The balance of power in each NFL division won’t swing exponentially after the first week of free agency. That doesn’t mean a particular team in each sector didn’t take major steps backward at a specific unit.
Here’s who did so in all eight divisions and what it could mean for the 2023 season.
>> READ: Each Division’s Most Improved Unit
Philadelphia Eagles Linebackers
With all the deserved acclaim Philly’s sack masters and secondary received en route to the Super Bowl, the linebacking corps was somewhat under-recognized. The Philadelphia Eagles are going to miss Kyzir White and T.J. Edwards, as well as safety Marcus Epps, who at times played like a linebacker. Philadelphia needs to look at this area in the draft.
Green Bay Packers Receivers
We know it can be argued the Green Bay Packers didn’t have much of a receiving corps during their disappointing 2022 season. Still, the departures of wide receiver Allen Lazard and tight end Robert Tonyan will hurt, especially since Jordan Love is expected to step up with Aaron Rodgers out of the darkness and headed to the Big Apple. The Packers are another team that needs the draft to bolster this area.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Passing Game
This one is simple. Tom Brady has retired; we are pretty sure that will stick this time. In his place are Baker Mayfield and Kyle Trask. Also gone are receiver Julio Jones, tight end Cameron Brate and running back Leonard Fournette, who had 73 receptions in 2022. That put lots of pressure on receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin.
Los Angeles Rams secondary
Despite taking too many risks in coverage, Jalen Ramsey was a key member of a Super Bowl secondary two years ago. While not the player he once was, Ramsey’s move to Miami is a hit on a defensive backfield that also lost safeties Taylor Rapp and Nick Scott. Salary cap issues and a lack of draft choices have put the 2021 NFL champions in a precarious spot.
Miami Dolphins Tight Ends
Say what you will about the uncomfortable dynamic of Tua Tagovailoa throwing to Mike Gesicki – it didn’t happen often enough – but Gesicki is a nice piece for New England and a significant loss for Miami. The Dolphins also saw TEs Hunter Long and Cethan Carter leave, and Eric Saubert isn’t exactly a No. 1 tight end. Gesicki is by far the best of those players, and he is now on a division rival.
Cincinnati Bengals secondary
Losing inconsistent cornerback Eli Apple isn’t too damaging, but safeties Jessie Bates and Vonn Bell heading elsewhere will be for a team among the AFC’s elite. Granted, there isn’t an elite quarterback within the division if Lamar Jackson doesn’t return to Baltimore (or gets injured again) and Cleveland’s Deshaun Watson remains rusty, but the Bengals made things easier for opponents with no Bates or Bell on hand.
Tennessee Titans offensive line
Not that this line was particularly prosperous last season, but it hasn’t been rebuilt impressively, either. Gone are long-time left tackle Taylor Lewan, center Ben Jones and guard Nate Davis. The replacements are Andre Dillard, who couldn’t crack the Eagles’ lineup, and guard Daniel Brunskill. Huh?
Las Vegas Raiders Offensive Weapons
Thankfully for Las Vegas Raiders fans, the team already was strong at this spot with Davante Adams and Hunter Renfrow. Adding a No. 3 target in Jakobi Meyers for three years and $33 million doesn’t make a lot of sense, though. The Raiders lost WR Mack Hollins to the Falcons in free agency. Trading tight end Darren Waller to the New York Giants leaves a big hole at tight end, especially since they lost Foster Moreau as well.
Barry Wilner was a sportswriter for the Associated Press for 46 years. He has covered virtually every major sporting event, including 14 Olympics, 9 World Cups, 34 Super Bowls, the World Series, and the Stanley Cup Final, and has written 75 books. Follow him on Twitter @Wilner88