The AFC and NFC both feel wide open going into 2023 but for very different reasons. The AFC is loaded at quarterback, and it’s easy to make a case for a number of teams as contenders. It’s the opposite in the NFC, where identifying more than a handful of promising teams is challenging.
This offseason saw the Green Bay Packers move on from Aaron Rodgers and the Carolina Panthers take a big swing by moving up to draft Bryce Young at no. 1. The Detroit Lions and New York Giants are looking to build off of their surprise 2022 campaigns, while the Philadelphia Eagles, San Francisco 49ers, and Dallas Cowboys are hoping to remain serious contenders.
Yesterday, we ran through what we learned about the 16 AFC teams this offseason. Now, it’s time to do the same for the NFC. For an assist on matters dealing with contracts and the salary cap, we called on Jason Fitzgerald from Over the Cap. All of the contract data below is from his site, and statistics are from TruMedia and Pro Football Focus.
They’re kicking the can at quarterback (again).
The Falcons have picked in the top eight in each of the past three drafts and haven’t spent any of that capital at quarterback or on either line of scrimmage. This year, they took Texas running back Bijan Robinson. Last year, it was wide receiver Drake London. And in 2021, the Falcons took tight end Kyle Pitts.
In free agency, they made Jessie Bates III one of the five highest-paid safeties in the NFL. They reset the guard market, making Chris Lindstrom the league’s highest-paid interior offensive lineman. The Falcons also added veterans like defensive tackles David Onyemata (age 30) and Calais Campbell (36), along with edge rusher Bud Dupree (30). At quarterback, other than signing backup Taylor Heinicke to a two-year, $14 million deal, the Falcons sat on their hands. The plan for 2023 will be to ride with second-year player Desmond Ridder.
“I can’t really figure out what Atlanta’s doing,” Fitzgerald said.
“Maybe there was no quarterback to take. I don’t understand how you go running back. I don’t get what they’re aiming for unless their goal is to get eight or nine wins and win a really, really bad division this year.”
Taking a swing on a quarterback is risky. If you miss, there’s a chance you’ll lose your job. But Falcons coach Arthur Smith and general manager Terry Fontenot seem content to keep the bat on their shoulder unless they find what they deem to be an especially attractive option (remember that they were quite interested when Deshaun Watson was available last offseason).
Smith has proved to be a savvy offensive schemer. The Falcons finished 13th in offensive DVOA last year, despite starting Marcus Mariota and Ridder at quarterback. History suggests that Ridder (a third-round pick in 2022) is unlikely to be the answer. There have been 38 quarterbacks drafted in the third round since 2000. The most successful among them: Russell Wilson, Nick Foles, and Matt Schaub. Just 12 of the 38 (32 percent) had (or have) more than 16 career starts. Could Ridder be a competent starter? Sure. Is that the most likely scenario? Absolutely not.
The Falcons have gone 7-10 in each of Smith’s two seasons. They have the second-easiest projected schedule in 2023, and given the state of the division, they could compete for a playoff berth. Maybe Ridder will surprise with a dynamic group of skill-position players around him, or maybe he’ll be just average or worse, and Atlanta will finally take a swing on a QB next offseason. But for now, this looks like a risk-averse franchise that is just treading water.
Kyler Murray could be on the move after 2023.
The Cardinals had an excellent draft, fleecing the Texans of four picks in exchange for the no. 3 spot. In 2024, they now have two first-round picks: their own and Houston’s. They have 11 picks overall, including six in the first three rounds. That’s a great spot to be in given that USC’s Caleb Williams and North Carolina’s Drake Maye could emerge as two of the more attractive quarterback prospects in recent memory.
FanDuel has the Cardinals with the lowest projected win total in the NFL, at 4.5. The Texans are tied for the second lowest, at 6.5. So what happens if the Cardinals end up with the first or second pick? Maybe they’ll trade back, load up on picks, and replenish what is arguably the NFL’s worst roster. Or maybe they’ll just go ahead and draft a quarterback and trade Kyler Murray. Moving on from Murray next offseason would carry a $46 million dead cap hit, Fitzgerald said.
“So especially in today’s NFL, that’s a doable number,” Fitzgerald said. “The cap should go up much higher next year. They’d actually gain cap room on doing that trade. So yeah, I would look at that and say that’s definitely a contract they can trade next year.”
It was just last offseason that the Cardinals signed general manager Steve Keim, coach Kliff Kingsbury, and Murray to contract extensions. Keim and Kingsbury are already gone, and Murray, who is coming back from an ACL injury, could be next, depending on how the 2023 season goes.
They chose the right time to take a swing at QB.
David Tepper bought the Panthers in 2018. During his five years of ownership, the following players have started games at quarterback: Cam Newton, Sam Darnold, Teddy Bridgewater, Kyle Allen, P.J. Walker, Baker Mayfield, Will Grier, and Taylor Heinicke. The revolving door is over. The Panthers traded the no. 9 pick, the no. 61 pick, their 2024 first, a 2025 second, and wide receiver D.J. Moore to the Bears in exchange for the top overall pick and Bryce Young.
The Panthers probably need another offseason to upgrade the skill-position players around Young, but their offensive line is solid, and new head coach Frank Reich has shown in the past that he can do more with less. It’s usually hard for rookie quarterbacks to be even average right away, but Young started 27 games at Alabama and has a high football IQ. He could be an exception. It also doesn’t hurt that the Panthers have the NFL’s third-easiest projected schedule.
Let’s face it. The Panthers have been an embarrassment under Tepper. They’ve gone 29-53 in the last five years and have failed to produce a single winning season. Only four teams have a worse winning percentage during that span. There are no guarantees going forward, but at least Carolina now has a plan. With Reich and Young, the Panthers feel more stable than they ever have under Tepper.
They’re all in on Justin Fields (for now).
The best-case scenario for the Bears in 2023 is relatively straightforward. Justin Fields, with an upgraded supporting cast, makes a leap in his third year. He leaves no doubt that he’s their quarterback of the future, and the Bears can use the capital they accumulated from trading out of the no. 1 spot in the 2023 draft to build around him, and they emerge as an up-and-coming team in a wide-open NFC.
Fields started 15 games last season. Extended over the course of an entire season, the Bears’ performance in those starts would’ve ranked 20th in offensive expected points added per play. That was with arguably the worst supporting cast in the league. Fields’s legs and big-play ability gave the Bears offense a baseline of competency. This offseason, they added wide receiver D.J. Moore in the trade with Carolina for the no. 1 pick and made upgrades on the offensive line, signing guard Nate Davis and using a first-round pick on tackle Darnell Wright. Meanwhile, the Bears will go from having the NFL’s fifth-hardest schedule a year ago to having the fifth-easiest projected schedule in 2023. There’s a realistic scenario where they emerge as an exciting playoff team.
But there’s another direction this Bears season could go—one in which Fields can’t shake the negative plays. Fields was sacked on 14.7 percent of his pass plays last year—the highest rate for a quarterback in TruMedia’s database, which goes back to 2000. He was intercepted on 3.5 percent of his passes, which ranked 32nd out of 33 starters last season. His 16 fumbles were the most in the NFL. We saw that Fields is capable of the spectacular, but the question in 2023 is whether he can significantly reduce the mistakes.
Fields is under contract through at least 2024 (the Bears will have the fifth-year option for 2025), and the most likely scenario is him getting a multiyear tryout. But if things really go south, the Bears are set up well to make a quarterback move next offseason, given that they’ll have two first-round picks (their own and the Panthers’).
Bottom line: The Bears’ goal is to set Fields up for long-term success. But if that fails, they’ll still have options to pull off a plan B.
They overreacted to their playoff loss.
The Cowboys were a very good team last year. They went 12-5, and their plus-125 point differential was third in the NFC behind only the Eagles and the 49ers. The Cowboys should be a very good team again this season. They made sensible trades to add wide receiver Brandin Cooks and cornerback Stephon Gilmore, and the departures of tight end Dalton Schultz, who left in free agency, and running back Ezekiel Elliott, who was cut in a cost-saving move, are unlikely to be devastating.
But the biggest change will be with their offensive play-calling. The Cowboys let Kellen Moore go, and head coach Mike McCarthy is now running the show. McCarthy indicated this offseason that he thinks the Cowboys can benefit from a more run-heavy approach that limits turnovers and puts games in the hands of his defense. McCarthy’s comments demonstrated a fundamental misunderstanding of what is actually wrong with the Cowboys.
Were turnovers an issue in 2022? At times, yes. But overall, not really. The Cowboys turned the ball over on 10.8 percent of their possessions, which was slightly lower than the league average. Dak Prescott was intercepted on 3.8 percent of his passes, which was the worst mark among starters. Not all of the interceptions were his fault, and interceptions were not an issue for Prescott previously in his career. From 2019 to 2021, Prescott had the ninth-lowest interception rate in the NFL. It’s reasonable to think that the Cowboys got some bad turnover luck last year and that Prescott won’t throw nearly as many interceptions in 2023.
The bottom line: It’s hard to envision a scenario where the move from Moore to McCarthy offers an upgrade. In four years with Moore, if we isolate the plays where Prescott was the quarterback, the Cowboys performed like the second-best offense in the NFL in terms of EPA per play. Did the offense look bad in a 19-12 playoff loss to the 49ers? No doubt. But that was one game on the road against the best defense in the NFL. Ideally, the Cowboys would’ve examined what went wrong in that game, made some tweaks, and moved forward. Instead, they made a big change that could result in a step back in 2023.
They misallocated valuable resources.
The Lions were one of the league’s fun stories in 2022. Even though they missed out on the playoffs, they looked like the fourth-best team in the NFC at the end of the regular season. This offseason was about building on that foundation, and on defense, it looks like they did that. The Lions made smart moves in free agency to upgrade their secondary, signing defensive backs Cam Sutton, Emmanuel Moseley, and C.J. Gardner-Johnson to reasonable deals.
On offense, their biggest offseason victory was retaining coordinator Ben Johnson, who directed the Lions to the fifth-best offense last season. But from a personnel standpoint, the Lions made questionable decisions, signing running back David Montgomery to a three-year, $18 million deal and spending the 12th overall pick on Alabama running back Jahmyr Gibbs. The Lions clearly think that the running back swap (they let Jamaal Williams walk in free agency and traded D’Andre Swift) will make a significant difference, but how likely is that?
From 2020 to 2022, 42 running backs had at least 300 carries. Here’s where Montgomery, Swift, and Williams ranked in yards per carry and rushing success rate among that group:
New Lion David Montgomery Vs. the RBs He Replaced
|Player||YPC Rank||Success Rate Rank|
|Player||YPC Rank||Success Rate Rank|
I have always liked Montgomery, but statistically, he has been one of the NFL’s least efficient backs. Maybe he will be a monster behind Detroit’s offensive line, but was that gamble worth $6 million per year? Couldn’t that money have been better spent elsewhere on the roster?
As for the Gibbs pick, the problem is threefold. One, the Lions showed that they were overconfident in their ability to evaluate talent. Gibbs was one of the biggest reaches in the first round, according to consensus board rankings. Two, we know that signing running backs to second contracts is almost always a bad idea, so the long-term upside of the pick is limited. And three, even if Gibbs is great, he’s not providing real surplus value. Because of the way rookie contracts are structured—player salaries are based on where they got picked—Gibbs is already the 18th-highest-paid running back in the NFL. The odds that he’ll outperform that ranking are low. When you hit on a wide receiver or an edge defender or a defensive tackle or a cornerback at 12, you get much greater value than you do with a running back.
I’m sure the Lions will tout the idea of Gibbs as a versatile offensive player and not just a running back, but that notion generally tends to be overrated. There were only two running backs in the NFL last year who ranked in the top 75 in receiving yards: Christian McCaffrey and Austin Ekeler.
The Lions are still positioned to be a very good team in 2023, but long term, it seems likely that they’ll look back at this offseason and wonder if they could’ve done more with the resources they had.
Green Bay Packers
They got a team-friendly deal at QB with Jordan Love.
Packers GM Brian Gutekunst did well in the Rodgers trade. He got a second-round pick in 2023 and a conditional 2024 second-round pick that turns into a first if Rodgers plays 65 percent of the snaps this season. Given that Rodgers will turn 40 in December and that there didn’t appear to be multiple suitors to drive up the price, that’s excellent compensation.
Gutekunst also got Rodgers’s replacement, 2020 first-round pick Love, to agree to a stunning one-year, $13.5 million extension. The Packers could have exercised the fifth-year option on Love, which would have been worth $20.27 million guaranteed in 2024, but they were apparently hesitant to do so. At that point, the decision should’ve been easy for Love: Play the year out and hit the open market next offseason. Instead, he locked himself into a low number for 2024.
“I’ve never seen anything like that,” said Fitzgerald. “You never hear of a player who bets against himself, and that’s a bet against yourself.”
If Love were to play reasonably well in 2023, he probably would’ve been in line for something in the neighborhood of the four-year, $160 million deal that Daniel Jones signed with the Giants. Even if Love performed like a below-average starter, some team would’ve likely taken a shot on him. Heinicke got a deal worth $7 million per year this offseason. Jarrett Stidham signed with the Broncos for $5 million per year. There’s pretty much always a market for quarterbacks.
“Now if he is successful, the Packers have this low salary baked in there that he has to honor,” said Fitzgerald. “The only way it works out for him that makes any sense at all is if he’s terrible. And I’ve never seen a player think that way.”
Maybe Love has a good reason that explains why he wanted the guaranteed money now in exchange for significantly limiting his earning upside after the season. But on the surface, it’s one of the most baffling decisions by a player this offseason. It’s also great news for the Packers—specifically if Love performs like an average starter in 2023.
Los Angeles Rams
They’re mostly setting themselves up for 2024.
Going all in worked well for the Rams. From 2017 to 2021, they produced the third-best record (55-26) in the NFL, made the playoffs four times, made the Super Bowl twice, and won a championship. That’s a period of sustained success that most organizations can only dream of. Last year’s Rams (5-12) stank. Matthew Stafford started nine games, Baker Mayfield four, John Wolford three, and Bryce Perkins one. They had the second-most injured team in the NFL and the most injured offense, according to Football Outsiders’ adjusted games lost metric.
So now what? As ace reporter Jourdan Rodrigue of The Athletic has chronicled, the Rams are attempting to be competitive in 2023 while also being disciplined so that they can be more aggressive next offseason. The Rams will roll with Stafford at quarterback. They have a couple of elite players in wide receiver Cooper Kupp, who signed a massive extension last year, and defensive tackle Aaron Donald. But overall, this is one of the weirdest rosters in the NFL, with huge questions at left tackle, edge rusher, and cornerback.
Sean McVay gives the Rams a relatively high floor on offense. They’ve finished in the top 10 in offensive DVOA four times in six seasons with him as the head coach. Even last year, which felt like a disaster because of the injuries and revolving door at QB, the Rams were a below-average offense (23rd) but not among the league’s worst. If Stafford and Kupp are healthy and some of the young offensive linemen develop, it’s possible that the Rams will produce an above-average offense in 2023.
For the first time in a while, the public is expecting the Rams to be bad. FanDuel has their over/under for wins at 6.5, which is tied for second lowest in the NFL. If things get really bad, the Rams will likely start to consider a future without Stafford, Kupp, and/or Donald. But if the offense shows signs of life early, there’s a scenario in which McVay and Co. bump up short-term expectations and quickly talk themselves into a playoff berth.
There is no plan yet post–Kirk Cousins.
Last year, they were the flukiest 13-win team in NFL history. The Vikings ranked 27th in DVOA and went 9-0 in the regular season in games decided by seven points or fewer. The offense ranked 20th in efficiency—its lowest ranking since Cousins became the starter in 2018. Outside of releasing veteran receiver Adam Thielen and drafting USC wide receiver Jordan Addison in the first round, the Vikings made few changes to the offensive roster and are ready to run it back with largely the same group in 2023.
Defensively, the Vikings signed pass rusher Marcus Davenport and cornerback Byron Murphy Jr. in free agency. They also replaced coordinator Ed Donatell with Brian Flores after last year’s disappointing performance.
The 2023 Vikings profile as a competitive but unspectacular team. Could they win the NFC North or sneak into the playoffs as a wild card? Sure. Do they have a high ceiling? Not really. The biggest issue facing Minnesota is its future at quarterback. Cousins turns 35 in August, and his deal voids after 2023. Ideally, the Vikings would have a young replacement lined up, but they had limited resources and did not make a serious QB move this offseason.
The Vikings are unlikely to be bad enough to draft high in 2024. They’re unlikely to be good enough to want to stick with Cousins. For now, the plan seems to be to win as many games as possible in 2023 and then figure the rest out. But Minnesota is in danger of staying stuck in the NFL’s middle class.
New Orleans Saints
They’re not changing how they do business.
The Saints operate with the same philosophy every year, even in a post–Sean Payton and Drew Brees world: How can we be the most competitive team possible this season? This offseason, that meant signing quarterback Derek Carr to a four-year, $150 million deal. The deal includes $60 million fully guaranteed and is essentially a two-year commitment.
“They just keep trying to plug all these holes every year by voiding contracts out, pushing as much money as they can into the future, and hoping that one day the salary cap rises by like $80 million in one year to fix the situation they’re in,” said Fitzgerald. “It’s another one where they’re just buying in every year to be like a seven-win team and push more problems into the future. I can’t see how anything there [gives] any type of long-term hope for the team, other than the fact that it’s a bad division. So maybe in the short run you can get into the playoffs with eight wins.”
What kind of play can the Saints expect from Carr? Over the last three years, 36 quarterbacks have had at least 600 dropbacks. Among that group, Carr ranks 11th in EPA per pass play. If his supporting cast holds up, Carr can perform like a top-10 quarterback. If it doesn’t, he’s more likely to resemble a mediocre to below-average starter. The Saints are relying on wide receiver Chris Olave but otherwise have a bunch of question marks in the receiver group. Wide receiver Michael Thomas is the projected no. 2, but he’s appeared in just three games over the past two seasons. Carr should have a solid offensive line in front of him.
Defensively, the Saints finished eighth in DVOA last year, but they lost players like defensive tackle David Onyemata, linebacker Kaden Elliss, and pass rusher Marcus Davenport in free agency.
After last year’s 7-10 campaign, Dennis Allen is now 15-38 (.283 winning percentage) as a head coach. Working in his favor is that the Saints have the NFL’s easiest projected schedule, and Carr is the most proven quarterback in the division. FanDuel has the Saints as the favorites in the NFC South. They profile as a competitive team that could make the playoffs, but New Orleans has no real long-term plan for sustained success in the future.
New York Giants
They’re taking a gamble on Daniel Jones’s upside.
The Giants had the option of using the franchise tag to buy a year with Daniel Jones this offseason, but instead, they signed him to a four-year, $160 million deal with $82 million fully guaranteed.
“I hated that contract,” Fitzgerald said. “I didn’t think it made any sense for the Giants at all. The franchise tag is made for a player like Daniel Jones.”
From 2019 to 2021, 38 quarterbacks had at least 600 dropbacks. Jones ranked 35th in that group in EPA per pass play. Head coach Brian Daboll and general manager Joe Schoen, who took over in 2022, apparently thought that the film backed up the numbers, because the Giants didn’t pick up Jones’s fifth-year option last offseason.
But their opinions changed quite a bit in a year. Daboll leaned on Jones as a runner and didn’t ask him to do too much in the passing game. Jones’s average pass traveled 6.3 yards—the lowest mark for any starter. The recipe worked. Jones finished 12th in EPA per pass play, and the Giants ranked 10th in offensive DVOA.
What the Giants told us by giving Jones that deal in March was that they believe Jones still has untapped upside. On an average-annual-value basis, Jones is tied for ninth among quarterbacks (that will probably bump down to a tie for 11th if Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert sign new deals this offseason). If Jones performs in that nine-to-11 range among starting quarterbacks, the contract is fine. But if he looks more like the player we saw from 2019 to 2021, the contract is a disaster.
The surprising part is that the Giants could’ve easily bought a year before making such a big commitment to the quarterback, but they chose not to do so. Instead, they used the tag on running back Saquon Barkley. They traded for tight end Darren Waller and spent a third-round pick on speedy wide receiver Jalin Hyatt. There’s no doubt that the talent around Jones is better. The question is: How much of a difference will that make in his performance? With their actions, the Giants are banking on Jones making another leap in 2023.
They made a huge commitment to Jalen Hurts.
The Eagles have a history of doing no-fuss quarterback deals early when they’re sold on a guy. But even with that history, Fitzgerald was surprised by the structure of the five-year, $255 million extension Hurts signed last month, saying it’s the most aggressive one he has ever seen.
“I just thought it was a really aggressive contract structure in there that almost forces you to extend him again four years from now even if he’s not a great player,” Fitzgerald said. “Almost like a Joe Flacco situation with Baltimore, where, years ago, they got forced into doing another extension with him simply because of the way his contract is structured.”
The Eagles used void years at the end of Hurts’s contract. That keeps the cap hits in the short term relatively low so that they can build out the rest of the roster, but it sets up potential challenges down the road if things don’t work out with Hurts.
“This kind of sets up for him to dictate when he gets another extension,” Fitzgerald said. “It just doesn’t leave you that kind of flexibility. It’s almost like you’re buying into a guy for 10 years. If you’re gonna buy into him for 10 years, figure out a way to just do a 10-year contract. Have it in today’s dollars, rather than have five years at the top of the market now and then, three or four years from now, having to go back and be at the top of the market again.”
Hurts is set up to succeed in 2023—the Eagles return nine of 11 starters on offense—but the team’s depth will likely be tested more than it was last year. The Eagles were the third-healthiest team in the NFL in 2022, according to Football Outsiders’ AGL metric. They also had the league’s easiest schedule.
In the short term, the Eagles hope to get back to the Super Bowl. In the long term, it’s about getting as many shots as possible with Hurts as their QB.
San Francisco 49ers
They’re comfortable with an unsettled QB situation.
The 49ers are second in NFC Super Bowl odds, and we don’t even know who their starting quarterback will be in Week 1. I guess that’s the Kyle Shanahan effect.
Brock Purdy had elbow surgery in March, and it’s unclear when he’ll be able to begin throwing. Shanahan and general manager John Lynch have said that Purdy showed enough in eight starts last season to go into 2023 as The Guy, assuming he’s healthy.
In the meantime, Sam Darnold and Trey Lance are expected to split reps during offseason workouts and minicamp. There’s no denying that Shanahan is a special offensive coach who can do more with less, but he’s not a miracle worker. Quarterback injuries have slowed down the 49ers offense in the past. Shanahan’s been the coach for six years, and in three of those seasons (2017, 2018, and 2020), the team has been below average in offensive DVOA, largely due to quarterback injury issues.
The supporting cast around whoever is playing quarterback this year will be strong. On the other side of the ball, the 49ers signed defensive tackle Javon Hargrave to bolster an already-strong pass rush.
Despite the unsettled QB situation, the 49ers are still among the most talented teams in the NFC and should be included on any short list of contenders.
They continued an impressive two-year rebuild.
At this time last year, I thought the Seahawks had one of the worst rosters in the league. They seemed destined to feel some pain in the post–Russell Wilson era before getting back on their feet.
Behind quarterback Geno Smith and an impressive rookie class, the Seahawks went 9-8 and made the playoffs. Their rookies played more snaps than any other class in the NFL. This offseason, the Seahawks found a fair middle ground with Smith, signing him to a three-year, $75 million deal with $25 million guaranteed. If Smith plays well again, he’ll see a big payday. If he doesn’t, the Seahawks can move on and explore other options after the season.
Seattle used first-round picks on cornerback Devon Witherspoon and wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba. With D.K. Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, and Smith-Njigba, Smith is set up for success.
The infrastructure is strong in Seattle. In 13 years with head coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider, the team has made the playoffs 10 times with three different starting quarterbacks.
It’s possible that the Seahawks’ young players will improve, and the team will emerge as a contender in the NFC. It’s also possible that Smith will regress, and they’ll take a step back. But either way, the Seahawks have set themselves up with optionality and are building the right way.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
They’re waiting until next year to find a QB solution.
The Bucs have mostly sunk into irrelevance in their first post–Tom Brady offseason. They signed quarterback Baker Mayfield and will roll with him and Kyle Trask in 2023. That’s unlikely to go well.
It’s easy to forget now, but the Buccaneers were a complete dumpster fire before Brady got there. They failed to make the playoffs for 12 straight seasons from 2008 to 2019. In other words, this is not an organization that deserves the benefit of the doubt just because Brady gave them a lift for a few years.
The Bucs still have plenty of talented players on the roster—left tackle Tristan Wirfs, wide receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, defensive tackle Vita Vea, cornerback Carlton Davis, and others—but it’s hard to imagine Tampa overcoming its shaky QB situation. It also doesn’t help that Todd Bowles did little to give the Bucs an edge in his first season as their head coach.
FanDuel has the Bucs tied for the fourth-worst Super Bowl odds. While NFL teams don’t outright tank seasons, being bad in 2023 might be the best thing for the Bucs if it means a high draft pick and a chance at either USC’s Caleb Williams or North Carolina’s Drake Maye. If the team is mediocre but the quarterback play is bad, the Bucs could opt against a rebuild and try to acquire a veteran (Kyler Murray?) next offseason.
For now, it feels like the Bucs are catching their breath, buying a year, and making plans for 2024.
Their ownership nightmare is close to being over.
There’s nothing worse as a sports fan than horrible ownership. Disappointing players, coaches, and general managers come and go. But a bad owner extinguishes all hope. And when it’s someone as heinous as Daniel Snyder, it’s impossible to find a light at the end of the tunnel.
The sale of the Commanders isn’t yet final, but fans can finally look toward a brighter future without Snyder. It’s a day many of them probably feared might not come in their lifetimes.
As for this season? Well, there’s not a whole lot to get excited about on the field. The Commanders were ninth in defensive DVOA last year, and that’ll be the strength of the team once again in 2023. Offensively, the Commanders are expected to have a lackluster QB competition between Jacoby Brissett and Sam Howell. Their supporting cast is fine but unspectacular.
The team has gone 7-9, 7-10, and 8-8-1 in three seasons under Ron Rivera. The 2023 team seems likely to produce similar results. But for the first time since Snyder bought the team in 1999, the organization at least has a chance going forward. And for fans, that possibility is worth celebrating.