The 2023 NFL season is weeks away from kicking off. As teams prepare for their new campaigns, we have a good sense of what rosters are set to look like once Week 1 rolls around.
Just like every offseason, this year's game of musical chairs didn't disappoint as a number of the game's biggest stars were on the move while others had their uncertain futures cleared up.
Below we'll dive into some of those moves and rank them in terms of the impact they could have for the 2023 season. That could be players who teams decided to add or -- and maybe even more important in one particular case -- players they decided to lock up and keep in-house.
10. 49ers land Javon Hargrave
Just when you didn't think San Francisco's defensive line could get any more dangerous, the organization cannonballs into free agency by singing Javon Hargrave to a four-year, $84 million deal. The 30-year-old is coming off arguably his best season in the NFL for the Philadelphia Eagles. He had 11 sacks, 10 tackles for a loss, and 16 quarterback hits while playing along the interior. Hargrave will be alongside Arik Armstead and Javon Kinlaw on the interior on a defensive line that will also have the Defensive Player of the Year in Nick Bosa firing off the edge. That's a sheer nightmare for opposing quarterbacks and offensive lines and should make the Niners front that much more lethal.
The only reason this addition isn't higher on this list is because it does feel like an embarrassment of riches for a defensive line that was already likely going to dominate again in 2023.
9. Giants trade for Darren Waller
The Giants desperately needed some high-end pass catchers and got one with the trade for Pro Bowl tight end Darren Waller. When healthy, Waller can be a go-to option in an NFL passing attack and it's going to be fascinating to see how head coach Brian Daboll utilizes Waller's abilities as a receiver. After all, Daboll came up through the ranks on the offensive side of the ball and was a tight ends coach with New England from 2013-2016. Over that stretch, Daboll helped Rob Gronkowski to two first-team All-Pro seasons and had Martellus Bennett catch 55 passes for 701 yards and a career-high seven touchdowns in 2016. That's not mentioning that offensive coordinator Mike Kafka came to New York from Kansas City working in a Chiefs offense that heavily features tight end Travis Kelce.
The Giants lacked game-breaking ability in the passing game last season as the team ranked 31st in explosive pass players (catches of 20-plus yards). This addition of Waller will move them up the ranks. However, Waller does need to remain healthy for him to make a true impact. Waller was limited to nine games for Las Vegas last season due to injury.
8. Bears acquire D.J. Moore
Chicago finished last in the NFL standings last season, which gave it the No. 1 overall pick at the draft. With Justin Fields established as the franchise quarterback going forward, the Bears put the pick up for sale and were able to agree to a deal with the Carolina Panthers. As part of the trade, the Bears landed wide receiver D.J. Moore.
Moore has been an underrated player in the league since he was drafted 24th overall in the 2018 NFL Draft out of Maryland. Even with Carolina struggling to find a franchise quarterback throughout his tenure and suffering through subpar play under center, the 26-year-old still was able to produce. He already has three 1,000-yard seasons on his résumé along with a 93-catch campaign in 2021. Moore is also coming off a career-high seven-touchdown season last year.
We've seen in the past what a talented young wide receiver can do for a developing quarterback like the case is here with Fields. A.J. Brown's arrival to Philadelphia last year helped turned Jalen Hurts into an MVP candidate and the same was true with Josh Allen when Stefon Diggs landed in Buffalo. If Moore can have a similar impact on Fields as he looks to refine his passing skills, Chicago could surprise teams in 2023.
7. Cowboys acquire Stephon Gilmore
The Cowboys made a couple of savvy moves this offseason (trading for Brandin Cooks being one of the main deals). However, the trade for Stephon Gilmore is one of the more underrated maneuvers of the offseason in my eyes. The 32-year-old spent last season with the Colts and was largely out of the national spotlight due to Indy's struggles. That said, Gilmore still played at a strong level, allowing just 56.2% of his targets against him to be completed, and held opposing quarterbacks to a 74 pass rating in 2022. Now, the former Defensive Player of the Year joins a stacked Cowboys secondary that includes fellow corner Trevon Diggs and safeties Donovan Wilson, Malik Hooker, and Jayron Kearse. This is a tremendous counter within the NFC East as the Eagles have a dynamic passing attack and the Giants have added Waller to bolster their air game as well. Beyond the division, having Gilmore -- who has a Super Bowl title on his résumé -- as a veteran leader could help Dallas push for a deep playoff run.
6. Dolphins trade for Jalen Ramsey
The Dolphins made one of the splashiest moves by trading for Ramsey. Unfortunately, their new star cornerback suffered a meniscus injury that will sideline him for a significant chunk of the season. However, Ramsey should be back around December to help Miami complete a playoff push.
Similar to what we were saying with Gilmore and Dallas, Miami trading for Ramsey was a great counter to what the rest of their division's offseason moves were. While the Jets (adding Aaron Rodgers) and Patriots (hiring OC Bill O'Brien) fixated on the offensive side of the ball, the Dolphins brought in a 28-year-old former All-Pro corner to help solidify the secondary. Miami already had a solid collection of defensive backs headlined by Xavien Howard and Jevon Holland, but Ramsey could very well take them to a higher level and form arguably the best one-two corner punch (with Howard) in the league when he gets back on the field
Ramsey played in all 17 games for the Rams last season in what was a forgetful year for Los Angeles. Still, he was able to match his career-high with four interceptions and broke up a career-high 18 passes. In Vic Fangio's defense, Ramsey's presence should help Miami be among the top AFC contenders.
5. Sean Payton becomes Broncos head coach
Sean Payton is back in the NFL after the Broncos were able to trade for the former Saints head coach this offseason. He now is looking to turn around a Denver team that fell on its face in 2022 to a 5-12 record. While Russell Wilson didn't look like the Pro Bowl quarterback we remember during his days in Seattle, we'll bite on the possibility that Payton can get him back on track. That alone should help the Broncos become a more respectable team in 2023 and contend for a playoff spot. Last season, the Broncos were dead last (29.13%) in third-down conversion rate. That simply won't happen with a Payton-led offense. If the offense can stay on the field and put up points under Payton and the defense carries its momentum from a top-10 DVOA finish from a year ago, Denver has the talent to turn things around quickly.
4. Bengals sign Orlando Brown Jr.
The No. 1 issue for the Bengals throughout the Joe Burrow era has been the protection in front of him. In just 42 career games throughout the regular season, Burrow has been sacked 124 times (roughly three times per game). That number is even worse when you look at Cincinnati's inability to protect him in the playoffs. In seven career playoff games, Burrow has been sacked 29 times (4.1 sacks per game). For a team that has Super Bowl-winning capability, solidifying the offensive line needed to be a priority this offseason, which they did by inking left tackle Orlando Brown to a $64 million contract in free agency.
If Brown can better create a wall for Burrow (particularly on his blindside) that could be the missing piece to help put the Bengals over the top and get them back in the Super Bowl.
3. Saints sign Derek Carr
After going on a four-season stretch of winning the NFC South from 2017 to 2020, the Saints have taken a dip over the last two years. The club has gone a combined 16-18 and has failed to reach the playoffs in either of the previous two seasons. A big piece of those struggles has been inconsistent play from the quarterback spot. Well, that should change in 2023 after the Saints were able to sign former Raiders quarterback Derek Carr as a free agent.
With former Bucs QB Tom Brady retired, Carr is the most seasoned and most talented quarterback in the division, which should give New Orleans the inside track to finishing atop the standings this season. Carr has experience working with Dennis Allen as they had a brief crossover with the Raiders and the veteran does have high-level weapons like Chris Olave, Alvin Kamara, and Michael Thomas at his disposal. Couple that with a defense that ranked No. 8 in DVOA last year and the Saints should be in the thick of the NFC playoff picture again in 2023.
2. Ravens extending Lamar Jackson
This is a more unique angle we're taking with Jackson's situation because there are multiple layers. It's as much about how it COULD have impacted the 2023 season as how it still will. Had he and the Ravens not been able to come to terms on an extension, you would've had a Baltimore franchise in complete disarray and possibly even forced to trade its franchise quarterback, turning the league on its head. That would have likely sent Baltimore to the bottom of the barrel and brought one obscure team to relevancy overnight. Given Jackson's MVP-caliber talent, him possibly landing in a different situation would have completely changed how we're viewing the 2023 season. That "What if?" scenario alone has him near the top of this list. By the Ravens NOT, we're not sent into a bizarro world of him on a different team and throwing the 2023 campaign for a loop.
Now, the fact that Baltimore has this situation hammered out by not only agreeing to an extension with Jackson but reshaping the offense around him with new OC Todd Monken and new weapons like Odell Beckham Jr. and Zay Flowers, the Ravens have a clear-headed view for this season. With all this behind them, Jackson should be able to return to MVP form and have Baltimore in the thick of the AFC North race.
1. Jets trade for Aaron Rodgers
This was obviously going to be No. 1, right? The Jets have been starved for elite quarterback play for as far back as you and I can remember and finally were able to solidify their situation under center by pulling off a blockbuster trade for Aaron Rodgers. In the blink of an eye, New York went from a perennial under .500 team that hasn't made the playoffs since 2010 to a legit Super Bowl contender.
If everything works out as hoped, Rodgers will have a Brady-to-Tampa, Manning-to-Denver, and Stafford-to-Los Angeles-type of immediate impact on the Jets and have them going on deep playoff runs and pushing for championships. His arrival to the AFC and joining an up-and-coming Jets roster should make the likes of Mahomes, Burrow, and Allen sweat a little bit more throughout the regular season.