NFL Free Agency 2023: The Biggest Fantasy Winners and Losers

Free Agency Biggest Winners And Losers

It’s that time of the offseason when we get to see all the big moves being made around the NFL as teams prepare to improve themselves heading into a brand new season. The free agency period got off to a nice start after the Las Vegas Raiders parted ways with long-time quarterback Derek Carr after not being able to trade him. A quick note about that situation after the Raiders benched Carr for the final two games of the 2022 season and reports started to surface that the team would be attempting to move on from Carr, Carr did not give the Raiders brass any leverage to move him as he had a “no-trade clause” built into his last contract. After that, the Raiders were forced to release Derek Carr or be on the line for his nearly $40 million in guaranteed money for the 2023 season if he was still on the team.

Carr eventually landed with the New Orleans Saints on a four-year, $150 million contract w/ $100 million in guaranteed money. But Carr wasn’t the only move that was made during the free agency period. With plenty of players moving to different locations ahead of the 2023 season, here are my biggest winners and losers from the free agency period.

The Biggest Winners

David Montgomery lands with the Detriot Lions

David Montgomery hit free agency after not getting a new deal with the Chicago Bears and the Lions needed to fill the spot left by the departure of Jamaal Williams. Why this is a win for David Montgomery is the fact that Montgomery looks to take the lead role for the Lions backfield this coming season. The Lions finished 11th in rushing last season and the amount of work bodes well for Montgomery as the lead back for Detroit this season. During the 2022 season, David Montgomery finished with 1,117 total yards from scrimmage and averaged 11.1 fantasy points per game. In the Lions backfield, Montgomery could do much more damage for fantasy managers as they sport many more weapons at the receiver position like Amon Ra St. Brown and Jameson Williams.

Allen Lazard Gets Picked Up By The Jets

Allen Lazard’s signing with the New York Jets is actually a good move. Lazard signed a four-year deal worth $44 million with $22 million guaranteed. The hope now is for the Jets to get the deal done with the Green Bay Packers that would bring quarterback Aaron Rodgers to the team. With the Packers last season, Lazard was the most targeted receiver by Rodgers, leading all Packers receivers with 100 targets. Keeping that possible connection with Rodgers for another season bodes well for Lazard’s fantasy value in 2023. Lazard will have to perform a bit better than the 11.7 fantasy points per game though. Lazard had just three games in which he scored 15+ fantasy points in 2022. All in all, potentially returning with Aaron Rodgers is still positive.

Miles Sanders Switches From Eagles To Panther

The Eagles opted not to bring back running back Miles Sanders after he had a career year with the team during the 2022 season. Now looking like the lead back for the Carolina Panthers, Sanders will look to continue his career in the NFC South. The Panthers finished 10th in rushing for the 2022 season but lose starting running back D’Onta Freeman to free agency, deciding to take his talents to Chicago with the Bears. Miles Sanders, however, brings a dual-threat ability to the Panthers and also presents an option to create big plays. Last season with the Eagles, Sanders had 12 rushes for 20+ yards and averaged 5 y/a.

Samaje Perine Looks To Lead Broncos Backfield

The opportunity that presents itself for running back Samaje Perine is certainly one that could make fantasy managers think twice when it comes to taking him when it comes time for draft season to get going. With starter Javonte Williams’ unknown return to action after having a severely torn ACL and no timetable for return, Perine may be able to hold on to a starting role with the Broncos for the foreseeable future (at least for the beginning of the season). For the majority of his career, Perine has been living in the shadow of former running back mate Joe Mixon during his tenure with the Cincinnati Bengals. Now with a chance to shine in his own right, and if the Broncos don’t decide to bring in added help through the draft or free agency that could challenge his lead role status, Perine could keep a lock on starter reps in 2023. Perine averaged 4.1 y/a behind Joe Mixon last season and saw an 8.5% target share (51 targets) out of the backfield in 2022.

Derek Carr Joins The New Orleans Saints

I talked about Derek Carr at the outset of the article but there is something that I really like about this signing that fantasy managers should keep in mind. Maybe not to draft Derek Carr but what his impact on the Saints’ skill positions could be in 2023. Carr is simply a better passer at this point in his career in comparison to Andy Dalton. One thing that Carr did well over Dalton during the 2022 season was that he was unafraid to throw the ball downfield. Carr finished fifth in deep ball attempts with a near 32% completion rate. One wide receiver that could benefit from the increased targets downfield is Chris Olave, who averaged 111.33 air yards per game during 2022, good for fifth best among wide receivers.

The Biggest Losers

Juju Smith-Schuster Takes The Bag To New England

Let’s start with the obvious elephant in the room. The downgrade at the quarterback position. Smith-Schuster opted to take the bag and leave the Superbowl-winning Kansas City Chiefs and travel to play with the New England Patriots. Granted, Smith is now a Superbowl champion so getting paid is a far move to make when you’re looking to get paid. Reports had stated that the Chiefs didn’t intend to pay him big money so getting a three-year, $25M deal isn’t anything to sneeze at. But the shift from Mahomes to Mac Jones is definitely a downgrade when it comes to fantasy. Not only that, with recent reports of Mac Jones possibly being shopped around, Smith could possibly end up catching passes from Bailey Zappe. The move to New England isn’t a great move for Juju Smith-Schuster’s fantasy value in 2023.

Jakobi Meyers Lands In A Black Hole

I liked Jakobi Meyers’s game as he had to make the best of a bad situation with the Patriots sputtering offense and inconsistent play at the quarterback position. But landing with the Las Vegas Raiders doesn’t look to help his fantasy value. To start, Meyers will be the number two wide receiver behind Davante Adams, a receiver who commands a huge target share. In 2022, Adams led all Raiders wide receivers with a 32.3% target share. The next wide receiver to be considered close to him in target share percentage was wide receiver Mack Hollins with his 16.8% target share. That’s 94 targets for Hollins while Adams saw 180 targets. On top of the fact that the new quarterback for the Raiders looks to be Jimmy Garoppolo, a guy who’s not really known for slinging the ball all over the field, also caps Meyers’s upside in the Raiders’ offense.

Jimmy Garoppolo The New QB For LVR

I was definitely coming back around for this one. This will be the first time that we will get to see Jimmy Garoppolo not be hidden behind a superior offensive scheme that 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan produces for his quarterbacks. And that may not bode well for him. While he does get Davante Adams, a superior wide receiver to what he’s had in San Francisco, the problem remains that Jimmy G has never been the guy to throw the ball all over the yard. Because he never really had to. Playing with a superior team all around, Garoppolo was only asked to really manage the game and make a handful of plays. Now he could be asked to shoulder the offense, reuniting with former Patriots coach Josh McDaniels. Garoppolo has never been a top fantasy QB to depend on and I don’t see that happening in 2023. Over the last three seasons, Garoppolo has finished inside the top 20 among quarterbacks just one time, as the QB 17 in 2021 when he averaged 15.2 fantasy points per game.

Adam Thielen Leaves Minnesota To Win A Superbowl With The Panthers

If you remember earlier this offseason the comments that Adam Thielen made about having the chance to win a Superbowl with the Carolina Panthers after they gave him a three-year, $25 million contract, you probably got a laugh out of that snippet. But that’s not the reason why Thielen’s move from Minnesota to Carolina is a no-go for fantasy managers in 2023. The problem is that the quarterback position is likely to see a rookie under center this year. While that’s certainly not a bad thing, the expectation that the rookie will come in and blow the doors off the proverbial hinges is a bit unfair. The Carolina Panthers do have Andy Dalton as the veteran/bridge quarterback but we’ve already seen how that played out before. Adam Thielen himself wasn’t a great fantasy option last season even with Kirk Cousins having a great season throwing the ball. Cousins averaged 17.2 fantasy points per game during the 2022 season. Thielen… just 10.6.

Rashaad Penny Takes Over The Eagles Backfield

Don’t get me wrong. I completely understand why everyone loves Rashaad Penny with the Philadelphia Eagles. Penny averaged 6+ yards per carry over the last two seasons with the Seattle Seahawks. Penny also has the ability to break some big plays. Last season, Penny had nine plays where he rushed for 20+ yards and gets to play behind arguably the best offensive line in his career with the Eagles. But that’s where it stops. Penny has never been able to play a full season in his career. That’s five seasons in the NFL. Over the last three seasons with the Seahawks, Penny played just 18 games in total. Penny’s landing spot looks like a great situation but with his durability highly questionable in one of the best rushing offenses in the league, asking Penny to be a bell-cow “ish” type of back may be too much for him.

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