Mandatory NFL minicamps are coming to an end, which means executives, coaches and players are preparing for some downtime to be with their families before another grueling season gets underway.
With most of the heavy-lifting roster moves behind us, I reached out to several front office members to get their take on the best moves made around the league this offseason. They were given the option to give a big-picture look at things or any one specific move.
5 Best Offseason Moves
1. Cardinals’ Offseason Approach
The Arizona Cardinals‘ handling of their offseason under new general manager Monti Ossenfort drew praise from three separate executives.
“If you look at the situation he walked into, there was no realistic way to make that roster competitive on the fly in Year 1,” one AFC executive said. “The Kyler Murray injury already put him in a difficult spot. But realizing the situation you’re walking into and understanding you need to take a step back before taking a step forward is something not everyone wants to do. They didn’t spend much in free agency, and I thought the draft day maneuvering was a masterclass performance.”
Arizona traded the No. 3 pick on draft night to the Houston Texans for a package that included the No. 12 pick and Houston’s 2024 first-round pick. They then traded back up to No. 6 and got Ohio State OT Paris Johnson Jr., whom they likely would’ve taken at No. 3 anyway. They now have two first-round picks in the 2024 NFL Draft.
“I don’t know Monti personally but I thought the plan he and his staff put together was smart and they executed it very nicely,” another AFC executive said. “There’s still a lot of work to do there and I don’t think anyone expects them to be a serious threat this upcoming season, but they’ve positioned themselves to control next offseason with all the extra picks and cap space they’re going to have. Monti will basically be what Ryan Poles was this offseason for Chicago. That’s when we’re really going to see if this team will be set up for sustained success. Getting all the extra picks is one thing, drafting the right players is another.”
2. Eagles Finalizing Jalen Hurts’ Contract Early
The Philadelphia Eagles signed Jalen Hurts to a five-year, $255 million contract extension in April that made him the highest-paid quarterback in the NFL at the time. Lamar Jackson since has surpassed him, while Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert more than likely will exceed the deal as well in the near future.
“We all knew there were at least four quarterback deals that were going to be negotiated this offseason, and when there are so many guys from one position due for a deal it sometimes becomes a staring contest to see who blinks first,” an AFC executive said. “I personally thought Hurts could end up going last because he had more leverage than the rest of the group. He had one year left because he was a second-round pick and just got the team to the Super Bowl. Considering Philadelphia’s complex cap situation, they don’t want to be in a position to use the franchise tag on a quarterback a year from now.
“So getting ahead of the market and finalizing the deal before the rest of the crop was big for them, but also securing him on a five-year deal was significant, too. They have him under contract for the next six years and the market is always going to go up. So in no time, the deal is going to become a bargain as long as Hurts continues the trajectory he’s on.
“I thought Hurts might push for a three- or four-year contract so he could eventually get back to the negotiating table earlier. It’s still a tremendous deal and life-changing money for the player, but there were factors in that deal that make Philadelphia look extremely smart.”
3. Patriots Hiring Bill O’Brien
The New England Patriots hired O’Brien as their offensive coordinator in late January after experimenting with Matt Patricia as the offensive play-caller in 2022. O’Brien was previously in New England from 2007-2011.
“I think most people were somewhat intrigued with what New England had up their sleeve last year and it just never really worked,” an NFC executive said. “I sensed a different tone from the organization after the season especially when they put out a statement that they will hire an offensive coordinator, which is unusual for any team, but especially for them considering how they keep things so tight-knit.
“It felt like there might’ve been some frustration from people higher up in the organization because they’re not used to this. Getting O’Brien back should bring some normalcy back into the offense with a voice who has done it before. It was odd seeing Mac Jones react the way he did at times last year and I think part of that was because of the offensive structure he was put in. It’s difficult to question what the Patriots do, but it felt like Jones was put in a no-win situation last year.”
4. Packers’ Return in Aaron Rodgers Trade
The Green Bay Packers traded four-time MVP Aaron Rodgers, along with their first-round pick (No. 15) and a fifth-round pick (No. 170) to the New York Jets for a first-round pick (No. 13), a second-round pick (No. 42), a sixth-round pick (No. 207) and a conditional 2024 second-round pick that becomes a first if Rodgers plays 65 percent of the snaps this upcoming season.
“First and foremost, the Jets got an elite-level quarterback who gives them a real shot,” an NFC executive said. “So I totally understand the move and I believe they are going to be really competitive in the AFC with a rejuvenated Aaron Rodgers. I do think Green Bay did a great job of maximizing the return in a situation where they knew for months Aaron wouldn’t be back and he had a say in where he wanted to go, which could sometimes make things difficult.
“It’s a trade that potentially could become a win-win and that’d be the best-case scenario for everyone. But I liked Green Bay finding a way to get a future first-rounder (contingent on snaps played) for a player who wasn’t going to be with them in 2023.”
5. Ravens Handling Lamar Jackson’s Contract Negotiations
The Baltimore Ravens re-signed Lamar Jackson to a five-year, $260 million contract in April after trying for nearly two years to get a deal done. Baltimore placed the non-exclusive franchise tag on him in March, which allowed Jackson to seek other offers. He represented himself in negotiations.
“The Ravens were in a difficult spot because it really was an unprecedented situation,” an AFC executive said. “We’ve never seen a quarterback contract of this magnitude be done without an agent, and it creates a dynamic where the team has to walk a tightrope to make sure they don’t say anything that could destroy the relationship with the player.
“Eric DeCosta deciding to use the non-exclusive tag was a bold move. I don’t know how many other GMs would’ve done the same thing. It sounds like there was significant research and analysis done by Eric and his staff to take that gamble. They played out every possible scenario and looked at every team’s cap sheets to see the dynamics and if another team could realistically pry him away. Even when the trade request was made public by Jackson, they still held firm and said all the right things in the media to make sure they could still have proper communication.
“There are so many things that go on in a front office that people don’t get to see and I’d imagine this specific negotiation required tremendous patience from everyone in the organization from top to bottom. Looking back at it now, I guarantee you it was a stressful two years for everyone involved, but I don’t think they could’ve done it any better considering all the circumstances.”