After a brief hiatus, the NFL Power Rankings have returned. It's been a long five weeks. You guys look taller.
The Chiefs and Eagles continue to hold the top two spots in our rankings, but the AFC East is 75 percent represented in the top 10. This same hype proved to be a kiss of death for the AFC West last summer -- Jets and Dolphins fans are hoping to avoid a similar fate.
About that ... My rankings for Gang Green and the Packers were made under the assumption Aaron Rodgers will indeed be flinging spirals in the Meadowlands and meditating in the Pine Barrens with the Jersey Devil this fall. If something crazy happens to scuttle the deal, it will be reflected in our post-draft rankings.
Let's get to it, shall we? Seriously, you look taller.
Previous rank: No. 1
The champions decided they didn't want to pay Orlando Brown Jr., leading Patrick Mahomes' blind-side protector to sign a free-agent deal with the rival Bengals. Kansas City apparently didn't see Brown as a player worthy of elite left tackle money, but his exit leaves a huge hole at one of the most important positions on the roster. Can newly signed former Jags right tackle Jawaan Taylor handle the left side? It's certainly possible, but it would qualify as a massive roll of the dice by Andy Reid and general manager Brett Veach. Taylor hasn't taken snaps at left tackle since his sophomore season at Florida.
Previous rank: No. 2
The defense will look very different after five of the nine Eagles who played at least 700 defensive snaps in 2022 (per Pro Football Focus) defected in free agency, the latest being Chauncey Gardner-Johnson to the Lions. Fortunately, the defending conference champs avoided a full-on roster purge: Center Jason Kelce re-upped after announcing he's putting off retirement for another year; cornerbacks Darius Slay and James Bradberry are back on new deals; and defensive tackle Fletcher Cox apparently turned down at least one bigger outside offer to return to Philly. Is a monster extension for Jalen Hurts on its way? Both team and player seem motivated to get a deal done.
Previous rank: No. 3
The free agency period started quietly ... then came the big splash. A 6-foot-8, 340-pound splash named Orlando Brown Jr. The four-time Pro Bowler, fresh off a Super Bowl-winning season blocking for Patrick Mahomes, will now attempt to reach the NFL mountaintop with Joe Burrow. The move turns one of the team's biggest weaknesses (incumbent left tackle Jonah Williams struggled before going down with a knee injury in the playoffs) into a position of strength. "For them to believe in me as a left tackle was enough," Brown said of the Bengals in his opening press conference. "I'm willing to put my life on the line for that." That's the guy you want protecting your blind side!
Previous rank: No. 5
If you're among the crowd who believes the Bills owe it to Josh Allen to import more talent at the offensive skill positions, your anxiety is justified. Buffalo has yet to make a notable move in that department, choosing a more low-key approach to free agency one year after the blockbuster Von Miller acquisition. Marquee players like potential trade targets DeAndre Hopkins and Austin Ekeler and free agent Odell Beckham Jr. are there for the taking, but are Sean McDermott and GM Brandon Beane willing and able to make it work without causing long-term issues? We're all for the prudent management of an organization, of course, but the Bills need to find a way to get over the hump. Adding one more star could make that happen.
Previous rank: No. 4
Another offseason, another round of questions about the quarterback position in San Francisco. Brock Purdy is in the early stages of recovery after reconstructive elbow surgery, while former No. 3 overall pick Trey Lance is making his way back from ankle surgery. Keep an eye on recently signed Sam Darnold, an old Kyle Shanahan draft crush who's fully healthy and in line for a full offseason to work himself into the picture. Darnold is the clear underdog in this battle for the Week 1 starting job, but we learned last year that every QB has to be considered a possible starter with this team.
Previous rank: No. 6
The Cowboys filled an obvious need Sunday with the acquisition of Brandin Cooks in a trade with the Texans. The well-traveled Cooks has six 1,000-yard seasons in his career and will slot in nicely across from No. 1 wideout CeeDee Lamb, with Michael Gallup also remaining in the mix. Are the Cowboys done in their playmaker pursuit? Odell Beckham Jr. has been linked to Dallas for what feels like years now, but it's possible Cooks' arrival takes the 'Boys out of the OBJ picture. With tight end Dalton Schultz signing in Houston, this offense still feels about a quart low.
Previous rank: No. 7
The Jaguars set an NFL record last year when they handed out $175 million in guaranteed money during free agency. We knew they wouldn't be big-game hunting in '23, but the team got better when the NFL reinstated wide receiver Calvin Ridley -- acquired in a trade with the Falcons last November -- following his year-long suspension for gambling. Adding a player like Ridley to an offense that already includes Christian Kirk, Zay Jones, Evan Engram (who was handed the franchise tag) and Travis Etienne lends more credence to the idea that Trevor Lawrence could be an MVP candidate in Year 3. The Jaguars have the potential to be a lion in a division of kittens.
Previous rank: No. 8
Austin Ekeler and the Chargers went nowhere in contract extension talks, prompting the star's recent trade request. You get Ekeler's side of this: He's scored 38 touchdowns in the past two seasons and is arguably the most underpaid player in football. The Bolts, like many teams, are wary of doing business with an older running back (he'll turn 28 in May). But what kind of message does it send to the locker room and fan base to deal away an elite producer like Ekeler at the height of his powers? If the Chargers want to keep up in the AFC arms race, they need to find a way to keep Ekeler in the building.
Previous rank: No. 16
The process has been excruciating for all involved, but Aaron Rodgers is on track to be a member of the Jets come September. Operating under that reality, it's not a stretch to say that the arrival of the four-time MVP will make New York a very real Super Bowl contender. Robert Saleh and GM Joe Douglas have already built an elite defense; replacing the overmatched Zach Wilson with Rodgers should have an enormous impact on the other side of the ball. Garrett Wilson, Allen Lazard and Elijah Moore make up a compelling wide receiver room, Breece Hall has star potential at running back and the offensive line should be improved after an injury-wrecked 2022. Bringing Rodgers to New York is an undeniable gamble -- but it comes with massive upside that can reshape the franchise.
Previous rank: No. 15
The Dolphins haven't reached the Super Bowl since Dan Marino's second season. They're operating like a franchise hell-bent on snapping that dry spell in 2023. Nearly one year after acquiring Tyreek Hill in a blockbuster deal with the Chiefs, Miami added another future Hall of Famer in cornerback Jalen Ramsey, acquired at the modest cost of a third-round pick and backup tight end Hunter Long. Ramsey will join Xavien Howard to form perhaps the best cornerback duo in football, while Hill and Jaylen Waddle look poised to continue to torch defenses. Tua Tagovailoa is the starting QB, but new backup Mike White was a smart pickup who can keep the offense moving if Tua misses time again.
Previous rank: No. 9
The Lions lit up the league on offense last season, but they were held back at times by a defense that took time to find its footing. Free agency has brought reinforcements on Aaron Glenn's side of the ball, specifically in the secondary: Cameron Sutton and Emmanuel Moseley were added at cornerback before the team came to terms with standout former Eagles safety Chauncey Gardner-Johnson on a one-year deal. Gardner-Johnson had a league-leading six interceptions this past season despite missing five games with a lacerated kidney. A stronger back end is good news for Detroit's front seven -- the table is set for defensive end Aidan Hutchinson to make a big jump in Year 2.
.Previous rank: No. 14
The Giants made one of the best trades of the early league year when they landed dynamic tight end Darren Waller from the Raiders for the very manageable cost of a third-round pick. Waller's production has dipped as he's battled injuries in back-to-back seasons, but he's a dynamic playmaker when healthy and operating in an offense that plays to his strengths. You can trust Brian Daboll to put Waller in a position to succeed. The Giants gave Daniel Jones a big new contract under the impression he'll grow into a star -- providing him with more talent is necessary to reach that projection.
Previous rank: No. 11
The non-exclusive tag applied to quarterback Lamar Jackson has forced the entire organization into a wait-and-see approach at the onset of the new league year. This is not optimal, as playmakers who would help this stale offense are acquired by other teams on a near-daily basis. To say Jackson's apparent market has been chilly so far would be an understatement, and it could lead the former MVP back to Baltimore for another year. If both sides decide a divorce is necessary at this point, well, it's time to really get to work and make something happen.
Previous rank: No. 18
The Seahawks were one of the biggest surprises in the NFL last season. They've started the new league year by making sensible moves to fortify the roster. The team addressed perhaps its most pressing need on defense with a big contract for former Broncos defensive lineman Dre'Mont Jones, then added help at linebacker with ex-Steeler Devin Bush amid whispers of a potential Bobby Wagner reunion. Geno Smith returns on a well-earned new three-year deal -- does the move preclude Seattle from taking a quarterback with the fifth overall pick? We wouldn't think so. The Seahawks are an interesting team to watch in a top-heavy NFC.
Previous rank: No. 13
The Steelers lost longtime defensive back Cameron Sutton in free agency, but they quickly pivoted to a splashy replacement. Enter Patrick Peterson, the eight-time Pro Bowl cover man who showed he still had playmaker ability during his two-year run in Minnesota. Peterson is a compelling addition, but Pittsburgh would be wise to bring aboard a name brand on the other side of the ball. The Steelers have firepower in running back Najee Harris, wide receivers George Pickens and Diontae Johnson and tight end Pat Freiermuth, but one more piece could be huge for second-year passer Kenny Pickett. If Pittsburgh brass believes in Pickett, it makes sense to be aggressive while the passer is still early on his rookie deal.
Previous rank: No. 10
This has not been an easy start to the league year for the Vikings, who are making difficult decisions as they look to create greater financial flexibility moving forward. Safety Harrison Smith kept his job after agreeing to a pay cut, but the team parted ways with stalwart wideout Adam Thielen (who subsequently signed with the Panthers). Minnesota brought back Alexander Mattison on a two-year deal, the latest evidence suggesting the team could be ready to say goodbye to Pro Bowl running back Dalvin Cook. As for Kirk Cousins? There hasn't been any momentum toward an extension, meaning this could be the last year for the quarterback at U.S. Bank Stadium. This feels like transition time in Minneapolis.
Previous rank: No. 17
The rebuild of the offense continues. The first step was bringing in a qualified play-caller in Bill O'Brien, a longtime Belichick lieutenant. Now it's about building up better talent around quarterback Mac Jones in a pivotal -- perhaps make-or-break -- third year for the former first-round pick. Jakobi Meyers left for the Raiders in free agency, creating a vacancy quickly filled by JuJu Smith-Schuster. Disappointing tight end Jonnu Smith was traded to the Falcons; his spot was filled by Mike Gesicki, previously of the Dolphins. It makes plenty of sense to add another playmaker, and we know Belichick has an affinity for DeAndre Hopkins. Make that move, and the Pats have a much better chance in the suddenly loaded AFC East.
Previous rank: No. 19
After years of being left standing in the game of quarterback musical chairs, the Panthers finally took matters into their own hands. Carolina sent multiple draft picks and star wide receiver D.J. Moore to the Bears in exchange for the top pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. While team brass decides on the next QB1, GM Scott Fitterer has stayed busy building up the roster for new head coach Frank Reich. Wide receiver Adam Thielen, running back Miles Sanders and tight end Hayden Hurst were added to the offense in free agency, with Andy Dalton imported to presumably back up the eventual No. 1 overall pick. Hit on the QB, and this team could get very good, very quickly.
Previous rank: No. 12
He might still be on the roster, but the Packers have moved on from Aaron Rodgers. Eventually, a trade with the Jets will be completed -- LEVERAGEGATE! -- and the Jordan Love era will begin. Love showed signs of progress last season, though we'd push back a bit by pointing out this collective deduction seems largely to have been based on 21 passes spread across four games. In the end, this is about the Packers taking a necessary leap of faith -- they need to give their 2020 first-round pick a chance to play, and the Rodgers relationship has run its course. Green Bay is about to enter the great unknown, a reality that should be met with both trepidation and excitement.
Previous rank: No. 20
The Rams won Super Bowl LVI at the end of the 2021 season and are now paying the bill for that ride to glory. (Well worth it, by the way.) Bobby Wagner was released after one very productive year at SoFi. Jalen Ramsey was traded to the Dolphins. Allen Robinson will be the next veteran dealt, if a taker can be found. It seems like the start of a total teardown, but that's not quite right, either: GM Les Snead called 35-year-old quarterback Matthew Stafford one of the team's "pillars" moving forward. Wide receiver Cooper Kupp and defensive end Aaron Donald are also expected to return, a pair of superstars at premium positions. The Rams appear to be looking to thread the needle again -- rebuilding while competing. We'll see if it works.
Previous rank: No. 21
The Browns entered the offseason knowing their defense needed significant reinforcements, and they began free agency by aggressively addressing that side of the ball. Dalvin Tomlinson signed a massive deal to fortify the defensive line, while former Chiefs safety Juan Thornhill was imported to improve the back end. Ogbonnia Okoronkwo signed a three-year deal as a headache-free replacement for Jadeveon Clowney. It's a good start, and it gives new DC Jim Schwartz more to work with than his predecessor, Joe Woods. Bottom line: Cleveland has a generational talent in perennial Pro Bowler Myles Garrett -- it makes sense to put a premium on building around the team's best player.
Previous rank: No. 26
The Saints finally secured stability in the post-Drew Brees era with the acquisition of former Raiders stalwart Derek Carr, who will take the reins of an offense with legitimate potential. Chris Olave and Michael Thomas are a fine wide receiver duo (presuming Thomas can finally stay healthy), tight end Juwan Johnson has Pro Bowl potential and the signing of ex-Lions touchdown machine Jamaal Williams represents an upgrade over veteran Mark Ingram while giving the team cover in the event Alvin Kamara's off-field issues result in a lengthy suspension. The Saints have a chance to stack wins in the milquetoast NFC South.
Previous rank: No. 24
The Raiders decided they didn't need to be in the Derek Carr business anymore, so they pivoted to Jimmy Garoppolo, a more cost-efficient but far less durable version of their former longtime QB. It's a gamble in Sin City, no doubt. The team also said goodbye to Darren Waller, trading the former Pro Bowl tight end to the Giants for a third-round pick. Dealing away Waller for a Day 2 draft choice one year after making him the highest-paid tight end in football could hint at a potential disconnect in the power structure of the organization. Well, that, or it tells us Josh McDaniels might have really soured on Waller in their one season together. Waller missed a chunk of the season to injury and managed just 1,053 receiving yards over the past two years.
Previous rank: No. 23
The Bucs profiled as a team that might be ready to tear it all down after Tom Brady announced his retirement. Instead, the organization looks to keep its veteran core together for another run. Lavonte David is coming back for his 12th season on a one-year deal, while Mike Evans and Chris Godwin appear set to return despite early offseason trade speculation. Tampa signed Baker Mayfield to compete with former second-round pick Kyle Trask. Expect Mayfield to win the job if no other competition enters the picture. "Listen, I'm never going to be Tom Brady," Mayfield said during his introductory press conference. "... I'm going to be me."
Previous rank: No. 28
The Broncos' offense was undeniably broken last season. The team began free agency by addressing one of the unit's glaring deficiencies, signing former 49ers offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey and ex-Ravens guard Ben Powers to big contracts. The hope is that better protection will lead to better play by Russell Wilson, who is entering his sophomore season in Denver after a calamitous Year 1. Wilson should start off as the unquestioned starter, but new backup Jarrett Stidham -- an intriguing free-agent pickup by Sean Payton last week -- will be waiting if Wilson's magic appears lost for good. The big question: How long is Wilson's leash in '23?
Previous rank: No. 31
The Bears did well. They made the right decision to move forward with Justin Fields and trade the No. 1 overall pick to a team desperate for a fresh start at QB. Enter the Panthers, who surrendered elite draft capital and a Pro Bowl wide receiver in D.J. Moore. Fields has weapons now: Moore, Chase Claypool and Darnell Mooney make up a top-10 WR trio, while Cole Kmet and newcomer Robert Tonyan populate a tight end room with upside. Using some of the draft-pick surplus to fortify the offensive line feels like a logical next step. If GM Ryan Poles nails this offseason, the Bears could be set up for years.
Previous rank: No. 27
The Falcons don't appear interested in getting into business with Lamar Jackson. Though they're not alone, it remains surprising to see Atlanta seemingly dismiss basic interest in a former MVP who could finally make Arthur Smith's offense go. Speaking of Smith, 2023 will be a pivotal season for the third-year head coach, who could need a trip to the playoffs to justify his continued existence on the Falcons' sideline. For now, it appears Smith will put his trust in Desmond Ridder, a third-round pick last year who showed some ability in a late-season audition. The team seemed to double down on its faith in Ridder with the signing of former Commanders starter Taylor Heinicke, who is unlikely to wrest the top job away from the kid this summer.
Previous rank: No. 22
The Titans began free agency by putting their focus on an offensive line in need of four new starters. Former Eagles swing tackle Andre Dillard was the first big move, signed to a rich deal to serve as the likely successor to Taylor Lewan on the left side in Tennessee. Daniel Brunskill, previously of the 49ers, could land one of the starting guard positions. New general manager Ran Carthon also overhauled the middle of his defense with moves for former Jaguars outside linebacker Arden Key and ex-Niners 'backer Azeez Al-Shaair. The big question that looms in Nashville: Does a new season begin with both Derrick Henry and Ryan Tannehill on the roster? For now, signs point to yes.
Previous rank: No. 25
Every summer seems to bring at least one true QB camp battle in the NFL. It feels like we could get one in Washington. Former fifth-round pick Sam Howell appears to have captured the imagination of team decision-makers, but the signing of well-traveled veteran Jacoby Brissett gives the Commanders a strong alternative for a roster that might be one steady QB away from a playoff berth. Brissett is never going to be an MVP candidate, but he is as consistent and clean a passer as you will find in the NFL's middle tier of signal-callers. We imagine that will be hard for a coach like Ron Rivera to pass up. Tracking!
Previous rank: No. 30
The Texans made an easy decision by staying in business with Laremy Tunsil, even if it meant doling out the richest contract for an offensive lineman ever ... for the second time in three years. Tunsil is on the short list of the best blind-side protectors in football, and Houston is presumably about to reboot its franchise by using the No. 2 overall pick on a rookie quarterback. Tunsil's presence will be invaluable to the development of the kid. Speaking of that eventual new QB1, it behooves the Texans to stay in the wide receiver market after trading disgruntled veteran Brandin Cooks to the Cowboys. The team needs more beyond the recently acquired Robert Woods.
Previous rank: No. 32
Are the Colts lying in the weeds for Lamar Jackson? You have to figure someone will eventually make an aggressive play for a 26-year-old former MVP, and Indianapolis checks all the boxes. Premium draft capital? Check. Ample salary-cap space? Check. Need at quarterback? Check. Scheme fit? Check. What we don't know is what Jim Irsay thinks about Jackson, and whether the owner and GM Chris Ballard would consider meeting his salary demands. Rarely does a struggling team get the chance to reboot the machine and upload itself back to relevance with one seismic transaction. Opportunity knocks.
Previous rank: No. 29
You know things are tough for the Cardinals when the top team headline on a competing website reads "J.J. Watt raves about Taylor Swift 'Eras Tour' concert." Watt is fawning over pop stars in retirement, Kyler Murray could miss a significant portion of the upcoming season and DeAndre Hopkins might have already played his final game in the desert. Our only hope is that the new braintrust gives new head coach Jonathan Gannon more time to build a program than Steve Wilks got when he was in a similarly challenging situation with Arizona.