Armchair GM: Plotting the course for each team in 2023

Christian McCaffrey

It’s the offseason! Which means, of course, owners are busy scouting and strategizing how to improve their team’s outlook for the upcoming season.

But it’s not just those in charge who are busy theorizing. Oh, no. Every Tom, Dick, and Harry has an opinion about the best path forward. The offseason is fertile ground for armchair general managers to lay out their elaborate plans to build a championship team.

Here is one armchair GM’s blueprint for each team.

Australia Blue Heelers

The Blue Heelers took one big swing on a running back in 2022 and it wound up being a strikeout. The strength of their ball club heading into the 2023 season is their deep young wide receiving corps. They have 8 receivers under contract. Are any of them bona fide WR1s? That’s tough to say. Two of them actually finished in that range last year with Amon-Ra St. Brown at WR7 and DeVonta Smith at WR9. I think with Jameson Williams coming back for a full healthy season, that could eat into ASB’s production. But I do think there is enough volume in Philly for Smith to repeat even with A.J. Brown there. All that to say, targeting another stud receiver is a possibility, but I would probably spend the bulk of my money on running backs and building strength in numbers at that position. They can place the NFT on Jonathan Taylor and at worst get a second-round pick presuming another team bids on him, or re-sign him and hope for a resurgence. The Blue Heelers have a strong tight end in Dallas Goedert and an adequate quarterback in Kirk Cousins. They can always add depth through the draft as well. But I think if they land a couple of reliable running backs this offseason, their fortunes will change dramatically in just one season. 

Bolivia Llamas

The Llamas made a run at the South Division crown last year but lost the tiebreaker in the season finale. They have just six players under contract for the 2023 season, so they’ll have a different look to them. Jalen Hurts at quarterback and Ken Walker at running back are two solid pieces to build around. The team has a trio of receivers under contract, none of whom are ready to carry the team but all of whom can contribute any given week. As armchair GM, I would throw the Non-exclusive Franchise Tag on Justin Herbert and work out a sign-and-trade with another team. Herbert had a disappointing 2022 season but surely will rebound with some new coaching. If no other owner wants to trade, but someone bids on him, then Bolivia could match and keep two great QBs, or they could snag a second-round pick for him. I’d then probably use the Transition Tag on Derrick Henry. At $10.8 million, he’ll probably receive some action, but the Llamas will retain final matching rights on him. Lastly, I would use the Exclusive Franchise Tag on Stefon Diggs. At $25.3 million, it’s pretty expensive. But he has finished in the Top 4 in two of the last three years and there’s no reason his offense should stagnate in 2023. Alternatively, the Llamas can place the NFT on him to sign him to multiple years for a little bit cheaper and let Herbert walk. Either way, they should find a way to keep Diggs to lead their receiving corps. Then, load up on depth and make another run at the South.

Colombia Capybaras

The Capybaras have a great opportunity ahead of them, trying to repeat as champions with largely the same team intact. They have two key free agents hitting the market in Joe Mixon and Tee Higgins. Mixon could become a cap casualty by some reports. That means his future is uncertain at the moment and tagging him might not make the most financial sense. The Capybaras will take a wait and see approach with him. As for Higgins, he plays in an explosive offense so there’s always room for boom weeks. But he’s not the alpha on his team, thus the tag price is a bit rich for him. The focal point of the offseason really should be on finding an upgrade at quarterback, as that was a source of inconsistency in 2022. There will be several good ones hitting the market and with so many other positions locked up, the Capybaras can be aggressive. It would also help to sign another running back if Mixon does indeed depart. Aside from QB and RB, depth is the name of the game for Colombia this offseason.

Greece Trojans

The Trojans have just six players under contract for the upcoming season, so they have a lot of cap space plus the fourth pick in the draft to help them turn things around for 2023. Lamar Jackson at quarterback and D.K. Metcalf at receiver are some good core players to build with. Dalton Schultz could be a solid starter at tight end depending on where he ends up. Where the Trojans really need to hit hard is at running back. Despite Najee Harris’ disappointing 2022 season, they might consider placing the NFT on him and giving him another shot. There will be plenty of running backs who go for more than Harris in the auction, meaning his NFT price won’t seem as high as initially thought. If that price tag is just too much for ownership to get over, they can use the Transition Tag and at least retain matching rights. If they tag Harris and sign a couple strong backups at both running back and wide receiver, they should have a good starting lineup to build off of.

Ireland Shamrocks

The Shamrocks have unfinished business on the mind and they have the core of their roster intact to get it done. The first move of the offseason should be to slap Travis Kelce so hard with the NFT that he stops running his mouth about lack of respect. Of course, that $6.9 million initial price tag is only a pipe dream as he’ll get an immediate upgrade from presumably the first offer in free agency. Even so, the Shamrocks will likely match the highest offer to retain their instant X-Factor, securing their starting lineup as one of the best in the league. Adding some depth at running back would be a bonus and also figuring out if Keenan Allen is the team’s No. 3 option at receiver has got to be another high priority. There isn’t much work to do besides these few moves, other than adding more icing to the cake.

Italy Emperors

The Emperors have three very expensive, underperforming stars who are returning from season-ending injuries. Breece Hall, Javonte Williams and Kyle Pitts will be worked back slowly, meaning the name of the game this offseason is finding cheap value to put around them. The Emperors have 4 picks in the Top 18, and 5 in the Top 23 in this year’s draft, which should help for the long haul. Finding a bargain at quarterback is never an issue and the team could use the first overall pick on a player like Bijan Robinson to solidify the running back room. They could then turn their focus to the receiver position and take shots there. This likely could be a multi-year rebuild, so avoiding the big splash is the prudent move this offseason.

Kazakhstan’s Very Nice Team

The Very Nice Team is the defending East Division Champion and they’re hoping to make another run at the crown. They have 8 wide receivers currently under contract, some of whom are intriguing options. Deebo Samuel, of course, is a big piece to the puzzle but he has to have a much bigger ROI in 2023 than he did last year. Christian Watson had a good rookie season and many are high on him heading into next year. Calvin Ridley is returning from suspension and his abilities are still alluring, presuming he hasn’t forgotten how to play football. The ‘Stans are hurting at the quarterback and running back positions though. They have two taggable UFA running backs in Austin Ekeler and Alvin Kamara. Ekeler seems like a sure fire tag option but Kamara’s situation is a little sketchy. It might be worth letting Kamara hit the open market and see if he goes for cheaper. Otherwise, they can target another running back to pair with Ekeler. The team can also tag A.J. Brown to solidify that wide receiver corps and then focus on bringing in a quarterback and tight end to solidify the starting lineup. 

Papua New Guinea Pigs

Papua New Guinea snuck into the playoffs last year but were a first round out. To take the next step, they’re going to have to shore up the running back position, and add some depth to the receiver position. Perhaps the biggest decision they’ll face this offseason is what to do with UFA Josh Allen. Perennially one of the best quarterbacks in the league, do they bring him back with a franchise tag? Do they engineer a tag-and-trade? Placing the NFT on him is probably the most prudent move. Whether they think backup Trevor Lawrence is good enough to take the next step into starting quarterback territory will help them decide how to fill out the rest of their lineup. D’Andre Swift was a big bust last year and placing any kind of tag on him, even the TT, will leave a sour taste in the Pigs’ mouths. Tyler Allgeier showed some promise in his rookie season, and Miles Sanders and James Conner had good RB2 seasons. J.K. Dobbins, however, is just having a miserable start to his career. The Pigs need a locked-and-loaded RB1. At the receiver position, the team can use the EFT on Davante Adams and bring him back for another year. That would solidify the top of the depth chart for them and help them contend in 2023.

Peru Gurus

The Gurus are entering the 2023 season with a mostly-filled roster. They have five roster spots available, but will need to fill the top of the depth chart with some of those spaces. They’re going to need an RB1 and a WR1, which they presumably can fill by placing franchise tags on Christian McCaffrey and CeeDee Lamb, respectively. Seeing as how the EFT is too expensive for both of those players, one of them will get the Transition Tag and will surely receive a number of offers from other teams. The problem the Gurus face is cap space. Their payroll is a little north of $60 million right now and if both players pull in around $20 million, they won’t be able to afford them both. You start to look around the roster and see where some of the problems arise and Jerry Jeudy’s $12.5 million salary begins to look a little bloated. Travis Etienne will need to start providing a better ROI as well. The Gurus might be able to engineer a tag-and-trade on either McCaffrey or Lamb, but that might just be a neutral move. They could really use some extra cash, and trying to move some of their depth players might help them solidify the top of their lineup.

Saint Kitts & Nevis Shockers

“Building a DFL team. Take 2.” The Shockers messed it up last year. They know it. They gave it a gallant effort to try to overcome a poor Auction and actually played in some competitive games for a while. But with last year’s debacle — let’s just call it a learning experience — in the rearview mirror, the team is ready to make a better run in 2023. The Shockers have just six players under contract, only one of whom — DeAndre Hopkins — is expected to have much of an impact next year. This means the team has a clean slate from which to work, and with the most cap space of any team in the league, they’re ready to do some damage. The first order of business should be locking up Justin Jefferson, presumably with the NFT. There will be some other offers that trickle in, but the Shockers certainly have the funds to match the highest one. The team can also put the Transition Tag on Mark Andrews and see how high his price tag goes. I’m not sure it will exceed what it was last year, but the Shockers can match him as well. From there, the team ought not to go so aggressively after other high-priced free agents and instead try to find stronger depth and better deals. They don’t need an expensive quarterback and could really utilize every extra dollar on adding bodies to the running back and receiver position. This track ought to make them more competitive for the 2023 season.

Sint Maarten Savages

Despite a poor record, the Savages scored enough points to slip into the playoffs and nearly knocked off the eventual champion Capybaras in Round 1. All of this without Cooper Kupp, who missed the final eight games of the season with an injury. Kupp accounts for a quarter of the team’s budget, so he better make a comeback from his injury and produce at the highest of levels again. The Savages can place the NFT on Patrick Mahomes and likely retain him at a cost that was cheaper than last year. With Mahomes, Kupp, and Brandon Aiyuk on board, the team would have the quarterback and receiver positions in pretty good shape. But they badly need an RB1, and likely a strong RB2 as well. The focus of their offseason ought to be on solidifying that position. If they can do that, then it comes down to adding role players at appropriate cost and the Savages will be back competing for a playoff spot in 2023.

South Africa Ballstrikers

The Ballstrikers secured the South Division crown in 2022 and will now look to defend it. The team has three running backs departing for free agency, but still has Nick Chubb under contract for another season. They can place the Transition Tag on Josh Jacobs, or let him hit the open market and try their hand at getting a strong RB2 to complement Chubb. Ja’Marr Chase is golden atop their wide receiver depth chart, but Courtland Sutton is draining money below him. The team needs a resurgence from Sutton, or they need to find some cheap talent to make up for what they’re paying him. The quarterback position is still a source of concern. Russell Wilson had a terrible 2022, but he has reinforcements on the way in the form of a new coach and offense. It might be wise for South Africa to find some competition for Russ and make sure that position is solidified. It also might make sense to bring in competition at the tight end position. They could consider tagging Evan Engram, who had his best season as a pro, or letting him walk and see if they can get him for cheaper. Either way, getting a strong No. 2 option at all four positions — quarterback, running back, wide receiver, and tight end — is the best path to take to defending the crown.