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NFL Free Agency 2023: Reactions and Grades from NFL Free Agency Day One


The NFL’s free agency negotiation period opened on March 13 at 12 pm EST. Teams have been able to place the Franchise Tag or try to extend their own free agents for the last couple of days. Now other teams will have the opportunity to talk to their free agents.

Signing free agents will allow growing rosters to fill the major needs without using their draft capital at that position. It also allows contending teams to remain in the playoff picture by ensuring their roster is talented enough to compete.

More than any other event, Free Agency shapes the complexion of the league and how the team will be progressing their roster going forward toward the NFL Draft and the start of the regular season. Some teams make great value signings and others overpay for a popular commodity.

Here are the grades for the signings made during the first official day of the 2023 NFL Free Agency Period:

Tampa Bay Buccaneers sign Baker Mayfield to a one-year $8.5 million deal

NFL Free Agency
New Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Baker Mayfield (Courtesy of Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)

Quarterback options were limited for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this offseason. Strapped up against the cap they couldn’t realistically go after Derek Carr, Jimmy Garoppolo, or Lamar Jackson. There were rumors leading up to the beginning of free agency that the Buccaneers would go after a veteran like Drew Lock to compete with 2021 second-round pick Kyle Trask for the starting quarterback job. Then once the tampering period opened rumors started to swirl that the Buccaneers were interested in Baker Mayfield. Now that they signed Mayfield there is expected to be a quarterback competition between Mayfield and Trask to determine the starting quarterback for the Buccaneers next season. Mayfield is expected to have an edge in the competition considering Trask didn’t even dress for gameday last season. Mayfield hopes this one-year prove it deal could be something long-term. Between last offseason and now he went from potential franchise quarterback for the Cleveland Browns to journeyman quarterback who will be playing for his fourth team in three years.

Grade: A-

Buffalo Bills re-sign Jordan Poyer to a two-year deal

The Buffalo Bills are very limited from a salary cap standpoint and aren’t expected to make major moves this offseason. After having to let Tremaine Edmuds walk they found a way to retain Jordan Poyer. The veteran safety had made comments about going to play for a team in a state that doesn’t have income tax like Florida. Instead, he decided to stay in Buffalo. This is huge for the Bills because safety would have became a major need for them if Poyer left to play elsewhere. Since Poyer and Micah Hyde are getting up in age they should add a younger safety to the roster but at least they don’t need to replace a starter in their defensive backfield.

Grade: A

Lavonte David re-signs with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a one-year $7 million deal

Many expected Lavonte David and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to part way this offseason. It is unlikely that Tampa Bay was going to be contenders next season or that they would have been able to afford David. So David was a prime candidate to ring chase on a contender. Instead, he decided to return to Tampa Bay for his 12th season with the team. In the post-Tom Brady era for Tampa Bay, the Buccaneers retained one of their team leaders. Retaining David keeps Tampa Bay’s talented front seven intact.

Grade: A-

New England Patriots sign JuJu Smith-Schuster to a three-year $33 million deal

NFL Free Agency
New England Patriots new wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (Courtesy of Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

One day after losing Jakobi Meyers they found his replacement in JuJu Smith-Schuster. Similar to Meyers, Smith-Schuster is a big possession slot receiver. The biggest difference between Meyers and Smith-Schuster is that Smith-Schuster has an explosive element to his game where he has the ability to make plays down the field. New England needs consistent receivers for Mac Jones. Smith-Schuster is reliable middle of the field target that was the best wide receiver on a Super Bowl winning offense last season. The Patriots should add more weapons to this offense this offseason. But adding Smith-Schuster makes up for the loss of Meyers to the Raiders.

Grade: B+

Jacoby Brissett signs with the Washington Commanders to a one-year $10 million deal

NFL Free Agency
New Washington Commanders quarterback Jacoby Brissett (Courtesy of Nick Cammett/Getty Images)

The Washington Commanders were expected to add a veteran quarterback this offseason after cutting Carson Wentz. Head coach Ron Rivera feels comfortable with Sam Howell being their starter for next season but adding Jacoby Brissett should give the Commanders a competition in training camp. Brissett deserves an opportunity to be a starter after what he did as the starting quarterback for the Cleveland Browns last season. He proved that he is capable starting quarterback who could be trusted to start for a team for a season. Washington has a ton of weapons for Brissett’s disposal including Terry McLaurin, Jahan Dotson, Curtis Samuel, and Logan Thomas. At worst if Howell proves that he is a capable starting quarterback the Commanders have one of the best backup quarterbacks in the league.

Grade: A-

Philadelphia Eagles re-sign Fletcher Cox to a one-year $10 million deal

Howie Roseman found a way to retain Brandon Graham, Jason Kelce, James Bradberry, and now Fletcher Cox. Despite not having the best salary cap situation the Eagles have maintain a lot of the core to their NFC Championship winning team. It speaks to the culture of the Eagles that all these veterans are willing to do whatever it takes to keep this team together. Even at the age of 32 Cox is still one of the best interior defensive linemen on the team. Rather than exploring his options Philadelphia’s longest tenured player stays with the team for another season.

Grade: A

New Orleans Saints sign Jamaal Williams to a three-year $12 million deal

The Detroit Lions’ signing of David Montgomery meant the likely end of Jamaal Williams’ tenure with the team. The next day Williams signed a long-term deal with the New Orlean Saints. All the drama surrounding Alvin Kamara could bring up some major questions about New Orleans’ backfield. However the Saints added Williams to serve as the backup or change-of-pace back for Kamara. If Kamara is suspended the Saints could trust Williams to hold down the fort until he returns. Even when Kamara returns Williams could fill the Mark Ingram/Latavius Murray role in this offense. New Orleans now has two touchdown machines in their backfield in Kamara and Williams.

Grade: B+

Miles Sanders signs a four-year $25 million deal with the Carolina Panthers

NFL Free Agency
New Carolina Panthers running back Miles Sanders (Courtesy of Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images)

Miles Sanders had a great season in a contract year with the Philadelphia Eagles this past year. He rushed for 1,000+ yards for the first time in his career and earned his first Pro Bowl nod. It seemed unlikely that the Eagles would pay Sanders a contract worth market value. Howie Roseman doesn’t typically spend big at the running back position. Plus the Eagles had a semi-committee approach last season where Sanders rotated with Kenneth Gainwell and Boston Scott. In Carolina it is expected to be Sanders’ backfield. Panthers Assistant Head Coach & Running Backs Coach Duce Staley coached Sanders for two seasons in Philadelphia. Also Panthers head coach Frank Reich is a part of Doug Pederson’s coaching tree. Sanders played for Pederson for two seasons as well in Philadelphia. He could have a career year in his first year as a workhorse back.

Grade: A-

Cincinnati Bengals sign Orlando Brown Jr. to a four-year $64.1 million deal

In a blockbuster signing, the Cincinnati Bengals signed Orlando Brown Jr. to a huge deal. The deal is frontloaded which will help them resign stars like Joe Burrow, Tee Higgins, and Ja’Marr Chase in future years. Last offseason the Bengals made some additions to the offensive line. However the additions felt disappointing. The additions they made La’El Collins, Alex Cappa, and Ted Karras weren’t the exciting additions many expected despite being improvements from what they had the year prior.

This addition now brings up questions on how this line will be composed next season. Will Brown Jr. transition back to right tackle? Reports show that the league views Brown Jr. as a right tackle as opposed to the left tackle positon he played for the Kansas City Chiefs. If he plays right tackle it likely means the end of La’El Collins’ time in Cincinnati. But there’s a chance he stay on the left side moving 2019 first-round pick to his more natural position left guard or right tackle. No matter where Brown lines up this is an outstanding signing by a Super Bowl contenders especially when considering they signed him away from the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs.

Grade: A

Other transactions signings from that day

Indianapolis Colts re-sign Ashton Dulin to a two-year $9.2 million deal: B-

Pittsburgh Steelers sign Cole Holcomb to a three-year deal: B+

Hayden Hurst signs a three-year $21.75 million deal with the Carolina Panthers: A-

Buffalo Bills sign Deonte Harty to a two-year $9.5 million deal: B

New England Patriots sign Riley Reiff to a one-year $5 million deal: B

Cincinnati Bengals re-sign Trayveon Williams: B

Tampa Bay Buccaneers re-sign Anthony Nelson to a two-year $11 million deal: A-

Nathan Shepard signs a three-year $15 million deal with the New Orleans Saints: B-

New Orleans Saints sign Khalen Saunders to a three-year $14.5 million deal: B

Denver Broncos sign Tremon Smith to a two-year $5.5 million deal: B

Baltimore Ravens re-sign Justice Hill to a two-year $4.5 million deal: B-

Clelin Ferrell signs a one-year deal with the San Franciso 49ers: A

Houston Texans sign Sheldon Rankins to a one-year $10.5 million deal: A-

Arizona Cardinals re-sign Ezekiel Turner to a one-year deal: B

Indianapolis Colts sign Taven Bryan to a one-year $4.5 million deal: B

Washington Commanders sign Efe Obada to a one-year $3 million deal: B

Tyler Larsen re-signs with the Washington Commanders on a one-year deal: B

Miami Dolphins sign DeShon Elliott to a one-year $1.77 million deal: B+

Jacksonville Jaguars re-sign Tevaughn Campbell: B

Miami Dolphins claim Freddie Swaim off waivers: B

Myles Gaskin re-signs with the Miami Dolphins on a one-year deal: B+

Miami Dolphins sign Eric Saubert to a one-year deal: A-

Arizona Cardinals sign Hjalte Froholdt to a two-year deal: C+

Kevin Strong signs a one-year deal with the Arizona Cardinals: B

Las Veags Raiders re-sign Jerry Tillery: B+

Cleveland Browns sign Juan Thornhill to a three-year $21 million deal: A-

Buffalo Bills sign Kyle Allen to a one-year deal: B+

San Francisco 49ers sign Isaiah Oliver to a two-year deal: B

Green Bay Packers sign Matt Orzech to a three-year deal: A-

DeShawn Williams signs with the Carolina Panthers: B

Los Angeles Chargers re-sign Morgan Fox to a two-year deal: A-

New York Jets sign Solomon Thomas to a one-year $3.9 million deal: B

Minnesota Vikings re-sign Alexander Mattison to a two-year $7 million deal: A

Houston Texans re-sign Tavierre Thomas to a one-year $3 million deal: A-

New England Patriots sign James Robinson to a two-year $8 million deal: A-

Indianapolis Colts re-signs with the Tony Brown to a one-year $1.2 million: B

New York Giants sign Jeff Smith: B

P.J. Walker signs a two-year $5 million deal with the Chicago Bears: B+

Cleveland Browns sign Maurice Hurst: A-

New Orelans Saints re-sign Ty Summers: B

Miami Dolphins re-signs Nik Needham to a one-year $2 million deal: B+

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