After going 19 years without adding any teams, the NFL became the first major professional sports league in North America to reach the 30-franchise mark when the Carolina Panthers and Jacksonville Jaguars joined in 1995 for $140 million expansion fees. That evened the six divisions at five teams apiece.
The Buffalo Bills, Indianapolis Colts, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots and New York Jets made up the AFC East. The AFC Central experienced the most significant shift, when the Jaguars joined the Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers. The Cleveland Browns moved to Baltimore to become the Ravens the following year. The Oilers departed Houston in 1997 for Tennessee, adopting the Titans nickname in 1999. Cleveland struck an agreement with the league to retain Browns records, colors and other keepsakes and rejoin the league as the 31st team. The Denver Broncos, Kansas City Chiefs, San Diego Chargers and Seattle Seahawks found new hotels for their annual road game against the Raiders, who fled Los Angeles in 1995 for the franchise's roots in Oakland.
The Rams did the same that year, leaving the country's second-largest city without a team, and landed in St. Louis to make the San Francisco 49ers the only club west of the Rocky Mountains in the not-so-aptly named NFC West that the Panthers were assigned to as new Sun Belt rivals of the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints. The tradition-rich NFC Central stayed steady with the Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Arizona Cardinals, who broadened their name in 1994 beyond Phoenix to reflect their residence in the desert city's sprawling suburbs, were the geographic outlier in the NFC East with the Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins.