Even under the best circumstances, NFL teams can only return around 75% of their overall roster. According to Over the Cap, the Chicago Bears’ roster looked like a before and after of an aging Hollywood star that feels the need to get extensive work done. With nearly $100 million in salary cap space, that may once again be the case in Chicago. But what is the NFL free agency start date?
Check out PFN’s list of the Top 100 NFL Free Agents to see a comprehensive list of potentially available players and precisely what they may bring to your favorite football team. If your team needs to look at a few specific positions, well, you can do that at PFN also.
2023 NFL Free Agency Start Date
Free agency begins at the start of the new league year. That is when player contracts from the season before officially expire, becoming free agents. In 2023, the new league year begins on March 15 at 4 p.m. ET.
The hilarious oxymoron that is the “legal tampering period” begins 52 hours prior, on Monday at noon. Because players are still under contract, any agreement they make in principle cannot be legally binding until Wednesday at 4 p.m.
- Legal tampering period: Monday, March 13
- 2023 NFL free agency start date: Wednesday, March 15
Who Are Some of the Top Free Agents Available This Year?
The 2023 free agency class, like the draft class, feels a bit weak overall. However, there are a few positions that are seeping with high-end talent, including at the most important position in professional sports.
Lamar Jackson won’t reach the open market, but it’s sounding ever more like the Baltimore Ravens will place the non-exclusive franchise tag on him, meaning a team would only have to part with two first-round picks to acquire him.
Daniel Jones and Geno Smith likely won’t see the light of the free market either, but that is far from the end of the list. Derek Carr looks to be off the market and headed to New Orleans, but Jimmy Garoppolo is a system fit at a few spots around the league with contending rosters.
Meanwhile, Jacoby Brissett proved in 2022 that he can lead a team to relatively impressive offensive success, and he could be a nice bridge option for a QB-needy team drafting early.
Running back has been devalued in a passing league, but that doesn’t take away from the talent concentrated at the position in free agency. The money they eventually secure will be fascinating to see, given the sheer number of difference-making talents at the position.
Josh Jacobs and Tony Pollard are both expected to be tagged, but Saquon Barkley could be in for a long-term deal on the open market. Yet, Jamaal Williams, Miles Sanders, and Jerick McKinnon all bring talent to the position as well.
The league is starting to value safeties correctly, and the 2023 class has some good ones. Jessie Bates III, C.J. Gardner-Johnson, Jordan Poyer, and Julian Love can all be difference-makers on the back end.
Pass rushers aren’t typically synonymous with value, but that changes with the 2023 free agency class. There are only a few young edge defenders looking to secure high-priced, long-term deals. Inexpensive veterans like Robert Quinn, Melvin Ingram, Justin Houston, and Kyle Van Noy could be the difference between being a division winner and being a title contender.
Which NFL Teams Have the Most To Spend?
The Bears are in uncharted territory. They have the first pick in the NFL draft, which they will likely part ways with for a king’s ransom. Between Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud, and Anthony Richardson, there are three very different QBs that these teams at the top could fall in love with. And it appears the league likes Will Levis more than the author of this.
Chicago will have draft capital and a record $90 million-plus to work with building a roster around Justin Fields. With Aaron Rodgers’ departure rumored, there is no better time for Chicago to pounce on the NFC North.
The Atlanta Falcons have over $66 million to work with. While using that money to try and win the division is important, figuring out exactly what they have in Desmond Ridder might be even more vital to the franchise’s long-term success. But that money could also be used to trade for and pay Jackson to a long-term, fully-guaranteed contract.
After cutting Carr, the Raiders are sitting on over $48 million in free agency. Their strategy is entirely unknown at the moment, but until they make marked improvements on the offensive line, it’s tough to see them really finding their groove in an AFC West division that has to deal with the Chiefs.
The Giants have $46 million to work with in free agency, but much of that is allocated for Daniel Jones, making things difficult for Joe Schoen to properly build a secondary fit for Wink Martindale’s aggressive defensive system.
What Is Actually Disallowed During the Tampering Window?
Before the NFL tampering period was implemented in 2013, the league had a problem. In a league where every conceivable advantage matters, teams were illegally tampering with players and agents.
Allowing teams a 52-hour window to negotiate with players was critical. While no contract discussion during this period is legally binding because all of these players remain under contract until Wednesday at 4 p.m., all of the formalities are taken care of.
Players are not allowed to speak with teams directly until Wednesday. But that only matters if a player decides to represent themselves, like Jackson. Players can visit the team they were previously under contract with. For example, Javon Hargrave can visit with the Philadelphia Eagles during this two-day window.
Restricted free agents and exclusive rights free agents remain in the dark until Wednesday. If teams try to contact them during the legal tampering period, the NFL would actually view it as tampering and deem such actions illegal. That could lead to the loss of draft picks and serious fines, as the Miami Dolphins figured out less than 12 months ago.