Things have changed from February 5, when the Patriots pulled off the greatest comeback in NFL history to hoist their fifth Lombardi Trophy. Things will continue to change in the run up to next season, but here is where I see each team standing after one week of free agency.
1. New England Patriots
A lot can happen between now and playoff time next season—and they have to put a lot of hard work in to do what they want to do—but the Patriots have to be the number one team in the power rankings. They won the Super Bowl last season, yet added Brandin Cooks, Dwayne Allen, Stephon Gilmore, Kony Ealy, Lawrence Guy, and Rex Burkhead, while retaining Don’t’a Hightower, Alan Branch, and Duron Harmon. This team is stacked, not to mention they have the greatest quarterback and greatest coach of all-time.
Oh, and Rob Gronkowski didn’t even play during the team’s Super Bowl run last season.
2. Atlanta Falcons
Atlanta lost their offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan to the 49ers head coaching job, but they should still be a very explosive offense next year. Steve Sarkisian will take over as the OC and will have great playmakers at his disposal. The team’s top corner, Desmond Trufant, will also be back after he missed the end of the regular season and the playoffs with a pectoral injury.
3. Kansas City Chiefs
Some might argue this is too high for Kansas City, but those same people unfairly do not think Alex Smith is a good quarterback. Smith will get you around 20 touchdowns with single digit turnovers, while completing over 65% of his passes. But with Jeremy Maclin, Travis Kelce, and Tyreek Hill, this offense has the potential to be explosive. And led by Justin Houston and company on defense, the Chiefs are not easy to beat. However, despite basically not having him all last season, losing Jamaal Charles—someone that averages 5.5 yards per carry in his career, the most in NFL history—is not a positive.
4. Minnesota Vikings
As of right now, I see the Vikings as the team most likely to compete with the Falcons in the NFC. Last season, when the offensive line fell apart, so did the Vikings. They attempt to bolster that position, as they signed free agents Riley Reiff to play left tackle and Mike Remmers to play right tackle. If Sam Bradford is kept upright, he can dice you up. Minnesota is almost certain to break off with Adrian Peterson after they signed Latavius Murray, but Murray is a good fit for the offense. Meanwhile, the defense might be the most talented in the NFL. The Vikings have a ton of upside, as shown in their 5-0 start last season.
5. Dallas Cowboys
No one knows what is going to happen with Tony Romo, but as long as this doesn’t linger into next regular season, it shouldn’t be an issue. Dallas loses offensive linemen Ronald Leary and Doug Free, but the team still might have the best offensive line in the league. They signed former Eagles cornerback Nolan Carroll, and he’s a guy that is often times in the right position in coverage; he just needs to be a little more consistent. The Cowboys lost safety Barry Church and defensive linemen Terrell McClain and Jack Crawford, but they’ll likely attempt to replace those positions in a deep draft.
6. Green Bay Packers
Number six seems too low for an Aaron Rodgers led team, but the Packers suffered some big losses in free agency. Center J.C. Tretter, running back Eddie Lacy, pass rusher Julius Peppers, safety Micah Hyde, tight end Jared Cook, and guard T.J. Lang are all headed to new teams. They did add Martellus Bennett to fill in for Jared Cook, but the loss of two offensive linemen is concerning; Aaron Rodgers might be able to overcome the losses, but things weren’t made easier for him after the first week of free agency.
7. Oakland Raiders
The Raiders bolstered their return game, while making their offensive even more dynamic, by adding former Viking Cordarrelle Patterson to the team on a two-year deal. Oakland lost their starting running back Latavius Murray to the Vikings, but they’ll probably use a committee approach of Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington along with a rookie running back to fill the hole left by Murray. They essentially used a committee at running back last season anyway. If Derek Carr keeps progressing, the Raiders could get deep in the playoffs.
8. Seattle Seahawks
Competition. Pete Carroll and the Seahawks might like it more than anyone, and they brought Eddie Lacy in to a now crowded backfield with Thomas Rawls and C.J. Prosise. Despite the headaches it might cause for fantasy players, all three guys should be able to contribute to the offense and take pressure off Russell Wilson. The team also signed former number two overall pick Luke Joeckel to hopefully upgrade the offensive line. The defense should remain among the best in the NFL next season.
9. New York Giants
The G-Men signed Brandon Marshall to a two-year, $11 million contract—a potential bargain for someone that just had over 100 catches, 1,500 yards, and 14 touchdowns in 2015. He offers tremendous upside for the offense, but the offensive line needs to keep Eli Manning on his feet, and Eli needs to play better himself. If things don’t start off well, the signing of Marshall could backfire big time.
10. Pittsburgh Steelers
Pittsburgh is keeping the band together. After retirement talk from Ben Roethlisberger, he’ll be back; while Antonio Brown signed a long-term extension, Le’Veon Bell was franchise tagged, and the ageless James Harrison signed a two-year deal to keep his career going. They did lose linebacker Lawrence Timmons, a reliable player for them over the years. Perhaps the Steelers will consider taking a shot with hometown guy Darrelle Revis—he is shedding weight to play faster, according to multiple reports. Revis offers a lot of upside, as a potential shut down corner.
11. Detroit Lions
I was never a big fan of the Lions last season, but they did a lot this offseason to improve the team. Detroit added right tackle Ricky Wagner from the Ravens with a big free agent deal, and they also swiped guard T.J. Lang from the Packers; both signings will make things easier for Matthew Stafford. The team may be in the market in free agency or the draft for another running back, but if Ameer Abdullah can stay healthy, watch out.
12. Tennessee Titans
The Titans have Marcus Mariota at quarterback, and that alone gives them huge breakout potential next season. The team was apparently in the market for Brandin Cooks but missed out, so look for them to add a receiver in the draft. They have two first-rounders and are in great hands with GM Jon Robinson. Signing cornerback Logan Ryan from New England and safety Johnathan Cyprien from the division-rival Jaguars will help improve the defense.
13. Baltimore Ravens
Baltimore did well by re-signing big defensive tackle Brandon Williams to a big contract, and the team also added former Cardinals safety Tony Jefferson. They released outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil (they haven’t ruled out bringing him back), but with the addition of Jefferson, the defense must be considered improved. Jefferson and Eric Weddle form one of the best safety duos in the NFL. The loss of right tackle Eric Wagner to the Lions is a loss for Joe Flacco and the offense, but running back Danny Woodhead is a welcome addition for the team, especially with second-year back Kenneth Dixon suspended for the first four games of the season.
14. Miami Dolphins
The recent signing of former Steelers linebacker Lawrence Timmons upgrades an already-improving Dolphins defense. They traded for tight end Julius Thomas from the Jaguars, so Thomas is back with head coach Adam Gase, his former coordinator with the Broncos that oversaw his big seasons receiving passes from Peyton Manning. The great offensive line and Jay Ajayi will keep the Dolphins in games.
15. Indianapolis Colts
New GM Chris Ballard hasn’t put much offensive line help up front for Andrew Luck yet, but it’s coming. Ballard did improve the defense by signing former Patriots defensive end Jabaal Sheard and former Texans outside linebacker John Simon. They also took a low-risk chance on former first-round outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo.
16. Houston Texans
The Texans have been very quiet in free agency, aside from their trade with the Browns, sending quarterback Brock Osweiler, basically getting rid of him at the cost of also giving up a second-round pick. They have cap space, but it’s unclear where—if anywhere—they’re going to use it. Houston lost cornerback A.J. Bouye to the Jaguars. The bright side for the Texans: they get J.J. Watt back.
17. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
DeSean Jackson adds a lot of speed to the offense, and he forms one of the best one-two receiver punches in the league for Jameis Winston. Doug Martin’s status remains a mystery, but the Bucs did re-sign running back Jacquizz Rodgers, providing insurance. With the addition of Jackson, perhaps the Bucs trend further to a pass-happy team under head coach Dirk Koetter.
18. New Orleans Saints
It’s hard to see the loss of receiver Brandin Cooks not hurting the Saints offense, but with Drew Brees and Sean Payton at the controls, the offense might be able to keep pace. New Orleans is obviously focused on improving the defense, and they’ll likely use a lot of their draft capital to do so. There are reports they are negotiating with Patriots restricted free agent cornerback Malcolm Butler—he’d be a great addition to the defense.
19. Carolina Panthers
This NFC South division was tough to rank. 2015’s NFC champions will try to get back on track after a disappointing season in 2016. They signed left tackle Matt Kalil to help protect Cam Newton’s blindside, but Kalil needs to stay healthy and consistent. Captain Munnerlyn returns to Carolina to man the nickel spot on defense, while the legend Julius Peppers comes home to Carolina to improve the pass rush.
20. Denver Broncos
Admittedly, this may be too low on the Broncos. They massively improved the offensive line by signing guard Ronald Leary and right tackle Menelik Watson. But with a first-year head coach running a new defense and an unclear starter at quarterback, there are some questions. Also, they lose DeMarcus Ware to retirement and need someone (perhaps Shane Ray) to step up opposite Von Miller.
21. Arizona Cardinals
Larry Fitzgerald and Carson Palmer returning to Arizona for at least one more season is a relief for the Cards. I want to put Bruce Arians’ team higher on the list, but it’s hard after they lost Calais Campbell, Tony Jefferson, and D.J. Swearinger—just on defense. Last year’s first-round pick Robert Nkemdiche needs to step up for the Cardinals. They also need receiver John Brown to return to his 2015 form.
22. Washington Redskins
The situation with Kirk Cousins does not look good from the outside. It might all be in the past when the season starts, however. Washington also lost its top two wide receivers in free agency, but 2016 first-round receiver Josh Docstson has the potential to step up for the Redskins. If nothing else, things will be interesting for this team.
23. Los Angeles Chargers
The new team on the block in LA gets a big reinforcement on the offensive side of the ball with receiver Keenan Allen coming back from a torn ACL. The Chargers also signed left tackle Russell Okung to a huge contract to protect Philip Rivers. Running back Melvin Gordon should take another step forward next season, and he’ll make things easier for Philip Rivers.
24. Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles got one of the best deals in free agency, signing Alshon Jeffery to a one-year contract that should keep him motivated to have a huge season. They also added Torrey Smith to the receiving corps. Philadelphia could get higher on the rankings after the draft. Right now, they have a huge hole at corner, with Jalen Mills currently their top guy. The loss of defensive tackle Bennie Logan is a bigger loss than people will realize, and it will not make things easier on Fletcher Cox.
25. Jacksonville Jaguars
Jacksonville went all in on free agency, signing A.J. Bouye, Calais Campbell, and Barry Church, among others. They need to get more from their offense, however. Hopefully Blake Bortles improves after dealing with injuries to both shoulders last season. The run game also needs to become much more consistent than it was last season.
26. Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals have been inactive in free agency, but they did take care of some of their own guys; they’re bringing back receiver Brandon Lafell as a good compliment to A.J. Green, and cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick re-signed to a big contract. Cincinnati seems like a team that’s stuck where they are at this point.
27. Los Angeles Rams
Former Bengals left tackle Andrew Whitworth will solidify the left side of the line for young quarterback Jared Goff. The team lost receiver Kenny Britt to the Browns, but they signed receiver Robert Woods to a five-year deal. Wade Phillips is obviously a great asset for rookie head coach Sean McVay. One of the Rams’ goals is to get Todd Gurley going next season after a down sophomore season.
28. Chicago Bears
The Bears have been very active in the first week of free agency, including signing a starting quarterback, Mike Glennon, from the Buccaneers. They lost Alshon Jeffery, so they added a couple receivers—Kendall Wright and Markus Wheaton—to help fill the void. Chicago also got cornerback Prince Amukamara on a one-year deal. The third overall pick in the upcoming draft is one they cannot miss on.
29. Buffalo Bills
It was probably wise for the Bills to keep Tyrod Taylor on as their quarterback. After losing Robert Woods in free agency, they’ll likely be adding another receiver (or a few) in the draft. Pairing Sammy Watkins with another playmaker would make things easier for Taylor. The transition to another defense (their third in four seasons) won’t be easy.
30. Cleveland Browns
The Browns have something really good going for them—one of the best offensive lines in the NFL. They seem to be building the team the right way, and with the improvement up front, the Browns should be able to add a few wins to their total this season.
31. San Francisco 49ers
New GM John Lynch and the Niners were aggressive in free agency, signing three new receivers, a versatile fullback, and two new quarterbacks for Kyle Shanahan. Smart, considering the roster was in very bad shape last season. Reportedly, they want Kirk Cousins, and perhaps they are putting pieces in place to try and get him in 2018.
32. New York Jets
This team has a lot of question marks. They drafted Christian Hackenberg in the second round last year, but they still might not think he’s ready to play after he basically had a redshirt rookie season. If they are looking for a quarterback, Jay Cutler—someone that gets unfair criticism from the media—would be a fine option.