In 2025, the NFL will look dramatically different than it does now. Some of the greatest quarterbacks in the game's history will either be retired or on their last legs by the mid-2020s, opening the door for younger passers to slide into marquee roles. Patrick Mahomes is already there.
This exercise is designed to identify which franchises will be best positioned to compete for championships in five years; which teams have major questions to answer before determining if they can escape the middle class; and which teams’ long-range outlooks are bleak. The primary considerations behind these placements are ownership, front-office talent, coaching staffs, quarterbacks and recent history, but other factors went into the rankings as well.
"Educated guesswork" obviously is required in a league that sees contention opportunities change frequently. Here's a projection of how the NFL hierarchy could look in five years:
SCROLL DOWN OR GO TO YOUR TEAM:
TIER 1: Wide-open Super Bowl window (90-99 points)
Kansas City Chiefs (95 points)
Chairman: Clark Hunt | GM: Brett Veach | Head coach: Andy Reid
QB status: Patrick Mahomes, who has the best shot to be the face of the 2020s, will only turn 30 in 2025. With a 76-18 TD-INT ratio, an MVP and a Super Bowl MVP under his belt by age 24, the Chiefs' quarterback is well on his way to becoming Kansas City’s defining athlete. The Chiefs are as set as any team at a sport's signature position.
State of franchise: After finally erasing his decades-long playoff demons and almost certainly securing a Hall of Fame spot, Reid is primed to coach well into the 2020s. The 61-year-old leader has a chance to keep Kansas City’s franchise-changing quarterback-head coach partnership in place. Veach’s acquisitions have been hit-and-miss, but Mahomes’ first two seasons give the executive who initially spotted him while working under John Dorsey a great chance to stay a while. Some of this roster’s best players, however, may not be around by 2025. TE Travis Kelce and OT Mitchell Schwartz are 30; fellow All-Pro Tyreek Hill’s volatile past places the wide receiver on a year-to-year track. Mahomes has covered up most organizational missteps so far, and just about every team envies this franchise’s setup. His impending record-setting extension will, however, change the Chiefs’ blueprint to a draft-centric plan as they attempt to supplement their stars with young starters.
Baltimore Ravens (93 points)
Owner: Steve Bisciotti | GM: Eric DeCosta | Head coach: John Harbaugh
QB status: Although Lamar Jackson is not as easy to pencil in as a surefire franchise quarterback as Mahomes, the Ravens have beaten a slew of playoff teams with the league’s most electric player. The running-quarterback formula proved faulty for Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers as well as RG3 and Washington; even Cam Newton crashed back to earth after his MVP 2015. But Jackson improved significantly as a passer in 2019. How defenses adjust to him and vice versa will be a prime early-2020s storyline.
State of franchise: Harbaugh went from the chopping block in 2018 to the 2019 Coach of the Year. The 12-year Ravens sideline leader will not be going anywhere anytime soon. And if Ozzie Newsome’s tenure is any indication, longtime lieutenant-turned-successor DeCosta should keep Baltimore’s draft-and-develop mantra going well into the ‘20s. Jackson should have tight end Mark Andrews and left tackle Ronnie Stanley as long-term wingmen on offense, and while the safety Earl Thomas-cornerback Marcus Peters pairing will likely be gone by 2025, 2017 first-rounder Marlon Humphrey profiles as a potential long-term secondary anchor. This franchise has continued to identify and train quality defensive talent, which will help Jackson as he attempts to chart a course toward the Hall of Fame.
San Francisco 49ers (92 points)
CEO: Jed York | GM: John Lynch | Head coach: Kyle Shanahan
QB status: For a quarterback who steered a team to a Super Bowl in his first full season as a starter, Jimmy Garoppolo has taken considerable heat. He now has a full offseason to develop in Shanahan’s system — after a rehab-deterred 2019 offseason — and is just 28. Still, it is too soon to project Garoppolo being on the 2025 49ers. His affordable contract expires after the 2022 season, and there is certainly a chance his ceiling levels out at rich man’s game manager instead of franchise passer.
State of franchise: San Francisco is in the rare position to employ a quarterback on a veteran contract and multiple young stars who could be with the team in five years. The 49ers are primed to be one of the best teams of the early 2020s. TE George Kittle and DE Nick Bosa will enter the 2020 season as top-20 players, and it’s possible 25-year-old Pro Bowl defensive tackle DeForest Buckner will remain a 49ers anchor by 2025. San Francisco also has linebacker Fred Warner and right tackle Mike McGlinchey as high-end supporting-casters who will be in their primes in the mid-2020s. Running a reeling franchise after Jim Harbaugh’s departure, York displayed faith in Lynch and Shanahan by giving them six-year contracts. Extensions will be coming, and Shanahan has a chance to grow into a Bill Belichick-style position where he will dictate how long he stays in this job.
Seattle Seahawks (90 points)
Chairwoman: Jody Allen | GM: John Schneider | Head coach: Pete Carroll
QB status: Russell Wilson’s 101.2 quarterback rating is second all time, and Seattle has booked a playoff berth in seven of his eight seasons. The past two Seahawks teams featured Wilson-centric efforts, and the 31-year-old passer has not had the kind of roster talent some of his top peers have in that span. Wilson has shown he can keep a well-run Seahawks organization entrenched as a contender, but he is starting to realize he needs more help to lift the franchise back to the Super Bowl level.
State of franchise: Carroll is 8-for-10 in playoff qualification as the Seahawks coach. While energetic, Seattle’s most popular gum-chewer is the NFL’s oldest head coach. Carroll will be 74 in September 2025; NFL history points to the popular HC retiring before coaching into his mid-70s. Schneider and Carroll have been a team since 2010; it will be interesting to see how much longer the 48-year-old GM would stay without his gregarious copilot. Not much else is settled in Seattle. Their Super Bowl nucleus is mostly gone. Aside from Wilson, only future Hall of Fame linebacker Bobby Wagner (29) has a chance to last until 2025 from that group. Seattle needs more pieces on defense and, per usual, has little in development on its offensive line. But the Schneider-Carroll regime’s last rebuild effort instills confidence the Seahawks will not waste Wilson’s 30s with undermanned rosters.
TIER 2: Solid 2020s contender (80-89 points)
New England Patriots (87 points)
Owner: Robert Kraft | Head coach-GM: Bill Belichick
QB status: Perhaps the most interesting team to take through a time machine to 2025, the Patriots have no Tom Brady successor in place and may look nothing like the dominant version they were for the first fifth of the 21st century. However, if the Pats can convince Josh McDaniels he will be Belichick’s heir apparent, that would represent promise. McDaniels oversaw Brady’s ascent from high-stakes game manager to superstar; Kraft getting him to stay until Belichick retires would give the franchise a key connection to its glorious past.
State of franchise: The greatest coach in NFL history began his run in 1975 and did the most to turn New England into the league’s premier franchise of the past 20 years. Being 55 games behind Don Shula on the career wins list, however, may keep the 67-year-old Belichick going into the mid-2020s. In that case, McDaniels will probably have left already. Even if there are no players from the current team on the 2025 roster, Belichick’s ability to assemble high-end defensive production with interchangeable parts would stand to keep the Pats as a quality NFL operation as long as he coaches. The Pats extending front-office mainstay Nick Caserio this month may play a role in the power handoff down the line, too. But how the Pats do go about replacing their 14-time Pro Bowl quarterback will play a key role in how the NFL’s next decade goes.
Buffalo Bills (86 points)
Owner: Terry and Kim Pegula | GM: Brandon Beane | Head coach: Sean McDermott
QB status: Of all the Tier 2 teams, this one has the most interesting ceiling. Josh Allen will control if the Bills have a run of playoff berths in them to start this decade, because the 2018 first-round pick has shown potential to lift the franchise to AFC East dominance and the form of an erratic player who will be a backup by 2025. But the improvement the cannon-armed passer/skilled scrambler made from Year 1 to Year 2 sets up the early ‘20s as the most promising time to be a Bills fan since the brief Doug Flutie stretch.
State of franchise: Ex-Carolina coworkers McDermott and Beane have built a promising foundation in their three seasons in western New York. The players landed with 2017’s seminal trade-back — which gave the Chiefs Patrick Mahomes — are two of the best defensive chips any team possesses. Cornerback Tre’Davious White and linebacker Tremaine Edmunds are likely to remain Bills by 2025, and the 25- and 21-year-old cogs may have racked up several Pro Bowls by then. First-round pick Ed Oliver and 2018 third-round defensive tackle Harrison Phillips could form a menacing interior defensive line, and 25-year-old left tackle Dion Dawkins adds to the stockpile of young talent in Buffalo. Allen will likely have a blue-chip receiver prospect to target soon as well. If McDermott and Beane are right about the quarterback they made two trades to acquire in 2018, a lengthy Bills Super Bowl window may open soon.
Philadelphia Eagles (86 points)
Owner: Jeffrey Lurie | GM: Howie Roseman | Head coach: Doug Pederson
QB status: Staying healthy for most of last season proved key for Carson Wentz, a quarterback who has delivered elite stretches but whose body of work falls short of that descriptor. However, the $32 million-per-year extension — which runs through 2023 — illustrates a major commitment. Wentz was on the doorstep of MVP status in 2017, and his work with a skeleton crew of receivers last season showed what could be ahead for an Eagles team that has one of the league’s best GMs.
State of franchise: Since being given personnel power back after having it stripped during the regrettable Chip Kelly experiment, Roseman reconstructed the Eagles. Initially recovering well after being the architect of 2011’s failed “Dream Team” experiment, Roseman used savvy trades and signings to lift the Eagles to their first Super Bowl title — which Pederson won with a backup quarterback. This duo makes it easier to envision another Eagles surge, even if the team must assemble a new core. Philadelphia’s roster is flooded with 29- and 30-year-old players, but Roseman building that nucleus in his first run as GM and supplementing it after Kelly’s disastrous 2015 in power provides confidence in the front office’s ability to equip Wentz with a younger supporting cast as the 2020s wear on.
New Orleans Saints (85 points)
Owner: Gayle Benson | GM: Mickey Loomis | Head coach: Sean Payton
QB status: Either Payton is trying to hype the market for Taysom Hill or the Saints somehow found Drew Brees’ successor via undrafted free agency. Payton has compared Hill to Steve Young, and the Saints are likely to use a first-round restricted free-agent tender to keep Hill for one more season as Brees’ backup. If the Saints believe their gadget player is up to the task, their contention window could stay open post-Brees.
State of franchise: If the Saints can pull off the Brees-to-Hill baton pass and see their vision for their gadget player come to fruition, this is a Tier 1 team. Loomis, Payton and assistant GM Jeff Ireland turned the franchise around with late-2010s draft finds. WR Michael Thomas (2016, Round 2), 2017 draftees Marshon Lattimore (CB), Ryan Ramczyk (OT), Alvin Kamara (RB) and Marcus Williams (safety), 2018 first-rounder Marcus Davenport (DE) and 2019 second-rounder Erik McCoy (center) changed the Saints’ trajectory. While the Saints have not seen these key young talents help Brees back to the Super Bowl, due to some historically agonizing playoff exits, these players all have a shot to be part of the 2025 Saints. That is a stellar foundation of early- and mid-20s talent and a good reason for Payton to stick around a while after his 14-plus-year partnership with Brees concludes.
Los Angeles Rams (84 points)
Owner: Stan Kroenke | GM: Les Snead | Head coach: Sean McVay
QB status: Jared Goff’s 2019 season stalled the growth the former No. 1 overall pick displayed in McVay’s first two seasons, and although his new contract contains $57 million fully guaranteed, the Rams can escape from this deal by 2022. These are audition years for the two-time Pro Bowler, who did put together a strong 2018 season that enticed the Rams to commit big dollars. If the next two seasons go like 2019 did, McVay may opt to reboot with another signal-caller on a rookie contract.
State of franchise: Given the financial troubles plaguing the Rams after the extensions of Goff, Todd Gurley and Brandin Cooks produced rough 2019s, this is the ultimate bet on McVay. Banking on the coach that revived the Rams to figure this out by the mid-2020s is reasonable. Snead should be on thinner ice, having presided over the Jeff Fisher era and authorized the ill-fated Gurley extension. Snead also acquired Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey. Donald will be 34 in 2025 but is on pace to become one of the NFL’s greatest players. A less stable commodity, Ramsey will be 31 by this point. Both are probably the most talented players at their respective positions. The Rams will need to draft well, given the contracts atop their payroll (and Ramsey’s imminent, cornerback market-reshaping re-up). But McVay will still be in his 30s by 2025; this remains a good situation for the long haul.
Green Bay Packers (83 points)
Owner: Franchise governed by board of directors | GM: Brian Gutekunst | Head coach: Matt LaFleur
QB status: The Packers’ annual inactivity in free agency made Aaron Rodgers’ job difficult for years, helping to explain why this era’s most talented quarterback has one Super Bowl appearance. Rodgers led LaFleur’s offense to the NFC title game and showed flashes of his virtuoso self last season, but his peak probably already happened. Rodgers will be 41 when the 2025 season starts, and while the future Hall of Famer has said he wants to play into his 40s, the Packers’ Rodgers-era championship window will be nearly closed by this point.
State of franchise: Excepting the two blowouts in San Francisco, LaFleur fared remarkably well as a rookie coach. He will only be 45 by 2025, and the Packers gave Mike Holmgren and Mike McCarthy extensive time. Given the urgency to return to a Super Bowl with Rodgers, LaFleur’s job security might not be on that level. But he has a good chance of sticking around long-term. Gutekunst’s willingness to spend in March differs from predecessor Ted Thompson. The new GM’s aggressiveness will be key to maximizing what Rodgers has left. Green Bay is short on surefire non-Rodgers pieces who have yet to enter their primes. Some defensive youngsters — cornerback Jaire Alexander, safety Darnell Savage and edge defender Rashan Gary — could form the Packers’ next defensive core, but the franchise has struggled to assemble much defensively since the early 2010s. Rodgers, however, is enough to keep the team on the contender level.
Dallas Cowboys (82 points)
Owner-GM: Jerry Jones | Head coach: Mike McCarthy
QB status: If all goes well, Dak Prescott will be in position to secure his third contract by 2025. The current negotiations will end with the fourth-round find staying in Dallas, and Prescott’s career-high marks under 30-year-old offensive coordinator Kellen Moore provide the impression the 26-year-old quarterback is ascending. Prescott has not displayed enough consistency yet, and it is debatable if he is talented enough to lift the Cowboys to a higher level when his impending monster contract will narrow the franchise’s roster-building avenues.
State of franchise: The Cowboys’ 2019 expenses and the ones to come this offseason will not be a major issue in 2025; the ages of their best players will. Dallas was able to plug in Prescott for Tony Romo because of the offensive line assembled earlier in the 2010s. But guard Zack Martin, LT Tyron Smith and center Travis Frederick will all be at least 34 by 2025. RB Ezekiel Elliott’s prime will end before 2025 — his age-30 season. Given his current touch pace, Elliott is no lock to play an age-30 season. The Cowboys employ less young talent on defense, but linebacker Leighton Vander Esch — assuming his neck injury is only an early-career scare — will be the top candidate to anchor future Dallas defenses. For all the criticism Jones takes, the owner-GM nailed most of his first-round picks during the 2010s. Can he elevate his franchise back to the Super Bowl level?
Houston Texans (80 points)
Owner: Cal McNair | Head coach-GM: Bill O’Brien
QB status: The main reason why the Texans are on this tier, Deshaun Watson profiles as one of the best building blocks any team possesses. The ex-Clemson national champion may operate in the shadows of 2017 draft classmate Patrick Mahomes and now Lamar Jackson, but he is just 24 and gives the Texans a leg up on most teams when predicting their mid-2020s status. The two-time Pro Bowler has accounted for 85 touchdowns in 38 games and may even be underrated entering his fourth season.
State of franchise: The Texans should be in better shape, but their front office and coaching staff — each now headed by sudden power-consolidating czar O’Brien — make the Watson-centric team’s arrow uncertain. O’Brien traded five first-, second- or third-round picks between the 2020 and ’21 drafts in a two-month span last year, and with Watson’s lucrative extension due, the Texans dealing away their two top cost-controlled assets (the Round 1 selections) was probably not a good idea. Laremy Tunsil may be worth those picks and could be Houston’s left tackle beyond 2025, but he will soon sign a top-market contract. The Texans have not managed their resources well, and two of the top three best players in franchise history — J.J. Watt and DeAndre Hopkins — will be past their prime by 2025. O’Brien being a coach-GM with a 52-44 record threatens to squander some of Watson’s best years.
TIER 3: Upside but uncertainty (65-79 points)
Indianapolis Colts (79 points)
Owner: Jim Irsay | GM: Chris Ballard | Head coach: Frank Reich
QB status: The quarterback position post-Andrew Luck keeps the Colts off Tier 2 or even being a fringe-Tier 1 outfit. To get back to the playoffs, the Colts will likely need to upgrade from high-end backup/unremarkable starter Jacoby Brissett. Linked to Philip Rivers because of former Rivers-Chargers coaches Reich and offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni, the Colts would solve their short-term issue by signing him. But Ballard knows he will need to invest in the future either this year or next.
State of franchise: Ballard’s work in his first three years as Indianapolis’ GM has gone underappreciated, but the ex-Chiefs exec rebuilt the Colts quickly. They would be a surefire Super Bowl contender had Luck stayed healthy. But Ballard has proved to be a strong drafter, as his 2018 picks of All-Pros Quenton Nelson and Darius Leonard illustrated. While on the stingy side in free agency despite annual cap-space war chests, Ballard showing early high marks in the draft will do more for the Colts in the long run. Nelson and Leonard are two of the best at their positions, guard and linebacker, respectively. More young pieces are likely to follow, and Reich’s acumen with quarterbacks will help whatever passer Indianapolis acquires. But until said signal-caller arrives, the Colts are missing the biggest piece.
Pittsburgh Steelers (77 points)
Owner: Art Rooney II | GM: Kevin Colbert | Head coach: Mike Tomlin
QB status: While it did not look like the Steelers found their quarterback during Ben Roethlisberger’s lost season, the franchise has not sported a truly bad signal-caller depth chart since maybe the late 1980s. Roethlisberger will not be around much longer, and Mason Rudolph is unlikely to be his true heir apparent, but Pittsburgh’s stability at this spot warrants some trust going forward. The Steelers' lack of 2020 first- and third-round picks point to 2021 or ’22 being the window to find their next passer.
State of franchise: Tomlin and Colbert form one of the league’s most stable power structures. The duo took a lot of heat for the departures of Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell, but the Steelers showing competence without all three “Killer B’s” showed neither Tomlin nor Colbert is likely leaving soon. Colbert’s recent extension puts him in position to find the franchise’s next quarterback. The 2019 acquisitions of Devin Bush and Minkah Fitzpatrick likely gave T.J. Watt a long-term running mate on defense, which is suddenly more stable than Pittsburgh’s offense. The Steelers may make JuJu Smith-Schuster their next wide receiver building block, as they did with Brown and Hines Ward before him, while the franchise with the wideout assembly line cycles through supporting-casters. Smith-Schuster will only be 28 when the 2025 season starts and will be in position to help Big Ben’s successor.
Miami Dolphins (74 points)
Owner: Stephen Ross | GM: Chris Grier | Head coach: Brian Flores
QB status: Miami’s first rebuilding year ended with Ryan Fitzpatrick leading a skeleton crew past the Patriots; it also included the acquisition of four additional first- or second-round picks. The Dolphins have the ammunition to move up higher than their No. 5 overall slot to draft Tua Tagovailoa, Justin Herbert or possibly Joe Burrow, or they could hold on to their draft war chest and pick the quarterback available to them at 5. Either way, the Dolphins’ next quarterback will likely come from this draft and be on his second contract by 2025.
State of franchise: Flores and his staff improved one of this era’s worst rosters to the point it won five games. The recently promoted Grier also fared well in Year 1 of his radical blueprint, which purged nearly every veteran contract off Miami’s roster. This marked a major shift after the Dolphins spent most of the century as a middle-class operation. Most of the Dolphins’ current players will not be part of the 2025 team; many will be gone by 2021. How Grier proceeds in free agency and the draft will go a long way toward shaping the Dolphins, who have needs at just about every position. It is difficult to project the Dolphins, but their successful first year, wealth of assets acquired in the trades of Laremy Tunsil and Minkah Fitzpatrick and status as a free-agency destination point to this regime having a chance to fully execute its plan.
Tennessee Titans (73 points)
Controlling owner: Amy Adams Strunk | GM: Jon Robinson | Head coach: Mike Vrabel
QB status: Ryan Tannehill nearly changed the AFC landscape, joining Derrick Henry in helping the Titans to their first conference championship game in 17 years. But Tennessee’s formula is not best viewed through a long lens; Tannehill and Henry likely will not be in Nashville by 2025. (Well, they may still live there but will not be Titans.) Robinson arrived after the Marcus Mariota selection and has not had a chance to draft his quarterback. Given Tannehill’s uneven history, that time is likely coming soon.
State of franchise: Although the Titans sailed to the conference title game, this franchise has not won 10 games in a season since 2008. Vrabel has proved to be a strong leader and has earned job security for a bit, but 2020 will be telling if the Titans’ power brokers are in for the long haul. Robinson and Vrabel, both ex-Patriots cogs, identified WR A.J. Brown in the second round and may have a future All-Pro on their roster. Defensive lineman Jeffery Simmons, linebackers Harold Landry and Rashaan Evans and cornerback Adoree' Jackson are building-block types from the past three drafts as well. Pro Bowl left tackle Taylor Lewan will be 34 in 2025, and 2017 No. 5 overall pick Corey Davis, a wideout, regressed significantly in 2019. A decent foundation exists here, but how the Titans go about replacing Mariota will provide the biggest indication of their long-term trajectory.
Cleveland Browns (71 points)
Owners: Jimmy and Dee Haslam | GM: Andrew Berry | Head coach: Kevin Stefanski
QB status: Were it not for the second half of Baker Mayfield’s rookie season, the Browns would be hobnobbing with this list’s basement bastions. But there is a good case to be made that the hopelessly in-over-his-head Freddie Kitchens contributed heavily to Mayfield’s sophomore letdown. Stefanski is now tasked with reigniting the former No. 1 overall pick, in order to prevent another Cleveland first-round quarterback from careening toward bust status.
State of franchise: The Haslams are on their sixth general manager and sixth head coach since buying the Browns in 2012, and in an on-brand development, GM front-runner George Paton backed out of the race. Considering John Dorsey supplied the Browns with talent that had them predicted to make last year’s playoffs, Jimmy Haslam again replacing his GM represents a painful reminder of what bad ownership can do to a franchise. Berry is the league’s youngest GM, at 32, and was a key part of the “Moneyball-does-NFL” front office that oversaw the Browns’ historic 1-31 stretch from 2016-17. Berry was also on board for the Dorsey-led 2018 draft that produced Mayfield, cornerback Denzel Ward and Pro Bowl running back Nick Chubb. DE Myles Garrett, acquired during Sashi Brown’s regime, remains Cleveland’s defensive centerpiece. But the Browns face far more questions than they did a year ago. They have a high-variance future.
Denver Broncos (70 points)
Leader of Pat Bowlen Trust: President Joe Ellis | GM: John Elway |
Head coach: Vic Fangio
QB status: Just as the Broncos appear to be content at quarterback after chasing veterans the past two years, the 2020 market may present one of the most robust signal-caller bonanzas in free-agency history. Although quarterbacks superior to Drew Lock will be available via free agency or trade, the Broncos’ failed veteran investments (Case Keenum, Joe Flacco) will likely lead to Elway giving his latest QB draftee another try. Lock went 4-1 and showed flashes, but it is obviously too soon to know if the Broncos have solved their yearslong passer problem.
State of franchise: Denver’s 2025 makeup may look quite different, with the monthslong ownership dispute potentially leading to a sale. Elway will be 65 in 2025. The Super Bowl-winning executive did a remarkable job transforming the Broncos from offensive powerhouse in Super Bowl XLVIII to defensive force by Super Bowl 50, but some bad drafts — peaking with 2016’s Paxton Lynch misfire — set the Broncos back post-Peyton Manning. Elway has benefited from his name and the Broncos’ lack of an owner, but he may have assembled a new core in Lock, wideout Courtland Sutton, tight end Noah Fant, linebacker Bradley Chubb and safety Justin Simmons. The Broncos hold seven picks in the 2020 draft’s first four rounds. April will help illuminate Denver’s long-term window, but Lock’s near-future work will do the most to show if the Broncos can give Elway’s GM tenure a memorable second act.
Arizona Cardinals (65 points)
Owner: Michael Bidwill | GM: Steve Keim | Head coach: Kliff Kingsbury
QB status: Offensive Rookie of the Year Kyler Murray’s work with Kingsbury in the atypical partnership’s first season together is the only reason the Cardinals avoided the bottom tiers. Murray delivered uneven work on an undermanned team as a rookie, but his 15th-place QBR finish — ahead of Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers — and athletic repertoire that made him the first player to go in the top 10 in the MLB and NFL drafts gives the Cardinals hope.
State of franchise: That said, little has gone right in Arizona since the franchise’s 13-3 2015 season. Keim’s draft whiffs from 2016 to '18 (defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche and linebacker Haason Reddick are busts; QB Josh Rosen is on his way) have his job in jeopardy. The eighth-year GM was permitted to hire a third coach but should be on thin ice. Kingsbury may be overmatched but will be given time to work with Murray; verdicts should be withheld on the inexperienced pairing until at least 2021. Keim’s poor recent drafts and RB David Johnson not justifying a major investment have limited the Cards, who possess scant young talent beyond Murray. Both Arizona’s lines need overhauls, and OLB Chandler Jones will be 35 by 2025. While the acclaimed sack artist may still be a passing-downs specialist by then, the Cards need to identify a future beyond the Jones-Larry Fitzgerald-Patrick Peterson core.
TIER 4: Major questions (50-64 points)
Las Vegas Raiders (64 points)
Owner: Mark Davis | GM: Mike Mayock | Head coach: Jon Gruden
QB status: Gruden has made it obvious Derek Carr will not be a Raider in 2025; the six-year Oakland quarterback may not even make it to Vegas. If Gruden can lure Tom Brady to the desert, that is certainly only a stopgap. The Raiders’ mid-2020s contention viability will not be truly known until we see more of Gruden and Mayock’s drafts — and Gruden’s Buccaneers drafts do not paint a good picture of his personnel acumen — and what quarterback the regime decides will replace Carr.
State of franchise: Davis gave Gruden a 10-year, $100 million contract that runs through 2027; the longtime "Monday Night Football" analyst will be with the Raiders for the foreseeable future. But it is not a lock the 56-year-old coach stays into the mid-2020s. And fellow TV veteran Mayock, 61, could decide he is a better fit for NFL Network draft analyses. But Gruden and Mayock fared decently in their first draft together. Running back Josh Jacobs, slot receiver Hunter Renfrow and defensive end Maxx Crosby have the look of long-term Raiders. The jury is still out on No. 4 overall pick Clelin Ferrell (DE) and fellow 2019 first-rounder Johnathan Abram (safety), but the Raiders hold two more first-rounders this year. The Raiders have somehow not ranked above 18th in points allowed since their 2002 Super Bowl season, so this will be priority 2 — after the not-so-stealthy quarterback search — for Las Vegas entering the ‘20s.
Atlanta Falcons (63 points)
Owner: Arthur Blank | GM: Thomas Dimitroff | Head coach: Dan Quinn
QB status: Matt Ryan will be 40 in 2025, but will the Falcons give him the opportunity the Patriots gave Tom Brady and the Saints afforded Drew Brees? Ryan is at least a tier below those enduring icons, having made just four Pro Bowls in the easiest era to secure such invitations. There is a strong chance the Falcons will have moved on from the best quarterback in franchise history by 2025.
State of franchise: The Falcons are not in a great spot — up against the cap after two down seasons — but they have an experienced GM. Dimitroff has encountered issues since Super Bowl LI, but Atlanta’s 13th-year GM once rebuilt a team that was in tatters after Michael Vick’s imprisonment and Bobby Petrino’s defection. The result: two early-2010s No. 1 seeds and a 2016 Super Bowl trip with a different nucleus around Ryan. While Super Bowl LI ended infamously for Atlanta, Dimitroff remains in to attempt to assemble a future core beyond Ryan, Julio Jones and Co. Two recently extended standouts chosen outside the first round — linebacker Deion Jones and defensive tackle Grady Jarrett — will be in their early 30s in 2025, and 2018 Round 1 wideout Calvin Ridley could succeed Jones just as Jones once took the baton from Roddy White. Considerable work remains, but the Falcons have a track record of resurfacing.
Minnesota Vikings (63 points)
Owner: Zygi Wilf | GM: Rick Spielman | Head coach: Mike Zimmer
QB status: Minnesota’s 2025 quarterback may still be in high school. Kirk Cousins will likely sign an extension to lower his monstrous 2020 cap hit, created by the fully guaranteed contract he inked in 2018, and has a chance to remain in the Twin Cities well into the early 2020s. But with the immobile quarterback turning 37 in 2025, odds are long he will last that far into the Vikings’ future.
State of franchise: This is a bet on Spielman, whose 14-year Minnesota tenure has seen the Vikings advance to the playoffs with an astounding six quarterbacks. Spielman rebuilt the team from its Brett Favre-era nucleus to the current roster that houses a borderline championship-level group. However, that collection may be pared down to Pro Bowl defensive end Danielle Hunter and perhaps one of Minnesota’s young offensive linemen by 2025. The Vikings are built to win now, and their window with this batch of bloated contracts is closing. Not receiving a head-coaching chance until he was nearly 60, Zimmer will turn 69 in 2025. The Vikings will likely have a new coach and mostly new players by then, but Spielman — who will be 62 in 2025 — may have completed another successful overhaul by then. But will he be allowed to oversee such an effort if the Cousins-era Vikings cannot reach a conference championship game?
Carolina Panthers (60 points)
Owner: David Tepper | GM: Marty Hurney | Head coach: Matt Rhule
QB status: Cam Newton remains on Carolina’s roster, but early indications point toward the former No. 1 overall pick leaving Charlotte soon. The injured ex-MVP has not shown much since his stratospheric 2015, ranking 30th in QBR in that time. Tepper and Rhule’s rebuild will likely feature a first-round quarterback chosen this year or next, leaving the soon-to-be 31-year-old Newton as either a 2020 trade candidate or a 2021 free-agency defection.
State of franchise: Rhule’s seven-year, $62 million contract means the ex-Baylor coach will be the Panthers’ point man for a while. A second-year owner, Tepper has given the college rebuilder the keys to his franchise and will almost certainly bring in Hurney’s replacement soon. The Panthers are giving off a rebuilding vibe. Christian McCaffrey and wideout D.J. Moore may be in for a near future as Pro Bowlers, fantasy commodities and little else. Recently extended linebacker Shaq Thompson, 25, also profiles as a player who could be a Panther into the mid-20s. But if the Panthers do not trade up from their No. 7 spot to draft a quarterback this year, their 2020 season may be themed around moving into position to draft either Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence or Ohio State’s Justin Fields in 2021. As such, this early-stage rebuild is difficult to assess.
Los Angeles Chargers (59 points)
Owner: Dean Spanos | GM: Tom Telesco | Head coach: Anthony Lynn
QB status: Like the tenure of Dan Fouts, Philip Rivers’ Chargers years produced big numbers but no Super Bowl appearances. The departed 38-year-old quarterback is certainly not the only culprit, but he was the only constant for a Chargers team that consistently underachieved during his 14-year run as the starter. However, the eight-time Pro Bowler created a perennially high floor for the Chargers. No free-agent or trade acquisition matters from an in-2025 standpoint; it may be the Bolts’ No. 6 overall pick that produces Rivers’ true successor.
State of franchise: Telesco has proved to be a capable GM, equipping the Chargers with a strong skill-position group and impact defenders Joey Bosa and Derwin James. However, the franchise’s decision to accept the NFL’s offer to leave San Diego and join the Rams in Los Angeles overshadows everything. No NFL franchise has generated this level of apathy in multiple generations; the Chargers’ lack of history in L.A. has them trailing most of the city’s pro sports teams. Will moving into Stan Kroenke’s state-of-the-art stadium suddenly change that? It seems the Bolts’ three-year run of playing in 16 road environments will continue for the foreseeable future, weakening the team’s chances. Lynn will enter 2020 on the hot seat and likely will not factor into the team’s 2025 picture. The Chargers do have Bosa, James and developing wideout Mike Williams as potential 2025 centerpieces. But bigger-picture issues are weighing on the Bolts.
Chicago Bears (56 points)
Owner: Virginia Halas McCaskey | GM: Ryan Pace | Head coach: Matt Nagy
QB status: Late-bloomer quarterbacks have gone on to great success; none more so than Drew Brees, whose fourth-year breakout led to a first-ballot Hall of Fame career. Mitchell Trubisky will be given a chance in his fourth season, but everything he has shown thus far indicates the Bears made a catastrophic mistake in trading up for him in the 2017 first round. Trubisky over Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson has the Bears lacking a long-term plan until they take their next swing in the draft.
State of franchise: On one hand, Pace picked Trubisky. On the other, the sixth-year GM hired Nagy and oversaw his 2018 Coach of the Year work en route to the franchise’s first playoff berth since 2010. But Pace’s job will soon be in jeopardy. The defense the 42-year-old executive built — featuring 28-year-old superstar Khalil Mack, 28-year-old All-Pro cornerback Kyle Fuller and 30-year-old defensive line disrupter Akiem Hicks — is running out of time. Trubisky is closing the Bears’ window and given the resources the Bears used to acquire Mack, they do not have an immediate path to reopening it. Defenders Roquan Smith and Eddie Jackson will be of age to be key Bears in 2025, but just about no one else is on that track. A reluctant Bears reboot sometime in the early 2020s may be unavoidable.
New York Jets (52 points)
Owner: Woody Johnson | Acting owner: Christopher Johnson | GM: Joe Douglas | Head coach: Adam Gase
QB status: The Sam Darnold era will see a third season, and the former USC star has provided glimpses of a bright future. He showed an immediate rapport with WR Jamison Crowder, and his deep strikes to WR Robby Anderson will result in the latter being paid handsomely in March. Considering the poor offensive lines Darnold has been saddled with, the Jets’ new regime would be ill-advised to give up on the 22-year-old passer anytime soon.
State of franchise: With zero Super Bowl appearances in 51 years, the Jets have been an NFL punchline for much of their existence. Previous GM Mike Maccagnan delivered Darnold and safety Jamal Adams but bungled most of his other investments in five drafts and authorized numerous bad contracts for veterans. The last such draft involved notable tension with Gase, who won a power struggle that ended with Gase ally Douglas in the GM role. The longtime Ravens and Eagles staffer deserves a chance, and owner Woody Johnson — currently President Trump’s ambassador to the United Kingdom — returning to replace his less effective brother would help a rudderless franchise. Beyond Darnold and Adams, little young talent of note exists for New York’s AFC team. The Jets, who have struggled for the better part of a decade, have a long way to go.
New York Giants (51 points)
Owners: John Mara and Steve Tisch | GM: Dave Gettleman | Head coach: Joe Judge
QB status: With his top six overall picks in 2018 and ’19, Gettleman bypassed a future with Darnold and current Jaguars defensive end Josh Allen for one with RB Saquon Barkley and QB Daniel Jones. Jones showed sporadic competency as a rookie but fumbled 18 times in 12 starts and threw 12 interceptions. The Duke alum will be given at least two years to show he is the heir to the job Eli Manning held for nearly 15 years, but it is too early to project his career to 2025.
State of franchise: Barkley is the most talented running back in Giants history, but the other elements of Gettleman’s tenure have not gone well. The third-year GM is already on coach No. 2, firing Pat Shurmur after two seasons. Jason Garrett, the overseer of the Cowboys’ 2019 underachievement, is now Giants offensive coordinator. The Giants' defense features numerous holes, and Gettleman’s remade offensive line has struggled. The ex-Panthers GM sent two mid-round picks to the Jets for Leonard Williams, an underachieving defensive lineman months away from free agency. The Giants will probably have a new GM by 2025, with Gettleman already 68, but ownership has seen the franchise fall a few rungs since Super Bowl XLVI. Even with Barkley, Lawrence and guard Will Hernandez looking like nice pieces, the Giants have major issues — perhaps none bigger than the man pulling the strings entering the next decade.
TIER 5: History not on their side (0-49 points)
Cincinnati Bengals (47 points)
Owner-GM: Mike Brown | Director of player personnel: Duke Tobin | Head coach: Zac Taylor
QB status: Even if the presumable selection of Ohio native-turned-Heisman winner Joe Burrow happens, the Bengals have macro concerns. Backing into a tank season — despite scant effort to do so with a roster featuring numerous veterans — the Bengals are positioned to land their next quarterback. Burrow is in line to be Cincinnati’s first Round 1 quarterback since Carson Palmer, but with Burrow working with ex-Bengal-turned-QB guru Jordan Palmer to prepare for the draft, might older brother Carson’s issues with the franchise’s thriftiness be a problem as the draft approaches?
State of franchise: Ohio serves as pro football’s birthplace, but it’s largely been a wasteland at the NFL level for a generation. While the Browns receive more negative publicity, the Bengals have been irrelevant — save for maybe 2015 — since Boomer Esiason’s prime ended nearly 30 years ago. Brown receives justified criticism for his management style, oft-labeled cheap, and the Bengals are one of the least active teams in free agency. Brown is 84 and unlikely to be an active front-office presence by 2025, but the Bengals have numerous issues on their roster and a history that does not paint a good picture of the environment Burrow stands to enter. There is a case to be made for Cincinnati trading out of the No. 1 spot to stockpile assets, but the team should probably draft Burrow and hope he can elevate a draft-centric team’s profile in a way Andy Dalton could not.
Detroit Lions (46 points)
Owner: Martha Ford | GM: Bob Quinn | Head coach: Matt Patricia
QB status: Matthew Stafford remains one of this era’s most gifted quarterbacks, but he has one Pro Bowl to his credit and has started to suffer season-defining injuries. The Lions holding the No. 3 overall pick has already led to questions about whether it could be a quarterback to succeed Stafford, who will be 37 in 2025. Even if Detroit goes the “best player available” route instead of a quarterback, Stafford is unlikely to be a Lion by then.
State of franchise: That No. 3 pick at least provides some promise a game-changing talent will be Motor City-bound. The Lions have dropped from the middle class under Jim Caldwell to the NFL’s basement under Patricia, and Quinn joins his ex-New England colleague on the hot seat. This franchise’s 21st-century struggles are no secret, and the makeup of Patricia’s veteran-laden roster does not generate much excitement for the long-term future. Quinn’s offensive line first-rounders — left tackle Taylor Decker in 2016 and center Frank Ragnow in 2018 — have delivered thus far and may be in position to build nice careers in Detroit. Wideout Kenny Golladay, an older fourth-year player who will turn 32 in 2025, will likely sign an extension to ensure he is the to-be-determined Stafford successor’s top target. But Stafford’s age and this Lions regime being the latest to underwhelm do not point to a positive future for the franchise.
Jacksonville Jaguars (43 points)
Owner: Shad Khan | GM: David Caldwell | Head coach: Doug Marrone
QB status: In the same month they ate $16.5 million in dead money because of their easy-to-foresee Blake Bortles mistake, the Jaguars guaranteed Nick Foles $50M. Nearly a year later, they have no real future with Foles. While 2019 sixth-round pick Gardner Minshew became a borderline phenomenon in north Florida during a 21-TD, six-interception season, it certainly cannot be assumed he will be the player to finally right the Jags’ ship. But he has a chance to be on the 2025 Jaguars; Foles does not.
State of franchise: The Jaguars have one winning season under Khan, who is 38-90 in his eight seasons as owner. With Khan having secured a right-of-first-refusal arrangement with the NFL on London, the Jags are now attempting to convince their fan base it’s a good thing the team will play two London games in 2020. Caldwell has survived seven years despite being behind the Bortles transactions and joining Tom Coughlin in overlooking Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes in 2017. Now, Caldwell and Marrone are on the hot seat, and 2017’s Sacksonville looks like an outlier and the most unusual Patriots challenger during their two-decade run. The two first-round picks acquired for cornerback Jalen Ramsey represent hope — even if the franchise traded its most talented player in many years — and Khan’s decision to fire the unpopular Coughlin was probably the right move. But the Jags have uncertainty at every key role, overshadowing any roster bright spots.
QB status: Former coach Jay Gruden preferred Washington not draft Dwayne Haskins, but Snyder and previous team president Bruce Allen overruled the veteran offensive leader. Haskins only played nine games, but his rookie season ended with 2019’s worst (by far) QBR figure. The 2018 Ohio State phenom now must convince a new coach and yet-to-be-hired new GM he is the answer; no Washington quarterback has been the team’s primary starter in five straight seasons since Mark Rypien from 1989-93.
State of franchise: The Rivera hire should bring much-needed leadership to Washington, which went through several controversies under Allen. Rivera will have a consistent say in the team's personnel matters, along with the new GM. But since Snyder bought the organization in 1994, it has never won more than 10 games in a season and only reached double digits thrice. The pressure for Snyder to sell the team will intensify if Rivera’s tenure unfolds like Gruden’s, Mike Shanahan’s and Jim Zorn’s before him. Allen’s final draft at least produced third-round wideout Terry McLaurin, Haskins’ college teammate who has a better chance of being in Washington by 2025. Aside from maybe defensive linemen Daron Payne and Jonathan Allen, Washington lacks talented players who realistically could be around by the mid-2020s. That and the franchise’s modern reputation paint a grim portrait for the future.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (37 points)
Owners: Bryan, Edward and Joel Glazer | GM: Jason Licht |
Head coach: Bruce Arians
QB status: It is not yet known if the Buccaneers will re-sign Jameis Winston, but his historic 30-30 season (and the interception-marred work leading up to it) essentially closes the door on the former No. 1 overall pick lasting until 2025 in Tampa. Winston’s 33 touchdown passes and 30 interceptions comprise part of one of the NFL’s strangest stat lines, and while Arians may be bullish on the 2013 Heisman Trophy recipient, the Bucs will need to go to the draft well again soon after first-round investments on Winston (2015) and Josh Freeman (2009) sputtered.
State of franchise: In 2019, the Bucs made the then-66-year-old Arians the oldest head coach ever hired. Already retiring once, Arians will not be Bucs coach by 2025. He is Licht’s third coach. Despite the Bucs’ 34-62 record in his tenure, the sixth-year GM has signed multiple contract extensions. A reboot is coming, but the franchise has been through many unsuccessful ones. Save for John McKay’s 1979 team making an NFC title game run and the championship window Tony Dungy and Jon Gruden created for a period, the Bucs have been one of the NFL’s worst teams since debuting. They have not made the playoffs since 2007. The Bucs employ a top-tier wideout tandem in Mike Evans (32 in 2025) and Chris Godwin (29), and 2018 first-round defensive tackle Vita Vea looks like a keeper. But none of the franchise’s key boxes are checked long-term, leaving it in a familiar place.
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