2023 NFL free company – Fantasy soccer impression of signings and trades

The fantasy football offseason is underway with the start of NFL free agency. This column is designed to be a one-stop shop for quick-hitting analysis of the most impactful player movement — trades and free agent signings, including those who re-signed with their teams.

ESPN Fantasy writers Tristan H. Cockcroft, Eric Karabell, Liz Loza and Eric Moody offer their insights into what each move means for a player’s fantasy value in 2023. During the early portion of free agency, the most notable recent deals will appear at the top of the column.

Latest news

Baker Mayfield signs with the Buccaneers
Fantasy impact: Neutral

Mayfield singed a one-year deal with Tampa Bay and now,due to his late season resurgence with the Rams, has a chance to compete for the starting job along with the team’s 2021 second-round pick Kyle Trask. For his career, Mayfield has only averaged 15.14 fantasy points per game as a starter. It is likely that this trend will continue with wide receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin in Tampa Bay if he wins the starting job. He can be viewed as a middle-of-the-road QB2 in fantasy. — Moody

David Montgomery signs with Lions
Fantasy impact: Neutral-to-positive

While the primary takeaway of Montgomery’s move is that Khalil Herbert, who totaled 42.0 PPR fantasy points on a 59% rushing share in seven-plus quarters as Montgomery’s injury fill-in, is now a starter, the impact on Montgomery isn’t much less interesting. Assuming he’s Jamaal Williams’ replacement, there’s plenty of meat there, as Williams was dominating in a red-zone/short-yardage/injury-sub capacity, in an offensive system plenty conducive to big rushing totals (Lions were 11th in rushing yards, first in RB PPR fantasy points). Montgomery retains mid-range RB2 appeal and will vault higher in the ranks for each of D’Andre Swift‘s inevitable absences. –Cockcroft

Darren Waller traded to Giants
Fantasy impact: Positive

This supremely talented tight end moves to an offense in desperate need of playmakers. Waller might return to 90-plus receptions and 1,000-plus receiving yards, even with Daniel Jones at QB. Waller is that good and the rest of the Giants — none of whom hit 60 catches or 750 receiving yards last season — do not stand out. Waller just needs to stay healthy, which should be the bigger concern. Still, he can be a top-five TE — even in this offense. — Karabell

Rashaad Penny signs with Eagles
Fantasy impact: Positive

Some might scoff at the NFC champs swapping free agent Miles Sanders for Penny, as Penny played in only 18 games the past three seasons, but the Eagles loathe investing big dollars in running backs. Penny averaged better than 6.0 YPC each of the past two truncated seasons and he piles on yards after contact. The Eagles boast arguably the league’s top offensive line, but also a looming time-share with Kenneth Gainwell. If suddenly durable, Penny has RB2 upside, but it is a big “if.” — Karabell

Hayden Hurst signed by the Panthers
Fantasy impact: Neutral

Hurst performed well enough last season on a one-year deal with the Bengals, catching 52 of 68 targets for 414 receiving yards and two touchdowns but generated only four games with 10 or more fantasy points. With the Panthers set to pick their new quarterback with the first overall pick in the draft, it’s important to remember that tight ends are a key aspect of a Frank Reich offense. Hurst remains a viable TE2/streamer in fantasy. — Moody

Best of the rest

DJ Moore traded to Bears
Fantasy impact: Positive

Moore takes over as Justin Fields‘ top receiving target. It’s a good thing in relative terms, considering the revolving door of mediocre passers with whom he worked in Carolina. Fields’ passing game might still be developing, but he heightens Moore’s statistical ceiling, even if the two have greater variance than the average QB-WR duo. Moore becomes a midrange WR2, while Fields’ QB1 case strengthens.

That said, Moore’s arrival gobbles a larger piece of the Bears’ target-share pie, rendering Chase Claypool and Darnell Mooney more matchups-oriented depth options, while tight end Cole Kmet should benefit but be at more risk of the occasional quiet game. We’ll see how this Bears offense fares under Fields, but I still like Claypool’s upside against weaker defenses more than Mooney’s. — Cockcroft

Derek Carr signs with Saints
Fantasy impact: Neutral

Carr is a good fit for the Saints’ offense and is only one season removed from throwing for 4,804 yards and 23 touchdowns in 2021. While he has a chance to replicate that performance in 2023, even that strong season places him 14th among fantasy QBs. In fact, Carr has never finished in the top 10 at the position in fantasy points.

Chris Olave is easily the player who benefits most from Carr’s arrival. Olave had 1,042 receiving yards and four touchdowns as a rookie, with Andy Dalton and Jameis Winston under center. Carr will look to exploit Olave’s ability to attack defenses vertically. Last season, Carr led the league in touchdowns on downfield passes of 30 yards or more. — Moody

Raheem Mostert, Jeff Wilson Jr. staying with Dolphins
Fantasy impact: Neutral

Perhaps the biggest surprise is that each veteran played in 16 games last season. Injuries have long hampered them. Mostert produced more like a flex option than fantasy starter, but a competent one averaging 4.9 yards per rush. Wilson is a bit bigger and younger. Neither played much of a role in the passing game. Hurrah for both in returning, but this is a clear time-share for fantasy managers, keeping each more in flex territory rather than as a reliable starter. — Karabell

Jakobi Meyers signs with Raiders
Fantasy Impact: Neutral

After signing a three-year deal that includes $21M guaranteed, Meyers is heading west and reuniting with former offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. In New England, the NC State player maintained a target share above 22%, clearing at least 80 looks in three consecutive seasons. With Darren Waller headed to the Giants, Meyers could retain much of that volume. Additionally, he figures to see an uptick in outside opportunities. Interestingly, Meyers’ slot snaps increased by nearly 3% after McDaniels’ departure. Meyers enters 2023 as a high-floor PPR option with little TD upside in the WR3 range. — Loza

Allen Lazard signs with Jets
Fantasy impact: Neutral

Lazard had occasional moments of fun playing with Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay and who knows — hint, hint — they may be reunited! However, the Jets already have the league’s top offensive rookie in WR Garrett Wilson. He is really good! Lazard is just OK, and even if we assume he sees more targets than new teammates Corey Davis and Elijah Moore, it is hard to see WR3 fantasy numbers. Lazard got paid, but statistically, we may have seen his best already. — Karabell

Michael Thomas restructures deal, stays with the Saints
Fantasy impact: Neutral

Thomas has averaged 7.7 targets and 13.3 fantasy points per game since 2020 for the Saints. However, since he has played in only 10 games over that time frame, Thomas’ availability is a major concern. Chris Olave‘s outlook will be boosted by the addition of Derek Carr, but it’s difficult to view Thomas as anything more than a flex option. — Moody

Jimmy Garoppolo signs with Raiders
Fantasy impact: Neutral

After six years in San Francisco, Garoppolo will reunite with Josh McDaniels in Las Vegas. Despite averaging 7.9 YPA, the veteran QB averaged just 15.0 fantasy points (QB19 among qualifiers) in 2022. He’s less likely to be as efficient in Vegas, but given the team’s surrounding talent his production figures to remain static. In a largely lateral move, the Raiders’ skill position players — Davante Adams chief among them — shouldn’t be downgraded given the QB change. Coming off of a late-season foot injury, Jimmy G remains a middling QB2 for superflex purposes. — Loza

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