Everybody loves the NFL offseason because it's the time when all things become possible. No matter what your team's record was in the previous season, the spring and summer months are when all fans can dream big. In fact, it sometimes feels like the games themselves don't matter nearly as much as free agency and the draft. Maybe that's because nobody loses when everything is left up to the imagination.
It's easy to get excited about what a certain player or coach can bring to a new team. It's just as much fun to think about how the players already on those respective rosters can benefit from the changes around them. We saw this with teams like the Giants, Eagles and the Jaguars last season. All three of those franchises witnessed huge improvement in their young quarterbacks (Daniel Jones, Jalen Hurts and Trevor Lawrence), primarily because of personnel additions or coaching hires.
There's already a ton of buzz about the potential of Chicago's third-year quarterback, Justin Fields, for the same reasons. Bears general manager Ryan Poles wanted to add more playmakers to his offense, and that's exactly what he's being doing. The new faces on that roster now include wide receiver D.J. Moore, tight end Robert Tonyan, running back D'Onta Foreman and guard Nate Davis. The Bears still need to find more help along their offensive line, but Fields should be orchestrating a more balanced attack this coming season (Chicago had the best rushing game and worst passing game in the league in 2022).
Fields, by the way, isn't the only player who should be thrilled about his team's offseason moves. Here are five others who stand to win big based on the changes around them.
NOTE: Players are listed with their ages as of Sept. 7, when the 2023 NFL season is set to kick off.
Wilson won the Offensive Rookie of the Year award in 2022 while working with one of the worst quarterback situations in the league. Imagine what he could do with Aaron Rodgers slinging passes to him this coming fall. We all know there's still plenty of work to be done on the trade that eventually will send Rodgers from Green Bay to the Jets at some point this offseason. What doesn't appear to be up for debate is whether the deal will happen or what it will mean to the entire Jets roster, especially a blossoming star like Wilson. He finished last season with 83 receptions for 1,103 yards and four touchdowns. It's not a huge leap to see him flirting with 100 catches, 1,500 yards and at least 10 scores in his second pro season.
It's not just Rodgers who will make the difference. Allen Lazard, a Rodgers favorite from Green Bay who signed as a free agent, will be a dependable possession receiver. Mecole Hardman, another free agent acquisition, brings breathtaking speed and an ability to run gimmicky concepts. If the Jets land Odell Beckham Jr. (which seems very much like a possibility, given how little buzz there's been about his options lately), that will be another weapon who can ease the pressure on a player as talented as Wilson. (Corey Davis, a prized free agent receiver signed in 2021, appears to be the odd man out.) Rodgers played a huge role in Davante Adams becoming a superstar during their time together in Green Bay. Wilson is off to a faster start than Adams, who didn't crack 500 receiving yards until Year 3, and should be dreaming about taking his game to similar heights.
The Dolphins acquired one of the most creative minds in the game when they hired Vic Fangio as their defensive coordinator earlier this season. Phillips will be one of the players who will benefit most from his arrival. Phillips has been Miami's best pass rusher in both of his first two pro seasons, as he's accumulated 15.5 sacks since arriving as a first-round pick in 2021, more than any other Dolphins player in that span. The problem is that the Dolphins have been unable to generate consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks during that time. That should change with Fangio in charge, as he's known for has innovative blitz packages and coverage schemes.
Phillips also will have a full season to play with fellow edge rusher Bradley Chubb, who arrived in a midseason trade with Denver and also played under Fangio from 2019 to 2021, when Fangio was the Broncos' head coach. And there should be more time to get after quarterbacks now that the Dolphins traded for All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who will be paired with another top corner in Xavien Howard. The potential always has been there for Phillips, and it flashed quite a bit in the second half of last season. This year should be about consistency and dominance for him. He's got everything he needs around him to become a star.
Jeudy is going to love new head coach Sean Payton for two reasons. The first is that Payton should help beleaguered quarterback Russell Wilson be more productive in Wilson's second season in Denver. The other factor is that Jeudy is exactly the kind of receiver that Payton loved to feed when the coach was running the New Orleans Saints. Jeudy is a crafty route-runner who has never fully tapped into the potential that made him the 15th overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Like Garrett Wilson, he has yet to benefit from consistent quarterback play in the NFL, but he did post career numbers last season, when he amassed 67 receptions for 972 yards and six touchdowns. Jeudy was particularly impressive in the final five weeks of 2022. He produced big games against the Chiefs (three touchdown catches), Rams (six receptions for 117 yards) and Chargers (five grabs for 154 yards), playing with a passion that was noteworthy on a Broncos team that was otherwise such a disaster.
If Payton can turn Wilson into anything close to what the quarterback was in Seattle, then it wouldn't be surprising to see Jeudy put up more performances like those this coming fall. The Broncos have bolstered the offensive line through free agency (adding right tackle Mike McGlinchey and guard Ben Powers), and they'll be returning some key starters who were lost to season-ending injuries in 2022 (including left tackle Garett Bolles, wide receiver Tim Patrick and running back Javonte Williams). There's also a reason why Jeudy's name kept popping up in trade rumors over the past year. He's got skills. We're about to see more of them with Payton running the show now.
Chinn was on social media the minute NFL Network Insiders Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero reported that the Panthers signed free agent safety Vonn Bell in March. Chinn surely knew all about the success Bell had in Cincinnati, where he paired with Jessie Bates to give the Bengals one of the best safety duos in the league. Bell can do the same thing with Chinn in Carolina, as the Panthers have a young defense that could easily become dominant this coming season. Carolina already has a gifted edge rusher in Brian Burns and a talented third-year cornerback in Jaycee Horn. Chinn has been a steady presence on the back end since his arrival in 2020, and the arrival of Bell means he can showcase his versatility even more.
Chinn told NFL.com in March that he is especially excited about the possibility of being what he calls "closer to the action" in the defense run by new coordinator Ejiro Evero. At 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds, Chinn should be more impactful against the run and as a blitzer, with him and Bell being interchangeable, depending on the situation. Chinn appears to be so giddy about the possibilities that he's already set his goals high for the coming season. That list includes reaching the Pro Bowl and earning All-Pro honors, awards that would be all the more beneficial as he's entering the final year of his rookie contract. Chinn said he's expecting the Panthers to compete for the NFC South crown. If Chinn reaches his personal goals, they'll be one step closer to that prize.
Pierce might have walked away with Offensive Rookie of the Year honors last season had he not missed the final four games with an ankle injury. He was the Texans' best offensive weapon, and it's hard not to wonder if the workload (220 carries, 14th in the NFL) wore him down. This year should be different. The Texans are poised to land a talented quarterback with the second overall pick, an option that should come down to either Bryce Young or C.J. Stroud. They've added a veteran running back to complement Pierce (Devin Singletary), a dependable tight end to help the passing game (Dalton Schultz), a solid guard (Shaq Mason) and a couple of receivers who can play key roles (Noah Brown is coming off his best pro season, while Robert Woods is still one of the best blocking wideouts in the game).
Most importantly, the Texans hired former 49ers defensive coordinator (and former Houston linebacker) DeMeco Ryans as their head coach, and we know how much defensive-minded leaders love running the football. Pierce gained 939 yards in 13 games last season. It's not hard to see him up around the 1,300-yard mark with more help around him and more talent under center.