NFL Teams Poised to Be Major Offseason Players Following the 2022 Trade Deadline

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxCorrespondent INovember 5, 2022

NFL Teams Poised to Be Major Offseason Players Following the 2022 Trade Deadline

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    Patriots HC Bill Belichick and franchise owner Robert Kraft.
    Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

    The 2022 NFL trade deadline came and went on Tuesday, and as expected, some teams dealt key players in order to improve their future draft and cap capital.

    The Denver Broncos, for example, got a 2023 first-round pick, a 2024 fourth-round pick and running back Chase Edmonds from the Miami Dolphins for pass-rusher Bradley Chubb and a 2025 fifth-rounder.

    The Chicago Bears traded off pass-rusher Robert Quinn and linebacker Roquan Smith to the Philadelphia Eagles and Baltimore Ravens, respectively. Chicago got back a 2023 fourth-round selection for Quinn and received 2023 second- and fifth-round picks in the Smith trade, along with linebacker A.J. Klein.

    Chicago also heads into 2023 with a league-high $114.5 million in projected cap space. While loading up on draft picks and cap room doesn't guarantee a fast or successful rebuild—the 2-6 Jacksonville Jaguars have had four first-round picks and two No. 1 overall selections over the past two years—the Bears should be major players in the draft and in free agency next spring.

    Which other teams are poised to control the free-agent and draft markets at this year's midpoint? That's what we're here to examine. First, though, let's take a quick look at next offseasons potential top targets.

    Teams are listed in alphabetical order.

Free Agency and Draft Primer

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    Chiefs LT Orlando Brown Jr.
    Icon Sportswire

    Next offseason could be a great one for teams loaded with cap space. Our early free-agent big board is littered with high-end talents like quarterback Tom Brady, offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr., safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson, cornerback James Bradberry and running back Saquon Barkley.

    Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson is also slated to become a free agent, though it will be a major shock if Baltimore actually lets him reach the market. Smith will be a free agent as well, though the Ravens presumably have plans to extend him after acquiring him from Chicago.

    The Dolphins have signed Chubb to a five-year, $110 million extension just days after acquiring him from Denver.

    Hypothetically, a team like Chicago could completely reload its roster by adding the likes of Brown, Bradberry, Barkley, defensive tackle Javon Hargrave and wideout JuJu Smith-Schuster well before the draft.

    And the 2023 draft is an enticing one, too. Quarterback-needy teams will be eyeing prospects like Ohio State's C.J. Stroud, Alabama's Bryce Young and Kentucky's Will Levis—and those might not even be the top overall prospects.

    The Bleacher Report Scouting Department recently published its early Top 100 list, which is headlined by Alabama edge-rusher Will Anderson Jr., Georgia defensive lineman Jalen Carter, Clemson edge-rusher Myles Murphy and Texas running back Bijan Robinson.

    It's shaping up to be another stellar draft class, and teams with multiple high picks could come out of it as big winners.

Atlanta Falcons

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    Falcons GM Terry Fontenot
    Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    The Atlanta Falcons have been surprisingly competitive this year, considering they have a placeholder quarterback in Marcus Mariota and won just seven games in 2021. The Falcons sit at 4-4 and in first place in the NFC South.

    What's interesting is that Atlanta has the cap capital to get substantially better in 2023. The Falcons rank second behind Chicago with $68.7 million in projected cap space.

    The Falcons also have a little extra draft capital after dealing suspended receiver Calvin Ridley to the Jacksonville Jaguars. The NFL gave Ridley an indefinite suspension for betting on games last year, but Atlanta was still able to pry some conditional picks from the Jaguars.

    The Jaguars traded a 2023 fifth-round pick and a conditional 2024 fourth-round pick that, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter, could become as high as a 2024 second-rounder if certain conditions are met.

    While the extra fifth-rounder is nice, the Falcons are poised to be players because of their cap space. Atlanta is good enough to compete now, and if it could bolster its 31st-ranked defense with free agents like Gardner-Johnson, Bradberry and pass-rusher Yannick Ngakoue, it could be a force in the NFC.

Chicago Bears

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    Bears GM Ryan Poles
    Michael Reaves/Getty Images

    While the Bears did add former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Chase Claypool at the deadline, it's hard to argue that they're better than they were with both Quinn and Smith on the roster. Of course, Bears general manager Ryan Poles is looking to play the long game.

    Quinn is 32 years old, and Chicago's inability to get a long-term contract done with Smith was a deciding factor.

    "There's a part of me that’s bummed because this was a guy that I thought was going to be here for a long time," Poles said, per ProFootballTalk's Michael David Smith. "I felt like we put a lot of effort forward to get that done. We came up short, we couldn't find common ground, and that’s just a part of this business, which I think we all understand."

    Poles will head into the offseason armed with the league's high-water mark in terms of cap space. With an extra fourth-round selection, he'll also have five picks in the first four rounds with which to work.

    Presumably, the Bears' plan is to continue building around 23-year-old quarterback Justin Fields. Going after players like Brown, versatile lineman Elgton Jenkins and tight end Dalton Schultz could do a ton to upgrade Fields' supporting cast.

Detroit Lions

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    Lions GM Brad Holmes
    AP Photo/Michael Conroy

    The Detroit Lions have $24 million in projected cap space for 2023, which isn't an overwhelming amount. What the Lions have a surplus of, though, is draft capital.

    The Lions gained a ton in last year's Matthew Stafford trade. At the deadline, they added a 2023 second-round pick and a 2024 third-round pick by sending tight end T.J. Hockenson, a 2023 fourth-round pick and a 2024 conditional fourth-round pick to the Minnesota Vikings.

    Hockenson is a Pro Bowl-caliber tight end, but the move made sense, according to general manager Brad Holmes.

    "If our record was reversed and it made sense for us, then we would have still done it," Holmes said, per Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press.

    The Lions will now kick off the draft with two first-round picks, two second-round picks and a third-rounder. They're also on pace to earn the top overall selection in the 2023 draft. If Detroit is eager to replace Jared Goff with a prospect like Stroud or Young, it should have little trouble doing so.

    The Lions might even be able to land a top prospect like Anderson and still get a quarterback of the future in Round 1. And that's after a foray into free agency, where the Lions have enough cap space to add a marquee player or two to the roster.

    Expect plenty of other teams to be watching Holmes and the Lions in the offseason.

Houston Texans

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    Texans GM Nick Caserio
    Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    The Houston Texans actually have less cap space than one team that didn't make our list, the New York Giants. While the Giants have $53.4 million in projected cap space, they also have some tough decisions to make regarding Barkley and quarterback Daniel Jones—both impending free agents.

    What Houston possesses that New York doesn't is a load of draft capital. Houston has two picks in the first- and third-rounds thanks to the Deshaun Watson trade.

    If the Texans are looking to move on from Davis Mills and find their next quarterback of the future in the 2023 draft, they should have the ammunition needed to go up and get their guy.

    Like Detroit, Houston could be a team to watch on the trade market leading up to the draft's opening night. A pre-draft trade could involve wideout Brandin Cooks, who was not traded before the deadline.

    "Cooks has missed practice for what the team has described as personal reasons," Schefter tweeted on Thursday. "He had hoped to be traded to a playoff contender."

    Of course, the Texans do have their fair share of projected cap space, $46.9 million to be exact. Houston doesn't have any true cornerstone players scheduled to hit the open market. That's a disappointing fact for the franchise but one that could make the Texans big spenders when free agency opens on March 15.

New England Patriots

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    Patriots HC Bill Belichick
    AP Photo/Charles Krupa

    The New England Patriots weren't particularly active this past offseason. In 2021, however, New England was the big player in free agency. That offseason, the Patriots went on a spending spree, adding the likes of Matt Judon, Nelson Agholor, Hunter Henry, Jonnu Smith, Jalen Mills and Davon Godchaux.

    In 2021, New England's record improved by three wins from the previous season, and the Patriots made the playoffs.

    There's a chance that we see New England go on a similar spending spree in 2023.

    The Patriots have the third-most projected cap space in the NFL, behind Chicago and Atlanta. Armed with $54.3 million in cap room, head coach Bill Belichick and director of player personnel Matt Groh could theoretically chase some of the market's biggest names once again.

    New England does have five picks in the first four rounds—thanks in part to last year's Sony Michel trade—but its presence on this list is all about the cap space.

    Based on what we saw the last time the Patriots went into an offseason cap-rich, it should surprise no one if they go after the players like Brown, Bradberry, pass-rusher Marcus Davenport and defensive tackle Poona Ford on the open market.

Philadelphia Eagles

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    Eagles GM Howie Roseman
    AP Photo/Chris Szagola

    With only $12.3 million in projected cap space, the Eagles have less financial flexibility than any other team on this list. There are two big reasons, however, why Philadelphia could be a decidedly active franchise in free agency.

    The first is that general manager Howie Roseman is usually eager to find deals that can benefit his team. He traded for Gardner-Johnson just before the start of the season and scooped up Quinn just before the deadline.

    Roseman also kicked the tires on running back Christian McCaffrey before he was dealt to the San Francisco 49ers, according to Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer.

    Secondly, the Eagles are one of four teams with two 2023 first-round draft picks. Their second belongs to the New Orleans Saints, and it's trending as a top-10 selection. Philadelphia has its own second- and third-round selections, too, but it won't be a surprise to see Roseman deal once again.

    Last year, the Eagles received a 2022 first-round pick, a 2023 first-round pick, a 2024 second-round pick, plus 2022 third-round and seventh-round selections for the 16th and 19th overall picks and a 2022 sixth-round selection.

    Philadelphia may sign a few players on the open market, but it's listed here because of its draft capital and because of Roseman's propensity to wheel and deal. If these two factors aren't connected in the offseason, I'll be shocked.

Seattle Seahawks

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    Seahawks GM John Schneider
    AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

    By now, you've probably noticed that the Denver Broncos didn't make our list, even though they got a first-round pick for Chubb. The reason? That first-round pick simply replaces the one they sent to the Seattle Seahawks for quarterback Russell Wilson.

    In all, Denver traded two first-round picks, two second-round picks, a fifth-round pick, quarterback Drew Lock, defensive lineman Shelby Harris, and tight end Noah Fant for Wilson and a fourth-round pick. In 2023, Seattle will have two first-round selections and two second-round picks thanks to the Wilson trade.

    The Seahawks will have eight picks in the first five rounds.

    Oh, and Seattle is projected to have $46.7 million in cap space available, sixth-most in the NFL.

    What's truly interesting for Seattle, though, is that a few months ago, it may have had its draft capital earmarked for a new rookie quarterback. With Geno Smith playing near an MVP level, however, the Seahawks may have some tough decisions to make early in the draft.

    Hypothetically, the NFC-West-leading Seahawks could look to improve their 27th-ranked defense by adding players like Davenport, Gardner-Johnson and Jessie Bates III in free agency. It could then use one draft selection to draft a quarterback to groom under Smith while using the rest of the Wilson haul to upgrade other positions.

    Or, Seattle could package picks and go up and get the quarterback it covets most. Either way, expect general manager John Schneider and the Seahawks to dictate a lot of the offseason activity in 2023.

    *Cap and contract information via Spotrac