The 2023 NFL Draft has come and gone. NFL free agency is still alive but faint. Lamar Jackson received his extension, Aaron Rodgers is a New York Jet, and Howie Roseman is making other general managers jealous of his popularity. Aside from the league’s upcoming schedule release party, this begins the downtime of the NFL offseason. Speaking of, which teams have crushed the offseason so far, and which teams have been victimized by it?
Note: The tiering system is based on the execution of a plan of creating building blocks toward future goals and not simply whether a team got better or worse for 2023. Teams within each tier are in alphabetical order.
Who Has Had the Best NFL Offseason So Far?
While it’s difficult to pinpoint a single winner so far this offseason because so many teams have done an excellent job improving from a season ago, there might actually be a winner here. The Detroit Lions absolutely dominated the free agency cycle, improving in all the areas they desperately needed to on the defensive side of the ball in March.
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Adding Cameron Sutton, C.J. Gardner-Johnson, and Emmanuel Moseley was as impressive as it was imperative to their defensive success in 2023. And while the Lions’ draft class certainly didn’t give off value vibes, it’s hard to deny that they drafted possibly four immediate-impact players and quite possibly their long-term future at the QB position.
But the Lions stand alone at the top not just because of what they did but what their divisional opponents did or did not do as well. The Bears will find their way into the top tier of teams, but the Vikings and Packers have work to do if they’re to compete with Detroit for the division title in 2023, which sounds incredibly weird to say.
Where Do the 31 Other Teams Rank?
The Lions have had a great offseason, but they weren’t the only ones to massively improve heading into the 2023 campaign.
Tier 1: Massive Improvements
The Bears have had a busy offseason, and they may not be done yet. The roster still has holes, and the Bears still have about $30 million in salary cap space to spend, should they choose to do so.
But adding Tremaine Edmunds and T.J. Edwards creates a competent and young second level. Adding DJ Moore brings Justin Fields a legitimate three-level threat that is a fringe No. 1. Darnell Wright should immediately start on the right side of an offensive line that desperately needed help.
But their draft goes even deeper than that. Gervon Dexter has a ridiculous amount of upside on the defensive interior, and Zacch Pickens could be the kind of 3-technique that Matt Eberflus can fall in love with. Tyler Scott adds speed to the outside as a receiver, and Roschon Johnson was a solid value pick in Round 4.
While we don’t know what fruit the changes in Denver will bear because their successes and failures will come down to their $50 million man, they made wholesale changes to make his environment as conducive to success as possible.
Hiring Sean Payton as the head coach was a home-run swing to try and turn things around with Russell Wilson. Payton immediately made his mark by (I assume) telling the Broncos’ front office they will build in the trenches. They added Ben Powers and Mike McGlinchey in free agency on not-so-inexpensive deals, and the Broncos have refused advances from other teams about trading any of their receivers.
Now, drafting Marvin Mims Jr. could change that, but for now, Payton and Co. are loading up to get the absolute best from Wilson.
Unlike the Bears and Lions, who are trying to build for the now and the future, the Dolphins are aggressively pursuing a championship while Tua Tagovailoa is relatively inexpensive.
Trading for Jalen Ramsey was the start of it. Adding Vic Fangio to coach the defense isn’t talked about enough as a difference-making offseason move. David Long is a great complement as a run-defending linebacker to Jerome Baker’s all-around game.
And while fans almost surely would have liked to see some OL additions in the draft, the Dolphins offense, despite an underwhelming OL, was not an issue last season. Having no depth in the secondary was. Cam Smith was a bemoaned selection, but his versatility in coverage can get him on the field immediately, and he will likely end up on as one of their starting outside cornerbacks before too long into his rookie deal.
New York Giants
The New York Giants absolutely crushed the NFL Draft. Deonte Banks was born to be a Wink Martindale cornerback. John Michael Schmitz should start immediately and play for a decade at center. Jalin Hyatt creates a downfield weapon that opens up a level of the offense that was locked up in 2022.
Bobby Okereke was a great signing at a position of dire need defensively, and the team took a home-run swing on the explosive but injury-prone Darren Waller. In a division trying to compete with the Cowboys and Eagles, the Giants can’t stand on their heels and call good enough good enough.
New York Jets
This one is simple. A playoff-caliber team with first-overall pick-caliber QB play went out and traded for Aaron Rodgers. Even if the 39-year-old has declined since his consecutive MVPs in 2020 and 2021, his level of play will far exceed what they are coming from.
But the Jets also added other solid veteran pieces in free agency in Allen Lazard and Mecole Hardman. They also added Chuck Clark for a seventh-round pick, and they re-signed veteran center Connor McGovern.
Tier 2: Improvements
If you’re surprised to see the Arizona Cardinals in Tier 2, sit tight. Are the Cardinals a better roster than they were a season ago? Absolutely not. In fact, they’re likely one of the worst teams in the NFL.
But they have a vision, and they understand where they fall in the league heading into 2023. They’re in the beginning stages of a rebuild, and they spent the offseason and the NFL Draft compiling an astronomical amount of future capital. They’re currently projected to have six picks in the top 75 next year, according to Vegas odds gathered by Tankathon.
The value difference in their current projected picks is 1,758.0. The next closest is Chicago at 1,145.7. A lot can and will change between now and then, but that same difference (612.3) taken from Chicago would put them at 533.4. Only the Miami Dolphins have less 2024 capital than that.
Yes, that means the difference between the top team and the second team almost matches the second team to the last-place team. And although Steve Keim and the Cardinals just extended Kyler Murray, if they’re sitting with the top pick a year from now with Caleb Williams staring them in the face, they won’t have an easy decision on their hands.
The Atlanta Falcons did a lot to improve their roster during the offseason, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. They brought in key free agents like Jessie Bates III, David Onyemata, and Calais Campbell to be veteran leaders on an otherwise young defense aside from Grady Jarrett.
Trading for Jeff Okudah only cost the team a fifth-round pick, and they drafted Clark Phillips III to hopefully be their stalwart in the slot. Their season, and their future, rest on the right shoulder of Desmond Ridder. If he can develop into the elevated bus driver an Arthur Smith offense needs, this team could be sneaky in 2023.
The Ravens were on the low end of the totem poll just a few days before the NFL Draft. However, it takes only one move to change a team’s outlook, and extending Lamar Jackson was the only change the team needed to make.
Adding Odell Beckham Jr. was a nice gesture to improve the offense, and drafting Zay Flowers was an added bonus. Baltimore didn’t do much in the way of free agency, but the roster didn’t need much as it is.
Baltimore simply needed to get healthy to get back on track for 2023.
The Panthers sold the farm to move up to the top pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. Losing Moore as part of the deal certainly hurts, but adding their future of the franchise at QB is an exciting development for a team that really had some momentum toward the end of 2023.
With an already talented defense to go along with a new and improved coaching staff, the Panthers could really start to make waves in 2023.
The Cincinnati Bengals have taken a page out of the Eagles’ handbook over the past two NFL Drafts. They looked not just into the present but also into the future to make their selections.
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Myles Murphy was a bit of a gift late in the first round, as was DJ Turner at the end of Round 2. Bengals fans seem not to love the Jordan Battle selection, but he should be a solid pro from Day 1 that allows Lou Anarumo to play to Dax Hill’s versatile strengths.
While the future at right tackle is unknown after Jonah Williams requested a trade, he’s currently still on the roster to help the team in 2023.
The Browns added Dalvin Tomlinson and Ogbo Okoronkwo to the defensive line during free agency and paired those pieces with Siaki Ika and Isaiah McGuire in the third and fourth rounds of the NFL Draft. They absolutely needed reinforcements on the defensive interior, and Tomlinson and Ika are the bodies to help adequately defend the A and B gaps.
Jim Schwartz is another upgrade for the team. Cleveland has a really talented defensive back group that simply needs to figure out how to work properly as a cohesive unit. They also added Elijah Moore through a trade with the Jets and Cedric Tillman in the third round to help the passing attack, which was their other significant need.
The front office also added depth on the offensive line with the selections of Dawand Jones and Luke Wypler, which should satiate fans’ thirst for Buckeyes players.
While the jury is out on the Cowboys’ draft haul, adding Stephon Gilmore and Brandin Cooks through separate trades during the offseason quelled concerns on the Dallas roster. They could still use a bit of depth on the offensive line because counting on Tyron Smith to play a bulk of the snaps in 2023 is like counting on your dad to come home with the milk after five years.
The Cowboys only got marginally better from a season ago, but they unquestionably got better with their two veteran acquisitions. The rest of free agency and the NFL Draft was icing on the cake.
Houston didn’t spend a Brinks truck full of cash during the free agency period, but they took a bunch of singles and doubles at low-cost free agents on short-term deals, and they found some value along the way.
Adding Dalton Schultz and Robert Woods gives the skill positions some veteran leadership, and in Schultz’s case, a quarterback’s best friend. Woods may be over the hill by now, but with a lackluster unit staring DeMeco Ryans and Nick Caserio down, they needed to make a move.
Drafting their franchise QB was absolutely, positively the right move. While they gave up a lot for Will Anderson Jr., if Ryans and Caserio look at him as their version of Nick Bosa, it’s a worthwhile venture, especially along an otherwise underwhelming defensive front.
The pairing of Shane Steichen and Anthony Richardson should be a match made in heaven. The Colts replaced the traded Gilmore with Julius Brents in the draft, and Chris Ballard doubled, tripled, and even quadrupled down on his quest to draft the most athletic team in the NFL.
Los Angeles Chargers
Replacing Joe Lombardi with Kellen Moore automatically puts the Chargers in Tier 2. Although Moore isn’t the best OC in the NFL, he was underappreciated in Dallas and is a massive upgrade from Lombardi from a schematic perspective.
Adding Quentin Johnston may feel a bit like drafting another Mike Williams by looking at the two, but they are not the same player. Johnston is faster and is savvy with the ball in his hands. He can be the player who takes the top off of opposing defenses, which will create more operating space in the intermediate areas for Williams and Keenan Allen.
Saying that the Vikings got worse would have been a bit unfair. On paper, they are probably right about where they were a season ago. Their level of success from a year ago is simply unsustainable. The cornerback group leaves a lot to be desired, and Harrison Smith is over the hill at safety. They’ll need a healthy and competitive Lewis Cine to fill a void on the back end, and they’ll need multiple young CBs to step up.
Losing a red-zone weapon like Adam Thielen is less than ideal, but Jordan Addison is a very talented receiver who is a legitimate three-level threat. He won’t be much of a weapon after the catch, but he shouldn’t have much issue getting open, either.
New England Patriots
The Patriots pulled the old “addition by subtraction” card from their hats this offseason. What they did to add to their roster this offseason was secondary to parting ways with Matt Patricia and Joe Judge as meaningful “contributors” to their woeful offense.
The NFL somehow allowing Christian Gonzalez to fall into Bill Belichick’s lap still doesn’t feel real, and although the Patriots have had poor results drafting cornerbacks high recently, their process was flawed with many of those selections. They crushed this one.
I also like the shot they took on Kayshon Boutte and that they are attempting to upgrade their entire specialty unit aside from Joe Cardona as the long snapper.
New Orleans Saints
The Saints may have stayed the same or slightly improved their roster from a season ago. However, they lost two core pieces on their defensive interior in David Onyemata and Shy Tuttle. They added Khalen Saunders and Nathan Shepherd to numb the pain, and then they took Bryan Bresee in the draft to cure their ailment, but that could take time to materialize.
I know Dennis Allen is still the defensive play-caller, but when he can’t call plays, Joe Woods will. If you ask Browns fans, they’ll tell you how they feel about that prospect.
But what kept them from slipping into Tier 3 was the addition of Derek Carr.
While other teams got better by replacing their last coordinators, the Eagles did an outstanding job of replacing their one very good coordinator who got a head coaching job and their decent coordinator who will likely be a better head coach than defensive play-caller. Brian Johnson and Sean Desai are the truth.
And while they lost key pieces along their defense, particularly at safety, the NFL let them draft a few unbelievably talented Georgia defensive linemen to revamp their talented but aging core.
Getting the Jalen Hurts deal done early was another good preemptive move by Howie Roseman, and finding a way to cut Darius Slay only to restructure his contract to fit him inside the pie was a savvy move by the team.
The Pittsburgh Steelers refuse to die. They are allergic to underachieving and achieving. They simply continue to overachieve relative to their product on paper. From a cultural perspective, no franchise is stronger.
Isaac Seumalo was a necessary addition to the offensive line in free agency. Broderick Jones should provide another upgrade on the offensive line, but that was one of their lesser-renowned selections. They kept things in the family with Joey Porter Jr., a trend they’ve already adopted with the Heywards and Watts. Keeping it in the family met obnoxious levels when they also selected Nick Herbig to play with older brother Nate.
But Porter Jr. and Herbig were also good value for where they were selected. Additionally, having Porter be able to learn from someone like Patrick Peterson will be vital for the young CB.
Adding Jaxon Smith-Njigba to DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett makes for one of the most complementary WR corps I’ve seen. Each player offers a distinctly different skill set, and Njigba’s ability to separate from the slot should make him great friends with Geno Smith.
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The Seahawks added Dre’Mont Jones in free agency to add a bit of juice to the interior rush unit, and Jarran Reed will provide a bit of a boom-or-bust presence along their defensive front.
But Seattle’s problems a season ago came on the defensive side of the ball, and Devon Witherspoon, Derick Hall, and Cameron Young should help contribute to that unit’s ascension in 2023.
Although the Titans roster was only marginally improved from a season ago, the fact that they were able to draft one of the best — if not the best — offensive linemen in the NFL Draft and Will Levis, is a massive win for the Titans’ future, which has become increasingly more important than the present.
Their offensive line remains in shambles, which does not bode well for a team that wants to pound opposing defenses into the ground with the run game and toss the ball over their linebackers off play action.
Adding Azeez Al-Shaair, Arden Key, and Sean Murphy-Bunting helps with their depth on the defensive side of the ball, something they used all of due to injuries in 2021 and 2022.
The Washington Commanders roster is very quietly one of the more complete units in the NFL. While they’re missing the high-end franchise QB that is the key contributor to making the whole thing click, there aren’t many truly weak spots on the team.
Adding Andrew Wylie at right tackle was a good value move, and drafting Ricky Stromberg to compete with Chase Roullier at center was a necessary move to improve a weak spot on the offensive line.
But even if Sam Howell struggles to maintain QB1 status, Jacoby Brissett is coming off a year in which he played his best football.
Tier 3: More or Less Remained the Same
Like quite a few of the teams in Tier 3, remaining in the same spot isn’t necessarily a bad thing for the Buffalo Bills because they were already an incredibly talented roster set up to compete for a championship in 2023.
The Bills had a solid draft with the additions of Dalton Kincaid and O’Cyrus Torrence on the offensive side of the ball. Losing Tremaine Edmunds doesn’t hurt nearly as much, considering the amount of money he made on the free market, and Dorian Williams joins Terrel Bernard as consecutive third-round selections used to address the linebacker position.
After spending like a recent lottery winner a season ago in free agency, Jacksonville has had a quiet offseason. A quiet offseason led to a fine but somewhat uninspiring 2023 NFL Draft class.
However, the Jaguars did add Calvin Ridley back to their roster after coming off a suspension for gambling on the NFL while he was taking a leave of absence from the Atlanta Falcons. They also kept Evan Engram around on the franchise tag, so their offense should get better in Year 3 of Trevor Lawrence with the addition of Ridley.
They were already the cream of the AFC South crop and didn’t need a ton of improvement.
Kansas City Chiefs
While one can always improve, even while being champions of the league, the Chiefs don’t necessarily have to. While it appears weird on the surface to let Orlando Brown Jr. leave for Cincinnati only to pay Jawaan Taylor a ton of money to switch from the right side to the left side, Kansas City wanted to get more athletic on the edges. They did that.
While that feels like a lateral move, the additions of Rashee Rice and Felix Anudike-Uzomah help make up the difference and keep the Chiefs on their torrent pace.
Las Vegas Raiders
The Raiders are such an interesting roster. There is a bit of incredibly high-end talent strewn across it, but there is a complete lack of quality depth and a few starting spots that are barren wastelands.
In fact, I’m pretty sure they plan on covering the AFC West’s wide receivers with hopes and dreams in 2023. Although adding Marcus Epps helps at safety, there isn’t much to feel good about at cornerback aside from Nate Hobbs, who struggled in a new role playing on the outside in Patrick Graham’s defense a season ago.
They didn’t get worse, but they didn’t necessarily improve. And for a team that only won six games a season ago, that’s not the goal.
San Francisco 49ers
Adding Javon Hargrave certainly helps the 49ers’ defense, but losing DeMeco Ryans, Jimmie Ward, and Emmanuel Moseley could end up a slight net loss or keep them even.
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With no high-end draft capital, it was going to be hard to improve the roster in that way. Still, the addition of Ji’Ayir Brown feels a lot like Talanoa Hufanga, but in a way that complements the playmaking safety instead of doubling down on a downhill player.
The uncertainty of the rehab processes of Brock Purdy and Trey Lance creates a seed of doubt as well. And while Mike McGlinchey was overpaid by Denver, his loss is still a net loss on the right side of the offensive line.
Tier 4: Got Worse
Green Bay Packers
This isn’t entirely fair to the Packers because it was part of their plan. It was time to part ways with Aaron Rodgers, even if it meant the team might struggle to compete in the NFC North. They received a good return for Rodgers and did a fine job adding potential weapons to an offense that desperately needed them.
Los Angeles Rams
It’s bittersweet to see the Rams roster disintegrate and potentially mark the end of Sean McVay and Aaron Donald in the near future, but it was clear when the Rams traded Jalen Ramsey that it was time to rebuild.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Losing Tom Brady and replacing him with a combination of Baker Mayfield and Kyle Trask is all that really needs to be said. Keeping Jamel Dean is great news for a defensive backfield that needs him. Retaining Anthony Nelson and Lavonte David helps their front seven, and adding Greg Gaines helps them ease the loss of Rakeem Nunez-Roches as a run defender.
But this all comes down to the loss of Brady and the lack of a competent replacement. The offense struggled enough with Brady a season ago.
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