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Kirk Cousins headlines fantasy free agent intrigue


Life, liberty and the pursuit of a multi-year contract that offers career stability, financial security and (ideally) the chance to chase a Lombardi Trophy. It's as American as drinking an extra large spiced latte while firing off half-baked internet takes on the validity of a Roseanne reboot and screaming at the idiot in front of you to "get out of the !&$^@# fast lane if you're only going to drive 55 miles an hour."

Sorry ... where was I? Anyway, #FreeAgentSzn will be upon us in short order. Time to fire up the Magic 8 Ball and see what the fantasy football future could hold for some of the top talents expected to hit the market this spring. Also, I told the barista I didn't need room for milk. Why is there so much space in my cup?

This is where I'd like to see players end up for fantasy purposes, not a prediction of where they actually will land. Results of the Magic 8-Ball are non-binding (lest one of you out there sends this thing to @OldTakesExposed). This piece will be updated as more players become available or get signed.

Le'Veon Bell, RB

Like a bill collector demanding payment, Bell has set a February 20 deadline to have a new contract. Like a customer between paydays, the Steelers are saying they'll definitely get around to it ... just give them a little extra time. (NFL owners! They're just like us!)

Honestly, short of some major front office malpractice, I expect Bell to be plying his trade at Heinz Field during the 2018 season. We could do a dance and try to find a potential fit elsewhere. Some team with a ton of salary cap space and a need at running back. But can we truly imagine Le'Veon Bell taking handoffs with the 49ers, Browns or Jets? Well, we know that last one is pretty much out.

Best fit: FWIW, the Magic 8-Ball said "it is certain" that Bell will be back in the Steel City next year. I don't imagine many people are inclined to disagree. If you do, keep it to yourself. Let's just move on, shall we?

Sam Bradford, QB

After seven seasons and multiple major knee injuries, it's safe to say that Bradford's best days are behind him. But his 2016 run in Minnesota offered a glimpse of what might have been and what still could be. Nonetheless, the market for a soon-to-be 31-year-old quarterback with more bad knees than 4,000-yard passing seasons is likely to be pretty thin. At least if that quarterback wants starter-type money.

There is definitely a scenario in which Bradford could return for another go-round with the Vikings. Considering their supporting cast, that's not even a little bit terrible. But with the Cardinals in desperate need of a quarterback and not heavily projected to go after one of the top QBs in the first round, it wouldn't be a surprise to see the Redbirds make a run at Sammy Sleeves. It wouldn't be a terrible landing spot -- though it would help if Arizona could find some receiving help to complement the aging (though seemingly ageless) Larry Fitzgerald.

Best fit: I asked the Magic 8-Ball whether Arizona would be a better fit than Minnesota. The answer was "Very doubtful" and I'm inclined to agree. Even with David Johnson back and healthy, the Cardinals offense could be wandering in the desert (pun intended) for some time. So ... Skol!

Drew Brees, QB

Brees has spent the past 12 seasons slinging footballs in the Saints' black and gold. Now that the 39-year-old quarterback is about to hit free agency, he's expressed his desire to return to the Big Easy to finish out his career.

There have been contentious contract negotiations between the two sides in the past but all signs point to player and team figuring out a way to make this happen. Not to mention that there doesn't seem to be another fit that would get us fired up fantasy-wise. Do we really need to spend a whole long time on this? No. No, we don't.

Best fit: I asked the M8B if Brees would be back in New Orleans next year. The answer? "You may rely on it." I think we're done here.

Rex Burkhead, RB

For anyone who was tired of 2017's near-constant "Rex GOAThead" blasts, I'll do my best to spare you from any such hyperbole in the next couple of paragraphs. Burkhead had settled into a nice role with the Patriots and was mostly productive when he was on the field, especially later in the season.

The good news for Burkhead is that his skill set makes him a pretty enviable addition to nearly any offense. The bad news is that he's not good enough at any one thing to be more than a complementary back in any offense. That's not especially damning considering the dearth of workhorse backs around the league. We know what Burkhead can be in New England so a return wouldn't be the worst thing in the world. But it would be nice to see him in a place where he could be more of a focal point.

It's tempting to wonder what Burkhead could do in a Detroit backfield that has been thirsting for anyone who can produce consistently. With the Doug Martin era likely over in Tampa, there will definitely be an opening. Or there's the deliciously diabolical idea of Burkhead moving within the division and replacing Matt Forte and/or Bilal Powell in the Jets backfield.

Best fit: The M8B says "it is decidedly so" that Burkhead should test the waters outside of New England. The chaos agent in me would love seeing him head to Gang Green as long as they can find someone to solidify the position. Matt Forte won't live forever.

Kirk Cousins, QB

Now that Mr. (Alex) Smith has gone to Washington, Mr. Cousins is going to have a find a new place to operate. The real football narrative around the soon-to-be-former Washington quarterback has turned him into some version of Schrödinger's quarterback -- both good and not good at the same time. There's little such debate in fantasy circles after Cousins finished as a top 10 signal-caller three years in a row. Alas, he'll need to figure out how to do that in a new location.

The early scuttlebutt has Cousins going to either the Jets or Broncos. Both rosters have similar strengths and weaknesses (good WRs, average RBs, suspect pass-blocking OLs) though one roster is a bit younger than the others -- especially at some of the skill positions.

Best fit: The M8B was no help on this one. (Where should Kirk Cousins go? "Cannot predict now." Thanks for nothing.) In that case, I'd love to see Cousins slinging it for Gang Green with Robby Anderson and a healthy Quincy Enunwa ... oh, and Rex Burkhead in the backfield. Let's do this.

Isaiah Crowell, RB

Remember when Isaiah Crowell was set to break out in 2017? If you consider an RB30 finish to be a breakout season, then you were totally right. The rest of us remain a little underwhelmed. Two touchdowns across a full campaign will do that to a person. Nonetheless, the Crow has been a reliable platoon back in his career averaging nearly 1,000 scrimmage yards per season. Alas, a platoon back is likely all he'll ever get the chance to be. But if it's outside of Cleveland, we might have something to work with.

The Lions could be a nice landing spot with Crowell providing the hammer to complement Theo Abdullah Ameer Riddick the team's pass-catching backs. The Giants have continually sought quality running backs but it's hard to imagine the new regime chasing a veteran running back that doesn't appear to be a major upgrade over anyone currently on the roster. If Rex Burkhead and Mike Gillislee get out of New England, Crowell feels like the kind of free agent signing Bill Belichick would pursue.

Best fit: I asked the Magic 8-Ball if Crowell should to go New England if given the chance. After a couple of "ask again later" responses, it spat out a "Yes, definitely". Who wouldn't want to play in New England? I mean, besides any of the Philadelphia Eagles. This time, I'm going to go against the M8B and put Crowell in the Motor City. With Matt Patricia as the head coach, the Lions could start to emphasize running and defense a little more, making Crowell a valuable part of the team's plans.

Tyler Eifert, TE

The story of Tyler Eifert's career has been written more on medical charts than stat sheets. A back injury was the latest physical calamity to befall the talented tight end, limiting him to just two games in the 2017 campaign. It marked the third time in five NFL seasons that Eifert appeared in eight or fewer games. And it seems to have pushed Bengals management to the end of its rope.

Fantasy owners can attest to how few productive pass-catching tight ends there are around the league, meaning Eifert is likely to have plenty of suitors on the open market. If Rob Gronkowski really does decide to retire, the Patriots are an intriguing destination. With Jimmy Graham headed to free agency, Seattle could be another nesting spot. Unless the Cardinals are truly sold on Ricky Seals-Jones, they could stand to upgrade at the position, though who the quarterback is will matter a lot.

Best fit: When asked about Eifert going to New England, the Magic 8-Ball hit me with a very cryptic "Better not tell you now". If not now, M8B, when? I don't really have time for this. If Eifert can stay healthy, he can succeed just about anywhere. Still a big part of me would like to see if Eifert can have the kind of prosperity in Seattle that we once projected onto Graham.

Jimmy Graham, TE

*Tommy Wiseau voice* Oh hai, Jimmy Graham! That trade to Seattle never worked out the way most of us would have hoped. It seemed like every time we started to see the Graham that was so beastly in New Orleans for so many years, some injury or another misfortune would befall him and we'd be back to square one. Were it not for the 10 touchdowns he scored in 2017, the season would have been an unmitigated fantasy disaster.

With Graham set to turn 32 late in the 2018 season and having a litany of injuries in his history, it wouldn't be a surprise if the rebuilding Seahawks let him walk. As we discussed on the podcast, if that happens, just about every team in the NFL will beat a path to his doorstep ... for the right price, of course. There are a couple of teams in the division -- the 49ers and Rams -- that could certainly take an elevated interest. Look for the Patriots and Saints to possibly get involved. The Texans also offer an intriguing option with a healthy Deshaun Watson back under center.

Best fit: Can Jimmy Graham succeed with the Texans? "You may rely on it," says the 8-ball. Huzzah! Let's make this happen. Watson throwing the ball to DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller and a healthy Jimmy Graham could be the stuff of fantasy dreams. This is all I want for my birthday now.

Carlos Hyde, RB

Hyde did a good job of holding on to the 49ers' starting running back job all season despite constant chatter that the other rushers on the depth chart were coming for his gig. On top of it, Hyde played 16 games for the first time in his career and scored a career-best eight rushing touchdowns. That still might not be enough to keep him in the Bay Area.

If the Giants decide to take a quarterback with the No. 2 overall pick, Hyde could slide in as a free agent option to patch over Big Blue's backfield woes. The Buccaneers could certainly have a use for a back like (Florida native) Hyde to be a lead back ahead of Peyton Barber. It could be interesting to see the Ohio State product return to the Buckeye State to join the Browns.

Best fit: The Magic 8-Ball says it's "Very doubtful" that Hyde would end up with the Browns. While I would be a little surprised to see it, I wouldn't put it outside the realm of possibility. However, I'd prefer to see El Guapo take his talents to Tampa to join an offense that underperformed in 2017 but still has the makings of a productive outfit.

Case Keenum, QB

Before Nick Foles became the backup quarterback over whom the football cognoscenti swooned, there was Case Keenum. Keenum stepped in to take the reins of the Vikings offense after an injury to Sam Bradford and helped lead the team to the NFC Championship while thrilling fantasy enthusiasts as the QB14. Not bad for a guy that was scooped off the waiver wire in nearly every league.

The bad news is that after saving the Vikings' bacon in 2017, Keenum might not be in Minnesota's 2018 plans. At best, he could be re-signed and thrown into a competition with some combination of Sam Bradford and/or Teddy Bridgewater. With his former offensive coordinator, Pat Shurmur, running things for the Giants, Keenum could head to the Big Apple -- though a QB competition with Eli Manning would be in the offing. The Cardinals could offer Keenum the chance to be a starter and while he wouldn't have the same level of talent among his pass-catchers, the Larry Fitzgerald-David Johnson combo is still pretty good.

Best fit: The M8B has determined that Keenum will remain in the Twin Cities, saying "It is decidedly so" that the quarterback re-signs with the Vikings. That's cool but it means that he's not guaranteed to be a starter. For my own selfish purposes, I'd prefer seeing Keenum in the desert where he might be able to make more of an immediate fantasy impact.

Jarvis Landry, WR

Depending on how you feel about the format, Jarvis Landry either is the poster child for or against ponts per reception. While he set career-highs in receptions (112) and touchdowns (9), his 987 receiving yards were his worst since his rookie season. The relationship between Landry and head coach Adam Gase was strained, to say the least and there's a pretty good chance that the wideout could end up elsewhere.

However, let's imagine for a moment that Landry returns to south Florida. We've seen that show before and while the overall numbers turn out to be respectable, the week-to-week is a frustrating exercise for a player who makes a living catching extended handoffs. The Ravens are expected to make a push to sign Landry which could add a new wrinkle to Baltimore's passing game, though it might not change Landry's role very much. Landry should also consider flying north for the winter and joining a Bills team in dire need of playmaking receivers.

Best fit: Will Jarvis Landry be in Miami next year? According to the M8B, "my sources say no." Sorry 'bout your luck, Adam Gase. But for real, I still think Miami would be the best spot for Landry in 2018, especially if his usage resembles what we saw last year. Why mess up a (semi) good thing?

Dion Lewis, RB

Not that long ago, we were praising Dion Lewis as the man who slayed Belitricks. Fast-forward a couple of years and Lewis has become a productive piece in a crowded backfield. Though he has shown plenty of ability to change a game, his injury history (2017 was the first season in which he played 16 games) could play a factor in how much interest he draws. But a Swiss Army knife type running back will always be coveted in today's NFL.

Because of how the position is used and the number of talented backs coming out of college, Lewis could sit on the market for a bit. The best possible fit would be a return to New England but that is looking increasingly less likely. The next situation that jumps off the page would be in Seattle where Lewis' abilities as a pass-catcher could serve the offense well and give Russell Wilson another outlet when things break down. If Lewis has decided he's tired of winter, the Dolphins could easily find a role for him in their backfield.

Best fit: When asked if Lewis would be leaving New England, the trusty 8-Ball said "it is certain", which means it's been reading a lot of the same reports that the rest of us have. He might not be the type of bruising between-the-tackles runner that the Seahawks have craved ever since Marshawn Lynch left but his all-around skill set would work well in an offense predicated on the improvisational skills of its quarterback.

Josh McCown, QB

In my perfect imaginings, Josh McCown goes to trade shows and hands people a business card that says "Journeyman". It's how he's survived for so long in the NFL. It's also what made his big 2017 season such a surprise. Alas, it was cut short by injury, setting up a mystery about what's next for the soon-to-be 39-year-old signal-caller. McCown has given no indication that he plans to retire, in which case we wait to see where he'll be drawing a paycheck in 2018.

The biggest issue with free agent quarterbacks is that we're waiting to see what happens with Kirk Cousins before the rest of the market settles. The other issue is that few teams are in the market for an aging veteran who has been a career backup. Even fewer are interested in giving him a starting job. One of those teams could be the Jets who were understandably pleased with McCown's performance in 2017. Another could be the Cardinals, who seemed fully unprepared for Carson Palmer to retire and don't seem to have a clear plan for what to do next.

Best fit: "Yes" was the emphatic answer from the M8B when I asked if McCown should stay with the Jets. It seems that this lovable hunk of plastic and I are in lockstep here. With both Arizona and New York sitting a long day's journey into night away from Super Bowl contention, it makes sense to stay where he's already comfortable.

Terrelle Pryor, WR

If NFL Films were to make a video of Terrelle Pryor's 2017 season, the title would be "What Had Happened Was..." It was just that kind of year. Plenty of people saw the numbers Pryor posted in Cleveland with an underwhelming cast of quarterbacks and figured that he'd be that much better with a solid quarterback in Washington. Uh ... not so much. Pryor became a forgotten man in the offense and has almost certainly played his last down in the nation's capital.

Let's be honest, finding a good fantasy landing spot for Pryor isn't an easy task. He began his NFL career as a quarterback before changing positions in Year 3. Since then, he has just one season that was anything approaching "good" (the aforementioned 2016 campaign in Cleveland). The Colts aren't 100 percent solid at quarterback and could offer some targets but much of it depends on how their receiving corps stacks up in the offseason. Buffalo could allow him a chance to compete right away but have a big question mark under center. Nearly everywhere else feels like a poor fit.

Best fit: Thoroughly confounded by the situation, I asked the Magic 8-Ball if Terrelle Pryor even had a best fantasy fit. "Reply hazy, ask again later" was the response. Not even a novelty item manufactured in China can decipher the answer to this one. Does Buffalo work for everyone? It does? Cool.

Allen Robinson, WR

You might remember Allen Robinson from such things as Matt Harmon tweets or cursing out Blake Bortles. After a couple of nice seasons, he missed nearly all of 2017 with an ACL injury which certainly won't help him in free agent negotiations this spring. For his sake, the previous body of work speaks for itself.

The first and most obvious solution would be a return to Jacksonville. For all of the success the Jaguars had in 2017, the receiving corps wasn't exactly fearsome. Robinson would be a much-needed threat. Arizona would be another solid destination, especially if (say it with me) the QB situation can get figured out.

Best fit: Should Allen Robinson stay in Jacksonville? "Very doubtful" said the lightweight plastic pyramid that floated to the surface. And to that, I say ... nah. Who knows how much longer the Jaguars will allow Blake Bortles to run the offense but it seems as though he and Robinson found something a few seasons back. Why not let that continue?

Sammy Watkins, WR

Watkins' move to the west coast was a mixed bag. His eight receiving touchdowns nearly matched a career high while his reception and yardage totals were dangerously close to his career low. Even in one of the league's most productive offenses, Watkins never really found a groove. But his talent continues to make him a tantalizing prospect and one who could draw multiple offers this offseason.

The Rams would be foolish to let him walk away considering what they're currently building under Sean McVay. The trick is to get Watkins more involved next season. If he decides to leave La La Land, the Carolina Panthers could certainly use a deep threat for Cam Newton. The same could apply in Denver if the Broncos decide to part ways with Emmanuel Sanders. Or could he end up where he started with the Bills? You know what? Forget I said that.

Best fit: I could ask the 8-Ball if Watkins should stay in Los Angeles but I'm calling it myself and saying yes. Okay ... I'll ask. "My reply is no." Thanks for nothing, Magic 8-Ball.

Marcas Grant is a fantasy editor for and a man who understands how hard Olympic biathlon is but still really wishes it looked more like this. Tweet him your Winter Olympics wishes on Twitter @marcasg. If you read all of that, good for you. Follow him on Instagram and Snapchat (marcasg9), too.


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