Teams around the NFL engaged in their mandatory veteran minicamps last week, and fans were able to get their first glimpse of new-look rosters ahead of the 2023 season. There was a lot of buzz around these events for various reasons.
Whether it was breakout rookies making waves, veterans notably absent due to contract holdups, injuries affecting rosters or position battles starting to take shape; there was no shortage of exciting stories to follow.
With minicamps wrapped up and the dust starting to settle, it’s a good time to play fact or fiction with the most notable news and rumors emerging from them. Read on for a quick summary of these stories as well as a verdict on whether you should buy or sell these reports.
With the selection of Anthony Richardson No. 4 overall in the 2023 draft, the Indianapolis Colts added one of the most exciting quarterback prospects in recent memory to their roster. The move was a notable departure from the franchise’s recent strategy of signing aging or flawed veterans to fill voids under center, but it remains to be seen whether the Florida product will see significant action as a rookie.
While almost anyone would be an upgrade over Matt Ryan after an abysmal performance in his lone season with the Colts last year, Indianapolis also got a more proven passer this offseason by signing Gardner Minshew II to a one-year deal. It is expected that Minshew and Richardson who broke up reps from first string during minicamp, will battle it out in training camp.
Richardson enters the NFL with plenty of buzz after one historical display at the combine, but also concerns about his mechanics and accuracy. The 21-year-old completed fewer than 54 percent of his passes during his only season as the Gators starter. He put as many head-scratching plays and inaccurate passes on tape in college as he did highlight reel runs and big throws. SI.com’s Jake Arthur told how the quarterback looked impressive at times but also struggled to put some passes on target during minicamp, ending an 11-on-11 drill completing just five of his 13 attempts.
Despite the up-and-down performances, there’s still a good chance Richardson finds his way onto the field early. Having team owner Jim Irsay as one of his biggest supporters certainly helps Richardson’s chances of doing so. According to NFL.com’s Judy Battistaadmitted Irsay that Richardson likely would have been the team’s No. 1 overall pick, bluntly stating that the rookie “will start this season.”
Even if the young signal caller doesn’t win the QB1 job until Week 1, ESPN’s Stephen Holder believes Indy will “lean into Richardson’s running ability from day one” and have him take snaps and play in some capacity.
Fiction: Anthony Richardson won’t start the 2023 NFL season, but he will be part of the team’s game plan.
On the heels of a severely disappointing campaign, the Las Vegas Raiders made some sweeping changes during the 2023 offseason. The most jarring was getting rid of longtime quarterback Derek Carr and replacing him with veteran free agent Jimmy Garoppolo. The move reunited Garoppolo with Josh McDaniels, Vegas’ current head coach and former offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach for the New England Patriots, the team that drafted Jimmy G back in 2014.
While the pairing makes sense on paper, injuries have been an unfortunate part of Garoppolo’s NFL history. He has missed a significant amount of time since being traded to the San Francisco 49ers during the 2017 season, with three of his last five campaigns cut short with a variety of ailments. Although Garoppolo led the Niners to a Super Bowl berth and NFC Championship Game appearance during his last two playoff runs in 2019 and 2021, respectively, he is already dealing with an injury to start his time with the Raiders.
The 31-year-old went down with a broken foot late in the 2022 season and did not have surgery before signing a three-year, $73 million contract with the Raiders. However, the team was not blindsided by this move, but McDaniels said that “nothing has happened that would surprise us based on the information we had” noting that Garoppolo could be out until the start of training camp. The passer also has one clause in his agreement that would relieve the franchise of any financial responsibility if the quarterback is ultimately unable to pass a physical because of the foot injury.
Given the precautions in place, the Raiders have little to lose by waiting for Garoppolo to get healthy. The veteran was their best option this offseason and, at his best, gives the club a realistic chance to contend in the highly competitive AFC West. With all signs still pointing to a return in time for the start of camp, Vegas should be ready to go with a healthy Jimmy G in 2023.
Fact: Jimmy Garoppolo will be healthy after training camp to start the 2023 season for the Las Vegas Raiders.
There was concern early in the offseason that the Baltimore Ravens and Lamar Jackson were headed for a breakup. The star quarterback requested a trade after he was hit with a non-exclusive franchise tag, but ultimately got his wish for a long-term extension just before the start of the 2023 NFL draft. With Jackson now under contract through the 2027 campaign, it is now up to him to deliver on-field success commensurate with his 260 million dollars payday.
The Ravens have made several moves to help Jackson in this endeavor. One that could have a potentially massive impact is the club’s decision to part ways with offensive coordinator Greg Roman and replace him with Todd Monkens. During an interview with NFL+Baltimore tight end Mark Andrews revealed that the quarterback already seems to have a firm grasp on Monken’s vertical attack, a system in which Jackson will have more autonomy and decision-making:
“It’s going to be great, he already has a good handle on everything. He’s only going to keep getting better, more comfortable. Just having a little bit more freedom, control of the offense and having the power to do different things on the line , I think it’s going to be great. I’m excited for it, it’s going to be a dangerous offense, we have so many pieces and when you add #8 to that, it’s unbelievable.”
The pieces Andrews is referring to include two new ones Baltimore brought in this offseason. The team showed a clear commitment to improving the passing offense by using a first-round pick to bring in playmaking wideout Zay Flowers and match an established veteran in Odell Beckham Jr. The pair will bolster incumbent No. 1 wideout Rashod Bateman and a deep running back division headlined by JK Dobbins. Those pieces should open up the passing game noticeably and give the Ravens their most balanced offense in years.
Fact: Lamar Jackson will improve under new offensive coordinator Todd Monken.
The New England Patriots made some splashy picks to upgrade their defense early in the 2023 draft. While first-round cornerback Christian Gonzalez and second-round edge rusher Keion White drew most of the headlines, third-round linebacker Marte Mapu could have the biggest impact as a rookie.
Mapu, an impeccable prospect from Sacramento State who wasn’t even invited to the combine, has made a mark for his versatility. At 6’3″, 221 pounds and possessing plus athleticism, the 23-year-old can be inserted in a variety of ways into New England’s dynamic defensive packages. During a recent appearance on “Boston Sports Tonight,” Greg Bedard of the Boston Sports Journal’s said Mapu has been turning heads in camp for lining up in multiple spots, making defensive calls and helping teammates get in the right position.
Veterans have also noticed Mapu’s contribution. Matthew Judon spoke highly of the freshman talent, highlighting how the linebacker’s rare blend of size and speed will allow him to contribute all over the field (via Bernd Buchmasser of Pat’s Pulpit):
“I just think his speed [stands out]. His speed and how big he is.. He runs like a safety — he runs like a free safety — but he stands like a linebacker or a cornerback. That’s another guy who can play at all three levels.”
Judon said Mapu compares favorably to former New England linebackers such as Jamie Collins and D’onta Hightower, two Pro Bowlers who were key pieces on Super Bowl-winning rosters. While he still has to prove himself on Sunday, it’s clear that Mapu will have a pivotal role as a rookie and could be a special player for the Patriots if he continues on this trajectory.
Fact: Marte Mapu will play a big role for New England’s defense in 2023.
The New York Giants entered the 2023 offseason on a high note, having won a playoff game for the first time in over a decade. The team had some important to-do items to take care of in order to remain a viable competitor and managed to tick them off relatively quickly. They not only agreed to a long-term extension with quarterback Daniel Jones, but also guaranteed at least one more year from Saquon Barkley by franchise tagging the star running back.
Unfortunately for the G-Men, Barkley is not happy with the tag and has so far refused to sign it. The back, coming off a resurgent campaign in which he posted a career-high 1,312 rushing yards and scored 10 touchdowns, skipped minicamp while holding out for a long-term deal.
The 26-year-old has maintained that he is not seeking a record-breaking contract and only wants to stay “compensated respectfully based on my contributions to the team on the field and in the locker room.” While Barkley stands to make a respectable 10.1 million dollars guaranteed if he signs to the label, the back has been dealing with injuries in recent years and has gained a large amount of volume when he finally got healthy again. With Barkley appearing in just 16 games for the first time since 2018, matching a career high with 352 touches last year and likely to take on another heavy workload in 2023, it’s understandable that he wants long-term security.
Although NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport noted that the two sides were “back in communication” last week, no deal has been reached. With less than a month left to get a deal done before the July 17 deadline, the odds of an extension being ironed out grow longer by the day. Given Barkley has left the door open for sitting out the whole seasonthe consequences of not getting a long-term contract hammered out could be disastrous for New York.
Fiction: Saquon Barkley won’t get a long-term extension done before the deadline.