2021 Free Agency Round-Up: NFC Edition
Curtis Samuel – WR – Washington Football Team
Pros: Washington was anxious to add a stud WR2 to play alongside the up-and-coming Terry McLaurin, and they got their man in Curtis Samuel. The speedster out of Ohio State made a name for himself this year with his success as a gadget player: able to run routes at receiver or take snaps running the ball. Samuel has elite speed, but an underrated part of his game is his route running ability. The highly coveted free agent was paid finely by Washington, so expect him to be a big part of the offensive gameplan, coming in at WR2 on their depth chart. The move to sign Samuel should help McLaurin, who has not played across from a proven WR yet in his NFL career. Samuel’s speed and big-play ability will attract some attention, which could help McLaurin get better 1-on-1 matchups.
Cons: Washington may not be done at WR yet. Their lack of proven depth could influence them to add another playmaker via the draft. Cam Sims, Steve Sims, Isaiah Wright, Antonio Gandy-Golden, and Kelvin Harmon will battle for roster spots, and likely the WR3 role. Otherwise, there is no real downside to this signing. Transitioning at QB from Alex Smith to Ryan Fitzpatrick, this offense has meaningful targets to spare. Samuel will bring an element of speed that will open up the offense for the Washington QB for years to come.
2021 Outlook: Always have conservative hopes for players entering year one with a new team. However, the availability of targets in Washington and the improved QB situation indicate that Samuel could have a lot going for him this upcoming season. It’s very possible that we could see Samuel improve from his 2020 WR25 overall finish.
Grade for 2021: B+
Kenny Golladay – WR – NYG
Pros: New York finally has a #1 WR. It’s a rarity to see a top NFL WR hit free agency in his prime, but Golladay and his insane catch radius have departed from Detroit to come to join Daniel Jones and the New York Giants. The Giants have been lacking a true top WR since they traded Odell Beckham Jr., but this signing makes it clear that the organization is all in on third-year QB Daniel Jones’ development. The Giants have now revamped the previously lacking receiver room. They’ve given Daniel Jones a truly elite WR talent in the hopes he will take a massive step forward in production this upcoming year. This move indicates that the Giants are committed to giving Daniel Jones everything he needs to have a chance to succeed in the NFL. This signing boosts Daniel Jones, who averaged just over 200 pass yards per game last year. Golladay will help open up the offense just like DeAndre Hopkins did in 2020 with the Cardinals: He’ll create a matchup problem that teams will be forced to address. Golladay has already proven that he is capable of taking on top coverages, something that cannot be said about any WR Daniel Jones has had in the NFL. In all, the Golladay signing should only make the Giants offense more efficient, and should only increase Daniel Jones’ confidence and productivity.
Cons: The Giants had no other WR1, so this signing helps all parties involved. Slot man Sterling Shepard has thrived when he hasn’t been labeled as the top threat to defenses. Newcomer John Ross isn’t a real threat to targets, and Darius Slayton is more the big play type receiver. If anything, this signing negatively affects Golladay. The Giants haven’t touted a top passing offense in years, and Daniel Jones’ lack of development thus far is concerning. At the end of the day, Golladay’s arrival will only show if the problem in New York has been Daniel Jones’ weapons or Daniel Jones’ talent.
2021 Outlook: The sky’s the limit for the freshly signed playmaker. Golladay will have the obvious WR1 role on the Giants and should command a lot of targets. The question is whether Daniel Jones is a capable NFL QB, and he can give Golladay the quality throws he needs to be effective. But ideally, Golladay and Jones will feed off of each other, each taking the other to a higher level of play. If this is the case, Golladay could be in for a top 12 WR season, just like Stefon Diggs and DeAndre Hopkins last year.
Grade for 2021: A-
Devontae Booker – RB – NYG
Pros: It’s obvious that New York needed a backup to RB Saquan Barkley. Wayne Gallman is a free agent and there is no other proven name on the roster. Enter Devontae Booker, an RB who has been a backup his whole NFL career, but found success last year in Vegas with the Raiders. In the absence of Josh Jacobs, Booker put up respectable numbers and was effective in games where Jacobs was completely healthy. Booker is a backup, and will not split carries with Barkley except in a change of pace role, so there’s nothing to worry about there. Barkley, however, has experienced major injury the last two seasons. He may miss time again in this upcoming season. In this case, Booker would step into the lead-back role and would be a very startable RB option for fantasy. Booker is just a handcuff that will see minimal reps if and until Barkley goes down. However, if you plan on drafting Saquon Barkley, or own him already in a dynasty/keeper league, keep in mind that given Saquon’s injury history, Booker really should be a must-have.
Cons: This means we won’t continue to see Wayne Gallman in the backup role in New York. Gallman provided a great change of pace and put up good numbers while Barkley was injured. With the RB free agent market mostly dried up this offseason, it appears Gallman will be hard-pressed to find an RB2 slot on any team’s depth chart.
2021 Outlook: If Barkley stays healthy all year, then Booker will likely end up in the RB50 range. This would be unexpected after the past two seasons that Barkley has had. Booker may see at least some playing time as the lead back in New York, but Saquon’s health will determine the upside Booker will carry.
Grade for 2021: C
A.J. Green – WR – ARI
Pros: We don’t know what workload Green will carry for the Cardinals, whether he will even see 50% of snaps. His signing was unexpected, and his contract surprising. With the big money committed to Green, you could expect him to receive a respectable target share and a consistent role in Arizona’s offense. His signing gives QB Kyler Murray another weapon to throw to and perhaps eases the defensive coverage focus around star DeAndre Hopkins. Arizona elected to spend money on A.J. Green as opposed to bringing back RB Kenyan Drake or another quality RB on the open market. That should be a testimony to their belief in Chase Edmonds or their confidence in their ability to draft a quality RB in the upcoming draft. As for Green himself, this situation is one of the best possible for him to walk into. He can operate as a WR2 in a pass-heavy offense with a young, on-the-rise QB in Kyler Murray. The commitment from Arizona is undeniable, the amount of capital invested in him will surely give Green a chance to show he is not a completely washed form of his former self.
Cons: Christian Kirk and Andy Isabella will enter the next year of their careers in the NFL, still without receiving a vote of confidence from the team that drafted them. Neither Kirk nor Isabella have broken out yet, and instead of continuing to give these guys chances to develop, Arizona has elected to bring in immediate, short-term upgrades in talent, the latest case being A.J. Green himself. This move signifies that Arizona doesn’t believe in either of their highly drafted youngsters enough to give them a shot at the WR2 role.
2021 Outlook: In a high-volume passing offense, Green will likely see a good amount of yardage if he can stay healthy and effective. With his hefty contract already signed, Arizona will give him a shot at a large role in their offense. However, this signing may deceive us all off of name value, as Green has not played anywhere near an elite level in recent years. It’s a risky bet to guess if he’ll pick up the pace in his fresh start with the Cardinals.
Grade for 2021: C+
Jamaal Williams – RB – DET
Pros: Detroit gets a hard-nosed, passionate runner in Jamaal Williams, who ran like his life depended on it last year in Green Bay. Jamaal is an exceptional runner in any yardage situation and has come on strong as a ball catcher out of the backfield in recent years. Williams is all around what you look for in a great RB. In a Detroit offense set to be run by Jared Goff, the run game will likely be high-volume, which should give Jamaal a good amount of chances to continue to make a name for himself.
Cons: Detroit fans and Fantasy owners are questioning this move, as there has been a lot of hype surrounding last year’s second-round pick D’Andre Swift in the first weeks of the offseason. Swift is expected to take on a large workload, a rumor that new Head Coach Dan Campbell has helped to sprout and grow. Additionally, Detroit has former second-round pick Kerryon Johnson entering the final year of his rookie contract. Johnson is a very capable backup that already has a lot of capital invested in him. All these things are reasons to question why Detroit would bring in a Free Agent RB that thrives off of a respectable workload. Williams got paid just above market value money for a backup, which even further clouds how Detroit sees him fitting into their offense. Will Swift become a bell-cow back, or will he form a committee will Williams and even Johnson? That is the question not likely to be answered until snap counts start being recorded in Week 1.
2021 Outlook: As stated above, Detroit’s plans to utilize Williams will likely remain a mystery. If he were to split carries in a committee with D’Andre Swift, he could be set for a similar stat line that he put up last year, and a top upside could reach a top 25 RB finish. If Swift were to take over as main ball carrier in Detroit (the coach indicating that he will) Williams will likely be restricted to a role that makes him unusable for fantasy until Swift were to go down with an injury.
Grade for 2021: C+
Ryan Fitzpatrick – QB – WFT
Pros: Washington found themselves a QB different than the previous starter Alex Smith. Smith favors conservative throws that don’t cost his team a game, whether that be check-downs to the RB out of the backfield or short-yardage throws to the Tight End. On the flip side, Fitzpatrick is the QB that makes plays that will win a game for your team. His playstyle is significantly different, as he isn’t afraid to let the deep ball fly for a chance at a big gain. Fitz is going to air the ball out a lot more than Washington did last season, which first and foremost helps young WR Terry McLaurin. McLaurin has already shown off his blazing speed against top NFL corners, but he hasn’t had a QB that can consistently deliver accurate throws. Fitzpatrick’s willingness to take shots will allow McLaurin to gain more air yards and be better utilized as a downfield threat. This also helps newcomer Curtis Samuels, as with a Fitzpatrick-led offense Washington is more likely to throw the ball more. For Fitzpatrick himself, Washington is an ideal landing spot with great young weapons and an elite defense to keep games within reach.
Cons: Antonio Gibson, J.D. McKissic, and Logan Thomas were all huge benefactors from Alex Smith’s time in Washington, as all received a major target share in an offense concentrated on the check-downs. If Fitzpatrick is to be Washington’s starter, expect all three skill players to have their target share diminished as Fitzpatrick will target players further downfield.
2021 Outlook: Unless a top QB falls to Washington in the draft, it appears that Fitzpatrick will be Washington’s starter for the whole of the 2021 season at first glance. In 7 starts with Miami last year, Fitzpatrick averaged 2 TDs and 300 yards per game. In an offense with better weapons, and ideally a secure starting role, you could project Fitzpatrick to put up even better numbers in 2021.
Grade for 2021: B
Andy Dalton – QB – CHI
Pros: According to Dalton himself, the free-agent addition has already been guaranteed the Bears’ starting QB gig. Meaning Chicago is unlikely to bring in any competition for Dalton. Dalton will now get to throw to a star WR1 in Allen Robinson, as well as to second-year WR Darnell Mooney, who flashed several times in the late parts of the 2020 season. He’ll throw behind an average offensive line, and will hand the ball off to late-season hero David Montgomery.
Cons: The Bears nation is already against Andy Dalton. The franchise was expecting a blockbuster trade for flustered Seahawks star Russell Wilson, but Seattle wouldn’t deal him. Thus forcing the Bears to look to free agency and the draft for a QB. By “guaranteeing” Dalton the starting job, Chicago is suggesting that they won’t look to trade up and draft a QB this year. Moving on from several key defensive players as well makes it look as if Chicago is potentially taking a rebuilding year. For Dalton, the best-case scenario was that he found a starting job somewhere. For Bears fans, and Bears fantasy players, the worst-case scenario was that Dalton is brought in as the starter. Dalton played poorly in Dallas last year while Dak Prescott was hurt, and that was with one of the most talented offensive rosters in the league. Dalton’s upcoming year in Chicago isn’t likely to be a pretty one.
2021 Outlook: Dalton likely shouldn’t command a roster spot on fantasy teams except for in Superflex or 2 QB leagues. Despite having an elite WR in Allen Robinson, Dalton’s recent lack of efficiency and effectiveness indicates that he’ll have a hard time sustaining any fantasy weapons.
Grade for 2021: D
Gerald Everett – TE – SEA
Pros: Seattle’s signing of Everett was surprising, as the team already has a lot of draft capital invested into the TE position. It’s just a one-year prove-it deal for Everett, but the $6M contract suggests he’ll see a decent role in the offense. Russell Wilson’s frustrations about not being able to throw the ball more could be addressed this upcoming season, which would open up new targets. Everett would be the obvious candidate to take on that role.
Cons: Unfortunately, Seattle hasn’t produced a top TE in many years. Names like Will Dissly, Jacob Hollister, and Greg Olsen have all had chances, but Russell Wilson hasn’t targeted the position enough to sustain a player fantasy-wise. The prized free-agent addition from last year, Greg Olsen, only received 37 targets over the whole of the season. Additionally, Everett will have competition at the position from Will Dissly and Colby Parkinson. To be truthful, this signing is puzzling for both parties.
2021 Outlook: Tendencies show us that the TE doesn’t have a serious role in Seattle’s passing game, and at the moment there is no reason to believe that this will change for Everett. However, Seattle has spent their prized cap space on him for a reason, so it will be interesting to see what role the Seahawks can afford to give Everett. Until the tendency is broken though, expectations should likely be set quite low for Everett.
Grade for 2021: C-
Chris Carson – RB – SEA
Pros: Reports indicated that Seattle was set to move on from Pro Bowl RB Chris Carson, but the lack of a developing free-agent market brought him back home for two more years. When healthy, Carson has been a very consistent fantasy back. Over the past three years, Carson has put up two 1,000 yard rushing seasons, and three top 20 RB finishes. He struggled with injury in 2020 but had well over 200 carries in both 2019 and 2018. Carroll has fed Carson the rock throughout his career, despite having a great passer in Russell Wilson. This has the potential to change in 2021 though, as Russ has expressed frustration about the high-volume run game Seattle has used. Carson isn’t known for his receiving abilities, so a movement away from the run game could hurt Carson’s upside. That said, he managed an RB19 finish off of just 141 carries this past season. Even if the pass game numbers were to increase, it’s more than likely that a full healthy season would contain a lot more carries than that for Carson.
Cons: Neither Rashaad Penny and Deejay Dallas will take on a bigger backfield role. It appears Penny will play out his entire first-round rookie contract without earning the RB1 role. Carson is a much better RB than either of the two, so there’s nothing to mourn there. Otherwise, there are no real cons; Carson knows the offense and has proven his effectiveness in it.
2021 Outlook: Ideally, Carson will return to a 2800-carry annual back (as he was in 2019). Carson will keep his large role in the offense and should have another borderline top 12 RB season.
Grade for 2021: A
Aaron Jones – RB – GB
Pros: The unexpected re-signing of Green Bay’s most efficient RB in recent history came under 24 hours before free agency began. Jones, a top 5 RB each of the last two years, will have another 4 years as the Packers starter. He’s an elite runner on outside zone plays and has become a fantastic pass catcher out of the backfield, even showing in plays that he can play outside at WR. This is a great signing for both Jones and Green Bay. The Packers have used Jones somewhat sparingly from a usage standpoint, so his decline isn’t rapidly approaching. Jones is a very consistent fantasy player, his yards per carry and target rate keep him at an elite level weekly, not to mention his high TD rate. Jones is virtually a lock for another top 5 RB finish if he can stay healthy.
Cons: A.J. Dillon, Green Bay’s second-round pick from last year, will be elevated to the backup/Jamaal Williams role. Jones’ resigning means Dillon is unlikely to get the starting RB role for a while, with Jones now being under contract longer than Dillon. Seeing as Green Bay doesn’t like to overwork one back, it’s very likely that Dillon will have a role consistent enough to hold down a flex spot in fantasy. However, his lack of pass-catching ability is concerning, as it makes him a more one-dimensional back, which in turn could limit his reps.
2021 Outlook: Jones’s high efficiency, TD rate, and role in the Packers offense make him an easy prediction for 2021’s top fantasy backs. A re-signing in Green Bay was a best-case scenario for Jones, who will continue to play every Sunday in one of the NFL’s most high octane offenses.
Grade for 2021: A+
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