Free agency (legal tampering) is underway and teams are making moves. All trades and signings can't be made official until March 13 at 4 pm EST, but plenty of dominoes have already fallen.
I'll keep this analysis thread open all week, so make sure you have it bookmarked:
Ryan Tannehill traded to Titans (March 15)
The Dolphins have moved on from Ryan Tannehill and found a suitor willing to take on his contract. Tannehill restructured his deal last season, converting a chunk of his 2019 salary into a 2018 signing bonus. Reports are sparse about how much the Titans are on the hook for Tannehill this season. Regardless, this moves signifies a quarterback controversy between Tannehill and incumbent starter Marcus Mariota will brew in Nashville this summer.
Tannehill is already 31-years-old and owns a pedestrian career 7.0 YPA, 87.0 passer rating, and 62.8 percent completion rate. Among 46 qualified QBs since 2012, Tannehill's YPA ranks 29th, his passer rating is 27th-best, and his completion rate is 21st. For reference, Mariota ranks 14th in YPA (7.50), 19th in passer rating (89.4), and 16th in completion rate (63.2 percent) in this sample. I won't pretend to know how this situation will play out. At the very least, Tennessee was wise enough to know they couldn't roll into 2019 entrusting Mariota fully while Miami finally got Tannehill of their books. It's a common sense deal for both sides.
Golden Tate gets four-years, $23M guaranteed (March 14)
I love Golden Tate as a player. He leads all receivers in yards after the catch since 2013 and has ranked inside of the top-5 in PFF's missed tackle rate each season in this span. Tate has long been undervalued and just secured a huge payday at 30-years-old. With that said, his addition in New York confirms that the Giants are in no way interested in re-building properly after trading Odell Beckham Jr. to the Browns just two days ago. GM Dave Gettleman has officially lost it.
Tate has primarily been an interior receiver over the last three seasons, aligning out of the slot on 55 percent of his snaps in this span. The problem is that Sterling Shepard (71 percent) is a near full-time slot receiver while 36 of Evan Engram's 101 career receptions have come aligned out of the interior. Beyond the optics of trading the best young receiver in the NFL since Randy Moss and "replacing" him with an aging slot wideout, New York's three best receivers excel at one position and are catching passes from a 38-year-old Eli Manning. Making matters worse, Manning has horrendous splits without Odell Beckham in the lineup (as I noted below in this same column). Over the last two years, Manning's YPA falls to 6.2 yards and his completion rate is only 60 percent when OBJ is off the field. When Beckham was healthy and active, Manning averaged 7.6 YPA and completed 67.5 percent of his passes.
For fantasy, Tate's acquisition will likely push Shepard to the boundary more often -- where he has been a slightly more productive player despite running the majority of his routes from the interior. Per PFF, Shepard has gained 1.41 receiving yards per route run when split out as a boundary receiver versus 1.00 YPRR as a slot wideout. Still, Tate's presence vaporizes both Shepard and Engram's potential target volume. Unless New York shocks everyone and actually elects to do the right thing and replace Eli Manning in the NFL Draft, this is a lose-lose addition for all involved. Manning's success rate per dropback over the last three years is the same rate as Ryan Tannehill (45.6 percent; per Next Gen Stats). It's been time to move on for a while and now, unfortunately, the Giants seem too late.
Mark Ingram signs three-year deal with Baltimore (March 13)
In the most common sense signing of the 2019 offseason so far, Mark Ingram is headed to the run-heavy Ravens on a $15M deal. The Ravens backfield turned into a quagmire last season and Ingram's addition adds much-needed stability for Baltimore. At different points in time, Alex Collins, Buck Allen, Gus Edwards, Kenneth Dixon, and even Ty Montgomery shared significant snaps last season.
All told, the Ravens had four running backs earn over 60 touches in 2018 while the overall snap share was an absolute mess (Collins 41 percent; Edwards 36 percent; Allen 33 percent; Dixon 33 percent; Montgomery 26 percent). That's not exactly fantasy friendly.
Now, Mark Ingram is added as the Ravens lead horse while Collins (cut), Allen (UFA), and Montgomery (UFA) are off the roster. Furthermore, Edwards is on a one-year deal while Dixon is entering the final year of his rookie deal in 2019. Provided Baltimore is done making moves in their backfield, this could not have been any better of a landing spot for Ingram.
Once Lamar Jackson took over as the Ravens starter for an injured Joe Flacco in Week 11, Baltimore went a monstrous 64 percent run-heavy, easily the highest rate in the NFL. For context, the next most run-oriented teams were the Seahawks (55 percent), Titans (51 percent), and Bills (48 percent) over the full season. In this stretch with Jackson as the starter, Baltimore backs ranked 4th in success rate (55 percent), 2nd in carries per game (24.9), 1st in YPC (5.3), and 1st in rushing yards per game (149.0).
Lamar Jackson definitely needs to take another step forward as a passer -- only Josh Allen was worse in PFF's accuracy percentage last season -- but there is no denying that this is a pristine climate for rushing fantasy points. A downhill runner with a violent after contact running style, Ingram fits Baltimore's blueprint perfectly. Since 2016, Ingram is the 9th-best runner in YAC, he's 4th-best in success rate, and 6th-best in YPC. Also an underrated receiver during his entire career to boot, it's possible Ingram finds himself as a low-end fantasy RB1 again in 2019.
Ingram's initial projection: 235 carries, 1,115 yards, 6 rushing TDs; 39 receptions, 295 yards, 1 receiving TD -- 210 PPR points (RB15)
Tevin Coleman reunites with Shanahan, signs two-year deal (March 13)
At press time, it's extremely hard to make any short- or long-term projections about Tevin Coleman's fantasy outlook in San Francisco. To start, Coleman's free agent market was decidedly quiet and forced the 26-year-old (in April) back to reunite with Kyle Shanahan on a two-year deal worth just $8.5M. Per NFL Network's Tom Pelissero, Coleman's contract did not even include a signing bonus.
So, not only did Coleman have to take a team-friendly deal, his cheap contract will allow the 49ers to keep Jerick McKinnon if they want. San Francisco has a few weeks to decide whether or not to keep McKinnon as his $3.8M salary in 2019 becomes fully guaranteed if he's on the roster by April 1. Obviously, the 49ers decision over their backfield is one to closely monitor.
Regardless of how the situation plays out, the 49ers backfield will be one to invest in for fantasy. The water is murky now, but Kyle Shanahan has taken his elite zone-running scheme and translated it to consistent fantasy success on three different teams over the last five years. As either the OC or HC, Shanahan's backfield has finished 10th (2014 Browns), 8th (2015 Falcons), 7th (2016 Falcons), 12th (2017 49ers), and 6th (2018 49ers) in RB touches per game. To boot, these backfields have finished top-10 in yards from scrimmage per game in four-straight seasons. Fantasy owners now just have to hope we don't get a three-headed monster between Coleman, McKinnon, and Matt Breida in 2019.
Odell Beckham traded to Browns (March 12)
The Giantsactually did it. In an act of unnecessary desperation, New York traded star receiver Odell Beckham to the Browns for Cleveland's pick at 17th overall, a 2019 third-rounder, and S Jabrill Peppers. That is an extremely light haul for a receiver that has had a few hard-luck leg injuries over the last two seasons, is still just 26-years-old, and is producing at an epic pace. Since entering the league in 2014, Beckham ranks 5th in receptions (6.6), 3rd in yards (92.8), and 2nd in TDs (0.75) per game among all wide receivers.
We can now thank Dave Gettleman for allowing us to watch Baker to Beckham for at least the next 3 years, though.
Baker Mayfield was the QB10 in fantasy last season once HC Freddie Kitchens took over mid-season and trailed only Patrick Mahomes (8.7) in YPA in this span (Mayfield YPA: 8.6). The upside of adding Odell Beckham is clear and obvious. Over the last five years, the Giants have averaged 6.5 fewer points per game when Beckham is out -- a monumental split for a skill position player.
As for the Browns individual pass catchers, Beckham's addition is an obvious ding to Jarvis Landry. In fact, Landry was already becoming less of a cog in the Browns attack once Kitchens began calling plays. With Todd Haley as OC in Weeks 1-8, Jarvis Landry saw 11.8 targets per game and received double-digit passing looks in 7-of-8 contests. With Freddie Kitchens (Week 9-17), Landry averaged just 6.8 targets per game and saw double-digit targets zero times. David Njoku may see a slight downtick in targets, too... but, the tight end position is so razor thin, a 2-3 percent dip in target share may only be negligible in the long run.
Finally, we get to Beckham's outlook. Thanks to the Giants, OBJ gets a massive upgrade in passers going from 38-year-old Eli Manning to Mayfield, who broke the rookie TD record in 13 games. An even deeper look shows how wide the gap between Manning and Mayfield truly is. Per Next Gen Stats, Manning ranks last in success rate (56 percent) and second-from-last in YPA (7.7) when his receiver was open over the last three years. When Mayfield saw an open receiver during his rookie season, he averaged 8.8 YPA and earned a 63 percent success rate. Beckham has the WR1 appeal again attached to the Browns ascending offense.
Because Beckham dealt with two separate ankle issues over the last two seasons -- causing him to miss 16 games -- we have a reliable amount of data to work with on his splits on and off the field. For Eli Manning, losing OBJ is simply catastrophic. Over the last two years, Manning's YPA falls to 6.2 yards and his completion rate is only 60 percent when OBJ is off the field. When Beckham was healthy and active, Manning averaged 7.6 YPA and completed 67.5 percent of his passes.
Opportunity wise, Beckham's loss locks in huge target shares for Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram. Shepard has averaged 8.6 targets per game (without OBJ) versus 6.1 T/G (with Beckham). Evan Engram has similar splits: 7.8 targets per game (without) and 5.6 T/G (with). However, Saquon Barkley's receiving role won't change much without Beckham as the rookie led all RBs in routes run and was third in targets per game last season. Kevin Zeitler's addition helps Saquon's already sky-high ceiling more than anything.
Beckham's inital fantasy projection: 94 receptions, 1,330 yards, 11 TDs (on 145 targets) -- 296.8 PPR points (WR5)
Le'Veon Bell gets four-years, $35M guaranteed from Jets (March 12)
We can argue the value of RBs until we can no longer breathe, but I am for all players getting paid what they are due -- especially at one of the most violent positions in football. Le'Veon Bell took a year off for his health and got a deal worth up to $52.5M. Good for him.
At the very least, the Jets are paying Bell to be the same three-down, workhorse we saw in Pittsburgh. The Jets have $1M in equity in Isaiah Crowell's contract, making him a possible cap casualty in the coming weeks. Regardless, Bell will re-assume fantasy RB1 stardom in New York. On fresh legs, the all-time leader in scrimmage yards per game gets to team up with Sam Darnold and a fresh-look Jets attack.
Flush with cash and wanting to build with vets around Darnold immediately, the Jets also acquired LG Kelechi Osemele from Oakland earlier in the week. After an abysmal year in the run-blocking department -- the Jets ranked fifth-worst in yards before contact per attempt -- Osemele's addition solidifies an interior desperate for consistency. A sore knee kept Osemele at less than 100 percent last season, but in the four previous years, he ranked 15th, 3rd, 11th, and 5th in PFF's overall guard metrics.
For Bell, the 2019 Jets are a far cry from the 2017 Steelers led by Antonio Brown, Ben Roethlisberger, and then rookie Ju-Ju Smith-Schuster. Still just 27-years-old, Bell's body hasn't absorbed NFL contact in over 15 months and the Jets are intent upon building around him and Sam Darnold in the same backfield. The RB leader in receptions per game from 2015-17, Bell's addition will certainly help Darnold's below-par success rate on passes to RBs last season (46 percent).
Bell's initial fantasy projection: 265 carries, 1,180 yards, 6 rush TDs; 75 receptions, 661 yards, 2 receiving TDs (on 95 targets) -- 307.1 PPR points (RB7)
John Brown, Cole Beasley head to Bills (March 12)
When the Bills inked John Brown to a three-year deal ($10M guaranteed; $27M total), I initially loved the deal for Smokey's fantasy viability... only for it to be ended hours later by Cole Beasley's acquisition (4-years, $39M total). The Bills will roll into 2019 with a four-receiver depth chart of John Brown, Zay Jones, Cole Beasley, and Robert Foster. It's possible that Brown, Jones, and Beasley's target shares are so closely aligned that none of them become fantasy viable. Still, we have to at least leave the light on for John Brown as the most talented WR on the team late in fantasy drafts.
With Joe Flacco at quarterback for the first nine games of 2018, John Brown led the NFL in deep targets per game (2.60) and posted a career-high 17.7 YPR. Last year, BillsJosh Allen led the league in deep ball attempt rate (20-plus yards) at 18.1 percent and air yards per attempt (11.0). When fully healthy, John Brown is an elite deep threat and his quickness makes him one of the best WRs vs. man coverage, per Matt Harmon's reception perception metrics.
Cole Beasley's acquisition will force Zay Jones to the boundary full-time and those two will likely cannibalize each other's targets on the Bills low-volume pass offense. Last year, only the Ravens, Titans, and Seahawks were more run-heavy than the Bills. Josh Allen was fantasy's QB1 in the final five weeks of last season and has serious top-12 appeal in 2019 with his receiver depth chart bolstered.
Latavius Murray signs with Saints (March 12)
With Mark Ingram out in New Orleans, the Saints inked former-Viking and Raider Latavius Murray to a four-year deal worth up to $14M. Murray will fill some of Ingram's old early-down rushing role, but the 6-foot-3 back is not as nimble-footed of a receiver as Ingram is. Over the last four seasons, Ingram has averaged 8.2 yards after the catch and caught 181 balls. Murray has averaged 7.1 YAC and has 116 catches in this span.
With Ingram out of the fold, Alvin Kamara's role is locked in for 2019 and will push him up my draft board to No. 3 overall behind Saquon Barkley and Ezekiel Elliott. Even with Mark Ingram in the lineup in Weeks 5-17 last year, Kamara led the Saints in snap rate (61 percent). Plus, we all remember Kamara's nuclear 32.0 PPR points per game pace in Weeks 1-4 when Ingram was suspended. Kamara's splits without Ingram last year are stark and speak to his still possibly untapped upside:
DeSean Jackson Traded to Eagles (March 11)
D-Jax fills an obvious hole within the Eagles aerial attack and will operate deep as Carson Wentz's lid-lifter. Even at 32-years-old, Jackson showed he still had plenty of juice in 2018. Per Next Gen Stats, Jackson recorded eight of his 15 fastest top speeds in 2018 alone -- all of which were over 20 miles per hour. What's more, Jackson further solidified himself as one of the league's top deep threats production-wise, as the now-Eagle recorded an NFL-high 18.9 yards per catch and saw 2.1 deep targets per game. Only Tyreek Hill (2.6) saw more passing looks 20-plus yards downfield than Jackson last season.
This could not be a better fit. Once again, Jackson makes sense as a fantasy WR3 target in re-draft leagues and may merit low-end WR2 consideration in draft-only best ball leagues.
On the flip side, Jackson (and Adam Humphries) departures sets up Bucs' third-year receiver Chris Godwin for a full-time role and a significant bump in targets. Godwin has started four games in his career without Mike Evans or DeSean Jackson active and hit receiving lines of 5/68, 3/98, 7/111/1, and 5/101/1 while seeing 24 percent of Tampa's targets in those contests. For more context, Godwin gained 2.59 yards per route run in those four career starts -- which would have been fourth-best among WRs during the 2018 season behind Julio Jones (2.90), Michael Thomas (2.87), and Keenan Allen (2.67). I'll bet the Godwin hype is out of control by July.
Jackson's initial fantasy projection: 54 receptions, 960 yards, 6 TDs (on 102 targets) -- 187.0 PPR points (WR26)
Godwin's initial fantasy projection: 65 receptions, 985 yards, 7 TDs (on 125 targets) -- 205.5 PPR points (WR22)
Nick Foles Signs with Jaguars (March 11)
The Jags' made their intentions clear since January: Sign Nick Foles or bust. On Monday, Jacksonville official pulled the Brinks truck up for their man, inking Foles to a four-year deal worth up to $88M. The real number to pay attention to is the staggering guaranteed figure ($50.1M), which makes Foles the sixth-highest paid passer in the NFL in terms of total guaranteed cash. For reference, Jimmy Garoppolo earned $49M guaranteed a year ago while Derek Carr's 2017 extension was worth $40M guaranteed. Any way you slice it, Foles' deal is colossal.
For a club that is one year removed from a near Super Bowl birth, still has elite talent littered across their defensive depth chart, a top-10 offensive line when they are healthy, and a talented but oft-injured running back in place -- Jags' brass likely felt Foles was a no-brainer acquisition. After the team mind-numbingly backed Blake Bortles and did not offer any long-term solutions last season, Jacksonville is finally ready to move on.
Jacksonville will be a bit limited from a cash flow perspective moving forward -- they had to clear a bunch of space before they could move on Foles officially -- but the big winners from a fantasy perspective are clear. Dede Westbrook found a way to post a quiet 66/717/5 sophomore receiving line catching wounded ducks from Blake Bortles last season and Marqise Lee (knee) should be near 100 percent health again after suffering a terrible injury in late-August. Both Jags' pass-catchers will warrant serious WR4 consideration with Foles at the controls.
Still, make no mistake: This is a run-heavy offense with Foles. Over the last two seasons with Doug Marrone as head coach, the Jaguars have run the ball on 48 percent of snaps when the score is neutral (within eight points). That's the fifth-highest rate in the league. Outside of dabbling in their receivers in the late rounds and taking some shots on Foles in 2QB/Superflex leagues, the Jags' pass offense is on the fantasy fringe in 2019.
*Foles' initial fantasy projection: 295 completions, 475 attempts, 3,395 yards, 22 TDs, 9 INTs -- 214.8 fantasy points (QB24) *
Antonio Brown Traded to Raiders (March 9)
At long last, Antonio Brown got what he wanted... and much more. Not only did AB receive the trade out of Pittsburgh he was seeking, but he also got a new deal too. The Steelers and Raiders swapped third- and fifth-round picks in the 2019 NFL Draft, but the big news is that Brown's compensation for the next three seasons has gone from $38.9 million to just over $50M. Plus, over $30M of Brown's base deal with the Raiders is fully guaranteed. It's a home run deal for Mr. Big Checks.
Now, Brown's run of incredible fantasy finishes in Pittsburgh has come to an end. Over the last six years, Brown has compiled WR5, WR2, WR1, WR1, WR1, and WR2 PPR finishes in addition to putting up at least 100 receptions and 1,200 yards in each season. Outside of Jerry Rice, Randy Moss, and Marvin Harrison -- no receiver in modern history has rivaled Brown's dominance and upside every year.
With that said, the elephant in the room remains how large of a quarterback downgrade Derek Carr is relative to Ben Roethlisberger. While Carr has never finished above league average in a single-season in yards per pass attempt during his five year career, Ben Roethlisberger ranked 13th, 3rd, 2nd, 12th, 9th, and 13th in YPA while he and Brown dominated opposing defenses for the past six seasons.
While Carr may not be the quality of passer Derek Carr is, the Raiders will have no issue feeding Antonio Brown the rock in 2019. While Oakland's run/pass numbers were fairly balanced in Gruden's first season (59 percent pass; 41 percent run), only the Giants (343) and Packers (370) had more total pass attempts when trailing by 3 or more points than the Raiders (339) did in 2018. I'll be much more interested in drafting Brown in fantasy if the Raiders elect to upgrade the quarterback position via the draft or trade, but there is a direct path for Brown to push for 170 targets with the Raiders. Volume remains king in fantasy.
Brown's initial fantasy projection: 101 receptions, 1,123 yards, 8 TDs (on 165 targets) -- 261.3 PPR points (WR9)
Tyrell Williams, WR, OAK - The Raiders have been busy re-tooling their receiver corps this offseason. After trading for Antonio Brown, Oakland signed former-Charger Tyrell Williams to a four-year deal with $22M in guaranteed money. For reference, Golden Tate's deal with the Giants netted him $23M. Either way, the Raiders like Williams so much that they also cut Jordy Nelson on March 14 in a concurrent move. This comes after the fact that Jon Gruden said Nelson will be on the roster in 2019 after he earned a roster bonus worth over $3M in late-December. With Nelson gone, Oakland now leads the league in available targets (313) while two-thirds of their 2018 air yards are up for grabs. Williams will likely shake out as a WR4/5 value in best ball leagues.
Devin Funchess, WR, IND - While the Giants and Raiders just shelled out over $20M in guarantees to their free agent wideouts of choice, Colts GM Chris Ballard continued his contrarian mindset by adding Devin Funchess on a one-year deal. Funchess struggled to stand out in his four years in Carolina, but he turns just 25-years-old in May and was well worth a low-cost dart throw as he tries to revitalize his career with Andrew Luck. Funchess' one-year deal is heavily incentive laden, but I may try and kick the tires on him in dynasty as a buy-low target while the rest of my league mates scoff at Funchess' perceived talent. Luck can elevate almost any receiver's play.
Carlos Hyde, RB, KC - The Chiefs desperately needed depth behind Damien Williams and found it easily in Carlos Hyde. Securing him on a one-year deal with only $1.6M guaranteed, Hyde's addition is a good thing for Williams' fantasy potential. At the very least, Williams' role as a receiver is safe. Since entering the league in 2014, Carlos Hyde's 5.6 yards per reception ranks 56th out of 57 qualifying RBs. Not only is Hyde a less accomplished receiver, but the Chiefs are also more invested, cash-wise, in Williams ($2.1M guaranteed plus a $1.6M signing bonus). Always a good runner after contact, Hyde is worth a stab in the late rounds of fantasy drafts.
Adam Humphries, WR, TEN - After posting the quietest WR24 PPR finish in recent memory last season, Humphries left Tampa Bay and secured a four-year deal worth up to $36M in Tennessee. Per Next Gen, Humphries has run 80 percent of his routes from the slot over the last two seasons and figures to be the Titans main interior receiver in 2019. Humphries will be on the fringe of viability in 10-team leagues next season, as he'll compete with Corey Davis and veteran TE Delanie Walker for targets.
Jamison Crowder, WR, NYJ - The Jets bolstered their receiver depth chart on Monday, adding former-Redskin Jamison Crowder on a 3-year deal. The agreement includes over $17M in guarantees. Crowder's addition ostensibly pushes Quincy Enunwa to the outside along with deep-threat Robby Anderson to round out the Jets base three-receiver set. This is a bigger move for Sam Darnold's development than it is for fantasy.
Donte Moncrief, WR, PIT -With Antonio Brown now a Raider, the Steelers needed another boundary receiver to beef up their depth chart. Donte Moncrief signed a one-year deal with the Jags' last offseason and only hit a 48/663/3 receiving line, but that was with Blake Bortles and Cody Kessler at quarterback. Like Devin Funchess in Indianapolis, Moncrief has buy-low appeal in Pittsburgh on the most pass-heavy offense in the league. The Steelers also have 226 targets available, fifth-most in the NFL. Ultimately, Moncrief's addition does little to squash James Washington's obvious sleeper appeal.
Danny Amendola, WR, DET - All the former-Patriots keep getting snatched up by the Lions. Even though he is 33-years-old, the Lions likely view Amendola as a Golden Tate replacement out of the slot. Amendola will only be viable in deep PPR leagues in 2019, but his presence in the interior should help Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones operate on the outside.
Jesse James, TE, DET - In addition to signing Amendola, the Lions also added Jesse James into the mix. Detroit let Eric Ebron walk last season, essentially punted the position in 2018, and are now trying to remedy their mistake by adding the 6-foot-7 James. In four years in Pittsburgh, James averaged a plodding 9.9 yards per catch and never put up more than 26.4 yards per game.
Mike Davis, RB, CHI - This was a sneaky move fantasy owners need to keep their eye on. Chicago signed Mike Davis to a two-year pact worth up to $6M on Monday, March 11. If Chicago does find a trade partner for Jordan Howard -- GM Ryan Pace has been openly shopping Howard for a month now -- Mike Davis could find himself in a decent role in 2019 paired with Tarik Cohen. Of course, this assumes Chicago does not add another back in the NFL Draft.
Adrian Peterson, RB, WAS - While Derrius Guice works his way back to 100 percent health after undergoing multiple knee surgeries this offseason, the best pure runner of our generation just signed a deal to remain in Washington for 2019 at the very least. Peterson's deal is reportedly worth up to $8M over two years. AD turns 34 years young in April and just logged his eighth career 1,000-yard rushing season last year. Peterson's bulk stats were impressive -- he scored 8 total times and even caught 20 balls -- but many would be surprised that his efficiency stats weren't bad, either. Per PFF, Peterson ranked eighth-best (of 29 RBs) in yards after contact and missed tackles forced per attempt. Still, with Guice back in the fold, Peterson is a handcuff-only selection in 2019.