The offseason rolls along, and there will be a handful of recognizable names that change places between now and training camp. But for the most part, a lot of the team-building hay is in the barn with free agency having slowed to a crawl and the 2023 NFL Draft now in the rearview mirror.
If it feels like I played things safely here — picking nine playoff entrants from last season for my ranking of the most complete NFL rosters right now — well, guilty as charged. I just couldn’t quite pull the trigger on promoting a sexy, up-and-coming team such as the Lions or Dolphins, although I did strongly consider the sleeper Browns for the final slot.
Those three might not have escaped the cutting-room floor, but the following 10 teams — the ones with the most talent, the best depth and the fewest remaining question marks — did. Until further notice, I think they’re the best of the best, top to bottom.
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They came up just short in Super Bowl LVII, but there’s no reason to think the state of the Eagles’ roster isn’t as good as — if not better than — it was a year ago.
MVP runner-up Jalen Hurts is back to direct a high-powered offense with great receiving options in A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith and Dallas Goedert (even if the depth behind them at wide receiver and tight end is a bit shaky). The offensive line remains mostly intact thanks to the return of Jason Kelce, and there are multiple quality options for the vacant right guard spot following Isaac Seumalo’s departure in free agency.
There could be some concern with the run game after the loss of Miles Sanders, but I doubt it. Sanders’ diminishing returns down the stretch — and Kenneth Gainwell’s emergence — lead me to believe that Gainwell, Rashaad Penny and D’Andre Swift can match the nearly 2,000 scrimmage yards and 18 TDs the team’s top three backs totaled last season, especially if the team plans to lighten Hurts’ load a bit as a runner.
Defensively, the unquestioned strength is up front. In adding Jalen Carter and Nolan Smith, the Eagles buttressed the league’s best pass rush from 2022, even after losing Javon Hargrave. They can throw waves of rushers at opponents, although the run defense could stand to improve. If there’s a roster weakness, it might be in the back half of the defense. Philly’s in excellent shape at cornerback but has a few question marks at linebacker (with Nakobe Dean and Nicholas Morrow as the possible starters) and safety (Reed Blankenship and Terrell Edmunds are the leading candidates).
Any team with a healthy Patrick Mahomes can overcome roster flaws or shortcomings to make a Super Bowl run, but this Kansas City bunch is not just a one-man show. The team has done an excellent job of replenishing the roster from the bottom up, thanks to some recent quality draft classes and smart free-agent additions.
There are questions at wide receiver again, but there’s hope the group can develop, even after losing JuJu Smith-Schuster and Mecole Hardman. Marquez Valdes-Scantling is a solid performer, while Kadarius Toney could be in line for a breakout season after being sprinkled into the offense as a gadget guy last year. Skyy Moore showed some flashes down the stretch, second-rounder Rashee Rice is intriguing and even Justyn Ross is a wild-card possibility.
The offense still revolves around Mahomes and Travis Kelce, who had one of his finest seasons last year. The three-headed RB attack of Isiah Pacheco, Jerick McKinnon and Clyde Edwards-Helaire is a solid group. The Chiefs should be strong in the blocking department, even with new tackles in Donovan Smith and Jawaan Taylor, as they feature arguably the league’s best interior trio in Joe Thuney, Creed Humphrey and Trey Smith.
Defensively, the Chiefs have a superstar in Chris Jones and other quality performers, but it’s their depth that stands out as most impressive. They can rotate edge rushers Charles Omenihu, George Karlaftis, 2023 first-rounder Felix Anudike-Uzomah, Mike Danna and Malik Herring. Inside, Jones still will be asked to play a lot of snaps after the departure of Khalen Saunders, but K.C. still has Derrick Nnadi, gets Tershawn Wharton back from a torn ACL and could see returns from talented sixth-rounder Keondre Coburn.
The Chiefs’ top four linebackers (Nick Bolton, Willie Gay, Drue Tranquill and Leo Chenal) are very good. The secondary has been bolstered through the draft in recent years, so even losing Juan Thornhill might not be a big concern. L’Jarius Sneed and Trent McDuffie are an excellent CB pair, while safety looks solid with Justin Reid and Bryan Cook at the top. Kansas City’s secondary offers quality depth and versatility via cover men like Jaylen Watson, Joshua Williams, Mike Edwards and Deon Bush, among others.
The 49ers’ biggest question right now could end up being a relative strength. Quarterback remains a concern of sorts following Brock Purdy’s elbow injury, which keeps his timeline to return to action murky. If Purdy can come back and prove that his late-season run was no fluke, the 49ers will be in great shape.
Trey Lance’s trajectory has changed wildly in the past nine months or so, but he’ll still have a chance to rewrite his path and start if Purdy can’t go Week 1. There’s also Sam Darnold, who has 55 career NFL starts to his name, which is pretty good insurance.
There are no gaping holes on the roster, but that’s not to say there aren’t things to sort out. Right now, Colton McKivitz is the top candidate to replace Mike McGlinchey at right tackle. But that’s one of the few major concerns until proven otherwise. The OL depth across the board might be a tad shaky and too dependent on some unknown pieces and projections, but it should be a solid group.
The Niners were gashed by the run a few times, notably by the Eagles in the NFC title game. But if big-ticket free-agent signing Javon Hargrave lives up to his billing, Arik Armstead bounces back from a tough season and someone else (Javon Kinlaw?) steps up, this should be a good defensive interior. On the outside, reigning Defensive Player of the Year Nick Bosa leads a fierce rush, with Drake Jackson a likely candidate to replace the departed Charles Omenihu.
Elsewhere, the 49ers are flush with talent on both sides of the ball. They have a deep well of playmakers on offense — in the backfield, out wide and at tight end — and on defense. Injuries always seem to sink their teeth into this team, but San Francisco’s run/pass versatility with Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel, George Kittle, Kyle Juszczyk and others make this offense very tough to game plan against.
Cincinnati has as talented a roster as just about any team in the league and must be considered a top contender to win the Super Bowl, assuming good health. But that last part is critical, because there still are some caveats that could derail the Bengals’ season.
They opted not to add more significant options at tight end and running back, leaving those positions on the thinner side. Samaje Perine left in free agency, and after months of uncertainty, it appears Joe Mixon isn’t going anywhere for now. Rookie Chase Brown, Trayveon Williams and Chris Evans are the only other real options. At tight end, they’ll likely run with Irv Smith Jr. and others after passing up tempting draft options.
The offensive line is — yet again — an area of some concern. Adding Orlando Brown Jr. at left tackle helps, but there’s a weird situation at right tackle. Is Jonah Williams, who requested a trade, coming back? Can La’el Collins return quickly (and effectively) from a torn ACL? There also is a lack of depth inside and out.
Defensively, the biggest area of concern likely is safety. Starters Jessie Bates and Vonn Bell, who combined to take more than 98 percent of the defensive snaps in 2022, left in free agency. Nick Scott and 2022 first-rounder Dax Hill are the expected starters, with 2023 third-rounder Jordan Battle also in the mix. But attempting to surmise what we’ll see from this unproven group is pure projection.
The Bengals realistically could suffer a major injury in the front seven on defense and be OK. They’ve built up some quality depth at several spots. The backups behind Joe Burrow, Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins represent major drop-offs, although the team did go 3-1 when Chase was out with an injury last season.
Dallas is pretty loaded on defense and could definitely field a top-five unit. The Cowboys addressed a need at defensive tackle with first-round pick Mazi Smith. When you factor in the pass-rushing duo of Micah Parsons and Demarcus Lawrence, and some good depth outside, the ‘Boys boast a deep, talented front.
Linebacker and the secondary also are well stocked. Depending on preseason injuries, there could be some tough cuts in the back seven. The addition of Stephon Gilmore at corner, along with the late-season emergence of linebacker Damone Clark and defensive back DaRon Bland, make this unit deep and dangerous.
On offense, however, there are at least depth concerns at almost every spot. Dak Prescott is coming off a challenging season, and the Cowboys probably can’t afford him missing another five-game chunk in 2023. Cooper Rush ably replaced Prescott and is back, but is he truly a top-tier backup? That’s about all they have at QB.
The depth is better at receiver following the trade for Brandin Cooks, who should diversify the offense. But Dallas really could use Michael Gallup, Jalen Tolbert or someone else stepping up. Running back took a hit with Ezekiel Elliott’s release, which looms larger with Tony Pollard coming off a broken leg and high ankle sprain. Perhaps rookie Deuce Vaughn can carve out a role, but it feels like there’s a void here.
Tight end is in solid shape with the addition of second-rounder Luke Schoonmaker, but the offensive line remains partially unsolved. There might be some shuffling among last year’s starters, and the depth appears so-so right now.
Dallas also needs to find a kicker. But all in all, this is one of the best NFL rosters from top to bottom.
The Bills’ roster is rock solid throughout — with enough high-end talent to firmly crack the upper reaches of the NFL.
Interestingly, there might be more (minor) concerns on offense than defense. Sure, Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs are the nerve center of an attack that has ranked in the top five in each of the last three seasons, but that group struggled somewhat down the stretch. Did the Bills do enough to add help? Rookie tight end Dalton Kincaid could solve Buffalo’s slot receiver problem, and running backs Damien Harris and Latavius Murray should prevent James Cook from being overworked. The biggest issue might be depth at receiver. Diggs is a star, but Gabe Davis is a lower-volume WR2, and the options thereafter (Khalil Shakir, Deonte Harty, Trent Sherfield, Justin Shorter) aren’t mind-blowing. We likely will see ample 12-personnel packages featuring Dawson Knox and Kincaid running together.
The offensive line isn’t dominant, but it’s a respectable group. Most of the unit returns, and there’s help arriving in veterans Connor McGovern and David Edwards, along with second-rounder O’Cyrus Torrence.
The Bills’ defense has depth at all three levels. Von Miller suffered a torn ACL in November, which means his status will be something to watch in camp. Yet with Greg Rousseau, A.J. Epenesa, Boogie Basham and Shaq Lawson, Buffalo could be fine here until Miller is back to 100 percent. Inside, adding Poona Ford gives the Bills a solid top three, along with Ed Oliver and DaQuan Jones.
Losing Tremaine Edmunds opens a hole at middle linebacker, but the Bills appear confident they’ll find a starter opposite Matt Milano from the group of Terrel Bernard, Dorian Williams, A.J. Klein and Tyrel Dodson.
The secondary should be far deeper with a healthy Tre’Davious White and Micah Hyde, along with Kaiir Elam and Christian Benford having a year under their belts. The addition of Taylor Rapp should allow the Bills to work Damar Hamlin back into the rotation only when he is ready, with both safeties providing great depth and flexibility.
The Ravens’ fortunes changed dramatically with Lamar Jackson’s new contract. If you lump in the signing of Odell Beckham Jr., along with a typically sound Ravens draft class, it was a darned good April for the franchise.
Jackson and a reimagined receiver room, along with a new offensive coordinator, could help return the Ravens to prominence on that side of the ball. If the three biggest new additions at wideout (OBJ, Zay Flowers and Nelson Agholor) or the healthy return of Rashod Bateman don’t help things, then we’re fresh out of solutions there.
Depth has been a huge talking point in Baltimore for the past few years, as the team — notably Jackson — has suffered from injury woes. The Ravens certainly could use more insurance at running back, considering how banged up J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards and Justice Hill have been. The depth at the other offensive positions likely rates from solid to good after a few veteran signings and the draft.
Defensively, however, Baltimore still might have a few boxes to check. The biggest could be at corner, where there’s Marlon Humphrey and a lot of question marks. Who is the other outside starter? Who is the slot? Signing Rock Ya-Sin helps, and the Ravens could always bring back Marcus Peters or Kyle Fuller, but more is needed, I believe.
They could be set at defensive tackle with Justin Madubuike, Broderick Washington, Michael Pierce and Travis Jones as the top four, but one more body would be nice. Off the edge, there’s still hope of either Odafe Oweh or David Ojabo (or both) emerging alongside Tyus Bowser, but perhaps they will be open to a Justin Houston type of addition before camp.
The addition of Aaron Rodgers certainly comes with risk, and it’s nowhere close to a long-term solution. But for the time being, there’s no other reasonable stance than to assume that Rodgers is a significant upgrade over what Zach Wilson, Joe Flacco, Mike White and Chris Streveler contributed to one of the NFL’s lowest-scoring offenses a year ago. That move alone doesn’t entirely fix the offense, but there’s hope that their lingering issues can be minimized now. The offensive line has competitions at center and right tackle that need sorting out, but the Jets at least appear to have capable bodies to fight for those jobs, plus a few good pieces.
Wide receiver isn’t entirely sorted out, but there was a big depth-chart alteration with the signings of Rodgers’ guys (Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb), plus underneath weapon Mecole Hardman. It might be a deep enough group that Denzel Mims and/or Corey Davis could be August trade pieces. Tight end appears pretty set, too, even if it’s not a thrilling group yet.
Could the Jets add a veteran running back? Sure. They have youth with Breece Hall, Michael Carter, rookie Israel Abanikanda and Zonovan Knight — all 24 years old or younger — but Hall is returning from a torn ACL, and there might not be a true horse behind him. That’s our only minor quibble.
Defensively, the Jets appear pretty well stocked on the edge and at cornerback, but they’re perhaps a bit less so at defensive tackle, linebacker and safety. The first-round selection of Will McDonald IV was a surprise, but it gives Robert Saleh a deep well of pass rushers to mix and match.
None of their thinner position groups are huge concerns, although we’d be a bit shocked if the Jets didn’t add another defensive tackle — they signed veterans Al Woods and Quinton Jefferson in free agency but found zero in the draft. They could also add more veteran blood at linebacker, such as reprising Kwon Alexander to run it back next season.
All told, though, general manager Joe Douglas has revamped this roster quite well over the past few years. Now we’ll find out if he’s finally found the (shorter-term) answer at quarterback that Gang Green’s long sought.
There’s a reasonable argument that the Seahawks remain a bit thin on the defensive side, mostly on the back end, and that there are a few outstanding needs (such as defensive tackle) that are a bit worrisome. Finding a resurgent Geno Smith was a big development, and the past two draft classes have replenished the talent at several spots, including running back, the offensive line and the secondary.
Smith arguably could have one of the top three WR trios in the league with DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett and 2023 first-rounder Jaxon Smith-Njigba, and the RB combo of Kenneth Walker III and Zach Charbonnet might prove to be excellent. There are some roles to figure out along the offensive line, but it’s a young, fairly solid unit all of a sudden.
At defensive tackle, the ‘Hawks made additions with veterans Dre’Mont Jones and Jarran Reed, along with fourth-rounder Cameron Young through the draft. But is that enough? One more veteran might do the trick, but the options might be pretty lean at this stage of the offseason. They also could be a little lean and veteran-heavy at linebacker, but the return of eight-time Pro Bowler Bobby Wagner is reason to be hopeful.
The secondary might not be quite ready for “Legion of Boom 2.0” status, but there’s a lot to like about the potential of the top four cornerbacks (Tariq Woolen, Devon Witherspoon, Coby Bryant and Mike Jackson) along with a well-paid safety trio (Quandre Diggs, Jamal Adams and Julian Love) that could make this unit one of the league’s best, in time.
The final team slotted here was a tough call. I legitimately considered five squads for this spot — the other four are listed below — and almost pulled the trigger on Cleveland. Instead, I chose the Chargers, a team that perennially appears on these offseason lists despite perpetually seeming to underachieve.
Los Angeles’ roster is far from perfect, but it might have the fewest major questions of the remaining teams. Throw in Justin Herbert, a good pass rush and just enough higher-end talents elsewhere, and the Chargers claim the 10th spot here.
Entering the prime of his career, Herbert has good weapons with length in Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Joshua Palmer and first-rounder Quentin Johnston, who could be a critical piece if Allen and Williams are banged up again. The backfield should be in good shape for this season, even with Austin Ekeler (who requested a trade) heading into the final season of his contract. The hope remains that one of the other backs (Joshua Kelley, Isaiah Spiller, Larry Rountree III) steps up to shoulder more of the load.
Good health willing, the Bolts might actually have solved their O-line issues. With Rashawn Slater back at left tackle, Jamaree Salyer likely kicks in to right guard, which could end up making this group a team strength by season’s end.
The pass-rush unit, led by Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack, runs deeper now and is a top-tier group. Defensive tackle is a blue-collar lot, but a relatively solid one. Linebacker saw two bodies (Drue Tranquill and Troy Reeder) leave and two (Eric Kendricks and rookie Daiyan Henley) enter the picture.
The secondary is a potential area of concern, but if things break right, it might be in decent shape. The abrupt retirement of Nasir Adderley and rehab of J.C. Jackson are two factors that can’t go overlooked, but the Chargers have three starting-caliber safeties (Derwin James Jr., JT Woods and Alohi Gilman) and enough outside of Jackson at cornerback (Asante Samuel Jr., Michael Davis, Ja’Sir Taylor) for now.
ADDITIONAL TEAMS CONSIDERED: Cleveland Browns, Detroit Lions, Jacksonville Jaguars, Miami Dolphins.
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