The 2023 NFL free agency period has only recently begun, but there have already been a number of transactions that should alter the league’s dynamic for the coming season. We’re utilizing this area to find the most intriguing matches on both offense and defense as there are new faces in new spots all throughout the league.
We started Friday by highlighting some of our most intriguing offensive players, and we’ll continue with the defensive guys in the section below. It’s crucial to remember that we’re not necessarily looking for the top players—just the ones who are most fascinating. Zach Allen is a solid player, but in the context of the Broncos defense, we already know what that type of player looks like, so he won’t be highlighted here even though we’ll look at some other individuals who might not have as much of an influence.
Immediately after that…
San Francisco 49ers
- IDL Javon Hargrave (Eagles)
This is an intriguing signing given the 49ers recently traded a guy with similar skills (DeForest Buckner) for a first-round pick rather than signing him to a long-term deal. Javon Kinlaw was selected by the Niners in the first round, but he has had trouble staying healthy and putting up quality interior production alongside Arik Armstead. Now that another elite disruptor has been added to San Francisco’s roster to join alongside Armstead and Nick Bosa, it’s notable that he plays defensive tackle while the outgoing Charles Omenihu was an edge rusher. That might slightly alter the makeup of what has been one of the finest defenses in the League for a while. Steve Wilks’ replacement of DeMeco Ryans as defensive coordinator was already going to alter the defense’s composition.
- IDL Dalvin Tomlinson (Vikings)
- ED Ogbonnia Okoronwo (Texans)
- S Juan Thornhill (Chiefs)
In recent seasons, the Browns have had a very difficult time stopping the run. Enter Tomlinson, one of the league’s top inside defensive body-eaters. They employed Jadeveon Clowney, a pocket-crasher type, to work across from Myles Garrett for the previous couple of years. Okoronkwo is more of a pure speed threat coming around the edge. These two additions significantly alter the defensive line’s appearance for Cleveland. With Grant Delpit, Thornhill gives the Browns a player who can patrol the deep areas of the field and come up to either stop the run or defend tight ends. Cleveland’s defense has a lot of skill, but lately, it hasn’t performed to its potential. These trio might be able to bridge (or at least narrow) the disconnect between perception and reality.
- ED Marcus Davenport (Saints)
- CB Byron Murphy (Cardinals)
The Vikings are placing comparable wagers on both of these players, therefore I like pairing them together. Both Davenport (26 years old) and Murphy (25) are young, well-credentialed (Davenport was selected in the first round, while Murphy was selected in the second), inconsistent, and have not yet attained the levels that their drafting clubs had anticipated they would. Nonetheless, they were all still useful players when the Vikings signed them to inexpensive, brief contracts. If it doesn’t work out, the team can move on after a year. If so, Minnesota would have Murphy under contract for a second season and will be able to use the franchise tag or negotiate a long-term deal with Davenport, a pass-rusher who still has potential.
- LB Tremaine Edmunds (Bills)
- LB T.J. Edwards (Eagles)
Similar to when Hargrave signed in San Francisco, a significant piece of the excitement in this situation stems from the Bears trading Roquan Smith during the 2017 season before signing not one, but two linebackers to long-term deals. Edmunds had a larger, lengthier contract since he was the younger player and had greater potential as a coverage player and rangy tackler, but he hasn’t always been the most reliable force in his career. Yet, the Bears plainly believe that the fact that last season was his greatest yet is a portent of things to come. Moreover, Edwards, a more reliable veteran on the second level, was matched with him by Chicago. Before taking the position as defensive coordinator in Indianapolis, head coach Matt Eberflus spent years coaching linebackers in Cleveland and Dallas. This experience helped him land the position in Chicago. It is a sign of what he values in a defense that his team is investing so significantly in players at that position.
- S Vonn Bell (Bengals)
Bell is a player who has expertise playing a variety of different coverages (and varied roles within them) thanks to his time playing for Lou Anarumo in Cincinnati. The new defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero often uses heavy defensive back packages. He may be added to a secondary that already has Jeremy Chinn and Xavier Woods, giving Evero the freedom to mix and match his players and hide his coverages however he sees fit.
- CB Jalen Ramsey, Miami Dolphins (Rams)
- CB Stephon Gilmore, Dallas Cowboys (Colts)
Despite the fact that both of these players continue to perform at a very high level, they were very inexpensive to acquire due to a combination of their salaries and the current standing of their former teams’ rivalries. Miami just had to go with a third-round pick and tight end Hunter Long to land Ramsey to pair alongside Xavien Howard. . a few weeks ago,. . . There are lovely bits of business that let clubs fill roster gaps with talent that is well worth the investment.