Bills Snatch Sanders, John Brown is Vegas-Bound, and Wentz Back with Reich

Ryan Kruse recaps Wednesdays NFL free agency news.

I hope everyone’s Saint Patrick’s celebrations were splendid and safe yesterday. While you were brewing up that hangover you’re currently nursing, the 2021 NFL league year officially began, and free agency formally commenced. So pour a little hair of the dog in your coffee and check out what happened around the NFL.


The Bills Add Another Weapon to Their Arsenal


Former Saints wide receiver, Emmanuel Sanders, reached an agreement with Buffalo for a one-year contract worth $6 million. The Bills now have a trio of talented wide receivers for quarterback Josh Allen to utilize. Cover 1 Sports reported that Sanders, Cole Beasley, and Stefon Diggs are all ranked top-five in creating positive EPA when targeted. That means Buffalo very well could have the best offense in the league against zone defenses. Josh Allen was already a top-four QB draft pick heading into the 2021 season, but this news could make him even more valuable. I fully expect another fantastic season from the young quarterback. I imagine Beasley’s value remains roughly the same. Diggs could have an even more productive 2021 season if opposing defenses are forced into man coverage, opening up the deep routes for Stefon. 


Jamaal Williams to Detroit


Jamaal Williams will remain in the NFC North after signing a two-year deal worth up to $7.5 million with the Lions. This news is a bit of a bummer for Packer and fantasy football fans. Packer fans will be upset because they now need to face their beloved Jamaal twice a year. Fantasy managers will be a bit disappointed because this signing likely means the Lions are keeping a committee approach with their running backs. D’Andre Swift will remain the lead back in Detroit, but Williams’ presence could eat into Swift’s production at least a bit. A bell-cow Swift could have been a huge fantasy asset, but that now seems much less likely.


John Brown Vegas-Bound


This move makes sense to me. The Raiders let Nelson Agholor go this off-season and essentially replaced him with a better, cheaper version in John Brown. It’s a one-year “prove it” deal worth $3.75 million. The Raiders like their vertical threats, and I assume that was the main reason for going after John, who still has plenty of impressive speed. It could be difficult predicting Brown’s fantasy production this year, especially after he struggled with an injury in 2020, which limited him to only nine games. Be that as it may, Brown should be the de-facto WR2 in Las Vegas, which should give him plenty of targets this year. Brown should be capable of a top-20 PPR wide receiver finish if he plays the whole season.


Where’s Wentz?


The Indianapolis Colts announced a trade for Carson Wentz, which will cost them a 2021 third-round pick and a conditional 2022 second-round pick. Wentz will take over Philip Rivers’ spot after the latter’s retirement. The acquisition makes sense for the Colts and head coach Frank Reich. Wentz and Reich used to work together when Frank was the offensive coordinator for the Eagles in 2016/17. I believe Reich can right the Wentz ship to some degree, but I wonder how much success Wentz can realistically have without many weapons on the field. If T.Y. Hilton moves on from the Colts organization, there won’t be many enticing targets outside of Michael Pittman. I predict Wentz will significantly improve compared to last year, but I don’t expect him to single-handedly win any fantasy championships. 


The Cards Grab Green on St. Paddy’s Day


A.J. Green agreed to a one-year deal worth up to $8.5 million with the Arizona Cardinals. It seems the Patriots were actively pursuing Green as well, so at least two teams thought A.J. still has enough left in the tank. Either way, I can’t see this being very fantasy-relevant in 2021. Many of us already knew Green hasn’t performed at his best for quite some time. A.J. scored 11 touchdowns and 306 PPR fantasy points in 2013. He only had two touchdowns and 111 PPR points last year. Green could be a late-round flier pick this year, but that’s about as high as his value goes.


Return of the Mack


The Colts are re-signing running-back Marlon Mack to the team for a one-year, $2 million deal. The signing is a curious move in the fantasy football world. In 2018 and 2019, Mack had two seasons in a row with more than 1,000 scrimmage yards. Before the 2020 season, the Colts decided to forgo paying Mack and instead drafted Jonathan Taylor in hopes that the two backs could provide an effective one-two punch. Unfortunately, Marlon Mack tore his Achilles in Week 1 of the 2020 season, giving Taylor more opportunities in his rookie year. This Mack deal is pretty cheap, so I imagine he will mainly be in Indianapolis for added depth. Still, this signing will keep plenty of fantasy managers second-guessing Taylor’s value come draft time.


Everett to Seattle


This news isn’t too big fantasy-wise, but it’s a good one for the Seahawks. Seattle can’t seem to trust Will Dissly. They signed veteran Greg Olsen last year instead of relying on Dissly, and now they’re going after former Rams tight end Gerald Everett to pick up the slack (after Olsen retired). I’m not personally high on Everett, but he is a competent tight end that should provide some immediate value to the Seahawks. Whether or not that translates to fantasy production remains to be seen. I think this year’s situation will be similar to last year’s. Dissly and Olsen almost split their fantasy stats down the middle. Dissly had 61 fantasy PPR points while Olsen (even though he missed a few games) tallied 54 points. I wouldn’t be surprised if Everett and Dissly split the tight end work similarly this year, rendering both of them completely fantasy-irrelevant.


What the Heck is Going on in Washington?!?


First, the Washington Football Team goes and gets Ryan Fitzpatrick. Then they make sure Fitzmagic has Curtis Samuel to complement Terry McLaurin in 2021. Samuel’s deal is worth $34.5 million over three years. Honestly, this transaction has me excited to see what Washington can accomplish in 2021. Samuel, last year’s overall WR23 in PPR leagues, could be the peanut butter to McLaurin’s jelly. The Football Team could be formidable this year if Curtis can draw even a little coverage away from “Scary Terry” McLaurin. I boosted Terry up my draft board a bit after the Fitz news, but this could raise his value even higher.

I know Antonio Gandy-Golden is still in the picture, but he only has one year under his belt, and I believe he still needs some time to acclimate to the NFL. I have faith that Samuel will be a competent and capable WR2 for Washington. Also, he’s an effective runner; Curtis could even start taking away some carries from J.D. McKissic


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