Mon Mar 15th 2021
Franchise Tags and Cuts
This week is one of my favorite weeks of the dynasty year. It's free agent week! Many players on our dynasty rosters will sign with new teams this week, causing a shake-up in their dynasty value and the players' value on the team they join and the team they leave. When the market for players affected by free agency shifts, it's a great time to buy or sell players. It's going to fun and active week for dynasty "freeks!"
While free agency officially starts this week, last week, several players signed new contracts or were released by their teams to get under the new significantly decreased salary cap and to prepare for free agency. I thought I'd share some of my thoughts on the moves made last week as teams solidified their rosters before the start of the new football year, beginning March 17th. Here are the moves that most impacted player value last week.
- The Cowboys finally signed Dak to a record-breaking new contract after playing under the franchise tag last year. The deal keeps Dak as the Cowboys' quarterback for the next four years. Dak is my third-ranked dynasty quarterback behind only Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen. He was on a record-breaking pace to start last season before his season-ending injury, and I believe he'll pick up right where he left off last year. Like most dynasty analysts, I believed Dak would re-sign with Dallas, so I already had Dak, and his league-best wide receiver corp valued appropriately. Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb are my 10th, and 11th ranked wide receivers, while Michael Gallup is ranked 49th. Most people forget about Blake Jarwin, who was ahead of Dalton Schultz in the depth chart to start the season before getting injured in week one and missing the rest of the season. Dak made Jarwin's back-up, Dalton Schultz, one of the hottest finds off the waiver wire last year, scoring 39 fantasy points in the three full games they played together. Jarwin will remain ahead of Schultz to start this season and continue to soak up easy tight end targets while defenses worry about Dallas's three-star receivers. Jarwin is my 17th ranked dynasty tight end. Dallas's defense will continue to be a weakness, forcing the team to win on the back of Dak and the passing game. All arrows are pointed up for Cowboys offensive weapons since Dak signed his contract.
- Washington walked a tight line of honoring their comeback player of the year while also doing what was in the team's best interest by releasing Alex Smith. Smith handled it with class, as he has throughout his career. I believe Smith will sign with another team but not to be a starter, so what's left of his dynasty value will nearly disappear. His absence from Washington leaves a big question mark about who will be their week one starter. Taylor Heinicke had one outstanding playoff performance last year, enough for Washington to sign him to a two-year contract. Kyle Allen is the only other quarterback under contract in Washington, so Allen and Heinicke will battle for the starting job unless Washington is one of the teams that try to add a quarterback in free agency. I'd like to see them go after Jameis Winston or Ryan Fitzpatrick. We'll find out this week. Last year, their playoff appearance put them out of the range to draft a first-round quarterback in the NFL draft unless they are willing to give up a lot to trade up in the draft. As for the offensive weapons on the Football Team, their quarterback play can't be much worse than the last two years as they rotate quarterbacks around. Terry McLaurin has proven he can be an every-week dynasty starter no matter who is playing quarterback. McLaurin is still my 15th ranked wide receiver because of that fact. If Washington does get a free agent quarterback, I'd be even more excited about McLaurin's dynasty value. I do have some concerns about Washington's second-most targeted pass catcher in 2020, Logan Thomas, who because a reliable check-down target for quarterbacks who were afraid to throw the ball downfield last year. Winston and Fitzpatrick are not afraid to do so. If they sign with the Football Team, I will move Thomas down a few spots from the current 9th place ranking. Thomas and McLaurin were the only consistent fantasy producers for Washington's offense last year. I suspect it will remain the same next year unless a new quarterback can unleash Kelvin Harmon, who is still my favorite bet to win the WR-2 spot in Washington.
- Cam bet on himself again, and so did the Patriots, who signed him to a one-year deal last week. Signing Cam means that New England is likely not to be a player in the free-agent quarterback market, but they still may do what they need to do to trade up in the NFL draft to select a quarterback. Cam looked pretty terrible at the end of the season last year, but he's blamed a lot of that on injuries and lingering effects of getting COVID. It's hard to believe that a quarterback his age (31) could fall off a cliff so quickly. I believe he will play better than he did last year, hold off a rookie quarterback, and see his dynasty stock increase this year. After signing with New England, I moved Newton up 8 spots in my ranking to my 26th ranked quarterback. If New England does not draft a quarterback, I will move Cam up even further. He still adds dynasty upside with his running ability and scores fantasy points even if they are ugly. The real problem he has is that New England has no weapons in the passing game. Cam has rarely ever made a dynasty pass-catcher a great dynasty asset. He definitely will not with this team with its roster as is. N'Keal Harry is my highest ranked Patriot wide receiver, and he's ranked 83rd! Cam's value increased when he signed this one-year contract last week, but no one else's did.
- Jones surprisingly signed a deal with the Packers to stay in Green Bay on Sunday afternoon. He was the prized possession of this free agency class but chose to remain in Green Bay even though he would likely have made more money elsewhere in free agency. Details are just being released as I am writing this, but the dynasty ramifications are pretty clear. The Packers are likely not to re-sign Jamaal Williams now, and Williams's best value is with the Packers. I believe his dynasty stock will fall no matter which team he signs with in free agency. A.J. Dillon's dynasty stock has risen more than almost any other player since the season ended, and most people expected Jones to leave in free agency, if not Williams too. Jones' new contract deflates Dillon's dynasty stock significantly since he guaranteed to be part of a committee throughout his rookie contract. At the same time, Dillon's presence deflates Jones' dynasty stock too. Jones's dynasty stock would have shot up a bit if he had signed with Miami or Atlanta, who lack competition at the running back position. While Jones remains in a familiar system on an explosive offense that has already made him a fantasy star, Dillon is bound to cut into Jones' playing time next year in the same with that Williams did last year. Green Bay will have a running back committee next year, with Jones leading the team in targets (helpful for PPR leagues) and Dillon leading the team in red-zone touchdowns, but perhaps not overall touchdowns, given Jones' big playability. Jones's signing is good for Packers fans but bad for dynasty rosters. I moved Jones, Williams, and Dillon down a few spots in my dynasty rankings after hearing this news.
- Godwin was given the franchise tag in Tampa Bay, indicating that the Buccaneers want to keep the band together and make another Super Bowl run. This keeps Godwin's dynasty value steady. He's my 19th ranked wide receiver. His value could have risen if he signed with a new team with less talented competition at wide receiver and a proven quarterback, but at least his value didn't fall by landing on a team with a bad quarterback or bad offense. He should do just as well as he did last year with the Brady and the Buccaneers. He's an every-week starter for dynasty managers. The problem is that Mike Evans is too. I'm in the minority among analysts because I have Evans ranked ahead of Godwin in my dynasty rankings because of his seven-year consistency and ability to catch touchdown passes. To be fair, I only have Evans ranked two spots ahead of Godwin, but I would rather have Evans on my dynasty roster than Godwin. This news from Tampa Bay has deflated Tyler Johnson's dynasty value, but I'm still interested in Johnson as a prospect after Godwin likely walks away from the team after this first year under the franchise tag. I like that Johnson's value has fallen again and would look to buy him and wait for his opportunity to increase in coming years.
- Robinson, who was seeking to play for another team, was instead given a franchise tag. Robinson's dynasty value would have increased no matter which other team he signed with in free agency because he's proven that he can be a fantasy superstar no matter who his quarterback is. That's why his dynasty value holds steady after signing the franchise tag. We don't know who will be the starting quarterback in Chicago next year. They are one of the primary candidates to target a quarterback in free agency, especially if they do not re-sign Mitch Trubisky. I've kept Robinson ranked as my 14th ranked dynasty wide receiver after news of the franchise tag. I could move him up or down a few spots depending on what quarterback Chicago signs, but it would make that much a difference. I was a bit disappointed for Darnell Mooney, who I thought could become the most-targeted pass catcher in Chicago if Robinson signed with another team. At the same time, he may perform better as a wide receiver that draws less defensive attention, so I kept Mooney as my 43rd ranked wide receiver, which I assume is higher than most analysts have him ranked. DLF has Mooney ranked 55th, so I am already higher than the market on Mooney.
- Detroit is going into full rebuild mode and did not sign Kenny Golladay to a long-term contract or a franchise tag, Making Golladay the most sought-after wide receiver in free agency. Golladay's dynasty stock took a big dip after Detroit traded Matt Stafford to the Rams and Jared Goff to Detroit. Now he stands ready to make a giant leap in dynasty value when he signs with a new team. His value will rise wherever he signs, but if he signs with a high-powered offense with a proven quarterback, his value could increase significantly, creating a great selling market in dynasty leagues. In previous years, when superstar wide receivers change teams, it has not been good for their dynasty value, but Stefon Diggs and DeAndre Hopkins broke that narrative. Dynasty managers will assume that Golladay will do the same, making it a great time to sell Golladay. The players that gained the most by releasing Golladay are Quintez Cephus and the recently acquired Tyrell Williams. Both guys look to be starting wide receivers for Detroit next year but will likely compete with one or more wide receivers Detroit drafts in the NFL draft, including their likely first-round pick. I am not interested in holding Cephus or Williams on a team that is in full rebuild mode. I'd look to sell on their value increase before their NFL draft. Williams will be hard to sell, but Cephus could interest other owners who are optimistic for him. I'd certainly sell Cephus for a second-round pick, but he'll likely only go for a third, which is not bad for a player drafted in the fourth or fifth rounds of rookie drafts last year.
- Henry is set to hit free agency after the Chargers did not re-sign him or sign him to a second franchise tag. He's the best available tight end in free agency and is sure to be sought after by many teams, but he also indicated Sunday morning that's he'd consider re-signing with the Chargers. While Henry is one of the most talented tight ends in the league, he's yet to break into the top tier of tight ends but remains in the vast second tier. If he stays in LA or signs with a team that has proven to make tight end a focal point of the offense, he'd be among the top candidates to break into the TE-1 tier. If he re-signs with the Chargers, I believe that would be true too, but if he signs with a too young, unproven team or has bad quarterback play, he will remain amid the TE-2 tier, as he has been the last few years. Donald Parham has been one of my most-added players this off-season. If Henry does sign with another team, Parham's value will shoot way up, though I still think LA would bring a veteran tight end in free agency since Parham is such a raw but talented prospect.
- Smith is the next best tight end available in free agency after not being re-signed by Tennessee. He's one of the most athletic tight ends in the league. While Tennessee used him effectively here and there last year and certainly did in the red-zone, they still barely tapped into his potential. If Smith signs with an innovative team that knows how to make him a focal point of the offense, he could see his dynasty stock soar. I would love to see him land in Carolina, Seattle, Buffalo, or Cincinnati, where there are plenty of threatening receivers to make a tight end an oft-open target. If he signs with a team that uses him as Tennessee has, he too could be stuck in the TE-2 tier for the rest of his career. Anthony Firkser, who played well when Smith has been injured, could become the starter for Tennessee next year, and if so, could be a streamable tight end worthy of being held on dynasty rosters. Tennessee has Jared Pinkney on their roster, who was once thought to be among the country's top tight end prospects. Pinkney is a player dynasty manager who should add to their rosters in deep leagues if Smith signs with a new team. He's young but far more talented than Firkser.
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