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NFL Free Agency Primer

by Mike Tagliere | @MikeTagliereNFL | Featured Writer
Mar 7, 2019
Golden Tate

Golden Tate is the top wide receiver available on the free agent market

You may not have realized it, but we’ve already arrived at the NFL’s free agency period. Crazy, right? It seems like just yesterday where we were playing in fantasy championship games. For those who aren’t aware how and when free agency works, I’ll do my best to explain.

On March 11th, teams will be able to contact pending free agents despite their contracts not expiring with their current teams until March 13th at 4:00pm EST. This is known as the ‘legal tampering period,’ because they’re technically still under contract. We will hear a lot of rumors in between March 11-13, but nothing will become official until the new league year, which starts at 4:00pm EST on March 13th. Most of the rumors you’ll hear are correct, but players can change their mind before the new league year, as Frank Gore did a few years back. He was rumored to be signing with the Eagles, then ultimately changed his mind and went to the Colts.

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In order for you to be prepared for free agency, we’re here to give you an overview of the top players who’ll be available to the top bidder. It’s important to remember that just because a team has a need at a certain position, it doesn’t automatically mean they’re able to enter the free agent sweepstakes for any player. Current contracts, future contracts, deals that are in the works, salary cap space, and other factors can play a part in the process. We know some of these factors, so we’re going to do our best to project which teams should show the most interest.


Nick Foles
He’s the top free agent quarterback, though that’s not saying much. Foles is likely going to a less-than-stellar offense with a much worse offensive line. This doesn’t bode well for his fantasy appeal. He’s going to be a starter somewhere in 2019, though the options are pretty limited.
Potential Suitors: Dolphins, Redskins, Jaguars
My prediction: Jaguars

Tyrod Taylor
Similar to his situation last year, Taylor can provide a one-year stop-gap to a contending team who’s looking to groom a rookie quarterback. I mean, it’s not all the time you have someone like Baker Mayfield ready to play a month into his career. Taylor has thrown just 12 interceptions on his last 942 pass attempts, so he could be a great fit for a team who’s looking to play a ball-control style offense with minimal turnovers. Ahem, Jaguars.
Potential Suitors: Jaguars, Redskins, Dolphins
My prediction: Dolphins

Ryan Fitzpatrick
If there’s a team who’s in need of a quarterback, but doesn’t want to take one in this draft class, and doesn’t want to pay Nick Foles a hefty free agent contract, Fitzpatrick is the perfect solution. He’s someone who can keep your team in contention and lets your fanbase know that you aren’t completely mailing in the season. He’s coming off a season in which he averaged 9.6 yards per attempt, which is the third-highest mark of all time among quarterbacks who’ve thrown at least 100 passes in a season. At the very worst, he’s a top-tier backup.
Potential Suitors: Dolphins, Redskins, Browns, Jaguars
My prediction: Browns

The Others

Teddy Bridgewater
Brock Osweiler

Running Backs

Le’Veon Bell
Here we go again. When looking around the NFL for running back jobs that net 25-plus touches a game, there’s not very many available. A few that stand out are the Jets, Ravens, Raiders (if Marshawn Lynch retires), and Eagles. If a team is willing to invest 15-plus million per year into a running back, they’re likely going to be a contender, right? I mean, how else could you justify that? The Eagles are a contender, but they’re upside-down in cap space right now and they haven’t used a single-back system. The Ravens are a contender, but would they use Bell enough in the passing-game to justify signing him? That’s by far the best part of his game. Bell has said if his price isn’t met, he’ll retire. That may seem a bit far-fetched, but so did his holdout in 2018.
Potential Suitors: Ravens, Jets, Raiders, Eagles
My prediction: Ravens

Mark Ingram
While returning to the Saints would be the ideal outcome from a fantasy perspective, you would think the Saints would’ve done something by now. Maybe they just disagree on money. Aging running backs haven’t been getting much on the open market, so it’ll be interesting to see what kind of money Ingram gets. He’s posted 1,000 rushing yards in two of the last three seasons, has ability as a receiver, and has a nose for the goal-line.
Potential Suitors: Saints, Ravens, Bears, Chiefs, Eagles
My prediction: Saints

Tevin Coleman
He’s going to be playing elsewhere in 2019, though you have to wonder if his 2018 season hurt his chances of landing a workhorse role. The Falcons continually nursed his workload despite the Devonta Freeman injury, and he didn’t even top 11 carries in any of the final eight games. There were two 100-yard rushing games, though he’s a bit too reliant on the big play. With limited workhorse roles available, Coleman may have to settle in as the leader in a timeshare. He’s just 25 years old with limited tread on his tires.
Potential Suitors: Bills, Jets, Raiders, Eagles
My prediction: Jets

Jay Ajayi
Most thought Ajayi would cash-in this offseason, but a knee injury will derail his appeal. He’ll be just 26 years old when the season starts, but there were concerns about his knees coming out of college with some doctors saying you’d be lucky to get one full contract out of him. He’s likely going to be on a one- or two-year prove-it deal, though he’s not likely to be a clear-cut starter from day one. One RB-needy team we know won’t be calling: The Jets (Adam Gase).
Potential Suitors: Panthers, Eagles, Dolphins
My prediction: Panthers

T.J. Yeldon
He’s probably the most underrated running back on the market, as he was a second-round pick just four years ago, and he’s done very little to hurt his stock. Since 2016, there have been just 12 running backs who’ve caught more passes than him. Sure, he’s averaged just over four yards per carry in his career, but it’s been hard for anyone to run behind that Jaguars offensive line that was down four starters by the end of the 2018 season. It’s possible that some NFL teams value him more than Tevin Coleman (I’d be one of them).
Potential Suitors: Chiefs, Buccaneers, Bills, Jaguars, Raiders, Jets
My prediction: Buccaneers

Adrian Peterson
After posting his eighth career 1,000-yard season, Peterson reportedly wants to continue playing. He’ll turn 34 years old in March and it’s unlikely that many teams will be calling to inquire about his limited services. Peterson said he’d love to come back and play for the Redskins, but if they have a rookie quarterback and aren’t competing, it makes little sense. On top of that, Derrius Guice is going to be the starter when healthy. Who knows, maybe a reunion with the Vikings makes sense with Latavius Murray hitting free agency.
Potential Suitors: Jets, Raiders, Redskins, Patriots, Vikings
My prediction: Redskins

Frank Gore
Another aging running back who played extremely well in 2018, though his season ended abruptly with a foot injury. Gore wants to continue playing football in 2019 and it’s difficult to blame him considering he ran for 4.6 yards per carry behind a below-average offensive line in a weak offense. Re-signing in Miami would likely make the most sense, but does Brian Flores have other (younger) plans?
Potential Suitors: Dolphins, Eagles, Raiders
My prediction: Dolphins

The Others

C.J. Anderson
Spencer Ware
Latavius Murray
Mike Davis
Bilal Powell
Doug Martin
Ameer Abdullah
Corey Grant

Wide Receivers

Golden Tate
Now a 30-year-old, nine-year-veteran, Tate is nearing the end of what’s been a rock-solid career. He’s slot-only which limits his options in free agency, but there are plenty of teams who could use his services over the middle of the field. He’s played at least 15 games in eight straight seasons and has totaled at least 795 yards and four touchdowns in each of the last six seasons. He’s a stable veteran presence, so he’ll appeal to both contenders and teams looking for a veteran to pave the way for some younger receivers.
Potential Suitors: Packers, Colts, Redskins, Jets, Raiders
My prediction: Colts

John Brown
After remaining healthy throughout an entire season, Brown is hitting the free agent market once again. With Joe Flacco, he produced great numbers. In fact, he was the No. 11 fantasy wide receiver through seven weeks of the season, though many forget due to how bad Lamar Jackson was for his output. When healthy, Brown can do a lot of different things for an offense. You should expect a lot of teams to be interested in the shifty receiver.
Potential Suitors: Cardinals, Packers, Patriots, Saints, Raiders, Eagles
My prediction: Raiders

Devin Funchess
Not many believed Funchess could be as productive as he was in 2017 when he totaled 840 yards and eight touchdowns. He’s dealt with Cam Newton‘s inaccuracy through the first four years of his career, but Funchess is far from perfect. Ideally, he’s a No. 2 option on your team who’s best utilized in the red zone. He’s just 24 years old, 6-foot-4, 232 pounds, and production history in the NFL. He’s going to get a deal. The only question is how much.
Potential Suitors: Cardinals, Ravens, Browns, Colts, Jaguars, 49ers
My prediction: Ravens

Jamison Crowder
He decided to have his worst season of his career heading into free agency, catching just 29 passes for 388 yards and two touchdowns. That comes after three straight seasons with at least 59 receptions and 600 yards. His health is going to be the concern for teams, as he’s always seemingly dinged-up, though he’d missed just one game through his first three seasons. With the increased usage in slot-only receivers in today’s game, Crowder should have no issue finding a job.
Potential Suitors: Lions, Packers, Colts, Jets, Raiders
My prediction: Lions

Tyrell Williams
Some are expecting him to get the biggest free agent contract, though I’d be surprised if that happens. Playing alongside Philip Rivers is something not many get to do and the only highly-productive season he had was when Keenan Allen was hurt, which meant Williams walked into 119 targets. He’s someone whose production on a per-target basis is going to take a hit in 2019, so he’d better see plenty of targets in his new home.
Potential Suitors: Cardinals, Colts, Ravens, Bills, Patriots, Raiders
My prediction: Cardinals

Demaryius Thomas
Coming back from a torn Achilles is going to be hard for any player, let alone one who will be 32 years old in October. He’s likely not going to be ready for the start of the season, either, as Achilles injuries often take a full nine months to heal from. His injury didn’t happen until late December, putting him behind the 8-ball. It’s possible that Thomas doesn’t make it back from this. His days as a fantasy starter are over. In fact, after getting arrested last week, he may be done playing football all together.
Potential Suitors: Patriots, Browns
My prediction: No team to start the season

The Others

Michael Crabtree
Adam Humphries
Donte Moncrief
Randall Cobb
Phillip Dorsett
Chris Hogan
Cordarrelle Patterson
Dez Bryant

Tight Ends

Jared Cook
He may not even hit free agency, which would make this free agent class extremely dire for tight end-needy teams. The Raiders desperately want to re-sign him and Cook should take full advantage of that. Cook has now been in the league for 10 seasons and 2018 was the first time he’s cracked the 800-yard mark. It was also the first time he scored more than five touchdowns. Knowing how little talent there is on the free agent market, Cook is likely going to be overpaid by someone.
Potential Suitors: Bills, Bengals, Cowboys, Lions, Jaguars, Saints, Raiders
My prediction: Raiders

Tyler Eifert
When Eifert isn’t in ‘The Others’ section, you know the free agent class is thin. During Eifert’s six-year career, there’s been 96 possible regular season games he could’ve played in. His total number of games played: 43. He was a free agent last year, but nobody was giving him any attention, so he settled on a one-year, prove-it deal with the Bengals. Well, he broke his ankle, which surely won’t help his agent when free agency begins. Now that the Bengals have a new coaching staff, they may be looking to move on, which means Eifert needs to look for another one of those one-year, prove-it deals.
Potential Suitors: Bills, Bengals, Cowboys, Lions, Jaguars, Saints, Raiders
My prediction: Lions

The Others

Jesse James
Demetrius Harris
C.J. Uzomah
Austin Seferian-Jenkins
Geoff Swaim
Tyler Kroft

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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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