A lot has changed in the NFL since the start of the new league year last week, so it’s a good time for updated power rankings after the first wave of 2019 free agency.
1. New England Patriots
While most of the league was shelling out big money to free agents, the Patriots just waited around and didn’t overspend to keep even their own guys in the building. Obviously, some great talent is leaving the team, but I don’t think anyone should question what Bill Belichick and the Patriots are doing. I like the re-signing of wide receiver Phillip Dorsett in particular—as has been made clear here on White Wolf for the past couple of years, those that have watched Dorsett play know he has always answered the call and made plays when given opportunities for the Patriots.
2. Kansas City Chiefs
The Tyreek Hill situation obviously bears watching, as the Chiefs took a chance on him in the fifth round of the 2016 draft despite off-field issues, and it might be tough to keep him on the roster depending on what exactly happened with his fiancée and son. Kansas City is still second in the power rankings, but there are a couple of concerns about them as things stand. Eric Berry and Justin Houston are former All-Pros that are great leaders in the locker room (Berry in particular), and that might be tough to replace; also, they need former second-rounders Tanoh Kpassagnon and Breeland Speaks to step up as pass rushers with Dee Ford (traded to the Niners) and Houston gone.
3. Los Angeles Rams
The big key for the Rams heading into the 2019 season will be the development of last year’s third-round pick (Joseph Noteboom) and fourth-round pick (Brian Allen) stepping up at guard and center for last year’s starters Rodger Saffold and John Sullivan. If there’s a hole at offensive line, Sean McVay’s attack won’t be electric as it’s been the last two seasons. A trade is possible, but it looks like cornerback Marcus Peters will remain with the Rams this season, which must be slightly unsettling because of some discipline issues he’s shown. Mostly everyone just makes a bunch of old, unfunny jokes about it, but I like LA’s signing of Blake Bortles to be their backup quarterback.
4. Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers were already one of the most talented teams in football, so no big moves were expected in free agency. But they made a nice under-the-radar signing by getting long-time Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis to shore up their linebacking corps. After New England ran for four touchdowns and basically did whatever they wanted in the postseason against them, the Chargers will likely hit defense hard in a great draft for defensive linemen. The team should be able to make up for the loss of wide receiver Tyrell Williams, with Mike Williams ready to step up into a bigger role.
5. Indianapolis Colts
As nice as someone like Le’Veon Bell might look on paper or on Madden in a Colts uniform, I thought it was foolish to believe the Colts would make a strong push to sign him. Marlon Mack played exceptionally well last season, and bringing in someone that sat out an entire season simply doesn’t mesh well with what the Colts are building. People are getting on the Devin Funchess signing (one year, $13 million), but Indy has plenty of cap space to make a move like that and can just move on if the big receiver doesn’t work out in 2019. I’m excited to see GM Chris Ballard’s draft selections next month after he took two All-Pros (Quenton Nelson and Darius Leonard) last year.
6. New Orleans Saints
The surprise retirement of center Max Unger is a big blow to New Orleans, as we saw what happened in Seattle when they traded him to the Saints for Jimmy Graham. However, the Saints were quick to sign former Vikings lineman Nick Easton, who missed all of last season with a neck injury, to fill in at the pivot. The team also signed Latavius Murray before letting Mark Ingram walk in free agency, and I don’t think the former Raider and Viking will be a drop-off at all despite Ingram’s success in New Orleans.
7. Chicago Bears
It was a peculiar that the Bears brought in Buster Skrine to play slot cornerback instead of keeping Bryce Callahan in the building, but I like Chicago’s move to replace Adrian Amos (who left for the division-rival Packers) with Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. The former first-round pick from Alabama joins fellow Crimson Tide safety Eddie Jackson on the back end, and the two of the give the Bears a ton of range in the secondary. Adding the league’s best kick returner, Cordarrelle Patterson, is an obvious boost to an explosive special-teams unit that already includes Tarik Cohen returning punts.
8. Philadelphia Eagles
While I would have considered keeping Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles while attempting to get a king’s ransom in return for Carson Wentz, the Eagles did the right thing by letting Foles walk free without slapping the franchise tag on him. Defensive tackle Malik Jackson offers major upside next to Fletcher Cox on the interior of Philadelphia’s defense, and the move to deal Michael Bennett to New England makes a ton of sense after the front office made the mistake of adding him to a squad that thrives on culture last year. He’s more mature than he was when he left, but I’m not sold on the DeSean Jackson move, especially giving him an extension—I suppose they’d rather keep him than Nelson Agholor long-term, which makes no sense to me. The loss of linebacker Jordan Hicks is also notable at perhaps the team’s weakest position.
9. Atlanta Falcons
Their moves were under the radar because it was headlined by a couple of guards, but the Falcons fortified a weak spot from last season (particularly after injuries) by signing James Carpenter and Jamon Brown to protect Matt Ryan. Overall, both the offense and defense will get players back healthy in 2019, so that’s in some ways like adding players in free agency. One big surprise from Atlanta is the fact that they didn’t re-sign dynamic running back Tevin Coleman, who somehow only got a two-year, $10 million deal from the Niners. Hopefully Devonta Freeman can stay on the field this season.
10. Seattle Seahawks
Ideally, the Seahawks will be able to either extend franchise-tagged defensive end Frank Clark or trade him, as a long holdout going up until the start of the regular season wouldn’t be good for the team. He’s their best pass rusher, though, so expect Seattle to add one of the edge rushers in next month’s draft as insurance and preparation for 2019 and beyond. The Seahawks did a nice job of retaining both K.J. Wright and Mychal Kendricks at linebacker along with All-Pro Bobby Wagner, helping give them one of the best units in the league at the position.
11. Pittsburgh Steelers
Despite wide receiver Donte Moncrief and cornerback Steven Nelson being the biggest signings for Pittsburgh to this point, the Steelers are undoubtedly one of the NFL’s most interesting teams this offseason. Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown are officially gone, but the team has the players—like JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Conner, and future Hall of Fame quarterback Ben Roethlisberger—to not miss a beat (and remember, it’s not like Pittsburgh made the postseason with Brown last year). I like the calm approach the Steelers are taking in getting away from the past, as they don’t seem worried about losing Bell and Brown—getting away from being an emotional team and turning into more of an even-keeled team is a good sign.
12. Cleveland Browns
The early NFC North favorites of many, the Browns clearly look pretty good on paper as we sit here in March. GM John Dorsey has been extremely aggressive, giving his offense and last year’s No. 1 pick Baker Mayfield in particular a ton of firepower to work with. Talent-wise, Cleveland might have passed Kansas City as the team with the scariest pieces on offense after the Odell Beckham Jr. trade and Kareem Hunt signing—Hunt was just recently a key member of the Chiefs, and now he’ll basically be a committee running back when he returns from his eight-game suspension. Whatever happens with the Browns in 2019, it’ll be entertaining, and we’ll see a lot of them in primetime games. Keep in mind that the former regime led by Sashi Brown helped put the franchise in this position by acquiring assets and keeping cap space free.
13. Dallas Cowboys
These are the first power rankings since Jason Witten announced his return to the Cowboys less than a month ago in a stunning move—and a welcome move for football fans, as the Monday Night Football booth will be revamped after a poor 2018 season. Dallas was interested in safety Earl Thomas, but I really like the disciplined approach they’ve taken the last few years by not overspending or getting too aggressive. The Cowboys have a strong roster, and you can easily make an argument for them being higher than this in the rankings.
14. Tennessee Titans
Signing 37-year-old Cameron Wake to a three-year deal was a bit of a stunner, but the veteran will help deliver a pass rush and offset the loss of Brian Orakpo to retirement. I like Quinton Spain, but acquiring left guard Rodger Saffold will hopefully improve the protection on Marcus Mariota’s blindside while delivering punishment paving the way for Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis. One of the most underrated signings of free agency was Adam Humphries, as I believe he is a great fit with Mariota’s precision on short and intermediate passes over the middle, and he’ll provide needed reliability from the slot for the Titans.
15. Houston Texans
The Texans did a solid job of replacing a couple of starters that left in free agency, snatching former Jaguars safety Tashaun Gipson and former Broncos cornerback Bradley Roby to replace Tyrann Mathieu and Kareem Jackson, but I don’t see noticeable improvement on the roster. Hopefully the offensive line simply plays better with more time together as a unit, but Houston might just accept that Deshaun Watson will get out of trouble and mask any issues up front.
16. Minnesota Vikings
It might’ve just been a joke or something fun that was done without Stefon Diggs even knowing about it, but it’s interesting that Diggs’ brother posted a picture of Stefon photoshopped in a Redskins uniform on Instagram. Diggs is from Maryland (near Washington, D.C.) and went to college there, and it’s worth noting that former Vikings quarterback Case Keenum is now in Washington. Maybe it’s nothing, but Minnesota’s two star receivers were visibly upset with Kirk Cousins at times last season. They all must get on the same page if this very talented team is going to make a Super Bowl run. Re-signing Anthony Barr after he looked bound for the Jets was big for Mike Zimmer’s defense.
17. Oakland Raiders
I would not have traded for Antonio Brown after he left his teammates hanging leading up to Week 17 last season, but it’s difficult not to be more optimistic after watching the press conference with Brown, Jon Gruden, and Mike Mayock, and the start of the relationship between Brown and quarterback Derek Carr. There seems to be a lot of respect between some important key players, and Gruden is probably the guy that can get the most out of AB while keeping him with the program. (Also, the cost to acquire the All-Pro, was an insane discount based on talent.) After also adding offensive tackle Trent Brown, wide receiver Tyrell Williams, and safety/nickel Lamarcus Joyner, Oakland added some pieces that perfectly fit what they’re trying to do, making it less risky to spend big money on players outside the organization. If the team signs linebacker Vontaze Burfict, who Jon Gruden is a big fan of, hopefully Brown and Burfict are quickly able to work out their past issues from the Steelers-Bengals rivalry.
18. Buffalo Bills
The Bills appear to be following a similar formula to other teams with young franchise quarterbacks in recent years (like the Eagles and Bears) by adding pieces around Josh Allen ahead of his second NFL season. I really like wide receiver John Brown, who thrived with big-armed quarterbacks Carson Palmer and Joe Flacco, but overall the moves aren’t quite as exciting as the ones Philly and Chicago made in my opinion. But there’s still a lot of the offseason to go, including the draft, and I am optimistic about where the Bills are headed. It’s good to see GM Brandon Beane defend the perception about Buffalo.
19. Jacksonville Jaguars
Nick Foles deserved the huge contract he got from the Jaguars, and he’s probably the biggest addition of any team for 2019. I am slightly concerned about the fit of the receivers with Foles, but there are several guys that could step up and become reliable targets, and more pieces might be added in the draft. Defensively, some talent was jettisoned, but there are still excellent pieces in place for the Jags to bounce back this season.
20. San Francisco 49ers
With DeForest Buckner and recent acquisition Dee Ford both with double-digit-sack seasons in their careers, this San Francisco defensive line is incredibly potent—former first-round picks Arik Armstead and Solomon Thomas (in particular Thomas, who was the third overall pick in 2017) must step up, and the Niners would be scary. Kwon Alexander was a big addition to the middle of the defense, and Tevin Coleman is a perfect fit in Kyle Shanahan’s offense, which is absolutely stacked at running back. And of course, Jimmy Garoppolo will be returning from his ACL injury, which will give the team a boost.
21. Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens added Earl Thomas and might have the best secondary in football, but they’re this low in the power rankings because they lost so many notable players from last season. With a thin receiving corps, a lot is going to be put on Lamar Jackson making plays with his legs, and Mark Ingram was a strong addition to work in tandem with Gus Edwards in what should be a relentless inside rushing attack. Baltimore seems to always find a way to play great defense, but the front seven looks as vulnerable as it’s looked in a while on paper.
22. Green Bay Packers
Of these teams grouped in this area around the low 20s, I think one of them will surpass my March expectations and become contenders in 2019. With Aaron Rodgers at quarterback, it very well could be the Packers. New head coach Matt LaFleuer and Rodgers will be tasked with operating a top-notch offensive attack, and the team spent big on defense in free agency, adding safety Adrian Amos, and a couple of rushers in Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith. Green Bay should be interested in bringing Jordy Nelson back after Rodgers was frustrated with the play of young receivers last season.
23. Washington Redskins
The Redskins sure like adding Alabama players to their defense, as they were extremely aggressive in signing former Giants safety Landon Collins. The cornerbacks must all step up to elevate the secondary, as Collins is likely going to be asked to do a lot on the back end for his new team. Overall, the roster is pretty solid, and they have a good coaching staff led by Jay Gruden, but Case Keenum or Colt McCoy must play well with Alex Smith unfortunately looking unlikely for 2019. Washington will almost certainly add to their receiver group in the draft.
24. Denver Broncos
Joe Flacco will bring stability to the starting quarterback position for the Broncos, and the team would be higher than this if they weren’t in the best division in football with the Chiefs, Chargers, and an improved Raiders team. Vic Fangio was able to add Bryce Callahan, who he had with the Bears, to man the slot cornerback spot, and Kareem Jackson was added as a starter on the outside opposite Chris Harris. If Fangio gets his defense to play tough up the middle against the run—and the draft could help address that—the defense should have elite upside.
25. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Like Fangio in Denver, Bruce Arians has a lot to work with on his side of the ball in Tampa Bay. The Bucs were able to add former first-round pick Breshad Perriman after he backed out of his deal with the Browns because of the OBJ trade, and it’s easy to see Arians getting a lot out of him as the third receiver behind Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. After losing Kwon Alexander to the Niners, the Bucs did a nice job of getting Deone Bucannon, who played for Arians with the Cardinals, on Todd Bowles’ defense.
26. Detroit Lions
Detroit was one of the most aggressive teams in spending on free agents, as they are looking to immediately compete in 2019 after a disappointing 2018 season. Trey Flowers potentially paired with another pass rusher from the draft could lead to a formidable duo for Matt Patricia’s defense in what’ll be a big season for the former New England assistant. Offensively, Danny Amendola helps replace Golden Tate, who was traded last season, in the slot with Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones Jr. on the outside.
27. Carolina Panthers
Center Matt Paradis was the key signing for the Panthers to this point, but the defense clearly needs to add more pieces for Ron Rivera to work with after the team ended 2018 so poorly. Ideally, Carolina will come away with a big wide receiver from this year’s draft—and there are plenty of them that’ll be available on Day 1 and Day 2. Cam Newton appears to be progressing well in his shoulder rehab, which is one of the best signs of the offseason.
28. New York Jets
I am high on Sam Darnold and Adam Gase, but I’m not high on the decisions the Jets made this offseason. It seems like they were bidding against themselves for Le’Veon Bell, who didn’t seem too eager to join the franchise and probably expected better offers than he got after sitting out all of last season. Bell does give Darnold a reliable underneath outlet, though, which will make things easier on the young quarterback when nothing is there. Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams getting C.J. Mosley for the middle of his defense should help that unit compete, but it cost a lot of money to get a deal done. It seems like GM Mike Maccagnan is trying to save his job by spending big this offseason.
29. New York Giants
After the draft, it’s possible the Giants are ranked much higher than this. Pat Shurmur got the team to play well toward the end of last season (without Odell Beckham Jr. in the lineup, by the way), and not having any OBJ distractions (some caused by the talented receiver and some caused by the media) could be like a weight lifted off the franchise and the people in the building. Dealing Beckham gave the Giants a replacement for Landon Collins (Jabrill Peppers) and draft capital to add more pieces to both sides of the ball. The Giants are building from the trenches first, and it’s not like they’ve won a bunch of games in recent years—I think the shakeup was a good idea.
30. Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals appear OK with adding more pieces in the draft and going at 2019 with much of the current roster. There’s been talk of the Dolphins not trying too hard to improve the team this offseason with the hope of landing a quarterback high in next year’s draft, and that’s probably not the case in Cincinnati, but it wouldn’t be surprising if it was. There are definitely pieces for new head coach Zac Taylor to work with, though, including Joe Mixon, A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd, and John Ross. The defense probably needs the most work in the coming weeks.
31. Miami Dolphins
Former Patriots cornerback Eric Rowe was one of the best value signings of free agency thus far, as he’ll join Brian Flores in Miami with a chance to be an exceptional second corner opposite shutdown No. 1 Xavien Howard. Ryan Fitzpatrick with a long leash as a starter for the Dolphins would be a lot of fun, and it looks like that’s going to happen; but I would’ve 100% given Sam Bradford an opportunity. Some team—I think the Patriots would be perfect—should give the former No. 1 pick a shot as a great backup that can step in and play at a very high level if called upon.
32. Arizona Cardinals
The Kyler-Murray-to-the-Cardinals talk has subsided a bit because of the crazy start to the new league year and the lack of any movement on a Josh Rosen deal, but I’m still leaning towards the Heisman winner being the first overall pick to Arizona. Judging the Cardinals’ signing of veteran players, the team expects to compete for a postseason berth in Kliff Kingsbury’s first year as the head coach, which is pretty bold. However, they probably must hit on immediate impact draft picks to take a huge step forward in 2019.