We’re just a few days into the 2023 NFL free agency period, but a number of moves have already been made that will change the look of the league next season. With new faces in new places across the league, we’ll use this space over the next couple of days to identify the most intriguing matchups on both offense and defense.
It is important to note that these are the more intersting acquisitions and not necessarily the best. Jakobi Meyers was good for the Raiders, but we already know how he fits into Josh McDaniels’ offense, so he’s not included here. I’m not all that interested in the Saints trying to desperately cling to what’s left of a contention window, neither is Derek Carr, even though he’s a better player than some of the quarterbacks we’ll highlight. We will include some players acquired via trade, however, because teams treat this time of year as the acquisition phase of the offseason, and it all comes together.
With all that said, let’s start with the offensive side of the ball.
All of these compositions are interesting for very different reasons. For Garoppolo, it will be exciting to see what he looks like out of the Kyle Shanahan cocoon. There’s long been a dispute among film watchers and stat nerds about the true level of Garoppolo’s talent, and taking him out of Shanahan’s ecosystem will be a good test. Sure, Garoppolo and McDaniels are familiar with each other from their days with the Patriots, but Jimmy G made just two starts and only threw 94 passes in three seasons with New England, so we don’t really know what he looks like in this offense . .
Meanwhile, it’s entirely possible that Darnold could end up having to play at some point for the 49ers, considering the injury problems the team has with both Trae Lance and Brock Purdy. Shanahan’s offense has been a rising tide that lifts all boats, and the Niners have one of the friendliest ecosystems a quarterback can fall into. will he be able to help one of the most underwhelming young quarterbacks in recent memory?
And then there’s Brissett, who admirably outplayed Deshaun Watson in Cleveland last season, actually outplaying Cleveland’s preferred starter. The Commies are talking like Sam Howell is their starter this season, but it seems at least somewhat likely that Brissett will be the guy. He would be the best QB Washington has had since…Kirk Cousins, probably? What this offense could look like with a capable player under center and Eric Bieniemy calling the plays is exciting to think about.
Brown spent the last two seasons in Kansas City, but the Chiefs apparently felt Taylor was a better fit for their future. It’s interesting that the Chiefs decided that moving a player from right tackle to left tackle was the best way to fill the hole on Patrick Mahomes’ blind side, but that player should be Taylor, not Brown ( who already made the same move last year traded to KC). Taylor is better in pass protection, so it makes sense in that regard, but he’s also never played left tackle before. Meanwhile, Brown will go to another team that throws the ball early and often and help the Bengals continue the offensive line overhaul they started last offseason. It looks like he will stay on the left side and Jonah Williams will shift to right to replace La’el Collins, who is likely ticketed for release even if he fully recovers from his ACL year.
Anything the Broncos do to add to their offense will certainly be interesting given how bad last season went for them, and that’s especially true given that they added a new coach in Sean Payton. During his time in New Orleans, the Saints prioritized interior pass protection to keep the middle of the pocket clear in front of Drew Brees, who lacked the ideal size for the quarterback position. With the signing of Powers to do the same in front of Russell Wilson, it looks like Payton is keeping the same strategy in Denver. McGlinchey has seemingly regressed from the start of his career as injuries have taken away some of his power, but he got a major deal to move to the Broncos. What did they see in him over the last few seasons that others didn’t?
Skill position players
During his time in the league, Penny was one of the NFL’s most explosive and efficient runners. Now he will be working behind the best offensive line in the league. I know, as long as he can stay on 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 basically the No. 2 passing game threat for the Chiefs last season and seemed like the perfect role for him. Now, he’s likely the No. 1 target in New England. How will this work for each of them? And why did the Patriots decide they’d rather have JuJu than bring back Meyers on a very similar contract? JuJu is bigger and a better blocker, but the Pats need all the juice they can get in their body, 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 find a pretty good tight end last year in Daniel Bellinger, but Waller provides a higher ceiling and more of a field-stretching element. The Giants can use both in two-tight end sets, which should give them a bit more offensive diversity than they had a year ago. Even after bringing in Campbell, the Giants likely still need to add talent in a big way, but targeting a player whose primary asset is speed is a nice change to the team’s current perimeter options.
Moore will be Justin Fields’ No. 1 target, and acquiring him allows players like Darnell Mooney, Chase Claypool and Cole Kmet to play roles more suited to their talent level. Having a set first read will hopefully help Fields deal with his issue of hanging onto the ball too long, but simply increasing the level of talent around him should also do wonders for his effectiveness on a base-by-base basis. down down. The Bears shouldn’t be nearly done adding to their offensive infrastructure, but it’s hard to think of a better fit for what they needed from Moore.