• The Bears are in a good spot: Chicago has $82,452,399 of effective cap space heading into 2023, $30 million more than any other franchise.
• The Falcons setting their sights on defense: Atlanta has a lot of work to do on its roster but has plenty of impressive playmakers on offense and an offensive line that performed well, giving them an obvious defensive focus heading into this period of roster construction.
• Starting from the ground in Indy: Indianapolis can create upwards of $100 million in cap space with maximum restructures, and while they will likely create far less than that, it goes to show that they are well-positioned for free agency — particularly with the No. 4 overall pick primed to be spent on a new quarterback.
Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
Super Bowl 57 is officially set, which means 30 of the league’s clubs are completely focused on the NFL offseason and team building for their next assault on the prize.
The NFL draft will steal much of the focus, but before teams can select anybody, they have to get through NFL free agency — the salary cap-powered spending spree — to try and shortcut roster improvement.
Obviously, the teams with the most salary cap space are best positioned to spend heavily in free agency. And even those that don’t seem to have space right now can sometimes create a lot of spending money by restructuring contracts already on the roster.
Here are eight teams — one-quarter of the league — that are well-positioned for free agency in 2023.
PFF's free-agent rankings by position:
QB | RB | WR | TE | OT | IOL | DI | EDGE | LB | CB | S
Available cap space: $92,033,199
Effective Cap Space: $82,452,399
First pick in the 2023 NFL Draft: No. 1
The Bears stripped the roster down to the bare metal last offseason, and this is the year the full restoration can begin in earnest.
Quarterback Justin Fields showed enough this season to convince the team he is worth building around, and they ended up getting the No. 1 pick in the draft just in case that isn’t true. Chicago has $82,452,399 of effective cap space heading into 2023, $30 million more than any other franchise.
They have several glaring needs that need to be addressed, but the good news is that playing a season with a roster as stripped back as theirs meant they gave a lot of young players plenty of exposure. The growth shown by the offensive line will be particularly encouraging, too, as they began the season ranked 31st in the NFL in PFF's preseason offensive line rankings and finished the year in the top half of the league.
Available cap space: $56,614,855
Effective Cap Space: $51,485,457
First pick in the 2023 NFL Draft: No. 8
The Falcons put themselves in this position by ripping the Matt Ryan Band-Aid off and trading him away last offseason despite the damage it did to last year’s salary cap situation. They did it to improve their position for the future, and that starts now.
Only the Chicago Bears have more effective salary cap space than the Falcons, who can hit free agency with upwards of $50 million to play with.