The 2023 NFL offseason brought all kinds of activity from across the league. Some teams made major gambles at the most important spots, while others stripped down in the name of saving money. Now, as the summer presses on and teams prepare for training camp, we’re prepared to project which of the offseason acquisitions will prove most worthwhile in 2023.
Here are the moves we’re especially high on going into the new year:
Aaron Rodgers to the Jets
They don’t get much bigger than this. Coach Robert Saleh ought to make sure the Jetsbefore boasting again of , but Rodgers’ arrival really does mirror that of Tom Brady’s relocation to Tampa from 2020. Even if he’s not back to MVP form, the longtime Packers star represents a clear upgrade at quarterback, and New York has top-tier weapons and defensive support. If A-Rod is upright, the Jets should at least reach the playoffs for the first time in 13 years.
Bryce Young to the Panthers
It might seem hard to mess up the No. 1 pick in the draft, but plenty have done it before. This writer doesn’t think that’s the case in Carolina, where Young offers everything but prototypical size at QB. Will he have growing pains? Sure. But the Alabama product oozes veteran-level poise and should be a definitive step up from the trail of wreckage that was Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold and Cam Newton 2.0 by the time his rookie year gets well underway. A Year 1 playoff bid wouldn’t be crazy.
Frank Reich to the Panthers
He and Young are sort of a package deal here. While the QB would’ve been a worthwhile top pick even without Reich taking over the staff, the fact they’re working together makes Carolina all the more intriguing. Though he managed just a single playoff victory as the Colts’ head man from 2018 into 2022, Reich is as even-keeled as they come, making him an ideal mentor for the new signal-caller. He should have an ascending Panthers roster competitive right out of the gate.
Sean Payton to the Broncos
It feels almost like a stock answer to highlight Payton as a difference-making acquisition. In fact, we’re almost hesitant to crown him Denver’s savior, considering his regular-season dominance rarely translated to postseason triumph late in his Saints tenure. And yet this franchise probably couldn’t have found a coach better suited to guide a Russell Wilson reclamation and/or culture restoration. He’s in a tough division, but whether this year or next, his no-nonsense vision should get them competitive again.
Brian Flores to the Vikings
His immediate impact may not be felt as much as, say, Vic Fangio with the Dolphins. That’s because, unlike Miami, Minnesota didn’t exactly operate this offseason as if it’s planning to make a title run in 2023, preferring to part with pricey veterans rather than welcome them. Still, Flores represents a total philosophical shift for the Viking’s “D,” which sat back and allowed opposing offenses to dictate games in 2022. He figures to instill an attacking mindset that should at least keep opponents guessing.
C.J. Gardner-Johnson to the Lions
You could substitute the ex-Eagles safety for fellow acquisition Cameron Sutton, or Alabama rookie Brian Branch, and we’d celebrate the move all the same. The common thread, of course, is Detroit prioritizing versatility and physicality in its secondary. Gardner-Johnson is the definition of a feisty player, embracing the opportunity to antagonize while ball-hawking from multiple spots. While he may be a one-year rental, he proved with Philly he can be a game-changer, and he fits the Lions like a glove.
D’Andre Swift and Rashaad Penny to the Eagles
Call it the discount duo. Instead of paying Miles Sanders to return as their starting ball carrier, the reigning NFC champions took Swift off the Lions’ hands and inked Penny to a one-year, prove-it deal in free agency. Neither veteran has been especially healthy throughout his career, but both have flashed elite breakaway ability. In tandem, alongside Jalen Hurts and returning backs Boston Scott and Kenny Gainwell, they have a real path to efficient, explosive production in Philadelphia.
Javon Hargrave to the 49ers
It’s debatable whether San Francisco needed to break the bank for another defensive lineman, with Nick Bosa already headlining their front off the edge. But that doesn’t mean Hargrave won’t produce on their interior. He’s gone from solid to disruptive in stints with the Steelers and Eagles, and now he’ll play on the best defense of his career, near Bosa and in front of Fred Warner. It wouldn’t be surprising in the least if he rivals, say, the Chiefs’ Chris Jones as 2023’s top interior terrorizer.
Stephon Gilmore to the Cowboys
Fellow trade acquisition Brandin Cooks is another decent candidate for 2023 success, plugging in opposite CeeDee Lamb in Dallas. But Gilmore might be joining an even better unit, considering Dan Quinn’s squad has been the beating heart of America’s Team in recent years. Opposite playmaker Trevon Diggs, the former All-Pro should be much more at ease than he was with the Panthers and Colts from 2021-2022 when pressure was often on him to serve as the lone star cover man on the outside.