2023 NFL free agency: Don’t overlook these signings
Former NFL player and scout Bucky Brooks knows the ins and outs of the league, which he details in his notebook. In today’s article, he highlights 10 free actions that deserve more attention.
The NFL’s first week of free agency is always full of high-profile deals that dominate the headlines, with observers trying to connect the dots between off-season champions and new Super Bowl threats. While the team rarely “wins” the March and continues to claim the Lombardi Trophy 11 months later, would-be title contenders usually look back and cite underappreciated off-season additions that helped pull everything together.
Sometimes a talented playmaker finds the perfect setup to maximize their abilities. Other times, it’s a role player whose unique trait fills an important void in the list. And, of course, some acquisitions turn out to be vital, allowing you to get the most out of all the others. But in the whirlwind of activity that is free agent frenzy, a significant number of potentially important pickups get lost in the shuffling.
After taking some time to review the entire roster revamp from the first few days of the new league year, I’m here to highlight 10 free agent signings you shouldn’t overlook.
NOTE: The list of players lists the age they will be on September 7, when the 2023 NFL season is due to begin.
- CONTRACT: Two years, $10 million with $5 million guaranteed.
It’s possible the former Rader just joined a division rival to fill the role of understudy, but Russell Wilson’s difficulties in 2022 make the five-year-old pro an intriguing insurance policy for Sean Payton. Stidham’s IQ, arm talent and promising flashes as a starter in Las Vegas have undoubtedly raised his profile as a developing player with QB1 potential. While Wilson’s solid contract makes it next to impossible for Denver to get rid of him quickly if his woes continue, Steedham gives the Broncos a viable option if Peyton needs to make changes to provoke an attack. In addition, this signing proves that the new coach is not going to curry favor with the team’s highest paid player. It’s no wonder when it comes to Payton, but he’s really the main man and that’s his show.
- CONTRACT: One year, up to $9 million.
The oversized catcher is a wide receiver in a tight-end body. As a matchup challenge for linebackers and defenders, due to his rare combination of athleticism and height, Gesicki will create play opportunities for himself and/or others, depending on how opponents decide to defend him. When the former Dolphin joins an offense run by a coordinator (Bill O’Brien) who wants to make it easy for the quarterback, Gesicki could become the center of an attack that forces opponents to adjust to unique formations and formations.
- CONTRACT: Two years, $11 million.
As the Dolphins transitioned to a read-and-react defense under new coordinator Vic Fangio, the team needed a dynamic second-level playmaker with sideline-to-sideline abilities. Long fits the bill as a key and diagnostic specialist with outstanding instincts, awareness and range. While much of the off-season attention will be focused on what award-winning cornerback Jalen Ramsey will bring to South Florida once the 2023 campaign begins, this veteran linebacker could be the deciding factor to really take Miami’s defense to the next level.
- CONTRACT: Three years, $19 million with $12.5 million guaranteed.
The Browns looked for an additional pass rusher against the game-wrecking extraordinary Miles Garrett, but no one was able to consistently fill the void: Former No. 1 overall Jadevon Clooney left Cleveland after a two-sack season. Okoronkwo will get a chance to star after a small promotional campaign in Houston. As a high-motorized pass rusher with outstanding first-pitch speed, a pro sixth year should do well in head-to-head matches with Garrett. Given how many sacks are made through effort and hustle, the Browns may have reinforced a weakness that should be a strength for a team in a conference filled with the best quarterback talent.
- CONTRACT: Two years, $13 million (reportedly).
Veteran DB follows his former defensive coordinator to fix a downtrodden D and scattered locker room culture in Houston. Ward is an elite slot cover agent with the speed, agility and agility to deal with nimble receivers in space, but he also has the stamina and physical strength to take care of business as a perimeter stopper. With the way new head coach DeMeco Ryans wants to build a strong team of high-profile players, signing Ward is an important part of the Texans’ transformation under their former star player. And the 32-year-old will be an invaluable resource for talented young guards Derek Stingley Jr. and Jalen Pitre.
- CONTRACT: One year, $1.35 million with a $600,000 guarantee.
Eagles general manager Howie Roseman is no stranger to praise these days, and this tricky pickup truck could be his next plaudit. Penny is an inexpensive player who can deliver a huge return on investment due to her explosive playmaking potential. The often-injured runner teased raters with flashes of elite play and a career average of 5.7 yards per carry, but the former first-round pick never proved to be a consistent workhorse in the backfield. If Penny manages to avoid the injuries that have plagued him in the NFL, he could become a star, playing alongside Jalen Hurts in an RPO-based Philadelphia offense.
- CONTRACT: Two years, $22 million.
A pickup truck that no doubt made Minnesota’s new defensive coordinator smile. This underrated covering angle is sort of patchwork hybrid quarterback Brian Flores. loves to show in his secondary. As an experienced starter with both intrinsic and extrinsic abilities, Murphy can fill multiple roles as a match-up specialist with a high football IQ and outstanding flair. In a scheme expected to deploy more snowflake game plans specifically designed for Vikings opponents, the addition of an intelligent playmaker should help the division flourish under Flores. Not to mention, Murphy may have just entered his prime at age 25.
- CONTRACT: Two years, $10 millionreportedly).
Coaches often have multiple “pet cats” that follow them from team to team due to the circuit’s reliability and cultural fit. With White selected by new Cardinals coach Jonathan Gannon to fill one of the young team’s off-the-ball linebacker spots, the veteran is expected to show a group of underdogs (WATCH: Isaiah Simmons and Zaven Collins first-round picks) how to win. . as well as teaching the nuances of the new scheme. If the sixth-year pro can play multiple times while fulfilling his leadership duties, Arizona can lay a solid foundation that will be key to Gannon’s desert recovery efforts.
- CONTRACT: Deal for one year.
Pete Carroll loves reclamation projects, as evidenced by his work with Jeno Smith, among a lot of others during his tenure with the Seahawks. Next on the list is Bush, a former top 10 player who struggled with injuries and volatility in Pittsburgh. Despite falling short of Steeler’s expectations, the ultra-competitive quarterback still holds the dog that made the Michigan product the object of hype in…