JuJu Takes Hometown Discount, Bills Balk at Ertz Trade, and Eyes Remain on Golladay

Ryan Heath recaps Friday's NFL free agency news and looks at notable players remaining unsigned heading into the weekend.

It would appear the entire National Football League was too busy watching NCAA March Madness on Friday, as few fantasy-relevant headlines were made. The fates of some impactful fantasy players are still unknown going into the weekend, but the dust of NFL free agency has largely settled.

 

JuJu Jumps at Opportunity to Return

 

After a very quiet morning, the news that JuJu Smith-Schuster was taking a significant discount to stay with the Pittsburgh Steelers rocked the airwaves. The Baltimore Ravens and Philadelphia Eagles both reportedly offered much larger contracts than the 1-year, $8 million deal Smith-Schuster ended up accepting. With Ben Roethlisberger also returning, the Steelers’ offense should look very similar to how it did last year. Smith-Schuster will once again have to jostle for targets with Diontae Johnson and breakout second-year receiver Chase Claypool.

Smith-Schuster will get to stay in the slot where he has historically been the most productive, after leading the league in slot snaps last year. However, this also means his extremely low average depth of target (5.8) and air yards per game (46) are unlikely to significantly improve. The news definitely dampens outlooks for both Claypool and Johnson, but the offense as a whole should hopefully remain pass-heavy, with the team so far declining to add a free agent running back after the departure of James Conner. Prepare to draft Smith-Schuster as a solid fantasy WR2 once again.

 

Carson Comes Home

 

Late Friday, Seattle Seahawks running back Chris Carson re-signed with the team, inking a two-year, $14.6 million deal. Though Carson has proven productive in the past, injuries and more pass-heavy play calling caused him to take a step back last year, leaving him as a rather touchdown-dependent option in fantasy.

This signing should shut down any Twitter hype trains around the likes of Rashaad Penny or Travis Homer for the time being, and with Carlos Hyde now in Jacksonville, Carson may see an even larger opportunity share if he can stay healthy. Seattle may still look to address their backfield in the NFL Draft, but for the time being Carson looks poised for another RB2 season.

 

Lindsay Loses Shot at Relevance?

 

Former Denver Broncos running back Phillip Lindsay signed a one-year deal with the Houston Texans on Friday night. An undersized runner that has struggled in the passing game, Lindsay will have trouble capturing more than a change-of-pace role behind incumbent starter David Johnson. The suddenly crowded Texans’ backfield also includes the recently signed Mark Ingram. It’s hard to evaluate the fantasy appeal of anybody on the roster as long as Deshaun Watson’s future with the team is unclear, but Lindsay would not have an easy path to production even if Watson were to start in week 1.

 

A Herd of Tight Ends Migrating to Buffalo?

 

While trade negotiations with the Philadelphia Eagles for Zach Ertz have reportedly stalled, the Buffalo Bills signed former Seattle Seahawks tight end Jacob Hollister to a one-year deal. Though Hollister commanded more than four targets just three times last season, he does have a big, athletic frame for Josh Allen to utilize in the red zone. This is a hit to the stock of Dawson Knox in very deep leagues, but this signing should have little fantasy impact apart from that. Keep an eye out, as the Bills may continue to address the position in the NFL Draft next month.

 

Former Fantasy Stars Remain Unsigned

 

  • Former Detroit Lions wide receiver Kenny Golladay had yet to sign with any team on Friday night. The New York Giants appear best positioned to sign the 27-year-old standout, but he left the building without agreeing to a deal.
  • The Seattle Seahawks were rumored to have interest in Leonard Fournette earlier in the week, but that ship has likely sailed with the signing of Chris Carson. Fournette’s performances in the playoffs seemed likely to land him a job this offseason, but perhaps NFL front offices weren’t as impressed as previously thought.
  • Similarly, former Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner has yet to sign with a team. This year has been another reminder of the raw deal running backs have in the NFL, with teams increasingly reluctant to pay players at the position after their rookie contracts expire.

 

(Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire)

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