The 2023 NBA Draft just occurred, serving as a reminder of how differently one of the NFL's most popular counterparts structures its offseason. Whereas the NFL opens with free agency before pivoting to the draft in April, the NBA welcomes rookies first, then cranks up the veteran market in the summer. But what if things were different? What if the NFL did it like the NBA?

There are a few reasons this could be beneficial: rookies would get a bit more time to integrate to the NFL, veteran free agents would have a better upfront understanding of their roles, and teams wouldn't necessarily have to rush to commit top dollar to positions of need. Even aside from that, it's fun to imagine how this offseason, for example, might've looked under the NBA format.

Here are five big ways the 2023 offseason could have unfolded differently, had the draft preceded free agency:

Texans trade Davis Mills to the Raiders

Davis Mills
HOU • QB • #10
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With C.J. Stroud still locked in as their quarterback of the future early in the draft, the Texans may have capitalized on another team's hunt for help under center. While Mills is a quality insurance policy after an uneven but resilient 26 starts from 2021-2022, he arguably would've become even more valuable to Las Vegas, who in real life committed $72.75 million to the injury-riddled Jimmy Garoppolo after Derek Carr's release. Mills drew comparisons to ex-Josh McDaniels disciple Jarrett Stidham coming out of the draft, and played under a staff including McDaniels' brother, Ben, in Houston.

Chiefs trade up for Broderick Jones at OT

Rather than commit more than $80 million to Jawaan Taylor and Donovan Smith in free agency, the Chiefs might've gone to the rookie well to prepare for Orlando Brown Jr.'s exit at left tackle, effectively resetting the contract timer at an especially important (and pricey) position. In real life, they picked pass-rusher Felix Anudike-Uzomah and receiver Rashee Rice in the first two rounds, but packaging those picks to move up and secure the athletic Georgia tackle, who went No. 14, could've worked in their favor.

David Montgomery replaces Joe Mixon in Cincinnati

David Montgomery
DET • RB • #5
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The Lions were quick to pay the ex-Bears running back decent money in March, only to then jump around the first round and spend a top-12 pick on Alabama's Jahmyr Gibbs. In this scenario, assuming they still love Gibbs' electricity and add him on Day 1, Detroit probably spends a bit less on his counterpart, settling for another vet like D'Onta Foreman, Latavius Murray or even internal free agent Jamaal Williams. Montgomery, meanwhile, might've returned to his hometown Cincinnati as a cheaper alternative to Mixon, who in real life is due for his own pay cut or potential release.

Patriots prioritize younger weapons

Mac Jones
JAC • QB • #10
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We know Bill Belichick loves defense, so we don't doubt New England would've still taken cornerback Christian Gonzalez at the top of the draft. But rather than pay $25.5M to the injury-bitten JuJu Smith-Schuster as Mac Jones' new No. 1 receiver, and/or take a flyer on Dolphins castoff Mike Gesicki, the Pats might've used some of their other early-round capital on fresher talent at pass-catcher. Maybe it's WR Jayden Reed or TE Luke Musgrave, now both real-life Packers, in the second. Or Cedric Tillman or Jalin Hyatt in the third. Either way, Bill O'Brien might've opted for more moldable clay.

Bears forgo the Tremaine Edmunds splurge

Or, in better terms, the linebacker splurge, considering T.J. Edwards also got big bucks to replace Roquan Smith at the heart of Matt Eberflus' defense. Edmunds was just a particularly surprising addition, commanding $72M on his own. If the draft had come first, general manager Ryan Poles could've used the Bears' third-rounder (No. 64) on, say, Arkansas' Drew Sanders, who drew Edmunds comparisons and went No. 67 to Denver, then reallocated those free-agency bucks to more vital needs out wide, off the edge or in the trenches.