Put the brackets down for a minute. We’ve got to talk football. Free agency doesn’t technically begin until this Wednesday, but we are already well into the “legal tampering period.” For those that don’t know, the legal tampering period is pretty much only for agents to speak with teams in hopes of brokering a deal. A player’s relationship and trust in his team and agent can go quite far, and some big deals have already been made (although not technically official until Wednesday). For the first time, players that represent themselves can participate in the legal tampering period. Here are the big fantasy-relevant deals from Sunday and Monday.
Aaron Jones Stays in Wisconsin
We begin with a big, albeit perhaps unexpected deal right off the bat. The Packers were able to work out a deal with Aaron Jones’ agent after the starting running back expressed interest in staying in Green Bay. Adam Schefter reported Sunday that the deal is worth $48 million over four years. The deal is pretty team-friendly considering Jones’ skill-set and some of the large contracts given to players like Alvin Kamara, Christian McCaffrey, and Ezekiel Elliott recently. A reasonable contract for a star player feels like a steal in this situation. Aaron Jones has an 86.2 PFF Grade since 2019, good enough for seventh among running backs.
Many Packer fans thought Jones was on his way out the door, especially after Green Bay drafted a running back in the second round of the 2020 NFL draft. AJ Dillon should see a workload increase this season as Green Bay’s RB2 with Jamaal Williams already posting a heartfelt goodbye to the team and city on Instagram. Aaron Jones should still be a great fantasy asset, especially in PPR leagues. He’s finished in the top five in PPR leagues over the last two years. Dillon could begin to see enough work to reach some fantasy relevance of his own. Dillon is a big, bruising back that could be utilized more in goal-to-go situations in his sophomore NFL season. Jones will continue to be a hot commodity on all fantasy football rosters.
Jonnu Smith to the Patriots
The Patriots made a splash on Monday when they whipped out the checkbook for Jonnu Smith and gave him the fourth-biggest tight end contract in the NFL. The four-year, $50 million deal which includes $31.25 million fully-guaranteed seems like a hefty sum for a player with a 74.2 PFF Grade since 2019 (9th among tight ends). It’s clear New England sees something special in the 25-year-old Smith, and I have to say I agree with them.
Over the past three years, the Patriots have had exactly one tight end in their personnel packages more often than any other team in the NFL, yet some of the lowest percentages of two or more tight ends. There is no doubt how crucial a multi-talented tight end is to this team; we all watched Rob Gronkowski become one of the best tight ends ever during his time with the Patriots. Smith will see plenty of the field, but I wonder if Bill Belichick will try to roll out more 1-2 personnel in the future. Bill’s comments should have fantasy managers excited for what Smith can accomplish in New England. “He’s a very athletic player, hard to tackle, catches the ball well,” Belichick said. “He’s great after the catch — probably the best in the league. I mean, I can’t imagine anybody better than him after the catch.”
Smith was the TE16 last year in PPR leagues with the 17th most targets. Still, he finished 9th among tight ends in standard leagues thanks to his red zone production. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that Smith may have been underutilized until now. I expect Jonnu to get many more opportunities this year with the Patriots, so this deal feels like a fantasy match made in heaven. I would elevate him up draft boards a good bit — somewhere up in the mid TE1 tier. Smith could be an affordable tight end draft option that pays off in 2021, but training camp hype could shoot him up draft boards as well.
The Jets Make a Splash With Corey Davis
It took them until 7:50 pm EST, but the Jets finally made a splash on Monday when they agreed to a three-year deal with Corey Davis worth $37.5 million. Some will likely complain about the price tag ($27 million guaranteed), but Davis had the best season of his career in 2020 and clearly showed enough to earn his big payday. PFF gave him an 85.3 grade in 2020 (10th). When it came to fantasy football, Davis was good but not great. He finished 30th among PPR wide receivers last year and was tough to predict from week to week. Corey had three spectacular performances, three terrible performances, and pretty much everything in-between in 2020.
It will likely be just as tough to predict Davis’ fantasy impact this year with Sam Darnold on the trade block, so we will need to wait to see who the quarterback is in New York. One thing we know for sure is that the Jets will try to feed Davis this year after a substantial investment. I’m predicting a career-high in targets (113+), and I wouldn’t be surprised if he flirts with 1,000 yards again this year. The addition of Davis could limit Denzel Mims’ production, but it should help Jamison Crowder. Crowder should be freed up for plenty of opportunities this year if Davis can draw some coverage away from him.
Pats Grab Two More Receivers
What an exciting day for Patriots fans. As if Jonnu Smith wasn’t enough, New England grabbed wide receivers Kendrick Bourne and Nelson Agholor as well on Monday.
Bourne is getting a three-year deal for $22.5 million. He’s pretty mediocre fantasy-wise, with only six games of double-digit fantasy points in PPR scoring last year. Still, the move makes sense to me. Julian Edelman is beginning to show his age and is having trouble staying healthy lately. The Patriots needed a dedicated slot guy, and it looks like they got their man with this deal. Bourne has run more than 70% of his routes in the NFL from the slot, and if Bourne eventually gets those prime Edelman targets, I can see plenty of fantasy success for him in PPR leagues.
No stranger to the slot himself (54% of the time), Nelson Agholor should be a good fit for New England as well. Like Bourne, one could argue Agholor’s problem has been inconsistency. He had four games of 20+ fantasy points and eight single-digit performances last year. It will be difficult to predict the fantasy relevance of these two receivers in 2021. Consistency will be essential, and the New England passing game will need more volume to support all of these new receiving options.
The Saints Make Moves
On Sunday, the 15th anniversary of his signing with the New Orleans Saints, Drew Brees officially announced his retirement. The Saints went ahead and restructured Taysom Hill’s contract, which freed up more than $7.5 million against the cap this year. It’s a four-year contract, but every year is voidable. So essentially, the Saints get one more season to decide if they want to let Hill take over Brees’ position or not. If Taysom performs well and the job is his, then the Saints have a solid framework for a new deal next year.
Meanwhile, a rumor got out on Sunday that Jameis Winston is the Saints’ “likely starter.” Later on Monday night, the Saints reached an agreement with Winston on a one-year deal worth up to $12 million. So it’s anyone’s guess as to whom will be under-center for New Orleans in 2021. Winston wasn’t very impressive last year, but he only had 11 attempts. It seems like the Saints are encouraging some QB competition for this year’s training camp. If I had to hazard a guess, I’d say Winston is likely starting for the Saints in 2021.
Gronkowski Enjoying the Tampa Sun
It appears Rob Gronkowski will remain in Tampa Bay on a one-year deal worth $10 million. Gronk still has plenty of fantasy relevance after finishing the 2020 season as the TE8. I would imagine Gronk performs similar to last year, assuming he maintains the TE1 duties in Tampa. O.J. Howard took away a solid target share from Gronk before the former succumbed to a torn Achilles in 2020, but for the time being, it’s safe to keep Gronkowski’s value similar to where it was last year.
NFL update reported that TE Zach Ertz is growing impatient to get something done. Word is the Eagles want a third or fourth-round pick for Ertz.
The Packers are apparently in talks with multiple free-agent wide receivers. Will Fuller, Curtis Samuel, and Kenny Golladay could all be on the table for Green Bay.
(Photo by Lawrence Iles/Icon Sportswire)