NFL Free Agents: Quarterback & Tight End (2020 Fantasy Football)
With only a quarter of the teams’ seasons still alive, the majority of the league’s focus has shifted to next season, figuring out how to build a team that will allow them to still be playing next January. A big part of this rebuilding process is with the NFL Draft, but bringing in the right free agents can be just as important.
From a fantasy perspective, free-agent landing spots can change everything. We are talking about players that we already have experience with, but them moving teams will not only affect their person fantasy value but the values of the past and new players around them.
The position that affects the most other players is the QB since they are the straw that stirs the drink. They get the ball essentially every single play, and they are responsible for getting others the ball, so the landing spots of this year’s free-agent QBs are incredibly important.
The other position that will be discussed in this article is the free agent TEs. They obviously have less of an impact on the other players from a fantasy perspective but, with such a volatile group where value can sometimes be tough to come by, switching teams can create a great deal of opportunity and value that would be very relevant for fantasy.
So, without further ado, let’s take a look at the top free agent QBs and TEs, then discuss these players for fantasy football.
Relative to other positions, there isn’t much turnover at the QB position in the NFL, but there are a number of big names available on free agency this season. Some of these players will return to their teams and continue where they left off, while others may start for another team or find themselves behind someone on the depth chart.
Since QB is such a unique position in fantasy, where there is a great depth of value due to less needing to be started, some of these names will have zero impact while others’ moves could be the news of the offseason. Because of this, I will split these players into tiers to discuss them.
Next to each player, I will put their current team and where they ranked this season.
Teams Possibly in the Market for a Free Agent QB:
Dak Prescott (DAL) – QB2
They say that Jerry Jones never fails to sign a player he wants, and with no better option available, he certainly wants Dak Prescott. The Cowboys were not great this season, but Prescott certainly was for fantasy. Ranking as QB2 behind only Lamar Jackson, Prescott was a top fantasy option and he will rank near the top again next season for Dallas.
Drew Brees (NO) – QB22
Brees finished the season as QB22, but he averaged 20.8 points per game, which was tied with Russell Wilson for the seventh-best. Sean Payton is not going to let Brees leave, so expect things to remain steady for New Orleans. There isn’t much mystery with Brees, which makes him a terrific option for fantasy and an even better pairing with a fantasy prospect that is viewed as boom or bust like Lamar Jackson was before the season.
Jameis Winston (TB) – QB3
Winston may not be a top tier QB for his team, but he sure was for fantasy this season. The sheer volume of passing will make him a QB1 next season if he returns to Tampa. Bruce Arians took the Bucs job because of Winston, with their relationship dating back far before Winston was in the NFL. If they can come to terms with a deal that works for both sides, look for Winston to return and be a QB1 yet again in a pass-heavy offense with possibly the best receiving duo in the game.
Tom Brady (NE) – QB12
We know that Tom Brady will play next season, but who will he play for? Buckle up and get ready for this narrative to be shoved down your throat from every outlet until Brady signs a deal. Patriots owner Robert Kraft wants Brady back, so New England should be considered the frontrunner. The Chargers seem to be the second considered situation, which would give him a better cast of weapons, but a worse system and coach. With Brady likely coming back with a chip on his shoulder no matter what jersey is on his chest, expect to see a motivated veteran. He should be considered a fringe QB1 next season, assuming the offensive line and weapons around him are better than what he played with this year.
Ryan Tannehill (TEN) – QB21
While Tannehill finished as QB21, that does not tell the full story. After being named the starter in Week 7, Tannehill finished the rest of the season as QB3, averaging 22.5 points. Clearly, the work he did with Peyton Manning before his injury paid off, and he looked like the perfect QB for Tennessee’s system. The Titans have already expressed interest in signing Tannehill long term, so it would be a surprise to see him leave town. Still, teams will now have an offseason to watch the film on this Titans offense under Tannehill and game plan better against him, which will likely hurt his overall value. He lands in this middle tier because I would like to see him do it again, though there is no doubt that he has top tier upside.
Philip Rivers (LAC) – QB15
Rivers finished fourth in the league in passing (4,615) but 15th in QB fantasy points. This should tell you how inefficient he was, throwing 20 interceptions to just 23 touchdowns. He played careless football and was the cause of some losses for the Chargers. Whether it’s the tireless commute or the effects of aging, Rivers was simply not good this season. Retirement is not out of the question for the vet and a return to LA is not certain. If he is in the NFL next season, he should continue being that unexciting option around draft time and a solid streaming option during certain weeks. If he retires or moves on from the Chargers, this opening would be an intriguing one, with the next passer inheriting Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, as well as the possibility of bringing back Austin Ekeler and Hunter Henry.
Teddy Bridgewater (NO) – QB32
The Saints really wanted Bridgewater as the backup to Brees, and he showed everyone why this season when Brees was out with his thumb injury. He didn’t blow everyone away, ranking as QB21 during his starts Weeks 3-8. However, he completed 67.9 percent of his passes, throwing nine touchdowns to two interceptions. The Saints may make him a well-paid backup with the intention of making him the future. However, another team may decide he is the perfect game manager to lead their team to the postseason. Either way, there isn’t a scenario where Teddy is a QB1 next season. He’s worth keeping an eye on, but he’s more valuable to his team than for fantasy.
Eli Manning (NYG) – QB41
Manning is an interesting name on this list because the outcomes of his status in the NFL are the two extremes. It’s very clear that Eli is at the end of his career. It is also clear that he does not want to be a backup to anybody. This leads me to believe that he will play next season if he gets offered a starting job. If Manning is not given a clear path to the top of the depth chart, he will likely retire. Obviously, retirement means zero fantasy value. If he is named the starter for a team, it is certainly interesting, though he is not likely to be a top-20 guy.
Case Keenum (WAS) – QB31
Keenum began the season as the starter in Washington, but the rookie Dwayne Haskins eventually took over. He certainly had highs and lows as the leader of this mediocre offense, but he proved that he belongs in this league. He will likely serve as a veteran backup to someone, but Ryan Fitzpatrick has shown us that this is not a death sentence. He is worth keeping an eye on, since he could end up as the Week 1 starter ahead of a rookie yet again.
The TE position is often a volatile one, but that was especially true this season, along with a big dropoff in value. The TE1 (Travis Kelce, 205.8 points in half PPR) had nearly double the points of the TE10 (Dallas Goedert, 115.7). Of the first 10 selected TEs this season in terms of our ADP, only half finished as a top-10 TE.
So much of the value at this position comes from the system these players are in, which makes free agency especially interesting, with players switching teams and systems, which we have seen in recent seasons how dramatically it can affect performance (Eric Ebron to IND, Jacob Hollister to SEA, etc.).
While it’s tough to project where some of these players will go, I will simply talk about how these players have performed and what their upside is for fantasy, should they land in a positive spot.
Teams That May Look to Sign a Starting TE:
Austin Hooper (ATL) – TE6
Hooper was dominating for fantasy early in the season, as the only consistent part of Atlanta’s team. From Weeks 1-10, before he got injured, Hooper was the top TE in fantasy, averaging 14.1 points in half PPR. Not only was he terrific this season, but he has also developed a solid relationship with Matt Ryan off the field, so it would be a big surprise to see him switch teams. His value would likely drop if he was on any other team, but he should be treated as a TE1 if he returns to Atlanta.
Hunter Henry (LAC) – TE9
The Chargers would be a fool to let Henry leave, but he would be a TE1 wherever he goes. He finished as a TE1 despite missing four games early in the season. From Week 6 onward, Henry finished as TE6, which is no fluke. He is a big name to watch for both reality and fantasy this offseason. There is zero doubting that Henry is among the top TEs, when healthy.
Eric Ebron (IND) – TE27
Ebron had a breakout season last year, in his first season with the Colts. He racked up touchdowns at an unsustainable rate, which caused his value to drop this season prior to his injury. Ebron is likely out of Indy, but we now have seen what he is capable of, following a terrible start to his career in Detroit. Going to a team that would like to use TEs, such as New England, would put him on the TE1 radar.
Jacob Hollister (SEA) – TE23
After being traded from the Patriots last April, Hollister found himself behind Will Dissly on the Seattle depth chart. After a season-ending injury to Dissly, Hollister stepped up and was a solid fantasy producer at the TE position. From Week 7 onward, Hollister ranked as TE13. Should he return to Seattle, he will likely be behind Dissly once he is healthy (if he returns to form), however, heading to a team that uses the TE could make him a borderline TE1, since he does have talent, though the Seattle system is the most valuable piece here. The starting TE for Seattle will have value.
Darren Fells (HOU) – TE15
The 33-year-old enjoyed a breakout season in his first year with Houston. This combination of blocking and big-bodied athleticism should be enough for Houston to bring him back, but if he is on the move, he has proved to be a great red-zone weapon, but not much else. He finished the year with 34 catches for 341 yards and seven touchdowns, with 10 catches and all seven touchdowns coming in the red zone. He is a touchdown-dependent TE2 with upside next season, so he only has value on the teams that want to use the position as a focal point when they get in close.
Charles Clay (ARI) – TE45
Clay spent this past season on a Cardinals offense that does not use TEs much at all, so a return to the team would likely make him irrelevant yet again. He saw only 24 targets all season long, but Clay is just two years removed from having 70+ targets for 500+ yards for five seasons in a row. Clay has upside and is an interesting name to watch for fantasy. A switch to nearly any other team would be a boost to his fantasy value.
Zach Brunner is a featured writer for FantasyPros. For more from Zach, follow him @fantasyflurry.