We’re just days away from the 2023 NFL free agency period, but there’s already been a slew of moves that are expected to change the complexion of the league next season. With new faces in new places across the league, we’ll be using this space over the next few days to identify the most interesting tweaks to both attack and defense.
It is important to note that these are the more interesting acquisitions and not necessarily the best ones. Jakobi Meyers was a good pick for the Raiders, but we already know how he fits into Josh McDaniels’ offense, so he’s not included here. I’m not at all interested in the Saints desperately trying to hang on to whatever window of contention they have left, and so is Derek Carr, even though he’s a better player than some of the quarterbacks that we will highlight. We’re going to include a few players acquired via trade though, as teams treat this time of year as the player acquisition phase of the offseason, and it all mixes up.
That said, let’s start with the attacking side of the ball.
These cuts are all interesting for very different reasons. For Garoppolo, it’s going to be fascinating to see what he looks like outside Kyle Shanahan’s cocoon. There’s long been a disagreement between moviegoers and stats nerds about Garoppolo’s true level of talent, and removing him from Shanahan’s ecosystem will provide a good test. Sure, Garoppolo and McDaniels have known each other from their days with the Patriots, but Jimmy G only made two starts and threw just 94 assists over three seasons with New England, so we don’t really know what. it looks like in this offense. .
Meanwhile, it’s entirely possible that Darnold will have to play for the 49ers at some point, given the injury issues the team has with Trey Lance and Brock Purdy. Shanahan’s offense was a rising tide that lifts all boats, and the Niners have one of the friendliest ecosystems a quarterback can be dropped into; will he be able to help one of the most disappointing young quarterbacks in recent memory?
And then there’s Brissett, who more than admirably replaced Deshaun Watson at Cleveland last season, and actually surpassed Cleveland’s favorite starter. The Commies are talking like Sam Howell is going to be their starter this season, but it at least seems somewhat unlikely that Brissett will end up being the guy. He would be the best QB Washington has had since… Kirk Cousins, probably? What that attack could look like with a competent player under center and Eric Bieniemy calling plays is fascinating to think about.
Brown has spent the past two seasons in Kansas City, but the Chiefs obviously felt Taylor was better suited for their future. It’s interesting that the Chiefs decided that moving a player from the right tackle to the left was the best way to plug Patrick Mahomes’ blindside hole, but that the player should be Taylor and not Brown (who had already done the same move the year before he was traded to KC). Taylor is better at pass protection so it makes sense from that perspective, but he’s also never played left tackle before. Meanwhile, Brown will go to another team that throws the ball early and often, and will help the Bengals continue the offensive line transformation they began last offseason. It looks like he will stay on the left side and Jonah Williams will switch to the right to replace La’el Collins, who is likely released even though he is fully recovering from his ACL year.
Anything the Broncos do to add to their offense is bound to be interesting given their poor last season, and that’s especially true given they’ve added a new coach in Sean Payton. During his time in New Orleans, the Saints prioritized inside pass protection to keep the mid-pocket clean past Drew Brees, who was not the ideal size for the quarterback position. By signing Powers to do the same in front of Russell Wilson, it looks like Payton is keeping the same strategy going in Denver. McGlinchey has seemingly regressed since the start of his career as injuries sapped some of his power, but he got a big deal to move to the Broncos. What have they seen in him over the past few seasons that others haven’t seen?
Skill Position Players
Since coming to the league, Penny has been one of the most explosive and efficient runners in the NFL. He will now work behind the best offensive line in the league. You know, as long as he can stay in the field. I’m excited to see how many yards per carry he can average in this offense, and if he can actually stay healthy long enough to be a factor in it.
JuJu was essentially the No. 2 passing game threat for the Chiefs last season, and it seemed like the perfect role for him. Now he’s probably the No. 1 target in New England. How will it be for each of them? And why did the Patriots decide they’d rather have JuJu than bring Meyers back on a very similar contract? JuJu is taller and a better blocker, but the Pats need all the juice they can get in their passer corps and it’s not like Smith-Schuster is a game breaker.
By acquiring Waller, the Giants gave Daniel Jones the first of what will hopefully be several pass-catcher upgrades. They seemed to have found a pretty good tight end last year with Daniel Bellinger, but Waller provides a higher ceiling and more of a stretch element on the court. The Giants can use them both in tight two-end sets, which will give them a little more offensive diversity than they did a year ago. Even after bringing in Campbell, the Giants likely still need to add talent at wide receiver, but targeting a player whose main asset is speed is a nice change from the team’s current perimeter options.
Moore will be Justin Fields’ No. 1 target, and his acquisition allows players like Darnell Mooney, Chase Claypool and Cole Kmet to play roles more suited to their skill level. Having a defined first reading should hopefully help Fields solve his problem of hanging on to the ball for too long, but just raising the level of talent around him should also do wonders for his effectiveness on a descending basis. The Bears shouldn’t be done adding to their offensive infrastructure, but it’s hard to think of a better fit for what they needed than Moore.