1. Cincinnati Bengals
Linebacker group: Logan Wilson, Germaine Pratt, Akeem Davis-Gaither, Markus Bailey, Joe Bachie, Keandre Jones
When the Bengals re-signed Germaine Pratt to a three-year, $20.25 million deal, they reunited the top linebacker tandem in the AFC North. Pratt and Logan Wilson were one and two, respectively, in the division according to PFF grades. Both have become excellent second-level generals, coming up with big plays on multiple occasions.
The deal suggests Pratt will be used more on third downs, something he was keen to prove he could do last season. Wilson, too, received a new contract. That guarantees the Bengals will have the duo together for at least three years. That will be key for a defense that has gotten considerably younger in the offseason.
In reserve, Akeem Davis-Gaither hoped to assume a starter role had Pratt left. Now, he will have to suffice with third-down outings and special team appearances, something he has done to a high level so far. With the re-signing of Wilson, Davis-Gaither will likely be a free agent in 2024 and will want to flash enough to get a good deal elsewhere.
The group is rounded out by Markus Bailey and Joe Bachie, meaning the Bengals return exactly the same group as in 2022. Injuries have struck previously, meaning both guys have had meaningful snaps, and the drop-off has never appeared too steep.
That experienced depth, and high level of the starting duo mean that the Bengals get the nod in this ranking and have the best linebacker group in the AFC North going into 2023.