What If...? (The Free Agency Version)

It won't happen, but it'd be a lot cooler if it did.

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Honestly, who’s surprised Aaron Rodgers popped up in talks to be the VP?

In today’s Fantasy Life Newsletter presented by Hugo Boss:

  • Wouldn’t It Be Funny If…

  • The Panthers Get Bryce Young a Weapon

  • Free Agency Tracker: RBs are flying off the shelves…

  • It's 3/13. Take it away, Chris Allen

Tuesday’s news cycle brought as much drama and intrigue as the ‘start’ of the legal tampering period.

Derrick Henry is now a Raven, and Joe Mixon heads to Houston to run with C.J. Stroud. The list of fantasy-relevant signings continued to fill up our FREE free agency tracker (more on that in a bit). However, some of the guys switching teams are filling backup roles, so not all of them should have our attention.

Or should they?

Exactly two months ago, Joe Flacco was playing in a Wild Card matchup after signing to Cleveland’s practice squad in November. Drew Lock gave us one of the best moments in the regular season. Being a backup isn’t a permanent role, so let’s play a game of ‘What If?’ based on some of yesterday’s news.

Like, what if…

🔥 Jameis Winston Starts for the Browns?

Air yards. Lots of air yards.

Jameis Winston leaves NOLA for another backup job behind Deshaun Watson. It’s tough to hate the W-eating, unwritten-rule-breaking gunslinger, but a starting job is hard to see for the former first-overall pick. But then again, the Browns made it to the post-season with a guy juuuust like him not too long ago.

Admittedly, Flacco’s run came at the right time. Nick Chubb was out for the season. Their offensive line was dinged up. Kevin Stefanski needed a way to keep the offense moving, and Flacco’s penchant for letting it rip worked out for everyone.

  • Air Yards per Game: 382.0 (2nd among all QBs)

  • Deep-ball Attempts: 30 (1st)

  • Explosive Passing Rate: 15.1% (8th)

Watson has started in 12 games since moving to Ohio and has been healthy or serviceable in, well, less than 12 games. With a move for Jerry Jeudy, the Browns aren’t giving up on this offense and its playoff potential. If Deshaun’s recovery doesn’t go as planned, Flameis lobbing deep shots to Amari Cooper isn’t a bad backup plan.

👀 Mike Gesicki Finally Becomes Fantasy Relevant?

If things break right, Cincinnati harnesses another interior weapon for Joe Burrow, and the offense makes another deep playoff run.

But honestly, the best outcome of Mike Gesicki going to the Bengals is he’ll be able to (properly) learn how to Griddy. Don’t worry. Ja’Marr Chase already has him lined up for lessons. But the real issue is projecting the sixth-year journeyman’s role in the offense.

Gesicki lined up in the slot on 71.2% of his snaps, compared to just 10.2% as a traditional in-line TE. It’s made his projections tough in offenses with either uncreative play-callers and bad QB play (New England) or teams with multiple high-end options at WR (Miami). The Bengals fall into the latter category, but their roster turnover may be what the former Patriot needs to finally shine.

  • Tyler Boyd: 81.1% (slot snap rate), 75.5% (slot target rate)

  • Tanner Hudson: 43.5%, 56.0%

  • Irv Smith: 27.4%, 30.8%

Boyd earned 70.3% of his slot targets when Burrow was on the field. Hudson and Smith combined for the second-most looks on the team in obvious passing situations (10). And, notably, Cincinnati’s triggerman likes this player archetype on the field in critical moments.

While the latest mocks have the Bengals addressing WR in the draft, Boyd’s likely departure and Hudson and Smith's absence put Gesicki on a path to earning some work in the offense. But if their rookie has a slow start and Burrow connects with the veteran early, we might actually get the production we always wanted out of Gesicki.

There are so many others to consider: Gerald Everett outperforming Cole Kmet, Antonio Gibson turning into an RB1 in NE, or Darnell Mooney overshadowing Drake London. But before you turn your nose up at the idea, how many of you had Baker Mayfield piloting a playoff team in 2023? Let’s live a little, folks!

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📺 Was Monday the craziest day in free agency history? Let’s break it down.

💥 The Panthers trade for a WR1. Diontae wins. George Pickens wins. Everyone wins.

🙄 Aaron Rodgers may retire from football to do what?!? I thought the offseason was for focusing on winning…

🧀 Aaron Jones pipes up about the Packers’ negotiations. This doesn’t look good for GB.

🤔 The Chiefs take a one-year flier on a free-agent TE. Noah Gray, watch out.

😤 Top EDGE rusher finds a home in Houston. The Texans' defense is looking scary!

⏰ The Patriots have an offer out to Calvin Ridley but no response. What’s he waiting for?

🎒 Drew Lock heads to the Big Apple. Lock and Tommy Cutlets in one spot is too much swag.

FA Tracker

Does your social media timeline look like a slot machine with all the updates? Can you discern what’s relevant to fantasy or not? It sounds like you’ve got a case of free agency itis. It’s common this time of year, but don’t worry. Ian has been on top of the latest signings and their impact on the market.

😈 RB: Derrick Henry

  • Signed with the Ravens on a two-year, $16 million deal worth up to $20 million (3/12)

King Henry has officially taken his talents to Baltimore. The deal includes $9 million fully guaranteed in the first year and sets up the long-time monster as the Ravens' bell-cow back ahead of 2024.

On the one hand, Father Time is undefeated, and Henry turned 30 in January. This is historically about when RBs cease to be overly dominant in fantasy.

On the other, there actually hasn't been much on-field evidence of Henry's ability falling off. Sure, his raw yards per carry have dipped, but a lot of that has to do with PFF's reigning 32nd-ranked offensive line struggling mightily in the trenches in recent years.

Getting to run behind the Ravens' big uglies while benefiting from the gravity that Lamar Jackson has in the run game couldn't set up Henry better to dominate on the ground ahead of 2024.

It remains to be seen if the Ravens will be as steadfast about feeding the Big Dog 20-plus touches per game as the Titans were, although the essential one-year rental nature of his contract could help bust their previous committee-heavy tendencies.

Don't go crazy and treat Henry as a top-10 option at the position in the year 2024, but RB15 around guys like Kenneth Walker, Alvin Kamara and David Montgomery feels about right for the expected primary TD scorer inside of the league's reigning fourth-ranked scoring offense.

For more on Henry, click here.

FA Tracker

🏈 RB: Joe Mixon

  • Traded to the Texans (3/12)

Originally believed to be released, the Bengals managed to find a trade partner for their long-time veteran RB after all.

The landing spot is nothing short of ideal, as the Texans had a massive gap to fill at RB after letting Devin Singletary sign with the Giants on Monday.

If you read Matthew Berry’s 25 most interesting things he heard at the combine article then you would already know that the Bengals were planning on parting ways with the 27-year-old talent. While the veteran deserves credit for racking up 8,551 total yards and 62 TDs during his seven seasons in Cincinnati, he’s struggled to consistently crack four yards per carry over the years and has had some off-the-field issues of late.

And yet, volume is king in fantasy land, and there's more of it inside of an ascending Texans offense than just about anywhere else.

This offense figures to continue leaning on C.J. Stroud and the passing game, but offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik did prove willing to largely lean on one single RB (Singletary) down the stretch of 2023 – something that bodes VERY well for Mixon's fantasy upside ahead of next season.

Don't get it twisted: Mixon won't be ranked as a top-12 option at the position anytime soon – but volume-based borderline RB2 treatment alongside guys like Najee Harris (RB24 APD), James Conner (RB25) and Brian Robinson (RB26)? That makes sense!

👀 RB: Aaron Jones

  • Signed with the Vikings on a one-year, $7 million deal (3/12)

Jones woke up and chose revenge.

Seeing the long-time Packers RB in purple will take some getting used to, but the landing spot should at least yield a pretty solid bell-cow role for the 29-year-old veteran.

Reminder: Jones ended his 2023 season with five consecutive 100-plus yard efforts and ranked eighth in EPA per rush among 62 qualified backs. The only sign of Father Time was Jones playing in a career-low 11 regular season games due to a hamstring injury.

Of course, going from an ascending Packers offense to the Sam Darnold-led Vikings isn't exactly what the cool kids would call an upgrade. Competition in the form of Ty Chandler shouldn't be much of a problem; just realize Jones will need to maintain his gaudy efficiency numbers in order to make up for the probable newfound lack of fantasy-friendly scoring opportunities.

For more on A-aron, click here.

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