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Evaluating the fantasy football impact of every move in 2023 NFL free agency, trades

NFL free agency and offseason trades have the biggest impact on next season and the 2023 NFL Draft. However, each major signing and deal also delivers fantasy football implications for both the 2023 season and beyond.

The quarterback carousel certainly provided plenty of action that will shake up fantasy football rankings. Aaron Rodgers and Derek Carr landing with their new teams mean the fantasy stock for receivers and running backs on the New York Jets and New Orleans Saints climbs considerably.

On the other hand, Rodgers’ departure and the retirement of Tom Brady mean offensive weapons on the Green Bay Packers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers could take a hit. Elsewhere, the 2023 NFL free agency tracker highlights the number of changes in the NFL. Needless to say, a busy spring for all 32 teams comes with significant fantasy ramifications.

Related: NFL offense rankings 2023

Let’s dive into the fantasy football impact from every major move during the NFL offseason.

Brandin Cooks traded to Dallas Cowboys

The Dallas Cowboys officially landed their No. 2 wide receiver, acquiring Brandin Cooks from the Houston Texans for fifth- and sixth-round picks. It’s an ideal landing spot for Cooks, who will be partnered up with a high-end quarterback for the first time in years.

While Dallas wants to deploy a more run-heavy offense next season, there will still be an element of balance to it. Cooks has one of the highest salaries among wide receivers in the NFL next year and the Cowboys want to find ways to maximize Dak Prescott. Following this trade, Cooks projects to be a top-30 fantasy wide receiver most weeks.

D’Onta Foreman heads to Chicago Bears

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Carolina Panthers
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

After losing David Montgomery early in NFL free agency, the Chicago Bears replaced him by signing running back D’Onta Foreman. He emerged late in the season as the Carolina Panthers’ lead back, exploding for 876 rushing yards with an impressive 32 missed tackles forced and 12 carries of 15-plus yards.

Foreman now joins a committee backfield with Khalil Herbert and Travis Homer. Herbert averaged 5.7 yards per carry this past season and is expected to be the lead running back in Chicago’s committee. Homer, a pass-catching specialist, will be the third-down back in Chicago. It’s not an especially appealing fantasy situation, at least not until there is clarity on how carries are divided between Foreman and Herbert.

New England Patriots add Mike Gesicki

After a disappointing season with the Miami Dolphins, tight end Mike Gesicki landed a one-year contract with the New England Patriots. On the one hand, it’s an appealing destination from a fantasy football perspective because New England intends to use Gesicki more as a big-bodied receiver. However, this is still going to be a run-first offense and Gesicki is not a reliable blocker. Considering he’ll also be sharing looks with Hunter Henry, Gesicki isn’t a top-10 fantasy tight end in 2023.

Derek Carr signs with New Orleans Saints

NFL: New Orleans Saints-Derek Carr Press Conference
Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Derek Carr is the best New Orleans Saints quarterback since Drew Brees. While he fielded several compelling offers from NFL teams, New Orleans always stood out as the perfect destination. In 2023, we’ll see why this was the best match for both sides.

Related: Highest-paid NFL players 2023

Carr is more than capable of playing up to the talent around him and the Saints’ offense boasts plenty of weapons. Chris Olave impressed despite being hampered by bad quarterback play last year and now Michael Thomas is poised to rejoin the team. Carr can make accurate throws to every level of the field, so there is nothing that suggests both Olave and Thomas can’t be high-end fantasy wide receivers next season.

While there is plenty of uncertainty surrounding a potential Alvin Kamara suspension, he will also benefit from Carr’s presence. Just consider that in 2022, Josh Jacobs drew 64 targets and turned them into 53 receptions for 400 receiving yards. Carr will get Kamara the football in space and the very presence of an above-average quarterback under center should make it easier for the Saints to run the football.

Related: Best fantasy football names

Jakobi Meyers lands with Las Vegas Raiders

There were definitely more appealing teams Jakobi Meyers could’ve landed with this offseason. While it helps that he is very familiar with Josh McDaniels and that connection may elevate him ahead of Hunter Renfrow, this still isn’t the best landing spot. Davante Adams will hold an overwhelming edge in targets next season, leaving Meyers, Renfrow and Josh Jacobs to make the most out of whatever is left from Jimmy Garoppolo.

Saquon Barkley, Josh Jacobs, Tony Pollard receive franchise tags

NFL: NFC Divisional Round-New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Great running backs rarely get to test NFL free agency. As the 2023 offseason proved with Saquon Barkley, Tony Pollard and Josh Jacobs, the franchise tag exists in part to keep running backs. Now, they’ll all be playing with something to prove next season.

As of now, there’s no reason to think any of the three ball carriers will be involved in a prolonged holdout. One thing you can bank on is the New York Giants, Las Vegas Raiders and Dallas Cowboys getting as much as they possibly can out of their prized running backs on a contract with no long-term consequences. No one should be surprised if all three players finish top 10 in scoring among fantasy running backs this fall.

Geno Smith, Daniel Jones re-sign with their teams

Two of the best quarterbacks poised to hit NFL free agency landed new contracts just hours before they could test the open waters. While it came at a cost for the Seattle Seahawks and New York Giants, retaining Geno Smith and Daniel Jones was the right call.

Related: 2023 NFL Draft QB rankings

There’s nothing to suggest Smith will regress in 2023. While his production slipped in the later stages of the season, that can largely be attributed to the Seahawks offensive line. Offensive tackles Charles Cross and Abraham Lucas gained valuable experience in 2022 and they should improve in their second seasons. As long as Seattle upgrades the interior offensive line, Smith, Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf can replicate their production.

As for Jones, New York is already making the offense around him better than it was a year ago. While that is good news for his projected passing production, a new contract and the desire to keep him healthy could result in a decline in his rushing stats. Don’t be surprised if Jones throws 25-plus touchdowns this year but his rushing total fall below 600 yards and six touchdowns.

David Montgomery joins Detroit Lions

Fans would’ve loved to see Jamaal Williams stay with the Detroit Lions, but the organization obviously felt David Montgomery is the superior option. A former third-round pick, Montgomery is just two years removed from a 1,000-yard season and he left the Chicago Bears with 3,609 rushing yards and 30 total touchdowns in 60 games.

Related: 2023 NFL Draft running back rankings

Montgomery will occupy the same role his predecessor thrived in with the Lions’ offense. Considering how frequently Detroit ran the ball in 2022 and its reliance on keeping the ball on the ground near the goal line, Montgomery could be a low-end RB2 or high-end flex play based on his weekly matchups.

Las Vegas Raiders make Jimmy Garoppolo QB1

NFL: Miami Dolphins at San Francisco 49ers
Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

Once Tom Brady retired, it became evident Jimmy Garoppolo would be the Las Vegas Raiders’ starting quarterback in 2023. While he hasn’t started 16 games since 2019, Garoppolo knows Josh McDaniels’ offense and will execute it exactly as the head coach wants.

From a fantasy football perspective, Garoppolo could be a QB2 who offers some appeal as a streaming option in specific matchups. It’s fair to say Davante Adams’ fantasy value takes a small hit, he had the second-most deep targets in the NFL last year, but Adams will still be a top-10 fantasy receiver. The real benefactors should be Josh Jacobs, Hunter Renfrow and Meyers, eating up all the short and intermedia throws that Garoppolo is known for.

Hayden Hurst heads to Carolina Panthers

While Hayden Hurst didn’t generate a ton of buzz heading into NFL free agency, the Carolina Panthers demonstrated just how high they are on him. Hurst landed a three-year contract with $13 million guaranteed, a sign they want him to be a prominent part of the offense next season. Considering he generated a 97.1 passer rating when targeted in 2022 and he’s proven to be an above-average receiving threat for his position. Considering n rookie quarterbacks like using tight ends as a safety option, Hurst could be a top-10 fantasy tight end at times this year in Carolina.

JuJu Smith-Schuster signs with New England Patriots

NFL: Super Bowl LVII-Kansas City Chiefs vs Philadelphia Eagles
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

After earning a Super Bowl ring with the Kansas City Chiefs, wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster gets the payday he wanted. While the New England Patriots passing offense was unappealing last fall, it will improve in 2023 with Bill O’Brien calling plays and quarterback Mac Jones receiving far more help than he received a year ago. Smith-Schuster, who averaged a 7.6 average target distance last season, should fit perfectly in an offense that prioritizes quick throws over the middle. There is a low-end WR2 upside for Smith-Schuster in PPR leagues.

Related: 2023 NFL Draft wide receiver rankings

Allen Lazard reunites with Aaron Rodgers in New York

Rodgers’ preference for throwing to wide receivers he trusts is certainly a point in Allen Lazard’s favor from a fantasy perspective. However, it shouldn’t take the four-time MVP to realize that his best offensive weapon is Garrett Wilson and New York still wants to run the football often. Coming off a season with 60 receptions with 788 receiving yards in 15 games, Lazard seems unlikely to replicate those numbers in 2023. Needless to say, he shouldn’t be a priority in fantasy drafts.

New York Giants acquire Darren Waller

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Las Vegas Raiders
Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants certainly aren’t done adding offensive weapons to help quarterback Daniel Jones, but tight end Darren Waller will likely be one of his go-to targets in 2023. Waller was a fantasy football bust last year, but he delivered consecutive 1,100-yard seasons from 2019-’20. Playing in an offense where 48.7% of Jones’ pass attempts were between 0-9 yards, Waller could thrive if he stays healthy. Heading into the summer, Waller is arguably a top-six tight end in fantasy football rankings.

Raheem Mostert, Jeff Wilson Jr. return to Miami Dolphins

After being floated as a possibility to acquire Dalvin Cook or take a running back early in the 2023 NFL Draft, the Miami Dolphins re-signed Jeff Wilson Jr. and Raheem Mostert. While the two running backs return on deals worth less than $8 million total, they should maintain the roles they held this past season. Wilson averaged 10.7 carries and 48.7 rush yards per game in his last seven appearances in Miami, while Mostert averaged 10.1 carries and 59 rush ypg in that stretch. Mostert offers the most appeal for fantasy football managers, but he’s a risky RB3.

Related: Highest-paid NFL quarterbacks

Jacoby Brissett inks deal with Washington Commanders

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Houston Texans
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

If the Washington Commanders want to be competitive as possible in 2023, Jacoby Brissett should be the starting quarterback over Sam Howell. Brissett actually outperformed Deshaun Watson in 2022, ranking 16th in the rate of On-Target throws (75.7%). Far more importantly for Washington, Brissett posted an outstanding 79% completion rate with a 98.0 passer rating on short throws and he had the ninth-highest passer rating (111.5) when throwing intermedia passes (10-19 yards).

Eric Bieniemy will want his quarterback to spread the football around and make quick throws, maintaining the flow of the offense. It’s a role Brissett is well-suited for with Jahan Dotson and Curtis Samuel both standing to benefit if Brissett starts. However, Terry McLaurin (fourth-most deep targets in 2022) might not fare as well given Brissett’s 54.7 passer rating on deep throws.

Houston Texans add Robert Woods

The Houston Texans added veteran wide receiver Robert Woods to their receiving corps, bringing in a safety blanket for their rookie quarterback. Entering his age-31 season, Woods isn’t anywhere close to the player he used to be (936 yards, 6 TDs in 2020). Realistically, he’s nothing more than a WR5 in fantasy next season whose primary purpose will be as a bench depth in PPR leagues.

Philadelphia Eagles add Rashaad Penny to backfield mix

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Philadelphia Eagles
James Lang-USA TODAY Sports

Rashaad Penny is one of the most explosive running backs in the NFL when healthy. As captured in a detailed thread by Scott Barrett, Penny averaged 7.1 yards per carry and 18.5 fantasy points per game in his last eight full contests. He did all of this running behind the Seattle Seahawks offensive line and now he gets to operate with one of the best offensive lines in the NFL paving the way for him.

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Health is a legitimate concern, Penny’s body has never proven he can stay on the field and handle more than 120 touches in a season. With that said, he’s arguably more talented than Miles Sanders. Barring the selection of a running back on Day 2, Penny has legitimate top-10 upside as the Eagles’ starter and he might slide to the double-digit rounds in fantasy football drafts.

Samaje Perine joins Denver Broncos

Denver Broncos fans and fantasy football managers are excited about the return of Javonte Williams in 2023. He erupted for 1,219 scrimmage yards in his rookie season and seemed to be on his way to a productive 2022 campaign before suffering a torn ACL. While he is on track to play in Week 1, the recovery from multiple torn knee ligaments might diminish his role and effectiveness right out of the gate.

Related: 2023 NFL power rankings

Enter Samaje Perine. The Cincinnati Bengals wanted to bring him back, even entertaining the possibility of him replacing Joe Mixon. Now, the 5-foot-11 running back who averaged 4.4 yards per carry over the last three seasons will be running behind an improved Broncos’ offensive line. Sean Payton likes to use multiple running backs and Perien is coming off a season with 51 targets. Be prepared, this could be a backfield committee in 2023.

D.J. Moore traded to Chicago Bears

NFL: Carolina Panthers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago Bears took advantage of the Panthers’ desperation to acquire the first overall pick, landing wide receiver DJ Moore as part of the blockbuster trade. While Moore’s production never quite matched his talent level in Carolina, there’s a strong likelihood that changes in Chicago.

Related: NFL quarterback rankings

While there are plenty of fair criticisms for Justin Fields‘ passing skills, he doesn’t have any trouble throwing deep. he earned an 84.0 PFF grade with a 35.3% completion rate and 89.4 passer rating on throws 20-plus yards downfield last season. It puts him in company with the likes of Jalen Hurts, Trevor Lawrence and Jared Goff. For Moore, who finished with the fourth-most deep targets (29) and the seventh-most unrealized air yards (820) in the NFL, he could now be a consistent top-15 receiver in fantasy football rankings during the season. As for Fields, there is top-five upside.

Jonnu Smith dealt to Atlanta Falcons

The New England Patriots signed Jonnu Smith in 2021 hoping he could replicate the success (9 total touchdowns) he delivered with the Tennessee Titans. Ultimately, the free-agent signing backfired. Now, Smith reunites with Titans’ play-caller Arthur Smith. While we don’t expect Jonnu Smith to maintain any fantasy value in 2023, his addition could free up Kyle Pitts to operate more like an offensive weapon. Pitts’ fantasy football managers should view this trade as a positive.

Baker Mayfield inks deal with Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at Seattle Seahawks
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

While the Tampa Bay Buccaneers might plan for Kyle Trask to be their starting quarterback in 2023, there’s a legitimate possibility Baker Mayfield wins the job in training camp. The former No. 1 overall pick isn’t a good starter, but he might do enough to sustain the fantasy value of Chris Godwin, while Mike Evans takes a hit.

Consider that in 2022, 42.6% of Mayfield’s attempts came within 0-9 yards of the line of scrimmage (76.74% completion rate) with 20.2% of his throws in the 10-19 yard range. If Mayfield starts, Evans’ big plays will go down considerably and that should drop his ADP, but Godwin (5.6-yard average depth of target) could benefit from Mayfield starting.

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New Orleans Saints sign Jamaal Williams

The New Orleans Saints tried to turn back the clock with Mark Ingram, but the 33-year-old proved that he is well past the point of effectiveness. Now, with Alvin Kamara facing a lengthy suspension, Jamaal Williams steps into a prominent role.

It’s evident what New Orleans is bringing Williams in to do. He accounted for 84.8% of the Lions’ carries inside the 5-yard line last season, scoring 14 touchdowns within that range. The 6-foot running back also forced 30 missed tackles in 2022 and he does have multiple seasons with 30-plus receptions. Williams can be a low-end RB1 whenever Kamara is sidelined and might be a borderline flex play when the All-Pro offensive weapon is available. As Kamara’s fantasy managers probably expected, this addition hurts his value considerably.

Miles Sanders heads to Carolina Panthers

Syndication: USA TODAY

While so much of the spotlight on the Carolina Panthers this offseason centers on their plans with the first overall pick, this offense should be significantly improved regardless of who is under center. Bringing in Miles on a four-year deal worth $25 million, Carolina now has its lead ball carrier for several years.

Sanders likely isn’t going to be a huge factor in the passing game. After recording 50 receptions in his rookie season, the 5-foot-11 running back has netted just 433 receiving yards on 74 receptions combined in his last 41 games. It means Chuba Hubbard will still have a role in the offense, but he’s unlikely to be fantasy-relevant most weeks.

Even if he only receives 25-30 receptions in 2023, Sanders can still be a high-end RB2. He averaged 5.2 yards per carry over the last three seasons and is coming off a 2022 campaign that saw him after 3.02 yards after contact per attempt with 34 runs of 10-plus yards, per PFF. Sanders can be a top-15 fantasy running back this year.

Statistics courtesy of Pro Football Focus, ESPN and FantasyPros.com

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