Sunday, September 24, 2023

2023 NFL free agency: One player each team should prioritize signing in offseason

The NFL offseason is upon us, and all 32 teams will be focused on how they can improve their rosters. Free agency will come quickly, and there are several stars who are hitting the open market looking for new deals. 

Below we will identify one free agent each NFL team should prioritize signing this offseason. Some of these will be dream scenarios, while others will be underrated pieces that fit a team’s scheme and could come at a cheaper rate. Salary cap restrictions will be taken into account, although they will not totally dominate our selections. The only rule is that we cannot use the same player twice. Let’s jump in. 

Arizona Cardinals: CB James Bradberry

If we are being honest, the Cardinals need a lot of help this offseason. Defensively, the pass rush and secondary stick out, and the Cardinals could certainly use a veteran at cornerback. Plus, they have enough cap to buy one. Bradberry was a key addition for the Philadelphia Eagles last offseason, and he earned his first All-Pro honor at 29 years old with 44 combined tackles, 17 passes defended and three interceptions. Truly an underrated player. 

Atlanta Falcons: QB Lamar Jackson

I think it’s more likely Jackson is franchise-tagged and remains in Baltimore, but if you haven’t noticed, it’s impossible to predict what will happen in the NFL. If Jackson is allowed to talk with other teams, the Falcons should be in on him. Why? Well, he’s a legitimate franchise quarterback who plays like Michael Vick, the Falcons are in the opposing conference, which could help things if the Ravens agree to move him, and the Falcons are projected to have the second-most cap space in the NFL this offseason. 

Apart from reacquiring stability at the most important position in football, can you imagine Kyle Pitts playing with Jackson? Mark Andrews is a great tight end, but what could the unicorn Pitts be with Jackson? 

Baltimore Ravens: WR DJ Chark

At 6-foot-4, 200-something pounds, I think Chark is the outside receiving threat the Ravens need. He didn’t have a great season with the Detroit Lions, catching just 30 passes for 502 yards and three touchdowns while missing six games, but he did string together a few impressive performances. It’s no secret that the Ravens need to add at wide receiver, and it won’t break the bank to add Chark — who could finally reach his potential with Lamar Jackson (if he stays).  

Buffalo Bills: RB Saquon Barkley

Bills Mafia suffered quite a shock from the Cincinnati Bengals, as they were blown out on their home field in the divisional round. After spending the majority of the year as the Super Bowl favorites, the front office now faces the sobering reality that maybe they aren’t there just yet. The Bills are still one of the best teams in the NFL, and they may just be one piece away. That one piece could be a star running back.

Barkley is coming off of a season in which he racked up 1,650 yards from scrimmage and 10 touchdowns, proving to the doubters he can still be one of the best running backs in the league. He won’t come cheap, but the Bills need a legitimate running back.  

Carolina Panthers: TE Mike Gesicki

Gesicki caught just 32 passes for 362 yards and five touchdowns in 17 games played in 2022. His 21.3 receiving yards per game were the lowest since his rookie season, but Gesicki previously crossed 700 receiving yards in each of his last two seasons. I think Gesicki is an underrated player. Maybe he’s not your traditional tight end, but he’s a big-bodied receiver whose best NFL days are ahead of him. No matter whom the quarterback is for the Panthers in 2023, Gesicki can serve as your versatile security blanket, and spark Frank Reich’s new passing game. 

Chicago Bears: RT Mike McGlinchey

Three takeaways from the Bears offense in 2022: One, Justin Fields is a rising star. Two, he needs some help at wide receiver. Three, Fields also needs some help along the offensive line. McGlinchey is a 28-year-old right tackle who would be an automatic upgrade for the Bears. 

Cincinnati Bengals: TE Dalton Schultz

Hayden Hurst is a free agent, and he certainly had his moments in 2022. However, Schultz would be an upgrade and add to this explosive Bengals offensive attack. The Cowboy didn’t have as impressive of a season as he did in 2021, and it has me wondering what his value will be on the open market. Still, Schultz could be the most popular tight end this offseason.

I understand the Bengals are preparing for a couple of big extensions this offseason, including one for star quarterback Joe Burrow, and that throwing a few extra bucks on the tight end position isn’t a necessity. Still, I found this too fun not to throw out there. 

Cleveland Browns: WR Allen Lazard

The wide receiver market isn’t exactly stacked this year, which works in Lazard’s favor. The soon-to-be former Packer had a career year in 2022 with 60 catches for 788 yards and six touchdowns, and is just 27 years old. The Browns have a few interesting weapons such as Amari Cooper, Donovan Peoples-Jones, David Bell and David Njoku, but they need another one if they want to get the most out of their $230 million quarterback. 

Dallas Cowboys: WR JuJu Smith-Schuster

Maybe JuJu stays in Kansas City, but Dallas is a legitimate landing spot for Smith-Schuster if he wants to look elsewhere. He said he was impressed with the Cowboys’ facilities last year and that he “wouldn’t mind” catching passes from Dak Prescott. With all due respect to Smith-Schuster, he may be a more effective No. 2 than No. 1. He and CeeDee Lamb working together would be fun to watch.  

Denver Broncos: RB Tony Pollard

Let’s get a little crazy. Pollard is of course coming off of a career year in which he recorded 1,378 scrimmage yards and 12 touchdowns, and earned his first Pro Bowl bid. I believe he could be the most attractive running back on the open market this offseason. While the Broncos aren’t expected to be searching for a new running back, Javonte Williams suffered a serious knee injury that has me wondering when he will be back in 2023, and how effective he will be moving forward. It was a very unfortunate event for the young star.

With Sean Payton now in charge, his first order of business is to fix Russell Wilson. That could include bringing in his own version of Alvin Kamara. The Broncos already have an elite defense. Now, they just need that addition on offense that will help get this team as a whole back on the right track. There’s a team/coach/front office out there that believes if they get their hands on Pollard, they can jump-start their offense. That may be Payton and the Broncos. 

Detroit Lions: C.J. Gardner-Johnson

While the Eagles surely want to hold onto CJGJ, I got excited thinking about him teaming up with Dan Campbell and the Lions. Detroit’s offseason is going to be centered around adding on defense, and signing a versatile chess piece that roams the secondary would be perfect for the Lions. The former Saint recorded a league-high six interceptions for the Eagles in 2022. 

Green Bay Packers: WR Jakobi Meyers

Don’t let his failed lateral fool you, Meyers had a big year in a bad offense with 67 catches for 804 yards and a career-high six touchdowns. Personally, I think a change of scenery would be good for him, and he could play an immediate role with the Packers wide receiving corps. Opinions vary on Meyers, but I think he’s underrated when you consider his route-running and ability to line up in different spots.  

Houston Texans: CB Emmanuel Moseley

Maybe the Texans are finally moving in the right direction with the hire of DeMeco Ryans. They have plenty of work to do in this rebuild, but something he should consider doing is taking one of his cornerbacks with him to H-Town in Emmanuel Moseley. He tore his ACL in 2022, but that may just help Ryans steal him in free agency. Moseley turns 27 in March, and allowed a 57.0 passer rating when targeted in 2021. He’s an underrated player that GM John Lynch has said he wants back.

Indianapolis Colts: OG Ben Powers 

I love this hypothetical move. The Colts need a starting right guard, and Powers can fill that need. The former fourth-round pick out of Oklahoma had to wait his turn to become a legitimate starter with the Ravens, and he put together his best season yet in 2022. 

Jacksonville Jaguars: S Jessie Bates III

Bates played on the franchise tag this past season, and my guess is that he won’t be back with the Bengals in 2023. The Jaguars could save some money by cutting Rayshawn Jenkins, and then put those savings into signing a new free safety who is younger and an upgrade on paper. Bates turns 26 in February, and recorded a career-high four interceptions in 2022. He would help what was statistically the fifth-worst pass defense in the NFL last season.

Kansas City Chiefs: DE Marcus Davenport 

If the Chiefs release Frank Clark to clear some cap space, they will need a pass rusher who fits their 4-3 scheme. That’s Davenport. However, he could come expensive. Davenport recorded just half a sack in 15 games played last year, but his 19 percent pass-rush win rate over the past three seasons ranks 14th, per PFF, and his 14.2 percent pressure rate ranks 17th among pass rushers. Bottom line: he gets pressure on the quarterback. 

Las Vegas Raiders: DT Dalvin Tomlinson

The Raiders are another team with multiple needs — especially on defense. Grabbing a big interior defensive lineman who can also provide pass rush would be great. Tomlinson fits the bill. He’s also versatile enough to line up in different spots along the defensive line. While the Raiders have some young players at defensive tackle, Tomlinson would be an automatic upgrade.

Los Angeles Chargers: OL Evan Brown

The Chargers had major problems along the offensive line in 2022. While they were due to injury, there’s no doubt L.A. needs to add depth — and maybe a new left guard. That could come in the form of Brown, who started in 12 of 14 games played for the Lions last year. He’s played center and guard, and is set to sign a solid contract after bouncing around for a few years. 

Los Angeles Rams: OG Isaac Seumalo 

Like the Chargers — well, actually even more so — the Rams have to focus on the offensive line. Seumalo is one of the best guards available in this free agency class, and he’s played on both the left and right sides. Unfortunately for the Rams, Seumalo will have plenty of suitors. 

Miami Dolphins: RB Josh Jacobs

Last offseason, the Dolphins attempted to stockpile running backs. They signed Raheem Mostert, Sony Michel and Chase Edmonds to run alongside Salvon Ahmed and Myles Gaskin. Mike McDaniel is used to a rotation from his 49ers days, but maybe for his second season as head coach, he chases a legitimate starter. Remember, McDaniel made his name scheming for the run. 

Jacobs was the best running back in the NFL last year, as he rushed for 1,653 yards and 12 touchdowns. Spotrac believe he’s set to sign a monster four-year, $51.4M extension that carries an AAV of $12.8M to make him the third highest-paid running back in the NFL. My personal guess would be lower than that. The Dolphins don’t have a great cap situation, but keep an eye on what Miami does at running back. Jeff Wilson, Mostert, Ahmed and Gaskin are all free agents. 

Minnesota Vikings: CB Jamel Dean

Dean is probably the second-best cornerback in this class, and he possesses good enough size and athleticism to attract plenty of attention on the open market. The Vikings pass defense ranked second-worst in the league last year, and it convinced NFL fans during Super Wild Card Weekend that Daniel Jones was the second coming of Josh Allen. Minnesota needs to add to the secondary. Plus, Patrick Peterson, Chandon Sullivan and Kris Boyd are free agents. 

New England Patriots: WR Odell Beckham Jr.

Here’s a fun one. Beckham said he almost signed with the Patriots just over a year ago. Bill Belichick should inquire again. The Patriots are looking to bolster the offensive side of the ball this offseason, and they need to do more than just bring Bill O’Brien back. OBJ is a versatile wideout who should have some tread left on the tires. Having someone like him out wide will help Mac Jones‘ development as well.

New Orleans Saints: DL A’Shawn Robinson

With Marcus Davenport, David Onyemata, Shy Tuttle and Tanoh Kpassagnon all free agents, the Saints will certainly need another starter on the defensive line. Robinson is a huge interior defender who could be looking for a change of scenery. We made him a target for the Saints because he should come cheaper than guys like Javon Hargrave, Dalvin Tomlinson and Daron Payne. As usual, New Orleans has major cap issues. 

New York Giants: LB David Long

Long is a sneaky good inside linebacker — which is exactly what the Giants need. The 26-year-old recorded a career-high 86 combined tackles this past season despite missing five games. He’s a run stuffer who is poised to have a career year in 2023. 

New York Jets: LT Orlando Brown Jr. 

I’d imagine the Chiefs want to keep Brown in the fold moving forward, but it almost looked like they were headed for a split last offseason. If Brown is allowed to walk, the Jets should inquire. New York needs good protection for whoever is playing quarterback in 2023, and signing a franchise left tackle would certainly help. 

Philadelphia Eagles: OG Nate Davis

If Isaac Seumalo leaves in free agency, the Eagles will have a hole to fill at right guard. Well, there’s another talented right guard hitting the market this offseason in Davis, and he should come a bit cheaper than what Seumalo signs for. The former third-round pick out of Charlotte in 2019 has been the Tennessee Titans‘ starting right guard since he took his first NFL snap.

Pittsburgh Steelers: DT Daron Payne

Daron Payne is coming off of a career year in which he recorded 64 combined tackles, 11.5 sacks, 20 QB hits and five passes defended. It’s difficult to stand out on a defensive line that features Jonathan Allen, Montez Sweat and Chase Young, but Payne absolutely did, and made his first Pro Bowl. 

Defensive line is a need for Pittsburgh, as it will have to make decisions on free agents Larry Ogunjobi, Tyson Alualu and Chris Wormley. The Steelers could just opt to sign a rising star whose best football is ahead of him. 

San Francisco 49ers: S Jordan Poyer

This is a spicy one. Jordan Poyer could leave a top AFC contender for a top NFC contender. The 49ers have some decisions to make in the secondary, as players like Jimmie Ward, Emmanuel Moseley and Tashaun Gipson are free agents looking for new deals. The veteran Poyer was the secret sauce to Buffalo’s defense, and he has recorded nine picks over the last two years. Poyer missed four games last season. Do you know what Buffalo’s record was in those four contests? 1-3. Poyer was active for 12 regular-season games in 2022. The Bills won all 12 of those games.

Seattle Seahawks: DT Javon Hargrave

“Gravedigger” was a big reason for Philly’s success in 2022, as he racked up 11 sacks and 60 combined tackles. Hargrave is also one of the interior defensive linemen who can rush the passer, and I guarantee you no one cares he’s about to turn 30 years old. He’s going to be in high demand this offseason, and would be a great addition to a team that had the third-worst run defense in the league last year. 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: QB Jimmy Garoppolo

With Tom Brady opting to retire, the Buccaneers need a new quarterback. I think they should eye a veteran to come in and serve as the distributor for an offense that still has plenty of pieces to be relatively successful. Derek Carr will probably be in consideration too, but I wonder which player between he and Jimmy G will be more expensive. The Buccaneers’ cap situation is one of the worst in the league, so Jason Licht should chase the more inexpensive of these experienced signal-callers. Could Brady’s former backup finally replace him under center? Time is a flat circle. 

Tennessee Titans: CB Cam Sutton

Bring him home. A former University of Tennessee star, Sutton is coming off of his best NFL season with the Steelers, recording 15 passes defended and three interceptions. The Titans have a need at cornerback, but are a bit strapped for cash. Sutton won’t cost as much as players like Jamel Dean or James Bradberry, and he can play in the slot as well. 

Washington Commanders: LB Tremaine Edmunds

The Commanders have been searching for a true middle linebacker for a couple years now, and instead of moving Cole Holcomb and Jamin Davis around, how about Ron Rivera goes out and signs a proven MLB? Edmunds is a two-time Pro Bowler, and a physical freak. Washington already has arguably the best defensive line in the NFL. Can you imagine how much better this defense could be with the 6-foot-5 athletic Edmunds right in the middle? He may come at a big expense, but Washington’s identity remains on the defensive side of the ball. Draft a cornerback in the first round, sign Edmunds and the Commanders have filled two of their biggest needs on defense. 

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