EDITOR'S NOTE: This edition of the NFL Power Rankings has been updated following the news that the Kansas City Chiefs traded WR Tyreek Hill to the Miami Dolphins in exchange for five draft picks.
With NFL free agency in full swing, the Power Rankings return with another detailed look at Our League.
The QB Carousel started spinning dangerously out of control after the bombshell Deshaun Watson trade rocked the league last Friday. Watson's arrival in Cleveland was the domino that eventually sent Matt Ryan to Indianapolis, Marcus Mariota to Atlanta and Jameis Winston back to New Orleans.
Meanwhile, Von Miller's decision to leave Los Angeles for Buffalo was enough to tip the scales atop our rankings. Scandalous! Let's start right there.
NOTE: Up/down arrows below reflect team movement from the post-Super Bowl LVI Power Rankings, filed in February.
Previous rank: No. 3
The huge contract given to Von Miller was a signal of desperation -- but not the bad kind for the defending AFC East champions. The Bills know they are right there. Miller was a difference-maker for the champion Rams, and he fills a significant void in Buffalo's defense. The Bills gave Miller, who turns 33 later this week, a deal they'll probably regret down the line from a financial perspective ... but they'll happily live with the bloat if the future Hall of Famer helps finally bring a Lombardi Trophy to Western New York. The Bills are all in, and Miller is the type of playmaker who can put them over the top.
Previous rank: No. 1
Set to begin a title defense, the Rams will look substantially different than the team that hoisted the Lombardi last month. Von Miller signed with the Bills. Andrew Whitworth retired. Johnny Hekker signed with the Panthers. Robert Woods was traded to Titans. L.A. is still in good shape, however: Joe Noteboom was re-signed to fill Whitworth's huge shoes at left tackle and Woods was replaced by free-agent splash signing Allen Robinson. Matthew Stafford, meanwhile, signed a lucrative extension that should keep him in Southern California for the balance of his career. Will Stafford throw another pass to Odell Beckham Jr.? The receiver -- recovering from another ACL tear -- remains on the open market.
Previous rank: No. 4
Sometimes it's not that complicated. Entering the offseason, everyone knew the Bengals needed to pour considerable resources into rebuilding an offensive offensive line. And you know what? That's exactly what Duke Tobin did. Cincinnati used its cap flexibility -- remember, Joe Burrow is still on his rookie deal for at least one more season -- to sign three proven veterans. Alex Cappa and Ted Karras provide an instant upgrade on the interior, while former Cowboys right tackle La'el Collins was last seen in the playoffs neutralizing Nick Bosa. Burrow, last seen limping to the locker room after a painful Super Bowl defeat, must be thrilled.
Previous rank: No. 19
The Bucs are back. Were they ever really gone? Tom Brady's "retirement" lasted all of 40 days; the G.O.A.T.'s return means Tampa Bay is right back in the mix of Super Bowl contenders in the NFC. Brady's stunning reversal was followed by new contracts for wide receiver Chris Godwin, cornerback Carlton Davis, center Ryan Jensen and running back Leonard Fournette. The Bucs filled a need at guard by trading for Shaq Mason and addressed depth issues at wideout with the signing of Russell Gage, who gives the team a legitimate replacement for Antonio Brown after a breakout 2021 season in Atlanta. What's that up in the sky? The Gronk-Signal is shining above Tampa Bay. Don't make Tommy wait.
Previous rank: No. 6
Jimmy G is still hanging around. The 49ers are likely to turn the keys of the offense to 2021 third overall pick Trey Lance, but Garoppolo remains on the roster nearly a week into the new league year. Has Jimmy's shoulder surgery affected the market? It's hard to say, but GM John Lynch knows he remains in good position: Garoppolo is a proven entity under center, and there are a host of teams in the market for a passer in a year when the incoming draft class at quarterback is thought to be far less promising than we've become accustomed to. Patience is the order of the day.
Previous rank: No. 5
The eternal melodrama around Aaron Rodgers was seemingly put to bed with a massive new contract for the back-to-back MVP, but Rodgers won't have his favorite target when he begins his 18th season in September. Davante Adams was moved to the Raiders in a stunning blockbuster trade that netted two premium draft picks. That puts GM Brian Gutekunst in the pressure-packed position of rebuilding the Green Bay receiver room on the fly. It will be the biggest shock of the draft if the Packers don't use one of their two first-round picks on a wideout. In a quality draft for pass catchers, they could use both on the position.
Previous rank: No. 11
The Chargers used the first week of the league year to aggressively address a defense that wasn't good enough in 2021. The Bolts landed former All-Pro linebacker Khalil Mack in a smart trade with the Bears before handing out big contracts to cornerback J.C. Jackson and defensive tackle Sebastian Joseph-Day. Los Angeles is going for it in what might be the team's final season before Justin Herbert gets an inevitable contract extension that makes him one of the highest-paid players in the league. The Chargers have cap flexibility now, and they're making the most of it. This is how teams in their position should operate.
Previous rank: No. 23
"Broncos Country: Let's ride." Russell Wilson has arrived with a new catch phrase and the promise to save the good people of Denver from QB purgatory. The opportunity to trade for a superstar quarterback is rare, so credit general manager George Paton for being aggressive and getting the deal done. The Broncos gave up multiple first-round picks to land their franchise quarterback, but the sting of the sticker price will dissipate when Wilson is playing like an MVP next fall. The Broncos went from pretender to contender overnight when they acquired Peyton Manning in the spring of 2012. A decade later, they pulled off the same trick.
Previous rank: No. 2
As the rest of the AFC West loads up, the Chiefs said goodbye to one of the players who helped separate them from the pack for so long. On Wednesday, Kansas City traded Tyreek Hill to the Dolphins for a bundle of draft picks -- a move that gives GM Brett Veach more flexibility in roster building, but also removes a Hall of Fame-level weapon from Patrick Mahomes. K.C. has two picks in each of the first four rounds, with some of that draft capital sure to go toward rebuilding a suddenly thin wide receiver room. Was the stunning trade a smart play in the long-term? In time, perhaps, but right now the Chiefs are a lesser team in a division that's never been better.
Previous rank: No. 8
The Julio Jones trade didn't work out, but the Titans aren't giving up in their quest to find a working complement to A.J. Brown. On Saturday, days after cutting ties with Jones after one disappointing season, Tennessee acquired wide receiver Robert Woods from the Rams for the meager cost of a sixth-round pick. Woods -- currently recovering from a torn ACL -- is a perfect fit for the Titans' offense: a proven playmaker who thrives as a receiver and blocker. The offense will continue to run through a healthy Derrick Henry, but Woods could go down as one of the best moves any team made this offseason.
Previous rank: No. 15
You have to hand it to the Raiders: They could have looked at the ridiculously stacked AFC West and decided to take a long-term approach to team building. Instead, the Silver & Black are going for it. Chandler Jones was signed to hunt quarterbacks with Maxx Crosby, and Davante Adams was acquired in a blockbuster trade that changes everything on the Vegas offense. Adams, 29, performed at a Hall of Fame level during a phenomenally successful run in Green Bay. Pairing the five-time Pro Bowler with all-world tight end Darren Waller is almost unfair. Life is very good for Derek Carr right now.
Previous rank: No. 7
The Cowboys were certainly active in the first week of free agency, but they don’t necessarily look better. Amari Cooper was moved to the Browns in a salary cap dump, La’el Collins was released in another cost-cutting move, and Randy Gregory backed out of an agreement with Dallas to sign with the Broncos. New deals for DeMarcus Lawrence and Michael Gallup stopped this from becoming a full-on exodus, but Jerrah and Co. have work to do in the draft. Finding a pass-rushing replacement for Gregory -- beyond the recently signed Dante Fowler -- could be atop the list.
Previous rank: No. 10
While the Bills were busy inking Von Miller to a megadeal, the Pats mostly stood, well, pat in the first week of free agency. Bill Belichick seemingly had no interest in keeping J.C. Jackson in the building (the Pro Bowl cornerback signed with the Chargers), and the move to trade sturdy right guard Shaq Mason for a fifth-round draft pick served as a head-scratcher for many Patriots fans still stinging from an embarrassing playoff blowout loss in Buffalo. The team did keep some continuity on its offensive line with the re-signing of Trent Brown on Monday. Looking ahead to the draft: Targeting an impact wide receiver makes a lot of sense.
Previous rank: No. 14
From a pure football perspective, it's a no-brainer. Deshaun Watson is one of the best quarterbacks in football and, at 26 years old, should have at least a decade of star play ahead of him. Of course, it's so much more than just football with Watson, who avoided criminal charges but still faces 22 civil lawsuits alleging inappropriate conduct and sexual assault. Cleveland brass decided the PR backlash and any disillusionment amongst the fan base would ultimately be outweighed by the benefits of finally landing a franchise quarterback after decades in the wilderness. The Browns have consistently made smart moves in recent years, but you wonder if this seismic decision is one they'll ultimately come to regret.
Previous rank: No. 12
We imagine the Ravens have another reason to dislike the rival Browns after Cleveland made the striking decision to trade for Deshaun Watson and then gave the quarterback a fully guaranteed $230 million contract. If Watson can command that fee with all the baggage now permanently affixed to his name, what is a former MVP like Lamar Jackson worth? The Ravens made a big splash in free agency, addressing an area of need by signing safety Marcus Williams to a rich deal. Looking ahead, the draft could pay big dividends: Baltimore has nine picks in the first four rounds. According to ESPN, it is the most picks in the first four rounds by any team in the last six years.
Previous rank: No. 9
Goodbye, Carson Wentz; hello, Matt Ryan. The Colts found their new (old) quarterback on Monday, pulling the trigger on a trade that brings Ryan and his substantial salary to Indianapolis. This will be the fifth different Week 1 quarterback in five years for the Colts, who have gone from Andrew Luck to Jacoby Brissett to Philip Rivers to Wentz to Ryan. The soon-to-be 37-year-old's play has slipped in recent seasons, but Ryan remains a very capable pocket passer -- we see him as a rich man's version of what the Colts got from Rivers in 2020. Will that be enough to get Indy over the hump in a loaded AFC? We shall see.
Previous rank: No. 20
The Dolphins are done being an AFC also-ran. That's the message the team sent with the back-to-back acquisitions of left tackle Terron Armstead and wide receiver Tyreek Hill, two immense difference-makers whose combined presence makes Miami a legit playoff contender. Armstead provides a huge lift to a suspect offensive line, while Hill's unmatched play-making ability can change the career trajectory of Tua Tagovailoa, the former first-round pick who's had hot-and-cold support from the organization. One subplot to watch: Is Tua's game a match with what makes Hill special? The wideout can make plays all over the field, but a big part of the Hill package is his ability to dust defenses with his vertical prowess. If Tua can't take advantage, it could be Teddy Time sooner than you think.
Previous rank: No. 13
The soap opera around Kyler Murray seems to have gone into hiatus, but the quarterback's uncertain future in Arizona continues to linger as the biggest storyline around this team. If contract extension talks don't take off, Murray will likely stage a high-stakes holdout. We imagine this scenario already had GM Steve Keim losing sleep. Meanwhile, the Cardinals used the first week of free agency to lock up James Conner and Zach Ertz on new deals. The defense took a considerable hit when Chandler Jones left town to sign a lucrative deal with the Raiders. Edge rusher is now a likely target in the draft.
Previous rank: No. 16
We imagine Jalen Hurts felt a sense of comfort upon learning that the Eagles were not among the crop of teams attempting to trade for Deshaun Watson last week. Hurts is Philly’s unquestioned present at QB with a chance to make himself the team’s long-term future with a strong 2022. (Adding some more playmakers in the draft will help the young QB.) Philly made a big splash on the other side of the ball by signing Haason Reddick to a multi-year deal. The Temple product is just 27 years old and a proven pass rusher -- he piled up 23.5 sacks over the past two seasons.
Previous rank: No. 17
The Vikings surveyed the QB landscape and decided Kirk Cousins still represents the best option for the team going forward. It’s possible Cousins is the greatest American businessman since Andrew Carnegie. Facing cap restraints, Minnesota has been mostly quiet in free agency. The team restructured the contract of wide receiver Adam Theilen, signed run-stuffing defensive tackle Harrison Phillips and waived veteran DT Michael Pierce. Personnel changes are inevitable, as new defensive coordinator Ed Donatell favors more 3-4 looks.
Previous rank: No. 22
Yes, there was much internet snarking when the Steelers agreed to a two-year contract with Mitch Trubisky. We get it: Trubisky was a bust as the No. 2 overall pick of the Bears and spent 2021 in anonymity as Josh Allen’s understudy. But Trubisky remains young (just 27) and mobile, and will give Pittsburgh things late-period Big Ben simply could not supply. Simply put, Trubisky is a sensible dice roll with no other obvious upgrades on the market. The question that lingers: Will the Steelers roll into 2022 committed to the Trubisky redemption project -- or will they use an early draft pick on a quarterback? And might Pittsburgh make a move up the board to get the prospect they want?
Previous rank: No. 18
The Saints struck out in their pitch for Deshaun Watson and, as a result, are now faced with familiar questions at quarterback. On Monday, they re-signed Jameis Winston to a modest contract that seems to line up the former No. 1 overall pick as the Week 1 starter for the second consecutive season. Meanwhile, the failed run at Watson wasn't a complete loss: The Saints opened up more than $30 million in cap space during the process. Some of that presumably went toward Winston, but New Orleans can still be a player in the second wave of free agency -- a.k.a., the place where smart teams can clean up on team-friendly deals.
Previous rank: No. 30
The Panthers failed to land Matthew Stafford last year. This year, their pursuit of Deshaun Watson was similarly doomed. And so, the team ambles forward in a suspended state of quarterback purgatory. Sam Darnold has another year of guaranteed money coming his way, but the flop nature of his Panthers debut in 2021 makes drafting a QB a very real possibility for Carolina. Meanwhile, Christian McCaffrey remains on the roster despite reports that the dynamic running back is on the trade block. Finding a taker for CMC's contract -- and all the injury concerns that come with the former All-Pro -- might be impossible, given the groupthink nature of the NFL.
Previous rank: No. 21
And just like that, the Seahawks are back in the QB wilderness after a decade of shelter. Russell Wilson was moved to the Broncos in a blockbuster trade that changed the present and the future for Pete Carroll's team. For now, Drew Lock is Wilson's replacement, and Carroll spoke of the former second-round pick with enthusiasm last week. "Is this a second chance for Drew Lock? Heck yeah it is," said Carroll, who, to be fair, always speaks with enthusiasm. "It's an absolute clear second chance for him to take us back to where we knew him to be. We'll find out." Hmmm.
Previous rank: No. 24
The Bears are starting over under new head coach Matt Eberflus and general manager Ryan Poles. It's hard to argue otherwise after Chicago dealt away Khalil Mack in a move that was more about streamlining the financial side of things than actually improving the on-field product. The Bears want to get younger and build around Justin Fields in an organic way. It might not be a bad idea, considering Aaron Rodgers' decision to stay with the Packers once again puts Green Bay in prime position to continue dominating the NFC North. The departure of Allen Robinson from Chicago highlights the glaring need to add some playmaking talent around Fields. Darnell Mooney and Dazz Newsome are the only wideouts under contract who saw meaningful time on the field for Chicago in 2021.
Previous rank: No. 25
Carson Wentz just wants to be loved. "Knowing that you're wanted and feeling that support means a lot," the veteran said in his first news conference after being acquired by the Commanders. "It allows me to play confidently, freely, which will allow me to play my best ball." Wentz profiles as an upgrade over the inconsistent Taylor Heinicke, but you wonder if Washington would have ultimately been better off finding a cheaper solution on the open market. Wentz hasn't been a special player for a long time, and it's telling that two teams have now cut ties with the former No. 2 overall pick in as many years. Perhaps Wentz can rediscover his 2017 form with a standout supporting cast -- that's just not something the Commanders have at the moment.
Previous rank: No. 26
Matt Ryan and the Falcons are no more. Atlanta traded Ryan on Monday, sending the franchise's all-time passing leader to the Colts in a move that signals the start of a new era for Falcons football. The trade, which came days after Atlanta's pursuit of Deshaun Watson proved fruitless, was quickly followed by news that the team had come to terms with Marcus Mariota. The former No. 2 overall pick gives Arthur Smith more options with his mobility, and he can serve as a nice bridge option for a team in transition. Mariota's presence shouldn't stop the Falcons from drafting a quarterback next month.
Previous rank: No. 27
Jets fans should know the drill by now. GM Joe Douglas sets a price on free agents and doesn't go above that number. The days of throwing funny money at the likes of Le'Veon Bell and Trumaine Johnson are over. Instead, Douglas made a series of sensible signings on the second level of the market. Cornerback D.J. Reed, safety Jordan Whitehead and tight ends C.J. Uzomah and Tyler Conklin all address significant trouble areas. Still, the Jets need more. Douglas' job security -- and the Jets' hopes of snapping an NFL-worst playoff drought -- hinge on hitting on a draft in which New York has a pair of top-10 picks.
Previous rank: No. 28
If the Lions are going to give Jared Goff another year to prove himself as a long-term option at QB, they need to give him an acceptable collection of weapons. They took a step in the right direction with the signing of D.J. Chark to a one-year deal. The former Jaguars wideout is coming off an injury-wrecked season, but he is a big-bodied pass-catcher who complements rising star Amon-Ra St. Brown. Add those two receivers with tight end T.J. Hockenson and running back D'Andre Swift, and the Lions have the makings of a pretty solid offensive nucleus.
Previous rank: No. 29
The Giants added necessary depth at quarterback last week with the signing of Tyrod Taylor, the well-traveled backup last seen with the Texans. It's close to a best-case scenario for incumbent starter Daniel Jones: Taylor keeps getting work because of his good reputation, but there's also a reason the 32-year-old is on his sixth team. In other words, if Jones can stay healthy, he'll be sure to get a nice leash to prove himself to a new Giants braintrust. One question that stands out for Big Blue: Will Saquon Barkley join Jones on the field in Week 1? The former No. 2 overall pick is reportedly available for trade.
Previous rank: No. 32
Give the Jaguars credit for understanding their unique predicament. The disastrous nature of the Urban Meyer experiment set the franchise back in multiple ways; Jacksonville's spending spree in the first week of free agency felt like a team playing catch-up. Guard Brandon Scherff, defensive tackle Folorunso Fatukasi, cornerback Darious Williams, linebacker Foyesade Oluokun, wide receivers Christian Kirk and Zay Jones and tight end Evan Engram were all signings that addressed areas of need and should give second-year passer Trevor Lawrence a fighting chance after his rookie season was submarined by forces beyond his control.
Previous rank: No. 31
The Texans can finally exhale: Deshaun Watson is somebody else's problem now. Houston moved its former franchise quarterback on Friday, sending Watson to the Browns in a blockbuster trade that brings three first-round picks back to the Texans over the next four years. It's the biggest NFL deal we've seen since the infamous Herschel Walker trade in 1989, and the Texans can only hope they become the next version of the '90s Cowboys when the dust settles. Of course, Houston still has to hit on all this draft capital -- do you trust this organization to pull it off?