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Mon Mar 22nd 2021

Free Agency Winners

It was a fun week for Dynasty Freeks, as we watched many players sign with new teams on the first week of the NFL calendar year. The free agency season is the first part of the off-season that creates a lot of change in players' dynasty value. There are winners and losers based on the moves that were made this week and in the weeks to come. This week, I will write about the "winners" - teams whose players' dynasty value increased due to free agency. Next week I will write about the "losers."

The Football Team

  • Everything changed for Washington's weapons when they signed Ryan Fitzpatrick to be their quarterback. While Fitzpatrick has ups and downs as an NFL quarterback, he's always increased his pass-catchers production. Fitzpatrick himself now becomes a streamable quarterback in one quarterback leagues and viable QB-2 in superflex leagues. Dynasty managers who have Fitzpatrick on their roster now have a very viable starter, even if just for a year since he only signed a one-year contract. What excites dynasty managers more is what his signing means for Terry McLaurin, Logan Thomas, and their other free agent signing, Curtis Samuel. McLaurin has been an every-week dynasty starter the last two seasons with inexperienced quarterbacks. Now he has one of the most experienced quarterbacks in the league who has a long history of peppering his top wide receiver with targets. McLaurin's dynasty stock was already high (among the top 15 wide receivers), but Fitzpatrick bumps his value up even more, at least for the short term. Curtis Samuel's value increases a bit too. He signed with a team whose coaching staff drafted him in Carolina and knew how to utilize his diverse skills. He won't be targeted near as much as McLaurin, but he will get plenty of work with this offense. Logan Thomas is the only player who could suffer from the addition of Fitzpatrick. Thomas benefited greatly from his quarterbacks last year, who could not throw the ball downfield effectively and preferred to check down to their tight end and running backs. Fitzpatrick is absolutely not a check-down quarterback. That said, he should increase the offense's efficiency and help Washington score more touchdowns so that Thomas could benefit from more red-zone opportunities. Washington is likely unable, given their draft position, to trade up to draft a quarterback in the first round, but they could add a quarterback later in the draft to try to develop under Fitzpatrick. This could be a one-year experiment with less dynasty impact, but if the experiment works, they could keep Fitzpatrick for another year or two to end his career.

The Saints

  • Drew Brees finally announced his retirement last week, and the Saints promptly signed Jameis Winston and restructured Taysom Hill's contract. They've indicated that the two will compete for the starting job, but I believe they already know Winston is their starter while Hill continues to keep his role on specific offensive packages. Hill did start ahead of Winston last season while Brees was injured, but I am convinced the Saints did that to hide Winston on their bench so that he would not have film that would increase his value in free agency. It worked, and they got him to sign with a new contract and gamble on himself next year again. Hill will continue to eat into Winston's stats week to week with red-zone touchdowns of his own, but Winston will keep the dynasty value of Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas far more stable than if Hill was the starting quarterback since he runs so much and is far less accurate as a passer. If Winston can prove that he can move this offense and not commit turnovers as he has throughout his career, he could sign a long-term contract with the Saints at this time next year. I think he will do just that. Jared Cook, Josh Hill, and Emmanuel Sanders departures in free open many targets, and Adam Troutman should benefit. His dynasty stock was already on the rise after Cook and Hill were released. Winston's signed bumps his stock up even more since Winston has targeted tight ends often in his young career. Tre'Quan Smith, Deonte Harris, and Marquez Callaway have now become rosterable dynasty wide receivers too.

The Chargers

  • The Chargers addressed their primary weakness in free agency - the offensive line. They signed Corey Linsley, one of the best centers in the NFL, and Matt Feiler, who started at guard and tackle for Pittsburg the last few seasons. The Chargers know they need to protect their second-year quarterback, Justin Herbert, who has already moved ahead of fellow second-year quarterbacks Joe Burrow and Tua Tagovailoa, in my dynasty rankings. Strengthening their offensive lines is also helpful for their running game, giving Austin Ekeler a chance to return to dominance after his injury-filled season last year. The Chargers also signed Jared Cook to a one-year contract to fill the hole left behind when Hunter Henry signed with New England. I was excited to see what Donald Parham could do as a starter but figured they would bring in a veteran to compete with Parham since he is such a raw prospect. Cook has enough in his tank to help the Chargers this year. I can't think of a better team for him to sign with than the Chargers, who have a fantastic quarterback with 93 missing targets after Henry left in free agency. 

The Packers

  • Green Bay did not sign a single free agent from another team, but they did sign the most prized free agent in this class, who was one of their own - Aaron Jones. They let Jamaal Williams sign with Detroit in free agency, leaving the backfield to Jones and A.J. Dillon. The Jones signing at first seemed like a major downturn in A.J. Dillon's dynasty value, but as contract details were released last week, it appears that Jones can get released after next year with little impact on the salary cap. I believe Jones and Dillon will split time nearly evenly next year and provide fantasy value in different ways - Jones in the passing game and with explosive touchdowns and Dillon in the running game and with red-zone touchdowns, though Aaron Rodgers loves to throw touchdowns in the red-zone. The Packers were the highest-scoring team in the league last year, and for the most part, they have kept the band together for another season. Letting Jamaal Williams go in free agency should not affect the offense too much. The loss of the aforementioned, Corey Linsley, at center, however, could significantly hurt the Packers' offensive line play. The Packers chose Jones over Linsley, so they must have a plan to replace him.

The Chiefs

  • Like the Chargers, the Chiefs address their glaring weakness, which the Buccaneers exposed in their Super Bowl loss. They released two linemen and signed two more who will start right away for Kansas City. They signed Joe Thuney away from New England and re-signed Mike Remmers, one of their own. Next year, they will have one of their own linemen back from the COVID-exempt list, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif. Rebuilding the offensive line will lead to increased fantasy production for every player on the team. The Chiefs also released Damien Williams, who was on the COVID-exempt last season after the MVP-level performance in the Super Bowl two seasons ago. Clyde Edwards-Helaire had an up and down season last year even while Williams was out. His dynasty valued dipped just a little after the season ended, knowing that Williams, whose 2019 was better than Edward-Helaire's 2020 season, was coming back to compete for touches. Now that Williams is not coming back and the offensive line is improved, Edward-Helaire's dynasty value is rising a little. I still think Darrel Williams will get his fair share of touches every week because he's reliable and gets the yards given to him, but Edwards-Helaire is a much better back and will get the bulk of the work in his sophomore season.

The Giants

  • The Giants added several weapons in the passing game, including the most prized wide receiver in free agency - Kenny Golladay. Golladay gives Daniel Jones and the Giants a big-bodied wide receiver to pair with their speedster, Darius Slayton, and smaller slot receiver, Sterling Shepard. I really like what the addition of Golladay means for Shepard, who can move exclusively to the slot position which best suits his talents. Golladay's dynasty value fell quite a bit over the last injury-plagued season and as younger wide receivers passed him by, but this new contract brings his dynasty value back up quite a bit. The other teams bidding for Golladay (the Bears and Bengals) already have alpha wide receivers. Whereas, in New York, Golladay will be the leading target on the team. Daniel Jones didn't show the improvement I hoped for in his second year last season, but Golladay could be just the weapon he needs to see his dynasty stock rise again. Golladay will free up running lanes for Saquon Barkley, too, as defenses will have to respect the passing game more than they would have to before. The Giants also added John Ross, signing him to a one-year deal. When healthy, Ross can be better than Darius Slayton. His elite speed keeps defenses honest. The Giants added Kyle Rudolph too. Evan Engram is the clear starter at the tight end position, but Rudolph's addition means that the Giants can play both tight ends, keeping Rudolph in line and allowing Engram to line up all over the formation, which could unlock his incredible upside. All and all, the Giants added a variety of offensive talent that will give their team many different ways to attack teams.

The Jets

  • The Jets' free agency moves were not spectacular, but the moves their shake-up at the wide receiver position gives whichever quarterback they draft in the number two spot or trade for if the Deshaun Watson rumors are true, some quality players to target. The Jets let Breshad Perriman go in free agency but held onto Jamison Crowder, who many experts thought they would cut for salary cap relief. They added Corey Davis, the second-highest-paid wide receiver in free agency after Kenny Golladay. The presumed starting wide receivers would be Corey Davis, Denzel Mims, and Jamison Crowder, a pretty is a solid group of receivers for their new quarterback. The Jets also added Keelan Cole and Tyler Croft on one-year contracts to add depth at wide receiver and tight end positions. Whether they are stacking the deck for a rookie quarterback or trying to make it a more appealing team for a Deshaun Watson trade, they have improved by adding Davis and retaining Crowder. However, the dynasty value of these receivers stays about the same until it's clear which of them becomes the leading target in New York. I think any of them is capable of doing so. This group of receivers helps the Jets and whatever quarterback they get, but it does not move their dynasty value too much until we see their connection with their new quarterback.

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