NFL News & Analysis

2023 NFL Free Agency: Recapping the tampering period and the best free-agent signings

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle Javon Hargrave (97) reacts after a fumble recovery against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL’s legal tampering period brought a flurry of activity, and while there are still plenty of players available and business to be done, there have already been hundreds of millions of dollars committed by NFL teams to new roster additions.

Here are some of the best moves (reportedly) so far in 2023 NFL free agency.

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DI Javon Hargrave signed by the San Francisco 49ers

Contract: Four years, $80,000,000

The best business in free agency is typically done by signing lower-priced players, but sometimes a team swinging for the fences lands an outstanding player where the fit is so good it’s worth the premium price tag.

The 49ers already had an elite defensive front, and they added a player in Hargrave who earned a 90.0-plus PFF pass-rushing grade in each of the past two seasons. Over that period, Aaron Donald is the only interior pass rusher with a higher grade. The entire 49ers group of interior rushers — eight players —  last season combined for 88 total pressures. Hargrave had 66 by himself.

Related: Javon Hargrave strengthens San Francisco 49ers' already impressive defensive line

Edge Charles Omenihu signed by the Kansas City Chiefs

Contract: Two years, $20,000,000

Frank Clark may have been known for turning it on in the playoffs, but he had been remarkably ineffective overall for Kansas City since they traded for him, and moving on from him made a lot of sense. Rookie George Karlaftis generated some pressure last season, but almost all of it was slow-developing or hustle plays.

Charles Omenihu has now recorded a PFF pass-rushing grade of at least 75.6 in back-to-back seasons and posted 62 pressures last year for the 49ers, six more than anybody on the Chiefs managed from the edge. For $10 million a season, Omenihu is a great value addition who could easily be the team’s best edge rusher.

LB Eric Kendricks signed by the Los Angeles Chargers

Contract: Two years, $13,250,000

Kendricks is coming off a poor season and is now 31 years old. He was due a lot of money, so it made some sense for the Vikings to move on, but at just $13.25 million over two years, he’s an excellent gamble for the Chargers.

Kendricks is only two years removed from leading the NFL in PFF coverage grade among linebackers and still has an excellent feel for the passing game. There’s a chance he can impart some knowledge and experience on former first-round pick Kenneth Murray, as well, a player who has struggled to live up to his draft status so far. This represents excellent value.

Edge Marcus Davenport signed by the Minnesota Vikings

Contract: One year, $13,000,000

Marcus Davenport obviously didn’t get the big-money offers he was looking for, settling for a one-year, “prove it” contract with the Minnesota Vikings. Davenport has outstanding size and physical tools, and he is just 25 years old. He was a former first-round pick and has consistently been good but not great in the NFL thus far. 

Davenport has never played more than 550 snaps in a season or registered more than 51 pressures, but the Vikings can now see if he is capable of more and will have the right of first refusal if he does break out and earn a better contract in the future.

CB Emmanuel Moseley signed by the Detroit Lions

Contract: One year, $6,000,000

The Detroit Lions have thrown some resources at young cornerbacks in recent seasons, but they just haven’t worked out so far, leaving the team with a roster weakness and an area that could potentially derail a franchise otherwise on the charge.

Detroit signed multiple veteran cornerbacks in free agency, with Emmanuel Moseley representing the best value. For his career, Moseley has allowed just an 82.8 passer rating into his coverage. Shoring up that position with cheap but capable veterans gives the Lions a lot more flexibility in the draft to just select the best player available.

LB T.J. Edwards signed by the Chicago Bears

Contract: Three years, $19,500,000

The Chicago Bears threw a lot of money at Tremaine Edmunds, but the better value linebacker signing was the money allocated to T.J. Edwards — just a fraction of the cost. Edwards isn’t the athlete that Edmunds is, but up until this past season he had been the better NFL player.

Edwards has had to earn his contract the hard way, going from an undrafted free agent due to marginal physical tools and size to a special teamer, then preseason and playing a limited role before getting the chance to start and proving he belonged at this level. His 81.6 overall PFF grade ranked sixth in the league last season, just behind Edmunds.

Edge Ogbonnia Okoronkwo signed by the Cleveland Browns

Contract: Three years, $19,000,000

The Browns have desperately needed help along the defensive line to complement Myles Garrett for several seasons now, and this offseason looks like the best attempt they have made to address that.

Ogbonnia Okoronkwo was a cheap signing by the Texans a season ago, and while he took some time to get going, over the final seven games of the season he recorded 26 total pressures and all five of his sacks on the year. Those were seven of the eight games he started on the year, suggesting he can be a far better player going forward in a full-time role, especially on a team with Myles Garrett on the other side of the line.

WR Michael Thomas re-signed by the New Orleans Saints

Contract: One year, $10,000,000

Technically just a reworked contract, Michael Thomas had been presumed by most to be on his way out of New Orleans because of the last restructuring the team did to his contract. Instead, they brought him back for just $10 million this season with the potential for that go to up to $15 million if he hits incentives.

Thomas at his peak was one of the best receivers in the game, and even though his past three years have been injury-ravaged, he has still played at a very high level when on the field. The Saints have added weapons in the form of Chris Olave and Rashid Shaheed since Thomas was last at his peak, so they have far more complementary threats than before. If Thomas can stay healthy, this will look like an absolute bargain.


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