Fantasy Football Contract Year Players 2017
We’ve all seen the narrative before, and will undoubtedly read or hear it again repeatedly as the 2017 NFL season approaches. Players- motivated by the prospect of securing that long-awaited big payoff- are extra motivated, work harder, and often perform better when they’re playing as a pending free agent.
Of course, there’s no tangible proof that there is an increase in production in a contract year, and some are downright dismissive of the theory, altogether.
Regardless of the differing opinions of the contract year motivation in the NFL, in fantasy football, knowing a player’s status is an important part of building your roster- especially in dynasty leagues. A pending free agent joining a new club can drastically affect his future value, so that has to be taken into consideration before and after your draft or auction.
Here are the top fantasy-relevant players heading into the final season of their contracts in 2017.
Salary information courtesy Spotrac
* denotes Restricted Free Agent
Some big NFL names will become available concluding the 2017 season, but there probably won’t be a lot of elite signal-callers signing with new teams. Drew Brees has indicated he thinks he can play several more years and he can’t be franchised. Already with the third-highest contract in the NFL, Brees is likely to sign an extension with the New Orleans Saints. If he were to entertain offers from other clubs, Brees could potentially command $25 million per season.
|A.J. McCarron *||QB||26||2||$690,000|
If any of the top-tiered quarterbacks do hit the open market, Kirk Cousins is the most likely candidate to sign with a new club. Cousins and the Redskins have been working towards a deal, but the negotiations have often been tenuous. Cousins has been franchised tagged in consecutive years and could be again by Washington next season. Rumors of Cousins reconnecting with Kyle Shanahan in San Francisco have already begun, and Cousins could command a 4-year deal worth $90-$100 million if he has another solid season in 2017.
Derek Carr is one of the most underpaid players in football. Carr’s 2017 salary ranks 49th among NFL quarterbacks. There’s no chance the Raiders let Carr enter free agency, so they’ll likely agree to a 4-or-5-year deal that will pay Carr well north of $20 million per season.
The Lions and Matthew Stafford have already had preliminary talks about a long-term deal. He’s likely due for a relatively big raise and should end up as one of the top-10 highest paid quarterbacks. At 29, Stafford is still in his prime and should be in the Lions long term plans.
Bill Belichick has rebuffed all attempts to trade Jimmy Garoppolo, who was rumored to be worth multiple first-round picks to the Patriots. Although Tom Brady has claimed he feels like he can play for several more years, the Patriots seem content to hold onto Garoppolo as the heir apparent. As of now, the expectations are that Belichick with tag Garopplo and he’ll remain under New England’s control, but if he were to be traded or hit the open market, he’d command much more than Brock Osweiler‘s 4-year $72 million dollar deal with Houston in 2016.
Sam Bradford cost the Vikings a first-round pick and played reasonably well for Minnesota, but has major injury concerns and limited upside. Another playoff run for the Vikings could convince the staff to re-sign Bradford, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them move on…Cincinnati’s A.J. McCarron was involved in offseason trade rumors, but the Bengals’ supposed asking price was way too high. A talented thrower stuck behind Andy Dalton, McCarron could still be an interesting trade piece as a restricted free agent….Tom Savage should open the season as Houston’s starter, but with DeShaun Watson already waiting in the wings, Savage will need an unlikely big statistical season to warrant anything above backup money in free agency…After a devastating knee injury last summer, it’s good to see Teddy Bridgewater taking part in OTAs. The Vikings declined their option, but if he’s healthy, Bridgewater could still beat out Sam Bradford and, depending on the outcome, end up staying in Minnesota.
The days of running backs breaking the bank like Adrian Peterson are over. Even an elite, 3-down franchise back like Pittsburgh’s Le’Veon Bell, who is currently the second-highest compensated running back, ranks 87th in the NFL among all player salaries. As long as he stays healthy and out of trouble, Bell will likely re-sign a 4-or-5-year deal with the Steelers that will pay his $10-$12 million per season.
Devonta Freeman is an interesting name to monitor this season. The Falcons and Freeman have begun long-term contract negotiations, but Freeman is one of the best young running backs in the NFL and is looking to be paid like one. With an average salary well under $1 million, Freeman will command a 10-to-12-fold raise. With Tevin Coleman also in the fold and able to carry the load, Freeman’s elite productivity could price him out of Atlanta’s budget. Expectations are that Freeman will re-sign with the Falcons, but it’s not inconceivable that he could wind up setting the market and suiting up with a new club in 2018.
You would think that offensive guru Kyle Shanahan coming to San Francisco would be an exciting development for Carlos Hyde, but Hyde has become a very polarizing 2017 fantasy selection, with most analysts recommending you avoid him. A good fit for a zone-blocking scheme or not, Hyde has flashed some big time ability but managed to acquire the dreaded “injury prone” tag along the way. Shanahan has proven to be a smart coach, who readily adjusts his offense to fit his talent, so chances are that Hyde will do just fine in 2017. But if he struggles, or misses multiple games with another injury, Hyde could find himself settling for a disappointing second contract and part of a shared backfield.A restricted free agent, Isaiah Crowell is seeking a long-term deal but is under Cleveland’s control for 2017. With an improved offensive line and commitment to make Crowell a bigger part of the offense, Crowell should exceed 200 carries for the first time in his career and have the chance to prove he’s a lead back. If Crowell does receive a bigger role, he’s got a real shot at exceeding 1,200 rushing yards and he’d be in line to earn upwards of $25-$30 million over his next contract.
Similar to Carlos Hyde, Spencer Ware is considered a risky fantasy pick this season. Ware faded down the stretch in 2016 but should start the season as Kansas City’s primary runner. There’s an excellent chance that Andy Reid will work in rookie Kareem Hunt, so Ware may have trouble earning a big contract if he can’t prove to be capable of being a three-down workhorse. If Ware has a moderately successful 2017 season, the most likely outcome is that he’ll re-sign with the Chiefs.
Eddie Lacy landed in a good spot, signing a one-year deal with Seattle. The run-first Seahawks should provide an excellent opportunity for Lacy to put up solid numbers, score plenty of touchdowns, and eat a lot of china food…After the Bengals drafted Joe Mixon, Jeremy Hill is persona non grata in fantasy circles. Still, Hill has an excellent nose for the end zone and will draw attention from several NFL teams next spring that are looking for a tough, inside compliment. Hill could make sense for teams like the Bills, Bucs, Colts or Ravens…While Doug Martin is suspended, Charles Sims has the opportunity to earn a much bigger role in Tampa that could attract some attention as a free agent…LeGarrette Blount‘s salary hasn’t been disclosed but removed from the ideal landing spot in New England, Blount is likely to be a disappointment in Philly as a soon-to-be 31-year old runner who failed to eclipse 3.9 yards-per-carry last year. Blount won’t have near as many goal line chances as he had in New England and could attract little attention in 2018….Don’t sleep on Thomas Rawls as a late-round waiver claim in 2017. Rawls might not play much behind Eddie Lacy and C.J. Prosise, but he looked perfect for the Seahawks in 2015 and should attract several teams looking for running back depth.
Big names also highlight the top half of the 2018 free agent wide receiver class. DeAndre Hopkins is one of the best young wideouts in the game and a huge part of Houston’s offense. Since the Texans did next to nothing in free agency and ranked fifth in the league with available cap space, there’s a strong possibility that Texans GM Rick Smith will work out an extension with Hopkins before the 2017 season kicks off. Regardless of Bill O’Brien’s future with the club, Smith recognizes Nuk’s importance to the team’s future. Look for Hopkins to earn between $14 and $15 million per season starting next year.
Allen Robinson dropped off quite a bit in 2017, mainly due to the deteriorating play of QB Blake Bortles. Perhaps the addition of a legitimate ground game in the form of RB Leonard Fournette will take some pressure off of the passing game, and A-Rob’s numbers will bounce back in a contract year. Robinson’s teammate, Allen Hurns signed a 4-year, $40 million dollar deal with $16 million guaranteed. Robinson is a much better player than Hurns, so he’ll likely command an annual salary of $11-$12 million per season.
|Willie Snead *||WR||24||2||$615,000|
With 289 receptions in his first three seasons, Miami’s Jarvis Landry has warranted a No. 1 receiver salary, even though he’s not the traditional No. 1 wideout. With only 13 receiving touchdowns in 48 games, Landry is a move-the-chains, inside receiver as opposed to a dominant X-receiver typically associated with big-money deals. The Miami Herald thinks the Dolphins and Landry have a good shot at ironing out an extension this summer, but should he hit the open market, Landry could get offers for $12 million per year for a 4-5 year deal.
Sammy Watkins is another polarizing player. Watkins has flashed huge potential, but also battled injuries. The Bills declined his fifth-year option, so Watkins enters 2017 with plenty of motivation to earn a lucrative multi-year deal next spring. Although he could return to Buffalo, chances are that Watkins will be playing elsewhere in 2018 and there will be no shortage of suitors looking to sign the 24-year old star.
Alshon Jeffery bombed in his bid to secure a long-term deal last season, missing time due to a suspension and setting career lows in most categories. Still, Jeffery got a 1-year deal for over $9 million and moved on to a much better situation with the Eagles. He’ll get the chance to rebound if he can show the skills that made him one of the top young wideouts in the league from 2013-2014.
Terrelle Pryor was terrific in his first full season playing receiver and is in an excellent position to capitalize. Pryor exceeded 1,000 receiving yards for a moribund Cleveland offense and now gets the chance to be the top pass catcher for Kirk Cousins…Green Bay’s Davante Adams had a huge 2016 campaign after a couple of inconsistent efforts to begin his career. He’ll need another strong showing in 2017 to prove last year wasn’t a fluke. The best course of action for Adams might be to remain in Green Bay with the league’s best quarterback…Donte Moncrief battled injuries last season that held him to only 30 grabs, but he still produced seven touchdown grabs. Moncrief could earn high WR2 money in free agency, $8-$10 million per season…This is widely considered to be the final year of Larry Fitzgerald‘s brilliant career. Even if he returned in 2018, it would likely be a team-friendly deal with the Cardinals…With significant off-the-field concerns, Martavis Bryant has a lot to prove before he can expect a lucrative multi-year deal. Instead, he may have to settle for a 1-year “prove it” deal.
2018 won’t be a great year for team’s looking for an elite tight end. It’s very doubtful that any of the options that could be on the market next March will earn more than $8-$9 million annually. Tyler Eifert simply can’t stay healthy but has been terrific when he’s on the field. Eifert’s extensive history of injuries could keep cause teams to shy away from viewing him as a stand-alone tight end. His best option might be to remain in Cincinnati.
At 30, Jimmy Graham is still in his prime but won’t earn $10 million per year again. Graham has only scored eight touchdowns in two seasons with the Seahawks. Even though Graham admirably bounced back from a devastating patellar injury, he’s simply not as much of a part of Seattle’s offense as he was for the Saints. Graham should draw attention from teams that plan to utilize him as a receiving threat and red zone option, but he may have to settle for a 1-2-year deal.
|Cameron Brate *||TE||25||3||$690,000|
|Erik Swoope *||TE||25||2||$480,000|
Cameron Brate is a restricted free agent who could become expendable with Tampa Bay selecting O.J. Howard in the first round…Look for all of Houston’s tight ends to be less involved now that Brock Osweiler is no longer the Texans signal-caller. C.J. Fiedorowicz is a solid blocker and pass catcher and will be a priority for Houston to retain, especially if Bill O’Brien returns…Keep your eye on Erik Swoope this season, who could break out as the TE2 for the Colts.
Senior Writer Gridiron Experts. 2012 FantasyPros Most Accurate Fantasy Expert. Member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. 26-year fantasy football veteran. Featured on NFL.com, Fantasypros, Football Diehards annual magazine, local AM sports radio, podcasts everywhere and SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio. Once scored 4 touchdowns in a single game for Polk High School.