NFL Analysis


5 min read

2023 NFL Free Agency: 7 Best Moves From First Week of Signings

JuJu Smith-Schuster wide receiver Kansas City Chiefs
Nov 6, 2022; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (9) celebrates after a catch and run against the Tennessee Titans during overtime of the game at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Free Agency: Worst Moves | Biggest Winners | Grades | Best Available

Although it will be a while, perhaps years, before we know for sure how any free agent signing pays off, it's not difficult to evaluate what the new additions or holdovers should provide their teams. Are they worth the megabucks they got, and why?

Here are seven signings that stand out from the first week of free agency:

7 Best Signings So Far

1. OT Orlando Brown Jr. to Bengals

In Orlando Brown Jr., the Cincinnati Bengals added a stud left tackle who comes off winning a Super Bowl with the Kansas City Chiefs. Cincinnati is already an elite team that made the big game two seasons ago and lost in the AFC title game in January. Its main concern is the offensive line. For $64 million over four years, this is a bargain to get a still-ascending blocker with a proven resume.

2. DT Javon Hargrave to 49ers

Javon Hargrave didn't draw the acclaim that Haason Reddick, Fletcher Cox, or the other superb Philadelphia Eagles defensive members drew in leading the league in sacks (70). He should have. Hargrave is that rare defensive tackle who must be accounted for in pass protection first, then as a run-stopper. So adding him to the 49ers' already top-ranked unit, which includes Defensive Player of the Year Nick Bosa, was brilliant.

3. Eagles Re-Sign CBs Bradberry, Slay

While losing Hargrave and other defensive contributors to their Super Bowl run, the Eagles needed to keep some of their standouts. Not only did they re-sign James Bradberry, one of the NFL's top cover cornerbacks – despite his penalty at the end of the Super Bowl that led to the Chiefs' winning field goal – but they kept Darius Slay in the fold to maintain continuity on the corners. It appeared both might leave, and neither did.

4. Bears Sign LBs Edmunds, Edwards

We've called the Chicago Bears' defense the Milquetoasts of the Midway, a group that has displayed little that is monstrous in recent games. After trading the best performer on defense, linebacker Roquan Smith, during the 2022 season, it was essential that the Bears addressed their spiraling linebacking corps. Bringing in Buffalo's Tremaine Edmunds and Philadelphia's T.J. Edwards could be a turning point in the Windy City. Consider that Edmunds soon turns 25, and Edwards is 26.

Derek Carr Las Vegas Raiders quarterback

5. QB Derek Carr to Saints

Derek Carr deserved better than the ugly dismissal he received from the Las Vegas Raiders, who basically fired him in December. He wisely and rightly refused to renegotiate his contract so Las Vegas could trade him, was cut, then settled in the Big Easy for $150 million over four years. Andy Dalton performed pretty well for the New Orleans Saints last season, but in a wide-open NFC South, the Saints needed an upgrade at quarterback. That's Carr.

6. Several Giant Steps for New York

The New York Giants made a fantastic turnaround in Brian Daboll's first season as their coach, and he was rewarded with Coach of the Year honors. Then they re-signed quarterback Daniel Jones and franchise-tagged star running back Saquon Barkley before making one key move on each side of the ball.

Tight end Darren Waller, acquired from Las Vegas for a third-round draft pick, is already New York's best receiver, though he needs to stay healthier than he's managed recently. Bobby Okereke is a playmaking linebacker who got a four-year, $40 million contract to replicate his 151 tackles of 2022.

7. Patriots Add Receivers Smith-Schuster, Gesicki

One reason the New England Patriots have struggled on offense since Tom Brady left has been a lack of quality receivers. They don't seem to have a No. 1 guy but adding WR JuJu Smith-Schuster and TE Mike Gesicki certainly boosts the talent level among targets for Mac Jones.

With Bill O'Brien returning as offensive coordinator, New England's passing attack should be more dangerous, if not compellingly so. Smith-Schuster got a three-year, $33 million deal that almost duplicates what Jakobi Meyers got from the Raiders to leave the Patriots. Smith-Schuster is the better player.