Players acquired by new teams:
Connor Barwin (DE/OLB, signed by LAR from Phi) – The veteran pass rusher moves to the West Coast to play for Wade Phillips on a one-year contract, per ESPN’s Adam Caplan.
Fantasy Analysis: The good news: Barwin will get to play for Phillips, who culled a ton of production out of several different defenders in Denver. The bad news: Barwin will likely switch to an LB designation. Barwin is coming from a 4-3 defense as a DE, but Phillips is expected to install his 3-4 defense in Los Angeles, which would make Barwin’s best fit as an OLB. Even DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller struggled to be dominant fantasy factors as OLBs. Barwin only had 34 tackles and 5 sacks last season. His 2.5 FPG were low by DL standards, but when translated to LB, they’re abysmal. There’s a good chance Phillips will get more out of Barwin than the Eagles did last year, but it’s not likely to be enough to roster him as an LB, even in deep leagues.
Jabaal Sheard (DE/OLB, signed by Ind from NE) – Sheard signed a three-year deal worth up to $25.5 million, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. He’ll bring help off the edge to a defense that struggled to create pressure last season.
Fantasy Analysis: Sheard had a promising 2015 in New England, but an inconsistent and frustrating 2016 season sent him into free agency with some question marks. A closer look at the numbers shows the biggest statistical difference in his 2015 and 2016 lies in his 4 extra forced fumbles and a few extra sacks in 2015. After underperforming early in the 2016 season, Sheard was moved down the rotational depth chart (including being benched a few times). New England rotates their EDGE players just as frustratingly as they do their RBs, but a straight benching is an indication that Sheard may not have given his all last season. He’ll get a clean slate in Indy, but even if he can re-create his sold 2015 season, he is likely to do it from the LB designation. Indianapolis has been a 3-4 defense for several years, so unless something changes this offseason, Sheard will be collecting his 35-45 tackles and 5-8 sacks as an OLB. That would severely hamper his IDP value.
Calais Campbell (DE, signed by Jac from Ari) – The 9-year veteran leaves the only NFL team he’s ever played for to boost the right side of a young but improving Jacksonville D-Line.
Fantasy Analysis: At first glance, it may seem like Campbell is a redundant piece, as the Jags dropped a lot of money on DT Malik Jackson in 2016, and last season Campbell often lined up where Jackson does. But Campbell will move into the slot previously occupied by Jared Odrick, forming a more balanced attack with Jackson, Yannick Ngakoue, and Dante Fowler, Jr. Campbell had a slightly disappointing fantasy season for those who counted on him for DL1 production, but it wasn’t for his lack of solid play. Campbell still finished just inside the top-12, but lost fantasy production to Chandler Jones (Campbell’s replacement in Arizona). Still, the veteran managed a solid 53 tackles and 8 sacks on the season. The move to Jacksonville should keep him in the DL1 conversation for the next few years.
Terrell McClain (DT, signed by Was from Dal) – McClain was ineffective with a boatload of opportunity last season in Dallas, and now moves to the Nation’s Capital, with not much chance to improve his production.
Fantasy Analysis: If you’re in a DT-required league, McClain was a DT3 last season. The troubling part about that is that the Dallas D-Line was so thin that McClain had every opportunity to be productive, but still managed just 21 solos and 2.5 sacks. McClain continues his journeyman career as he joins his fourth team in seven seasons. He’s yet to crack 2.5 FPG in his career.
Earl Mitchell (DT, signed by SF from Mia) – Mitchell signed a four-year deal with the 49ers after being released by the Dolphins.
Fantasy Analysis: There’s about zero fantasy impact here. Mitchell is an early-down, undersized run stuffer who hasn’t had a sack since 2014, and has only 5.5 of them in his entire career. He’s also never made more than 30 solo tackles in a season. He’s a rotational DT with just about zero IDP value.
Players re-signed by their 2016 teams:
Chandler Jones (EDGE, Ari) – The Cardinas have signed Jones to a monster five-year, $83 million extension, according to CBS' Jason LaCanfora. Prior to the extension, they had placed the franchise tag on Jones.
Fantasy Analysis: No surprise here. The 2016 season was a massive disappointment overall for the Cardinals, but they got what they traded for out of Jones, who contributed 11 sacks while playing all 16 games. Jones doesn’t turn 27 until late February, so he has plenty of good football left in him. Jones was right in the wheelhouse for being franchised given his age, impact, and the fact that the Cardinals’ window is close to slamming shut. Fortunately for both sides, they worked out a massive five-year deal before the relationship got contenious.
Brandon Williams (DT, Bal) – The Ravens bring back the stud NT on a five-year, $54 Million contract, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Fantasy Analysis: Williams is a gap-eater on the field, and a crucial piece to the vaunted Ravens run defense. For fantasy, only part of his skill set translates to production, though as Williams is a rock-solid DT2, but not much else. He’s been living in the 2.5-3.5 FPG range over the last three years, so it’s reasonable to expect more of the same going forward.
Andre Branch (DE, Mia) – Branch is one of the younger pieces of the Miami D-Line, and cashes in with a three-year $27 Million deal, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.
Fantasy Analysis: Branch started 2016 as a backup to veteran Mario Williams, but soon earned more playing time in a four-man rotation around Ndamukong Suh. He flashed as a pass rusher, with 5.5 sacks, but failed to put together a productive season for fantasy. Williams and Cameron Wake are both nearing the ends of their careers, so if Branch can improve on his 2016 season, he could earn a full-time role going forward. Still, it would take a pretty big leap for Branch to be in the DL2 conversation, particularly with the recent addition of DE William Hayes as another mouth to feed.
Alan Branch (DT, NE) – According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, Branch will be staying with the Patriots for the next two years, anchoring the run defense.
Fantasy Analysis: Branch finished the 2016 season as a top-20 DT, posting 63 tackles as one of the league’s best interior run-defenders. He should continue in his run-stuffing role for 2017, making him a solid DT2 pick.
Nick Fairley (DT, NO) – Fairley is set to stick around the Big Easy for four more years.
Fantasy Analysis: Fairley must love the food in New Orleans. He had his best season there, with 43 tackles (29 solo) and 6.5 sacks. His 3 FPG made him a solid DT2, and he thrived in the middle of the Saints D-Line while offenses focused on avoiding Cameron Jordan. That combination should do Fairley well going forward.
Jason Pierre-Paul (DE, NYG) – According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the Giants signed Pierre-Paul to a four-year, $62 Million deal.
Fantasy Analysis: JPP is staying in New York, and should be staying on your fantasy teams. There was major concern that the hand injury he suffered a few years back was going to deplete his fantasy value. After all, he was the #2 DL before the hand injury. Then the signing of Olivier Vernon to play opposite him caused concern for how much production would be left for Pierre-Paul. Now with a full season post-injury under his belt, we look up to find that he’s again the #2 DL, with 6 FPG in 2016. His hernia injury shortened his season, but in 12 games Pierre-Paul had 53 tackles, 7 sacks, 8 PD, and 3 forced fumbles. This new deal will keep the 28-year-old in position to remain a DL1 going forward.
Kawann Short (DT, Car) – The Panthers announced they have placed the franchise tag on Short.
Fantasy Analysis: Like the rest of the Panthers, Short’s production took a hit in 2016, as he fell from 11 sacks to 6, but he still made 55 combined tackles and was a rock-solid DT IDP. Regarded as one of the best interior defensive lineman in the NFL, Short will probably be looking for a contract in the $100 million range given the one Fletcher Cox signed last year, even though he’s been tagged. However, as we saw last year with Josh Norman, being tagged doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll be in a Panther uniform next year (though it’d be a huge upset if he weren’t).
Jason Pierre-Paul (DE, NYG) – The Giants have placed the franchise tag on JPP.
Fantasy Analysis: JPP had “just” 7 sacks in 2016 (in 12 games, before sports hernia surgery), but he showed a consistently high motor, and proved that his tragic hand injury wasn’t going to limit him severely. Coming off a mostly productive year in which he proved that he can fight through adversity in a huge way, the Giants chose they just couldn’t let JPP hit the open market. JPP is a three-down player who defends the run as well – if not better – than he rushes the passer, so he will be a hot commodity. He’s an excellent IDP DL. JPP apparently is not close to a long-term deal with the Giants, but unless the Giants relinquish control, they hold exclusive rights to him now.