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NFL championships are not won in the offseason. But the foundations for championships are certainly laid. There are rare instances of teams going "all-in" and hoisting the ultimate prize as a result; the Tampa Bay Buccaneers did it with Tom Brady and the Los Angeles Rams did it with Matthew Stafford. But even the most sustainable title contenders -- the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs dynasties, for example -- draft, develop and swing big for veteran help.

So which teams are best suited to make noise during the 2024 offseason? Well, the first step to "winning" an offseason is defining expectations. Here, we're looking to sort all 32 teams into one of five rough tiers -- contenders sitting pretty, contenders with questions, rebuilders with resources, uphill climbers and purgatory peddlers. That way, when the frenzy of signings and trades and draft picks unfolds, we can return to the 32-team rundown and grade activity within expectations.

So join us now as we venture into the offseason, and identify which clubs appear to have the quickest paths to success:

Contenders sitting pretty

Joe Burrow's presence does a lot, but they're top 10 in projected salary cap space ($48 million) with Tee Higgins already secured, if temporarily, under the franchise tag. Worst case, they deal him for a nice haul. Best case, they keep Burrow's dynamic 1-2 wideout punch intact and still have money to bolster the trenches and secondary.

The Lions banged on the door of the Super Bowl in 2023, and now they've got more than $45 million in cap space without an abundance of must-have free agents set to walk. Sure, they pick late in the first round of the draft, but there's enough financial wiggle room here for a serious upgrade or two at key spots like pass rusher or cornerback.

Matthew Stafford's contract is going to need some work at some point; he's owed close to $50 million in each of the next three years. But their youth-led resurgence in 2023 means they've got some quality cost-controlled weapons on both sides of the ball, and their $40 million in cap space should enable a spendy move to upgrade the defense.

If any team is primed to go from playoff darling to legit contender in 2024, it might be Houston. With a young star quarterback in C.J. Stroud, plus dynamic up-and-comers like Tank Dell and Will Anderson Jr., they're already in a good spot. Throw in the fact they've got $70 million in cap space -- fourth most in the NFL -- and there's plenty of reason to believe splashy additions could be coming on both sides of the ball.

Contenders with questions

Josh Allen? Check. But they just got done cutting ties with a slew of proven veterans, including their top secondary starters, in order to simply get under the cap. There won't be a lot of wiggle room for upgrades.

They deserve props for retaining top free agents in Mike Evans and Antoine Winfield Jr., but Baker Mayfield is a big remaining fish. They also still need proven help at multiple levels of the defense.

Patrick Mahomes. Andy Reid. Travis Kelce. That means another title bid is possible. But they may be forced to pick and choose between defensive stars with both Chris Jones and L'Jarius Sneed costing a pretty penny. And that's not even accounting for ongoing questions about wide receiver depth.

Jerry Jones might free up a lot of immediate money by doling out lucrative extensions to guys like CeeDee Lamb and Micah Parsons, but he's also got a Dak Prescott contract to massage. Regardless, there doesn't appear to be a ton of extra money for big-ticket additions on the now-Mike Zimmer-led defense.

Howie Roseman is as creative as they come; don't rule out a trade or two to help restore juice in a city that lost it quickly down the stretch. The cap space also isn't dire. But they've got a bunch of contributors hitting free agency and/or retirement, meaning the turnover -- especially on defense -- could be drastic.

Look, they're fresh off a close Super Bowl loss to the Chiefs, and some of their best players are squarely in their prime. They're fine. But they don't have an abundance of cap space, which could mean a tough decision is coming on their expensive wide receiver duo of Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk.

Generally speaking, the Doug Pederson-Trevor Lawrence contingent still seems to inspire faith. But even with Josh Allen temporarily secured with the tag, they've got other important vets, like wideout Calvin Ridley, due to test the market. And they've cut others, like Darious Williams, just for breathing room.

There's lots to like about this up-and-coming contender, with Jordan Love headlining a youthful offense. But they're not flush with cap space, owning a projected $13 million, and could be saying goodbye to both of their top ball carriers. Here's to hoping their homegrown talent continues to progress.

Like the other contenders with big-time quarterbacks, the Ravens are going to be competitive as long as Lamar Jackson is under center. And retaining Justin Madubuike via the tag means a lot for the defensive front. But they're still pressed against the cap, and that's without new deals for veteran contributors like Odell Beckham Jr., Kevin Zeitler, Patrick Queen and Geno Stone.

Rebuilders with resources

No matter what they do at quarterback, they'd have to try really hard to mess it up. If they use the No. 1 pick on Caleb Williams as expected, they could still fetch additional draft compensation by dealing Justin Fields. Should they stun the NFL and keep Fields, they could also get a haul for the No. 1 pick. On top of that, they're set to have more than $55 million in cap space to fill out both sides of the ball.

Whatever you think of Kyler Murray, they should be able to outfit the quarterback with a better supporting cast this year. Their $56 million in projected cap space ranks fifth among all teams, and they also own the No. 4 pick in the draft, potentially giving them a clean path to a top wide receiver or offensive line prospect.

Everyone knows they need a quarterback, and yet they have all the resources to get one and build around him. Not a single team has more projected cap space ($91 million), which means they should be able to replace jettisoned prospects like Chase Young and Montez Sweat. And the No. 2 overall pick in the draft should still guarantee them one of this year's blue-chip prospects under center.

They aren't as loaded with money as you might think, considering how often they've now been linked to top free agents like Kirk Cousins. But they've got enough to make at least one or two big splashes. On top of it, they've got a top-10 draft pick for the third straight year. With the right quarterback swing, they could vault themselves right into the 2024 playoff picture.

Only the Washington Commanders are currently scheduled to have more cap space at their disposal in free agency, meaning new coach Jerod Mayo should be able to "burn some cash" as he predicted. Better yet, the No. 3 overall pick means a splashy new quarterback should also be on the way.

They've flown under the radar a bit, perhaps because of Mike Vrabel's exit and the anticipated departure of aging stalwarts like Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry. But with lots of cap space ($75 million) and a top-10 pick, it might not be long before we're talking about the intrigue of a restocked supporting cast for young quarterback Will Levis.

Uphill climbers

New coach Jim Harbaugh already has a proven quarterback in Justin Herbert. But parting with key veterans like Mike Williams and Khalil Mack could be necessary to free up money, considering they're scheduled to be over the cap.

They've got a solid amount of cap space ($49 million) to go along with a top-15 pick, so on paper, there's a path to legitimate improvement. But after tagging Michael Pittman Jr., they've still got key free agents to assess in Gardner Minshew, Julian Blackmon and Kenny Moore among others. Can they secure real quarterback insurance if it's not Minshew?

They've got a pivotal decision approaching with Tua Tagovailoa's deal, and Jaylen Waddle is also eligible for an extension. Beyond that, they've already had to purge key veterans like Xavien Howard and Jerome Baker on the defense just to get under the cap. Are they playoff-caliber? Sure, but the road to a major leap will require some more hard decisions.

Like the Colts, they've actually got decent ammo to improve: close to $40 million in cap space and, even better, a borderline top-five draft pick that could be used for a new quarterback. But Daniel Jones is still eating up a ton of money, and they've got holes at basically every level of the roster with internal free agents like Xavier McKinney set to walk.

Joe Douglas can probably turn his $20 million in cap space -- or the No. 10 overall pick -- into at least one offensive line upgrade for the aging Aaron Rodgers. But for a team that also badly needs a new No. 2 signal-caller, at least one premium complement to Garrett Wilson and a potential edge-rushing replacement for Bryce Huff, they'll need to find value deals. 

They aren't barren in terms of cap space despite big-money commitments to guys like Davante Adams and Maxx Crosby, but picking at No. 13, they won't necessarily have a clean shot at the best of the best quarterback prospects, either.

The stage is set for a decent makeover under new coach Mike Macdonald, and they could be intriguing sleepers if they find a quarterback of the future with the No. 16 pick. But they've also had to cut ties with some key vets, including Pro Bowl defensive backs Jamal Adams and Quandre Diggs, while preparing to let others, like Leonard Williams, walk.

They'd make a perfect landing spot for a veteran signal-caller Russell Wilson, but primarily because they don't have that much cap space with which to operate. Mike Tomlin has himself a borderline playoff-caliber lineup already, but they don't feel particularly willing or able to pull off the kind of blockbuster they need to get over the top under center.

GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah has enough cap space and wherewithal to keep the Vikings in the market for key positions, but the decisions he faces with internal free agents are massive: To keep Kirk Cousins or pursue alternatives? To pay a premium for Danielle Hunter or reset at edge rusher? It's all a matter of what this team wants to be right now.

Purgatory peddlers

It's Sean Payton's show now. But he'll need to be creative to restore hope in a hurry. After eating a historic amount of money to dump Russell Wilson, then cutting vaunted leader Justin Simmons to clear more cap space, they're still not primed to outbid anyone for premium players. The draft could help, as they own the No. 12 overall pick, but they may still not have clear access to a premium quarterback successor.

Hello, Deshaun Watson contract. Nice to reckon with you again. The polarizing quarterback is set to count more than $60 million against the 2024 cap, which helps explain why even key free agents like Za'Darius Smith are due to walk. If Watson makes a leap, they can be competitive. But there's not a lot of wiggle room for spicing up the supporting cast. Favorites like Nick Chubb could still be cap casualties.

New coach Dave Canales may have a promising vision for Bryce Young, but the trade to get Young in the 2023 draft has them shorthanded in that regard. Worse yet, they aren't exactly swimming in cash to pursue veteran toys, entering free agency with just over $11 million in cap space.

No one refuses to rebuild quite like the Saints. That's not bad if you've got championship-caliber pieces. They aren't exactly brimming with those. Sure, the defense should remain solid under Dennis Allen. But they're always fighting tooth and nail to stay under the cap, and this year is no exception. A top-15 draft pick is the best tool they have for needed reinforcement.