The first several days of NFL free agency are always a madhouse filled with anonymous reports and shocking trades, and this week was not any different. While the Rotoworld News Page is the best option for all the up-to-the-second news, the sheer volume of blurbs can make it difficult to pick out the most important tidbits for fantasy football. With that in mind, here is a quick rundown of all the free agency action at the fantasy positions. The Free Agent List and Transaction Tracker are also great ways to stay in the loop.
A relatively quiet start to free agency was rocked awake by a stunning deal which sent Brock Osweiler to the Browns along with second- and sixth-round picks in exchange for a fourth-round selection. Essentially, the Browns exchanged cap space for a second-round pick with the Texans, who executed a salary dump which would make even NBA general managers proud. While the deal is odd, to say the least, it is difficult to call it anything but a win-win for both sides.
For the Browns, they essentially bought a second-round pick to add to their already loaded arsenal of early-round selections in the next two drafts with cap space they were not going to be able to use anyway, and the best part is they now have even more ammunition for the “blow-away” offer necessary to pry Jimmy Garoppolo out of New England. Even if they fail to land the quarterback prize, they have a bevy of early picks which should add a lot of talent to a roster which desperately needs it.
As for Osweiler, there have been reports the Browns might be able to get even more picks back for him via trade if they are willing to eat some of his salary, which they have the cap space to easily do. If they cannot find any takers, Cleveland will likely cut him, sending Osweiler to the open market for the second time in as many offseasons. It is safe to say this trip will not be as financially fruitful as the last.
On the other side, the Texans made the correct decision to move on from Brock when they had a chance. Osweiler will still count $9 million against their cap in 2017, but the $10 million they saved should give them a leg up in their pursuit of Tony Romo, who is expected to be released or traded any day now. Osweiler was clearly not the answer, and even if they do not sign Romo, the Texans are in a much better financial position to find the quarterback they need to push this playoff roster over the top.
As The Quarterbacks Turn
In other quarterback news, the Bears made one of the most controversial moves of the week when they signed Mike Glennon to a three-year, $45-million contract. While those numbers for a quarterback who has thrown 11 regular-season passes since 2014 understandably raise some eyebrows, the deal contains just $19 million in guaranteed money with most of that likely coming in the first year. If it does not work out, the Bears should be able to get out of the deal with little to no cap ramifications in short order.
Unfortunately, there is a decent chance it does not work out. While he is likely as good if not better than the other quad-A backups in the league, Glennon is certainly not the type of quarterback to elevate the weapons around him, and those weapons are lacking. Chicago still has questions to answer at both tackle spots, and the additions of Markus Wheaton and Dion Sims do not do much to excite. The Bears obviously still have a ton of time and the draft to bring in some help, but Kevin White and Cameron Meredith are not enough on their own even with the running game likely to be strong again.
Brian Hoyer was the only other “big name” quarterback to move during the first official day, signing a two-year deal with San Francisco for backup money. While he has a decent shot to open the year as a starter in a Kyle Shanahan offense, giving him some appeal in two-quarterback leagues, the bigger story might be what his addition means for the 49ers’ pursuit of Kirk Cousins.
While the 49ers would be foolish to not pursue Cousins just because they have Hoyer, his signing suggests San Francisco has accepted the fact they will have to wait a year to land the quarterback Shanahan clearly covets. Cousins seems to have come to the same conclusion himself after a personal trade appeal to owner Dan Snyder was rebuffed, and there are reports he will sign his franchise tender in the coming days. While it still remains likely Cousins ends up with the 49ers at some point, it is unlikely to be this season. Despite all of the other turmoil surrounding the team, that is great news for the fantasy prospects of Washington’s skill players.
Finally on the quarterback front, the Bills made the correct decision to retain Tyrod Taylor, who agreed to restructure his deal to make the marriage work. Taylor was not exceptional in 2016, but he accounted for 23 touchdowns total in 15 games for an offense which dealt with injury problems all year. Buffalo has not done anything to upgrade their receiver corps so far – they even lost Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin – but Taylor’s dual-threat ability will make him a great streaming option again this season almost regardless of the weapons around him.
With most teams flush with cap space and the league more pass-heavy than ever, it was certainly a seller’s market for receivers this offseason. Six receivers signed deals which averaged at least $7.5 million per year in the first couple days of free agency, and five of those guys signed their deal with a new team, the lone exception being Kenny Stills who re-signed with the Dolphins. That number also does not include Brandon Marshall, who took a cut-rate deal to stay in New York with the Giants, and Torrey Smith, who signed something of a prove-it contract to be Carson Wentz’s much needed deep threat in Philadelphia.
Joining Smith in Philadelphia will be Alshon Jeffery, who agreed to one of the more interesting deals of the early part of free agency. Clearly betting on himself (again), Jeffery signed a one-year, $14-million contract with the Eagles. It is a great move for Philadelphia, who will get the first crack at re-signing Jeffery if he is able to reach his ceiling as a true No. 1 receiver but will also be able to move on if he is again hampered by injuries and inconsistency.
As for this year, Jeffery along with Jordan Matthews, Zach Ertz, and the aforementioned Smith will give Wentz the pass catching group he so desperately missed as a rookie. However, targets could end up being an issue. Even if all of the targets given to Dorial Green-Beckham and Nelson Agholor last season end up with Jeffery and Smith, those 143 looks are likely not enough to satisfy both guys, and the Eagles probably want Wentz to throw less as a sophomore anyway. Getting paid at least for one year like a No. 1, Jeffery is going to get his while he is on the field. While Smith is not going to be a target hog, the combination of the two could seriously dent Ertz’s and especially Matthews’ target totals.