Once again, we’re going to take a look at the contractual issues of many players for keeper and dynasty league purposes:
Bengals: Joe Mixon is signed through 2024, but there is no guaranteed money left in his deal after this season.
He’s still expected to be back as the starter next year, but it’s worth noting that the team can get out of his contract without owing him money in the future.
Broncos: Veteran RB Melvin Gordon’s 2-year deal expires after this season concludes. They included a lot of guaranteed money this season ($4.5m), which is why he’s still on the roster.
Buccaneers: Leonard Fournette, Ronald Jones, and Giovani Bernard are on expiring deals, which is good news if you have Ke’Shawn Vaughn on your fantasy roster.
Cardinals: Chase Edmonds is on the final year of his rookie deal and veteran James Conner is on a 1-year deal.
Cowboys: Ezekiel Elliott’s $12.4M base salary for 2022 became fully guaranteed earlier this year (March), so he’ll be back for sure next season.
However, there’s no guaranteed money left in his deal after next season. And it just so happens that Tony Pollard’s rookie deal ends after 2022.
Falcons: Veteran RB Mike Davis signed a 2-year deal, but there’s no guaranteed money in year two, so they could be looking for a new starter next year.
Giants: Saquon Barkley is signed through 2022 after the team picked up his 5th-year option earlier this year.
Lions: Only $1m of veteran RB Jamal Williams’s $3.75m 2022 base salary is fully guaranteed. So, he’s not a lock to be around next season.
Raiders: If his first four games are any indication, the contract that Kenyan Drake received from the team might be one of the worst ones a team has ever done for this position.
He signed a 2-year deal, but the team put in fully guaranteed money in year two ($5.5m fully gtd roster bonus). Drake’s $2.5m base salary for 2022 becomes fully guaranteed on the 3rd day of free agency, so a decision on whether they bring him back will be made before then.
The bottom line is Drake has no clear role and the team might just have to admit its mistake and eat the $5.5m if he doesn’t become a bigger factor going forward.
Rams: Sony Michel is on the final year of his rookie deal as the Patriots declined his 5th-year option well before the trade. But let’s keep in mind the Rams gave up 2 draft picks for him, so it’s hard to imagine they won’t try to re-sign him before free agency starts in March.
Seahawks: Chris Carson signed a 3-year deal, but there’s no guaranteed money next year and the 3rd year will void. So, he may not actually be back next year if he continues to miss time due to injury.
The team declined to exercise Rashaad Penny’s 5th-year option, so he’s set to become a free agent next year.
Texans: This team clearly does not know who the future is at RB: Rex Burkhead, David Johnson, Mark Ingram, and Phillip Lindsay are on 1-year deals.
Vikings: Dalvin Cook is signed through 2025, but the team smartly tied up a majority of his fully guaranteed money into a signing bonus. There is no fully guaranteed money left in his contract starting next season.
His $8.3m base salary does become fully guaranteed in March (5th day of free agency). I’m sure Cook will be back next season, but the Vikings clearly have the leverage here based on contract structure.
Under-the-Radar Free Agent Pickups
Chargers Defense: They’re without two starters for a few more weeks (ILB Kenneth Murray, DT Justin Jones--both on short-term IR), but the Chargers defense has faced 3 really good offenses the past 3 games (vs DAL, at KC, vs. LVR) and continues to improve (5 TOs past 2 games).
If your scoring gives credit for points and yardage against, this team might be a wise pickup for you (look at their final two games especially for the playoff run--at HOU, vs. DEN).
Zack Moss/RB/Bills: He finally is healthy and from talking to the team, they clearly want to be able to have a sustaining running game when they go to it.
We know they’re a passing offense--that’s not ever going to change. They just want to be more successful when running and Moss has now earned at least a share of the carries with 3rd-year RB Devin Singletary.
Moss is likely available in some smaller leagues and will post good TD numbers because of his role.
Jeremy McNichols/RB/Titans: From talking to the team, he’s their hurry-up, 2 and 4-minute back and is a good pass projector, which might help explain why he had a whopping 12 targets last week.
McNichols was long viewed as just a change up RB because of his speed, but he has now proved to be more than that. He’s worth a shot for depth in PPR leagues because of his role.
Khalil Herbert/RB/Bears: He’ll back up veteran RB Damien Williams for at least the next 4 weeks.
Herbert, when I got a chance to see him in person in training camp, looked explosive, so he may carve out a role behind Williams going forward as a change up. I added him in two leagues and will monitor his role.
Kadarius Toney/WR/Giants: After having no role to start the season, Toney started to emerge last week with WRs Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton both out with hamstring injuries and they’re out again this week. Toney wound up starting last week and played a lot of snaps (78%) and led the team in targets (9).
I know from talking to some WR coaches before the draft that Toney needed to develop his route running, but they all really liked his skill set because he had explosiveness and versatility. Toney’s role might drop a bit once Shepard and Slayton return, but he has nice value as your #3 WR/flex option in the short-term.