It’s now been over a week since the start of the NFL’s new league year, and much has changed around the league. The Chiefs and Ravens lead the 2020 NFL power rankings after the first stage of free agency.
1. Kansas City Chiefs
The defending Super Bowl champions have been able to keep a lot of their own this offseason, notably tagging defensive lineman Chris Jones and keeping Super Bowl star Sammy Watkins on the roster despite a big contract. Re-signing underrated cornerback Bashaud Breeland should be a top priority after losing Kendall Fuller in free agency. With all that’s happening in the world and with Tom Brady’s departure from New England, there hasn’t been much talk about Kansas City to this point—perhaps Patrick Mahomes and company will use that as motivation in 2020.
2. Baltimore Ravens
There’s a case for the Ravens as the No. 1 team in these early 2020 NFL power rankings, as the team was able to get veteran defensive lineman Calais Campbell for a fifth-round pick while also signing former Rams defensive lineman Michael Brockers to boost their front [UPDATE: The Brockers signing has fallen through, and he’s re-signing with the Rams]—in the trenches, it’ll be very tough for other teams to run on Baltimore. However, the Ravens lost All-Pro guard Marshall Yanda to retirement, ending the offense’s ability to bring back all 11 starters from last year’s spectacular run led by league MVP Lamar Jackson. The Ravens also used a surplus at tight end to deal former first-rounder Hayden Hurst to the Falcons and receive a second-round pick in return.
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
I did not think Tom Brady would leave the Patriots, but the Buccaneers were an obvious potential landing spot if Brady wanted to put up exceptional statistics while also having fun and winning games. Tampa Bay is immediately a Super Bowl contender with Brady now in command of an offense that had way too many turnovers under Jameis Winston last season, and the greatest quarterback of all-time’s presence should lift the entire locker room and franchise. Anyone that paid attention last year knows Todd Bowles’ defense was already on the rise, and they’ll benefit by working in tandem with an efficient, explosive offense. It would be scary if the Bucs draft Wisconsin star running back Jonathan Taylor in next month’s draft.
4. San Francisco 49ers
We might never know what happened for certain, but after the 49ers apparently turned down Brady to stick with Jimmy Garoppolo, it could give Jimmy G a jolt of energy heading into this year in San Francisco. The Niners were just minutes away from a championship, and keep in mind that Garoppolo is now entering just his third full season as the team’s starting quarterback. The future is obviously bright for the franchise, but Kyle Shanahan will be tasked with avoiding a Super Bowl hangover in one of the NFL’s toughest divisions (and a loaded conference). San Fran traded All-Pro defensive lineman DeForest Buckner in a surprising move, but they were able to get the No. 13 pick in the draft as a creative way to add another great talent while finding needed cap relief.
5. Buffalo Bills
The Bills are a team emerging as legit Super Bowl contenders under head coach Sean McDermott and quarterback Josh Allen, and now is the time for the team to assert themselves with another strong season and a potential changing of the guard in the AFC East. Stefon Diggs was a costly acquisition, but a receiving corps with Diggs, John Brown, and Cole Beasley as the starters is one of the top groups in the league—and Buffalo can look to add a bigger target on Day 2 of the draft given the insane depth of this year’s wide receiver class. Re-signing well-liked guard Quinton Spain was an undervalued move by general manager Brandon Beane, and it’ll help with continuity and toughness on offense.
6. New England Patriots
I am high on the Bills, but I am not foolish enough to count out the Patriots, even after they lost Tom Brady. Devin McCourty is already playing the underdog role, and it would not be wise to discount Bill Belichick and an elite defense—the team should still be a legitimate championship contender. The Patriots were going to remain in the top five of the power rankings, but they need to slide at least a little after losing arguably the best football player in history. Look for New England to target Georgia’s Jake Fromm in the draft, but Jarrett Stidham has definite upside at quarterback. Belichick’s statement on Brady was a nice read and shows how highly he thinks of his former quarterback.
7. Seattle Seahawks
Jadeveon Clowney is a still-available free-agent wild card that could have a notable impact on the balance of power in the NFL, but the most likely scenario might be that he returns to Seattle on a short-term deal if he’s not getting the money he wants on a long-term agreement with a team. Quinton Dunbar was a fine addition to a deep secondary, but Phillip Dorsett should be an excellent under-the-radar signing. The former Colts and Patriots receiver flashed with his opportunities in New England in particular, and he seems like a perfect fit as a deep threat next to D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett.
8. Atlanta Falcons
Former Offensive Player of the Year Todd Gurley has accomplished a lot in the NFL, but he’s going to be determined after the Rams released him because of a big contract. Gurley has knee concerns, but he will turn just 26 years old this summer and gets to play in the state where he was a dominant college player as a Georgia Bulldog. After also signing former Vikings receiver Laquon Treadwell and acquiring tight end Hayden Hurst in a trade with Baltimore, the Falcons now have a projected all-first-round offense. The skill position players are arguably unmatched in the league, but the offensive line must grow in 2020. Defensively, Dante Fowler Jr. could provide some juice as a pass rusher for Atlanta.
9. New Orleans Saints
Sean Payton has said one of his biggest regrets was letting safety Malcolm Jenkins leave in free agency years ago, but the Saints quickly added the veteran back to its defense when he became available this year. New Orleans also signed experienced receiver Emmanuel Sanders, so they’ve signed a couple of key contributors that have Super Bowl experience (each playing in the Big Game multiple times and each winning a title). It’s interesting that it sounds like Taysom Hill will get more time on offense at the expense of Drew Brees, who still looked as accurate as ever last season. The Saints are at No. 9 because the NFC South looks a lot tougher than it has been in the past couple of years.
10. Los Angeles Rams
Losing Todd Gurley and a few other key players knocked the Rams down a few spots in the power rankings, but getting left tackle Andrew Whitworth back in the mix was critical for Sean McVay’s offense, and I like the addition of former Bears first-round outside linebacker Leonard Floyd on defense. Protecting the quarterback is important for every team, but the offensive line play of the Rams should be the team’s No. 1 priority—if Jared Goff is protected, he and the LA offense can shred opposing defenses. The unit was coming together toward the end of last year, and the Rams have some flexibility to put more pieces in place despite limited draft selections this year.
11. Tennessee Titans
The Titans showed major commitment to Ryan Tannehill by signing him to a long-term deal and not going after Tom Brady, and that should give the veteran quarterback the confidence to continue his strong, efficient play after taking over as Tennessee’s starter during last season. The signing also allowed the team to franchise stud running back Derrick Henry, but hopefully the two sides can agree to a long-term deal before the July 15 deadline to avoid any hold out that could impact the 2020 campaign—as well as Tannehill played in 2019, Henry is the catalyst of the offense. Vic Beasley offers upside as a former league-leading sacker, but the Titans might also be in the mix for Jadeveon Clowney.
12. Green Bay Packers
The Packers lost linebacker Blake Martinez in free agency, but they struck preemptively by signing Christian Kirksey after he was released by the Browns ahead of the legal tampering period. Led by its young secondary and bookend outside linebackers, Green Bay appears to be in good shape under defensive coordinator Mike Pettine. The offense clearly wants to get more production opposite Davante Adams, and Devin Funchess could be a value signing—remember, he was just signed for $10 million by Indy last year, but his season was ended in Week 1 because of a collarbone injury. I don’t understand people ripping the Funchess signing as if he doesn’t belong in the NFL. The Packers will also likely be in the mix for a receiver early in the draft.
13. Las Vegas Raiders
Aside from the Buccaneers, I don’t think anyone has had as good of an offseason as the Las Vegas Raiders. Derek Carr is said to be the starting quarterback, but the signing of Marcus Mariota was perfect. Mariota has the personality to be a supportive backup, along with the skills to take over and do an amazing job in Jon Gruden’s offense if called upon. I won’t be surprised if Mariota is under center in Week 1 if he’s given a chance to win the job. Also, Nelson Agholor somehow getting only the veteran minimum (which other agents were apparently mad about) is a crazy steal for the Raiders. After adding Cory Littleton and Nick Kwiatkoski to the linebacking corps in free agency, take a look at Vegas’ roster and you won’t really see any glaring holes.
14. Pittsburgh Steelers
There’s a case for the Steelers being much higher than this in the power rankings, and they might be squarely in the top ten by the time the season rolls around. Ben Roethlisberger appears to be making progress in his recovery from the elbow injury suffered last season, and the future Hall of Fame quarterback paired with a playmaking defense could be quite the combination in 2020. Tight end Eric Ebron is an upside signing that could help the Steelers finish drives with six points more often.
15. Indianapolis Colts
The Colts are also among the teams having the best offseasons in my opinion. While it was surprising that they dealt a valuable No. 13 overall pick, acquiring an All-Pro defensive tackle in DeForest Buckner is a rare opportunity that will immediately upgrade the entire defense and help get pressure up the middle on Patrick Mahomes and company in the AFC. And Philip Rivers should be comfortable playing behind Indianapolis’ top-tier offensive line, which retained left tackle Anthony Castonzo, as was expected heading into the offseason. I would be surprised if Indy doesn’t target another wide receiver on Day 2 of April’s draft.
16. Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles are almost a lock to select a receiver early in the draft, too, and I won’t be shocked if they select a couple of receivers on the first two days considering the strength and depth of the draft class—and that the team wants to do everything it can to make things better for quarterback Carson Wentz. But this talk about needing to make the Eagles “Wentz’s team” is concerning in my opinion, and not many people in Philadelphia are happy with the team getting rid of Malcolm Jenkins, who thanked about everyone except for general manager Howie Roseman in his farewell letter. However, the defense appears to have made apt additions, headlined by Darius Slay, Javon Hargrave, and Nickell Robey-Coleman. With a likely much shorter offseason due to the coronavirus, the Eagles should benefit from having the same offense and defense in place as they’ve had for a few years.
17. Minnesota Vikings
It was a long time coming, but the Vikings finally pulled the trigger on a Stefon Diggs trade, and the return was about as much as you can expect. The team now has two first-round selections, giving general manager Rick Spielman plenty of ammunition to move around the draft board next month. Mike Zimmer’s defensive personnel is going to look a lot different after parting ways with Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes, Linval Joseph, and Everson Griffen, but the unit still has an elite pass rusher in Danielle Hunter. Minnesota appears to be in a slight retool to get younger and sustain success moving forward.
18. Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys were a few spots higher and were going to be ranked ahead of the Eagles as the top NFC East team, but the retirement of All-Pro center Travis Frederick is a tough blow. Dallas was able to keep wide receiver Amari Cooper despite allowing him to hit the open market, but cornerback Byron Jones is a loss that’ll hurt on defense. Safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix should be a very good value as a free-agent addition, and we’ll see what the Cowboys do in the first round after not having their top selection last year because of the Cooper trade with the Raiders.
19. Chicago Bears
The Bears do not have their first-round pick because of the Khalil Mack trade, but they’ve been aggressive early in the offseason by signing Robert Quinn and Jimmy Graham while acquiring former Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles from the Jaguars. The Foles addition will at least push Mitchell Trubisky, but I expect Foles will be a natural fit in Matt Nagy’s offense and might be the starter despite Trubisky’s upside. The Quinn signing gives Chicago another thick player on the edge to help stop the run and get after the passer, but they might miss the versatility of Leonard Floyd.
20. Houston Texans
The Texans have won four of the last five AFC South titles, but if you searched Bill O’Brien’s name on Google or Twitter, you’d think he was the dumbest person in football according to the genius know-it-alls. I like the DeAndre Hopkins trade for Houston, and people that actually watched games knew something was up between Hopkins and the coaching staff—there were at least a couple of occasions where Hopkins was apparently unhappy with his individual statistics, even if his team was in control of the game. The concern now for the Texans is that the media blew this move up like it was some type of injustice, and that could impact players’ feelings towards O’Brien. It’s funny that people are bashing the value the Texans received in the deal, while ignoring that other teams didn’t offer more than Arizona did.
21. Miami Dolphins
Perhaps sparked by Brian Flores admirably going all-out to win games last season (some would say against the wishes of the front office), the Dolphins appear to be accelerating their huge rebuild after becoming serious players in free agency. Byron Jones signed the biggest deal for a cornerback in NFL history, and Miami also added a couple of linebackers from New England in Elandon Roberts and Kyle Van Noy. Jones and Xavien Howard might give the Dolphins the best cornerback duo in football, and the secondary also has versatile safety Eric Rowe in the mix—they might shut down a ton of passing games. The Dolphins also have three first-round picks and can basically do whatever they want while navigating the draft board. The franchise has everything it needs to build a winner, and they have the right coach in place to help make it happen.
22. Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals have been extremely aggressive addressing the wide receiver position for Kliff Kingsbury’s offense in the past couple of years, and—if the offensive line plays well—the DeAndre Hopkins trade gives the young head coach and franchise quarterback Kyler Murray everything they need to have an incredibly explosive offense this season. Hopkins, Larry Fitzgerald, and Christian Kirk is quite the trio at receiver, but Arizona also has second-year players Hakeem Butler, Andy Isabella, and KeeSean Johnson in the mix. And the defense is quietly adding solid pieces—defensive lineman Jordan Phillips and linebacker De’Vondre Campbell in free agency—too.
23. Los Angeles Chargers
These next two teams are among the two toughest to rank, partly because they play in the tough AFC West division. For the Chargers, the offense has an awesome set of skill players, and I think Tyrod Taylor will play well and take care of the ball if he gets an opportunity to start at quarterback. Meanwhile, the defense has the pass rush and secondary that might be able to match up with the Chiefs, and LA has the players to boast the top defense in the league. I’m intrigued to see what they do with the No. 6 pick, as quarterback figures to be in the mix, but they can also add an instant-impact player at another position.
24. Denver Broncos
Similarly, the Broncos have a chance to have a top defense in the second season under head coach Vic Fangio, and adding two veteran players in defensive lineman Jurrell Casey and cornerback A.J. Bouye should give the group a considerable boost in 2020. Also, the signing of running back Melvin Gordon indicates Denver wants to pound the ball and play to the defense, but the other skill players like Courtland Sutton, Noah Fant, and Phillip Lindsay could make the offense explosive under new offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur as quarterback Drew Lock enters his first full year as a starter.
25. Detroit Lions
Like the Dolphins, the Lions added more former Patriots to their program entering a do-or-die third season for head coach Matt Patricia. Veteran cornerback Desmond Trufant will help alleviate the loss of Darius Slay in a situation that was handled pretty well considering Slay wanted out. Detroit is in a powerful spot with the No. 3 pick in the draft, as they might be able to trade back with a team targeting Tua Tagovailoa and get a plethora of premium picks in return.
26. New York Giants
The Giants are another team that could be a lot higher in the power rankings after a nice start to the offseason that included the signings of cornerback James Bradberry and linebacker Blake Martinez. The trenches look stout on both sides of the ball, which is what general manager Dave Gettleman is going for. I thought the Giants would be players for Jadeveon Clowney, so perhaps something will come together there in the coming weeks.
27. New York Jets
The Jets have put a premium on upgrading the offensive line this offseason, which will make life easier for Sam Darnold as he enters his third NFL season. The team did not re-sign Robby Anderson, but I would argue getting Breshad Perriman on a one-year deal is a better signing anyway. The Jets rid themselves of Trumaine Johnson’s contract, and they were able to sign cornerback Pierre Desir after the Colts surprisingly released him. It might take some time in New York, but the end of last season for the Jets was promising.
28. Carolina Panthers
I thought the Panthers were going to have a lengthy rebuild, but it’s clear that’s not what they’re going for under first-year head coach Matt Rhule. The new regime identified Teddy Bridgewater as someone they can build around at the quarterback position, and adding Robby Anderson gives Teddy plenty of weapons to work with on offense. That side of the ball should be more than capable this season, but the defense is what might need some work before it’s ready to compete with top teams, especially in a division with Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and Matt Ryan.
29. Cleveland Browns
The Browns could easily be a handful of spots higher than No. 29, but it’s just difficult to trust them. The team is bringing back running back Kareem Hunt, which might be a mistake considering the talented running back has been unable to stay out of trouble—and the fact that they have Nick Chubb in the backfield. If Chubb gets 20-25+ touches per game, I like Cleveland’s chances of being in most games, but we’ll see if that actually happens. Former All-Pro right tackle Jack Conklin will certainly help, and the Browns might be set to draft another bookend in the first round next month.
30. Cincinnati Bengals
It appears the Bengals want to select LSU quarterback Joe Burrow first overall and immediately compete for a playoff spot in 2020, as they have not been shy during free agency, adding D.J. Reader, Trae Waynes, and Mackensie Alexander on defense. The offense has the weaponry for Burrow to have quick success as a rookie. However, Cincinnati should at least listen to potential trade offers for the No. 1 pick, as three firsts and multiple seconds and thirds might be tough to pass up from a team like Miami.
31. Washington Redskins
The roster could hold three quarterbacks, especially one that might not play at all this year, but the Redskins trading for Kyle Allen might indicate the team is set to select defensive end Chase Young with the second pick in the draft despite some speculation they could be interested in Tua Tagovailoa. Washington might figure adding someone like Young could help the defense become a playoff-caliber unit, but the key for the Redskins is the development of Dwayne Haskins entering his second NFL season.
32. Jacksonville Jaguars
I’m slightly perplexed with the Jaguars’ approach this offseason, as they are overhauling the roster under a regime that could change a year from now if 2020 doesn’t go well. However, they do have a couple of first-round selections, with the potential to add another if they can deal Yannick Ngakoue for a premium pick. We’ll see what the Jags look like in about a month from now.