The biggest stories of the offseason centered around trades involving superstars. But we all know teams need more than one spectacular player to have any hope of hoisting the Lombardi Trophy at the end of the season.
Today, I’m identifying the rosters that currently look like the NFL’s best from top to bottom. One team you won’t see in my list is the defending Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams, who are a little too top heavy to crack my top five. Now, here is my ranking of the top five most complete teams heading into 2022.
- Biggest remaining offseason priority for each AFC team: Should Colts sign Odell Beckham Jr.?
- Biggest remaining offseason priority for each NFC team: Can 49ers placate Deebo Samuel?
- NFC West projected starters for 2022 NFL season: Rams, 49ers well put together; Seahawks underrated
- 2022 NFL free agency tracker: Latest signings, trades, contract info for all 32 teams
- Why Patriots' coaching titles don't matter; plus, NFL's top five cornerbacks, Saints' reborn offense
- Ten most impactful NFL trades of the 2022 offseason
For 40 days this offseason, the Bucs would not have made this list. But Tom Brady’s decision to unretire changed things significantly. He was second in the MVP voting in 2021 and shows no signs of slowing down even though he’ll turn 45 years old in August. The seven-time Super Bowl champion’s presence in the building is paramount to this team’s success. Brady has raised the level of play since the minute he arrived in Tampa two offseasons ago. The offensive line underwent changes — they lost Alex Cappa in free agency and Ali Marpet to retirement — but after trading for New England’s Shaq Mason, this unit should be more than capable of keeping its QB upright. The run game is solid with Leonard Fournette and the wide receiving corps will be in the conversation for tops in the league when Chris Godwin returns to full health. It also feels like a matter of time before free agent Rob Gronkowski re-signs with the team. It’ll be a bonus if he does return, as the Bucs have viable players at the tight end position in Cameron Brate and rookie Cade Otton.
The defense is full of playmakers at every level, and there’s room to improve if general manager Jason Licht decides to re-sign Ndamukong Suh or Jason Pierre-Paul. The front line is in good hands with rookie Logan Hall joining veteran edge rusher Shaq Barrett and defensive linemen William Gholston and Vita Vea, the best nose tackle league-wide. Devin White is the best linebacker in the league and Lavonte David is still steady heading into his 11th season. The secondary shouldn’t be overlooked, as there are young, versatile game-changers throughout the defensive backfield.
General manager Tom Telesco sent a clear message this offseason: The Chargers are absolutely not settling for second, third or fourth fiddle in the AFC West. L.A. re-signed Mike Williams, added tight end Gerald Everett and bolstered the offensive line and running back depth in the draft with first-rounder Zion Johnson stepping in to start at right guard and fourth-round running back Isaiah Spiller pairing up with Austin Ekeler in the backfield. Justin Herbert has taken strides forward in each of his two NFL seasons, showing flashes of brilliance along the way. I’m hoping Herbert will continue on that trajectory.
The Chargers addressed their weakness against the run by signing Sebastian Joseph-Day and drafting Otito Ogbonnia to clog up the middle. They made two of the splashiest defensive moves of the offseason, trading for Khalil Mack and signing shutdown cornerback J.C. Jackson. The Mack-Joey Bosa combination off the edges is going to be a nightmare for opposing offenses and will set the tone for the second and third levels of Brandon Staley’s defense. Jackson joins Derwin James, Asante Samuel Jr. and other playmakers in the secondary. On paper, the Chargers are dangerous. Now they just have to put it all together when it matters.
Josh Allen continues to get better. So does his supporting cast. The Bills added a slot receiver to the passing attack in Jamison Crowder, a complement to Dawson Knox in O.J. Howard and bolstered the backfield with James Cook, who should spark an up-and-down running game. Buffalo kept most of its offensive line intact but did bring in guards David Quessenberry and Rodger Saffold on one-year deals. There is no spectacular player on the O-line but it’s certainly a solid group.
Sean McDermott and Leslie Frazier had the league’s top-ranked defense in 2021, and the unit could be even better this year after making key additions. I believe the Bills have the best secondary in the league on paper with safeties Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde pairing with cornerbacks Tre’Davious White, who’s recovering from a Thanksgiving Day ACL injury, and first-round draft pick Kaiir Elam. The linebacking corps is solid with Tremaine Edmunds and Matt Milano, who excel in their specific roles. Gregory Rousseau and Boogie Basham have an opportunity to make the leap in 2022 — especially with key departures along the defensive line — but the real highlight of the Bills’ offseason was the signing of two-time Super Bowl champion Von Miller. He makes everyone on the Bills’ defense better just by being on the field.
The Chiefs have made four consecutive AFC title games. That’s a testament to the franchise’s roster-building and the play of quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Now they head into the 2022 season without explosive wideout Tyreek Hill, whom they traded to Miami in March. K.C. still has an elite pass-catcher in Travis Kelce, and the attention he attracts should open up the field for newcomers JuJu Smith-Schuster, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and rookie Skyy Moore. Adding Ronald Jones II to the backfield should help raise Clyde Edwards-Helaire’s level, and the offensive line returns pretty well intact after a massive overhaul last offseason.
The defense isn’t going to steal the spotlight from Andy Reid’s offense but it’s solid at all three levels. Frank Clark and Chris Jones anchored a front that ranked 29th in sacks a season ago, but it should get a major boost from first-round draft pick George Karlaftis. The Chiefs have a young, fast linebacker corps with Nick Bolton and Willie Gay leading the charge, and while the club let do-it-all safety Tyrann Mathieu walk in free agency, the Chiefs signed safety Justin Reid and selected rookie Trent McDuffie — one of the best value picks in the draft — to assist rising cornerback L’Jarius Sneed and the rest of the CB group.
It was a toss-up between Denver and Cincinnati for the final spot. Ultimately, I chose the Broncos — making them the third AFC West team on this list — because of the franchise-altering trade they made for Russell Wilson. The addition of the nine-time Pro Bowl quarterback raises the level of the entire organization with his deep-passing accuracy, ability to escape pressure and make plays off-schedule. Wilson is the missing piece in an offense full of playmakers, including receiver trio Courtland Sutton, Tim Patrick and Jerry Jeudy. However, it is worth noting that Jeudy was recently arrested on second-degree criminal tampering charges with a domestic violence enhancer. An NFL spokesperson told NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero that the situation is being reviewed under the league’s personal-conduct policy.
The team did address one of its biggest needs in the draft, selecting tight end Greg Dulcich, who fits well in Nathaniel Hackett’s offense as a crafty player who’ll consistently move the chains. Bringing back Melvin Gordon to pair with Javonte Williams gives the Broncos the best one-two backfield punch outside of Cleveland, and Denver added a tackle with five seasons of starting experience in Billy Turner. This has the makings of an offense that can hang with the AFC’s best.
The defense should take a step forward with a front that gains a healthy Bradley Chubb and free-agent signees D.J. Jones and Randy Gregory. Add in rookie Nik Bonitto, a pass-rushing specialist with speed of the edge, and the Broncos have a recipe for success with the infusion of pass rushers setting up a talented secondary led by safety Justin Simmons and cornerback Pat Surtain II. This unit has few holes.
JUST MISSED: Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Los Angeles Rams
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