• Minnesota faces a franchise-defining decision with Kirk Cousins: Extensions for key players loom, so the Vikings may be wise to go with a new quarterback after this season.
• Mekhi Becton seems poised to bounce back: The former Jets first-round pick has a lot to prove in 2023 after suffering a season-ending injury in 2022.
• Bears will have their eye on Chase Claypool: Chicago acquired the wideout for a second-round pick last season, but he mustered just 14 receptions on 28 targets for 140 yards over seven weeks.
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While there is still plenty of time for players entering contract years in 2023 to sign extensions before Week 1, or even during the season with a hot start, we wanted to highlight some of the players we think will likely be setting themselves up for free agency this upcoming season. NFL teams always take a player's full body of work into consideration, but there’s no denying that a splashy contract year can go a long way.
For players not listed below, they may be featured in last week’s early extension candidates article, or perhaps we’re more bullish on their odds of getting a deal done before Week 1 and decided to focus on players we think may be less likely to sign the dotted line before the 2023 season kicks off.
Will Minnesota finally force its own hand in the 2024 offseason and usher in a new quarterback era in the Twin Cities, with effectively no ability to franchise tag Kirk Cousins? It could be a major risk because odds are they’ll once again be too good to be picking at the very top of the NFL draft, where the best quarterback prospects will come off the board.
That said, Cousins will be 36 years old in 2024 and already has $28.5 million in total cap hits currently allocated to 2024-27. If this new regime wants to turn the page, as they started to this offseason by moving on from some older players, such as Adam Thielen, Patrick Peterson and Za’Darius Smith, this would arguably be the time to do it.
The Vikings need to extend edge defender Danielle Hunter and tight end T.J. Hockenson this offseason and could potentially make wide receiver Justin Jefferson the highest-paid non-quarterback in league history next offseason, so a cheaper option at quarterback will help balance out the budget.
All of that said, Cousins’ 87.1 passing grade over the past three seasons ranks sixth among quarterbacks. His 77.3% adjusted completion percentage and 7.6 yards per attempt rank eighth, and his accurate pass rate of 62.5% ranks 10th. He is a high-floor player, one who is hard for a general manager to move on from. And in a weak NFC conference and NFC North division, it can be all the more challenging. Nevertheless, if Minnesota finally takes the gamble, Cousins’ 2023 season and the aftermath will be a fascinating storyline.
The Giants signed 2019 first-round interior defender Dexter Lawrence to a four-year, $90 million extension that now makes Williams the second-highest-paid interior defender on the Giants despite remaining as the sixth-highest-paid player at the position league-wide.