The first day of 2023 NFL free agency is nearly in the books. Technically, signings and trades can’t be finalized until the official start of the new league year on Wednesday. But dozens of big names agreed to terms on lucrative contracts Monday, reshaping rosters across the NFL. Lots more is still to come, especially with the future of both Aaron Rodgers and Lamar Jackson still up in the air. In the meantime, here’s a look at some early winners and losers from Day 1 of offseason activity:
Sean Payton wasted no time bolstering one of the NFL’s most sluggish offenses. Russell Wilson’s trajectory is unclear after his erratic Broncos debut, but now he should have a much sturdier front after the additions of 49ers right tackle Mike McGlinchey (5 years, $87.5 million), Ravens left guard Ben Powers (4 years, $52M) and Jaguars tight end Chris Manhertz (2 years, $6M), a blocking specialist. And if Wilson still falters, adding ex-Raiders prospect Jarrett Stidham (2 years, $10M) gives Payton a relatively cheap but high-upside backup plan under center. They also retained Alex Singleton, re-signing the linebacker to a three-year, $18 million deal.
Committing top-20 money to Ravens tight end Josh Oliver, who boasts all of 26 career catches, is a bit of a head-scratcher considering they just acquired ex-Lions star T.J. Hockenson, who proved in his half-season Vikings debut that he’s worthy of a big-money extension — for which he’s currently eligible. Unless this is part of a secret recruiting plan to land Oliver’s former teammate, Lamar Jackson, via blockbuster trade from Baltimore, it just feels like an excess of money for a role player.
Until QB is addressed, they’ll obviously be a wild card overall, but they wisely declined to outbid the Raiders for another stopgap QB in Jimmy Garoppolo. More importantly, they prioritized the trenches on both sides of the ball. A day after locking up All-Pro defender Daron Payne, they secured an underrated offensive bookend, Chiefs Super Bowl starter Andrew Wylie, for borderline top-10 right tackle money (3 years, $24M). They also added both sterling character and positional versatility by poaching interior man Nick Gates (3 years, $16.5M) from the rival Giants.
There’s no doubt they’ve improved their lineup, but much like the Jaguars in 2022, it’s not hard to see how they might’ve better allocated abundant resources. Bengals safety Jessie Bates III (4 years, $64M) is a big, albeit expensive, get for a secondary previously devoid of more than a single long-term playmaker. And locking up All-Pro guard Chris Lindstrom is smart, but he’s shattered the RG market with a $105M extension that’ll pay him $21M per year, more than any inside O-lineman in the NFL. Worse yet, did they really need to trade for underachieving Patriots TE Jonnu Smith (and his lofty contract) when Kyle Pitts is already in tow? Or commit $35M to Saints DT David Onyemata, a solid but unspectacular 30-year-old starter?
Winner: Veteran cornerbacks
Jalen Ramsey kicked off this trend on Sunday, when the Pro Bowl cover man signed off on a trade from the rebuilding Rams to sunny Miami, where he’ll join a revamped Dolphins “D” now led by Vic Fangio. On Monday, more struck gold: Edgy Steelers up-and-comer Cameron Sutton got $33M to join the ascending Lions secondary. And then Patrick Peterson, who enjoyed somewhat of a renaissance in his second season with the Vikings, landed in a perfect spot at age 32, replacing Sutton in Pittsburgh, where he’ll be able to lean on the rangy assistance of Minkah Fitzpatrick.
Chicago already got a head start on a victorious offseason when it moved the No. 1 pick in the 2023 draft for a mega-package including star WR D.J. Moore. And the additions of both the Bills’ Tremaine Edmunds (4 years, $72M) and Eagles’ T.J. Edwards ($19.5M) will surely shore up the middle of Matt Eberflus’ defense. But it’s also a bit odd they’re spending $90M+ on a pair of inside linebackers when they could’ve locked up homegrown star Roquan Smith for less. Still, they also added to the offensive trenches with Titans OG Nate Davis (3 years, $30M), which is another win for QB Justin Fields. As for the Eagles, losing three different defensive starters from the Super Bowl is notable. But returning center Jason Kelce is massive, and general manager Howie Roseman has proven time and again some of the biggest splashes come later in the offseason.