NFL Free Agency 2023: Start Date, Rumors and Early Predictions

Joe TanseyFebruary 13, 2023

NFL Free Agency 2023: Start Date, Rumors and Early Predictions

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    BALTIMORE, MARYLAND - DECEMBER 04: Lamar Jackson #8 of the Baltimore Ravens is sacked by Jonathon Cooper #53 of the Denver Broncos at M&T Bank Stadium on December 04, 2022 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images)
    G Fiume/Getty Images

    The NFL spotlight will shift from one star AFC quarterback to another starting on Monday morning.

    Lamar Jackson will be the center of most NFL offseason discussions because of his free-agent status.

    The 26-year-old will be aiming to receive some sort of megadeal that two-time Super Bowl winner Patrick Mahomes has, but that may be hard to get after he went through another season with injury issues.

    The quarterback is the No. 1 free agent in the NFL this offseason, but he may not move anywhere outside of Baltimore if the Ravens have their way.

    Baltimore could use the franchise tag on Jackson to avoid paying him for one more year or to get some type of return in a trade.

    Free agency is scheduled to begin on March 15, so the Ravens have a month to figure out their best approach to the situation.

    Geno Smith's free agency seems like it will be a lot easier to figure out than any potential Jackson move.

    Smith and the Seattle Seahawks should run it back for at least another year after the franchise made a surprise playoff appearance following the Russell Wilson trade.

Lamar Jackson

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    BALTIMORE, MARYLAND - DECEMBER 04: Lamar Jackson #8 of the Baltimore Ravens warms up before the game against the Denver Broncos at M&T Bank Stadium on December 04, 2022 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images)
    G Fiume/Getty Images

    Every option you could imagine should be on the table for Jackson and the Ravens.

    The Louisville product has every right to get the best deal possible so that he can secure his long-term future in one spot.

    Baltimore must make a smart business decision regarding the injury-prone quarterback, though. And the franchise tag could be the best option chosen by the AFC North side.

    NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, Tom Pelissero and Mike Garafolo reported on Saturday that the Ravens will use the franchise tag on Jackson if a long-term deal is not reached by the two parties.

    The reporters mentioned there could be a trade element to the franchise tag as well, which would give Baltimore "a windfall of draft picks."

    When healthy, Jackson is one of the most electric quarterbacks in the NFL, but he played in just 12 games in each of the last two seasons.

    The signal-caller missed vital games down the stretch in both campaigns. A case could be made for the Ravens to win the AFC North over the Cincinnati Bengals this season if Jackson was on the field after Week 13.

    Baltimore's decision is tough because it does not want to lose a franchise quarterback to the free-agent market, but ownership may not be able to justify a large deal for a player who got hurt in 2021 and 2022.

    The franchise tag seems the best option from a team perspective. The Ravens can then wait one more year to pay Jackson a large salary. The standard for major deals could rise in that span, but that is a risk the Ravens may have to take.

    A trade is always possible after the franchise tag, but Baltimore needs to be blown away by any offer. Multiple first-round picks may be required to pry Jackson away given his status as one of the NFL's best signal-callers.

    Prediction: Baltimore uses franchise tag on Jackson.

Geno Smith

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    SANTA CLARA, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 14: Geno Smith #7 of the Seattle Seahawks throws a pass against the San Francisco 49ers during the fourth quarter in the NFC Wild Card playoff game at Levi's Stadium on January 14, 2023 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
    Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    The 2022 Comeback Player of the Year should be back with the Seattle Seahawks in 2023.

    Rapoport reported in January that Geno Smith "is expected to be back" with the NFC West franchise.

    The 32-year-old put up career numbers for the Seahawks, as he threw for 4,282 yards and 30 scores.

    Seattle would be wise to keep things going with Smith instead of refreshing the quarterback position with a younger player who may take some time to get up to speed with the offense in the regular season.

    The Seahawks have proved previously they can mine the NFL draft for potential stars. Kenneth Walker III turned in a 1,000-yard season at running back and Tariq Woolen broke out as one of the best cornerbacks in the league.

    If Seattle's impeccable scouting translates to the 2023 draft, it could have a loaded roster of young talent to support Smith. The Seahawks own the No. 5 overall pick from the Wilson trade and the No. 20 pick in April's draft. They also have two second-round selections as part of their nine picks.

    The Seattle front office could do some fantastic work in the offseason to support Smith, and that may lead to a challenge to the San Francisco 49ers for the NFC West crown.

    That may seem like a wild goal given the high standard the 49ers set, but it is possible if improvements are made from the team that reached the Wild Card Round this past season.

    Prediction: Smith signs two-year deal with Seahawks.

Javon Hargrave

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    GLENDALE, ARIZONA - FEBRUARY 12: Javon Hargrave #97 of the Philadelphia Eagles reacts after a play against the Kansas City Chiefs during the second quarter in Super Bowl LVII at State Farm Stadium on February 12, 2023 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Javon Hargrave will be rewarded for a career season with the Philadelphia Eagles.

    The defensive tackle improved his value on the free-agent market more than anyone in the 2023 free-agent class.

    Hargrave went from 7.5 to 11 sacks in his third season with the Eagles after having only one season with more than five sacks before he signed with Philadelphia three years ago.

    Most teams in the NFL could use a powerful interior defensive lineman with a knack for getting to the quarterback.

    Philadelphia has Hargrave, Brandon Graham and Fletcher Cox set to hit free agency from its defensive line. Linebacker T.J. Edwards and safety Chauncey Gardner-Johnson will both be free agents as well.

    Pro Football Focus projected Hargrave's contract would be around three years and worth $55 million.

    The Eagles could try to make the 30-year-old their top priority on the defensive line, but Cox and Graham are franchise legends who deserve to stay in Philadelphia as long as they want. That could play a role in whether Hargrave comes back.

    It's too soon to tell how the Eagles will shape their roster after the Super Bowl 57 loss, but it will look different in some capacity because of all the key free agents.

    Prediction: Hargrave leaves Philadelphia, signs three-year deal elsewhere.