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Tue Mar 19th 2024

Free Angency Frenzy - RBs and TEs

Last week was one of the wildest weeks of free agency in history, with so many fantasy-relevant players changing teams that I have to break up my free agency articles into two parts. This week, I'll share my thoughts on the most fantasy-relevant running backs and tight ends who changed teams, what the change means for their dynasty value, and the values of the players affected by the change.

Running Backs

Josh Jacobs and Aaron Jones

  • Josh Jacobs landed the biggest deal, signing a four-year contract with the Packers, though the deal is front-loaded, and the Packers could get out of the deal if they need to later. I love the landing spot for Jacobs, and he will be very productive on their offense. The Packers let Aaron Jones go and have brought A.J. Dillon back. They rotated both of them a lot over the last few seasons, but that was mostly to protect Jones, who is smaller and injury-prone. They will not split carries between Jacobs and Dillon. They signed Jacobs to be their every-down back, and he's proven he can do it. He's had more than 200 carries every year of his career, including a 340-carry season in 2022. Jones only had 200 or more carries in three of his seven years. Jacob's dynasty stock remains steady with this move, and he'll continue to please dynasty managers.
  • The Vikings signed Jones to a one-year deal to be a 1-A to Ty Chandler's 1-B. I fully expect the Vikings to split their workload, so I don't think Jones's dynasty value changed much with this move, though he's job security is dwindling with this one-year deal in his age-29 season. Ty Chandler had a chance to become the Vikings' lead back after playing well at the end of last season, but now his dynasty value has taken a hit since he'll no longer be the 1-A back. Both will be fringe starters in dynasty lineups next season.
  • The player whose dynasty value rose the most because of these moves is Zamir White, who has the RB-1 position locked up in Las Vegas. The Raiders are now a prime candidate to draft a running back, but even if they do, it's White's job to lose after he looked good down the stretch with the Raiders while Jacobs was injured. He averaged 15 fantasy points per game in the last four games of the season, enough for the Raiders to have confidence in him in 2024.

Saquon Barkley and Devin Singletary

  • Barkley finally gets a change of scenery after signing a three-year deal with the Eagles. The signing is an indication that the Eagles plan to put an end to their running-back-by-committee approach. They would not sign a player of his caliber and pay him a 37 million dollar contract if they didn't plan to make him an every-down back. From a dynasty perspective, I am intrigued but skeptical. I'm intrigued to see Barkley on a new team with a much better offensive line and a more explosive offense. I'm skeptical that the Eagles can change their offense to highlight Barkley. If they aim to limit Jalen Hurts running and train him to check down to Barkley, it could be fantastic for him, but I doubt Hurts will change his playing style. I wanted Barkley to sign with the Texans to be part of that kind of scheme. Then, I would have bumped Barkley's dynasty value up a bit. After signing with the Eagles, I see his dynasty value about the same and will take a wait-and-see approach into the season to see if the Eagles change their ways.
  • The Giants filled the Barkley hole by signing Devin Singletary to a much more cap-friendly 16.5 million three-year deal. Singletary earned an opportunity for a starting role after taking over the Texans' backfield last season. He has much less wear and tear on his body than the other free-agent running backs after splitting carries in his four years. His first 200-plus carry year was last season. He'll have far more carries in a leading role with the Giants this season. The Giant's offense needs improvement at every position, but Singletary will have the most fantasy points of his career because of his leading role. The Giants will strengthen the offense in the draft with linemen and receivers, not running backs. Singletary's dynasty value increased significantly after this signing. 

Joe Mixon and Zack Moss

  • Singletary's departure from Houston gave a momentary boost to Dameon Pierce until the Texans traded for Joe Mixon and extended him to a three-year contract. I love the landing spot with the Texans and believe Mixon will thrive in their offense, even at 27 years old. He was the 7th highest scoring running back in fantasy last season while playing behind backup quarterbacks. He'll do much better with the Texans offense and C.J. Stroud. The coaching staff that did not draft Pierce started Singletary, who they signed last year and will now start Mixon for the next three years. Mixon's dynasty value slightly increased after signing with the Texans.
  • The Bengals were willing to trade Mixon after they signed Zack Moss to a more cap-friendly 8 million dollar two-year contract. Like Singletary, Moss increased his dynasty value after having the most productive year of his career. He did enough when Jonathan Taylor was injured to earn a new contract. Unlike Singletary, he has more competition and will split carries Chase Brown. The modest contract tells us so. This signing depressed the rising stock of Chase Brown, who had a chance to be the leading back if the Bengals released or traded Jones, as they were rumored to do. Now that Moss was signed, Brown's breakout potential is thwarted. The Bengals want a running-back-by-committee approach and, more importantly, want to pay their receivers more than their running backs. This surprising signing should make Moss's dynasty managers excited and Brown's depressed.

Derrick Henry and Gus Edwards

  • Most dynasty analysts wanted to see Henry land with the Ravens, and their wishes were fulfilled after he signed a two-year, 16-million-dollar contract. They argue that if Gus Edwards could score 13 touchdowns last season, Henry can do even more in his 30-year-old season. I'm in the minority and am skeptical that Henry will thrive with Baltimore. It's been unwise to predict Henry's age cliff as he's defied the odds year after year, but I believe he will begin his decline in Baltimore. The Ravens' offense is moving to being more pass-oriented, and they've focused on adding weapons in the passing game in recent years. They don't want to be a ground-and-pound team and won't give Henry near the number of carries he received every year in Tennessee. 
  • As for Gus Edwards, whom he replaced, he signed a two-year deal with the Chargers for 6.5 million dollars. I like the move from Edwards since the Chargers want to be a ground-and-pound offense under Jim Harbaugh. However, the Chargers are among the most likely teams to draft a running back, with everyone expecting them to draft Blake Corum if he falls to them, reuniting him with his college coach. Whether Corum or not, the Chargers will add a back to compete with Edwards next season and eventually replace him. Dynasty managers can get the last bit of juice out of the squeeze with Edwards at the beginning of this season, but it won't last long. I hoped Isaiah Spiller would get a chance to compete for the starting job. He still has a chance if the Chargers surprisingly don't draft a running back.

Austin Ekeler and Antonio Gibson

  • The Commanders let Gibson go, and he signed with New England, and they filled their hole by signing Ekeler. Both backs' dynasty value is falling because they were added to their teams with lead backs ahead of them, making passing downs backs only. Their signings do not hurt the dynasty value of Rhamondre Stevenson or Brian Robinson. They will be their team's first and second-down backs. I was surprised to see that Ourlads lists Ekeler as the RB-1 in Washington. Ekeler did not look like his fantasy superstar self last season, so he is not suited for a starting role. I see Ekeler and Gibson's value dropping due to these signings and more so due to their poor play last year.

DeAndre Swift

  • Swift was among the first players signed last week, striking a three-year, 24-million-dollar contract with the Bears. Swift is only 25 years old and will get a chance to start for the Bears, his third team in four years. Last year was the first time a team gave him more than 200 carries, and he turned into his most productive year. It earned him a new contract and a chance to see 200 carries every year. Swift's dynasty value took a sizeable bump up after this signing, and it squelched the hopes of dynasty managers hoping to see Khalil Herbert or Roschon Johnson in a leading role. Their dynasty value took a significant hit with Swift's signing.

Tony Pollard

  • Similarly, Tajae Spears's managers are grieving the signing of Tony Pollard to Tennessee. It looked like Derrick Henry's departure opened the gates for Spears, who looked great last season, to take the leading role. Now he'll have to split time with Pollard, who signed a three-year contract for 21 million dollars. Spears and Pollard are very similar players, so I don't see either having a specialized role. I see them as a 1-A and 1-B backfield, which does not help dynasty managers. Pollard's dynasty value could have risen had he not signed to a team that will have a committee backfield, and Spears's dynasty value takes a hit because he now has to share the backfield. This signing was a good move for the Titans but not for dynasty managers with Pollard or Spears.

Tight Ends

Colby Parkinson

  • To my surprise, Parkinson signed the most hefty deal of all the free agent tight ends after signing with the Rams for 22.5 million dollars over three years. Parkinson has 25 catches and two touchdowns in each of his last two seasons in Seattle. He's hardly produced anything in his four years there, but the Rams saw something they liked and wanted Parkinson. I trust the Rams organization and believe they signed him to be their starting tight end next season. Tyler Higbee will miss much of the season after tearing his ACL in a playoff game. Davis Allen played well as a rookie a few times last year, but the Rams liked Parkinson a lot more. I had Allen stashed on my roster in a lot of my dynasty leagues. I replaced him with Parkinson in every league after I heard about this signing. It seems like an out of nowhere signing but the Rams know what they are doing.

Will Dissly

  • Dissly also left the Seahawks to sign with the Chargers on a three-year deal worth 14 million dollars. After Gerald Everett signed with the Bears, I thought Donald Parham might finally get his chance to be the Chargers' starting tight end. Jim Harbaugh wanted to bring in his own guy. Dissly had a few breakout games in Seattle but never did enough to become a viable starter on dynasty teams. He's best at blocking, which may be what Harbaugh wants the most, but he'll have a starting role for the first time in his career. He's another player I added to several of my teams this week while dropping Parham from my rosters.

Noah Fant

  • Fant chose to stay in Seattle, signing the second-highest tight-end contract for two years and 21 million dollars. He's the tight end whose dynasty value rose the most after this signing. Fant never lived up to his first-round draft capital after the Broncos drafted him from tight-end U, Iowa, in 2019. He scored about 100 fantasy points per year in Denver and was eventually traded to Seattle, where he had too much competition to produce for dynasty managers. All of that could change now. I'd bet on his athleticism and draft capital to see his career change this season. I tried to add him in a few leagues but he was rostered in all of them. Dynasty managers who have been patient for five years will benefit this season.

Jonnu Smith

  • Smith signed a two-year, 8.4 million dollar contract to play for the Dolphins. The Dolphins have not used tight ends much since Mike McDaniel became their head coach, but that could change now that he has a tight end with speed. McDaniel values speed and can scheme up fast guys to get open. I'm curious to see how Smith will get used in his system. His dynasty value doesn't move much, given that he's no more than the fourth most targeted player with the team next year, but I was curious enough to add him in two of my leagues after this signing. He'll be the Dolphins' starting tight end next season, so it's worth a chance to see.

Mike Gesicki

  • Gesicki landed with his third NFL team after signing to become the starting tight end for the Bengals. The Bengals see it as an experiment since they only offered him a one-year deal worth 2.5 million dollars. Still, he's they're presumed starter. The Bengals have not had a productive tight end since Joe Burrow joined the team, but they've also yet to have one as athletic as Gesicki. I'll be curious to see how they plan to use him and if they can learn to get a tight end involved in the offense. It's Gesicki's last chance on dynasty rosters, and I saw him picked up in several of my leagues last week.

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