Free Agency Winners and Losers: Quarterbacks

Signing, trading, and retaining players can help or hurt players early in the offseason. Dustin Ludke takes a look at the quarterbacks who won and lost in the free agency period.

The quarterback position is the most important for a team. For fantasy it can make or break your fantasy season. Redraft, dynasty, superflex, 4 or 6 point per touchdown, all play into when you draft or trade for a quarterback. Knowing whose fantasy outlooks got better and whose got worse over free agency can impact who you might want to target.

 

Losers

 

Patrick Mahomes: Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs made some odd moves with their wide receivers this off-season. Patrick Mahomes goes from having Tyreek Hill, Byron Pringle, and Demarcus Robinson to Juju Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdez-Scantling. He retains Mecole Hardman and tight end Travis Kelce. It’s a clear downgrade for one of the best quarterbacks in the league, especially in a division that got a lot better this offseason.  They also lost Austin Blyth on the O-line but were able to retain Andrew Wylie and sign Geron Christianson from Houston. It will be an interesting season for Mahomes who will have to show he can still be a top 5 fantasy quarterback without all the weapons he is accustomed to. It doesnt look good for someone who had so much success so early in his career.

 

Aaron Rodgers: Green Bay Packers

It’s really hard to say a guy who just signed a 200 million dollar deal is a loser. Aaron Rodgers resigned with the Packers but lost his offensive coordinator, Nathaniel Hackett, to the head coaching job in Denver. Just days after signing his mega-deal the Packers traded away his star receiver Davante Adams. This leaves Rodgers with very little in the pass-catching weapon department. They lost guard Lucas Patrick to the rival Bears while re-signing tight end Robert Tonyan. The targets that normally go to Adams will be spread out between Allen Lazard and whomever else is on the roster. Even Marquez Valdez- Scantling is gone, having signed with the Chiefs in free agency. There has been a lot written about the Packers not spending top picks on offensive weapons but that would need to change this year if Rodgers wants a chance at three-peating as MVP.

 

Trevor Lawrence: Jacksonville Jaguars.

I’m sure this will shock some seeing the former first overall pick in the loser section. He starts 2022 with a new coach in Doug Peterson and a new offensive coordinator in Pres Taylor. Things really can’t be much worse than they were in 2021 for Lawrence who threw for 12 touchdowns and 17 interceptions in his rookie campaign. I make Lawrence a loser because a new coach and new OC will be like starting over again. The Jaguars did bring in wide receivers Christian Kirk and Zay Jones and tight end Evan Engram. My issue is that none of them have proven to be game-changers. They also have a net loss of 1 on the offensive line. They lost A.J. Cann and Andrew Norwell and added Brandon Scherff. It will be an offensive line looking to gel in training camp. It just seems like another year of rebuilding before we see the Jaguars and Lawrence rise to the level of fantasy relevance.

 

Carson Wentz: Washington Commanders

I’ve struggled with what the trade from the Colts to the Commanders means for Carson Wentz. On one hand, the Colts have some great offensive line players like Quinton Nelson and Ryan Kelly.  The Colts dealt with injuries all season and Wentz was sacked 32 times. He goes to the Commanders who don’t seem to have a good line based on reputation but finished the season ranked 6th by Pro Football Focus compared to the Colts being 12th, as Tyler Heinicke got sacked 38 times last season. It’s a downgrade for Wentz at running back but that was going to happen no matter where he landed. The receiving weapons are pretty much the same as of writing. They did manage to keep J.D. McKissic despite early reports he was shuffling off to Buffalo. I put Wentz as a loser because of the blow to his confidence as he is now on his 3rd team and just got traded by a coach who seemed to be personally connected to him. If Wentz can get out of his own head he can be good but anyone who has watched him has seen that may be the hardest thing for Wentz at this point in his career.

 

Justin Fields: Chicago Bears

The Bears overhauled their front office in the off-season, but Justin Fields winds up in the loser section because of the way new management addressed the receiving options so far. Allen Robinson is gone, and so is Jakeem Grant. They replaced those two with Byron Pringle and Equanimeous St. Brown. Clearly a downgrade in talent. They also went from James Daniels to Lucas Patrick at guard. Pro Football Focus ranked Daniels at 71.8 and Patrick at 57.6. The Bears will need to address the pass-catching weapons and offensive line in the draft if they want Fields to live up to the draft day hype. Fields struggled to beat out Andy Dalton as the starter in 2021 and when he did get the starting nob he threw for 7 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. We have a long way to go for the Bears’ passing game to ascend to the next level.

 

Baker Mayfield and Jimmy Garopollo

Both are still on NFL rosters but are now looking to potentially be backups. Jimmy Garopollo was headed for the trade block as soon as the last second ticked off the final game of the season. He is now the last QB standing out of the early available ones. He is joined by Baker Mayfield who is left wanting after the Browns traded for Deshaun Watson. One or both could still be traded but are right now battling the incoming rookies for an opening weekend spot.

 

Winners

 

Mitch Trubisky: Pittsburgh Steelers

The former Bears first-rounder gets a second chance at starting in the league with the Steelers. He joins a team with a solid running back and good wide receivers. Mitch Trubisky has shown flashes of greatness in the past and looks to bring them to the Black and Yellow. The Steelers also addressed their abysmal offensive line by signing Mason Cole and James Daniels. If they can keep Trubisky upright and run the ball with Najee Harris then the Steelers have a great shot at improving in the standings. With that Trubisky has a chance to beat Ben Roethlisberger’s numbers from last season of 22 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Big Ben ended up as the QB21. I expect Trubisky to be higher than that in 2022, as his rushing ability should help in fantasy scoring.

 

Deshaun Watson: Cleveland Browns

The Browns made a blockbuster trade for embattled Deshaun Watson; a huge win for the quarterback who sat out all of 2021. A suspension might still be coming but he will benefit from being on a team that traded for Amari Cooper, has Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, and franchise-tagged David Njoku. It’s a comparable team to what Watson had back in 2019, with DeAndre Hopkins and a worse rushing game. He threw 26 touchdowns and 12 interceptions and rushed for 7 more in that season.  On a run-first team, Watson’s rushing ability will be on full display. He has the weapons and a fresh start on the team of his choosing which should translate to good fantasy numbers when he plays.

 

Justin Herbert: Los Angles Chargers

You re-sign wide receiver Mike Williams. You sign tight end Gerald Everett. Your team trades for Khalil Mack for your defense. You are one of the best young quarterbacks in the league playing in beautiful LA. All signs point to Justin Herbert as a winner this off-season and looking to put his name in the conversation for top QB in the league. His fantasy upside is as big as anyone’s in the league.

 

Zach Wilson: New York Jets

Second-year QB Zach Wilson got some upgrades this off-season. The Jets added two tight ends in C.J. Uzomah and Tyler Conklin. They also upgraded on their O-line by letting Morgan Moses leave and adding Laken Tomlinson. Pro Football Focus has them ranked 70.9 and 76.0 respectively. The Jets resigned Braxton Berrios and Tevin Coleman. The consistency there will be key. They are putting the pieces around Wilson and giving him every chance to succeed in NYC. He finished his last 3 games with touchdown passes and hadn’t thrown an interception since week 13. This will be a big year for Wilson’s development, but their are positive trends beginning for the Jets.

 

Kyler Murray: Arizona Cardinals

It has been a strange offseason for Kyler Murray and the Cardinals. There has been much social media posting and deleting and rumored contention between the quarterback and the organization. The Cardinals have made moves to ensure that Kyler can again lead the team as he did in 2021 when they started off 11-0. They resigned both Zach Ertz and James Conner who were both big parts of the team’s success during the regular season. They did opt to let Chase Edmonds and Christian Kirk leave in free agency but neither were major difference-makers in 2021. The O-line should be the same as last season which will provide protection for Murray as he lets his receivers get open down the field. Getting DeAndre Hopkins back to health, however, will be the biggest boost for Murray in 2022, and his rushing ability keeps him at the top of fantasy rankings for the foreseeable future.

 

Russell Wilson: Denver Broncos

The NFL offseason really got started when the Denver Broncos made the trade for Russell Wilson. Wilson comes to a team that is loaded at wide receiver. He goes from D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett to Jerry Jeudy, Cortland Sutton, and Tim Patrick. Denver also has something Wilson hasn’t had since his Super Bowl appearances; a dynamic running back in Javonte Willams. Wilson has all the right pieces in place to be in the conversation as a top 5 quarterback. The trade for Wilson did ship Noah Fant to Seattle but Albert Okwuegbunam is a suitable replacement.

 

Derek Carr: Las Vegas Raiders

Derek Carr was on the list of possible quarterbacks to get traded this off-season. The Raiders went the other way and traded for Davante Adams. Carr and Adams have been friends for a long time so this was something they have wanted to have happen since college. It’s a huge upgrade for the Raiders who have a hole in their lineup with the loss of Henry Ruggs last season. Adams will pull coverage off of Hunter Renfrow and Darren Waller. This move could put Carr on track for a career-high in touchdowns which came back in 2015 when he threw 32 of them. He has only had over 25 once in the past 5 years, but that should change in 2022.

 

Joe Burrow: Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals look to repeat as AFC Champs in 2022 after a magical run in 2021. They retain all their skill position players other than tight end C.J. Uzomah, who they replaced with Hayden Hurst. They also upgraded their one weak spot of the team in the offensive line. They added Alex Cappa (Tampa), La’el  Collins (Dallas), and Ted Karras (New England) to their offensive line. Joe Burrow was sacked a league-high 51 times in 2021 and they still managed to make it to the Super Bowl on the back of Burrow’s 34 touchdowns. That number should stay the same if not go up with an improved offensive line.

 

Tua Tagovailoa: Miami Dolphins

I originally had Tua as a loser because it didn’t look like the Miami Dolphins were prioritizing the passing game in free agency. They signed  Chase Edmonds and Raheem Mostert, to go with Myles Gaskins. They also signed one of the best fullbacks in the game in Alec Ingold. Then late to the game but not to be outdone they made a blockbuster trade for Tyreek Hill and a move that got swept under the rug by that news was the signing of Terron Armstead. They have worked that offense around Tua Tagovailoa after letting coach Brian Flores go. It’s a clear sign they want to compete in the division and make the most out of the rookie contracts for Tua and break out wide receiver Jalen Waddle. This offense is on the rise, and Tua should benefit.

 

 

Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire | Design by Michael Packard (@designsbypack on Twitter @ IG)

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