NFL Free Agency Recap
Some sports have prolonged periods of inactivity, an “offseason” that leaves fans clamoring to read any news and desperate to get the next season started. Fortunately for football fans, the NFL has truly become a year-round entity and a mere month after the Superbowl crowns a champion, free agency Day One kicks off another glorious year of pigskin.
Once the key free agents start signing, the rest of NFL teams’ season preparation can start to fall into place. Locking up a key veteran addition can make those squads looks elsewhere in the upcoming NFL draft. It’s those veteran signings that often can make or break a team’s future, and the 2017 NFL Free Agent class will be no different.
Here is a recap of the significant skill position free agent signings so far in the 2017 NFL season, and their potential fantasy football impact.
Alshon Jeffery to the Eagles
Alshon Jeffery– Philadelphia Eagles (one-year $9.5 million) – Poised to break the bank as the premier wideout on the open market, Jeffery instead had to settle for a one-year “prove it” deal after struggling with injuries and scoring a career-low two touchdowns last season.
The good news here is that Jeffery, 27, enters him prime highly-motivated to re-enter free agency next year. He also will move to a much better situation, as the Eagles are a team on the rise and led by talented second-year quarterback Carson Wentz.
Acting as the WR1 for Philadelphia, Jeffery should be in a prime spot to bounce back- if he can stay healthy. His 6-3 frame should give Wentz a big red zone target and set Jeffery up to post solid WR2 numbers in, making him an excellent target in the 4th or 5th round of fantasy drafts. Jeffery should see a bump on most WR Rankings and player projections across the fantasy football community.
Alshon Jeffery Career Stats
— Philadelphia Eagles (@Eagles) March 10, 2017
Pierre Garçon Goes West
Pierre Garçon – San Francisco 49ers (five-years $47.5 million) – One of San Francisco’ primary offseason goals was to rebuild a moribund offense. With a lot of salary cap space to work with, the Niners assured they wouldn’t be outbid for a reliable pass catcher still in his prime.
Though often utilized as a complimentary piece, Garçon’s familiarity with Kyle Shanahan’s system and the dearth of talent in San Francisco’s receiving corps suggest Garçon could play a more prominent role in the Niners new passing attack. In 2013 Shanahan’s Washington offense targeted Garçon 184 times, and he hauled in 113 balls for 1,346 yards.
That history should play a significant role in shaping San Francisco’s offense. If the club can get competent quarterback play, Garçon is poised to rack up a ton of looks and catches and could easily remain a top-25 fantasy wide receiver- and one that will come with a deeply-discounted price in the middle rounds of most drafts.
Terrelle Pryor Signs with Redskins
Terrelle Pryor- Washington Redskins (one-year $6 million) – Pryor’s 77 grabs and 1,007 receiving yards last season were quite remarkable when you take into consideration just how putrid the quarterback play was for Cleveland, and it was only Pryor’s first real season as a receiver after converting from QB himself.
Now Pryor will be moving on to Washington, where he enters the season as a proven pass catcher and with an exponentially better situation in Jay Gruden’s offense led by Kirk Cousins. Pryor is also replacing the aforementioned Pierre Garçon, who had eclipsed 100+ targets in six of the last seven seasons.
Armed with a one-year deal and a significantly better supporting cast, Pryor will be plenty motivated to exceed last year’s surprising numbers. Fantasy drafters should view Pryor has a high-upside WR2/3 and a player to closely monitor in July and August.
Kenny Britt is a Brown
Kenny Britt– Cleveland Browns (four-years $32.5 million) – Even hampered by a stagnant situation, things finally came together for Kenny Britt last season, and he responded with a career-best 68 receptions and exceeded 1,000 yards for the first time. The analytics-driven Browns were impressed enough to sign Britt to a lucrative deal as their new WR1.
Though it’s always a concern with a middling player suddenly gets motivated in a contract year situation, Britt has always displayed flashes of elite-level talent but been hampered by lousy offenses. In Cleveland, Britt enters a familiar situation with an unresolved quarterback and rebuilding offense but is being counted on as a key contributor from Day One.
As of now, it’s hard to see Britt achieving the same numbers he put up last season. Until the Browns have resolved their QB woes, counting on any part of their offense is a risky proposition.
DeSean Jackson is a Buc
DeSean Jackson – Tampa Bay Buccaneers (three-years $35 million) – Acquiring a credible threat to line up opposite all-world WR Mike Evans was a top priority for the Bucs. Enter DeSean Jackson, 30, who has exceeded 1,000 receiving yards in three of the past four seasons and has the wheels to draw significant attention from opposing safeties.
D-Jax’s career 17.7 yards-per-catch average is 37th all-time in NFL history. The threat of that speed is going to be a big part of Tampa’s 2017 offense and should help third-year QB Jameis Winston enter the conversations as a borderline QB1 on draft day.
For fantasy purposes, Jackson’s lack of targets and receptions make him an unreliable weekly play, and that will likely continue in Tampa. He’ll have huge weeks with six grabs and two scores, but he’ll also put up plenty of four and five point efforts. That inconsistency makes him a boom-or-bust WR3.
Brandon Marshall is a Giant
Brandon Marshall – New York Giants (two-years $11 million) – For years Brandon Marshall has been a PPR monster who seemed to always outproduce his fantasy draft position. But the bottom fell out last season and Marshall and the entire New York Jets offense took a precipitous dive.
Part of Marshall’s decline last year was terrible quarterback play, but injuries were another huge factor. At 33, Marshall’s body- after 11 seasons of wear and tear- may be breaking down.
Still, Marshall’s track record of six 100+ catch seasons makes him an intriguing addition. He’s also entering a far better situation with Eli Manning, Odell Beckham Jr., and Sterling Shepard as a talent supporting cast. With his draft value extremely depressed after 2016, Marshall could be poised to have an excellent rebound season and be one of the best values in 2017 PPR drafts.
Mike Glennon to the Bears
[the_ad id=”384″]Mike Glennon – Chicago Bears (Three-years $45 million) – After parting ways with Jay Cutler, the Bears ponied up starter-caliber money and immediately named Glennon as their starting quarterback for 2017. While Glennon does boast a 2 to 1 career TD-to-INT ratio, he has won only five of his 18 starts and has some major limitations to his game.
Glennon has completed only 59.4% of his passes- an extremely low figure when you take into account that he has mostly been a dink-and-dunk passer. In fact, Glennon’s career 6.5 yards-per-attempt number would have ranked 27th in the NFL in 2016.
The Bears are rebuilding, so this deal doesn’t preclude the team from using an early-round pick on another signal-caller. While he was a highly-coveted target among NFL general managers, Glennon is unlikely to be anything more than a lowly QB2 that is better left undrafted in a league full of talented quarterbacks.
Brian Hoyer to San Fran
Brian Hoyer – San Francisco 49ers (two-years $12 million) – The 49ers are also rebuilding and signed Hoyer to act as a transitional quarterback while they (likely) look for another franchise-caliber player via trade or in the NFL draft. San Francisco will be journeyman Hoyer’s fourth stop in as many seasons.
Hoyer enjoyed some success last season, coming off of the bench for the Bears to provide a spark for Chicago’s stagnant passing attack. And while new head coach Kyle Shanahan has done a masterful job of reworking offenses to fit his personnel, Shanahan’s system can take some time to fully develop. It wouldn’t be a surprise at all to see San Francisco utilize multiple starters in 2017.
There is the potential for the retooling Niners to occasionally put up solid fantasy production in a come-from-behind mode, but Hoyer is best left on the waiver wire.
The market remains absurdly quiet for running backs. With a solid incoming class of rookies rushers and the devaluation of the position around the NFL, even proven veteran running backs are having no success in the early stages of free agency.
Even Hall-of-fame caliber talents like Adrian Peterson and Jamaal Charles have seen lukewarm interest, at best. That leaves a deep and talented list of free agent tailbacks looking for work.
In addition to AP and Charles, Eddie Lacy, Latavius Murray, LeGarrette Blount and others are still on the open market and will need to be accounted for as potentially significant fantasy options once they sign.
Danny Woodhead signs with the Ravens
Danny Woodhead – Baltimore Ravens (three-years $8.8 million) – At 32 and coming off of a torn-ACL that ended his 2016 campaign in Week 2, Woodhead moves on the Baltimore where the recently-announced four-game suspension for Kenneth Dixon should open the door for Woodhead to have a significant offensive role for Baltimore
Woodhead should split time with Terrance West, receiving 5-8 carries a game and being utilized as a pass catching specialist out of the backfield. Woodhead has racked up 76+ receptions in each of his five healthy NFL seasons.
In very early 2017 mock drafts, Woodhead has slipped well into the middle rounds of fantasy drafts. If he’s healthy, there’s no reason to think that John Harbaugh won’t find a way to get him involved quite often. That makes Danny Woodhead a reliable PPR target and an ideal RB3/flex play.
Kyle Juszczyk is a 49er
Kyle Juszczyk – San Francisco 49ers (four-years $21 million) – Juazczyk isn’t much of a runner, but he has caught 78 balls out of the backfile since 2015. He’s also a premier blocker and enters a Kyle Shanahan system that is likely to lead to a decent role in the weekly offense.
That said, Juszczyk is a fullback whose fantasy value is limited to being a weekly, matchup dependent PPR dart throw.
Martellus Bennett to Green Bay
Martellus Bennett – Green Bay Packers (three years $20.25 million) – There was some talk of Bennett re-signing with New England, where he enjoyed a top-10 fantasy season with the champs. But once the Patriots traded for Dwayne Allen, Bennett quickly signed a team-friendly deal with the Packers.
While no team utilizes their tight ends as successfully as the Patriots, the Packers have been looking for a permanent solution at the position for some time. Bennett has the size and speed to be a dangerous downfield threat as well as a dominant red zone presence. He’s scored at least five touchdowns in each of his last four healthy seasons.
As the clear-cut starter now for an elite Green Bay offense, Bennett should be considered a top-10 option in 2017 fantasy drafts.
FYI: Looks like he’ll be #80
Jack Doyle Re-Signs with Colts
Jack Doyle – Indianapolis Colts (re-signed three-years $19 million) – The surprising emergence of Doyle and Erk Swoope caused the Colts to trade former starter Dwayne Allen to New England. Doyle will now take over as the starter following his 59-catch, five-score 2016 campaign.
The Colts are known to known to use a ton of ’12 sets’ with two tight ends on the field. Doyle should be in for a pretty significant role in a good offense, making him a fringe TE1 to target late in fantasy drafts.
Lance Kendricks also to the Packers
Lance Kendricks – Green Bay Packers (undisclosed) – Though a solid, if unspectacular player, Kendricks will be the clear TE2 for Green Bay behind fellow free agent acquisition Martellus Bennett. Kendricks is capable of being a TE2 if Bennett were injured but isn’t worth a look in most fantasy leagues.
Dion Sims – Chicago Bears (three-years $18 million) This is a bit of a head-scratcher as the Bears already have a solid but aging tight end in Zach Miller and seldom incorporate ’12’ personnel. Sims, who has never eclipsed 26 receptions in a season, is a blocking tight end who has no fantasy value.