The NFL offseason is always long and eventful. With training camps kicking off, we decided to catch you up on everything you need to know, from the obvious storylines to the under-the-radar happenings you may have missed. That includes big-name free agency signings, franchise-altering draft picks, key coaching moves, important news around the league and rule changes for 2023.
Preseason contests begin on Aug. 3 with the Hall of Fame Game (New York Jets at Cleveland Browns, 8 p.m. ET on NBC) and conclude on Aug. 27. Rosters will be cut down to 53 players on Aug. 29, and preseason training camp ends Sept. 3. The regular season will be right around the corner at that point, with the Detroit Lions visiting the Kansas City Chiefs on Sept. 7 (8:20 p.m. ET on NBC) in the opener.
Before the games get rolling, NFL Nation reporters Stephen Holder and Brooke Pryor will get you up to speed on the past five months. Let's start with a few things you all (should) already know.
Wait, Brady retired (again)? And Rodgers is in New York?
Holder: Quarterback movement has dominated offseason news cycles in recent years, so why would 2023 have been any different? Alas, it was not.
Tom Brady retired for the second consecutive offseason, and this time was for real (we think). He famously retired and subsequently unretired in early 2022, returning for a remarkable 23rd season. This time, he bid farewell in a simple video posted to his social channels on Feb. 1, in which he said he is retiring "for good." Brady's third and final season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (after the first 20 with the New England Patriots) concluded with a wild-card loss to the Dallas Cowboys, capping a seven-title career.
Elsewhere, another quarterback era ended with Aaron Rodgers moving from the Green Bay Packers to the Jets after what seemed like the longest trade negotiation in NFL history. After months of speculation, the Jets landed their QB when the teams agreed to terms just days before the NFL draft. Acquiring the four-time MVP has put New York in the mix of a juicy conversation in the AFC East, where the Jets, Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins all have reason to believe they can win the division and chase a Super Bowl.
Which players have a new team?
Pryor: Free agency saw many talented players land in new spots. Offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr. was our No. 1 free agent this year, and he ended up signing a four-year, $64 million deal with the Cincinnati Bengals. With a Super Bowl ring already on his finger from his time with the Chiefs, the onetime Baltimore Raven rejoined the AFC North, earning $43.5 million guaranteed to protect Joe Burrow's blindside. Brown's $31 million signing bonus was the highest ever for an offensive lineman.
Brown, who asked to be traded from the Ravens in 2021 to play left tackle, spent the 2022 campaign on the franchise tag. After the season, the Chiefs promptly signed former Jacksonville Jaguars tackle Jawaan Taylor to a four-year, $80 million deal -- with $60 million guaranteed -- to take his spot. Here are some other notable signings from the free agency period:
Wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. signed with the Ravens for one year and $15 million. After sitting out the 2022 season to continue rehabbing from his second left knee injury in two years, Beckham is officially back -- and in a big way. Beckham signing with the Ravens was an appetizer to Baltimore's biggest transaction of the offseason: signing quarterback Lamar Jackson to a huge five-year, $260 million deal. Beckham's addition was obviously an enticement to Jackson, but the star receiver is just one part of a concerted effort by the Ravens to upgrade the offense around the 2019 MVP quarterback. Other notable wideouts on the move: Jakobi Meyers signed a three-year deal with the Las Vegas Raiders, while JuJu Smith-Schuster replaced him in New England.
Defensive tackle Javon Hargrave signed with the San Francisco 49ers for four years and $84 million. The rich always seem to get richer, and the 49ers did exactly that when they signed Hargrave in March. The Niners don't typically stockpile talent by spending big, but they broke the mold with Hargrave to improve their pass rush. The defensive tackle, on the precipice of being a household name, was a force for the Philadelphia Eagles in a lopsided NFC Championship Game win against his new team, recording five tackles (including one for loss).
Running back Miles Sanders signed with the Carolina Panthers for four years and $25 million. The Panthers didn't just get a facelift this offseason; they had total reconstructive surgery. Not only did they draft a new quarterback with the first overall pick and get a new head coach (more on those moves in a minute), the team also signed an arsenal of offensive playmakers, including Sanders, wide receivers Adam Thielen and DJ Chark and tight end Hayden Hurst. Sanders will help take the pressure off rookie QB Bryce Young.
Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo signed with the Raiders for three years and $72.75 million. This might come as a surprise, but there was more QB news this offseason than the Rodgers trade saga. While Rodgers broke up with the Packers and jumped into a new relationship with the Jets, other vets also were moving on from their longtime teams. After New Orleans Saints QB Derek Carr was released by the Raiders in February, Las Vegas landed Garoppolo. Garoppolo, though, signed a waiver in lieu of going through the team's physical because of a fracture in his foot sustained in December. Garoppolo underwent surgery for a left foot injury after signing with the Raiders, but he recently passed his training camp physical, and he will be worked into practice "at the right pace," according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.
Not every player on the move chose his destination this offseason, and several big names (besides Rodgers, of course) are on new teams via trade. Some of the most notable include tight end Darren Waller going from the Raiders to the New York Giants, defensive end Za'Darius Smith heading from the Minnesota Vikings to Cleveland, wide receiver DJ Moore shifting from Carolina to the Chicago Bears, cornerback Jalen Ramsey joining the Dolphins from the Los Angeles Rams, wideout Brandin Cooks coming from the Houston Texans to the Cowboys, wide receiver Allen Robinson II going from the Rams to the Pittsburgh Steelers, corner Stephon Gilmore joining the Cowboys from the Indianapolis Colts and running back D'Andre Swift making the move from the Lions to the Eagles.
Which rookies are set to take over the NFL?
Holder: One year after a single quarterback was selected in the first round of the 2022 draft (Kenny Pickett), quarterbacks dominated the early picks in the 2023 draft, and they could come to define the future of their respective franchises. Three of the top four selections were signal-callers. First up among the future heroes or heartbreakers is Carolina's Bryce Young, a standout talent whom the Panthers hope can help reset their franchise. The Panthers traded up to No. 1 in a deal with the Bears to have the chance to add Young. Whether his playmaking translates to the NFL game despite his 5-foot-10, 194-pound size will be among the more fascinating subplots of this season.
Then C.J. Stroud went second overall to the Texans. Whether he knows it or not, Stroud is the key to getting Houston past the ugly ending of the Deshaun Watson era and the year-plus of constant controversy that enveloped the entire organization. That's a heavy load for someone who hasn't yet turned 22 years old. No pressure, kid. Houston followed the Stroud selection with an aggressive trade to acquire the No. 3 overall pick, where it grabbed edge rusher Will Anderson Jr.
Anthony Richardson capped off the first-round quarterbacks in going to the Colts at No. 4, and his development will be closely scrutinized given his lack of experience. As a one-year starter at the Florida, Richardson arrived in Indy a month shy of his 21st birthday. But he'll need to grow up fast. The Colts have been in the quarterback wilderness since 2019, when Andrew Luck walked away unexpectedly. One thing is certain: Richardson has some impressive physical traits.
In other draft-related news, the Atlanta Falcons made running back Bijan Robinson (No. 8 overall) the highest-drafted player at his position since Saquon Barkley was chosen second overall in 2018. And the Eagles bolstered their defense with two of Georgia's top prospects, Jalen Carter and Nolan Smith -- much to the chagrin of the rest of the NFC East.
Any coaching moves to know about?
Pryor: Hop aboard the coaching carousel and hold on tight, because it got wild this offseason. First up, Sean Payton is back, baby, and I don't think we're talking enough about the Denver Broncos' Payton/George Paton coach/general manager combo purely from a pun possibility perspective: Payton gives Paton his "why," etc. OK fine, I'll admit that was pretty weak.
What isn't weak, though, is the Texans hiring DeMeco Ryans from the 49ers to take over in Houston. Coupled with two top-five picks, the Texans are on the cusp of a new era. It's also a new day in Charlotte, where the Panthers ended Matt Rhule's, well, rule, and brought in Frank Reich and his coaching staff after an interim stint by Steve Wilks (now the 49ers defensive coordinator, replacing Ryans). That's one full lap around the carousel.
Taking Reich's place in Indianapolis -- after a brief, head-scratching interim tenure by Jeff Saturday -- is former Eagles offensive coordinator Shane Steichen. Meanwhile, Steichen's defensive counterpart in Philadelphia, Jonathan Gannon, replaced Kliff Kingsbury as Arizona Cardinals head coach.
How about coordinator moves? Eric Bieniemy went from the Chiefs to the Washington Commanders to prove he can run an offense without Andy Reid, and Bill O'Brien returned to the Patriots to replace Matt Patricia and Joe Judge as Bill Belichick's offensive playcaller. Leslie Frazier decided to take a year away from coaching, leaving Bills coach Sean McDermott to assume defensive coordinator duties. Nathaniel Hackett got another shot with Aaron Rodgers in New York, Kellen Moore went from Dallas to Hollywood to help Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert and Brian Flores left the Steelers to become the Vikings defensive coordinator.
What are the most important off-field happenings from the offseason?
Holder: The long, sordid Dan Snyder era is over in Washington. The sale of the Commanders for $6.05 billion to an ownership group led by Josh Harris was unanimously approved by NFL owners last week. The transaction moves the NFL closer to the conclusion of a chapter it would like to forget.
Snyder also was fined $60 million after a league-commissioned independent investigation concluded he sexually harassed a team employee and the team withheld revenue from the NFL. Still unresolved are numerous lawsuits by former team employees stemming from conduct in what has been described as a hostile workplace.
The image of Damar Hamlin lying motionless on the field back in January will remain one of the scariest moments in NFL history. The Bills safety has made a full recovery after suffering cardiac arrest during a game against the Bengals. In April, he announced his intent to return to the NFL this season.
Gambling violations by players took center stage during the offseason, with 10 players receiving suspensions ranging from six games to indefinite bans. The NFL continues to grapple with an issue that is complicated by the accessibility of gambling in states with legalized sports wagering, and the league is currently taking steps to reemphasize the consequences to its players.
Don't let your kids grow up to be running backs. That's the takeaway from the handling of some key players at the position during the offseason. The Vikings' release of Dalvin Cook and the stalemates of franchised backs Saquon Barkley (who recently agreed to a new one-year deal), Josh Jacobs and Tony Pollard served to reinforce how the NFL views running backs in today's passing era. The frustration has boiled over recently, with the players' public statements growing edgier by the day.
Tua Tagovailoa admitted in April that he considered retirement after his series of stints in concussion protocol last season, with the Dolphins quarterback's head hitting the turf on three occasions. But Tagovailoa reached a comfort level with his health and worked through his concerns, and he is now cleared to return. His ability to stay in the lineup will be watched closely in 2023.
What rule changes do I need to know?
Pryor: We're not redefining a catch this year, but there are a couple of rule changes to keep in mind in 2023. For one thing, tripping is now considered a personal foul and will result in a 15-yard penalty -- and can be subject to additional penalties (including fines) whether or not it is called in a game.
Also in on-field rule changes, all failed fourth-down conversions will be subject to an automatic booth review, and head coaches can't challenge a failed fourth-down conversion. But a successful fourth-down conversion can be challenged by coaches, unless it occurs inside the two-minute warning or during overtime.
When an instant replay decision leads to a reversal of the call under two minutes, the play clock will be reset to 40 seconds instead of 25, unless another rule supersedes it -- like a 10-second runoff, in which case the play clock will be reset to 30 seconds.
The use of helmet rule also was modified in 2023 to prevent a player from using any part of his helmet or face mask to make forcible contact to an opponent's head or neck area.
Other rule changes around the game include fair catches on kickoffs being placed at the 25-yard line; players being permitted to wear No. 0 jerseys; one day for rosters to be cut from 90 to 53 (Aug. 29); the addition of a third active quarterback on game day; and the introduction of "Thursday Night Football" flex scheduling. (The flex can happen from Weeks 13 to 17 and can only be used twice. Teams must have a 28-day notice of the schedule change.)
Lightning round: What else happened this summer?
Holder: There's some new money in the NFL this season. Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts, as expected, signed a massive deal on the heels of his team's Super Bowl berth: five years and $255 million, with $179.4 million in total guarantees. Giants quarterback Daniel Jones also was secured long term, signing a four-year, $160 million deal.
Elsewhere, this was the year of the defensive lineman when it came to extensions. Quinnen Williams (Jets, four years, $96 million), Jeffery Simmons (Tennessee Titans, four years, $94 million), Dexter Lawrence (Giants, four years, $90 million) and Daron Payne (Commanders, four years, $90 million) all got long-awaited new contracts.
Pryor: Wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins found a new home with the Titans just before training camp. But other prominent players are still free agents: Ezekiel Elliott, Kareem Hunt, Leonard Fournette and Dalvin Cook. Hmm, it seems like all of those guys have something in common.
Holder: This will be the first season since 2011 without one of the greatest pass-rushers in NFL history chasing quarterbacks. J.J. Watt walked away after 12 seasons, 114.5 sacks and 195 tackles for loss (second in NFL history).
Pryor: Bills wide receiver Stefon Diggs missed a day of mandatory minicamp amid frustrations with his role in the offense. Buffalo coach Sean McDermott excused the absence and said the matter was "resolved" on the second day of the June minicamp; but a day earlier, McDermott said he was "very concerned" about Diggs' absence. Meanwhile, Cowboys guard Zack Martin's status for training camp is up in the air because he is unhappy with his contract and the team's lack of interest in restructuring it, sources told ESPN's Adam Schefter. Martin, a six-time first-team All-Pro, is currently scheduled to make $7 million less than the NFL's top paid guards. Also, defensive tackle Chris Jones did not report for the start of the Chiefs' camp. Jones is seeking a new deal, and the two sides are "far apart," per Schefter.
Other players unhappy with their situations requested trades, including Cardinals safety Budda Baker and Bucs linebacker Devin White. Bengals offensive tackle Jonah Williams initially requested a trade after the team signed Orlando Brown Jr. in free agency, kicking Williams to right tackle. Williams, though, backed off the demand in mid-June.
Holder: Brock Purdy has the inside track to start at quarterback for the 49ers, according to coach Kyle Shanahan, but will Purdy's elbow injury open the door for Trey Lance? The Niners have one of the more fascinating quarterback situations in the NFL. Another one to watch? Jordan Love takes the reins at QB in Green Bay, emerging from Aaron Rodgers' shadow. The 2020 first-round pick has started just one game in his career and has attempted 83 passes over three seasons.
Pryor: After a discrete process, the NFL Players Association announced the election of executive director Lloyd Howell, a former Booz Allen consulting firm executive who will replace DeMaurice Smith. Smith held the role for five terms that spanned over 14 years, during which time he navigated two collective bargaining agreements, a lockout and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Holder: A contract extension for NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is in the works and expected to be finalized soon. It will, perhaps, be the final deal for the longtime commissioner, as discussions about his successor are underway among owners. Goodell, whose contract expires next year, has overseen the most prosperous period in NFL history.
Pryor: The NFLPA is investigating agent David Canter for allegations of bribery during NFL draft weekend, sources told ESPN. He allegedly sent text messages to several NFL general managers offering use of his vacation homes, including links to the properties, in exchange for the teams drafting his players.
Holder: The racial discrimination lawsuit filed by former Dolphins coach Brian Flores will move forward in federal court after a judge ruled his claims would not be limited to arbitration. It increases the likelihood that testimony and evidence unflattering to the NFL will become public.
Pryor: In legal news, a misdemeanor assault charge against Raiders wideout Davante Adams stemming from an incident in which he shoved a credentialed media worker after a game was dropped. Saints running back Alvin Kamara agreed to plead no contest to a misdemeanor charge of breach of peace for his involvement in a 2022 fight in Las Vegas. Kamara will serve 30 hours of community service and pay more than $100,000 in medical bills for the alleged victim; the NFL is continuing to review the situation for potential discipline under the personal conduct policy.
Holder: Violators of the gambling policy weren't the only players to earn suspensions. Others include a four-game ban for Jaguars left tackle Cam Robinson and a two-game ban for free agent defensive back Sean Chandler, both for performance-enhancing drugs. Free agent defensive end Amani Bledsoe received a 17-game suspension, incurring his second PED penalty in as many years.