We’re 16 days past the official start of NFL free agency. And while signings will continue for months ahead, the crush of moves are behind us.
In the NFC, we saw a few teams splurge on talent, while a few didn’t make a single, impactful signing. The most important move was finished before free agency began, with the Saints signing quarterback Derek Carr to a four-year deal, potentially sparking a few other NFC South teams to be aggressive in the weeks that followed.
So which teams did the best? Which ones spent regrettable money?
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We break it down below with grades on each.
Notable additions: WR Zach Pascal, LB Kyzir White
Notable departures: DE Zach Allen, CB Byron Murphy Jr.
The Cardinals brought in some role pieces, with a few coming from Philadelphia to join former Eagles defensive coordinator and new Arizona coach Jonathan Gannon. The problem? The Cardinals have a bad roster, a brutal schedule and a very inexperienced coaching staff that is likely without Kyler Murray for the first half of the 2023 season. Other than that, things are great.
Grade: C minus
Notable additions: S Jessie Bates, QB Taylor Heinicke, DT David Onyemata, OLB Kaden Elliss, DE Calais Campbell
Notable departures: T Chuma Edoga, QB Marcus Mariota
It was a great March for the Falcons, which upgraded significantly on defense while adding a quality veteran to the quarterback room in Heinicke. While those moves alone won’t get Atlanta to the playoffs, it crystallizes the draft board for general manager Terry Fontenot, who suddenly has far fewer holes to fill.
Notable additions: WR Adam Thielen, RB Miles Sanders, S Vonn Bell, QB Andy Dalton, TE Hayden Hurst, DT Shy Tuttle
Notable departure: QB Sam Darnold
Few teams were more active in free agency than the Panthers, who signed a litany of big-name free agents. With a first-round quarterback on the way, Carolina loaded up its offense, signing Sanders, Thielen and Hurst. They also got better defensively at two levels, and did all this without giving bad contracts. A job well done by general manager Scott Fitterer.
Grade: A minus
Notable additions: LB Tremaine Edmunds, G Nate Davis, DE DeMarcus Walker, LB T.J. Edwards, TE Robert Tonyan
Notable departures: OT Riley Reiff, RB David Montgomery
The Bears got better, but there are a few problems with the moves. For starters, Chicago spent close to $100 million on off-ball linebackers, who between them, have made one Pro Bowl. The other concern is all the premium positions the Bears needed to fix going into free agency—left tackle, corner, edge rusher—are still problems. It feels incomplete.
Grade: C plus
Notable addition: T Chuma Edoga
Notable departures: G Connor McGovern, TE Dalton Schultz, RB Ezekiel Elliott
It was a relatively quiet free agency for Dallas, which allowed Schultz to leave and released Elliott. The only real addition is Edoga, who will help fortify the offensive line. That said, the grade for free agency is much different than the offseason grade, which is bolstered by the acquisitions of corner Stephon Gilmore and receiver Brandin Cooks.
Notable additions: CB Cam Sutton, S C.J. Gardner-Johnson, CB Emmanuel Moseley, RB David Montgomery
Notable departure: RB Jamaal Williams
Nobody has done a better job than the Lions to this point. Detroit ranked 32nd in yards per play against last year, and general manager Brad Holmes went to work, bringing in a trio of quality pieces for the secondary. The Lions also replaced Williams with Montgomery, maintaining a good backfield. And they did all of this without tying up much cap space in future years.
Grade: A plus
Green Bay Packers
Notable additions: None
Notable departures: WR Allen Lazard, DT Jarran Reed, DE Dean Lowry, TE Robert Tonyan
The Packers essentially watched as Lazard, Reed and Lowry left on reasonable deals, while debating what it would take to trade Aaron Rodgers. When Rodgers does get dealt, what exactly does fourth-year quarterback Jordan Love have to work with? Green Bay has cap issues, but the offseason remains a loss for the Packers.
Los Angeles Rams
Notable additions: None
Notable departures: K Matt Gay, QB Baker Mayfield, S Nick Scott, LB Bobby Wagner
Between the inactivity in free agency, the release of Wagner and the trade of star cornerback Jalen Ramsey to the Dolphins, the Rams appear hollowed out. There’s little reason to think Los Angeles is going to strongly rebound from what was, statistically speaking, the worst Super Bowl defense in league history.
Grade: D plus
Notable additions: CB Byron Murphy Jr., edge Marcus Davenport, DE Dean Lowry, TE Josh Oliver
Notable departures: DT Dalvin Tomlinson, WR Adam Thielen, LB Eric Kendricks, CB Patrick Peterson
Lots of movement for the Vikings, who lost a stud in Tomlinson but otherwise started to remake what was an atrocious defense. Minnesota did well to bring in Murphy on a two-year deal while taking a chance on Davenport’s talent, but the Vikings are dealing with limited cap space and too many needs to fill. Also, paying Oliver $21 million over three years is steep.
Grade: C plus
New Orleans Saints
Notable additions: QB Derek Carr, DT Khalen Saunders, DE Nathan Shepherd, RB Jamaal Williams
Notable departures: DT Shy Tuttle, edge Marcus Davenport, QB Andy Dalton, DT David Onyemata, OLB Kaden Elliss, WR Deonte Harty
The Saints’ offseason is headlined by the addition of Carr, but they lost a litany of defensive pieces in the front seven. New Orleans is unquestionably worse defensively, but the signing of Carr makes the Saints a more viable playoff team, especially in a horrific NFC South. All told, New Orleans is a more intriguing squad than it was two months ago.
New York Giants
Notable additions: LB Bobby Okereke, DT Rakeem Nunez-Roches
Notable departures: G Nick Gates, S Julian Love
General manager Joe Schoen didn’t make too many moves, doing most of his work to retain quarterback Daniel Jones and running back Saquon Barkley before free agency. Okereke is a nice signing on the second level, but the loss of Love to the Seahawks hurts. New York will need to replace him and find help at corner in the draft.
Grade: B minus
Notable addition: QB Marcus Mariota
Notable departures: RB Miles Sanders, DT Javon Hargrave, S C.J. Gardner-Johnson, S Marcus Epps, LB T.J. Edwards, LB Kyzir White, G Isaac Seumalo, WR Zach Pascal
Tough to crush the Eagles, who understood they were going to lose guys after this season. The problem is how many ended up leaving. Philadelphia watched as seven starters left, and in some cases on reasonable deals it could have potentially matched. Still, the Eagles are deep enough to withstand some of these departures while still owning two first-round picks (Nos. 10, 30).
San Francisco 49ers
Notable additions: DT Javon Hargrave, QB Sam Darnold, CB Isaiah Oliver
Notable departures: QB Jimmy Garoppolo, DE Charles Omenihu, S Jimmie Ward, OT Mike McGlinchey, DE Samson Ebukam, OT Daniel Brunskill, LB Azeez Al-Shaair
Hargrave is perhaps the best signing of free agency, giving the 49ers a monstrous trio up front with Nick Bosa and Arik Armstead alongside him. However, that’s where the good news stops for San Francisco. The Niners lost four significant contributors off their defense (along with coordinator DeMeco Ryans) and a couple of pieces on the offensive line.
Grade: C plus
Notable additions: DE Dre’Mont Jones, S Julian Love, DT Jarran Reed, LB Bobby Wagner
Notable departures: None
General manager John Schneider recognized the defensive issues that plagued Seattle throughout the 2022 season and did well, adding Jones and Reed to the front while sliding Love into a nice tandem with Quandre Diggs on the back end. The Seahawks could still use another linebacker, and the offensive line needs help on the interior, but Seattle had a strong start to the offseason.
Grade: A minus
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Notable additions: QB Baker Mayfield, DT Greg Gaines
Notable departure: DT Rakeem Nunez-Roches
Not surprisingly, the Buccaneers sat out free agency, allowing their books to settle after the retirement of quarterback Tom Brady. With Tampa Bay in rebuilding mode, general manager Jason Licht made a couple of shrewd, one-year signings in Mayfield and Gaines while retaining corner Jamel Dean before free agency opened.
Notable additions: OT Andrew Wylie, G Nick Gates, QB Jacoby Brissett
Notable departures: LB Cole Holcomb, QB Taylor Heinicke, G Wes Schweitzer
It was an offseason of canceling out losses for the Commanders. While Schweitzer and Heinicke left, they were replaced by similar players in Brissett and Gates. The addition of Wylie is a smart one, giving Washington a solid right tackle. Regardless, the Commanders have to find more contributors on both sides of the ball to be a playoff contender.