7. February 2021

NFL Nation

Now that the LV Super Bowl is in the books and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are champions, we can put the difficult 2020 season behind us and look ahead to 2021. That’s exactly what we’re trying to do with this NFL Power Ranking. What does our panel say about Tom Brady and the Bucs in 2021? What is the position of the Kansas City Chiefs? What about the Houston Texans, whose quarterback wants to be traded?

NFL teams will spend the next six months building their squads and moving up to the top of the rankings when play resumes in the fall. The new year of the Championship (and Free Agency) begins on the 17th. March, and the first round of the 2021 draft. The NFL is scheduled for the 29th. April’s too late.

Here’s how we see next season now – from 1 to 32 – with our NFL editors describing the offseason for the teams they cover in three words or less.

How are we doing? Our panel of more than 80 writers, editors and broadcasters evaluated the teams’ performance throughout the season.

Jumping:
ARI: ATL: BAL: BUF: CAR: CHI: CIN:
CLE: DAL: DEN: DET: GB: HOU: IND:
JAX: KC: LV: LAC: LAR: MIA: MIN:
NE: NO: NYG: NYJ: PHI: PIT: SF:
SEA: TB: TEN: WSH

Record 2020: 14-2

Off-season in three words or less: Pull the shaft again.

Despite the defeat in the Super Bowl, the offseason will be a success for the Chiefs if they can surround their many expensive players with good, cheap young players, as they did last year. Although they were drafted at the end of many rounds and had only six picks, the Chiefs put the brakes on many of their options, including fourth corner Jarius Sneed, and also found two goalies after the draft. — Adam Thacher.

Record 2020: 13-3

Off-season in three words or less: We’ll be back.

Those are probably the three most heard words from the Bills players and staff after the loss against the Chiefs in the AFC championship game. Buffalo is ready for another move to the CFA, but some adjustments will need to be made. The bills must fit into this year’s bill while also taking into account a declining wage ceiling. But with so many key players, both starters and those already under contract, they are in a position to make another attempt to win the AFC title. — Marcel Louis-Jacques

play

1:07

Booger McFarland doesn’t think the Packers will replace Aaron Rodgers anytime soon.

Record 2020: 13-3

Off-season in three words or less: Call Rogers for help.

It doesn’t necessarily mean a weapon in the first round… or any round. But if the Packers can redeem Aaron Rodgers, it could be helpful in the long run. Maybe that’s why coach Matt LaFleur made changes to two of his three coordinators (defense and special teams). A different offensive weapon wouldn’t have helped Rodgers lose the NFC Championship Game, nor would an offensive tackle or another cornerback – or better coaching and game decisions in the game. — Rob Demovsky

Record 2020: 11-5

Off-season in three words or less: What time of year?

Not only did the Bucs reach the playoffs for the first time since 2007 and win their first postseason game since 2002, but they also won the Super Bowl with Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski and company. Knowing that they didn’t have an offseason last year to build an offense around Brady because of COWID-19 and still made it to the Super Bowl, 2021 gives them a chance to grow even closer together and build more chemistry. — Jenna Lane.

play

2:04

Joe Montana talks about Tom Brady’s desire to play in the NFL for as long as physically possible.

Record 2020: 10-6

Off-season in three words or less: Great successes

At the end of the season, Rams coach Sean McVay promised to evaluate every position on the roster, including quarterback. McVay made no guarantees when asked if Jared Goff would be on the list in 2021, adding another layer after Goff’s inconsistent season and McVay’s decision to back John Walford in the wild-card playoffs, despite Goff’s insistence that he play 12 days after his thumb surgery. Two weeks after the Rams’ season ended in the divisional playoffs, Goff left. The Rams traded him to the Lions with a first round pick in 2022 and 2023 and a third round pick in 2021 in exchange for quarterback Matthew Stafford. It’s the Super Bowl of Boe 2.0. — Lindsay Tyree

Record 2020: 11-5

Off-season in three words or less: Help Lamar.

The Ravens spent most of last season trying to fix the defense on the front seven. This year’s focus should be on improving the support around Lamar Jackson and moving the pitching forward. To improve its passing attack, which ranks 32nd in the NFL, Baltimore would need to strengthen its offensive line, add a proven wide receiver and pass to another tight stop. The Ravens haven’t quite made up for last year’s losses after the departure of Pro Bowl defender Marshall Yanda and the trade-in of Hayden Hurst in an evenly matched game. The lack of a consistent passing game hurt Baltimore, especially in the playoffs. — Jamison Hensley

2 Connected

Record 2020: 11-5

Off-season in three words or less: Keep up the good work.

After years of lack of success, the Browns finally had a decisive season in 2020, winning a playoff game for the first time in 26 years. Now, to reach the Super Bowl for the first time in franchise history, the key to last season’s success will have to be pushed back. The good news is that the gains appear to be sustainable, as Miles Garrett, Nick Chubb, Denzel Ward and Baker Mayfield are all 25 and under. But the Browns still have work to do, especially on defense. After extending Garrett last season, they need to attract more young stars for the future. — Jake Trotter

Record 2020: 12-4

Off-season in three words or less: Waldron and Adams

The Seahawks’ new offensive coordinator and strong safety from the Pro Bowl shared time with the Bills, given all that awaits them. Shane Waldron will be responsible for establishing a new (or perhaps partially new) program and contacting Russell Wilson in what could be another condensed offseason. Jamal Adams is recovering from shoulder and finger surgery while conducting contract negotiations that will likely make him the highest paid player in the NFL. When the Seahawks acquired Adams last summer, they thought they could trade him in the offseason as a last resort if they couldn’t make a deal. This means that they have a lot of reason to think about the future of the project before it starts. — Brady Henderson.

– Ranking of top 50 free agents
– Biggest upcoming decisions regarding free agents
– Highest offseason needs for the 32 teams
More information about the free agent season

Record 2020: 6-10

Off-season in three words or less: Enlarge window

The 49ers took a big step back to 2020 after last year’s Super Bowl. However, most of these declines are due to an unprecedented accumulation of injuries. The Niners will now spend the offseason working on their recovery and answering some tough questions from the team. The fragments are always there to come back into the league when the 49ers have more injury problems and can keep the roster deep enough to fill in the gaps when the inevitable health issues hit again. — Nick Wagoner

Record 2020: 11-5

Off-season in three words or less: Continuity in guidance

Mike Vrabel has promoted Todd Downing, coach of the top teams, to replace Arthur Smith, offensive coordinator, who is now the Falcons’ coach. Vrabel chose Downing to avoid a complete change of terminology and scheme. The Titans are also giving Shane Bowen a chance to return as a defensive lineman, this time with the title of Defense Coordinator attached to his name. Tennessee posted an 11-5 record last season and won the AFC Southern Division title, but suffered a disappointing loss in the first round of the playoffs. Let’s see how the coordinators’ decisions affect the Titans as they move to the next phase. — Turron Davenport

play

0:59

Dan Orlovsky explains what needs to happen in the Steelers’ organization if Ben Roethlisberger returns for another year.

Record 2020: 12-4

Off-season in three words or less: Is Ben back?

It’s about Ben Rothlisberger. The Steelers’ future depends on what they do with the veteran quarterback. Obviously, he can’t play for $41.2 million on his contract, which expires in 2021. It looks like Roethlisberger is leaning toward a comeback, but the Steelers can’t do anything in the offseason until Roethlisberger has decided and accepted the salary the Steelers are asking for. And they need him to take the pressure off the budget and contract free agents again. Art Rooney II said the team is in winning mode, but the Steelers still have a lot of work to do to field a team that can make it to 2021. — Brooke Pryor.

Record 2020: 10-6

Off-season in three words or less: Do you believe in Tua?

The Dolphins made a public commitment to Tua Tagovailoa at the start of the offseason, naming him the starter for 2021, expressing confidence in his development and saying they expect him to start his second year after a rookie season full of twists and turns. All of the Dolphins’ early moves indicate that all is well with Tagovailoa, but Miami will be in the midst of sweepstakes and draft speculation from Dashawn Watson for the next three months. So we’ll really find out through the Dolphins’ actions how much they trust Tagovailoa as their QB franchise. — Cameron Wolfe

play

1:35

Tua Tagovailoa says he is focused on improving and is not letting rumours of a swap with Deshaun Watson get the better of him.

Record 2020: 12-4

Off-season in three words or less: Life after Bree.

Drew Brees is expected to retire after 15 seasons in New Orleans, and the Saints expect their payroll to exceed $100 million at the start of the championship year. Unfortunately, their list is still too complete to be considered fully recovered. So they need to roll up their sleeves, determine their next QB (most likely Jameis Winston or Taysom Hill) and decide which players they can’t live without. Free Agents Marcus Williams, Trey Hendrickson and Winston will be the top decision makers in 2021 and Free Agents Marshawn Lattimore, Ryan Ramczyk and Terron Armstead in 2022. — Mike Triplett

Record 2020: 8-8

Off-season in three words or less: The solution.

After Week 7, the Cardinals stood at 5-2 and were preparing not only for a spot in the playoffs, but also for a potentially deep race for the postseason. They finished the year 3-6, including a loss against the Rams in a backup quarterback battle in Week 17 when a postseason spot was up for grabs, and stayed on the bench to watch the playoffs. What went wrong, and how can you prevent it from happening again? Here’s what the Cardinals need to understand this off-season. — Josh Weinfuss.

Record 2020: 11-5

Off-season in three words or less: Who plays QB?

The Colts are about to have their fifth starting quarterback in Week 1 in as many seasons. They found themselves in this position because Jacoby Brissett couldn’t keep it up in 2019 and Philip Rivers, despite making the playoffs last season, decided to quit. One name that should be crossed off the Colts’ list is Matthew Stafford, who was traded from Detroit to the Rams. — Mike Wells

Simulation plans: Kiper | McShay
Note: Kiper | McShay
– Meet the Elite Class QB
– 30 Great Questions for Kiper & McShay
Full Ranking | Selection Order | Plus

Record 2020: 7-9

Off-season in three words or less: Back to discord

Although the Viking offense is the most explosive unit Mike Zimmer has had in seven seasons, the defense broke down in 2020. Minnesota needs to find some sort of balance so the defense can carry its weight. It needs more basketball players, more defensive players, and to continue the experience of this year. The Vikings don’t look like a team that can make big leaps in free agency in terms of cap space, but it’s a good time to get creative (with a trade, for example) if they want a serious upgrade at any position – whether it’s on defense or even as a quarterback. With all the movement in the league, why wouldn’t Minnesota consider a move, however aggressive, to get back in the game? — Courtney Cronin

Record 2020: 8-8

Off-season in three words or less: Who’s Derek Carr?

Welcome to the annual Raider Nation mid-season tradition of embedding or banishing the most polarizing figure in franchise history from the city. Last year it was Tom Brady who had to replace Carr – so to speak – and now it’s Aaron Rodgers and/or Deshaun Watson. Never mind that the Raiders’ defense needs an overhaul. As for the Raiders and Carr, it’s a QB…. franchise until it is. And nothing short of a real move will erase this speculation. — Paul Gutierrez

Record 2020: 7-9

Off-season in three words or less: recruiting

The Chargers have hired head coach Brandon Staley (their first defensive coach since Marty Schottenheimer in 2002) and two coordinators, offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi and defensive coordinator Renaldo Hill. You seem confident and responsible. You just need the same kind of wizard. It could be a talented team that includes Justin Herbert, Austin Ekeler, Keenan Allen and Joey Bosa that needs to get back on their feet. – Shelley Smith

Talk about the NFL’s biggest games, the original series and more. Watch ESPN+

Record 2020: 6-10

Off-season in three words or less: All about Duck.

This has been the case since the end of the 2018 season. Twice Dak Prescott and Cowboys management have negotiated long-term contracts without reaching an agreement. They now face a third round of negotiations to find a solution or the possibility of finding another quarterback, either for next season or for 2022. If the Cowboys contract Prescott for a second season, it will cost them $37.7 million and gobble up a significant portion of the salary cap. A long-term contract would do the same thing, but they would have their quarterback for at least the next four years. — Todd Archer

Record 2020: 7-9

Off-season in three words or less: Belichick’s Burger Tour

It’s time for the Patriots, who won 7-9 in their first year after Tom Brady and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2008, to work aggressively to improve the talent on the team – especially at the quarterback, receiver and back guard levels. Just as Bill Belichick took an aggressive approach in 2007 by adding receivers Randy Moss and Wes Welker, he will be aggressive this season. — Mike Reiss.

Record 2020: 7-9

Off-season in three words or less: Wanted: BQ Help

Washington has been seriously questioning this position for decades. She has a world class defensive line ready to fight for the titles now. Quarterback Matthew Stafford is missing, but the search continues. Because if Washington doesn’t get one of the few QBs he wants, he can send Alex Smith back, maybe add another young QB to the Groomen (in his already young reserve group), and strengthen two areas of the offense: the line and the wide receivers. Then continue your research in 2022. — John Keim.

In conversations with former players, coaches and celebrities, Peyton Manning looks at the history of football and its cultural influence. Watch ESPN+

Record 2020: 4-12

Off-season in three words or less: Matt and Julio

The biggest question for new General Manager Terry Fontenot and Coach Arthur Smith is what to do with QB Matt Ryan and WR Julio Jones. Both have high ceilings (Ryan $40.9 million, Jones $23 million) and the Falcons are $41.7 million above their projected ceiling for 2021. Ryan and Jones are still playing at a high level, but would it be better for the new administration to trade one or two players (it might be hard to find a team willing to take over their contracts), try to restructure those contracts, or find some other way to cut salaries and scrap the team to try to get another chance to play in the playoffs before starting over? -Michael DiRocco

Record 2020: 5-11

Off-season in three words or less: Quarterback update

The fact that Carolina shot Matthew Stafford is the latest sign that the team wants an upgrade from Teddy Bridgewater, either by draft or trade. Quarterback Deshaun Watson is next on the list of commercial interests. If there is no way to trade down, look for the Panthers to take the number 8 quarterbacks or possibly make a trade and take someone like McJones from Alabama who impressed the Senior Bowl staff. — David Newton

Record 2020: 8-8

Off-season in three words or less: Saving our jobs

The Bears are in a precarious position with no quarterback franchisee on the roster. Manager Ryan Pace and Coach Matt Nagy were tasked with solving the mystery of the 70-year-old Chicago quarterback. The Bears need to wear down every snap at quarterback in the coming weeks and months. The pressure on the duo is enormous. If Pace and Nagy can’t adequately solve this problem, the Bears will likely make radical changes in 2022. — Jeff Dickerson

Record 2020: 6-10

Off-season in three words or less: Find a playmaker

Wide receiver. Tight end. Edger. Corner. The Giants need help at all of these top positions, whether it’s through free agency or drafting. Owner John Mara and General Manager Dave Gettleman even admitted after the season that they needed to look for playmakers for the offseason. Let the hunt begin. — Jordan Ranan

play

1:30

Adam Schefter takes down the Eagles, maybe swap Carson Wentz in the next few days.

Record 2020: 4-11-1

Off-season in three words or less: Life after the crown

Carson Wentz should be traded this week. Their long-term plan for the quarterback position was torn up and scrapped after a disastrous 2020 season in which Wentz lost confidence in the organization. Now it’s time to pick up the pieces. Jalen Hurts, who was selected in the second round in April, showed promise in the final quarter of the season in place of Wentz. New coach Nick Sirianni, who replaces Super Bowl winner Doug Pederson, has been tasked with setting up a system for the Hurts, or whatever it is as QB1, while trying to get the franchise back on track. — Tim McManus.

Record 2020: 4-11-1

Off-season in three words or less: Help Burrow.

That shouldn’t be difficult. The Bengals lost their quarterback of the season due to a shaky play on the opposing line. Cincinnati needs to strengthen this department with a free project and agency. Joe Burrow could also use another quality option alongside Tyler Boyd and rookie T. Higgins. Barrow help also means better protection and less pressure on the offense and young quarterback. Cincinnati may need a quality courier no matter what happens after Carl Lawson leaves. — Ben Baby

The story of the long dispute between Raiders owner and NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle is celebrated on the 4th. The first took place in February and can be seen on ESPN+. Watch ESPN+

Record 2020: 5-11

Off-season in three words or less: Make the call.

What the Broncos do as quarterbacks dictates much of their offseason plan. They considered dipping their toe into Matthew Stafford’s commercial waters, but if the plan is to go with Drew Locke and find a better veteran to push him, go for it. If you want to go for Lock and pick the best quarterback available in April on the ninth down or in the second round, do so. If you want to break up with Locke, do it. But make one final call. Studying each option is a fun conversation, but without the traditional off-season schedule and with a planned reduction in the salary cap, the sooner the Broncos make a decision on a plan, the better. -Jeff Legwold

Record 2020: 2-14

Off-season in three words or less: Deshawn or de-peak?

The Jets have two paths back to respectability: (1) Trade with Deshaun Watson, who will be their best quarterback since Joe Namath. (2) Use your starting money (four of the first 66 picks) to improve the group around QB Sam Darnold. They can’t do both because the purchase price of Watson’s acquisition might exempt them from a premium-draft election. You can throw a curve ball and call a quarterback with the overall second pick, but the first feeling is that it will be Watson or option 2. If it’s the latter, it’s GM Joe Douglas who has to make the choices. — Rich Cimini.

Record 2020: 5-11

Off-season in three words or less: Welcome back.

Lions’ new CEO, Brad Holmes, may not want to use that term – he prefers the term conversion – but let’s be clear: Detroit is at the beginning of a multi-year project to solve 60-year-old problems. The first is to find a quarterback after Matthew Stafford – who has become Jared Goff, at least in the short term – and to use the three set-pieces the Lions got for Stafford (third round this year and first round in 2022 and 2023) to bring in some impact players. We need to start on defense, where every position group has serious questions. — Michael Rothstein

Record 2020: 1-15

Off-season in three words or less: Start again.

The owner, Shad Khan, hired Urban Meyer to re-evaluate and improve an organization that had lost at least 10 games in nine of the last 10 seasons. Changing the culture is the biggest challenge. Meyer supplements his coaching and support staff with people with whom he has worked at the university level and who are familiar with his ideas and approaches. But the most important thing is to find a QB, and the Jaguars need to write Trevor Lawrence. That, like everything Meyer does, could change the direction of the franchise. -Michael DiRocco

play

1:21

Regardless of the Texans’ decision with Deshaun Watson, Demonique Foxworth says there are downsides to trading down or keeping the BQ.

Record 2020: 4-12

Off-season in three words or less: Deshawn Watson’s watch

The Texans knew the offseason would be decisive when CEO Cal McNair hired a new general manager and head coach after firing Bill O’Brien during the season. What the team could not foresee was that Watson’s relationship with the team deteriorated to the point where he asked for a deal less than five months after signing a four-year, $156 million contract extension with Houston. The season will likely be long for the Texans and new general manager Nick Caserio, as he must decide what to do with the club’s star quarterback. Based on these rankings, the NFL expects Watson to be elsewhere in 2021. -Sarah Bar Shop

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