Before reading this article, be sure to go back and read part one, which introduces the idea.
Expiring player contracts bring a unique edge to dynasty football. If you think one or two steps ahead, or in this case, one or two years ahead, you may find valuable information. A player with an expiring contract after the 2022 season is an asset to be evaluated immediately.
Questions to be answered surrounding these players are: Is this player elite or serviceable? Does their respective team have cap-space and/or a history of spending money? Will there be environmental changes such as a head coaching change?
It is important to note the 2022 Free Agency and NFL Draft have yet to happen. Analyzing teams’ free-agent acquisitions and draft selections will assist in a player’s future evaluation. It is also important to note the language in contracts may allow teams to move on from players sooner than the assumed free agency year. For example, Jimmy Garoppolo is a free agent in 2023 but the San Francisco 49ers have the ability to release or trade Garoppolo pre- or post-June 1st (2022) and save $25.6 million while taking on a $1.4 million dead cap hit. The 49ers drafted Trey Lance in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft, it is likely Garoppolo does not make his contractual free agency year.
Essentially, we are examining the 2023 NFL free agent class. In this piece, we will dig into each category and position to identify why there are these potential value changes. The categories are:
- No change: player re-signing with team and assuming current role
- Value up: player signing for a perceived role change – current team or new team
- Value down: player losing their role, aging asset, or retiring
- Toss up: player potentially having an expanded role or unknown situation
Players perceived with no change are likely the players who teams will have a high priority to re-sign or are players who will always have a similar role regardless of team situation.
Lamar Jackson, BAL
The Baltimore Ravens should retain their franchise quarterback.
Matthew Stafford, LAR
The Los Angeles Rams have found a quarterback fitting their system. Stafford has injury concerns but that does not affect his production. He will only be 35 years old when needing a new contract.
Taylor Heinicke, WAS
I have seen people exclaim Heinicke as the new Ryan Fitzpatrick – not a player who will solidify a starting job but someone who may find himself starting games.
Gardner Minshew, PHI
He is a people’s favorite, but likely finds himself similar to Heinicke. Teams will love to have him on their team in case they need someone to start a few games.
Saquon Barkley, NYG
The New York Giants should be inclined to re-sign their 2018 first-round draft pick. Barkley may no longer be an elite asset, but when healthy, he still finds himself as an RB1. He will be 26 years old at the time of a new contract.
David Montgomery, CHI
The Chicago Bears may have new management and coaching tree. This means there will be zero ties with Montgomery – the new regime may want to get their own preference at running back and let him walk.
Regardless, Montgomery has proven his ability to handle a workload and there will always be a team in need of a lead back – think Arizona Cardinals and James Conner (2021).
Tyreek Hill, KC
The Kansas City Chiefs have to lock down Hill for Patrick Mahomes.
DJ Moore, CAR
Currently, Moore is only 24 years old and has provided three 1,000-yard seasons. It does not matter who he is playing with, his value should not change. I can understand wanting to give Moore an increased value if he goes to a new team with a better quarterback upgrade for the 2023 season.
I am assuming the Panthers handle their quarterback situation in the 2022 off-season.
Deebo Samuel, SF
The San Francisco 49ers have their stud wide receiver. A potential environmental factor surrounding Samuel is a potential head coaching change. This does not diminish his talent.
AJ Brown, TEN
Injuries have hindered Brown’s 2021 play, but a new contract at 26 provides him with time to shine in his prime still. He is not going anywhere in dynasty rankings.
DK Metcalf, SEA
He is another stud who cannot lose value. Russell Wilson has been rumored to want out of Seattle, but this should not affect Metcalf.
Diontae Johnson, PIT
A wide receiver who has gotten better every single year in the league, Johnson found his first 1,000-yard season in 2021 and he did this in only 14 games. Ben Roethlisberger is assumed to retire following the 2021 season – which means the Pittsburgh Steelers will need a new quarterback.
Terry McLaurin, WAS
Admittedly I did struggle with assigning McLaurin a no-change value. He will be 28 years old when needing a new contract, but there still is wiggle-room for fantasy-relevant years before the presumed age cliff.
Dawson Knox, BUF
The Buffalo Bills have found their red-zone weapon for franchise quarterback Josh Allen. Knox currently is the second targeted tight end with the fourth-most touchdowns in the red zone despite missing two games.
The Bills would be silly to not provide Allen with weapons, and weapons he already has chemistry with.
These are players perceived to have a role change with their current or new team. It should be noted these players have the potential to not gain value, this is just an educated guess. The players would likely have a no-change value note.
Kareem Hunt, CLE
The Cleveland Browns involve two running backs in their system. But why not draft a secondary option to pair with Nick Chubb or find a cheaper option in free agency? There likely will not be similar talent but at least they are cheaper, right?
Hunt can provide the Browns with a compensatory draft pick if he departs in free agency. The Browns could receive a third or fourth-round pick pending the compensatory formula: Hunt’s salary, playing time, and postseason honors.
Alexander Mattison, MIN
When Dalvin Cook has missed games, Mattison is immediately viewed as an RB1 play. He handled 26.25 touches per game when Cook missed games (four) in the 2021 season.
Is there a possibility the Vikings move on from Cook and let Mattison take the lead duties? Is there a possibility the Vikings let Mattison go and another team signs him? He is talented and will be 25 years old when looking for a new contract.
Tony Pollard, DAL
In a similar situation to Mattison, Pollard has played extremely well in his role with the Cowboys and has stepped up when needed to be their RB1 with Ezekiel Elliott not playing or limited.
Pollard has done well with advanced metrics and warrants an increased role. I hope he gets it.
Hunter Renfrow, LV
If there is one notable wide receiver from the 2023 free-agent class who can gain value, it is Renfrow. There is a possibility his 2021 season has provided him with a huge contract. Renfrow has been a borderline WR1 (2021) and established himself as one of the best slot receivers in the league.
Foster Moreau, LV
Playing behind Darren Waller results in being overlooked. Waller exploded on the scene in 2019, gathering over 1,000 yards during Moreau’s rookie season. Moreau had more touchdowns than Waller and caught a touchdown on 24% of his opportunities.
In 2020, Moreau took a complete back seat with Waller seeing 147 targets. However, in 2021 Moreau has seen an expanded role following Waller being injured in week 12 and missing the remainder of the season.
Moreau is not talented like Waller, but the potential is there. It only takes one team to take a chance on a 26-year-old tight end with a proven history.
Dan Arnold, JAC
After being traded to Jacksonville, Arnold was immediately involved in the offense and saw 6.3 targets, 4.2 receptions, and 47.7 yards per game – this was with one dud game with zero stats. He unfortunately landed on injured reserve.
Arnold definitely has the potential to not have his value rise, but I believe in his talent and speed metrics to excel in how the game is played today. Logan Thomas got a three-year extension at age 30, why shouldn’t Arnold find a contract at age 28?
These are players perceived to have a relegated role, are aging assets, or may retire.
Tom Brady, TB
There is the possibility Brady retires. If not, he will be 46 years old looking for a new contract. He has joked about playing until 50. That TB12 diet is something else.
Jimmy Garoppolo, SF
It is likely Garoppolo has played his final year in San Francisco. Many people believe him to be a system quarterback and he may not necessarily provide relevance for any future team. He does find himself competing for a starting job in 2022 or 2023 but his future outlook is where his value goes down.
Garoppolo may be a perfect bridge quarterback for a team for a year, maybe two.
Sam Darnold, CAR and Drew Lock, DEN
They were drafted in the first round and second round but did not pan out to be good QBs in the NFL. Their starting days are over and they will provide NFL teams value as backups moving forward.
Miles Sanders, PHI
For whatever reason, the Philadelphia Eagles do not utilize Sanders – this was true with two different head coaches. The Eagles need to address other positions mattering more to their NFL success.
Extending Sanders may negatively affect their future. I like him but without being a game-changing running back, I worry a team will not want to pay up for him.
Darrell Henderson, LAR
The return of Cam Akers will hinder Henderson’s future outlook. Henderson was able to provide the Rams with serviceable games following Akers’ absence. Henderson just does not have the “it” or “wow” factor to his game.
He can be a serviceable role player to step up when needed.
Devin Singletary, BUF
The Buffalo Bills do not like to utilize the running backs, or they just do not have one they trust. Singletary has provided three average seasons for the Bills. He is replacement-level as a starting running back.
Damien Harris, NE
Harris has flashed potential but has not provided consistency in fantasy production. A major factor is his lack of being a pass-catching threat, resulting in being game script-dependent.
Harris is the type of running back to be found in every draft or free agency.
Myles Gaskin, MIA
Gaskin is not built to be a lead back. He can provide the change of pace for an offense, but it is likely his fantasy-relevant days are over. The Miami Dolphins do need to address the offense starting with the offensive line.
They also need to secure a franchise running back to rely on.
Brandin Cooks, HOU and Jarvis Landry, CLE
Both receivers are aging and heading toward the perceived age-cliff. Both will be 31 years old looking for a new contract.
Blake Jarwin, DAL
Dalton Schultz superseded Jarwin to be the Dallas Cowboys’ TE1. It should be noted Jarwin tore his ACL (2020) which hindered his development and involvement in the offense. Schultz stepped up and did not let the job go.
Jarwin could likely just be a no value change, considering his value has taken a hit, but I just do not see how his value can remain the same as a TE2/3 for a new team. He saw a modest ten receptions and two touchdowns in his seven games this season.
These are players perceived to have a similar situation but with the potential of having a lesser role.
Kirk Cousins, MIN, Derek Carr, LV and Baker Mayfield, CLE
These quarterbacks have the potential to retain a starting role, or the league may not view them as starters they want to throw a large contract at.
Mayfield may have a higher chance of securing an extension given his age (28) in 2023 compared to Cousins (34) and Carr (31).
This is why these quarterbacks are a toss-up – they can still be starters, but there is an outside chance of them having to compete for a job. Think Andy Dalton (2021) with the Chicago Bears.
James Robinson, JAC
There is no denying Robinson has talent. The NFL seems to have a bias on draft capital. Robinson went undrafted but seems to not be given the respect he deserves. Hopefully come 2023 free agency, a team is willing to give him a chance to be the lead guy, or at least have the role he has with the Jaguars.
Parris Campbell, IND
Dealing with an injury-riddled career is never fun. Campbell has shown flashes on the field, but he has yet to play a full season in total career games. He has 14 career games through three seasons.
Campbell is a toss up because there is talent there to be exploited and will be 26 years old when he needs a new contract.
Irv Smith Jr, MIN
Similarly, to Campbell, Smith has had injuries but has been able to play 29 career games. He missed the entire 2021 season. He played behind Kyle Rudolph his first two seasons, but the Minnesota Vikings showed they wanted to get their second-round pick involved in the offense.
Evaluating future value change is not a perfect formula. Extraneous variables have the ability to influence value change at any given moment. The players analyzed in this article still have an entire season to play. For example, Irv Smith Jr has dropped in rankings. Tyler Conklin has proven to handle the TE1 role for the Vikings in Smith’s absence. But what if Smith has a stellar 2022 season? Value change. What if Smith does not have a stellar season? Value change.
Another influence is their respective NFL teams may not have the same management and/or coaching staff for the 2023 season – meaning the new regime may want to sign and draft their own players to fit their specific scheme/philosophy/system.
Athletic profiles carry significance and in certain positions, it may matter more. I have always favored athletic tight ends – which Irv Smith and Dan Arnold fall under. I wrote an article on navigating tight ends that provided research on tight ends and athletic profiles dating back to 2000. Javonte Williams (4.62) has a .23 slower 40-speed than Jonathan Taylor (4.39), but we do not care Williams is slow. This difference matters more for tight ends.
A question I have had this entire article is: How often does a game-changing offensive player find themselves in free agency? It is not often but it is has happened – Priest Holmes (2001), Drew Brees (2006), and Peyton Manning (2009) are good examples. This brings up another question: if a player is a free agent, are they an elite fantasy player?
How are we able to understand which players will lose value and which players will gain value? We cannot understand this. We can only understand each individual player. We can sit back and make predictions from information at hand. We are unable to know which players will be re-signed to their team or if the players are in free agency and get a legitimate role if they are signed. We can be in love with the talent of Pollard and Mattison, but we cannot guarantee they obtain a starting role.
This is why we play the game. This is why dynasty football is fun. Being able to identify the potential value increases or decreases (at least) one season ahead is a start. Analyzing individual players and their teams will increase your chances of making the correct decision. We will not get every decision right, but it does not matter as long as we are making more correct decisions than wrong ones.