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NFC Roster Reset: Biggest signings/losses, burning question for each team ahead of the 2023 NFL Draft

Our Roster Reset series takes a look at where things stand across the league heading into the 2023 NFL Draft. Nick Shook examines the current makeup of the NFC below, addressing each team's biggest additions, losses and one burning question.


BURNING QUESTION: Can the Cowboys' shift to focusing on defense get them over the hump?

Though they've owned a top-11 offense in each of the last two seasons, the Cowboys have yet to truly reap the benefits of such an explosive attack. In case Dallas fans need reminding, this team has not advanced beyond the Divisional Round of the playoffs since the Clinton administration. With this in mind, the Cowboys changed their approach entering their third trip around the giant football in the sky under Mike McCarthy, redirecting their focus toward defense, as evidenced by the notable additions and signings listed above. Retaining key defenders like Donovan Wilson and Leighton Vander Esch was of paramount importance, and keeping Dante Fowler and Johnathan Hankins should help with depth, too. Stephon Gilmore proved in 2022 he can certainly still play, and the emergence of DaRon Bland should help Dallas' back end under defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, whose own retention was also a win for the Cowboys. We'll learn in 2023 whether it's enough to get them further in the playoffs.

BURNING QUESTION:  With Daniel Jones under contract, can the Giants build on their surprise success of 2022?

As the saying goes, the only goal more difficult to achieve than winning a championship is doing it again. For the Giants, the same applies at a lower level. New York went from cellar-dwellers to a shocking playoff team that actually won a postseason game, taking down the 13-4 Vikings in Minnesota to cap an unexpectedly exciting season. The final result was enough to earn Brian Daboll NFL Coach of the Year honors in his first season, but this should be just the beginning for New York. The Giants aren't out of dead-money hell just yet, but general manager Joe Schoen had more room to work with in 2023 than he did in 2022. They've restocked the defense and added more pass-catchers for Jones to target, now that he's under a much more lucrative contract. All that's left is to prove 2022 wasn't a fluke. 

BURNING QUESTION: Will the Eagles remain among the NFL's elite despite offseason turnover?

Philadelphia positioned itself tremendously well last season, stocking its defense with a large collection of playmakers and watching its offense take off thanks to the addition of WR A.J. Brown and the growth of QB Jalen Hurts. Unfortunately, as is the case for most conference champions, the Eagles watched a number of important contributors leave for larger paychecks in the last month, and their attempts to replace them have come at cheaper prices. GM Howie Roseman has done a spectacular job remaking the Eagles into a contender in a short amount of time, but there's no guarantee everything will fall into place a second time around. These defensive replacements -- namely, safeties Terrell Edmunds and Justin Evans -- will have to fit in quickly, and younger players like 2022 first-rounder Jordan Davis will have to take on larger roles to keep the Eagles in the highest tier of teams. 

BURNING QUESTION: Is Jacoby Brissett good enough to keep Ron Rivera employed?

Look, the Commanders have thrown plenty of spaghetti at the quarterback wall in recent years, and while some stuck for a decent amount of time, none of those options are still around, save for single-game starter Sam Howell. The second-year quarterback began 2023 as the penciled-in starter -- that is, until Brissett arrived with eraser in hand via free agency. The veteran is coming off a highly commendable performance in Cleveland and can provide Rivera's bunch with sufficient play at the position, but the Commanders' biggest weakness remains unsolved. It's a patchwork-level move for a position that needs a permanent repair. Will Washington find its long-term answer in the draft? And will any of that matter as it pertains to Rivera's tenure in Washington? The clock is likely ticking on Rivera. With a potential sale looming, 2023 could prove to be pivotal for everyone involved.


BURNING QUESTION: Will the Bears' offseason additions provide Justin Fields with the help he needs?

Offensive line stood atop Chicago's long list of needs entering the offseason. Signing Nate Davis is a start, and the acquisition of D.J. Moore via trade (which also leveraged the top pick for plenty of additional capital) should give Fields more help than he had in 2022. Robert Tonyan should pair nicely with Cole Kmet to give Fields two reliable playmakers at tight end. Tremaine Edmunds and D'Onta Foreman must level up their play to truly fill the voids left by Roquan Smith and David Montgomery. It all looks good on paper, but what's clear is the work still isn't done. Ryan Poles has settled Fields' standing with the team, but the GM still must capitalize on this draft if he wants to position the Bears for a better future.

BURNING QUESTION: Will a productive offseason help the Lions take the next step?

Like the Giants, Detroit shocked the football world with its sudden transformation from an also-ran into a team that must be taken seriously. Dan Campbell's image morphed from someone who provides a great soundbite to that of a legitimate coach, and all the platitudes finally produced positive results. The Lions spent accordingly in the offseason, adding a playmaking complement in the backfield (David Montgomery), an excellent safety (C.J. Gardner-Johnson) and a couple of cornerbacks who should significantly improve Detroit's depth on the back end. All of the pieces appear to be in place for the Lions to build on their 9-8 finish in 2022. Their eight picks can help them get even closer to making that a reality.

*Once presumed trade to Jets is complete

BURNING QUESTION: What awaits the Packers on the other side of an Aaron Rodgers trade?

Aaron Rodgers' time in Green Bay is all but finished. A trade with the Jets will make their split official, launching the Jordan Love era in one fell swoop. A new frontier awaits Matt LaFleur and the Packers, one that is littered with youth and questions. With Rodgers still on the payroll (for now), Green Bay was remarkably quiet during free agency, making a roster reset a bit of an underwhelming exercise for this group. That doesn't necessarily mean things will be unexciting this fall. The only certainty is that most everything is uncertain, at least offensively. With 10 picks in hand (and more likely to come via a Rodgers trade), the Packers will have plenty of capital to restock and proceed on their new journey. It's just a waiting game until then.

BURNING QUESTION:  Will the Vikings' new additions be enough to replace their departed stars?

It's not every year that entrenched figures like Adam Thielen, Eric Kendricks and even Patrick Peterson -- a recent addition who arrived with quite a résumé and lived up to it -- leave a team in one offseason, but that's where the Vikings stand. After finishing 13-4 and winning the NFC North, it would appear as if now is the time for Minnesota to capitalize on the coming departure of Aaron Rodgers from Green Bay. But Detroit lurks as a threat, as does the uncertain future of Kirk Cousins. Vikings GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah did his best to resupply the team's cupboard while also trimming some aging veterans, but expectations will be high for a team that is going to count somewhat significantly on its new faces (i.e., Byron Murphy, Marcus Davenport). The good news: Minnesota still has returning, known commodities on both sides of the ball. It'll just need to work in the new additions quickly in order to maintain control of the division.


BURNING QUESTION: Are the Falcons lurking in a wide-open NFC South?

Calais Campbell said it himself this week: The division is open for the taking. The Falcons deserve some serious credit for how they've clawed their way to seven wins in each of the last two seasons, despite operating with a roster that lacked in overall talent. Now that they have some money to spend, the Falcons aren't wasting time. The additions of Jessie Bates, Calais Campbell and David Onyemata should elevate the defense beyond their 27th-place finish, and although committing to Desmond Ridder is far from a sure thing, his abilities should help head coach Arthur Smith's offense operate at a higher level than it did under Marcus Mariota. As Campbell said, keep an eye on the Falcons, especially if they nail this draft.

BURNING QUESTION: How quickly can Frank Reich turn the Panthers into a contender?

So much of Carolina's future depends on what it does with the No. 1 overall pick. The Panthers gave up a lot to move up and have done their due diligence on this year's quarterbacks class, but if they swing and miss with the pick, Reich's job becomes exponentially more difficult. Andy Dalton exists as a backup, but his season in New Orleans (205.1 passing yards per game, 18:9 TD-to-INT ratio in 14 starts) provided us with his clear ceiling. The Panthers have to nail this pick. Beyond the top choice, Carolina has done quite well this offseason when it comes to adding experienced talent. Adam Thielen will be a consistently productive player, Vonn Bell should free up the versatile Jeremy Chinn, and Hayden Hurst should help the new signal-caller, whomever it is. Reich is stepping into this job with the experience Matt Rhule lacked at this level and has built himself a star-studded coaching staff. But it all comes down to quarterback.

BURNING QUESTION: Can the Saints restock their defense well enough to remain effective?

Last year's explanation was quite simple: The Saints lacked a star quarterback. New Orleans' defense still played well, and receiver Chris Olave was just about as good as Offensive Rookie of the Year Garrett Wilson (if not better, depending on who you ask). All of the pieces are in place for this offense to be better in 2023, thanks to the addition of Derek Carr. But a quick scan down the roster reveals a defensive front that has some holes. New Orleans has the draft capital to make some key additions but will have to lean on Dennis Allen's expertise to maintain its level of production that kept the Saints afloat in the post-Drew Brees era. If they figure that out, watch out.

BURNING QUESTION: Is Baker Mayfield good enough to keep the Bucs afloat?

Replacing a legend is extremely difficult, if not impossible, but that's the task facing Baker Mayfield, regardless of his protestations. To their credit, the Bucs have largely retained their most important players and should be better offensively, with a healthier line and a new offensive coordinator in Dave Canales. It's not like their attack can get much worse than it was in 2022. The question is, are the Buccaneers playing a fool's game fighting to keep their contention window open, or will Mayfield rediscover his once-thrilling level of play with his fourth team in a calendar year? If he does, they'll have a chance to win a division that's there for the taking. If not, a reset might be in order.


BURNING QUESTION: What is Arizona's ceiling in 2023?

The Cardinals were an absolute disappointment in 2022. A new regime is now in power, but a ton of uncertainty remains. When will QB Kyler Murray be back? Management has repeatedly indicated it is ready to keep receiver DeAndre Hopkins, but one aggressive trade offer could change that. With former Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon taking over as head coach, will the Cardinals shift to a defensive-leaning approach? J.J. Watt's retirement and the departures of Byron Murphy and Zach Allen in free agency left just three notable names on that side of the ball: Budda Baker, Isaiah Simmons and Zaven Collins. Defense seems to be where Arizona should focus its resources, at least initially, following on the additions of Kyzir White, Rashad Fenton and L.J. Collier. This team could be good enough to contend in the division but is also no sure thing. Based on what's transpired so far this offseason, it's difficult to project whether the Cardinals will be in full rebuild mode or trying to compete come the fall.

BURNING QUESTION: Will the Rams draft well enough to spark a quick turnaround?

After years of spending lavishly and leveraging all of their buying power in (successful) pursuit of a title, the Rams needed to regroup. The bank was empty and required an injection of capital, prompting them to trade away Jalen Ramsey, let Bobby Wagner walk back to Seattle and otherwise largely stand pat. The offseason has been such a departure from the past half-decade, it prompted COO Kevin Demoff to write a letter to season-ticket holders explaining the team's temporary (?) change in approach. With 11 picks in hand, including the third-rounder netted from the Dolphins in the Ramsey deal, GM Les Snead has the draft power to improve the roster with a youth infusion, but he needs to spend those selections wisely. Doing so could set the Rams back on the path to contention, even if they don't return to "all-in" status overnight.

BURNING QUESTION: Will the 49ers' non-QB moves keep them among the contenders?

While we still might not know whether Brock Purdy (recovering from UCL surgery), Trey Lance or Sam Darnold will be the Niners' QB to start the season, we can mercifully stop speculating about how Jimmy Garoppolo fits in the picture, with Garoppolo signing in Las Vegas. But we shouldn't overlook the many non-QB changes to the roster. First, the good news: San Francisco landed a whopper of a defensive force in Javon Hargrave, who will bring a brand of forceful interior play that has been largely missing since the 49ers sent DeForest Buckner to Indianapolis. The Niners also restocked at a few other positions, adding Clelin Ferrell as a depth option to replace Samson Ebukam and inking Isaiah Oliver and Myles Hartsfield to stem the tide of departures in the defensive backfield. With 11 picks at their disposal, Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch can improve this roster further. And if we've learned anything from this regime, they're more likely than not to make it all work, even if a few significant names have skipped town.

BURNING QUESTION: Can the Seahawks ride their momentum from 2022 toward greater heights?

Pete Carroll did one heck of a job with his team last season, leading the Seahawks to the playoffs despite almost everyone (myself included) picking them to finish last in the NFC West. Much of the credit is due to veteran QB Geno Smith, who was paid accordingly this offseason and is facing heightened expectations for the first time since he was a youngster with the Jets. Fresh off their 2022 success, a handful of notable additions were enticed to head to the Pacific Northwest and will be expected to contribute instantly. Count Devin Bush, Dre'Mont Jones, Julian Love, Jarran Reed and Bobby Wagner (with the latter two making homecomings) among that group. Seattle has the framework of a team that can seriously contend for the division and beyond -- as long as Smith performs as he did in 2022. All they need to do is stay healthy and harness the same energy that landed them in Super Wild Card Weekend last season.

Follow Nick Shook on Twitter.

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