Although it felt as if we’ve been held hostage awaiting Aaron Rodgers’ “decision” on the future, there were a few moves today in free agency that definitely improved rosters around the NFL.
Many of the most impressive moves included quarterbacks, which is often an underrepresented part of the process. NFL free agency grades allow us to look back on the action of the day and see whether teams made good moves.
Usually, we see quite a few overpays in free agency. Teams have money to spend and are often bidding against one another. But in 2023, it appears the teams have had the advantage in negotiations … unless they’re discussing employment with a defensive or offensive tackle.
2023 Free Agency Day 3’s Grades
Commanders Sign Jacoby Brissett
We saw what Jacoby Brissett was able to bring to the Cleveland Browns a season ago. He ranked 11th in EPA + CPOE composite and ranked third in CPOE among quarterbacks with at least 320 plays. If that defense had been able to be even average throughout the season, they would have had an opportunity to compete for a playoff spot.
Although Ron Rivera sounded confident in Sam Howell, he also said the team wanted to bring in a veteran during his Combine press conference. While he didn’t say Howell would be the starter, he said he’d be the top man heading into camp. “He’s coming in as the QB1. He’ll get a great opportunity to be our starter. But we do want to find a veteran quarterback.”
Adding Brissett is a great move for a Washington team that has allowed for competition at the position throughout Rivera’s tenure. While they’ve been unable to hone in on a legitimate franchise quarterback thus far, Brissett is coming off a career year, and Howell is an exciting young player. At $8 million in guarantees, the Commanders are paying Brissett as a backup/spot starter.
Chiefs Add Defensive End Depth With Charles Omenihu
Charles Omenihu has flashed over the past few seasons with the San Francisco 49ers, but he might be in line to play a more significant role with the Chiefs. Omenihu signed a two-year, $20 million deal with Kansas City, which isn’t a bad number for a player many believe is still an ascending talent at the NFL level.
Omenihu fits the bill for a Kansas City pass rusher. He has an incredible wingspan and fits their height and weight profiles. Although he needs to improve his run defense, he has the tools to do just that. His size also allows him to move up and down the defensive front as a pass rusher, and Steve Spagnuolo will undoubtedly use that to his advantage.
Patriots Let Jakobi Meyers Walk for JuJu Smith-Schuster
I’m often confused about what the New England Patriots are doing at wide receiver, and this is certainly another example of that. Jakobi Meyers has been a productive member of the Patriots for the past four seasons now. While JuJu Smith-Schuster is a fine player, it doesn’t make sense to lose that QB/WR continuity for a new player at the same price.
Meyers was the higher player on the PFN Top 100, and he’ll get every chance to prove himself in Las Vegas. Meanwhile, Smith-Schuster will likely be the top target in New England with a whole lot to prove after previously being a 1,400-yard receiver in Pittsburgh.
Vikings Add Byron Murphy on Inexpensive Deal
With only a $17.5 million total over two seasons, Byron Murphy was an absolute steal. Sure, the fit in Brian Flores’ aggressive man-heavy defense is not a good thing for Murphy, who is a fine cover corner but majors in zone coverage. Yet, for the price, it’s tough to feel too bad about Minnesota’s addition to the secondary. They absolutely needed an established body on the back end after losing Patrick Peterson.
The previous front office’s mistakes in the secondary are still taking their toll on the cornerback depth chart,f and hopefully, Murphy is able to be a step in the right direction for Minnesota. While the market didn’t seem to value him highly, he’s still a 25-year-old cornerback with a ton of starting experience on the outside and in the slot.
Lavonte David and Jordan Poyer Stay at Home
Both moves are massive wins for the franchises. The linebacker market was bone dry, so the cash-strapped Buccaneers got a bargain returning Lavonte David for his 13th NFL season with Tampa Bay. Meanwhile, the Bills keep their fearsome safety duo together on a two-year deal.
David and Poyer are two veterans still very close to the top of their games. While Tampa Bay likely won’t be serious contenders, it isn’t often we get to see someone play an entire illustrious career in one uniform. And Poyer gets to help the Bills contend in the tough AFC once again.
Aaron Rodgers Let the World Know His Decision
Although it certainly appears that PFN Senior Analyst Trey Wingo had the inside scoop on the Aaron Rodgers news on Monday, Rodgers joined Pat McAfee on Wednesday to make the news officially official. He has decided to continue playing football in 2023 and would like to play for the New York Jets.
It’s difficult to assign just one grade to this. Jets and Packers fans certainly feel relief. But there’s also a chance that most of the NFL world was waiting on Rodgers’ decision because it, in some way, could change their free agency approach. It’s been a relatively quiet few days, and Rodgers could be one of the reasons why.
We’ll just grade the fact it’s over.
Buccaneers Add Baker Mayfield as Competition
Going into 2023 with Kyle Trask as the unquestioned starter could have spelled disaster for the Buccaneers. Signing Baker Mayfield for just $4 million in guaranteed money should in no way affect their outlook on the NFL draft if a QB they like falls to them. However, they are giving Baker his first legitimate second chance at redemption.
Mayfield played his last season in Cleveland with an injured shoulder that he didn’t have surgery on until late in the year. It caused his mechanical inconsistencies to manifest into mechanical disaster, and he lost his command. The surgery took away an offseason to truly work on improving his craft, and he struggled in 2022 because of it.
But Mayfield’s chip-on-shoulder attitude has taken a backseat to a new version of himself, ripe with perspective. “I’m not gonna go chase a check to go start and play after seeing a place that makes me have fun playing football again. It’s going to be hard to try something else new, but it’s going to be a big-time decision. So there’s going to be a lot of thought put into it.”
There’s no guarantee he returns to the flashes we once saw in him. But he’ll have every opportunity to prove himself. And if he can’t do so in a competition against Trask, it simply wasn’t meant to be for Mayfield.