2023 Free Agency Recap

Now that free agency is more or less finished, I wanted to go back and take a look at what teams added and lost the most this offseason and how much things have changed for teams when it comes to future cap considerations. For this analysis I will look at all contracts that have an annual value of at least $1.08 million per year and only includes players that were on a roster at the end of 2022 (practice squad included). The numbers also include trades along with free agent signings. Contracts include players signed through the 29th of March so it will not include the most recent signings like Calais Campbell. Also note that for roster losses we are only including players who signed with other teams not outstanding free agents who remain unsigned.

2023 Additions

Teams added, on average, $31.7 million per year in contract value. The median addition was $30.2 million.  Not surprisingly the team that added the most was the Chicago Bears. The Bears came into the offseason with nearly $100 million in cap room for the year and added nearly $75 million in ontract value.

Following the Bears were the Broncos who went on a big spending spree and wound up adding $64.2 million per year in contracts to the team. The Texans and Raiders were neck and neck for 3rd and 4th place with $63.9 million and $63.4 million respectively added to the team.  Both also led the NFL in total players added at 16, five more than the next closest team, so they were adding a number of lower cost players. This has been a trend for the last three years for the Texans and looks to be one for the Raiders as well.

The Falcons are at $56.7 million and counting. At an average cost of $7.071 million per player they were the team that had the highest average per player. While I would not say they swung for the fences they certainly were taking an approach much different than Houston.

The most surprising team was the cap starved Saints who deferred as much as they could to the future to add $55 million in contracts to the team. While a large portion of that is attributed to Derek Carr they still continued to add to their team in hopes of competing for the playoffs.

On the other end of the spectrum there were six teams that added under $10 million of talent. The Bucs only added $8.7 million which was pretty much expected as their salary cap was wrecked from running it back two times following their Super Bowl win in 2020. The Chargers just added one player, linebacker Eric Kendricks, at $6.625 million. This was a bit surprising for a team that clearly is all in on 2023.

The Jaguars went on a massive spending spree in 2022, but in 2023 not so much with just $3.4 million added to the team. The Ravens are mainly in limbo because of their contract dispute with Lamar Jackson as their only gain was WR Nelson Agholor at $3.25 million. Speaking of teams in limbo, the Packers added a grand total of $2.355 million in talent to the team.

Finally we had the Rams who added nobody in free agency but they did bring in Hunter Long as a throw in on the Jalen Ramsey trade. His contract averages $1.24 million a year so technically he qualified, but realistically this team added $0 to the team this year. I’m not sure if that has ever happened before. It probably has but it’s a rough offseason for Rams fans hoping for some help.

Roster Losses

The team that was picked apart the most were the 49ers who lost 12 players this year at a total of $84.845 million in annual contract value. While over $20 million of that is attributed to Jimmy Garoppolo, they did have a tighter cap situation this year and were very targeted in who they decided to acquire and had to let many of the depth leave here.

The Eagles were next with $74.8 million in talent losses across 10 players. They did not have a starting QB leave the team so this was arguably the most impactful group of major losses teamwide. The Raiders were 3rd with $69.6 million in losses though that includes Derek Carr who they did not want back at all so they probably don’t look at it as meaningful.

The Chiefs lost 10 players at a total of $52.4 million and they were followed by the Saints who were basically reshuffling the chairs on the deck as they lost $50.8 million in talent. The final team to lose at least $50 million in annual contract value were the Rams who re-signed almost nobody.

The Chargers were the only team with less than $10 million in losses as they lost just $3 million in contract value. Seattle was next at $10.3 million, followed by the Falcons at $12.8 million and the Bears, Giants, and Dolphins around between $13 and $15 million each.  

Net Changes

When we get into our net changes we can get a better idea of the teams that on paper should be significantly better and those who may be worse. The Bears top the list with a net gain of $61.4M on the season, nearly $20 million more than the next closest team which was the Falcons at $43.8 million. The Texans and Broncos remain in the top 5 at $34.8 and $30.1 million, but the changes come after that with the Seahawks, Giants, and Dolphins replacing the teams like the Saints and Raiders that both added and lost a lot on the year.

The Eagles were a massive loser on the year dropping $62.4 million in contract value overall. While they were able to retain some players it certainly played out like we assumed with the 2022 team basically being a WYSIWYG kind of roster for at least one more season. The Rams had a net loss of $48.9 million followed closely by the 49ers at $46.7M.

Obviously these three teams view themselves very differently with the Rams voluntarily just tearing it apart while the other two believe they should be competitive. If I had to guess I would say the 49ers view the bigger addition of Javon Hargrave as more meaningful than the smaller multiple losses while the Eagles will believe that their core is intact and that they can fill out their losses in the draft.

The Jaguars, Ravens, and Packers are the other teams with at least $20 million in net losses in the offseason. The Jaguars are interesting because they still have the Trevor Lawrence rookie window but my opinion of free agency is that you essentially operate in two year windows in free agency and when you go as crazy as the Jaguars did in 2022 that really eliminates the chance to go back into it in 2023. The Packers are clearing things out after their Rodgers extension mistake and the Ravens are going to get criticized no matter what the outcome is this year.

Here is the summary data for the free agent gains and losses.

TeamGainedAPY GainedLostAPY LostNet APY Change

Impact on 2024

There are a number of different ways to look at decisions made this year and how they impact 2024. For example the Falcons had the largest net change in cap position by adding over $98 million in chargers to the 2024 salary cap and were 3rd in the NFL with a net gain of $24.5 million in prorated charges next year, but despite all of that they rank 15th in the NFL in projected cap room.

The teams that really fit the “all in” framework for 2023 are those who added significant charge to 2024 and are not in a great salary cap position. The top team is the Saints in that regard. They are 32nd in the NFL in projected cap room, saw their cap get about $82 million worse than it was at the start of free agency and added over $30 million in prorated charges to 2024 already. Those were both 2nd in the NFL.

The Dolphins are about $10 million over the 2024 cap and added $76 million in cap charges to 2024. They were 11th in prorated charges added at $16.5 million but that number is actually worse if we factor in the dead money from the June 1 cuts. I didn’t do that here since it only impacts a few teams so far.

Denver is just $4 million under and they added $80 million in cap charges and about $16 million in net prorated bonus money gains. The Chargers are going to fall into this group as well. They are 30th in the NFL in projected cap room and added a massive $39.87 million in prorated charges to their 2024 salary cap. Overall they added $59 million in cap charges to 2024 which is incredible considering they signed just one player in 2023. They are all in with the same team that lost in the wildcard round. Typically that is not a formula for success so they really need the draft to be a massive hit.

The two teams with the biggest focus away from 2023 and mainly on 2024 are the Rams and the Titans. The Rams improved their salary cap position by $58 million and shed over $12 million in prorated money from 2024. They are up to 18th in the NFL in projected cap space with $55 million and should be open to more dealing during the season.

The Titans shaved $28.5 million and are doing a rebuild that should have started last year. They are 3rd in the NFL in projected 2024 cap room with $128 million and should take any and every phone call for Derrick Henry and Ryan Tannehill from now until the trading deadline.

Here is a graph illustrating the changes and a table with the data.

TeamNet Cap IncreaseNet Prorated Increase2024 Est. Cap Space