Grading the Biggest Moves on Day Three of 2023 NFL Free Agency

Michael Owens/Getty Images

Grading the Biggest Moves on Day Three of 2023 NFL Free Agency


Grading the Biggest Moves on Day Three of 2023 NFL Free Agency


Michael Owens/Getty Images

Day three of free agency is complete, and I’ve got you covered with grades and analysis for each signing from the day.

If you want to check out my grades for each signing from previous days of this free agency period, click on the corresponding day below.

Day one

Day two


Pittsburgh Steelers sign Linebacker Cole Holcomb

Contract: Three years

Just hours after losing Robert Spillane, the Steelers replaced him with Cole Holcomb. He’s a great run-stopper that wore the green dot in Washington, and I like his fit in Pittsburgh as a counterpart to Myles Jack that will help hide some of Holcomb’s coverage deficiencies. This deal is still pending on a physical, though, as he suffered a season-ending foot injury that required foot surgery. Until then, we won’t get the specifics on this contract beyond the reported length of three years.

Grade: TBD once contract details come out


Carolina Panthers sign Tight End Hayden Hurst

Contract: Three years, $21.75 million ($13 million guaranteed)

I was a big fan of Tommy Tremble during the draft, but he hasn’t quite lived up to what many hoped. Carolina is also quickly realizing they overpaid Ian Thomas last offseason. Hayden Hurst steps in as a serviceable starter and immediate upgrade, although I feel this is an overpay. Carolina could’ve got a chunk of Hurst’s production at a non-premium position for half the cost.

Grade: C


Tampa Bay Buccaneers sign Quarterback Baker Mayfield

Contract: One year, $8.5 million

The direction of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is still up in the air, but this move – along with the Lavonte David one-year re-signing – helps give me a sense that the Buccaneers don’t necessarily view this core as their future. They’re willing to slap some one-year band-aids at positions of need in the meantime to forge a competitive enough roster to take advantage of this weak NFC South. Mayfield fits best as a game-manager that thrives off play-action, RPO’s, and a quicker passing attack, which hasn’t exactly been the Buccaneers offensive identity. I’m interested to see what changes are made, although I am afraid their lack of a run game and pass protection will make things difficult. Some will also argue it was time for Tampa Bay to enter a full-on rebuild, which Mayfield makes a bit tougher. Regardless, Mayfield is still a top-32 quarterback in the league, and miles better than Kyle Trask. 

Grade: B-


Buffalo Bills re-sign Safety Jordan Poyer

Contract: Two years

It sounded like Jordan Poyer would be on the move, but in the end, he re-signs with Buffalo. Poyer’s market ended up being weaker than expected, primarily due to age. This is great news for the Bills, as they get a key piece of their secondary back. Although the price tag is unknown, I’d assume this is a good value signing given his weaker market.

Grade: TBD once contract details come out

Tampa Bay Buccaneers re-sign LB Lavonte David

Contract: One year, $7 million guaranteed

The Buccaneers hold on to Lavonte David for at least one year longer. He’s had an incredible career in Tampa Bay, as one of the best off-ball linebackers of the decade. Don’t let him being 33 years old fool you. David hasn’t shown many signs of slowing down, as he’s still playing like one of the best linebackers in football. An incredibly instinctual player that’s great in coverage and a well-respected leader in the locker room. Similar to what I said for Mayfield, the only rebuttal to this deal is if you believe it was time for Tampa Bay to turn the page and enter a full-on rebuild.

Grade: A-


New England Patriots sign Wide Receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster

Contract: Three years, $25.5 million ($16 million guaranteed, max value of $33 million)

The Patriots lost Jakobi Meyers, and replaced him with JuJu Smith-Schuster on essentially the same deal. To me, going from Meyers to Smith-Schuster is a step backwards. Smith-Schuster brings more yards after catch to the table, but Meyers is more inside/outside versatile, and has demanded a noticeably larger target share over the past few years. It’s also fair to question Smith-Schuster’s fit in New England’s culture. At least the Patriots addressed wide receiver following the loss of Meyers, but I don’t love the process, and their receiving core is still a massive work in progress.

Grade: B-


San Francisco 49ers sign Defensive Tackle Clelin Ferrell

Contract: One year

Ferrell obviously hasn’t lived up to his fourth overall pick status, but that doesn’t mean he’s not a quality pro. He’s a great run stopper that’s had struggles as a pass-rusher, but I think Ferrell is about to have a potential career-year under 49ers defensive line coach Kris Kocurek. Last season, Kocurek took on Charles Omenihu as a reclamation project, watched him tear it up as an interior pass-rusher, and helped land him a two-year, $20 million deal with the Chiefs this week. Ferrell isn’t as athletic, nor does he have as much pass-rushing upside as Omenihu, but if he becomes a nice interior pass-rusher that can kick out to the edge and play the run extremely well, Ferrell could find himself with a multi-year deal next offseason. As for the 49ers, this is a great pickup, as I’m assuming Ferrell will only cost them a few million dollars.

Grade: TBD once contract details come out


Houston Texans sign Defensive Tackle Sheldon Rankins

Contract: One year, $10.5 million

The Texans desperately need help on the interior, which Rankins will provide immediately. He’s good against both the run and the pass, and even if he signs elsewhere next offseason, Houston gets a motivated band-aid playing for a long-term contract at a position of need.

Grade: A-


Washington Commanders sign Quarterback Jacoby Brissett

Contract: One year, $10 million ($8 million guaranteed)

Jacoby Brissett will never be a long-term solution for any team at quarterback, but if he keeps playing like he did last year, he’ll certainly be a sought after stop gap each and every offseason. Brissett is a tough, well-respected locker room guy that played above my expectations last year. Washington wants to see what they’ve got in Sam Howell, but if he doesn’t play up to par, the Commanders have a reliable insurance policy.

Grade: A-


Philadelphia Eagles re-sign Defensive Tackle Fletcher Cox

Contract: One year, $10 million

Fletcher Cox received more lucrative offers from other teams – such as the Jets – but decided to take a hometown discount to stick in Philadelphia. With Javon Hargrave leaving, and both Linval Joseph and Ndamukong Suh still on the open market, the Eagles defensive tackle room looks extremely thin without Cox back in the mix. He’s clearly well past his prime, though, and probably a little overrated based off his name at this point. But Philadelphia is bringing back an impact veteran without having to make a long-term commitment to the 32-year-old.

Grade: B


Cleveland Browns sign Safety Juan Thornhill

Contract: Three years, $21 million ($14 million guaranteed over first two years)

After releasing safety John Johnson, the Browns look to replace him with ex-Chief Juan Thornhill. Although he’s far from elite, Thornhill is a serviceable starter on the back-end with lots of range in coverage. His skill set fits well alongside Grant Delpit, and I feel the Browns signed him on a pretty fair deal.

Grade: A-


New Orleans Saints sign Running Back Jamaal Williams

Contract: Three years, $12 million ($8 million guaranteed)

Jamaal Williams can do a little bit of everything, particularly as a power back in the ground game. He’ll be an immediate fan favorite and leader for the Saints, and his skill set fits well with Alvin Kamara. The best compliments in a one-two punch with Kamara have been power backs such as Latavius Murray and Mark Ingram. Kamara’s sustained longevity has been greatly impacted by a limited volume of carries in-between the tackles. However, as New Orleans has struggled to find reliable complimentary options for Kamara as of late, he’s tallied over 200 carries in each of the past two seasons, which had never happened before in his first four NFL seasons. Williams changes that, and will also be able to shoulder a heavy load in case Kamara is suspended to start the season. However, one downside worth noting; he’s nearly 28 years old.

Grade: B


Carolina Panthers sign Running Back Miles Sanders

Contract: Four years, $25 million ($13 million guaranteed)

It was obvious the Panthers would add to their barren backfield, and with this move, they’re committing to Miles Sanders as their lead back. I think Sanders’ pass-catching chops will be rediscovered in Carolina. They weren’t utilized much in Philadelphia last season, but that was due to playing with tons of receiving talent, a mobile quarterback, and an offensive line that held up in pass protection, all within a committee backfield. With that being said, I don’t view Sanders as some cream of the crop running back, and committing four years plus noteworthy guaranteed dollars towards a near 26-year-old is too rich for my liking.

Grade: C


Cincinnati Bengals sign Tackle Orlando Brown Jr.

Contract: Four years, $64.092 million ($31 million signing bonus)

One of the few knocks on this roster was their offensive tackle spots. Orlando Brown is a game-changing signing for this offensive line, as he’ll take over at left tackle, and I’m assuming Jonah Williams will kick over to right tackle. Some want Brown to slide back over to right tackle, but he’s adamant about staying on the left side, where he’s served as an awesome pass protector in Kansas City. And compared to the rest of the tackle market, an average of $16 million per year is a good deal for Cincinnati. One could even say he took a pay cut.


Believe it or not, the Bengals still have money to spend considering Joe Burrow, Ja’Marr Chase, and Tee Higgins are all still on rookie contracts. They’ve got a Super Bowl roster, and had extra money to help bolster their unit. This was a great time to strike, and they chose their attack wisely.

Grade: A


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