The first week of NFL free agency in 2023 is almost finished. Although the league season didn’t officially begin until Wednesday, big-name deals have been coming in steadily since Monday, and many of the best veterans available have already found new homes.
We’ve also determined the winners and losers from the first week, in case you’re wondering which teams truly hit the ball out of the park following the initial wave of activity (and perhaps which ones dropped the ball).
2023 NFL Free Agency Winners
We will start our recount with the 2023 NFL Free Agency winners:
They needed a seasoned quarterback, and now that Aaron Rodgers has declared publicly that he wants to join their team, they essentially have one. Rodgers is still under contract with the Packers, so you never know. Yet, now that A-Rod has acknowledged that the team is prepared to move on, Green Bay doesn’t have much clout. In the absence of a significant renegotiation of Rodgers’ contract, the Packers would certainly profit financially by delaying a trade until this summer, but are they really willing to replicate the Brett Favre debacle by turning this eventual split into an ugly months-long divorce? That’s not to say the Jets won’t have to give up some sort of premium compensation to complete the transaction, but at the end of the day, they’re ready to get the quarterback they’ve been hoping for: a franchise quarterback for a roster that can compete in the postseason.
Winner: Jordan Love
So the Packers are essentially his team right now. After almost two decades of MVP-caliber performance from Rodgers, he may be a relative unknown. Yet when talking about his 2023 plans this week, A-Rod essentially declared Love a deserving successor. He’s about to enter a contract year (with a fifth-year option probably added), and by demonstrating his live arm in Matt LaFleur’s playbook, he has a chance to earn his own sizable extension.
Winner: Daniel Jones
Although their top non-QB re-signing (RB Saquon Barkley) and top external signings (WR Parris Campbell, TE Darren Waller) have all struggled with major and/or persistent ailments in recent years, the Giants are truly putting their faith in their medical staff this season. Nonetheless, they should offer Jones more confidence if they remain generally healthy after an excellent confidence-boosting debut under Brian Daboll. The young QB at least has more playmakers at his disposal in addition to a significant pay bump thanks to his own $160M agreement. A genuine No. 1 WR would still be good, though. Even Jones couldn’t have predicted a year ago that he would change his reputation in a new system, make money as the ninth-highest-paid quarterback in the league, and then finally acquire real weapons.
Winner: Sean Payton
No matter what happens with Russell Wilson, the new coach of the Denver Broncos has wisely invested heavily in the infrastructure of the organization, paying top price to strengthen the trenches on both sides of the ball. Even though they may have overpaid for the prestigious O-line signings Mike McGlinchey and Ben Powers, this move could or should herald a return to Wilson’s preferred run-first offense. Nevertheless, rising ex-Cardinals prospect Zach Allen should blend in well as the D-anchor, line’s while Jarrett Stidham, an ex-Raiders backup, is a covertly high-upside backup option behind Wilson.
2023 NFL Free Agency Losers
Now it’s time to check out the 2023 NFL Free Agency losers:
It’s difficult to be ecstatic about what New England is accomplishing offensively, keeping with the AFC East (again). For QB Mac Jones, Bill O’Brien’s entrance arguably means more than any lineup changes. But why spend $25 million on JuJu Smith-Schuster as opposed to $33 million for Jakobi Meyers, the current target? It is pardonable, but it appears to be a lateral move for a player who is more prone to injuries. After his lackluster 2022 season, it is more debatable if they should sign James Robinson for $4 million a year (approximately top-16 RB money), especially with Rhamondre Stevenson leading their already-capable backfield. That’s not even mentioning their investment in Riley Reiff, a former Bengals and Bears player who is now a projected starting tackle.
Loser: Ron Rivera
Given that the free-agent signing of Jacoby Brissett could put Howell’s career as the starting quarterback of the Commanders to an early end, you might have substituted Sam Howell for Rivera in this situation. The person in charge must be the one who loses, since he will enter his fourth season as Washington’s coach just extending a marriage to mediocre veteran signal-callers, barring a spectacular move up for a quarterback in the draft. Even though the team smartly recruited Chiefs lineman Andrew Wylie for greater protection up front, Rivera has never started a quarterback who can win consistently, from Alex Smith to Ryan Fitzpatrick to Carson Wentz to Taylor Heinicke. This trend is doomed to continue.
Loser: The TE and EDGE markets
Pass rushers frequently influence the direction of free agency; in fact, 15 different edge players are currently making an average of at least $15M per year on their existing contracts. Just Marcus Davenport reached the $10 million mark this week, and he chose the Vikings for a somewhat team-friendly one-year, $13 million contract. The position simply didn’t have a lot of ascending Pro Bowl-caliber veterans available. Although Mike Gesicki allegedly signed a one-year contract with the Patriots on Friday, the Vikings’ odd $7M per year commitment to backup tight end Josh Oliver hasn’t done much to enliven the free-agent market, which still includes unsigned starters like Dalton Schultz.
Obviously, we never truly have a negative attitude toward the Chiefs as long as Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid are in Kansas City. Yet, the early stages of free agency haven’t exactly been encouraging. The Bengals signed Orlando Brown Jr. for $16 million a year, significantly less than the rumored $23 million a year total Kansas City reportedly gave him before 2022, proving that they were probably right to give in to his demands. The Chiefs spent $80 million ($20 million annually) on Jawaan Taylor, who had a mixed record with the Jaguars and may be switching positions to address the LT void. In addition, they still need to fill the WR void left by JuJu Smith-departure Schuster’s for New England.