Fanelli’s Fantasy Files: Winners and Losers from Day 1 of Free Agency

NFL Free Agency

Yesterday was the first day of free agency, and the NFL kicked it off in style. The Cincinnati Bengals agreed to terms with former Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive lineman Alex Cappa right out of the gate. However, the biggest news of the day came out of Florida. The Jacksonville Jaguars signed Christian Kirk to a four-year deal worth up to $84 million, making him one of the highest-paid wide receivers in the NFL. There were several players whose fantasy value increased or decreased based on the moves from yesterday.

Not all of the deals from yesterday will be included in this article. For example, any overnight deals won’t be part of this article. As deals continue to happen, the fantasy value for these players could change. Furthermore, players who were traded or had the franchised tag placed on them will not be included in this article. That said, let’s dive into some of the winners and losers from the first day of free agency.

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Trevor Lawrence, Jacksonville Jaguars

Lawrence had more than one passing touchdown in only two games last season. He was constantly under pressure and had a terrible receiving core. However, the Jaguars went out yesterday and aggressively fixed both issues. After placing the franchise tag on Cam Robinson earlier this month, the Jaguars signed former Washington Commanders guard Brandon Scherff. Then the Jaguars also signed Kirk to a monster deal to take over as the No. 1 wide receiver. However, it didn’t stop there, as the Jaguars also signed Zay Jones and Evan Engram to new deals. Lawrence might not have the best receiving core in the NFL, but it’s a massive upgrade from last season. Don’t be surprised if the Jaguars add at least one more pass catcher this week.

James Conner, Arizona Cardinals

After four years with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Conner joined the Cardinals on a one-year deal last offseason. He finished the year with career-highs in total touchdowns with 18 and games played with 15. Yesterday, the Cardinals signed Conner to a three-year deal worth at least $21 million. More importantly, Chase Edmonds signed with the Miami Dolphins, making Conner the featured back in Arizona. While the Cardinals could sign a replacement for Edmonds, that seems unlikely given their salary cap situation and needs at other positions. Meanwhile, Conner averaged 23.6 PPR fantasy points per game in the five games Edmonds missed last season. Unless the Cardinals use a top draft pick on a running back, Conner is a likely first-round pick in fantasy drafts this year.

Mitchell Trubisky, Pittsburgh Steelers

A year ago, Trubisky signed with the Buffalo Bills to become Josh Allen’s backup. Many expected Trubisky to become a career backup quarterback at that point. However, after a year with Allen, Brian Daboll, and Ken Dorsey, Trubisky is in line to replace Ben Roethlisberger next season. Unlike in Chicago, Trubisky will have a strong coaching staff behind him. Furthermore, Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, Pat Freiermuth, and Najee Harris will give Trubisky plenty of weapons in the passing game. The Steelers also made moves on the offensive line, re-signing offensive tackle Chukwuma Okorafor and adding guard Mason Cole. Now that Trubisky is under center for next season, the Steelers can use their first-round pick to improve the offensive line in front of him.


Derek Carr, Las Vegas Raiders

The Raiders had arguably the worst wide receiver core in the NFL last season. Other than Hunter Renfrow and Jones, no other wide receiver on the team had more than 34 receptions in 2021. Furthermore, Carr struggled after Las Vegas released Henry Ruggs. He averaged 18.8 fantasy points per game with Ruggs in the lineup. By comparison, he averaged only 12.5 fantasy points per game without Ruggs. Jones signed a massive deal with the Jaguars, leaving Carr with one reliable wide receiver currently under contract for next season. Furthermore, they have limited cap space and don’t appear in the Allen Robinson race. At this point, Carr has to wonder how much the Raiders will improve his receiving core before the NFL draft.

Dan Arnold, Jacksonville Jaguars

While the Jaguars didn’t have a productive receiving core last season, Arnold was a bright spot once he got to Jacksonville. In the eight games he played as a Jaguars, Arnold averaged five targets and 7.6 PPR fantasy points per game. However, Arnold had a few impressive weeks in Jacksonville before suffering a season-ending injury. From Week 5 through Week 10, Arnold averaged 7.4 targets per game, most on the team, and 10.7 PPR fantasy points per game. However, after the Jaguars spent $114 million for Kirk and Jones, they signed Engram to a one-year deal worth $9 million. Unfortunately, any potential sleeper appeal for Arnold got destroyed yesterday.

The Rookie Running Back Class

After Edmonds signed with the Dolphins, Conner became arguably the biggest winner of the day. However, the rookie running back class took a massive hit. The Dolphins were a prime landing spot for rookie running backs, thanks to Mike McDaniel and the zone blocking scheme that has made multiple fantasy stars. Furthermore, Myles Gaskin is in the final year of his deal and could lose his roster spot come September. Now that Edmonds signed a two-year deal worth $12.1 million, any rookie running back in Miami will now be part of a committee. Meanwhile, several good running backs are still on the open market, including Leonard Fournette and Cordarrelle Patterson. If they return to their 2021 squads, the rookie class might not have a featured back next season.

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