2020 NFL Free Agent Team/Fantasy Preview Division-by-Division (AFC West)
The free agent period is percolating and will be in full swing in mid-March. Prior to free agency, we’re going to take a quick overview look at each team and some of the player/fantasy ramifications looming.
We’ll look division-by-division at the various team CAP and contract and free agent situations…
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
Overview: The defending champs don’t have a ton of CAP space right now, they’re in the (current) bottom 10 for available space with $16M. However, they are the defending champs…so, they have a lot of grace and latitude with fans with any moves, even if cold-hearted, to make. They also have momentum and Patrick Mahomes – players will want to come to KC to play with Mahomes a la NBA free agents desiring to team up with Lebron James.
If KC clears some dead weight, they’ll be fine to maneuver in free agency as needed…and they are apt to ink veterans at a slight discount, guys wanting to win a title now. KC should be in good shape to compete/improve/hold serve this offseason.
If that is true, the Chiefs backfield is likely to be another RBBC with an inexpensive veteran added in place of LeSean McCoy. Damien Williams will be brought back on a club option for one more season, but the Chiefs need to reinforce the backfield depth (with experienced, talented, but most importantly – quality blockers to protect Mahomes) and can do so cheaply in this era.
Big UFA names: The biggest issue KC has with their own free agents is DT Chris Jones. They’d love to sign him, but he’s going to command a huge deal and KC would be wise to just avoid him, take the compensation pick and draft their way and smart free agent their way to filling his space.
They might cut some other payroll and try and sign Jones, but my bet would be they won’t see his deal as viable…with Mahomes and Travis Kelce deals on the horizon.
Kelce is not a free agent until after the 2021 season, but he has a not-friendly-to-him deal structure right now…he might threaten a hold out for a new deal and get one. Mahomes is going to break the bank in 2020-2021, so KC has to be very wise with their salary cap the next few years.
LeSean McCoy, Terrell Suggs will for sure be gone.
Shock CAP-reasoned Cuts: The easiest money/CAP space the Chiefs will get, a lot of it, is by cutting waste of time/money, overpaid free agent they signed a few years ago -- Sammy Watkins. They’ll save $14M in 2020 space by dropping him and paying him $7M to head out the door vs. $21M to stay and play. I wouldn’t be surprised if Watkins got his payout and then retired from football. The former darling of scouts and analysts…never was.
LAS VEGAS RAIDERS
Overview: The Raiders are in pretty good shape going into free agency – just outside the top 10 most CAP space teams with a current projected $54M of space.
The Raiders do not have any key free agents of their own to deal with/worry about, so they are in a position to spend-spend-spend.
Big UFA names: Darryl Worley and Karl Joseph are names but nothing major to operations. Joseph should garner some interest by other teams, a former 1st-round pick who started out fine and then all the coaching changes and then he must have some issues because he never settled in with Oakland, so he will not be going to Las Vegas.
Shock CAP-reasoned Cuts: I think the Raiders are seriously thinking of a Derek Carr trade/cut. His contract is in position to do it this offseason…cut for $7.9M or pay him $21.5M to be their QB. I bet Gruden will see all these veteran tough guy QBs he thinks are grittier than Carr, and make a change.
A source has told me to watch for the Colts trading for Carr, signing him to a new deal and thus freeing up the Raiders to land a veteran QB and draft a developmental one. Could be Tom Brady, but assuming that’s not possible – Case Keenum or a big play for Ryan Tannehill could be in order. Gruden is kinda loco when it comes to QBs he prefers. And I don’t think he prefers Carr.
Tahir Whitehead will be a CAP casualty, but maybe brought back cheaper after.
Overview: The Broncos are set up nicely going into the 2020 offseason -- $52M CAP space projected right now, sitting among the top 10 most available CAP space teams of the moment.
However, all is not rosy…
They have some big decisions to make on Von Miller (club option) and Chris Harris plus Justin Simmons (free agent), among others. You’ll be able to see Denver’s/John Elway’s mindset for 2020 – is it a ‘go for it’ time or ‘rebuild’ session…depending upon what they do with Miller and Harris.
If Denver ditches a lot of big contract veterans, they might be sitting top 1-2-3 in CAP space heading into free agency. They are a sleeping giant for 2020 free agency, potentially, but also then needing a bunch of backfill.
Big UFA names: CB Chris Harris is one of two big free agents to deal with. He’s 31+ years old, coming off a good-not-great season…do they overpay him for one more run, and deal with the overpayment later or does Harris walk to a better deal elsewhere? Honestly, I have no idea which way Denver will go here. It’s 50% what does Denver think, and 50% whether Chris Harris liked playing for Vic Fangio. If I had to bet a nickel, I’d guess Harris is gone unless Denver radically overpays and has the best deal on the table. I could see Harris mad about the way things have gone in recent years and taking his biggest deal anywhere else.
SAF Justin Simmons is the other big free agent situation. He’s going to command some good money. He might be the one that stays. He’s a young, cornerstone player and Denver has plenty of money. We’ll see what Fangio thinks here…whether he thinks he can replace him easily vs. paying huge money. My nickel bet is Simmons is re-signed.
DL Derek Wolfe is a free agent, but I’m sure they’ll let him walk or re-sign cheap.
DT Shelby Harris is a good player, and Denver might be inclined to ink him to a reasonable deal.
Shock CAP-reasoned Cuts: Denver could cut Von Miller, Joe Flacco, Ron Leary, Todd Davis, and Jeff Heuerman and create another $35M in CAP space – which would put them #2-3 in the league today in CAP space available.
Flacco and Heuerman are easy cuts, creating $14M in space.
Given the money they have available, Denver will most likely keep Davis, Leary, and just overpay Von Miller one more season ($25.6M to keep, $18M hit to cut). Miller is too much of the face of the franchise to quibble over a few million.
For fantasy, for those eyeing the Denver-DST in 2020…you have to watch free agency because Denver could lose/trade some huge/key members of the defense (Harris, Simmons, Miller).
Overview: The Chargers are in decent position for the salary CAP…top 12 today, $51M approx. available. Their issue, besides the fact that they have a ton of holes, is their franchise QB, (supposed) top RB, and their oft injured #1 TE are all free agents and all may be going away…mostly abandoning this sinking ship with a head coach not many want to play for, a team with no QB plan, and a team with no home field/fan support.
It’s about to get ugly for this franchise and they are going to have to WAYYY overpay people to stay there/go there. This franchise is in BIG trouble.
Big UFA names: The list is a bit scary -- Philip Rivers, Hunter Henry, Melvin Gordon…and Austin Ekeler is a restricted free agent at a little risk.
Rivers is gonzo. Henry will want out, but they might franchise tag him. Gordon will be allowed to walk after his 2019 stunt, and Austin Ekeler’s fantasy value will rocket even more (until they draft or sign a bruising RB to team with him).
I’m happy for UFA, Jatavis Brown. Fly free and go prosper somewhere else and be an embarrassment for LAC not realizing what they had. A smart NFL team will ink Jatavis, you watch. Philadelphia is a sleeper spot for him.
Shock CAP-reasoned Cuts: They should trade or cut Keenan Allen, but they won’t. $12.7M to pay to play or dump for $1.9M hit…$10M+ of space to go rebuild this team with Allen gone, but LAC will be too smart for that.
They should dump Denzel Perryman + Tyrod Taylor + Thomas Davis + Virgil Green and create nearly $20M in additional CAP space and be a real player in free agency, but if they do – they’ll likely find no one really wants to play for them and they’ll be desperately flailing away to attract players.
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