contract

As a dynasty owner, one must think beyond the upcoming season and more about the future of their franchise. One important area of focus for every dynasty owner should be players who are entering a “contract year”. The possibility of free agency not only impacts the player themselves, but their former and future team’s depth chart and the players that currently make that up.

NFL Players who are entering a contract year have that extra incentive to showcase their ability to play in the NFL and therefore should be strongly considered by dynasty owners when making final roster decisions during the offseason.

This four part series continues with 5 wide receivers who are entering a contract year and therefore should be under your watchful eye(s).

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Alshon Jeffery (Chicago Bears): The Chicago Bears and Alshon Jeffery were unable to negotiate a contract this Spring so he was given the franchise tag in an effort to buy time for the two sides to hopefully come to an agreement on a contract that would keep him in a Bears uniform for the coming years. Alshon was extremely successful during his 2nd (89/1421/7) and 3rd year (85/1133/10) in the NFL and was off to a running start last year before ending the season on Injured Reserve due to a hamstring injury.

Potential team for 2017: Even though Jeffery barely played in half of the Bears games last year, he finished the season with 54 receptions and leading the team as a receiver which says something about his worth to the team. They would be foolish to let him walk next year but it is likely that Jeffery finishes the year under the franchise tag as the team has legitimate concerns about his ability to stay healthy after missing significant time last year and it’s not like the team hasn’t let players walk in the past.

If the Bears should fail to retain Jeffery after the 2016 season, there will likely be several teams licking their chops to take a shot at landing him on their squad. I don’t know that the New England Patriots have ever had that big guy like Jeffery during the Tom Brady era other than Randy Moss who had a phenomenal 3 year run in New England before falling into Bill Belichick’s doghouse during his 4th and last year with the Patriots.

I am sure the Pats would love to have Jeffery join their team although they are not known for paying a player much in guaranteed money or big contracts in general which I am sure Alshon will be after if he has a healthy and successful season.

Other teams that may be in the market are the New York Jets (with Alshon’s former teammate Brandon Marshall turning 33 next spring), New Orleans Saints (Jeffery would be a great compliment to Brandin Cooks) or Baltimore Ravens (with Steve Smith likely playing his last season in the NFL).

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Larry Fitzgerald (Arizona Cardinals): Fitzgerald’s situation is a bit tricky since he is under contract through 2018 but the last two years of the contract he signed last year are voidable five days after the Superbowl this year meaning it is basically a two year contract which freed up some money for the Cardinals.

I can only hope that he plays through his contract as I was forced to sign him to a 3 yr contract in a salary cap league that was very shallow at the WR position leaving many owners scrambling to get Larry’s contract but I took the bait and went all in with a three year contract fully knowing that chances are he will not fulfill that contract as the Cardinals are loaded with young talent at the position, one of who will be discussed next as a 2016 “contract year” player.

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Potential team for 2017: There are many who believe that this could very well be the last year of fantasy relevance for Larry Fitzgerald even though he finished last year as a top ten WR in PPR leagues last year. I believe that Larry has 2 – 3 yrs of solid fantasy production left in him but a lot of that determines on his QB situation which is not exactly secure today with Carson Palmer turning 37 just before the end of the year and not much of a backup plan by the Cardinals when his career is over.

If Fitzgerald is not a Cardinal in 2017, then I just cannot picture him going to another team other than maybe a contender such as the New England Patriots if they are willing to give him an “incentive heavy” contract which could reward him heavily if he meets his milestones for the year.  The Patriots were, after all, rumored to be contemplating making a move for Fitzgerald in a trade just two years ago so anything can happen and how fun would it be to see Brady throwing to Fitzgerald?  Well not much if they are playing your favorite team I guess but it still would be entertaining at the very least.

Fitz is just a tough sell today so if you own him, you are likely to ride into the sunset with him or basically give him away for less than his worth on paper. Myself……..I fully intend on riding off into the sunset with him and hopefully hoisting a Championship trophy as I do so!!!

GLENDALE, AZ - AUGUST 30: Michael Floyd #15 of the Arizona Cardinals celebrates a touchdown against the Denver Broncos at University of Phoenix Stadium on August 30, 2012 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)

Michael Floyd (Arizona Cardinals): And now for the other Cardinal who is at the other end of the spectrum as he is young and still attempting to prove his worth as a starting NFL WR. Michael Floyd made great strides in doing just that in the 2015 NFL season as he showed the ability to run routes and catch the ball while posting 52 receptions for just under 850 yards and 6 TD’s in limited action last year finishing the season strong with rushing for 100+ yards in 3 of his last 5 games.

However, when he was asked to be relied on as the starting WR in 2014, he tended to struggle a bit as he did show consistency so still has something to prove if he wants to be relied on as a starter in the NFL.

Potential team for 2017: The Cardinals are loaded with young talent who have potential at WR with guys like Jaron Brown, John Brown, JJ Nelson and Floyd whom are all learning the ropes of being a receiver in the NFL from none other than the aforementioned Larry Fitzgerald who is a class act and a prototype NFL wide receiver who has had much success in the NFL.

With that being said, the Cardinals will do whatever they can to keep Fitzgerald in a uniform with a red bird on his helmet as he has been a Cardinal his entire career and has been a great mentor to not only the younger receivers on the team but the team in general. This could mean that the Cardinals will move on from Floyd unless he has a solid season as he is going to have to earn that next contract which likely will require more production and more consistency.

If the Cardinals decide to part ways with Floyd then he will likely have many opportunities to choose from such as the Browns, 49ers, Ravens, Rams, Jets and Cowboys.

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Doug Baldwin (Seattle Seahawks): I have liked Baldwin as an NFL receiver for a few years now and he has finally been given the opportunity to show his worth! This guy is a baller who refuses to lose and just finished his breakout season in time to enter his contract year after eclipsing the 1000 yard mark for the first time in his career along with 78 receptions (a remarkable 75% of his 103 targets) and 14 TD’s.

I am not one to normally go after a smaller receiver but guys like Baldwin and Antonio Brown are the exceptions. No, I am not saying that Doug is the next Antonio but I am saying that he is a starting option not only in the NFL but fantasy football as well.

Baldwin’s biggest obstacle is that the Seahawks offense has been one that has relied on the run but with it highly unlikely that Marshawn Lynch returns, that could change in a hurry!

Potential team for 2017: Many dynasty owners are expecting another “small guy” from Seattle to have a good year with Tyler Lockett entering his second year in the NFL and Jermaine Kearse showed some potential last year as a possible WR 2/3 this year but other than that the ‘hawks are relying on guys like Paul Richardson (who is coming off a hamstring injury that kept him from playing last year) to step into that WR1 role. I don’t believe that Baldwin fits that WR1 role but he is definitely a guy that the ‘hawks cannot afford to lose on offense especially after losing Lynch and no longer having that proven, consistent running game that they have had for years with Beast Mode and his relentless running. It would be unfair to ask another back to provide that consistent running style as Lynch provided each and every game without missing much time at all.

The Seahawks really need to get Baldwin signed sooner than later so they can concentrate on other areas of the team but if they don’t, then Baldwin would add a different element to almost any other NFL teams’ passing game. Teams like the 49ers, Falcons, Texans and Ravens are just a few who may be interested in Baldwin next year if he happens to hit the market.

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Marcus Wheaton (Pittsburgh Steelers): The perfect storm has approached the steel city for Marcus Wheaton as he enters the last year of his contract with Martavis Bryant being suspended removing any excuses for Wheaton as he needs to lay it all out on the table this year to prove he can be the receiver the Steelers thought he could be when they drafted him in the middle of the third round of the 2013 NFL Draft after showing flashes of brilliance but periods of inconsistency since they selected him

Personally, I am torn as to whether I should try to get him on the cheap this off-season in hopes that he turns the corner but am not sure he is worth a spot on my roster. I just haven’t made up my mind on this one and I may have waited too long anyway as he finished last year fairly strong after failing to take advantage of Bryant’s suspension to start the season.

Potential team for 2017: Wheaton’s future is truly in his own hands. If he drops the ball as he has pretty much done to date with the chances he has had with the Steelers, then he will likely be looking for a new team next year. If he shows that he can be consistent and dependable as a WR2, then the Steelers are likely to keep him around since Bryant, as of today, is not eligible for reinstatement until next year and will need some time to re-acclimate himself to the NFL as well as his team.

If the Steelers do not choose to keep Wheaton on their roster then I can see him getting another opportunity with teams such as the Cleveland Browns, San Francisco 49ers or even the New England Patriots.

In Summary: These are just a few of the many NFL wide receivers who will be attempting to prove that they are worth a healthy contract next year and there are several others in the same situation. Aside from the Odell Beckham’s and Amari Cooper’s, receivers typically take a couple years to transition from College to the Pro’s so this could be the year for any one of these receivers who are entering a contract year. Either way, in most every case it is a make or break year that should motivate these guys to put their best foot forward and take that next step in their NFL career. It is in a dynasty owners best interest to do their homework on contract year players and determine if you believe you may have found that next fantasy stud who either steps up his game and /or continues to produce on his current team or finds success on another team so take note and be proactive instead of reactive before these players’ contracts expire. Some of the other wide receivers who are entering a contract year and worth noting are DeSean Jackson, Kenny Stills, Kendall Wright and Robert Woods.