2022 Free Agency Rear View Mirror
By Steve Wasco
i80Sports Fantasy Analyst
Part 1: The Trades
2022 will go down as one of the most memorable off-seasons in NFL history. It all kicked off with the retirement announcements of two Hall of Fame Quarterbacks Tom Brady and Big Ben Rothelisberger. But then in one day there was a flood gate of trades weeks before Free Agency began with the announcements that Aaron Rodgers signed the largest QB deal in history and Russell Wilson was traded, and then after that Tom Brady announced his "unretirement" after 40 days and all of that was in one day!
Then any dams that were left were torn apart as Deshaun Watson, Davante Adams, Tyreek Hill, Amari Cooper, and Matt Ryan all found new homes. In total seven first round picks were exchanged, the most in NFL history and as of this writing we are still waiting to hear news about Jimmy G and Baker Mayfield and their futures. So as we wind down this tsunami of Free Agency and focus ahead on the draft, I want to take a look at some of the biggest signings and trades and discuss how certain fantasy players and teams are affected by these moves. This article will focus on the impact of the biggest trades that happened this offseason.
It goes without saying but these are my personal opinions on these trades, if you disagree that’s fine but please state your disagreements in a respectful manner.
Russell Wilson to the Denver Broncos
Let’s start with the obvious, from the Seahawks side DK Metcalf, Noah Fant, and Tyler Lockett's values all suffer from this trade. I don’t care who is quarterback, all of these players take a step down for fantasy in 2022, and with rumors circulating that Metcalf may be traded, we will have to evaluate Metcalf’s long term value after the draft.
As for the Broncos, I think the winners are in this order: Jerry Jeudy, Cortland Sutton, Albert Okwuegbunam, and Tim Patrick. There are already reports and videos of Wilson working out with the Broncos receivers. The talent at the wide receiver position has never been in question, it has always been who will get these players the ball? The Broncos are certainly going to “Let Russ Cook” so I expect Jeudy and Sutton to be strong Wide Receiver 2 candidates and I believe that Albert O moves into Tight End 1 range.
Tyreek Hill to the Miami Dolphins
There is a lot to unpack here. The implications for both the Chiefs and Dolphins are huge so let’s start with the Dolphins. Tua Tagovailoa gets the biggest bump here. A lot of criticism has been laid on Tua for his inability to throw the deep ball. However, I counter with the question, “who has he had to throw the deep ball to?” Davante Parker is a physical possession who isn’t much of a burner, Jaylen Waddle is a slot receiver, Mike Gesecki is a seam stretching tight end. Will Fuller? Well, we all saw how that played out… There are quarterbacks in the past who were not known for their deep ball until they got a true number 1 receiver like Hill. Alex Smith comes to mind, the big criticism of him was he wasn’t a deep ball passer until he was in Kansas City and was throwing to Tyreek Hill. I am not saying that Tua will have that same career trajectory but with the many ways Hill can be used and how Mike McDaniels comes from the San Francisco system that utilized Deebo Samuel in the same manner that Hill was used in KC. The needle, at this moment, is pointing up for the Dolphins and Tua.
The big question now becomes “what happens to Kansas City?” “How does this affect Patrick Mahomes?” etc? The answer is simple, “Andy Reid always adapts.” The Chiefs made four pivotal moves: Franchise tagging Orlando Brown plus signing Juju Smith-Schuster, Marquez Valdez-Scantling, and Ronald Jones II. Juju and MVS play two different styles of receiver but they both have one thing in common, they are both excellent blocking receivers. That means that there is going to be more running and that should serve Ronald Jones the best. So the question then becomes which receiver outside of Kelce benefits? I think that Juju is the beneficiary here. Juju is a position flexible player who can be moved all over the field and a possession receiver who catches 70% of his passes which is something Mahomes needs. The final question is: “Does Mahomes take a step back this year?” Short answer is yes, at the beginning of the year as KC implements its new offense they will certainly take a small step back, but long term I don’t think Mahomes loses his fantasy value. While Andy Reid doesn’t design his offense with Fantasy Football in mind, he has never really disappointed in that area (Clyde Edwards-Helaire being one of the very few exceptions).
Deshaun Watson to the Cleveland Browns
Houston’s plan was to already move on from Watson last season and he didn’t play so I think the team continues to build around Davis Mills. So I will be talking about this from Cleveland's fantasy impact and I will be putting my personal feelings about Watson to the side.
Watson is an instant upgrade for Cleveland, as much as I like Baker Mayfield, Watson is more mobile and has a stronger arm. Amari Cooper and Kareem Hunt will benefit as pass catchers. As good as Nick Chubb is, I think he gets a huge boost with Watson’s presence. Watson is very mobile and while he isn’t a huge rushing QB he can scramble and with defenses having to try to figure out who gets the ball, it gives Chubb more opportunities to do damage. As far as Baker goes, he has suitors but he is on the last year of his deal and teams have to decide that if they trade for him are they able to extend him? Teams are not going to give up a 1st, 2nd, or 3rd round pick to get Baker and extend him. They would much rather give up a 3rd day pick and have him play out his deal and try to extend him in the offseason. But seeing as he is a former 1st overall pick who has led Cleveland to their first playoff berth in 20 years and made the Browns playoff relevant again it’s hard for teams to nail his exact value.
Davante Adams to the Las Vegas Raiders
Early offseason reports stated that the Packers were all in on re-signing both Rodgers and Adams to huge mega deals to keep both of them. The Packers gave Rodgers the largest QB contract at the time and we all expected Davante Adams to be extended shortly after that. However we were all surprised to learn that he would be traded to the Las Vegas raiders and stunning the fantasy community.
The Raiders are an instant benefactor from this trade because they already had a nice solid offensive core with Renfrow, Waller, and Jacobs with a solid offensive line. The Raiders beat the red hot Chargers in OT to make the playoffs and then took the Bengals to OT in the wild card round. For fantasy I think Adams value falls slightly but not by much. Remember, before his release Henry Ruggs was on pace to have his best fantasy season. I think Adams is an instant upgrade over Ruggs and I think Renfrow and Waller still get theirs. But Josh Jacobs is also a benefactor here because the Raiders have so much receiving talent and the defenses will be focused on stopping the pass that it will leave a lot of holes on the offensive line for Jacobs to run through.
As far as the Packers, the team has two first round picks. Fellow analyst Ed Angus believes that Green Bay double dips at the position since the only weapons left are Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb, and Amari Rodgers, none of them are exactly world beaters so I would not be surprised if the Packers do decide to double dip at the position to really bolster the receiver room.
Matt Ryan to the Indianapolis Colts
Carson Wentz to the Washington Commanders
The last trade I will touch upon is Indy getting Matt Ryan who wanted out of Atlanta for several reasons. Of all the trades, I think this is the most impactful. When Frank Reich came to Indy he was hoping to work with Andrew Luck only for him to retire. Then he got an aging Philip Rivers who led the team to the postseason but then retired, and then Carson Wentz who was such a let down that the team was working as hard as they could to get rid of him for anything they could get. Now Indy got Matt Ryan, a player who still has so much to offer. Ryan steps into a position where he has a dominant offensive line, one of the best young runners in the league, a good young receiver in Pittman, and an emerging Tight End in Mo Alie-Cox who will all be reliable weapons for Ryan.
For the Commanders who got Carson Wentz, the teams offensive coordinator Scott Turner has his work cut out for him. The team played well with Taylor Heinicke last year but he was clearly limited. The question becomes does Wentz have those same limitations? If last season was any indication then the answer is yes. Here is a side by side comparison of their stats:
When you see their stats side by side they are pretty even and the Commanders gave up very valuable mid-round picks to obtain Wentz. I suppose you can justify trying to say that Wentz had a higher QBR over Heinicke, but those numbers are not an indication of a good Quarterback. So owners of Logan Thomas, Antonio Gibson, and most of all Terry McLaurin need to exercise caution when drafting these players this draft season because Wentz has been a disappointment since his MVP season and he has done nothing to show fantasy managers that he is any better than previous years.
Robert Woods to the Titans
This move, plus the team signing Austin Hooper gives Tannehill some reliable options outside of AJ Brown. Tannehill's efficiency tanked last season and that was because his weapons were always injured, but Hopper is a reliable Tight End that Tannehill desperately needs and when Woods fully recovers from his ACL tear he will be a great number 2 option to play beside AJ Brown.