Fantasy Football Free Agency Preview: Washington
Free agency has a major impact on fantasy football. For dynasty team owners it’s never too early to start thinking about how player values could change.
I’m going through each team’s free agency and salary cap as a thought exercise. As an avid dynasty player, knowing how player values could change is key to making good decisions about which players to stash and which to put on the trade block. Once I finish running through the teams, I’ll circle back and do some more player or position-specific analysis.
|PLAYER||POS||TEAM||TYPE||16 SAL||16 GUAR||TEAM CAP|
|TEAM||PLAYER||POS||DEAD $||CAP SAVINGS|
Needs – QB, RB, WR
Washington has a decent amount of cap space, and will likely be one of the more interesting teams to watch in free agency this year. The depth chart behind oft-injured Jordan Reed is wide open. Both Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson (for practical purposes) are free agents. Running back Matt Jones bombed, and although Rob Kelley made something out of nothing, he’s not done enough to be assured of anything next season. Oh, and by the way, quarterback Kirk Cousins is a free agent again.
Let’s start small and build up. Given Kelley’s lack of pedigree, the failure of Jones, and the potential departure of Chris Thompson, I expect a significant move at the RB position. Only six teams have more cap space, so Washington could afford a premier free agent, or they could spend a premium draft pick at the position. In other words, Kelley might be not much more than a placeholder. In deep roster leagues I think you should hold him for now, but I’m not looking to acquire.
At tight end, Washington has already expressed interest in bringing back Vernon Davis. In the four games Reed missed this season, Davis averaged 9.7 PPR points, which is useful but it’s probably not worth holding on to him except possibly in two-TE leagues.
Things start to get interesting at WR. DeSean Jackson is technically under contract, but really it’s just a “dummy year” that was added to his contract in order to spread out the cap charges. That dummy year voids after the Super Bowl, so Jackson will be a free agent soon. Like at RB, Washington could be in play for a free agent WR — they’ve already been linked to Kenny Britt — or draft investment. Assuming both Garcon and Jackson are gone, even if they sign a free agent, there should be plenty of work available for Jamison Crowder and, if healthy, Josh Doctson.
Crowder is maybe not an exciting name, but he did just post a top-30 fantasy season. That seems like his floor, if he remains third in the pecking order. But he could very well end up getting more targets next year (e.g. Washington acquires no significant competition, and Crowder/Doctson are the top two WRs), so I think he’s not only a strong hold, but someone to acquire. I also think Doctson should be on your “buy” list, but only if the price is right. I wouldn’t pay more than a late first round pick. The potential for a major workload is certainly there; Jackson and Garcon vacate over 200 targets. The injury situation should drive his value down, too. The difference for me is that Crowder has two seasons of health and improving production, whereas Doctson is just potential. I’m concerned Doctson will turn out like Kevin White or Breshad Perriman, high draft picks who struggle to stay on the field and could still take another season before they hit their potential. I guess it’s fair to say that Doctson has a wider range of outcomes than Crowder, who is a safer acquisition target.
Quarterback is the most interesting thing to watch here. Kirk Cousins is far and away the best QB on the free agent market. It’s not even close, even if you’re not a fan of Cousins. Consider the class of 2017 free agents:
You can probably add Colin Kaepernick and Tyrod Taylor to the list as well, but I think NFL teams would prefer Cousins even to them. Expect Cousins to have no shortage of suitors, which means Washington might have to resort to using the franchise tag on him for a second time. That would give Cousins a guaranteed $24 million contract for 2017, and use up about 40 percent Washington’s available cap space. It would also put Washington in a bad situation next year — they wouldn’t be able to tag Cousins again, so they’d need to play free agent roulette (or draft a rookie) at the game’s most important position. Because they control the franchise tag hammer right now, though, I’d guess Cousins gets a long term deal done with Washington this offseason.
What might that look like? Consider that Brock Osweiler got $37 million guaranteed on his contract, and Sam Bradford $22 million on his, and I think it’s reasonable to expect Cousins to get $30 million plus guaranteed. As for length and total dollars, Spotrac calculates his value at five years, $117 million, for an average of $23.4 million per year. That would make him a top three QB by average salary, which might seem excessive, but it’s really not. First, the salary cap goes up every year, so contracts inflate naturally over time. Second, there’s a with-or-without-you consideration at the QB position. Where would Washington be without Cousins, if they had to step down to say, a rookie, or one of the names on the above list? Keeping him has a definite value. Finally, Cousins has produced numbers that may not be “top three” but are certainly very good.
For fantasy purposes, Cousins has finished as QB9 and QB5 in his two seasons as a starter. He could end up with a different offensive coordinator or on a poorer team in general, but given what it will take to sign him, wherever he plays he should be passing plenty. In dynasty startups, he probably qualifies as a “late round QB” and I think he’s worth waiting for. Stock up elsewhere, and get Cousins later.
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- Available cap space was compiled in mid-December, 2016, and may have changed since. I’ll update that once I finish reviewing all the teams. (back)