Reverse Impact of Free Agency

This was one of the busiest NFL free-agency periods that I can remember. It will have lasting effects on the fantasy community regardless of your format for this season and future seasons.

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We will start with the franchise tag. Two out of the eight players who were franchised tagged ended up being players who score fantasy points. They were Tee Higgins and Michael Pittman Jr. and Higgins has already requested a trade. 12 fantasy-relevant running backs were shuffled during this period, landing in with teams few predicted. The QB landscape was directly impacted by Kirk Cousins signing in Atlanta, which leads us to this exercise where I will discuss the reverse impact of free agency for fantasy.


  • Player: Kirk Cousins
  • Old Team: Minnesota Vikings

Fantasy Impact – The current QB1 is Sam Darnold, who most recently was the backup to Mr. Irrelevant, Brock Purdy, in San Francisco. After Week 8 when Cousins went down, Vikings QBs totaled 2,369 passing yards with 12 TDs and 14 INTs in nine games. On a per-game basis that was 263.2 yards with 1.3 TDs and 1.5 INTs, which was outside the top 20 for QBs. Cousins averaged 291.4 yards with 2.3 TDs and 0.6 INTs in eight games and ranked fifth on a per-game basis.

The last time Darnold was a full-time starter was in 2021 with Carolina when he played in 12 games, starting in 11, completing 243 in 406 attempts for 2,527 yards with nine touchdowns and 13 interceptions. This is not an ideal scenario for the Vikings skill players in Justin Jefferson, Jordan Addison, T.J. Hockenson, and newcomer Aaron Jones, but perhaps Kevin O’Connell can work his magic with Darnold. I would not be surprised if the Vikings take a QB in the NFL Draft. I will be shying away from the Vikings offense next season.


  • Player: Josh Jacobs
  • Old Team: Las Vegas Raiders

Fantasy Impact – Antonio Pierce was named the head coach for the Raiders following a successful stint nine-game stretch as the interim head coach. During those nine games, the Raiders’ starting RB averaged 20.4 carries and 88 rushing yards. Enter Zamir White, the new starting RB in Las Vegas, the biggest winner for fantasy. He started the last four games of the season for Vegas, averaging 21 carries and 99 rushing yards. No RB averaged 20 carries per game in 2023. Jacobs was second in the NFL with 17.9 carries per game. Pierce has made it clear he wants to run the ball and White appears to be ready for the role. Depending on how the draft shakes out, I will have White as a high-end RB2 with a chance to finish 2024 as an RB1.


  • Player: Austin Ekeler
  • Old Team: Los Angeles Chargers

Fantasy Impact – The Chargers are looking to hit the restart button with  Jim Harbaugh. They let Ekeler leave in free agency and brought in Gus Edwards. Harbaugh last coached in the NFL with San Francisco, where he relied on bell-cow running back Frank Gore, who averaged 267 carries, 1,164 yards, and 7 touchdowns per season in four seasons (2011-14). Edwards only averaged 11.6 carries while in Baltimore in 2023, while Gore averaged around 16 carries per game with Harbaugh. I am not sold on Edwards being every down RB1 and expect the Chargers to draft an RB, particularly with Blake Corum, which muddies things for fantasy.


  • Player: Calvin Ridley
  • Old Team: Jacksonville Jaguars

Fantasy Impact – Reports indicated the Jaguars wanted to bring Ridley back, but he signed a massive deal with AFC South-rival Tennessee Titans. In one season with the Jags, Ridley posted 76 catches for 1,016 yards with eight TDs on 136 targets. Before Ridley left, Jacksonville locked up 25-year-old, Gabe Davis, on a three-year deal. Despite being a boom-or-bust player with Josh Allen, Davis never drew over 100 targets in Buffalo. “Big Game Gabe” appears poised to set career highs in targets and catches with Trevor Lawrence. He and Christian Kirk will be fine WR2’s for the 2023 season.


  • Player: Marquise Brown
  • Old Team: Arizona Cardinals

Fantasy Impact –  Hollywood Brown signed with the Chiefs, which leaves the young WR core with big shoes to fill for Kyler Murray. Over the final eight games, a healthy Murray averaged 33.5 pass attempts for 224.9 yards with 1.25 TDs and 0.6 INTs. The most targeted player over that stretch was TE Trey McBride, who averaged 8.25 targets per game. Brown played in only four games averaging six targets per game. The next most tenured WR was Rondale Moore but he was traded to Atlanta.

Michael Wilson is now the defacto WR1 before the 2024 NFL Draft and recorded his best game with Murray in Week 17 with six catches for 95 yards on six targets. As important as Brown was for the Cards on the outside, Arizona was tied for the most TE targets with 179 (10.5 per game) in 2023. Drew Petzing is still the OC, so I expect McBride to focal point in the passing game with Wilson being the leading WR beneficiary. Wilson could be a sleeper in 2023 but I view him more as a WR3. 


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