FA Expectancy: Veteran RBs

Updated: July 16th 2017

Throughout the offseason, I will be preparing a collection of articles that will focus on free agents and trade candidates. The articles will discuss the player in question, and what the move does to their value, as well as what their landing spot means for their new and old teams. I decided that we should talk about these three veteran running backs in the same article as I see them fitting similarly with their new teams.

Marshawn Lynch – RB, Oakland Raiders

Marshawn Lynch signed a two-year deal with his hometown Oakland Raiders and I mentioned in my last article what I think he can bring to the team. To save you the full read I think unless you are: a) contending b) desperate at running back AND; c) can acquire him for very cheap I don’t think he’s worth having an investment in before we see something from him on the field.

Adrian Peterson – RB, New Orleans Saints

Adrian Peterson also signed a two-year deal to play with the New Orleans Saints. Mark Ingram owners immediately cursed Sean Payton’s name when the news broke. To go along with that they drafted Alvin Kamara in the third round and now people are scrambling to see what they can get for him. The Peterson signing was an interesting one as the Saints are a “spread’em out, aerial assault” offense that would have been better suited for a shifty pass catching back more like the next RB I am going to talk about. Peterson has always been a downhill runner that benefits more from a lead blocker. This could be a situation where they just don’t utilize him properly, he becomes frustrated with his role and New Orleans becomes just a one year footnote in his otherwise outstanding career (à la Emmitt Smith with the Cardinals).

Jamaal Charles – RB, Denver Broncos

Jamaal Charles signed a one-year deal with the rival Broncos to further question what the resigning of CJ Anderson was for last season. Anderson hasn’t been healthy since he broke out 3 years ago so this makes sense as a cost-saving insurance plan but why not get younger at the position through a draft that featured plenty of running back depth. Unless they think that they are still competing with New England, Pittsburgh and Oakland as favorites to win the AFC and Charles can cover up the obvious limitation of their current quarterback situation it’s a real head-scratcher.

The amount that Charles signed for shows that there wasn’t a market for aging backs that have been banged up this season. Of the three of these backs, I think Charles has the lowest floor. He fits well with what the Broncos usually have tried to do with a zone running scheme but he might not have anything left from his two knee injuries that limited him to a handful of snaps last season. I honestly would have liked to have seen him retire to cement his name atop that yard per carry career record that he deserved during his KC tenure.

So what does this mean for their new teams?

Oakland RaidersIn short, probably not a whole lot. I don’t see the Raiders becoming a ground and pound team but rather using Lynch similar to how the Patriots had deployed LeGarrette Blount recently with a steady diet of touches inside the 20s and to salt game away late. Therefore, it could have a negative impact on the available red zone targets that Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree, and other receivers earn. It can, however, help keep safeties in the box and away from the deep routes for David Carr to throw passes to. This, of course, is all predicated on Lynch being “Beast-Mode” and not a guy who is over 30 years old and took a year off of playing professional football because of back and other injury concerns.

Saints LogoPeterson probably fills the same role as Lynch and will be very touchdown dependent in 2017. Again, the Saints receivers probably get a downgrade in red zone targets but an uptick in favorable coverage situations. With the amount that Drew Brees works it around, I don’t see it being as big of a knock as it would be to the Raiders pass catchers.

I have no idea what this means for Mark Ingram though. When they signed Peterson I thought that he might slide into a more pass catching role but with the drafting of Kamara, I don’t see how he fits at all. Both he and Jeremy Hill are two veteran runners that I can see playing in a different uniform before the season starts. He could be a smart hold/buy really low in fantasy right now in case they move him before training camp to a team that he could once again be the primary back. He still has valuable talent left but Sean Payton just has what seems like a personal vendetta against utilizing him.

broncosCharles is likely the least impactful to the players around him by signing with Denver. Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders are still going to produce WR2 numbers whether it’s Charles, Anderson or whoever else is lining up in the backfield. This should still be Anderson job to loose unless Charles returns to 2013 form. Either way, it’s a risky move to invest in anyone from this backfield right now.

So what does this do for their values?

In standard leagues, I think if they are cheap to acquire (both in cap space and in traded assets) then Lynch and Peterson could have some value with their touchdown upside. In PPR leagues I just don’t see either one being more reliable than anything else that you could acquire at auction for much cheaper. If any of these guys are undervalued it’s likely Charles who you might be able to get at the minimum in your auction depending on your league’s perception of him. In all cases, I would just avoid making a move for any of these backs before seeing whether they have something left in the tank. If they show some value and you need a second or third runner for the playoffs you will likely still be able to acquire them for late seconds and even third round picks.

Does this mean anything for their previous team?

All three players were a non-factor for their teams in 2016 which is why they were let go in the offseason. Seattle added Eddy Lacy to complement C.J. Prosise and Thomas Rawls, the Vikings signed Latavius Murray and drafted Dalvin Cook, and the Chiefs drafted Kareem Hunt to go along with Spencer Ware. Of these three vacated situations I would guess that Hunt has the best chance to separate himself and become prominently featured.

It is definitely a murky time to be acquiring running backs. My strategy for RSO auctions this season will be to acquire the cheapest asset from several backfields on one-year contracts and hope that one or two can take the reins by midseason. That way if they hit I have a low-cost starter to leverage spending elsewhere if I need to make a playoff push. Alternatively, I can move them to contenders for middle round picks if my team is floundering during the heavy bye weeks in midseason. Either way, I do not want to be investing too much future capital in high-risk veterans this year and will wait till 2018 to see if any rookies are able to cement a role in their offense.

Make sure to continue to read more Free Agency Expectancy articles throughout the offseason to be prepared for your summer Auctions. Have a player that you want me to evaluate? Look for my polls to cast your vote or send me a message on Twitter @naandrews19.

FA Expectancy: Latavius Murray

Updated: July 23rd 2017

Throughout the offseason, I will be preparing a collection of articles that will focus on free agents and trade candidates. The articles will discuss the player in question, and what the move does to their value, as well as what their landing spot means for their new and old teams.

Latavius Murray – RB, Minnesota Vikings

It is hard to find anyone that the fantasy community is more down on than Latavius Murray in 2017. After letting Adrian Peterson walk the Vikings signed Murray to a 3 year/ $15million deal to theoretically lead their backfield on the first two downs. Many question what Murray can really offer his new team as he was never able to carry the full workload in Oakland in 2016. His move from a top 5 rated Raiders offensive line to a bottom 5 rated Vikings doesn’t really help his cause either. But he is technically the lead back (as of writing this article before the NFL Draft) so he should get a fair share of the touches. Is he a sneaky buy-low candidate?

Tyler Buecher of NumberFire looked at how penalties, specifically pass interference calls, can affect the season end results for fantasy numbers and whether some players were negatively and positively affected because of them. His results can be found here. For running backs, these were the players that received the most benefits from the calls.

Player

1st-and-Goal Penalty TDs

Total TDs

Fantasy Finish

LeGarrette Blount

5

18

RB9

Latavius Murray

4

12

RB13

Lamar Miller

3

6

RB20

Melvin Gordon

3

12

RB7

Devonta Freeman

2

13

RB6

Doug Martin

2

3

RB54

Ezekiel Elliott

2

16

RB2

Matt Asiata

2

6

RB37

 

Murray benefited the second most from pass interferences calls with four of his twelve rushing touchdowns coming from an interference call leading to 1st and goal from the 1-yard line. Since we know that touchdowns fluctuate season-to-season it wouldn’t be surprising to see a decline in his totals, especially with a team that will have less frequent trips inside the red zone. Ironically, Matt Asiata is also on this list which suggests that the Vikings are indeed a candidate for goal line touchdowns to regress next season.

So what does this mean for Vikings players?

The short answer is not much. Murray may or may not be the bruiser back heading into 2017 with Jerrick McKinnon continuing his role as the change-of-pace and satellite receiving back. I expect the Vikings to take a running back in the draft to try and groom into their featured runner once they move on from Murray. If there are any Bishop Sankey truthers still left out there this might be his last opportunity to be a usable NFL running back in case Murray falters or more likely gets injured. In really deep leagues Sankey could be a dart throw that pays off for a couple of games if he shows that he can ward off any potential incoming rookies should Murray be absent from the lineup.

I guess you could call this an upgrade for Sam Bradford who had zero options for handing the ball off last season. It’s unlikely that any coordinator will fear the run game though so the Vikings should expect aggressive blitzes and plenty of nickel and dime packages to cover the receivers and tight end. Murray’s presence could have a negative impact on the receivers scoring opportunities inside the 10 yard line as there were nine passing touchdowns that came within 10 yards of the end zone in 2016 (4 to Kyle Rudolph, and 1 each to McKinnon, Stefon Diggs, Jarius Wright, Cordarrelle Patterson and Adam Thielen).

So what is Murray’s Value?

As previously stated the Murray stock is at an all-time low so if you were ever going to get in cheap now is the time. He’s been moved around in my home league four times already this offseason and I have had several other offers in other leagues with him as a throw in. As Bernard Faller pointed out in his article, “Read the Fine Print” while Murray’s contract may be for 3 years it really works out to be a 1 year deal with additional team option years added on. He essential could be cut at the start of next season and save the Vikings $5.1million in cap space. This is why I expect the team to invest and develop a running back from this loaded class to then hand him the keys in 2018.

If Murray is available in your auction you should be able to get him dirt cheap as a 1-year rental player that could be used for decent matchups. Otherwise, unless Murray is on a steal of contract I wouldn’t value him for more than a third round pick. There are too many lottery ticket running backs that could increase their value by 2018 in the second or third round to settle for a low floor RB2/3 like Murray.

So what does this mean for the Raiders?

The Raiders have been linked to bringing the corpse of Marshawn Lynch back for weeks now and while playing behind that offensive line would give him some value I just don’t see it being worth it for real or fantasy purposes. Bringing in fresh legs from the draft would be the best option for the team and any player they select will see his rankings shoot up the rookie ADP rankings. DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard were nice waiver wire additions last year and they still hold value right now especially if a back isn’t selected by the end of day 2. However, Washington wasn’t a high selection either (5th Round) and Richard was an UDFA so the Raiders do not owe them anything for playing time. They are both savvy players to watch for in your auctions but don’t get carried away in a bidding war for mediocrity.


Make sure to continue to read more Free Agency Expectancy articles throughout the offseason to be prepared for your summer Auctions. Have a player that you want me to evaluate? Look for my polls to cast your vote or send me a message on Twitter @naandrews19.

Saying Goodbye To Being In Control

Updated: October 2nd 2015

Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman (33) poses for a portrait during the NFLPA Rookie Premiere on Saturday, May 31, 2014 in Los Angeles. (Ric Tapia/AP Images for NFL Players Inc.)

Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman (33) poses for a portrait during the NFLPA Rookie Premiere on Saturday, May 31, 2014 in Los Angeles. (Ric Tapia/AP Images for NFL Players Inc.)

I’ll start by saying that this article is particularly long. For those only interested in the football aspect of the article, you will want to scroll down to the #6 heading. For those of you who appreciate my writing style and want to see how a personal experience of mine has changed my fantasy football outlook, please read on.

This past weekend was one of the most difficult I’ve encountered on a personal level. And no, I’m not talking about fantasy football or my RSO leagues. Amidst a fairly hectic couple of weeks at work which took many turns while we landed on our most recent financial forecast, I got the news mid-last week that my Aunt Paula, who was battling Stage 4 cancer, was in home hospice.

To me, there was only one possibility for how I was going to spend my weekend — traveling to Southern California to support my parents and see my aunt and say my goodbyes, followed by traveling back home to my wife and young kids on one of my once-sacred fantasy football Sundays. I’d imagine that each of you has an Aunt Paula or an uncle like her; she played the role of the “cool aunt”– the one without kids of her own — to my younger brother and me. And she knocked it out of the park every time. She was the one who took us to countless baseball games (and two hour autograph sessions at team busses afterwards), the circus and many other events, all while she was in her 20’s and could have been living her own life. She was the one who provided innumerable life lessons to me and even explained to a younger version of me why a young woman was squatting outside of Cleveland Stadium before a Browns game (she only had to explain once, but this type of activity was commonplace for Browns games).

She is the reason I love numbers and statistics. She was a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), and later became a Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and a Chief Executive Officer (CEO) in the healthcare industry. When partners of her CPA firm took her to Cleveland Indians games, somehow I was the one who got to tag along and then win sports trivia contests as a youngster against these shocked partners of her firm. While I followed in her footsteps and became a CPA too, I decided that I was more interested in finance and strategy. However, my love of sports statistics that she instilled in me has only grown stronger, and through Reality Sports Online I get to be at the pinnacle of these statistics and use them to help others and try to win my leagues.

I’m not gonna lie, seeing a once vibrant woman full of life be non-responsive and in significant pain was the toughest experience I’ve been through and I can only imagine what was going through her mind and body. And while I wish I had happier news to report, Aunt Paula succumbed to cancer early Monday morning. She will be missed dearly by our family and her friends and co-workers.

The past weekend taught me so many lessons that I can draw from going forward and some can even be applied to Reality Sports Online leagues and fantasy football in general as well. Family members and friends who are only reading this for the non-football strategy aspects, you can stop reading now.

1) My proudest fantasy football moment of the weekend was….

One of my Reality Sports Online Twitter followers and fellow Seattle-area resident (whom I haven’t met yet but look forward to catching some games with), was asking me advice about trades and starting lineup decisions on Saturday. I apologized to him for not being as responsive as I usually am and tried to offer advice, although I really was in no place to do it. He apologized for what I was going through and when I had some time to respond on Sunday I found a stat on Steve Smith’s recent success against the Bengals for him that changed my course and advice on who he should start at wideout (he’s loaded there) and Smith powered him to victory while John Brown sat on his bench.  To his opponent, “Ice up, son!”

I really enjoying helping others with their lineups and strategy and hope that my articles this offseason have helped others build a roadmap to winning their leagues.

2) Sometimes I’m no more of an expert than anyone else….

While I went 12-4 in my weekly picks last week, I was 6-10 the week prior. Further, heading into Monday night’s games, I was dead last (50/50) in the FantasyDraft RSO Expert contest.  I ended up finishing higher than this based on Randall Cobb’s big performance, some of the players I chose who exhibited a high floor actually had no floor (Tyler Eifert had zero points) in this weird Week 3 of fantasy football.

So know that for every pick I get right, there are other picks I get very wrong.

3) I’m still chasing my first RSO Championship, but this week was definitely a highlight….

After three weeks in two RSO leagues, I’m the highest scoring team in both leagues. I’m 3-0 in my writers league and 2-1 in my main league. In my main league, I scored 337 points, which approached approached a league record. See my lineup below:

Screen Shot 2015-10-02 at 2.50.29 PM

I’m doing all this without Arian Foster, who was my big free agency get. I paid more than I would’ve liked for him (2 years, $51.5 million), but the cliff fall of remaining running backs in our league auction thereafter was very steep. Since we only are required to start one in this league (myself and my co-commish thought long and hard about our league scoring system and roster composition based on the NFL being a “passing” league), it was important to get a running back with “go-off” potential.

Little did I know in this very weird Week 3 of fantasy football that Devonta Freeman would have one of the best debuts as a starter in fantasy football history, certainly worthy of the “go off” categorization. I did think that he’d be solid in PPR, but in the little football I did get to watch while shuttling between airports and airplanes, Freeman showed the ability to get his pads low and deliver punishment while consistently reaching the second level of the Dallas Cowboys defense. Color me impressed. While Freeman is definitely at his highest “sell-high” point, those who own Tevin Coleman should fear that the running back who went in the first round of many RSO rookie drafts will now be a platooner at best if Freeman stays healthy. In terms of Freeman’s rest of season outlook, he’s definitely in the Top 24 running back discussion.

4) Most importantly, I learned that being in control is “overrated”…

I wouldn’t call myself a control freak, but with my unique ability to recollect statistics, facts, etc. that I acquired from Aunt Paula, I have a hard time not being in control. This is probably the reason that I rarely have drunk myself into oblivion, because I’m not a fan of not being able to remember things.

For these same reasons, until this past weekend I felt that my fantasy teams, NCAA Tournament brackets, etc. performed better if I was watching. Basically that my watching could somehow “control” the outcome. Of course it is more fun to be able to watch your fantasy players perform, but sometimes that simply isn’t possible.

Before marriage and children, there would be no way that I would even deign to consider flying on a football Sunday. My Thanksgiving travel has consistently featured either Saturday or Monday returns (cheaper that way, too). With my aunt’s health taking a significant turn for the worse, I had no choice but to fly and say my goodbyes quickly and fly back home on a football Sunday. Of course with the Sunday Ticket Max and Wi-Fi, I figured I’d be no worse for wear on Sunday while traveling.

That’s where I was wrong. The Wi-Fi was weak in the first airport I was passing through and I couldn’t stream any games or the Red Zone Channel. I basically was able to watch the Falcons/Cowboys game until I boarded, which is why I was able to tell early on that Freeman was looking good before he blew up. Another surprising performer for me this week, Lance Dunbar (about time after two years of touting him in Scott Linehan’s offense) was someone else I was able to watch a bit as well and I think he has cemented himself as part of the offense, although the whole “game-script” logic applies to him. Start him in PPR leagues, but be careful otherwise.

Luckily, I was able to check my scores and see my teams were performing well while I wasn’t watching. That was a feeling I had never really experienced before for prolonged periods of time. So when I boarded my first flight from Ontario to Oakland (Southwest’s regional spoke system for sure), I quickly was delighted to learn Wi-Fi was available, but then quickly disappointed that the Wi-Fi (which I paid $8 for) didn’t let me stream the Sunday Ticket. I then decided to pay another $4 for Red Zone so I had other options besides Eagles/Jets and figured my second flight (a two hour flight from Oakland to Seattle) would have Wi-Fi and I had already paid for the whole day on the first flight.

From 30,000 feet I saw that Steve Smith was going off for me in my writers league (someone inexplicably dropped Mr. Ice Up, Son during the week) and that A.J. Green was wrecking the Ravens as he typically does (which was to my benefit in one league and to my detriment in another as I was facing him).

When I landed in Oakland, it was the end of the early games and I peeked at the TV from a Chili’s (I have a deeply irrational love for Chili’s and wish they had them closer to me in Seattle, which is very anti-chain restaurant) as my Browns were failing in a last-ditch effort against the Raiders. It was still nice to be clued in on the games that had fantasy impact.

As I was boarding the second flight, the Seahawks were pulling off the fake-punt return play the Rams pulled on them last season, except Richard Sherman doesn’t have Robert Brooks’ “breakaway speed” and got caught from behind. The Seahawks sputtered early against the Bears, which is becoming a theme (more on that in a bit) as I headed down the jetway to board my plane.

Then, something that would have previously sent my world in a spiral happened. I entered the doorway of the plane and didn’t see a Wi-Fi symbol. I asked the flight attendant if there was Wi-Fi on the flight. Her response was “No, this is a classic airplane,” and then in her Southwest-Airlines-flight-attendant-trying-to-be-funny mode quipped, “You’ll have to make friends with your neighbor.” I thought to myself, “I don’t want to make friends with my neighbor. My aunt is effing dying, I’m tired as you-know-what and ALL I want to do is watch the Seahawks game.” And by the way, I was flying from one of the most tech savvy areas (Bay Area) to another highly techie area (Seattle). Of all the routes not to have Wi-Fi, this was it?

Somehow I killed two hours listening to music (those who know me best know what was on the playlist) on my noise-cancelling headphones (there wouldn’t be any making friends with my neighbor on this flight, missy!) and there was a quiet calm for me as our plane landed. Quick aside — I don’t travel much, but highly advocate buying a pair of noise-cancelling headphones. Simply put,they are amazing and for the times you do travel are so nice to have and can change your mood instantly.

What this weekend taught me is that I didn’t have to be in control of everything. I wasn’t going to get my aunt back to health, I was there to say goodbye and be helpful and supportive to my family. I wasn’t going to have control of my ability to watch my fantasy players, I just had to trust they’d perform well. As my weekends going forward will certainly fill up with family activities like apple picking, soccer games, and playdates, it certainly is nice to know that I can pick my spots and not obsess over every play, because I don’t truly control the outcome.

5) I also can’t control what other teams in my league do on the trade market….

Both my teams have a legitimate chance if my players stay relatively healthy to win my leagues. However, I can’t control if a non-contending team shops their best players to my main competition for development players and draft picks. This has already happened in my league, but I’m in the position that I’m playing well without Foster and if it ain’t broke, there is no reason to fix it right now. People in other leagues hopefully realize that too. As commish, a trade would have to be an overt demonstration of collusion for me or my co-commish to consider vetoing it.

Additionally, a word of advice. My main league takes advantage of RSO’s playoff bracket flexibility. Our top four records make the playoffs and are the top four seeds. The final two playoff spots are determined by total points scored. This basically gives everyone a shot at being in the playoff picture for an extended period of time in the season. It sometimes works to our detriment in that teams are hesitant to trade in season until the deadline because they think they are still alive for a playoff spot. I’d highly recommend an approach like this for the fun of your league and to keep teams incentivized to continue to play until the final snap.

6) It’s Time To Sell, Sell, Sell These Guys….

While I like the Broncos faith in C.J. Anderson’s ability to bounce back, the injuries, a porous offensive line, and lack of performance have me channeling my inner-Duke brothers from Trading Places. “Turn those machines back on and sell, sell, sell,” says Randolph Duke. You’ll need something in return for Anderson, so you may need to package some draft capital if Anderson’s salary and years are high. If you can’t get something of value without giving up the farm, you’ll just have to hold Anderson and hope he turns it around, but the signs point against that.

The Seattle Seahawks have a problem on offense. For starters, their line stinks. For that reason, and while the timing isn’t ideal, I wouldn’t be too excited about Marshawn Lynch’s rest of season prospects. I’ve watched enough Seahawks games in Russell Wilson’s tenure with them being the local market team. The problem the Seahawks have is not a lack of offensive weapons-it’s Offensive Coordinator Darrell Bevell’s play-calling.

Basically the Seahawks wait the entire first half of games to feel out the opponent’s defense. This means Wilson stays in the pocket, they throw bubble screens (having flashbacks of the Percy Harvin era) and wait for Lynch or the defense to make a play. Then after half they start hitting their stride. The problem is that doesn’t offer you as a fantasy owner a ton of upside. Wilson is my starting quarterback in my main league and fits my league (high completion percentage, good runner, doesn’t turn the ball over in a league that interceptions and fumbles are worth negative 5 points), but I can unequivocally say that on a one-year deal I’d rather have Carson Palmer at this point).

In terms of a sell-high guy, Keenan Allen fits the bill. He has tons of targets and has performed in two of three games. However, Antonio Gates returns soon, and quarterback Philip Rivers is notorious for starting quickly and then coming back down to earth. And Stevie Johnson isn’t going away anytime soon.

I’m leery on a bunch of highly-rated running backs from the offseason, but I think guys like Jeremy Hill turn it around. He’s in too good of an offense and is likely on a nice rookie deal for you. Be patient with him. The same can’t be said for Justin Forsett. He’s a classic example of someone with a small sample size and one good season causing offseason hysteria. If the Ravens continue to lose games, look for the team to give more run to their young running backs.

7) These Guys Are For Real….

I love Marcus Mariota’s poise in the pocket and his subtle fakes and shifts to get out of danger. He has some Aaron Rodgers like qualities. I’d be targeting him in the trade market on his rookie deal as your quarterback of the future and I like the Mariota-Kendall Wright connection for years to come. Get Wright now as someone who will outperform his contract based on his sure hands (he had zero drops in 2014) and Tennessee’s defense allowing lots of points meaning the team will be throwing often.

In terms of a right-now guy, Tyrod Taylor is the real deal. His ability to run and use his weapons makes him dangerous. He’s really the only piece of the Buffalo offense I have faith in right now. Plus anytime he blows up, you can say, “When the east is in the house, Ty, Ty-Rod (Danger)”. Bonus points to anyone who knows what I’m talking about here. At this point, you’d have to consider starting Taylor over quarterbacks like Ryan Tannehill, Drew Brees, and Wilson.

Not that you are doubting him, but Julian Edelman is really good at football. He’s super-consistent, gets tons of targets and plays in one of the best offenses in football. If you can get him on your team in a trade, make it happen and don’t trade him if you have him.

I love how Arizona is using Larry Fitzgerald as a slot receiver. His physical tools enable him to win balls against smaller slot corners and his 2015 fantasy value is more than intact. His 2016 is fully guaranteed in real life, so feel free to pursue him via trade if you like him as a medium term play. His numbers will have to come down, but based on his pace, 12 touchdowns this year is within reason if Palmer stays healthy and he’s being heavily targeted.

Well, that caps a very bittersweet week for me. I sincerely appreciate whatever eyeballs got all the way to the bottom of this and for Matt and Stephen giving me freedom in what I write. Feel free to reach out to me via Twitter @mattgoody2.

Giving Up The Franchise?

Updated: April 21st 2015

A few weeks ago, I wrote a strategy primer Top 5 Offseason Questions that teased the question How Can I Most Effectively Use My Franchise Tag? With the offseason now in full gear and the NFL Draft around the corner, the time to at least start your analysis on your team’s free agents and whether you want to protect one of them is now.

This analysis will take a look at all existing Reality Sports Online (RSO) leagues and show what the average positional contract values are for purposes of calculating what the Franchise Tag amount would be by position. I’ll then analyze the five players in the Top 5 pool and let you know whether I think their juice is worth the squeeze, essentially whether you should pony up and franchise that player in general. Of course, since all league dynamics and scoring systems may be different, which is part of the beauty of RSO being fully customizable, a one-size-fits-all approach to using the franchise tag would be a naive approach to this. So, along the way, I will try to provide some strategy and context to potential franchise tag decisions you face and what the likely ramifications would be if you let someone back into the free-agent pool.

Remember, for your leagues, the value of the franchise tag is the higher of the Top 5 Positional Average from your league or 120% of the 2014 contract and players on expiring deals can be franchise tagged twice at most. Now, let’s jump in.

Quarterbacks

Player Average Salary 2015 Franchise Tag Cost % Cap
Rodgers $22,620,135 $27,144,162 18.9%
Brees $19,939,216 $23,927,060 16.7%
P. Manning $19,249,096 $23,098,915 16.1%
Luck $15,773,949 $18,928,739 13.2%
Brady $12,930,500 $18,102,579 12.6%
Top 5 Average $18,102,579

I touched on this a few weeks ago, but with few exceptions, I really think using a franchise tag on a quarterback is foolish, with few exceptions. First off, to me it is essentially bidding against yourself. What I mean by that is that in a 10-12 team league, every team has a starting quarterback, but there is still significant value beyond the multi-year deals. While Aaron Rodgers and Andrew Luck are two guys you’d definitely pay the price listed above for, are the others really worth that much more than quarterbacks like Tony Romo, Philip Rivers, and Ben Roethlisberger at this point? 

The answer is a definitive no and all these quarterbacks based on age scream one year guys. I’d much rather have Romo at his annual $5.5 million average and the extra cap space than have a quarterback that is better, but not enough to justify the franchise tag cost. Additionally, streaming quarterbacks has become en vogue for a lot of different league players, especially in redraft leagues. In a dynasty league, you may think differently than this, but there is a happy medium between rolling the dice on a starter like Matt Cassel and spending $23.1 million on Peyton Manning. 

Second, you really want to game the free-agent market for quarterbacks. If you are in a league where the majority of the teams have a starter locked up, you should be able to get one of the remaining ones of value for cheap. Some owners don’t have the cap space to price enforce and the ones that do may have their limits. For instance, last season my team had a really nice core and the only real starter I needed was a quarterback and 10 of the 12 teams in my league had that need taken care of. I was able to get Russell Wilson on a nice 3 year deal for $26.0 million for someone who ended up being a Top 5 scoring quarterback in my league.

Additionally, some quarterbacks with serious upside potential in good offenses are practically free in some RSO leagues. Count Eli Manning ($2.4 million annual average) and Carson Palmer ($1.8 million annual average) among one year quarterbacks that fit this mold on the super cheap.

Please note that all league dynamics are different. I’m sure some of you have a stacked team that will likely finish top three in your league and are like “Well, Matt, I can franchise Peyton Manning at $23.1 million and wreck this league.” In that case, I would call it a coin flip whether you want to use a high franchise tag price. I still think you could probably do better to get that quarterback back on a one year deal on the open market, but if you are afraid of losing them and your competitive stronghold I’m good with you protecting your quarterback if he’s the missing piece to your championship.

Explicitly, the only quarterbacks who I think are worth the franchise money for 2015 based on the above are Rodgers and Luck. I could debate the Peyton Manning scenario if you are a top three team in your league. At this point, though, Drew Brees is overpriced.

Running Backs

Player Average Salary 2015 Franchise Tag Cost % Cap
McCoy $25,155,474 $30,186,569 21.1%
Peterson $22,951,390 $27,541,668 19.2%
Charles $21,930,732 $26,316,879 18.4%
Forte $18,268,179 $21,921,815 15.3%
Martin $17,707,444 $21,248,933 14.8%
Top 5 Average $21,202,644

The running back position while not valued as much in today’s NFL, is a very dynamic one for RSO owners. A running back that was highly valued just one or two years ago (think Doug Martin) may be in a committee or have lost their starting gig (Montee Ball anyone?) Others who you are potentially considering for your franchise tag may not have even been on your opening day roster last season (C.J. Anderson for one).

First off, the only two running backs from the table above of Top 5 Running Back salaries that are worth their franchise tag cost based on the averages set out above are Jamaal Charles and Matt Forte. I’d gladly pay for focal points on offense and even though Marc Trestman is gone in Chicago, Forte is in the last year of his real NFL deal, so a one year franchise tag feels like the right contract for him.

If you weathered last season of Adrian Peterson and his legal troubles and now he’s off contract for you, you take his $27.5 million of cap space and treat it as found money instead of doubling down on him again. Sure he may be productive, but let that be someone else’s risk. As for Lesean McCoy, I talked about him going to Buffalo extensively in Free Agent Frenzy. $30.2 million is definitely overpaying Shady based on the Buffalo quarterback situation and a less dynamic offense. I’ll chalk Rex Ryan’s goal to run 50 times a game as offseason coachspeak.

However, there are plenty of running backs that you’d have to think about at the $21.2 million average that aren’t on this list. Le’Veon Bell is someone that is currently averaging around $9.9 million and 2.4 years average contract length. Assuming the league discipline he faces results in a suspension of less than 4 games, I’d gladly pay $21.2 million to keep a dual catching and rushing threat like Bell. DeMarco Murray on the Eagles is another situation that I like. Surely his volume will come down from last year and the offensive line in Philly isn’t what he had in Dallas, but Murray certainly would be worth consideration for the franchise tag. I’d probably lean against the move because the team still brought in Ryan Mathews as well and $21.2 million is too high to pay for what may amount to a running back in some form of a rushing timeshare and a third-down back in Darren Sproles in place as well.

Eddie Lacy and Marshawn Lynch are the other two running backs who fit the bill as one year type guys who can produce heavily. Lacy is probably on rookie deals in most leagues, so I doubt he’d be available to use the franchise tag on. Lynch is the ideal franchise back- someone who gets good volume, is a go-to player in the red zone, and plays in pain. Plus, he’s on a one-year NFL deal for all intents and purposes and you wouldn’t want to risk additional RSO years on him. Simply put, pay the man the franchise tag!

I like Arian Foster’s productivity, but his injury history makes me skittish on using the franchise tag on him, especially at $21.2 million. I’d try to get him cheaper in free agency on a one-year deal. C.J. Anderson is probably someone else I’d roll the dice with in free agency just in case a coaching change leads to Anderson not being the man. All accounts are that he will be the lead back, but Denver has a stable of talented running backs and the ones who pass protect for Peyton Manning will get the most run.

Lastly, while Lamar Miller certainly figures to be a trendy pick this year to increase his production, based on his age and skill set, I like him more as a multi-year contract signing as opposed to using the franchise tag on him.

Again, your league dynamics matter. If 7 of the top 10 running back scorers from 2014 are free agents like in my league, I’d strategically use the franchise tag asset elsewhere. Remember, due to their short NFL shelf lives, the window to grab running backs and expect optimal production is from their rookie season through age 26 or 27, even though most experts cite age 30 as when running backs fall off the cliff. So using the franchise tag on a running back may be the perfect stopgap to committing to a potential decline.

Wide Receivers

Player Average Salary 2015 Franchise Tag Cost % Cap
Ca. Johnson $24,748,605 $29,698,326 20.7%
Green $22,938,371 $27,526,046 19.2%
D. Thomas $20,901,796 $25,082,155 17.5%
Ju. Jones $20,626,900 $24,752,280 17.3%
D. Bryant $20,606,394 $24,727,672 17.3%
Top 5 Average $21,964,413

To me, wide receiver is the position that a platform like Reality Sports Online is all about. You want these playmakers locked up as your premium assets, especially as the NFL is a passing league. The highest positional average of $22.0 million reflects that wide receivers are at a premium in RSO leagues. The names in the table above show exactly why as all five of these receivers are as relevant today as when they were originally signed to contracts. They are all worth the franchise tag designation if you have them.

The thing is- so are several wide receivers who aren’t on this list of Top 5 guys. I wouldn’t bat an eyelash franchising the ever consistent Antonio Brown or Jordy Nelson at $22.0 million if they were expiring from my team last season. However, that is probably where I’d draw the line on the franchise tag between those two receivers and the ones in the table.

You certainly could debate tagging receivers like Alshon Jeffery and Randall Cobb. Frankly, I like Jeffery more as a multi-year play and Cobb too for that matter. If you see value in both, you’ll want to ride out their expected production over multiple seasons and not just one. As I mentioned before, I don’t expect Cobb to score 12 touchdowns again as he’s due for some type of red zone regression. I know how valuable he is in creating mismatches and how Rodgers had the best passer rating of any QB-WR combo when he threw to Cobb. $22.0 million is just a lot to pay to a slot receiver and if I’m thinking about that, I might as well have him longer than a year.

As the wide receiver pool is fairly deep and the one that has the least risk in the rookie draft, several elite type wide receivers are locked up on contracts, so if you have any of the nine wide receivers I mentioned on expiring deals, you’d certainly have to think long and hard about what to do with them. At the same time, if you had the unique option of choosing to franchise tag an elite wide receiver or elite running back at similar cap hits, I think you’d have to go with the receiver nine times out of ten because of the scarcity of elite wide receivers not on contract in RSO leagues.

Tight Ends

Player Average Salary 2015 Franchise Tag Cost % Cap
J. Graham $21,297,379 $25,556,855 17.8%
J. Thomas $13,919,621 $16,703,545 11.7%
Gronkowski $13,115,578 $15,738,694 11.0%
Cameron $6,692,963 $12,342,597 8.6%
V. Davis $6,687,446 $12,342,597 8.6%
Top 5 Average $12,342,597

Tight end is a very interesting position for analyzing to use the franchise tag. Your league dynamics will dictate market prices and some leagues may see some seriously depressed prices for tight ends. This means that if you are in the right league, franchising a tight end could be a strategic move that really helps your team.

First, let’s get the easy and obvious out of the way. If you have Rob Gronkowski on a multi-year deal that is expiring (his system wide averages were 2.3 years and $13.1 million per year), spend the $15.8 million (likely the 120% raise category) and franchise tag him. I’m in this exact scenario and practically at the same money and unless Gronk tears his ACL walking down the red carpet at the Entourage movie premiere or breaks his wrist playing beer pong with sorority girls this summer, I’m going to wait out the summer and use the franchise tag on him in August before our league rookie draft.

The thought with Gronk is this- you took a risk on him two years ago when he was coming back from multiple surgeries, so you may have paid less for him than you otherwise would have. You weathered a few injuries and last year he dominated for you. There is no way you let that domination and point differential at the position go when you have a series of two one-year options on him at below market prices. Plus, with Gronk’s injury history, you probably don’t want to commit to him long term anyways.

With respect to the others in the table- Jimmy Graham is someone that has more NFL value in Seattle than fantasy value and at $25.6 million you throw him back into the pond. Julius Thomas’ RSO contract reflects Broncos tight end value and he’s no longer a Bronco. No way are you spending $16.7 million on him. I wouldn’t pay the $12.3 million tag prices for the oft-injured Jordan Cameron or unproductive and unmotivated Vernon Davis.

Further the only other tight end that I’d pay $12.3 million for that hasn’t been mentioned yet is Travis Kelce, who was quietly very good last season and was actually limited in use due to his coming back from microfracture knee surgery. Without the kid gloves on this season, I expect huge things from Kelce. Greg Olsen (1.4 years average, $3.9 million annual average) is coming off a huge season, but I can’t justify more than $8.0 million on him and even that makes me a little nervous.

If your league dynamics are good and franchising a tight end like Owen Daniels or Antonio Gates is an option at between $2.0-$4.0 million, go for it. Otherwise, look to pick up someone in free agency.

Defenses/Special Teams

Player Average Salary 2015 Franchise Tag Cost % Cap
Seahawks $4,458,064 $5,349,677 3.7%
49ers $2,578,016 $3,093,619 2.2%
Panthers $2,347,314 $2,816,777 2.0%
Bengals $1,676,682 $2,524,468 1.8%
Cardinals $1,562,263 $2,524,468 1.8%
Top 5 Average $2,524,468

I’ll admit it: last year I franchised the Seahawks DST. I’d do it again if the market dynamics were right. However, if RSO league averages follow suit, I can’t justify spending $5.4 million on the Seahawks DST for 2015. They simply have too many injuries to start the season in the secondary and that cap figure is too high considering what defenses you can stream that would be effective. You also could probably get an expiring good defense in the free agency auction for less and only the Seahawks and 49ers had multi-year average contracts averaging 1.5 years. This means that almost every defense should be available in your auction unless your league behavior runs counter to the average RSO league.

In fact, the only team in this table I’d use the franchise tag on is potentially the Cardinals at $2.5 million as the 49ers had too many retirements, the Panthers price is based on 2013 success, and the Bengals flat out weren’t good last year. Once you get beyond $3.0 million for a defense you are overpaying for a commoditized position that fluctuates wildly from year to year. Free agency also has plenty of movement that impacts which defenses are good from one year to the next.

League dynamics could make the franchise tag on a defense very compelling, especially if you feel good about your starting lineup and defensive fantasy points are worth a lot in your league. When the only thing between you and league domination is using $1.0-$3.0 million to franchise tag a team like the Houston Texans, make it happen. If your league overprices the skill positions and the only positions you could fathom spending the money on the franchise tag on is a defense or a kicker, it may not be sexy, but you might as well use your franchise tag like an asset.

Kickers

I’m not going to throw in a table because some of the kickers on this list aren’t even NFL starters. However, if you can justify spending between $1.0 million and $1.2 million on a kicker at most and have someone you consider reliable with absolutely no other positions to use the franchise tag on, consider using it on your kicker, because why not? Now, I’m not advocating you bending the rules and trying to franchise tag a kicker you picked up for your playoff run for a pro-rated salary. Most leagues should have a minimum $500,000 contract value and no kicker should be allowed to be franchise tagged for less than the league minimum.

Hopefully this is helpful. My guess is your offseason is just underway, so no need to make any uninformed, rash decisions. You can find me on Twitter @mattgoody2.

Free Agent Frenzy

Updated: April 21st 2015

Last week I opened up our offseason strategy series with Top 5 Offseason Questions, which hopefully you’ve read by now. It took a high level look into how you can best assess your Reality Sports Online team as the league offseason is now underway. After one of the craziest weeks of free agency ever and NFL General Managers acting like fantasy football owners at the trading deadline, moving star players around like they were football cards, I figure we should analyze the potential fantasy impact of new landscapes for key fantasy players and other players in those offenses.

I won’t get into players who stayed with their current teams, because we are fairly familiar with what type of production you can expect in those landscapes, although I’m sure many Randall Cobb owners are among the happiest during the free agent period based on him staying with the Packers very productive offense.

1) Jimmy Graham Gets Traded to Seahawks

Of all the days I ended up being away from Twitter for a few hours, I picked a day where NFL GM’s were acting like people selling Frozen Concentrated Orange Juice on the trading floor in Trading Places. I think at one point the internet may have broken when it was announced that the Seattle Seahawks traded Max Unger and the 31st pick overall to the New Orleans Saints for Jimmy Graham and a 4th round pick. The move helps the Saints cap wise as Graham was on a 4-year, $40 million contract signed in 2014 , but leaves a big void by virtue of getting rid of Drew Brees‘ biggest and best target, especially in the red zone.

Seahawks Impact: The Seahawks have been one of the most run heavy teams in the NFL the past three years. That doesn’t figure to change, although having Graham will certainly change the matchup possibilities. Seattle was clamoring for a red zone threat who could win balls in the end zone and in traffic. Graham is that guy, but not someone who is going to cut into Marshawn Lynch’s touchdowns much (maybe Russell Wilson’s rushing touchdowns a bit). Expect the touchdown totals to be down around 8-10 per year and 1,000 yards receiving to be a stretch. I’d move Graham down into a tight end tier with Greg Olsen and a few others. From an RSO standpoint, his average contract of 2.7 years and $57.5 million (average of $21.3 million) is probably about $10.0 million more than you’d want to be spending in the Free Agency Auction Room if he was a free agent in your league. If you can move him and get appropriate value, it may be worth it.

The biggest impact is that this should significantly propel Wilson as a passer. I’d move him into Top 5 quarterback status, passing Drew Brees on the way by virtue of the subtraction of Graham. The Graham acquisition really opens up the middle of the field on intermediate routes with solid depth where the Seahawks like to operate, and also takes the burden off of Lynch a bit. At the end of the day, the Seahawks are still a run first team, but Graham can create big matchup problems (especially in division as teams like the Cardinals don’t perform well versus the position), and this could open up even more zone-read for Wilson. I’m thinking his passing numbers will increase and you may see his first 4,000 passing yard season and his passing touchdowns will be up at the expense of his rushing touchdowns, which one could argue his 2014 total of six rushing touchdowns are headed for statistical regression anyways. If you own Wilson at his average contract of 2.2 years and $16.3 million (average of $7.5 million), you should be getting a great value this year and can improve the other aspects of your team by virtue of having a potential Top 5 quarterback on an amazing contract.  If you are prospecting on any quarterbacks this offseason, I’d have to imagine Wilson would be at the top of your list.

Saints Impact: On the flip side, the Saints re-signing Mark Ingram to a 4 year, $16.0 million deal with $7.6 million guaranteed and making this trade points to them being more of a running team going forward (also added C.J. Spiller)  especially with Unger as their new center. Based on age and losing Graham and Pierre Thomas essentially for cap reasons, I would downgrade Brees to between the 5-7 range among quarterbacks because losing 11.5 touchdowns a year out of Graham is tough to replace and now the team has traded Kenny Stills, there best vertical threat as well. Brees also showed a penchant for turning the ball over last season as well. If you have him and can trade him on name reputation, especially carrying a high-salary deal like the 2.2 years and $43.6 million (average of $19.9 million) deal, I think you would be wise to if you get value you are excited about. Do this especially if lots of quarterbacks figure to be free agents in your league this year as I’m sure you’d rather have Tony Romo for half the price of Brees. I obviously would upgrade Ingram on the Graham deal, but not crazily, in spite of him being a really efficient running back in 2014, he does have a long injury history.

The player I like to benefit most from the Graham trade is second year wide receiver Brandin Cooks. Look for Cooks to move all around in different formations and get a good share of the looks that were headed to Graham and Thomas. It is only a matter of time before Cooks becomes the Cobb of the Saints and if you are in a league where you get fantasy points for returns, he’ll add even more value for you. You probably nabbed him in last year’s rookie draft, as his average deal is 3.3 years and $15.1 million ($4.6 million average). Cooks’ value should be through the roof and I’d hold onto him unless you get a king’s ransom for him.

2) Buffalo Likes Its Sauce Shady Style and Eagles Poach Murray

We all knew that Chip Kelly wants to build his own team. He proved that last year by moving on from DeSean Jackson and cutting several players this offseason. However, we had no clue he’d be trading his star running back Lesean McCoy like two kids trading snack packs in their lunches for linebacker Kiko Alonso.

Bills Impact: Coach Rex Ryan gets a bell-cow for his beloved run game. The team clearly valued McCoy by giving him a new deal for 5 years and $40 million with $26.1m guaranteed after the trade. The 26 year old running back has plenty of tread left on his tires, but is coming off a year where his numbers were significantly down, especially in the receiving game. McCoy has a tendency to not be patient and hit the right holes sometimes which limited him in 2014. That said, he still had over 1,300 yards rushing and 5 touchdowns in a down year. Expect Buffalo to run a-plenty in 2015, including using veteran Fred Jackson as well. I think Jackson will still be a big factor in the receiving game. McCoy’s value was obviously higher as an Eagle (2.6 years and $64.7 million, or $25.2 million average). If you can trade him and use the cap space you got to get a younger player with upside, it may be worthwhile and I certainly wouldn’t give him more than $15.0 million a year on a free agent deal, especially with a quarterback like Matt Cassel at the helm.

Eagles Impact: The team moved a high dollar cap contract and thought it was getting a replacement for McCoy in veteran Frank Gore, who ultimately ended up signing with the Indianapolis Colts. The Eagles offense is a bit in flux because it is uncertain whether Mark Sanchez or newly acquired Sam Bradford will be their quarterback and who he will throw to besides Jordan Matthews, who is someone I love this year.

However, this all changed when DeMarco Murray signed with the Eagles on a 5 year, $42.0 million deal with $21.0 million guaranteed on Thursday, shocking the football world, by not only leaving the Cowboys, but going to their division rival in the process. Murray now joins good friend and ex-college roommate Bradford in Philly. Murray had a ton of carries last year and the Eagles have their third down back solution already. I fail to see how but you pay his RSO 2.0 year, $27.0 million contract with a $13.6m annual average in such a crowded backfield, unless trader Chip has not finished making moves yet.

I’d be more on board with the move obviously if the Murray signing meant Ryan Mathews did not sign with the Eagles, however that’s a moot point now. Mathews signing with the Eagles is a better NFL move than a fantasy football one at 3 years, $11.5 million with $5.0 million guaranteed. While he’s been injury and fumble prone to say the least, Mathews also averaged 4.4 yards per carry in 2013 and 4.5 yards per carry in limited 2014 action. Mathews’ average RSO deal reflects his injury history at 1.6 years and $11.1 million ($7.2 million average), which is a lot of money for a backup to Murray.

The big question is what Dallas now does to replace Murray, and it seems like based on cost and availability the team should look to the first round of the NFL Draft to nab their bell-cow. Todd Gurley is personally my favorite running back in the draft by a wide margin (think Lynch with more speed) and worth the injury wait and Melvin Gordon would look nice in the Big D as well.

3) Orange Julius Changes His Color

One can’t help but think that if Julius Thomas was writing thank you notes after getting a big new job in Jacksonville, the first one would be to Peyton Manning for turning him into a touchdown machine the past two years. Thomas cashed in on his 24 touchdowns in 27 games by signing a huge 5 year, $46.0 million deal with $24.0 million guaranteed.

Jaguars Impact: I like giving second year quarterback Blake Bortles a security blanket in the red zone. The team just has to get their first and it would be naive to think that Thomas will come close to double digit touchdowns in Jacksonsville as the pass-catching tight-end. He has great hands, but needs to avoid persistent ankle injuries to live up to the value of his deal. Thomas’ 1. 8 years and $25.4 million ($13.9 million average) should be cut in half or by two-thirds for being in the Jaguars offense relative to the Broncos offense. His volume should increase, but the value of his touchdowns in Denver will be really hard to replicate in Jacksonville, at least the next two years, especially if he can’t stay healthy.

Broncos Impact: Many of Manning’s tight-ends have been the product of his confidence in them and the system. Tight end Virgil Green is a super-cheap sleeper option in your auction. He’s noted as a good blocker as well, which should keep him on the field and in Manning’s good graces. Owen Daniels was a sneaky signing (3 years, $12.0 million) for the Broncos who had success under Gary Kubiak in both Houston and Baltimore. I imagine that will be even more pronounced with Manning and if you are in a league where someone kept him (average deal was 1.0 year for $1.1 million), I really like Daniels as a buy-low and ride high guy.

4) The Colts Get Some Vets

It became clear in the playoffs that the Indianapolis Colts were on the brink of becoming a contender for the AFC Championship every year. Improving on offense was a priority, especially at running back. The Colts did one better. Not only did they pry Gore away from the Eagles to replace a horrid Trent Richardson in the backfield, but they also signed wide receivers Andre Johnson and Duron Carter to provide two huge targets for all-world quarterback Andrew Luck to throw to in addition to T.Y. Hilton, while the team cut veteran Reggie Wayne.

Colts Impact: These veteran signings increase the stock of Luck the most and signing Todd Herremans on the offensive line should be big too. He’d be a top three QB option anyways, but you have to salivate at Johnson getting two shots a year at the Texans as well. Johnson never has been a great red zone receiver (last season with 8 or more touchdowns was 2010), but he can win in the middle more than Wayne can at this point and had 85 receptions and almost 1,000 yards in a down year with a terrible quarterback situation last year. Carter, the son of Hall of Famer Cris Carter, is a project, but provides a huge 6’5″ target for Luck, along with Donte Moncrief, who showed some flashes in an inconsistent rookie season. Johnson’s $9.6 million average on a 1.5 average deal length is more than I’d pay at this point, but it will be interesting to see how he extends his career with Luck.

The Gore signing is better from an NFL perspective than a fantasy one. I think he could score 8-10 touchdowns if given the lead-back role, but at his age, you aren’t counting on him for a multi-year deal or either trading him or trading for him.

5) Jeremy Maclin’s Homecoming

Once Cobb announced early in free agency that he’d return to the Packers, Jeremy Maclin became the prized piece for free agent wide receivers. In a move that probably shocked nobody, Maclin agreed to a 5 year, $55.0 million deal with $22.5 million guaranteed with his former coach Andy Reid and the Kansas City Chiefs. For Maclin it is a homecoming to rejoin Reid and because the St. Louis native went to the University of Missouri. Maclin figures to bolster a receiving corps that had zero wide receiver touchdowns in 2014, compared to Maclin’s 10 touchdowns.

Chiefs Impact: Tough to say because quarterback Alex Smith is a known dinker and dunker. With Travis Kelce emerging at the tight end position, the signing of Maclin was a necessary move, even at high dollars for a receiver that only has cracked 1,000 receiving yards last year (85 receptions for 1,318 yards) and already missed the 2013 season with a torn ACL. Maclin’s injury and free agent status seem to be priced into his 2014 contract values from RSO auctions as his average deal is for 1.7 years and $7.0 million, or an average of $4.2 million. If you own a deal like that, you stick as Maclin should be the focal point of the Chiefs passing game. If you believe Maclin will still be a 1,000 yard and 8 touchdown guy for the Chiefs, you should pursue offseason deals for him as he’s very familiar with Reid’s offense and is a pro’s pro.

6) Other Notes

I think Nick Foles can be a solid starter in St. Louis and love the idea of two teams swapping potential starting quarterbacks in a fantasy-football like deal, but I’m not sure I’m thrilled about paying him $7.8 million annually. Bradford, who he got traded for has too long a history of injuries and inability to hit on big plays for my liking, so I’m staying away from him. Shane Vereen signing with the Giants benefits nobody in the backfield, but should be a significant upgrade for Eli Manning as a pass-catching running back. I’m not afraid to call Eli a sleeper with the weapons he has and I’d gladly pay his 1.2 year contract for $2.8 million ($2.4 million average) even in a backup capacity. The Ndamukong Suh signing in Miami figures to give the team a monstrous front four, but I still think the Miami defense is no better than a fringe top-ten option. I like the potential impact Trent Cole can have on the Indy defense.

That’s all for now, folks, but we’ll continue this throughout the offseason. You can find me on Twitter @mattgoody2