The new NFL league year kicked off on March 15th, and every NFL team has had two weeks to make a push for free agents. This year’s NFL free agency class was not loaded, but many quality players either remained with their current teams or signed to new ones. For our analysis of every team’s additions and subtractions, take a look at our free agency grades.
With the NFL draft still over a month away, most teams are done focusing on veterans on the open market, and their eyes are shifting to the draft. While it is certainly early to put too much bankroll on NFL futures bets, there are a few bets worth making even before the 2023 NFL Draft.
Below we will break down the best moves of NFL free agency, and we will determine if there is a bet that is currently available surrounding this team that is worth making.
2023 NFL Free Agency – Best Free Agent Signings and Correlating Bets
Javon Hargrave (four-year, $80 million contract) – San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers have been one of the best teams in the NFL over the last half-decade, and much of their success has stemmed from building an elite defense with an emphasis on the defensive line. The 49ers have seen a few studs come and go from this rotation, but through the draft and free agency, the 49ers have kept their defensive line in top form.
Signing Hargrave was an incredible move. Hargrave is a game wrecker, and now he is paired with Nick Bosa, Arik Armstead, Javon Kinlaw, and Drake Jackson. How in the world are you going to double-team all four of these guys? The fact is, you cannot, and the 49ers will have one of if not the best defensive fronts in the NFL again.
So, what is the best way to capitalize on this before the draft takes place? The 49ers have a QB problem. Jimmy Garropolo is gone, Trey Lance and Brock Purdy are hurt, and Sam Darnold has inspired minimal confidence throughout his NFL career. Regardless, we saw the 49ers make it to the NFC Championship game on the strength of their defense, and now this unit is better.
Where I would look to get in now is on the 49ers to win the NFC West at -149 odds. This juice is steep, and I would not recommend locking up a lot of your bankroll on a future bet, but these odds will continue to rise. The Cardinals and the Rams are in shambles, so it’s a two-team race between the Seahawks and the 49ers. Give me the team with the better skill players, offensive line, and defense.
Jawaan Taylor (four-year, $80 million contract) – Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs already had a plus left tackle in Orlando Brown, but he priced himself out of returning to the Chiefs. So, what did the Chiefs do? They went out and signed a younger and arguably better player for less money than they would have had to pay Brown. This is just another example of GM Brett Veach being a step ahead.
Taylor played right tackle for the Jaguars, but he will be Mahomes’ blindside protector in Kansas City. At just 25 years old, the Chiefs could potentially have Taylor for the next 10 seasons, which would be a home run for Taylor and the franchise.
So, how do we capitalize now? The AFC is loaded with QB talent, and other teams are ferociously trying to catch up to the Chiefs. The best way to back the Chiefs now would be to take them at +350 to win the AFC. There is a ton of time, and I don’t recommend running to the counter to place this, but there’s a reason why the Chiefs are still the favorites to win the AFC.
Dalvin Tomlinson (four-year, $57 million contract) & Juan Thornhill (three-year, $21 million contract) – Cleveland Browns
The Browns have been trying to make a push in the AFC North for quite some time now, and no matter what moves they make, they continue to fall short of expectations. After acquiring Deshaun Watson, the Browns believe they have the QB they need to make some noise in the playoffs finally. While this experiment is in too early a phase to pass judgment on, the Browns know they needed to help Watson by improving their defense.
Cleveland was poor against the run last season, and outside of Myles Garrett, we’re pretty terrible across their defensive front. Clevland was patient, and they came to terms with Tomlinson, who, at a great price point, immediately gives them a big body in the middle of their defense. Tomlinson has been a plus player in the league, and this was a good move by the Browns.
I am also impressed with the Juan Thronhill signing. The market for safeties was not as great as expected this off-season, so while Thornhill probably wanted more money, this is a great deal for the Browns. Thornhill was a major contributor to the Chiefs’ defensive success since he was drafted.
With the Ravens’ future at QB in purgatory and a sophomore signal called in Pittsburgh, there’s a chance this is a two-team race between the Bengals and the Browns. Believe it or not, the Browns actually own the Bengals, historically. Backing the Browns at +400 to win the AFC North seems like a good way to approach betting on this division before the draft.
Acquiring the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NFL draft – Carolina Panthers
Okay, okay, hear me out there. For starters, I do believe, on the surface level, the Panthers overpaid. However, you cannot overpay for great in the NFL. If whoever the Panthers draft becomes a top-7 QB in the NFL, this move will be a major success. Yes, the Panthers’ skill players are not the ideal situation for a rookie QB, but if the player the Panthers take is actually a franchise-caliber QB, he will elevate the team’s level of play regardless of who is around him.
The betting markets have CJ Stroud as the favorite to go No. 1 overall, and while the odds are about -320, I still think that price is a steal. Stroud just had his pro day, and teams are gushing over him. While I have no confirmation that Carolina prefers Stroud over any of the other QBs in this year’s class, Stroud has been my QB1 for this season since last year.
The NFC South is arguably the weakest division in the NFL. It is not full of dumpster fire teams, but no team is elite, and all four teams are in similar positions. On paper, the Saints look like the best team, but I’d argue the best team is the Panthers. Carolina has a young, ascending defense that was one of the best in the NFL last year, and signing Vonn Bell and Shy Tuttle were great bargain signings. This offensive line is also young and improving, so the pieces are set for the Panthers.
Circling back to the draft, if Stroud, Young, Richardson, or whomever the Panthers draft is a bust, then we can laugh at the Panthers for being dumb and move on with our lives. If whoever they draft is legit, +300 to win the NFC South seems too good to pass up, and I’d lock that in now.