Free-agent movement often has ramifications for more than just the player who is changing teams. Who are some players whose fantasy stock is on the rise due to a separate signing or trade made by their existing team?
Dan Hindery: Tee Higgins is likely to benefit when all is said and done. The Bengals free agency moves point to them drafting offensive lineman Penei Sewell at No. 5 overall in the draft. The team still has multiple holes to fill on the offensive line, even after signing right tackle Riley Reiff to a one-year deal. The Reiff signing came with a lot of talk about his flexibility to play guard if needed and does nothing to solve the offensive tackle need long-term. If the Bengals had been more aggressive filling offensive line holes in free agency, maybe they would have drafted a player like Ja'Marr Chase or Kyle Pitts at No. 5, but it’s hard to see that happening now.
Cincinnati’s head of personnel talked glowingly of Higgins as an emerging star and he projects as Joe Burrow's WR1 moving forward. Assuming the Bengals add Sewell to Reiff and a healthy Jonah Williams, the ingredients are there for a solid offensive line. Improved line play should enable the passing game to take off in Burrow's second season and Higgins looks like the main beneficiary.
Andy Hicks: Speaking of offensive lines, New England also made significant improvements up front. Cam Newton and his pass-catchers are the obvious beneficiaries but don’t forget about Damien Harris (and maybe even Sony Michel).
Bill Belichick won’t give us many hints about his backfield rotation, but with Rex Burkhead no longer on the team, there are fewer mouths to feed (at least for now). Both Harris and Michel averaged more than 5.0 yards per attempt last season, but Harris will be much higher in my initial rankings due to the burst he showed when used in a featured role in 2020.
Sigmund Bloom: Andy, the Patriots were in on the free-agent running back market and could still end up signing or drafting someone. Stay tuned.
Andy Hicks: Oh, I fully expect it Sig. Harris and Michel combined for 12 catches last year. Even with James White returning, it wouldn't be shocking if they grab another pass-catching back. But if they add a more prominent running back like Leonard Fournette or James Conner, my enthusiasm for Harris will plummet.
Jason Wood: Andy raises a good point about Cam Newton -- as long as Belichick doesn't draft a rookie to take his job. The offensive line looks better, the Patriots invested in two talented tight ends who excel at running routes in Newton's preferred throwing lanes, and the receiving corps got a shot in the arm too. Neither Nelson Agholor nor Kendrick Bourne is a future All-Pro, but they fit well into McDaniels' scheme and will give Newton quality tertiary targets to go along with Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith.
Phil Alexander: I’m looking forward to seeing what the Rams pass-catchers can do with Matthew Stafford. Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp have each been productive in Sean McVay’s system with Jared Goff at quarterback, and now they should finally get some accurate downfield targets to work with. DeSean Jackson was even a sneaky-good signing to give Kupp, Woods, and Tyler Higbee more space to operate for as long as he can stay on the field. Stafford on the Rams is a rising tide that should lift all boats in LA, including running back Cam Akers. As it stands today, prioritizing Rams players is a big part of my draft plans.
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