2018 Contract Year Players (Fantasy Football)

by Mike Tagliere | @MikeTagliereNFL | Featured Writer
Jun 14, 2018

David Johnson is slated to be a free agent after this season

Whether it be through an article, podcast, or radio, you’re likely to hear something to the effect of, “this guy is in a contract year, so you know he’ll be playing hard for that next contract.” Let me start by saying that this thinking assumes the player wasn’t going hard before their contract year, which I don’t think is the case.

With that, I do believe that everyone has that extra gear they go to during crunch time. I mean, do you think that Kobe Bryant didn’t bring a little extra effort in the games he had to guard Michael Jordan? Or that Darrelle Revis played the exact same way when covering Derrick Mason compared to Calvin Johnson? No, they brought their absolute best. When the auditor shows up to your job, are you focusing more to stay within compliance? You don’t have to tell your boss (we know). While it won’t change much with some players, we do know one thing… it definitely won’t hurt.

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Another thing to keep in mind is that these are the players who may be in a new offensive system next year. This can be a great thing if you love the player’s talent, but always felt like he’d been underutilized. Their perceived value can change dramatically based on landing spot, so keep that in mind dynasty leaguers. Let’s talk about the big names who are slated to become unrestricted free agents at the end of the 2018 season.

Quarterbacks

Tyrod Taylor (CLE)
It’s not a big free agency year for quarterbacks, but Taylor could set himself up really well for 2019. If he plays at a high-level, the Browns are going to Baker Mayfield regardless, so he could wind up getting paid a handsome sum of money to be a starter somewhere.

Teddy Bridgewater (NYJ)
There’s been rumors out of Jets camp that Bridgewater could start Week 1 for them and that he looks solid in OTAs. Similar to the Tyrod Taylor situation in Cleveland, if Bridgewater plays well, he’s going to get paid in free agency because the Jets are tied to Sam Darnold for the long-run.

Running Backs

Le’Veon Bell (PIT)
We might as well put Bell’s name in permanent marker on this list, as he’s been here the last few years. In reality, it seems Bell is destined to be elsewhere in 2019, as the Steelers just haven’t been willing to give him a long-term deal. He’s even mentioned retirement, though I can’t see that happening.

David Johnson (ARI)
He’s someone I’d expect to get extended before the season ends, as he’s the foundation of the Cardinals backfield. He’s only slated to make $730K this season and most don’t realize he’s already 26 years old. He shouldn’t jump at the first deal they offer, as this may very well be his last long-term deal with the way running backs are being treated in contract talks.

Mark Ingram (NO)
After Ingram’s outburst towards Sean Payton on the sideline in 2016, it seems their relationship has been on the rocks. Now that he’s been suspended four games, the Saints will get to see what life without Ingram is like. My guess would be that he’s playing for a new team in 2019.

Jay Ajayi (PHI)
After trading for Ajayi mid-season in 2017, the Eagles will have to decide whether or not to extend him during the season. He was someone who most thought would last just one contract due to his knee issues, but he’s been able to stay on the field thus far. With how much of a timeshare Doug Pederson uses in his backfield, I don’t believe it’d be their top-priority to get him locked-up long term.

Tevin Coleman (ATL)
With how he’s played in short spurts throughout his career, Coleman is going to get some good money in free agency, and it’s not likely to come from the Falcons after they drafted Ito Smith in the fourth-round. He’s someone whose stock can go through the roof if he lands a featured role.

Latavius Murray (MIN)
He’s going to be an interesting free agent, because even though he’s got decent miles on his tires, he’s still just 27 years old. It shouldn’t shock anyone to see him re-sign with the Vikings, as he’s not going to land another workhorse role with so few available.

C.J. Anderson (CAR)
Being cut late in the free agent process likely hurt Anderson’s chance to land a long-term deal, so he took the “bet on myself” one-year deal with the Panthers. He’s going to get enough opportunities to showcase his skills, and if he can stay healthy, he’s likely to land at least one more multi-year contract.

T.J. Yeldon (JAX)
After being drafted to be the workhorse, Yeldon watched his world flip upside-down when the Jaguars drafted Leonard Fournette. Here’s the thing – he looked really good in his limited role last year. Does he like being behind the oft-injured Fournette, or does Yeldon believe he’s ready for another lead role? If he hits the open market, I’d expect him to get a solid multi-year deal.

Doug Martin (OAK)
It was smart of Martin to take the one-year deal with the Raiders, as they have a top-five offensive line and he’s behind a 32-year-old running back with back problems. If Martin can regain his stride that he had a few years ago, he’ll get another contract in free agency, though I’d expect the Raiders to extend him in-season if that’s the case.

Ameer Abdullah (DET)
Will Abdullah even make it to free agency in 2019, or will the Lions cut/trade him before the 2018 season begins? Time will tell, but I’d assume there will be a few suitors lined up to take the talented second-round running back who has just over 300 career carries on his frame.

Other Notable Players: Ty Montgomery (GB), Marshawn Lynch (OAK), Mike Gillislee (NE), Spencer Ware (KC), Bilal Powell (NYJ)

Wide Receivers

Odell Beckham Jr. (NYG)
Now you know why he’s been looking for a contract extension before the season begins. He’s trying to protect himself for his big payday, as he’s slated to make just $2.6 million in 2018, which is far lower than his market value. If he sat out the entire season to avoid injury, he’d make up all that money in free agency in 2019 and then some. If the Giants don’t extend him, he’s going to set a new record for wide receiver contracts.

Brandin Cooks (LAR)
Rumor is that the Rams and Cooks are very close to a contract extension, as they wouldn’t have traded for him if they didn’t think they could lock him up long-term, something they failed to do with Sammy Watkins. I don’t think Cooks will hit free agency any time soon.

Stefon Diggs (MIN)
This is a big one, as the Vikings have gotten away with paying him peanuts over the years. In fact, he’s set to make just $626K in 2018, a number that is lower than guys like Tre McBride and DeVier Posey. If the Vikings want to do this right, they’ll extend him as soon as possible. If they don’t, Diggs is going to cash-in big-time in free agency.

Larry Fitzgerald (ARI)
It seems unlikely that Fitzgerald will play beyond the 2018 season, but if he wanted to, he could go to the team of his choosing.

Randall Cobb (GB)
The Packers have drafted multiple wide receivers over the last few years and it was rumored that both Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb were on the chopping block. While Cobb hung on for his last year, it seems unlikely that he’ll be back in 2019. If we’ve learned anything from history, it’s that wide receivers lose value when they leave Aaron Rodgers.

Golden Tate (DET)
A vital part to the Lions offense over the last few years, you’d have to think the Lions try to extend his contract in-season this year. He will be 30 years old in August, but as a smaller wide receiver, I’d assume that he gets a three-year contract.

Chris Hogan (NE)
With Julian Edelman nearing the end of his career and little else on the roster, you should expect the Patriots to re-sign Hogan and not let him hit the open market. His value would decrease going anywhere else, so dynasty leaguers should be hoping for an extension.

Rishard Matthews (TEN)
It’s unclear what the Titans plan to do with Matthews, as we’ve not heard anything as it relates to a contract extension, but it’d make sense for them to retain him. Behind Corey Davis and Taywan Taylor, who are both a bit unproven to this point, they have little depth at the position. He’ll be 29 later this year, so he’s still got a few years left in the tank.

Devin Funchess (CAR)
Maybe another reason the Panthers drafted D.J. Moore in the first-round, as Funchess could test the open market if he chooses in 2019. He just turned 24 years old, so he’s got a lot of football ahead of him, but the Panthers would be wise to retain the big-bodied wide receiver. With Greg Olsen nearing retirement, they can’t afford to lose their sole big body in the red zone.

Kelvin Benjamin (BUF)
Despite trading for him, the Bills have been noncommittal when it comes to granting Benjamin a contract extension, and it’s likely wise for them to not double-down on the oft-injured wide receiver. After having another knee surgery this offseason, Benjamin might have a tough time cashing in on his biggest free agent opportunity.

Martavis Bryant (OAK)
We all knew that Bryant wanted out of Pittsburgh, but will he want out of Oakland when he realizes that Amari Cooper is the man there? It seems like the ideal spot for him, as I don’t think many view him as a legitimate No. 1 receiver in an offense. We know he’s a size/speed freak, so if he can do big things with the targets he sees, then he might be able to cash-in next offseason.

Other Notable Players: Tyler Lockett (SEA), Ryan Grant (IND), John Brown (BAL), Mike Wallace (PHI), Donte Moncrief (JAX)

Tight Ends

Delanie Walker (TEN)
Since coming over to the Titans in 2013, Walker has never seen less than 86 targets in any one season and hasn’t seen less than 102 targets in each of the last four seasons. Needless to say, he’s a giant part of their offense, but will be 34 years old next year and they did draft Jonnu Smith in 2016. Still, a new contract for him would make sense considering his consistent success.

Tyler Eifert (CIN)
After hitting free agency this summer, Eifert realized that nobody was willing to bet on a tight end with a history of back issues who has now missed 40 of the last 64 games possible. As a former first-round pick, it’s rare to see him have to sign a one-year deal, but that might be the reality going forward for him.

Jared Cook (OAK)
Even though he’s just 31 years old, Cook is on his fourth NFL team. The Raiders don’t have anyone on the depth chart behind him who could fill a starting role and teams don’t typically draft rookie tight ends to start right away, so it’s likely that the Raiders try to retain him. If they don’t, expect them to pursue someone else on this list.

Other Notable Players: Luke Willson (DET), Ben Watson (NO), Jesse James (PIT)


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Mike Tagliere is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Mike, check out his archive and follow him @MikeTagliereNFL.

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