Who’s ready for NFL free agency Part II to start?
With May 7th in the rear view mirror, teams can sign available free agents without having it cost against the compensatory pick formula. Now is the time when teams, particularly smart teams (looking at you Patriots), get real active in free agency and snag the remaining veteran players to help fill needs since the move won’t affect the draft picks they receive from the league.
There are still a few veteran players out there who could come in and have an impact on whatever team they sign with. While none of these players will be the most exciting of fantasy names, they’re the perfect late round buys, trusting their experience to kick in and bring some value to whatever squad they land with. I’ve looked through the best remaining free agents and picked five guys who could have fantasy value if they join the right situation.
Ajayi remains on the market primarily because he’s working his way back from a torn ACL that cost him most of 2018. Also, because the NFL hates doing anything that remotely looks like valuing the running back position. But let’s not forget that Ajayi is pretty good at this whole running back thing.
Before he went down with the ACL injury last year, Ajayi was averaging 4.1 yards per carry and was on pace for a 12 touchdown season on the ground. With the Eagles in 2017, he averaged 5.8 yards per carry and flashed his catching ability in the passing game.
The Colts added Spencer Ware to their backfield this offseason but other than that, they’ve been content to stay put. I guess they have a lot of faith in Marlon Mack staying healthy and Nyheim Hines taking a step forward in his sophomore season. I know we hate the notion of a running back committee in the fantasy world, but we’ve seen situations where multiple backs can have fantasy value in a high flying offense, and the Colts’ offense is going to be very, VERY high flying.
While the Colts could be fun, the Vikings is the perfect landing spot for Ajayi. Mike Zimmer is clearly looking to rely on the ground game this season, so much so that he managed to pry Gary Kubiak away from John Elway’s sex den to run the offense. Get ready for a lot of effective zone running in Minnesota. With Dalvin Cook constantly injury, Ajayi could come in and be a starting caliber back for the Vikings, allowing them to manage Cook’s snap counts.
Best fantasy fit: New England Patriots, Houston Texans
The only knock against Crabtree is his age, as he’ll turn 32 this season. But he can still get it done in the passing game. Last year with the Ravens he caught 54 balls for 607 yards and three touchdowns and that was basically the worst season of his career. He could certainly plug into a team that needs wide receiver help and at least offer something in terms of both football production and fantasy value.
It might seem mildly repetitive for the Patriots to bring in Crabtree after signing another veteran receiver in Demaryius Thomas earlier in the season but personally I think a) Crabtree is better right now and b) Thomas isn’t a lock to make it past preseason in New England. While Julian Edelman, James White and (fingers crossed) N’Keal Harry will likely be Tom Brady’s go-to guys, Crabtree could have a role as the Patriots’ chain mover and red zone body (think someone like Danny Amendola, only bigger).
Speaking of Thomas, the Texans traded for the veteran receiver last year—only to have him tear his Achilles early in the relationship—what’s to say they won’t try again getting a veteran presence in their receiving room? I like this pairing a lot as it takes the defenses’ entire focus off DeAndre Hopkins and the pressure off Will Fuller to be healthy and the clear number two guy.
Best fantasy fit: Seattle Seahawks
Kearse didn’t have the best 2018 season—ending with a rather disappointing 37 catches for 371 yards and a lone touchdown—but we’ve seen Kearse be a solid receiver with fantasy value before. In fact, look no further that 2017 when he caught 65 balls for 810 yards and five touchdowns. Maybe last year was a sign of the decline beginning, but I’m willing to bet that he has at least another productive season left in him.
To get that final season out of him, I’m sending him home to Seattle to team up again with Russell Wilson. Yes it pains me to put anyone else in that offense who could take targets away from D.K. Metcalf (who I’m already getting too excited about) but the Seahawks need as many bodies as they can get catching balls from Wilson. Kearse spent the first five years of his career with the Hawks and managed to put together a couple of strong seasons there. I’m trusting the reunion to spark one final worthwhile season out of him.
Best fantasy fit: Green Bay Packers
Am I doing this partly to create the beautiful irony of Bryant playing out his career with the team that he may or may not have caught the ball against? Yes. Do I think this could actually work on a real actually football level? Oh, 100%.
There are plenty of question marks that come with Dez at this point in his career: he’s a 31-years-old wide receiver who’s coming off a torn Achilles. That doesn’t traditionally instill a lot of confidence in one’s ability to produce on the gridiron. However, 2017 Dez Bryant was still pretty dang good. He caught 69 balls for 838 yards and six touchdowns despite playing in the Cowboys’ run-first offense along with Dak Prescott discovering his fascination for turning Cole Beasley into a household name. If Dez is in any kind of game shape, what’s to say he can’t replicate at least those touchdown numbers in an offense led by the most talented quarterback in the league right now.
Much like the Seahawks, the Packer just need bodies at receiver right now. What’s to stop them bringing in Dez on a small, one-year deal and seeing how he looks. It feels like a perfect match if you ask me.
Best fantasy fit: Jacksonville Jaguars, Dallas Cowboys
The tight end free agent market is about as bleak as the tight end fantasy market. Outside of guys like Travis Kelce, George Kittle and Zach Ertz, the tight end position is pretty much a crapshoot with everyone having their thoughts on who’ll finally break out (for me it’s Evan Engram time).
Now Toilolo likely will never be on anyone’s fantasy radar but of the remaining tight ends available, he’s at least the only one who’s done something for a team in the passing game. Last year with the Lions he caught 21 balls on 24 targets for 263 yards and a touchdown. Those are at least stats as opposed to what most every other available tight end has to offer. And part of me can’t help but think that if 6-foot-8, 270 pound Toilolo finds himself on a team that really could use a red zone threat, that maybe he adds to that touchdown total.
I’ll just say this, if Toilolo signs with the Jags (which I’m talking myself into becoming a fan of) and catches anything over two touchdowns this year, I’m going to be real cocky on the interwebs.