Day one of free agency 2022 is in the books – or at least, “legal tampering”. Plenty of exciting deals have been announced, with a host of fantasy impact as well. There are plenty more deals to come, but it’s worth looking at what’s happened so far to see the impact.
Winner – Trevor Lawrence
I’m not going to talk too much about the Christian Kirk deal. It’s silly and we all know it’s silly. The Jaguars seemed to go for a scattergun approach, bringing in a variety of mid range players to surround Trevor Lawrence. Christian Kirk was joined by Evan Engram and Zay Jones to a core that includes Laviska Shenault and Marvin Jones Jr. Sounds pretty average, right?
However, average would be a huge improvement for the Jaguars. In 2021 Lawrence was let down by the receiving core around him. Lawrence was top in the league in dropped passes, with his receivers averaging 2.3 drops a game. He also finished 52nd (!) in the league in receiver target separation according to PlayerProfiler. Trevor also finished the year 8th in air yards, showing he’s capable of the volume that leads to fantasy success.
Yes, the players the Jaguars have brought in might be underwhelming. But with an elite guard coming in Brandon Scherff, Lawrence at least now has a supporting cast that’s capable of catching the passes thrown towards them. I’d expect a step up in year two.
Losers – Justin Fields
The Jaguars have put in some work to support Trevor Lawrence. The Jets have brought in CJ Uzomah and bulked up their offensive line to help Zach Wilson develop. But the Bears? As of yet, we haven’t seen anything to say they’re working behind Justin Fields.
The Bears offensive line ranked at 22nd according to PFF in 2021. Whilst we can expect some development once second round pick Teven Jenkins returns from injury, I was expecting the Bears to get some help for Fields in free agency – especially as they don’t have a first round pick this year, due to trading up to get Fields. I’m confident they will over the next few days, but with top iOL free agents like Austin Corbett, Ryan Jensen, and Laken Tomlinson off the board, it’s difficult to see where they’ll go.
The Bears also parted ways with Allen Robinson and only have Darnell Mooney under contract in their wide receiver room. Again, I expect them to target receiver in the draft, but Fields might be in for another rough time in 2022 if he doesn’t have anyone to throw to outside of Mooney and an underwhelming Cole Kmet.
Winners – Michael Gallup
This one is a little bit old news, but it was certainly affected by yesterday. Gallup signed a five year $62.5m extension with the Cowboys in advance of free agency, with the team then trading away Amari Cooper to the Browns as a cap casualty. By choosing to pay Gallup and part with Amari, the Cowboys showed faith not only in his recovery from an ACL tear, but in Gallup’s ability to function as the second option in this offense behind CeeDee Lamb.
Yesterday, the Cowboys’ 2021 WR4 Cedrick Wilson signed a two year deal with the Miami Dolphins. This means that the Cowboys have lost 184 targets from two players alone. Gallup profiles as an outside receiver, matching well with Kellen Moore’s vertical offense. Whilst I would expect the Cowboys to draft a receiver (I’m pencilling in Treylon Burks in the first round), Gallup has the potential to rise to a high-end WR2 for fantasy in 2021 and beyond. He’s young, talented, and tied to a good passing offense.
Losers – Najee Harris
I’ll preface this that I think Najee will be fine. He’s very talented and a clear bell cow in an offence that likes to feature a running back. He had an outstanding rookie season, finishing as the PPR RB3.
However, it’s worth looking at how Najee achieved that finish. He was generally an inefficient volume based option, finishing with 3.7 yards per carry on 307 attempts. Yes, he broke 1000 rushing yards, but he had the lowest total yards of any running back to carry the ball over 300 times in the last ten years.
But what about the offensive line, I hear you cry! Well, so far, that line hasn’t been improved at all. The Steelers has PFF’s 26th ranked offensive line in 2021, and all they’ve done so far is to bring back right tackle Chukwuma Okorafor. The presumption is that Pittsburgh drafts a QB in the first round, but they’ll have to do a lot of work over the next few days in order to improve their OL. And without Big Ben’s checkdowns, Najee might find himself suffering in the short term.
Winners – Allen Robinson
Just a quick note at the end for the top wide receiver in free agency. Christian Kirk is looking at $18m/y? Allen Robinson is about to get paid. And he’ll have his choice of spots – and quarterbacks – to do it.