Beginning at noon today, NFL teams will be able to negotiate with unrestricted free agents, the beginning of the two-day negotiating window that serves as the official kickoff to NFL free agency. Technically, deals can’t be agreed to until Wednesday at 4 p.m., but we’re going to get a flurry of news today about where many of the biggest names in free agency will be headed.
Of course, that flurry may pale in comparison to the metaphorical blizzard we’ve seen over the past week – a week CBS Sports’ own Will Brinson rightly called “maybe [the] craziest ever.” I’ll let him summarize things:
- Mon – Calvin Ridley popped for gambling
- Tues – Rodgers returns to GB, Russ traded to DEN
- Wed – Wentz traded to Washington
- Thurs – Mack traded to Chargers
- Sat – Amari Cooper traded to Browns
- Sun – Tom Brady unretires for 23rd season
We covered the impact of Ridley’s suspension, Rodgers’ return to the Packers, Wentz’s trade to the Commanders, and the impact of the Wilson trade on both Seattle and Denver’s offenses this week, and Adam Aizer, Jamey Eisenberg, Dave Richard, and I jumped on an emergency episode of Fantasy Football Today Sunday night to react to the Brady news, which you can listen to below:
Of course, even that list is an incomplete one when we’re talking about the news of the past week around the NFL. The lead up to the start of free agency is always a busy time in the NFL news calendar, but this year has been especially busy. The next few days will be wild, too, and we’ll be covering all of that for you throughout the process, but before free agency begins, let’s catch up on the headlines you need to know about, beginning with the impact of Brady’s un-retirement on the Buccaneers offense:
Tom Brady returns to the Buccaneers
I wrote about what Brady’s return means over at CBSSports.com, but here are the key things you need to know:
- The status quo reigns, which means Brady should be viewed as a borderline top-five QB for Fantasy
- Mike Evans is the big winner and is once again a borderline top-12 WR
- Chris Godwin can be a WR1 again if healthy, but coming off a torn ACL in December, it’s not clear he’ll be ready for the start of the season. I’m viewing him as more of a low-end WR2 in drafts at this point.
- If Rob Gronkowski is back, he’ll be a borderline top six tight end.
- This is a great situation for a running back, as Leonard Fournette showed in ranking fourth in PPR points per game in 2021. Whether that will be Fournette who benefits from that again remains to be seen, since he’s a free agent. If he comes back, Fournette is a high-end RB2; if not, this will be one of the key situations to watch in free agency.
- There is probably still room for another pass-catcher to be relevant for Fantasy, though whether that is someone like Tyler Johnson or Cyril Grayson, an as-yet-unknown free agent, or a draft pick is unknowable. But there could be a sleeper worth targeting here.
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Kirk Cousins signs a $35 million extension
It never really seemed like the Vikings were going to move on from Cousins with no obvious upgrade readily available. That might put a ceiling on how good this team can be, but we don’t mind the stability from a Fantasy perspective – Cousins has been a top-12 QB two years in a row and has been good enough to sustain high-level production from Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen. Thielen’s best days are clearly behind him, but Jefferson only got better in Year 2 and is a candidate to make a leap to the No. 1 overall WR range. Cousins isn’t going to be the reason he doesn’t.
Deshaun Watson‘s status becomes more clear
We learned Friday that Watson will not face criminal charges over allegations of sexual assault, which is expected to lead to the Texans to begin pursuing a trade of him in earnest, according to reports. In my opinion, a suspension remains very likely for Watson in 2022, but that doesn’t seem likely to scare teams off at this point. The Browns, Eagles, Panthers, Saints, Seahawks, and perhaps several other teams will likely make offers for Watson, and that trade could go down in the coming days.
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Amari Cooper traded to the Browns
This is … not great news for Cooper, who is coming off his worst season since 2017. The Browns had the fifth-lowest pass rate in the league in 2021, and they weren’t any good at it anyways, ranking 19th in yards per attempt, 18th in touchdown rate, and 26th in passer rating. The Browns need an upgrade at wide receiver, and Cooper definitely is one, but it’s hard to get excited about the prospect of him catching passes from Baker Mayfield at this point. If the Browns do land Watson, that would be a different story, but I won’t rank Cooper any higher than the low-end WR2 range if Mayfield is his QB in 2022.
The Cowboys re-signed Michael Gallup
Shortly after moving on from Cooper, the Cowboys agreed to a five-year, $62.5 million deal with Gallup, a surprising show of faith in the 26-year-old coming off a torn ACL in January. Gallup is a fine player with an 1,100-yard season under his belt in 2019, but he’s not someone you’ll want to target as a Fantasy starter even with Cooper out unless we get really good news about his recovery from the injury. I would expect him to miss at least a month to start the season, if not more, so Gallup will be just a bench stash for me.
I’m not particularly excited about this one, but the Cardinals made a three-year investment in Ertz with more than $15 million guaranteed, so he should remain a solid part of their offense. His 17-game pace in 11 games with the Cardinals was 87 catches, 887 yards, and five touchdowns, which would be enough to make him a low-end starting Fantasy option, but there probably isn’t much upside beyond that at this point. He’s a tight end to settle for, not one you make a priority in drafts.
The smaller news to know
- The Browns have given Jarvis Landry permission to seek a trade – In light of the Cooper acquisition, that’s not so surprising. It’s hard to say how much the 29-year-old can still contribute, given the Browns struggles in the passing game as well as his own health issues, but if he lands in the right spot, I’ll be interested.
- The Bears waived Tarik Cohen – Cohen’s recovery from ACL surgery just didn’t go right, and I’m not expecting to hear too much from him in the future. We’ll see where he ends up.
- The Patriots gave Jakobi Meyers a second-round tender – The Patriots seem likely to bring their No. 1 target from 2021 back, but after some offseason hype, he was pretty lackluster. I don’t expect him to be the No. 1 WR again, but we’ll see what the Patriots do in free agency otherwise.
- The Bills re-signed Isaiah McKenzie – With Emmanuel Sanders out of the picture and Cole Beasley considered a release or trade candidate, McKenzie is an intriguing sleeper for 2022 absent any other moves. Gabriel Davis will be the high-profile sleeper everyone targets, but McKenzie has 17 catches for 190 yards and three touchdowns in two games without Beasley over the past two seasons. He’ll be a cheap opportunity to get a bit of this high-powered offense.