2023 NFL Free Agency Predictions
2023 NFL Free Agency Predictions
Are you ready for the Giants to drive the free agent market? Will the Ravens really move on from QB Lamar Jackson?
Fantasy managers will begin to see puzzle pieces fall into place soon. The legal tampering period of free agency begins on March 13.
This article will take a look at the upcoming free agent landscape. We’ve made some NFL free agency predictions and are excited to dig into the potential fantasy implications of these moves.
In case you missed it, be sure to go back and check out our NFL Free Agency Previews:
Free Agency Prediction: Atlanta Falcons
A recent report from Jeremy Fowler of ESPN indicates Jackson and the Ravens are still considerably far apart in reaching terms on a contract extension. If they can’t agree, Jackson seems likely to play 2023 on the franchise tag.
But what if Jackson gets dealt? A sign-and-trade deal doesn’t sound that far fetched at this stage. For myriad reasons, the Falcons would be a prime landing spot, whether via trade or the open market.
The Falcons have the second-most effective cap space in the NFL
So the financial feasibility is there. And Atlanta can offer the 8th overall pick in the 2023 NFL draft. So it’s a natural fit from that perspective.
The Falcons’ defense ranked bottom-5 PFF grading last season. There’s a lot of work to be done. But the Falcons’ run-blocking and pass-blocking grades in 2022 (5th and 8th in the NFL, respectively) indicate strong potential on offense.
Should the Falcons maintain their draft capital and acquire Jackson via free agency, it would free up the franchise to build up the defense while giving HC Arthur Smith another mobile QB to work with. Smith has a history with players like Ryan Tannehill and Marcus Mariota, dating back to his days with the Titans. Jackson is the best of that archetype by a significant margin.
What would Jackson look like with true weapons around him?
And let’s not forget about the weapons the Falcons have in TE Kyle Pitts and WR Drake London. Beyond TE Mark Andrews and limited windows with WR Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, Jackson hasn’t worked with many star-caliber weapons.
Our current dynasty rankings have Pitts one spot behind Andrews at TE2 and London at WR14. We have Jackson at QB7 but wouldn’t argue with him as high as #4, especially if he’s tied to Pitts and London for the next several seasons.
The NFC South is wide open after QB Tom Brady’s retirement. Even though the Falcons have plenty to figure out on the defensive side of the ball, they are the best equipped to make a leap and gun for a division title. Jackson is the skeleton key that could unlock their ability to make it happen.
Free Agency Prediction: New York Jets
Rumors of QB Aaron Rodgers moving this offseason are intriguing. Of course, the Jets are a great landing spot for any QB, and Rodgers would be a ton of fun in New York. That said, it seems GM Joe Douglas isn’t wasting time waiting for the enigmatic former MVP to figure his mind out.
Carr and the Jets have reportedly met with one another twice now, with a lofty pitch at the epicenter of the proposal. Saying Carr could be a Hall of Famer if he linked up with HC Robert Saleh and company might be a stretch, but this is probably the best situation available.
The Jets must devise a healthier and more effective offensive line (30th in PFF pass-blocking grade in 2022). Beyond that, though, all of the requisite pieces are in place.
Between RB Breece Hall (our dynasty RB2), WR Garrett Wilson (our dynasty WR11), and the talented question mark that is WR Elijah Moore, what’s not to like? The skill position talent has been identified and assembled.
Although Carr is not on Rodgers’ level, he’d be a massive upgrade over what the Jets have had in recent seasons.
Per PFF, the Jets have not had a QB rank within the top 32 of passing grades (min. 100 dropbacks) since 2019 (Sam Darnold, 28th).
Carr ranked just 28th in that category last year. But that marked his first time outside the top 12 since 2018.
Carr as a Jet would remain a QB2 across fantasy formats. But he’d sport weekly upside into low-QB1 territory. And more importantly, he’d boost the outlooks for the offense’s talented young pass-catchers.
The Saints also make sense for Carr. They have the second-lowest effective cap space in the NFL per PFF, but they’ve displayed a knack for finessing the books in the past. The two sides have met once already.
Free Agency Prediction: New York Giants
Yes, this one isn’t fascinating. The likeliest outcome of this saga appears to be the Giants slapping the franchise tag on Jones. It’s also the best outcome, frankly.
From a real-NFL standpoint, Jones tallied career bests in completion percentage (67.2%), passer rating (92.5), and TD:INT ratio (3:1) in 2022, under the tutelage of first-year HC Brian Daboll. Jones also delivered career-high rushing yards (708) and matched his personal best in fantasy points per game.
The other big challenge for the Giants: RB Saquon Barkley’s looming free agency. The Giants cannot franchise tag both Jones and Barkley, though they do have the transition tag available as well.
The Giants possess the fourth-most effective cap space of any team in the NFL heading into free agency. So there’s room for the team to add receiving help. The NFL Draft, of course, can help there as well.
If Jones gets tagged and shows the Giants he can recreate the successes from this past season in 2023, expect a long-term deal to follow.
It makes far too much sense on both sides for Jones to go anywhere else.
Of course, Jones' dynasty outlook has already changed coming off his best season to date. Check out where he sits in our updated dynasty rankings.
Running Back (RB)
Free Agency Prediction: New York Giants
We spoke a lot about the Giants in the last section and how Barkley’s presence directly impacts the outlook for Daniel Jones.
Barkley’s no lock to stay with the Giants. But he and the team have both expressed the desire to work something out.
As exciting as seeing Barkley elsewhere might be hypothetically, it doesn’t seem likely to occur. There’s not much of a fantasy impact to go over should Barkley re-sign with the Giants.
Assuming more of the same production and good fortune with health, Barkley will continue to be an effective RB1 for the next few seasons to come.
Free Agency Prediction: Las Vegas Raiders
Another boring answer. Jacobs going back to the Raiders just makes sense. He expressed his desire to return recently. So it’ll likely just come down to money.
The Raiders experienced a disappointing season in Year 1 under HC Josh McDaniels, but Jacobs’ hit career highs with 393 touches (led the NFL), 1,693 rushing yards (led the NFL), and 400 receiving yards (eighth among RBs).
It’ll be tough for him to reach those heights again, but these stats speak to the team’s willingness to lean on Jacobs.
He turned 25 earlier this month and should still have several good years ahead of him, according to the aging performance data behind our dynasty projections formula.
All in all, it’s an excellent situation for Jacobs regardless of who the Raiders pick up (Jimmy Garoppolo, anyone?) to replace Derek Carr.
Free Agency Prediction: Carolina Panthers
There’s one connection that makes Sanders and the Panthers a decent fit. It’s a bit of a rabbit hole, but just go with it for a second:
The Panthers hired former Colts HC Frank Reich earlier this offseason. The first order of business: finding a QB (presumably through the NFL Draft). But having a solid run game will be a big deal for a team likely to have an inexperienced signal-caller.
Eagles HC Nick Sirianni served as Reich’s OC with the Colts from 2018-2020 before taking the job in Philadelphia. Moreover, Sirianni and Reich coached together with the Chargers from 2013-2015, before Reich took over as the Eagles OC from 2016-2017.
Sanders entered the league in 2019, so he never overlapped with Reich’s Eagles stint. But he played the past two under Sirianni.
Sanders set career highs in 2022 in touches (279), rushing yards (1,269), and TDs (11). But his playing time declined late in the year. After playing more than 50% of offensive snaps in every game through Week 16, he played 40% or less in each of the final five. That included snap shares of 30% in the NFC championship game and 35% in the Super Bowl.
Add career-low receiving numbers (1.2 receptions per game) and a Philly front office that hasn’t invested much at RB, and you can bet on Sanders not re-signing.
Carolina’s 2022 leading rusher, D’Onta Foreman, is headed for free agency. Chuba Hubbard remains but totaled just 109 touches in his second season.
The Panthers don’t sport much cap room, but Sanders also doesn’t figure to draw huge offers on the market.
Wide Receiver (WR)
Free Agency Prediction: New York Giants
The Giants need to do something about their WR corps this offseason. Don’t be surprised if they take one in the first round of the NFL Draft in April. But this situation probably needs more than one guy.
HC Brian Daboll’s system gives plenty of opportunity to slot WRs. During Daboll’s tenure as the Bills OC from 2019-2021, WR Cole Beasley drew 306 targets, running from the slot about 85% of the time. This past season, 112 of the 327 targets that went to Giants WRs (34.2%) were funneled to Richie James Jr. and Wan’Dale Robinson. Guess where those two lined up for more than 80% of their routes.
Meyers has seen his slot route percentage rise year to year since entering the league in 2019, up to a career-high 69.5% in 2022. He’s the most effective slot player available on the open market in 2023 and the best WR available overall.
Free Agency Prediction: Baltimore Ravens
The year is 2021, and Smith-Schuster has chosen to re-sign with the Steelers on a 1-year deal. An unfortunate shoulder injury cuts his season short by 12 games and shreds his already-flimsy market value.
Imagine if he’d signed elsewhere. Two other teams made concrete offers: the Chiefs and Ravens.
K.C. landed him in 2022, of course. And Smith-Schuster delivered a solid receiving line: 78-933-3.
Now he hits free agency again, and the Ravens still have a huge need opposite Rashod Bateman.
Smith-Schuster turns 27 in November and could easily re-roll with another 1-year “prove it” deal should he not command a multiyear offer in the open market. He’s running out of options at this point, but an up-tempo offense led by newly minted OC Todd Monken in Baltimore might do the trick.
Tight End (TE)
Free Agency Prediction: Los Angeles Chargers
The Cowboys tagged Schultz to keep him off the open market last year, but they might not be able to afford him this time around.
Dallas ranks 21st in effective cap space entering 2023 and has the difficult task of restructuring the contract of RB Ezekiel Elliott to figure out before they can do a heck of a lot elsewhere.
(For the record, this is why we didn’t talk about RB Tony Pollard earlier. There’s simply too much to unpack right now. But reports indicate the team won’t let him leave.)
Should Schultz move on from Dallas, a reunion with Chargers OC Kellen Moore would make a lot of sense. The Chargers’ most significant need on offense is speed and field-stretching ability (probably at WR). But they can address that in the NFL Draft.
QB Justin Herbert has been pretty good to TEs so far. Hunter Henry in 2020 and Gerald Everett this past season each cracked the PPR top 12 at the position. Chargers TEs collectively score the ninth most PPR points in 2021.
WR Keenan Allen only carries a $2.7 million dead cap hit should the Chargers choose to move on from him this offseason. Cutting Allen, signing Schultz, and drafting a field-stretching deep-threat WR would maximize their cap situation and address their offensive deficiencies.
Free Agency Prediction: Jacksonville Jaguars
It seems Engram let the cat out of the bag on this one. Reading too far into athletes' social media accounts is a dangerous game, but Engram gave away that (at a minimum) there have been negotiations in place for him to remain with the Jaguars.
This would be the best outcome for Engram. Even though WR Calvin Ridley will enter the fold in 2023, there’s enough room for Engram to also build on his terrific 2022.
Engram recorded career highs in catch rate (74.5%) and receiving yardage (766) working with QB Trevor Lawrence. So if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right?
This is an excellent window for dynasty managers to buy Engram. Speculatively take a shot on the possibility that Engram sticks around with Lawrence and the Jaguars before his low-end TE1 status is set in stone.