Dynasty Owner Amnesty Candidates – Part 1 (QBs and RBs)

Author: Steven Van Tassell

With the announcement of an amnesty provision for the 2020 Dynasty Owner season, Dynasty Owners should start thinking about what players on their current roster aren’t worth the cost of their salary and should be removed free of charge. The introduction of an amnesty provision for 2020 is important as some owners will be trying to fit under the $110 million salary cap for 2020 after possibly going as high as $120 million with their 2019 salaries.

There are a lot of players with big salaries in the NFL and some of those players will likely be released in the coming days and weeks. However, many high salary players might not be released, and that salary could still be sitting on your Dynasty Owner roster for 2020 and taking up valuable salary cap room. Room that Dynasty Owners could use to improve their team or pay for salary increases for better players.

There are plenty of “worthy” candidates for amnesty so we’re going to break it up. First, we will cover backs (QBs and RBs) who are owned in 50 percent or more of Dynasty Owner leagues and should be considered candidates for amnesty. The second article will cover receivers (WRs and TEs) using the same criteria.

All stats are based on the Standard Dynasty Owner scoring system as outlined in the updated Dynasty Owner Constitution. Standard Dynasty Owner scoring gives you .1 points for every yard rushing or receiving, .1 point for every 2 yards passing, 1 point per reception, 6 points for a rushing, receiving or passing touchdown and 2 points for a successful 2-point conversion (rushing, receiving, or passing). Interceptions or fumbles lost cost you 3 points, while a fumble that is recovered by the player’s team is a loss of only 1 point. Bonus points are available for 100-199 yards rushing (2 points), 200 yards rushing or receiving (6 points), 300-399 yards passing (1 point) and 400 yards passing (4 points). There is also a 3 point bonus for clutch scoring, which is a score that results in a lead change in the final two minutes of the 4th quarter or overtime. Kickoff and punt return touchdowns are worth 6 points for the player and kickoff and punt returns are worth .25 points for every 10 yards.

Aaron Rodgers Is a Prime Amnesty Candidate

Aaron Rodgers and his $33.5 million salary for the next three seasons is the top choice for a QB to use the amnesty provision on. The argument for getting rid of Rodgers is pretty simple. Are his Dynasty Owners getting $33.5 million worth of production from Rodgers or not? Rodgers was the highest salaried player in Dynasty Owner in 2019 and is tied for third highest right now with Jared Goff, only trailing Russell Wilson and Ben Roethlisberger.  At $33.5 million, he’s taking up over 30% of your $110 million Dynasty Owner salary cap. Rodgers is rostered in 57% of Dynasty Owners, which is high based on his hefty salary.

In terms of production, Rodgers was the seventh best QB for the entire 2019 NFL season and ninth overall best player. Is he going to improve in 2020 at age 36 in the second year in Coach Matt LaFleur’s offense? If the answer is Yes!, then read no further. However, more likely than not, he isn’t going to be better than most of the six QBs who finished ahead of him in 2019 (Lamar Jackson, Dak Prescott, Russell Wilson, Jameis Winston, Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes). And who knows if he plays well enough to stay in the Top 10 in 2020.

Rodgers was also very streaky in 2019. He scored 62.1 Dynasty Owner fantasy points in Week 7 vs. Oakland, but for the entire season, he only scored 20.0 or more Dynasty Owner fantasy points in 5 out of 14 Dynasty Owner regular season games. This is down from scoring that many points in 9 out of 14 Dynasty Owner regular season games in 2018.  He also didn’t clear the 20.0 mark in either Dynasty Owner playoff game in 2019. Dynasty Owners can’t afford to have their #1 QB who takes up 30% of their salary cap scoring less than 20.0 Dynasty Owner fantasy points in over half of his games.

If you have Rodgers on your roster as your #1 QB, you’re probably reading this and saying, “That’s fine, but who am I going to get to replace Rodgers as my starting QB if I drop him?” Great question!

For $5.5 million less, Dynasty Owners with Rodgers could pick up Kirk Cousins, who is owned in only 4% of Dynasty Owner leagues and was ranked as the 15th best QB for the entire NFL season. Cousins only scored a total of 19.5 fewer Dynasty Owner fantasy points over the course of the 14-game Dynasty Owner regular season than Rodgers, an average of just 1.4 Dynasty Owner fantasy points per game. Despite a poor start to the 2019 season, Cousins had more games of 20.0 or more Dynasty Owner fantasy points than Rodgers (7 for Cousins vs. 5 for Rodgers). He may not be as big of a name as Rodgers (or have as many commercials), but Cousins could be a viable replacement for Rodgers in 2020.

Can Dynasty Owners Count on Cam in 2020?

That’s the question for Dynasty Owners with Cam Newton on their roster. A surprisingly high 80% of Dynasty Owner leagues have an owner with Newton and his $20.76 million salary on their roster. While it’s possible that Newton gets released in the off-season, it’s also possible that the Panthers keep him around for another season. After an injury plagued 2019 in which he didn’t look like the Cam Newton who electrified the NFL a few years ago, can Dynasty Owners afford to keep paying him nearly one-fifth of their entire team’s salary?

Even though his $20.76 million salary is only for one more year and he’s just the 16th highest paid QB in the league, Dynasty Owners can do better. If they have some salary cap room, Cousins is a possible replacement, they could draft a QB in this year’s rookie draft or look at the available QBs in their league’s Free Agent Auction.

Lesser Owned Quarterbacks Who Deserve to be Released

There are also a couple of additional lesser owned QBs who also deserve to be sent packing using the amnesty provision if you are a Dynasty Owner who still has one of these guys on your roster:

  • Ben Roethlisberger is currently the QB with the second highest salary in Dynasty Owner at $34 million and 35% ownership. Since Big Ben was hurt for all but two games in 2019 and will be 38 years old in March, his Dynasty Owners probably have another quality QB on the roster. If not, then pick up Cousins or wait and draft Joe Burrow, but whatever you decide to do, shedding Ben’s $34 million contract should be at the top of your off-season To Do list.
  • Nick Foles might be a $22 million backup in 2020 if he doesn’t beat out Gardner Minshew II for the QB job in Jacksonville. That’s way, way too much salary to spend on a potential backup who still has three more years left on his contract and probably isn’t getting released by the Jaguars in the off-season. Foles is rostered in only 6.5% of Dynasty Owner leagues and if you’re one of those Dynasty Owners, I’d use the amnesty provision on him and move on.

Release These #2 RBs Who Will Make More Than All but One RB in 2020

There are two highly paid RBs whose performance in 2019 ranked them as #2 RBs for their Dynasty Owner team. Both of them did not come near their salary ranking (second and third among RBs) and should be released by their Dynasty Owners. Both finished 14 spots worse in the Dynasty Owner season positional rankings compared to their salary ranking and are probably not getting released by their NFL teams anytime soon. Therefore, their Dynasty Owners will have to use the amnesty provision to unburden themselves of their high salaries.

  • Barring a huge salary being signed by Derrick Henry or another free agent RB, Todd Gurley will be the second highest paid RB in Dynasty Owner in 2020. His $14.375 million salary is on the books for three more years, taking up precious salary cap room for his Dynasty Owners. In terms of production, Gurley was ranked as the #16 RB in Dynasty Owner for the entire season, meaning he’s a #2 RB for his Dynasty Owner’s team. In 2019, he had just as many games with less than 10.0 Dynasty Owner fantasy points as more than 20.0 Dynasty Owner fantasy points (3 each). The good news is that he produced consistently all season, the bad news is that this production is what you expect from the #2 RB on your team, not the second highest paid RB. He is owned in almost all Dynasty Owner leagues (98%) and his Dynasty Owners should strongly consider releasing him with the amnesty provision. And don’t forget that he also has arthritis in his left knee!
  • Le’Veon Bell was right behind Gurley in terms of salary (third highest for 2020 at $13.125 million for two more years) and production (ranked as the #17 RB in Dynasty Owner in 2019). The Jets might try to trade him, but because his contract for 2020 is fully guaranteed, they are highly unlikely to release him and allow his Dynasty Owners to walk away from that contract. That’s why Dynasty Owners with Bell on their current roster need to use the amnesty provision on him. Similar to Gurley, Bell also had as many games with 20.0 or more Dynasty Owner fantasy point games as he did games with 10.0 or fewer Dynasty Owner fantasy points (two each). Like Gurley, that’s #2 RB production for your Dynasty Owner team and not worthy of the third highest RB salary that takes up almost 12% of your entire $110 million salary cap.

To Amnesty or Not to Amnesty, That is the Question

David Johnson of the Arizona Cardinals is another amnesty candidate because of his $13 million salary for 2020 (fourth highest among RBs) and poor performance at the end of the 2019 season. The Cardinals effectively turned the RB position over to Kenyan Drake after he was acquired mid-season from the Miami Dolphins, ending Johnson’s tenure as the team’s top running back. Even so, the Cardinals say they plan on keeping him for the 2020 season.

In the first six games of the 2019 season, Johnson was earning his place as ADP 54 and his Dynasty Owners were getting themselves an average of 20.2 Dynasty Owner fantasy points per game. After that, he managed to carry the ball only 18 times for 47 yards (2.6 yards per carry) and catch only 6 passes for 55 more yards and a TD – a total of just 19.7 Dynasty Owner fantasy points for the entire rest of the season.

The end of the year performance isn’t going to earn him his release by the Cardinals, even though Drake is a free agent. There are trade rumors about Johnson as well, which wouldn’t remove his contract from your Dynasty Owner team, but might help him better earn his $13 million salary and make him less of an amnesty candidate than if he stays with the Cardinals and they re-sign Drake. That’s why there is a question about whether or not to use the amnesty provision on Johnson.

I’ll Take Pass Catching RBs With One Year Left on Their Contracts for $5 Million, Alex

Answer: Dion Lewis and Duke Johnson

Question: Who are two primarily passing catching RBs Dynasty Owners might want to use their amnesty provision on?

First, we’ll talk about Duke Johnson who is owned in 95% of Dynasty Owner leagues and has a $5.2 million salary for 2020. Duke was the #30 RB in Dynasty Owner for 2020 and only produced six Dynasty Owner regular season games with more than 10.0 Dynasty Owner fantasy points. As the #30 overall RB, he slots as a fringe starter and bye week or injury replacement for his Dynasty Owners. That’s a lot for $5.2 million. It’s possible that he ends up as the top RB in Houston since both Carlos Hyde and Lamar Miller are free agents, but even if that’s the case, is he worth $5.2 million of your salary cap?

Second, we have Dion Lewis and his $4.95 million salary for 2020. Lewis is rostered in 63% of Dynasty Owner leagues, but produced only 65.3 Dynasty Owner fantasy points (4.1 per game) playing behind Derrick Henry, who is a free agent. It’s doubtful that the Titans will make him the lead back, but it’s also possible that they don’t release him and his big contract before Dynasty Owners can amnesty a player. If he’s still on the Titans roster and your Dynasty Owner roster, he’s a great amnesty candidate and you can use it wisely to save you nearly $5 million.

Lesser Owned Running Backs Who Deserve to be Released

There are also a couple of additional lesser owned RBs who also deserve to be sent packing using the amnesty provision if you are a Dynasty Owner who still has one of these guys on your roster:

  • Giovani Bernard is stuck behind Joe Mixon on the Bengals depth chart and was the #64 RB in Dynasty Owner in 2020. His Dynasty Owners could keep Bernard around and hope that he gets released during the off-season or keep him into the 2020 season if he stays in Cincinnati in case Mixon gets injured. However, his salary cap hit is $4.85 million and that’s a lot of money for a backup RB, never mind the Bengals backup RB. If Bernard survives the off-season without being released, the Dynasty Owners who have him in 30% of Dynasty Owner leagues need to shed his salary by using the amnesty provision.
  • In case you forgot, Jerick McKinnon is currently the seventh highest paid RB in Dynasty Owner at $7.5 million, just behind Saquon Barkley and just ahead of Leonard Fournette. He was surprisingly selected by Dynasty Owners in 11% of leagues in 2019 even though he didn’t play at all in 2018. With Raheem Mostert under contract until 2021 and looking like the top RB in San Francisco, McKinnon will likely be battling to be a backup, if he’s not released by the 49ers. If the 49ers hang on to McKinnon, then his Dynasty Owners should use their amnesty provision on him and find healthier, cheaper RBs for their squad.

Conclusions

There is no shortage of backs, both QBs and RBs, who are prime candidates for Dynasty Owner salary amnesty. Dynasty Owners with one of these players on their roster could save several millions of dollars in valuable salary cap room by smartly taking advantage of this provision for the 2020 season. Aaron Rodgers, Todd Gurley and Le’Veon Bell top my personal list of players who should be considered prime targets for the amnesty provision, but there are plenty of others out there as well who are owned in 50% or more of Dynasty Owner leagues and likely not being released by their NFL team.

Part 2 covering receivers (WRs and TEs) who are prime amnesty candidates is coming soon. And there’s more great Dynasty Owner specific content coming on a regular basis during the Dynasty Owner “off-season” between articles, podcasts and Twitter. Thanks for reading and go start getting ready for the 2020 Dynasty Owner season!

Steven Van Tassell is a freelance writer for Dynasty Owner.

Follow us on Twitter: @SteveVT33 and @Dynasty_Owner