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Neil Reynolds' Free Agency Preview

The confetti has barely fallen to the ground following the Kansas City Chiefs' victory over the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl 57 and yet the team-building projects for the 2023 season are already well underway.

The New Orleans Saints have their new quarterback in Derek Carr, there have been contracts agreed with other passers in New York Giants' Daniel Jones (he's now a $40 million-per-year quarterback) and Seattle's Geno Smith; and there have been a few high profile casualties along the way with the Los Angeles Rams releasing All-Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner after just one season in California.

That last piece of information is worth storing away in the back of your brain as the free agency signing period is about to get going. Last spring, Wagner signed a five-year, $50 million deal that was clearly not worth the paper it was written on. Despite starting all 17 games and recording 140 tackles and six sacks, the 32-year-old star was cast aside in a cost-cutting measure. So, when a team signs a player to a four or five-year deal in the coming days, it could really turn out to be a one or two-year thing.

Free agency officially begins at 9pm UK time on Wednesday March 15. But the fun period to watch is the negotiating window that opens at 5pm UK time on Monday March 13. This is when the bulk of big deals will get agreed and then they will be ratified on the 15th. So, make sure your Twitter feed is up and running for the commute home on Monday.

March 15 also marks the official start of the new league year. That means that the coming days will not simply be about out-of-contract free agents finding a new home. It will feature a lot of wheeling and dealing and holds the potential for some high-profile trades. And that's a great place to begin as we take a look at some intriguing possibilities and storylines about to head our way.

Quarterback drama

Given the importance of the position, quarterbacks always garner a great deal of our attention and sometimes that is not always warranted. But it certainly is in this offseason period because two former league Most Valuable Players could be about to find new teams. They are certainly going to continue to be talked about a great deal.

Aaron Rodgers – a Super Bowl champion, a four-time NFL MVP and a sure-fire, first-ballot Hall of Famer – seems to be heading out of Green Bay and that is a move that both player and team appear comfortable with. The Packers want to see what they have in Jordan Love and that leaves Rodgers with the options of retirement at the age of 39 or ending his career as so many greats have, with a new team. After a contingent of New York Jets heavy hitters flew to California to woo Rodgers earlier this week, the superstar could be staying in green.

Lamar Jackson's contract wranglings with the Baltimore Ravens have rumbled on for a couple of years now and even though he has been franchise-tagged by the AFC North club, he is hardly tied down and unavailable.

Jackson's non-exclusive tag means he can negotiate his own deal with another team and if the Ravens choose not to match that contract, they can let Lamar walk and will get two first-round picks in return. The sticking point in the negotiations has been Lamar's desire for a Deshaun Watson-type deal that saw all $230 million guaranteed. NFL clubs appear reluctant to make a deal like Watson's the new normal.

I find it hard to predict where Lamar will end up - teams appear to be lining up to tell us they are not interested in the 26-year-old star who has enjoyed tremendous highs but who has also been hit with injury concerns. I feel more confident in saying that I don't believe he will stay with the Ravens – that would be a surprise given how acrimonious negotiations have been between the team and Jackson, who serves as his own agent.

There will be other quarterbacks in the news in the coming days as the likes of Jimmy Garoppolo and Baker Mayfield look for new teams. They are going to be third and fourth choices once QB-hungry teams know what is happening with Lamar and Rodgers. It should also be noted that as many as four quarterbacks could go in round one of April's NFL Draft, further complicating things for Jimmy G and Baker.

Will the Eagles get raided?

The Philadelphia Eagles enjoyed a memorable season in 2022, right up until a defensive holding penalty against James Bradberry effectively ended one of the greatest Super Bowls of all time. Now, how do the Eagles keep the band together and get back to the big game, while likely having to pay quarterback Jalen Hurts more than $50 million per year?

The list of free agents who are available for other teams to raid is alarming indeed. From a defense that proved to be historically good at rushing the passer… defensive linemen Brandon Graham, Robert Quinn, Fletcher Cox, Javon Hargrave, Linval Joseph and Ndamukong Suh – all are Pro Bowlers. Add in starting linebackers in T.J. Edwards and Kyzir White, then add All-Pro cornerback Bradberry, NFL interceptions leader C.J. Gardner-Johnson and you can see the Eagles are in trouble.

There are some decent names on offense as well, led by All-Pro center Jason Kelce who I think would rather retire than play anywhere other than Philadelphia. Running backs Miles Sanders and Boston Scott may not think the same way and could be heading out the door.

General manager Howie Roseman has been a great wheeler and dealer in the past and he will need to be so again in 2023. But the financial situation changes dramatically once Hurts is no longer on his rookie deal. The Eagles cannot keep all of those mentioned above and are going to field a different-looking team in the new season. Will it be good enough for a Super Bowl return?

Talent up for grabs

It is not the flashiest of free agency classes but there is still some very good talent about to become available. And let's not forget that some of these players will be signed as short-term fixes (Bobby Wagner, Frank Clark and Jordan Poyer spring to mind) or they will be asked to prove they can still play, much like JuJu Smith-Schuster showed the Kansas City Chiefs in 2022.

The Chiefs have worked hard to upgrade their offensive line in recent years – especially after their Super Bowl 55 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers - and it was notable that Patrick Mahomes was not sacked in the Super Bowl 57 win over the Eagles. But both tackles are now about to hit the open market in Orlando Brown and Andrew Wylie. Don't be surprised if KC let both walk – they believe the strength of their line is in the middle and won't want to overpay the pair on the edges.

Another offensive lineman who is likely to be snapped up quickly is Mike McGlinchey, of the San Francisco 49ers. Look for Philadelphia's Javon Hargrave to be one of the first defenders signed to a new team.

The receiver group is not laden with superstar names in 2023, outside of Odell Beckham Jr. But even he comes with a major caveat. He is coming off a second torn ACL and has not played since February 13, 2022, when he scored a touchdown in the Rams' Super Bowl win over Cincinnati. While the NFL playoffs were rumbling along in January, OBJ was working out on his own in Florida and now he will hope that effort pays off. Would he be a nice addition in Buffalo or Dallas? I think he would.

There are some useful receivers who can play significant roles for new teams, however. Jakobi Meyers, of New England, the aforementioned JuJu, Green Bay's Allen Lazard and Darius Slayton, of the New York Giants. A couple of very decent tight ends are also about to hit the open market after Dallas and Miami chose not to franchise tag (and protect) Dalton Schultz and Mike Gesicki respectively.

There will be flurry of signings in the coming days and history has proven over many seasons now that some will pan out and be successful and others will need to be quickly forgotten. The unpredictable nature of the shopping spree won't prevent teams from splashing the cash. You just need to hope that your team hits on a few success stories!

A trade tsunami?

General managers across the NFL are more aggressive than ever before so even outside of Rodgers and Jackson, don't be surprised if there are more big-name trades in the coming weeks. I don't have an extensive list of candidates but what I do know is that trades have become a key part of building a roster in today's NFL.

I have no doubt that there is a trade or two lurking in our future that will send shockwaves around the NFL, in much the same way as we experienced in 2022 when Tyreek Hill went from Kansas City to Miami and Davante Adams turned his back on Rodgers and the Packers for the silver and black of the Las Vegas Raiders.

Who will it be this time around? I don't have much clue, but I strongly believe it is going to happen so we're all just going to have to stay tuned. Keep refreshing your social media news feeds!