After our own lengthy preview of Madden 23 Franchise mode was published earlier this summer, the team at EA Tiburon released its own deep dive video into the mode that remains, for many players, the biggest draw in the entire package. Franchise mode in Madden 23 looks to be improved thanks to smarter scouting logic, a deeper draft class, and several other changes and fixes, but hidden in plain sight among a sea of bullet points is one crucial tweak that should excite anyone who plays in a Connected Franchise with other human players.
Free agency bid-sniping has long been the frustrating meta behind every successful offseason. Because free agency is broken into several phases in Madden 23, at some point, the league advances as a collective from one phase to the next. This allows computer-controlled free agents to pick their new teams based on the contract offers they like the best. For any responsibly-run league, this will occur at a scheduled time of day so that all players know what to expect. But having that vital information also presents a huge, previously unavoidable flaw for all involved teams: If you know when a bidding war is set to conclude, right down to the very second, you can treat Madden like eBay and leap-frog other bidders just as the window closes.
This is a tactic well-executed for years in serious leagues such as mine, and as best I can tell, no one in my decade-long league has neither a clean conscience from avoiding this practice themselves nor the good fortune to have been spared from this ever happening to them. If you’ve been in a competitive PvP league before, you likely have been on both sides of this free agency scramble several times–and it honestly doesn’t feel good either way.
This is only possible because teams know when a phase ends and because they can see in real-time where they land on the pecking order for any particular player. If my contract offer pales in comparison to my division rival’s, I can see that in the game, visualized like a color-coded bar graph that compares offers from involved teams. The greenest, longest bar equates to the team that will sign a player when free agency advances. Historically there hasn’t been much stopping me from simply waiting until the final few seconds to jump ahead with a sweeter deal and nab the player just as the league moves to the subsequent phase–so long as I’ve had the cap space and the free time to sit there and offer a better deal with seconds to go, he was mine.
There’s really no way around this in the current system Madden operates on, as adjusting the schedule would, of course, just mean last-second bids follow suit. You’d need to take the entire free agency process out of the game and into a silent auction–a convoluted experiment my league recently tried, which we’ve discussed axing in favor of the replacement system in this year’s game.
Madden 23 finally resolves this eBay-like problem with one long-awaited fix: In Madden 23’s free agency period, you can’t see others’ bids, nor precisely where yours lands in comparison. This is a much fairer system for all players, as now those who really want a particular athlete will need to offer a solid contract without the unrealistic intel of precisely what other offers are on the table. It stops being an eBay auction and shifts the focus more to what you’re willing to spend in order to improve your team. This is the main driver in real life, and should help Madden players recognize the value of a dollar more than ever before. Instead of bid-sniping, you can offer one of four template deals–max offer, player-friendly, team-friendly, or neutral–or tweak your offer however you wish, but you won’t know exactly whether you’ve leap-frogged into the top landing spot for a player until they’ve signed with a team.
Signing marquee players to huge contracts just got a little trickier, but much fairer, for Madden 23.
In real life, no doubt agents talk up their clients’ tabled offers to squeeze more money out of teams, but this doesn’t typically come down to a last-second bidding war. This was an issue unique to video game football, and given that EA has cited authenticity as its guiding light for years now, this seemingly minor tweak ends up having an outsized impact on the game for the foreseeable future. This change affects solo Franchise players too, because even though they retain the sole ability to advance a free agency period into its next phase, they’ll still need to measure their chances of signing a player with less information, which ultimately brings the game better in line with reality.
Players will still be able to know if their deal is in the ballpark of something appealing to a virtual athlete, which can help them up the price tag when they’re told they’re way off–or, instead, to duck out of a bidding war they can’t afford. New player motivations will provide insight into what a free agent is looking for in a team–great QB, starting spot, or even an income tax-free state have been mentioned as some examples. But these are all authentic to the sport and, more importantly, fair to the players who would surely prefer they butt heads on the field rather than in the virtual offseason.
For more on Madden 23, check out our complete Madden 23 ratings hub.