When the NFL’s 2020 free agency period opens March 18, we’ll see several familiar faces switching teams, including one star who may be in a new uniform for the first time in 20 years.
In fantasy football, forecasting statistical production largely hinges on where said player winds up, of course, and the nature of this being a team game means the supporting cast is an intertwining factor in developing a sound projection.
Looking at the key fantasy contributors facing free agency generates plenty of questions. Let’s try to wager some educated guesses as to where these guys will land.
Philip Rivers: The marriage between the Los Angeles Chargers and Rivers has come to an end, and he will be playing in a new city during the 2020 season. Turning 39 in December, the 17-year veteran will look to play for a contender. The team most likely a “quarterback away” from a Super Bowl that jumps out is the Indianapolis Colts (provided the Patriots don’t retain their star QB). Tampa Bay could move on from Jameis Winston, although the Bucs are more than a Rivers away from being a true contender. Tennessee could turn his way if Ryan Tannehill doesn’t return. A wild card could be the Chicago Bears, which likely would be presented as an open competition in training camp. Rivers still has a few quality fantasy football games in him for 2020, but before suggesting he has even low-end starter worth, knowing where he will land is a must. The best option across the board is Indy — where Rivers would be a fringe starter.
Drew Brees: As reported, Brees only will consider playing for the New Orleans Saints in 2020, and he confirmed his desire to re-sign as of Feb. 18. One could argue age contributed to this 2019 thumb injury, but it also was a fluky situation. The system, his weaponry, and an insanely accurate right arm will help cover any diminishing physical traits. Brees is a low-end QB1, whose roster addition warrants a higher selection of a serviceable backup, just in case.
Tom Brady: Rumors of the Oakland Raiders having considerable interest shouldn’t be downplayed, but Brady dressing for any other team than the New England Patriots seems like a coin flip, at best, right now. One has to imagine he will accept a similar amount ($30 million a year) as reported in the Oakland chatter, so long as the Pats make an earnest effort to upgrade the offense around him. He’s a backup fantasy option but has the chops for a few starter-worthy performances, even at his advanced age.
Jameis Winston: Does head coach Bruce Arians believe he can influence Winston in a way that substantially cuts down on his turnovers? If so, expect Winston to return for at least one year. If not, the Buccaneers will let him walk and target Rivers or another one of the several viable starters. Arians turned to a well-aged Carson Palmer in Arizona and could opt for the same if he truly doesn’t believe in Winston being able to turn things around. For now, I’m operating under the expectation that Arians believes Jameis is closer than not to being the quarterback Tampa expected when he was drafted, and a one-year deal isn’t the worst idea for both sides. My confidence in Winston’s ability to significantly reduce his turnovers is a different conversation.
Ryan Tannehill: Some sources say Tannehill is likely to receive the franchise tag, and others suppose the designation will go to Derrick Henry. There is more leverage for a huge contract for Henry, but the cost for quarterbacks is greater, even in a flooded market. Unless somehow the Titans land Tom Brady, expect Tannehill to return on a modest deal that is modeled in a “prove it” structure. He has fringe utility as a starting fantasy quarterback, but the Titans need to address their tight end spot and should add a downfield playmaker at receiver to enhance Tannehill’s fantasy worth.
Dak Prescott: This one comes down to dollars and cents more than any of the other situations — like enough moolah to fill a swimming pool a la Scrooge McDuck. Prescott was a top-three fantasy passer in 2019 and has a floor inside of the 10 best at his position in 2020, should he be re-signed, and the Cowboys retain free-agent WR Amari Cooper, as expected. Prescott landing a huge deal prohibits the long-term viability of this offense way beyond the upcoming season. Provided the Dak-Cooper duo indeed returns, which is the expectation, little will change in the offensive designs to suggest Prescott isn’t an elite fantasy choice at his position.
Teddy Bridgewater: While he isn’t really a fantasy option to any degree, the expensive backup is likely to test the open market. There will be a market for him and an opportunity to start somewhere, likely after the marquee names come off of the board. The game manager may be treated as a consolation prize for teams in transition. Bridgewater proved once again that fantasy gamers shouldn’t have interest in this offensive custodian. Even in the best of situations (New Orleans), he once again proved unworthy of being a fantasy option.