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Hot Takes Cantina: Free Agency Edition

Welcome to JML’s Hot Takes Cantina, the premier destination for free agency analysis and a strange array of international cuisine.  Our menu features everything from basic logical conjecture to wild speculation to Bayless-esque trolling.  Our dishes come in varying levels of spice based on the following chart (and some are available at multiple spice levels):

No Spice (no chilis): a basic, conservative prediction that is more likely to happen than not

Mild (one chili): a less conservative prediction about as likely to happen as not

Spicy (two chilis): a somewhat bold prediction that is less likely to happen than not, but is still very plausible and would only be a little surprising

Super Caliente! (three chilis): a bold prediction that is significantly less likely to happen than not and would be surprising to see occur

Bayless (five chilis that have been left to rot and ferment behind a garbage can): a baseless prediction with little to no redeeming value that functions mainly as clickbait, or in some cases just a joke about some ridiculous opinion held by Skip Bayless

Due to the sheer volume of players moving around this list is by no means exhaustive and covers only who I felt were *some* of the most relevant signings.  Our menu at HTC (Hot Takes Cantina) is divided by position, and begins with the quarterbacks.



Romo Ranchero Tacos

The fate of Tony Romo could well determine the short-term fate of two contender-quality franchises (the Broncos and the Texans), and thus offers ample opportunity to serve up the spice.  Here at HTC our Romo Ranchero Tacos come in Mild, Super Caliente!, and Bayless.


Prediction: John Elway opts to keep Romo out of the hands of Houston and pays whatever it is that Jerry Jones is asking, and Romo becomes the quarterback of the Denver Broncos.  He successfully transitions into the offense and becomes a quality starting QB.

Fantasy Implications: Romo becomes a low end QB1 with upside, and Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders both experience an increase in value due to the upgrade in QB play.

Super Caliente

Prediction: Their game of chicken ultimately pays off when the Texans sign Romo after he is released by the Cowboys.  Romo clicks with the offense and guides a team already loaded with talent to their first Super Bowl.

Fantasy Implications: Romo becomes a mid-range QB1, DeAndre Hopkins sees an extreme increase in value due to the upgrade in QB play, Will Fuller sees an increase in value for the same reason, and Lamar Miller sees somewhat of an increase in value as well due to a greater volume of red zone opportunities.


Prediction: In a surprise twist, Jerry Jones extends Romo’s contract and gives him back the starting spot over Dak.  Romo rediscovers his chemistry with Dez Bryant and breaks every passing record on the way to leading the Cowboys to three straight Super Bowls.

Fantasy Implications: Romo becomes the undisputed fantasy QB1, and retains that title until the NFL ultimately folds due to government pressure in 2047.


Kirk Kabobs

It is good to be Kirk Cousins.  The young QB holds all the cards when it comes to contract negotiation, and he has made it clear that he wants either a long term deal or a trade.  His fate is impossible to guess, which makes it all the more fun to speculate about.  Our speculation comes in three flavors- No Spice, Spicy, and Super Caliente!

No Spice

Prediction: The long and drawn out contract battle ends anti-climatically when the Redskins predictably back up the money truck to pay their franchise QB.  Cousins stays with the Skins but never becomes much more than he is now, thus justifying their hesitation in paying him.

Fantasy Implications: Cousins remains a low-end QB1 with upside, and the value of his surrounding offensive weapons on the Redskins remain roughly the same.


Prediction: The hopes of Redskins management are realized when their expensive long-term contract with Cousins is rewarded with significant development from the young quarterback.  His chemistry grows with Jamison Crowder, Josh Doctson, and new acquisition Terrelle Pryor, and the Washington offense becomes one of the most feared in the league for a period of years.

Fantasy Implications: Cousins becomes a mid-range QB1 with upside and the value of his surrounding offensive weapons on the Redskins goes up marginally.

Super Caliente

Prediction: Cousins’ request for a trade is eventually granted and he ends up on the 49ers, and the 49ers also spontaneously rebuild their WR corps through a combination of drafting and trades.  Cousins leads the revamped offense in a football renaissance in San Francisco and turns the 49ers into a team to be reckoned with.

Fantasy Implications: Cousins becomes an elite QB1 and makes anyone who happens to be around him more valuable, a la Drew Brees or Aaron Rodgers.


Steamed Brock Lobster

Our Brock (Osweiler) Lobster, while a highly anticipated dish before it was introduced last year, turned out to be so disgusting that it is now served only with uncut Bayless Sauce as a sort of dare for the adventurous.


Prediction: Brock seizes the Browns’ starting job in camp and is the quarterback to finally lead them to the promised land after all of these years.

Fantasy Implications: Brock becomes a QB1 and Corey Coleman becomes a WR1.


Wide Receivers

Marshall Mackerell

Still punishing NFL DBs at the ripe age of thirty-two, Brandon Marshall has likely become even more of a problem to cover with his recent trade to the Giants.  Odell Beckham, Jr. will demand attention from defenses, but leaving Marshall in one-on-one coverage has been a recipe for disaster for close to a decade now.  Our Marshall Mackerel can be served either No Spice or Super Caliente! style.

No Spice

Prediction: Marshall is used largely to draw coverage away from Odell Beckham and for end zone jump balls, and acts as the complementary piece that he was acquired to be.

Fantasy Implications: Marshall’s value increases slightly from last year due to an upgrade in quarterback play, Odell Beckham’s value remains roughly the same, and Sterling Shepard’s value plummets in the short term but remains largely the same in the long term.

Super Caliente

Prediction: The coverage drawn by Odell Beckham allows Marshall to blossom back into an elite WR1 and he and OBJ develop a 1A/1B dynamic.

Fantasy Implications: Marshall’s value hugely increases in the short term but stays similar in the long term due to age, OBJ’s value decreases somewhat in the short term but stays the same long term due to Marshall’s imminent retirement, Eli Manning’s value goes up significantly in the short term, and Sterling Shepard’s value goes down in the short term but stays the same in the long term.


Chicken Fried Pryor

Reformed quarterback and athletic wunderkind Terrelle Pryor brings a lot to the table.  His hearty 6’4” frame and otherworldly height-adjusted speed score will leave you drooling, and his recent pairing with young gunslinger Kirk Cousins creates a dish just begging for spice.  Our Chicken Fried Pryor comes in Spicy and Super Caliente!


Prediction: Pryor continues to show flashes of athleticism but takes a backseat to Doctson and Crowder in Washington and turns out to be a flash in the pan.

Fantasy Implications: Pryor’s value gradually slopes to nothing, while the value of all surrounding pieces in Washington remain roughly the same.

Super Caliente

Prediction: Pryor immediately connects and has major chemistry with Cousins, and within the first month of the season becomes his unquestioned WR1 and a week-in-week-out fantasy WR1 as well.  The two of them re-sign to long term deals and become an elite pairing in both fantasy and real football.

Fantasy Implications: There is a sharp uptick in value for Pryor as he joins the upper echelon of fantasy wide receivers.  There is a similar increase in value for his quarterback Kirk Cousins and a serious decrease in value for Josh Doctson, his likely competition for the WR1 spot in 2017.


Alshon a L’orange

When healthy and on the field, Alshon Jeffery is exactly the weapon that Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz ordered.  Barring any further issues concerning Jeffery’s availability, they have the potential to provide a juicy fantasy connection- a connection we serve either Mild or Spicy.


Prediction: When on the field Jeffery looks like the low-end WR1 that he is, but he ends up finishing as a WR2 due to time missed for one reason or another.

Fantasy Implications: Jeffery’s value goes down due to increased age and time lapsed since his last top-10 season, Carson Wentz’ value goes slightly up due to an added offensive weapon, and Jordan Matthews’ value goes up due to the coverage Jeffery will likely draw when present.


Prediction: Jeffery returns to the form he had at his peak with the Bears, develops chemistry with Wentz, and reestablishes himself as one of the most lethal endzone threats in football.

Fantasy Implications: Jeffery’s value goes up significantly, Carson Wentz’ value goes up significantly as well, and Jordan Matthews’ value goes up somewhat due to being able to function as a true WR2.


Brandin’s Braised Short Ribs

Young receiver Brandin Cooks was just traded away from a team that boasts one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time… to a team that boasts one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time.  His move appears significant, but the exact impact is hard to guess without knowing how Belichick plans to use him.  Our guesses come in Mild and Bayless varieties.


Prediction: Cooks fills a role in New England similar to that he had in New Orleans, operating as an elite deep threat that takes the top off of defenses and can explode for a big play at any time.  Not much about his numbers or his style of play really changes, and there are still questions to be answered when his aging HoF QB decides to hang up the cleats.

Fantasy Implications: Cooks’ value remains roughly the same, Tom Brady’s value increases somewhat due to the addition of an elite offensive weapon, and Chris Hogan’s value decreases to almost nothing due to the likely loss of much of his target share to Cooks.


Prediction: The mere presence of Tom Brady in the locker room enhances Cooks’ abilities to near-superhuman levels, and the pair lay waste to NFL defenses until Tom’s arm falls off.

Fantasy Implications: Cooks becomes the new overall WR1.


Running Backs

Woodhead Woodplank Salmon

Thirty-two year old running back Danny Woodhead recently joined the Ravens, leaving fantasy repercussions in San Diego in his wake and bringing complications to his new home in Baltimore.  Our thoughts on how his stay will pan out come in No Spice and Spicy varieties.

No Spice

Prediction: The Ravens use Woodhead extremely sparingly as a passing downs back and he only plays one more season before opting to retire.  Meanwhile, Melvin Gordon retains his hold on the lead back role without threat of touches being usurped by Woodhead.

Fantasy Implications: Woodhead remains close to irrelevant in terms of fantasy value, Kenneth Dixon’s value decreases in the short term, and Melvin Gordon’s value goes up slightly due to the lack of a former perceived threat.

Super Caliente

Prediction: Woodhead takes over the lead RB role in Baltimore and has his contract renewed for a year at the end of the season, and the Chargers sign a new passing-downs RB and implement a committee approach.

Fantasy Implications: Woodhead gains significant short term value while Kenneth Dixon and Melvin Gordon both lose significant short- and long-term value.


Tight Ends

Black Unicorn Fillet

The Packers don’t really lack for weapons.  That’s why when they signed tight end Martellus Bennett, NFL coordinators sat up and took notice.  With defenses distracted by a litany of other offensive threats that make double coverage unfeasible, a Rodgers-Bennett connection could prove close to uncoverable.  Our Prime Black Unicorn Fillet can be served either Mild or Super Caliente!


Prediction: Bennett becomes a popular red zone and short-yardage weapon for Aaron Rodgers and puts up consistent numbers as the Packers top passing threat at the TE position.

Fantasy Implications: Bennett becomes a startable top-8 TE with upside and the value of the surrounding offensive pieces in Green Bay remains roughly the same, although DaVante Adams loses some value as a red zone threat.

Super Caliente

Prediction: Aaron Rodgers immediately develops chemistry with Bennett and the tight end quickly becomes his favorite target and safety blanket, especially in the red zone.  This connection leads Bennett to pace the league in tight end production in 2017.

Fantasy Implications: Bennett experiences a huge increase in value as he becomes the de facto TE1 (1A/1B with healthy Gronk), while the wide receivers of the Packers all experience a relatively significant decrease in value, particularly DaVante Adams.


Offensive Linemen

Reiff & Remmers Roast

In an attempt to upgrade an offensive line that was one of the worst in the league last year, the Minnesota Vikings went out and signed offensive tackles Mike Remmers and Riley Reiff.  In one fell swoop they shored up both sides of their line, and the fantasy implications are sure to be felt throughout the team.  Our predictions on how impactful these signings will be are served both Mild and Super Caliente!


Prediction: Reif and Remmers both prove to be solid RTs and rotational LTs but neither excel as a true LT, so while the Vikings offensive line improves they are still little better than average.

Fantasy Implications: All Vikings offensive players experience a small increase in value, with a somewhat larger increase for Jerrick McKinnon and Sam Bradford/Teddy Bridgewater.

Super Caliente

Prediction: Remmers regains the form that had him competing for the Panthers left tackle job and Reiff continues to grow and improve as a player, and the Vikings line goes from one of the worst to one of the best in the NFL in a single year, turning the Vikings offense into a powerhouse as a result.

Fantasy Implications: The new and improved offensive line allows athletic freak Jerrick McKinnon to use his gifts and he bursts onto the scene out of nowhere to put up a top-5 RB season.  Bradford/Bridgewater and his receivers, particularly Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, also see a fairly significant value increase with the improvement of the offense.


Okung-pao Chicken

The Chargers are loaded with offensive weapons at the skill positions, but their offensive line last year struggled.  Though he set the Chargers back a pretty penny, Russell Okung should be able to help with that problem if he can stay on the field.  Okung-pao Chicken comes in Mild and Spicy flavors.


Prediction: Okung improves the offensive line as a whole, but only marginally.  There are issues at more than one spot along the line, so while there are a few additional holes left open for Gordon it isn’t a world of difference.

Fantasy Implications: The value of Melvin Gordon goes up slightly.


Prediction: Okung proves to be exactly what the Chargers offensive line needed.  He stays healthy all year and his strong play allows Gordon to improve on his numbers from 2016 and helps make the Chargers a more complete offensive unit.

Fantasy Implications:  The value of Melvin Gordon goes up significantly.


Whitworth Salad

The Rams offense last year was an ongoing exercise in futility.  One of the most explosive natural runners in the NFL averaged 3.2 YPA behind a line that at times seemed willfully determined not to block.  While a bit long in the tooth at thirty-five, Andrew Whitworth represents a significant upgrade to last year’s LT.  Opinions on the matter can be served with No Spice or Spicy.

No Spice

Prediction: The addition of an All-Pro like Whitworth can’t help but improve the situation, but it’s like putting a band-aid on a cannonball wound.  The offense improves slightly but Whitworth isn’t enough to remedy a whole host of problems and he is gone within two years.

Fantasy Implications: The value of Todd Gurley goes up slightly as Whitworth improves his blocking, and owners of Jared Goff in 2QB or Superflex leagues need fear somewhat less for his safety, at least until Whitworth retires.


Prediction: Whitworth represents the first of several moves by the Rams to improve the offensive line, and by the start of next season they are able to produce a punishing run game lead by Whitworth and Gurley.

Fantasy Implications: The value of Gurley goes up significantly as the anemic run game of the Rams improves around him.

About the author

Jan Michael Larkin

By law, can only be in one quadrant at once.

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