There have been quite a few high profile signings during free agency this year, particularly at wide receiver. In this article I’ll break down the fantasy ramifications for those players as well as others who will be impacted by the signings.
Free Agency Fantasy Impact
DeSean Jackson (WR, Tampa Bay)
I don’t believe that Jackson’s move to Tampa Bay impacts his value much, as he will find himself in the same burner role that brought him success in Washington. What I’m looking forward to is the impact this could have on Jameis Winston and possible Mike Evans.
Winston gains a proven 1,000 yard pass catcher that will take advantage of his strong arm. This should propel him into QB1 territory for the upcoming season. It’s not as if Mike Evans needed much help, be he should face less double coverage as Jackson takes the top off the defense. This should improve his low YAC and add to his already lofty numbers.
Alshon Jeffery (WR, Philadelphia)
There was speculation that Jeffery could go to Philadelphia early in free agency but their signing of Torrey Smith seemingly put this to bed due to cap space. It seems that wasn’t a major concern as Philadelphia went and signed him anyway, putting them $6.5 million over the salary cap. Obviously there will be some cuts along the way to make this feasible but for now let’s look at the impact.
Jeffery may be getting an NFL quarterback upgrade in Carson Wentz, but I don’t see this as a fantasy upgrade over the freewheeling Jay Cutler. Jeffery will still have massive upside as he will face little competition for targets from what was one of the worst wide receiver groups in the NFL last year. The biggest question is whether he can stay on the field.
Latavius Murray (RB, Minnesota)
The Vikings moved on from their franchise running back Adrian Peterson in favor of the younger Latavius Murray this week. He signed a three year deal but it can technically be voided after the first year, making it a prove it season for Murray.
Murray may get enough touches to be a factor this year but I won’t have him on any of my teams. He posted a pedestrian 4.0 YPC behind one of the best run blocking offensive lines in the NFL last year. That number will be significantly lower now that he joins a team on the opposite side of the run blocking spectrum. As a long strider that ranks out towards the bottom of the league in elusiveness, Murray will struggle in Minnesota this year.
Rex Burkhead (RB, New England)
In a surprise move the Patriots signed Rex Burkhead, formerly of the Bengals. Burkhead has been effective in limited work and has every down versatility as well as special teams value. It is also interesting that the Patriots committed more money to Burkhead than they have to any running back since Fred Taylor.
Before jumping to any conclusions this situation will need to be watched as the rest of the offseason unfolds. If the Patriots retain LeGarrette Blount then it is tough seeing Burkhead have a ton of value barring injury in a crowded backfield. If Blount does go in free agency it would seem that Burkhead becomes the back to own in New England.
Eddie Lacy (RB, Seattle)
Seattle signed Eddie Lacy in the hopes that he can revive the physical running game that made Marshawn Lynch so successful. This is a one year prove it deal but they are paying him starter money, which bodes well for his opportunity.
Lacy left a poor taste in people’s mouth the last two years, but he actually played quite well last year. If he can keep his weight under control (for which there are contract provisions) he should see plenty of touches. I would feel comfortable drafting him as an RB2 unless things trend poorly in the offseason. This also means that I’m avoiding any shares of Thomas Rawls for the 2017 season.
Brandin Cooks (WR, New England)
Ok, I know this isn’t a free agent signing, but it’s still a very fantasy relevant roster change that occurred during free agency so I’m going to let it slide. The Patriots traded their first round pick and some change for Cooks, who is one of the most athletic young receivers in the NFL.
Unless the Patriots dramatically change up their style of play I believe Cooks will have a very similar role to the one he had in New Orleans. He will almost surely be a 1,000 yard received but good luck guessing which games that will come in. This makes him a must own in best ball leagues and for those that want a WR1 at a discount, with the understanding that he may disappear at times.
I love what this does for Tom Brady and the Patriots offense as a whole. Brady now has a plethora of weapons at his disposal and they should be able to come up with some interested offensive schemes around them. Brady was already a locked in QB1 but this just moves him a little bit further up the list.
Terrelle Pryor (WR, Washington)
In one of my favorite signings of free agency, the Redskins inked Pryor to a one year deal. This fills a big void for the Redskins who let DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon walk in free agency.
With a huge upgrade at quarterback I believe that Pryor could produce WR1 numbers this year. He already posted over 1,000 yards in his first full season at wide receiver with a revolving door of quarterbacks in Cleveland. There’s a huge target void to fill and Pryor is clearly the best option. It will be very interesting to see where his ADP ends up as the season approaches.