NFL free agency is nearly here. The legal tampering period will open on March 13, while the official start of the free agent period will kick off on March 15. With so much on the horizon, let’s run through the top NFL free agents and make one prediction for each club.
We’ve attempted to make these predictions as realistic as possible. Teams with large swaths of cap space will dominate the offseason, while clubs with limited funds will have to sit back and choose from the leftovers.
Here’s our best guess as to how the 2023 NFL offseason could play out.
NFL Free Agency Predictions
Arizona Cardinals | Sign G Ben Powers
The Cardinals appear set to take a step back this offseason. With a new general manager (Monti Ossenfort) and head coach (Jonathan Gannon) in place and Kyler Murray not expected to be ready for the start of the regular season, I wouldn’t expect Arizona to invest heavily in external free agents.
Still, the Cards desperately need to accomplish two goals in the coming weeks: (1) fix their offensive line and (2) get younger overall. Signing 27-year-old guard Ben Powers would help check off both boxes, especially given that he spent the past four seasons blocking for another mobile quarterback in Lamar Jackson.
Arizona has plenty of other needs, but adding a player like Powers could help the club set a baseline of competence up front.
Atlanta Falcons | Trade for QB Lamar Jackson
The Falcons are set up better than any NFL team to make a play for Lamar Jackson. They’ll enter the offseason with the second-most cap space in the league, could offer the eighth overall selection this year (plus much, much more), and need a franchise quarterback.
Arthur Smith has already proven he can build an offense around mobile threats like Marcus Mariota and Ryan Tannehill, and Jackson is the NFL’s most dangerous rushing quarterback. Atlanta would likely need to sacrifice at least three first-round picks and potentially more, but that’s the price tag for a 26-year-old former MVP.
We don’t know if the Ravens will be willing to trade Jackson, but the two sides haven’t been able to work out an extension as Lamar seeks a fully guaranteed contract. If Baltimore uses the non-exclusive franchise tag to retain Jackson, the Falcons could simply sign him to an offer sheet. But the exclusive tag would require trade talks.
Baltimore Ravens | Sign WR JuJu Smith-Schuster
No matter who’s under center in Baltimore, the Ravens must add at least one more wideout to their equation. Rashod Bateman and Devin Duvernay form a solid foundation, but this wide receiver corps needs more depth.
The Ravens made an offer to JuJu Smith-Schuster in 2021, and they’re likely to have interest in him again this offseason. Smith-Schuster isn’t a true No. 1 receiver, but he’s adept at running routes in the middle of the field and a willing blocker in the run game.
Buffalo Bills | Sign G Dalton Risner
The Broncos’ offensive line collapsed last season, but Dalton Risner was a steadying presence — just as he’s been for the past four years. Buffalo tried to improve its front five by signing veteran left guard Rodger Saffold in 2022, but at age 35, he posted the worst season of his career.
Risner is only 27 years old. He’s physical enough as a run blocker to match the intensity the Bills were looking for when they added Saffold, but he’s also much better in pass protection. Inserting Risner between left tackle Dion Dawkins and center Mitch Morse should allow Buffalo to create cleaner pockets for Josh Allen.
Carolina Panthers | Sign WR Jakobi Meyers
Although the Panthers’ most glaring need is at quarterback, I think they’ll find their next signal-caller in the draft, either by staying put at No. 9 overall or moving up to target the QB of their choice.
That passer will need more options in the receiving game, where DJ Moore is Carolina’s only reliable pass catcher. Jakobi Meyers isn’t the most exciting playmaker, but he might be the best wideout available (No. 35 in PFN’s Top 100 Free Agents) in a free agent class that’s already been picked apart by extensions. Meyers can handle short-to-intermediate routes while Moore creates chunk yardage downfield.
Chicago Bears | Sign OT Kaleb McGary
The Bears may have found their long-term left tackle by choosing Braxton Jones in the fifth round of the 2022 draft, but they need help on the right side, where Larry Borom and Riley Reiff split snaps last season.
Kaleb McGary was much improved last season, but he was also playing in an Atlanta offense that helped out its offensive line with heavy use of play action. The Bears were the only team in the NFL that ran more than the Falcons, so McGary’s limitations in pass pro might not be as glaring in Chicago as they would be with other teams.
Cincinnati Bengals | Sign DL Zach Allen
While the Bengals could be losing key free agents in the secondary and linebacker, I think they’ll use their ample cap space to target additions along the offensive and defensive lines.
Cincinnati could aim to replace right tackle La’El Collins (a candidate for release), but adding a versatile defender like Zach Allen could also be on the docket. D.J. Reader and B.J. Hill were excellent for the Bengals last season, but the club needs a third interior defender capable of handling significant snaps.
Allen can also play the edge, where he could spell Trey Hendrickson and Sam Hubbard.
Cleveland Browns | Sign DT Javon Hargrave
Javon Hargrave put up a career-high with 11 sacks in 2022, but the Eagles won’t be able to retain all of the team’s free agents. Given that he just turned 30 years old, Hargrave could be among the first to leave Philadelphia this offseason.
The Eagles’ loss could turn out to be the Browns’ gain, as Cleveland needs to augment its defensive tackle rotation. No team gave up more expected points added (EPA) per rush than the Browns in 2022. After those struggles, Cleveland hired new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, who just happened to coach Hargrave in Philadelphia in 2020.
Dallas Cowboys | Franchise Tag Tony Pollard
The franchise tag for running backs costs just $10.091 million, making for an incredibly enticing option for clubs that want to hold onto an RB without a long-term commitment.
Tony Pollard doesn’t have the wear and tear that teams might typically worry about, hence why he’s the No. 15 free agent on PFN’s Top 100 Free Agents. But a one-year franchise tender still makes sense for the Cowboys as they look to retain their most dynamic offensive playmaker.
If Pollard is back at $10+ million, Dallas will have to do something about Ezekiel Elliott’s $16.72 million cap charge. An outright release — which would saddle the Cowboys with $11.86 million in dead money — is the most sensible option. But Dallas will likely try to get Zeke to accept a pay cut before parting ways.
Denver Broncos | Sign OT Jawaan Taylor
Right tackle has been a disaster area for the Broncos in recent years. High-priced free agent options like Menelik Watson and Ja’Wuan James haven’t worked out, and while Cameron Fleming was surprisingly a stabilizing presence in 2022, Denver needs an upgrade.
Enter Jawaan Taylor. A second-round pick in 2019, Taylor is still only 25 years old. He’s the definition of durable, as he’s started all 66 games since being drafted by the Jaguars. Taylor still has work to do as a run blocker, but he’s rapidly matured as a pass protector. He’d represent an offensive line investment that could lock down the Broncos’ right tackle for years to come.
Detroit Lions | Sign CB James Bradberry
Last season, Jeff Okudah finally looked like the elite cornerback the Lions thought they were getting when they drafted the Ohio State product third overall in 2021. However, Detroit still has a gaping hole at their other cornerback spot.
After finishing 30th in defensive EPA per dropback in 2022, the now-contending Lions can’t afford to have a glaring weakness at CB.
James Bradberry was forced to settle for a one-year deal last offseason after getting cut in May, but he should require a significant multi-year pact this time around. Detroit has the cap space to add a veteran like Bradberry, who earned a second-team All-Pro berth and could instantly turn the Lions’ defensive backfield into a strength.
Green Bay Packers | Sign TE Dalton Schultz
Whether it’s Aaron Rodgers or Jordan Love under center for the Packers, Green Bay needs to add more pass-catching talent. Rookies Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs are a nice start, but the Packers have to give their quarterback more options in the passing game.
Unfortunately, the free agent receiver class is incredibly bleak. Instead, Green Bay could target a tight end like Dalton Schultz, who appears likely to leave the Cowboys after playing on the franchise tag in 2022. Schultz isn’t elite by any means, but he’s a solid route runner who could offer Rodgers or Love a big body over the middle of the field.
If the Packers lean into the run with Love at quarterback, they might want a better blocker, in which case they might go after the Raiders’ Foster Moreau, who’s shown flashes in limited action.
Houston Texans | Sign CB Jamel Dean
New Texans head coach DeMeco Ryans might want to bring some of his former 49ers defenders to Houston, but the Texans will surely be willing to consider any and all free agents as they try to spend nearly $38 million in cap space.
Jamel Dean could help Houston build an exciting secondary alongside fellow corner Derek Stingley Jr. and safety Jalen Pitre. Dean, who played a lot of Cover 3 with the Buccaneers, should be a fit in Ryans’ scheme, and he’d give the Texans a physical presence at corner — just as free agent addition Charvarius Ward did for Ryans’ 49ers in 2022.
Indianapolis Colts | Sign G Isaac Seumalo
The Colts’ offensive line devolved from one of the NFL’s best units to a total liability in a staggeringly short period of time. If Indianapolis is comfortable handing left tackle responsibilities to second-year player Bernhard Raimann, right guard is the team’s top concern.
Isaac Seumalo could help the Colts’ front get back on track, and he’s intimately familiar with first-year Indy head coach Shane Steichen after the pair worked together in Philadelphia for the past two seasons.
If the Colts can convince Seumalo to take over for Will Fries/Danny Pinter, I’d bet we won’t see nearly as many blown protections from Indianapolis’ front five as we did last season.
Jacksonville Jaguars | Franchise Tag Evan Engram
Evan Engram proved to be one of the steals of the 2022 free agent period, finishing third among tight ends in receptions (73) and fourth in yardage (766) while earning just under $9 million. He’ll be looking for more than that on his next deal, but the Jaguars also have the option of retaining him via an $11.345 million franchise tag.
Doug Pederson knows how to get the most out of his tight ends, and the fact that Engram isn’t much of a blocker is hardly an issue in Jacksonville. Look for the Jags to try to negotiate a long-term deal with Engram but fall back on the franchise tender if an agreement can’t be worked out.
Kansas City Chiefs | Sign EDGE Arden Key
After winning their second Super Bowl in four years, the Chiefs hardly need to make sweeping changes to their roster. While they could stand to add another wide receiver, Kansas City might have to look to the draft or the trade market to find another pass catcher.
Instead, the Chiefs could use free agency to make small tweaks to its defense. With their secondary largely set, K.C. might try to buoy its defensive line — and Arden Key would be a solid fit as a rotational pass rusher. Key can’t be relied upon as a starter, but he’s a bully as a pass rusher and can line up inside or outside.
Las Vegas Raiders | Sign QB Jimmy Garoppolo
The Raiders might try to swing a trade for Rodgers, but if they can’t land the future Hall of Famer, Jimmy Garoppolo could make for an intriguing fallback. Las Vegas may have had designs on signing Tom Brady this offseason, but Garoppolo also has a long history with head coach Josh McDaniels, who was the Patriots’ offensive coordinator when they drafted Jimmy G in 2014.
Even if the Raiders sign Garoppolo, they could still conceivably draft a quarterback with the seventh overall pick. Depending on how much interest Garoppolo receives this offseason, Las Vegas could ink him to a contract with an out after the 2023 campaign.
That would allow the Raiders to deploy him as their starter for the upcoming season before turning to a de facto rookie in 2024.
Los Angeles Chargers | Sign DT Dalvin Tomlinson
The Chargers slightly improved against the run in 2022 after signing free agents Sebastian Joseph-Day and Austin Johnson, but there’s still more work to be done up front. Given that Los Angeles likes to defend the run with light boxes, they need defensive linemen capable of handling gaps.
Dalvin Tomlinson is strong enough to do just that, but he’s probably even better as a pass rusher than as a run defender. The 29-year-old commanded $10.5 million annually on his most recent contract with the Vikings, and he could earn more this time around.
The Chargers are more than $20 million over the salary cap, but they have plenty of contracts that can be restructured to create more space.
Los Angeles Rams | Trade for G Shaq Mason
Let’s throw in a non-quarterback trade. The Rams’ offensive line disintegrated in 2022, as the unit was forced to rely on third- and fourth-stringers at nearly every position when injuries took their toll. Right tackle Rob Havenstein was the only Los Angeles lineman who escaped the season unscathed.
The Rams need to add multiple pieces up front, and they could take advantage of what looks like a rebuilding year in Tampa Bay. The Bucs gave up a fifth-round pick to acquire Shaq Mason from the Patriots last offseason, and L.A. could sacrifice a similar selection to grab the 30-year-old guard from Tampa Bay.
Mason could take over right guard for the Rams, allowing Logan Bruss, Chandler Brewer, and others to compete at left guard.
Miami Dolphins | Sign G Nate Davis
Speaking of teams that need offensive line assistance, the Dolphins should take a look at Nate Davis, who played well for the Titans last season. Davis will always be a better run blocker than pass protector, and injuries cost him five games in 2022.
Still, he’s only 26 years old and would represent another step in the right direction for a beleaguered Miami OL. Last year, the Dolphins added two outstanding contributors in left tackle Terron Armstead and center Connor Williams.
Signing Davis would give Miami another solid option up front, although they’d have to decide where to align him and Robert Hunt, both of whom have predominantly played right guard.
Minnesota Vikings | Sign LB Tremaine Edmunds
With a 2023 cap charge of $11.43 million, 31-year-old linebacker Eric Kendricks could be in danger of being released by the Vikings after posting a relatively down campaign. Minnesota wouldn’t create as much cap savings by cutting fellow LB Jordan Hicks, but there’s a non-zero chance he’s gone next season, too.
The Vikings fielded the NFL’s third-oldest defense by snap-weighted age in 2022, and Tremaine Edmunds would help them get younger.
He’s one of only six pending free agents that is 25 years old or younger and played 50% of his team’s snaps last season. Edmunds is exactly the sort of coverage-centric linebacker that forward-thinking teams like the Vikings should be targeting.
New England Patriots | Sign OT Mike McGlinchey
The Patriots’ offensive line is largely set at four of five positions, but right tackle is a problem. Former first-round pick Isaiah Wynn bottomed out last year and is a free agent, while veteran Marcus Cannon is also scheduled to hit the open market. 2019 third-rounder Yodny Cajuste would project as New England’s starting RT if the season started today.
Mike McGlinchey was chosen 14 spots head of Wynn in the 2018 draft, and he’s posted a far more competent career than the soon-to-be ex-Patriot. McGlinchey never looked like an All-Pro, but he can hold up against the majority of the edge rushers the NFL has to offer. A four-year deal to lock down the right side could be enough to lure McGlinchey to New England.
New Orleans Saints | Sign QB Derek Carr
The Saints were the only team allowed to meet with Derek Carr before he was released by the Raiders, and they still look like the best suitors for the former Vegas quarterback. Carr is drawing interest from other teams, including the Jets, but we have other plans in mind for Gang Green’s quarterback vacancy.
New Orleans is $46 million in the red, but they’ll continue releasing players and reworking contracts until they’re under the cap (they’ve had a lot of practice at doing so). Carr isn’t a top-10 quarterback, but he’s firmly a mid-tier passer. In a Tom Brady-less NFC South, that might be enough for the Saints to win the division crown in 2023.
New York Giants | Franchise Tag Daniel Jones, Re-Sign Saquon Barkley
Brian Daboll and Mike Kafka helped Daniel Jones turn his career around in 2022, but let’s not forget how incapable Jones looked as recently as 2021. The Giants should be willing to give Jones a chance at repeating his production, but not at the $45 million price tag he’s reportedly asking for.
The quarterback franchise tag — worth $32.416 million — makes far more sense. Franchising Jones would take the tag off the table for Saquon Barkley, but I’d be more comfortable giving the 26-year-old an extension.
Running back contracts are always dubious, but Barkley’s annual average salary wouldn’t come anywhere close to Jones’. A multi-year pact worth $13-15 million with an out after two seasons should be fair for both Barkley and the Giants.
New York Jets | Trade for QB Aaron Rodgers
Aaron Rodgers doesn’t have a no-trade clause, but he’ll ultimately control his next destination because he could simply choose to retire rather than join a new team. If he’s open to joining the Jets, Gang Green should make a play for the future Hall of Famer.
Not only does New York have an elite defense under Robert Saleh, but they boast offensive weapons like Garrett Wilson, Elijah Moore, and Breece Hall that could entice Rodgers to change clubs. He’d also be transitioning to a familiar scheme, given that the Jets hired former Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett for the same role.
New York would likely need to sacrifice two first-round picks, but Rodgers would instantly make the Jets a Super Bowl contender.
Philadelphia Eagles | Re-Sign C Jason Kelce
After coming up just short in the Super Bowl, the Eagles are likely to lose many of their defensive free agents. Hargrave, Bradberry, C.J. Gardner-Johnson, Marcus Epps, Fletcher Cox, Robert Quinn, Brandon Graham, T.J. Edwards, and Kyzir White are all scheduled to reach the open market, and there’s no way Philadelphia can retain all — or even most — of them.
Despite that defensive turnover, I think the Eagles’ most important offseason agenda item is re-signing center Jason Kelce, who could opt to retire. The 35-year-old remains the best center in the NFL and is central to Philadelphia’s league-best rushing attack. The Eagles can turn to second-round pick Cam Jurgens if Kelce hangs it up, but Howie Roseman should pester Kelce to return until he says “yes.”
Pittsburgh Steelers | Sign S C.J. Gardner-Johnson
The Eagles want to retain Gardner-Johnson, but there’s another team in Pennsylvania that could use the hybrid defensive back. The Steelers could lose both safety Terrell Edmunds and part-time slot defender Cam Sutton to free agency, but Gardner-Johnson would represent an improvement over both.
If Pittsburgh wants to use Arthur Maulet in the slot full-time, Gardner-Johnson would see most of his snaps at strong safety. While he plays in the box, Minkah Fitzpatrick could stick in his role as the Steelers’ deep safety. A duo of Gardner-Johnson and Fitzpatrick might be the best safety tandem in the NFL.
San Francisco 49ers | Sign S Jessie Bates III
Speaking of excellent safeties, Jessie Bates III appears likely to leave the Bengals after playing 2022 on the franchise tag. Cincinnati drafted his replacement — Dax Hill — in 2022, leaving Bates free to explore other options on the open market.
The 49ers could move on from Jimmie Ward and Tashaun Gipson, both of whom are at least 31 years old. Bates will only be 26 when the season gets underway, and he’d make a perfect complement for first-team All-Pro Talanoa Hufanga, who could spend more time and make more plays near the line of scrimmage.
With Bates roaming the back end, first-year San Francisco coordinator Steve Wilks would feel comfortable knowing that coverage busts are unlikely.
Seattle Seahawks | Transition Tag Geno Smith
The transition tag has only been deployed five times over the past decade, but I think it makes sense for Geno Smith and the Seahawks. Seattle can save nearly $3 million compared to the franchise tag, and I wouldn’t be worried about another team signing the 32-year-old to a significant offer sheet.
Transition tagging Geno would allow the Seahawks to draft a quarterback with the No. 5 overall pick they acquired in the Russell Wilson trade. Seattle could then start Smith for one season before turning to a younger option in 2024.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers | Sign QB Baker Mayfield
At $55+ million in the red, the Buccaneers have the worst salary cap situation in the NFL. Given that they plan to absorb all of Tom Brady’s dead money in 2023, this upcoming season looks like the beginning of a rebuild in Tampa Bay.
I wouldn’t expect the Bucs to dabble too much in the free agent market, but if they want to bring in competition for third-year quarterback Kyle Trask, Baker Mayfield could do the trick.
He’s unlikely to be expensive, but his late-season run with the Rams might indicate he’s still capable of being a starter. A training camp competition between Trask and Mayfield wouldn’t be the worst outcome for a team on the cusp of resetting.
Tennessee Titans | Sign G Nate Herbig
Like the Bucs, the Titans seem to be nearing a turning point for their franchise. After hiring new general manager Ran Carthon, Tennessee could overhaul its roster, move on from veterans like Ryan Tannehill, and prepare for the future.
Even then, the Titans would need to add some bodies up front, especially if they lose Nate Davis to free agency. Tennessee could replace Davis with another Nate — Nate Herbig, who made 11 starts for a depleted Jets offensive line last season. Herbig should come cheap for the cap-strapped Titans, but he’d also offer a high floor at right guard.
Washington Commanders | Sign CB Byron Murphy
The Commanders look set to enter the offseason with Sam Howell as their QB1, and much of Washington’s offensive core should return under new offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy. On defense, the club’s front seven looks solid (assuming Daron Payne is franchised), but Jack Del Rio’s secondary could use some reinforcements.
Byron Murphy just turned 25 years old and offers inside/outside versatility at corner. Injuries limited him to nine games last season, but those issues could lead to a reduced price tag. Murphy and Kendall Fuller would give the Commanders a solid corner tandem and push Benjamin St-Juste and Bobby McCain down a rung on Washington’s depth chart.