It is not true every year, but this edition of the free agent frenzy included a bevy of signings and trades that will impact the 2024 fantasy football season.

Running backs came off the board fast, disgruntled receivers were traded, and several big-name quarterbacks found new homes.

With the dust settled, let’s look at the most important moves of the NFL free agency period from a fantasy football lens.

Free Agency Fantasy Impact:

Don’t miss out on the best fantasy football coverage in the business

Like the NFL, fantasy football never sleeps.

Best ball season is in full swing, and Dynasty rookie drafts will be here soon.

Sharp Football has everything you need to get ready for both in our Fantasy Football Draft Kit, powered by premier fantasy football analyst Rich Hribar.

Save more by bundling the Draft Kit with our in-season fantasy package that features Rich’s comprehensive “Worksheet” preview of every game, every week of the NFL season.

Click here for more information about our fantasy coverage!

Fantasy Impact: Kirk Cousins picks the Falcons

The biggest free agent move was undoubtedly Kirk Cousins leaving the Vikings and signing a four-year, $180 million contract with the Falcons.

Rich Hribar already went deep on the fantasy ramifications for Cousins and the Falcons – and he is much smarter than me – so we will let him have the final say on that.

But there are also fantasy implications for the Vikings, who find themselves in a precarious spot at quarterback.

Minnesota has already telegraphed a trade up by acquiring the No. 23 overall pick from the Texans, but how high can they really get? And who will be there if they do trade up?

The Vikings added some insurance in Sam Darnold, who it has to be said was decent in six starts with the Panthers in 2022.

He threw for 8.2 yards per attempt with 7 touchdowns and 3 interceptions over six starts that season.

His 0.17 EPA per play over those six starts would have ranked fourth among quarterbacks if he had played enough snaps to qualify.

He also seems to have the backing of his coach, with Kevin O’Connell saying he believes Darnold’s “best football is ahead of him.”

That said, Darnold has a longer history of not being very good.

Justin Jefferson, who is currently the WR4 off the board in Underdog drafts, will feel the real fantasy impact of Minnesota’s quarterback situation.

Jefferson has 576 career targets. 518 of those have come from Cousins, so there is not a big track record of him without his primary quarterback.

Almost all of the non-Cousins targets came last year with Nick Mullens under center.

In 143 routes with Mullens, Jefferson averaged 3.24 yards per route run, 11 yards per target, and a touchdown every 71.5 routes.

With Cousins throughout his career, Jefferson has averaged 2.74 yards per route run, 10.3 yards per target, and a touchdown every 69.5 routes.

Those are promising splits, but they come with the obvious small sample caveat.

We also have seen several big-name receivers struggle through terrible quarterback play over the last couple of seasons. That makes it tough to be too confident in Jefferson’s ability to withstand a quarterback dropoff.

All of that said, Jefferson is arguably the best receiver in the league, and the only real fantasy knock-on effect is breaking ties between him and other elite receivers in the first round.

Jordan Addison, Aaron Jones, and T.J. Hockenson are all going in the top 120 picks at Underdog currently, with Addison and Jones coming off the board around pick No. 65.

Hockenson was able to get by on volume last season, especially with Jefferson missing time and Josh Dobbs at quarterback, and that volume boosted his rate stats.

Of course, he is uncertain if not unlikely for the start of the season due to a December knee injury, and it is fair to question his target share if Jefferson is healthy.

Hockenson was targeted on 21.9% of his routes with Jefferson on the field last season and 27.3% of his routes with Jefferson off the field.

Addison really struggled without Cousins in 2023.

With Cousins, he averaged 1.82 yards per route and 9.3 yards per target. With Cousins out, those numbers fell to 1.26 and 7.7.

Perhaps more worryingly, with Cousins out and Jefferson on the field, Addison was targeted on just 14.7% of his routes as a rookie.

That number would have ranked 76th among 117 qualifying receivers a season ago.

Whoever ends up at quarterback will have more time to settle into the offense and may not lock so heavily into Jefferson, but the larger overall concerns for this passing game may have a bigger effect on Addison than the No. 1.

Fantasy Impact: Steelers remodel quarterback room

The Steelers completely remodeled their quarterback room, letting Mason Rudolph and Mitch Trubisky walk before trading away Kenny Pickett.

In their place, Pittsburgh signed Russell Wilson and traded for Justin Fields.

Both additions came at a sharp discount, and the Steelers are most likely in a better situation at quarterback than they were last season.

That said, neither Wilson nor Fields is a sure thing.

Among 38 qualifying quarterbacks over the last two seasons, Wilson ranks 29th in EPA per play, just one spot ahead of Pickett.

Wilson was the James Harden of quarterbacks last season.

He was second among qualifying QBs in the rate of throws behind the line of scrimmage (layups), and he was third in the rate of throws 20 or more yards downfield (three pointers).

Wilson attempted just 11% of his passes in the intermediate areas of the field (10 to 20 yards), the lowest rate in the league.

That rate was 2.5% behind the next closest quarterback.

This is a trend for Wilson, who threw at least 20 yards downfield on 18.5% of his throws in his final season with the Seahawks and 16.6% of the time in 2022.

Wilson ranked below Pickett in yards per attempt and completion rate on those throws last season, but his off-target rate was much better and ranked near the top of the league.

Fields ranked one spot ahead of Wilson in the percentage of deep throws last season and was similar in his target location frequency across the board.

All of that matched with the Steelers trading away Diontae Johnson suggests a passing attack that will mostly throw around the line of scrimmage and mix in some shot plays.

That strategy should fit well with George Pickens, who as it stands is the clear No. 1 receiver in Pittsburgh.

27.9% of his career targets have come at least 20 yards downfield, which would have ranked 13th among qualifying receivers last season.

He is also able to create yards on shorter passes, ranking 17th among qualifying receivers in yards after catch per reception when targeted 10 yards or fewer downfield last season.

The draft will likely bring competition, but everything has set up decently for Pickens despite what should be a run-heavy attack.

As for the fantasy value of Wilson and Fields, both will be hampered by what almost certainly will be a run-first approach.

New OC Arthur Smith was 11% under his expected pass rate over his final two seasons with the Falcons. Last season, the Steelers were 5% under their expected pass rate.

With what should once again be a solid defense, the Steelers likely do not want to and will not have much reason to push the passing game.

That really hurts Wilson, who bounced back a bit as a runner last year but was still 17th in rushing fantasy points per game among quarterbacks.

Fields has the upside for much more than that and would be a more interesting back-end QB1 option if he wins the starting job.

Fantasy Impact: Baker Mayfield re-signs with Bucs

The Bucs kept the band together by re-signing both Baker Mayfield and Mike Evans.

The status quo does not lend itself to much unique analysis, but Warren Sharp wrote an interesting breakdown of Mayfield’s 2023 performance that hints at some likely regression moving forward.

That would be a bad thing for Mayfield’s fantasy value, who was streamable for decent stretches last season, as well as that of Evans.

That said, some of the regression concerns Warren highlights, specifically the running back targets, do not have anything to do with Evans, and nothing in his underlying numbers looked off last year.

He did outpace his expected touchdown numbers, but that is something Evans has regularly done throughout his career.

Overall, he averaged 1.79 fantasy points per target, which is lower than his 2020 and 2021 numbers and not that far above his career mark.

The Bucs also did not attempt a ton of passes. They finished 19th in pass attempts in the league and were 1% under their expected pass rate.

If poking holes, Evans will be 31 in August, and Chris Godwin started to take over a larger share of the work over the final five games of last season.

But Evans has proven to be one of the most consistent receivers in NFL history, and expecting another 1,100 yards and 10 or so touchdowns is very reasonable with Mayfield back in the fold.

Fantasy Impact: Gardner Minshew signs with Raiders

As mentioned with Jefferson above, one of the big-name receivers who struggled through bad quarterback play last season was Davante Adams.

18.9% of Adams’ targets last season were deemed inaccurate, 10th among receivers with at least 50 targets.

That number rose to 20% from Aidan O’Connell, who seems to have a real shot to win the starting job after Antonio Pierce said he earned the chance to compete.

The Raiders did bring in some competition, however, signing Gardner Minshew to a two-year, $25 million contract.

Minshew had the Colts on the brink of the playoffs last season and, more importantly for fantasy purposes, kept Michael Pittman near the top of the fantasy rankings.

Of course, Pittman lived on volume, ranking 59th in half-PPR points per target, and is easier to hit accurately given his usage around the line of scrimmage.

Overall, Minshew ranked 21st among 32 qualifying quarterbacks in off-target rate. That was better than O’Connell (31st), but still not great.

Even so, Minshew winning the job would likely be an upgrade, and O’Connell winning the job likely means he took something of a step forward.

Either of those things would be good for Adams and Jakobi Meyers.

Quick Hits

  • The Titans are doing right by Will Levis by trying to build a competitive team around him including a functional offensive line, which he did not have as a rookie. They also brought in Mason Rudolph, however, who helped get the Steelers into the playoffs last season. There is not a controversy brewing here or anything, but Rudolph would at least be functional for Calvin Ridley and DeAndre Hopkins if Levis face-plants.
  • Mac Jones went from disappointing in 2022 to downright dreadful last season, but the situation did not help him in either year. Now he gets a fresh start with the Jaguars, who themselves are hoping to see more from Trevor Lawrence this season.
  • While the Browns bringing in a higher profile backup like Jameis Winston does suggest there is some concern about Deshaun Watson both playing well and staying healthy, the reality is Winston has not played well when given the opportunity over the last two seasons. Of course, those are small samples, but the plan behind Watson remains a bit of an issue.
  • The Broncos quarterback situation is interesting. The team is clearly rebuilding in the wake of the Wilson fiasco, and it would not be a disaster for a rebuilding team to have Jarrett Stidham or a risk-reward rookie like Michael Penix as their starter assuming the Broncos don’t trade up or have one of the top quarterbacks fall to them.
  • Drew Lock signing with the Giants feels a little bit like Stidham signing with the Broncos last season. Lock did not get two years, but he got exactly the same average annual value and is joining a team that might be on the outs with their starting quarterback. It would not be a shock if he got a few starts this season.
  • Whatever goodwill Sam Howell gained last season was lost in a horrid stretch in which he threw just 4 touchdowns and 12 interceptions over the final seven games. Bringing in Howell was a cheap enough dart throw for the Seahawks after they lost Lock, but Howell should not be a real threat to Geno Smith’s job.

Don’t miss out on the best fantasy football coverage in the business

Like the NFL, fantasy football never sleeps.

Best ball season is in full swing, and Dynasty rookie drafts will be here soon.

Sharp Football has everything you need to get ready for both in our Fantasy Football Draft Kit, powered by premier fantasy football analyst Rich Hribar.

Save more by bundling the Draft Kit with our in-season fantasy package that features Rich’s comprehensive “Worksheet” preview of every game, every week of the NFL season.

Click here for more information about our fantasy coverage!