Free Agency Winners and Losers
What offseason? New England Patriots fans have barely accepted the reality that Tom Brady doesn’t have a sixth ring because of Nick Foles. Yet, here we are, officially kicking off the 2018 NFL season. The famed legal tampering period got the year off to a hot start with several big ticket free agents coming to terms with new teams over the last few days. To recap the action from a 2QB/Superflex perspective, let’s take a look at three winners and three losers to the start of free agency…
Free Agency Winners
Any list of free agency winners worth its salt needs to start with Kirk Cousins. The Vikings got their man and all it took was a cool, completely guaranteed $84 million. Well played Kirk. It’s also the best landing spot for his fantasy value. He walks into a situation with an elite WR duo of Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, who finished last season as the WR9 and WR11, respectively, in standard scoring leagues. Additionally, he’ll be able to lean on steady TE Kyle Rudolph. Cousins has shown an affinity for TEs in the past, highlighted by Jordan Reed leading Washington in targets back in 2015, his first year as the full-time starting QB. The presence of dynamic RB Dalvin Cook will also prevent defenses from stacking the box. Cousins has constantly been a mid-to-low-end QB1 since being named starter in Washington, finishing as the QB9, QB5, and QB8 across that time. As an ideal fit for newly-hired OC John DeFilippo’s West Coast offense, Cousins is squarely in the mid-QB1 conversation for 2018.
While Trubisky was certainly better than Mike Glennon, he didn’t exactly set the world on fire after replacing the dreadful Glennon in Week 5 last season. The two main reasons why Trubisky finished as the QB25 were conservative and predictable playcalling by former offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains and a lack of talent at the skill positions. They corrected the former by hiring Chiefs OC Matt Nagy as their new head coach, and addressed the latter by adding three significant weapons in free agency. First, they signed explosive WR Allen Robison, the most decorated WR in this year’s class. Sure, $24 million is a lot to guarantee a wide receiver coming off an ACL tear, but gambling on a 24-year-old Pro Bowl WR who posted a 1,400 yard season just two seasons ago with Blake Bortles as his QB seems like a smart gamble. Next, they landed former Eagles TE Trey Burton. The four-year veteran played mostly a reserve role for the Eagles, but set career-highs in both yards and TDs last year. He gives Nagy an athletic TE to pair with promising second-year TE Adam Shaheen. Lastly, they brought in versatile WR Taylor Gabriel. Extremely fast off the line of scrimmage, Gabriel will give Trubisky a gadget player who can also take the top off a defense. Despite these skills, Gabriel has never eclipsed 600 yards receiving, so his impact will likely be felt more in the actual games than in fantasy.
Let’s keep that Patrick Mahomes hype train running! Despite just 35 career pass attempts, Mahomes is currently being drafted as the QB19, and the acquisition of Sammy Watkins will do nothing to slow down that train. Watkins gives Mahomes a viable option to pair with last year’s breakout star WR Tyreek Hill. Mahomes’ biggest strength is his cannon arm, and with Watkins’ 4.4 speed, he will fit nicely into the system Andy Reid crafts for his franchise QB. Watkins comes with his share of injury risk and failed to shine last year with the Rams, but Reid clearly thought Watkins showed enough in 2013 and 2014 to justify $30 million in guaranteed money. Since the Chiefs haven’t had a WR2 gain more than 600 yards since Steve Breaston in 2011, this isn’t the worst place for them to spend. Still just 25, adding Watkins to current skill players Hill, Chris Conley, and Travis Kelce gives the Chiefs a terrifying vertical passing game. Mahomes stands to reap the benefits.
Free Agency Losers
Larry Fitzgerald & Demaryius Thomas
Both the Cardinals and the Broncos were on the early list of potential landing spots for Cousins. And between David Johnson and Von Miller, both teams were putting out the Cousins vibe. Hard. But when push came to shove, neither team was a serious contender to acquire his services. Fitzgerald and Thomas will enter 2018 with consolation prizes Sam Bradford/Mike Glennon (Arizona) and Case Keenum (Denver) as their QBs. We all know Bradford’s injury-riddled history (has only played 16 games twice in eight years), and the last time we saw him on the football field, he looked like a shell of an NFL quarterback. If/when Bradford goes down, the Cards will then turn to Mike Glennon. Yikes. Keenum turned in a career-best performance in 2017, when he finished as the QB14 after replacing Bradford in Week 2 last season, but let’s not let recency bias impact us too much. Prior to last season, he was a career backup who averaged 12.5 points per game in the 24 games where he attempted 17 or more passes. Neither situation should inspire confidence for Fitzgerald and Thomas dynasty owners.
If the Browns had submitted the paperwork in time, McCarron was on his way to Cleveland at the trade deadline for second and third round picks in a move widely reported to have been driven by Hue Jackson. Well, it turns out Hue Jackson should have no say in future Browns personnel decisions because once McCarron hit the open market, he received little interest. He eventually settled on a two-year contract from the Buffalo Bills, a team widely assumed to trade up to select their QB of the future. Best case scenario? He holds off the rookie in training camp and serves as a bridge QB. But this is far from a given. McCarron very well could find himself holding a clipboard once again this year.
Jets “QB of the Future”
After the Jets received the silver medal in the Kirk Cousins sweepstakes, they signed both Josh McCown and Teddy Bridgewater, with McCown reported to be the starter heading into training camp. This makes sense for 2018. McCown played inspired football last year, surprisingly finishing as the QB9 before a hand injury ended his season in Week 14. But he’s also 38 (39 once the season starts) and is a stopgap to the QB of the future — who the Jets have yet to find. A lot of questions remain unanswered. Are the Jets planing to give Bridgewater an audition? Will they draft a QB with the sixth overall pick in the draft? If they do, are there enough practice reps for McCown, Bridgewater, and their rookie QB? Will the Jets be able to find the right balance to compete in the present and prepare for the future?
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