After dissecting the winners from the last few weeks’ transactions, unfortunately there were also some losers from a fantasy perspective we need to address too.
Which of the moves have a negative impact on a players fantasy value? Let’s dive in:
How dare I besmirch the name of a fantasy God i hear you say. Well, it’s quite simple – Hopkins has gone from a team where he was the main weapon where everything went through him, to a team with a wider and deeper plethora of talent and a quarterback who is less proven than his old one, Deshaun Watson.
I am not for one second suggesting that Hopkins is going to be a fantasy bust in 2020, but I think it’s fair to say he, individually, was a loser from free agency when you’re talking fantasy value. In his 7 years as a Texans, Hopkins has averaged 90 receptions for 1,229 yards per season with 8 TD’s per season.
Will he keep to these figures in Arizona? Potentially, of course, however I think he will be more along the 80 for 1,100 and 6 TD line considering the amount of mouths Kyler Murray needs to feed in that offense – that would have seen him around the WR 11 – 14 range in PPR scoring in 2019. Still a WR1 in fantasy, just no longer a “top 5” weapon, in my opinion.
As an honourable mention too, Deshaun Watson’s fantasy value has to have taken a hit too as I struggle to see how Will Fuller, Randall Cobb, Kenny Stills or Keke Coutee are going to replicate Hopkins’ production, either singularly or as a team effort. With no real draft capital to bring in a replacement superstar either, it begs the question where will Watson be able to sustain his QB1 tag in fantasy.
Patriots skill positions fantasy values
As of right now, we are still uncertain what is happening in Foxborough as regards to the Pats’ immediate future. With only a shade under $1mil left in cap space, it certainly looks like New England will be quarterbacked by either second year Jarrett Stidham, or in the way of an incoming rookie at the back end of the first round.
Either way, it’s fair to say the fantasy value of Sony Michel, James White, Julien Edelman and N’Keal Harry remains uncertain until we know who is under centre, but their combined value has to drop mainly due to the fact TB12 is no longer their leader.
Unfortnuately for Pats’ fans it looks like the last decade of dominance is coming to an end, and with it comes the fantasy value of it’s skill positions. They all lost out this off season.
Who remembers David Njoku’s 639 yards with 4 TD’s in 2018 sparking fantasy hype in 2019 only for it to come crashing down thanks to a season long wrist injury? Yeah, that was a derailed train that looks like it’s going to remain that way unless he gets traded away.
Thanks to the seemingly unnecessary move to acquire hot property Austin Hooper from Atlanta, Njoku’s fantasy production is about as questionable as whether the Browns will get to 8 wins or not this year.
With characters such as OBJ, Jarvis Landry, Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt and now Hooper all likely ahead of Njoku in the receiving pecking order – unless Baker Mayfield suddenly makes a giant leap back to super-stardom, Njoku may well be a fantasy ghost again in 2020.
Keenan Allen and Mike Williams
We know both Allen and Williams are extraordinary talents in the NFL and will likely continue to be highly productive and fantasy relevant. However, with Pip Rivers off to pastures new in Indy and the re-sign of Hunter Henry on the franchise tag, the fantasy outlook for this dynamic duo is in question for the time being.
If the Chargers manage to get hold of Tua or more likely Justin Herbert as their new signal caller through the draft, then one would assume it would be business as usual in 2020 – Keenan Allen being a target hog and Mike Williams commanding targets in the redzone. But until then, they both have to be considered as losers from this season’s off season action. No more trusted connection with Rivers and Henry still around taking TD opportunities away.
New York Jets
How many fantasy players did the Jets have in the top 40 (not including QB’s) of PPR scoring in 2019? Zero. Top 50? 1 – Lev Bell. Jamison Crowder was just outside the top 50. In fact, there was only 3 Jets’ players to have over 100 PPR points throughout the 2019 season.
So what have they done as an organisation to combat and improve this? They failed to re-sign one of those players, Robby Anderson, signed the lackluster former first round pick Josh Doctson and the flighty journeyman Breshad Perriman. With bigger needs likely targetted in the draft (offensive line, edge rusher and defensive secondary), it’s likely that this make-shift ensemble will be the fantasy options heading into the 2020 season. Eeesh. The Jets are off-season losers as things stand. Poor Sam Darnold!
It’s been a busy free agency for NFL teams over the last couple of weeks; but a much needed and welcome distraction to everything else that’s currently happening in the world.
But what do these moves mean for your fantasy teams in 2020? Over the next two articles, i’m going to break down the winners and the losers from all of the transactions that have taken place so far.
The Arizona Cardinals pulled of a move during the free agency that left everybody scratching their heads, wondering how they pulled off such a coup. That was, of course, the acquisition of superstar receiver DeAndre Hopkins from the Houston Texans.
Kyler Murray all of a sudden now has one of the most tantalising skill set offenses in the NFL. From Hopkins to legendary Hall of Fame receiver LarryFitzgerald returning for one last year, and the emerging star of Christian Kirk alongside 2nd year hopefuls Andy Isabella, Hakeem Butler and KeeSean Johnson. The Kliff Kingsbury ‘air raid’ offense really has got no excuses to be raking up the air miles on the field in 2020.
After a QB7 rookie campaign in fantasy last year, it’s hard to think Murray will be doing anything other than improving on that. Kenyan Drake made a good enough impression since his move from Miami that he’s earned another year on this offense too, yet another reliable, tried and trusted weapon for Kyler out of the backfield.
It’s exciting times for Cards fans and this ever-improving offense, fantasy fans should be sharing this excitement for Kyler Murray, there’s no such thing as too many weapons when it comes to fantasy QB’s
Staying in Dallas was one of the best places for Cooper to keep his fantasy value. He clearly loves it there in ‘Jerryworld’, and the feeling seems to be mutual between the fans and the other players.
In his 25 games for the Cowboys, Cooper has amassed 1,914 receiving yards with 14 touchdowns; that’s 77 yards per game and a touchdown every other game (0.56 TD’s per game). For context, that’s in the same vicinity as DeAndre Hopkins’ time in Houston (78 yards per game average with 0.49 TD’s per game) and Mike Evans in Tampa Bay (80 yards per game with 0.53 TD’s per game). Both of which will be within the top 2 wide receiver tiers for 2020.
Dez Bryant had many productive seasons as a WR1 in fantasy football from his time in Dallas with Tony Romo and Dak Prescott under centre. Now it is time for Amari to step up and continue being the reliable receiving option for the Cowboys and fantasy owners in turn for the next few years.
Indianapolis Colts’ Receivers
Indy is lacking in skill position depth, but those that are there have just received a significant bump up in fantasy value with the upgrade of quarterback to Philip Rivers. Jacoby Brissett was admirable, and was far from terrible, but he wasn’t the best at getting great receiving production out of anyone not named T.Y Hilton.
Rivers in an experienced veteran who finally has a competent offensive line ahead of him to give him enough protection to provide some actual time in the pocket rather than being constantly under pressure like he was for the Chargers, especially in recent years.
I expect Indy will add to their receiving corps through the upcoming draft; but for now, T.Y Hilton cements himself as a fringe WR1 for a likely cheap price of a 4th/5th round pick, and last year’s rookie Parris Campbell will likely be in the sleeper category for analysts as the season grows closer.
If Jack Doyle remains the only pass catching tight end in Indy too, expect his value to also rise in a treacherous tight end fantasy landscape as Rivers has always produced fantasy relevant TE’s with the likes of Antonio Gates and Hunter Henry in the past.
One of my favourite sleepers already also due to the Rivers’ upgrade, is running back Nyheim Hines. The swiss army knife is Indy’s version of Austin Ekeler (see later in article for Ekeler’s 2019 production), who should see plenty of work in the passing game out of the backfield.
Cleveland Brown’s Skill Players
One of the main contributing factors for the Browns’ miserable 2019 campaign was the offensive line, or lack-of, being unable to give Baker Mayfield time in the pocket.
Jack Conklin (former Titans OT) is a massive upgrade for that line and you can only imagine Cleveland will be taking whichever stud tackle is left with the 10th pick of the 2020 draft.
These pieces may well prove to be the difference for this offense which will open up the fantasy value for all of the keys players. Nick Chubb had a great season in 2019 and was third in the NFL for rushing yards (1,494) and has 18 combined touchdowns since becoming a Brown in 2017 so we can expect that to continue. As we can with Jarvis Landry, as he once again will benefit from OBJ taking the premier defense away, like in 2019. OBJ’s production might rise once again if Mayfield is able to improve and between David Njoku and newly acquired Austin Hooper, the tight ends’ should have their week to week match-up based values too.
With all the running back moves this off-season, i don’t think any have won more so than Austin Ekeler has. Not only does he see Melvin Gordon move away (to the Denver Broncos) from the backfield and no significant replacement brought in, he finds himself in a passing offense that will be moving forward with someone new. Therefore, a bigger emphasis may be placed on the tried and trusted running game with Ekeler as the sole star.
The beauty of the situation is- even if the Chargers do bring in another running back, they probably aren’t going to be the same quality as Melvin Gordon where Ekeler was still productive enough to see him finish as the RB4 in PPR scoring (RB8 in non-PPR) last season.
The new QB in LA will likely be a rookie in from the first round, if not the veteran Tyrod Taylor who served as Rivers’ backup last season. Either way, Ekeler is going to be hyper-targeted out of the backfield and should be a top 10 PPR running back once again in 2020.
Following on from Rob Grimwood’s fantastic post on the winners yesterday I’ve been tasked, quite suitably, with the pessimism, the misery, the teams who did sweet FA, or in the case of the Texans. Worse.
Texans get their pants pulled down by the Cardinals.
In one of the weirder trades of recent times the Arizona Cardinals acquired one of the best three receivers in the game for essentially a bag of chips, and not a nice bag of chips, those “baked” one’s by walkers. It’s another moves by GM/Head coach/Supreme Leader Bill O’Brien which has stymied the masses. Oh, and they then went and signed Randall Cobb on a 3 year deal to try and placate the masses. Weird.
Additionally they took on the FULL CONTRACT for David Johnson, the full $10.2m contract, for a back who has struggled with injury and form since breaking onto the scene a few years ago. That’s a lot of cash for a running back especially when you’ve got one of the better pass catching backs in the league on your roster already in the shape of Duke Johnson. For the record, I like DJ and I hope he can get back to form, but it’s still a lot of cash to spend on an RB.
David Njoku has some competition, and apparently he welcomes it.
After being drafted at 29 in the 2017 draft there were high hopes for the super-athletic tight end in Cleveland, but a series of niggling injuries and being unable to get together a decent run of games has hit his stock and led his team to bring in Austin Hooper on a big money deal from the Falcons. Neither of them are really blocking TEs, so it’s direct competition, and in those cases the more expensive man usually get the bulk of it all.
Bengals fall even further behind in the North.
It’d be remiss of me to dampen the spirits of my team and their fans even more. After being quoted by reporters as “being active in free agency” they once again sat and watched as players who’d have improved their roster immediately were picked up for decent deals, the likes of Jack Conklin to the Browns on a 3 year, 42m deal. Nick Kwiatowski to the Raiders for 13m a year both positions of need for the Bengals, and both strengthen AFC teams.
The Ravens have also made moves over the last week which further strengthen them, bringing in Calais Campbell and Michael Brockers to add even more to their defensive line, then getting a pick back for Hayden Hurst. They’re taking full advantage of having a rookie QB on a cheap deal.
And the Steelers will be welcoming back the 400lb man at QB which might make them better at that position for next year.
Josh Allen is digging it, but I’m not too sure.
The Bills paid a whole hell of a lot to Stefon Diggs, a 1st, 4th, 5th and 6th for Diggs and a 7th round pick… It’s a lot more than I thought the Vikings would get for someone who so clearly wanted out and bitched and cried about it publicly.
The Vikings get a ton of picks and him off their payroll. Diggs gets to join a team with an inaccurate QB and probably get further frustrated further down the road. Pairing the best route runner in the league with the least accurate QB is an interesting one, hopefully for them it’s a little chicken and egg and it bring Allen up.
However, I do get the trade, there’s blood in the water with the Pats possibly losing Brady and their offensive issues on the whole. So while it’s a big payout it could work out well for them.
They gave Jimmy Graham HOW MUCH?!
Why on earth would anyone be money on Jimmy Graham? I wasn’t sure he’d get picked up at all, let alone on a 2 year, $16m deal. But Matt Nagy and the Bears seem determined to keep on paying up at tight end. One of the more perplexing moves done yesterday.
They’re also still without a functional quarterback and supposedly interested in Andy Dalton and Nick Foles. The Bengals apparently want a 3rd for Dalton, the Jags reportedly want to keep Foles (They take a big dead cap hit if he leaves so may as well keep him) Both are upgrades on Trubisky, but still. It’s not an enviable situation.
Thank God for Legal Tampering Day. How nice is it to get away from the insufferable drone of that dreaded plague and remember for once that sport still rules supreme. Certainly a few teams in the NFL seemed to be fed up with the same old news story anyway, as we saw some blockbuster trades and some important free agency agreements made.
Let’s take a look at the winners
1. Arizona pulls Houston’s pants down – Cardinals trade David Johnson, a 2020 2nd and 2021 4th: Receive DeAndre Hopkins and a 2020 4th.
Holy smokes, who saw this one coming? Arguably the best receiver in the league moves out to the desert to join the rising star and last years’ first overall pick Kyler Murray, as well as teaming up with future first ballot hall of famer Larry Fitzgerald and his young protege’s in Christian Kirk, Andy Isabella and Hakeem Butler.
This move is monstrous in more ways than one for Arizona. Not only has Kyler got a deep, super talented plethora of receiving talent to throw to, the team can now focus on building that o-line and protecting Murray in this deep offensive lineman draft, and all of a sudden, with the right pieces – Arizona are challengers for the NFC West.
As for Houston… here’s a life lesson kids – if you ever own an NFL team, employ a general manager. First Clowney got shown no respect, now their best player is also out of the door. What are they thinking? For a team close to being considered a deep playoff contender, they certainly won’t get there by trading away all of of their best players… especially for peanuts!
An honourable mention for winners of today’s antics has to go to the defensive secondaries in Indianapolis, Tennessee and Jacksonville though. No more will they have to worry about being torn apart twice a year by a Nuke.
2. Indy finally get a DT – Indy trade away their 1.13 pick to San Francisco for pro bowl defensive tackle DeForest Bucknerand then give him a $21m extension
A glaring need for Indianapolis for the last couple of season has been in the middle of the defensive line. They prioritised offensive line 2 off-seasons ago when Quenton Nelson and Braden Smith were drafted in the first two rounds to help protect the Quarterback, and 2019 saw the defensive secondary get a boost along with a pair of linebackers. Offensive skill position players is also a need this off season, but defensive line was arguably the priority.
The Colts have a tonne of cap to use up so bringing in a 25 year old 2 x pro-bowler and former 7th overall pick and giving him an extension immediately seems a masterstroke from Ballard and Reich at this point in time. Costing Indy their 13th overall pick from the upcoming draft would indicate the Colts are close to wrapping up Pip Rivers for the 2020 campaign and either looking for the long term solution at QB in day 2 of the draft, or waiting for 2021.
3. Cleveland reinvigorates it’s O-Line –Sought after Offensive Tackle Jack Conklin, formerly of the Titans, signs for the Browns on a $42m deal with $30m of it guaranteed.
They are trying, bless them. The Mayfield experiment was successful in 2018. Not so much in 2019 even though they brought in the infamous OBJ to pair with Jarvis Landry out wide. The downfall was mainly because Baker had no time in the pocket.
Since Joe Thomas retired and Greg Robinson never lived up to the hype, Conklin becomes an important cog in that line protecting Mayfield which could prove to be the difference between under performers and playoff hunters.
4. Hayden Hurst evolves from a Raven to a Falcon –Atlanta replace newly departed Austin Hooper with former first round pick in 2018.
It can’t have been easy for Hurst who was drafted to be a main target for the future of the Ravens signal caller Lamar Jackson, but instead getting outshone by a player drafted later in the same draft as you, Mark Andrews.
Hurst racked up just 512 yards and 3 TD’s in his time in Baltimore, but now he gets to spread his wings like a Falcon where he should be the only pass catching tight end in town. Matty Ice has a history of getting the best out of his tight ends too, so expect Hurst to level up in 2020.
5. Dolphins defense rebuild starts –Miami add CB Byron Jones and EDGE Shaq Lawson as the roster reconstruction officially gets underway.
The Dolphins started the day as the team with the most cap to spend and they didn’t disappoint. They dropped $10m a year on both O-Lineman Ereck Flowers and former Bills edge rusher Lawson whereas the highest rated corner in the free agency pool, Byron Jones, became the most expensive with a rumoured $18mil a year deal.
It’s a good start for a team that is in desperate need for talented stars.
It’s an historic day in the NFL amidst all the uncertainty at the moment about the new league year and beyond with the looming hindrance of the Coronavirus outbreak with Free Agency/rookie pro days scheduled in jeopardy along with the potential postponement of the draft.
However in the past few hours and after months of negotiation, it has been confirmed that the NFL players have agreed to the terms of the new Collection Bargaining Agreement.
The deal was voted on by the players over the last 10 days and the final vote turned out in favour of passing the deal by 1019 votes to 959, as only a simple majority was required. This means just 51.5% of players voted in agreement of the change (something we know a great deal about here in the UK #brexit). More of concern though, is that only around 80% of the players voted. Reasons as to why the 20% or so didn’t remains to be seen.
Roger Goodell, commissioner of the NFL issued a statement, saying:
“We are pleased that the players have voted to ratify the proposed new CBA, which will provide substantial benefits to all current and retired players, increase jobs, ensure continued progress on player safety, and give our fans more and better football.”
So what does this mean for the NFL and you, the fan?
Well, fans of the Dallas Cowboys and Tennessee Titans look away now as it also means that there is no longer the facility to use both a franchise tag AND a transition tag meaning things could get quite interesting for Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, Byron Jones, Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry. Rumour has it that the league is considering delaying the start of the new league year in order to allow these teams to usher along negotiations with their respective parties.
It has been announced the salary cap for the upcoming season is $198.2m, a rise of just $10m. This is expected to shoot up over the next couple of years once the extra revenue streams and TV deals start leaking their money into the bloodstream of the NFL.
Looking a bit further into the future and the 2020 season, you will likely see a new playoff format come in to effect, with 7 teams now advancing to the playoffs from each conference and consequently, only the #1 seed from both the AFC and NFC will get a first round bye. Whilst unlikely, if all the dominoes fell the right way, this could actually see 1 division provide 4 playoff teams.
Fast forward to 2021, this is where the league could exercise it’s right to move to 17 regular season games (with the last pre-season game making way) , and thus trigger the upper echelon of player revenues to 48.5%, a 0.5% increase from season where 16 games are played.
Some other bits of cornerstones surrounding the new CBA which will take effect in 2020:
Changes to the league’s drugs testing and disciplinary process has tweaks including the allowance of Marijuana for the players for usage under self medicating. However, where no suspensions will come in to effect, there is a possibility that the fines replacing the suspension could essentially mean that a player misses a game cheque but still being allowed to play in a game. This is important for player bonuses on contracts and qualifiers on thresholds on extra contract bonuses for players.
Minimum salaries are now increased which filters through to practice squads, meaning those players at the bottom end of rosters have more money in their pockets sooner.
Expanded game day rosters moves from 46 to 48 (one of which must be an offensive lineman).
Players at the higher end of the play scale have publicily voiced their disapproval at the deal and you have to wonder whether or not there may be some repercussions from the big names of the NFL (I’m not suggesting a holdout, but you have to wonder if there are any loopholes that will allow the Russell Wilsons or JJ Watts to miss time without punishment.
The crux of the matter is though, that the NFL and it’s players have an agreement in place which will run through to 2030, which means good news for the majority including the millions of fans across the globe.
The fallout however, is only just beginning.
Who will Dallas and Tennessee franchise tag? How will Free Agency and the players entering it be affected? And will the leagues stars have a trick up their sleeve to show their dissatisfaction? How will the coronavirus affect the next few weeks and months and possibly the season? Make sure you keep those eyes peeled to find out and keep it here at Full10Yards.
With the franchise tag deadline and free agency looming, it’s time for the @Full10Yards top 10 free agents list (five on each side of the ball) and some thoughts on where they might land ahead of the 2020 season.Thanks to Instagram, we know the 41-year-old Drew Brees is returning to the Superdome for at least another year with the Saints. So while he’s technically still a free agent, he isn’t on this list. So who is? Let’s spin the wheel…
TOP OFFENSIVE FREE AGENTS
Image Credit: Paul Sancya/AP
1. Dak Prescott (QB) – Dallas Cowboys
He began his time at Dallas by winning Offensive Rookie of the Year and most recently, he led one of the league’s top offenses, throwing for 4,902 yards and 30 touchdowns in his best campaign yet.
But the cheap deal has run out and someone has to pay the dude. Will it be the Cowboys? It seems they’ll have to go north of $30 million a year, which begs the question “Is he actually worth that?” That’s quite a pay-out but the Cowboys seem to want to build around him. Being the franchise poster-boy for the next few years comes at a price.
Safe bet:Dallas. To quote Jerry Jones, “He’s our quarterback of the future” so it looks increasingly likely that the Cowboys will retain Prescott. He’ll want to cash in on his potential and Jones will make him a happy camper.
Long shot:Dallas. Nope, it’s still the Cowboys. Al three of the team’s most valuable players have expiring contracts (that’s Amari Cooper and Byron Jones too) and it’ll be hard to keep all three. With contract talks back up and running again, Dak seems to be the one who’s going nowhere.
Image credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports
2. Amari Cooper (WR) – Dallas Cowboys
Oh boy, do the ‘Boys have free agency headaches. The former Raider filled Dez Bryant’s cleats well but well enough to get top dollar? He’s not perfect but he’s the best receiver available and by that score, he won’t come cheap. If Dallas don’t think he’s worth $20 million a year, or think that paying Prescott, Cooper and corner Byron Jones will break the bank, he might walk.
Safe bet:Dallas. Theoretically, Jerry Jones could pay Dak and tag Cooper, keeping another star in the Lone Star State and giving Coach Mike McCarthy quite the toolkit in his first season.
Long shot:Washington. The Redskins have the cap space to pull the trigger. Imagine if their divisional rivals snaffled Cooper to go alongside rising stars Terry McLaurin and Dwayne Haskins.
Image Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel
3. Ryan Tannehill (QB) – Tennessee Titans
I doubt any player boosted his reputation more in 2019 than Tannehill. His sensational second-half of the season, leading Tennessee well into the playoffs, suggests he may have more to offer than the waning old men, Brady and Rivers.
He resurrected his own career and the Titans’ season, and will probably get a tag of some sort. He obviously benefitted from Derrick Henry’s success, but he seemed pretty mobile in the pocket and kept making the throws asked of him.
Safe bet: Tennessee. The Titans shouldn’t overpay a guy who had three good months and who might not hit the same dizzy heights again but the franchise tag buys them a year’s grace.
Long shot:New England. Neither GM Jon Robinson nor HC Mike Vrabel seem that upbeat about him and the Brady-to-Nashville whispers just won’t go away. With a straight swap, could the reincarnated Tannehill continue his renaissance under Bill Belichick?
Image Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports
4. Derrick Henry (RB) – Tennessee Titans
Henry was the top rusher in the league last year, with 1,540 yards and 18 TDs. Going for over 180 yards in both his postseason games, there’s no hint of him easing up or slowing down.
Despite helping the Titans ride their late-season wave of glory, Henry is a running back. And these days, they don’t keep getting paid, especially if they’re a non-factor in the receiving game (Henry had just 28 targets all year). Like Dallas, the Titans have two big contracts to sort out. They could pay Tannehill first and then see what they can offer Henry, or vice versa.
Safe bet: Tennessee. He’s among the top RBs, on a resurgent team with a decent O-line, and in a system that clearly works for all concerned. Why leave Nashville?
Long shot: Houston. With Carlos Hyde unlikely to stay, adding a tank like Henry to the backfield could help the Texans take the next step in 2020.
Image Credit: Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire
5. AJ Green (WR) – Cincinnati Bengals
Valuing AJ Green is a toughie. He was an elite wideout when we last saw him but thanks to toe and ankle injuries, that was 18 months ago. Despite being 31 and without any tape from last season, Green should still have some juice in the tank. We just don’t know how much.
Green wants to stay if the price is right. If healthy, Green would be the ideal pro to help Joe Burrow ease into the NFL, having had 1,000-yard seasons in six of his eight years in the NFL. Cincy didn’t trade him during the season so it’s hard to see him going now.
Safe bet:Cincinnati. Just a few weeks ago, Green said he wanted to be a Bengal his whole career. The most likely scenario is that he stays for a prove-you’ve-still-got-it year.
Long shot: Las Vegas. If contract talks break down or Green is tagged-and-traded, the Raiders could do with a skill position upgrade. They are sorted for slot receiver, running back and tight end but a true outside track star would be the missing piece.
TOP DEFENSIVE FREE AGENTS
Image Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports
1. Chris Jones (DT) – Kansas City Chiefs
If Jones hits the open market, he is primed to get paid. $18 million a year is the going rate for a wrecking ball of a defensive tackle who’s notched 24.5 sacks in the last two seasons. Jones is a rare beast who can dominate games… even alongside Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes.
An explosive pass rusher and Pro-Bowler who can stand shoulder to shoulder with Aaron Donald and JJ Watt, Jones could expect top whack. But can the Chiefs (available cap space: $13.7 million) afford him, having given something in that ballpark to Frank Clark already? A monster extension to Mahomes will also be needed when the time comes.
Safe bet:Kansas City: The Chiefs should keep Jones but may need to tag him for at least another year.
Long shot:Indianapolis. Maybe KC apply the tag but trade him for draft compensation. The Colts could be up for such a move, as they have draft picks to play with and need some pass-rush help.
Image Credit: Michael Reaves/Getty Images
2. Shaquil Barrett (EDGE) – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
As mentioned in a recent season in review piece, Bruce Arians said of Barrett: “He ain’t going anywhere.” Given his league-leading 19.5 sacks in 2019, they can’t let him walk but there’s still a chance that Barrett is a one-hit wonder. His four seasons in Denver were decent enough but in that time, he only got 14 sacks. That muddies the water somewhat.
Safe bet:Tampa Bay. He’ll stay put, although it would be wise for the Bucs to use the franchise tag and check last year wasn’t a fluke. Then, he will seriously reap the rewards down the line if he continues on his current trajectory.
Long shot:Tampa Bay. He’s already talked of giving Tampa a “home-town discount” due to Florida’s income tax arrangements so that’s another tick in the “not going anywhere” column.
Image Credit: Chris Szagola/Associated Press
3. Jadeveon Clowney (EDGE) – Seattle Seahawks
Clowney is an enigma. His production doesn’t live up to the billing – he had just three sacks last year and is yet to hit double figures – and he’s had some niggly injuries. But he produces big, game-defining moments, and he’s got the time and potential to grow as a pass rusher.
For a change, I’m not predicting a franchise tag scenario here because the Seahawks agreed not to use it when they acquired him from Houston. And they got him for a song in the first place. So despite non-elite production, Clowney can expect to become one of the highest-paid defenders in the NFL. We’re talking something like $100 million over five years. Ouch.
Safe bet:Seattle. It’s no secret that Russell Wilson wants him to stay and Head Coach Pete Carroll won’t want to further weaken a defensive line that ranked 31st in pass rushing last year. We’ll see him at CenturyLink Field next season for sure.
Long shot: Houston: I know, I know, but bringing Clowney back might not be as dumb as it sounds. The Texans’ passing defence was porous and JJ Watt isn’t getting any younger, so a newer model could give their edge rushing a timely boost.
Image Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
4. Yannick Ngakoue (Edge) – Jacksonville Jaguars
Think of him like those Velociraptors in the original Jurassic Park film, sneaking in – quickly and silently – hunting down quarterbacks and flaying them alive with their oversized talons… err, sorry, got a bit carried away there. It’s actually more like rushing the passer, getting sacks and forcing errors.
He’s clocked 37.5 sacks through his first four seasons but if he gets elite money now, he’s getting overpaid.
Safe bet:Jacksonville. He’s still young and even in an off-year like 2019, Ngakoue’s eight sacks and 50 total pressures last season – his lowest since he was a rookie – was quite a nice floor.
Long shot:Buffalo. The Jags are strapped and it’ll cost a cool $20 million to keep him. But the Bills have the dosh. They are also losing Lorenzo Alexander to retirement and Shaq Lawson is also hitting free agency, so could have a couple of major gaps to fill.
5. Justin Simmons (Safety) – Denver Broncos
Big, fast and springy, Simmons is a run-breaker and a ball hawk, with 94 tackles and four interceptions in 2019. Those stats made the 26-year-old Pro Football Focus’ top safety last season, signalling a massive step up this year. But the teams sniffing around will need to kick the tyres to make sure he’s not another one-year breakout player getting top dollar for one unrepresentative season.
Safe bet: Denver. Simmons has evolved from a third-round draft pick into an essential element of the Broncos D so I suspect keeping him in Mile High City is a priority for John Elway, even if it’s via the franchise tag for now.
Long shot: San Francisco. If the Niners can’t keep hold of Jimmie Ward, especially given his history with injuries, yer man Simmons could be a great fit in the Bay.
ALSO IN THE PICTURE
Tom Brady (QB), New England Patriots
I couldn’t not mention Brady, could I? Time is catching up with TB12 after 20 seasons but given his stature in the game, he will still turn heads, even though he’s on the wane – he was only the 11th-ranked quarterback in 2019. I doubt he’ll want to up-sticks and start again at the ripe old age of 43 so staying in New England for one last hurrah with Uncle Bill Belichick before he sails off into the sunset doesn’t seem unreasonable. But if you wanna gamble and put it all on red, the Las Vegas Raiders have a youthful core and the financial where-with-all to add weapons around him.
Philip Rivers (QB), Los Angeles Chargers
Although a relative spring chicken (a mere 38), Rivers’ arm isn’t what it was, what little mobility he had is long gone and he had 20 INTs last year. That said, he also threw for more than 4,600 yards and 23 touchdowns so all is not lost. Rivers won’t be back in LA so again, Indianapolis would make a lot of sense. Their offensive line works and Rivers would be reunited with former Chargers QB assistant Frank Reich. Thinking more out of the box, he’s just moved to his family to Florida. Tampa Bay anyone?
Jameis Winston (QB), Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Jameis is your guy if you want a bucketload of throws, thousands of yards, loads of touchdowns and a million interceptions. He’s high risk, high stakes, high reward. The Buccaneers are considering living dangerously again by bringing back the all-and-nothing QB, using the franchise tag for damage limitation. Failing that, the IndianapolisColts GM said the jury’s still out on Jacoby Brissett.
Brandon Scherff (G), Washington Redskins
Scherff is a run-blocking guard who might have broken into the top 10 if he’d stayed healthy. Despite taking to the field only 19 times in two years, he’s arguably the best interior lineman in this year’s free agent class. The three-time Pro Bowler and former first round pick should stay with the Redskins under new HC Ron Rivera but if he doesn’t, let’s pretend for a moment the Cincinnati Bengals actually engaged in free agency. Scherff would help a terrible O-line protect some young whippersnapper called Burrow.
Byron Jones (CB), Dallas Cowboys
Despite hip surgery last offseason, Jones backed up his breakout 2018 campaign with another top year. Versatile enough to also play safety, Jones will be the top corner on the market which, according to the laws of supply and demand, means he’ll get paid above and beyond his ability. Minnesota could improve at corner, with Xavier Rhodes’ form falling away and Trae Waynes heading for free agency, while the Philadelphia Eagles could help their injury-ravaged secondary by poaching from a divisional rival.
Chris Ballard and Frank Reich have already become icons for Colts fans, despite only being with the franchise a combined five years. A large reason for this, is how this dynamic duo go about their business during the off-season. It’s usually calculated, well thought out with a big emphasis on getting the right character for the dressing room over stats or ability.
Indy haven’t hit the headlines for their flashy moves by over-spending on the free agency over the last couple of off-seasons, neither have they drafted the ‘big names’ when the opportunity was there to do so (Quenton Nelson being the exception). Yet, the scheme and thought process works, and that is why there is a healthy level of respect from the fans towards Ballard and Reich’s transaction decision making.
For these reasons, predicting who Indianapolis are likely targeting this off-season is a difficult challenge, but it’s always fun having to dig deeper than you might have to for other teams when you have to take into consideration players personal characteristics off the field as much as what they can do on it. So, to get in to the complex thought processes of the Colts backstaff, we need to breakdown their current roster and see what their more pressing needs are as we head into the free agent frenzy.
Current Roster Grades
QB – C+
RB – B
TE – B-
WR – C
T* – B-
G – B
C – A-
DT – B-
DE – C+
LB – B+
S* – B+
CB – B
*Assuming LT Anthony Castonzo and S Clayton Geathers will re-sign as rumoured, otherwise grade decreases significantly.
Needs – Major – QB, WR, DE, TE Minor – RG, DT, CB
Philip Rivers – I like this narrative and Indy needs a rebound. Let me explain. Jacoby Brissett is the ‘meh’ girlfriend. I mean she looks ok, she’s a nice person, you have a good time but she’s no wife material. The Brissett experiment is dead in the water now, thanks for the good times Jacoby, but we gotta move on. Pip Rivers is the rebound. The next girlfriend, the friend with benefits, the ‘let’s have some fun before I look to settle down’ kind of deal, you catch my drift i’m sure.
He’ll bring his experience, he’ll get to reunite with Frank Reich and OC Nick Sirianni and he’ll have a decent chance of providing a solid playoff run to the Colts faithful at Lucas Oil in 2020.
Rivers will be the perfect stop gap before Indy commit to either drafting a future franchise QB with this upcoming draft or in 2021, and if they make a move this draft season, sitting behind Philip Rivers and learning the trade would be very appealing for a newcomer, I’m sure.
Tom Brady – Two words. No, thanks. Ok, i get it, he’s the GOAT, he’s TB12… yeah, yeah. He’s also turning 43 before the season starts and will be leaving all former camaraderie and rapports from his career in Foxborough.
Don’t forget us Colts fans don’t particularly look at New England with any kind of awe about it. If Brady signs for Indy, let’s just say the fans would be left ‘deflated’ by the news. Hard pass, and I wish the rumour mill would stop turning.
Jameis Winston – Ah, you thought you’d get through an article by Rob Grimwood without me mentioning Jameis Winston. Think again, sucker. If Jameis ends up in Indy, I will probably explode. Yes, the 42 total turnovers last season wasn’t ideal… actually, that was pretty abysmal. However, have you not heard that Winston has had eye-surgery this winter?
It can’t possibly get any worse, and what we know about Jameis is that, despite the mistakes, he can throw as good as any other QB in the league and has the ability to move the sticks and make big plays. He can sustain a whole plethora of receivers and is fresh off a 5,109 yard and 33 TD season. He’s a franchise Quarterback who’s still only in his mid 20’s. Is he the answer for Indianapolis? Probably not, but holy hell it would be fun to watch.
Emmanuel Sanders – The Colts have T.Y Hilton and a couple of young talents further down the depth chart in Parris Campbell and Daurice Fountain. They don’t have a veteran who can efficiently run all routes who is a safe option. That is Sanders. He’ll be fairly cheap and will be the chain moving receiver Indy crave in this current squad. Whether it’s Brissett, Rivers or A.N Other throwing the rock this year, Sanders has very little downside for a team desperate for consistent depth pieces at wide receiver.
Breshad Perriman – He’s never quite hit the dizzy heights that people thought he may have when Baltimore drafted him in the 1st round of the 2015 draft. However, last season he attempted to resurrect his career with a stint in Tampa Bay and he was a minor success there, particularly down the stretch. The dropping issues that haunted him in Baltimore seems to be a thing of the past as he only dropped just one of 65 passes thrown his way as a Bucc.
Like with Sanders, it’s depth that Colts require, and in a skinny free agency at wide receiver, Indy may want to focus more intensive scouting for WR depth within the upcoming draft class.
Arik Armstead – It’s very rare to find an elite edge rusher on the free agency as it’s one of those positions that teams just simply do not give up. Jadeveon Clowney is the exception to that rule, and might see free agency but will most likely re-sign for Seattle, meaning you have to look for the potential superstars in the free agency pool more than the already proven. Armstead is certainly in that category. He has the tools to become an elite edge rusher and certainly would tick alot of personality boxes in Reich’s locker room too along with fitting in with an already familiar 3-4 system.
Rumours have it though that Armstead wants to stay in California with the Niners and the Niners want him to stay so may be using the franchise tag in order to see him back for 2020. Should he fall onto the agency though, he should be high priority for Indy.
Bud Dupree – Dupree isn’t the long term answer for Indy at DE, but after a career year in 2019 for the Steelers where he recorded 11.5 sacks and a career high PFF pass-rush grade (76.3), he may be worth a small, short term investment if that kind of deal can be reached. He certainly would find himself high up on the current depth chart at the position, with Justin Houston being the only household name there currently. As with the wide receiver position, it’s depth that’s the key right now in Indy.
Eric Ebron – I’d quite like to see Ebron return if I’m honest. He didn’t have the rapport in 2019 with Brissett that he did with Andrew Luck in 2018, however it’s hard to ignore the 16 TDs he’s provided in his short 2 year stint with Indy. His presence in the red zone has been key for the Colts over the past couple of years and whoever is under centre in 2020 would love a threat like him to target alongside Jack Doyle, i’m sure.
Austin Hooper – Stepped up in a big way in 2019 after a career best 787 yards and 6 TDs. Hooper will be a hot commodity for any tight end needy teams come March 18th, so Indy will have to fight the likes of New England, Green Bay and Chicago if Hooper is the chosen target to replace Ebron. With much forecasted interest, Hooper’s price tag may be out of reach if Ballard wants to stick to his current frugal system, despite the Colts having the second most cap space ($86m) behind Miami ($88m).
Brandon Scherff – If Washington can’t re-sign Scherff and they chose not to tag him, he will be a highly sought after player when the 2020 free agency opens. With Joe Thuney playing as a Left Guard and Graham Glasgow as a Centre, Scherff is by far and away the best Right Guard option on the free agent market. Has had an injury plagued career to date missing 15 games over his rookie contract, but, when he’s on the field he can play at an elite level. Indy’s o-line is good in general, but Scherff could make it the best in the league. However, with a good looking offensive line class coming through this years draft, it would probably be in Indianapolis’ best interests to throw money at other needs rather than needlessly paying over the odds for a good-not-great player in a skinny market.
D.J Reader – Probably the top option on the market now Chris Jones has been tagged by the Chiefs. Reader is a talented nose tackle who would fit admirably into the Colts scheme under DC Matt Eberflus. On the field Reader has developed into a reliable defensive tackle that saw a career best last season for Houston where he accumulated 52 combined tackles (28 solo), along with 2.5 sacks, six tackles-for-loss and 13 quarterback hits. Off the field he was nominated for the Walter Payton Man of the Year award which speaks volumes about his personality, a big tick for the Colts backstaff.
Javon Hargrave – After recently hiring super agent Drew Rosenhaus, it appears Hargrave wants to get paid this off-season. Hard to argue that he doesn’t deserve it either after a decent stint in Pittsburgh since being drafted in the 3rd round of the 2016 draft. Pittsburgh play in a similar scheme on defense to Indy so would be a decent fit for both sides, however, will Indy be prepared to overpay for a player not yet at elite level but the potential to reach it?
Shelby Harris – Could be a cheap fix to add depth to that uninspiring defensive line in Indy. Harris is a solid run stopper that has also improved in the pass rush too. Last season saw Harris gain 6 sacks, had 49 tackles (28 solo), and 8 tackles for loss – all career highs. Harris finds himself a little way down the list due to a decent number of defensive tackles available, but could prove to be a hidden gem for the team that picks him up. Indy should invest.
Javien Elliot – As with the offensive line, the 2020 draft is littered with good looking prospects at cornerback. So if Indy were to add depth to the likes of Pierre Desir, slot corner Kenny Moore and last years’ rookie Rock Ya-Sin, it should come in the way of a up and coming star like Javien Elliot before committing to the draft to add depth. He did well after joining the Panthers from the Buccs in June 2019 and surprisingly isn’t getting an extension from the Panthers it would seem, a tad baffling considering James Bradberry is likely off too.
Bradley Roby – Roby has had a flighty career. Played well in 2015, not so good in 2016.. bounced back in 2017, declined in 2018 but had a solid season last year. Maybe 2020 means it’s a down year for the former Bronco and first round pick, but maybe a change of scenery is what is required to keep playing to a high level. Can play both outside and in the Nickel, Roby would be a good all-round talent with experience to join the Colts’ DB’s and will help to nurture Rock Ya-Sin in his development.
Today we take a peek back at the Denver Broncos’ season. One of a few teams that deployed 3 Quarterbacks in one season, which kind of tells you how successful it was. They do say that every cloud has a silver lining though.
ENTERING THE SEASON
The Denver Broncos entered the season with a new signal caller after trading for former Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco from Baltimore.
GM John Elway hoped he had finally found a viable successor to Peyton Manning after failures (to at least some extent) with Brock Osweiler, Trevor Siemian, Paxton Lynch and Case Keenum since the future Hall of Famer’s retirement in 2016.
Vic Fangio came over from the Bears as a first time Head Coach at the age of 61, hoping to capitalise on a defence boasting the abilities of Von Miller, Chris Harris and Bradley Chubb among others.
However, they were probably always an outsider for a playoff position, battling with phenom Patrick Mahomes and the high-powered Chiefs in the division.
DURING THE SEASON
Denver, perhaps understandably considering the changes undergone in the offseason, started slowly, losing their first 4 games.
With an offence struggling to get out of second gear, added to a defence strangely passive in the early going, indeed exalted pass rush duo Von Miller and Bradley Chubb failed to record a sack between them in the first 3 games of the season. With Chubb tearing his ACL in the week 4 loss to the Jaguars, as the season threatened to fall out of control.
However, the Broncos certainly showed some fight, as they managed to end the season with a respectable 7-9 record, good enough for 2nd place in the division.
On the offensive side of the ball Joe Flacco struggled to recapture his former magic, and when he went down to a neck injury after week 8, Brandon Allen was thrust into a starting role that he probably wasn’t ready for.
When Drew Lock returned from his own injury in week 13 however, he promised at a better future to come in Mile High. He went 4-1 to finish the season on a high note. WR Courtland Sutton also took a big step forward in his play, finishing with over 1,100 yards despite the turmoil at the QB position.
Denver are in a more settled position this year than in recent years, with the franchise’s confidence in Drew Lock, meaning Flacco will likely be moved on, or at least brought back on a reduced salary as a back up. That should mean they are able to be active in free agency, projected to have around $60million in cap space available.
Although some of that money will almost certainly be tied up in bringing back key personnel like Justin Simmons. It’s likely too that Denver look to invest in the lines, with most of the defensive linemen up for free agency, as well as improving the offensive line.
It feels like a big offseason coming up for John Elway as he tries to catch up with Super Bowl winners, the Kansas City Chiefs. However, with a few well-judged forays into free agency and a strong draft, there is no reason why they can’t improve next season and be a factor in the playoff chase for 2020.