Not that anyone's asking, but I wouldn't mind a pretty slow, quiet NFL free agency period. No league-altering, late-hour deals or out-of-nowhere deals during dinner time, at the very least. Is that too much to ask?
It probably will, in fact, be too much to ask. Free agency unofficially begins at noon Monday when the legal tampering window opens up, and while deals aren't technically able to be accepted until 4 p.m. Wednesday, we're going to get an onslaught of news beginning Monday afternoon and stretching throughout the week.
And, while some of the big names were locked in the franchise tag earlier this week, there are plenty of big names out there on the market -- including Lamar Jackson and Aaron Rodgers (not technically a free agent, but ... you know), two quarterbacks who have the potential to fundamentally alter the outlook of any team they might join. The rest of the free agent landscape isn't quite as overwhelming, but as the past few years have taught us, in the modern NFL, you can never predict when superstars might find themselves on the move in some unexpected blockbuster deal.
We'll know soon enough, but today's newsletter is all about getting you prepared for what free agency will bring. The Fantasy Football Today team has been going position-by-position to preview free agency, and we've got all the biggest names here for you, along with some trade candidates who might be on the move, plus our favorite landing spots for each position. You can check out Dave Richard and Jamey Eisenberg's thoughts on the free agent class in the FFT Free Agency Preview podcast from Thursday here, and you can keep reading for a more in-depth breakdown of every position ahead of Monday's deadline.
There are a ton of moving pieces to consider at the QB position. There's Aaron Rodgers' pending decision, of course. Recent reports indicate the Jets believe Rodgers is going to choose to join their organization, though there are hurdles even beyond Rodgers' decision; while the Packers are believed to be willing to acquiesce to whatever Rodgers' choice is, there's still the question of compensation and various other salary cap factors to consider.
Rodgers has a $31.6 million cap hit, but if the Packers trade him before June 1, they would take a dead-cap hit of more than $40 million; if they make the trade after June 1, they could spread that hit over multiple seasons. If he wants out, the Packers won't have much flexibility, but they'll still be able to wring out some compensation from the Jets, though they might be inclined to just move on as quickly as possible at this point.
The other big name out there is Lamar Jackson, who was hit with the non-exclusive franchise tag prior to Tuesday's deadline. That means that Jackson is free to negotiate with other teams as a free agent, but the Ravens have the right to match any deal he signs. If they opt not to, the signing team will have to send them their next two first-round picks to complete the deal.
That adds some complication, as a team like the Dolphins would not be able to sign Jackson until after the draft, since they do not own their own first-round pick this year. Not that the Dolphins are interested, apparently; they were one of several teams to pre-emptively leak that they won't be chasing Jackson in free agency.
Jackson and Rodgers are the biggest names on the market right now, and they are likely the only sure-fire starters out there right now. Something unexpected could happen, the way Matt Ryan requested a trade last year amid the Falcons pursuit of Deshaun Watson, but outside of that duo, the options are pretty underwhelming:
Top free agents*
On the move?
- Aaron Rodgers
- Jameis Winston
- Tyrod Taylor
*Per Dave Richard
Top Landing Spots
- New York Jets – Obviously, the Jets have focused on Rodgers, and it's a great spot for a quarterback to land. Garrett Wilson has the look of a burgeoning superstar, and while Elijah Moore has some question marks after he struggled to get on the field at times last season, we've seen flashes of stardom from him too. Oh, and Breece Hall is a dynamic playmaker out of the backfield, too. We're hoping to see a QB upgrade to optimize this offense, but these weapons will also help elevate anyone who lands here, too.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers – The Buccaneers are definitely in a transitionary phase after Tom Brady's retirement, and they might just be content to do a soft reset, see what they have in Kyle Trask and figure out what to do next offseason. However, they do still have Mike Evans and Chris Godwin here, making for another soft landing spot for any QB who ends up here. I personally wouldn't mind seeing a Jameis Winston reunion – Winston passed for 5,109 yards and 33 touchdowns in his last season with Tampa back in 2019. I'd sure feel a lot better about Evans and Godwin with a QB upgrade.
- Atlanta Falcons – Given that Arthur Smith seems intent on being a run-first playcaller, this one isn't necessarily about maximizing the value of a QB for Fantasy. It's about getting the most out of Kyle Pitts and Drake London. That sure looks like one of the most talented receiving duos in the league, but neither was able to shine with Marcus Mariota and Desmond Ridder failing to even pass for 3,000 yards last season. Even someone like Garoppolo would be a pretty sizeable upgrade for the Falcons and would make me feel better about both Pitts and London being starting caliber Fantasy options.
Running Back Preview
With Saquon Barkley, Josh Jacobs, and Tony Pollard getting the franchise tag this week, the top options at the position are already off the board. But there are still multiple starting-caliber options out there for a team looking to upgrade the RB spot. The problem is, how many teams are actually looking to upgrade that part of their roster while paying market price?
NFL teams are generally loathing to hand out big money and multiple years to running backs at this point. Teams just don't tend to build their offenses around the running game anymore, and the ones that do, like the Bears and Falcons, already have pretty interesting young options who we don't want to see thrust into timeshares.
And then there's this simple fact: Of the top options at the position, few of them actually look like legitimate three-down players. Kareem Hunt has had that skill set, but he also had a pretty miserable season after requesting a trade from the Browns last season. David Montgomery can kind of fake it on passing downs, but he isn't a great playmaker in the passing game; the same is probably true of Devin Singletary. And you might not even be able to say that much about Miles Sanders, who is undoubtedly a dynamic runner, but who has also been a non-factor in the passing game since his rookie season.
There's talent in this free agency class at RB, but there probably aren't any must-start Fantasy RBs. Unless the whispers -- and to be clear, they are just whispers -- about Nick Chubb and Derrick Henry potentially being available come to fruition. That could really shake things up, both in terms of putting legitimate difference makers on the market and in opening up big opportunities with their incumbent clubs.
Top free agents
- Miles Sanders
- David Montgomery
- Leonard Fournette
- Devin Singletary
- Damien Harris
- Kareem Hunt
- Jamaal Williams
- Alexander Mattison
- D'Onta Foreman
- Jeff Wilson
- Raheem Mostert
On the move?
Top Landing Spots
- Denver Broncos – NBC Sports' Matthew Berry reported from the combine that there is a"VERY wide range of possibilities" regarding Javonte Williams' recovery from his knee injury last season. He could be healthy to start the season, however the Broncos are also apparently worried Williams might miss all of next season. Sean Payton's offenses in New Orleans consistently produced more Fantasy value for running backs than just about any in the league, and if Williams is a question mark, they could be in the market for a legit three-down back.
- Philadelphia Eagles – The Eagles are probably always going to want a committee approach in the running game, given the sheer volume of rush attempts they produce. However, Sanders is coming off a 1,200-yard, 11-touchdown season, so there's certainly room for any lead back here to be a Fantasy starter.
- Carolina Panthers – When the Panthers found success on offense last season, it was primarily on the ground. They'll surely keep looking for an upgrade at the QB spot, but this is a team that finished 12th in rush attempts last season despite going 7-10. New head coach Frank Reich had success in Indy leaning on the running game, and he'll likely try to do something similar while the Panthers continue their search for an answer at QB.
- Buffalo Bills – Every time we hear reports about a star RB becoming available, the Bills are invariably included on wish lists of landing spots. I don't share that enthusiasm – Josh Allen's scrambling and red zone dominance mean you probably aren't going to get a ton of receptions or touchdowns from any back here – but this is an offense that actually pretty badly needs playmakers beyond Stefon Diggs. It's an elite offense, even if it's not necessarily an incredible spot for a running back in Fantasy.
- Miami Dolphins – The Dolphins were near the bottom of the pack in rush attempts last season, but they ran the ball effectively and showed a willingness to lean on one back at times. We know they went to stretch the field in the passing game, and their running backs combined for just 90 targets, but we'll always want to see talented backs end up in good offenses.
- New Orleans Saints – With Alvin Kamara potentially facing a suspension due to his ongoing legal issues, there's an opportunity here with a QB who has been willing to dump it off to his running backs plenty in Derek Carr. Anyone who signs here might end up in a timeshare, but it could also be a lot more than that if Kamara is out of the picture.
Wide Receiver Preview
The actual free agents at wide receiver are pretty underwhelming, and that would remain the case even if Michael Thomas and Adam Thielen are released, as seems likely. However, as the last few offseasons have shown us, free agency isn't really where the action's at when it comes to wide receiver; it's all about the disgruntled superstars asking for trades.
We already know DeAndre Hopkins is out there in some capacity, and it seems safe to assume Brandin Cooks is also available to the highest bidder. But the thing to keep in mind is, at this point last season, we didn't know A.J. Brown, Tyreek Hill, or Davante Adams were going to be traded. That doesn't necessarily mean we'll see as much turnover at the position this time around, but we should certainly be open to the possibility that Jakobi Meyers won't be the biggest name we see change teams this offseason.
Meyers is probably the top available player at the position, though you could certainly make the case that some NFL teams might prefer someone like Allen Lazard for his blocking ability. We don't care so much about that, and Lazard's inability to take advantage of a pretty wide open situation with Aaron Rodgers last season makes it hard to get excited about his chances of becoming a Fantasy contributor. The one sleeper I'd keep an eye on is Mecole Hardman, who had trouble staying healthy last season but could be this year's Christian Kirk, as the wide receiver who unexpectedly gets a big contract and a big opportunity and then takes advantage of it.
And then, of course, there's the ultimate wildcard: Odell Beckham. Beckham is now 30, with two torn ACLs in his past, and he is three years removed from his most recent 1,000-yard season. We have absolutely no idea how much he has left in the tank, and the fact that no team opted to sign him last season gives reason to think there isn't much to get excited about. But, if he lands in the right spot, it's going to be hard to avoid getting at least a little bit excited about the potential of a bounce back.
Top free agents
- Jakobi Meyers
- DJ Chark
- Allen Lazard
- Odell Beckham
- JuJu Smith-Schuster
- Mecole Hardman
- Darius Slayton
- Parris Campbell
- Mack Hollins
- Nelson Agholor
- Julio Jones
On the move?
- DeAndre Hopkins
- Michael Thomas
- Brandin Cooks
- Adam Thielen
- Curtis Samuel
- Corey Davis
- Tyler Boyd
- DeVante Parker
- Robbie Anderson
Top Landing Spots
- Buffalo Bills – One interesting thing about this offseason is how many of the likely best landing spots for Fantasy already feature an elite wide receiver. However, the Bills offense pretty desperately needs another playmaker alongside Stefon Diggs; Gabe Davis has his merits, but he's probably never going to be able to take on the kind of target share you want for a No. 2 WR. He's a field stretcher, and a dangerous one, but he's a limited WR.
- New York Giants – I'm skeptical that there's much to get excited about with a Daniel Jones-led offense, but there's no question that this team desperately needs a No. 1 WR. I don't think there's room for a huge ceiling here, but I'll allow for the possibility that Jones is better than I give him credit for. A No. 1 WR would help answer the question, at least.
- Minnesota Vikings – Like the Bills, the Vikings need another playmaker to complement Justin Jefferson. Thielen just wasn't able to take advantage of the defensive attention Jefferson drew, and while T.J. Hockenson was, he's pretty limited in how much he can do – he'll move the chains, if not the needle much. The Vikings don't have a ton of cap flexibility and have to consider a long-term extension for Jefferson in the next few years, so they might be a better pick for an early-round WR in the draft.
- Dallas Cowboys – Throw the Cowboys in the same pile as the Vikings and Bills, where the need for a high-level complement to their No. 1 option is obvious. They might be hoping Michael Gallup can be that a year removed from his torn ACL, but he was a huge disappointment last season, so they probably can't bet on it at this point.
- Baltimore Ravens – They've gotta solve that whole Lamar Jackson situation first, but the Ravens remain badly in need of another consistent playmaker in the passing game. Rashod Bateman could be that if he could stay healthy, but he's missed more games than he has played in two NFL seasons, with just 800 yards in 18 games.
- Kansas City Chiefs – Last season might have shown us the limitations of betting on the Chiefs No. 1 WR if it isn't an elite talent, but we're going to keep chasing the guys catching passes from Patrick Mahomes. They might just bet that Skyy Moore and Kadarius Toney can step up, or they might opt to bring JuJu Smith-Schuster back, which wouldn't do much to make me excited, personally.
- Chicago Bears – It's awfully tough to know how much you can trust Justin Fields as a passer, because there probably hasn't been a worse situation over the past two years in the whole league. Fields might just be a bad passer, but I'm hoping the Bears give him a chance by making a big upgrade (or two) to their receiving corps. Maybe he's got a Josh Allen-esque leap in him, or maybe he'll remain a one-dimensional QB. Either way, if the Bears are passing on C.J. Stroud and Bryce Young, they owe it to themselves to give Fields a fighting chance.
Tight End Preview
I mean ... it's tight end. There isn't much to get excited about here. There almost never is -- though this year's draft class might go a long way in changing that, as you'll learn in the coming weeks. If the tight end position is deeper with Fantasy-relevant options in 2023 and beyond, it'll be because of the incoming rookies, not because this free agent class unlocked a lot of latent potential.
But that's not to say there's nothing to monitor at the position. Dalton Schultz is a proven contributor, Mike Gesicki has a lot of appeal in the right spots, and Irv Smith especially carries some unlocked potential. I'm probably most intrigued by Gesicki's free agency. He was clearly a miserable fit in Mike McDaniels' offense, which wanted more blocked from the position that Gesicki is capable of. He's a wide receiver in a tight end's body, capable of putting a lot of pressure on defenses down the field and up the seams, and if he lands in the right spot, he could get back to being a pretty useful Fantasy option pretty quickly.
One sleeper to keep an eye on? Albert Okwuegbunam, who was a massive bust last season with Denver last season and could be expendable heading into the final season of his rookie deal with Greg Dulcich ascending. He's still a massive, athletic target whose best days may yet be ahead of him. Okwuegbunam has flashed downfield skills and potential as an after-the-catch playmaker, and I'd like to see him get a real chance before I write him off entirely.
Top free agents
- Dalton Schultz
- Juwan Johnson - RFA
- Mike Gesicki
- Hayden Hurst
- Irv Smith
- Robert Tonyan
On the move?
- Albert Okwuegbunam
- Tyler Higbee
- Gerald Everett
- Hunter Henry
- Logan Thomas
Top Landing Spots
- Las Angeles Chargers – We're hoping that the Chargers offense is about to take a big step forward, with Kellen Moore coming over from the Cowboys to replace Joe Lombardi. Lombardi's offenses too often leaned conservative, refusing to take advantage of Justin Herbert's big arm. This is one place I think Gesicki could really thrive, injecting speed into an offense that pretty desperately needs it. Gesicki would actually fit in pretty well alongside Keenan Allen and Mike Williams.
- New Orleans Saints – With Derek Carr expected to upgrade the passing game, the Saints need playmakers all over the field. Carr has leaned on his tight ends pretty regularly throughout his career, and a big athletic target like Gesicki or Smith could stand out with him.
- Dallas Cowboys – With Mike McCarthy set to take over playcalling duties for the Cowboys, I'm expecting a less aggressive offense overall, but there should still be room for a tight end to be featured in the offense. That wasn't necessarily McCarthy's calling card in Green Bay, so there's no guarantee there.