Free Agency: What We Saw on March 22, 2020
Raiders Sign Nelson Agholor
Former Eagles receiver Nelson Agholor is headed to Las Vegas to join the Raiders on a one year deal. Agholor had worn out his welcome in Philadelphia after the former first-round pick was mostly disappointing over five seasons. He’ll be remembered more for his struggles with drops, particularly some awful ones that occurred late in games, than for his nine-reception effort in the franchise’s lone Super Bowl win. The Raiders are hoping that a change of scenery helps Agholor become a more consistent player and that he and Derek Carr can develop the type of chemistry Agholor never seemed to have with Carson Wentz. Agholor should fill a similar role with the Raiders as the number three option in the passing game behind Tyrell Williams and Darren Waller on an offense that values high-percentage throws. He’ll be cheap come fantasy draft season and he has all the tools, possibly minus the hands, to carve out a nice role for himself that could be worth a late-round pick. This is a spot to watch throughout training camp and the preseason as it should become clear whether the Raiders view Agholor as a possible reclamation project with upside or simply added him for some veteran depth.
Agholor should at least provide the Raiders with another threat to keep defenses honest and open up more space for Josh Jacobs, and the addition of another receiver should further lessen the offense’s need to substitute Jacobs out for a pass-catching specialist on third down. Waller’s volume should remain secure as the biggest matchup problem the Raiders can put out on the field, although the addition of Jason Witten will probably eat into Waller’s red zone usage, and Williams should continue to function in his role as a deep threat on the outside. Overall this is a move that likely has more implications for the real offense of the Raiders than for fantasy purposes, but it’s not unthinkable that Agholor could finally put it all together consistently and show why he was a first-round pick.
Patriots Sign Brian Hoyer
For the first time in a long time, the fantasy world has to try and figure out who will be starting at quarterback for the New England Patriots. Brian Hoyer joins the Patriots for the third time after spending two previous stints with the team as Tom Brady’s backup. Hoyer will join Jarret Stidham and Cody Kessler in what appears to be an open competition for the starting quarterback job, and while early rumors are that the Patriots plan to go with Stidham as their starter it would not be a shock to see Hoyer at least begin the season as the starter. If Hoyer does get the job he can be ignored for fantasy owners and would obviously represent a significant downgrade from Brady for the rest of the Patriots offense.
Stidham is more of a wildcard as we haven’t gotten a good look at the former fourth-round pick since last preseason. The former Auburn starter flashed some talent and seems to have shown the Patriots enough that they do not feel a need to further address the position via free agency or trade. He’s more mobile than Hoyer, and when you’ve had as much success as New England over the past two decades you do get some benefit of the doubt when it comes to trusting a relatively unknown player to step into a major role. Still, it’s surprising that the Patriots prefer to add a low-upside option in Hoyer over pursuing someone like Cam Newton or Jameis Winston, two options that aren’t without their risks but offer far more upside and in Newton’s case experience as a starting quarterback in the playoffs. New England could look to add a quarterback via the draft, but the signing of Hoyer seems to signal that this is the quarterback room they want to proceed with for the time being.
Jets Exercise Ryan Griffin’s Option
Last season was supposed to be a breakout for Jets tight end Chris Herndon, but after his season was derailed by suspension and then injury it was Ryan Griffin who emerged as the go-to tight end for the Jets. The Jets offense as a whole had a tough season as Sam Darnold missed time with illness and seemed to take some time even after returning to the lineup to return to full strength, but on paper, this is a talented offense that showed last year with Griffin that it can support at least a borderline TE1 for fantasy. Robby Anderson remains unsigned as of this writing, and if he leaves his 96 targets will be up for grabs. Griffin and Herndon should compete for the number one tight end job, but Herndon is the more talented player and should be an interesting buy-low candidate. It’s possible that both tight ends end up seeing the field enough to kill each other’s value without getting enough work to be fantasy-relevant, but I expect Herndon to emerge as the more involved player and have low-end TE1 value this season.
Buccaneers Retain Cameron Brate
Cameron Brate was a potential candidate for release and would have been one of the top tight end options available, but Tampa Bay was able to restructure his contract to keep him on the roster. We know Tom Brady has a history of utilizing his tight ends, particularly in the red zone, and that’s an area of the field where Brate has been able to succeed before. Tampa’s passing attack remains as stacked with talent as it was last year but with a more conservative quarterback than Jameis Winston under center, it would make sense that there are more targets towards both Brate and O.J. Howard. The offense should also be able to better sustain drives assuming Brady throws less than the incredible 30 interceptions that Winston recorded last season, and while that may mean fewer big plays it also means more short third downs and more trips to the red zone, both of which figure to benefit the tight ends. Howard was awful last season and should have a shorter leash heading into this season if he continues to struggle, which makes Brate a potentially high-upside tight end that can be had for very little cost in fantasy drafts if he can separate himself from Howard on the depth chart.
Featured image by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)