RotoPat’s 2024 NFL GM rankings: Analysis for all 32 teams

Despite what the Chiefs and 49ers would have you believe, the rich don’t always get richer. The Eagles thought they had the league’s best roster. Then their defense bellyflopped them out of contention. The Bills once again went “all in.” They learned pretty early they were all out of skill player depth.

Although there is an element of an “easy button” when you have Patrick Mahomes or Tom Brady, that’s not true for anyone else. Jalen Hurts’ short-yardage threat matters less when you’re playing from behind instead of chewing clock. Joe Burrow can’t paper over your defensive issues if there’s no one to block for him. Even when you have a franchise player, building the roster is meticulous, grinding work. On top of that, it doesn’t always even pay off. Just ask Howie Roseman.

The criteria is the same as always. All front office activity — from players and coaches to draft picks and contracts — is taken into consideration. Past achievements are not forgotten, but recent history is given greater emphasis. Even in a results-based business, the process is vital. Last year’s list can be found here. 2022’s is here.

Who is the best GM in the NFL?

1. Andy Reid/Brett Veach, Chiefs

It’s not as easy as just having the quarterback. As the Patriots’ “one year too early instead of one year too late” mantra taught us, you have to make painful decisions to stay on top in the NFL. For the Chiefs that has meant things like foregoing a No. 1 receiver two years in a row. That enabled them to build and spend at other premium positions like cornerback … until they could no longer even afford the corner. L’Jarius Sneed was an integral part of February’s latest Lombardi lifter. He was gone two months later. The roster fire is never really out when you’re paying Patrick Mahomes $45 million per season. It just spreads somewhere else. So far, Andy Reid and Brett Veach are doing quite literally the best possible job of adapting on a yearly basis. They waited out Chris Jones’ holdout before eventually coming to a mutually beneficial long-term agreement and finally found some money to spend at wideout. They are keeping superstars Mahomes and Travis Kelce happy. Most importantly, they are winning more games than anyone else. If they can continue to pair Mahomes’ magic with front office savvy, this dynasty will become even more difficult to dislodge than the Brady/Belichick machine of yore.

2. Kyle Shanahan/John Lynch, 49ers

Whether it is via the draft or trade, no team has been better at acquiring premium, non-quarterback talent. The success is head-spinning. Deebo Samuel, Nick Bosa, Brandon Aiyuk, Trent Williams, Christian McCaffrey, Fred Warner, Dre Greenlaw, George Kittle. The list goes on and on and on for an executive group that has been in place since 2017. That is not to ignore the finds at QB. Even with the Trey Lance whiff included, acquiring Jimmy Garoppolo and drafting Brock Purdy is a better quarterback hit rate than a disturbing number of teams. The challenge, as always, is keeping it going. Purdy needs to get paid sooner rather than later, while the days of Aiyuk and Samuel both chewing up superstar skill player cap space are numbered. Kyle Shanahan loves stars. His brain trust has been consistently successful at finding ways to pay them. As long as Purdy’s impending extension doesn’t wreck the formula — Garoppolo’s deal didn’t — this figures to remain one of the league’s most dynamic front offices.

3. Howie Roseman, Eagles

No one does rise and fall quite like Howie Roseman. The question is how to prevent his latest valley from becoming a caldera. What looked like the league’s best overall roster in 2022 proved to be dangerously deficient on defense last season. Roseman didn’t have much money to throw at the problem on the open market so he settled for draft picks, using all three of his top-100 selections on defenders. This, despite the fact that offensive captain Jason Kelce has ridden off into the retirement sunset, making it an open question whether Jalen Hurts and company can maintain their bully ball, tush push approach. Roseman addressed that question in part by using what few precious free agent dollars he had on Saquon Barkley, hoping to increase the effectiveness of what had been a diminishing backfield committee. Always on the lookout for value, Roseman stopped the draft weekend slide of CB Cooper DeJean after doing the same for Jalen Carter in 2023. Maybe it will prove more “quick fix” than foundation building for the future, but this roster still looks good enough on paper to reload instead of rebuild. If the latter proves necessary in 2025, Roseman has demonstrated more than once he can get things turned around in a hurry.

4. Sean McVay/Les Snead, Rams

Everything Sean McVay and Les Snead know about team-building has changed. Aaron Donald has retired and the draft picks are suddenly remaining in house. How well they do with the latter will make or break how they do without the former. The Rams have made an absurd 24 selections over the past two springs, and the early returns are strong. EDGE Byron Young and DT Kobie Turner both looked like potential building blocks as 2023 rookies, while fifth-rounder Puka Nacua immediately announced himself as a star. Day 3 picks Tre Tomlinson and Desjuan Johnson weren’t nearly as impactful as Young and Turner, but both managed to get on the field. The Rams were going to need a legendary draft haul at some point were they to seamlessly move on from Hall-of-Famer Donald, and they may have already gotten it. It will be supplemented by their first first-rounder since 2016, 2024 EDGE Jared Verse, as well as fellow top-40 DL Braden Fiske. McVay and Snead have never built a roster that didn’t feature one of the best defenders in the history of the game, but they seem ready for the challenge.

5. Eric DeCosta, Ravens

Five years on from Ozzie Newsome, this is officially an Eric DeCosta roster. The results? Four seasons of 10-plus wins, two No. 1 seeds, and a 2023-24 AFC Championship Game appearance. Ravens fans want more — a Lombardi Trophy, to be exact — but like Newsome before him, DeCosta continues to maximize the odds with shrewd drafting and canny roster management. He refuses to overpay for internal talent even if it means losing notable players in free agency. He compensates by finding early-round values in the draft — most notably Kyle Hamilton and Tyler Linderbaum — and “picking his spots” when it comes to ponying up. 2020 third-round DT Justin Madubuike was the latest example this spring. DeCosta strikes for free agent bargains when given the chance, including Jadeveon Clowney and Kyle Van Noy in 2023. There have been misses, especially at receiver. DeCosta has had a fiendishly difficult time surrounding Lamar Jackson with the right pass catchers. But the 1-53 man depth gives DeCosta and the Ravens margin for error, and if 2023 is any indication, they are closer than ever to their “big game breakthrough.”

6. Brad Holmes, Lions

The Lions build out their strengths and hide their weaknesses. That’s how you go from three wins to nine to 12 in one three-year span, and come within a quarter of the first Super Bowl appearance in franchise history. It’s also how you blow a 24-7 halftime lead against the 49ers. Jared Goff and the No. 23 scoring defense can only be hidden for so long. Brad Holmes hopes he has added more slack to the line after a free agency/trade shopping spree that included EDGE Marcus Davenport, DT D.J. Reader and CB Carlton Davis. The draft included two top-60 DBs. The focus is clear, as is the belief. Holmes thinks surprising holdover OC Ben Johnson can continue to make a recently-extended Goff part of the solution as opposed to the problem. Sean McVay eventually gave up and tried something else, but not after first reaching the Super Bowl. That remains in reach for this team despite unorthodox decisions like using first-round picks on an off-ball linebacker and change-of-pace running back and making a slot man one of the game’s highest-paid receivers. Holmes trusts his instincts enough to go against the grain. He continues to be rewarded with one of the most remarkable turnarounds in recent NFL history.

7. Brandon Beane, Bills

By any reasonable measure, this is a wildly successful front office. Brandon Beane and Sean McDermott have one losing season in seven years and successfully traded up for a franchise player. They have won at least one playoff game four seasons running. But you don’t get judged by reasonable measures when you have Josh Allen in his prime. It’s about Super Bowls, and the Bills haven’t sniffed one since 2020. That’s despite “all-in” team building that produced top-heavy rosters, an approach that finally had to be curtailed with an offseason release-a-thon. Now the skill corps isn’t what it once was and the veteran leadership has been gutted on defense. Tough stuff, but everything is easier when you have Allen. It also helps that McDermott coaches them up like few else on defense even if his game management and leadership leave something to be desired. Although this is now a “post-hype” roster, it is still a strong AFC East favorite, one likely to win another playoff game. It’s just a question of how much longer that remains enough for Beane and McDermott as the clock ticks on Allen’s wrecking-ball years.

8. Brian Gutekunst, Packers

Brian Gutekunst played the long game. Never mind that it wasn’t intentional. Three years after the fact, Jordan Love was finally proven as a franchise player. Good as Love was last season, it’s safe to say the Packers would not have selected him had they known Aaron Rodgers would win back-to-back MVPs in 2020-21. You can argue all day whether or not it was a mistake. What’s not debatable is that Gutekunst’s good work in-between the Rodgers and Love eras is what enabled Love to hit the ground running. Rodgers hated his young supporting cast. Love thrived with it, giving Green Bay one of the league’s most projectable skill corps. Although the defense has remained somewhat maddening as it continues its never-ending quest for the correct coordinator, Gutekunst has kept it competitive with decent drafting and just-enough tactical free agent strikes. There is still work to do there, as Gutekunst admitted with a March spending spree that netted Xavier McKinney and Keisean Nixon. It hasn’t always been pretty, but Gutekunst’s squads have posted winning records 4-of-6 years because he continues to get more decisions right than wrong. Now the rare executive to bridge quarterback eras, Gutekunst has a path to becoming one of the league’s longest-tenured GMs.

9. Jerry Jones/Stephen Jones, Cowboys

The Cowboys have three straight 12-win seasons but only one playoff victory to show for it. They have superstar players on both sides of the ball but depth issues that tend to rear their head at the most inopportune times. They have a war horse head coach who somehow crumbles at all the biggest moments. This is a good roster, one stocked with homegrown talent. It is just impossible to shake the feeling it should be something more. Jerry Jones and his gang of cronies never quite get the credit they deserve because the finishing touches are always missing. The once-vaunted offensive line and skill player depth have become just as top heavy as every other unit. The bottom could fall out at any given moment. Jones and company do at least provide a ceiling. That is more than half the battle, and a lot more than can be said for most front offices.

10. John Schneider, Seahawks

John Schneider is both one of the league’s longest-tenured GMs and most unknown commodities. It was Pete Carroll who had final say the past 14 years in Seattle. Schneider is just now stepping out of the ol’ ball coach’s shadow. He is doing so by spending money on defense and biding his time on offense. With defensive-minded head coach Mike Macdonald arriving as part of the league’s new guard, Schneider gave him Leonard Williams, Rayshawn Jenkins, Tyrel Dodson and Jerome Baker in free agency. With the roster just a little too good to blow it up and move on from Geno Smith, Schneider is hoping Smith can split the difference between his renaissance 2022 and quieter 2023 while Macdonald returns some boom to the legions on defense. It’s not a bad plan, but it’s only temporary. It’s also the kind of stop-gap approach that could end up creating a vacuum for the hot-shot young coach to step into. Schneider’s big post-Carroll chance is probably a year-to-year proposition. He will have reasonably good odds of success if Macdonald carries over his schematic success from Baltimore.

11. Duke Tobin/Mike Brown, Bengals

The Bengals knew which superstar to draft first. They still haven’t figured out how to keep him upright, or out of weekly shootouts. Cincinnati has finished in the top half of the league in points allowed just one time during the Joe Burrow era, while the QB keeps taking hits and missing time. We know that sacks are at least partly a quarterback stat, but the Bengals have never really presented Burrow with the option to save him from himself. The problem could grow more acute if Tee Higgins leaves town next offseason, further fading a thinning skill corps and demanding ever more hero ball from Burrow. This front office has found a good coach, quarterback and defensive coordinator. It has not drafted particularly well since, with recent blue chip picks Cam Taylor-Britt, Dax Hill, D.J. Turner and Myles Murphy struggling to contribute quality snaps. The Bengals need to build a more sustainable future along the offensive line and give DC Lou Anarumo more chess pieces to move around on defense. That will be doubly true if disgruntled EDGE Trey Hendrickson successfully forces his way off the roster via trade. Burrow answered the Bengals’ biggest question. He also moved their problems to a higher tax bracket, one where it is harder to correct mistakes like back-to-back uninspiring drafts.

12. Jason Licht, Bucs

One of the NFL’s ultimate front office survivors, Jason Licht achieved a major milestone last year: He made the playoffs without Tom Brady. That is something he had never managed in six previous Brady-less campaigns. He had solid cores on both offense and defense to thank, though Shaq Barrett is gone and Mike Evans and Lavonte David are aging. With wiz kid OC Dave Canales departed to the Panthers, it’s another time of transition in Tampa. Licht deserves credit for being party to Baker Mayfield’s resurrection, but his past two drafts have been low on instant contributors. That, coupled with a quiet free agent class put the 2024 season in the danger zone. This team does not have a Super Bowl ceiling. It’s on Licht to maintain the floor as he hunts for his next Brady-esque life hack.

13. Chris Grier, Dolphins

Eight years in and Chris Grier is still hunting for his first playoff victory. He appeared closer than ever last season before the Dolphins were non-competitive in the Wild Card Round against the Chiefs after nearly upsetting the Bills with a backup quarterback the year prior. One reason is Tua Tagovailoa’s Mike McDaniel-fueled floor appears to lack a ceiling. That’s a real problem since Grier is about to “have” to make Tua his very own wildly overpaid Jared Goff. That’s just how it goes when you lack an elite quarterback. You cling to what you have and hope to optimize the rest. Grier has done so with Tyreek Hill and his impressive skill corps, but the mission got harder on defense when Grier couldn’t afford a second contract for Andrew Van Ginkel. Jevon Holland, Bradley Chubb and Jalen Ramsey remain as building blocks, but Jaelan Phillips’ torn achilles’ tendon caps the 2024 upside. Having drafted just eight total players in 2022-23, Grier badly needs this year’s seven-man class to turn out an instant contributor or two. Grier has made the Dolphins interesting. Making them truly competitive in the Patrick Mahomes/Josh Allen/Lamar Jackson/Joe Burrow/C.J. Stroud-ruled AFC is going to be a whole lot harder.

14. Mickey Loomis, Saints

The Saints are still all in. But instead of kicking the salary cap can down the road to infinity on Drew Brees, it’s Derek Carr. That certainly makes the annual restructures and cap shenanigans “hit different.” New Orleans entered the offseason nearly $77 million in the red after going 9-8 Carr’s first year on the job. They, as always, got in the black but with ever-increasing damage to their future bottom line. Free agency mostly consisted of moving 0s around on a spreadsheet until the NFL said their roster was legal. Chase Young was a $13 million exception. The Saints want to win, which can be a shockingly underrated attribute during the age of rebuilds and planned obsolescence. But obsolescence appears to be the end game, anyways. Someone is eventually going to have to rip the band-aid off and start anew. It seems unlikely to be Loomis after 22 years on the job.

15. Andrew Berry, Browns

Andrew Berry is 40 percent of the way through Deshaun Watson’s five-year, fully-guaranteed contract and the quarterback still hasn’t done anything. Watson has won eight ball games in two seasons. That makes it all the more impressive the Browns went 11-6 and cruised into the Wild Card Round last year before an unsurprising Joe Flacco meltdown in Houston. Berry has built around franchise player Myles Garrett through a combination of solid draft picks (Grant Delpit, Greg Newsome), free agent signings (Jack Conklin, Za’Darius Smith) and trade acquisitions (Amari Cooper, Jerry Jeudy). The mission has been made much harder by the Watson trade limiting the Browns to zero top-50 selections over the past three draft classes, though the bottom doesn’t yet appear poised to fall out of this veteran-laden roster. But that moment of reckoning could be coming faster than expected. That includes at quarterback, where 29-year-old Watson (in September) is having an increasingly-difficult time staying healthy. This is an all-in group. 2024 is where the last stand begins, very much including for Berry.

16. Nick Caserio, Texans

Nick Caserio finally decided to see what a real roster felt like. After years of biding his time accumulating draft picks and signing special teamers, Caserio not only struck for a franchise quarterback in C.J. Stroud, he traded up for a potential defensive linchpin in Will Anderson. Non-quarterback trade-ups tend to be one of the cardinal sins of team-building. If you’re using that capital on any position other than the most important one in sports, it better be a home run. Two rookie of the year awards later, and Caserio’s gamble is looking golden. Anderson and his DROY honors would be the headline for any other draft class, but it’s not any other draft class when you have a rookie QB perform like an instant superstar. Stroud was so good Caserio has already gone all in on his contract, acquiring Stefon Diggs and Joe Mixon while handing out three $20 million-plus deals to defenders in free agency. It is whiplash inducing after Caserio’s maddeningly conservative pre-Stroud approach, but this is how you are supposed to do it. Wait for your moment and do not miss. No longer on the hot seat, Caserio could now be looking at a decade-plus leading Houston’s front office.

17. Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, Vikings

There’s never a dull moment in the Vikings’ front office. Like Rick Spielman before him, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah seems to get chaos, whether he courts it or not. First, there was the negative point differential 13-4 playoff campaign. Next, there was the four-quarterback fiasco season that still came shockingly close to producing a postseason berth. That’s just how things go in Minnesota, though the similarities to Spielman stop there. Whereas Spielman was famous for hoarding draft picks — he made 36 selections his final three years on the job — Adofo-Mensah has been prone to using them in trade-ups. He has made a modest 13 picks across his first two springs in charge. One of them was on J.J. McCarthy after not one but two moves up. That was Adofo-Mensah putting his stamp on the game’s signature position. Adofo-Mensah went on a free agent spring shopping spree — Jonathan Greenard, Andrew Van Ginkel, Blake Cashman, Aaron Jones, etc. — but it is his unorthodox moves to acquire an unorthodox franchise player that will make-or-break his Vikings tenure.

18. Chris Ballard, Colts

Chris Ballard has been surviving Jim Irsay since 2017, with varying degrees of success. Acclaimed early in his tenure, Ballard was in danger of being swallowed whole by the Irsay vortex in 2022, with the erratic owner ordering the mid-season firing of coach Frank Reich and replacing him with his buddy Jeff Saturday. The darkest of times for a general manager, but Ballard came out the other side with elite draft capital and a seemingly chastened boss. Ballard was allowed to make an upside draft pick in Anthony Richardson and meat-and-potatoes coaching hire in Shane Steichen. The project seems all the way back on the rails following a 9-8 2023, though it’s still been a while since Ballard had a truly inspiring draft. The truth is, Ballard might not still be around were it not for his owner’s dysfunction, but that same dysfunction makes it difficult to evaluate a GM whose early years were undeniably positive. We need more time. A quieter Irsay appears poised to provide it.

19. Omar Khan, Steelers

One division, two legendary retiring GMs. Ozzie Newsome left Eric DeCosta Lamar Jackson. Kevin Colbert left Omar Khan … Kenny Pickett. That means Khan is going to be graded on a curve for the foreseeable future, but he’s already made one great quarterback decision: Cutting his losses with Kenny. Pickett has been shipped out for a bag of footballs while Russell Wilson and Justin Fields have been brought in on the cheap to try to create some semblance of post-Roethlisberger momentum. Khan’s rosters have managed to go 19-15 with a backdoor 2023 playoff qualification. A ‘23 draft class that produced five 17-game players — including starters Broderick Jones, Joey Porter Jr, Keeanu Benton — was a promising first step into the post-Colbert void. Nick Herbig also looks like a solid Day 3 flier. It’s never easy, but Khan’s initial weathering of someone else’s quarterback bust suggests it won’t be as hard as it could have been.

20. Joe Douglas, Jets

The same thing that makes you live can kill you in the end. Joe Douglas needed a meal ticket. That’s just how it goes in New York. Rarely is a Jets executive allowed to build a team normally. There must always be a shortcut. Aaron Rodgers was that opportunity for Douglas. It’s looking more like a short-circuit. The possessor of a 27-56 record through five seasons as GM, Douglas is now all in on a 40-year-old who has played four snaps in the past 16 months and had his worst professional season in 2022. Rodgers will be operating behind an offensive line that was one of the league’s worst in 2023. Douglas did his best to shore it up in the draft and free agency, but anything short of top-10 blocking is going to be a major concern for the increasingly-immobile Rodgers. That’s a precarious plan if there ever was one, but it’s at least a plan. The Jets were only in position to attempt it at all because of Douglas’ home run 2022 draft class that included Sauce Gardner, Garrett Wilson and Breece Hall. Douglas’ hire of defensive-minded head coach Robert Saleh has also proven to be a boon on that side of the ball. Douglas has had just enough hits to justify his continued existence leading Gang Green. That will not remain the case if 2024 produces fewer than 10-11 victories.

21. Terry Fontenot, Falcons

“The hope is this is a completely wasted pick over the next two years” was how NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport spun the reach heard round the world. Rarely has a galaxy been so brained. Falcons GM Terry Fontenot was tired of being mired in 7-10 nowheresville so he pounced on Kirk Cousins in free agency (a little too early, it turns out). That’s good. Bad was making that all-in move — guaranteeing $90 million to a 36-year-old quarterback — and then making the least all-in pick imaginable at No. 8 overall. Quarterback is the most important position in North American sports, but you have to choose a lane. Is it about today or tomorrow? Is it about pairing a veteran with a readymade skill corps or optimizing the roster for a rookie QB contract? Fontenot couldn’t decide so he did both, and now he’s in a different kind of no man’s land. Cousins is left wondering why he agreed to go somewhere that threw away a top-10 pick from his point of view, while Michael Penix is a 24-year-old rookie whose new team doesn’t want him to start until he’s 26. Many have tried — both analytically-minded or otherwise — but there is no way to rationalize that splitting of the team-building baby. Fontenot blinked at his moment of truth. Rather than clarity, the result threatens to be more seven-win seasons.

22. Ryan Poles, Bears

Ryan Poles is in the catbird seat for improvement. Closing 2023 on a 5-3 run, the Bears scored 34 more points than the year prior while surrendering 84 fewer. Their reward was the Panthers’ No. 1 overall pick after Poles’ slam-dunk decision to trade down the previous year and receive No. 1 WR DJ Moore in the process. Poles now has franchise player Caleb Williams to pair with an on-the-rise defense and much improved skill corps. Poles doesn’t have a ton to show for his first three draft classes, but his trades have netted Williams, Montez Sweat and Keenan Allen. He is finding high-end talent at premium positions. As long as Williams doesn’t join the dizzyingly long line of Bears quarterback busts, Poles is a lot closer to a contract extension than he is to being pink slipped.

23. Joe Schoen, Giants

It’s usually a good thing to make the playoffs in your first season as general manager — unless it forces you to pay Daniel Jones. Joe Schoen took his Danny Dimes medicine and the results were predictably disastrous even before Jones’ 2023 season-ending torn ACL. That debacle has the G-Men in a 2024 holding pattern as they wait for Jones’ contract to come off the books in 2025, though Schoen has done a decent job building up the defense. Bobby Okereke was a strong 2023 free agent signing while Brian Burns was an elite spring 2024 acquisition. Schoen also invested in the offensive line with affordable Jon Runyan and Jermaine Eluemunor deals, and he made the easy call to select Malik Nabers No. 5 overall in the draft. Schoen’s pins are being set up. It’s just going to take someone other than Jones to knock them down in 2025. Schoen will have to choose wisely on the free agent/draft/trade acquisition that will go on to define his tenure.

24. Ran Carthon, Titans

The winner of the latest power struggle in the Titans’ front office, Ran Carthon immediately set about undoing Mike Vrabel’s team-building philosophy. He brought in a chip off the ol’ Sean McVay coaching block via Zac Taylor in Brian Callahan and proceeded to modernize the offense at warp speed. Derrick Henry was allowed to walk in free agency, Tony Pollard was added to catch backfield passes alongside Tyjae Spears, and Calvin Ridley and Tyler Boyd were signed to supplement DeAndre Hopkins and provide an actual receiver corps. Quarterback remains a problem with Will Levis, but Carthon has given Callahan license to at least attempt to pass. Levis has been promised more drop-backs and *gasp* first-down attempts. Should the second-year pro not prove up to the challenge, Mason Rudolph is a decent insurance policy. The blocking will be improved with free agent addition Lloyd Cushenberry and No. 7 overall pick JC Latham. Not mentioned there is the defense, a rag-tag group that had been held together by Vrabel. Even more so than quarterback, that could prove to be Carthon’s 2024 undoing, but he has proven to be a man of action who will address those issues in 2025 as long as he gets another season. There is every reason to believe he will be back for this team in transition.

25. Monti Ossenfort, Cardinals

The waiting is the hardest part, but it’s never for as long as you might imagine in the NFL. Monti Ossenfort’s first year on the Cardinals job was a largely quarterback-less affair where the entire franchise was simply waiting for Kyler Murray’s return and what draft pick they might land. It was No. 4 overall and Marvin Harrison Jr., removing another obstacle to this team’s evolution. They are going to learn once and for all in 2024 whether Murray has the right stuff. No more injuries, Kliff Kingsbury, or supporting cast excuses. Just, is the quarterback any good or not? If he is, Ossenfort could have a surprise contender, one he can further enhance in 2025. If not, next offseason will be all about finding the right triggerman for MHJ and co.

26. George Paton, Broncos

I don’t know if George Paton is any good. I also don’t know if he’s really even the GM anymore. Sean Payton’s salary, history and comments certainly suggest he’s the one now running the shop. Whoever has the keys is overseeing an operation that’s gone 20-31 since Paton arrived three seasons ago. Big moves have been the story. So far, none of them have worked. Russell Wilson flopped as hard as any quarterback in recent memory. Payton went 8-9 his first year on the job. The next — and potentially last for Paton — big gambit is No. 12 overall QB Bo Nix. That would be the same Bo Nix who is already 24 years old and played more snaps in college than Joe Burrow has in the pros. It’s a Hail Mary, which you could argue is ironic since that is decidedly not Nix’s style. He’s a PaytonPlayer™ to the Nth degree. Screens, check-downs, quick-outs. If you are skeptical that’s the kind of game that’s going to save a front office, well, you’re not alone. It’s all very tricky for Paton, who will be the first to go if Payton’s ploy fails and maybe even if it works. No one is more devoted to “his guys” than Payton, and Paton isn’t one of them. So the road is fraught either way. Paton’s job will still be a whole lot safer with 10-11 2024 victories.

27. Trent Baalke, Jaguars

2013 was the last time a Trent Baalke roster finished more than a game above .500. That’s when he had a coach by the name of Jim Harbaugh. Baalke chased Harbs back to the NCAA and muddled through a 7-25 post-Harbaugh record before bumbling into the role of Urban Meyer’s personnel man in Jacksonville. After the duo inaugurated their partnership with a draft where they apparently equated Travis Etienne with Kadarius Toney, Meyer returned to his FOX Sports sinecure and Baalke used a No. 1 overall selection on Travon Walker. Although hardly a disaster, Walker hasn’t exactly had the looks of a future franchise edge rusher. It’s not just Walker. Baalke’s 2023 class appears exceptionally light on playmakers despite 13 total picks. Baalke has prevented complete roster collapse with surprisingly effective free agent expenditures, including Christian Kirk, Evan Engram, Darious Williams and Foyesade Oluokun. He added trade acquisition Arik Armstead to the picture this spring. The spending has provided a baseline but little ceiling, which is a necessity since Baalke infamously pursues ceiling at all cost in the draft. If he doesn’t finally get some in 2024, it will be someone else’s turn to maximize Trevor Lawrence’s potential in 2025.

New Hires (Alphabetical Order)

Joe Hortiz, Chargers

Jim Harbaugh loves “his guys,” but he was running low on them at the NFL level after spending the past nine seasons in Ann Arbor. So he simply raided his brother’s cupboard in Maryland, not only hiring back ex-49ers and Ravens OC Greg Roman, but longtime Baltimore exec Joe Hortiz. A 26-year veteran of arguably the league’s best front office, Hortiz is a promising poach, albeit one reporting directly to Harbaugh. That is undoubtedly for the best after Trent Baalke ran Harbaugh out of San Francisco despite his stunning four-year success. Harbaugh is iconoclastic bordering on neurotic, but both he and his brother John have proven to be astute observers of talent. That includes recent Seahawks head-coaching hire Mike Macdonald, who bounced between the Brothers Harbaugh. Jim is going to have final say in Los Angeles, but there is every reason to believe Hortiz will position him to make good decisions.

Dan Morgan, Panthers

Dan Morgan has plenty of personnel experience, but that won’t prepare you for the job in Carolina. This one is about managing the expectations and ego of one man: Owner David Tepper. In nuclear meltdown mode ever since he (allegedly) forced his front office to select Bryce Young over C.J. Stroud, Tepper has fired everyone in sight. We would like to think Tepper has learned his lesson, but he spent the literal hour before the draft trying to get someone else fired: A restaurant manager who put up a cheeky sign about Tepper’s management style. Every NFL GM is answering to a billionaire or three, but this one has strong opinions on who should be playing quarterback, etc. That makes Morgan’s job doomed to fail, though he did the best he could this spring. Dave Canales was a strong coaching hire, and the draft and free agency accomplished the goal of better positioning Young for success. That includes huge investments in the offensive line and skill corps. Morgan’s problem is success just might not be possible for his pint-sized signal caller. He undoubtedly understands this. Tepper never will.

Adam Peters, Commanders

A scout for Bill Belichick before he was an executive for Kyle Shanahan, Adam Peters has an impressive background. In fact, he has the background. You won’t find credentials more impeccable. That’s hope for the future. The present is a bit underwhelming. Dan Quinn and Jayden Daniels both have extreme upside. Quinn is an elite defensive coordinator beloved by his players. He was also the definition of a replacement-level head coach with the Falcons, who gave him a long leash. Daniels is a gifted dual-threat whose rushing ability and deep passing won him a Heisman Trophy. The problem is he turns 24 as a rookie and has major red flags easily spotted by even the most casual observers. These are the people Peters is tied to. Again, the upside can’t be disputed. The downside is that Peters doesn’t even make it to a third draft in 2026.  

Tom Telesco, Raiders

Tom Telesco got 10 years with the Chargers. They coincided with Philip Rivers and Justin Herbert. He lost more games than he won and made the playoffs three times, never advancing beyond the Divisional Round. It’s true that his teams always seemed talented, but a decade is a pretty long time for the results not to match the roster. This my long way of saying Telesco would not have been first on my retread list, especially if I were a division rival. And yet, here we are. The Raiders kept Telesco on the street for all of 39 days, pouncing to pair him with interim-coach-made-good Antonio Pierce. It’s hard to say if the move is audacious or breathtakingly boring. Telesco had to settle for boring in the draft, taking TE Brock Bowers at No. 13 overall after the Falcons blew up his quarterback plans by selecting Michael Penix. Telesco was slightly friskier in free agency, striking for elite interior lineman Christian Wilkins. This probably won’t be an awful team. It would also be the first time a Telesco squad winning nine games would be a pleasant surprise instead of bitter disappointment.

Eliot Wolf, Patriots

Like Adam Peters, Eliot Wolf has a lab-created résumé. Beyond his legendary father Ron Wolf, Eliot has apprenticed under Ted Thompson and Bill Belichick. You are going to learn a thing or two, including what not to do. There is one lesson Wolf learned the easy way: You better have a quarterback. The Packers always have. The 2018-19 Browns and 2020-23 Patriots rarely did. Thrust into the front office’s top role following Belichick’s firing, Wolf made the only sensible decision at No. 3 overall when he selected Drake Mayer after the Commanders questionably passed. Wolf is in so many different shadows it can sometimes be difficult to spot the sun, but nothing will clear the clouds faster than Maye panning out. Not even Belichick will be long remembered if Wolf and Maye prove to be a match made in heaven. The “young man” who knew all the right men is off to a great start in New England.

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