Baltimore - The Ravens signed RB Danny Woodhead to a three-year, 8.8 million dollar deal with 4.25 million guaranteed.
Why It Matters: Woodhead is on track to be completely recovered from his ACL tear by Week 1, but we’ll be monitoring that after how many offseason injury situations gave us headaches last year. With Kenneth Dixon suspended for the first four games of 2017, Woodhead could be a nice early-season PPR play, if not beyond.
Baltimore - Ravens RB Kenneth Dixon will be suspended for the first four games of the 2017 season for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs.
Why It Matters: It was a terrible week for Dixon and his fantasy owners, as the team could now turn to the draft to the bolster the backfield. They also signed Danny Woodhead, who will usurp the receiving game PPR punch Dixon harnessed once he was healthy last year.
Baltimore - The Ravens retained WR Mike Wallace by exercising his 2017 option.
Why It Matters: A strong free agent wide receiver class yielded no big signing to replace Steve Smith, so Wallace was brought back with a 4.75 million dollar price tag he more than earned in 2016 with a 1000-yard season. He and third-year deep threat Breshad Perriman will be asked to do a lot for Joe Flacco in what has been a pass-heavy offense.
Buffalo - The Bills retained QB Tyrod Taylor after restructuring his contract.
Why It Matters: They were likely going to have to turn to second-year QB Cardale Jones if they let Taylor walk, so this is good news for LeSean McCoy and Sammy Watkins. McCoy also got a bump when the Bills signed FB Patrick DiMarco. Taylor is an underrated fantasy quarterback who should improve this year as long as Sammy Watkins stays healthy.
Cincinnati - The Bengals signed WR Brandon LaFell to a two-year, nine million dollar deal with three million guaranteed.
Why It Matters: LaFell was a solid play when AJ Green was out last year and he had a three-game stretch with four scores while Green was in the lineup, but this year could be bleak for him and the rest of the Bengals offense with their losses on the offensive line. LaFell did well to improve from his minuscule one-year prove it deal last year, but he probably won’t improve from last year’s numbers.
Cincinnati - The Bengals signed OL Andre Smith to a one-year deal.
Why It Matters: Despite having the cap room to franchise left tackle Andrew Whitworth or guard Kevin Zeitler, the Bengals let both get away and instead brought back Smith after a rough year on Minnesota’s beleaguered offensive line. It’s hard to be optimistic about any part of the Bengals offense in 2017.
Cleveland - The Browns signed OL JC Tretter and Kevin Zeitler and extended OG Joel Bitonio.
Why It Matters: The Browns are taking the Cowboys approach to team building, creating a rock solid interior offensive line to anchor the running game and help protect their quarterback before they have actually found their quarterback. Isaiah Crowell was offered a second-round level tender and should be the main beneficiary of these moves in 2017.
Cleveland - The Browns signed WR Kenny Britt to a four-year, 32.5 million dollar deal with 17 million guaranteed.
Why It Matters: We’re not sure who will be throwing the ball to Britt, but it can’t be worse than the quarterback situation that Britt somehow turned into a 1,000 yard season last year. He should be considered a solid WR3, with room to grow if the Browns can improve from Cody Kessler at quarterback.
Cleveland/Houston - The Browns traded a 2017 fourth-round pick to the Houston Texans for a 2017 sixth, 2018 second, and QB Brock Osweiler.
Why It Matters: The Browns executed the first NBA-style salary dump trade in the NFL. It is a by-product of the constantly rising cap and shortage of talent in free agency. A forward-thinking organization, the Browns can recoup something additional from the trade if they can deal Osweiler to a team looking for a backup quarterback. If they can’t, Osweiler will likely be released, and then he should be able to catch on as at worst a third quarterback.
Indianapolis - The Colts signed TE Jack Doyle to a three-year, 19.5 million dollar deal with 10 million guaranteed.
Why It Matters: Dwayne Allen was sent packing to New England in a related move, which leaves Doyle as the #1 tight end for Andrew Luck. He’ll be a preferred red zone target and should be considered a borderline TE1 for 2017, with maturing basketball convert Erik Swoope as the downfield seam-ripper with a chance to be relevant in fantasy leagues this year.
Miami - The Dolphins signed WR Kenny Stills to a four-year, 32 million dollar deal with 20 million guaranteed.
Why It Matters: Stills could have moved on to greener fantasy pastures with a change to a team that would make him a core target. He’s more a deep ball specialist with Miami, which helps the offense greatly, but limits his weekly and season-long upside. This signing is also probably an indication that the team is far from sold on 2015 first-round pick DeVante Parker as a long-term piece of their offense.
New England - The Patriots traded the #32 pick and a third-round pick in the 2017 draft to the Saints for WR Brandin Cooks and a 2014 fourth-round pick.
Why It Matters: Cooks adds a vertical element to the passing offense that now does have everything. While it’s hard to improve from New Orleans as a fantasy situation for a receiver, New England is still a plum spot for any pass catcher, so Cooks ADP shouldn’t take a huge hit, although Chris Hogan is looking less attractive now. Michael Thomas and Willie Snead have the look of target hogs in New Orleans now.
New England - The Patriots traded a fourth-round pick to the Colts for a sixth-round pick and TE Dwayne Allen.
Why It Matters: Allen has never stayed healthy enough to live up to his 2016 contract, and new Colts GM Chris Ballard wanted to move on from him as soon as possible. Allen’s two-way game gives the Patriots a Martellus Bennett replacement, and he has a better chance of being relevant in fantasy leagues, especially if Rob Gronkowski has injury troubles again in 2017.
New England - The Patriots signed RB Rex Burkhead.
Why It Matters: Burkhead’s 3.15 million dollar deal is actually not too shabby by free agent running back standards and rich by Patriots running back standards. He can help as a receiver and inside runner and even on special teams. If the Patriots don’t sign or draft a “big back”, Burkhead could be one of the fantasy surprises of 2017.
Pittsburgh - Steelers RB Le’Veon Bell underwent surgery to repair a core muscle injury on March 13.
Why It Matters: Bell has yet to make it through an NFL season without a major injury. While he held up for the regular season for 13 games under a huge workload, you have to wonder about his ability to hold up for more than that this year. DeAngelo Williams is still a free agent, so the identity of the all important Steelers backup running back to Bell is still up in the air.
Chicago - The Bears signed QB Mike Glennon to three-year, 45 million dollar deal with 18.5 million guaranteed.
Why It Matters: Glennon might not be an upgrade from Matt Barkley or an injured Jay Cutler, but he’ll keep the Bears out of the bottom few teams at quarterback while they develop a young quarterback they take at #3 or bide their time waiting for their future savior. Glennon was serviceable as a rookie in Tampa Bay, and he should be asked to be a “game manager” with Jordan Howard still a centerpiece after his rookie year exploits. The Bears can get out of the contract with little financial pain if Glennon bombs this year because almost all of the guaranteed money comes this year.
Why It Matters: Neither of Wright or Wheaton is likely to rise to fantasy relevance, but both add playmaking speed and Wright should be an upgrade from Eddie Royal in the slot. The Bears aren’t likely to have a high volume passing game, so the addition of two viable targets will make it tougher for Cameron Meredith, Kevin White, and TE Zach Miller to hit their ceilings in 2017.
Dallas - Dallas RT Doug Free announced his retirement from the NFL.
Why It Matters: The Cowboys also lost OG Ronald Leary in free agency, so the greatest offensive line in the game has taken a hit this offseason. This shouldn’t result in Ezekiel Elliott or Dak Prescott moving down in our rankings, but it is a situation to watch if the Cowboys line suffers injuries that tests their now thinner depth.
Dallas - Dallas RB Ezekiel Elliott, still under investigation by the NFL for domestic violence allegations, was filmed exposing a woman’s breast at a St. Patrick’s day parade.
Why It Matters: The ice under Elliott’s feet is getting thinner. While there’s no sign that he’ll be suspended by the league, they are most concerned with negative publicity, and this certainly falls under that heading. While he’s still worth a high first-round pick in fantasy drafts, we’d like to see signs that Elliott knows the scrutiny he is under and what is he is risking in the way that he conducts himself in public.
Dallas - The Cowboys were reportedly going to release QB Tony Romo at the open of free agency, but they are currently attempting to trade him.
Why It Matters: One of the biggest stories of the offseason is still unsettled, as the Cowboys have reversed the stance most rumors had them taking, one that would have granted Romo his release at the beginning of free agency to give him control of his 2017 plans. Denver and Houston are still the most likely teams to end up with Romo, no matter the means, and one set of receivers will get a boost in rankings, at least as long as Romo stays healthy.
Detroit - The Lions signed OG TJ Lang to a three-year, 18.5 million dollar deal and OT Ricky Wagner to a five-year, 47.5 million dollar deal.
Why It Matters: Matthew Stafford should have a solid set of tackles for the foreseeable future with Wagner and 2016 first-round pick Taylor Decker, and if Lang stays healthy, he’ll stabliize an interior offensive line that lost Larry Warford to the Saints. The Lions did the right investing in a line that had trouble establishing the run and setting Stafford with time to pass downfield in 2016.
Green Bay - The Packers signed TE Martellus Bennett to a three-year, 21 million dollar deal.
Why It Matters: Bennett knows how to pick his quarterbacks, and he should be able to put up numbers squarely in the TE1 range with Aaron Rodgers throwing him the ball. Rodgers was able to make Jared Cook a potent weapon for a short time in 2016, and Bennett was on his way to a big fantasy year before he got hurt. As long as Bennett stays off of the injury report, both he and the Packers offense should reach a new level this year.
Los Angeles Rams - The Rams signed WR Robert Woods to a five-year, 39 million dollar deal with 15 million guaranteed.
Why It Matters: Woods isn’t the downfield threat that Kenny Britt is, so asking him to equal Britt’s 1000-yard campaign is too much, but he could be decent bench depth as the only proven outside receiver on the roster. He is also an accomplished blocker coming from Buffalo’s strong running game, so that can only help Todd Gurley.
Minnesota - The Vikings signed OT Mike Remmers to a five-year, 30 million dollar deal and OT Riley Reiff to a five-year, 58.75 million dollar deal.
Why It Matters: The Vikings running game was laughably bad at times in 2016 as the team found themselves playing backups to backups for stretches. The addition of Remmers and Reiff will shore things up, and with some better luck in the injury department, the blocking should be functional for Sam Bradford and new free agent signing Latavius Murray.
Minnesota - The Vikings signed RB Latavius Murray to a three-year, 15 million dollar deal.
Why It Matters: It’s not a bank-breaking deal, but it is one that indicates that Murray will get a lot of work in the backfield on early downs and have a chance to a be a solid RB2 if the offense can get the running game on track after a disastrous 2016.
New Orleans - The Saints signed WR Ted Ginn to a three-year, 11 million dollar deal.
Why It Matters: Ginn still has lethal deep speed, and Drew Brees is one of the most productive deep passers in the league, so this could be a fantasy match made in heaven. While Ginn will never be a consistent fantasy receiver, this is the very best outcome fantasy football players could have hoped for in his 2017 outlook.
New York Giants - The Giants signed WR Brandon Marshall to a two-year, 12 million dollar deal.
Why It Matters: Marshall is back for fantasy purposes and should project as a solid WR2/WR3 with a large helping of red zone targets in a pass-heavy offense. He’ll benefit from the attention that Odell Beckham Jr will draw on the other side of the field, although second-year receiver Sterling Shepard will be relegated to the slot. Shepard will still get a ton of snaps as three-wide is the base set for the Giants, but his targets will take a hit with the addition of Marshall. Eli Manning is the biggest fantasy winner in the wake of this move.
Why It Matters: Carson Wentz has to be happy with the addition of Smith’s speed and Jeffery’s ability to win at the catch point. The second-year quarterback has a true #1 and deep threat to put Jordan Matthews and Zach Ertz back in complementary roles instead of having to shoulder the majority of the passing game. It might be hard to pick the right receiver week-to-week in fantasy leagues, but the Eagles are doing to right thing surrounding their young passer with established receivers.
San Francisco - The 49ers signed QB Brian Hoyer to a two-year, 12 million dollar deal with 10 million guaranteed.
Why It Matters: Talk about a trade for Kirk Cousins won’t completely go away, but for now Hoyer is the Week 1 starter. The 49ers could draft a quarterback with the second overall pick, but they also signed Matt Barkley to backup Hoyer, so they are set if they make no other moves at quarterback. Hoyer isn’t a proven winner, but he revived the Bears passing game from a fantasy standpoint last year, and he could make Pierre Garcon and Vance McDonald viable fantasy plays.
San Francisco - The 49ers signed WR Pierre Garcon a five-year, 47.5 million dollar deal with 17.5 million guaranteed.
Why It Matters: Garcon had a career revival in 2016, with the second highest reception and yardage totals of his nine years in the league. He should be the focal point of the passing game in Kyle Shanahan’s offense, and we have seen starting quarterback Brian Hoyer inflate the value of receivers like DeAndre Hopkins and Cameron Meredith in recent years. Garcon’s value is still strong.
San Francisco - The 49ers signed FB/RB Kyle Juszczyk to a four-year, 21.5 million dollar deal with 10.5 million guaranteed.
Why It Matters: As amazing at it sounds, Juszczyk may get the largest free agent deal of any running back this offseason. GM John Lynch has said they plan to make him an “offensive weapon”. While he might not rise to the level of having fantasy value, we might need to keep him on our waiver wire watch list in deep PPR leagues.
Seattle - The Seahawks signed RB Eddie Lacy to a one-year, three million dollar deal.
Why It Matters: Apparently, Seattle is not trusting CJ Prosise and Thomas Rawls to carry the load after their early-career injury woes. Lacy reportedly weighed 267 pounds on a recent visit, so his ability to contribute consistently is far from a given, but he was actually very good before he got hurt in Green Bay last year. The Seahawks line is another big question mark, but in the past the team has been an excellent situation for fantasy running backs, so Lacy is worth a mid-round gamble.
Tampa Bay - The Buccaneers signed WR DeSean Jackson to a four-year, 35 million dollar deal with 20 million guaranteed.
Why It Matters: This is great news for Jameis Winston, who has not just a viable second receiver, but one of the best field-stretchers in the NFL. Mike Evans will get fewer targets, but see fewer double teams, and the middle of the field should be opened up for Cameron Brate. The Buccaneers are a team on the rise and they landed the perfect big ticket wide receiver for their offense.
Washington - Washington signed WR Terrelle Pryor to a one-year, six million dollar deal.
Why It Matters: Pryor was supposed to get a lot richer after his breakout season, but the Browns decided to sign Kenny Britt instead, leaving Pryor to sign a “prove it” deal in Washington. The good news for fantasy is that Pryor should be the #1 outside target for Kirk Cousins as long as Cousins doesn’t get dealt to San Francisco before the season.