As we close the book on the 2017 season, it’s time to take a look at 2018’s free agent market. In this series I will identify free agents I find fantasy relevant, rank them by position, and include my projected landing spots. As each player is signed to a contract I will give that player a specific write up providing you with everything you need to know about their fantasy value in their new home.
Kirk Cousins, 29
Kirk Cousins went laughing to the bank for his second season in a row now. A third franchise tag from the Washington Redskins would run them approximately $34.5 million. With a price tag so high, expect Cousins to be elsewhere in 2018 unless a long-term contract is signed.
Cousins hasn’t missed a start since 2015, when he beat out Robert Griffin III, and has thrown for over 4,000 yards, and completed at least 64% of his passes in every season since.
In 2017, Cousins threw 27 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions. His two leading receivers Jamison Crowder and Josh Doctson combined for only 29% of his completions, 31% of his passing yards, and 33% of his touchdowns. To provide reference using a QB I find comparable: Matthew Stafford’s two leading receivers Golden Tate and Marvin Jones combined for 41% of his completions, 47% of his total yards, and 48% of his touchdowns. This highlights Cousin’s ability to get the job done without much of a supporting cast.
My preferred landing spot for Cousins is the Denver Broncos. Denver has two established receivers in Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, which gives Cousins a similar environment to 2016, when he had Desean Jackson and Pierre Garçon. Sanders shares similar field stretching ability to Jackson’s while Thomas could be an upgraded version of the go-to receiver Garcon represented. With those receivers combined, Cousins threw for a career high 4,917 yards, in 2016.
Jimmy Garoppolo, 26
The 49ers acquired Jimmy Garoppolo for a second-round pick after week 8 of the 2017 season. He relieved rookie C.J. Beathard of his starting quarterback duties two weeks later and has since run away with our hearts.
In his 6 games as the 49ers future at quarterback, he completed 67% of his passes for 1,560 yards, 7 touchdowns, and 5 interceptions. If those numbers were stretched over a 16-game span he would finish a season with 4,160 yards, 19 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions. Those numbers aren’t much to look at under normal circumstances. Considering they were produced with only two weeks to learn a Kyle Shanahan offense which seemed intricate when described by Matt Ryan, those numbers become astonishing.
Garoppolo shows outstanding rapport with his teammates in his popular “Mic’d up” video showing his 2-minute drill against the Tennessee Titans. The video is well worth the watch.
The 49ers currently have the most projected cap space in the NFL heading in to 2018, and will likely add at least a couple offensive weapons in free agency. With the addition of a quality wide receiver in the off-season, I will have no problem bumping Garoppolo above Kirk cousins on this list. “Jimmy GQ” will be in San Francisco for quite some time.
Drew Brees, 38
In 2017, Drew Brees had his fewest attempts, passing yards, and completions since 2009. He also had the highest completion percentage in NFL history.
This current Saints roster shares some similarities to the 2009 Super bowl winning team. The main similarity is at the running back position. Though Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas don’t come close to the production that Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara provided, they did represent a run heavy attack.
The Saints one - two punch at the running back position is intact for at least 2018 which will likely result in another productive season for Brees in the NFL and another down season for fantasy compared to the production we had become accustomed to.
Brees is one of the league’s few active Hall of Famers. I can’t see the Saints letting him walk with so many assets returning for 2018 and a devastating NFC Divisional round loss in 2017.
Teddy Bridgewater, 25
In August of 2016 Teddy Bridgewater suffered a non-contact injury to his left leg. After an MRI it was revealed he had dislocated his knee and tore his ACL. Some speculated that the damage was so severe he could lose his leg. Now, in 2018, Teddy is healthy and hungry for a comeback.
In his sophomore campaign Bridgewater completed 65.3% of his passes with 3,231 yards, 14 touchdowns, and 9 interceptions.
He is currently QB25 according to DLF’s January mock drafts. At 25, he is just 1 year older than both Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota. According to the ADP data, Mariota was drafted as QB9 while Winston was drafted at QB10. Mariota completed only 62% of his passes and threw two more interceptions than touchdowns this season while Winston missed 3 games to injury and saw a slight dip in his completion to touchdown ratio. While I’m not advocating Teddy over either of these players straight up, I am highlighting his value. You could trade the farm for Winston or Mariota, or you could grab Bridgewater for a fraction of the cost.
All three of the Vikings current quarterbacks are free agents coming in to 2018. Bridgewater is the only quarterback I project to come back. He was drafted by this current coaching staff in 2014 when Mike Zimmer took over, and the two reportedly have a quality relationship.
Sam Bradford, 30
Sam Bradford was coming off a 2016 campaign in which he set an NFL record for highest completion percentage with 71.6%. He picked up where he left off in game one against the Saints; completing 27 passes for 346 yards, and 3 touchdowns. His completion percentage was a whopping 84%.
Unfortunately, he finished the Saints game with an injured knee. After being considered day to day for a few weeks, he made his next start week 5 against the Chicago Bears. He left the game early, after aggravating the knee injury and later landed on IR. The Injury was reported as career threatening and was considered a byproduct of his two previous surgeries on his torn ACL.
Bradford is undoubtedly talented, but he’s also 30 with nagging knee complications. He should likely find work as a starter in 2018, so long as he clears other team’s physicals as he did with the Vikings.
I fear that he will catch on with the Cardinals as his skill set is comparable to Carson Palmer. The Cardinals have the 5th fewest projected cap space and will likely lose both Jaron Brown and John Brown in free agency. There is also the possibility that Larry Fitzgerald hangs up the cleats.
Case Keenum, 29
Case Keenum took over the starting job in spot duty for Bradford week 2 of the 2017 season until Bradford could return. As previously stated, Bradford took back the reigns in week 5, but aggravated his knee injury. It was then Keenum’s team by default; because Bridgewater was not yet cleared nor ready to participate in full contact.
Keenum did a phenomenal job as the starter, leading his team all the way to the NFC Championship game. He threw for 3,547 yards, 22 touchdowns, and 7 interceptions on the season. He finished with a respectable completion percentage of 67.6%.
The Jets will likely draft their QB of the future, but Keenum could upgrade their current QB room and allow New York to move on from Josh Mccown who is also a free agent in 2018. This situation may seem bleak for Keenum, but the Jets have the 4th most projected cap space. They’ve got plenty of money to add pieces around him.
AJ McCarron 27
There isn’t much on the books about A.J. McCarron. Coming out of Alabama he was criticized for his mechanics but praised for his movement in the pocket.
In the 2016 wildcard round against the Steelers, McCarron had to step in for an injured Andy Dalton. He completed 56% of his passes for 212 yards, a touchdown, and an interception.
Right before the 2017 trade deadline, the Bengals and Browns botched a trade that would’ve sent McCarron to Cleveland to be their starting quarterback and possibly their future at the position.
McCarron is a restricted free agent but filed a grievance against the Bengals organization for keeping him on the NFI list his rookie year when he claimed to have been healthy enough to be active. This didn’t count his first season towards his contract. If the ruling is in McCarron’s favor he is then an unrestricted free agent.
If he hits the market, I’d like to see him in Pittsburg. The Steelers may be able to keep the band together for one more year but will likely lose “Big Ben” to retirement and Le’veon Bell to free agency in 2019. Pittsburg needs their next QB now. I could see that happening with McCarron. They’ve seen him first hand in the playoffs and throughout the years in pre-game as members of the AFC North.