We're just a few days into the 2023 NFL free agency period, but there have already been a slew of moves that should change the complexion of the league next season. With new faces in new places all across the league, we're going to use this space over the next couple of days to identify the most interesting fits on both offense and defense.
It's important to note that these are the most interesting acquisitions and not necessarily the best. Jakobi Meyers was a good get for the Raiders, but we already know how he fits in Josh McDaniels' offense, so he's not included here. I'm not all that interested in the Saints again trying to desperately cling to whatever sliver of a contention window they have left, so neither is Derek Carr, even though he's a better player than some of the quarterbacks we'll highlight. We are, however, going to include a couple of players acquired via trade, because teams treat this time of year as the player-acquisition phase of the offseason, and it all mixes together.
With all that said, let's get started with the offensive side of the ball.
- Jimmy Garoppolo, Raiders (49ers)
- Jacoby Brissett, Commanders (Browns)
- Sam Darnold, 49ers (Panthers)
These fits are all interesting for wildly different reasons. For Garoppolo, it's going to be fascinating to see what he looks like outside of the Kyle Shanahan cocoon. There's long been a disagreement among film-watchers and stat nerds about the true level of Garoppolo's talent, and removing him from Shanahan's ecosystem will provide a nice test case. Sure, Garoppolo and McDaniels are familiar with each other from their days with the Patriots, but Jimmy G made just two starts and threw only 94 passes across 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 ends up having to play at some point for the 49ers, considering the injury issues the team has with both Trey Lance and Brock Purdy. Shanahan's offense has been a rising tide that lifts all boats, and the Niners have one of the most friendly ecosystems into which a quarterback can be dropped; will it be able to help one of the most underwhelming young quarterbacks in recent memory?
And then there's Brissett, who more than admirably filled in for Deshaun Watson in Cleveland last season, and actually outperformed Cleveland's preferred starter. The Commies are talking like Sam Howell is going to be their starter this season, but it seems at least somewhat likely that Brissett ends up being the guy. He'd be the best QB Washington has had since ... Kirk Cousins, probably? What that offense could look like with a competent player under center and Eric Bieniemy calling the plays is fascinating to think about.
- Orlando Brown, Bengals (Chiefs)
- Jawaan Taylor, Chiefs (Jaguars)
- Ben Powers and Mike McGlinchey, Broncos (Ravens; 49ers)
Brown spent the past two seasons in Kansas City, but the Chiefs obviously 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 was the best way to fill the hole on Patrick Mahomes' blind side, but that the player should be Taylor and not Brown (who already made the same move the year before he was traded to K.C.). Taylor is better in 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 help the Bengals continue the offensive line makeover they began last offseason. It seems like he'll stay on the left side and Jonah Williams will swing over to the right to replace La'el Collins, who is probably ticketed for release even if he fully recovers from his ACL year.
Anything the Broncos do to add to their offense is bound to be interesting given how poorly 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 clean in front of Drew Brees, who didn't have ideal size for the quarterback position. In signing 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 early in his career as injuries have sapped him of some of his power, but he got a significant deal to make the move to the Broncos. What did they see in him over the past few seasons that others didn't?
- Rashaad Penny, Eagles (Seahawks)
- JuJu Smith-Schuster, Patriots (Chiefs)
- Darren Waller and Parris Campbell, Giants (trade, Raiders; Colts)
- D.J. Moore, Bears (trade, Panthers)
For as long as he's been in the league, Penny has been one of the NFL's most explosive and efficient runners. He's now going to be working behind the league's best offensive line. Ya know, as long as he can stay on the field. I'm excited to see just how many damn yards per carry he can average in this offense, and whether he can actually remain healthy long enough to be a factor in it.
JuJu was basically the No. 2 passing game threat for the Chiefs last season, and it seemed like the perfect role for him. Now, he's likely the No. 1 target in New England. How will that work out for each of them? And why did the Patriots decide they would 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 pass-catcher corps and it's not like Smith-Schuster is a game-breaker.
In acquiring Waller, the Giants have given 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 in Daniel Bellinger, but Waller provides a higher ceiling and more of a field-stretching element. The Giants can utilize both of them in two-tight end sets, which will give them a bit more offensive diversity than they had a year ago. Even after bringing in Campbell, the Giants probably still need to add talent at wide receiver, but targeting a player whose primary asset is speed is a nice changeup 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 defined first read should hopefully help Fields with his issue of hanging onto the ball for too long, but merely raising the level of talent around him should also do wonders for his efficiency on a down-to-down basis. The Bears should not nearly be done adding to their offensive infrastructure, but it's difficult to think of a better fit for what they needed than Moore.