KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- At the end of his team's 2019 season, general manager John Elway said that one of the Denver Broncos' biggest disappointments was the way they played in their two games against the Kansas City Chiefs.
The Broncos were barely competitive in either game and lost by a combined score of 53-9.
"Obviously, our goal every year is to win the West," Elway said. "They're the team that we're going to have to beat."
Elway was speaking for the Broncos, but he just as easily could have spoken for the Los Angeles Chargers and the Las Vegas Raiders, who all watched as the Chiefs won Super Bowl LIV as the only AFC West team to make the playoffs.
Kansas City's rivals have plenty of ground to cover if they were want to catch the Chiefs, and they attacked the task recently in free agency. Much of the shopping spree seemed to aim at slowing quarterback Patrick Mahomes and the high-scoring Chiefs offense. Among the new defensive arrivals in the division: tackle Jurrell Casey and cornerback A.J. Bouye (Broncos); tackle Linval Joseph and cornerback Chris Harris Jr. (Chargers); and tackle Maliek Collins and linebackers Cory Littleton and Nick Kwiatkoski (Raiders).
"Right now, he's the best in the game," Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said of Mahomes in February at the NFL scouting combine. "If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best, and that's what we're going to have to do."
At the same time, AFC West teams had trouble scoring against the Chiefs. In two games against Kansas City, the Broncos scored nine points, the Raiders 19 and the Chargers 38. So, they added on offense, as well: running back Melvin Gordon and guard Graham Glasgow (Broncos); tackle Bryan Bulaga (Chargers); and tight end Jason Witten and quarterback Marcus Mariota (Raiders).
But the gap between the Chiefs and the rest of the division was wider than ever last season. The Chiefs won their fourth straight AFC West title in 2019, finishing five games ahead of the 7-9 Broncos and Raiders and seven in front of the 5-11 Chargers.
Kansas City coach Andy Reid said the Chiefs went into the offseason expecting their division rivals to try to bridge the gap with better teams in 2020.
"They know there's a great challenge because other teams are going to be at their best and they're going to be ready for you and they're going to study you in the offseason," Reid said. "We've got to make sure we're on our A game as we come into the season."
The Chiefs, rather than add significant pieces so far in free agency, appear to be content to try to make another Super Bowl run with largely the same cast as last season. Their two free-agent additions -- offensive lineman Mike Remmers and cornerback Antonio Hamilton -- were brought on board either for depth or special-teams play.
The Chiefs also signed a developmental quarterback from the XFL in Jordan Ta'amu.
The Raiders made a run at Kansas City at midseason last year, at one point getting within a half-game in the standings. They then lost five of their final six games, including a 40-9 defeat against the Chiefs in Week 13.
The Raiders have been the most active AFC West team in free agency, with nine signings.
"I have to do a better job managing our roster during the season at certain positions," Raiders general manager Mike Mayock said at the combine in an interesting acknowledgement. "We weren't particularly good at linebacker. I think I made some mistakes there. We weren't particularly good at wideout last year. I think I made some mistakes there. So I've just got to do a better job, bottom line.
"If you look at our offense, again, we were No. 11 in yards, and we're a pretty good offensive team. And I think everybody knows we need help at wideout. ... Defensively, we were not very good at all. So I kind of go into the defensive side with a mindset of, 'Who makes us better at any position?' We have so many needs over there."