1. Philadelphia Eagles (2017 Record: 13-3) Final Regular Season Ranking: 1
The Eagles biggest lost from their Super Bowl winning squad is slot cornerback Patrick Robinson. The departures of Torrey Smith and Vinny Curry have been offset by bringing in Mike Wallace and Michael Bennett, players who could well be improvements, though Bennett’s off-field drama has blindsided the team a bit. If you consider that the Eagles are also regaining their starting quarterback, left tackle, and middle linebacker from injuries, the off-season just looks even better.
2. New Orleans Saints (11-5) Final Regular Season Ranking: 7
The Saints immediately went about keeping Drew Brees in town, and then went to work building the defense that took such a large step forward in 2017. They acquired the aforementioned Robinson from Philadelphia to man the slot while Marshon Lattimore and Ken Crawley shut down the outside receivers, and brought in Demario Davis at linebacker.
3. Minnesota Vikings (13-3) Final Regular Season Ranking: 3
Calling Case Keenum a weakness on the 2017 Vikings makes one feel a little guilty: it has nothing to do with his play on the field. But the Vikings moved on from three quarterbacks this off-season and added the one they believe in, the biggest prize on the free agent market: Kirk Cousins. Jerick McKinnon’s loss should be offset by Dalvin Cook’s return, and Cousins should be placed optimally within the most talented offense — and team — he’s ever played for.
4. Los Angeles Rams (11-5) Final Regular Season Ranking: 5
The Rams are throwing themselves all in for a Super Bowl in 2018 despite being one of the youngest teams in the league. Their 2018 draft is almost gone, but in its place stand Brandin Cooks, Sammy Watkins (okay, also gone,) Marcus Peters, and Aqib Talib. It’s not, strictly speaking, a bad draft. Oh, and they’ve also signed Ndamukong Suh, who should have fun not being the biggest threat on a defensive line for once in his career.
5. New England Patriots (13-3) Final Regular Season Ranking: 2
The Patriots added to their defensive line, acquiring Danny Shelton and Adrian Clayborn. The duo combined for nine-and-a-half sacks in 2017, though Clayborn had nine-and-a-half of those and six came in one game. But they’ve also lost their starting left tackle, Nate Solder, their mysteriously benched number one corner, Marcolm Butler, and just traded Brandin Cooks to the Rams.
6. Jacksonville Jaguars (10-6) Final Regular Season Ranking: 8
The Jaguars stayed the course with Blake Bortles, but doubled down on their pound-the-ball approach by signing Andrew Norwell at guard. They lost a pair of Allens at receiver: Robinson to the Bears and Hurns to the Cowboys, but kept their choice weapon in Marqise Lee. While Robinson had been a promising star for the Jaguars, they had their breakout season without him.
7. Pittsburgh Steelers (13-3) Final Regular Season Ranking: 4
The Steelers have little space to work with under the cap and spent it securing defensive help in safety Morgan Burnett and linebacker Jon Bostic. The biggest issue left on the table in Pittsburgh is LeVeon Bell. The Steelers franchised their franchise running back for a second straight season.
8. Atlanta Falcons (10-6) Final Regular Season Ranking: 9
The Falcons offensive line got a little better with the addition of guard Brandon Fusco from San Francisco, but at the expense of their defensive line, which saw Dontari Poe and Adrian Clayborn leave town. Without an extension for Matt Ryan, Atlanta had little to work with.
9. Green Bay Packers (7-9) Final Regular Season Ranking: 18
The reason the Packers jump so far in the rankings is obviously the projected return of Aaron Rodgers as their starting quarterback. Other than that, they’ve had a mixed off-season. We’ll see how swapping Jordy Nelson for Jimmy Graham works out. They sent Damarious Randall packing, and missed out on Kyle Fuller to replace him. Muhammed Wilkerson could become a nice signing.
10. Los Angeles Chargers (9-7) Final Regular Season Ranking: 12
Their 2018 offseason was a pretty quiet one, which you know when we’re about to herald the arrival of a kicker. But the Chargers struggled mightily in the kicking game in 2017, and if Caleb Sturgis can return from injury to his 2016 form those struggle should be over. Mike Pouncey upgrades an offensive line that needed it.
11. Houston Texans (4-12) Final Regular Season Ranking: 29
The Texans are another team that benefit immensely from the return of their own injured stars: DeShaun Watson and J.J. Watt are just a start. But they’ve also added Tyrann Mathieu and Aaron Colvin to their secondary. If Watson isn’t ready to go, or gets injured again, entering the season with Brandon Weeden as the backup quarterback could see them plummet as easily as they’ve just risen.
12. Dallas Cowboys (9-7) Final Regular Season Ranking: 13
The Cowboys were quiet in free agency. They were the last team to sign a player and their off-season is highlighted by the additions of Allen Hurns and Cameron Fleming. After the way their offensive line unraveled in 2017, Fleming was necessary depth even if he doesn’t command a starting role. Their biggest loss is linebacker Anthony Hitchens, gone to the Chiefs.
13. Carolina Panthers (11-5) Final Regular Season Ranking: 6
The Panthers had a strange off-season for a team that should be in win now mode with some aging defensive stars: Julius Peppers and Thomas Davis. Star Lotulelei and Andrew Norwell are gone, leaving gaping holes on both lines. Dontari Poe can only fill one of those. Trading Daryl Worley to Philadelphia leaves them thinner at cornerback.
14. Tennessee Titans (9-7) Final Regular Season Ranking: 17
The Titans biggest signings were a pair of Patriots. Malcolm Butler is an upgrade in the secondary. Signing Dion Lewis ensures the Titans remain committed to a running back by committee approach but gives them more dynamicism at the position than they had with DeMarco Murray complimenting Derrick Henry.
15. Detroit Lions (9-7) Final Regular Season Ranking: 15
There was a lot of shuffling in Detroit. Eric Ebron is out at tight end and Luke Willson is in. Haloti Ngata is gone and Sylvester Williams is in to replace him. One spot the Lions added to without losing a player in return is running back, where LeGarrette Blount will try to give them the every-down back they’ve lacked for years.
16. San Francisco 49ers (6-10) Final Regular Season Ranking: 23
The 49ers certainly put a different spin on their 2017 season by ending it 5-0, and they entered free agency like that team, not a 1-10 one. They didn’t let their division rival’s cornerback leave town without a deal once Richard Sherman was released and he instantly becomes the best player in the secondary San Francisco has had in years. Center Weston Richburg and Jerick McKinnon make the offense more dynamic around Jimmy Garoppolo.
17. Seattle Seahawks (9-7) Final Regular Season Ranking: 14
The exodus of talent from Seattle this off-season was exhausting: Richard Sherman, Michael Bennett, Jimmy Graham, Paul Richardson, Sheldon Richardson, Luke Willson. They brought in D.J. Fluker for an offensive line that desperately needs help, but this wasn’t the off-season that will stop the Seahawks’ decline.
18. Kansas City Chiefs (10-6) Final Regular Season Ranking: 10
The Chiefs hit a turning point in their roster this off-season. How the Alex Smith trade will look largely depends on how Patrick Mahomes plays replacing him. But trading their starting quarterback coming off his best season was timed with the loss of their aging defensive core: Tamba Hali and Derrick Johnson. Less easy to explain is jettisoning Marcus Peters. They gave Sammy Watkins a huge contract to ensure Mahomes will be throwing to some talent.
19. Denver Broncos (5-11) Final Regular Season Ranking: 24
Quarterback wasn’t the only hole left to fix anymore for a team that went 10-18 over their last 28 games. But if Case Keenum can reproduce his 2017 season, everything in Denver will get a whole lot easier. Trading Aqib Talib was another acknowledgement that this isn’t the defense that carried the team to their Super Bowl victory. They’re very high on their newest addition, Su’a Cravens.
20. Buffalo Bills (9-7) Final Regular Season Ranking: 16
The Bills were busy on defense, adding Trent Murphy, Star Lotulelei, and Vontae Davis to an already solid unit. But on offense they finally parted ways with Tyrod Taylor, whom they were never fully happy with despite the quarterback breaking their playoff drought. Whether or not A.J. McCarron will be an upgrade is anyone’s guess.
21. Baltimore Ravens (9-7) Final Regular Season Ranking: 11
The Ravens swapped out Jeremy Maclin and Mike Wallace for Michael Crabtree and John Brown, but neither receiver gave reason in 2017 to expect a big upgrade in 2018. Other than this turnover the Ravens have been mostly quiet so far this off-season.
22. Washington (7-9) Final Regular Season Ranking: 19
After relying on Kirk Cousins to generate so much of their offense for years, Washington seems to be of the opinion they can keep right on going without him. Why else give up so much for Alex Smith. It remains to be seen, as Paul Richardson is the only real help brought in for Smith. Trent Murphy missed all of 2017, but Washington will likely keep missing him as he departs.
23. Oakland Raiders (6-10) Final Regular Season Ranking: 21
The Raiders have been busy retooling their roster in free agency, and the biggest names have come on offense. Jordy Nelson joins a wide receiving corps that lost Michael Crabtree and Doug Martin joins Marshawn Lynch in the backfield. Their defense has had some holes patched, but unless Nelson and Martin regain their pre-2017 form, it’s hard to see big upgrades here.
24. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-11) Final Regular Season Ranking: 28
Last year the Bucs offseason was all about the offense. After some mixed results on that front and a very disappointing 2017, the attention has been turned to the defense in 2018. Jason Pierre-Paul and Vinny Curry offer immediate fixes to the pass rush and Beau Allen should get to work clogging the middle.
25. Cincinnati Bengals (7-9) Final Regular Season Ranking: 27
The Bengals kept Tyler Eifert in town, and traded for Cordy Glenn to help their offensive line. Other than that, they saw A.J. McCarron join the Bills and Jeremy Hill join the Patriots, clearing up some space in their crowded backfield.
26. Chicago Bears (5-11) Final Regular Season Ranking: 26
The Bears are the latest team to take the “surround your young quarterback with talent” approach. It worked for the Eagles, didn’t work so much for the Buccaneers, and we’ll see how Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, and Trey Burton fair in Chicago.
27. Arizona Cardinals (8-8) Final Regular Season Ranking: 22
The Cardinals biggest additions in free agency came on offense: they’re the latest team to bet Sam Bradford can stay healthy, but they hedged that bet by also bringing in Mike Glennon. The offensive line was bolstered with Justin Pugh and Andre Smith, but they also watched star defensive back Tyrann Mathieu walk.
28. New York Jets (5-11) Final Regular Season Ranking: 25
The big prize for the Jets was bringing Trumaine Johnson in to help the secondary. They brought home their piece of the quarterback carousel in Teddy Bridgewater, but that appears to just be added insurance at the position after they traded for the third pick in the draft.
29. New York Giants (3-13) Final Regular Season Ranking: 30
The Giants hope giving Nate Solder a massive contract will fix an equally large share of the offensive line problems that have plagued them. Jason Pierre-Paul’s departure will hurt, as would any impending jettison of Odell Beckham Jr.
30. Cleveland Browns (0-16) Final Regular Season Ranking: 32
They went winless yes. But since then the Browns have added Tyrod Taylor at quarterback, given him Jarvis Landry to throw to, and bolstered the defense with Damarious Randall. Those were just their trades. Carlos Hyde spearheads the free agent class.
31. Miami Dolphins (6-10) Final Regular Season Ranking: 20
Ryan Tannehill comes back, but he comes back to an offense that lost Jarvis Landry, Julius Thomas, Mike Pouncey, and (since Tannehill last played) Jay Ajayi. And this guy named Ndamukong Suh was cut.
32. Indianapolis Colts (4-12) Final Regular Season Ranking: 31
We feel fair not quite projecting Andrew Luck’s return to the Colts with the same certainty as Aaron Rodgers or Deshaun Watson’s. Even if all does go well with Luck, the Colts haven’t been upgrading the roster around him.