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2018 Free Agency First Wave Review

A look at the happening of the first wave of free agency and fantasy impact

If you haven't been paying attention to the offseason:

A review of a wild week before free agency and everything that happened before the avalanche of player movement

AFC

Baltimore

The Ravens signed WR John Brown (Arizona) to a one-year, five million dollar deal.

Why It Matters: The Ravens wide receiver corps is being rebuilt, with only Chris Moore and Breshad Perriman returning. Brown is a great fit with Joe Flacco’s deep arm and the more intriguing receiver for fantasy despite getting only a “prove it” deal, but he hasn’t been able to stay healthy the last two years.

The Ravens released RB Danny Woodhead and WR Jeremy Maclin.

Why It Matters: The Woodhead signing went bust when his hamstring popped on the first drive of the 2017 regular season, but his receiving running back skills are more in demand and he should catch on somewhere, with a chance of fantasy value in PPR leagues. Maclin has been on the decline since 2015 and might be relegated to a reserve role on his next team if the receiver-poor Ravens couldn’t justify paying him a modest amount by 2018 starting wide receiver standards.

Buffalo

The Bills signed DT Star Lotulelei (Carolina) to a five-year deal.

Why It Matters: The Bills run defense fell apart after they traded Marcell Dareus to Jacksonville. Lotulelei will be reunited with his old defense coordinator Sean McDermott, now head coach of the Bills, and shore up a run defense that will likely see a lot of attempts unless the offense surprises behind new starting quarterback AJ McCarron.

The Bills traded OT Cordy Glenn, the 21st pick and fifth-round pick to Cincinnati for the #12 pick and a sixth-round pick.

Why It Matters: 2017 second-round pick Dion Dawkins appears to be ready to be the long-term left tackle, so this isn’t a huge hit for the Bills offensive line, but after losing center Eric Wood, their depth is stretched very thin. The move is likely a precursor to getting into the top five for their long-term quarterback.

The Bills signed QB AJ McCarron (Cincinnati) to a two-year, 10 million dollar deal.

Why It Matters: McCarron is getting only three million dollars this year, a pittance for a starting quarterback. He’ll compete with Nathan Peterman and a rookie to start. McCarron’s camp was expecting Mike Glennon money when they won their grievance, but ended up with a worse contract than Chase Daniel.

Cincinnati

The Bengals acquired OT Cordy Glenn, the 21st pick and fifth-round pick from Cincinnati for the #12 pick and a sixth-round pick.

Why It Matters: The Bengals offensive line was a disaster in 2017, and their tackle play was a big reason why. Glenn gives them a quality left tackle, as long as he doesn’t have a recurrence of foot/ankle issues that cost him 16 games over the last two years.

The Bengals signed TE Tyler Eifert to a one-year, eight million dollar deal.

Why It Matters: Eifert will be the top red zone option as long he stays healthy, which is definitely not a given. Still, with his high efficiency, low fantasy ADP and the low value of a dollar under the cap right now, both fantasy players and Bengals should see him as a risk worth taking.

Cleveland

The Browns signed RB Carlos Hyde (San Francisco) to a three-year, 15 million dollar contract.

Why It Matters: Multiple reports stressed that this move doesn’t preclude taking Saquon Barkley, although that could be to keep trade interest for the Cleveland first-round picks high. Hyde is an upgrade from Isaiah Crowell and the team could be more competitive this year. He’s still likely in the low RB2 range at best sharing with Duke Johnson and a possible rookie pick even if the team passes on Barkley twice.

The Browns signed OL Chris Hubbard (Pittsburgh) to a five-year, 37.5 million dollar contract with 18 million guaranteed.

Why It Matters: He would be an upgrade at right tackle and could plug in at left tackle with Joe Thomas’s retirement or guard if needed. The contract is very reasonable by current offensive line standards and might be a steal if he keeps up his level of play from 2017. Offensive coordinator Todd Haley knows Hubbard well from their time together in Pittsburgh.

Browns LT Joe Thomas retired.

Why It Matters: Thomas blocked for 20 different quarterbacks during his career. He’ll merit hall of fame consideration despite never making the playoffs. He has been vocal on Twitter this offseason and we hope he continues to add his insight to doings around the league.

Denver

The Broncos signed QB Case Keenum (Minnesota) to a two-year, 36 million dollar deal with 25 million guaranteed.

Why It Matters: Keenum was able to support strong fantasy value for Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen last year, so this is good news for Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave should be able to craft a passing offense to the strengths Keenum showed in Minnesota last year. The Broncos didn’t land Kirk Cousins, but still addressed a position that has been a sore spot since their Super Bowl. The Paxton Lynch dream is officially over in Denver unless Keenum gets hurt.

Houston

The Texans signed OL Zach Fulton (Kansas City) to contract averaging around seven million dollars per season and OL Senio Kelemete to three-year, 12 million dollar deal.

Why It Matters: The Texans missed on Nate Solder, but they added two versatile lineman who are battle-tested and should help an offensive line that was full of holes last year. It wasn’t ideal, but the Texans still used some of their considerable cap room to fix a large problem area.

Jacksonville

The Jaguars signed WR Donte Moncrief (Indianapolis) to a one-year deal worth up to 9.6 million dollars in 2018 and re-signed WR Marqise Lee to a four-year 38 million dollar deal with 18 million guaranteed. They also signed TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins

Why It Matters: The Jaguars curiously committed more to Moncrief and Lee than what it would have cost to franchise Allen Robinson. Moncrief had flashes of deep speed and red zone effectiveness with Andrew Luck, but disappeared last year and frequently struggled with injuries. Lee came on in the last two years of his rookie deal. Seferian-Jenkins revived his career with the Jets last year and will give the team a consistent receiving threat on short targets and in the red zone. In a run-first offense with three other solid receivers, it will be difficult to find consistent fantasy value, but Blake Bortles has depth in case injuries strike again and solid value as a matchup play.

The Jaguars signed OG Andrew Norwell (Carolina) to a five-year, 66.5 million dollar deal with 30 million guaranteed.

Why It Matters: The Jaguars got a strong run-blocking guard and the best interior lineman in free agency to make a strength even stronger. No team has done more to improve in free agency over the last few years than the Jaguars under GM David Caldwell.

Kansas City

The Chiefs signed WR Sammy Watkins (Los Angeles Rams) to a three-year, 48 million dollar deal with 30 million guaranteed.

Why It Matters: The Chiefs have two #1s now, giving a big boost to Patrick Mahomes fantasy value in his first season as a starter. Tyreek Hill is still the better deep threat, but Watkins could benefit from having a receiver that teams had to take heed of on the opposite side of the formation. Kansas City made good use of the cap room freed up by the trade of Alex Smith and seem to have a plan to create a Super Bowl window with the extra cap room created by having a starting quarterback on his rookie deal.

The Chiefs signed LB Anthony Hitchens (Dallas) a deal that reportedly averages nine million per season.

Why It Matters: Hitchens was expected to go to Indianapolis to reunite with new defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus, but instead filled a big hole in Kansas City’s defense with the decline of Derrick Johnson. He’ll have strong IDP value.

Miami

The Dolphins signed WR Danny Amendola (New England) to a two-year, 12 million dollar deal and signed WR Albert Wilson (Kansas City) to a three-year, 24 million dollar deal.

Why It Matters: The Patriots and Chiefs lost some valuable depth, but there won’t be consistent fantasy value created in the vacuum left by Jarvis Landry if both stay healthy. They are both steady receivers and could keep there from being very much runoff of targets to DeVante Parker and Kenny Stills. Ryan Tannehill lost his security blanket and franchising Landry might have been better for his value, but this isn’t a bad consolation.

The Dolphins released DT Ndamukong Suh and OL Mike Pouncey and signed OL Josh Sitton (Chicago) to a two-year deal worth up to 18 million dollars.

Why It Matters: Suh instantly becomes one of the best free agents available and might get the biggest deal this side of Kirk Cousins. He might take his time to drive up his market. Pouncey has been injured often in recent years, but still is one of the best centers in free agency and could also play guard. Sitton will bolster the interior line, especially in the passing game and help make up for the loss of Pouncey.

New England

The Patriots signed RB Rex Burkhead to a three-year deal.

Why It Matters: If the Patriots don’t draft or sign another back, Burkhead will be a very strong play without Dion Lewis to contend with, although it looks like Mike Gillislee will get another shot to make good on his fantasy promise in this offense. It looks like another year to take a Patriots back late and see how the backfield shakes out.

New York Jets

The Jets re-signed QB Josh McCown to a one-year, 10 million dollar deal and QB Teddy Bridgewater (Minnesota) to a one-year, 5 million dollar deal.

Why It Matters: McCown’s return preserves the value of Robby Anderson (after a likely suspension) and Jermaine Kearse, and keeps the offense viable. Bridgewater is clearly viewed with skepticism around the league, but with McCown’s injury history and age, he should get a chance to play unless the Jets take a quarterback early who passes him on the depth chart.

The Jets signed CB Trumaine Johnson (Los Angeles Rams) to a 72.5 million dollar, five year deal, with 34 million guaranteed.

Why It Matters: This is one of the best possible uses of the team’s copious cap room. He will present a tough matchup at the catch point for players like Brandin Cooks and DeVante Parker. The Jets have three of the four core secondary positions settled for the long term.

The Jets signed RB Isaiah Crowell (Cleveland) to a three-year deal.

Why It Matters: The Jets just won’t commit to Bilal Powell as a starter. Crowell’s game scripts might not be as bad as they were in Cleveland, but the Jets line is a downgrade, and he’ll still share with Powell and Elijah McGuire. A three-headed backfield in a middling offense is no place to look for fantasy value.

Oakland

The Raiders signed RB Doug Martin to a one-year deal.

Why It Matters: Well, it might now. Jon Gruden was apparently very impressed with Martin, but Mike Silver reports that the team has no plans to move on Marshawn Lynch, who was vastly better than Martin last year. Martin isn’t a lock to make the team unless the guaranteed money is surprisingly high.

The Raiders signed WR Jordy Nelson to a two-year, 15 million dollar deal with 13 million guaranteed and released Michael Crabtree.

Why It Matters: Nelson looked washed once Aaron Rodgers was out and the Packers decided he wasn’t adding enough value to the offense to justify a 9.25 million dollar price tag. Nelson will have second half of the draft speculative value but might be overdrafted on name recognition. Crabtree could fall into a starting job on any number of wide receiver poor teams and is probably the better receiver at this point in their respective careers. At least Nelson finally got overpaid in free agency after giving the Packers sweetheart deals on two extensions.

Tennessee

The Titans signed RB Dion Lewis (New England) to a four-year, 20 million dollar deal.

Why It Matters: The window of Derrick Henry having workhorse touches closed quickly. Lewis should be about equal to Henry in PPR fantasy value, and the Titans should hope to mimic the Saints offense with a good amount of the touches running through the backfield. Lewis is finally getting paid and should get opportunity to go with what is a big contract at running back despite looking meager by other positions standards.

The Titans signed CB Malcolm Butler (New England) to a five-year, 61 million dollar deal with 30 million guaranteed.

Why It Matters: Butler is reunited with Logan Ryan and should help a Titans secondary that was a major weakness last year. If first-round pick Adoree Jackson develops with Ryan and Butler, the Titans might not be the creampuff matchup for passing games that they were in 2017.

NFC

Arizona

The Cardinals signed QB Sam Bradford (Minnesota) to a one-year, 20 million dollar deal with 15 million guaranteed.

Why It Matters: The Cardinals passing game has a pulse again, and Larry Fitzgerald could set a career high in receptions if Bradford lasts even 12-14 games. Bradford’s addition of credibility to the passing game will help David Johnson, too. There has been some buzz that Bradford’s knee condition is degenerative and the Cardinals line isn’t among the league’s best, so we might see a lot of their other quarterback signing this week, Mike Glennon. Bradford’s fantasy value is negligible in Arizona.

The Cardinals released DB Tyrann Mathieu.

Why It Matters: Mathieu should be highly valued at only 25 despite his long injury history. His versatility in the secondary continues to be more coveted in the pass happy NFL even though the Panthers judged him to not be worth top-end safety money in their scheme. He joins Ndamukong Suh as one of the surprise prizes of the free agency market, gamechangers with a rare combination of skills and traits. The Arizona defense could have some hiccups early in their transition.

Carolina

The Panthers signed CB Bashaud Breeland (Carolina) to a three-year, 24 million dollar deal.

Why It Matters: Breeland has had ups and downs early in his career, but he’s a suitable replacement, if not an upgrade from Daryl Worley, sent packing in the Torrey Smith trade. He has the length and aggressive play the Panthers value in their scheme.

The Panthers signed DT Dontari Poe (Atlanta) to a three-year, 27 million dollar deal.

Why It Matters: With Star Lotulelei gone, the Panthers were expecting 2016 Vernon Butler to pick up the slack, but now they have a third player in the rotation who will provide quality snaps and keep the whole group fresher. Poe found a soft market last year when overuse with the Chiefs wore him down, but he “proved it” on a one-year deal. He was a pure measureables prospect who got in the first round out of Memphis despite ineffective play on film.

Chicago

The Bears signed WR Allen Robinson (Jacksonville) to a three-year, 42 million dollar deal.

Why It Matters: Robinson is coming off of a Week 1 ACL tear, and we should only project him for full recovery in pencil. The Bears land a potential ascendant #1, and Robinson must have liked the pitch from new offensive-minded head coach Matt Nagy. If Mitchell Trubisky takes a step similar to Carson Wentz or Jared Goff in year two, Robinson might return first-round value at a discount.

The Bears signed TE Trey Burton (Philadelphia) to a four-year, 32 million dollar deal and WR Taylor Gabriel (Atlanta) to a four-year contract worth 26 million dollars with 14 million guaranteed.

Why It Matters: Neither of Burton or Gabriel will clearly have consistent weekly fantasy value, but both have the ability to be big DFS or matchup plays if the new offensive staff in Chicago can mix all of the existing and new elements into binds that create mismatches like Los Angeles was able to do last year. Burton is a move tight end who will split tight end targets with massive 2017 second-round pick Adam Shaheen and Gabriel has the quickness and speed to be a big play threat. Add in Jordan Howard, Tarik Cohen and Allen Robinson, and all of the sudden this offense has some teeth.

Detroit

The Lions released TE Eric Ebron.

Why It Matters: Ebron is on the open market now and could actually gain fantasy value for being released. The Lions had soured on him decided he wasn’t worth 8.25 million despite a second half turnaround. They didn’t find any trade suitors, which is more indicative of the market’s knowledge that he was likely going to be released than a lack of belief that Ebron has value. Baltimore is the best potential destination for him fantasy-wide and wherever he goes, he’ll be brought in as a passcatching tight end. 2017 fourth-round pick Michael Roberts could have a much larger role this year with Ebron and Darren Fells (signed by Cleveland) gone this offseason.

Green Bay

The Packers signed DL Mo Wilkerson (New York Jets) to a one-year, 5 million dollar deal.

Why It Matters: Wilkerson was coached by new Packers defensive coordinator with the Jets and his addition gives the Packers a pair of defensive ends, along with Mike Daniels, that is very difficult to handle if Wilkerson can regain his form.

The Packers released WR Jordy Nelson.

Why It Matters: Nelson was productive with Aaron Rodgers last year, but he wasn’t creating as much separation and was useless without Rodgers. The Packers are betting that Rodgers skill created that production more than the player on the other end of those passes. Geronimo Allison is first in line to get vacated wide receiver targets and Davante Adams and Randall Cobb could have their bottom lines enhanced by this move. Nelson has already gotten a lot of interest and could land in Oakland, which could trigger a Michael Crabtree release.

The Packers signed TE Jimmy Graham (Seattle) to a three-year, 30 million dollar deal.

Why It Matters: Graham was an oversized short yardage wide receiver last year that functioned as the Seahawks goal-to-go inside the five offense last year. He’s not a downfield threat any longer, but he can still play that role and might have gotten an upgrade in situation. The Packers have now made three veteran tight end signings in the last three years with Graham coming in off of the heels of Martellus Bennett and Jared Cook.

Los Angeles Rams

The Rams re-signed CB Nickell Robey-Coleman to a three-year, 15.75 million dollar deal.

Why It Matters: Robey-Coleman is one of the better slot corners in the league and he signed for a pittance compared to starting outside corners. The NFL might not be correctly valuing the importance of his role. He is an excellent fit with Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters on the outside, and gives the Rams the ability to let Sam Shields come along at his own pace after multiple concussions.

Minnesota

The Vikings signed QB Kirk Cousins (Washington) to a three-year deal fully guaranteed at 84 million dollars.

Why It Matters: He’ll make the Vikings offense at least as productive as Case Keenum did, and probably retain mid-low QB1 value with his excellent surroundings. Cousins might have been able to get more money from the Jets, but he wouldn’t have the same shot at a Super Bowl ring. He signed a short enough deal to have a chance to get one more huge payday in his age 33 season.

New Orleans

The Saints re-signed QB Drew Brees to a two-year, 50 million dollar deal.

Why It Matters: The Crescent City can exhale. There was a small crack in the negotiations that made it seem like the Saints might not get a deal done and trigger 18 million dollars in dead cap money, but sanity prevailed.

The Saints signed LB Demario Davis to a three-year, 24 million dollar deal.

Why It Matters: The Saints continue to churn through linebackers, with the list of draft picks and free agent signings littered mostly by failures. Davis should get every chance to seize a large role in the defense and matter in IDP fantasy leagues.

New York Giants

The Giants signed OT Nate Solder (New England) to a four-year, 62 million dollar deal with 34.8 million guaranteed.

Why It Matters: The Giants pass blocking gets an instant upgrade, which matters for the immobile Eli Manning and perhaps a quarterback the team takes at #2 overall. The Patriots will have to replace Solder, but they have been able to handle transition on the offensive line as long they have Dante Scarnecchia on the coaching staff.

The Giants signed RB Jonathan Stewart (Carolina) to a 6.9 million dollar deal with 2.95 million guaranteed.

Why It Matters: Stewart is in line to split the backfield with Wayne Gallman for now, but he could yield to a rookie back by the end of the season, assuming the Giants dip into the deep group. Stewart might not be more effective than free agent Orleans Darkwa and isn’t worth drafting despite being reunited with former Panthers offensive coordinator Mike Shula.

San Francisco

The 49ers signed RB Jerick McKinnon (Minnesota) to a four-year, 30 million dollar deal.

Why It Matters: McKinnon is in line to lead this backfield in touches, pending the draft, which is very exciting after how this team finished the season on offense. He should take a big leap in early ADP and has a PPR RB1 ceiling for the time being.

The 49ers signed OL Weston Richburg (New York Giants) to a five-year deal worth 47.5 million dollars with 28.5 million guaranteed.

Why It Matters: The 49ers shored up their interior offensive line with Richburg, keeping the momentum going in four-month period that has seen a renaissance on the offensive side of the ball.

Seattle

The Seahawks did not tender RFA RBs Thomas Rawls and Mike Davis.

Why It Matters: Rawls was pressing last year and never regained his rookie form. Davis wasn’t bad in his short stint in the backfield, but didn’t do enough to earn a restricted free agent tender. Either or both could return later in free agency, but this is clearly Chris Carson’s backfield - at least until the draft.

Washington

Washington signed WR Paul Richardson (Seattle) to a five-year, 40 million dollar deal with 20 million guaranteed

Why It Matters: Richardson gives Alex Smith a deep threat, which Washington lacked before this signing. Smith showed a lot of improvement in his deep passing last year, and Richardson could have more consistent value than he did last year in Seattle, especially if Josh Doctson once again can’t stay healthy.