In a 12-part series, we take a look at each DFL team, where they’ve been and where they’re going. We analyze the strength of their current roster build, what areas need improvement, and speculate what they might do in the coming months.
A look back
It was a tale of two halves of the season for the Pigs in 2022. The Pigs won their first game of the year but then proceeded to drop their next five games to start the season at 1-5. It seemed like they were out of the mix and left for dead at that point. But a second-half surge turned their fortunes around as they finished with 7 wins in their final 8 games, earning the number 6 seed and a date with division rival Kazakhstan in Round 1 of the playoffs. The game was everything you could hope for between division rivals and in a playoff game, no less, as the Very Nice Team edged the Pigs by 10 points, ending their season early.
A look ahead
The Pigs have 14 players under contract before using any possible franchise tags. At the moment, they have the fifth-most cap space, but some of that will be eaten into if they utilize their tags. Some potential tag targets include quarterback Josh Allen and wide receiver Davante Adams, both of whom come with hefty price tags. The team has good depth across the board; they could just use some solid starters atop the depth chart to make a run in 2023. If the Pigs believe in Trevor Lawrence to be their starter, they could look to tag-and-trade Allen for extra pieces. If they want to keep Allen, they would wind up having a strong quarterback position.
The Stock Report
Stock Up: Trevor Lawrence, QB/JAX; Miles Sanders, RB/CAR; Garrett Wilson, WR/NYJ
Stock Down: J.K. Dobbins, RB/BAL; Zach Wilson, QB/NYJ
Papua New Guinea has two quarterbacks under contract in Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson. The former made great strides last year, finishing as QB8. The latter ran his big mouth and played poorly enough to lose his job and, realistically, his future. The Pigs dished out a hefty sum, $17 million, to Josh Allen last year. Allen was QB2 on the season, but that money could have possibly been better served elsewhere. The Pigs could place the NFT on Allen and see what he earns on the open market. He surely will get some offers, but he likely won’t command the salary he did last year.
Running Back Analysis
Perhaps the biggest mistake the Pigs made last year was giving D’Andre Swift $19.6 million. All the experts wanted to anoint Swift as an RB1 last offseason but Swift lost all the goal line work and finished as a disappointing, low-end RB2. Now, Swift appears buried on the depth chart, so any chance of a tag at that price seems far-fetched. The Pigs have five running backs under contract, but all come with their question marks. J.K. Dobbins is earning the biggest paycheck and he has just not been able to stay healthy throughout his short career. James Conner took a step backward last year and Miles Sanders took a big step forward. Both were mid-to-lower RB2s. Tyler Allgeier was looking promising for a brief cup of coffee before his fortunes changed dramatically on NFL draft night. Gus Edwards is just a camp body. Overall, the team should be fine at the position if they go aggressively after a No. 1 running back.
Wide Receiver Analysis
Second-year pro Garrett Wilson will lead the Pigs’ receiving corps into 2023. This is unless the team tags Davante Adams. The EFT seems cost prohibitive, so they could use the TT and see how high his price tag rises in free agency. Veterans Amari Cooper and Brandin Cooks will return next year as well. Cooper had an improved season while Cooks backslid a little. Both still have something left in the tank. Cooper finished as WR10, and while that doesn’t seem repeatable, he still should be a capable starter, probably best suited as a FLEX. With Adams, Wilson, Cooper and Cooks, that receiver depth chart would be pretty solid.
Tight End Analysis
Pat Freiermuth had a solid second season, finishing as TE7. He’s a solid starter for the Pigs at an affordable cost. Dawson Knox, unfortunately, did not have a particularly good season and his fortunes got worse this offseason. The Pigs could probably use another competitive tight end to upgrade the depth chart.
Good things are in store for Papua New Guinea in 2023, presuming they finish shaping the top of their depth chart. Whether they retain Josh Allen or tag and trade him, they could receive great value for or from him. Figuring out what to do with him is priority number one. From there, adding a number one running back and a number one wide receiver — whether it’s Davante Adams or someone else — are the other big priorities for the franchise.
“What could be…”
The Pigs are going to make a serious push for the East Division crown in 2023. Presuming health, which is always the big caveat, they should at least be wild card contenders again but they should be even better than the team that went 8-6 last year and one-and-done in the playoffs. If that money that they spent on Swift is better distributed this year, or used on a better, more efficient running back, then good things are in store out East for the Pigs.
Next Up: South Africa Ballstrikers