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Ranking teams by offseason outlook

The Raiders and Jaguars both enter the offseason in great shape. Can they take advantage? The Raiders and Jaguars both enter the offseason in great shape. Can they take advantage? (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

Now that the season is over, the real reality checks come in for NFL teams. How adeptly have they stocked their rosters? How well have they balanced their salary cap budgets? Do they have the right coaches and executives in place to pick the right talent and develop it accordingly?

Over the next three months, between free agency and the draft, each team will certainly discover just how well it has prepared. Using a five-point scale (5 being the best, 1 -- or in some cases lower -- the worst) across four categories (pending free agents, cap space, amount of draft picks, track record of GM/management) SI's Chris Burke and Doug Farrar preview the offseason outlook for every NFL team, from the best situations to the worst.

1. (tie) Jacksonville Jaguars

Breakdown: FAs: 2.5 | Cap: 5 | Draft: 4.5 | GM: 2 | TOTAL: 14

All systems go on the rebuilding process this offseason. The Jaguars have a projected $50 million available in cap space for 2014, and they're in possession of 10 draft picks. Three of those selections land in Round 4, with another three in Round 5, so Jacksonville could dominate early on the draft's final day. The big-name free agent here is long-time Jaguars RB Maurice Jones-Drew. His future appears to be elsewhere. -- Chris Burke

1. (tie) Oakland Raiders

Breakdown: FAs: 4 | Cap: 5 | Draft: 3.5 | GM: 1.5 | TOTAL: 14

The ranking here is obviously completely skewed because of the Raiders' ridiculously enviable cap situation. Because they've waited on winning and assembled rosters on the cheap, Oakland has $60.8 million in cap to spend when the new league year begins -- $11 million more than any other team. And finally, GM Reggie McKenzie will be on the spot for his decisions -- there will be no more blaming the Al Davis administration for the state of the team. So, there's more than enough room to re-sign any priority free agents (defensive lineman LaMarr Houston is the main man in that department), and then go buck-wild when free agency begins. McKenzie could decide the next half-decade of Raiders history in the next few months. -- Doug Farrar

3. (tie) San Francisco 49ers

Breakdown: FAs: 2 | Cap: 2 | Draft: 5 | GM: 4 | TOTAL: 13

Get ready to hear "The San Francisco 49ers are on the clock" a lot during draft weekend -- they hold 11 picks (most of any team), with five in the first three rounds. There are decisions to be made before that, though, on impending free agents like Anquan Boldin, Donte Whitner, Tarell Brown and Jonathan Goodwin. With about $7 million in projected cap space, letting everyone walk and restocking in the draft might not be a bad call.  -- CB

3. (tie) Green Bay Packers

Breakdown: FAs: 2 | Cap: 4 | Draft: 3 | GM: 4 | TOTAL: 13

The roster may need to be stockpiled again if Green Bay cannot retain several key free agents: James Jones, B.J. Raji, Evan Dietrich-Smith, Sam Shields and Ryan Pickett, to name a few. The Packers usually sit out the bulk of free agency, so GM Ted Thompson may rely on his seven draft picks instead. There is cap room -- nearly $30 million worth -- should Thompson choose to use it.  -- CB

5. (tie) Seattle Seahawks

Breakdown: FAs: 3 | Cap: 2 | Draft: 2.5 | GM: 5 | TOTAL: 12.5

The Super Bowl champs are estimably stocked for the future ... for the most part. General manager John Schneider's ability to find late-round and undrafted gems has paid off, but with $544,000 in estimated cap space going into the 2014 league year, decisions must be made on vets like Sidney Rice and Chris Clemons so that more productive players (Golden Tate, Michael Bennett) can be re-signed. Decisions on hyper-talented kids (Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Russell Wilson) come in 2015. Seattle also needs to upgrade an offensive line that has been a problem for years. But overall, four years of proper planning has left this team in very good shape. -- DF

5. (tie) St. Louis Rams

Breakdown: FAs: 4 | Cap: 1 | Draft: 4 | GM: 3.5 | TOTAL: 12.5

Perhaps no team is as ready to break out as this one. The Rams have a major question at quarterback, where they have to decide whether to take another risk on Sam Bradford or move on. But with the second overall pick from the RGIII trade, and the 13th overall pick in the 2014 draft as well, GM Les Snead and head coach Jeff Fisher have the option to pick up a franchise signal-caller and a primary target without any trouble. The Rams are right up against the cap, but Bradford's $17.6 million hit will be sorted out post-haste -- one way or another. -- DF

5. (tie) New York Jets

Breakdown: FAs: 4 | Cap: 3.5 | Draft: 3 | GM: 2 | TOTAL: 12.5

Sure, the Jets have 18 pending free agents (and four more RFAs), but how many are essential? Emerging OT Austin Howard and ... that's about it. Kicker Nick Folk or veterans like Calvin Pace and Willie Colon could return, but other options are out there. Doubly so because the Jets have ample cap space. In his second year as GM, John Idzik has an opportunity to leave an indelible mark.  -- CB

8. (tie) Arizona Cardinals

Breakdown: FAs: 3 | Cap: 3 | Draft: 2 | GM: 4 | TOTAL: 12

Steve Keim did an amazing job in his first year as Arizona's GM. Now, he'll have to take bigger steps to remain competitive in the NFL's toughest division. Arizona has a solid front office, a fine coaching staff and players who believe in the program. Larry Fitzgerald recently restructured his contract to give the Cards more cap space, and Keim currently has about $9.5 million in his pocket, most of which was a gift from Fitzgerald. Step 1 will be to bolster a shaky offensive line. Step 2 will be to examine Carson Palmer's $12 million cap cost. Is the quarterback ready to take the same bullet his best receiver just did? -- DF

8. (tie) Philadelphia Eagles

Breakdown: FAs: 3.5 | Cap: 3.5 | Draft: 3 | GM: 2 | TOTAL: 12

Free agency could sting but not debilitate the Eagles, should they lose the likes of Jeremy Maclin, Riley Cooper, Nate Allen and that Michael Vick guy. Fortunately, they look to have $20 million-plus in cap space at their disposal. Howie Roseman did some nice work on the fly last offseason, helping move the roster from Andy Reid to Chip Kelly. But Reid wielded the power during Roseman's first three years (2010-12), so Philly's GM still has something to prove.  -- CB

8. (tie) Minnesota Vikings

Breakdown: FAs: 2 | Cap: 4 | Draft: 4 | GM: 2 | TOTAL: 12

The Vikings still have one bullet left in the Percy Harvin trade gun: Seattle's third-rounder, which happens to be No. 96 overall since the Seahawks won the Super Bowl. That extra pick (giving Minnesota eight in total) plus $25 million in cap space should make GM Rick Spielman's offseason an active one. His short time as GM has been up-and-down -- the Vikings made the playoffs in 2012, then fell apart last season as Spielman hunted in vain for a quarterback.  -- CB

8. (tie) New England Patriots

Breakdown: FAs: 2 | Cap: 2 | Draft: 3 | GM: 5 | TOTAL: 12

A safe bet: The Patriots will not stand pat with the seven draft picks they currently hold (none in Round 5; two in Round 6). Bill Belichick loves to wheel and deal, often doing so in ways that prove to benefit New England. He has less than $5 million in projected cap space at the moment and some very important free agents -- i.e. Brandon Spikes, Julian Edelman, Aqib Talib and LeGarrette Blount-- CB

8. (tie) Houston Texans

Breakdown: FAs: 3 | Cap: 2 | Draft: 4 | GM: 3 | TOTAL: 12

The Texans have the typical seven-pick allotment in the draft, but their spot atop each of the rounds bumps them up in the scoring. That positioning obviously is especially valuable in Rounds 1-3, before the supplemental picks kick in. The cap situation is muddled at best -- Houston is projected to be less than $4 million clear. Will that make up the Texans' minds for them when it comes to their free agents like Antonio Smith? RB Ben Tate is as good as gone. -- CB

13. (tie) Baltimore Ravens

Breakdown: FAs: 1.5 | Cap: 3 | Draft: 3 | GM: 4 | TOTAL: 11.5

Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome didn't have much time to enjoy his team's Super Bowl XLVII victory. He watched Ed Reed and Ray Lewis walk away for good, had to pay the piper on Joe Flacco's future and grossly underestimated the value of Anquan Boldin. The result? An 8-8 record, and Baltimore's first season without a playoff game since 2007. Now, an offense that fell flat on its face and a run game that was the league's worst in 2013 are in need of fixing. There's nearly $12 million in cap room for Newsome, but also several key free agents (Ed Dickson, Dennis Pitta and Michael Oher among them) on the hoof, which means that Newsome will have to pull off one of his better balancing acts to keep it together. -- DF

13. (tie) Kansas City Chiefs

Breakdown: FAs: 3 | Cap: 2 | Draft: 2.5 | GM: 4 | TOTAL: 11.5

The Chiefs were rewarded after making several intelligent moves, and went from 2-14 in 2012 to a playoff berth in 2013. Now, head coach Andy Reid and general manager John Dorsey will look to take things up a notch. They've already cut cornerback Dunta Robinson, a move that will free up about $3 million in cap space. There isn't a ton of room to spend in the offseason, which is OK as the Chiefs have proven they already have the right kind of talent in place. Now, they'll turn their attention to retaining key free agents like Kendrick Lewis and Branden Albert. -- DF

13. (tie) Buffalo Bills

Breakdown: FAs: 3 | Cap: 3.5 | Draft: 3 | GM: 2 | TOTAL: 11.5

The Bills have but one major free agent, but he's a potential game-changer: safety Jairus Byrd, who could command a record deal for his position. In spite of a favorable cap situation, Buffalo and second-year GM Doug Whaley will be pushed to the limit in their attempt to keep him. The Bills are set up for a strong offseason; retaining Byrd might propel the outlook much further ahead.  -- CB

16. Washington Redskins

Breakdown: FAs: 2 | Cap: 4 | Draft: 2 | GM: 3 | TOTAL: 11

The good news here is that the Redskins are done paying the cap penalties inflicted on them by the league two years ago, leaving them with almost $25 million in cap space for 2014. The bad news is that they're still facing another year of debt from the Robert Griffin trade, which means that their second overall pick, acquired the hard way with their 3-13 record, belongs to the St. Louis Rams. With a new head coach in Jay Gruden and several key players headed for free agency, the 'Skins could be in for a rebuild far more protracted than the endless debate over their team nickname. -- DF

Jimmy Graham (left) is due for a raise, but the Saints are in a deep cap hole. Jimmy Graham (left) is due for a raise, but the Saints are in a deep cap hole. (Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

17. (tie) Carolina Panthers

Breakdown: FAs: 2 | Cap: 3 | Draft: 2.5 | GM: 3 | TOTAL: 10.5

Now that the Panthers have returned to the NFL's near-elite, it's time for second-year GM Dave Gettleman to get to work. The Panthers have 21 unsigned free agents, including key players like Jordan Gross, Greg Hardy and most of the team's starting secondary. With more than $8 million in cap space and a couple of obviously overpriced players, Gettleman can retain a lot of pieces, but Hardy is the centerpiece, and he'll get major money from somewhere. The good news is that team owner Jerry Richardson stopped monkeying around and gave head coach Ron Rivera a well-deserved contract extension. -- DF

17. (tie) New Orleans Saints

Breakdown: FAs: 3 | Cap: 1.5 | Draft: 2 | GM: 4 | TOTAL: 10.5

The Saints survived the BountyGate fallout and rebounded to 11-5 in 2013. Now, they face different challenges. They need to shave more than $13 million off their 2014 estimated cap -- only the Cowboys are deeper in the hole in this regard -- meaning some veterans will have to restructure or hit the road. The free agent status of tight end Jimmy Graham will be an interesting test case, as Graham wants to be paid as a receiver because he's used so often as such. Losing Drew Brees' best target may be an inevitability.  -- DF

17. (tie) Atlanta Falcons

Breakdown: FAs: 2.5 | Cap: 3 | Draft: 2.5 | GM: 2.5 | TOTAL: 10.5

Sadly for the Falcons, 2013's 4-12 record was not a complete fluke. Yes, injuries hamstrung the franchise, especially on offense, but GM Thomas Dimitroff has been whiffing on offensive and defensive line picks in a worrisome fashion over the last few years, and that finally came home to roost. Dimitroff knows the team needs to land a major pass-rusher with the sixth overall pick, but the question remains -- can he and head coach Mike Smith engineer the transactions to take the team forward? -- DF

17. (tie) Denver Broncos

Breakdown: FAs: 1 | Cap: 3 | Draft: 3 | GM: 3.5 | TOTAL: 10.5

Restricted free agents aside, Denver could lose starters at running back, wide receiver, guard, linebacker, cornerback and defensive end. Being in the middle of the pack for cap space won't allow enough cushion to re-sign them all. Can John Elway pull any more rabbits out of his hat? He lured Peyton Manning to Denver two years ago, then bolstered the team with savvy pickups such as Terrance Knighton and Shaun Phillips last offseason.  -- CB

21. (tie) Chicago Bears

Breakdown: FAs: 2 | Cap: 3 | Draft: 2 | GM: 3 | TOTAL: 10

Chicago GM Phil Emery will have to use every bit of his Moneyball acumen to repair what ailed the Bears in 2013. Just as the passing offense came together under new head coach Marc Trestman, a defense that had always been rock solid under Lovie Smith started to fall apart. Age and injuries took the defensive line to task, and the secondary will need restocking. The problem? Chicago has over $40 million in 2014 cap invested in two players -- Jay Cutler and Julius Peppers -- and Cutler isn't going anywhere. Peppers and his $18.2 million hit will be the key to Chicago's near future. -- DF

21. (tie) Cincinnati Bengals

Breakdown: FAs: 2 | Cap: 3 | Draft: 2 | GM: 3 | TOTAL: 10

The Bengals have the base talent to compete at the highest level, though there are two major questions coming into 2014: How will the loss of defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer to the Vikings affect that side of the ball, and can quarterback Andy Dalton transcend his limitations? Three straight first-round playoff eliminations have fans wanting more, but the team is in decent shape from a personnel perspective. Free agent defensive end Michael Johnson is the big name here, but offensive tackle Anthony Collins might be just as important to future operations. With $23.7 million in cap room, the Bengals are at least in the right space to make the tough calls.  -- DF

21. (tie) San Diego Chargers

Breakdown: FAs: 3 | Cap: 1.5 | Draft: 3 | GM: 2.5 | TOTAL: 10

The Chargers and GM Tom Telesco are right up against the projected cap as the offseason begins, so there definitely will be cuts and contract restructuring. Telesco figures to re-sign a couple guys, too, including LB Donald Butler. This situation is pretty straightforward, and as the numbers imply: decent but to be dictated by how much money Telesco can finagle out from under the cap. -- CB

24. (tie) New York Giants

Breakdown: FAs: 1 | Cap: 2.5 | Draft: 3 | GM: 3 | TOTAL: 9.5

Eli Manning's clear regression in 2013 had a lot to do with an offensive line that started seven combinations and gave up far too many pressures. That will be the first priority for general manager Jerry Reese. But that's not the only problem -- the Giants have 22 unrestricted free agents on the docket, including Hakeem Nicks and Jon Beason. There's about $10 million in cap space to solve these problems. But a bigger question may loom: After throwing the most picks and posting the lowest quarterback rating in his career as a full-time starter, can Manning's $20.4 million cap hit be rationalized in any reasonable way?  -- DF

24. (tie) Tennessee Titans

Breakdown: FAs: 2 | Cap: 2 | Draft: 3 | GM: 2.5 | TOTAL: 9.5

Right now, Tennessee's big question is whether quarterback Jake Locker is the future of the franchise. The main issue of the last few seasons -- whether running back Chris Johnson would stick around -- is just about moot. Tennessee will move on without the former rushing champ and his $10 million cap hit. New head coach Ken Whisenhunt will endeavor to do with Locker what he was able to accomplish with several other star quarterbacks through his coaching career, while the Titans front office will try to build around Locker with the $6.3 million in cap they currently have, and the added bounty Johnson's release will give them. -- DF

24. (tie) Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Breakdown: FAs: 3 | Cap: 3 | Draft: 2.5 | GM: 1 | TOTAL: 9.5

There are a lot of potential free agents here -- 19 in all -- but most of the Buccaneers' core is on track to return next season. They are shy a sixth-round pick because of the Gabe Carimi trade. But the real question here is: How will Jason Licht fare as GM? He just inherited the job in January, so he really gets his score by default. His background, however, offers reasons to be encouraged as Tampa Bay heads into an important offseason. -- CB

24. (tie) Indianapolis Colts

Breakdown: FAs: 2 | Cap: 4 | Draft: 1 | GM: 2.5 | TOTAL: 9.5

The Colts have more than 20 in-house free agents, chief among them safety Antoine Bethea and cornerback Vontae Davis. Will Donald Brown or Ahmad Bradshaw return? How about role players like Cassius Vaughn or Pat Angerer? GM Ryan Grigson is carrying more cap space than all but three teams (Oakland, Jacksonville and Cleveland), so he should be able to mold this roster as he sees fit. Of course, he also does not have a first-round pick because he traded it for Trent Richardson. -- CB

28. (tie) Detroit Lions

Breakdown: FAs: 3 | Cap: 1.5 | Draft: 2.5 | GM: 2 | TOTAL: 9

The Lions are down a fifth-round pick because they traded for WR Mike Thomas, which is worth a half-point deduction on its own. It's the salary cap that will be more problematic for GM Martin Mayhew, who has a budget operating about $5 million in the red before he re-signs any of his team's 21 potential free agents. Of those, DE Willie Young, CB Rashean Mathis and RFA RB Joique Bell would be toughest to replace.  -- CB

28. (tie) Miami Dolphins

Breakdown: FAs: 1 | Cap: 4 | Draft: 3 | GM: 1 | TOTAL: 9

Dennis Hickey's first go-round as an NFL general manager will put him to the test. He has some cash -- approximately $33 million -- and a truckload of important pending free agents, such as Brent Grimes, Paul Soliai, Randy Starks, Chris Clemons and Nolan Carroll. Those are all members of the defense, by the way, in case you're wondering where Hickey might focus. Miami believes it can contend in the AFC East, but it has to succeed between now and training camp. -- CB

30. Pittsburgh Steelers

Breakdown: FAs: 2 | Cap: 1.5 | Draft: 2 | GM: 2.5 | TOTAL: 8

It's a known fact that the Steelers would have liked a better yield in their recent drafts. And general manager Kevin Colbert is a man very much in the firing line now as the Steelers try to re-fuel for a new generation of success with the need to pare down nearly $13 million in cap space just to get to zero. The formerly great defense slipped to the middle in 2013, and though protection improved for Ben Roethlisberger in the second half of the season, this was a team out of balance. And with more than a third of the roster lined up for free agency, it may be a while before this most stable of franchises is on top again. -- DF

31. Dallas Cowboys

Breakdown: FAs: 3 | Cap: 0 | Draft: 3 | GM: 0 | TOTAL: 6

The Cowboys are currently looking at a deficit of nearly $24 million. Jason Hatcher bolting in free agency would leave a huge gap up front on defense, but the other losses look to be minimal (counting Anthony Spencer, who spent 2013 on IR). The biggest problem here remains Jerry Jones' authority. -- CB

32. Cleveland Browns

Breakdown: FAs: 2 | Cap: 4 | Draft: 4 | GM: -5 | TOTAL: 5

The Browns have $45.5 million in cap to spend in the new league year, and two first-round picks after fleecing the Colts in the Trent Richardson trade. There's a lot of talent on defense, and a few real playmakers on the offensive side of things. In other words, everything needed to build a real NFL powerhouse. Unfortunately, a front office that deserves a far lower rating than the one we were able to give it (heck with it; we're throwing the lowest grade possible at this mess) will almost unquestionably squander these great gifts. Because when your team owner is under federal investigation, and your organization has changed team presidents, general managers and head coaches at a dizzying rate, it's hard to take anything you do seriously.

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