Just when NFL fans thought the AFC east division might be there for the taking, the New England Patriots sign former league MVP Cam Newton to replace long-time division tormentor Tom Brady.
My franchise rankings are born from the idea if you were a player entering free agency and were in the enviable position of choosing from every team, what teams should be at the height of your list?
What teams should be avoided due to instability or bad ownership? Which teams could pay under what a player is worth and which franchises have to pay over to land big names?
The stalwarts – regular post-season competitors and classy organisations or those who have won the Super Bowl recently. You’re onto a winner if they want you.
Free agency begins in the United States of America on Thursday and it will see a flurry of activity.
New England Patriots
Five Super Bowl victories from seven appearances in the last 15 years says it all. They have the best owner and a head coach who also serves as the General Manager in Bill Belichick.
Tom Brady isn’t ageing like a mortal. I’m conflicted by having them so highly ranked given ‘Deflategate’ and their proficiency to sign players with questionable morals, but these rankings are about where to go as a player. If they like you they treat you well.
They have recent Super Bowl success and are a stalwart franchise known for their class, stability and being post-season regulars. If they want you, the offer should be taken.
Green Bay Packers
The classiest organisation. They have a great general manager in Ted Thompson and a good head coach in Mike McCarthy. They also happen to enjoy the most loyal fans in the game.
The Packers may have underachieved with regard to titles in the McCarthy era but have been in the playoffs since 2008. They rarely dip into free agency so if they want you, you’re a lucky man.
Like the Packers, they rarely sign free agents, sack coaches or change GM’s. Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin have been there since 2000 and since 2005 respectively.
They also prefer to re-sign their own young stars although their image has taken a battering with Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown all proving to be average decision makers off the field. On it, they are stars and will compete for a title as soon as the defence lifts.
Kansas City Chiefs
Under coach Andy Reid and general manager John Dorsey the Chiefs have returned to one of the elite franchises. Another terrific regular season came up short as they failed to execute the basics in a playoff game. Will be near the top again though..
Had plenty of questions heading into the season and GM Thomas Dimitroff’s future was insecure, but the Falcons’ players responded superbly. The young talent on defence is impressive and the offence was among the best ever. Even with Kyle Shanahan departing, it’s hard to see the wheels falling off.
Appear to be dipping off from being a contender but hard to see them missing the playoffs any time soon as they revamp the roster.
Jerry Jones continues to grow as an owner. Hitting with Dak Preskott and Ezekiel Elliot sets the offence up for the next ten years. Just have to find some pass rushers this off season for a tilt at a Super Bowl berth.
Good things are happening and the defence continues to improve but they (still) are a quarterback away from being serious Super Bowl contenders. Tony Romo come on down.
Despite being one of the three best organisations in the league, unless Tony Romo comes to town they figure to just be in playoff contention, rather than in them, despite a terrific defence. They need Paxton Lynch to take major strides quickly to rectify things.
Fell apart after a Super Bowl appearance in 2016 to miss the playoffs, despite the return of Kelvin Benjamin at WR. With the Falcons defence young and talented, they need some big improvements from players nearly across the board to figure in championship discussions.
Coach Bruce Arians is one of the best out there and GM Steve Keim keeps picking winners, yet the team fell away once the Patriots exposed how to keep the offence down in week 1 (take away the deep ball).
They failed to make the playoffs and now appear to have one year left in their window of opportunity.
Rebuilding well, but still have concerns with regard to the offence and the salary cap. With instability for both coach and general manager, for the first time in a long time there is an air of uncertainty about the Ravens.
New York Giants
Yet another classy organisation. Ben MacAdoo kept the same offensive structures in place and the defence improved tremendously after the three big name signings in free agency took off. Should compete with the Cowboys for the divisional title.
Coach Zimmer and GM Rick Spielman both read and sound like impressive men. There is stability and talent. They went through a horror run of injuries on offence last year so don’t be surprised if they improve this time around.
A year after cleaning the Chip Kelly house, owner Jeffrey Lurie appears vindicated. GM Howie Roseman seems to have handled the quarterback spot well and is making strides on the mess Kelly left.
Still the longest streak without a playoff win. They’ve kept the HC and GM band together thus far and the stability is to be admired, but they just have to get a post season win this year or there could be major changes on the way. Could be a dangerous spot.
The team on the field is doing everything right and trending in the right direction. Off-field is a different story – Who knows where they’ll be playing in 2018 and beyond. The uncertainty as a player over where you will be living counts.
The one year pairing of Mike Mularkey and Jon Robinson has this team going in the right direction but questions over ownership still linger. Dangerous.
Coach JohnFox and GM Ryan Pace continue to take the right steps for rebuilding the team. Questions – big ones at that about what happens at quarterback though.
A year after owner Martha Firestone Ford fired GM Mayhew, new GM Quinn retained coach Caldwell for some stability – there are still question marks over Caldwell’s future, despite the fact in his three seasons he has a .563 winning percentage. The others since 2001 combine for just .288.
Owner Shaid Kahn did the right thing with coach Bradley- he gave him every opportunity to win. Now they turn to Doug Marrone who notoriously opted out of his contract with the Bills. Can he inspire the Jaguars after ditching his prior team?
New Orleans Saints
Another season, another year of Sean Payton rumours. A shame that the twilight of Drew Brees’ career has been chasing TD’s to salvage games for an inept defence that Payton can’t manage.
New coach Dirk Koetter did everything right but his past is so chequered. Quarterback Winston continues to say stupid things and this is a bomb waiting to explode.
GM Grigson is gone as the Colts missed the playoffs for a second year in a row. Andrew Luck had another average year and the defence is still a mess.
They should be higher than this but owner Daniel Snyder can’t help himself. He helped mismanage Robert Griffen III and now has had to franchise tag Kirk Cousins for a second year in a row, almost guaranteeing his departure in 2018. Still a mess.
New York Jets
Owner Woody Johnson must continue to shake his head. A year after only just missing the playoffs, the team returned to their ways of self implosion. The defensive stalwarts of Revis, Wilkerson and Richardson were all guilty of terrible attitudes and the offence was held up by more poor play at quarterback.
Owner Terrence Pegula continues to have one of the worst reputations in the league. Just how much control does GM Doug Whaley have? After he admitted to being unsure why coach Ryan was fired, no-one seems to know.
Los Angeles Rams
It was an intriguing signing of Sean McVeigh for long term coach Jeff Fisher to be fired just three weeks after his contract extension was announced. Tough to say where the franchise are at.
First year coach Adam Gase has the team on track but little salary cap space, poor ownership and off field issues rumours continue to haunt the Fins.
San Francisco 49ers
Another brave move by ownership in bringing in an untried manager in John Lynch and first time coach Kyle Shanahan. They have huge salary cap space which is a positive, but it’s unclear how it will be used.
Los Angeles Chargers
now in LA so at least there is some certainty about living arrangements, but playing out of a soccer field for the next three years? Rivers only has a few years left and although the roster is improving, it won’t be pretty for the next few seasons.
Coach Jackson is saying all the right things and they have oodles of cap space but how is the ‘moneyball’ in player personnel working out? Also, their history of losing can’t be ignored.