2017 NFL Power Rankings - post free agency edition
32. New York Jets
It's far too early to know what team will be the NFL's worst, but right now, the Jets seem to be the front-runner. The Jets cut Brandon Marshall, and more importantly, might have to start Bryce Petty or Christian Hackenburg at QB in 2017. Look out below.
31. Chicago Bears
A coach that could be on his way out and a new quarterback with a career 5-13 record. Mike Glennon isn't saving the Bears. Alshon Jeffery is gone too.
30. Cleveland Browns
The Browns made a serious commitment to their offensive line in free agency, and inked wideout Kenny Britt to a long-term deal. Cleveland has a mountain of draft picks too, including two in the first round. The Browns should improve in 2017, but there is still a long way to go. Remember, they could triple their win total from 2016, but that would still be just three wins. If, and it's a huge if, the Browns were able to acquire a top-flight quarterback via trade, that could dramatically change their expectations.
29. San Francisco 49ers
This is a team that could make a jump. New coach Kyle Shanahan should be an instant boost to the offense, and there is some talent on this squad. Removing Chip Kelly might be addition by subtraction, but the Niners still have plenty of work to do and a coach and GM that have never been in this situation. Also, their plan at QB - barring a trade - is Brian Hoyer.
28. Los Angeles Rams
Anybody that covered Sean McVay in Washington can see what Rams ownership liked. Yes, McVay is young, but he's impressive in front of the cameras and in casual conversation. The Rams will improve, but that offense is so far from competing, McVay will need to put in serious, serious work with Jared Goff.
27. Cincinnati Bengals
Ever read The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein? It's a children's book about a boy and a tree, and the boy just takes and takes from the tree until it dies. Well, minus the dying part, that's the Bengals. They've lost more talent in the last two seasons via free agency than most teams acquire in five seasons. Marvin Lewis' squad went 6-9-1 last year, and a regression from that seems almost inevitable after losing key cogs on the offense and defense.
26. Los Angeles Chargers
New city, new coach, but little reason to expect a much different result for the Chargers. The Bolts went 5-11 last season, and did bring in some help for QB Philip Rivers with Russell Okung at tackle. The AFC West is tough, and it's hard to see LA's newest team getting out of the basement in the division.
25. Arizona Cardinals
Tony Jefferson. Calias Campbell. D.J. Swearinger. Those are three key pieces of a good Cardinals defense that will be playing elsewhere this fall. Yes, the Arizona front office brought in replacements, but nobody under 30. David Johnson is a beast, but that can only get you so far. This team went 7-8-1 last season, but that included getting to beat up on bad 49ers and Rams teams. Those teams will be better this fall. It might be silly to expect a falloff from Bruce Arians or Larry Fitzgerald, but Carson Palmer struggled at times in 2016, and will be 37 when the 2017 season starts.
24. Jacksonville Jaguars
Spending spree in northern Florida. No, that's not some terrible movie title, that's been the theme of the Jaguars offseason. Jacksonville added three valuable defensive players in Calais Campbell, A.J. Bouye and Barry Church. Campbell and Church are veterans that will demand accountability in the Jags facilities, something that was undoubtedly part of new team president Tom Coughlin's plan. If the Jags can get better play from Blake Bortles, they could make a jump from 2016's three-win season.
23. Minnesota Vikings
Sure it's gonna look weird without seeing Adrian Peterson in Viking purple, but the reality is AD hasn't really been a force for this team in a two seasons. The Vikings defense will again be the strength of the team, though losing Captain Munnerlyn hurts. Signing Latavius Murray should help offensively, but eventually, this team will probably need more than Sam Bradford can give them.
22. New Orleans Saints
Drew Brees will always move the ball, at home. Losing Brandin Cooks probably won't hurt the Saints much, at home. But New Orleans needs a defensive overhaul, and to to find a way to win more than three road games if they're going to get back in the mix of the NFC South.
21. Buffalo Bills
The good news for the Bills is they can continue to build a dominant run game with LeSean McCoy and bringing Tyrod Taylor back at quarterback. Another coaching change could mean a major overhaul defensively from Rex Ryan's aggressive scheme, and that could be a bad thing.
20. Indianapolis Colts
People in Indy really seemed to dislike former GM Ryan Grigson, and his dismissal could pay quick dividends. Ultimately, this team will go as far as Andrew Luck can take them because their defense should again be suspect. If Luck can limit the turnovers, the Colts have a chance. Everyone in the AFC South has improved, on paper, except the Colts.
19. Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles seem like they are one, maybe two, solid drafts from being a contender in the NFC. They need impact players in the backfield, but with QB Carson Wentz now throwing to Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith, the Eagles got much better this offseason.
18. Carolina Panthers
Here's what we know about Carolina: They got out to an awful start in 2016 and never rebounded. Here's what we also know: this team has a lot of talent. The NFC South is known for it's constant cycle of teams moving from last place to first place, and despite the success of the Falcons and the Bucs, it wouldn't be a shock to see the Panthers march back up the standings. Don't count out Cam Newton and Luke Kuechly.
17. Detroit Lions
The Lions won a lot of close games in 2016, and while that was fun for Detroit fans, it's probably not something that will be replicated. Their expected win total from the 2016 season, looking at advanced statistics, totals out about 7.7 wins. Expect that in 2017, or maybe less, a step back from 2016's 9-7 record.
16. Denver Broncos
This is tricky. If - and it's a big if - the Broncos land Tony Romo they shoot into the Top 5. If they don't, they land here. Strong defense can only carry the team so far, though the free agent signing of Ronald Leary could help the run game a lot. The former Cowboys lineman might also help recruit Romo.
15. Houston Texans
Similar to the Broncos, if the Texans get Tony Romo they instantly jump into the Top 5. Strong coaching on both sides of the ball and a dynamic defense, this team could be a real Super Bowl contender with the former Cowboys QB. Without him, however, the prospects fade.
14. Tennessee Titans
If the Texans don't get Romo, get ready for Tennessee to win the AFC South. Marcus Marriota should fully return from a nasty broken leg suffered in Week 16, and the Titans offense should again be dynamic. Their undoing in 2016 was a poor secondary, and the signing of safety Jonathan Cyprien should improve the unit.
13. Washington Redskins
Few teams had as bad of a start to the offseason as the Redskins. The messy divorce from GM Scot McCloughan just barely overshadowed the circus going on with QB Kirk Cousins, who is in position to play a second straight year on a franchise tag. And then the 'Skins lost DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garçon and Chris Baker in free agency. Credit Washington, however, as the team responded by signing Terrelle Pryor and adding D.J. Swearinger at safety. The 'Skins still need help on the defensive line, but some of that could come in the draft with 10 picks. Assuming Cousins lines up at QB in 2017, Washington could again compete for a Wild Card.
12. Miami Dolphins
Adam Gase impressed in 2016, and who knows what this Dolphins team might have done with a healthy Ryan Tannehill in the playoffs. Another solid offseason in South Beach, and this team should again be in strong position for a Wild Card. Winning that AFC East will be too tough though.
11. Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens took care of business in free agency, re-signing their own big man Brandon Williams and adding safety Tony Jefferson from Arizona. That Baltimore defense should be nasty in 2017, and Danny Woodhead should help Joe Flacco and the offense. As it usually does, expect a late season Ravens/Steelers matchup to determine the winner of the AFC North.
10. Atlanta Falcons
It's not just about losing the Super Bowl. It's not just about how they lost the Super Bowl. It's not just about losing Kyle Shanahan to San Francisco. It's not just about the history of NFC South winners year-to-year. It's not just about the strong offseason from the Bucs. It's all those things added up that drop the Falcons to the 10 spot in 2017.
9. Kansas City Chiefs
With 12 wins in 2016 the Chiefs have to stay inside the Top 10. Andy Reid wins games, especially in the regular season, and expect Kansas City to do more of that this fall. Do not expect, however, the Chiefs to have much playoff success.
8. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs won nine games in 2016, and then added DeSean Jackson to an already explosive offense. Their raid on the Redskins didn't end there, as they also added Chris Baker to the defensive line. Both players should perform well in Tampa. Sure, it's possible the added weight of expectations could bury the young Buccaneers, but Jameis Winston seems like a guy that enjoys expectations.
7. Seattle Seahawks
Is Eddie Lacy the piece that can get the Seahawks back into a Super Bowl? He's only 26, but is two years removed from a 1,000 yard season and only played five games in 2016. Seattle must get more out of the run game, and if Lacy is right, he could be a huge help for Russ Wilson. Don't count this team out, and the contract structure for Lacy - one-year, incentive laden deal - could be the right motivator.
6. Dallas Cowboys
Jerry Jones is going all-in on Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott, and he better be right. Dallas lost a lot this offseason, starting with their dominant offensive line saying goodbye to Ronald Leary and Doug Free. Then add in the loss of defensive captain Barry Church. The Cowboys caught the NFL by surprise early in 2016, and that will not be the case in 2017. Plus their schedule will get significantly harder. The Cowboys finished 2016 with a 13-3 record, don't expect that to happen again.
5. Oakland Raiders
Like the Cowboys, the Raiders surprised the NFL in 2016. With two of the most talented young players in the NFL in Khalil Mack and Derek Carr, the quarterback's injury in Week 16 buried Oakland's playoff chances. The Silver and Black lost RB Latavius Murray, but this ranking completely hinges on the health of Carr. If he's back the Raiders should again compete at the highest levels.
4. New York Giants
Despite the Broadway value in names like Eli Manning and Odell Beckham, the Giants strength in 2016 came from the defense. Largely this offseason, Big Blue has kept their defense intact and could add more pieces via the Draft, In fact, if Eli and Odell can click again at the highest levels, this Giants team could make another deep playoff run.
3. Green Bay Packers
The Packers came to Washington in late November, and got blown out, losing 42-24. After that, Green Bay didn't lose another game until the NFC Championship. If whatever Aaron Rodgers and the Pack figured out during that eight-game win streak can be replicated, look out.
2. Pittsburgh Steelers
Some of the faces will change in Pittsburgh, but the three most important ones will not: Le'Veon Bell, Antonio Brown and Ben Roethlisberger will all be back, and the Steelers offense should again be deadly. Dig into the numbers a bit, and Roethlisberger struggled at times on the road, but a healthy Bell can overcome much of that.
1. New England Patriots
The rich get richer. After an epic, absurd Super Bowl comeback and a productive offense keeping their own free agents like Dont'a Hightower and Duron Harmon, the Patriots went out and traded for former Saints WR Brandin Cooks. One of the fastest players in the NFL, Cooks has gone for more than 1,100 yards in each of the past two seasons to go with 17 touchdowns. Tom Brady will probably figure out a way to work him into the New England offense.