Dynasty and Keeper Leagues: Looking at Potential Free Agents - Quarterbacks
Every year, NFL players change teams after their respective contracts expire. The player movement creates an opportunity for NFL players and fantasy owners alike. This series of articles will look at the players whose contracts are up after the 2016 season and could change teams next offseason. This first installment will examine the quarterbacks who could hit free agency next spring. Our goal is to identify the beneficiaries of the player movement. Free agency impacts fantasy football and those fantasy owners who anticipate correctly the situations usually come out on top.
Drew Brees – There is absolutely no way the Saints allow Brees to walk in free agency. He is the face of the franchise. If the star quarterback does not sign a contract extension next spring, he will be slapped with the franchise tag. Brees will be a member of the Saints in 2017. Still, the situation bears watching. The young nucleus of pass catchers should enable the veteran signal caller to be productive until the time he retires.
Kirk Cousins – Cousins played well enough last season to assert himself as the quarterback of the future. However, the Washington brass has yet to fully buy into him as the quarterback for years to come. The tenor of the brass has been that Cousins needs to repeat his solid 2015 campaign in order to get a lucrative contract extension. If Cousins plays well, he will either sign a new contract or play the 2017 season under the franchise tag. This is a make-or-break season for Cousins career. If he plays well, the money will flow. If not, he could be a career backup in the mode of Bryan Hoyer. We have seen many one-year wonders throughout history. But, with a strong offensive-minded coach in Jay Gruden, and the cache of receivers, Cousins is in good shape to get paid. For those wondering, Colt McCoy is the backup quarterback in Washington.
Tyrod Taylor – Taylor’s three-year deal with the Bills in 2015 included a voidable third year if he played at least 50% of the snaps in either 2015 or 2016. Well, he easily exceeded the threshold in 2015 and is set to get paid next year, whether by the Bills or in free agency. Taylor has shown that he is capable of being a pocket passer and picking up yardage when the play breaks down. Like with Washington and Cousins, the Buffalo front office has yet to publicly endorse Taylor, saying they need to see him play wee for consecutive years before getting out the checkbook. Let’s remember that this is the same Bills organization which prematurely gave Ryan Fitzpatrick way too much money and cut him less than two years later. After spending the early part of his career holding a clipboard, Taylor has exceeded expectations and grown into a viable passing quarterback. Expect a big improvement in year two as a starter. The growth should be enough that the front office has no choice but to pay Taylor $10-15 million per season.
Blaine Gabbert – After bombing out in Jacksonville, the former Missouri star gets a new opportunity in San Francisco. He was traded to the 49ers and played some last season. But, this is his opportunity to shine. Colin Kaepernick will likely be traded or released, leaving Gabbert as the de facto starter. With Chip Kelly’s up-tempo offense, Gabbert could easily finish the season as a fantasy QB1. But, we fully expect San Francisco to have a poor record, get a high draft slot in the 2017 NFL Draft and select a quarterback in the first round. This would leave Gabbert as either the mentor for the youngster (if he re-signs with the team) or look for a starting gig somewhere else. The lack of passing-game weapons will also put the ceiling on touchdowns and yardage much lower than many expect. Gabbert struggles with pocket presence will likely be very apparent with the way Kelly’s offense focuses more on passing outlets more than maximum protection.
Brian Hoyer – Hoyer signed a one-year deal to back up the mercurial Jay Cutler. It was his only option as the teams needing a starting passer were not interested in the journeyman. We expect this trend to continue. This is likely the first of many years Hoyer will hold a clipboard on game days.
Mark Sanchez – Sanchez was happy to be traded to Denver since he has a chance to start. He is the leader for the 2016 starting job with rookie Paxton Lynch the projected 2017 starter. Sanchez has been a solid - yet unspectacular – starting quarterback. The 2016 season will give him the opportunity to prove that his playoff wins were not a fluke while Sanchez was a member of the Jets. Still, the odds of him landing a long-term starting gig are fairly slim. In fact, the Broncos may go into the 2017 season with Lynch battling former seventh rounder Trevor Siemian for the starting job. In fact, Siemian is playing well at the present that he is pushing Sanchez.
Mike Glennon – Glennon showed promise in his one season of extended action. He will likely not be able to land a starting job, but may be given the chance to compete with a rookie (in Cleveland or San Francisco). While Glennon has flashed some potential, he has the look of a long-term backup more than a starter.
Geno Smith – After losing his chance to start in 2015 due to being punched by a teammate, Smith is hoping New York and Ryan Fitzpatrick continue to be at odds regarding a new contract. Time is running out for Fitzpatrick so we will soon see his level of dedication to holding out for the money he thinks he deserves. Back to Smith. He has been ok, but not great, in his limited action as a starting quarterback. The saving grace for either Smith or Fitzpatrick will be the great receiving corps of Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker at wide receiver and Matt Forte coming out of the backfield. The Jets starter will have a golden opportunity to put up big numbers.
With just three teams expected to have unsettled quarterback situations in 2017 (Cleveland Browns, New York Jets, and San Francisco 49ers), and two of the three teams likely drafted quarterbacks with high picks, there may not be many openings for the free agents on this list to land. There is the possibility that either Cousins or Taylor flop and another quarterback listed above starts in their stead. However, the quarterback position will be wide open in three or four years as the aging veterans retire.
The 2018 version of this list will be very interesting with the following quarterbacks slated to be free agents:
- Derek Carr
- Matthew Stafford
- Sam Bradford
- Robert Griffin III
- Jimmy Garoppolo
- A.J. McCarron
- Aaron Murray
We would like to recognize Overthecap.com for the free agents listed above. It is a good site for salary cap status for the NFL.
Please feel free to email me (Tefertiller@Footballguys.com) with any questions or comments. Also, I am on Twitter (www.Twitter.com/JeffTefertiller), Google+, and LinkedIN so feel free to where it is most convenient.