Monday, April 15, 2024
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2024 Free Agent Preview: Ideal fits for Kirk Cousins, Derrick Henry, Mike Evans, and more

Free agency is upon us, and this could be a wild few weeks, especially for some notable running backs (Derrick Henry, Josh Jacobs, Saquon Barkley, Austin Ekeler and Tony Pollard). Tee Higgins already got the franchise tag, and Michael Pittman Jr. could follow suit. But Mike Evans, Calvin Ridley and Marquise Brown are wide receivers who could be on the move.

At quarterback, we’re all watching what will happen with Kirk Cousins — and the Justin Fields potential trade — but Baker Mayfield’s decision is also something to monitor. And tight end has some interesting free agents of note, including Dalton Schultz, Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry.

Where will all of these players end up? We’re going to find out soon. But it’s fun for us to speculate on what could happen — and find some ideal Fantasy fits for this free agent class.

Quarterbacks

Notable unrestricted free agents: Kirk Cousins, Baker Mayfield, Ryan Tannehill, Gardner Minshew, Joe Flacco, Jameis Winston, Jacoby Brissett, Tyrod Taylor and Joshua Dobbs

Notable trade/cut candidates: Justin Fields, Russell Wilson, Mac Jones and Jimmy Garoppolo

Notable teams in need: Minnesota, Tampa Bay, Atlanta, Las Vegas, Pittsburgh, New England, Washington, Denver and the Giants

Five to focus on

Justin Fields

Ideal Fantasy fit: Las Vegas

Fields has easily the most Fantasy appeal of any quarterback who could be on the move this offseason. It’s not a guarantee at the time of publication that the Bears will trade Fields, but if Chicago opts to select a quarterback with the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft (see Caleb Williams), then Fields will be in a new city in 2024. No matter where Fields plays this season, he’ll be a potential No. 1 Fantasy quarterback, but the Raiders make a lot of sense. In Las Vegas, Fields will be reunited with former Bears offensive coordinator Luke Getsy, and we’ve seen Fields dominate in that system. Davante Adams isn’t getting traded to give Fields a No. 1 receiver, and the Raiders will hopefully continue to build their offense. While it’s easy to put Fields in Atlanta, Las Vegas is the more logical landing spot.

Kirk Cousins

Ideal Fantasy fit: Minnesota or Atlanta

We’ll see if Cousins, 36, leaves Minnesota, especially after he suffered a torn Achilles in Week 8 last year. But if he does sign with a new team then Atlanta would be fun. New Falcons offensive coordinator Zac Robinson, like Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell, comes from the Sean McVay coaching tree. And Atlanta has plenty of excellent playmakers for Cousins in Bijan Robinson, Drake London and Kyle Pitts. You know what you’re getting from Cousins if he stays in Minnesota with Justin Jefferson, Jordan Addison and T.J. Hockenson, and either scenario makes Cousins a borderline No. 1 Fantasy quarterback in 2024.

Baker Mayfield

Ideal Fantasy fit: Tampa Bay

It’s hard to imagine Mayfield leaving the Buccaneers after he just had the second-best season of his career (18.6 Fantasy points per game in 2023). But changes in Tampa Bay could be awful for Mayfield, with offensive coordinator Dave Canales now the head coach in Carolina, and Mike Evans might be gone. That said, barring a move to Atlanta or Minnesota, Mayfield staying with the Buccaneers will keep him on the radar as a quality No. 2 Fantasy quarterback, and hopefully Tampa Bay finds a way to bring Evans back this season.

Russell Wilson

Ideal Fantasy fit: Atlanta

I’m skeptical that Wilson will get another chance as a full-time starter in 2024, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s a bridge quarterback somewhere for a rookie. But if the Falcons can’t make a trade for Justin Fields or sign Kirk Cousins then Wilson might make sense once he’s gone in Denver. To be fair, Wilson wasn’t awful in 2023 at 19.7 Fantasy points per game, and he had 26 passing touchdowns in 15 games. With the Falcons, Wilson would be worth drafting as a high-end No. 2 Fantasy quarterback given their weapons, but we’ll see what Wilson has left to offer at 35.

Ryan Tannehill

Ideal Fantasy fit: Pittsburgh

It’s highly unlikely Tannehill will land a starting job in 2024 as anything more than a bridge quarterback for a rookie. But his best chance might be in Pittsburgh to reunite with former offensive coordinator Arthur Smith. Tannehill’s two best seasons of his career came under Smith in Tennessee in 2019 (21.5 Fantasy points per game) and 2020 (25 points per game) when Smith was the offensive coordinator for the Titans, and Tannehill could be a cheap alternative to put pressure on struggling starter Kenny Pickett. If he ended up starting at some point for the Steelers then Tannehill could be a surprise No. 2 Fantasy quarterback in most leagues.

Running backs

Notable unrestricted free agents: Derrick Henry, Josh Jacobs, Saquon Barkley, Austin Ekeler, Tony Pollard, D’Andre Swift, Devin Singletary, Ezekiel Elliott, Kareem Hunt, A.J. Dillon, Antonio Gibson, Zack Moss, Gus Edwards, J.K. Dobbins, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Cordarrelle Patterson, D’Onta Foreman and Damien Harris

Notable trade/cut candidates: Nick Chubb, Joe Mixon, Aaron Jones, Alvin Kamara and Miles Sanders

Notable teams in need: Dallas, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Houston, Las Vegas, Minnesota, Tennessee, the Giants and the Chargers

10 to focus on

Saquon Barkley

Ideal Fantasy fit: Giants or Houston

It seems like the Giants will try to work out a deal to keep Barkley after using the franchise tag on him last season. If he stays in New York then he remains a low-end No. 1 Fantasy running back in all leagues, especially since the Giants will hopefully get better quarterback play in 2024. However, if Barkley leaves, expect plenty of suitors, including Dallas, the Chargers and Houston. I like the Texans the best because it’s an offense on the rise, and Barkley can still be a productive three-down running back playing in the same backfield as C.J. Stroud. Unless Barkley ends up in a timeshare, he should be drafted in Round 2 in most leagues.

Josh Jacobs

Ideal Fantasy fit: Las Vegas or Chargers

Jacobs could return to the Raiders after they used the franchise tag on him last season, and that would be great given how he performed with at least 16 PPR points in three of his final six games. And if he went to the run-based Chargers, that would be fantastic in Jim Harbaugh and Greg Roman’s system. After getting 340 carries for a league-high 1,653 yards (4.9 YPC) in 2022, Jacobs dropped to 233 carries for 805 yards (3.5 YPC) in 2023 before missing the final four games with a quad injury. But with the right team, Jacobs still has the potential to be a low-end No. 1 Fantasy running back in all leagues.

Derrick Henry

Ideal Fantasy fit: Baltimore

Henry will likely be rumored to Baltimore, Dallas, Philadelphia and Houston if he doesn’t return to Tennessee, which seems unlikely. Any of those destinations make sense, and Henry will hopefully still be productive despite turning 30 in January. He’s coming off a down season in 2023 with only 280 carries for 1,167 yards and 12 touchdowns and 28 catches for 214 yards on 36 targets. Still, it was his worst season since 2018, and we’ll see if Henry can remain productive with a new team. The Ravens seem likely to lean on Henry to get their ground game back on track, and Henry would be a No. 2 Fantasy running back if he goes to Baltimore.

Austin Ekeler

Ideal Fantasy fit: Washington

Ekeler turned 29 last season, and his play fell off tremendously. He went from averaging more than 20.5 PPR points per game in each of the previous two seasons — and no worse than 15.6 PPR points per game since 2019 — to just 12.1 PPR points in 2023 in 14 games. At this point in his career, he’s probably best suited to be a third-down back and work in the passing game, where he could still be dominant. Going to the Commanders makes sense since Anthony Lynn just became the running backs coach in Washington, and Lynn was the head coach for the Chargers (2017-20) when Ekeler started to turn heads. In 2019, Ekeler had 92 catches for 993 yards and eight touchdowns on 108 targets, and he would be a good complement for Brian Robinson Jr. if he signed with Washington.

Tony Pollard

Ideal Fantasy fit: Philadelphia

Pollard was worse in a full-time role in 2023 than he was in 2022 when he shared touches with Ezekiel Elliott. Last season, Pollard had 252 carries for 1,005 yards and six touchdowns and 55 catches for 311 yards on 67 targets. But in 2022, Pollard had 193 carries for 1,007 yards and nine touchdowns and 39 catches for 371 yards and three touchdowns on 55 targets. We’ll see if a team gives him the chance to be a full-time running back or keeps him in a committee, but I like Pollard in Philadelphia, especially if the offensive line remains intact. The tush push could be a problem for any Eagles running back, but I like Pollard as a No. 2 running back if he can remain in a featured role in 2024.

D’Andre Swift

Ideal Fantasy fit: Giants

Swift had a career year in 2023, and hopefully he’s poised for a better performance in 2024. He only missed Week 18 due to an illness, and he set career highs in carries (229) and rushing yards (1,049) while also scoring five touchdowns with 39 catches, 214 yards and a touchdown on 49 targets. He could have had better success if not for the tush push in Philadelphia, and a move to a new team might improve his Fantasy outlook. I put him on the Giants because they could use him if Saquon Barkley leaves, and Swift had a quality outing against the Giants in Week 16 with 20 carries for 92 yards and a touchdown, which shows he could be a workhorse if needed.

Nick Chubb

Ideal Fantasy fit: Cleveland

Most likely, Chubb will restructure his contract to stay in Cleveland. The Browns would save $11.83 million by parting ways with Chubb and have only $4 million in dead cap, but general manager Andrew Berry said at the NFL scouting combine that he expects Chubb to remain in Cleveland. It would be good for Chubb to stay with the Browns after he needed two separate surgeries on his ACL and MCL after hurting his knee in Week 2 last season, and hopefully Chubb will be ready for Week 1. I’m skeptical of Chubb being the same elite running back at 28, and I would only draft him as a low-end No. 2 running back this season, no matter where he plays.

Joe Mixon

Ideal Fantasy fit: Dallas or Tennessee

We need to put someone on the Cowboys, and Mixon could be the best bet if Saquon Barkley, Josh Jacobs and Derrick Henry go elsewhere, along with Tony Pollard not returning. Mixon could restructure his deal to stay in Cincinnati like he did last season, but there’s a chance he’s on the move. He’s scheduled for an $8.85 million cap hit in the final year of his deal, with the Bengals carrying $2.75 million in dead money for 2024 if the running back is traded or released before he’s due a $3 million roster bonus March 18. Mixon played well in 2023 despite Joe Burrow’s injuries, and Mixon averaged 14.7 PPR points per game. He also had four games with at least 18 PPR points in his final six outings, and hopefully he can still be productive after turning 28 in July. With the Cowboys, Mixon could still be a No. 2 Fantasy running back in all leagues, but hopefully he goes to a team where he can remain a featured option like he was in Cincinnati. That could also happen in Tennessee, where he could follow former offensive coordinator Brian Callahan and be a replacement option for Derrick Henry.

Devin Singletary

Ideal Fantasy fit: Houston or Cleveland

Singletary is better suited as a No. 2 running back than a featured option, but he did do well for the Texans in 2023. He set career highs in carries (216) and rushing yards (898) while also scoring four touchdowns with 30 catches and 193 yards on 38 targets. I would like to see the Texans upgrade over Singletary, but if they miss on someone like Saquon Barkley then bringing back Singletary would make sense. Also, if the Browns did move on from Nick Chubb, bringing in Singletary to reunite with former offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey would be smart. With the Browns, Singletary could work in tandem with Jerome Ford. But Singletary’s best chance at being Fantasy relevant is staying in Houston.

Zack Moss

Ideal Fantasy fit: Cincinnati

If it weren’t for Kyren Williams and Puka Nacua, we’d likely be touting Moss as one of the top Fantasy free agents in 2023. He was exceptional to start the season while Jonathan Taylor was out in Indianapolis, and he scored at least 17 PPR points in four of his first five games. Moss tailed off when Taylor returned, but Moss did enough to show he can be part of a tandem in 2024. I put the Bengals down as a possible destination if they move on from Joe Mixon, and Moss could then form a committee with Chase Brown, with hopefully Brown as the lead option. It’s doubtful Moss ends up with a starting job in 2024, but he could be a great late-round pick depending on the team he signs with this offseason.

Wide receivers

Notable unrestricted free agents: Mike Evans, Michael Pittman Jr., Marquise Brown, Calvin Ridley, Gabe Davis, Michael Thomas, Odell Beckham Jr., Curtis Samuel, Tyler Boyd, D.J. Chark, Kendrick Bourne, Josh Reynolds, Noah Brown, Darnell Mooney, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, K.J. Osborn, Donovan Peoples-Jones and Rashid Shaheed

Notable trade/cut candidates: Mike Williams, Tyler Lockett, Brandin Cooks, Michael Gallup and Hunter Renfrow

Notable teams in need: Kansas City, Arizona, Indianapolis, New England, Carolina, Tampa Bay, Chicago, Buffalo, the Jets and the Giants

Five to focus on

Mike Evans

Ideal Fantasy fit: Tampa Bay or Kansas City

If Evans leaves the Buccaneers then the Chiefs will be the ideal landing spot to link up with Patrick Mahomes. In 2023, Evans found the Fountain of Youth when he averaged 16.2 PPR points per game at age 30. He posted his 10th season in a row of at least 1,000 receiving yards, and he scored 13 touchdowns, which was the fifth time in his career with double digits in scores. We’ll see if he can keep this up at 31, but joining forces with Mahomes would certainly make Fantasy managers happy. And even if Evans stays in Tampa Bay, he would still be worth drafting as a No. 2 Fantasy receiver in all leagues.

Michael Pittman Jr.

Ideal Fantasy fit: Indianapolis

It’s unlikely that the Colts will let Pittman leave, and general manager Chris Ballard said Wednesday at the NFL scouting combine that Pittman will be on the roster in 2024. Most likely, Pittman will get the franchise tag if a long-term deal isn’t reached, and I’m fine with Pittman’s Fantasy value in Indianapolis. We don’t have a big sample size of Pittman playing with quarterback Anthony Richardson, but Pittman did score 23 PPR points with Richardson in Week 1 last season with eight catches for 97 yards and a touchdown on 11 targets. For the season, Pittman was fourth in the NFL among receivers with 109 catches, and he averaged 15.1 PPR points per game. He’ll be drafted in Round 3 in the majority of leagues.

Calvin Ridley

Ideal Fantasy fit: New England

Ridley can still return to Jacksonville, but that would cost the Jaguars a second-round pick in the NFL Draft, which might not be worth it for a 30-year-old receiver. Ridley had a solid season in 2023 with 76 catches for 1,016 yards and eight touchdowns on 136 targets, and he averaged 13.1 PPR points per game. There aren’t many teams with an opening for a No. 1 receiver, but the Patriots could give Ridley that opportunity, hopefully with a rookie quarterback. Ridley will likely be drafted as a high-end No. 3 Fantasy receiver in 2024 no matter where he plays.

Marquise Brown

Ideal Fantasy fit: Chargers

Brown was bad in 2023 with 51 catches for 574 yards and four touchdowns on 101 targets in 14 games, and it wasn’t just because Kyler Murray was out for most of the season. Brown struggled even when Murray returned in Week 10 with 20 PPR points combined in their three healthy games together. But I’m confident Brown can still produce, and he’s only 27. Going to the Chargers makes some sense because of the reunion with Greg Roman, who was Brown’s offensive coordinator in Baltimore from 2019-21, and in their final season together, Brown had 91 catches for 1,008 yards and six touchdowns on 146 targets. Mike Williams isn’t expected back in Los Angeles, and Brown could be the No. 2 receiver opposite Keenan Allen.

Gabe Davis

Ideal Fantasy fit: Jacksonville

Kansas City would make sense for Davis as well, but let’s put him on the Jaguars here for a different perspective. He would provide a deep threat for Trevor Lawrence and replace Calvin Ridley, and hopefully this will be the first season Davis gets over 100 targets. He has a lot to prove to Fantasy managers no matter where he plays, but Davis will hopefully end up on a team that will feature him more than Buffalo did. He could emerge as a No. 3 Fantasy receiver as the season goes on.

Tight end

Notable unrestricted free agents: Dalton Schultz, Jonnu Smith, Hunter Henry, Gerald Everett, Mike Gesicki, Noah Fant, Austin Hooper, Robert Tonyan, Irv Smith Jr., Jimmy Graham and Harrison Bryant

Notable trade/cut candidates: Logan Thomas and Taysom Hill

Notable teams in need: The Chargers, Houston, Cincinnati, New England and Seattle

Three to focus on

Dalton Schultz

Ideal Fantasy fit: Houston

Schultz isn’t going to become a star Fantasy tight end no matter where he ends up, but his production has been solid for the past few seasons in Dallas and Houston. With the Texans in 2023, he did well as the No. 11 Fantasy tight end at 9.7 PPR points per game, and he had seven outings with at least 11 PPR points in 15 outings. I would be OK seeing Schultz run it back with C.J. Stroud in 2024, and Schultz would be worth drafting with a late-round pick in all leagues.

Jonnu Smith

Ideal Fantasy fit: Cincinnati

Smith has proven he can be a playmaker at times in Tennessee and Atlanta (maybe not New England), and it would be fun to see him as the No. 1 tight end for Joe Burrow in Cincinnati. It’s doubtful anyone is going to draft Smith as a No. 1 Fantasy tight end no matter where he ends up in 2024, but attaching him to a top-tier quarterback like Burrow would help.

Hunter Henry

Ideal Fantasy fit: Chargers

Let’s get Henry back to the place where he had the best moments of his career with the Chargers, and he could end up as a valuable weapon for Justin Herbert in Greg Roman’s offense. Any tight end for the Chargers will be intriguing for Fantasy managers because of Roman, who is a former tight ends coach and most recently made Mark Andrews a star in Baltimore. And Henry started his career with the Chargers in 2016 and had two seasons of at least 10 PPR points per game in 2019 and 2020 before going to the Patriots in 2021.

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