Post-NFL Free Agency Power Rankings: Lions, Browns, Texans Closing on Chiefs

Detroit added a big-time defensive tackle, Cleveland added depth at quarterback, and Houston made a big splash with the addition of Stefon Diggs.
The Lions and head coach Dan Campbell shored up Detroit’s defensive line, adding D.J. Reader and Marcus Davenport.
The Lions and head coach Dan Campbell shored up Detroit’s defensive line, adding D.J. Reader and Marcus Davenport. / Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK

The last time we put together NFL power rankings was more than a month ago—-Feb. 20—a week after the Kansas City Chiefs won their second consecutive Super Bowl. Since that moment, one could argue the NFL has changed drastically or, depending on your level of cynicism, not very much at all. One could go back to every free agency winner of the past decade and reason that we should not have gotten as excited as we did. The truth? This league still hinges on a team’s ability to draft and develop (or stumble into) a generational quarterback and supplement that player with cost-controlled contracts alongside a top-10 secondary, defensive line and offensive line. 

So, we’ll try and temper ourselves just a bit. 

Before we get going, I do want to express my condolences to the family of Vontae Davis, who was a fantastic cornerback, a two-time Pro Bowler and former first-round pick. He may best be remembered as the player who wanted to call his grandmother immediately after finding out he’d been traded on Hard Knocks, even though his most significant work was done with and for children, far away from the NFL spotlight.  

But, to me, Davis helped teach fans (and, especially writers) of a certain age about the realities of the NFL with his vulnerability in that moment. It’s a lot of fun for us to rumor monger and speculate on trades without remembering that a player’s life is about to be completely upended. I talked to A.J. Brown about that before last year’s Super Bowl. I think there is a supreme value in any moment that can force us from treating the players like the emotionless chess pieces that most owners do. Rest in peace, Vontae. 

1. Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs ended up trading L’Jarius Sneed to the Tennessee Titans, but re-signing Chris Jones. They added Marquise “Hollywood” Brown and look to be sniffing around the ancillary running back market. One would expect, given the uncertainty surrounding Rashee Rice, that Kansas City will at least explore a premium weapon at receiver in the NFL draft. All that said, assuming the Chiefs can get baseline play out of Travis Kelce in 2024, adding a third viable tight end in Irv Smith will give Andy Reid a chance to play with different formations and finally take that offense through a power-oriented transition, which has long been overdue in the Patrick Mahomes era. 

2. Detroit Lions

The Lions made my favorite move of free agency and the one, I think, will be most feared by opponents: signing D.J. Reader. The defensive tackle will unlock this defense and help players such as Marcus Davenport—a former first-round pick with familiarity in this system—turn into a potent situational pass rusher again. I love the upgrades Detroit made because they were not desperate, chemistry-altering moves. Everything about this offseason felt sound, healthy and targeted. These are not moves that make their obvious disposition as a Super Bowl-or-bust team feel any more impossible due to the weight of hype (think, someone such as the Jets adding someone like Odell Beckham).  

3. Philadelphia Eagles

Always active, the Eagles must now put all the pieces together aided by two new coordinators (and without the guiding hand of all-everything center Jason Kelce). I like the aggressiveness, and while I talk more about Giants fans not needing to care about the loss of Saquon Barkley, the reality is that he could be quite good in this particular offense if he stays healthy. Good enough to tip the scales in the NFC East? Perhaps, especially when some of the other divisional contenders, such as the Cowboys, seem to be making no effort at holding on to the top spot. Having Brandon Graham back on defense helps mitigate the leadership void left by Kelce. 

4. San Francisco 49ers

There is something to like about the 49ers offseason, which was less sexy and more about adding critical depth and quality, and proven talent. One person who comes to mind? DT Maliek Collins, who I know receives some mixed reviews from time to time. But his athleticism is undeniable, and in the right defensive structure—now alongside Nick Bosa, Leonard Floyd and Javon Hargrave—could be unlocked. I like the flier taken on Yetur Gross-Matos, who is not going to come with the fanfare of a Chase Young, but could offer some quality minutes in the rotation.  

5. Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens added Derrick Henry in free agency in what ultimately was a kind of understated offseason given how close the franchise was just a few short months ago. Although, I will remind anyone who will listen that Baltimore picks six times in the top 165, and is always a threat to do something interesting during the draft. I wonder if we’ll leave far more energized about this offseason than how we entered it. 

6. Cleveland Browns

The Browns added Winston and Huntley to back up Deshaun Watson.
The Browns added Winston and Huntley to back up Deshaun Watson. / Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

The Browns traded for Jerry Jeudy, which headlined an offseason really marked by the addition of critical depth at quarterback and running back. Cleveland also kept all critical pieces together on the defensive line to ensure Jim Schwartz has all the resources necessary to repeat a monstrous 2023 performance. Still, we should be focusing on the quality and quantity of the quarterbacks—Tyler Huntley and Jameis Winston—and the running backs—D’Onta Foreman and Nyheim Hines—with Nick Chubb and Deshaun Watson returning from serious injuries.  

7. Houston Texans

While the Jaguars have made me infinitely cautious about projecting a steady ascension, the Texans put their foot on the gas this offseason. Houston was clearly in the market for a pace-setting back who could take some backfield pressure off C.J. Stroud, and Joe Mixon may ultimately be a placeholder for whomever gets that job long-term. Stefon Diggs is an expensive and aging veteran receiver but could be scale tipper for Houston’s offense. For me, the story here is DeMeco Ryans continuing to put his hands on the defense and loading up on both established edge players and really quality rotational players as well. This defense is going to be deep and dangerous. 

8. Buffalo Bills

I’m going to be careful with labeling this as a disappointing offseason because when the Bills spend massively, they don’t always hit, either. Trading Diggs in particular seemed like a bit of a culture reset, which is necessary after so many grating seasons in Buffalo. Now, the onus is on Sean McDermott to put the pieces back together.  

9. Cincinnati Bengals 

The versatile Sheldon Rankins and the ball-hawking Geno Stone highlight Cincinnati's offseason. The Bengals also have a staggering 10 draft picks, including six in the top 150, which, according to those I’ve spoken to, is right about where the talent pool in this top-heavy draft class should start to bottom out. The Bengals have a clear idea of what this defense needs, aided by the steady presence of defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo, and were able to plug and play despite some difficult losses in free agency.  

10. Green Bay Packers

The Packers went out and invested in S Xavier McKinney, the former Giant turned new centerpiece of Jeff Hafley’s defense in Green Bay. Also interesting: They secured the contract of Keisean Nixon before the alteration of the kickoff rule; a massively smart decision in hindsight. Imagine if Green Bay’s starting field position is even a tad better next year. I love that kick returners are suddenly a valuable commodity again. 

11. New York Jets

This is a massive leap for the Jets, but we have to operate under the assumption that Aaron Rodgers will be the starting quarterback, and not the sitting Vice President. On paper, the Jets’ offseason was phenomenal, though many of their signings and trades have obvious boom or bust potential. Mike Williams could knife open defenses and clear out tons of space for Garrett Wilson, or, he could miss 11 games. Tyron Smith could anchor Rodgers’s blindside, or, he could miss 11 games. Of course, it’s the right play when everything comes to a head this season and is predicated on the team reaching the postseason. There is no Plan B now. Although, I will say this: Regardless of the boom or bust nature of this team, Robert Saleh has his best and deepest rotation of backfield pushing tackles and pass rushers. That, more than the Williams signing, for example, is what will move the Jets into Super Bowl contention. 

12. Los Angeles Rams

What may look like a tame offseason for the Rams is actually a targeted series of moves aimed at shoring up some of their most critical positions. Guard play, for example, is essential in this dizzying run offense that asks a lot of its interior offensive linemen. Jonah Jackson is a really good one. The Rams also added talent to their secondary, knowing that, without Aaron Donald and Raheem Morris, there is less of a margin of error. I thought GM Les Snead would be slightly more aggressive, but there is still a post-draft wave, and the Rams have been hitting on a lot of middle-round picks of late.  

13. Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys are perpetually underwhelming in free agency because their fanbase allows them to do so. Until people start protesting en masse and stop attending the Star as if it's some kind of religious pilgrimage, Jerry Jones will never change. He will pay the bare minimum for CeeDee Lamb and Micah Parsons while insisting to them behind the scenes that they will make more by virtue of being a Cowboy, and slap them on the sign of his Texas tourist trap. At least they got that long snapper situation figured out.    

14. Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars have a better feel for this than we do, and while one could make the argument that they don’t appear to have come out of this offseason as a net better team, they could be working under the assumption that more than talent needed to change. Upgrading the defensive interior with DT Arik Armstead was critical in unlocking a handful of their younger potential star players along the front seven. 

15. Indianapolis Colts

The Colts’ offseason indicated to the rest of the football world that they believe they are close. We should be paying attention. I’ve already made an early projection that Indianapolis will win its division in 2024, though it’s fair to wonder if it’s going to take more than signing Joe Flacco and extending Grover Stewart (and Kenny Moore and Michael Pittman, I know, I know). Still, we forget how wild this past Colts season was and how competitive they were. They might be on to something. 

16. New Orleans Saints

A lot of bets are off in New Orleans this year because we have no sample size as to what an offense looks like without former OC Pete Carmichael. Klint Kubiak is in, which could negate some of the skepticism we may have about the team’s relative inaction on offense (Cedrick Wilson is good!). Chase Young and Willie Gay are not insignificant, though, and could be the necessary patchwork for a defense that could, once again, keep New Orleans on the fringe of playoff contention.  

17. Pittsburgh Steelers

I don’t think a single team’s profile changed more significantly than the Steelers. And while I am clearly not bullish on Russell Wilson as a full-time starter, if we transplanted Wilson’s numbers and efficiency onto the Steelers’ roster, we’d have a team that could potentially contend for the conference title game. Kenny Pickett threw for 13 touchdown passes in two seasons. Wilson is clearly an upgrade, albeit an acquired taste. 

18. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Baker Mayfield? Mike Evans? LaVonte David? I wrote back in January that Tampa Bay would run it back, never believing it would actually be the case. Still, I learned my lesson about doubting this team and am projecting only great times ahead for Tampa. In all seriousness, this is a job that needs to be finished via the draft, and by some economic craftsmanship with OT Tristan Wirfs and S Antoine Winfield needing long-term pacts. 

19. Atlanta Falcons

Cousins signed a four-year, $180 million deal with the Falcons.
Cousins signed a four-year, $180 million deal with the Falcons. / Lon Horwedel-USA TODAY Sports

Does Kirk Cousins dramatically shift the NFC South? I can’t say that with any degree of confidence. He’s absolutely an upgrade, and while I liked Arthur Smith as a play-caller, Zac Robinson is a special talent who can apply what he has learned in the Sean McVay factory to a group of enticing playmakers. Atlanta’s offense was explosive last year, but can they be explosive and more steadily efficient? And can Morris, the former Rams defensive coordinator, push Atlanta’s defense to places Ryan Nielsen did not take it during a strong 2023? 

Certainly, the Falcons have altered their DNA, but a Cousins team has to show us that signing him has larger implications than a once-and-a-while steady regular season. 

20. Miami Dolphins

Way too low? I’m not sure. I’m going to wait and see what the Tua Tagovailoa contract looks like when it's done. Depending on its structure, and how soon the Dolphins can work their way out of it, and if the Dolphins supplement that decision with competition from the draft-eligible pool, I could change my mind. This was a tough offseason. Losing DC Vic Fangio, and DT Christian Wilkins, plus a key foundation player like Andrew Van Ginkel and supplementing those losses with players well into their thirties such as Jordan Poyer and Shaq Barrett reflects Miami’s urgency. But is it good enough to hang with the Jets and Bills?   

21. Seattle Seahawks 

I am not going to ever doubt that the Seahawks and GM John Schneider can put together a good secondary after starting over. But, I think we can all agree that these projects take time. Seattle could not remake the linebacking corps and safety positions overnight, though Mike Macdonald was hired to overcome some of those deficiencies early and maximize a talented secondary and a strong defensive line. 

22. New York Giants

I think the Giants had one of the best offseasons in the NFL. And, we can say that it was somewhat un-Giant-like, though I disagree. Outside of a few exceptions, owner John Mara and the team’s longest-standing personnel members have had a pretty good track record on letting go of superstar players. Think of former franchise greats such as Hakeem Nicks. Letting Barkley go, picking up the eventual comp selection and then trading for Brian Burns was about as savvy as it gets. This team will be immeasurably better in 2024. The players who matter for this franchise all benefit. Now, getting the quarterback position right will bookend what has been a fantastic few months. Oh, and I don’t care that Barkley went to the Eagles. Giants fans shouldn't, either. 

23. Minnesota Vikings

It’s tough to put the Vikings this low because they signed some of my favorite players in free agency. DE Jonathan Greenard was a speed demon for Houston and, with DC Brian Flores, could best his career high 12.5 sack total from a year ago. Van Ginkel, for those who have listened to The MMQB podcast for years, was a perennial favorite and is one of the great multi-tool defenders in the NFL. I think head coach Kevin O’Connell will truly unlock Sam Darnold. All that said, did they do enough to assert themselves over the Bears, and buttress themselves in case the signing of Justin Jefferson gets complicated?  

24. Washington Commanders 

O.K., so, we’re going to criticize some teams for loading up on veteran talent and we’re going to compliment others. It’s a feel thing, alright? The Commanders grabbed three of the great dudes of the NFL in Bobby Wagner, Zach Ertz and Austin Ekeler, and I love this for new coach Dan Quinn. Sometimes it's less about adding immediate value and more about teaching a locker room how to win, how to run a defense, how to score, how to be the consummate complimentary offensive football player. Washington will go through its rookie quarterback struggles this year, but could have an almost Houston-ian flare to the team with the right bounces of the ball. 

25. Los Angeles Chargers

I know what you’re going to say: The Chargers did next to nothing in free agency, so why do you have them ranked above the Broncos and Titans? Well, they still acquired Jim Harbaugh and possess Justin Herbert’s contractual rights. And, their free agency was not insignificant. The Chargers seemed to identify that lack of middle-roster toughness that was a kind of hallmark of former GM Tom Telesco. The Chargers went after people who will make the lives of opponents less enjoyable over a longer period of time, and, I would be surprised if Harbaugh does not make a push for more grinder offensive line talent in the draft. 

26. Chicago Bears

Extending Jaylon Johnson was a major move for the Bears.
Extending Jaylon Johnson was a major move for the Bears. / Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

The Bears will get a phenomenal player in Caleb Williams atop this year’s draft, plus, potentially another player in the top 10 should they hold onto the second first-round pick. In terms of free agency, this mostly felt like housekeeping, with the signing of CB Jaylon Johnson serving as the centerpiece. However, I wouldn’t discount adding some flex tight end help for Williams, who now has two very good intermediate range pass catchers. S Kevin Byard was also a strong value signing, especially when baked into Matt Eberflus’s defense. 

27. Denver Broncos 

I suppose the Broncos viewed separating themselves from Wilson as the biggest move they needed to make this offseason. And, again, I don’t want to chide a team for not spending in free agency because free agency is a supplementary business. But we’re now projecting Denver with a Jarrett Stidham–rookie QB competition, and Sean Payton’s draft and development history at the quarterback position as a coach is nonexistent. Where are the weapons? Where is the heft and speed up front on defense? 

28. Arizona Cardinals 

I thought the Cardinals did a fine job giving themselves plenty of movable pieces on the defensive side of the ball. Jonathan Gannon will have options with this group, and should be able to create a little bit more of a push out of some unique four-man pressures on the strength of versatility alone. The Cardinals would not surprise me at all if they finished as a top-15 team next year, assuming Kyler Murray can return to form and they bolster the offensive side of the ball, which is still lacking, albeit with more offensive line depth.  

29. Tennessee Titans

I don’t know what the Titans were supposed to do when they let go of Mike Vrabel, so spending as a kind of counterweight to offset the bewilderment of the fanbase and simultaneously buoy Brian Callahan makes sense. On paper, adding Calvin Ridley and Tony Pollard in order to get a complete view on Will Levis is a good idea. Trading for Sneed helps the defense immeasurably. Quite honestly, CB Chidobe Awuzie was probably my favorite signing. But, I know a few people who make contracts for a living who were surprised with the Ridley price tag (four years, $92 million), and I think it’s fair to wonder if we just like the idea of this group of names without understanding what we’re really going to get production-wise. 

30. Las Vegas Raiders

If I’m an interim coach turned full-timer, I don’t love going into a far more difficult situation with Aidan O’Connell and Gardner Minshew, but that’s just me. Signing Wilkins was a nice display of aggression and will certainly help further unlock the seemingly limitless potential of Maxx Crosby. But, generally, where did these moves leave the Raiders? Are they better off than they were in January? Sure. Are they enough better off? No. 

31. New England Patriots

Before the start of free agency, the intelligence I had gathered at the combine suggested that New England was going to throw some money around. Now, when you have to replace a quarterback, that takes priority. And when you are replacing a legendary coach there is probably going to exist some degree of skepticism. I thought the Panthers did a better job overall of addressing their needs, while the Patriots were a bit more methodical. Their big moment may end up coming during the draft.

32. Carolina Panthers 

I thought the Panthers did the absolute best they could in free agency, with a few notably smart maneuvers: guard play, especially with shorter quarterbacks, is essential and Bryce Young now has two very good interior linemen to help him. I’m less bullish on the Diontae Johnson deal yielding much because, as we’ve seen, the Steelers getting rid of a great wide receiver tends to be a massive red flag. Jadeveon Clowney continues to be one of the best values in the NFL, and I am stunned that another contender did not overpay for his services after another solid season in Baltimore last year. 

John Pluym


John Pluym is the managing editor for NFL and golf content at Sports Illustrated. A sports history buff, he previously spent 10 years at ESPN overseeing NFL coverage. John has won several awards throughout his career, including from the Society of News Design and Associated Press Sports Editors. As a native Minnesotan, he enjoys spending time on his boat and playing golf.