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Most player-friendly, team-friendly contracts of 2023 NFL free agency

October 23, 2022; Santa Clara, California, USA; Kansas City Chiefs offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr. (57) during the fourth quarter against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The mantra that “the NFL is a business” is no more apparent than during free agency, when teams and players often set loyalty aside and play tug of war as they hammer out contracts. Sometimes players get more than expected, and sometimes teams get a “steal.”

Things will change as the 2023 NFL season gets underway, but here are the early player-friendly and team-friendly deals of the offseason.


QB Taylor Heinicke, Atlanta Falcons

Contract: Two years, $14 million ($7 million per year), $6.32 million total guaranteed

Atlanta should be focused on finding its next starting quarterback if the team isn’t 100% certain that’s Desmond Ridder. And in the meantime, the Falcons should spend very little money at the position behind Ridder because he’s proven at the least to be a fine bridge to the future. 

Heinicke is an awesome story and a fun player, but he had ample opportunity in Washington this past season, and his 48.9 passing grade ranked 47th out of 48 quarterbacks with 100 or more passing attempts in 2022. The journeyman also led all quarterbacks with at least 100 pass attempts in turnover-worthy play rate (6.2%) in 2022, a half of a percentage point higher than the next player. He’s not a game-managing backup; he tries to be a gunslinger. Atlanta probably could’ve just gone cheaper here with their sights set on the future.

Click here to get even more analysis from PFF's deal grader

WR Adam Thielen, Carolina Panthers

Contract: Three years, $25 million ($8.33 million per year), $14 million guaranteed

Thielen’s career arc to becoming a top-end wide receiver is one of the coolest NFL success stories of the decade, but now entering his 10th season at 33 years old, this is a fairly sizable investment. 

Thielen put up solid volume numbers in 2022 with 70 receptions, but his 10.2 yards per reception, 2.3 yards after the catch per reception, 1.06 yards per route run and 65.0 grade were all career lows, and it was fairly evident on tape he couldn’t separate like he once could. 

All of that said, Carolina desperately needed to add pass catchers, and still does, so he should have a ton of opportunity.

Click here to get even more analysis from PFF's deal grader

TE Josh Oliver, Minnesota Vikings

Contract: Three years, $21 million ($7 million per year), $10.75 million guaranteed

We have seen pretty strong contracts for predominantly blocking tight ends in years past, including Nick Boyle and Tyler Kroft. That’s what this is here, with Oliver amassing just 26 receptions for 230 yards over his first four NFL seasons. 

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