By The Hudsonian, Joshua Hudson
Fantasy football is over. Or is it? Because I see it as the beginning. The beginning of the start of your season. Now is where you get the edge on your league mates. If you know all the ins and outs of who goes where – from players to coordinators and position coaches – you’re priming yourself for a trip to your fantasy playoffs in the upcoming season.
First comes free agency, then comes the draft. Sounds like the start of a fantasy addict’s nursery rhyme, but I digress. There will be plenty of content coming your way from Club Fantasy on this year’s draft class, but first, we start with NFL free agency.
This series will cover offensive players, as they have the most impact in fantasy circles and we at Club Fantasy don’t play individual defensive players, or IDPs as the kids call it these days.
Next up on the free agent preview list: Bears wide receiver Alshon Jeffrey.
If Club Fantasy were around this time last year, you would have seen a post in regards to his free agency heading into the 2016 season. Then the Chicago Bears slapped the franchise tag on him. Unable to get a deal done, Jeffrey signed the franchise tag which guaranteed him $14.599 million. So Jeffrey set out to prove his worth.
What followed was a year that included missing 4 games due to suspension, while fighting a string of nagging injuries, en route to 52 catches for 821 yards and 2 touchdowns. Not exactly WR1 numbers, am I right?
On the surface, Jeffrey probably shouldn’t command anything close to the $14 million plus he earned in 2016. But that’s the beauty of free agency. Desperate teams overpay on the open market for players they think can help them. And let’s be honest, Jeffrey has shown he can be a dynamic receiver when he’s healthy and has a healthy quarterback. In fact, he dialed up back-to-back 1,000 yard seasons in 2013 and 2014.
The Bears have enough cap space to where they can afford to franchise Jeffrey one more time, to the tune of over $17 million. Again, it pays to hit the open market. But if the Bears decide to move on from Jeffrey, with his litany of injuries and recent four game suspension, who steps up and pays Jeffrey top dollar in the free agent market?
He could have several options.
The Eagles’ outside receivers were abysmal last year. So bad, in fact, their two starters on the outside – Dorial Green-Beckham and Nelson Agholor – combined to provide 72 catches for 757 yards and 4 TDs. If they merged into one mega receiver, they still wouldn’t qualify as a mega receiver. Just an average number two receiver on an average team. If they can clear enough cap space to get Jeffrey to accept a deal in the range of $12-$13 million a year, he would instantly become the team’s number one target and would give young QB Carson Wentz a serious weapon on the outside, making life easier for slot receiver Jordan Matthews and budding tight end Zach Ertz.
But do the Eagles want to shell out that much money to a player many throughout the league view more as an elite number two than a number one? One thing that could sway Jeffrey: new Eagles wide receivers’ coach Mike Groh. Groh worked with Jeffrey in Chicago. If Jeffrey lands in Philly, he remains in the WR2 conversation in fantasy, with legit WR1 upside in the event he remains healthy.
San Francisco 49ers
Any time a team has limited playmakers on their roster, coupled with an inordinate amount of cap space, you’re going to be linked with the top available free agents at any of the skill positions. Jeffrey fits the bill for the 49ers. The 49ers have had little luck with recent FA acquisition Torrey Smith and are clearly looking to move on from him. With a new head coach in town, one who loves to throw the ball to big receivers, there could be some movement on the Jeffrey to San Francisco front.
Truthfully, if Jeffrey hits the market and the 49ers have yet to settle on a quarterback, I don’t think Jeffrey makes his way out west. He wants to win, and even came out at the end of the season saying Chicago had a real chance to appear in the Super Bowl. A bold statement to say the least. That about kills this fairytale.
With $106 million to spend, no player is off limits unless they tell the team, “No.” I think Jeffrey would tell them “no” though. Besides, it seems the Browns are more willing to spend on their own free agent, Terrelle Pryor, and let him grow alongside 2016 first round pick Corey Coleman.
But let’s say the Browns throw a $16 million a year contract offer to Jeffrey. Let’s also assume they land Deshaun Watson in the 2017 NFL Draft. Jeffrey, Pryor and Coleman could be a fearsome wide receiver corps that could grab some people’s attention and immediately help a young signal caller. Fantasy owners who saw what Pryor could do as a number one option might be more intrigued by him and Jeffrey as a tandem. I think I’m voting for Jeffrey to the Browns now.
If I had to guess, Jeffrey returns to the Bears. Chicago is likely to move on from incumbent Jay Cutler, which could sway Jeffrey to want to explore his options. But with the third overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, the Bears could take a swing at one of the top QBs in the draft. Would that be enough to sway Jeffrey to return? If the price is right, I think he stays. But look for the Eagles to be involved if the price doesn’t exceed $12 million a year.