This time of year is among my favorite parts of the football season. With the Super Bowl now in our rear-view mirror, we can look forward to the NFL Combine, free agency and the other events of the upcoming months. There truly is no off-season!
At DLF, we have wrapped up our Dynasty Capsules, an in-depth look at the offensive skill players for each team, including an analysis of players’ past performances along with some projections going forward. To accompany that series, I wanted to share some off-season storylines I’ll be watching play out for each NFL team. Many of these are similar as they have to do with new coaches, free agency and the NFL Draft, all major events of every off-season. Let’s get to it!
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The Redskins had another solid season, but now face questions at nearly all fantasy relevant positions. Most expect quarterback Kirk Cousins to be franchise tagged if the two sides are not able to work out a contract extension. While it is hard to believe, it is looking more and more likely that he becomes the highest paid player in the league. The Skins pieced together backfield production from Rob Kelley and Chris Thompson after Matt Jones flopped. This is a team that will almost certainly add a rookie or free agent runner. Finally, veterans DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon are both expected to move on as free agents. This team will need production from their top draft pick a year ago, Josh Doctson.
The Eagles were one of the most active teams a year ago, dumping veteran back DeMarco Murray and moving up for rookie quarterback Carson Wentz. They also brought in Dorial Green-Beckham. While Wentz showed flashes and has the looks of a long-time starter, the Philly offense as a whole disappointed. This team must add an impact wideout as both DGB and Nelson Agholor are not showing the necessary development early in their career. Also, I don’t see the 2017 starting running back on the roster with the Eagles expected to release Ryan Mathews.
This has the makings of a fairly quiet off-season for the Giants, at least when looking at the big four fantasy relevant spots. The team is expected to move on from running back Rashad Jennings and Victor Cruz being cut is a near certainty. I will be watching closely if the Giants will commit to Paul Perkins as their starter or if they opt to bring in a big name free agent or early round rookie runner. Also, the team had to be disappointed by their tight end duo of Will Tye and Larry Donnell this past season. With such a deep crop of rookies, some are projecting the G-Men to use their first rounder on a player like David Njoku.
It was a banner season for the Cowboys as a pair of rookies turned the team around. Of course, I’m referring to running back Ezekiel Elliott and quarterback Dak Prescott. Both will be back and headlining this roster, while Dallas is expected to part ways with longtime starter Tony Romo, either through trade or by releasing him. Romo and his new landing spot will be one of the top storylines of the entire off-season.
Another veteran expected to be moving on this off-season is Adrian Peterson, who missed much of the past season and is now due $18 million in 2017. There is no chance the Vikes keep him at this cost, so unless Peterson is willing to renegotiate at a much lower salary, he’ll be gone. The Vikes also need another playmaker on offense, ideally to replace Peterson since Jerick McKinnon doesn’t fit the every-down back role. With quarterback Teddy Bridgewater reportedly out for the 2017 season with the severe leg injury he suffered last pre-season, the team will stick with Sam Bradford for another year.
The Packers pass offense was executed at the highest level for most of the season, with Jordy Nelson earning the Comeback Player of the Year Award and Davante Adams breaking out after a poor 2015 season. The running game was almost non-existent though as Eddie Lacy and James Starks both struggled and the team turned to wide receiver Ty Montgomery. Starks has already been released and I’d be surprised if the Packers even make an attempt to bring back Lacy. Adding a power back to pair with Lacy could be a game-changer for this team. Also, the Packers took a chance on tight end Jared Cook and after an injury-riddled early season, Cook was a major target for Aaron Rodgers down the stretch, but now enters free agency. I expect the team to make a push to keep Cook and expand his role even more in 2017.
The Lions passing offense was surprisingly able to withstand the retirement of receiver Calvin Johnson as Marvin Jones carried them early and Golden Tate took over from there. Tight end Eric Ebron also flashed some of the upside dynasty owners have been expecting. The running game remains a mystery for this team. Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick both missed time with injuries and big man Zach Zenner ended the season on a hot streak. None of these players seems to be the fantasy RB1 type, but combined, they could be enough to carry the Lions.
Rookie running back Jordan Howard took over the starting role and established himself as one of the top fantasy options in the league. Beyond that though, this entire team is up in the air. Star receiver Alshon Jeffery enters free agency and it is unclear if he wants to leave or stay, though he does evidently expect the Bears to win the Super Bowl next season. If he does bolt, that leaves injury-plagued Kevin White, along with Cameron Meredith, which is not exactly the most impressive duo. Chicago will certainly move on from quarterback Jay Cutler, but currently have no other good options to take his spot. They have been routinely projected to select a quarterback, potentially North Carolina’s Mitch Trubisky, in the first round.
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