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2023 NFL offseason: Projecting performances of receivers who changed teams

The nascent stages of the 2023 NFL offseason failed to provide the sizzle we saw in 2022, "the year of the wide receiver," when Davante Adams, Tyreek Hill, Amari Cooper and other big names changed locations. But there was significant shuffling at the position over the past few weeks.

As we saw last year, the best way to bring in a top-shelf wideout has been via trade. The difference-making talent isn't getting to the open market nowadays, with the best at the position garnering $20 million-plus per year.

With a thinner talent pool hitting free agency this offseason compared to 2022, we didn't see massive contracts handed out in line with the four-year, $72 million pact Christian Kirk signed with the Jaguars a year ago. Still, notable acquisitions were made.

As we wait for the rest of the offseason to unfold, with the like of DeAndre Hopkins potentially on the trade market and Odell Beckham Jr. still floating around free agency, let's examine 11 receivers who changed teams and weigh whether their individual production will increase or decrease in 2023.

NOTE: Acquisitions are split into two groups, traded players and signed players, and players within those groups are arranged based on reported average per year on contracts, per Over The Cap. Ages listed are as of Sept. 7, 2023, when the next NFL season is set to kick off.


D.J. Moore
Year 6 · Age: 26

Average salary: $20.628 million

With Panthers in 2022: 17 games | 63 rec. |  888 rec. yards | 7 rec. TDs

2023 numbers will be: BETTER

After recording 1,100-plus yards in three straight seasons for the Panthers, Moore's production hit a speed bump in 2022, when he posted his lowest catch and receiving yards totals since his rookie year. I expect him to get back to the 1,000-yard frame in Chicago, which acquired him as part of the return for sending the No. 1 overall pick to Carolina. Yes, the Bears' passing offense was anemic last season, but it's not as if Moore played in a juggernaut with the Panthers, either -- both teams were among the league leaders in neutral game script run calls. I'll take Justin Fields developing as a passer over the Baker Mayfield-Sam Darnold-PJ Walker triumvirate Moore played with in 2022. Moore is a legit No. 1 target. Period. Pairing him with Darnell Mooney should help open Chicago's offense by leaps and bounds in 2023. I expect Moore's target share to dip slightly, but his production should get back on track.  

Brandin Cooks
Year 10 · Age: 29

Average salary: $10 million

With Texans in 2022: 13 games | 57 rec. | 699 rec. yards | 3 rec. TDs

2023 numbers will be: BETTER

Cooks goes from being the clear No. 1 target in Houston to No. 2 in Dallas, behind CeeDee Lamb. If Michael Gallup returns to form, that will take more targets away from Cooks. Even so, changing QBs from Davis Mills to Dak Prescott offers an immediate boost from the above line. Cooks has contributed wherever he's gone, generating six 1,000-plus-yard seasons in nine years. He might not put up gaudy numbers for fantasy football managers, but he's a better real-life player who will provide Prescott steady production. Yes, Mike McCarthy has suggested he wants to run the ball more in 2023, but Lamb and Cooks should still put up yards through the air.

Elijah Moore
Year 3 · Age: 23

Average salary: $2.2 million

With Jets in 2022: 16 games | 37 rec. | 446 rec. yards | 1 rec. TD

2023 numbers will be: BETTER

Moore all but disappeared from the Jets' moribund passing offense last year -- a surprise, given his pedigree as a second-round pick, as well as his promising play as a rookie. Going from the Gang Green gaggle of struggling QBs to playing with Deshaun Watson in Cleveland is an immediate boost for Moore's prospects in 2023. A stellar route-runner, Moore pairs well with Amari Cooper. The third-year pro can move around the formation (he ran 46.8 percent of his routes from the slot last season, per Next Gen Stats) and owns the natural talent to take advantage of coverage rolling toward Cooper. Moore is too gifted to repeat last season's depressing output, especially with a fresh start as the Browns' No. 2.


Allen Lazard
Year 6 · Age: 27

Average salary: $11 million

With Packers in 2022: 15 games | 60 rec. | 788 rec. yards | 6 rec. TDs

2023 numbers will be: WORSE

I like Lazard as a player. He's a willing blocker and solid No. 2 target. Assuming the Aaron Rodgers deal to New York goes through, the pre-existing rapport the former Packers teammates share will be a boon for Gang Green. But this is solely about projecting a change in production, and Lazard reached career highs in receiving yards and catches last season as Rodgers' No. 1 target. Now, he joins a club that boasts 2022 Offensive Rookie of the Year Garrett Wilson, who should command a Davante Adams-like share of the throws. Trading Elijah Moore away thinned out the WR room, but signing Mecole Hardman added another mouth to feed. I don't think Lazard's production will crater by any means, but I expect a little dip from his career year.

Jakobi Meyers
Year 5 · Age: 26

Average salary: $11 million

With Patriots in 2022: 14 games | 67 rec. | 804 rec. yards | 6 rec. TDs

2023 numbers will be: BETTER

At first blush, the addition of Meyers seems odd, given his overlapping skill set with Hunter Renfrow, but I think the duo can fit in Las Vegas. Meyers played mostly from the slot but is proficient out wide, offering Josh McDaniels flexibility within the corps. The former Patriots receiver is adept over the middle, where new Raiders quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo does his best work, so Meyers should see a bevy of targets while in position to make plays. Trading tight end Darren Waller away also frees up space in the pass-catching pecking order. Davante Adams is the clear alpha and will remain the go-to receiver. But there is room for a No. 2 to eat. Given Renfrow's regression last season due to injury and McDaniels' apparent desire to import a player with similar skills, I'm betting the plan is for Meyers to have a big role in the offense in 2023.

Average salary: $8.5 million

With Chiefs in 2022: 16 games | 78 rec. | 933 rec. yards | 3 rec. TDs

2023 numbers will be: WORSE

Smith-Schuster's talent might be an upgrade on Meyers in New England, but he's going from Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid's K.C. offense to Mac Jones and what was an amorphous Patriots scheme when we last saw it. The juxtaposition portends a shrink in production. JuJu led Chiefs receivers in yards and catches last season. To repeat that performance in New England, he'd need to be given a ginormous target share. New coordinator Bill O'Brien should run a better offense than the Pats did last season, but question marks with Jones remain. On paper, Smith-Schuster projects closer to what he was in the post-Antonio Brown seasons in Pittsburgh (45.8 receiving yards per game between 2019 and 2021) than a 1,000-yard demon.

Adam Thielen
Year 10 · Age: 33

Average salary: $8.33 million

With Vikings in 2022: 17 games | 70 rec. | 716 rec. yards | 6 rec. TDs

2023 numbers will be: WORSE

Well, isn't this a tricky one? Thielen goes from Minnesota, where he was Kirk Cousins' No. 2 target, behind Justin Jefferson, in a pass-friendly attack, to Carolina, where he currently projects as the top wideout on an offense facing a boatload of questions. Can we expect a soon-to-be-33-year-old receiver playing with whichever rookie quarterback is presumably drafted first overall to turn back the clock in a new system? Thielen generated his production last season on 107 targets. Between new Panthers coach Frank Reich insisting during his introductory press conference he wants to run the ball and with the presence of a rookie signal-caller, Thielen might simply not get the opportunities he saw with the Vikings. Alternatively, though, there aren't many players on the roster who will be able to command the ball like him, aside from new addition DJ Chark. If I could choose "same" as the answer for Thielen, I probably would, but editors don't like choices like that, so I fall on the likelihood of a minor drop-off. 

Robert Woods
Year 11 · Age: 31

Average salary: $7.625 million

With Titans in 2022: 17 games | 53 rec. | 527 rec. yards | 2 rec. TDs

2023 numbers will be: BETTER

It can't get much worse than Woods' 2022, right? Bobby Trees looked like a shell of himself last season in Tennessee, coming off an ACL tear suffered in 2021. Despite playing in 17 games, he logged a career low in receiving yards. I'm not expecting the doors blown off here, but being another year removed from the injury should help Woods get closer to respectable production. The contract he signed with the Texans suggests they believe so, too. He should offer Houston's eventual rookie quarterback a veteran presence to go alongside Nico Collins, John Metchie III (a wild-card after he spent his rookie season battling leukemia) and Noah Brown.

Mecole Hardman
Year 5 · Age: 25

Average salary: $4.5 million

With Chiefs in 2022: 8 games | 25 receptions | 297 receiving yards | 4 receiving TDs

2023 numbers will be: BETTER

Simply staying on the field should allow Hardman to surpass his statistical performance last season, when he missed significant time with an injury. If we were using his 59-catch, 693-yard 2021 season as a benchmark, however, I'd probably say he'll do worse, simply because he's downgrading from the high-flying Chiefs offense to New York. Going from one future Hall of Fame QB to (likely) another doesn't hurt, though. Hardman's speed pairs well with Garrett Wilson and Allen Lazard in a remade receiver room. He should thrive on jet sweeps and quick screens.

During his time in Kansas City, Hardman failed to pop as a consistent downfield threat, so the question is whether Aaron Rodgers can unlock a part of Hardman's game that Patrick Mahomes never could. The bet is no, but Hardman should still have a solid role with Gang Green.

Deonte Harty
Year 5 · Age: 25

Average salary: $4.75 million

With Saints in 2022: 4 games | 2 rec. | 13 rec. yards | 0 receiving TDs

2023 numbers will be: BETTER

Trent Sherfield
Year 6 · Age: 27

Average salary: $1.77 million

With Dolphins in 2022: 17 games | 30 rec. | 417 rec. yards | 2 rec. TDs

2023 numbers will be: BETTER

I'm pairing Harty and Sherfield because I actually like what they both bring to Buffalo, and they should battle for reps along with Khalil Shakir. The Bills needed speed and shiftiness to complement Stefon Diggs and Gabe Davis after Isaiah McKenzie's inconsistent final year in Buffalo. Harty boasts a speed element that, on paper, meshes well with Josh Allen's big arm as a field-stretching weapon. One bomb from Allen will put Harty over the production he managed in a 2022 season cut short by injury. In 13 games in 2021, Harty displayed deep speed the Bills can use, catching 36 passes for 570 yards and 3 TDs while averaging an 18.6 deep-pass percent, per Next Gen Stats. Sherfield was relegated to third-fiddle duty in Miami last season, but he also owns speed and run-after-catch ability, as he showed on this 75-yard TD catch. A willing blocker who can play inside or out and on special teams, Sherfield could carve out a role as a productive playmaker.

Diggs and Davis are the clear top dogs in Buffalo, but there is room for production from others in this offense. Unless the Bills use draft assets to bolster the position further, I like the chances of Harty and Sherfield finding niches.

Follow Kevin Patra on Twitter.

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