Free Agency: What We Saw on March 17, 2020
While most of the sports world is in limbo, the NFL free agency period is in full swing. 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.
Tom Brady expected to sign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Don’t mind me. Just crying over here in my chowder. After a months-long repartee, Tom Brady will leave the New England Patriots, his home for football activities for the last two decades and join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, numerous reports claim. Brady has cobbled together a team with malfunctions on one side of the ball or the other for well over half a decade, so the upside to the deal on face value alone is massive. Brady will go from a team where his best offensive weapons were yearly Yukon Cornelius and middle of the field stepper, Julian Edelman and a rotating cast of James White, Sony Michel, Josh Gordon, Mohammed Sanu, the list goes on, to a 1-2 combo better than arguably anyone in the league, in Chris Godwin and Mike Evans. Combined Evans and Godwin averaged 1,245 yards and the future is only brighter with Brady behind center over Jameis Winston. Winston could light up the field with a 500-yard outburst one week, and show up the next week with 250 yards and five picks. Absolutely no consistency, and clearly this was something that irked the coaching staff. While Winston only had a completion percentage one-tenth of a percentage point under Brady’s (60.7 to 60.8), most would consider Brady’s last year an outlier and find Jameis and his inconsistency something they don’t want to commit to. Brady likely has a couple of years of slightly less than elite play under his belt, and with the murmurs that the Bucs draft a running back of high-end quality, this could be a great team to build some draft stock in.
Also, it needs to be said that Brady threw 22 fewer interceptions last year than Jameis had. With a team seen as well-coached, possibly the best combination of 1-2 receivers, and a very underrated defense (rated 5th out last year, 17.3 points above average per footballoutsiders.com), the Buccaneers could be a team stack you look for next year, especially if you land on Godwin or Evans, as Brady should be a reasonably priced commodity after last season’s performance.
Phillip Rivers to join up with Frank Reich in Indy
Not to be outdone, the Indianapolis Colts signed an old guard quarterback of their own, giving Phillip Rivers a one year deal, hoping the lack of a veteran presence is what sets them apart from the field. Rivers, consistently one of the most underrated quarterbacks in the league, gets to reunite with Frank Reich, who was the quarterback’s coach for a season in 2013 and quickly became the offensive coordinator in 2014-2015. In 2015, Rivers had Frank Reich coaching the offensive side of the ball, and in that same year, Phillip threw the most passes in all of the NFL. Reich clearly trusts that Rivers has the arm to at least give him a chance of tossing up plenty of passes. Not much else sticks out about Rivers’ season in 2015, but the pure volume of passing could lead to a sneaky top ten finish once again for Rivers. Indy has some weapons on offense and could benefit from a quarterback who’s not afraid of putting the ball in the air. With Jacoby Brissett, the Colts passed the ball in the bottom third of the league, clearly not trusting in their quarterback play.
Indianapolis will look to have back a perennial top-five receiving threat when healthy in TY Hilton, returning rookie upstart in Parris Campbell, and Zach Pascal likely able to thrive as a third wide receiver option instead of a number one.
Raiders go on confusion tour 2020, sign Jason Witten
When you look at the Raiders offense from just last year, it’s clear that…tight end was the issue? Jason Witten, clearly aware of his issues in the broadcasting booth has decided to come back for another season, this time in Raider’s black and gold. Witten will join breakout Darren Waller as both will look to split the shares of passes received from either Derek Carr or a rookie quarterback pulled from this year’s draft class. While this may not be the biggest news in relation to a renaissance of sorts for Witten, I like to think that it’s important for us to look at how this could negatively impact Waller, who had for no better terms, a breakout season last year. Waller was seen as an incredibly high-end talent coming out of college and has since turned his career around after some negative issues attached to his past. Waller, only 27 years old, appeared in all 16 games last season for Oakland and finished with well over 100 targets, and came down with 90 of them for receptions. Waller also finished second only to Travis Kelce for receiving yards out of all tight ends. This move is a head-scratcher, and hopefully only signals the need for some more leadership in the locker room, or blocking to keep Derek Carr from losing his spine.
Jordan Howard hoping to find relevance in barren Dolphins’ backfield
Jordan Howard signed in Miami. To be quite honest, this likely won’t be worth much fantasy value. The Dolphins have milled through quality running backs at an alarming rate, proving that the issue doesn’t seemingly lie in the talent they have at running back, but the coach who is behind the clipboard (you can’t hide forever, Adam Gase). Lamar Miller, Kenyan Drake, and to a lesser extent, Jay Ajayi have seen the value of their talents the moment they left Miami. While Gase has moved on to ruining the Jet’s chances, it’s clear Miami’s just not built for talented running backs to sign the way they gameplan. And to be quite truthful, Jordan Howard is incredibly average. Howard broke out for a single year in Chicago and watched quickly as his stock fell and Tarik Cohen’s rose. In his four seasons in the league, Howard’s yards per carry has dropped precipitously when you remove last year’s numbers (which you likely can, as he carried the ball almost half as much as all other seasons). Howard could potentially find his way in Miami and he’s worth a late flier. But I’d much rather look out for a late-round Patrick Laird. Absolutely zero cost to take the risk now that Howard is there and is still a slightly more flashy name, and Laird also carries some pass-catching sexiness. Starting just four games last season, Laird averaged just under 8 targets per game. He’s the guy I like, and now you get a little bit of a draft value hike. Yes, please!
Teddy Bridgewater finally gets the chance to start in Carolina
Who knows how this one will turn out? Teddy Bridgewater was honestly once of my favorite players to watch coming out of Louisville, and now Teddy two gloves will finally get his chance to start again after a catastrophic injury almost kept him from ever playing in the NFL again. Bridgewater may never really get back to the rushing side of his game that was slowly starting to peak out in 2015, but he’s a highly intelligent quarterback who can be coached up and doesn’t make a lot of mistakes. Any time he saw some time behind center for Coach Payton in New Orleans, he showed how valuable he could be. Bridgewater will likely step into an exciting and youth filled offense that touts the best running back in football in Christian McCaffrey, fresh off almost 2,400 all-purpose yards and with the majority of his pro career ahead, not behind him. Alongside McCaffrey is DJ Moore, who many see as a dominant and potential top-five wide receiver in most dynasty leagues. Averaging 13.8 yards per reception, Moore will look to build on his career numbers and likely will continue to get his way into the top three to five receiver conversation. Ian Thomas, a young and sneaky upside tight end could also look to find a bigger role in his team’s offense, as the Panthers have moved on officially from Greg Olsen.
McCaffrey is likely a consensus number one overall pick. Don’t overthink that one. But, Moore could only be helped by Bridgewater, as he doesn’t play a brand of mistake built football, and the same could be said for Bridgewater, as Moore will likely pick some amazing catches from errant throws.
Saints don’t need to fix what’s not broken, resign Brees
Drew Brees goes back to New Orleans in what is likely his last two seasons, hoping to bring a championship back to Nawlins. Joined by a healthy Alvin Kamara, Michael Thomas, and Taysom Hill, Drew will continue on making Thomas the best wide receiver in your yearly and dynasty drafts. Michael Thomas will, in turn, make Brees a top-five quarterback, and water is wet, and the fire is hot. There’s not much to be added to this one in terms of content. Drew Brees is on a historic pace, one in which he is only disappointing when in comparison to Tom Brady’s potential number one quarterback of all-time numbers. One thing that could potentially require some watchful eyes, however, is the rapport that Brees and Kamara show once preseason/training camps start to take place. Kamara looked somewhat lost last season and claims it’s in relation to some soreness he had dealt with all season, but either way, he may be a player we want to pivot away from in the first if the news isn’t amazing out of training camp.
Featured image by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)