(CNN) After the NFL combine, the start of free agency is the next major step on the upcoming season’s checklist.
Although it officially opens at 4 p.m. EST on March 15, when the league’s new year begins in earnest, teams are able to negotiate with agents for upcoming free agents without restriction for a period of two days before this point.
At the start of the new league year, players can officially sign with new teams, trades become official, and contracts end.
In recent years, spending has increased — each team’s annual salary cap has risen to $224.8 million per team in 2023 — and teams have been more aggressive in their drive to part ways with the stock project for assets. experienced.
And this year looks no different with massive deals reportedly being struck.
All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey has reportedly been traded from the Los Angeles Rams to the Miami Dolphins and numerous quarterbacks have already agreed to deals – Geno Smith to the Seattle Seahawks, Daniel Jones to the New York Giants and Derek Carr with the New Orleans Saints.
But there are still huge dominoes to fall that could shape the fabric of the league.
As the most important position in the sport, it’s only fitting that the biggest questions surround some of the league’s most prominent quarterbacks.
The majority of the interest is in two main names at very different times in their careers.
For Aaron Rodgers, he probably still has a big decision to make in his career at 39 years old.
Despite hinting at a divorce from the Green Bay Packers for several seasons, Rodgers now appears to be closest to leaving, with the New York Jets vigorously pursuing the four-time NFL MVP.
With a young and talented team, the Jets look only one quarterback away from a serious dispute and Rodgers could be the missing piece of the puzzle.
In contrast, Lamar Jackson still has plenty of career ahead but, like Rodgers, could also be heading for new pastures by leaving his longtime home with the Baltimore Ravens.
Having failed to agree on a long-term contract for the past two years, the Ravens applied the non-exclusive franchise tag to Jackson last Tuesday. That means the 26-year-old is free to negotiate with other franchises, but if he signs an offer with another team, the Ravens will have five days to match the deal or receive two first-round picks in return.
The Ravens have made it clear for some time that they want to have 2019 MVP winner Jackson at the helm for many years to come, but the two sides have been unable to come to an agreement on a deal. contract for some time. NOW. The non-exclusive tag comes with a salary cap of $32.4 million for the upcoming season.
While Rodgers’ decision appears to be whether to stay in Green Bay or sign with the Jets, Jackson’s options seem wide open. Many teams in the league – Atlanta Falcons, Washington Commanders, Indianapolis Colts, Carolina Panthers, Las Vegas Raiders and San Francisco 49ers – would all be interested.
Both Rodgers and Jackson could turn franchises of strangers into title challengers. But with no less than four quarterbacks expected to be drafted at the top of this year’s draft, it calls into question whether teams prefer a long-term project or a short-term fix.
Defensive stars on the move
Although offenses have been prioritized over the past few years as the score has skyrocketed, we could see defenses around the league bolstered by big names on the move.
The biggest move that will happen is Ramsey’s return to Florida after being traded from the Rams to the Dolphins in exchange for a third-round pick and tight end Hunter Long.
The arrival of three-time first-team All-Pro Ramsey transforms an up-and-coming Dolphins team into a title-challenging team, while continuing to rebuild the Rams.
Elsewhere, a number of key defensive players are available through free agency, including two of last season’s Super Bowl finalists.
Safety Chauncey Gardner-Johnson and cornerback James Bradberry would all make great additions to new teams with their contracts with the Philadelphia Eagles having expired, while earning a pretty penny.
Bobby Wagner, Lavonte David, Byron Murphy and Jordan Poyer could also be worthy contributors.
Gold Offensive Weapons
On the attacking side of the ball, teams will need to be selective about the talent they decide to acquire.
Many offensive weapons that were to hit the open market were given the franchise tag of their teams.
This means a one-year offer to buy the average of the player’s top five salaries in the current year, or 120% of his previous salary, whichever is greater.
Running back Saquon Barkley will return to the Giants, tight end Evan Engram to the Jacksonville Jaguars, Josh Jacobs to the Las Vegas Raiders and Tony Pollard to the Dallas Cowboys.
Elsewhere, firepower is in high demand and in short supply. Odell Beckham didn’t play last season, Jackobi Myers is a strong No. 2 or No. 3 receiver, and JuJu Smith-Schuster, coming out of a Super Bowl ring, was quiet in the playoffs.
The restricted market could prove a bit more fruitful for teams, with Dalton Schultz, Mike Gesicki and Robert Tonyan all available.
Teams could also replenish offensive line needs with Orlando Brown, Kaleb McGary, Dalton Risner and Isaiah Wynn available.