🌀 A Plot Twist For The Top FA WR

Will he stay or go...

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Justin Fields is a bad liar…

In today’s Fantasy Life Newsletter presented by BetMGM:

  • Tee Higgins set to get the tag

  • A change to the salary cap

  • 2023 Misses: What we can learn from an RB whiff…

  • It’s 2/26. Take it away, Peter Overzet…

There are some big names headlining the 2024 free agent WR class, but the marquee receiver might not be hitting the open market.

Per Ian Rapoport, the Bengals have officially applied the franchise tag to Tee Higgins to prevent him from becoming an unrestricted free agent.

The tag results in a one-year, fully-guaranteed contract worth $21.8 million.

With the tag deadline still over a week away, there’s some interesting subtext to the report:

  • The Bengals clearly don’t want other teams trying to recruit Higgins during Combine week—a period traditionally rife with tampering

  • The tag kicks the can down the road for getting a long-term extension done, but Cincinnati’s tight salary cap and typical contract structure M.O. make it unlikely that they will give Higgins the type of deal he desires

  • It opens up the possibility of a “tag and trade” if a WR-hungry team is willing to pony up a package similar to the previous A.J. Brown and Tyreek Hill deals

The most likely outcome is Higgins plays the 2024 season on the tag and we find ourselves in the exact same spot in 2025.

But if another org with salary cap space views Higgins as a superstar, there’s a chance we get some surprise trade fireworks.

Stay tuned…

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Watercooler

👀 One QB is flying up Freedman’s ranks in his latest mock. Let’s see how the Combine helps his draft stock. 

🐐 Peter King set to retire after over four decades of greatness. What a legend.

🤔 Why Justin Fields unfollowed the Bears on Instagram. Suuuuure.

🛫 Eric Bieniemy’s new coaching gig. Interesting move.

💸 The Salary Cap is increasing in 2024. Teams have money to spend.

⚾️ The best fantasy football punishment yet. So good.

😆 Please be careful with Kirk Cousins, kids. We need him.

🤓 Gabe Davis loves stats. Gabe Davis stats, to be specific.

FF Misses

The only way we can get better is if we avoid our previous mistakes. Today, Chris Allen analyzes some players we got wrong last year and how we can learn from the miss…

Antonio Gibson, RB - WAS

From a structural standpoint, we should be drafting a team’s RB2 that could become a fringe RB1 in the middle rounds. Rushers with receiver skills are especially worthwhile. Antonio Gibson had a (slim) path to returning value on his ADP, given his skill set. Plus, he had the added boost of a better offense than what the Commanders trotted out in 2022. I made a case for him last June.

FF Misses

“Eric Bienemy’s tendencies when helping develop Patrick Mahomes should give us a sense of optimism about Gibson’s QB, Sam Howell. With a more efficient offense, the value of Gibson’s touches skyrockets, adding to his viability as a mid-round RB to target.”

So, the former WR from Memphis had three things going for him: a "stranglehold" on carries (both between the 20s and in the green zone), targets, and a better offense. Unfortunately, I missed the mark on all three. 

Washington’s offense didn’t demonstrably change from 2022 to 2023. Even with OC Eric Bienemy boosting their dropback over expectation (DBOE) rate from -11.0% to +5.0%, the overall results were the same.

FF Misses

Howell’s 65 sacks and 23 turnovers negated any positive effect generated by their uptick in passing. And, even worse for Gibson, he had more competition for targets.

Terry McLaurin and Curtis Samuel earned 22.0% and 15.1% of Howell’s targets. But we expected them to be involved. However, Cole Turner having an 18.1% TPRR rate wasn’t on my bingo card. I didn’t think Byron Pringle and Jamison Crowder would have route rates over 10.0%.

From Logan Thomas getting 4.9 targets per game to Alex Armah getting three all year, none of their ancillary players were fantasy-relevant. But each took a look or two away from Gibson. Accordingly, his healthy 24.4% TPRR from 2022 dropped to 18.6%. And, finally, that brings us to his rushing attempts. 

It’s not that he should’ve taken over the Washington backfield. Brian Robinson’s forced missed tackle rate and adjusted yards after carry increased while maintaining his 2022 rushing success rate. He’s a good player. But Gibson’s value as a contingent option should Robinson miss time was part of the deal. And Robinson missed two weeks during the fantasy playoffs. However, Gibson couldn’t deliver.

Gibson UR

Rookie Chris Rodriguez got the majority of the carries and even snatched a target in Robinson’s absence. In hindsight, with the Commanders out of the playoff race, taking a longer look at the rookie makes sense. But it wasn’t in our calculus back over the summer.

Gibson’s profile makes his next landing spot interesting for fantasy. If he can find a team with a need for a third-down RB, sign me up. But until then, I’ll take a closer look at rushers with similar outlooks heading into 2024.

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