NFL Teams Built for a Dynasty
With Michael Vick's proclamation to CSN Philly that the Philadelphia Eagles "have a chance to develop a dynasty," it got us thinking: Which NFL teams are in the best situation to turn what they have now into a lasting dynasty?
First off, what exactly constitutes a dynasty? The New England Patriots have appeared in five Super Bowls over the last decade, making them the closest thing to a dynasty since the 1990s Dallas Cowboys.
Being a dynasty means sustained and consistent success. The Patriots have done that, and in the course of time they should be considered an NFL dynasty for the 2000s. For the purposes of this article, a dynasty is sustained, consistent success with multiple Super Bowl appearances in the next five to seven years.
So, who is next?
Looking at NFL rosters for young players and strong core groups that not only can compete today but are built for the long haul isn't easy. There's considerable room for error due to injury and failed development, but as of today, here are the seven teams with the best chance to be the NFL's next dynasty.
A disclaimer: Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III have unlimited potential to spark the next great NFL dynasty, but they "are" their respective teams at this point. The Colts have age problems on defense and at wide receiver and no offensive line to speak of.
There is a nice group of talent in Washington, especially at outside linebacker, but let's not forget that the Redskins have been one of the worst-managed teams in the NFL over the last decade. So before we get too carried away over the hype of Luck and RGIII, let's see what they can do in the league and how much help they'll get from the draft and free agency.
7. Carolina Panthers
Key Players (under 30 years old): QB Cam Newton, RB Jonathan Stewart, C Ryan Kalil, LB Luke Kuechly, LB Jon Beason, DE Charles Johnson
What's Here: The Carolina Panthers have the NFL's most exciting young quarterback, which is a great start to being a dynasty in the pass-heavy game we see today. Newton has the raw talent and ability to lead this team to great heights, assuming he continues to develop as a pure passer.
Helping Newton improve goes to the front office, and Carolina would need to get better at wide receiver before this team can start winning big and sustain it long-term, but the run game will be tough with Jonathan Stewart at tailback and Ryan Kalil clearing the way.
On defense, the Panthers have the pieces in linebackers Jon Beason and Luke Kuechly, as long as Kuechly lives up to his draft position.
What's Missing: The Panthers will eventually have to replace Steve Smith at wide receiver, and to date there is no one on the roster who really scares defenses there behind him. If the front office can find a No. 1 wideout to transition in, the offense should be stout enough to win 10-plus games each season.
6. Cincinnati Bengals
Key Players (under 30 years old): QB Andy Dalton, WR A.J. Green, OT Andrew Whitworth, DT Geno Atkins, CB Leon Hall
What's Here: A.J. Green and Andy Dalton enjoyed a masterful rookie season together, and they should only get better with more time to gel and more targets around them pulling coverage away. The offensive line is young but strong now that Andre Smith is playing consistently.
On defense, the Bengals are underrated, especially considering they have one of the league's best players in Geno Atkins.
What's Missing: Experience is the only thing lacking in Cincinnati. The front office has done a beautiful job assembling talent at the skill positions and in the trenches. If Dalton and Green take the next step in their development, few defenses will be able to keep up. With Geno Atkins leading the way on defense, Cincinnati is in great shape for the next five years.
5. Kansas City Chiefs
Key Players (under 30 years old): RB Jamaal Charles, OT Eric Winston, LB Derrick Johnson, LB Tamba Hali, CB Brandon Flowers, SS Eric Berry
What's Here: There isn't a player over 30 years old on the entire roster, a credit to Scott Pioli's team building. With Jamaal Charles and Eric Berry, the Chiefs have two of the most exciting young players in the NFL. Add in the game's best right tackle in Eric Winston and a solid line around him as well.
The defense is anchored by Berry, Derrick Johnson, Tamba Hali, Justin Houston and Brandon Flowers—pretty good, considering they're all still developing.
What's Missing: You can make a strong case that Matt Cassel isn't and won't be the guy to get the Chiefs into a Super Bowl, and if you subscribe to that mindset, then clearly upgrading at quarterback is needed.
The Chiefs will face a decision on wide receiver Dwayne Bowe after this year, and keeping him will go a long way in giving the offense continuity, but it may come with a very stiff price tag.
4. Baltimore Ravens
Key Players (under 30 years old): QB Joe Flacco, RB Ray Rice, WR Torrey Smith, DE Pernell McPhee, OLB Paul Kruger, CB Lardarius Webb
What's Here: Joe Flacco is an underrated "winner" at the position, and he can get it done thanks to a strong run game featuring Ray Rice. Torrey Smith has potential at wide receiver, and the right side of the line is stout thanks to Marshal Yanda and Michael Oher.
On defense, there is a slew of young talent. Paul Kruger, Pernell McPhee and Lardarius Webb will anchor a unit led by Haloti Ngata and Terrell Suggs over the next five years.
What's Missing: The left side of the offensive line is a question mark now and moving forward. If Kelechi Osemele pans out, the Ravens will have more options at left guard/tackle, but for now it's a mystery.
Finding out if Smith is their answer at WR2 will be key this season, as will eventually replacing Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. How you can replace those two defies logic, but sooner or later the Ravens will have to try.
3. San Francisco 49ers
Key Players (under 30 years old): TE Vernon Davis, OT Joe Staley, OG Mike Iupati, LB Aldon Smith, LB Patrick Willis, LB NaVorro Bowman
What's Here: Defense, and tons of it. The 49ers have the game's most dominant defense and should for a long time thanks to Patrick Willis, Aldon Smith, NaVorro Bowman and Tarell Brown.
The offensive line has four of five starters who could stick together for the next five seasons, with only center Jonathan Goodwin getting close to retirement age. There are question marks at wide receiver, but the trio of Michael Crabtree, Mario Manningham and A.J. Jenkins should remain pretty solid.
What's Missing: The quarterback position is up in the air, even with Alex Smith getting a long-term deal this summer. Smith was good enough to almost get to the Super Bowl last year, but a 49er dynasty led by Smith is something few can envision. Finding a way to pay both Willis and Bowman may be tricky, but it can be done.
The rest of the team looks ready to roll for a long, long time if Smith can get it done.
2. Detroit Lions
Key Players (under 30 years old): QB Matthew Stafford, WR Calvin Johnson, TE Brandon Pettigrew, OT Riley Reiff, DE Cliff Avril, DT Ndamukong Suh
What's Here: The core talent in Detroit is very young. Stafford is just 24; "Megatron" is just 26. If Riley Reiff pans out at left tackle, they'll have a fresh start on the offensive line's most important position.
The defense is young, and while they may be a bit raw and reckless now, there is room for Suh and Avril to grow into leaders who can absolutely tear apart an offensive line.
What's Missing: For the Lions to rip off several Super Bowl appearances, they'll need better play in the secondary. Louis Delmas has been good at safety, but he can't get it all done alone. Finding at least one upper-level cornerback has to happen before Detroit can make a Super Bowl run.
The offensive line is also aging, but the addition of Reiff will help at left tackle. The remaining four spots can be addressed intermittently as players age out.
1. Green Bay Packers
Key Players (under 30 years old): QB Aaron Rodgers, WR Jordy Nelson, WR Greg Jennings, TE Jermichael Finley, OT Bryan Bulaga, OLB Clay Matthews, OLB Nick Perry
What's Here: The Packers have the NFL's best offense, and the four best players on that offense are all under 28 years old. If Aaron Rodgers plays until he's 35, that's seven more years this group has to win at least one more Super Bowl. It's easy to imagine with Nelson, Jennings and Finley already elite targets at their positions; they're all under 28 years old.
The offensive line is young enough outside of Jeff Saturday at center. The defense is equally loaded for the long haul outside of Charles Woodson. Clay Matthews and Nick Perry will lead the charge from the outside. Anything the team can get from B.J. Raji would be an added bonus.
What's Missing: The Packers will be tasked with replacing Saturday and Woodson soon, and to be fair, the left side of the offensive line isn't exactly All-Pro caliber. With their draft record under Ted Thompson so impressive, it's hard to imagine Green Bay not replacing their few aging parts, but that is a possibility that would prevent a long-standing run.
However, as long as Aaron Rodgers is at quarterback, anything is possible.
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