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Power Rankings: Brady’s Bucs higher than Pats – NFL.com

COVID-19 might have humanity in hiding, but the Power Rankings cower from nothing and no one.

We’re back for the first time in seven weeks, checking in on teams after the first wave of free agency. We’ll run this back again after the draft. Need more of an NFL fix during these uncertain times? Check out the Around The NFL Podcast, hosted by yours truly, which is coming at you five days a week during this profoundly weird time in human history.

OK, back to my cave. Try not to get too worked up about where your team sits on March 24. As recent world events have made abundantly clear, life can change in a hurry.

Be safe and stay healthy, friends.

NOTE: Team movement below reflects changes from the post-Super Bowl LIV Power Rankings.

Previous rank:
No. 1

The defending champions were quiet in the first wave of free agency. Which is … fine. Kansas City slapped the franchise tag on
Chris Jones when it couldn’t get a long-term deal done with the standout defensive lineman. A notable defender was lost when
Kendall Fuller returned to the
Redskins. On the other side of the ball, receiver
Sammy Watkins is still here. The veteran wideout was thought to be a potential cap casualty, but he remains a
Chiefs employee as of this writing. We’ll see if it stays that way.

Previous rank:
No. 2

Good for general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan for resisting temptation.
Tom Brady has long been connected to the team he rooted for as a boy, and NFL circumstances aligned to the degree that Brady in a Niners uniform became a very real possibility. But sticking with
Jimmy Garoppolo is the smart long-term move; it is this humble Power Ranker’s opinion that Jimmy G gets entirely too much guff from the Football Cognoscenti. Trading away the excellent
DeForest Buckner unquestionably stings, but it puts the defending NFC champions in position to enter next month’s draft with
a pair of first-round picks. Not a bad place to be.

Previous rank:
No. 5

Packers fans had to wince when they saw superstar wideout
DeAndre Hopkins get moved to the
Cardinals for
less than a first-round pick. There had long been rumblings about Hopkins and Bill O’Brien being in a not-so-great place prior to the trade. Did
Packers GM Brian Gutekunst ever pick up the phone? Consider this yet another example of why we need a GM App that connects all these guys. Just imagine Hopkins and
Davante Adams running routes for
Aaron Rodgers! It ain’t happening, and it looks like the necessary upgrades at the skill positions will have to wait for the draft. Unsolicited advice for Gutie: Call the
Bengals and kick the tires on
A.J. Green.

Previous rank:
No. 6

With a new deal for
Ryan Tannehill and the franchise tag for
Derrick Henry, the
Titans will enter the 2020 campaign with the two players who guided them to the brink of an AFC title, including
a playoff conquest in Foxborough in January. (Quick aside: Congrats to free agent
Logan Ryan, who can always say he intercepted
Tom Brady‘s final pass as a Patriot and
took it to the end zone.) Not all the news was good in the first wave of free agency, though: Right tackle
Jack Conklin, a former top-10 pick who routinely blew open running lanes for Henry, is now in Cleveland on a
rich free-agent deal. Coming off a monster 2019 workload and absent a key run blocker, it’s fair to wonder if a dip in production is coming for Henry.

Previous rank:
No. 7

In one of the surprise twists of free agency,
Jadeveon Clowney remains on the open market at publishing. This could bode well for the
Seahawks, who have a standing offer that might end up being
the best one Clowney receives. Teams that are run well set a value on a player and stick to it, resisting the temptation to overpay and limit their options down the road. We’ll see if GM John Schneider is rewarded for his prudence.

Previous rank:
No. 12

GM Howie Roseman made a big splash
with his trade for cornerback Darius Slay, a proven difference-maker who addresses a huge area of need in the
Eagles‘ secondary and helps mitigate the loss of
Malcolm Jenkins, who signed with the
Saints. Roseman used free agency to land defensive tackle
Javon Hargrave, a monster on the interior and a fine complement to
Fletcher Cox and
Malik Jackson. The defense feels like it’s in a better place, but what about the other side of the ball?
Carson Wentz needs some explosive playmakers he can count on. Receiver
Robby Anderson is still out there and makes sense. Roseman could also choose the draft to address a glaring need at that position.

Previous rank:
No. 16

All I want to do is talk about
Ben Roethlisberger’s beard. It’s magnificent and mysterious and hideous and bizarre and comforting … all at the same time. It looks like
Big Ben has been in quarantine since
last March. The exit of
Javon Hargrave to the
Eagles hurts, but the
Steelers acted quickly to address the loss by trading with the Ravens(!) for defensive lineman
Chris Wormley. On offense, Roethlisberger
gets a new red-zone weapon in tight end
Eric Ebron, who is one season removed from a 13-touchdown campaign with Andrew Luck and the
Colts. Ebron is a flawed player, but the former first-round pick has a chance to put up numbers in Pittsburgh’s two tight end offense.

Previous rank:
No. 13

The
Cowboys made the move they felt they had to, biting down hard and making
Amari Cooper
one of the highest-paid wide receivers in football. Cooper,
Ezekiel Elliott and
Dak Prescott might comprise the best set of “triplets” in the NFL, but Dallas will have a
lot of money invested in just three players (assuming the franchise-tagged Dak eventually gets that long-term deal). To make this work, Dallas must be smart and effective in the second and third wave of free agency, then the draft. Former All-Pro
Gerald McCoy was
a solid signing on the interior defensive line, but players out the door include cornerback
Byron Jones, pass rusher
Robert Quinn, receiver
Randall Cobb, tight end
Jason Witten and defensive tackle
Maliek Collins. Oh, and
Pro Bowl center Travis Frederick just retired. Jerrah and Co. have work to do.

Previous rank:
No. 19

Tom Brady is the quarterback of the
Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It’s the biggest free-agent move in the history of the franchise, and it instantly makes the Bucs one of the most compelling teams in the NFL. It was the rare perfect move in free agency: Brady gets
a two-year deal for not obscene money (two years and $50 million, with $9 million in incentives) to bring his unmatched experience and leadership to town. It also frees the Bucs from the purgatory that comes with
Jameis Winston as your starting quarterback. Tampa Bay tried to make it work with the former No. 1 overall pick, but it just never happened. Brady will enter Week 1 at 43 years old, but he’s never been this motivated, and he’ll have
star players to throw the ball to. This should be fun.

Previous rank:
No. 20

Peter King
wrote this week that
Tom Brady had interest in signing with the
Colts, so consider it notable that Indy never made a contract offer to the G.O.A.T. The team instead invested its resources in
Philip Rivers, giving the longtime
Chargers star a one-year, $25 million deal that instantly upgrades the quarterback position while giving Frank Reich and Chris Ballard wiggle room to plan for the future at the position.
Brian Hoyer
signed with New England over the weekend after being released by the
Colts, an indication that
Jacoby Brissett will slide back into his more natural position as a No. 2 man. The
Colts have as good a chance as anyone to claim the AFC South in 2020.

Previous rank:
No. 11

Trading a 26-year-old star receiver coming off back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons is never easy, but the
Vikings
did what they had to do with
Stefon Diggs. It seemed like Diggs was never going to be happy in Minnesota, and
the decision to extend quarterback
Kirk Cousins essentially sealed Diggs’ fate in purple. So they flipped the playmaker to the
Bills for four draft picks, including a first-rounder. That’s
more than acceptable compensation for an excellent wideout who’s still probably a pace or two behind the true elites at his position. The win-now
Vikings have 12 draft picks next month, including two in the first round at Nos. 22 and 25 overall. A Diggs replacement and a cornerback (or three) are on the menu.

Previous rank:
No. 9

It’s a trade that could go down as one of the greatest heists ever:
DeAndre Hopkins and a fourth-round pick to the
Cardinals for
David Johnson, a second-rounder and a fourth-rounder. Hopkins, arguably the best wideout in the NFL, was sent packing for 50 cents on the dollar in a seismic trade that puts coach/GM Bill O’Brien directly under the spotlight (and perhaps on the hot seat) like never before. Hopkins
used social media to try to downplay reports of a fractured relationship with his head coach, and O’Brien can present the trade to his boss as a move that provides future cap relief, imports a quality player in Johnson and delivers welcome draft capital. But c’mon. On paper, the
Texans got a lot worse. You can only wonder what
Deshaun Watson is thinking, especially now that
he’s in Cryptic Tweet Mode.

Previous rank:
No. 8

It’s almost impossible to imagine a scenario in which
Tom Brady is not the quarterback of the
New England Patriots. And yet, here … we … are. The G.O.A.T. now grazes in Tampa, and the
Patriots didn’t make a move to add a quarterback to their roster until this past weekend, when they welcomed
Brian Hoyer back for
a third stint with the team. Is it possible Bill Belichick could enter camp with a quarterback room headlined by
Jarrett Stidham, a 2019 fourth-round pick with four career pass attempts, and Hoyer, a career backup entering his age-35 season? Seems unlikely, but New England so far has passed on the other notable QBs on the open market. The Brady-Belichick divorce changes everything: at 1 Patriot Place, in the AFC East and across the entire NFL.

Previous rank:
No. 14

Change happens fast in the NFL: The
Rams have quickly gone from an organization on the rise to a team in transition. Running back
Todd Gurley, the former face of the franchise and the man who once seemed destined to open up Sofi Stadium as the building’s biggest star,
was released and
quickly signed by the
Falcons. Nearly half the team’s starting defense from 2019 must be replaced.
Teams are calling about receiver
Brandin Cooks. There are still building block pieces in place (
Jared Goff,
Aaron Donald and
Jalen Ramsey form a damn solid foundation), but the
Super Bowl window has closed for the time being. Can Sean McVay and Les Snead re-open it?

Previous rank:
No. 15

Solid work by the
Falcons in the first week of the league year. The team
imported two
Rams stars in running back
Todd Gurley and pass rusher
Dante Fowler Jr., then replaced tight end
Austin Hooper (off to Cleveland on a big-money deal)
by trading for former
Ravens first-round pick
Hayden Hurst, a young player with legit upside. Fowler is an upgrade over
Vic Beasley, who signed with the
Titans, but it’s Gurley who exists as the team’s great curiosity. The chronic knee issue can’t be ignored, but is it possible the
Rams‘ regression along their offensive line was overlooked as an explanation for Gurley’s pedestrian play in 2019? We’ll find out in September. (Hopefully.)

Previous rank:
No. 23

The
Browns continue to do well this time of year. Cleveland acted fast as the negotiation window opened, landing tight end
Austin Hooper and right tackle
Jack Conklin, the two best players
on the market at their respective positions. The Conklin move was especially important, as the
Browns must do everything in their power to clean up the pocket for
Baker Mayfield in his pivotal third season. If Cleveland can land a legit left tackle with the 10th overall pick, it will have turned a team weakness into a strength. One interesting note:
Case Keenum got $10 million in guaranteed money to be Mayfield’s backup. That’s a lot. Hmmmm …

Previous rank:
No. 21

The
Jets have drafted as poorly as anyone in the league over the last decade, and too often, the team has tried to make up for that shortcoming with high-profile free-agent signings that rarely work out. GM Joe Douglas was brought in to change how the team does business, and we’ve seen that through the first wave of free agency. Douglas passed on making a huge splash in favor of a quiet rebuild of the offensive line. The
Jets added three new starters (LT
George Fant, C
Connor McGovern, OG Greg Van Roten) on sensible deals, and could add a fourth new starter with
the No. 11 pick in the draft. Wide receiver
Robby Anderson, meanwhile, remains on the open market. Could Anderson end up back with the
Jets on a prove-it deal? It would be a best-case scenario for New York.

Previous rank:
No. 17

The
Bears did what everyone expected, bringing in
a veteran name brand to compete with Mitch Trubisky. That veteran is
Nick Foles, the former
Super Bowl MVP who endured a nightmarish (but very lucrative) one-season stint with the
Jaguars. Trubisky will likely enter training camp as the presumed starter, but holding off Foles will be much more difficult than fending off
Chase Daniel was a year ago. Put it this way: There’s a very good chance Foles ends up starting more games next year than the former first-round pick hypothetically ahead of him on the depth chart. The
Robert Quinn signing was … fine. The move to bring in 33-year-old
Jimmy Graham, who did next to nothing with
Aaron Rodgers throwing him spirals, makes you wonder if GM Ryan Pace will ever figure out the tight end position.

Previous rank:
No. 26

If the
Cardinals weren’t practicing social distancing, surely there would have been a party in Glendale after GM Steve Keim landed wide receiver
DeAndre Hopkins. It was the
rare perfect trade, a move that provided second-year QB Kyle Murray a legit No. 1 wide receiver without mortgaging the future by surrendering premium draft picks. Throw in the fact that Arizona managed to unload the redundant
David Johnson and his bloated contract, and this could go down as the greatest trade heist since Mike Ditka gave up his entire draft class for Ricky Williams. (That really happened, kids.) The
Cardinals
improved their defense, as well, with the additions of linebacker
Devon Kennard and defensive tackle
Jordan Phillips. The
Cardinals could be a player in the NFC West, like, right now.

Previous rank:
No. 24

You knew a spending spree was coming in Miami, and that’s exactly what happened. The
Dolphins, armed with more cap space than any team in the league, handed out a bunch of
big money contracts in the first week of the league year to lock up cornerback
Byron Jones, linebacker
Kyle Van Noy, defensive end
Shaq Lawson and offensive tackle
Ereck Flowers on deals that all equaled at least three years and $30 million. Jones is now the highest-paid cornerback in the NFL.
Jordan Howard was brought aboard to help lift the NFL’s worst rushing attack in 2019. The next piece is the biggest, though: Can the
Dolphins land their quarterback of the future in the draft? If they pick right, they are a player in the wide-open AFC East.
Really!

Previous rank:
No. 27

The
Giants have a fresh start in an Eli-free world, and their work in free agency thus far indicates Big Blue is now taking a more methodical approach to team building. GM Dave Gettleman made a couple of splashes, adding cornerback
James Bradberry and middle linebacker
Blake Martinez on substantial deals, and the decision to franchise
Leonard Williams came with a hefty price tag ($16.1 million). But the whispers connecting the
Giants to
Jadeveon Clowney proved to be false, and the team didn’t make a big splurge to upgrade the offensive line that many predicted. Don’t be surprised if Gettleman uses the
Giants‘ first draft pick (No. 4 overall) to address the team’s offensive line or pass-rush needs.

Previous rank:
No. 31

The
Bengals actually spent some money in free agency! Were they sending a message to
Joe Burrow that they are indeed a team willing and able to compete? Probably not, but it’s fun to connect dots. The
Bengals used the franchise tag to hold onto receiver
A.J. Green, then lifted the NFL’s worst defense with big-money deals for defensive tackle
D.J. Reader and cornerback
Trae Waynes. All told, the
Bengals spent $95 million on the two veterans.
According to ESPN Stats & Information research, Cincy had not committed more than $26 million to a single free agent since 2015. With Burrow waiting in the wings, the
Bengals might be ready to rise. For real.

Previous rank:
No. 30

Ron Rivera ended up importing the quarterback from Charlotte we all expected …
Kyle Allen.
This might not have been the splash move some anticipated in Washington, but it makes sense to give
Dwayne Haskins another year to develop, and Allen is a solid backup type who already knows new coordinator Scott Turner’s offense. Best-case scenario here is Allen helps Haskins absorb a new offense, and Haskins’ game elevates as a result.
Kendall Fuller was a solid add to the secondary. On the downside, the
Trent Williams stalemate is going in the wrong direction. The left tackle’s agent
released a statement on Tuesday that opened with the following plea: “The relationship between the
Redskins and
Trent Williams has reached a point where it’s in the best interest that the
Redskins trade or release him.”

Previous rank:
No. 28

The Jags are starting over. Cornerback
A.J. Bouye, defensive lineman
Calais Campbell and quarterback
Nick Foles were all moved in trades after last year’s grim 6-10 finish. Pass rusher
Yannick Ngakoue is a legitimate tag-and-trade candidate. Yes, a youth movement is on in Jacksonville, and
Gardner Minshew looks like he’ll get the chance to lead the way. Several notable veteran QB options remain on the market, but the
Jaguars would be wise to give Minshew a full season to show what he can do. This will be a developmental year for the franchise; why put a 30-something QB under center? Jacksonville did
hand LB Joe Schobert a hefty deal and signed veteran cornerback
Darqueze Dennard, but this is a team with its eye on tomorrow.

Follow Dan Hanzus on Twitter @DanHanzus.

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