Madden 23 Franchise Mode: How to Keep the 2022 AFC Playoff Teams on Top

We previously covered the NFC teams in an earlier installment, so now we will review the AFC playoff teams from last year and take a closer look at which players they will need to re-sign, which free agents they could target, and what they might want to do with their top pick in the 2023 draft.

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Baltimore Ravens

2022 Season Recap: The season sure was looking a lot better for the Ravens before quarterback Lamar Jackson went down with a mysterious knee injury that ultimately kept him out the rest of the year. With backup Tyler Huntley under center, the team was never quite as dangerous, and even a solid performance from the defense couldn’t keep them from being ousted by the Bengals in the Wild Card round.

2023 Cap Space: $107M

Key Player To Re-Sign

  • QB Lamar Jackson (6 years, $50M per season)

There might be no bigger question this offseason than whether or not the Ravens will sign Lamar Jackson to a monster contract or if another team will be swooping in if the Ravens don’t franchise tag him (in Madden there is no non-exclusive franchise tag). The Ravens have a lot of cap space to make it happen, but it will eat up such a large share of their salary cap that it will be a challenge then to surround him with a competitive team.

Potential Roster Cuts

  • HB Gus Edwards ($4.38M savings versus $1.25M cap penalty)

Without any huge contracts eating up space, releasing Gus Edwards as he ages out of his prime will offer a small amount of cap relief that can be spent elsewhere.

Free Agent Fits

  • G Nate Davis

Whether Lamar Jackson stays or leaves, you have to imagine that the Ravens’ offense will still revolve around the run game. Because of this, they would be smart to improve their offensive line with a signing like Titans’ guard Nate Davis, especially if they’re unable to re-sign guard Ben Powers and he opts for free agency.

Draft Option

  • WR Jordan Addison, USC

The Ravens are clearly in dire need of playmakers and either Addison or Jaxon Smith-Njigba could instantly make their offense more dynamic.

Los Angeles Chargers

2022 Season Recap: Despite high expectations surrounding the Chargers, largely centered on young quarterback Justin Herbert, the team never could live up to the hype. This was perfectly exemplified in the Wild Card round, where they started off strong against the Jaguars and then promptly blew a big lead that sent them packing.

2023 Cap Space: $30.1M

Key Player To Re-Sign

  • MLB Drue Tranquill (3 years, $6M)

The Chargers are fortunate to not have any huge stars to re-sign considering they also don’t have a ton of cap space with which to work. Linebacker Drue Tranquil should be a top priority as he’s coming off his best year and is still only 28 with a star development in Madden 23.

Potential Roster Cuts

  • ROLB Khalil Mack ($18.4M in savings versus $9M in cap penalty)

For a team desperate to manufacture some cap space, some tough decisions will likely need to made, including possibly cutting ties with the 32-year-old Mack with a couple of years still left on his deal. If you don’t want to make such a drastic decision, look at guard Matt Feiler instead as he’s only a 72 OVR and can create roughly $6M in cap space.

Free Agent Fits

  • T Andre Dillard

Without a lot of money to spend in free agency and in need of offensive line depth, the Chargers would be best served by targeting an affordable player like Andre Dillard to fill a roster hole without breaking the bank.

Draft Option

  • TE Michael Mayer, Notre Dame

It never hurts to give Justin Herbert more toys to play with and Mayer could become the kind of weapon that takes their offense to the next level.

Miami Dolphins

2022 Season Recap: It’s hard not to wonder how the Dolphins’ 2022 season would have ended if not for Tua Tagovailoa’s concussion struggles keeping him off the field for the latter part of the year. The team and Tagovailoa got off to a red-hot start that had them looking like legitimate contenders, but it was hard to maintain that kind of level of play once they had third-string rookie quarterback Skylar Thompson starting games into the playoffs.

2023 Cap Space: $31.3M

Key Player To Re-Sign

  • TE Mike Gesicki (5 years, $10M)

As far as Madden 23 is concerned, Gesicki is the best player the Dolphins have facing free agency, even though he had a down year statistically in 2022. Here’s hoping he’s a better fit in your offense than in Mike McDaniel’s though, providing a reliable option over the middle while Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle keep defenses otherwise occupied.

Potential Roster Cuts

  • FB Cethan Carter ($6M in savings, no cap penalty)

Planning to run an offense that doesn’t need to involve a fullback to open up holes in the run game and catch the occasional pass? Then let fullback Cethan Carter go and spend that cool six mil somewhere else on the roster.

Free Agent Fits

  • HB Devin Singletary

The Dolphins don’t have the kind of cash to be big players in free agency, but with so many running backs potentially available in free agency, they might want to take a swing at Devin Singletary if they aren’t able to land Miles Sanders or David Montgomery.

Draft Option

Sadly, the Dolphins don’t have any first-round picks in 2023 after losing one for tampering with Tom Brady and Sean Payton and trading another away for Bradley Chubb. So good luck taking a shot at uncovering a hidden gem in the second round.

Buffalo Bills

2022 Season Recap: It was no doubt a highly emotional season for the Bills and perhaps that helps explain the letdown they experienced in the divisional round when they lost to the Bengals. Still, their 13-3 regular season record should serve as a reminder that they will likely remain contenders in a highly competitive AFC for years to come.

2023 Cap Space: $36.5M

Key Players To Re-Sign

  • SS Jordan Poyer (2 years, $14M)
  • MLB Tremaine Edmunds (5 years, $10M)

The Bills are staring down the prospect of losing two of their top players on defense, lacking the cap room to retain both without the risk of hamstringing the rest of their roster. Edmunds is likely the better option of the two since he’s younger (25) than Poyer (32) and not asking for as much from a contract in Madden 23.

Potential Roster Cuts

  • DT Ed Oliver ($10.8M in savings, no cap penalty)

Ed Oliver is a classic case of a player having value on a roster but with a contract that raises the question about whether or not he’s worth quite as much as he’s being paid. Oliver is an 81 OVR going into next season, and the Bills could find someone better in free agency who’s willing to take the same (or even less) money.

Free Agent Fit

  • DT Javon Hargrave

If the Bills did want to move on from Oliver and upgrade slightly at the defensive tackle position, they could target Hargrave or Dalvin Tomlinson on short-term deals if either is available.

Draft Option

  • T Broderick Jones, Georgia

The Bills are going to want to improve their offensive line during the offseason, and without the money to throw around in free agency, the draft will be the best place to do that. Jones will be able to help out one way or another, whether playing at his natural position of tackle or moving inside to guard.

Jacksonville Jaguars

2022 Season Recap: Even though the Jaguars only reached the divisional round in the playoffs, ultimately losing to the Super Bowl champion Chiefs, their season would still be regarded as a success by most. Under new coach Doug Pederson, quarterback Trevor Lawrence was able to take another step forward, especially the way he bounced back from a horrific start to lead a magnificent comeback against the Chargers on Wild Card weekend.

2023 Cap Space: $35.5M

Key Player To Re-Sign

  • TE Evan Engram (4 years, $11M)

After a slow start to his career with the Giants, tight end Evan Engram finally emerged as a viable receiving threat in 2022 and the Jags should try to build on that chemistry he’s developing with Trevor Lawrence.

Potential Roster Cuts

  • WR Calvin Ridley ($11.1M in savings, no cap penalty)

Wide receiver Calvin Ridley didn’t play in 2022 because of a suspension he served due to betting on games, and the Jaguars could choose to let him go in the offseason to create cap room. Of course, he could also be a nice addition to their receiving corps with little risk of Ridley in Madden 23 getting in any other gambling trouble.

Free Agent Fit

  • G Dalton Risner

In need of help across their entire offensive line, and without a ton of elite free agents at the position expected to hit the market, the Jags should prioritize one of the better options at guard like Risner or Isaac Seumalo.

Draft Option

  • T Anton Harrison, Oklahoma

If the Jags can shore up the interior of their offensive line through free agency, they should then pivot to the tackle position in the draft. Harrison is one of a few talented tackles on draft boards, along with others like Paris Johnson and Peter Skoronski, but the worry is they will be gone by the time the Jags make their first-round selection.

Cincinnati Bengals

2022 Season Recap: The Bengals followed up a season where they went to the Super Bowl with one where they came up just three points short of getting back there. After going through the Bills in the divisional round, the Bengals fell to Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs in the conference championship, highlighting the kind of grueling gauntlet a team has to survive to come out of the stacked AFC.

2023 Cap Space: $83.2M

Key Players To Re-Sign

  • FS Jessie Bates (4 years, $15M)
  • SS Vonn Bell (3 years, $7.5M)

With both of their starting safeties staring down the prospect of free agency, the Bengals will need to decide how much of their substantial cap room they want to devote to keeping them around. Bates is both better (92 OVR) and younger (26) than Bell (82 OVR and 28), which are bound to be key factors for whoever is calling the shots for the Bengals.

Potential Roster Cuts

  • T Jonah WIlliams ($12.6M in savings, no cap penalty)

Sitting at just a 77 OVR headed into the 2023 season, the contract of offensive tackle Jonah Williams doesn’t look quite as good for the Bengals as it did when it was signed four years ago. With the ability to save over $12M by cutting Williams, it’s easy to see how the Bengals could potentially use those savings to acquire someone else who offers better value.

Free Agent Fits

  • LB Josh Allen

Considering the Bengals are in need of some help at the linebacker position and have a little bit of money to spend, it’s conceivable that they could take a serious run at inking Josh Allen (85 OVR and still just 26 years old) should the Jaguars be unable to keep him on their roster.

Draft Option

  • TE Darnell Washington, Georgia

It couldn’t hurt to provide Joe Burrow with more weapons that he can employ to attack defenses, and Darnell Washington is one of a few tight ends in the draft who could make an impact for the Bengals, especially if they lose Hayden Hurst to free agency.

Kansas City Chiefs

2022 Season Recap: Obviously, the Chiefs are the only team in both parts of these team assessments that achieved their ultimate goal for the season by winning the Super Bowl.

2023 Cap Space: $59.2M

Key Player To Re-Sign

  • LT Orlando Brown (3 years, $15M)

The Chiefs have already struggled in the past with keeping Brown on the roster to protect the blind side of Mahomes, leading him to play under a franchise tag last season. The Chiefs could try to lock him up for a few years (he’s only 27) and should probably consider themselves lucky that the Brown in Madden 23 seems a little more likely to accept a affordable deal than the one in real life.

Potential Roster Cuts

The Chiefs have done such a good job of building their roster that they don’t really have any players where releasing them would offer much in the way of value. Perhaps that’s a big reason why they won the Super Bowl during a year where they were technically supposed to be reloading.

Free Agent Fits

  • CB Jamel Dean

With more help needed on the defensive side of the ball than on offense, the Chiefs will need to hope that the Bucs aren’t able to sign Jamel Dean, as he’d be an ideal candidate to line up alongside L’Jarius Sneed in the secondary

Draft Option

  • WR Jalin Hyatt, Tennessee

Selecting at the end of the first round, the easiest choice for the Chiefs would be to take a shot at another young receiver for Mahomes. This will be even more of a priority if they lose Juju Smith-Schuster and/or Mecole Hardman in free agency.

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Author
Kevin Scott
Kevin Scott is a writer and video producer who's been contributing to Operation Sports since 2016. He's primarily been focused during this time on any and all video games related to football, baseball, basketball, hockey and golf. He lives in Toronto and still believes, despite all evidence to the contrary, that someday the Leafs will finally win the Stanley Cup again.