NFL Preseason Power Rankings: Who's on the hot seat entering 2019?

ByNFL Nation ESPN logo
Tuesday, August 20, 2019

It's been said that the NFL actually stands for "Not For Long," as it's not only tough to make it into the league, but also to maintain your employment status within it.

That's what our NFL Nation reporters focused on while evaluating the 2019 preseason Power Rankings. How we rank: Our power panel -- a group of more than 80 writers, editors and TV personalities -- evaluates how teams stack up throughout the season.

While almost everyone in the league is on some sort of notice heading into the 2019 season, there are some league personnel who need to excel more than others to emerge from their "hot seat." No one, except for possibly the owners, is exempt from the scrutiny that comes from being on the hot seat.

So while you might be counting down the days until the season starts because you miss all the action, these guys are eager for things to start so they can prove their worth to their respective franchises.

Jump to:





1. New England Patriots

Who's on the hot seat: Josh Gordon, WR

Why his seat is warm: As Roger Goodell said when announcing that Gordon would be reinstated on a conditional basis, everyone is rooting for Gordon personally and professionally, with more folks gaining a better understanding of all that goes into mental health and addiction issues. The NFL has given Gordon several chances over the years, and if things don't work out this time, there's no guarantee of another chance after that. So in an organization where there aren't any "hot seats" in the coaching and executive ranks, Gordon is the most obvious choice among the players. -- Mike Reiss

2. Kansas City Chiefs

Who's on the hot seat:Sammy Watkins, WR

Why his seat is warm:Watkins' 2020 contract has a cap charge of $21 million. The Chiefs would save $14 million of that by releasing Watkins. Kansas City, which is facing contract showdowns or extensions with Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill and Chris Jones, could very well need that money. So Watkins needs to be more productive in 2019 than he was last season, particularly since the Chiefs drafted wide receiver Mecole Hardman with their top pick this year.-- Adam Teicher

3. New Orleans Saints

Who's on the hot seat:Patrick Robinson, CB

Why his seat is warm:The 10th-year veteran revived his career by leaving New Orleans in 2015 and reinventing himself as one of the NFL's better slot cornerbacks. But he broke his left ankle last September after returning to the Saints in free agency. So far this summer, he has been playing behind veteran P.J. Williams and rookie Chauncey Gardner-Johnson in nickel and dime packages. Robinson will need to regain a prominent role to play out his four-year contract.-- Mike Triplett

4. Los Angeles Rams

Who's on the hot seat:Marcus Peters, CB

Why his seat is warm:Peters struggled through the first half of last season but was able to turn it around during the second half and into the playoffs. He is set to go into the final season of his rookie contract without a new deal in place. Peters is in no danger of finding himself without a job after the 2019 season, but he must play consistently and prove that he still has big-play ability to earn a big payday.-- Lindsey Thiry

5. Philadelphia Eagles

Who's on the hot seat: Mike Groh, offensive coordinator

Why his seat is warm:The Eagles dipped from second in the NFL in points per game in 2017 (28.6) to 18th in 2018 (22.9) under Groh, who took over as offensive coordinator last season when Frank Reich departed to become the Colts' coach. There were several reasons for the offensive regression, including quarterback Carson Wentz not being himself as he returned from ACL/LCL surgery and dealt with a bad back. But that doesn't fully explain why Philly consistently had difficulty scoring early in games. This year, there's no reason why the offense shouldn't take flight now that Wentz is healthy and surrounded by playmakers.-- Tim McManus

6. Los Angeles Chargers

Who's on the hot seat:Cardale Jones, QB

Why his seat is warm:Jones is showing signs of reaching his vast potential, but is it enough for him to stick on the final roster? The Ohio State product had his best game as a Charger against the Saints in the second preseason game, according to Chargers coach Anthony Lynn. Jones completed 11 of 14 passes for 114 yards and a touchdown. He wasn't sacked and didn't throw an interception. Lynn said Jones has matured and been helped by playing in the same system for three seasons. However, the Chargers took a flier on Easton Stick in the fifth round and Tyrod Taylor is entrenched as the No. 2 quarterback, which means the Chargers will have to choose between Jones and Stick if they keep three QBs.-- Eric D. Williams

7. Chicago Bears

Who's on the hot seat:Mitchell Trubisky, QB

Why his seat is warm: Trubisky is under intense scrutiny as he enters Year 3. The Bears believe they have a team good enough to win a championship, but for that to happen, Trubisky must play better. The quarterback, who turns 25 on Tuesday, had a good year under coach Matt Nagy in 2018, but there is considerable room for growth. Despite having one of the NFL's best defenses, the Bears will go only as far as Trubisky takes them. -- Jeff Dickerson

8. Indianapolis Colts

Who's on the hot seat:Adam Vinatieri, K

Why his seat is warm: This isn't necessarily a bad thing for Vinatieri. It's a matter of him being 47 years old in December and not having much else to accomplish in his career outside of winning another Super Bowl. Vinatieri is already the NFL's all-time leading scorer with 2,598 points. His recent contracts with the Colts have been one-year deals because he likes to evaluate how he feels mentally and physically at the end of each season. -- Mike Wells

9. Dallas Cowboys

Who's on the hot seat: Jason Garrett, coach

Why his seat is warm: His contract expires after this season. It doesn't get any hotter than that. The last time Jerry Jones put Garrett under such heat came in 2014. In response, the Cowboys went 12-4 and won a playoff game before a controversial loss in the divisional round. A week after that loss, Garrett signed a five-year, $30 million deal. Garrett has won the division in two of the past three seasons and made it to the divisional round twice. While he needed only to make the playoffs in 2014, that might not be enough this time, as he might need to make it to the NFC Championship Game. Of course, this could set up a very interesting dynamic. If the Cowboys make it that far, or even to a Super Bowl, Garrett could be a highly sought-after free-agent coach. -- Todd Archer

10. Cleveland Browns

Who's on the hot seat: Kareem Hunt, RB

Why his seat is warm: Hunt is on the hot seat, though not for anything on the field. Hunt, the NFL's 2017 rushing champ, was released by the Chiefs last November after video surfaced showing him shoving and kicking a woman months earlier at his residence in Cleveland. As a result, Hunt was suspended for the first eight games of this season. Browns owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam and GM John Dorsey are giving Hunt a chance to reset his life and his football career. But he'll have to hold up his end. -- Jake Trotter

11. Pittsburgh Steelers

Who's on the hot seat: Kevin Colbert, general manager

Why his seat is warm: Colbert basically placed himself on the hot seat when he opted to go year-to-year on his contract, citing his age (62) and the need to assess his future with his family. His deal expires in May. The fact that Mike Tomlin earned a one-year extension last month while Colbert didn't raised questions because the two usually sign in tandem, representing a lack of security for a key figure in an organization that thrives off stability. Both parties have one year to see whether the roster Colbert built will return to the playoffs after falling short last season. -- Jeremy Fowler

12. Minnesota Vikings

Who's on the hot seat:Dalvin Cook, RB

Why his seat is warm: Cook has played only 15 games in two seasons because of injury, so a breakout year is critical in determining his future. Should he be the versatile threat the Vikings anticipated when they drafted him in the second round in 2017, Cook will have the leverage to negotiate a new deal ahead of his fourth season. If he struggles, or if injuries occur again, Minnesota might follow the trend set by others and turn to the draft to find its next lead back. NFL teams look for any reason to not shell out money for running backs -- look at the Ezekiel Elliott and Melvin Gordon situations. A season in which Cook tops 1,000 yards rushing and is an active threat in the passing game will give him the backing he needs for a lucrative second contract in Minnesota. -- Courtney Cronin

13. Green Bay Packers

Who's on the hot seat: Mark Murphy, president and CEO

Why his seat is warm: In the past year and a half, Murphy changed general managers -- demoting Ted Thompson and hiring Brian Gutekunst -- and put himself at the top of football operations. That meant it was Murphy's call to fire Mike McCarthy in December and hire Matt LaFleur in January. If those moves don't reverse the Packers' downward trend -- they've missed the playoffs the past two seasons -- then perhaps the team's board of directors will start to question whether Murphy should be so heavily involved in the football decisions. Previous team president Bob Harlan hired the GMs but always let them have total control over the football operations. -- Rob Demovsky

14. Houston Texans

Who's on the hot seat:Will Fuller, WR

Why his seat is warm:The Texans' front office typically tries to extend its first-round picks before their fifth season, so if Fuller cannot stay healthy, he'll likely have to play on his fifth-year option instead of getting a new deal. Fuller has played in only 31 games in his first three seasons and spent the offseason rehabbing after he tore his ACL last October. Deshaun Watson called Fuller "a threat every time he steps on the field," but if he cannot stay healthy, the Texans likely can't trust him with a big contract extension.-- Sarah Barshop

15. Seattle Seahawks

Who's on the hot seat:Justin Britt, C

Why his seat is warm:This has less to do with Britt's performance and more to do with his contract getting awfully expensive in its final season. Britt has been a good, perhaps above-average, center since switching to that position in 2016. He also has been reliable, missing only one game in five seasons. But that might not be enough in the Seahawks' eyes to justify an $8.25 million, non-guaranteed base salary in 2020. That's part of an $11.67 million cap charge that ranks a hair behind Travis Frederick's as the highest among all centers in 2020, according to Spotrac.-- Brady Henderson

16. Atlanta Falcons

Who's on the hot seat:Vic Beasley Jr., DE

Why his seat is warm: Beasley hasn't been the same player the past two years that he was in 2016, when he led the league with 15.5 sacks. But Falcons coach Dan Quinn, a defensive line guru and the new defensive playcaller, firmly believes he can get the best out of Beasley. Beasley himself said he expects nothing less than double-digit sacks. If he doesn't reach that and fails to be a disruptive force, don't expect the Falcons to sign the former first-rounder to a long-term extension as he enters his $12.81 million, fifth-year option. -- Vaughn McClure

17. Baltimore Ravens

Who's on the hot seat:Patrick Onwuasor, MLB

Why his seat is warm:Onwuasor is facing a huge challenge entering his contract year. He takes over a legacy position on the Ravens' defense, stepping in at middle linebacker and following the likes of Ray Lewis and C.J. Mosley -- who combined for 17 Pro Bowls. Onwuasor has to prove he can become the quarterback of the defense. If not, Baltimore will have to look elsewhere to fill the void at the heart of a defense that has finished ranked in the top 10 an astounding 16 times over the past 20 seasons.-- Jamison Hensley

18. Carolina Panthers

Who's on the hot seat: Ron Rivera, coach

Why his seat is warm: Rivera is a two-time NFL Coach of the Year, so there's no doubt he's good at what he does. Players respect him as a former player and a highly regarded defensive mind. But if the Panthers don't have a winning season, that will make it two straight seasons and three of four of not making the playoffs. New owner David Tepper has been patient thus far. He has given Rivera the players to transition to a 3-4 defense and built him a much-needed indoor practice facility. So there are no excuses. And if there's no trip to the playoffs, it's hard to imagine Tepper not making a major move. -- David Newton

19. Jacksonville Jaguars

Who's on the hot seat:Leonard Fournette, RB

Why his seat is warm: This is a make-or-break season for Fournette, who must prove he has matured, has a stronger work ethic and can stay healthy. All of those things were major issues in his first two seasons -- last season especially. So far he has had a great camp and has done all the right things, but that's how last year began, too. The Jaguars drafted Fournette to be a franchise back and are counting on him to be that this season -- offensive coordinator John DeFilippo said Fournette will be a major reason the offense succeeds -- or they'll be willing to move in a different direction. -- Mike DiRocco

20. Tennessee Titans

Who's on the hot seat:Marcus Mariota, QB

Why his seat is warm:Mariota is the obvious choice. The Titans truly believe Mariota is their guy this season, but they brought in Ryan Tannehill as an insurance policy in the event of an injury. As a team, the Titans are looking to take the next step. They can't do that if Mariota doesn't elevate his game. Mariota is playing in the final year of his rookie deal. If he's unable to stay healthy or guide the offense to a better season, don't be surprised if Mariota is not under center for the Titans in 2020.-- Turron Davenport

21. Detroit Lions

Who's on the hot seat:Rick Wagner, RT

Why his seat is warm:Wagner has been decent in his first two seasons in Detroit, but a $11.9 million cap hit in 2020 and the possibility of saving up to $9 million for next season (if he's a post-June 1 designation) mean his standards will need to be higher if he wants to avoid being a cap casualty after the season. He's a good player, but the Lions have Tyrell Crosby (rough preseason opener aside) waiting as a possible replacement if they aren't happy with Wagner's level of play. If he does well in 2019, though, there's little reason to think he won't be back in 2020. The Lions are a team with largely reasonable contracts at this point.-- Michael Rothstein

22. San Francisco 49ers

Who's on the hot seat:Jimmy Garoppolo, QB

Why his seat is warm: It's not that Garoppolo is on the hot seat as much as he needs to stay healthy and prove himself over the course of a full 16-game season, something he has yet to do in the NFL. Garoppolo has just 10 career starts and has never started more than five games in a season. The Niners want to see what he can do in a much larger sample, and Garoppolo has acknowledged the importance of proving himself with a more robust body of work. If Garoppolo gets hurt, struggles or both, the Niners could find themselves in another quarterback quandary in the offseason when they could, in theory, part with Garoppolo at the cost of just the $4.2 million in salary cap proration remaining on his deal. -- Nick Wagoner

23. Denver Broncos

Who's on the hot seat:Emmanuel Sanders, WR

Why his seat is warm: It's not that the Broncos don't think Sanders is a key part of their offense -- he's their most proven receiver by far and is expected to be among the team leaders in every receiving category -- or don't believe he's ready to return from December Achilles tendon surgery. It's simply business, and no matter how many receptions or touchdown passes Sanders finishes with this season, the Broncos face a tough choice about his future with the franchise. He's 32 -- will be 33 in March -- coming off the most significant injury of his career and will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. -- Jeff Legwold

24. New York Jets

Who's on the hot seat:Trumaine Johnson, CB

Why his seat is warm: Johnson received one of the biggest free-agent contracts in franchise history in 2018 ($34 million guaranteed). He was expected to be a lockdown corner, but that hasn't materialized. After a disappointing 2018, which included five missed games due to a leg injury, he's hurt again, trying to recover from a pulled hamstring before Week 1. The Jets would get stuck with a $12 million cap charge in 2020 if they cut bait after the season, but they might not have a choice because his $11 million salary in 2020 becomes fully guaranteed if he's on the roster the third day of the league year. Unless Johnson does a 180, this will go down as one of their worst signings. -- Rich Cimini

25. Buffalo Bills

Who's on the hot seat:Zay Jones, WR

Why his seat is warm:Jones is one of the first draft picks of the Sean McDermott regime and is one of the players Buffalo needs to transition from "developmental piece" to "franchise cornerstone." Standing in the way for Jones are free-agent signings Cole Beasley and John Brown and a diminishing role after three weeks of training camp. Jones doesn't need a record-breaking season, but with two years left on his rookie contract, his spot on the team after the 2020 season will be in question if he fails to impress in 2019.-- Marcel Louis-Jacques

26. Oakland Raiders

Who's on the hot seat:Antonio Brown, WR

Why his seat is warm: Brown's helmet histrionics have weighed on the team to the point where general manager Mike Mayock felt compelled to issue the enigmatic wideout an ultimatum after he left camp for the second time in a huff. "So, from our perspective," Mayock told reporters Sunday afternoon, "it's time for him to be all-in, or all-out, OK?" There is no question Brown is a unique, all-world talent, one the Raiders gladly parted with third- and fifth-round picks to acquire before signing him to a $30 million deal in March, But patience is obviously wearing thin. As Brown himself said, when asked when he might practice again, "Stay tuned." -- Paul Gutierrez

27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Who's on the hot seat:Jameis Winston, QB

Why his seat is warm:Winston enters the fifth and final year of his rookie contract. While he has enjoyed the full support of ownership, general manager Jason Licht and coach Bruce Arians and continues to be the first one to enter and last one to leave the building (at times, they've had to kick him out), he still has to deliver on that promise. The past two seasons have been marred by a shoulder injury, a suspension and a benching. The good news for him: He has some really strong targets in Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate and might finally have a defense to help him out.-- Jenna Laine

28. Cincinnati Bengals

Who's on the hot seat:Andy Dalton, QB

Why his seat is warm: The seat may not be piping hot, but Dalton is under a decent amount of pressure to perform well this season. Dalton is looking to recover from an injury-shortened 2018 and show the Bengals he still has enough in the tank to be the franchise's quarterback. He's currently on a team-friendly deal that runs until 2021. -- Ben Baby

29. Washington Redskins

Who's on the hot seat: Jay Gruden, coach

Why his seat is warm:Easy: It's Gruden's sixth season in Washington and the Redskins have made the playoffs once, in 2015, when they lost in the first round. That's been followed by three straight non-playoff seasons, partially explained by injuries, as they've placed a total of 52 players on injured reserve the past two seasons combined. They can't afford another year in which injuries serve as a primary excuse; the fan base won't buy it and no one else should, either. The Redskins have gone 31-32-1 in the past four seasons, and short of rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins excelling down the stretch, it's hard to imagine another sub-.500 year being acceptable.-- John Keim

30. Arizona Cardinals

Who's on the hot seat: Steve Keim, general manager

Why his seat is warm:Hot seat may be an understatement. The Cardinals' general manager might be on the hottest seat in the NFL after Arizona had the worst record in the league a year ago, which gave it the first overall pick. Keim took a risk and hired Kliff Kingsbury as his coach and drafted Kyler Murray as his quarterback. The Cardinals haven't had a winning record since 2015, when they went 13-3 -- the polar opposite of last season's 3-13 record -- and played in the NFC Championship Game. Arizona's trajectory has been straight downhill ever since. Keim has tied his future to Kingsbury and Murray, so if they don't pan out and Arizona finishes a fourth straight season without a winning record, that could be the end of Keim's tenure.-- Josh Weinfuss

31. New York Giants

Who's on the hot seat:Eli Manning, QB

Why his seat is warm: He's 38 years old, in the final year of his contract and his successor is already on the roster. If Manning wants to even make it through this season as the starter, he's going to have to produce at an extremely high level -- with a lot of victories. He hasn't been able to do that for several years. The pressure is on more than ever, with those two Super Bowls further in the distance and his football mortality in question. -- Jordan Raanan

32. Miami Dolphins

Who's on the hot seat:Josh Rosen, QB

Why his seat is warm:It's a bit unfair that Rosen is on the hot seat after being on two teams in his first two NFL seasons, but this is his reality. It seems 2019 will function as a tryout year for Rosen to prove his worth as the Dolphins' long-term answer at quarterback, and if he's not able to do so, the Dolphins will likely be in great position to select a quarterback high in the 2020 draft. In that situation, we could see Rosen moving on to his third team in as many years. To avoid that, Rosen first has to win a starting quarterback battle with veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick and show consistent improvement.-- Cameron Wolfe

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