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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 most interesting teams in NFL free agency, from 32 to 1. (Mallory Bielecki/Yahoo Sports)
Here are the most interesting teams in NFL free agency, from 32 to 1. (Mallory Bielecki/Yahoo Sports)

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.

32. San Francisco 49ers (salary-cap space: minus-$3.4M)

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.

31. Buffalo Bills (salary-cap space: minus-$40.6M)

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.

30. Kansas City Chiefs (salary-cap space: $9.7M)

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.

29. Dallas Cowboys (salary-cap space: minus-$4M)

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)
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) (Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

28. Cleveland Browns (salary-cap space: $2.4M)

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.

27. New Orleans Saints (salary-cap space: minus-$15.5M)

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.

26. Miami Dolphins (salary-cap space: minus-$15.6M)

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.

25. Green Bay Packers (salary-cap space: $12.7M)

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.

24. Baltimore Ravens (salary-cap space: minus-$5.6M)

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.

23. New York Jets (salary-cap space: $27.5M)

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.

The Jets may opt to run it back with the same key players — and Aaron Rodgers this time. (Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images)
The Jets may opt to run it back with the same key players — and Aaron Rodgers this time. (Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images) (Diamond Images via Getty Images)

22. Jacksonville Jaguars (salary-cap space: $20.9M)

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.

21. Seattle Seahawks (salary-cap space: $38.9M)

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.

20. Denver Broncos (salary-cap space: minus-$19.2M)

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.

19. Carolina Panthers (salary-cap space: $13.1M)

How do the Panthers not have twice as much cap space as they actually do? Who are they paying? (Besides, theoretically, Brian Burns on the franchise tag.) The NFL's worst team last season doesn't even have the first overall pick, which they traded away to go get Bryce Young. Sorry Panthers fans, but this is a depressing situation right now. Still, they have to do what they can to help Young, and that might mean spending on offense as they can.

18. Philadelphia Eagles (salary-cap space: $39.7M)

The Eagles are in a weird spot. They have a championship-level roster. They are also coming off a total debacle to end last season. They have a good amount of cap space given their proven stars. Getting to work on the secondary should be the first priority.

17. New York Giants (salary-cap space: $41M)

The intrigue will come in the draft and if they select a quarterback to replace Daniel Jones a year after Jones' big extension. They still have enough cap space to address some serious needs on offense, which grow if Saquon Barkley leaves. He didn't get the franchise tag.

16. Indianapolis Colts (salary-cap space: $53M)

The Colts are always prudent in free agency, which isn't a bad thing. The main priority was bringing back Michael Pittman Jr., who was slated to be a free agent and franchise tagged near the deadline. If there's a big free agent move, it's likely going to be a cost-effective signing at a position of need. The Colts need to upgrade at cornerback and a few other positions, and they'll pick their spots as usual.

15. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (salary-cap space: $22.8M)

The Buccaneers want Baker Mayfield back, but that needs to happen soon. They already took care of Mike Evans (two-year, $52 million extension) and Antoine Winfield Jr. (franchise tag, with the reported intention of working out a long-term deal). This is an offseason for retaining the talent that helped them win the NFC South.

14. Pittsburgh Steelers (salary-cap space: $9.6M)

The Steelers can profess all their support for Kenny Pickett, but does anyone believe it? The Steelers' next move (or lack of a move) at quarterback will be worth watching. Other than that, it's unlikely to be an exciting offseason for the Steelers.

13. Minnesota Vikings (salary-cap space: $41.1M)

Bringing Kirk Cousins back would seem like Minnesota is settling for something safe with no upside. We know what the Vikings-Cousins marriage looks like already and it's unlikely to change. Maybe that's why it seems like the two could be parting ways. But it's also hard to land a quarterback. The Vikings do have some cap space to make a move there, but what move is worth it?

12. Cincinnati Bengals (salary-cap space: $50.3M)

The Bengals would love to keep their passing game core of Joe Burrow, Ja'Marr Chase and Tee Higgins together for a long time, but that would be expensive. Tagging Higgins made sense, though it does eat up a lot of cap space. The Bengals still have cap space but they have to make any moves with the futures of Chase and Higgins in mind. Maybe they can get creative with some one-year deals at spots like the offensive line, because the Bengals still are in win-now mode.

11. Las Vegas Raiders (salary-cap space: $47.9M)

There hasn't been a lot of talk about the Raiders though they have plenty of cap space, a quarterback question and some good vibes after a decent finish with coach Antonio Pierce but plenty of remaining needs. The Raiders have never been shy in free agency, and team owner Mark Davis has plenty of cash due to the windfall of moving to a great new stadium in Las Vegas. Keep an eye on them.

10. Los Angeles Rams (salary-cap space: $43.6M)

The Rams have cap space and a first-round pick, which is different. That's pretty exciting for Rams fans who usually watch everyone else have fun early in the draft. And the Rams are coming off a good season. Does that give them confidence to make some bold free-agent moves? There are still plenty of holes on the roster.

9. Los Angeles Chargers (salary-cap space: minus-$18.6M)

The roster building strategy in a new era will be interesting. Too bad the Chargers don't have any cap room, because it would be fascinating to see how Jim Harbaugh wants to ideally build this team. But there isn't much cap wiggle room and a lot of aging stars, which means it will be a delicate balance in this transition year. They're still much more interesting than they were before luring Harbaugh.

All eyes will be on Jim Harbaugh's first free agency as Chargers head coach. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

8. Tennessee Titans (salary-cap space: $80.7M)

The Titans have a ton of cap space, which is good because they have a lot of needs. The roster has numerous holes and Tennessee can't fill them all in one offseason, but grabbing offensive line help, a solid receiver and a defensive end should all be on the menu. It will be interesting to see how the Titans build a roster for new head coach Brian Callahan.

7. Arizona Cardinals (salary-cap space: $51.8M)

The Cardinals ended up in a good place with the fourth overall pick of the draft. It seems like they're either getting Marvin Harrison Jr. or entertaining trades from QB-desperate teams. Not bad. The Cardinals have plenty of cap space to be a big player in free agency, with big needs on the defensive front and offensive line. This could be an exciting couple months for the Cardinals.

6. Atlanta Falcons (salary-cap space: $41.6M)

The Falcons seem like they're a quarterback away. Too bad they weren't more interesting last offseason in that regard. Anyway, most of Atlanta's energy will be spent on fixing the QB situation, but there should still be enough left. The Falcons desperately need edge rushers, and if they can find one of those and a quarterback? New head coach Raheem Morris will be pleased.

5. New England Patriots (salary-cap space: $78.5M)

The first offseason without Bill Belichick in more than two decades will be fun to watch. The Patriots needed new eyes for their roster-building approach. There's a lot of cap space to fix a roster that might be the most talent-poor in the NFL. They have to find a quarterback, but that seems likely to happen with the third overall pick of the draft.

4. Houston Texans (salary-cap space: $70M)

Oh, this could get fun. The Texans had a surprising breakout with C.J. Stroud and Will Anderson Jr. both winning Rookie of the Year awards. And because it happened fast, they still have oodles of cap space. Houston can (and should) get aggressive to see if it can make another leap this season. The Texans could throw a lot of resources at the defensive line — that's what the 49ers do, and there are a lot of San Francisco ties on this team — which would please head coach DeMeco Ryans.

3. Chicago Bears (salary-cap space: $57.5M)

The Bears could have been No. 1 on this list, with the first overall pick and a ton of cap space. Trading the first overall pick in 2023 set them up to be a big player this offseason, and perhaps build a championship foundation. The quarterback will come with the 2024 first overall pick. Help for that quarterback will come through free agency, perhaps through building a defense that will take pressure off the offense. A big piece of that happened when star cornerback Jaylon Johnson got the franchise tag. It's an exciting time to be a Bears fan.

2. Detroit Lions (salary-cap space: $54.3M)

The Lions get ahead of the Bears because of what happened last season. They came close to making the Super Bowl and thanks to a great 2023 draft class, they have a cheap core and a ton of cap flexibility. The defense needs to get a lot better, especially in the secondary, but the Lions can get aggressive and chase anyone to fill their needs. Players like playing for Dan Campbell. The Lions should be chasing a Super Bowl. Lions fans got a taste of playoff success, and this offseason will be huge for their pursuit of taking the next step.

1. Washington Commanders (salary-cap space: $96M)

Having the NFL's most cap space is often not as great as it seems. The Commanders have a ton of cap space, but usually by the time teams get done with the franchise tag and extending their impending free agents, who will be left to spend it on? Still, the Commanders should be able to add at problem spots like edge rusher and the offensive line, and perhaps even make a luxury signing at a spot like running back or tight end. It's a big offseason for the franchise. They can't screw it up.