Free Agency: What We Saw on March 16, 2020
While most of the sports world is in limbo, the NFL free agency period hit the ground running. We’ll be giving you daily updates all week covering the moves and their fantasy implications. Check out our podcast recapping day one of free agency as well.
Without further ado, let’s get to the moves:
Texans Trade DeAndre Hopkins to the Cardinals for David Johnson
How’s that for a bombshell? For DeAndre Hopkins, he goes from one young quarterback in Deshaun Watson to another in Kyler Murray. At the least, this is a lateral move for Hopkins, but he goes from an offense that passed the ball at a 57.9% rate in Houston to a 60.4% rate in Arizona.
One potential negative for Hopkins is the quality of competition that he’ll face in heading to the NFC West. The 49ers (Richard Sherman and K’Waun Williams) and Rams (Nickell Robey-Coleman and Troy Hill) secondaries each feature two of the top 25 cornerbacks from 2019, per PFF. Shaq Griffin of the Seahawks also made an appearance on that list.
Hopkins will join a wide receiver core that includes Christian Kirk and Larry Fitzgerald. While Hopkins will be a target monster for the Cardinals, Kirk should benefit from seeing weaker coverage at their WR2. Kyler Murray gets a significant boost from this deal. The Cardinals just have to shore up that offensive line to protect him, as they allowed the fifth-most sacks in 2019.
With Carlos Hyde and Lamar Miller hitting free agency, Houston gets what we have to assume will be their lead back in David Johnson. 2019 was not kind to Johnson. After suffering an ankle injury in Week 7, Johnson gave way to Chase Edmonds and ultimately, Kenyan Drake, who became a fantasy championship winner down the stretch. Hopefully, Johnson is able to get fully healthy this off-season, as he just didn’t look right at the end of 2019. If he’s healthy, I’d expect Johnson to be an RB2 with upside coming into the 2020 season.
Speaking of Kenyan Drake, the Cardinals placed the transition tag on him, meaning they are able to match any offer that Drake receives from another team. It would appear their intention is to retain him moving forward.
On the Texans wide receiver front, Hopkins’ departure leaves a massive gaping hole. Will Fuller becomes their WR1 for now, while Keke Coutee, Kenny Stills, and DeAndre Carter might be in for bigger roles. I’m sure there will be something more to come on the front, but for now, DeSean Watson‘s fantasy value takes a hit.
Vikings Trade Stefon Diggs to the Bills for Draft Picks
This late-breaking news just came over the wire. The Vikings agreed to trade Stefon Diggs and a seventh-round pick to the Bills for a first, fifth, and sixth-round picks in 2020 and a fourth-round pick in 2021. Overall this appears to be a pretty lateral move for Diggs. He moves from one run-heavy offense to another.
Josh Allen gets a nice bump up from the addition of Diggs. I’d expect him to be taken as a back-end QB1 in 2020. John Brown, who saw a 24% target share in 2019, might see a slight tick down in workload, but I don’t expect to move him down much in my draft rankings.
Even though Diggs was viewed as a malcontent, you can’t argue his contributions to the team. He led the team with a 21% target share. This likely frees up additional work for Adam Thielen if he can stay on the field. I’d expect them to bring in some wide receiver depth unless they view Olabisi Johnson as the future of their team. Kirk Cousins takes a hit, even though he’s not much more than a streaming quarterback.
Browns Sign TE Austin Hooper to a Four-Year Deal
Baker Mayfield gets another top-end receiving talent in Austin Hooper, who the Browns gave a four-year deal. The deal makes him the highest-paid tight end in the game. For fantasy purposes, I’d say this is pretty close to a lateral move. He goes from being in a situation where he’s competing with Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley for targets to battling Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry.
Things might seem a little complicated with David Njoku still in the mix. However, as Graham Barfield pointed out, “The Vikings used 12 personnel (2 TEs on the field) on 47% of their pass plays last season under Kevin Stefanski, which was the second-most behind the Eagles (50%).” If the Browns don’t trade Njoku, you can expect both tight ends to be heavily involved.
Browns Sign RT Jack Conklin to a Three-Year Deal
Shortly after adding another weapon for Baker Mayfield, the Browns went out and added RT Jack Conklin to help keep him upright. Mayfield seemed to be constantly rushed out of the pocket in 2019, and adding one of the top free-agent offensive linemen can only help that out.
Conklin was also a major factor in Derrick Henry’s monster season last year as PFF.com ranked Conklin in the 91st percentile for run blocking. Hello Nick Chubb!
Falcons Trade Draft Picks to Ravens for Hayden Hurst
Shortly after losing Austin Hooper to free agency, the Falcons went out and got his replacement in Hayden Hurst. With the emergence of Mark Andrews, the Ravens decided they could move on from their former first-round pick Hurst.
Despite playing on just as many snaps as Andrews in 2019, Hurst saw just a 9% target share versus 23% for Andrews. At just 26-years old, Hurst enters an offense that has been very tight-end friendly under Dirk Koetter and becomes a back-end TE1 heading into the 2020 season.
Falcons Release Devonta Freeman
The Falcons are moving on from former Pro Bowl running back Devonte Freeman and you know what that means? It’s Ito Smith SZN. Okay, probably not, but it does make Atlanta a potential landing spot for Melvin Gordon or a top-end running back in the draft like D’Andre Swift.
Browns Place 2nd-Round Tender on RFA Kareem Hunt
With the Browns placing a 2nd-Round Tender on Kareem Hunt, it all but ensures he’ll be back with the team for the 2020 season. Once he returned from suspension, Hunt played on at least 50% of the team’s snaps in every game. Both he and Nick Chubb remained productive together, although Hunt’s presence probably limits Chubb’s upside if he were to get worked more into the passing game.
Bears Sign TE Jimmy Graham to a Two-Year Deal
The Bears paid up for 33-year old tight end Jimmy Graham. With Austin Hooper, Blake Jarwin, and Hunter Henry off the board it appears the Bears panicked and gave Graham a two-year deal worth $16 million dollars. While Graham played in all 32 games over the last two years, he averaged 46 catches, 541 yards, and 2.5 touchdowns per year.
Featured image by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)