NFL Power Rankings: Commanders lead list of most interesting teams in free agency

When Josh Harris bought the Washington Commanders, his task list must have seemed endless. It’s hard to quantify how badly Dan Snyder ran the franchise into the ground, though the NFLPA report cards that ranked Washington dead last among NFL teams is a start.

 

There were projects that weren’t related to the 53-man roster, like getting a new stadium. But when it came to the on-field product, the 2024 offseason was the pivot point. Over the next couple months, the Commanders have a chance to completely change their roster and their status as perennial losers.

 

The two most important paths to roster building are free agency and the draft, and the Commanders are in great shape for both of them. They have a lot of draft capital, with the second overall pick, three picks in the top 40 and six in the top 103, according to Tankathon. And they have the most available salary-cap space in the NFL, a whopping $96 million, according to Spotrac. That’s $16 million more than any other team. Only three other teams have more than $70 million. Some of that cap space will go to the Commanders’ rookie class, but Washington can spend on practically any free agent this offseason (though, the class isn’t great).

 

 

Given the cap space and the draft picks, the intrigue over new general manager Adam Peters and the general interest in one of the NFL’s most visible franchises possibly fixing decades of neglect, the Commanders are the most interesting team to watch this offseason.

 

Peters warned that the Commanders wouldn’t be on a spending spree, which actually might be a good thing considering how indiscriminately Washington spent at times in the Snyder era with few positive results.

 

“There are a lot of holes we need to fill, but we will always build through the draft and supplement through free agency,” Peters told 106.7 The Fan’s “Grant and Danny,” via Audacy. “This year, it won’t be a big spending spree; we’re not going to go out and blow all that money in Year 1. We’re going to build a competitive team with the right types of guys, then have a great draft after that. We will find the types of players we want to build our team, supplement them with people that can really make us very competitive this year, and then draft really well to build competitive team.”

 

The process will be fascinating. Washington fans have to be impatient for some positive steps. Since the start of the 2000 season, the Commanders have just five playoff appearances with just one win. But there is talent on the roster; it’s not a complete rebuild situation. Having the second pick of the draft means Washington will be picking its quarterback of the near future and can worry about filling in around whoever that is. That could be with pass rushing help, a bolstered offensive line or some more playmakers around the QB. Whatever the Commanders are targeting, they have the means to get it done.

 

 

The offseason is important for every team, obviously. But given what the Commanders are trying to dig out of, it can be argued this offseason is most important to them.

 

 

Here are the rankings of the most interesting teams to watch as free agency approaches, with cap space via Spotrac as of Wednesday morning. Click on each team link for that franchise’s offseason primer.

 

 

Don’t confuse an interesting team with an interesting offseason team. Basically, the 49ers will run it back after almost winning a Super Bowl. They don’t have many glaring needs. Check back with them when they report to training camp. It’s not bad to have a quiet offseason when you’re loaded like the 49ers.

 

 

The Bills don’t have a lot of flexibility to get the pieces they might need to get them over the hump. Maybe there’s some Stefon Diggs drama to come, though that seems unlikely too. It will probably be the Bills coming back with roughly the same team, hoping for better results.

 

 

The Chiefs will consider it a successful offseason if they retain L’Jarius Sneed, who received the non-exclusive franchise tag, and Chris Jones. Though we have to keep an eye on a Sneed trade. The Super Bowl champs know they’re in good shape.

 

 

The Cowboys would probably love to make some big additions, but they don’t have much cap space and extensions for CeeDee Lamb and Micah Parsons are looming. Dallas always manages to grab headlines, but this isn’t the time to spend recklessly.

 

 

This is a huge upcoming season for Jerry Jones and the Cowboys. Does that mean they’ll make big moves in free agency? (Photo by Matthew Pearce/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)More

 

 

The Browns’ Deshaun Watson cap mess starts now, which contributes to the lack of flexibility this offseason. The Browns could use another receiver or some offensive line help, but it would take some creativity (like more contract restructures) to fill those spots with a big name.

 

 

The Saints started the offseason roughly a billion dollars over the cap (it was actually about $80 million at one point) but that’s nothing unusual. The Saints figure out how to get under the cap, get out the credit card and spend without a worry about the future. Rinse, repeat. They’ll be more active than you’d think, given their cap situation.

 

 

The Tua Tagovailoa extension situation is interesting, particularly because it’s difficult to see where the cap space comes from for it. Because the Dolphins don’t have a lot of cap space, don’t expect another big splash like Tyreek Hill or Jalen Ramsey. They already had to part ways with players like Jerome Baker and Xavien Howard, and Christian Wilkins is set to hit the open market.

 

 

The Packers have to be satisfied after a good season with a playoff appearance and win. While they might look for some smart additions, it doesn’t feel like this is a team that will be splashing around much in free agency. Given the uncertainty Green Bay had as recently as the middle of last season, complacency isn’t a bad thing.

 

 

The Ravens have some challenges in retaining key defensive players (DT Justin Madubuike was the priority, and he got the franchise tag), but their excellent player development has allowed them to lose free agents before and not miss them much. If the Ravens can retain some of their free agents that would probably be enough.

 

 

The Aaron Rodgers situation affects the approach. The Jets have to feel they’d have been much, much better with a full season of Rodgers. Why not see what it’s like if they just run it back? Adding to the offensive line would be ideal, even if that would cost most of their cap space.

 

 

You might expect the Jaguars to be in a better cap situation. But they’re in the middle of the pack and that Trevor Lawrence extension is coming. It feels like the Jaguars didn’t do nearly enough to maximize having Lawrence on his rookie deal. They could make an addition on the offensive or defensive line but a massive move might not be feasible, especially after using the franchise tag on defensive end Josh Allen.

 

 

The Seahawks have talent but didn’t make the playoffs. That’s a reason Mike Macdonald takes over as the team’s new head coach. It’s hard to see Seattle getting really aggressive, even after deciding to release safeties Quandre Diggs and Jamal Adams, though adding to either line wouldn’t hurt. And now they need some safeties.

 

 

You’d think the Russell Wilson cap hit now that he’s being released would preclude the Broncos from doing anything but locking themselves in a dark room for the entire offseason, but this is Sean Payton. When Payton was with the Saints, he treated the salary cap like an afterthought. Worry about those cap charges another day. Why would it be different in Denver? Maybe the Broncos should treat this like a rebuilding year, but that seems unlikely.

 

 

Gideon Canice

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