FREE AGENCY LOSERS
Only one team finishes their season truly satisfied with the results they produced on the field. Once the Lombardi Trophy is presented and the league year has officially ended, all 32 franchises and fan bases start plotting their perfect off-seasons. Free agency is the starting point that fuels the rebuild for struggling franchises and compels competing teams to add needed depth. It allows fans and media analysts alike to speculate the moves teams will make and who will make the big splashy additions that grab headlines. While the true results of these moves won't be known for two to three seasons, speculation as to which of these moves will and won't work out can begin immediately. This article is not a reflection of the talent these players have, rather an evaluation of the situation they are in. With all of that out of the way, let’s get going.
Allen Robinson- WR: Chicago Bears
The quarterback sadness train continues for Allen Robinson, with its next stop being Andy Dalton. While Dalton may be the “best” quarterback that Robinson has had to this point in his career, it may be only a slight upgrade from Mitchell Trubisky. Robinson signed the franchise tag, and that will see him start the 2021 season in Chicago to the dismay of many Robinson fans. He was hyped as one of the top free agent wide receivers and didn’t even have a shot to test the market. Robinson had 102 receptions for 1,250 yards and 6 TDs, but he will have to wait at least another year to have the pleasure of playing with a fantasy relevant quarterback. Every year, fantasy football fans and analysts dream of the numbers that Robinson could produce if only he had an above average quarterback. This is not a death sentence nor is it a stay away move but merely a warning that Robinson’s ceiling will be limited by his quarterback play, again. The only hope we can have as fantasy players is that he escapes quarterback purgatory in 2022 and his full potential can be unleashed.
Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith- TEs: New England Patriots
When the news of the Jonnu Smith signing came in, there was a hope that he could be a true weapon in an offense that knows how to utilize the tight end. Those hopes and dreams were dashed a mere 24 hours later with the news that Hunter Henry would also be signing with the Patriots. If either one of these players had been the sole tight end acquisition of the Patriots, the outlook would have been much greater. However, since they both signed, their values will be reduced significantly. Since 2010, there have been only two pairs of teammates that have finished as top-10 tight ends, Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert in 2019 and Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez in 2011. With the exception of Goedert, neither Hunter Henry nor Jonnu Smith are as talented as the other tight ends on that list. The hype of the Patriots receiving the same production as the Gronk-Hernandez combo was on the field is far-fetched and quite honestly a pipe dream. Newsflash, Cam Newton is not as talented a passer as Tom Brady was or is, and the Patriots are unlikely to be force feeding both Henry and Smith. Expect both to finish as top-15 tight ends, but if you can predict which one will hold the top spot, then head straight to Las Vegas, bet it all on black and hope your luck doesn’t run out.
Juju Smith-Schuster- WR: Pittsburgh Steelers
The hope for Juju Smith-Schuster’s offseason was that he would leave Pittsburgh and secure himself the bag and a number two wide receiver position to go along with it. Unfortunately, he returned to Pittsburgh on a one-year deal for decent money, but finds himself back in a murky situation. All three wide receivers for Pittsburgh have their own unique skill sets and all are fighting to secure the majority of the targets from an aging Ben Roethlisberger. Chase Claypool, Diontae Johnson and Juju Smith-Schuster will begin the season at age 23, 24 and 25 respectively, which only adds to the confusion of who the top target will be. The Steelers offense has struggled over the last couple of years, and a lack of clarity with the wide receiver core leaves some questions with Juju’s decision to return. He reportedly had an offer from the Kansas City Chiefs for a similar one-year deal but turned it down to return to the Steelers. At the end of the day, fantasy managers will have to rely on Juju’s talent that will likely have him end up as a top-25 wide receiver for the 2021 season.
Kenyan Drake- RB: Las Vegas Raiders
For all of the signings discussed up to this point, they have been considered less than ideal more because of the wasted opportunity that appeared to be left on the table rather than the lack of the move making sense. Kenyan Drake going to the Raiders is the move that makes the absolute least amount of sense from an opportunity and football perspective. Drake signed a two-year deal worth $11 million with the Raiders to be the clear backup to Josh Jacobs. The expectation was that Drake would sign a short-term deal, however the ideal move would have been to go to a team without the clear #1 guy. Josh Jacobs is clearly the #1 option for the Raiders and will continue to be the workhorse back. John Gruden wanted to add a veteran backup to the roster, which makes sense from a team building standpoint. The only thing that doesn’t make sense is why Drake wanted to be a Raider and the clear backup. The Raiders are unlikely to be a competing playoff team with the release or trading of three-fifths of their offensive line and finishing at 8-8 in 2020. Unless this was the only offer that Drake received, it seems odd for him to think this was his best opportunity to produce and show that he can be a #1 guy somewhere else.
Whether these players got the short end of the stick as a result of who is throwing to them, because their new team watered down the position with too many top players, they decided not to pursue greener pastures, or they just made a baffling move altogether that makes no sense to anyone but themselves, these players all lost in some way or another in this period of free agency. If you were looking forward to having any of these players on your team this year in dynasty, redraft or any other form of fantasy football you might have to wait a little bit longer for them to be in situations that better fit what they are capable of. However, it is not the end of the road because in all forms of fantasy football, adaptation is key, so keep vigilant, do your research and most importantly, always stay dreamin’!