As the new NFL league year begins, a pair of young general managers made franchise-altering moves around young quarterbacks that just might elevate their franchise’s chances of competing for years to come.
Suddenly after the legal tempering period, Ryan Poles’ Chicago Bears and Joe Schoen’s New York Giants appear on parallel paths around Daniel Jones and Justin Fields, respectively. Both Poles and Schoen acted boldly to both underscore their commitment to their young quarterbacks and bolster their supporting casts ahead of the 2023 campaign.
Poles followed through on a deal whose framework was set in Indianapolis during the NFL Combine, trading the No. 1 overall pick to the Carolina Panthers for a package that includes the No. 9 overall pick, the No. 25 overall pick, a first-round pick in 2024 and a second-round pick in 2025.
But, while the Panthers now get their choice of franchise quarterbacks of the future, the prize of this trade for the Bears is dynamic wide receiver D.J. Moore to pair with their franchise quarterback of the present.
Moore is far more gifted, and far more accomplished than any of the receivers available in this year’s draft class, any of the free agents on the open market, and is exactly the game-altering weapon Chicago desperately needed to surround Fields in order to allow the third-year passer to flourish.
“D.J. Moore is an extremely talented big-play wide receiver,” an NFL coach told Heavy. “He’s going to help Justin Fields tremendously.”
Moore adds 5,222 yards and 21 touchdowns worth of production to Fields’ repertoire, five seasons into his career, and immediately headlines an already-improved receiving corps alongside Darnell Mooney and Chase Claypool.
Giants’ Offseason Draws Parallels to Ascending Bears
Meanwhile, 787 miles away in East Rutherford, Schoen and the Giants tied a bow on negotiations with Daniel Jones on a four-year contract worth upward of $40 million per season mere minutes ahead of the deadline to use the franchise tag on March 7.
Jones earned a substantial financial commitment from New York after tossing just 15 touchdowns — two fewer than Davis Mills — and 11 months after Schoen, head coach Brian Daboll and the Giants declined his fifth-year option. But, Jones earned his second NFL contract by winning nine games, breaking the Giants’ 11-year postseason drought and leading an offense that did not feature an NFL-caliber wide receiver.
After committing to Jones, Schoen and the Giants didn’t waste any time investing in building around Jones. The Giants used the franchise tag on Saquon Barkley, in hopes of coming to terms on a long-term contract by the July 15 deadline to do so, before Schoen pulled off a Polesian blockbuster of his own.
On March 14, the Giants agreed to acquire tight end Darren Waller in a trade with the Las Vegas Raiders, immediately delivering one of the more dynamic pass-catchers in the game into Jones’ supporting cast.
Waller caught 28-of-40 targets last season for 388 yards and 3 touchdowns prior to being placed on IR with a hamstring injury in 2022.
“Waller is a stud,” an NFL offensive coordinator told Heavy. “He’s one of the few tight ends that make a huge difference in the passing game.”
Schoen traded the No. 100 overall pick to the Raiders for Waller, which the Giants acquired last fall in a deal that sent Kadarius Toney to the Kansas City Chiefs.
Similar to the Bears, who have the additions; Moore, linebackers Tremaine Edmunds, T.J. Edwards, and guard Nate Davis to make a run at the NFC North crown while continuing to build around Fields over the next two offseasons, Waller’s arrival, paired with a marquee signing of linebacker Bobby Okereke close the Giant gap between New York and the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC East.
The Bears and Giants both have young quarterbacks, have already significantly bolstered the talent around them, and boast young and bold general managers who seem to have altered the trajectory of their franchises in the early stages of this offseason. Now it’s up to Fields and Jones to deliver the promise their potential has shown their respective franchises.
Quote of the Week: Miles Sanders
“To the city of Philadelphia, Thank You from the bottom of my heart.” – RB Miles Sanders
The Philadelphia Eagles’ singing of former first-round pick of the Seattle Seahawks, Rashaad Penny, seemingly closes the book on Sanders’ time in Philadelphia.
Sanders becomes one of the premier running backs available on the open market, after rushing for a career-high 1,269 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2022 as an instrumental piece to the Eagles’ Super Bowl run.
Teams looking to upgrade at running back could do a lot worse than a back who has averaged fewer than 200 carries through the first four seasons of his career.
Final Thought: Jets’ Big Gamble on Aaron Rodgers
The New York Jets better be right.
Since hiring Nathaniel Hackett as offensive coordinator, the Jets have telegraphed their significant interest in trading for Aaron Rodgers.
After allowing Derek Carr to walk out of two meetings without a deal, with Carr ultimately signing with the New Orleans Saints, and seeing Jimmy Garoppolo sign with the Las Vegas Raiders and Mike White hop a flight to the Miami Dolphins, Rodgers is the only game in town.
As only Aaron Rodgers could, the 39-year-old could, Rodgers has held off on making a decision on whether he’ll retire, return to the Green Bay Packers, or welcome a trade to the Jets. While making a free agent wish list for the Jets; signing Allen Lazard (check), signing Randall Cobb among them.
The Jets better be right.
Jets general manager Joe Douglas seems on the precipice of trading for Rodgers, one year after choosing Zach Wilson No. 2 overall in the NFL draft. Yet, after a season that saw Rodgers seemingly shy from contact, struggle within the confines of Matt LaFleur’s offense, while passing for his lowest yardage total since 2017 and tossing a career-high 12 interceptions.
Douglas and the Jets, better be right.
Rodgers in a Jets uniform is a bet that he will elevate a dynamic skill set that includes Breece Hall, Garrett Wilson, and now Lazard with a defense loaded with playmakers in the front seven from knocking on the doorstep to legitimately playing for a Super Bowl.
Some inside the league are skeptical.
“Is Aaron going to take enough risks to beat Mahomes, Burrow, Allen, and everyone else in the AFC?” a veteran NFL scout told Heavy. “All those times he had home-field advantage in the playoffs, and he didn’t come through because he doesn’t want to risk putting the ball in harm’s way.”
Rodgers will walk into Canton when his career is over. But, the reality is, he is just 12-10 in the postseason with one Super Bowl ring on his finger, despite consistently being among the most gifted of his contemporaries with over a decade’s worth of playing around a supremely-talented supporting cast.
The Jets better be right.
“When you watch him last year,” the scout said. “He absolutely did not want to get touched last year. That simply won’t cut it in the AFC.”
Building around Rodgers in the short-term, taking a run at the Super Bowl, for what Douglas is betting, the Jets better be right.