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5 losers of NFL free agency 2023: Buffalo Bills, Baltimore Ravens take hits

NFL free agency is drawing to a close with a majority of teams now focused on the 2023 NFL Draft. As the frenzy of free agency slows down, it’s time to look at the players and teams that leave the early portion of the offseason worse than when things started.

A variety of factors play into evaluating these situations. While a team might improve its roster, overpaying for talent can be costly. In other cases, some of the best NFL teams in 2022 suffered key losses in free agency and did very little to fix the problems. Othertimes, clubs have now been passed up by division rivals or their moves signal concerns for the future.

Related: Winners of NFL free agency

It’s now time to evaluate how teams performed in NFL free agency. Going beyond our 2023 NFL free agency team grades, it’s now time to identify the five teams that we’re classifying as the biggest losers during the offseason.

Las Vegas Raiders

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Las Vegas Raiders
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The Las Vegas Raiders didn’t overpay for Jimmy Garoppolo or Jakobi Meyers, both players fit the system Josh McDaniels wants to run. While Garoppolo isn’t a better quarterback than Derek Carr, he is more comfortable operating the offense like a robot and executing everything how McDaniels wants. If only focusing on that perspective, the additions were fine.

A big problem with the Raiders’ offseason is that McDaniels seemingly hasn’t learned from his mistakes with the Denver Broncos. He was fired because he tried to create a carbon copy of the “Patriot Way” and only trusted his guys. Players became frustrated, his system didn’t work and he drove himself out of a job.

Look at the current situation in Las Vegas. Players are frustrated over several moves, coming just weeks after the locker room offered alarming reviews of McDaniels as a coach. If that’s not concerning enough, Las Vegas did very little to improve one of the worst defenses in football last season. The Raiders are likely going to be an eight-win team at best in 2023 and McDaniels’ influence in the organization and his unwillingness to change won’t go away.

Related: Las Vegas Raiders’ Josh McDaniels unlikely to be on hot seat in 2023

Buffalo Bills

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Tina MacIntyre-Yee /Rochester Democrat and Chronicle / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Buffalo Bills deserve some credit for retaining Jordan Poyer and adding Damien Harris to the backfield. Getting Poyer back is huge for Buffalo’s secondary and a healthy version of Harris could provide much-needed balance for the run game. That’s all the positive we can offer for the Bills.

Related: Worst moves of NFL free agency

Part of the problem is the improving AFC East. The New England Patriots brought in a quality offensive coordinator and wide receiver after asking Mac Jones to make something out of nothing last year. Even if the Patriots aren’t viewed as a viable threat, the New York Jets are landing Aaron Rodgers while the Miami Dolphins acquired standout defenders Jalen Ramsey and David Long Jr. to help Vic Fangio implement his scheme.

Buffalo hasn’t added the No. 2 receiver this offense needs and we can’t forget that Von Miller will still be recovering from a torn ACL, depleting a front seven that lost linebacker Tremaine Edmunds. The Bills had a window to themselves in the AFC East, that moment is closed now. With Josh Allen‘s contract kicking and this roster aging fast, it’s fair to think Buffalo’s time as an AFC power might also come to an end very soon.

Minnesota Vikings

NFL: NFC Wild Card Round-New York Giants at Minnesota Vikings
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After winning the NFC North for the first time since 2017, the Minnesota Vikings might be headed toward a slide. The Chicago Bears made moves for the future, putting themselves in a position to challenge for the division in 2024. However, it’s the Detroit Lions who might now be kings of the North moving forward.

A Vikings’ defense that allowed nearly 275 passing yards per game over the last nine weeks replaced Patrick Peterson with Byron Murphy. It still leaves this secondary as a weakness and for as much as we like Brian Flores, it’s asking a lot of him to even make this a top-15 defense.

We’re not even knocking Minnesota for cutting ties with Adam Theieln and Eric Kendricks, those moves needed to happen. However, the Vikings are now a worse football team than the Lions and this front office is now the only one without a long-term plan at quartebrack.

Baltimore Ravens and Lamar Jackson

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Washington Football Team
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

There is no winner when it comes to the ongoing saga between the Baltimore Ravens and quarterback Lamar Jackson. It’s now evident that both sides are now open to separating and that’s a massive script reversal from where things stood just a few months ago.

From Jackson’s perspective, not having an agent isn’t worth this. By essentially handling everything on his own and not providing an agent to serve as the shield from public and team criticism, Jackson takes a hit. He’s also doing this to simply avoid paying 1 percent of the $200 million guaranteed he wants in a new contract.

The former NFL MVP needs to recognize what is happening, no NFL team is going to repeat what the Cleveland Browns did. Fair or not, owners don’t want players receiving fully-guaranteed contracts or anything close to it and Jackson’s durability issues ensure he won’t be any different.

Baltimore deserves its own share of criticism. Firstly, tweets from former players and the NFL Players Association report card offered troubling details about the organization. The Ravens also failed to put a quality supporting cast of wide receivers around Jackson when he was still under his rookie contract. Baltimore blew this entire situation and when it ends, quarterback purgatory and years of sub-.500 football will further diminish an organization that isn’t as sharp as first believed.

Indianapolis Colts

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There is a path for the Indianapolis Colts to save their offseason. Jim Irsay has the money to go after Jackson, who would be the superstar-caliber quarterback this franchise wants. However, that type of aggressive move isn’t likely to happen considering the Colts couldn’t even land the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.

At this point, whether Indianapolis drafts Anthony Richardson or Will Levis, the 2023 season won’t matter. The roster isn’t built to support an underdeveloped rookie quarterback, rushing either Richardson or Levis would only jeopardize their potential. Meanwhile, the Colts gave away Stephon Gilmore and this defense will now take a huge step backward in 2023.

The Colts should be one of the worst teams in football next season and that will likely result in Irsay firing general manager Chris Ballard. It would make all of 2023 a wasted year for Indianapolis, but that’s what happens with dysfunctional franchises.

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