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A Philip Rivers trade would alter balance in AFC West

Regardless of how much you believe Peyton Manning has left or what you think of Derek Carr, you could have Alex Smith of the Kansas City Chiefs rated no better than second among quarterbacks in the AFC West.

That’s as of today, with Philip Rivers still a member of the San Diego Chargers.

But if the Chargers trade Rivers, as speculation persists they will, then it isn’t out of the question that Smith in 2015 is the best QB in the division and, more importantly, that his team is also the best of the bunch.

Ever since Manning, injured though he was, looked every bit his age down the stretch last season, the Broncos looked like they would be vulnerable in 2015. That looked more of a sure thing at the end of the season, when the Broncos fired coach John Fox.

Maybe Manning and the Broncos can hold it together for one more season. But I think the division championship would be available this year to the Chiefs or the Chargers if either made the right moves in the offseason.

So far, so good for the Chiefs, but let’s see what happens in the draft before we make that declaration for them.

But the Chargers? Their offseason hasn’t been overwhelming and regardless of what else they do from this point, they’re not winning the AFC West if they trade Rivers.

Maybe getting rid of him is the right thing for the Chargers to do. Rivers is headed into the final season of his contract and has indicated he wants to play it out and, perhaps, move to another team in 2016.

So maybe a trade makes sense for the Chargers, particularly if the deal puts them in position to draft Oregon’s Marcus Mariota.

Still, for the short term at least, the Chargers will head backward and perhaps in a big way. It will become painfully obvious just how much of the load Rivers has carried since becoming their starting quarterback in 2006.

And if that happens, it leaves just one other legitimate contender for the AFC West crown the Broncos have worn since 2011. That’s just one more reason this 10-pick draft is an extremely important one for the Chiefs.