Analysis

NFL 2023: Three AFC winners in free agency so far ahead of Draft

Mike McGlinchey has joined the Denver Broncos (Image: Getty)Mike McGlinchey has joined the Denver Broncos (Image: Getty)
Mike McGlinchey has joined the Denver Broncos (Image: Getty) | Getty Images
Free agency got underway just under a month ago in the NFL as teams splashed the cash in order to improve their rosters ahead of the new season.

It has been an eventful time in the AFC with the Kansas City Chiefs making the eye-catching $80 million signing of Jacksonville Jaguars right-tackle Jawaan Taylor.

While Green Bay Packers legend Aaron Rodgers stated his intentions to join the New York Jets, Robert Saleh’s team seemingly began making preparations for the quarterback’s arrival after landing Packers wide receiver Allen Lazard on a four-year deal. Although the Rodgers trade has yet to be finalised.

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Following free agency, we take a look at three franchises who improved.

The Denver Broncos bolster their offensive line

Ahead of Sean Payton’s first season at the helm in Denver, the Broncos were in desperate need of reinforcements in the trenches if they were to help get Russell Wilson back to his best. The Broncos did exactly that as they solidified the right side of their o-line. Payton’s team secured the signature of former San Francisco 49ers right-tackle Mike McGlinchey on an five-year $87.5 million deal and also landed guard Ben Powers on a four-year $52 million contract.

Heading into free agency, McGlinchey was one of the best tackles on the market and he helps shore up the right tackle position. The former Niner is adept in run blocking and is stable in pass protection, giving the Broncos an immediate upgrade at the position.

As for Powers, the former Baltimore Raven enjoyed a breakout season in 2022, starting every game. Powers ended the season without giving up a sack and allowed just one quarterback hit all season.

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The Broncos also solidified their defensive front with the acquisition of former Arizona Cardinals d-lineman Zach Allen. Allen joins Denver on a three-year $45.75m contract after posting a career-high 5.5 sacks in 2022 and rejoins former Cardinals defensive coordinator Vance Joseph in the Mile High City.

A solid free agency in Denver.

Miami go all-in for 2023

The Dolphins’ defense received a boost prior to free agency after the Florida franchise secured the signature of defensive coordinator Vic Fangio on a deal worth more than $4.5m per year, according to Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer.

Fangio’s CV as a defensive guru is well-documented. In his 22 seasons as a coach or a defensive coordinator, the 64-year-old’s defense have ranked in the top ten in fewest points conceded on ten occasions. In his final season at the helm in Denver in 2021 saw his defense rank in the top three in scoring defense and conceded the eighth fewest yards in the league.

Heading into free agency, the Dolphins gave Fangio a few extra pieces to help him build his defence by adding All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey in a trade with the LA Rams and former Tennessee Titans linebacker David Long.

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Miami signed Long on a two-year contract for $11 million, which came after linebackers such as Tremaine Edmunds and TJ Edwards earned big-money deals from the Chicago Bears.

Long is adept at stopping the run, rushing the passer and even dropping into coverage. He featured in 12 games for the Titans last season, and in those 12 games Tennessee had a 7-5 record. Without Long they were 0-5, underlining the value he had in their franchise.

Long has the opportunity to be the signing of the season.

Cincinnati land steal of free agency

The Bengals General Manager Duke Tobin pulled off arguably the biggest steal in free agency. Tobin secured the signature of Kansas City Chiefs offensive lineman Orlando Brown Jr to protect the blindside of prized asset Joe Burrow.

Brown Jr heads to the 2021 AFC Champions on a contract worth $64.09 million over four seasons. At just over $16 million per year and with four Pro-Bowl nominations under his belt, the Bengals landed themselves a bargain.

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In comparison to the deal the Chiefs handed Brown’s successor Jawaan Taylor, a contract of $16 million per year for a four time Pro-Bowl left tackle is an underpay in the modern day NFL.

The arrival of Brown Jr will provide an instant upgrade at the position following Jonah Williams’ struggles in 2022. Williams gave up a total of 45 pressures and 13 sacks. In comparison, Brown gave up just four sacks, but did surrender a whopping 58 quarterback pressures in the 2022 campaign.

Duke Tobin’s attention will likely turn to addressing the contract situation surrounding key stars Tee Higgins, JaMarr Chase and Joe Burrow. It is going to be a busy offseason in Cincinnati.

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