FA Expectancy: Marshall & Decker

Updated: July 24th 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.

Like the Raiders of the 2000’s, the Jets might be the worst place for NFL talent to go this decade. Despite having career years in 2015 Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker were unable to propel the Jets back to playoffs for the first time since 2010. Then last year, an injury ended Decker’s season before October and Marshall’s stats came crashing back down due to the poor quarterback play of Ryan Fitzpatrick, Geno Smith and Bryce Petty. Both receivers were released and the Jets are once again in rebuilding mode. Both players are over 30 years old now (Decker 30, Marshall 33) but still have fantasy value for the right price and while the Jets are expected to have an awful record they do have some interesting young receivers that could benefit from garbage time points and be savvy plays week to week.

Marshall to New York 2.0

It made sense that Brandon Marshall would want to stay in New York with his frequent appearances on Inside the NFL and luckily the Giants are trying to keep their playoff window open. Therefore, it was a mutually beneficial acquisition. The Giants are looking to build on their playoff appearance last year but needed more than just Odell Beckham Jr. to beat the Falcons, Packers, Seahawks, and Cowboys. Marshall is no stranger to playing in an offense that features a #1 and 1A receiver, though he’s usually been the first option so it will be interesting to see what his role will be as the #2. There shouldn’t be a decline in production from Odell’s standpoint and much like Mike Evans the addition of another passing option should help keep safeties from shading one side of the field. Expect another top 10 fantasy production season in 2017.

Probably the player that has been most affected by this addition is sophomore receiver Sterling Shepard who looked like he may be coming into his own during the final games of last season. While the Giants have been one of the more consistent teams to run 3 WR sets their WR3 the last two seasons has not been fantasy relevant scoring only 101 PPR points. Shepard may be one of the better buy-low candidates because of his long term upside but for RSO owners it would be difficult without there being an injury to Marshall. Because of the RSO rookie contract format, he was likely a 1st round rookie pick last year which means that he will be under contract for as long as Marshall is in town. He may have the opportunity to regain his WR2 role after 2 years but then he will be back in your auction in 2018 or 2019. If you think he will be a great receiver moving into the next decade or you do not trust Marshall to stay healthy he should be easy to acquire. It will also be unlikely that he asks for a large salary with the new resign feature so it would be possible to hold him for another 5-7 years. Otherwise, if you drafted him last year and you want to have value now it’s probably best to get at least a 2nd round return for him before he loses more value.

Eli Manning should benefit from having another weapon to get the ball to in the end zone as they lacked a running game to finish off drives last year. Marshall has been one of the better targets in the end zone having 8 or more touchdowns 4 out of the last 5 years. Any given week Manning has the upside to be a QB1 but often manages to disappoint owners in easy matchups and therefore can be a headache to start. There are several other QBs that would cost the same or slightly less (Taylor, Rivers, Stafford) that I would rather pick up in the auction. Let others be frustrated with the highs and lows a typical Eli season.

Decker’s Move to the Music City

Decker Titans

Much like Marshall’s ties to New York, it made sense that Eric Decker would move to Nashville to be closer to the country music scene where his wife, country singer Jessie James works. It probably also helped that the Titans are shaping up to be a pretty good team in the AFC South and could be the sleeper team to win the division this season.

There are two pressing questions that are holding down Decker’s fantasy value for owners in 2017. The first is his health and whether at 30 years old he will be able to continue to play at a high level coming off of shoulder and hip surgeries. Adam Schefter reported that he was medically cleared back in June and the Titans would have done their due diligence before signing him. Still, they only signed him to a one year deal which could suggest that he was brought in to see what’s left and act more as a mentor to their young receiving core of Corey Davis, Taywon Taylor, and Tajae Sharpe.

The second question is what Decker’s role will be in the “smashmouth” offense of Head Coach Mike Mularkey and whether Corey Davis/Rishard Matthews can be the primary receiver. When Decker was able to operate as the second option behind Demaryius Thomas (2012, 2013) and Brandon Marshall (2015) he was able to take advantage of the coverage and averaged 84 catches, 1100 yards and 12 touchdowns in those three seasons. His 2014 season with the Jets he had to function as the primary receiver and he only had 5 touchdowns and less than 1,000 yards. In an offense that has two powerful redzone RBs and another receiver (Matthews) that also operates as a redzone threat, it might be difficult for Decker to accumulate the scores that he has been known to do over the last 5 seasons. Luckily, no one should be drafting Decker to expect his 2012-2013 stats but his 2015 season (less a few touchdowns) could be a reasonable expectation. He presents WR2 upside so he should be a value in auctions between $4-8MM. Just don’t get carried away and offer more than 1 year as we don’t know what his situation will be this time next year.

Low Flying Jets

The Jets cleaned house after a 4-12 season letting go of several key players on both sides of the ball. The team is unlikely to have a lot of wins in 2017 but luckily for fantasy, there are always garbage points. With the top two options gone the depth chart is also wide open for a receiver to accumulate these points. Quincy Enunwa is thought to be the first choice for fantasy owners as he played the most snaps last year of the remaining receivers and he showed fantasy value for deeper leagues. He has the size and athleticism (6’2”, 225lbs) that you would want from an X receiver which is where most people think he fits best. Playing opposite to Marshall last season he didn’t have to face many double teams and blanket coverages which could be a problem if he is unable to win off the line or create space for himself. WR3 is probably a ceiling for Enunwa but he also has the highest floor of any Jet receivers. I acquired him in my first auction of the season for $14MM/4yr and he earned $17.5MM/3yr in my home league. I expect at least one owner in each league to value him in about this range. Depending on how late in your auction he is nominated he may go for even less.

For those who don’t want to spend the same money on Enunwa, you can add Robby Anderson who I also got at the end of the auction for $1MM. Anderson is the opposite of Enunwa, a lighter receiver (190lbs) that is likely going to be playing mostly out of the slot. Depending on whether the QB that wins the starting job likes to press the ball downfield or wants to throw short, underneath routes will likely determine whether Anderson has any fantasy value in 2017. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Jets games where Anderson gobbles up curl and drag route catches in the 4th quarter to turn 3 point games into 10 point games in PPR. Predicting these games will require a little bit of luck but for what is essentially a free player you can see what he has and then move on during the season if need be.

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? Leave me a message on Twitter @naandrews19.

More Analysis by Nick Andrews

Cap Analysis: Giants

Updated: February 29th 2016

New York Giants

Trending: Flat →

Just like two teams we have already covered (Titans; Buccaneers), the Giants decided to promote from within making former offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo a first-time head coach. There has been some confusion about his staff – the media quoted him as saying “This is a new staff…nobody was retained, there were no holdovers; everyone was hired.” The quote is accurate, but the context was lost – thirteen coaches on his staff were with the Giants last season. I’m fairly certain he was just trying to say that nobody was “kept” and he created his staff from scratch, with coaches from the previous season’s staff getting the opportunity to interview for and earn a spot on his staff.

While I think McAdoo is an excellent offensive coordinator, I am not certain he’ll be an elite head coach. I think the Giants, like the Bucs with Dirk Koetter, felt obligated to promote him or lose him. I think the team accurately assessed that it was time to end the Tom Coughlin era, but the Eli Manning era will continue through at least 2019, when he’s scheduled to become a free agent. It feels like the team went halfway on the changes – new coach, but from the same staff, and with the same franchise quarterback. The big differences between the Giants and the Bucs situation are that the Bucs have a young core, are trending up, and have a long runway – the Giants are not really built to win now, or later.

Projected 2016 Team Salary$107.6M (not including escalators and NLTBE* incentives) *Not Likely To Be Earned

Projected 2016 Cap Room: ~$58.87M (~$155.27M Estimate; ~$11.2M Rollover)

Situation: Weak 

For a team with almost $59M available to spend, the Giants are not necessarily in a great position, because they have so many holes they need to fill. The Giants are in the least desirable place to be in any sport with a salary cap – the middle. The Giants have only won more than nine games once in the last seven seasons, in 2010. That also means that they haven’t won more than nine games in any of the last five seasons. They snuck in a Super Bowl win during the 2011 season, in which they went 9-7. If not for the Super Bowl victory, Tom Coughlin likely would have been gone four years ago.

Notable Free Agents:

Giants FAs

This is the deepest list of free agents of any of the teams we have evaluated so far, and it might turn out to be the deepest list of all 32 teams. Some of these are by the Giants own doing – they released Will Beatty and Geoff Schwartz, and Jon Beason retired (rather than be released).

Jason Pierre-Paul produced only one sack in eight games, but despite his club-hand, I’m not convinced he won’t return to form (note that I chose to go double-negative here, because I’m also not convinced he will return to form). Between Pierre-Paul, Robert Ayers, Cullen Jenkins, George Selvie, and Markus Kuhn, the Giants are losing the majority of their front four rotation.

Prince Amukamara hasn’t lived up to the lofty expectations the Giants had for him, but serviceable corners don’t grow on trees and he’ll have suitors in free agency. On top of losing Amukamara in the secondary, the Giants third and fourth corners (Trumaine McBride; Jayron Hosley), and top strong safeties (Craig Dahl; Brandon Meriweather), are also free agents.

Reuben Randle won’t be 25 until May. The Giants would surely like to keep him, but they have a sizeable investment in Victor Cruz, and are a year out from having to negotiate with Odell Beckham. The team has Beckham under contract through 2018 (with the fifth year option), but he and his agent won’t be pleased with his $1.84M 2017 base salary, especially if Cruz and Randle are making two-four times as much.

Top Projected Cap Hits:

Giants Proj Cap Hits

With only three players costing more than $5M in 2016, this is the shortest list we have seen and is likely to be the shortest list we will see for any of the teams. It could get even shorter if the Giants decide to release or restructure Victor Cruz. DRC had a strong year in 2015, but there’s a reason he has changed teams three times in four years. If he’s your second corner, you’re in great shape – if he’s the best corner on your roster by far, the outlook isn’t quite as strong.

Cap Casualty Watch List:

Giants Cap Cas

The Giants do not want Victor Cruz accounting for nearly $10M of their team salary. However, if they wanted to create $6.1M in space by releasing him, they probably would have done so when they purged the law firm of Beason, Beatty, and Schwartz. The challenge with releasing Cruz is that he would still count for $3.8M against the cap, and if Rueben Randle leaves via free agency the Giants would be thin at the position. I think the Giants will ultimately be able to restructure with Victor Cruz to lower his cap charge, but it could end in divorce.

Extension Watch List: 

Giants Ext Watch List

The Giants have the ability to exercise the fifth year option for Justin Pugh, pushing his free agency to March 2018. Before his pectoral injury, Johnathan Hankins was the best, and most consistent player on the Giants 2015 defensive line. Even though Hankins did not produce a single sack in nine games after recording seven in 2014, the team will likely try to keep him around.

Position Needs: 

A bunch: right tackle, wide receiver, defensive tackle, defensive end, corner, safety.

Sleeper Watch: 

Will Tye looked impressive in multiple games as a 24-year old undrafted rookie, and I think he has the potential be the Giants feature tight end for years to come.

Matt Papson (@RealitySportsMP) formerly worked in football administration for the Philadelphia Eagles. He is the President, co-founder and creator of Reality Sports Online, a fantasy front office platform that enables fantasy owners to build and manage their fantasy team like a professional sports general manager. The Reality Sports Online platform has been featured in Fortune, on Bloomberg TV, and was the 2012 Fantasy Sports Trade Association Rookie of the Year.

Sources: Spotrac, Pro-Football Reference, and Rotoworld

More Analysis by Matt Papson