The first thing you notice when ranking the NFL front offices heading into the 2022 season is that the general manager crop is as strong as ever. With more refined processes and analytically-based decision trees in place, front offices are efficient and forward-thinking. Here’s how PFN ranks the league’s 32 front offices as we approach 2022 training camps.
2022 NFL front office rankings
General managers get all the glory when things go wrong and all the blame when things go wrong. In reality, while the GM is the face of many teams, entire front offices contribute to a club’s outcomes.
Plus, head coaches have outsized roster sway in some organizations, while owners exercise heightened authority in others. As such, we’re ranking NFL front offices and power structures, not necessarily individual general managers.
1) Buffalo Bills
General manager: Brandon Beane
Alongside head coach Sean McDermott, Beane spent the past five seasons turning the Bills into the preeminent franchise in the NFL. Although they’ve yet to capture a Super Bowl trophy, Buffalo’s decision-makers are the most astute in the league.
Beane took two years to get the Bills’ salary cap in order before attacking free agency and the draft with targeted, positional-value-centric strikes. He acquired Stefon Diggs at a discounted rate, and even Diggs’ new extension is cheap compared to the rest of the now-exploded WR market. Beane will have the next decade to add complementary pieces around Josh Allen. Buffalo is the model for every NFL front office.
2) Baltimore Ravens
General manager: Eric DeCosta
Baltimore’s 2019 transition from legendary GM Ozzie Newsome to longtime assistant DeCosta has been as seamless as the club’s move from Joe Flacco to Lamar Jackson under center. The Ravens are seemingly never pressured into any one course of action – they let value come to them.
DeCosta’s 2020 heist of Calais Campbell from the Jaguars was a masterstroke, and Baltimore remains among the league’s best at gaming the compensatory pick system. Additionally, the Ravens’ analytically-inclined approach should give them an edge on the field and in transactions for years to come.
3) Philadelphia Eagles
General manager: Howie Roseman
Sticking it out in Philadelphia (with various titles and responsibilities) through the Andy Reid, Chip Kelly, Doug Pederson, and now Nick Sirianni eras, Roseman is the NFL’s most creative general manager from a salary cap perspective. The optionality he creates through various financial levers gives the Eagles maximum roster flexibility.
Roseman is clearly conscious of positional value. He drafted Jalen Hurts in the second round, with Carson Wentz still on Philadelphia’s roster. And you’ll hardly ever see him invest significant cap space or draft capital in non-critical positions like linebacker, safety, or running back. This offseason, Roseman managed to acquire 24-year-old AJ Brown at a cheaper cost than rival teams paid for older receivers like Davante Adams and Tyreek Hill.
4) Los Angeles Rams
General manager: Les Snead
The Rams are the reigning Super Bowl champions, but their ranking at No. 4 is more about process than results. And LA’s process is certainly unique among an NFL front office cohort that can fall victim to groupthink.
Snead and head coach Sean McVay are dedicated to a “stars and scrubs” approach – except their “scrubs” are actually competent role players asked to handle specific (and manageable) tasks. As long as the Rams continue to hit on mid- and late-round draft picks, they’ll be able to afford stars like Matthew Stafford, Cooper Kupp, Aaron Donald, and Jalen Ramsey.
5) Tampa Bay Buccaneers
General manager: Jason Licht
It wasn’t all that long ago that Licht and the Buccaneers were listed at the bottom of the NFL front office rankings. Tampa Bay finished above .500 just once in his first six years in charge, and his 2016 draft class – featuring Vernon Hargreaves, Noah Spence, and a trade-up for kicker Roberto Aguayo in the top 60 – is among the worst in recent memory .
It might be tempting to say Tom Brady singlehandedly changed Tampa’s fortunes, but Licht had been quietly rebuilding the Bucs’ roster before the GOAT ever set foot in Raymond James Stadium. Licht drafted Chris Godwin, Vita Vea, Carlton Davis, Jamel Dean, Jordan Whitehead, and other key contributors from 2017-19, laying the foundation for Brady’s arrival in 2020.
6) Green Bay Packers
General manager: Brian Gutekunst
Gutekunst has taken Green Bay in a more aggressive talent acquisition direction than his predecessor Ted Thompson. Yet, it’s his handling of Aaron Rodgers over the past several seasons that has the Packers general manager at No. 6. While it once seemed inevitable that Rodgers would leave Green Bay, Gutekunst convinced the back-to-back MVP to commit to the Packers for the long haul.
The Jordan Love selection was a misstep, but nearly every other Gutekunst top-70 pick – including Jaire Alexander, Rashan Gary, Darnell Savage, Elgton Jenkins, Eric Stokes, and Josh Myers – looks like a hit. And while trading Davante Adams is tough, extracting first- and second-round picks for a 29-year-old WR who simply doesn’t want to play for your team anymore was probably the best Gutekunst could have done.
7) Kansas City Chiefs
General manager: Brett Veach
Andy Reid has as much roster control as any head coach in the NFL, so he also deserves plenty of credit for Kansas City’s transactional success. Reid and Veach identified and traded up for Patrick Mahomes in a league-altering series of events, and the All-World quarterback’s 10-year contract is as team-friendly as any deal in the NFL.
Veach and Co. have made some unforced errors, including trading for Frank Clark, signing Sammy Watkins, and drafting Clyde Edwards-Helaire in the first round. But the organization showed it was capable of forging a new path by trading Tyreek Hill and resetting its wide receiver depth chart this offseason.
8) Los Angeles Chargers
General manager: Tom Telesco
After bottoming out at 5-11 in Philip Rivers’ final season with the Chargers, Telesco has spent the past three offseasons rebuilding LA’s roster. While Justin Herbert is the crown jewel, Telesco also added left tackle Rashawn Slater and cornerback Thank you Samuel Jr., giving the Chargers three potential All-Pros at essential positions.
LA’s front office revamped the offensive line in front of Herbert, bringing in veterans Corey Linsley and Matt Feiler in addition to another first-round pick in Zion Johnson. On defense, Telesco picked up Khalil Mack from the Bears for pennies on the dollar, signed arguably the No. 1 free agent on board in cornerback JC Jackson, and beefed up a porous run defense by inking Sebastian Joseph-Day and Austin Johnson in the trenches.
9) Cincinnati Bengals
General manager: Mike Brown
Director of player personnel: Duke Tobin
As the team’s owner, Brown is nominally the Bengals’ general manager, but Tobin is leading the decision-making process in Cincinnati. Tobin assisted Brown through the Marvin Lewis era and took full control of player acquisition when Zac Taylor became the club’s head coach in 2019.
The Bengals may have lucked into Joe Burrow at No. 1 in the 2020 NFL Draft, but Tobin has convinced Brown to be assertive in the free agent market to support his star quarterback. No longer reticent on Day 1 of free agency, Cincinnati has largely built their offensive line and entire defense through external signings while snagging talents like Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins in the draft.
10) Cleveland Browns
General manager: Andrew Berry
It’s challenging to place Berry and the Browns’ front office in these rankings. There’s no doubt they’ve built an excellent roster. But Berry, owner Jimmy Haslam, and others also signed off on trading for Deshaun Watson despite him facing two-dozen accusations of sexual misconduct.
Cleveland guaranteed Watson $ 230 million and structured his 2022 contract to limit his financial loss in the event of a suspension. Talent always wins out in the NFL, but that doesn’t make it right.
11) Indianapolis Colts
General manager: Chris Ballard
Ballard has drafted All-Pro talent in running back Jonathan Taylor, guard Quenton Nelson, and linebacker Darius Leonard, and he’s filled in other positions of need via low-cost signings. This offseason, the Colts somehow managed to swap out Carson Wentz for Matt Ryan while netting a move up in the second round of the 2022 draft and a conditional 2023 third-rounder. If anything, Ballard will need to be more aggressive in free agency to maximize the last few years of Ryan’s career.
12) Tennessee Titans
General manager: Jon Robinson
The Titans’ trade for Ryan Tannehill – in which they sent fourth- and seventh-round picks for Tannehill and a sixth-rounder while taking on just $ 2 million of the quarterback’s $ 7 million salary – remains an all-time coup. Tennessee dealt next to nothing in exchange for a signal-caller who subsequently led the NFL in QBR. That simply doesn’t happen.
The Titans seem to have taken a self-imposed step back this offseason, trading AJ Brown to the Eagles despite finishing as the AFC’s No. 1 seed in 2021. That’s a level of self-awareness most front offices don’t possess. Robinson and Co. are taking one step backward to eventually move two steps forward.
13) New England Patriots
General manager: Bill Belichick
We’ll never count out Belichick, but his 2021 spending spree didn’t yield the intended results. Hunter Henry and Matthew Judon played well in their first seasons as Patriots, but Nelson Agholor and Jonnu Smith’s deals already look like busts.
Cap-strapped in 2022, Belichick’s big move to supplement his second-year quarterback was… trading for 29-year-old DeVante Parker. New England’s legendary head coach will have a chance to reset next offseason.
14) Denver Broncos
General manager: George Paton
This may seem high for a general manager with only two offseasons under his belt, but Paton has done magnificent work since joining the Broncos. Rather than draft a first-round quarterback for a lame-duck head coach in 2021, he selected cornerback Patrick Surtain II, who looks like he’ll be a starter for a decade.
Paton took his home-run swing in March and acquired Russell Wilson from the Seahawks. He paid far less than expected for a 33-year-old future Hall of Famer, and Denver is now set up to compete in a tough AFC West. Lower-profile moves – signing WRs Courtland Sutton and Tim Patrick to below-market extensions and solidifying the front seven with Randy Gregory and DJ Jones – only add to Paton’s résumé and move Denver up our NFL front office rankings.
15) New Orleans Saints
General manager: Mickey Loomis
The Saints get a lot of credit for financial maneuvers that always seem to keep them just above the salary cap water line. However, almost any NFL team could replicate that strategy if they wanted to flirt with fiscal doom every offseason. Loomis and assistant GM Jeff Ireland deserve plaudits for their outstanding draft history (especially in 2017), but things could get more difficult now that Sean Payton is no longer around.
16) Dallas Cowboys
General manager: Jerry Jones
Vice president of player personnel: Will McClay
Jones is the face of the Cowboys, but McClay, who has been with Dallas since 2009, should also get some praise for Dallas’ roster machinations. Draft success is often fleeting, but the Cowboys have routinely proven adept at finding young contributors.
Dallas has been less triumphant in contract negotiation. Dak Prescott could have come cheaper had they signed him earlier, and the Ezekiel Elliott deal is still an albatross around their necks. Yet, because the Cowboys have shown restraint on the free agent market, those extensions haven’t hurt as much as they could have.