2024 NFL free agency & trade roundup: Fantasy impact of Justin Fields, Keenan Allen moves and more

The NFL news cycle is in full swing with free agency and trade news coming fast and furious. What does it mean for fantasy football in 2024? Matt Harmon breaks down the key signings, deals and speculation by position to help you sort through it all.

You can also follow all of the latest developments with Yahoo Sports' NFL free agency tracker.


Justin Fields finally gets traded ... to the Steelers

  • Deal details: Steelers get Justin Fields; Bears get 2025 conditional sixth-round pick

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the sixth-round pick will become a fourth-round pick if Fields plays 51% of the snaps this season. The Steelers have now completely refurbished their 2023 disaster of a quarterback room into a Russell Wilson-Justin Fields combination for the low cost of $1.2 million and a Day 3 draft pick.

That’s some solid work.

The idea that any team would walk into this season with Russell Wilson as their only realistic option at quarterback, after what he’s put on film the last two years, was nothing short of insanity. When the Steelers traded Kenny Pickett to the Eagles on Saturday, that was the talking point put out by insiders. This trade puts that idea to bed.

Fields is by no means a sure bet to be a long-term answer or even a good short-term starter. The lack of interest in his services around the league proves that is the belief. However, he can push Wilson if the veteran quarterback can’t run Arthur Smith’s offense consistently and, at the very least, gives them a far superior developmental option than Pickett.

If Fields makes starts, he will have fantasy football appeal because of his ability as a runner. Given what we saw out of Smith’s offense with Marcus Mariota in 2022, there’s far more upside to the quarterback run game in this system than anything Fields operated in during his Chicago seasons. I also think the connection Fields developed with DJ Moore on man-coverage-beating routes maps well with George Pickens. Of course, this is all hypothetical because it appears Wilson will have to lose hold of the job for Fields to play — a decent possibility, given how the last two seasons unfolded.

The odds he becomes Pittsburgh’s long-term answer at quarterback are much longer than his chances to help fantasy players. But it can’t be ruled out entirely. That’s what makes this a tremendous transaction for Pittsburgh, especially within the context of their handling of the quarterback room this offseason.

Falcons go all-in for Kirk Cousins

  • Deal details: Four years for $180 million, including $100M guaranteed

The Falcons did what they had to do to get this done. Atlanta was too good last year to land one of the top quarterback prospects in this year’s draft, and with the talent on the roster, that was likely to be the case next offseason, as well. Cousins was the only veteran on the market who has shown he can offer well above replacement-level quarterback play over multiple seasons.

Cousins wasn’t just the Falcons' best hope at quarterback this season; he was their only hope.

Cousins isn’t without his warts — he’s deep into his thirties and is coming off an Achilles injury. Yet, if he’s healthy, he’s the perfect quarterback for this offense. He has familiarity with Raheem Morris dating back to their days in Washington. There is plenty of schematic crossover with what Kevin O’Connell asked of Cousins in Minnesota and what former Rams passing game coordinator Zac Robinson will install with the Falcons.

At the bare minimum, we’ll see a grownup NFL passing game in Atlanta.

Everyone on the Falcons' roster is a huge winner. Drake London has the skills needed to be a prototypical No. 1 star-caliber X-receiver. After dealing with bottom-barrel quarterback play in his first two seasons, Cousins’ arrival puts London at the top of any wide receiver breakout list. Cousins’ willingness to target wideouts in tight coverage and work over the middle fit like a glove with London. Bijan Robinson was already destined to be a high fantasy draft pick but being paired with a quality quarterback only cements his positive outlook. You can even feel free to hold out hope for Kyle Pitts after several injury-marred seasons. The ecosystem trending up can be the rising tide that lifts all boats for the Falcons offense.

Again, there are some risks with Cousins at this stage of his career and there is a lot of newness that needs to gel around the talented skill-position players. It might take some time for us to reach the tantalizing ceiling proposition this move now brings into view. However, the fact that that ceiling is even realistic is a welcome change of pace.

Steelers and Russell Wilson a fit, but far from a guarantee

EDITOR'S NOTE: This was published before the Justin Fields-Steelers trade

The offset language in Wilson’s contract allowed him to agree to an ultra-cheap deal as a free agent and still recoup the balance of the $39 million Denver owes him this season. That made him the perfect addition to any team that needed a legitimate option to compete with, and more than likely ultimately replace a young incumbent underperformer. The Steelers fit the bill to a tee. Considering what they’re paying him, this is a harmless move by Pittsburgh, even if you’d ideally want them to shoot for a higher ceiling at quarterback.

Some of Wilson’s 2023 raw stats look solid, but they don’t pass the test when you open the hood and observe the overly simplistic nature of his assignment. Joe Dolan makes a great comparison to some of the notes parroted about Carson Wentz following his one-year Colts tenure.

That said, I think Wilson can give you acceptable starting-level quarterback play. That is an uninspiring ceiling but more than you could say about what the Steelers have received from Kenny Pickett the last two seasons. New Steelers offensive coordinator Arthur Smith will have to adjust his offense a bit because Wilson has never operated well throwing over the middle of the field. But the under-center, deep play action drop concepts are the guardrails that Wilson needs at this stage of his career.

Overall, I expect the Steelers to be a run-heavy offense with Wilson under center that attempts to win on the margins. So, not much different than what they’ve wanted to be the last few years but at least they’ll actually have a grownup NFL scheme in place with Smith replacing Matt Canada’s high school offense. Plenty of rushing volume will come the way of both Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren, with the latter especially standing to benefit from Wilson’s quick trigger for the check-down pass the last two seasons (league-high 18.6% of his throws in 2023). In the receiver room, George Pickens fits the profile of the ball-winning straight-line X-receiver that Wilson has preferred in the latter chapter of his career. Pickens is in position to dominate Wilson’s targets with Diontae Johnson being dealt.

Of course, this all assumes that Wilson is the Week 1 starter, never mind the starter for all 17 games for Pittsburgh this season. Based on the film he's put out the last two seasons, don't believe for a second that either is a guarantee.

Seahawks get Sam Howell — to compete with Geno?

  • Deal details: Commanders get third and fifth-round picks; Seahawks get Howell, fourth and sixth-round picks

It was a near-lock the Commanders would trade Howell after signing veteran backup Marcus Mariota. Howell’s raw fantasy production was impressive at times but didn’t result in good offense for the Commanders over the course of the season. That is not all on him and I came away from 2023 thinking Howell has a long future as a great backup and exciting short-term starter in the NFL.

The Seahawks needed a backup quarterback in the wake of Drew Lock signing with the Giants. My initial lean is that is what all this is, but it at least got my attention when ESPN’s Adam Schefter mentioned that Howell “can compete” for the starting job while breaking this news. Geno Smith is a quality starter, in my eyes, but this is a new coaching staff that may want to leave its options open. If Howell has to start games for any reason, he can push the ball down the field and keep this offense with its three talented receivers viable.

Gardner Minshew should only be small part of Raiders' QB plan

  • Deal details: Two years for $25 million, including $15M guaranteed

This is high-end backup quarterback money for Minshew. So there’s no need to freak out about the Minshew vs. Aidan O’Connell quarterback competition. The Raiders have to have more than this planned … right?

Minshew is a good backup quarterback but anyone who tells you he was secretly great for the Colts last season was not watching the games. He puts a hard ceiling on your offense from a vertical passing and overall processing standpoint. O’Connell certainly looked like a guy who could stick around the league as a rookie but ranked 23rd in EPA per dropback last season — Minshew was 21st in a well-designed offense, for what it’s worth.

The Raiders have talent on offense and could be a quality ecosystem to develop a young passer. As long as this Minshew addition is merely a bridge to a rookie quarterback they select in April, this is fine.

Buccaneers keep Baker Mayfield in the fold

It wouldn’t make sense for either party to have gone in a different direction. Mayfield has moved between so many teams and offenses, starting over elsewhere would be silly after the success he enjoyed with the 2023 Bucs. For the team’s sake, there was no path forward at the position beyond Mayfield. His contract comes in right along with what Geno Smith got from the Seahawks after his stunning 2022 season. It appears that we have officially set the middle-class quarterback contract for a league that really needed that clarity.

Mayfield’s return makes projecting any of the Bucs' known commodities on offense — Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Rachaad White — much more comfortable. The Bucs did lose offensive play-caller Dave Canales to the Panthers, so that is a variable in all of this. Perhaps we won’t see the exact same output from Tampa Bay this season but the certainty Mayfield will be at the controls gives us a certain degree of confidence.

Patriots, Jacoby Brissett reunite

I’ll never be able to get Brissett’s tenure as the Browns bridge starter — when he had them as top-12 passing EPA unit prior to Deshaun Watson’s return — out of my head. He also played some excellent football in very brief glimpses with Washington last season. A reunion with New England makes all the sense in the world. You can start Brissett with a straight face while you either groom a young quarterback or simply stay the course this season and try to develop the roster around a passer you acquire next season. Brissett should at least make the offense functional for as long as he starts.

Vikings move into the post-Kirk Cousins era with Sam Darnold

The Vikings have their potential stopgap option in place after Kirk Cousins’ exit. You will find some long-time, card-carrying Sam Darnold fan club members in smart football media sections. I’ve been a little skeptical of that upside. Darnold did play the part of an efficient but low-volume caretaker down the stretch for the 2022 Panthers and that’s likely what the Vikings will ask of him. Minnesota will draft a quarterback in April, but Darnold could be throwing passes to Justin Jefferson in September.

Jameis Winston joins Browns

The Browns absolutely had to add quarterback insurance this season given Deshaun Watson’s play and durability concerns. A Joe Flacco reunion was unlikely but Winston brings some of the same splash appeal. Winston and Flacco share some of the same “devil may care” aggressiveness DNA as quarterbacks. If Watson goes down, Winston should pump production to players like Amari Cooper and David Njoku.

Commanders and QB Marcus Mariota agree on a one-year, $6 million deal

Mariota is a capable backup quarterback and will sit behind the player the Commanders select at second overall. Some will read into Mariota’s selection as the backup as a clue to the team favoring Jayden Daniels because of his play style. I’m not so sure about that just yet. However, this does signal that the team may be willing to move Sam Howell in a trade.

Running Backs

Ravens and Derrick Henry finally come together

It was too good not to happen. The Ravens inquired about Derrick Henry at the trade deadline last season and ultimately sealed the deal with the star back in free agency. Henry is 30 years old and has endured an intense workload with 1,645 touches since 2019. However, he’s shown no tangible signs of decline and makes sense for a win-now team like Baltimore.

Henry also fits this power-run offense and should benefit from the expanded run lanes afforded to backs by Lamar Jackson. The key with Henry is you want him to be able to build up a head of steam and get to the second level. Baltimore features the unique type of run game that can spring a back like him.

The Ravens were third in rushing EPA and success rate last season but this move is akin to what I discuss in the Saquon Barkley blurb below. Yes, the Ravens should feel confident enough in their ecosystem to throw any running back out there and get a functional-to-great run game. But a uniquely gifted, truly one-of-one, physical player like Henry being dropped into this offense weaponizes that ecosystem. It’s a huge win for both sides and I’ll likely be quite interested in drafting Henry in fantasy football this season.

Texans make big-name addition to backfield, trade for Joe Mixon

Houston’s leading rusher, Devin Singletary, went to the Giants in free agency and Dameon Pierce isn’t a system fit. There was no chance this team would come out of free agency without addressing the running back position and Mixon is a creative solution to their problems.

Mixon was going to be released by the Bengals after they added Moss before the Texans swooped in the next morning, so that gives us an accurate picture of where he is at this stage of his career. Mixon ranked eighth among 23 backs with 200-plus carries in zone rushing success rate (52.6%) last season. He performed much better on those plays than gap runs. So he’s a natural veteran fit with what the Texans want to do in their traditional Shanahan-style run game.

That said, Mixon is at the stage of his career when we need to worry about trajectory, especially considering how his long-time team was so ready to move on. The Texans will likely add more running back help in the draft, and that player could form a near-even split with Mixon. This is still as good a landing spot as you could imagine for any veteran running back on the market, given the way C.J. Stroud played as a rookie. Mixon has a lot of upside with how the depth chart stands today.

Austin Ekeler finds a new home in Washington — but is it good for fantasy?

Ekeler will play for a new team coming off a down season after suffering a high-ankle sprain in Week 1. He has some familiarity with Commanders’ run game coordinator Anthony Lynn so this is a natural pairing. While offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury’s passing offenses have been a consistent source of frustration, he did have some efficient run games during his time as the Cardinals head coach. And Ekeler could be in a prime receiving-down role for a rookie quarterback behind a leaky offensive line.

You can tell yourself a story about this being a good landing spot for Ekeler but it comes down to how much Ekeler has left. Ekeler spoke often on our show last year about how difficult it was to work back from that high-ankle sprain and even seemed open to a receiving-specialist role in the season finale. That makes sense to me as he transitions to a new phase of his career and Washington incumbent Brian Robinson is the ideal early-down banger back.

My interest in either member of this backfield will come down to how the rest of the Commanders offense clicks into place around them.

Eagles, Saquon Barkley pairing full of fantasy upside

A few moves have helped shift and challenge the way I view running backs amid countless hours of discourse over how the position has been valued the last few years. The 49ers trading for Christian McCaffrey and the Lions drafting Jahmyr Gibbs were two situations where a team had tangible evidence that its ecosystem was good enough to drop in any replacement-level back and get quality production. And yet, both teams (led by sharp brain trusts) elected not just to elevate average talent at running back but actually spend real resources to acquire difference-making talent to weaponize the ecosystem.

My guess is that the Eagles have seen what has worked for those NFC rivals and identified Saquon Barkley as their means of copying the method.

Barkley isn’t quite at McCaffrey’s level as a player and isn’t as fresh or explosive as Gibbs. However, he can be Howie Roseman’s discount version of those moves. The Eagles have every reason to believe that behind a quality offensive line — even one without Jason Kelce — and the matchups Jalen Hurts provides as a rusher, they have an ecosystem worth maximizing.

Dropping Barkley into this offense makes for a tantalizing fantasy proposition. Any gifted back tethered to a good offense is appealing, especially one that could trend run-heavy under new offensive coordinator Kellen Moore. Barkley should end up being a nice second-round selection this summer.

Vikings mine divisional rival for new RB, land Aaron Jones

Jones becomes the latest beloved Packers player to don the purple for the Vikings later in their career. This one makes all the sense in the world. You can understand why the Packers wanted to get younger at the position and felt they could no longer rely on Jones to be consistently available, but the guy can still ball. Jones cleared 100 rushing yards in each of his final five games last season and averaged 5.7 yards per carry. He was a legitimate difference-maker for the 2023 Packers.

Minnesota’s efforts to remake their run game in the post-Dalvin Cook era last year didn’t work out. Jones gives them some competency and juice as they continue building for the future. There’s some overlap in his explosive skill set with holdover Ty Chandler, so Minnesota may not experience the same dramatic dropoff the Packers did if Jones misses time. There are plenty of questions about the Vikings offense overall with Kirk Cousins leaving town so right now, I can’t say how intrigued I am by this ecosystem. That will dictate my willingness to invest in the backfield.

Packers build on momentum, replace Aaron Jones with Josh Jacobs

The 2023 season revealed that the Packers struck gold with their development plan for Jordan Love and they were suddenly deep at pass-catcher after a bevy of successful picks at wide receiver and tight end. It also revealed how much a successful run game moves the needle for this unit. This was a very different offense when Aaron Jones was on the field and leading an impactful ground game. The dropoff behind Jones was too much for the offense to bear.

Ultimately, it seems the Packers no longer had faith in Jones’ ability to be consistently available as the team plans to sign Jacobs and release Jones.

Jacobs is a proven high-end rusher who has been effective in both gap and zone runs when healthy for the Raiders. The Packers have the flexibility to throw out any run scheme they want with a back like Jacobs and can trust his contributions in the passing game. With so many young pass-catchers on rookie deals, they can afford to pay a running back to secure their backfield.

Tethered to a quality passing game and likely ticketed for workhorse-level touches, Jacobs will likely be one of my favorite running back targets in fantasy football.

Few offenses have me more excited than the Green Bay Packers' unit.

Titans surprisingly prioritize Tony Pollard

Pollard joins a backfield with Tyjae Spears as the Titans look to replace franchise legend Derrick Henry. I’ll admit to being surprised by this one.

Spears was going to be atop the breakout list for fantasy football this coming season but Tennessee was likely planning to add some kind of supporting piece all along. At first blush, Pollard’s skill set strikes me as a little bit more overlapping rather than complementary to Spears. That will make this a tricky backfield split to parse out. I’d be suspicious of anyone who speaks with much conviction about how the results of this rotation will shake out here in March or really, at any point before training camp opens.

Pollard told me last month that he didn’t feel like his old self until around Week 11 of last season while working back from a 2022 playoff game injury. Spears was a fireball of electricity as a rookie. I can be sold that both are excellent and explosive options this season. The fact that they play together on an offense where we have preexisting questions makes me feel like we need to be ready for a possibly effective but mysterious committee.

Bears, in midst of offensive makeover, move quickly on D’Andre Swift

Swift would not have been my guess for the first running back off the board in this free agency market. The fact that the deal was reported as quickly as it was tells us this was a very specific and targeted move from Chicago’s front office. Swift’s deal is slightly better than the one Miles Sanders got from Carolina in free agency last year, both in terms of per-year salary and guarantees (reportedly $15.3 million).

Running back was a need for the Bears and Swift brings a dimension to their room they didn’t have previously. He’s an explosive runner with some excellent moments in the Eagles' zone-heavy run scheme. There’s also some untapped passing-game ability that Philadelphia, given their offensive structure, didn’t look to mine. Holdovers Khalil Herbert and Roschon Johnson are NFL-caliber role players but neither is a clear-cut starter. I’d expect them to mix in with Swift to some degree but for Swift to be the odds-on favorite to lead the team in touches.

The name of the game is stacking talent on the roster around future No. 1 overall pick, Caleb Williams. Swift is the first and not likely to be the last move in Chicago's effort to do just that.

Sanders’ 2023 story provides a cautionary tale though, both against using contract terms as a huge point in favor of a running back in fantasy and the dangers in projecting former Eagles backs outside of that ecosystem. Swift'll fall somewhere in the usually murky mid-round waters in fantasy drafts this season and is someone I don’t think I’ll have a strong stance on.

With Mixon trade in place, Bengals bring in Zack Moss on a two-year, $8 million deal

The Bengals saved $6 million by moving on from Mixon and elected to turn around and give a good chunk of that to Moss. Essentially, the Bengals are making a near one-to-one swap of these two backs and with the way they each played in 2023, it’s hard to blame them.

Moss was hyperproductive on zone run concepts (78% of his carries, per Fantasy Points Data) for the Colts last season with 4.3 yards per carry, five scores and a 50.3% success rate. He proved to be an effective lead rusher in the right ecosystem. Cincinnati certainly qualifies as that type of destination. Moss also graded out as the 10th-best running back on true pass-blocking sets last season per Pro Football Focus, whereas Mixon, who has long lost snaps on third down for this reason, checked in 66th out of 74 qualifying backs.

I’m in favor of the Bengals getting younger, cheaper and perhaps better at the running back spot with this move.

Moss is going to be a highly debated player in fantasy circles this offseason. He will likely split work with Chase Brown, who flashed some juice as a rookie last year. Still, Moss should be considered the favorite for early-down runs and goal-line work for an offense that will push for a top-five finish if Joe Burrow is healthy. That sounds like a buy to me.

Patriots get pass-catching back in Antonio Gibson

I did not expect Gibson to get a deal on the first day of the legal negotiating period. The Patriots are starved for pass-catching talent and overall juice on offense. Gibson isn’t a bell-cow back but can assist in those pursuits. Rhamondre Stevenson isn’t ever going to be a workhorse back and this, along with the Ezekiel Elliott move last year, seems to confirm that idea. Stevenson should still be the lead back but Gibson will work in on both early and late downs.

Giants begin backfield transition with Devin Singletary addition

Singletary is a solid role player who can be a change-of-pace back in the NFL. He’s not the sole Giants answer for the post-Saquon Barkley era but he can be a part of the equation. Singletary had some really nice moments for the Texans in their zone-run-heavy offense and played under Brian Daboll in Buffalo. Nonetheless, New York will add to this room before the offseason ends.

Chargers make power move, land Gus Edwards

Los Angeles had a desperate need for running backs with both Austin Ekeler and Joshua Kelley hitting free agency. Edwards makes sense as an addition given his familiarity with offensive coordinator Greg Roman. The Chargers certainly are not done at the position and are a lock to add to the room via the NFL draft. Edwards is a nice power-based complement and could end up siphoning goal-line carries.

The Chargers also brought in Will Dissly on a three-year deal after the previous staff featured one of the all-time unserious tight end blocking rooms the last two seasons. Both moves signal that the Chargers want to prioritize adding some beef and being a legitimate rushing operation.

Wide Receivers

Titans make a big swing, sign Calvin Ridley

  • Deal details: Four years, $92 million deal ($50 million fully guaranteed)

The Titans swooped in and thwarted the Jaguars' plans to sign Ridley after the start of the league year. Tennessee desperately needed wide receiver help, especially someone who can separate. DeAndre Hopkins was the only viable wideout on their roster after the previous regime swung and missed on Treylon Burks.

While this is a sizable “overpay” for Ridley considering his ranking among NFL receivers … who cares? He was the best available receiver on the market by quite a bit, and the Titans had endless amounts of cap space. You don’t need to win every deal, you need to win games. The Titans' and Brian Callahan’s coaching staff need a real evaluation of Will Levis in order to accomplish that task. You would not get a real evaluation on Levis with the unserious receiver room they had before Ridley’s signing.

Ridley’s volatility last season requires a multi-level explanation. The blame lies partly on his overall rust and specifically issues dealing with press coverage in his first season back, and primarily with the Jaguars' confounding deployment of the star-level route runner. Ridley’s static 2023 usage as the ISO X-receiver lends itself to a straight-line route tree and invited low-percentage targets for Trevor Lawrence.

Hopkins is on the back nine of his career but is likely the leader in the clubhouse to take snaps as the X-receiver. This allows Ridley to line up off the ball as a flanker, move into the slot or motion into condensed splits more often. He had his best success last season when that was the deployment plan.

Fantasy players will be too burned by Ridley’s 2023 disappointment season to rank him that highly and there are plenty of questions about Levis and the ecosystem in Tennessee. If Levis can play and Callahan brings over a credible offensive system, Ridley could be a volume sponge and a bit of a value. But those “ifs” should keep him in a realistic and, frankly, crowded tier of receivers in eventual fantasy draft rankings.

Bears load up for new era, trade for Keenan Allen

  • Deal details: Bears receive Allen; Chargers receive fourth-round pick

Given how productive Allen has been lately and his long-time standing as a premier receiver in the league, the initial public reaction was that the Chargers got fleeced. However, this is just the general market for a soon-to-be 32-year-old wide receiver with a hefty $34.7 million cap hit on the final year of his contract. Allen reportedly declined a pay cut with the Chargers that led to this deal.

However, there’s no question that this trade in conjunction with the Mike Williams release leaves the Chargers with the worst wide receiver room in the NFL. Joshua Palmer and Quentin Johnston are the primary outside receivers with little depth behind them. Even if the Jim Harbaugh-Greg Roman offense wants to run the ball a ton, expect more wideouts to come via the draft in April. Even then, Justin Herbert will be a tough projection with an extremely young group.

This is a savvy move for the Bears, even if they’re now quite light on draft picks and Allen is older with a lengthy injury history. Caleb Williams is set to be dropped into an offense with DJ Moore and Keenan Allen as the top two receivers. I’d have to go back and think about it but I’d be hard-pressed to remember a rookie quarterback being developed in an offense with a better pair of separators. Chicago was always likely to add a target-commanding wide receiver at some point this offseason, so Moore’s outlook doesn’t change much to me. Allen will likely be a reliable slot receiver with some reception-based value in fantasy but won’t come close to matching his Chargers' totals of the last three seasons.

I can’t wait to see how this offense comes together.

Chiefs get Mahomes a new weapon, sign Hollywood Brown

After Ridley signed with the Titans, Brown remained as one of the few clear-cut starters left on the wide receiver free-agent market. There is no other team in the league that could have convinced him to take this deal, as he wants to put in a “prove-it” season alongside Patrick Mahomes before hitting the market again.

There is no part of me that doubts Brown is a good wide receiver, but he is a bit of a limited application player. Given his size, he struggles with physical press/man coverage off the line and isn’t a tackle-breaker in open space. However, he has been a solid zone-beater since he entered the NFL — you can’t say that about any 2023 Chiefs receiver beyond Rashee Rice — who runs quality routes in the intermediate area. He and Rice can alternate between flanker and slot to make sure their strengths are highlighted and their weaknesses are masked.

Despite this addition, the Chiefs can and likely should still pursue a receiver in the draft. They now have a clear vision of the type they’re after: someone along the big X-receiver archetype. I trust this coaching staff to deploy Brown in the right way and overall like this move for both sides. Brown doesn’t have fantasy league-winning upside but he will make a sizable dent in the target pecking order for the Chiefs.

Bills sign WR Curtis Samuel to a three-year, $24 million deal

Curtis Samuel has been one of my favorite under-the-radar gem receivers for years now. To see him land in Buffalo, making good on connections with their coaching staff, is thrilling.

Samuel is a strong route runner with layers of versatility. He can be lined up in the backfield or in the slot and is a strong option as a pre-snap motion candidate. The Bills implemented much more movement in their offense once Joe Brady took over and Samuel played in Brady’s offense in his career-best 2020 campaign.

However, Samuel also has the man-coverage-beating route chops to win as a flanker outside. My guess is that the three-receiver set will be Stefon Diggs at X, Samuel at flanker and intriguing third-year receiver Khalil Shakir at slot. However, all those guys can move around and aren’t limited-application receivers. The Bills can still draft a receiver, but now it’s not a glaring roster need, and they can narrow their scope at the position with the versatility these three present.

Panthers finally make a WR splash, trade for Diontae Johnson

  • Deal details: Steelers get CB Donte Jackson and sixth-round pick; Panthers get Johnson and seventh-round pick

The Steelers had been listening to trade offers for Johnson, who is in the final year of his contract and was not part of their future. They address their need for secondary help with the addition of Jackson while the Panthers get a desperately needed boost in the wide receiver room.

Johnson is one of the best route runners in the NFL and has been a top-level separator since he was drafted by the Steelers in 2019. The Panthers' outside wide receivers were among the worst at getting open last season. That is Johnson’s specialty. Adding Johnson at the top of the wide receiver room will allow the team to get a real evaluation of Bryce Young in Year 2. The Panthers will likely continue adding to the pass-catching corps in the draft as well.

Despite playing in Matt Canada’s high school offense for most of his season, Johnson has been a productive receiver who garners a ton of volume. New head coach Dave Canales did some brilliant work mixing up Mike Evans’ route tree in Tampa Bay last year and that will be a welcome development for Johnson. Young’s ability is certainly still in question but Johnson is a quarterback-friendly wide receiver because of his ability to separate. At worst, this is a lateral move for Johnson in terms of quarterback quality.

You have to love this creative solution made by Carolina to address its wideout issues and the target projection headed Johnson’s way in 2024.

Falcons add to offense again, this time with Darnell Mooney

The only wide receivers on the Falcons' depth chart beyond Drake London heading into free agency were Josh Ali, Chris Blair and Austin Mack. So, the wide receiver position was a crucial need on this roster. Mooney is best as a No. 3 wide receiver and Atlanta will add to this spot in the NFL Draft. However, he brings much-needed speed to this room and can play flanker or slot in 11-personnel. Outside of some splash games, he won’t be on the weekly fantasy football radar but he will fill an important role on the offense.

Jerry Jeudy gets a fresh start with Browns

  • Deal details: Browns trade 2024 fifth- and sixth-round picks to the Broncos for Jeudy

I have been much lower than general consensus on Jeudy as a route runner and as an overall player for quite some time. However, I like this move for Cleveland, which justifiably believed it needed more wide receivers. The Browns have shown a genuine willingness to be creative to acquire talent at a premium position, mining distressed-asset wideouts in each of the last three offseasons. It’s not a perfect room but they’ve now amassed a trio of Jeudy, Amari Cooper and Elijah Moore for two fifth-round picks, a sixth-rounder and a move back from the second to third round. Considering what other teams pay for this position, that’s not bad.

Jeudy needed a change of scenery but do not listen to anyone who tells you his disappointing start to his career is purely the function of a dysfunctional Denver offense. He is not the consistent separator he was billed to be coming out of school and is extremely volatile as an individual player. Hopefully, he can build some new momentum rotating between the slot and flanker position with Moore in the Browns’ vertical play-action passing game.

As a rule, I don’t love to invest in offenses with major quarterback questions that also look like they could be in for a target squeeze. We could be heading there in Cleveland with Jeudy and Moore fighting for looks behind Cooper and David Njoku. The fact that I still have major questions about Jeudy’s ability to play to his talent consistently just gives more credence to the fade.

I haven’t been willing to take the plunge on Jeudy in fantasy football the previous two seasons and I doubt that will change with his move to Cleveland.

Jaguars shouldn't be done at WR after bringing in Gabe Davis

My evaluation of Davis as a player has never changed over his four-year career, even as the fantasy football industry has ridden a roller coaster of emotions for how they perceive him. Davis is not consistent enough as a separator to be a true No. 2 wide receiver to whom you give significant volume. However, he brings value as a downfield X-receiver who can uncover on scramble drills. As long as you have other viable high-volume players, Davis can fill a role in a passing game.

The Jaguars did need a vertical X-receiver, and at $13 million per year, Davis isn’t an offensive overpay in the current wide receiver market. He shouldn’t out-target superior players like Christian Kirk or Evan Engram. Frankly, his presence alone shouldn’t preclude the Jaguars from adding more wide-receiver help, especially since this move signals a Calvin Ridley departure.

Davis doesn’t look like someone who should be any kind of priority fantasy pick this summer. And from Jacksonville’s sense, the team continues to collect narrow-application role players to fill out an overall average set of pass-catchers around Trevor Lawrence.

Tee Higgins requests a trade from the Bengals

A predictable move in the dance between a disgruntled franchise tag player and their team. Perhaps nothing comes of this request but Higgins quietly playing on the franchise tag — when he and his agent know with certainty that there are many other teams out there willing to pay him on a long-term extension — always reeked of a pipe dream.

The way I’ve understood this situation is that the Bengals do not have any hopes of keeping Higgins long-term but specifically structured their salary plans to keep him with the tag in 2024. Higgins doesn’t have much leverage in the situation to alter those objectives unless he is willing to sit out a season, which I’ll believe when I see it. However, this is the mechanism in place for Higgins to put public pressure on the Bengals and send up the signal for other teams to get in a “too good to refuse” offer. I always assumed Cincinnati would be willing to listen to said proposals and move Higgins, even if in an ideal world it’d rather have him this year.

If I had to bet on it right now, I’d say it’s 70/30 that Higgins plays for the Bengals this season. Despite the siren song of a promotion to a true No. 1 wide receiver role elsewhere, Higgins’ best spot for pure production is probably in Cincinnati.

For starters, there aren’t many places Higgins would be matched with a better quarterback than Joe Burrow. I doubt a trade for Higgins is in the plans for the Chiefs or Bills, not to mention the Bengals would hang up the phone on their top conference rivals in less than 15 seconds. I also think there should still be outstanding questions regarding whether Higgins can be a legitimate No. 1 wideout or if he’s topped out as an elite No. 2.

If I’m plotting some realistic landing spots, the Panthers and Titans would be near the top of my list. Then there are less likely spots that can’t be ruled out like the Jaguars, Texans and Lions. All three of those landing spots would present their own set of pros and cons if we’re projecting out Higgins for 2024 alone.

This situation bears monitoring. My guess is we either get a trade resolution with haste in the next week or a frustrated Higgins will report sometime in training camp after losing a stare-down with a front office that’s been through these fights before.

Patriots re-sign WR Kendrick Bourne to a three-year, $19.5 million deal

Bourne was off to a nice start last season as an outside receiver before tearing his ACL. That injury makes him a wild card returning next season but New England’s entire offensive roster is barren so it makes sense for them to hang onto a solid player they know. The Patriots aren’t done adding pass-catchers.

Tight Ends

Bengals' next TE reclamation project: Mike Gesicki

The Bengals tried to revive the careers of tight ends in back-to-back seasons with Hayden Hurst in 2022 and Irv Smith in 2023. One worked out, one not so much. They’ll go for a three-peat here with Gesicki and hope to get results closer to Hurst’s 2022 campaign. I like the move as a low-risk deal. Gesicki can also run routes out of the slot, where the Bengals are likely losing Tyler Boyd. With Higgins’ future with the team also in flux, the Bengals may have to get more creative with how they have split up targets in their offense than in years past.

Rams get a new TE in Colby Parkinson

Parkinson has flashed as a pass-catcher and can function in both phases. Tyler Higbee is coming off a major injury, so Parkinson may have to play a big role alongside Davis Allen this year. Parkinson’s addition in conjunction with the re-signing of Kevin Dotson and addition of Jonah Jackson at guard for a combined $99 million is a clear sign the Rams intend to double down on their power-man and duo-heavy rushing game from 2023.

Seahawks re-sign TE Noah Fant

Fant is the type of tight end I’d like to bet on as a physically gifted player going into his second contract. The fact that a new coaching staff elected to hang onto him and let several other tight ends walk is a good sign they’re thinking along the same lines. Fant won’t crack the top three target-getters in Seattle but he’ll have some big weeks and make critical plays.