, including at secondary. They used their number one pick on D.J. Hayden, a cornerback out of Houston. San Diego have been just as persistent at improving their offensive line, which was one of the worst in the league last season. They added D.J. Fluker through the draft and King Dunlap through free agency to improve their O-Line before getting Starks to join.
Woodson, 36, played for the Raiders from 1998-2005, reaching one Super Bowl with the team. He later joined the Green Bay Packers, winning a Super Bowl with them, and in all has 8 Pro Bowl appearances and 7 All-Pro selections, including in 2011. He was moved to the safety position recently, but missed most of the 2012 season due to a broken collarbone. He had a hard time finding a new workplace this off-season, initially looking for a contender but eventually had to settle for a team that paid him well and offered him a starting job.
Entering his 16th NFL season, Woodson signed a one-year deal worth a maximum of $4.3 million, including a $700,000 signing bonus. The Raiders haven’t had a winning season or a playoff berth since they reached the Super Bowl in 2002. Kicker Sebastian Janikowski is the only player left on the team from Woodson’s previous tenure with the team.
Starks was a little bit less desperate than Woodson to land a team, knowing that a left tackle that is still a starter and more is going to find himself a job sooner or later. The 31 year-old won two Super Bowls with the Pittsburgh Steelers, playing in the win over the Seahawks (2006) and the Cardinals (2009).
He has started in 96 games since entering the league in 2004, including all 16 games last season, putting any doubts regarding his health and durability out of the question. The Chargers are hoping that Starks, along with the rest of their signings, can prevent another bad season from Rivers, who has turned the ball over 47 times over the last couple of seasons, and was sacked 49 times last year.