The first week of NFL free agency is in the books, and NFL Power Rankings are back to fill the void left by the week’s inaction. Plenty of teams have been busy building their roster as we inch closer to the NFL draft and the 2023-2024 NFL season.
There is still much that will change before now and the start of the season, but some teams have raised their stock quite a bit, while others have cut bait, traded pieces, and set the stage for rebuilds to come.
Tier 5 | The Bottom of the Bunch
32) Arizona Cardinals
Not much has happened in Arizona to persuade or dissuade us. They’re a team in need of much love over the next twelve months in order to rebound for 2024. Kyler Murray’s injury is likely to keep him from the field for a good portion of the season, so 2023 will act as a year for Jonathan Gannon and the rest of an inexperienced coaching staff to get up to speed.
Arizona has been relatively quiet thus far in free agency. Adding Kyzir White would be considered ironic, given he’s a former safety-turned-linebacker, but his relationship and experience with Gannon make the signing a much more serious and commendable affair.
31) Indianapolis Colts
On the surface, letting Parris Campbell walk for the money he got seems foolish, but it’s important to note that Shane Steichen’s offense is centered around verticality. Campbell has been used almost exclusively as an underneath receiver dating back to his days at Ohio State, so the fit would have been awkward.
Adding Gardner Minshew doesn’t move the needle from a starting perspective. But he has two years under his belt with Steichen and can help get whatever rookie they decide to draft up to speed quickly in their spare time. After all, structured time with the organization in the offseason is so limited.
The addition of Samson Ebukam was a great move. Losing Bobby Okereke seems wild, given how he played a season ago, but Shaquille Leonard and Zaire Franklin will be the starters. While losing Stephon Gilmore hurts, Isaiah Rodgers and Kenny Moore are two incredible cornerbacks to fall back on.
30) Atlanta Falcons
It should come as absolutely no surprise to anyone that a few New Orleans Saints followed Ryan Nielsen to the Atlanta Falcons. David Onyemata and Kaden Elliss join their former coach in Atlanta, along with Jessie Bates and Taylor Heinicke.
Atlanta has made some nice moves this offseason, but there is still a long way to go. Their secondary should be much improved heading into next season, but there are still plenty of questions surrounding the roster overall.
29) Las Vegas Raiders
What happens in Las Vegas does not stay in Las Vegas. And apparently, neither do newlywed tight ends. Trading Darren Waller was a curious decision, but he is over 30 and has had issues remaining healthy. The team added Jakobi Meyers to the receiving corps and replaced Derek Carr with Jimmy Garoppolo, who should do a fine job as the offense’s point guard.
The problem is that he needs protection. Garoppolo really needs protection because he doesn’t have the athleticism or creativity to skirt pressure and make plays outside of structure. And, currently, there isn’t a whole lot to write home about on the offensive line aside from Kolton Miller.
28) Houston Texans
The Houston Texans have been eerily quiet during the free agency period. They don’t have buckets of cash to work with, but they’ve only made one move that added up to more than $10 million annually, and that was a one-year deal for Sheldon Rankins.
And that’s how free agency is done. Houston is filling needs with players with fair market value or straight-up good deals. While free agency as a whole has seen a dry market, that has never stopped teams from spending frivolously before.
27) Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have had quite the fall from grace. They underperformed in 2022 and don’t have a good option at quarterback for 2023. However, adding Baker Mayfield as competition for Kyle Trask was the correct move to make. It didn’t have to be Mayfield specifically, but it had to be someone — anyone, really — that could compete for the job.
Losing Rakeem Nunez-Roches hurts the Bucs’ ever-stout run defense, but retaining Jamel Dean, Anthony Nelson, and Lavonte David must be seen as massive wins for the organization, given their cap situation to begin the free agency period. Keeping David around to hopefully retire wearing the same uniform he’s donned since Day 1 was the right move.
Tier 4 | There Is a Path, But It’s Dimly Lit
26) New Orleans Saints
Adding Derek Carr might be enough to keep the New Orleans Saints competitive in an underwhelming NFC South, but the Carolina Panthers have made some nice moves so far this offseason, adding a fantastic staff, and are going to get their top quarterback choice in the NFL draft.
We knew the Saints would have to shed some valuable pieces this offseason because of their salary cap situation, but making things work with Carr is yet another example of Mickey Loomis being better at cap manipulation than anyone else in the world. Losing both David Onyemata and Shy Tuttle hurts the defensive interior, but those Saints linebackers must make up that difference.
25) Tennessee Titans
Arden Key is a great move for the Tennessee Titans. A foursome of Harold Landry, Jeffery Simmons, Denico Autry, and Key on passing downs is a terrifying proposition for opposing offensive linemen. Letting David Long walk for as little as they did was a head-tilting decision given how he played a season ago, but at the end of the day, a $5 million linebacker is not what makes or breaks a roster.
What Andre Dillard has done to earn $10 million annually, not even Sherlock Holmes could figure out. But the former first-round pick is a phenomenal athlete who has been able to sit behind some of the best offensive linemen in the NFL for years now.
24) Green Bay Packers
It looks as though the Green Bay Packers will start Jordan Love in 2023, and all signs point to them trading Aaron Rodgers to the New York Jets. While we don’t yet know what that compensation will look like, it won’t be a king’s ransom.
The Packers are the “C’mon, Do Something” meme at the moment. But until the Rodgers ordeal is over, it’s hard for them to make many moves. However, they did re-sign Keisean Nixon, who was arguably the league’s best return man in 2022. With the Packers’ unsavory history in the art of special teams’ play, that was as necessary as getting a return for Rodgers is.
23) Denver Broncos
The Denver Broncos are treating their problems like my wife and I do whenever there is a minor inconvenience thrown our direction. If we have the money to make the problem go away, we will spend more for convenience. It’s not a good habit, but that is what therapy is for.
Good on them for trying to improve their offensive line, but that was a ton of money to spend between Mike McGlinchey and Ben Powers. Losing Dre’Mont Jones hurts their pass rush a bit, but Zach Allen is probably a better fit to play a more exterior role than Jones, whose best fit is as a 3-technique.
The team improved, but if Sean Payton can’t get Russell Wilson right, it’ll all be for naught.
22) Chicago Bears
Speaking of linebacker, hello, Chicago. Adding T.J. Edwards for just $6.5 million annually was a nice move for a linebacker coming off a career year. Spending $18 million annually for Tremaine Edmunds is a lot to process, but he has some of the highest upside in the entire NFL.
Obviously, the trade with Carolina should get a ton of attention. Getting DJ Moore as part of the deal was incredible for Justin Fields and the Bears’ passing attack, which has been underwhelming… forever.
Paying $5.5 million for Travis Homer and D’Onta Foreman instead of paying David Montgomery $6 million is a peculiar decision, but they required shorter deals that take up very little of Chicago’s abundant cap space.
Tier 3 | The Bones Are Good
21) Pittsburgh Steelers
The Pittsburgh Steelers’ free agency period has been as boring, yet interesting, as any in the NFL. Losing Cam Sutton hurts, but they’ve been reunited with Larry Ogunjobi, added Cole Holcomb, Patrick Peterson, Elandon Roberts, and Damontae Kazee. Both Robert Spillane and Devin Bush are in different uniforms now, and the Steelers cut Myles Jack.
Pittsburgh has made some big moves for linebackers over the past half-decade. Maybe their approach to the position will change a bit. It will also be interesting to see what eventually happens with Terrell Edmunds, who can’t like how the safety market has shaped up and could re-sign in Pittsburgh. Cameron Heyward surely wants that to happen.
On his podcast, Not Just Football With Cam Heyward, he said, “I do still think we should get Terrell Edmunds back in the mix because having three safeties that can play all over the field is huge.”
He’s right. Three safety personnel groupings are becoming much more common. Last season, Dallas found a way to get Donovan Wilson, Malik Hooker, and Jayron Kearse on the field for over 900 defensive snaps a piece.
20) Washington Commanders
Keeping Daron Payne around for the long haul was a bit surprising considering how much money is already invested into the Washington Commanders’ defensive front, but when each of them plays about 70% of the defensive snaps, a heavy investment makes sense there.
Andrew Wylie was the punching bag for fans of the Chiefs, but he is an incredible value for $8 million, considering the difficulty that is pass protecting for Patrick Mahomes and the money some other tackles got on the market. Seeing Heinicke get $7 million per year and getting Jacoby Brissett for $8 million per season after the year he had with Cleveland has to feel great.
If Brissett can play anywhere near that level and the Commanders’ defense keeps the ball rolling, they will be a much-improved team from 2022, when they were surprisingly competitive right down to the end.
19) Los Angeles Rams
The Los Angeles Rams aren’t going to compete in 2023. They cut their losses and are doing everything within their power to be competitive in 2024. They could have gotten away with selling a dream had they rid themselves of many of the non-Jalen Ramsey and Aaron Donald defenders, but they traded Ramsey.
The team hasn’t meaningfully upgraded on the offensive line, and their receiving corps remains in shambles. It would be shocking to see Sean McVay make it another season.
18) Seattle Seahawks
The Seattle Seahawks got an absolute bargain with the three-year deal that Geno Smith signed. Adding Dre’Mont Jones to a defense that loves sliding defensive linemen up and down the defensive front is a fantastic match, as was adding Julian Love to a secondary that needed some versatility.
Jarran Reed was a relatively inexpensive signing, and adding a bit of offensive line depth with Evan Brown certainly doesn’t hurt the roster.
Seattle still has quite a few of their own free agents to decide on, and with only 53 players currently signed, they’ll need to start getting on with moves in the second week of free agency.
17) New England Patriots
At first glance, it didn’t make sense to see the New England Patriots let Meyers walk for JuJu Smith-Schuster, but there is a $5 million difference in guaranteed money, and only one of those receivers has a 1,400-yard season on their ledger.
While nobody should claim Smith-Schuster is a No. 1 receiver, he can be a solid second option. The problem with New England is that a first option doesn’t necessarily exist. And while their roster will remain largely unchanged from a season ago, it’s hard to see how the 2023 iteration of the offense is able to outdo the rest of what appears to be an incredibly talented AFC.
16) Cleveland Browns
When Deshaun Watson stopped playing football after the 2020 NFL season, he was one of the five most talented quarterbacks in the league. We never expected to see that same caliber of player when he returned after a ridiculous amount of time off in 2021 and 2022, but he was a shell of his former self in the six games he played.
Adding Dalvin Tomlinson was a massive step up from what the Cleveland Browns fielded on the defensive interior a season ago. They still need things to come together defensively, but Jim Schwartz was a good hire for what Cleveland will look to do on that side of the ball.
Their success comes down to what version of Watson we see in 2023.
15) Baltimore Ravens
The Baltimore Ravens have been incredibly quiet thus far during free agency, likely because they’re waiting to see if anyone is willing to offer a deal to Lamar Jackson. His contractual situation will substantially impact how Baltimore attacks free agency.
But the entire situation feels like an unnecessary cloud over the organization’s head. Although Baltimore is no stranger to controversy, Jackson’s contractual situation could create a riff that affects the entire franchise. They’re still talented enough to be a playoff team in 2023 with Jackson under center, but the rest of the conference is too talented to ignore.
Tier 2 | The Potential Playoff Field
14) Minnesota Vikings
The Minnesota Vikings have see-sawed so far during the free agency period. They cut Eric Kendricks and lost Dalvin Tomlinson and Patrick Peterson in free agency. However, they added Marcus Davenport and Byron Murphy, the latter being a 25-year-old cornerback with a ton of starting experience for under $10 million annually.
His fit in Brian Flores’ defense isn’t perfect, but his price makes him good value. Adding Josh Oliver was a peculiar move, but it likely foreshadows more 12-personnel sets to try and get the running and play-action games going. Minnesota isn’t necessarily crawling with outrageous receiving talent outside of Justin Jefferson, particularly because Adam Thielen was also a cap casualty.
13) Carolina Panthers
The Carolina Panthers aren’t currently the 13th-best team in the NFL, but someone from the NFC South has to make the playoffs, and the coaching staff Carolina has constructed provides hope that they’ll come out on top in the division.
Now, much of this will come down to how well their rookie QB plays, but we’ll get to that egg when it hatches. Trading away DJ Moore hurts the offense tremendously, but adding Miles Sanders and Hayden Hurst and retaining Bradley Bozeman helps ease the pain of Moore’s loss.
12) New York Giants
Joe Schoen said the New York Giants were no longer in the business of spending the vet minimum on free agents, but the Giants have been smart with their approach. They received good deals with Parris Campbell and Darius Slayton. And although they lost Julian Love to Seattle, they were always going to need to use free agency and the draft to upgrade the secondary, which they can still do.
Adding Darren Waller through a trade with Las Vegas was a massive step for Brian Daboll’s offense, which lacked weapons a season ago. While the Giants’ offense moved the ball well enough in 2022, it was anything but explosive.
11) Detroit Lions
The Detroit Lions are going for it in 2023. They’ve never won the NFC North, and with Aaron Rodgers’ likely departure, they are on the cusp of their first-ever division title. Adding Sutton and Emmanuel Moseley to the defensive backfield constituted a massive upgrade for Detroit.
The Lions didn’t go wild in free agency, but the offense didn’t need a ton of help to be impressive in 2023.
10) Jacksonville Jaguars
A year after the Jacksonville Jaguars spent more money than we’d ever seen in free agency, they’ve been eerily quiet this year. They’ve lost Jawaan Taylor and Arden Key, but both losses can be somewhat easily overcome in the near future.
Jacksonville’s roster is ascending with a quarterback who seems to be steadily growing under the tutelage of an outstanding head coach and offensive mind. Getting Calvin Ridley back is simply icing on the cake.
9) Los Angeles Chargers
The Los Angeles Chargers return Trey Pipkins to the roster next season while adding Eric Kendricks. But the biggest moves could still be coming, because running back Austin Ekeler has requested a trade.
Adding offensive coordinator Kellen Moore should help the Chargers’ offense, but if Los Angeles loses too many pieces during the offseason, they could find trouble overcoming sore spots on the roster.
8) New York Jets
The placement of the New York Jets’ spot in the NFL Power Rankings is due to the assumption that Aaron Rodgers is their quarterback. If he is not, the team falls to the wayside as a contender that simply won’t have the quarterback play to be competitive in 2023.
The Jets have had a reserved offseason thus far. They signed Allen Lazard to a big deal, but aside from Lazard, the team hasn’t spent much money. Their defense should continue to be a dominant unit, and if Rodgers plays anywhere near the level we saw him play in 2020 or 2021, the Jets could contend for the division crown.
7) Miami Dolphins
Trading for Jalen Ramsey certainly helps everyone feel better about the Miami Dolphins defense in 2023. Adding defensive coordinator Vic Fangio is a fantastic gift, and it appears Miami finally has the secondary they were trying to construct when they originally signed Byron Jones to a long-term contract.
6) Philadelphia Eagles
While it’s true that the Philadelphia Eagles have lost a few key pieces on the defensive side of the ball, their standing within the NFL Power Rankings has as much to do with divisional history as anything else.
No NFC East team has repeated as division champions since the Eagles in 2003-2004. Losing Javon Hargrave, T.J. Edwards, Marcus Epps, and likely Isaac Seumalo is tough to overcome, especially when Dallas was practically on their heels the year before.
5) Dallas Cowboys
Trading for Stephon Gilmore put the Dallas Cowboys over the top of Philadlephia in the NFL Power Rankings. Dallas never does much in free agency, but it appears that they understand that the cornerback and wide receiver positions need to be addressed. That’s clarity we haven’t seen from the organization in quite some time.
Tier 1 | Elite Teams
4) Buffalo Bills
The Buffalo Bills lost Edmunds but kept Jordan Poyer and could still make some noise by signing a veteran linebacker to replace the former for the coming season. Getting Von Miller back certainly helps their defensive cause as well.
3) Cincinnati Bengals
It’s not often that everybody wins in a contract negotiation, but the Cincinnati Bengals and Orlando Brown Jr. each won when he signed his deal. The Kansas City Chiefs also won because they got more athletic at offensive tackle, which is the goal they set out to accomplish this offseason.
Cincinnati also re-signed Germaine Pratt and is still in the sweepstakes for Chauncey Gardner-Johnson to fill one of their open safety slots.
2) San Francisco 49ers
The San Francisco 49ers lost McGlinchey but added Hargrave to their defensive front, which makes up for the losses of Charles Omenihu and Samson Ebukam. Clelin Ferrell is the exact type of flyer this defense can afford to take, and adding Sam Darnold gives the 49ers no shortage of quarterback options early in 2023.
1) Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs are the Chiefs and remain at the top until someone knocks them off their pedestal. Although losing Brown, Smith-Schuster, and Wylie isn’t nothing, adding Taylor and Omenihu certainly doesn’t hurt their roster enough to drop them.