NFLTR Review: Final 2022 Offseason NFL Power Rankings

As the NFL readies to break for the summer, we’ve got a pretty good idea of what each team looks like on paper. In this issue:

  • Ranking all 32 teams ahead of training camp
  • Tis the season for optimism — but two teams stand out from the rest
  • A six-team race to the bottom

2022 Power Rankings

Spring and early summer are a time of optimism in the NFL. Every player is in the best shape of their life, all the holes on the depth chart are filled and teams look pretty much the way they will heading into training camp. 

That’s when injuries and real-life will wreck all of the carefully laid plans GMs and coaches have toiled on this offseason. In the meantime, though, we can compare and see which teams have the most reason to be optimistic about the 2022 season. You can tell a story about how every team can plausibly be successful — yes, even for the Texans — but the ones with the fewest “ifs” that need to go right usually end up actually being able to translate things from on paper to wins. 

The teams are ranked 1-32, but I’ve also put them into six tiers: 

  1. The heavyweights: Unless something goes horribly wrong, these should be the favorites to vie for a Super Bowl title. 
  2. The contenders: Nearly on par with the heavyweights, but lacking in one or two areas
  3. The hopefuls: Should push for a playoff berth, and once you’re in the dance anything can happen. 
  4. The middle of the pack: Solid but lacking in standout traits. Could sneak into the playoffs with good luck, good health and attrition to the teams ahead of them. On the wrong end of a numbers game, though.  
  5. The longshots: Could surprise in an absolute best-case scenario, but more than likely still at least a year away from making noise
  6. The bottom of the barrel: Rebuilding teams jockeying for draft position

To me, the tiers are more important even though I’ve loosely sorted the teams within them. You can split hairs and make good arguments for any single team within each tier to be higher or lower, but it’s harder to make the case they should be able to jump a tier entirely. 

Tier 1: The Heavyweights

1 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Bucs kept the band largely together this offseason, with the most important addition obviously being the non-retirement of Tom Brady. Any team led by Brady is automatically a Super Bowl contender. It just so happens Tampa Bay still kept a pretty strong team around him.

Russell Gage gives them a more reliable third receiver than Antonio Brown and should help keep things running until Chris Godwin is back. Shaq Mason was a more than adequate replacement for Alex Cappa at guard, and re-signing C Ryan Jensen was huge for maintaining the continuity of the line. 

On defense, the Bucs lost S Jordan Whitehead, DT Ndamukong Suh and OLB Jason Pierre-Paul, but between younger players already on the roster like S Mike Edwards and OLB Joe Tryon-Shoyinka, plus vet signings like DB Logan Ryan, S Keanu Neal and DT Akiem Hicks, there shouldn’t be any dropoff on that side of the ball. 

Tampa Bay was a clear-cut Super Bowl contender last year as the No. 2 seed before an epic comeback against the Rams fell just short in the divisional round. They have what it takes to be just as good in 2022 and make it two Super Bowls in three years with Brady. 

2 – Buffalo Bills

Top to bottom, the Bills might have the best roster in the entire league. The offense remains loaded with QB Josh Allen and a plethora of weapons, and they added another dimension (hopefully) with versatile pass-catching back James Cook. They were one of the toughest defensive units in the league last season and should be even better with the addition of Von Miller, taking an already solid pass rush to another level. 

Buffalo has been right there the past two seasons but has been thwarted by the Chiefs. Kansas City remains dangerous but losing WR Tyreek Hill is a big step back. This is as good an opportunity as the Bills have had to seize control of the AFC, and that’s where the bar is set for 2022. 

Tier 2: The Contenders

3 – Los Angeles Chargers

Justin Herbert is right at home among the generation of alien quarterbacks that has taken over the league. His weapons are up there with anyone else’s as well, and the offensive line has taken a significant step forward. Brandon Staley may be controversial, but there’s a compelling case he’s a plus and not a negative as a head coach. And the defense beefed up significantly, most notably with the addition of OLB Khalil Mack.

The only thing holding the Chargers back is a question mark at right tackle, where Storm Norton is still penciled in as the starter, and a general need for the defense to gel together with all the new parts to improve. There’s also the franchise’s long history of “Chargering” — aka consistently generating lots of high expectations around this time of year and failing to follow through. Hopes were high last offseason and they ended up missing the playoffs. 

Los Angeles does play in the toughest division in football, so nothing is going to be handed to them. I think they have what it takes this year to take that next step, however, and dethrone the Chiefs while pushing for the top spot in the meatgrinder of the AFC. 

4 – Green Bay Packers

Obviously the loss of WR Davante Adams is huge for the Packers. It’s hard to replace a talent like that and my hunch is the Packers won’t try, instead choosing to morph the offense to amplify the skills of the players who are left on the roster. If HC Matt LaFleur wins 13 games for what will be the fourth season in a row, it’ll be a crime if he’s not voted coach of the year. 

I don’t think the Packers will win 13 games, but I also don’t think they’re going away. A team quarterbacked by Aaron Rodgers can only fall so far. The defense quietly has been a top-10 unit each of the past two seasons and looks stronger right now than at any point then. The wins might be uglier, but I still see a bunch of them for Green Bay. What happens in the playoffs after that is anyone’s guess. 

5 – Los Angeles Rams

Five might be too low for the defending Super Bowl champions. But the Rams are going to be a different team in a lot of ways in 2022 as they look to replace key cogs like Miller, WR Robert Woods and LT Andrew Whitworth. There are going to be unavoidable challenges, particularly when it comes to the pass rush and replacing Miller. 

The Rams are also more dependent on health than other teams given their emphasis on star players and they’ve had a run of good luck in that department — though people in the organization would argue that’s a part of the secret sauce they’ve tapped into. If that continues, a team featuring DT Aaron Donald, CB Jalen Ramsey, QB Matthew Stafford, WR Cooper Kupp and HC Sean McVay is going to have a high floor. 

6 – Baltimore Ravens

Baltimore’s injury luck was almost comical in 2021, with entire position groups wiped out. Somehow the team remained competitive, which is a reflection of the depth of the roster they’ve built and HC John Harbaugh’s quality. Now, the Ravens get QB Lamar Jackson back after a five-game absence, plus starters like LT Ronnie Stanley, CB Marlon Humphrey, CB Marcus Peters and RB J.K. Dobbins

This roster isn’t without some question marks, namely around the pass rush and the lingering health of players like Dobbins and Stanley. But Baltimore has the cushion of an easier schedule even though they play in the loaded AFC North, and things are setting up for a potentially big bounceback year. 

7 – Cincinnati Bengals

This might look way too low in a few months for the defending AFC Champions. There are a lot of reasons to believe in the Bengals as legitimate and not a flash in the pan. There’s QB Joe Burrow and his array of weapons on offense, including WR Ja’Marr Chase, the offensive rookie of the year, RB Joe Mixon and WRs Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd. The offensive line was reinforced and the defense has talent on all three levels, enough to be a top-10 unit. 

If there’s any question about Cincinnati, it’s with the coaching staff. Last year the Bengals finished 18th in yards and 17th in scoring, both of which were career-highs for DC Lou Anarumo. Before this season, HC Zac Taylor had just six wins and I at least have doubts about his play-calling and conservative tendencies. But the talent on this team makes up for a lot. 

8 – Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs’ offense is going to look dramatically different without Hill’s speed impacting the defense on every single snap. There’s no way around that. There will be growing pains on both sides of the ball too as the defense undergoes a makeover. A team that has been to four straight AFC title games appears to be as vulnerable as it’s ever been in that time. 

The Chiefs still have QB Patrick Mahomes and HC Andy Reid, though. They still have pieces like TE Travis Kelce, DT Chris Jones and an offensive line that was fixed in one offseason after the disastrous Super Bowl loss in 2020. There’s a limit to how far they’ll let the franchise slip and as long as they’re around, Kansas City will remain a dangerous opponent. 

9 – Denver Broncos

Expectations in Denver are a mile high (couldn’t resist) following the blockbuster trade for QB Russell Wilson. Public perception has viewed the Broncos as a team just a quarterback away, with Wilson being the missing piece to help maximize the weapons, protection and defensive capability the squad has.

Still, it would be unrealistic for Denver to click right out of the gates. There’s a lot of talent on the roster but the key will be minimizing or avoiding the usual transition period that comes with a new coach and quarterback, neither of whom has worked with each other. This is Nathaniel Hackett‘s first time as a head coach, too. 

The first half of Denver’s schedule fortunately is easier, which could help the team manage any bumps and be clicking down the stretch when it counts. We’ll see how it unfolds but the Broncos should still be major players this season. 

Tier 3: The Hopefuls

10 – Las Vegas Raiders

Last year was a unique season for the Raiders, as they made the playoffs despite what seemed like endless off-field distractions. They still ended up bringing in a brand new regime with HC Josh McDaniels and GM Dave Ziegler, although McDaniels didn’t feel the need to tear the roster down. Las Vegas has been one of the most aggressive teams in terms of additions this offseason, with WR Davante Adams and OLB Chandler Jones the headliners. 

As a result, there are some real strengths on this team. Adams joins a receiving corps that already included TE Darren Waller and WR Hunter Renfrow. Derek Carr has been improving the past couple of seasons and is a solid quarterback, good enough to win with. The pieces are there for a prolific offense with McDaniels calling the plays. 

However, the offensive line is a serious question mark outside of LT Kolton Miller. The defense has also been a consistent weak point the past few seasons, and while new DC Patrick Graham has a killer edge-rushing duo to lean on with Jones and DE Maxx Crosby, plus some promising younger players, it could still hold the Raiders back, especially given the competition in their division and conference. 

11 – Indianapolis Colts

If not for an epic meltdown in the regular-season finale, the Colts would have been in the playoffs last season. They’ve seemingly pinned those failures on the quarterback position and swapped out Carson Wentz for Matt Ryan. Ryan is closer to the end of his career than the beginning. But he probably still has more in the tank than Philip Rivers did in 2020 and Rivers led Indianapolis to the postseason.  

The rest of the team is solid, but not loaded. The offensive line is good, outside of left tackle. Jonathan Taylor is outstanding and might be the best back in the league, but outside of WR Michael Pittman the passing weapons are unproven at best. The defense has stars like DT DeForest Buckner, LB Darius Leonard, CB Kenny Moore and DE Yannick Ngakoue, but Leonard is battling injuries, there are question marks in the secondary and they’re implementing a new scheme with DC Gus Bradley

It all leads to questions about just how high the ceiling is for the Colts in 2022. They should be in the running to win a weak AFC South but do they have enough firepower on offense or punch on defense to hang with the juggernauts in the conference? 

12 – San Francisco 49ers

The switch at quarterback to Trey Lance is going to be critical for the 49ers. Some growing pains are inevitable, but San Francisco needs Lance to, more often than not, be the talented, dynamic, dual-threat gamebreaker they traded up for. For all of Jimmy Garoppolo’s faults, he did get the team to a pair of NFC championship games and a Super Bowl in three years. So the bar is set high. 

What will help is the 49ers ought to have a strong supporting cast around Lance. Head coach Kyle Shanahan is an outstanding play-caller, and if they get Deebo Samuel back in the fold they have a powerful trifecta between him, TE George Kittle and WR Brandon Aiyuk. The defensive line is strong again and they added to the secondary this offseason.

Staying healthy and figuring out the situation on the interior offensive line will be important, but the most important factor that will determine San Francisco’s fate is how ready Lance is after a year of watching. My hunch is he’ll do alright. 

13 – Dallas Cowboys

The Eagles closed the gap dramatically in the NFC East, as it seems Dallas lost more from its roster this offseason while Philadelphia made a series of big additions. Entering 2022, the Cowboys have big question marks on the offensive line, wide receiver and defensive line.

The defense forced a ton of takeaways in DC Dan Quinn’s first year and actually led the NFL in turnover margin. But that masked a pedestrian No. 19 ranking in yards per game, and history tells us it’s hard to bank on forcing a lot of turnovers year after year. 

Still, the Cowboys have a big edge on the rest of the NFC East at the most important position on the field: quarterback. Over the past two seasons, QB Dak Prescott has had stretches of scintillating play, only to be derailed by injury. Putting it all together will be key. There are enough pieces left to win the division, with stars like WR CeeDee Lamb, G Zack Martin, LT Tyron Smith, DE DeMarcus Lawrence, CB Trevon Diggs and LB Micah Parsons. Getting the most out of everyone will be key, which is why this is a big year for HC Mike McCarthy too. 

14 – Philadelphia Eagles

There’s a real opportunity for the Eagles to win the NFC East. They’ve improved both sides of the ball in a major way, adding an impact pass rusher in Haason Reddick, a good No. 2 corner in James Bradberry, and someone in first-round DT Jordan Davis who should make everyone else’s job easier even if he’s not personally piling up monster stats. On offense, the Eagles traded for a bonafide No. 1 receiver in A.J. Brown, giving QB Jalen Hurts an elite weapon in what will be a pivotal season for him. 

Hurts could play at the same level he did last season and it still might be enough for the Eagles to finish with a better record in 2022. What makes the Eagles really intriguing, though, is if Hurts can take yet another step forward like he has since his true freshman season at Alabama. He improved his completion percentage by nearly 10 points from 2020 to 2021. 

Again, the biggest difference between the Cowboys and Eagles right now is at quarterback. The Eagles’ roster is better, and while expecting Hurts to be better than Prescott might not be fair, he doesn’t have to be as long as he closes the gap some. 

Tier 4: The Middle Of The Pack

15 – Cleveland Browns

Cleveland would belong in a higher tier if QB Deshaun Watson wasn’t staring at a potentially significant suspension for 24 allegations of sexual misconduct. The upside for this team might still be there if it’s only six games. If it’s eight or more that they’re relying on Jacoby Brissett — don’t let anyone sell you on the idea that Baker Mayfield is an option to ever start for the Browns again — then the Browns face more of an uphill climb. Expecting Watson to pick up where he left off two years after his last NFL game is probably unrealistic as well. 

The rest of the roster is in great shape. The Browns have one of the best offensive lines and rushing attacks in the league. They don’t emphasize receiver as much as other teams, but Amari Cooper gives whoever is throwing the ball a quality threat who can beat man coverage.

On defense, the duo of Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney is the engine. Garret is a defensive player of the year talent. There’s some potential in other areas too, particularly the secondary with Denzel Ward, Grant Delpit, John Johnson, Greedy Williams and Greg Newsome

16 – Tennessee Titans

The Titans earned the AFC’s top seed a year ago, but this feels like a team in transition. They traded away Brown rather than pay him big money and cut last summer’s blockbuster acquisition, WR Julio Jones. They added Treylon Burks in the first round and traded for Robert Woods as replacements, but Burks is a rookie and Woods tore his ACL last November. The offensive line is also in flux with multiple starting spots changing over. 

The defense is largely unchanged and that’s been a strength of the team under HC Mike Vrabel. His worst record in four seasons has been 9-7, so it’s unlikely the bottom falls out for this team. They should be in the mix to win the AFC South, there just are some question marks. 

17 – New England Patriots

New England’s formula for winning in 2022 looks like it will be remarkably similar to the 2021 team, which used strong defense, an overpowering running game and an efficient quarterback to notch 10 wins and return to the playoffs. But they were outgunned badly by the Bills in the postseason loss and there are plenty of other teams in the AFC with that kind of firepower. 

New England needs QB Mac Jones to take a step forward in his second season, but his receiving corps is in the bottom half of the league and his play-caller will be either Joe Judge or Matt Patricia — failed former head coaches with backgrounds on special teams and defense respectively, not offense. The defense is also trying to rework itself at linebacker and secondary after a lack of speed was exposed by Buffalo. 

Bill Belichick is obviously a tremendous coach, so New England will be in the mix. They have a solid team but the AFC is just so crowded this season that solid might not be good enough. 

18 – New Orleans Saints

Last year was a weird one for the Saints, as they started the season shorthanded at wide receiver and then lost their starting quarterback before November. Saints HC Sean Payton had almost no choice but to lean into an ugly, defense-first style, and it nearly got them into the playoffs. 

Now Payton is gone, replaced by former DC Dennis Allen. Starting QB Jameis Winston is back, and they added veteran Jarvis Landry and first-round rookie Chris Olave to go with what hopefully is a return from an ankle injury by top WR Michael Thomas. But there might be a suspension looming for RB Alvin Kamara and they have questions on the offensive line, with first-rounder Trevor Penning replacing LT Terron Armstead

Longtime Payton lieutenant Pete Carmichael will call the plays, which should help ensure some measure of stability, but no one can replace Payton. The Saints will be heavily reliant again on a defense that has given Brady and the Bucs fits. There’s some upside if a few things break right on offense but if not, the Saints could be staring at another seven or eight-win season. 

19 – Miami Dolphins

Miami is a wildcard with new HC Mike McDaniel coming in. The defense should be similar to last season, with almost identical personnel and coaching. The unit rebounded to finish the year strong after a rough start and the potential is there to finish in the top-10.  

That puts the pressure on the offense, which is predictably where most of Miami’s focus this offseason has been. They’ve added LT Terron Armstead and OL Connor Williams in free agency to bolster what was the league’s worst offensive line. They’re banking on former high draft picks developing to lock up the other starting spots. 

They also added a plethora of backs to the backfield to give McDaniel enough bodies for his run-first offense, then went out and traded for WR Tyreek Hill to give Miami the speediest duo of receivers in the league between him and Jaylen Waddle. In theory, that ought to stop defenses from loading the box to stop the run if they have to worry about getting beat deep. 

All of that was done with the goal of allowing QB Tua Tagovailoa to succeed or fail on his own merits, with no questions about being held back by his supporting cast. McDaniel has been all-in on Tagovailoa so far this offseason, but the season is going to be the real test. 

20 – Arizona Cardinals

There has just been a weird vibe around the Cardinals this offseason. Obviously the contract situation with QB Kyler Murray and some of the collateral drama has been less than ideal. While things seem to be cooling and trending toward a long-term deal later this summer, they could heat back up again if talks hit a snag.  

Outside of the quarterback situation, Arizona lost more big-name players than they added this offseason, most notably Chandler Jones. The six-game suspension for WR DeAndre Hopkins is also bad given how much the Cardinals have struggled with him out of the lineup, although the trade for WR Marquise Brown might alleviate that. There are question marks on the offensive line and in the secondary, too. 

Both HC Kliff Kingsbury and GM Steve Keim signed extensions this offseason after the Cardinals made the playoffs and spent most of the season vying for the NFC’s No. 1 seed, but the second-half struggles of Kingsbury-coached teams are well-known at this point, and he might not have as much margin for error as it appears if he doesn’t break that trend. 

21 – Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings are largely running it back in 2022 with the same team that finished 8-9 in 2021. The bet is the new coaching staff led by HC Kevin O’Connell is going to make a big difference, as well as some positive regression in the luck department given the 4-7 record in one-score games last year. O’Connell is highly-regarded in league circles, but first-time head coaches are always wildcards. 

He does have talent to work with. Minnesota’s efforts to improve the offensive line the past couple of seasons are starting to pay off, veteran QB Kirk Cousins can be prolific and the skill talent with WRs Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen, plus RB Dalvin Cook, is excellent. There are pieces on defense, too, but this is an area where the Vikings might miss Mike Zimmer as they transition. 

And of course, we’d be remiss not to mention the questions about how high the ceiling for a Cousins-quarterbacked team actually is. Perhaps O’Connell raises that, but given what we know about the success rate of new coaches, it could easily go the other way. 

22 – Pittsburgh Steelers

This will be a major transition year for the Steelers as their first season since 2004 without Ben Roethlisberger. He’ll be replaced by first-round rookie Kenny Pickett sooner rather than later, if not by Week 1. That adds some uncertainty to Pittsburgh’s projection in 2022 but it’s also worth pointing out Steelers HC Mike Tomlin has never finished a season with fewer than eight wins — and that includes a season where Mason Rudolph and Duck Hodges started the bulk of the games. 

It’d be a surprise to see the Steelers in the playoffs, but they have a good defense and some weapons on offense, even if the line is still under construction. They won’t be a team anyone looks forward to playing. 

Tier 5: The Longshots

23 – Washington Commanders

Washington was a popular dark horse pick last season to make some noise, with a savvy veteran quarterback in Ryan Fitzpatrick, some exciting weapons on offense and a defense that seemed poised to leap into the top 10 with the duo of DEs Chase Young and Montez Sweat. Instead, Fitzpatrick went down Week 1 and the defense massively underachieved, including Young before he tore his ACL. 

Now the freshly-branded Commanders are resetting under a new name for a new season. The defense still has potential but that’s reliant on guys like Young playing up to their capabilities. Washington also traded for QB Carson Wentz and is gambling on him as the answer when he’s been traded twice in two years. 

The pieces are there for a wildcard berth or perhaps even a division title if things come together. However, it would require a whole bunch of players who have had inconsistent careers so far suddenly finding consistency. Not impossible, but not likely either. 

24 – Detroit Lions

The Lions are starting to build some momentum, as the positive reports from players about HC Dan Campbell and his staff continue to trickle out. Just as importantly, Detroit added a lot more talent to the team as they progressed into Year 2 of the rebuild, starting at wide receiver with the signing of DJ Chark and the move up for first-rounder Jameson Williams. They join TE T.J. Hockenson, RB D’Andre Swift and WR Amon-Ra St. Brown as an interesting nucleus of skill-position talent. 

The line will get Frank Ragnow back at center, and the five-man lineup of LT Taylor Decker, LG Jonah Jackson, Ragnow, RG Halapoulivaati Vaitai and RT Penei Sewell has the potential to be among the better units in the league. Jared Goff has been productive in the past with good protection, so there’s the potential for the Lions to be a lot better on offense than most people might expect. Defensively, it’ll all come down to how the young players develop. 

Perhaps a playoff berth is asking too much — although I have the rest of the summer to talk myself into it — but an improvement over last season’s 3-13-1 record feels well within reach for Detroit. 

25 – Jacksonville Jaguars

Jacksonville never had a chance last year given they were playing without the benefit of a competent NFL coaching staff. That’s at least one major difference in 2022 with new HC Doug Pederson coming in to replace Urban Meyer, and the team shouldn’t be picking No. 1 for the third year in a row. 

It can be a hard to gauge how good the Jaguars are exactly because they’ve been active in free agency and had a bunch of high picks in recent seasons, but have still underperformed. 2022 will be instructive in that regard. Trevor Lawrence didn’t set the world on fire as a rookie quarterback but he flashed enough amidst the wreckage of last year to fuel some realistic optimism. 

26 – New York Jets

New York actually looks like it’s building a decent foundation, with a roster that’s closer to the middle of the pack than where the team is ranked here. The defensive line is deep and talented and could be one of the league’s better pass-rushing units if DE Carl Lawson is back to full strength or if someone like DT Quinnen Williams makes a leap forward. There is a really intriguing mix of veterans and young players, from Lawson and LB C.J. Mosley to WR Elijah Moore and first-round CB Ahmad Gardner

What it really comes down to is the quarterback position, however. If 2021 No. 2 pick Zach Wilson struggles again, it’ll start to feel like an all-too familiar cycle for the Jets. And unfortunately for them, the history of guys who started their careers as poorly as Wilson did is dismal. 

Tier 6: The Bottom Of The Barrel

27 – Seattle Seahawks

If the Seahawks are actually serious about this quarterback competition between Drew Lock and Geno Smith and don’t pursue any other options, it should be pretty obvious that 2022 is about developing other parts of the team and taking a stab at fixing the quarterback position in what looks like a much better class in 2023. 

The biggest thing for Seattle will be progress along the offensive line and secondary, with young players coming in at both positions. They also need to make sure not to alienate the remaining veteran building blocks they have, namely WR D.K. Metcalf

28 – New York Giants

Another reset year, the Giants will give QB Daniel Jones a chance to prove himself after declining his fifth-year option. And he ought to have the benefit of the best receiving corps and play-caller of his young career. The early indications from OTAs are that HC Brian Daboll has modernized an attack that has lagged behind the rest of the league for a few years now. The Giants could have some spunky weeks on offense. 

Still, there remain real limitations on the offensive line, and the defense doesn’t have the personnel to run DC Don Martindale’s blitz-heavy, man coverage-heavy scheme. That’s why double-digit losses would not be a surprise. Even if Jones is better than he’s been the past two seasons — assuming he stays healthy which is far from a given — odds are someone else will be starting for New York in 2023. 

29 – Carolina Panthers

In terms of total roster quality, the Panthers probably belong higher on this list, especially considering all of the work they did to try and fix the offensive line this offseason. They have some legitimate star players in DE Brian Burns, WR D.J. Moore, LB Shaq Thompson and, when healthy of course, RB Christian McCaffrey

But quarterback is obviously a huge drag. If he actually ends up starting, Sam Darnold would be 31st or 32nd in the league. Third-round rookie Matt Corral has some promise but asking him to be the Week 1 starter is a lot. And the elephant in the room is HC Matt Rhule’s job security, as he enters Year 3 of his program with little tangible signs of progress. This is not a conducive environment to surviving adversity, and there’s some potential for Carolina’s season to snowball out of control. 

30 – Houston Texans

The extensive rebuilding project for the Texans continues, and GM Nick Caserio had his first real draft class to work with. Houston needs guys like first-round CB Derek Stingley, first-round G Kenyon Green, second-round S Jalen Pitre, second-round WR John Metchie and third-round LB Christian Harris to hit. They have some intriguing finds from 2021 that they hope can continue to develop, like DE Jonathan Greenard, DT Maliek Collins and of course QB Davis Mills. The cupboard certainly isn’t as bare as it was last season. 

31 – Chicago Bears

If Bears QB Justin Fields succeeds despite the hand he’s been dealt in 2022, you will see him vault up the rankings next offseason. Unfortunately we have years of evidence showing young quarterbacks are extremely dependent on their supporting cast most of the time. And Chicago’s is bad. They have a thin receiving corps, developing offensive line and a defense in transition. 

The Bears had almost no choice but to hit the reset button to get out of some bad contracts and deal with having no first-round pick this year. There’s an argument to be made they should have put more of an emphasis on getting help for Fields, though. If Fields makes it out of the season healthy and without any extra bad habits, that could be a best-case scenario. 

32 – Atlanta Falcons

Missing out on Watson was the impetus for the Falcons ripping the band-aid off entirely on their rebuild and trading Ryan, which actually worked out better in the end for the veteran given the state of Atlanta’s roster. They have a lot of work still to do on the offensive line, wide receiver, pass rush and in the secondary. Falcons HC Arthur Smith’s group exceeded expectations last season but they’ll be harder pressed to do it again in 2022. 

This Week In Football

  • Who knows how close Rams DT Aaron Donald actually came to retiring after winning the Super Bowl. There’s truly not much left for him to prove at this point, so get ready for this to be an annual topic of conversation. But for 2022 at least, he’s locked in thanks to the massive raise Los Angeles gave him. The deal makes Donald the first defender in NFL history to make more than $30 million a season and ensures the Rams’ window of contention remains open.
  • There wasn’t nearly as much drama with WR Cooper Kupp, with the two sides settling on a deal just a few days after Donald that gives Kupp a total of $110 million over the next five seasons. That $22 million a year average is only sixth at the position, but if the reports of $75 million guaranteed are accurate, that will become the new standard at the position, making this a great deal for Kupp. 
  • Kupp’s deal adds another data point to an exploding wide receiver market, one that you can be sure Seahawks WR D.K. Metcalf and his representation are paying attention to. There’s been speculation about Metcalf’s status this offseason given the market explosion and Seattle’s willingness to trade QB Russell Wilson. But the situation between the two sides has so far had a more positive tenor than other receivers from the 2019 class given the Titans traded A.J. Brown and 49ers WR Deebo Samuel requested one and broke off talks. Seattle has had opportunities to trade Metcalf but held firm. Reports that Metcalf is subjecting himself to fines by holding out from minicamp are the first sign that talks may have hit a snag, however. The team can forgive those fines later on, but not if Metcalf continues his holdout into camp. 
  • The only market exploding faster than the one for receivers is the one for NFL teams, as the Denver Broncos were sold for a record $4.65 billion to Rob Walton, whose father founded Walmart. That’s more than double the price David Tepper paid to acquire the Carolina Panthers a few years ago and a reflection of how new TV and gambling revenues have the outlook for the NFL looking as rosy as ever. Tepper became the NFL’s richest owner when he joined at an estimated net worth of more than $16 billion. Walton’s fortune of $58.2 billion dwarfs that. Tepper is proof so far that having deep pockets doesn’t assure success but it can’t hurt. 
  • Aaron Rodgers was the biggest NFL storyline for much of last summer. Things have predictably been a lot quieter this year as things seem to be completely mended between the Packers and their quarterback. Rodgers in fact said this week he plans to play the rest of his career with the Packers. The bigger question might be how long that will be. Rodgers added he’s taking things year by year at this point, meaning he could walk away just one year into the new deal he signed this offseason or play another three. Whether or not the Packers and Rodgers can win another Super Bowl will probably play a factor in that. 
  • Colts LB Darius Leonard needed back surgery this week which is expected to keep him out until sometime during training camp. Indianapolis is striking a positive tone, noting the surgery was to correct something that was actually causing the issues with his ankle that Leonard had been fighting through. But the organization has a bad history with injuries to star players, and there’s no such thing as minor back surgery. Leonard is one of the game’s best defensive players, so missing him for any amount of time would be a significant blow. 
  • Odds are the situation with the Browns and QB Baker Mayfield is going to drag into training camp. But a couple of things caught my attention this week. One, the Panthers beat reporter for the Athletic, Joe Person, strongly hinted the team could make a run at trying to trade for Mayfield again before minicamp to avoid going into the rest of the summer with Sam Darnold atop the depth chart. Both Carolina and Cleveland are scheduled to have minicamp next week, though Mayfield has been excused from attending by the team. Two, the Seahawks restructured DL Shelby Harris, adding about $3.2 million in cap space this season. Seattle already had about $13.8 million in space and this pushes them to $17 million. Harris is turning 31 in August, which makes the decision and timing a little curious unless Seattle is going to need more cap space soon. An extension for Metcalf is one possibility, but Seattle has also been linked to Mayfield. It’s not a smoking gun, but it is interesting nevertheless. 

News Alert

Next week will be the final batch of minicamps before the entire NFL is off until training camp. We’re going to follow their lead and pause NFLTR Review for the rest of the summer. 

The fact that that’s an option at all is a testament to how all of you as readers have embraced this column. You don’t have to spend much time on this website to see this piece is a lot different from 99 percent of the rest of our content. It’s long. Arguably too long. But consistently, week after week, the numbers show you find it worth the time to read. 

Thank you. It is not taken for granted. 

We’ll be back at the end of July to launch our third season of NFLTR Review and I absolutely cannot wait. In the meantime, keep an eye out for some other interesting content coming to the website this summer…

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