Now that the 2023 Super Bowl is in the books, the football calendar now turns its attention to NFL free agency, which opens up on March 15. Even though the Kansas City Chiefs just won Super Bowl LVII, even Patrick Mahomes‘ team will have needs to fill.
From players retiring to contracts expiring and even some athletes being released from their contracts, we’re about to see a ferocious flurry of roster activity from all 32 teams. While certain factors like salary cap space will provoke some and prohibit others, every franchise will be signing at least one free agent this offseason.
But which teams need to be more active than others on the open market? Which teams can afford to ignore the logic of building through the draft and be aggressive in NFL free agency? Let’s get started.
Indianapolis Colts provide foundation for Shane Steichen
We’ve seen Colts general manager Chris Ballard try and avoid a full-on rebuild, instead preferring to retool as he tries to find a capable starting quarterback. It hasn’t worked to his satisfaction, but now that the bottom has fallen out, with the Colts earning the fourth overall pick, they may be able to land a long-term solution. But this young QB will need some help.
Plus, first-year head coach Shane Steichen may want some immediate boosts to the offense, helping him install his new scheme as he looks to improve a unit that had the third-fewest points per game in 2022. No matter what, they must find a few win-now pieces that can help this organization avoid more embarrassment in 2023.
- Free agent targets for Indianapolis Colts: WR Jakobi Meyers, TE Irv Smith Jr., G Isaac Seumalo, DL Matthew Ioannidis
Detroit Lions recruit more soldiers for Dan Campbell’s army
- Cap space heading into NFL free agency: $15.9 million – Can get to $25.9M with release of Michael Brockers
Not only do the Lions have two first-round picks in the top 20 selections, but Detroit could also become busy spenders in free agency as they look to improve a roster that came just one win away from a playoff berth in 2022.
Retaining offensive coordinator Ben Johnson was key, ensuring their fifth-ranked offense can enjoy stability, but adding more pieces to a defense that allowed 25.1 PPG (28th) is key. The Lions can do this in the draft, but they can also add win-now pieces that can provide instant production. As we’ve seen with top picks like Jeff Okudah, potential doesn’t always translate right away, but the players below could help the Lions immediately.
- Free agent targets for Detroit Lions: TE Evan Engram/Dalton Schultz, DT Javon Hargrave, LB David Long, CB Jamel Dean
Arizona Cardinals make an early splash
- Cap space heading into NFL free agency: $13.6 million – Can get to $25.6M with release of Robbie Anderson
If Arizona is serious about competing or even climbing out of last place in the NFC West, they may need to get creative. Kyler Murray‘s January ACL surgery likely means he won’t be ready for action in the early portion of the regular season. Unless the Cardinals have a better backup QB plan (which could be addressed in free agency), how do they envision the offense being better than last season’s version that ranked 21st in scoring?
Can they really expect a defense that allowed the second-most points per game a season ago to carry this franchise without their star QB? Sure, Jonathan Gannon’s schemes may lead to a better product on-field, but we still need to see an influx of talent, even if they don’t go after the biggest fish in the water.
- Free agent targets for Arizona Cardinals: WR Darius Slayton, RT Mike McGlinchey, DT Daron Payne, DE Marcus Davenport, CB Cameron Sutton
Chicago Bears’ spending spree is much-needed
- Cap space heading into NFL free agency: $97.8 million
What do the Bears even need with all that salary cap space? The Bears boast the most cap space in the NFL, and it’s not even close. Why does Chicago have so much room to spend? Well, look at the on-field results in 2022. The Bears were terrible.
But you can bet GM Ryan Poles and head coach Matt Eberflus want to put a much better product on the field in 2023 as they head into their second seasons on the job. Having earned the second overall pick, plus having money to burn, there is no excuse for ‘Da Bears to win just three games again next season. Expect an offensive line overhaul in addition to trying to restore the roar for a defense that allowed the most points in football in 2022.
- Free agent targets for Chicago Bears: OG Nate Davis, DL Zach Allen, EDGE Arden Key, LB Tremaine Edmunds,
Dallas Cowboys become big spenders
- Cap space heading into NFL free agency: -$9.8 million – Can get to $12.3M with Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott restructures
Of our teams listed, the Cowboys are in the toughest spot, being that they are set to begin the offseason with a negative amount of cap space. This means the front office will have to jump through hoops just to get above the line, but that shouldn’t be too difficult with two franchise cornerstones in Prescott and Zeke Elliott who would likely restructure their contracts with no hesitation.
But that doesn’t do anything to diminish the pressure of trying to build a competitive Cowboys team ready to get back to the promised land. Jerry Jones will want to see improvements, no matter what it costs, and the fanbase would agree. Plus, with just three picks in the top 100 selections in the 2023 NFL Draft, being aggressive in NFL free agency or the trade market may be Dallas’ best bet to improve their roster for next season.
- Free agent targets for Dallas Cowboys: WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, OT Orlando Brown Jr., DT Dalvin Tomlinson, CB James Bradberry