2023 NFL free agency: Fantasy football impact of signings and trades

Three running back offseason moves that could pay off in fantasy (1:37)

Mike Clay breaks down which running backs on the move can have big seasons. (1:37)

The fantasy football offseason is underway with the start of NFL free agency. This column is designed to be a one-stop shop for quick-hitting analysis of the most impactful player movement -- trades and free-agent signings, including those who re-signed with their teams.

ESPN Fantasy writers Tristan H. Cockcroft, Eric Karabell, Liz Loza and Eric Moody offer their insights into what each move means for a player's fantasy value in 2023. During the early portion of free agency, the most notable recent deals will appear at the top of the column.

Latest news

Marvin Jones Jr. signs with Lions
Fantasy impact: Neutral

After a so-so two years in Jacksonville, Jones returns to Detroit, where he delivered top-20 wide receiver seasons as recently as 2020, his final season in his first stint with the Lions. He won't be in as prominent a role this time around, serving more for depth behind clear No. 1 target Amon-Ra St. Brown as well as developing sophomore Jameson Williams, yet Jones could have the occasionally big day against softer secondaries. Jones is a late-round pick only for leagues of 12-plus teams. -- Cockcroft

Elijah Moore traded to Browns
Fantasy impact: Positive

Moore was plagued by poor quarterback play and the emergence of Garrett Wilson last season. He managed double-digit PPR fantasy points only twice in 2022, but Moore gets a fresh start in Cleveland at an early stage in his NFL career. The 22-year-old will have greater opportunity with the Browns than he would have with a Jets team remodeling in advance of the likely acquisition of Aaron Rodgers, but he'll need to pick up his own play in order to recapture what was once a future on the borderline of WR1 status. He'll be worth a top-50 speculative pick, but monitor his preseason closely. -- Cockcroft

DJ Chark signs with Panthers
Fantasy impact: Neutral

Chark joins a revamped Panthers wide receiver room that also includes Terrace Marshall Jr., Adam Thielen and Laviska Shenault Jr. Last year, Chark played only 11 games due to an ankle injury, but finished the season on a high note, averaging 64.7 receiving yards and 11.0 fantasy points in the final six games. Availability is a legitimate concern, though, as Chark has played only 54 games in the past five seasons. Fantasy managers should consider him as a low-end flex option as a speedy, deep threat in Frank Reich's offense. Chark has averaged 14.5 yards per reception since 2019. -- Moody

Best of the rest

DJ Moore traded to Bears
Fantasy impact: Positive

Moore takes over as Justin Fields' top receiving target. It's a good thing in relative terms, considering the revolving door of mediocre passers with whom he worked in Carolina. Fields' passing game might still be developing, but he heightens Moore's statistical ceiling, even if the two have greater variance than the average QB-WR duo. Moore becomes a midrange WR2, while Fields' QB1 case strengthens.

That said, Moore's arrival gobbles a larger piece of the Bears' target-share pie, rendering Chase Claypool and Darnell Mooney more matchups-oriented depth options, while tight end Cole Kmet should benefit but be at more risk of the occasional quiet game. We'll see how this Bears offense fares under Fields, but I still like Claypool's upside against weaker defenses more than Mooney's. -- Cockcroft

Brandin Cooks traded to Cowboys
Fantasy impact: Positive

Yet another journey for the journeyman! Cooks boasts six seasons with 1,000 receiving yards for four franchises, and he should thrive in Dallas with a top quarterback and offensive system. Cooks battled injury and motivation this past season with the lowly Texans, reaching 100 receiving yards in only the final game, but the speed and skills remain. Michael Gallup investors will not be pleased, but Cooks seems primed to return to WR2 status. -- Karabell

Darren Waller traded to Giants
Fantasy impact: Positive

This supremely talented tight end moves to an offense in desperate need of playmakers. Waller might return to 90-plus receptions and 1,000-plus receiving yards, even with Daniel Jones at QB. Waller is that good and the rest of the Giants -- none of whom hit 60 catches or 750 receiving yards last season -- do not stand out. Waller just needs to stay healthy, which should be the bigger concern. Still, he can be a top-five TE -- even in this offense. -- Karabell

Miles Sanders signs with Panthers
Fantasy impact: Neutral

Sanders spent his entire career with the Eagles and just had his best season. He finished the regular season with 279 touches, 1,347 total yards and 11 touchdowns. Sanders' addition indicates that he will be the Panthers' primary running back in 2023 since D'Onta Foreman was not retained in free agency. Sanders will take handoffs from the recently signed Andy Dalton or whoever the Panthers select with the first overall pick in 2023. Although Sanders remains a solid RB2, he could find himself on the RB1 radar if he is used more as a receiver by the Panthers. Since entering the league, Sanders has actually caught 71% of his targets. -- Moody

David Montgomery signs with Lions
Fantasy impact: Neutral-to-positive

While the primary takeaway of Montgomery's move is that Khalil Herbert, who totaled 42.0 PPR fantasy points on a 59% rushing share in seven-plus quarters as Montgomery's injury fill-in, is now a starter, the impact on Montgomery isn't much less interesting. Assuming he's Jamaal Williams' replacement, there's plenty of meat there, as Williams was dominating in a red-zone/short-yardage/injury-sub capacity, in an offensive system plenty conducive to big rushing totals (Lions were 11th in rushing yards, first in RB PPR fantasy points). Montgomery retains mid-range RB2 appeal and will vault higher in the ranks for each of D'Andre Swift's inevitable absences. -- Cockcroft

Dalton Schultz signs with Texans
Fantasy impact: Neutral

Schultz will be the Texans' primary pass catching tight end in 2023. The tight end position remains as desolate as the landscape in an apocalyptic film, but Schultz is fantasy relevant when you look at his stats. In the last three seasons with the Cowboys, he's averaged 5.8 targets and 10.3 fantasy points. He can still be considered a high-end TE2, even with a rookie under center for the Texans -- Moody

JuJu Smith-Schuster signs with Patriots
Fantasy impact: Positive

Smith-Schuster played one season with QB Patrick Mahomes and was barely a WR3, but now he gets to be the top target for QB Mac Jones. Yes, it is a lesser offense than the Chiefs for sure, but there should be more targets, more chances to score TDs. Smith-Schuster may never duplicate his fantastic 2018 season, but he should improve on his 2022 numbers, even with the Patriots, who were 20th in passing yards per game. -- Karabell

Devin Singletary signs with Texans
Fantasy impact: Neutral

Fantasy managers looking at Dameon Pierce as a potential RB1 in 2023 will be disappointed by Singletary's arrival. Both will work in a committee with the Texans. Singletary has surpassed 950 total yards in each of his last three seasons with the Bills. Over that time frame, he's also averaged 13.0 touches per game. It's likely that trend will continue with the Texans. Singletary is on the flex radar as a nice complement to Pierce, who is now more of an RB2. -- Moody

Derek Carr signs with Saints
Fantasy impact: Neutral

Carr is a good fit for the Saints' offense and is only one season removed from throwing for 4,804 yards and 23 touchdowns in 2021. While he has a chance to replicate that performance in 2023, even that strong season places him 14th among fantasy QBs. In fact, Carr has never finished in the top 10 at the position in fantasy points.

Chris Olave is easily the player who benefits most from Carr's arrival. Olave had 1,042 receiving yards and four touchdowns as a rookie, with Andy Dalton and Jameis Winston under center. Carr will look to exploit Olave's ability to attack defenses vertically. Last season, Carr led the league in touchdowns on downfield passes of 30 yards or more. -- Moody

Adam Thielen signs with Panthers
Fantasy impact: Neutral

Thielen is the first step in rebuilding the Panthers' wide receiver room, but it's not the last step. Even though there will be more receivers added, there's a good chance Thielen will be Frank Reich's top red zone target. With just nine passing touchdowns in the red zone in 2022, the Panthers tied for last in the NFL. Since 2016, only Davante Adams and Travis Kelce have caught more red zone touchdowns than Thielen. Carolina also recently hosted DJ Chark. Fantasy managers might consider Thielen a flex option depending on the Panthers' wide receiver and quarterback additions. -- Moody

Raheem Mostert, Jeff Wilson Jr. staying with Dolphins
Fantasy impact: Neutral

Perhaps the biggest surprise is that each veteran played in 16 games last season. Injuries have long hampered them. Mostert produced more like a flex option than fantasy starter, but a competent one averaging 4.9 yards per rush. Wilson is a bit bigger and younger. Neither played much of a role in the passing game. Hurrah for both in returning, but this is a clear time-share for fantasy managers, keeping each more in flex territory rather than as a reliable starter. -- Karabell

Mike Gesicki signs with Patriots
Fantasy impact: Positive

Gesicki was among the top-five tight ends in both targets and receptions two seasons ago, and he was fantasy-worthy for three consecutive seasons in Miami before the Tyreek Hill acquisition blunted his statistics. The Patriots will pair Gesicki with Hunter Henry and perhaps neither can truly thrive in the tandem, but Gesicki is a durable downfield threat. We may not rank him as a top-10 TE, but he could get there. -- Karabell

Darius Slayton re-signs with Giants
Fantasy impact: Neutral

New York's receiving yards leader (with only 724) returns and, while Slayton has yet to catch more than 50 passes in any of his four NFL seasons and he has scored only seven touchdowns over the past three campaigns, perhaps the best is yet to come. The Giants have added TE Darren Waller, but that may actually help the team's wide receivers. Slayton will compete with Isaiah Hodgins and Parris Campbell for targets. -- Karabell

Jamaal Williams signs with Saints
Fantasy impact: Neutral

Thanks to Williams' engaging personality and statistical production, he became a fan favorite of Lions' fans and fantasy managers during the 2022 season. Williams had 262 rushing attempts for 1,066 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns last season, all career highs. He averaged 13.2 fantasy points per game. While another 17-touchdown season is unlikely, fantasy managers can expect strong production from Williams in New Orleans next season with Derek Carr under center. He should be actively involved and, given the uncertainty with Alvin Kamara, could outperform his ADP:. -- Moody

James Robinson signs with Patriots
Fantasy impact: Negative

A surprise, undrafted star with the Jaguars in 2020, Robinson was not the same player last year, returning from a torn Achilles and hampered by knee woes. The Patriots boast a star in Rhamondre Stevenson, who exceeded 1,000 rushing yards and caught 69 passes, so Robinson replaces Damien Harris, whose role was rather muted last season. Robinson is a late-round fantasy investment, at best. -- Karabell

Jakobi Meyers signs with Raiders
Fantasy Impact: Neutral

After signing a three-year deal that includes $21M guaranteed, Meyers is heading west and reuniting with former offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. In New England, the NC State player maintained a target share above 22%, clearing at least 80 looks in three consecutive seasons. With Darren Waller headed to the Giants, Meyers could retain much of that volume. Additionally, he figures to see an uptick in outside opportunities. Interestingly, Meyers' slot snaps increased by nearly 3% after McDaniels' departure. Meyers enters 2023 as a high-floor PPR option with little TD upside in the WR3 range. -- Loza

Allen Lazard signs with Jets
Fantasy impact: Neutral

Lazard had occasional moments of fun playing with Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay and who knows -- hint, hint -- they may be reunited! However, the Jets already have the league's top offensive rookie in WR Garrett Wilson. He is really good! Lazard is just OK, and even if we assume he sees more targets than new teammates Corey Davis and Elijah Moore, it is hard to see WR3 fantasy numbers. Lazard got paid, but statistically, we may have seen his best already. -- Karabell

Michael Thomas restructures deal, stays with the Saints
Fantasy impact: Neutral

Thomas has averaged 7.7 targets and 13.3 fantasy points per game since 2020 for the Saints. However, since he has played in only 10 games over that time frame, Thomas' availability is a major concern. Chris Olave's outlook will be boosted by the addition of Derek Carr, but it's difficult to view Thomas as anything more than a flex option. -- Moody

Jimmy Garoppolo signs with Raiders
Fantasy impact: Neutral

After six years in San Francisco, Garoppolo will reunite with Josh McDaniels in Las Vegas. Despite averaging 7.9 YPA, the veteran QB averaged just 15.0 fantasy points (QB19 among qualifiers) in 2022. He's less likely to be as efficient in Vegas, but given the team's surrounding talent his production figures to remain static. In a largely lateral move, the Raiders' skill position players -- Davante Adams chief among them -- shouldn't be downgraded given the QB change. Coming off of a late-season foot injury, Jimmy G remains a middling QB2 for superflex purposes. -- Loza

Rashaad Penny signs with Eagles
Fantasy impact: Positive

Some might scoff at the NFC champs swapping free agent Miles Sanders for Penny, as Penny played in only 18 games the past three seasons, but the Eagles loathe investing big dollars in running backs. Penny averaged better than 6.0 YPC each of the past two truncated seasons and he piles on yards after contact. The Eagles boast arguably the league's top offensive line, but also a looming time-share with Kenneth Gainwell. If suddenly durable, Penny has RB2 upside, but it is a big "if." -- Karabell

Ezekiel Elliott cut by the Cowboys
Fantasy impact: Neutral

Elliott has not been an elite running back for several years, and Tony Pollard finally passed him on the depth chart. Don't let the touchdown volume fool you. Elliott lacks the burst and big-play capability of yesteryear. He will find work and perhaps deliver RB2 stats again, but he is on the downside of his career. Meanwhile, some may view this as awesome news for Pollard, an RB1 last season, but it is unlikely he sees more volume. The Cowboys will acquire another RB to keep his workload in check. -- Karabell

Damien Harris signs with Bills
Fantasy impact: Neutral

Harris stays in the division and replaces Devin Singletary (signed with Texans). While Harris is bigger and more proven than the younger James Cook -- remember, Harris scored 15 TDs in 2021! -- the Bills love Cook. He will be plenty involved in the offense, as will pass-catching back Nyheim Hines. Harris became the backup in New England and he may find it equally difficult to earn touches in Buffalo. -- Karabell

Hayden Hurst signed by the Panthers
Fantasy impact: Neutral

Hurst performed well enough last season on a one-year deal with the Bengals, catching 52 of 68 targets for 414 receiving yards and two touchdowns but generated only four games with 10 or more fantasy points. With the Panthers set to pick their new quarterback with the first overall pick in the draft, it's important to remember that tight ends are a key aspect of a Frank Reich offense. Hurst remains a viable TE2/streamer in fantasy. -- Moody

Baker Mayfield signs with the Buccaneers
Fantasy impact: Neutral

Mayfield singed a one-year deal with Tampa Bay and now, due to his late-season resurgence with the Rams, has a chance to compete for the starting job along with the team's 2021 second-round pick Kyle Trask. For his career, Mayfield has only averaged 15.14 fantasy points per game as a starter. It is likely that this trend will continue with wide receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin in Tampa Bay if he wins the starting job. He can be viewed as a middle-of-the-road QB2 in fantasy. -- Moody

Mecole Hardman signs with Jets
Fantasy impact: Negative

Hardman, who missed half of last season due to injuries, joins a crowded Jets WR crew, and it is so hard to see how he's going to be relevant for fantasy. Garrett Wilson is a star and newcomer Allen Lazard has been more productive, and he knows the team's presumptive new QB well (hint, hint). Not much to see here. -- Karabell

Austin Hooper signs with Raiders
Fantasy impact: Neutral

Hooper last managed top-eight fantasy numbers as a member of the Falcons in 2019. A return to fantasy dominance is unlikely at this stage of his career, however, as the 28-year-old ran a career low 16.4 routes per game with the Titans in 2022. Hooper will join O.J. Howard in Vegas and will attempt to fill the void left by Darren Waller. Given the depth at the TE position, the Raiders are likely to draft a rookie in April. Hooper could initially see a boost in targets, but figures to work primarily as a blocker at his next stop. -- Loza

Jacoby Brissett signs with Commanders
Fantasy impact: Neutral

Someone has to play QB for the Commanders and Brissett, who averaged 10.5 PPR points per game in 11 starts for the Browns, should compete with untested Sam Howell. Brissett is experienced and competent, and in multi-QB and SuperFlex formats, well, every starting QB matters. Brissett offers no statistical upside, even with excellent WRs, but he can run and avoids interceptions. --Karabell