Contract Speculation and Breakdown: Arizona Cardinals

By: Matt TheJerk (@dynastyjerk)

Good afternoon Dynasty Owners and Happy New Year. I can honestly say that the 2020 season is the most fun I’ve ever had playing fantasy football. I’m not sure if it was the large void that other professional sports left in my soul after shortened seasons, or if it was the constant fear that the season could be postponed or cancelled. The NFL persevered, though, with only minor setbacks.

Throughout last season, I thought of myself as a “float writer.”  When I say float writer, I mean to say that I didn’t necessarily have a structured format to what I was going to write from week to week. Well, I and the rest of the Dynasty Owner team, have decided to settle down and focus on specific topics for this offseason. I’ll let my co writers explain their assignments, but I can tell you that I will mainly be writing about contracts. Now, I know that’s a broad topic so I will try to keep the content centered around future contract speculation and also breaking down current contracts in order to find value that otherwise may be missed.

In order to accomplish this in an efficient way, I am going to write each week about one team. In each article, I will lead off by recapping any breaking news about updated or new contracts. After that, I will discuss all the (rosterable) players on that NFL team that have expiring contracts. As many of you know, free agency is a very nuanced process and the number of free agents a team will have in any given year is variable. I am not an expert about all the rules of free agency (for that I would turn to Spotrac), but I do my research, and I feel like these articles will be a great place to provide help for difficult contracts.

In addition to a weekly article, I will be releasing a short video each week that will heavily relate to the write-up. These videos will allow me to better explain my more important points. Text just seems so impersonal sometimes, and I think putting a face with an article is a great way to convey a message.

Well, I think I’ve gotten all the info out that I needed to. How about we jump into our first official contract speculation and breakdown…

Contract Speculation

My first month of articles will be about the NFC West, and up first we have the Arizona Cardinals. Arizona has three noteworthy players that will be free agents in 2021. The process that I’m using to select free agents is subjective, but I feel like these three players will be the most asked about.

Larry Fitzgerald

First up we have the legend, Larry Fitzgerald. Fitz has been in the league since 2004, and it’s very possible he is about to complete his final contract and retire in the offseason. I’m not going to speculate on Fitzgerald’s chances of retiring, but rather, I’ll speculate on what a new contract could mean. I believe the 2004 #3 overall pick would have a tough time signing in a new city. We know that Larry was drafted by the Cardinals and has played his entire career with them. That is a special accomplishment and one that doesn’t happen often. There is, however, no doubt in my mind that he will command much less money than he currently makes. A one year $11,500,000 salary is just too much to pay a 37-year-old wide receiver, even one that leads a locker room as well as Fitz does. I’ll keep an eye on contract discussions, but I can’t imagine many Owners will roster Larry in 2021 given that he is currently owned in only 7.22 percent of DO leagues.

Kenyan Drake

Next, we have a much more interesting free agent:  Kenyan Drake. Drake is finishing up a single year contract that is worth a little less than 8.5 million dollars. (More accurately, Drake is finishing up a one-year transition tag) Drake has completed four years of service in the NFL so he will be an unrestricted free agent. There are quite a few possibilities for Drake in the offseason. First, he could be slapped with a franchise tag. A franchise tag would place him somewhere in the ballpark of $11,000,000 for one year. Drake could also sign a new contract with Arizona or a new team. I would anticipate a new contract to be worth around the same price point as a franchise tag (possibly a little bit less). If I had to commit to a number right now, I’d say Drake will sign something like a three-year contract worth 24 million dollars. This would put his Dynasty Owner salary at 8 million dollars per year. Once again this is just speculation, but Drake owners need to start thinking ahead.

Dan Arnold

The final Cardinals’ free agent I want to mention is Dan Arnold. Arnold is about to wrap up a two year – 1.23-million-dollar contract. Arnold has not completed four years in the NFL, so he hasn’t reached the benchmark in order to become an unrestricted free agent. There isn’t much else to say about him at this point. Again, I’ll keep you updated when Arnold is extended or signed.

Contract Breakdowns

Kyler Murray

I’m going to delve into two more contracts, and this breakdown will hopefully help you make a decision on what value these players have in the offseason. The first player I’m going to discuss has a contract that is top three in terms of value in all of Dynasty Owner. The player is, of course, Kyler Murray. Kyler is 23 years old, and he comes into the 2021 offseason with two years remaining on his rookie contract. In 2019, he signed a four-year contract that was worth $35,158,645 or $8,789,661 per year. That contract (per year) ranks 21st among active quarterbacks in terms of dollars per year. Let’s look at the numbers a little closer and see why Murray is such a steal. Over the past two seasons, he has put up a total of 814.6 fantasy points.

He produced 353.5 points in 2019 and 461.1 points in 2020. I’m first going to look at dynasty dollars per fantasy point (DD/FP). As I’ve mentioned in the past, Dynasty Owner did a great job of creating this statistic, and it’s something that I will be using quite a bit this offseason to look at contracts. First, I’m going to compare Kyler to every other top tier DD/FP quarterback that played the entire season. ***(Minshew, Mullens, and Glennon all have better DD/FP than Murray, but I won’t compare them as they are not the current starters on their teams).

Player2020 SalaryYears Remaining2021 Salary2020 DD/FP
L. Jackson$2,367,9121$2,367,912$5,921
D. Watson$3,463,570Resigned$39,000,000$7,246
D. Lock$1,752,7042$1,752,704$7,811
P. Mahomes$4,106,447Resigned$45,000,000$8,148
J. Allen$5,295,7601$5,295,760$10,261
J. Herbert$6,644,6883$6,644,688$15,392
K. Murray$8,789,6612$8,789,661$19,062
Swipe for more on mobile

This is a long list, and it is pretty loaded so I’m going to break it down. As I said, this is a list of quarterbacks with the best DD/FP for the 2020 season. The way the quarterbacks qualify is if they were the starter in 2020 and project to be their team’s starter in 2021 as well. It’s obviously not surprising that the players with the best DD/FP rating are all low salary players. You may also be concerned that Kyler Murray is so far down. Well, don’t be. Kyler is the most expensive quarterback on this list which will skew his DD/FP when compared to players like Lamar or Lock. We already know that a high salary quarterback will never lead the league in DD/FP. It’s just not possible for Russell Wilson to be productive enough to lead DO in DD/FP.

Let’s do a what if. What if each one of these quarterbacks kept the exact same fantasy production over the next two years?  What would happen to their DD/FP?  I’ll show you…

Using these quarterbacks’ 2020 season as a benchmark, this is how their DD/FP would finish over the next two seasons with projected salaries.

Player2021 Salary2022 Projected Salary2021 Proj DD/FP2022 Proj DD/FP
L. Jackson$2,367,912$37,000,000$5,920$92,500
D. Watson$39,000,000$39,000,000$81,590$81,590
D. Lock$1,752,704$1,752,704$7,825$7,825
P. Mahomes$45,000,000$45,000,000$89,286$89,286
J. Allen$5,295,760$40,000,000$10,263$77,519
J. Herbert$6,644,688$6,644,688$15,381$15,381
K. Murray$8,789,661$8,789,661$19,067$19,067
Swipe for more on mobile.

We can project/know that between the 2020 season and the 2022 season four of these quarterbacks will receive large contract increases. For this reason, Kyler becomes much more valuable over that time frame. In 2021, Kyler is expected to finish 5th among these seven players. In 2022, Kyler is expected to finish 3rd among these seven players. This is a long way of saying that Kyler is and will continue to be a value.

I did learn something else while doing this exercise. Maybe there is another way to determine value using DD/FP. What if we could make educated guesses on what we expect a player’s contract will be in the next three seasons and combine that with the player’s fantasy point projections over the next three seasons?  We would have a better gauge on a player’s long term value and not just season long value.

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to start projecting players DD/FP through the 2023 season. This should help us get closer to a standardized formula for comparing players. (Something I’ve been working on for over a year.)

Christian Kirk

The second player I want to break down today is Christian Kirk. Kirk finished the season as WR44. He missed two games in 2020. The first was in Week 3 with a groin injury, and the second was Week 17 when he was placed on the COVID-19 list. Kirk had a disappointing year. There’s no sugar coating it. If you drafted him, you had to (on average) take him in the 8th round. So, the question I ask is…what do we do with Kirk for next year?  He comes into the 2021 season on the final year of his rookie deal that is worth a little less than 1.5 million dollars. There is no doubt that Kirk will be 100 percent owned in 2021 as his salary is very cheap, but the trust to start him each week is just not going to be there. The possible retirement of Larry Fitzgerald could open the door for more touches, but the acquisition of DeAndre Hopkins last year really put a damper on Kirk’s career outlook. Let’s break down his DD/FP and see where he ranks among his peers…

Kirk is 40th in DD/FP for wide receivers, and he sits at $9,871. This seems like a fairly decent value on paper, and in some ways it is. However, when you look at some of the players around him, the value starts to fade.

Sitting just two spots ahead of Kirk is Calvin Ridley. Is this surprising to you?  Ridley at 38th in DD/FP?  I’ll be honest, it’s surprising to me, but let me explain why it actually makes sense. Ridley has the highest salary of any wide receiver inside of the top 50 for DD/FP. In fact, the only players close to him in terms of contract are Justin Jefferson ($3,280,701) at 51st and D.J. Moore ($2,792,829) at 58th. So that means the 6th (Ridley), 8th (Jefferson) and 23rd (Moore) ranked wide receivers in 2020 are all outside the top 38th in DD/FP?  The truth of the matter is that if a receiver has a salary over $1,000,000, it is very difficult for them to crack the top tier of DD/FP. Of all the wide receivers in the top 20 for DD/FP, only five of them have contracts over $1,000,000, and the highest salary of any of them is A.J. Brown at $1,413,092. This is obviously one of the limitations for the statistic itself. The fact that Russell Gage, Greg Ward and Jacoby Meyers lead this statistic should tell you everything you need to know.

What I propose (and plan on doing over the offseason) is to create more of a tiered approach to DD/FP as opposed to a strict salary compared to fantasy points. For example, I could take every wide receiver under $2,000,000 per year and assign them the same, fixed value. Doing this will eliminate the skewed data that would have given twice as much value to a player that makes $600,000 compared to a player that makes $1,200,000. We would obviously rather own the $600,000 salary, but is it worth assigning double value for that contract given that they are both “cheap” salaries?  In the same way, I could make a tier of $2,000,000 – $5,000,000.

Regardless, I will get all of my data together and begin to work in this new tiered approach to value in the upcoming articles.

As always, thank you for reading and look out for my video that pairs with this article. I know I can get a little long winded so hopefully the video series we’re doing will help give a more personal touch to the content. Take care and be safe.

TheJerk

Follow us on Twitter: @Dynasty_Owner

Roster Roundup – Round Seven: NFC West

Taking A Dive Into The Rosters From Around The League

Author: Chris Wolf

This time of year is typically the time when teams, trainers and agents hype up their players. We know how the world has changed in recent months and the NFL is no different in its approach to returning to “normalcy”. With the news of NFL staff and players testing positive for the Coronavirus, fantasy news is taking a backseat. As a result, fantasy players are missing out on the typical hyperbole surrounding pre-season roster news and notes.

In this series we will look at who’s who on rosters and how that may help in your drafts and early waivers.

Each week we will examine a division’s skill position current roster and predictive depth chart heading into training camp to see how that relates to their fantasy outlook.

Arizona Cardinals

HC: Kliff Kingsbury

OC: Kliff Kingsbury

QB: Kyler Murray, Brett Hundley, Chris Streveler

RB: Kenyan Drake, Chase Edmonds, Eno Benjamin

WR: Larry Fitzgerald, DeAndre Hopkins, Christian Kirk, Andy Isabella, KeeSean Johnson, Trent Sherfield

TE: Maxx Williams, Dan Arnold, Darrell Daniels

Coach Kliff Kingsbury returns to what should be a much-improved offense. All eyes were on Arizona to showcase Kingsbury’s spread offense in 2019 but finished with the league’s 23rd ranked offense (per PFF). 2020 looks to be improved with a revamped offensive line that might be a better fit for the wider splits necessary for the quicker pass sets. Kyler Murray is an exciting young play caller that has a solid arm and athletic wheels. The questions about his size have been put to rest but his main drawback was his tendency to hold the ball too long in this quick tempo attack. He was sacked a league best 48 times while being charged with 23 of them as self-induced.  Murray is known to be a smart competitor and will surely progress through his reads much quicker in his sophomore year. His 20/3722/12 was a good indication of his passing chops while he was also called upon to use his sub 4.4 speed on the 65 designed runs called for him. He finished with 93 total rushes for 544 and 4 scores. He has been a very highly targeted pick in Dynasty Owner drafts due to his dual-threat ability and an $8.8 million salary.

Kenyan Drake was stranded on the Island of Misfit Toys in the beginning portion of the 2019 season until Miami traded Drake to the Cardinals in late October for a conditional 6th round pick. The 2016 3rd round selection out of Alabama never looked comfortable in either regime in South Beach but seems to be an ideal fit in this wide-open offense where he is able to work in space. Despite him ending camp in a walking boot, Drake has been a reliable player playing 62 out of a possible 64 games. Never having more than 170 NFL carries in a season, the 26-year-old is a solid bet to return top 12ish RB numbers if he continues to be the lead dog. His challenger is Chase Edmonds who is the clear number 2 that might be a number 1 on some NFL teams. Remember back to the first week of October and David Johnson was active/not active and Arizona unleashed Edmonds for 126 yards and 3 touchdowns. Edmonds looked to be on the road to fantasy stardom, but he got dinged up in that game and with two injured running backs, GM Steve Keim was forced to make the trade for Drake. Edmonds is a great depth piece with league winning potential if anything were to cause Drake to miss time. In just his second year, his $728k price tag is very intriguing. Eno Benjamin was a second-round selection in this year’s draft that has carved out a role for himself on special teams allowing him to stay on as the no.3 back to both Drake and Edmonds.

On paper this receiver group looks like fantasy gold. There is the sure-handed new-comer Deandre Hopkins that was acquired in a laughable trade, the legend that is Larry Fitzgerald who enters his 17th season, former 2nd round potential breakout Christian Kirk and the speed demon out of UMASS, Andy Isabella who was also a 2nd round selection. Murray has plenty of weapons to work with and he himself has predicted his top three receivers to all eclipse the 1,000-yard mark this season. Although not probable since no Cardinal receiver broke the 1,000-yard milestone last year, it speaks volumes to the confidence this QB has entering 2020. The TE position is not exactly a prominent position in Kingsbury’s scheme, although it does hold some real-life value. Incumbent starter Maxx Williams appears to have been edged out by new TE Dan Arnold in the media but remains at the top of the depth chart. Arnold is a 6’6” 220lb big receiver that’s listed as a TE who is a sure handed third down and red zone threat for Murray’s Cardinals. Although he might not provide much for fantasy production, he is someone to keep in mind at just $615k.

Los Angeles Rams

HC: Sean McVay

OC: Kevin O’Connell

QB: Jared Goff, John Wolford, Bryce Perkins

RB: Cam Akers, Malcolm Brown, Darrell Henderson, Xavier Jones

WR: Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, Josh Reynolds, Van Jefferson, Trishton Jackson, Nsimba Webster

TE: Tyler Higbee, Gerald Everett, Brycen Hopkins, Johnny Mundt

In 2018 wonder boy Sean McVay caught the NFL with its pants down and the team rode it all the way to the Super Bowl. In 2019, NFL defenses caught up to the Ram’s offense and it seemed that the adjustments were very slow to develop for McVay and company. Goff was rewarded for his 2018 play with a 4 year $134 million which added to the odd salary situation this team has found itself in. With a lack of quality depth and the non-investment in the offensive line, a subpar front seven except for Aaron Donald and the odd handling of Todd Gurley, Clay Matthews and Brandon Cooks’ contracts, Los Angeles has yet to find its way out the murkiness that is their salary cap conundrum. 

Goff is not an elite NFL talent, but he is a much better QB than he was given credit for in his “down’ 2019. I’m sure Goff would like to forget his 78-yard performance against San Francisco in week 6, his 173 for zero TD’s against Chicago in week 11 and his week 12 line of 0/212/2 against Baltimore on Monday Night. He took a step backwards in almost every statistical category, but you have to think, how much of that can actually be attributed to his play. The O-Line was one of the most porous in the league, the running game was Jekyll and Hyde all season long and the defense found it difficult to keep points off the opposing team’s scoreboard. 2020’s Rams offseason chatter appears to continue with more two tight end looks as they began to have success with at the end of last season and with a renewed focus on the run game.

Cam Akers enters as the expected leader in backfield touches with Darrell Henderson and veteran Malcom Brown chipping in situationally.  Brown may get the ceremonial “start” in the beginning and if Henderson’s hamstring checks out, he’ll get his touches, but Akers should prove to be the three down talent that is much needed for this team. Akers could not have had a worse offensive line than he did at Florida State and hopefully, the Rams O-Line won’t have him running for his life. Akers is a very talented runner that you must be patient within his rookie campaign. The other backs will get theirs but Akers’ talent as a runner and receiver will prove it hard to keep him off the field.

Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp are the 1 and 1a receiving duo that many are excited to see put up consistent fantasy points this season. Woods is the unquestioned leader and is the more consistent of the two but Kupp’s ceiling is higher at this stage of their careers. The younger Kupp demolished Cincinnati in the London game but then only put together 239 total yards over a six-game pace. This was absolutely maddening for fantasy players that rostered Kupp to only hear McVay site alignment changes and personnel adjustment as the cause. Woods’ $6.8 million cap makes for a solid potential WR1 and Kupp’s $958k salary is extremely appetizing. Behind them on the depth chart are Josh Reynolds and Van Jefferson. Reynolds figures to be the WR3 to start the year and Van Jefferson is a solid dynasty hold for when they move on from either Kupp or Woods in two years. The tight end group has two starters both capable of being TE1’s on most NFL teams. Tyler Higbee ($7.25m) has a year of NFL experience on Gerald Everett but both decided to have their own breakout seasons in 2019. Although Higbee is the one everyone has talked about, it was actually Everett who started to shine first. Everett’s first nine games boasted a stat line of 37/408/2 until a knee injury sapped him of some of his athleticism. Higbee then cut into both his and Kupp’s target share and is now considered a top 8 TE in fantasy. Both should be rostered but at $1.5 million, Everett is a very interesting stash.

San Francisco 49ers

HC: Kyle Shanahan

OC: Kyle Shanahan

QB: Jimmy Garoppolo, Nick Mullens, CJ Bethard

RB: Raheem Mostert, Tevin Coleman, Jerick McKinnon, Jeffery Wilson,

Kyle Juszczyk

WR: Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, Kendrick Bourne, Richie James, Dante Pettis, Trent Taylor

TE: George Kittle, Jordan Reed, Charlie Woerner, Ross Dwelley

The Super Bowl silver medalists return most of their key personnel to make another run at the Lombardi Trophy in 2020. Shannan has done a terrific job at optimizing his player’s skills to his scheme and GM John Lynch has helped him by stocking the cupboard with quality talent. Jimmy Garoppolo returns under center and is the unquestioned starter after a brief 48-hour flirtation with Tom Brady. Garoppolo might not go out and put the team on his back and win you games on talent alone but he is a respectable quarterback that won’t cause you to lose many either. Whether he is a product of Shannan’s system or he is actually a good QB in the NFL is debatable, he took the team to the Super Bowl behind an absolutely dominant run game. Shanahan veered from his traditional outside zone scheme and incorporated way more counters and power run elements than ever before. Raheem Mostert shined down the stretch and transitioned his 5-team journeyman career into being a revered name in fantasy circles. The 28-year-old parlayed 137 attempts into 772 yards while tallying 8 scores. Known for his speed and vision, his 3.72 yards after contact was good for a top 16 ranking in the league. Tevin Coleman is the “bigger-bodied” part of this committee that will most absurdly siphon starts from Moestert throughout the season. Coleman is not an especially special talent, but he is a Shannan favorite that knows his system back to front. Jerrick McKinney hasn’t played the game in 3 years but is now expected to be inserted in as a speedy change-of-pace satellite back. Jeff Wilson is a special teamer and occasional touchdown vulture that may break your heart if you roster Mostert or Coleman.

George Kittle is the unquestioned No.1 receiver on this team but San Francisco boasts some quality young talent at the wide receiver position.  Led by the physical Deebo Samuel ($1.8m), this young group offers a lot of potential if they can just stay out of the trainer’s room. Riddled with training camp injuries, the early season picture may not be as bad as once believed. Samuel is looking good in his recovery from his Jones fracture and Richie James looks like he too will be available soon. Reports have come out that Aiyuk was having a fantastic early camp and established a solid rapport with Garoppolo before being temporarily sidelined due to a hamstring strain. His game likens Samuels’ but with a bit deeper threat potential. Together, they should make for a solid complement to Kittle. Kendrick Bourne is in his last year of his contract ($3.26m) and the intriguing Jalen Hurd continues to be a dynasty stash after losing out on two straight seasons.

Kittle comes in at a $15 million salary but it is hard to find a player that is more well-rounded. His overall skill set allows him to be on the field in all situations which is exactly what you crave from your TE position. A breakdown of his total snaps illustrates just how valuable he is to this franchise:

  • Passing Snaps= 498
  • Rushing Snaps= 477
  • Backfield Snaps= 25
  • Inline Snaps= 728
  • Slot Snaps= 131
  • Wideout Snaps= 91

This is a fantasy dream for this position and is well worth the investment. Jordan Reed is the other TE of note that adds a veteran depth piece that can also line up all over the field and create mismatch problems for defenses.

Seattle Seahawks

HC: Pete Carroll

OC: Brian Schottenheimer

QB: Russell Wilson, Geno Smith

RB: Chris Carson, Carlos Hyde, Rashaad Penny, DeeJay Dallas. Travis Homer

WR: Tyler Lockett, DK Metcalf, Philip Dorsett, David Moore, Freddie Swain, Josh Gordon

TE: Will Dissly, Greg Olsen, Luke Wilson, Colby Parkinson

The $35 million per year Russel Wilson enters his age 31 season and might have the best overall receiving talent around him. The annoyingly run first team has the ability to compete with the upper half of the league in the passing game for the first time in years. Wilson’s stud plays come from plays that are outside designed plays where his athleticism allows him to buy time where he’s able to drop dimes in his receiver’s hands. He has a well-balanced receiving corps with a fine mix of down field threats and physical route runners. He is undoubtedly a high end QB1 that has the ability to be the overall QB1 in any given year.

The aforementioned run game is the meat and potatoes of this offensive scheme. The O-Line is not especially dominant, but they do their job well enough by wearing you down by sheer volume of run plays. Chris Carson is the leader in this backfield and will not only make you miss in space, but he will also run you over if given the chance. The former 7th rounder is just 25 years old and has declared himself to be 100% healed from his fractured hip. He projects to be a high volume back and barring injury, could see 250-270 carries as the near workhorse back. If you can handle his fumbles (7, losing 4 in 2019) his $616k salary is a steal for this volume back that would make a fine RB2. Backing him up will be Carlos Hyde that had a bit of a resurgence last year in Houston. Hyde is more than a placeholder for Rashaad Penny to back up Carson, he should certainly be involved in rotating series as Seattle is known to do. Rookie DeeJay Dallas and Travis Homer are both solid pass catchers that should see the field in hurry up and passing down situations.

Leading the WR’s are Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf. Lockett was setting fantasy on fire before being limited by an injury. His 82/1057/8 stats don’t demonstrate how boom or bust he was but there were several games where he just didn’t show up. His injury limitations enabled rookie DK Metcalf to show how he can be an Alpha receiver and lead this team as the WR1. At 6’4” 229lbs, the former 2nd rounder has drawn comparisons to Dez Bryant because of his domination at the catch point but his 4.33 40 time puts him in a completely separate class. Metcalf looked like a man amongst boys at times and is a sure-fire starter for your fantasy team. Philip Dorsett is asked to run a simpler route tree then he did in New England which is a positive sign for this speedy deep threat. Dave Moore returns as a sure-handed route runner and Josh Gordon returns to ignite everyone’s memories from his last productive season in 2013.

Will Dissly returns as Wilson’s favorite seem-stretching target 10 months removed from his Achilles tear. Before his injury in November he was producing low end TE1 numbers converting 27 targets to 23 catches for 262 yards and 4 touchdowns. The third-year player will be a co-starter with the newly signed Greg Olsen. Olsen comes into his age 35 season after four years in Chicago and 9 years in Carolina. He will reportedly be a big part of this offense and could offer some sneaky good fantasy weeks. At 35 years old and a $7 million salary, he figures to be widely available if you are in a pinch for a TE. 

We hope that you enjoyed this article. Check back in a few days for the AFC West roundup!

Follow us on Twitter: @Dynasty_Owner