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Tue Mar 21st 2023

Free Agent Frenzy

The NFL new year began last week, and so did free agency. It's part of the NFL year where dynasty values fluctuate as players get traded or sign new free-agent deals. After the first week of free-agent frenzy, here are my thoughts on the dynasty fallout after players landed on teams.

Derek Carr - Saints

  • Carr's signing with the Saints did not move the needle on his dynasty stock. I see it as a lateral move, but signing with a team to be their starter is better than many free-agent quarterbacks can say this offseason. Andy Dalton did enough to help Chris Olave become a rookie of the year candidate. Carr will keep Olave a top 10-15 dynasty wide receiver and will try to resurrect the dying dynasty stock of Michael Thomas, who restructured his deal to stay with the Carr and the Saints. Last year, the Saints also re-signed Juwan Johnson, the tight-end touchdown maker. I like this signing from a dynasty perspective for all the Saints.

Jimmy Garoppolo - Raiders

  • Carr's departure to the Saints and Jared Stidham's signing with the Broncos put the dynasty stock of Davante Adams in jeopardy. Still, the Radiers' addition of Garoppolo keeps Adams afloat as he nears the end of his top-tier fantasy productive years. I'll write more on the addition and subtraction of Raiders' pass catchers, but Jimmy G is competent to keep the Raiders' offense moving and allow Adams and Josh Jacobs to finish the season in the top 12 at their position again over the next year or two. The Raiders are still likely to add a quarterback in the draft, numbering Garoppolo's time as the starter, but I am confident he will start this season even if he's mentoring a first-round draft pick.

Baker Mayfield - Buccaneers

  • Mayfield was added to the Bucs with a one-year deal to compete with Kyle Trask. Given their draft capital and Trask's inexperience, it's safe to say that Mayfield will win the job and start for the Bucs next season. Unlike the Carr and Garoppolo signings, which did not affect their pass catchers much, Mayfield will hurt the productivity of Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. He'll make them more productive than Trask could, but nothing like their riches with Tom Brady and even Jameis Winston. The Buccaneers seem set on rebuilding, and sadly for Godwin and Evans managers, Mayfield will help them do that.

Taylor Heinicke (Falcons) and Jacoby Brissett (Commanders)

  • Heinicke and Brissett are experienced veterans who signed to compete with and likely backup second-year quarterbacks Desmond Ridder and Sam Howell. The Falcons and Commanders would like to see their second-year men succeed, but they'll have very short leashes with these capable veterans behind them. I expect to see Heinicke and Brissett start some games this season. The Falcons' and Commanders' mediocre quarterback play has limited the production of the fantastic pass catchers on their teams. This year could be much of the same no matter which of the four of these quarterbacks starts for the team. Sam Howell is the one who can elevate his team and wide receivers. The other three seem bound to limit their teams and receivers' upside.

Miles Sanders - Panthers

  • As a Sanders truther, I am thrilled to see him out from the confines of the Eagles' running back rotation. As I wrote about two weeks ago, Carolina was where I most wanted Sanders to land. Since then, the Panthers have traded up to get the draft's first pick, pairing Sanders with who I believe will be C.J. Stroud. I trust Frank Reich to use Sanders more effectively and to feed him the ball more than the Eagles ever did. I've been higher on Sanders than almost all other dynasty analysts. I hope to be proven right now that he's got a second chance on a new team. Below, I'll write more about what this means for the Eagle's backfield.

David Montgomery - Lions

  • Montgomery surprisingly signed within his own division to take over the Jamaal Williams role, which was incredibly productive last season. Montgomery's signing says everything we need to know about the team's thoughts about DeAndre Swift and his role in the offense. They think he can only become a part-time back and want to run back what they did last season that proved effective for the offense. Montgomery will be the goal-line, short-yardage, and running-downs back. Swift will remain more involved in the passing game and the running game between the 20s. I like this landing spot a lot for Montgomery, and he'll produce more in his second contract than he did with his first.

Jamaal Williams - Saints

  • Much to my surprise, Williams did not sign back with the Lions, who replaced him with Montgomery. His situation could never get better than the role he carved out in Detroit, but the Saints are a great second option that will prove productive, though not to the degree of his record-breaking season in Detroit. The Saints are awaiting the league's punishment of Alvin Kamara and now have a reliable starter to take his place if Kamara misses time with a suspension. The Saints have made two running backs productive for years, with Kamara and Ingram sharing the load. They can do so again with Williams and Kamara. The Saints made this move not only because of Kamara's possible suspension. They want to limit Kamara's touches as he ages, and his dynasty value will continue to fall as a result. I will not be surprised if Williams scores more fantasy points than Kamara this season. The two should be neck in neck in that race. 

Samaje Perine

  • Perine's signing with the Broncos indicates that Javonte Williams's recovery will take longer than the team hoped. The fact that the Broncos let Mike Boone and Chase Edmonds sign with other teams proves they like Perine much more than them. Sean Payton almost always has two fantasy productive running backs in New Orleans, and he can do so again in Denver. Even after Williams returns fully, Perine will be a significant part of the offense. Perine's dynasty stock has risen as high as it has been since he was first drafted by the Redskins.

Jeff Wilson and Raheem Mostert - Dolphins

  • The Dolphins let Wilson and Mostert test the market and then decided to bring the whole band back together again. The signed Wilson, Mostert, Salvon Ahmed, and Myles Gaskin. Wilson and Mostert will work as a committee until one or both of them get injured, giving way to Ahmed to be worked into the mix. Wilson and Mostert will have huge fantasy games at points this season and perhaps next, but knowing when they will occur will be difficult unless one of the two of them is injured. Signing with Miami steadies their dynasty value, but they remain unreliable from week to week.

Alexander Mattison - Vikings

  • Mattison also tested the market but signed back with the Vikings, leading to speculation that the Vikings may cut Dalvin Cook. If they do, Mattison's dynasty value will sharply rise, as would Ty Chandler behind him in the depth chart. Even if they keep Cook, re-signing Mattison means the Vikings plan to involve him more this season and beyond. Cook is a far better running back than Mattison. If he returns healthy, taking him off the field will be hard, but the Vikings may mix Mattison in more often to keep Cook healthy. Cook's dynasty value is falling quickly as his touches are bound to decrease.

Rashaad Penny - Eagles

  • Penny signed a one-year prove-it deal with the Eagles. He has much to prove since he's battled injuries every season of his NFL career. As I mentioned already, the Eagles are a frustrating team for dynasty managers with their running backs rostered because they rotate them so much. Kenny Gainwell is still under contract, and the Eagles re-signed Boston Scott, so the rotation will continue with Penny as it did with Miles Sanders. I'd try to sell high on Penny if other managers were more excited about this signing than me. Someone will be, but this signing has hurt the dynasty value of all three of the Eagle's backs.

D.J. Moore - Bears

  • The Bears made a blockbuster trade, allowing the Panthers to move up to the first pick of the draft after taking Moore, two first-round picks, and two second-round picks. While playing with many different quarterbacks, Moore was a steady but underrated dynasty asset in Carolina. Now he'll get to build rapport with Justin Fields for years to come, which should only improve his productivity and dynasty value. Darnell Mooney is better suited as a WR-2, so adding Moore could even help his production after he missed so much of last season due to injury. Seeing Moore and Mooney improve as Justin Fields does will be fun. Fields made a massive leap from year one to two, though mostly with his legs. If he improves as a passer in year three, Moore and Mooney will benefit the most.  

Brandin Cooks - Cowboys

  • As a Cowboy fan, I was thrilled to hear about Cooks getting traded to the team for a fifth and sixth-round pick. Cooks has to be one of the most traded players of all time. Still, he's produced with every team he's played with and will do the same with the Cowboys, his fifth team. When healthy, he's produced almost exactly 200 fantasy points per season, except for his final year with the Rams and this last final season with the Texans. Even though he's older, Cooks is a significant upgrade over Michael Gallup and will become the Cowboys WR-2 paired with CeeDee Lamb. Cooks lost motivation last year and did not want to be part of a rebuilding roster, but he'll be very motivated this year to join a contender.

Juju Smith-Schuster - Patriots

  • At first, I was not pleased with Juju landing in New England because the team failed to create fantasy-productive receivers year after year, and Mac Jones has yet to elevate his receivers. However, after considering Bill O'Brien is the new offensive coordinator and his time working with Jones at Alabama, I am more hopeful that the Patriots' offense will improve significantly next season and in the coming seasons. Juju will instantly become the WR-1 and produce more than Jakobi Meyers did last year when he finished the season as the 29th-highest-scoring receiver, seven points, and seven spots ahead of Juju. 

Jakobi Meyers - Raiders

  • On the other hand, Meyers moves from the WR-1 in New England to the clear WR-2 in Vegas behind Davante Adams. This change is a slight step down for Meyers, though he will have a significant role in the offense. Josh McDaniels is trying too hard to bring back former Patriots to his team after adding Meyers and Jimmy Garoppolo. It's not going to work. Plus, when healthy, Hunter Renfrow could easily out-produce Meyers.

Allen Lazard - Jets

  • We'll never know if Aaron Rodgers had a list of demands for the Jets, including that they sign Lazard, but he signed a big deal with the team. His signing causes me a lot of concern for Elijah Moore and his dynasty value. That is unless Moore is a part of the package deal that the Jets give to the Packers for Rodgers. I can't imagine Lazard will have a better year with the Jets than he did with the Packers, and there's no way Rodgers could favor Lazard over Garrett Wilson. This is a confusing signing to me, which mostly affects the dynasty value of Elijah Moore, who I would have loved to see play opposite Garrett with Rodgers. We'll have to wait to see what happens in the Rodgers inevitable trade.

Robert Woods - Texans

  • Woods is far past his prime, but he was one of the first players to sign with a team, and that team just traded away their top receiver, Brandin Cooks, leaving even more space for Woods to contribute. The Texans will draft and start a rookie quarterback next season, so Woods will have to play out what should be the end of his career with a young quarterback. Still, he'll be an upgrade from David Mills. Woods's dynasty value continues to fall near the end of his career, but he should get more looks with the Texans than last season with the Titans. His opportunities will depend greatly on John Metchie's return from his cancer treatment and whether he can quickly adjust to the NFL.

Adam Thielen - Panthers

  • Beloved Viking, Adam Thielen, was let go by the team and picked up by the Panthers, who will also have a rookie quarterback starting next season. Ourlads lists Thielen as a starter alongside Terrace Marshall and Laviska Shenault. He could very well start for the Panthers, whose wide receiving corp is one of the most unproven and inexperienced in the league. I'm sure the Panthers will also draft a wide receiver or two in the draft. Thielen appeared to have lost a step last season and has been falling in dynasty rankings year after year. Even if he becomes a starter for the Panthers, his dynasty value will continue to fall. 

Darren Waller - Giants

  • Waller got traded to the Giants, where he could become their top pass catcher next season amidst a crowded and questionable wide receiver corps. Brian Daboll did not get his tight ends highly involved in Buffalo and did not last season in New York. He'll adjust his offense to his talent and find a way to make Waller one of the centerpieces of the passing offense. The Giants re-signed Sterling Shepard, Isaiah Hodgins, and Darius Slayton to play alongside Wan'Dale Robinson, the only wideout this coaching staff drafted. They have a lot of weapons but no proven superstar. Waller gives them one more pass catcher to add to the mix, and he's had better fantasy seasons than any of the receivers have. That said, Waller cannot produce on the level he did for those few incredible seasons in Oakland. He'll be a top 10-15 fantasy-producing tight end, but not top five ever again. He's past his prime but can still help the Giants more than he can dynasty managers. Sadly, the Waller addition crushes the dynasty value of Daniel Bellinger who showed promise last year and was involved in the offense from day one as a rookie.

Mike Gesicki - Patriots

  • Gesicki stayed within the division and signed with the Patriots, who have never been able to return to the double tight-end days with Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. They tried it with Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry, but Henry was the only one to produce, and even then, not up to the level of his days in San Diego/Los Angeles. There's no reason to believe Gesicki and Henry can become a one-two punch for the Patriots in the future. I wish Gesicki signed with a more tight-end needy instead of one with a bonafide starter. At least he'll get used as the move tight end while Henry plays more inline. He won't get enough looks to be reliable in fantasy, and his dynasty value will drop as a result, as should Henry's, since he now has competition for touches.

Hayden Hurst - Panthers

  • Hurst's arrival in Carolina crushes the dynasty value of Tommy Tremble, who appeared to have the starting role before Hurst signed. Hurst's first-round pedigree earned him the most significant tight-end money so far in free agency, which means it's his job to lose. Frank Reich historically targets his tight ends a lot. We don't yet know if the same will be true for the rookie quarterback they will have next season as their starter. As I already mentioned, the Carolina receiving corps is among the worst in the league, so Hurst will get his share of targets. This is an excellent move for Hurst and his dynasty stock will rise as a result.

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