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Dynasty Players Heading into a Contract Season

Several key players are heading into contract seasons and 2024 could be critical for them.

Since we are done with most of the early part of the offseason, it is never too early to look ahead to next year’s free agency class. Players in a contract season can be significant for fantasy football. Players may usually perform better when they need to gain attraction for a new contract. However, players in the last year of their contract may not get another one. It’s essential to see the stats and history of players in a contract season.

Quarterbacks

UFA: Dak Prescott, Jordan Love, Tua Tagovailoa, Justin Fields, Russell Wilson, Mac Jones, Jamies Winston, Sam Darnold, Zach Wilson, Trey Lance

The 2025 free agency class for quarterbacks is solid overall. For fantasy football, we’ve seen in each of the last three seasons a quarterback has finished as a QB1 in a contract season. Some of those quarterbacks include Baker Mayfield, Geno Smith, and Daniel Jones. If Kirk Cousins did not get hurt, he would have been on his way to an elite season. I don’t expect Tua or Love to be available in free agency next season. They should lock up a long-term contract by the start of the season. Many of these other quarterbacks will likely play in a contract season. Who could help you win dynasty championships?

Per Game Average 2018-2022SeasonGCmpAttCmp%YardTDINTAttYardTDFPts
MayfieldAverage 2018-202214.4277.2451.861.33,25820.412.837.81321.2264.92
Mayfield20231736456664.34,0442810621631336.5
SmithAverage 2013-20215.674.0125.858.6864.64.34.619.887.61.075.0
Smith20221739957269.84,2823011683661376.7
JonesAverage 2019-2112.7265.3422.762.92799.315.09.757.3333.31.7243.3
Jones20221631747267.23,2051551207087333.1
CousinsPer Gam Average 2018-202223.534.6261.71.90.62.16.90.121.9
CousinsPer Game Average 202327392912123024
Previous QBs in the Last Three Years in a Contract Season vs. Other Seasons

Dak Prescott is one of these contract-year quarterbacks who could have a QB1 season. The Cowboys made it apparent that this offense is going through the passing game. They didn’t make many improvements and lacked an explosive run game. Outside of losing Michael Gallup, Prescott still has the elite weapons that made him QB3 last season. I don’t see Prescott leaving Dallas, so it’s a great time in the offseason to buy him.

The rest of the QBs on this list have a less likely chance to be QB1s in fantasy during their contract season. The Justin Fields and Russell Wilson situation in Pittsburgh may hurt their chances of doing the same. We don’t know who will start and how long either one will be the starter in 2024. It seems like a messy situation to sell while you can for either one. There is no guarantee that either have a starting job in 2025. One interesting player is Trey Lance, who will finally be a free agent in 2025. If there is ever an opportunity to buy low, it’s right now on him. While he will never break out in 2024, he is leaving a situation where he will have control of his future.

Running Backs

UFA Rookie Contracts

Rhamondre Stevenson, Najee Harris, Javonte Williams, Chuba Hubbard, Elijah Mitchell, Kenneth Gainwell, Khalil Herbert

Contract Year
BarkleyRB6
JacobsRB3
SandersRB13
ChubbRB11
KamaraRB1
Aaron JonesRB5
Some Rookie RBs Over the Last Four Years

There is an unspoken rule with rookie running backs as they over-perform to get that second contract in the NFL. We’ve seen rookie running backs in the last four years have elite seasons, like Miles Sanders, Saquon Barkley, Josh Jacobs, Nick Chubb, Alvin Kamara, and Aaron Jones during the final year of their rookie contract.

Photo Courtesy of Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire

Three running backs have the best chance to finish as an RB1: Stevenson, Harris, and Williams. Harris may be in the best situation strictly due to his offensive scheme. Arthur Smtih has had 1,000-yard rushers in four of his five seasons as OC/HC. Despite what you think of Harris, he still has managed 1,000 yards in three straight seasons. For a contending team, he is a great buy during the offseason.   

Stevenson is an interesting player coming to the end of his rookie contract. I don’t think many folks in the dynasty industry are talking up Stevenson. His 4.5 targets per game could be in trouble with the arrival of Antonio Gibson, who is a fantastic pass-catching back. The offense is changing compared to the 2022 Patriots we saw when Stevenson had his breakout season. It may be better to fade Stevenson going into his final year.

Javonte Williams is a wild card, but there is clear talent there, and he is now two years out from that nasty leg injury. Sean Payton continues to bring in running backs with Samaje Perine, Jaleel McLaughlin, and Audric Estime over the last two years. Williams could be a sneaky buy-low, and I hope he can surge in his final season or perhaps land in a situation that suits him better for the future.

Hubbard may start the season, but newcomer Jonathon Brooks will take touches away unless Sanders tries to again. Mitchell and Gainwell could lose their backup jobs to 2024 rookie running backs. Herbert is interesting and could be a trade candidate before the season. The Bears have DeAndre Swift and Roschon Johnson, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets moved. Herbert has had 13 games over 70 rushing yards in his career. He has shown that he can be a dominant force when healthy. He is an excellent buy-low option in dynasty leagues. It’s not often that many backups finish as RB1s, but with injuries increasing over the years, it may be good to have a few, just in case.

UFA Non-Rookie Contracts

Aaron Jones, James Conner, Nick Chubb, Ezekiel Elliott, JK Dobbins, D’Onta Foreman, Trey Sermon, Alexnder Mattison

Jones, Conner, and Elliott are all aging veterans, likely in their last season of potential elite production. As an owner who isn’t contending, I’d look to get these players off my team sooner rather than later. Jones has only played two full seasons in his NFL career, and it seems he can’t handle the same workload as he once did. Don’t let the late-season surge fool you as a player who did not play much during the first half of the season. If Jones fails to miss time gain, his value could drop to almost nothing in the dynasty.

Photo Courtesy of David Jensen/Icon Sportswire

Conner is coming off one of the best seasons of his career, but he can’t stay on the field. He has missed eight games over the last two seasons, and the team invested decent capital in Trey Benson. I don’t see Conner being able to produce all season to get another solid contract, so his starting time may end before 2024. Elliott returns to Dallas, but the offensive line is not the same from his early days. He is a solid RB3 for a contending team since he is still the most talented back in the backfield. He has a better shot at playing in 2025 than Jones and Conner. Overall, I’d look to move off these players since their future is cloudy after 2024.

Nick Chubb is interesting because I view him to be on the same level as Derrick Henry, who can produce until he is 32. The devasting leg injury raises concerns, but it may be the perfect time to buy low on him. If Chubb fully recovers, he can remain close to his former self. I believe there is another two-year contract for his work following this season. JK Dobbins is a wild card, so seeing if he can make it back is worth seeing. I’d probably let someone else take that risk since there have been far too many injuries to give Dobbins the benefit if he finds a deal in 2025.

Foreman, Sermon, and Mattison are strictly depth pieces at this point. Foreman continues to be produce, but no team is taking him on to be a reliable starter. Sermon flashed last season, but unless he has a Zach Moss 2023 season, I don’t see him getting value in free agency. Mattison has proved that he can only beat terrible run defenses with a heavy workload. I don’t see any of these running backs producing during a contract season.

RFA Contract: Jaylen Warren

I imagine Warren will return to the Steelers as a restricted free agent. He is probably still going for a second-round pick for rookie drafts. I think there is some untapped potential for Warren in this run-first offense. He is a great depth piece for a contending team to go out and buy. Warren will likely want to show the Steelers he can be the next starting running back in 2025.

Wide Receivers

UFA Rookie Contracts

Justin Jefferson, CeeDee Lamb, Brandon Aiyuk, Nico Collins, Elijah Moore, Rondale Moore, Josh Palmer

The rookie contracts for the rookie receivers expiring at the end of the year have some big names. I don’t expect Jefferson and Lamb to go anywhere. They are the cornerstone of both offenses, and I expect them to get deals done. If they can’t be the season, I’d expect both to overperform to prove their worth in 2024. In years past, we’ve seen some players be able to finish as top receivers during the final year of their contracts. It’s not often that a team doesn’t lock up a star rookie receiver prior to their final year. Michael Pittman and Mike Williams both stepped up in having a big season to get themselves a big contract. We’ve had older veterans be more successful in the final year of a second contract. Evans, Adams, and Robinson put up big numbers in their prime years to land another contract.

PlayerRankingYearType
Mike EvansWR 52023Vet
Michael PittmanWR 152023Rookie
Mike WilliamsWR 102021Rookie
Davante AdamsWR 12020Vet
Allen RobinsonWR 102020Vet
WRs the Last Four Years to Finish a Contract Year

Brandon Aiyuk is in an interesting situation with the trade rumors around the draft, but it seems that has settled, and the 49ers want to keep him. Aiyuk is the cheapest star to go out and get right now. We’ve seen Aiyuk increase his production over his career, even with other top-tier talent around him. He is the more prototypical receiver for the 49ers offense, and I see him being able to extend by the 2025 free agency. He remains a buy in his prime years as players like Deebo Samuel, George Kittle, and CMC age out of their positions.

Photo Courtesy of Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire

Nico Collins is another rookie receiver who could enter the season in his contract year. Collins set career highs in 2023. I think the arrival of Stefon Diggs will indeed help Collins in 2024. Collins managed 109 targets last year and has enough volume to do that again. His yards-after-catch ability was sixth last season, so I don’t see Collins falling off. Diggs is only signed through 2024, and I expect Collins to re-sign at some point. Collins fits the protyiscal WR1 compared to Tank Dell in the long term. 

Josh Palmer has an opportunity to show that he could be the WR1 for the Chargers. Over the last two years, Palmer averaged four receptions and 65 yards in his starts. Since the draft, Palmer’s value has slightly dropped and is a prime opportunity to buy before the season. I don’t think he will have a breakout season, but he could serve as a solid flex option in lineups for a contending team. Palmer is the only receiver with extensive on-field production that should be leaned on. Palmer’s biggest downfall isn’t Ladd McConkey but his injury past. 

UFA Non-Rookie Contracts

Tee Higgins, Chris Godwin, Stefon Diggs, Hollywood Brown, Amari Cooper, Keenan Allen, Brandin Cooks, Diontae Johnson, DeAndre Hopkins, Mike Williams, Michaell Gallup, Rashid Shaheed

We could have many veteran receivers in the market next offseason. Higgins would likely highlight the class unless players like Aiyuk, Lamb, or Jefferson were there. Higgins is on a franchise tag and could be one player to keep your eyes on during this season. I’ve heard of situations where Higgins may not do anything to affect his chance of receiving a big contract in 2025. Higgins needs to show that he can play 17 games, and without Tyler Boyd, Higgins’s opportunity should come to grow in the offense. I’d sell Higgins and his 2024 season and look in a different direction.

There are many 30-year-old receivers in Diggs, Cooper, Allen, Cooks, Hopkins, and Williams.

Tight Ends

UFA Rookie Contracts

Pat Freiermuth, Noah Gray, Brevin Jordan

Dalton Schutlz2023TE 11
Evan Engram2022TE 6
Juwan Johnson2022TE11
Dalton Schutlz2022TE10
TEs in a Contract Year Over the Last Four Years

The tight end position isn’t usually one for a breakout in their contract season. We’ve seen many get extensions before their final year due to production growth. Over the last four years, we’ve only had one tight end finish out their contract and have an elite season for fantasy. That one tight end was Dalton Schultz, who was TE11 in 2022. Pat Freiermuth is the featured tight end in this free-agency class. Freiermuth hasn’t put it all together on the field. His rookie season saw seven touchdowns, and his sophomore season saw 700 yards, but the yards and touchdowns have not come together.

Photo Courtesy of Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire

Arthur Smith’s offense has featured a tight end in the last three seasons, with Kyle Pitts seeing more than 90 targets in two of three seasons. Freiermuth has athletic abilities similar to Pitts. Outside of Geroge Pickens, there isn’t a clear second pass catcher. Freiermuth has a chance to bounce back to fantasy success in 2024 because he should be a buy low in the offseason. Noah Gray and Brevin Jordan have been at the bottom of dynasty rosters, but their chances of having any production in 2024 are shrinking.

UFA Non-Rookie Contracts

Mike Gesicki, Juwan Johnson, Tyler Conklin, Zach Ertz

In the last two seasons, we saw prove-it deals from Evan Engram and Schultz thrive in a contract season. Mike Gesicki and Zach Ertz are both in one-year deals. Gesicki joins an offense that is a high-power passing offense. I’m unsure how Gesicki will fit since he has underperformed the last two seasons with two other teams. He is a great stretch tight end, but they could have used someone who can work underneath. I don’t have high hopes for him. Ertz is an older veteran who could have solid production, as we’ve seen Ertz work well before with his OC. He could be an extremely cheap option for a contending team to buy.

Juwan Johnson and Tyler Conklin are also in contract years and are the current starters for their respective teams. Johnson dealt with injuries last season but underperformed compared to his 2022 season. There is a scenario in which Johnson could have another seven to eight-touchdown season in an offense that lacks a big target in the red zone.

Conklin has a chance to perform with Aaron Rodgers in 2024. Conklin had zero touchdowns last season. He would have been a borderline TE1 in 2023 if he could have managed a few touchdowns. Both players, in a contract season, have sleeper buy low potential. Their ceiling for fantasy is likely TE10 to TE12, which isn’t a difference-maker for the position.

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