While we’re unlikely to see as many big deals this time around, multiple quarterbacks could be on the block. There’s also a ton of intrigue at the top of the 2023 NFL Draft with the Chicago Bears willing to move off the No. 1 pick.
Meanwhile, some big-name players are set to hit free agency once the new calendar year opens in March. Here, we provide you with 10 bold predictions for the NFL offseason now that the Kansas City Chiefs have won the Super Bowl.
Related: Top 2023 NFL free agents
Brandon Aiyuk traded to the New York Giants
Let’s look at it from this perspective. San Francisco has some of the highest-paid players in the NFL at specific positions. This list includes left tackle (Trent Williams), tight end (George Kittle), running back (Christian McCaffrey) and wide receiver (Deebo Samuel) on offense.
The 49ers are going to have to make a decision on Aiyuk’s fifth-year option for the 2024 season this spring. Said option will be valued at $14.1 million. With reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year Nick Bosa in line for a record-breaking extension during the NFL offseason, it really does become a numbers game for the 49ers.
- Brandon Aiyuk stats (2022): 78 receptions, 1,015 yards, 8 TD, 68.4% catch rate
In this scenario, San Francisco moves off the young Aiyuk in a trade with the receiver-needy Giants. New York saw former 49ers wide receiver Richie James lead the team in catches from that position with a mere 57 this past season.
Giants’ general manager Joe Schoen offers up their first-round pick (25th overall) and a third rounder to get this done. It’s similar to what the Philadelphia Eagles gave up for A.J. Brown last offseason. See how that worked out?
Saquon Barkley lands with the Buffalo Bills
Speaking of the Giants, they have two big-name free agents set to hit NFL free agency in that of Barkley and quarterback Daniel Jones. At this point, it seems that New York’s brass is placing a bigger point of emphasis to retain Jones. This could very well force New York into letting Barkley hit the open market rather than place the franchise tag on the Pro Bowl running back. Said tag is projected to cost north of $10 million.
- Saquon Barkley stats (2022): 295 attempts, 1,312 rushing yards, 57 receptions, 338 yards, 1,650 total yards, 10 TD
In this scenario, the Buffalo Bills dole out top-five running back money for Barkley to help create balance on offense for star quarterback Josh Allen. It was a major issue for Buffalo as the team experienced a premature exit in the AFC Divisional Playoffs against the Cincinnati Bengals last season.
Currently an estimated $20.5 million over the 2023 salary cap, Buffalo is going to have to cut fat off its roster to make a move of this ilk. Restructuring the likes of Allen, Stefon Diggs and Von Miller would be more than enough to sign Barkley.
Seattle Seahawks trade up for 1st pick in 2023 NFL Draft
Seattle has a decision to make at quarterback during the NFL offseason. Does the team retain reigning NFL Comeback Player of the Year Geno Smith or opt to go in another direction? As of right now, Smith’s market is said to be roughly $35 million annually. That could be a high price to pay for someone many consider to be a one-year wonder.
- Geno Smith’s stats (2013-21): 59% completion, 6,917 yards, 34 TD, 37 INT, 75.7 QB rating
In this scenario, general manager John Schneider and Co. utilize the extra picks they acquired in the Russell Wilson trade from last NFL offseason to trade up to the No. 1 pick for Alabama’s Bryce Young. Chicago acquires the fifth and 20th picks in the 2023 NFL Draft, a first-round pick in 2024 and either a player or another mid-round selection to trade down with Seattle.
Jimmy Garoppolo heads back to the New England Patriots
Imagine the narratives surrounding this move. It was just over a half-decade ago that New England reluctantly traded Garoppolo to the San Francisco 49ers. It’s a move head coach and quasi general manager Bill Belichick did not want to make. Now that the Pats are in a different situation with Tom Brady years removed from playing in New England and retired from the league, things have changed drastically.
New England has missed the playoffs two of the past three seasons. Belichick himself doesn’t seem to be too happy with struggling young quarterback Mac Jones.
“I do think he was a little bit in the proverbial ‘doghouse’ with Belichick a little bit. I was told that he was calling around and trying to ask, ‘Hey, we need some ideas for the offense.’ And word got back to Bill and that was why he was in the doghouse a little bit,” NBC Sports’ Chris Simms.
A Garoppolo reunion with New England during the NFL offseason makes sense for numerous reasons. Despite his limited upside and injury history, Garoppolo has proven he can win consistently (40-17 career record as a starter). With Bill O’Brien also returning to New England as its offensive coordinator, Garoppolo would be a great scheme fit. Meanwhile, the Pats could end their experiment with Jones by dealing him to another team and receiving draft pick compensation back.
Daniel Jones gets $40 million per season in NFL free agency
New York does not want to place the franchise tag on Jones. For good reason. The cost would come in at an absurd $32.42 million against the Giants’ cap for the 2023 season alone. That could be too prohibitive for a team that’s looking to build off a surprising playoff appearance this past season.
What we do know is that those around the league believe Jones’ next contract will start at $40 million per season. It would be a high price for the Giants to pay. But they don’t have a ton of choices after he played extremely well under reigning NFL Coach of the Year Brian Daboll in 2022.
- Daniel Jones stats (2022): 67% completion, 3,205 passing yards, 708 rushing yards, 22 total TD, 5 INT, 92.5 QB rating
A new deal at $40 million annually would actually be cheaper short-term than placing the tag on Jones. New York could push back the large financial hits to latter years as the NFL salary cap continues to increase. In fact, New York could structure this in a way that Jones’ cap hit in 2023 is nothing more than $10 million or so — giving the team a ton of flexibility to add more talent.
New York Jets trade up to the 2nd pick in the 2023 NFL Draft
It stands to reason that the Houston Texans will stand pat at two, guaranteeing themselves either Bryce Young or C.J. Stroud. With that said, we could also be looking at an NFL offseason that has not happened since back in 2016 when the top-two picks in the draft were traded. Houston could very well come to the conclusion that there’s better options a bit lower in the top-10.
That’s where the Jets would come into play. We know they’re looking for a franchise guy to replace the struggling Zach Wilson. While New York has been linked to Aaron Rodgers on the trade block, acquiring a higher-upside youngster via a trade up could make a ton of sense. That’s where Stroud would likely come into play.
- C.J. Stroud stats (2022): 66% completion, 3,688 yards, 41 TD, 6 INT
New York could entice Houston with the aforementioned Wilson, the 13th pick, a second-round selection and a first rounder in the 2024 NFL Draft. This would give Houston the 12th and 13th selections in April’s draft and a potential franchise guy in Wilson who could use a change of scenery.
Related: Sportsnaut’s 2023 NFL mock draft
Aaron Rodgers traded to the Las Vegas Raiders
As Rodgers enters his so-called “darkness retreat” to contemplate his future, the four-time NFL MVP provided an interesting quote on The Pat McAfee Show. He pretty much talked about his 18-year run with Green Bay in the past tense. Whether this means Rodgers simply retires or goes to another team remains to be seen.
What we do know is that rumors have linked the future first ballot Hall of Famer to a divorce with the Packers on a never-ending loop. He continues to be linked to teams such as the Las Vegas Raiders and New York Jets with former teammate Davante Adams ready to roll out the red carpet in Sin City.
Rodgers can dictate where he goes via a trade. The three-year, $150.82 million extension he signed with Green Bay during the 2022 NFL offseason includes a dead cap hit of nearly $100 million for 2023 should he be traded. That’s not going to work from a financial standpoint for Green Bay.
Instead, we boldly predict that Rodgers heads to the Raiders in an absolute blockbuster. The deal would include two first-round picks and players heading back to the Packers as they roll with former first-round pick Jordan Love under center. As for Vegas, the team is obviously going big-game hunting at quarterback after opting to move off Derek Carr. Rodgers doing his thing right off the Vegas Strip would be all sorts of fun.
Five quarterbacks go in first round of the 2023 NFL Draft
While we’re not going to see a generational quarterback selected at the top of the 2023 NFL Draft, there’s a number of potential franchise guys. The list starts with former Heisman winner Bryce Young from Alabama and Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud. Both should go within the first five picks with Young likely off the board at No. 1 after the Chicago Bears trade down from that slot.
It gets interesting after this with the likes of Will Levis (Kentucky) and Anthony Richardson (Florida) likely seen as first-round picks during the early stages of the NFL offseason. With as many as 12 teams potentially set to look for upgrades at quarterback, it wouldn’t be a surprise to us if a fifth quarterback slipped into Day 1.
The obvious choice here would be Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker. The former Volunteers star was in the midst of a breakout 2022 campaign before suffering a season-ending injury. In fact, an argument could be made that he was the Heisman favorite before suffering a torn ACL.
- Hendon Hooker stats (2022): 70% completion, 3,135 passing yards, 430 rushing yards, 32 total TD, 2 INT
A team picking in the back end of Round 1 such as the Minnesota Vikings or New Orleans Saints could use a potential quarterback of the future. We also wouldn’t be surprised if a number of teams currently slated to pick at the top of the second round engaged in trade up talks for Hooker. That list includes the Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts and Los Angeles Rams, among others.
Washington Commanders move on from Chase Young
Washington has a decision to make on Young’s 2024 option. If the team opts to pick it up, the cost would be a whopping $17.45 million. As of right now, the Commanders have not made a decision on the option.
Given the injury issues Young has dealt with over the past two seasons and the reported rift between the former No. 2 pick and his organization, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Washington considered a trade.
Young has played in a combined 12 games over the past two seasons due to a torn ACL, recording a mere five quarterback hits and 1.5 sacks. This comes after he earned NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year honors back in 2020.
Washington could opt to get some value for Young instead of paying out that huge sum in 2024. In return, another team takes a chance that the former Ohio State edge rusher can return to pre-injury form. It would be among the most-surprising trades of the NFL offseason.
Related: NFL offseason trade rumors
Blockbuster Lamar Jackson trade
Baltimore will have to make a decision on Jackson’s franchise tag here soon. The team could place the non-exclusive tag on Jackson, enabling another organization to send two first-round picks to the Ravens by signing him. General manager Eric DeCosta could also hand the former NFL MVP the exclusive tag, paying him a whopping $45.46 million against the cap in 2023.
The backdrop here includes contentious contract talks between Jackson and the Ravens dating back more than a calendar year. Right now, they are reportedly $100 million apart in guaranteed money. That’s not something that can be mended in short order.
Lamar Jackson career stats: 64% completion, 12,209 passing yards, 4,437 rushing yards, 125 total TD, 38 INT, 96.7 QB rating
We’ve read rumors about several teams potentially being in on Jackson if Baltimore were to trade him. We’ve also seen reports that he could very well be moved after having the franchise tag placed on him. It would be similar to the Davante Adams situation with the Green Bay Packers before he was traded in an NFL offseason blockbuster last spring.
We’re going to boldly predict that the Seattle Seahawks land Jackson in a blockbuster trade. It would include both of their first-round picks (5th overall and 20th overall), a second rounder (38th overall), future first-round pick and more compensation.
Seattle lands an heir-apparent to Russell Wilson after trading him last offseason. After all, it seems to be a stretch to believe that general manager John Schneider and Co. would invest the asking price of $35-plus million annually on a potential one-year wonder in that of Geno Smith.
From the Ravens’ perspective, they would be set up well to land a potential franchise quarterback in the 2023 NFL Draft while going the stopgap route via a trade or free agency. The team is built to compete right now. Acquiring someone like Jimmy Garoppolo to hold down the fort while building for the future could be in the cards.
This article was originally published on Sportsnaut.com and is republished here with permission.