Starting Tuesday March 4th, NFL free agent frenzy began as teams started negotiations with available players. Players are eligible to sign beginning Thursday, March 9th. It’s important to keep a pulse on top free agents and possible landing spots, so here’s the guys that I would keep an eye on this week. I’ve focused on the offensive players and particularly wide receivers (biggest names), since the majority of our readers do standard or PPR redraft or dynasty fantasy leagues. These will be the prospects that could be nice additions to your rosters or trade targets. News is constantly coming out as talks heat up, so I will update as often as I can to keep you informed (see italic portions under each player).
Jeffery sits squarely atop the list of wide receiver free agents, so even though Chicago is clamoring to hang onto him, his landing spot is definitely up in the air. Jeffery missed 4 games last season due to suspension and ended up the #53 fantasy wideout with 821 yards and 2 TDs on 52 catches. When you compare this to his 2015 season in which he played 3 less games (9) and caught 54 passes for 807 yards and 4 TDs, you can see how much the Bears’ struggles impacted Jeffery. He’s only two seasons out from being a top 15 fantasy wide receiver, but his soft tissue injuries and the suspension hampered his success.
Jeffery possesses the talent and size to bounce back in 2017 if he stays healthy and out of trouble, but the level of his fantasy success hinges on where he decides to hang his hat. Clearly, he will want to choose a contender and snag a pretty penny with a new contract. This 27-year-old definitely possesses fantasy upside with a new offense or perhaps with a new QB in Chicago; however, I would bet more on the former. I wouldn’t be thrilled to see him stay in Chicago as a fantasy owner, with so much in the air under-center. If we see the Alshon Jeffery of 2013 and 2014, we should be in for another 1000+ yard season and solid WR1 fantasy production.
Best fit: The 49ers need receivers desperately, but their QB situation is just as uncertain and precarious as Chicago and this might be enough to have Jeffery lean away. They have plenty of cap room to pay him handsomely though, so winning versus dolla-dolla-bills will come into play. They may trade for Kirk Cousins, which is the best option of those mentioned by 49ers at this time. They are close to signing Pierre Garcon, so another option for Jeffery would be Philadelphia, as Jordan Matthews could stay in the slot and Jeffery be a physical WR1 with a knack for bringing down contested catches. I would love to see Jeffery with a more experienced QB, but he is looking for 15 million + in salary so we are going to see who shells out the big bucks.
Update: Philadelphia Eagles sign Jeffery to a one year, 14 million dollar contract. Most likely due to suspension and injury concerns, Philly wants to give Jeffery a year to show what he’s worth to the organization. I like the Matthews + Jeffery combo for developing Wentz.
The talks are all over the place about this surprising QB turned WR and his possible team for 2017. In 2016, Pryor ended as the #22 fantasy wide receiver with 77 catches for 1007 yards and 4 TDs. With the rotating door of mediocre (at best) quarterbacks in Cleveland this season, this was nothing short of impressive. The fantasy community quite appropriately is intrigued by Pryor’s potential when working with a decent and consistent quarterback. Cleveland adamantly states that they would like to resign Pryor, but since they decided to not place a franchise tag on him this off-season, he’s free game. Reportedly asking 10-11 million dollars annually, Pryor could end up somewhere like Philadelphia, Tennessee, or San Francisco (all teams in need of wideouts and with money to spare).
Best Fit: He’s a great prospect, standing 6’4″ and at 223 lbs and he is developing faster than anyone expected in his new position. Pryor and Corey Coleman could really help the Browns offensively, if they could figure out their quarterback issues. I think the likelihood of this happening is high, though Pryor could also be a help on a team like Baltimore, who may be eyeing deep threat Torrey Smith (and possibly releasing Mike Wallace to free up cap space) and could see similar qualities in Pryor. His price tag may be a little high for some when they can get a bargain elsewhere.
Update: Pryor inked a one-year, $8 million deal with the Washington Redskins, who kept Kirk Cousins at QB. I’m looking forward to see what Pryor can do as Washington’s new deep threat/speedster as DeSean Jackson has moved on to Tampa Bay.
The Tampa Bay Bucs are making a hard push to sign Jackson as a compliment to Mike Evans and a downfield threat for Jameis Winston. D Jax ended 2016 as the #30 fantasy WR snagging 1005 yards on 56 receptions and 4 TDs. This represented his 5th 1000+ yard season. Jackson’s prowess as a downfield threat is evident in his Yards-Per-Reception stats, as he was top 3 in the NFL in both the 2014 and 2016 seasons (20.9 and 17.9 YPR, respectively). He definitely still has pep in his step and can really move downfield, perfect for Winston’s cannon.
Best Fit: Thirty-years-young, Jackson most likely has a few more years of quality production left and his speed would be a real asset to the Bucs, not to mention reducing defenses ability to double team stud Mike Evans. They have plenty of cap space and I think this could be very good news for fantasy owners willing to take a chance on a good player with a new opportunity.
Update: DeSean Jackson signed a three-year, $33.5 million deal with the Tampa Bay Bucs. This is one of the top signings of the FA frenzy, as he will be a great compliment to Mike Evans and a WR2 for Winston. Vincent Jackson is nearing retirement and will most likely be fantasy irrelevant in 2017, whether he ends up staying in Tampy Bay or not.
Is Pierre Garcon a sexy pick? Not especially, but fantasy owners may be overlooking the fact that this 31-year-old wideout may be landing in a high upside situation in San Francisco, if Kyle Shanahan acquires a decent quarterback. Don’t misunderstand, I mean a high upside FANTASY situation, not football one. The 49ers, who are rumored to be strongly vetting Garcon, won’t be contenders but could help Pierre end his career on a high note. When under Shanahan’s coaching (offensive coordinator) in 2013, Garcon had a career year. Finishing with highs for receptions (113) and yards (1346), Garcon was the #13 fantasy wide receiver that season. If Shanahan is able to snag Kirk Cousins in a trade and reunite these two, clearly this would benefit Garcon more than someone like Brian Hoyer.
Without many noticing, Pierre Garcon has been healthy and consistent. He’s played all 16 games the past four seasons and reached 1000 yards for the second time in 2016, ending as the #32 fantasy WR. That, with DeSean Jackson, Jordan Reed, and Jamison Crowder fighting for targets. He received 19% of the overall target share, so Cousins clearly trusts their chemistry. Though some might be questioning SF’s decision to grab an older player when clearly they have some building to do, I think Garcon could help the offense become more consistent and help younger players grow. Depending on how free agency ends up, he could be only fighting with Jeremy Kerley for targets and this is great news for fantasy owners that could get a WR1 for a bargain come draft day.
Update: Garcon signed a five-year, $47.5-million contract with $17 million fully guaranteed with the San Francisco 49ers. Their QB right now is Brian Hoyer, which doesn’t get me too excited, but Pierre will be the most proven WR on the squad and, therefore, has plenty of fantasy upside as a WR1.
This 32-year-old wideout won’t be returning to the Jets in 2017 after he requested to be released no doubt in order to join a more successful squad. Jets announced their release of Marshall just last Friday, but talks of possible landing spots for this veteran already include New England, Baltimore, and NY Giants. Marshall has 8 1000+ yard seasons, has never missed more than 3 games in a season, snagged 10+ TDs in 3 out of the last 5 years, and was a top 5 fantasy WR in 2012 (#2), 2013 (#5), and 2015 (#3). The Jets fell flat in 2016 and Marshall is looking to jump ship and capitalize on his 1-2 remaining solid years.
Best Fit: Baltimore Ravens would’ve been my pick as adding a veteran to replace Steve Smith, Sr. and help guide 2015-first round pick Breshad Perriman as he looks to make an impact in 2017 makes lots of sense. The Ravens may also lose Kamar Aiken in free agency and pass on Dennis Pitta’s 5.5 million salary. If that happens, that leaves 264 targets up for grabs. Always a contender with consistent Flacco, both Baltimore and Marshall would’ve benefitted from this match. However–Update: Marshall signed with NY Giants for a 2 year, 12 million dollar contract to join a contender and pass-heavy offense (and now he doesn’t have to move). This will have positive fantasy impact for both Marshall and OBJ, as defenses will have a more difficult time double teaming with another legitimate threat and Sterling Shephard as WR3. Both Odell and Sterling will benefit from having the more seasoned Marshall on the squad, now we just hope that Marshall can keep his locker room antics to a minimum and Eli steps up to lead this offense with another weapon at his disposal.
Update: Marshall signed a two-year, $12 million contract and will finish out his NFL career as a NY Giant. Citing his main reason for taking less money with the G-men as wanting a shot at a championship, Marshall plans to be a “WR2” alongside sophomore Sterling Shephard. He assures that he won’t argue about targets and being a complement to OBJ. We shall see. He isn’t exactly known for being a quiet, go-with-the-flow teammate. This looks to be one of the more solid WR crews set to start 2017 on a pass-heavy offense. Manning better step up his game.
Stills doesn’t jump off the page as someone that I am crazy excited about for 2017, but I do like his potential and speed. In 2016, he ended the season as the #27 fantasy wide receiver catching passes from inconsistent Tannehill and sharing targets with Jarvis Landry and DeVante Parker. It will be intriguing to see what he can do if he joins a squad with some targets available. He caught 9 TDs last season and was #4 WR for Yards-Per-Reception (17.3).
Best Fit: Philidelphia and the developing Carson Wentz. Stills is just 24 years old and can grow along with the franchise QB. Stills’ price point at around 12 million is a bit surprising to me and it could come down some; however, Stills is young and a developing talent with great speed, so he may hold firm as one of the top FAs in this WR class. Miami will most likely not resign Stills, as they have a big upcoming deal to be made with Jarvis Landry. Tennessee is also in need of talented receivers for Mariota, but they may be looking for someone a little more seasoned to join Rishard Matthews and Tajae Sharpe.
Update: Miami surprised us and shelled out a 4 year $32 million contract for Stills. He’ll continue to share targets with a pretty stacked offense including Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker, Julius Thomas, and Jay Ajayi, which limits his fantasy upside compared to some other wide-receiver-needy placements.
Free Agent Sleepers/Bargains
Kenny Britt, Robert Woods
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