Contract Year: Love it or Hate it – Fantasy Football

With any advantage being a good advantage, in the eyes of the fantasy football community. A while back, we started thinking that the incentive of a new contract could only boost a player’s motivation. Thus, boosting their stats, in return, boosting our chances of holding the trophy high at the end of the season.

However, as statistics have changed the way we do everything, we started finding time and time again the ‘contract year myth’ was a bust. There are explanations for almost everything happening at the time of a contract year. Players are coming into their own, right as their rookie deal is up. Players regress not because of the looming contract talks but because their body is just losing the battle to father time.

I’m not here to try to debunk anyones beliefs or prove anyone wrong by talking about players on contract years. I’m simply here to discuss the players that have a chance of finding themselves in a new city at the end of this year. Take from it what you will, either scoff at the notion of me wasting my time to even sit down and write this article, or take notes and put an asterisks next to the players in a contract year. Possibly giving yourself, that little extra advantage come draft day. Remember, the difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little ‘extra’.

Quarterbacks:

Drew Brees – NO – As unlikely as it is, that Brees will play anywhere but New Orleans for the remainder of his career. He does find himself leading the group of top passers who are scheduled to be a free agent at the end of the year. No deal has been worked out, even with a down year, I don’t see Brees going anywhere.

Matthew Stafford – DET – Stafford has openly said he will tackle the contract negotiations at his own pace and has, his head, focused on winning rather than money right now. The Lions will have to pay top dollar to retain Stafford and Ansah. Without Suh and Megatron, the money can be available and I see no signs of Stafford leaving MoTown.

Derek Carr – OAK – Another quarterback who has openly said that the contract is not a top priority and that winning games is number one. A political answer to the money questions, but a sincere one from a player who seems to be having more fun every day. I fully expect Oakland to pay up to keep Carr.

Kirk Cousins – WAS – The most intriguing of the quarterbacks, who are set to be free agents, in my mind. Passed for more yards than every quarterback (except Drew Brees and Matt Ryan) in the NFL in 2016. Touchdowns regressed, rating regressed and interceptions had an uptick by one. All, while playing on a franchise tagged contract hoping to get his payday after a second complete season as the starter. It didn’t happen, and again finds himself franchise tagged trying to do it all over again. Washington has verbally communicated they would love to retain him. All in all, how many more auditions will Cousins endure?

Running Backs:

Le’Veon Bell – PIT – Bell was signed to a $12m franchise tag but hasn’t signed his tender yet. The Steelers have until July 15 to figure out a new contract with Bell. It sounds like that won’t happen, but it does seem quite improbable that Bell signs elsewhere from the Steelers after the season. Even with a down year.

Devonta Freeman – ATL – Coming off of 2 consecutive stellar performances, combining for over 3,100 total yards and 27 total touchdowns. The Falcons have openly admitted they want Freeman’s contract extended before we get into to mini-camp. That being said, still no contract has been mentioned so Freeman still has the potential to be going elsewhere after the season.

Carlos Hyde – SF – In my opinion, the most likely, high profiled, free agent to be on the market after the season. About to begin his first year with Kyle Shanahan, I like Hyde’s potential in fantasy this year. Hyde should post top 10 numbers using the competition to up his game and hopefully be able to stay on the field for all 16 games. Hell, then, use that as leverage to gain some big money for the latter half of his 20’s and beyond.

Isaiah Crowell – CLE – Another running back that I am assuming to play the field after the year. Crowell has stated that he is expecting a ‘monster year’ during his final year of his contract. Seemingly disappointed that the Browns have not reached an agreement with him, Crowell seems to be the guy with most to gain from the 2017 year. On a team that will have to gain momentum on the ground, Crowell looks to be in great position to have a prolific year.

Notable mentions for RBs  – Spencer Ware – KC, Frank Gore – IND, Latavius Murray – MIN, Eddie Lacy – SEA, Theo Riddick – DET, Jeremy Hill – CIN, Gio Bernard – CIN

Wide Receivers:

Deandre Hopkins – HOU – The team exercised their 5th year option in 2017 and the Texans have more than enough cap space to retain the star wideout. Yet, no contract has been finished and Hopkins did have a down year last year (through no fault of his own). He’s still battling this year, not just for a contract, but to be in the talks of highest paid receiver in the NFL. Which given another year like 2015, Hopkins will be in for a pay-day.

Doug Baldwin – SEA – The wideout begins his seventh year in the league. Baldwin is coming off of a two-year stint combined for, just three yards shy, of 2,200 yards and a total of 21 touchdowns, while signing a contract extension in the middle of those years. It’s been stated that he will do whatever it takes to finish his career in Seattle, so I don’t see any kind of opt-out of his contract after this year but the option is there.

Alshon Jeffery – PHI – The ex-Bear and current Eagle was maybe the biggest name on the market in the offseason. Jeffery, poised to be one of the biggest free agents yet again, will do as much as he can to prove to the world he can stay healthy and clean for a full 16 games and be the impact player we all know he can be. Smart contract by the Eagles (in my opinion) makes Jeffery prove his worth in 2017, which is only a bonus to fantasy players.

Jarvis Landry – MIA – Finishing out his rookie contract after 2017, the LSU product claims to not be worried about contract details, currently. Posting over 1,100 yards two years in a row, Landry has yet to top his rookie campaign in touchdowns (5). As much as I don’t see the Dolphins letting Landry go, they do have a lot of other big players that’s spreading their money thin.

Allen Robinson – JAX – Also finishing out his rookie contract, he is deserving of a contract extension. A down year last year, along with Bortles down year, doesn’t bold well for Robinson’s money. He has proven more times than not he is a top dollar wideout, however, if no extension is agreed upon before or during the season, Robinson will have to post some ‘grade A’ numbers to be mentioned in the top dollar committee. We’ll see how the Jags play this one out. With all their young, talented players, it’ll be tough to keep everyone.

Sammy Watkins – BUF – The Bills have already opted out of their 5th year option on Watkins, making him a free agent after the 2017 season. That doesn’t mean the Bills won’t contemplate the idea of resigning Watkins, but it also means he is going to have to prove his worth this year. Teams will be looking for a young, talented receiver who can stay healthy. On a contract year, there’s no better platform for the Clemson product to shine.

Notable mentions for WRs – Davante Adams – GB, Donte Moncrief – IND, Terrelle Pryor – WAS, Willie Snead – NO, Jordan Matthews – PHI, Martavis Bryant – PIT, Cameron Meredith – CHI

Tight Ends:

Jordan Reed – WAS – One of the elite tight ends in the NFL today, the potential for Reed to be a free agent is a possibility at the end of 2017. Unlikely, sure, but plausible, yes. Reed has yet to play in 16 games in a season and another injury riddled season could lead to a fed up Redskins team. Expect Reed to prove to everyone he is worth the top three tight end draft pick we’ll be spending on him in our drafts.

Tyler Eifert – KC – Eifert is another tight end that has yet to play in all 16 games. In 2015, he posted top tight end numbers. Unfortunately, injuries have plagued him almost every year of his career. However, it seems that he is on path for a breakout year in 2017. Perfect timing for him to get paid like a star. I fully expect the Bengals to retain him. Yet, for Eifert to get paid like a star, he must show he can be on the field for more than half a season.

Delanie Walker – TEN – A long shot to become a free agent at the end of the year, the possibility looms. Walker proved he can compete, playing 14-16 games every year since 2007. However, at 32, father time is looming. One bad year, and just like many times in the NFL, it could be out with the old and in with the new. Walker will need to continue to prove his worth with an up and coming Titans offense.

Notable mentions for TEs – Martellus Bennett – GB, Cameron Brate – TB, C.J. Fiedorowicz – HOU,  Zach Miller – CHI