The fantasy football season may be over, but for dynasty managers, the real work is just getting started. Team postmortems, rookie tape & analytics, and league overviews are all critical areas managers must assess and evaluate over the next few months. The NFL playoffs are coming, and before you know it, we will be reporting from the Senior Bowl. As the saying goes, “The draft starts in Mobile,” and the NFL draft will be here before you know it.
However, one key aspect of the offseason occurs before the NFL draft. That would be the start of the new league year and NFL free agency. With rookie evaluation taking up so much of our time, NFL free agency is often neglected but just as critical to the success of our dynasty rosters. Some players are talented enough to overcome any situation but could use an upgrade, DJ Moore, anyone, while others require the perfect scenario to be fantasy producers.
Often overlooked by those in the fantasy community are team payrolls and salary cap situations. Shrewd managers will look at contract situations two, three, or even four years out to accurately project the best buy and sell window for any player. Don’t have time to pour over spreadsheets analyzing roster & workout bonuses and dead cap hits? No fear; in this off-season primer series, I have you covered. We will break down position by position and analyze the key free agents and some surprising moves that may occur due to team salary cap needs.
Potential Free Agents
Tom Brady, TBB
It’s hard to imagine that 45-year-old Tom Brady may be entering free agency for just the second time in his career. The man holds nearly every record, but just one more ring’s allure seems insatiable. Defects along the interior offensive line and injuries have led to a subpar season for the Buccaneers. Could Brady be looking for greener pastures as a home for his next title run? Some of the names that appear later in this article could shine some light on this question. For what feels like the eighth year in a row, Brady is a great cheap buy for any Superflex contender.
Lamar Jackson, BAL
Jackson would be the honeypot of this quarterback free agency class; if he were to hit the open market. He will technically become a free agent on the first day of the new year; however, the Ravens still have time to extend him. If no extension can happens, Baltimore can use the franchise tag on their star quarterback. The fact that Jackson is self-representing and has no agent has hindered the speed of any negotiation. Ending his season on the bench has not helped his fantasy value. I recommend holding onto Jackson and being prepared to weather a long off-season with him on your dynasty rosters.
Baker Mayfield, LAR
It has been quite the roller coaster of a career for the former number-one overall pick from the 2018 draft class. After being replaced in Cleveland, Mayfield wound up in Carolina, where he battled 2018 classmate Sam Darnold for the starting job. If that wasn’t enough, the Panthers eventually cut Mayfield, and he landed in Los Angeles; the Rams were the only team to claim him. In typical Mayfield fashion, we have seen both ups and downs in his few starts for the Rams. Could this be enough for a team to take a shot? There will be a team left standing when the quarterback musical chairs end. That will be the team that brings in Mayfield to compete for a job. A few spot starts may be all fantasy managers will get out of Mayfield for the remainder of his career.
Sam Darnold, CAR
Darnold is the last of the 2018 draftee quarterbacks to hit free agency. Darnold is the most recent starter for the Carolina Panthers and, surprisingly enough, has them in the playoff hunt. However, that may speak more to the state of the NFC South than this Panthers roster. Darnold is in a similar situation to Mayfield, where he has shown extreme highs and lows and may serve best as an option for a team that misses on their first choice of quarterback. Like Mayfield, Darnold may only serve as a spot starter for fantasy purposes for the rest of his career.
Jimmy Garoppolo, SF
Garoppolo is one of the more interesting free-agent cases in this class of quarterbacks. He suffered a season-ending foot injury but should be fully rehabbed by the time free agency starts. San Francisco will be a critical team to track this offseason. They traded a boatload of picks to draft Trey Lance, but every quarterback in that system has looked very good. If Garoppolo were to change teams again, he could be the perfect veteran signing for a team like the New York Jets, who may be a quarterback away from competing. Try to acquire Garoppolo in Superflex leagues once trading resumes. He is the perfect QB3 for a title contender in the right landing spot.
Teddy Bridgewater, MIA
Bridgewater is quickly becoming the next Ryan Fitzpatrick, as he will be on his seventh team if he finds a new home this offseason. His play lately fits his role as a career backup which is good enough for a spot start. He will most likely be signed by a team drafting a rookie quarterback that doesn’t want to play the rookie right away. Look for him to land in one of Carolina or Atlanta to help mentor CJ Stroud or Bryce Young. Once things have settled, it would be worth selling him to whichever team in your league drafts that particular rookie.
Daniel Jones, NYG
The Giants have left themselves in an interesting predicament with Jones. They declined his fifth-year option last off-season as he had not shown enough to deem worthy of it. However, a career year in 2022 leaves the Giants wishing they picked up that option for the 2023 season. They are now looking at either an extension or a franchise tag. The Giants have played themselves out of a top pick in the draft. The franchise tag will cost New York about $32 million next year to keep Jones. They may look to extend him for cheaper than that on a multi-year deal. Jones is locked in as the starter for the New York Giants for the foreseeable future, and if your league mates don’t realize that, you need to trade for him and take advantage of some value.
Gardner Minshew, PHI
The past few weeks have helped the case for Minshew in free agency this offseason. He has looked competent enough in the Eagles’ offense to prove he can handle a backup/spot-starter role. An attractive landing spot for him would be Arizona. Kyler Murray will miss the first few weeks of the 2023 season, and Minshew could start the season under center for the Cardinals. If he can be picked up for cheap, that would be a move I would make over the summer.
Jacoby Brissett, CLE
Brissett proved in 2022 that he might be the best backup quarterback in the NFL. He started most of the season for the Cleveland Browns, and if it wasn’t for a lackluster defense, he might have them in playoff contention. Jacoby will be looking to sign another backup deal this summer, and Cleveland might be where he returns. He won’t provide more than handcuff value in our SuperFlex dynasty leagues.
Geno Smith, SEA
Smith is one of the most exciting stories in the 2022 NFL season. Last summer, people were debating whether it was him or Drew Lock as the Week One starter. He has played like a top-ten quarterback for most of the year and has earned himself some money. The most likely scenario is that Smith re-signs with Seattle and is their starter for the 2023 season. The wildcard is the top-five pick the Seahawks have from the Russell Wilson trade. Seattle will have a choice of a quarterback or a top defensive prospect. How that pick goes will determine Smith’s future.
Mike White, NYJ
The savior of the 2022 New York Jets will be due for a new contract this summer. Zach Wilson stumbled so White could fly. Thankfully for him, he has shown that he can successfully operate an NFL offense and provide a high enough floor to command a winning roster. White would make the perfect addition for a player drafting a rookie quarterback. Expect him to have spot starter/backup level value for your dynasty Superflex leagues.
The 2023 offseason will be when fifth-year option decisions have to be made by clubs on the 2022 first-rounders. For the quarterback class, this will be a no-brainer. Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa, and Justin Herbert will all be easy decisions. A few may even receive large extensions, locking them in as a franchise quarterback for many years.
The most intriguing member of this club is Jordan Love. He was selected in the first round by the Green Bay Packers and, since then, has had only one start and a total of 91 dropbacks. This is a tiny sample size for a player potentially due nearly $20 million on a fifth-year option. The most likely scenario may be the Packers taking the option and then looking to move Jordan Love to another team to put some pieces around Rodgers for one final Super Bowl run.
The final group for us to examine is the quarterbacks with minimal guaranteed money left and could be cut if their team is ready to move on. Two names that aren’t viewed as solid starters are Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston. Mariota appears to be nothing more than a run-first quarterback at this point in his career. With early investments in Kyle Pitts and Drake London, the Falcons may look to pass more in 2022. Whether a different veteran or an incoming rookie, Atlanta may be looking for a higher ceiling from the quarterback position. We haven’t seen much out of Jameis Winston this season, which cannot help his prospective future. The Saints are often in cap hell due to how they structure their deals, and Winston may be an easy cut to make some room.
The last two names in this group provide much more mystery. Ryan Tannehill will end his 2022 campaign on the IR, and there are already questions surrounding his future in Tennessee. The Titans have a ceiling of first-round playoff losers with Tannehill under center, and the franchise is most likely ready to get a little bit more out of the quarterback position. Who that quarterback could be will determine whether Tannehill is a Titan in 2023.
The last name in this group is a more recent development. Before their Week 17 matchup, the Las Vegas Raiders announce that they are benching Derek Carr for the remainder of the 2022 season and rolling with Jarrett Stidham. Rumors are swirling that the team is strapped for money and wants to avoid any injury guarantees for next year kicking in. Could we see this as the home for a high-profile free agent? Either scenario doesn’t bode well for Carr’s future with the Raiders. Just a reminder, clubs will likely look to trade any of these players instead of cutting. It would reduce what is already a tiny dead cap hit.
That may be a ton of information to digest, but dynasty managers must have a good feel for what the free agency landscape may look like for the 2023 season. At this time last year, players like Geno Smith and Daniel Jones could be had relatively cheap. This time last year, the likes of Russel Wilson and Matthew Stafford were trading for all-time highs. You can secure some excellent depth for your 2023 fantasy football tile run by projecting free-agency movements before they occur.
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I hope you enjoyed this piece in our Offseason Primer series. Be sure to check back often, as I will cover all fantasy-relevant positions. For more content like this, follow me on Twitter @DanT_NFL. DMs are always open for questions, comments, or craft beer recommendations!
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