Teams have a good idea whether new veteran acquisitions, either by trade or signed as free agents, are paying the expected dividends as the season progresses. Not all high-priced moves or players acquired for significant draft capital pan out. On the flip side, there are always some low-cost additions who turn out to be pleasant surprises. Several veteran newcomers living up to
or exceeding expectations at the two-thirds mark of the 2023 NFL season have been identified.
Bates got the top safety contract in free agency. He signed a four-year, $64.02 million contract with the Falcons to become the NFL's fourth-highest-paid safety at $16.005 million per year. The deal has $36 million fully guaranteed, which is tied as the second most for a safety. Bates has been well worth the investment. He's tied for third in the NFL with four interceptions, including one for a touchdown, and has also forced three fumbles this season. Bates' seven takeaways (interceptions and forced fumbles) are tied for the league lead.
RB D'Andre Swift (Eagles)
Swift became expendable in Detroit because of the Lions signing David Montgomery to a three-year, $18 million contract in free agency and selecting Jahmyr Gibbs with the 12th overall pick in this year's NFL Draft. He was dealt to the Eagles for a 2025 fourth-round pick where the two teams also swapped 2023 seventh-round picks on Day 3 of the draft to help fill the void created by Miles Sanders signing a four-year, $25.64 million contract with the Panthers as an unrestricted free agent. Swift is making $1,774,399 in the final year of his four-year rookie year contract.
The Eagles don't miss Sanders, who rushed for 1,269 yards last season, because of the trade. (Swift's 770 rushing yards are fourth in the NFL.) He's been more impactful in the passing game than Sanders was. Swift has 34 receptions in 11 games this season while Sanders only had 20 catches in 17 games last season.
WR D.J. Moore (Bears)
Moore was part of the significant assets, which included two first-round picks, the Bears obtained in order for the Panthers to move up to the top spot in this year's draft to take quarterback Bryce Young. The idea was for the Bears to give quarterback Justin Fields a legitimate No. 1 wide receiver.
Moore, who signed a three-year contract extension averaging $20.628 million per year in 2022, has held up his end of the bargain. He's already exceeded his 2022 production in 12 games this season. Moore has 70 receptions, 1,003 receiving yards and six touchdown catches. He had 63 catches for 889 yards with seven touchdowns in 17 games last season. Moore is on track to set career highs in receptions (93 in 2021), receiving yards (1,193 in 2020) and touchdown catches (seven in 2022) with a projected 99 catches for 1,421 yards with nine touchdowns.
CB Jalen Ramsey (Dolphins)
The Dolphins acquired Ramsey from the Rams in March for a 2023 third-round pick and tight end Hunter Long to form arguably the league's best cornerback tandem with Xavien Howard. Ramsey had three years for $55 million left on a five-year, $100 million extension he signed in 2020 to become the NFL's first $20 million-per-year defensive back when dealt. Ramsey reworked his contract by moving $7 million of fully guaranteed 2023 salary into 2024 to help lower his 2023 salary cap number. The $7 million was added to an unsecured $4 million fifth-day-of-the-2024-league-year roster bonus (next March 17) where the entire $11 million is now fully guaranteed.
Ramsey missed the first seven games of the season because of a training camp meniscus tear in his left knee that required surgery. The three-time first-team All-Pro has been making up for lost time. Ramsey has helped transform the Dolphins' defense with three interceptions in the four games he has played. Since Ramsey returned, the Dolphins are giving up 16 points per game. Without him, it's 26.7 points per game.
Ramsey has made a big impression on Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel. "I can't say enough good things about that guy," McDaniel said. "He's one of my top-three favorite players of all-time. I've only been in game situations (with Ramsey) in what, four times? Three?"
Edge Jadeveon Clowney (Ravens)
Clowney took a drastic cut in pay from the one-year, $10 million contract worth up to $11 million through incentives he signed in 2022 to return to the Browns. He accepted a one-year, $2.505 million deal with additional $3.5 million in incentives from the Ravens during the middle of the August. Clowney has bounced back from a dismal 2022 season in which he had in two sacks in 12 games. He has 7.5 sacks, which puts him on pace for his first double-digit sack season of his 10-year NFL career. Clowney's 55 quarterback pressures (combined sacks, quarterback hurries and quarterback hits) are seventh in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus.
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K Nick Folk (Titans)
Folk's days with the Patriots were numbered when Chad Ryland was taken in the fourth round of this year's draft. He was traded to the Titans late in the preseason for a 2025 seventh-round pick. Folk is making $2.2 million this year in the final year of a two-year, $5 million contract worth up to $5.6 million through incentives.
The Patriots went with the wrong kicker. Folk has only missed one kick in 2023. He's connected on 22 of 23 field goal attempts and all 17 of his extra points. Folk's 95.2% field goal conversion rate is the best in his 16-year NFL career. The last time Folk missed a field goal under 40 yards was in 2017. Folk's 74 straight field goal makes of less than 40 yards is an NFL record, which he set in Week 9 against the Steelers. Ryland has missed 35-yard field goals in each of New England's last two games.
OG Kevin Dotson (Rams)
The Steelers signing offensive guards Isaac Seumalo and Nate Herbig as free agents in March put Dotson on the chopping block before he was dealt to the Rams as the late August roster cutdown was approaching. The Rams gave up a 2024 fourth-round pick and a 2025 fifth-round pick in exchange for Dotson, a 2024 fifth-round pick and a 2025 sixth-round pick. Dotson, who is in the final year of his four-year rookie deal, reworked his contract as a part of the trade. Scheduled to make an unsecured $2.743 million this season, Dotson reduced his pay to a fully guaranteed $2.25 million. An additional $1 million can be earned through incentives.
Dotson was brought in to provide the Rams' offensive line with depth after taking all 1,160 of Pittsburgh's offensive snaps last season at left guard. He has thrived at right guard since being inserted in the starting lineup four games into the season. Pass protection has typically been Dotson's strength. His run blocking is much improved this season. Dotson was a penalty waiting to happen in 2022, as he was flagged 12 times with 11 of the infractions being accepted. Dotson has been only been penalized once this season.