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NFL Power Rankings: Browns, Patriots up in free agency; Bears slip

With free agency in full swing, the Power Rankings return with another detailed look at the league of 32. has a handy file tracking all the arrivals and departures for each team, and it's pretty crazy to see how much player movement we get every year in the NFL. The churn is constant, my friends. The churn is everywhere.

Shameless plug: We track all the churn, all year long on the Around the NFL Podcast. They even gave us a TV show, which airs every Friday at 3 p.m. ET/noon PT on NFL Network. 

OK, let's get into it.

NOTE: Up/down arrows below reflect team movement from the post-Super Bowl LV Power Rankings, filed in February.

Previous rank: No. 1

The champs are running it back ... and can you blame them? Chris Godwin, Rob Gronkowski, Shaq Barrett and Lavonte David will all return on new deals, while Tom Brady agreed to a one-year extension to stick around through 2022 (at least). You can't blame Bruce Arians and general manager Jason Licht for their reasoning here: Nearly every decision they made last year turned out golden. There's no reason to bust up the party when it might be just getting started.

Previous rank: No. 2

The offensive line remains a story for the defending conference champs. The decision to part ways with Mitchell Schwartz and Eric Fisher -- the team's starting tackles entering 2020 -- sent shockwaves, and an unsuccessful pursuit of Pro Bowl blindside protector Trent Williams leaves Kansas City -- and Patrick Mahomes -- vulnerable. The signings of guards Joe Thuney and Kyle Long should bring stability to the interior, but further reinforcements are necessary to keep the line from reaching Achilles' heel status.

Previous rank: No. 3

Good on the Packers for having the good sense to keep Aaron Jones in the building. The running back looked like he could be a goner after Green Bay opted not to use its franchise tag on the star, but the two sides hammered out an agreement that will keep the offense at an elite level. This is not the time to strip away weapons for Aaron Rodgers; load up around the 37-year-old MVP and see if you can get over the hump.

Buffalo Bills

Previous rank: No. 4

The Bills have established themselves as a legitimate championship contender, so we liked the move to keep Matt Milano -- a member of the team's defensive core -- on a long-term deal. On offense, Buffalo opted to let John Brown head to Vegas in favor of Emmanuel Sanders, an underrated talent who slots in nicely with Stefon Diggs and Cole Beasley to form a rock-solid wide receivers room. The signing of former No. 2 overall pick Mitch Trubisky represents an upgrade over Matt Barkley at backup QB. Of course, if Trubisky plays meaningful snaps in 2021, you'll know something went terribly wrong.

Previous rank: No. 5

Lamar Jackson needs more help. Will he get it? The Ravens had a chance to swipe JuJu Smith-Schuster away from the Steelers, but they didn't produce a contract offer good enough to keep Smith-Schuster from returning to Pittsburgh on a one-year, $8 million deal. On Monday, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported that Baltimore was meeting with Sammy Watkins, who's had an enigmatic NFL career but still profiles as an upgrade over Marquise Brown in the receiver pecking order. It's fair to wonder how excited free agent receivers might be about joining a Ravens team that threw the ball a league-low 406 times in 2020.

Previous rank: No. 6

Drew Brees finally made it official, and the Saints are about to embark on a new era. The biggest question is the most obvious one: Who replaces Brees as the de facto QB1? Jameis Winston is the likely favorite, and Taysom Hill's role in a Sean Payton offense can never be discounted. But why does it feel like Payton could have an ace up his sleeve? Winston's modest contract tells you the Saints will be able to keep an open mind at the game's most important position. 

Cleveland Browns

Previous rank: No. 9

The Browns weren't the stars of March in the way they've been in recent years, but GM Andrew Berry has made quality moves to improve an already strong roster. That's most apparent in the back end of the defense, which has been upgraded by the signings of safety John Johnson and cornerback Troy Hill. Johnson called plays for Brandon Staley's defense with the Rams, and he graded out on Pro Football Focus as one of the league's top safeties. His arrival will give defensive coordinator Joe Woods more versatility for a unit that has the potential to be one of the AFC's best.

Seattle Seahawks

Previous rank: No. 7

The partnership between Russell Wilson and Pete Carroll seems like a marriage where a smiling exterior masks a reality of increasing estrangement. Now that the ugly issues between player and team are public, will that lead to a reconciliation ... or is it a step toward divorce? It's hard to imagine the Seahawks willfully moving on from the greatest QB in team history, but you wonder if Seattle would be tempted to make a move if the 2021 season ended in disappointment. If it comes down to keeping either Carroll or Wilson, that shouldn't be much of a decision at all. That said, don't discount Carroll's towering organizational standing.

Los Angeles Rams

Previous rank: No. 8

Sean McVay wanted a fresh start on offense, and he got it with Matthew Stafford. The longtime Lions star had reached a stage in his career where he, too, needed something of a reboot, and it's not hard to imagine Stafford and McVay making beautiful music together. L.A. has been otherwise quiet in free agency, though the signing of DeSean Jackson adds some more intrigue -- even if DeSean Jackson signings are almost always better in theory than they are in reality.

Previous rank: No. 10

Ben Roethlisberger is back for one more ride, so now the Steelers just have to cross their fingers and hope the offense's grim late-season slide was more of a team-wide meltdown than a sneak peek at a crash-and-burn decline for the 39-year-old quarterback. Big Ben got good news with the re-signing of JuJu Smith-Schuster, whose remarkably soft market in free agency led to a Pittsburgh return on a prove-it deal. A wide receiver room of JuJu, Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool profiles as one of the better groups in the league.

Previous rank: No. 11

Jon Robinson swung and missed in a huge way on three key offseason moves a year ago: Jadeveon Clowney and Vic Beasley added virtually nothing to the defense, while rookie tackle Isaiah Wilson went down as one of the biggest first-round busts in NFL history. That type of stumble will put pressure on any front-office boss, so Robinson needs Bud Dupree to justify the five-year, $85 million deal he received in the first week of free agency. Like Clowney and Beasley before him, Dupree is being paid by the Titans to address the team's pass-rush deficiencies.

Previous rank: No. 13

Keeping Trent Williams on a long-term deal was great business and showed that Williams' relationship with the 49ers couldn't be more different than his doomed connection with the Washington Football Team. Williams wanted to stick around by the Bay, even when a Chiefs team with Patrick Mahomes at quarterback was pounding on the door with a huge offer of its own. With their franchise left tackle locked up for the considerable future, San Francisco can turn its attention to other pressing issues. Like, for instance, who's the QB Williams will be blocking for?

Indianapolis Colts

Previous rank: No. 14

The Carson Wentz trade became official, but it was mostly a quiet first week of free agency for the Colts. The team made no notable additions, choosing instead to re-sign running back Marlon Mack and cornerback Xavier Rhodes to short-term deals. Don't count Indy out of the mix, however. GM Chris Ballard has a tendency to do much of his work during the second and third waves of free agency. There are needs, particularly at offensive line and pass rush.

Previous rank: No. 15

The Chargers addressed offensive line in the first week of free agency, importing center Corey Linsley and guard Matt Feiler on multi-year deals. It's a good start, but expect more reinforcements via the draft. Los Angeles also quickly moved on from tight end Hunter Henry with the signing of Jared Cook, who's never established himself as a team's long-term solution but has flashed everywhere he's played. Pairing with an ascending young star like Justin Herbert represents the 33-year-old Cook's last, best chance to take his game to another level. 

Miami Dolphins

Previous rank: No. 12

On the surface, replacing Ryan Fitzpatrick with Jacoby Brissett feels like a downgrade at backup QB, but it might help the Dolphins in the long run. Fitzmagic played well for Miami, but his far-reaching popularity was also a tricky fit for an organization trying to establish Tua Tagovailoa as a long-term answer under center. Brissett doesn't bring the, well, magic of his predecessor, and that should help Brian Flores refrain from the quick-trigger benchings that came to define Tua's first season. 

Previous rank: No. 16

The Cardinals have been aggressive in targeting veteran talent on the market. The first move was the biggest, with the signing of J.J. Watt to a multi-year deal. GM Steve Keim added more 30-something name-brand talent with the acquisition of wide receiver A.J. Green. The longtime Bengal looked like a star in steep decline last season, but Arizona is banking on a change of scenery doing the trick. Does Green's arrival mean a retirement decision is coming for Larry Fitzgerald?

Minnesota Vikings

Previous rank: No. 20

The signing of Patrick Peterson brings much needed veteran presence to a green secondary that was exposed consistently in 2020. The question is how much Peterson has left in the tank as he enters his 11th season. The three-time All-Pro didn't look like the same player in his final year with the Cardinals, racking up 10 penalties, tied for second-most in the NFL, while struggling in coverage. Peterson, 30, can be an asset, but the days of leaving him on an island against the opponent's No. 1 receiver appear to be over.

Las Vegas Raiders

Previous rank: No. 19

Roster churn is just a way of life in the Jon Gruden era. The Raiders have been busy this offseason, adding veterans like pass rusher Yannick Ngakoue and receiver John Brown while saying goodbye to center Rodney Hudson and receiver Nelson Agholor, two significant contributors in 2020. A signing to watch is Kenyan Drake, who will pair with Josh Jacobs to form a potential running back-by-committee situation in Vegas. Jacobs can't be thrilled, but Drake is a solid player who got enough money to tell you he'll have a defined role in the offense. 

Previous rank: No. 18

The Football Team got a lot more exciting with the arrival of Ryan Fitzpatrick, who looks to be in line for QB1 duties after signing a one-year, $10 million deal last week. Fitzmagic will be joined by another newcomer in Curtis Samuel, the dynamic former Panther who can make impact plays all over the field. Fitzpatrick is no one's definition of a long-term solution, but Washington can worry about that down the line. In the here and now, he's an upgrade over Alex Smith, and he gives Washington a real chance to repeat as NFC East champs in 2021.

Previous rank: No. 23

The Patriots "won" free agency, if you determine that victory is accomplished simply by cutting the biggest checks. In truth, the expensive deals handed to Matthew Judon, Hunter Henry, Jonnu Smith, Kendrick Bourne and Nelson Agholor tell the story of a team paying a premium to cover for its past draft sins. This is typically how bad teams operate, and it's strange to see New England roll the dice in a way that would have been inconceivable during the glory years. The larger context matters, too: The Patriots went 7-9 last year while Tom Brady hoisted a Lombardi Trophy in a different uniform. If you were Bill Belichick, maybe you'd be antsy, too.

Dallas Cowboys

Previous rank: No. 22

Dak Prescott has finally been paid, and now the Cowboys can focus on improving a defense that held them back all season long in 2020. On Saturday, the team came to terms on a one-year deal with safety/linebacker Keanu Neal, an impact player with the Falcons before injuries slowed him in 2018 and '19. Neal's head coach during his best seasons was Dan Quinn, who's now the defensive coordinator in Dallas. It was the first free-agent signing of note by the Cowboys, who sat out the first wave of free agency after getting Prescott under contract. A signing to improve the secondary feels like the next move.

New York Giants

Previous rank: No. 25

The Giants did right by Daniel Jones when they cut that big check for Kenny Golladay. New York hasn't had a game-changing threat at wide receiver since Odell Beckham was traded away in 2019, and Golladay fits the bill as a proven playmaker on the outside. Golladay's 2020 season was largely ruined by a hip injury, but he is an All-Pro level talent when at full strength. Golladay joins Saquon Barkley, Evan Engram and Darius Slayton to form a strong nucleus of playmakers around Jones. There will be no excuses if the former first-round pick is unable to make the leap in Year 3. 

Chicago Bears

Previous rank: No. 17

Rebuffed in their efforts to land Russell Wilson in a mega-deal, the Bears now move forward at quarterback with Andy Dalton. It's not a signing that will excite the fan base, especially those who were daydreaming about Wilson lifting the franchise out of its doldrums. The positive spin here is that Dalton represents an upgrade over Nick Foles and Mitch Trubisky, and he should be able to move the offense if Allen Robinson sticks around.

Denver Broncos

Previous rank: No. 27

The Broncos appear to have addressed their most glaring need on defense with two smart signings in the secondary. Denver scooped up Ronald Darby in the first week of free agency, then pounced on Kyle Fuller when the cap-strapped Bears were forced to part ways with the veteran. Fuller played for Vic Fangio in Chicago and serves as a perfect complement to Darby. With Justin Simmons also locked in with a new extension and Kareem Jackson coming back, the Denver secondary could go from liability to strength.

Atlanta Falcons

Previous rank: No. 21

Matt Ryan's contract restructuring helped get the Falcons under the salary cap ahead of the new league year. Will the team's next big move at quarterback center on targeting Ryan's potential replacement? The Falcons have no shortage of roster holes, but it wouldn't be shocking if the new Atlanta regime pulled the trigger on a QB with the fourth overall pick. In which case, Matt Ryan could take on the role played so masterfully by Aaron Rodgers in 2020: jilted franchise quarterback motivated by the arrival of a first-round hotshot. 

Carolina Panthers

Previous rank: No. 24

At the dawn of free agency, we heard that the Panthers were "all in" in their pursuit of Deshaun Watson. You wonder if that's still the case as Watson's off-the-field legal issues continue to mount. If Carolina decided not to go after Watson, the Panthers make sense as a team that could attempt to trade up from the No. 8 spot in the first round of April's draft. You get the feeling that owner David Tepper is not coming out of this offseason without a quarterback he sees as a franchise anchor going forward.

Previous rank: No. 26

The Eagles had little cap room to work with entering free agency, which explains the team's quiet start to the new league year. Philadelphia did fill one area of need with the signing of former Vikings safety Anthony Harris to a one-year deal. With Carson Wentz in Indy, another move will be finding a backup quarterback to slot behind Jalen Hurts. One option is Joe Flacco, who was visiting with the team this week. Flacco is a shaky scheme fit, given his statue-like presence in the pocket. The Eagles can do better. 

Houston Texans

Previous rank: No. 28

The mounting legal issues facing Deshaun Watson could lead to a complete shutdown in trade talks -- if those talks were even happening in the first place. It's the latest turn in a saga that continues to hang over every aspect of this franchise. Houston has stayed busy in non-Watson endeavors, making multiple trades and signing a small army of players to short-term deals. One of those signings was Tyrod Taylor, a steady veteran QB who gives the team some protection amidst all the Watson uncertainty.

New York Jets

Previous rank: No. 31

The Jets have been active in the free-agent market without spinning into the reckless spending habits that have backfired -- sometimes spectacularly -- in recent years. Carl Lawson could be a huge addition to Robert Saleh's defense, while Corey Davis strengthens an increasingly frisky wide receiver room. The team still needs to address an offensive line that was one of the league's worst in 2020, but the biggest question mark centers on quarterback: Will it be Sam Darnold or a hotshot draft pick under center come September?

Cincinnati Bengals

Previous rank: No. 29

The Bengals sealed the deal with tackle Riley Reiff during a streak dinner at a popular restaurant in downtown Cincinnati. Said Reiff: "I walked away from eating that steak and I was like, 'I want to block for this guy.' " Reiff is a quality addition for the Bengals, but it makes sense for the team to use its premium draft capital to continue bolstering the front that protects QB Joe Burrow, who was running for his life as a rookie before suffering a serious knee injury. The Bengals must protect The Franchise at all costs.

Detroit Lions

Previous rank: No. 30

If the Lions are serious in their belief that Jared Goff can be a legitimate starter going forward, they'll need to get him some help. Marvin Jones and Kenny Golladay both exited the picture in free agency, leaving Goff with a wide receiver room currently anchored by Breshad Perriman and Tyrell Williams. Detroit could investigate veterans still on the market -- Sammy Watkins, T.Y. Hilton and Antonio Brown are among the options -- but those players don't make a ton of sense for a team that might be headed for a deep rebuild. Good luck, Jared.

Previous rank: No. 32

Urban Meyer went public with his criticisms of the NFL's free agency process, but that didn't preclude the Jaguars from being more active than just about anyone in the first week of the league year. Cornerback Shaquill Griffin and wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr. were the highest-profile additions as the team closes in on draft day and the presumed arrival of Trevor Lawrence as the new face of the franchise. Meyer is rebuilding Jacksonville from the ground up.

Follow Dan Hanzus on Twitter.

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