Players acquired by new teams:
Martellus Bennett (GB from NE) – The Packers and Bennett agreed to a three-year, $20.25 million contract, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.
Fantasy Analysis: The Packers are notoriously stingy in free agency, but they made a rare exception to open up the purse strings to ink Bennett. He went to New England last season expecting to be the #2 TE behind Rob Gronkowski, but he became the #1 when Gronk (back) went down for the season in Week 12. No matter if Gronk was in or out of the lineup, Bennett was a highly volatile fantasy asset for most of the season. He scored 15+ FP five times, but he scored under 6 FP a whopping seven times, which is a tough pill to swallow for a player that was frequently used as a low-end TE1. He did score 3 of his 7 TDs in his final four games of the regular season, but he also finished under 40 yards three times in that span. Bennett did battle a major ankle issue for much of the season, and NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported before the AFC Championship that Bennett is likely to undergo off-season ankle surgery to repair a cracked bone and to clean up bone chips. He finished the year with 55/701/7 receiving on 73 targets (75.3% catch rate, 12.7 YPC) in 16 games. Bennett averaged 10.5 FPG, ranking 15th at the position behind Dennis Pitta. He played 78% of the snaps, saw 13.5% target share, and had 7.15% of the team’s touches. Bennett averaged an impressive 2.30 fantasy points per target – the league average for the position was 1.75. Marty B gutted it out through his ankle injury last season, and he should move much better next season if he can get back to full health, and he did look healthier in the Super Bowl with two weeks to rest. Bennett is obviously stepping into a great situation playing with Aaron Rodgers, filling the void that Jared Cook left behind. Bennett, who just turned 30, doesn’t have quite the speed that Cook has down the seams, but Marty B is the better overall receiver and blocker. He’ll also be a major factor down by the end zone at 6’6”, 275 pounds, and Rodgers has never been shy about looking for TEs in the red zone. Bennett’s floor will probably be as a low-end TE1 with the potential for much more playing with the NFL’s best QB. You’re going to have to pay up to get him in the middle rounds of fantasy drafts next summer, but the upside is there for Bennett playing in this passing game.
Jared Cook (Oak from GB) – The Raiders and Cooks agreed to terms on a deal, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.
Fantasy Analysis: A change of scenery really helped Cook to tap into some of his potential in his eighth season. Cook had been stuck in QB hell early in his career with the Titans and Rams, and actually playing with an actual NFL-caliber QB helped a lot, let alone one playing with an all-time great in Aaron Rodgers. The Packers signed him to be a seam stretcher for this offense, and he did just that, especially late in the regular season and in the playoffs once he got healthy off his ankle injury. Rodgers developed some chemistry with Cook as the season went along, trusting his great size (6’5”, 254 pounds) and large catch radius. His 36-yard catch along the sideline on a spectacular Rodgers pass in the Divisional Round will go down in Packers lore. Cook tore it up in the playoffs with Jordy Nelson missing a large chunk of the postseason, posting 18/229/2 receiving and averaging 17.6 FPG. He finished the season with 30/377/1 receiving on 51 targets (58.8% catch rate, 12.6 YPC) in 10 games, missing six games with a high-ankle sprain. He averaged 7.6 FPG, tying for 27th at the position with Jacob Tamme. Cook played 51% of the snaps and had an 8.3% target share. Cook averaged a pathetic 1.45 fantasy points per target – the league average for the position was 1.75. He bet on himself last season by taking a one-year, prove-it deal, and he earned a bigger contract with the Raiders because of his play down the stretch. He’ll immediately jump to the top of the TE depth chart ahead of Clive Walford, who has been a major disappointment as the former #68 overall pick in 2015. The Raiders have been in desperate need of a legitimate third receiver the last two seasons behind Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree. Cook should fill that role and provide a big body in the middle of the field and in the end zone for Derek Carr. He’ll also bring some speed down the seams to stretch the field for Cooper and Crabtree. Cook has never been a consistent fantasy option, but playing with Carr puts him in the low-end TE1 conversation next summer. He certainly has some upside as we saw in the playoffs, but he’ll need to learn his second offense and develop with his second QB in as many years.
Julius Thomas (acquired by Mia from Jac) – The Dolphins acquired Thomas from the Jaguars for a 2017 7th-round pick.
Fantasy Analysis: After getting a huge 5-year, $46 million deal ahead of the 2015 season, with $24M guaranteed, Thomas caught just 76 passes for 736 yards over the past two years. In his two-year stint with Jacksonville, Thomas has missed more games (11) than touchdowns scored (9). What’s more, Thomas had been held under 50 yards receiving in 15-of-21 games with the Jaguars. The Dolphins bought him on the absolute cheap, and the Jags unloaded a big cap number for a guy who can’t block and can’t stay healthy. As for Thomas, he returns to playing for Adam Gase, under whom he had his best year with Denver.
Dwayne Allen (acquired by NE from Ind) – The Patriots acquired Allen and a sixth-round pick from the Colts in exchange for a fourth-round pick, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.
Fantasy Analysis: Allen is coming off a disappointing 2016 campaign after the Colts decided to sign him over former teammate Coby Fleener in free agency. Backup Jack Doyle eventually over took him as the more effective option, with Doyle playing 68% of the snaps to Allen’s 64%. Allen was considered a potential low-end TE1 before the season started, but he ended up posting just 35/404/6 receiving on 52 targets (67.3% catch rate, 11.6 YPC) in 14 games. He finished 25th at the position with 8.0 FPG, finishing behind Doyle (18th, 9.2). Doyle led Allen in top-12 (TE1) scoring weeks (Doyle: 5, Allen: 3), snaps (68%, 64%), and targets (75, 52). The Colts clearly decided that Doyle is the better option by signing him and trading the oft-injured Allen – he hasn’t played a full season since his rookie year in 2012. The Patriots clearly like having two capable TEs to use 2-TE sets and for insurance for if/when Rob Gronkowski gets injured. If Gronk is healthy off his back surgery, Allen will be just off the fantasy radar when the season starts, although he could pop up with some production in a couple games playing with Tom Brady. Of course, if Gronk goes down at any point next season, Allen will immediately jump into the low-end TE1 conversation while he’s out of the lineup, though the addition of Brandin Cooks to the Patriots' offense means there's just another mouth to feed.
Dion Sims (Chi from Mia) – The Bears signed Sims to a three-year, $18 million contract with $10 million guaranteed, according to NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo.
Fantasy Analysis: Sims has been a solid backup TE to Charles Clay and Jordan Cameron since he broke into the league in 2013, but he was forced into a starter’s role because of Cameron’s concussion issues, which knocked him out for 13 games. Sims finished the year with 26/256/4 receiving on 35 targets (74.3% catch rate, 9.8 YPC) in 14 games, missing two contests because of a concussion. He averaged just 5.4 FPG for the season, but he did have a nice stretch from Weeks 12-15 when he caught 13/132/4 on 14 targets for 12.6. He played 86% of the snaps and saw a 7.7% target share. Sims averaged an impressive 2.16 fantasy points per target – the league average for the position was 1.75. The Bears already have Zach Miller in the fold, and he’s the much better receiving option between, but Miller has had major issues staying on the field. Sims, who is 26 years old, is the better blocker between them and an underrated receiver, although he’s not much of a threat after the catch. Miller will likely be the better fantasy option to start the year, but the two could really cut into each other’s production and make each other fringe fantasy guys unless there’s an injury at the position.
Lance Kendricks (GB from LAR) – The Packers signed Kendricks, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Fantasy Analysis: The Rams cut Kendricks after six seasons. He developed a deserved reputation as being nothing more than a fantasy nuisance. It’s hard to shake that after his 2016 season, in which he posted 50/499/2 receiving on 87 targets (10.0 YPR, 57.5% catch rate) to average 7.0 FPG, which ranked him 30th among all TEs. This was despite Kendricks playing 82.3% of the Rams’ offensive snaps and playing 16 full games, which made him overwhelmingly the Rams’ top TE. Other than a random three-game stretch beginning in Week 6, in which Kendricks turned in three consecutive top-10 TE finishes, he was utterly useless – he finished as a top-12 TE just once more (Week 12), and in fact just had three more games as a top-24 TE. So even in a 12-team league that requires 2 TEs, Kendricks was viable less than half the time. He has talent, but he’s going to annoy the heck out of Martellus Bennett owners this year if he catches a few TD passes from Aaron Rodgers. Kendricks’ signing will give the Packers a little more scheme versatility, as they could use more 2-TE sets after upgrading the position significantly in free agency.
Anthony Fasano (Mia from Ten) – The Dolphins and Fasano agreed to terms on a deal, according to ESPN’s Jeff Darlington.
Fantasy Analysis: More of a blocking specialist, Fasano has spent his 11-year career with four teams, never tallying more than 41 receptions in a season. He’s returning to the place where he had his most success over five seasons (2008-12). Fasano spent the last two years in Tennessee, but he went back to Miami to back up Julius Thomas, who is a weak blocker. Fasano will never be an asset for fantasy for his receiving performances, but his run blocking ability could boost the fantasy value for Jay Ajayi next season.
Rhett Ellison (NYG from Min) – The Giants signed Ellison to a four-year, $18 million contract, with $8 million guaranteed, according to the Houston Chronicle’s Aaron Wilson.
Fantasy Analysis: Ellison made a pretty remarkable recovery from his torn patellar tendon suffered in their playoff loss to the Seahawks back in January 2016. The injury has been a career-death sentence for some athletes, but he returned to the field just 9 months later to be the primary backup for Kyle Rudolph. Ellison finished with 9/57/0 receiving on 14 targets (64.3% catch rate, 6.3 YPC) while playing 26.1% of the snaps in 15 games. Ellison got a surprising contract from the Giants because of his ability as a blocker, with Will Tye and Larry Donnell struggling in that area last season. The Giants let Donnell walk in free agency, so Ellison, Jerrel Adams, and Tye will battle it out for snaps next season.
Mychal Rivera (Jac from Oak) – The Jaguars and Rivera agreed to a two-year, $6.75 million contract, according to ESPN.com
Fantasy Analysis: Derek Carr and the Raiders offense got little help from the TE position the last two seasons. The Raiders made Rivera a healthy scratch for the first three games of the seasons, but they eventually needed him to be the #2 TE after Lee Smith landed on the IR with a broken leg. Rivera finished the year with 18/192/1 receiving on 25 targets (72.0% catch rate, 10.7% YPC) while playing 35.3% of the snaps in 13 games. Rivera had interest from a couple teams, but the Jaguars definitely had a need for a receiving TE after they shipped Julius Thomas out of town. He’ll be competing with Marcedes Lewis for playing time, but he’s obviously the better receiving option of the two. Still, it could be tough for him to make a consistent impact in this offense with Blake Bortles at QB.
Darren Fells (Det from Ari) – The Lions signed Fells to a one-year, $1.5 million contract, according to NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo.
Fantasy Analysis: Though QB Carson Palmer said Fells had the best offseason on the team prior to last season, it didn’t quite translate into production. He finished last season with 14/154/1 receiving in 14 games with the Cardinals. Fells is absolutely huge at 6’7”, 281 pounds and should help as a blocker in 2-TE situations, but he’s strictly depth behind Eric Ebron.
Logan Paulsen (SF from Chi) – The 49ers and Paulsen agreed to a deal, according to CSN Bay Area.
Fantasy Analysis: Paulsen re-signed with the Redskins last off-season following a turf toe injury which kept him out of all of 2015, but he didn’t make the team out of camp. He was picked up by the Bears but was a complete non-factor behind Zach Miller, even after Miller went down for the season, getting passed by Daniel Brown and Ben Braunecker. At 29, Paulsen still has years left in him, but he’s a better blocker than a receiver and a non-factor for fantasy. Paulsen played under new 49ers HC Kyle Shanahan in Washington for two seasons, and he’ll provide depth at the TE position.
Brandon Williams (Ind from Sea) – The Colts and Williams agreed to a deal, according to the Houston Chronicle.
Fantasy Analysis: Williams played in all 16 games for the Seahawks last season, catching just 2 passes for 36 yards. He has just 6 career catches since he broke into the league with the Panthers in 2013, and he’ll simply provide depth behind Jack Doyle and Erik Swoope.
Players re-signed by their 2016 teams:
Cameron Brate (TB) – The Bucs tendered exclusive rights free agent Brate, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
Fantasy Analysis: Even though his season ended before Week 17 with a back injury, Brate was an unsung fantasy hero in 2016. At the weakest position in fantasy football, Brate finished 11th at TE with 11.4 FPG and 7th in total fantasy points for the year. Brate’s 8 TDs tied him with Hunter Henry for the league lead at the position, while his 660 yards was 12th-best at the position. Brate’s 10 red-zone targets were second on the team behind only Mike Evans while Brandon Myers siphoned an inefficient 6 targets inside of the 20-yard-line away. While Brate needs to improve dramatically as a run blocker, he could once again be a strong red-zone threat. For what it is worth, Brate finished 45th out of 65 qualifying tight ends in PFF’s run blocking grades. It was an obvious decision for the Bucs to keep Brate around. While his campaign as a formerly undrafted player was surprising, he proved he’s a very capable receiver, and he’ll be their no-doubt starter in Week 1.
Jack Doyle (Ind) – The Colts signed Doyle to a three-year, $19 million contract with $9.5 million guaranteed, according to The Indianapolis Star.
Fantasy Analysis: The Colts got Private Investigator Jack Doyle back for another three years! Doyle (59/584/5), Dwayne Allen (35/406/6), and Erik Swoope (15/297/1) combined to average 19.4 FPG. The best tight end season since 2010 is owned by Rob Gronkowski (20.7 FPG in 2011), meaning the Colts tight ends combined for the second-best tight end season of the past seven years in 2016. There’s no denying Andrew Luck loves to get his tight ends involved, no matter who they are. Even Coby Fleener posted a pair of top-15 scoring years in 2013 and 2014. The Colts really could have one of the most tight-end friendly fantasy options in the league if they just decided to roll with one main tight end. Doyle clearly led the way among Colts’ tight end trio in 2016. Doyle led both Allen and Swoope in top-12 (TE1) scoring weeks (Doyle: 5; Allen: 3; Swoope: 1), snaps (68%; 64%; 22%), and targets (75; 52; 22). The Colts just signed Allen to a four-year deal last off-season, but it was clear that Doyle was the best TE on the roster by the end of last season – Doyle played 68% of the snaps to Allen’s 64%. The Colts confirmed that they liked Doyle more than Allen by trading away Dwayne to the Patriots a day after they re-signed Doyle. The Colts do really like the talented Swoope and they will still use plenty of 2-TE sets, but Doyle is now the no-doubt starter. It's great news for Doyle because Luck absolutely loves to throw it to his TEs, and he is now in the low-end TE1 conversation entering the summer.
Jermaine Gresham (Ari) – The Cardinals and Gresham reached terms on a four-year deal, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Fantasy Analysis: The odds were against the Cardinals having a fantasy-relevant tight end in 2016, but somehow, #BIGGRESH managed to go against conventional wisdom. He wasn’t a start-worthy player on a consistent basis, but he climbed into the streaming conversation in the second half of the year. Big Gresh posted 37/390/2 receiving on 61 targets (10.5 YPR, 60.7% catch rate) in 16 games, ranking 39th among TEs with 5.5 FPG. Gresh had three top-12 TE finishes, all from Week 11 on, and saw at least 5 targets in six of the Cardinals’ final nine games. Of course, he never finished higher than 7th at TE, and with just eight top-24 TE finishes, it wasn’t like he was a dominant asset. Despite his decent finishes, Gresham reached 10+ FP just three times. He also has just 3 TDs with the Cardinals in 31 games, despite his 6’5”, 260-pound frame. Entering his 29-year-old season, Gresham will be little more than a streaming fantasy option if everything breaks right for him.
Vernon Davis (Was) – The Redskins signed Davis to a three-year, $15 million deal, according to Davis’ snapchat.
Fantasy Analysis: Vernon was obviously forgotten headed into 2016, which he played at age 32 (he turned 33 in January). But he turned out to be an important player in Washington’s offense, playing in all 16 games and posting 44/583/2 receiving on 59 targets (13.3 YPC, 74.6% catch rate). He ranked 29th among TEs with 7.1 FPG. Believe it or not, he finished as a top-12 TE five times, including twice when Jordan Reed didn’t play, so he was a viable streaming option. The fact that he finished as a top-12 TE three times when Reed did play showed that he could still be an effective #2 TE. The lengthy injury histories of Reed and Niles Paul compelled the Redskins to pay up for the veteran TD after he played on just a one-year deal last season. He’ll still be off the fantasy radar to start the season, but sadly Reed can’t stay healthy for too long, so Vernon will likely be a streaming option at some point this season.
Ryan Griffin (Hou) – The Texans and Griffin agreed to a three-year, $9 million contract with $3.25 million guaranteed, according to the Houston Chronicle.
Fantasy Analysis: After catching just 49 career passes in his first three seasons, Griffin rose to an increased role in 2016. Griffin blasted past his previous career highs, going for 50/442/2 receiving alongside teammate C.J. Fiedorowicz (54/559/4). Both Griffin and Fiedorowicz served as safety nets to mask Brock Osweiler’s incompetency throwing outside of the numbers. Griffin is undoubtedly coming off of his best season as a pro, but he’ll once again be in competition for production with CJF at the position. Griffin could pop into the streaming conversation if Fiedorowicz is out of the lineup, but both TEs will have less fantasy juice now that Osweiler is out of the picture.
Luke Willson (Sea) – The Seahawks re-signed Willson on a one-year, $3 million deal, according to ESPN’s Adam Caplan.
Fantasy Analysis: Willson has been the clear backup TE to Jimmy Graham since the Seahawks addressed their weakness at the position after the 2014 season when they had Willson, Cooper Helfet, and “The Other Zach Miller®” in a timeshare. Willson was drafted in the fifth-round back in 2013, but he was an intriguing athlete out of Rice – where he backed up Vance McDonald – because of his 4.51 speed and his 38-inch vertical. He’s flashed at times, especially in 2014 when he averaged 16.5 YPC, but he’s been an afterthought in the passing game once Graham arrived. Willson posted just 15/129/2 receiving on 21 targets (71.4% catch rate, 8.6 YPC) while playing 46.3% of the snaps in 11 games – he missed five contests to a sprained knee. The Seahawks drafted Nick Vannett in the third-round last year, but Willson has a slight leg up on Vannett for snaps behind Graham.
Daniel Brown (Chi) – The Bears signed restricted free agent to a one-year contract.
Fantasy Analysis: The Bears lost TE Zach Miller in the middle of the season with a broken foot, and the Bears took a long look at Brown in the final couple games with nothing to play for. He posted 16/124/1 receiving in the final six games. The Bears claimed Brown off waivers from the Ravens in early November just before Miller’s injury. Brown is a converted WR out of James Madison with intriguing size (6’5”, 243 pounds), but he needs some work as a blocker. The Bears were actively looking for a TE last off-season, going after restricted free agent Josh Hill, and Miller can’t be trusted to stay healthy, so Brown has an outside shot of fantasy relevance once again at some point in 2017.
Levine Toilolo (Atl) – The Falcons re-signed Toilolo to a three-year, $12 million deal, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.
Fantasy Analysis: Toilolo, primarily a run blocker, was on the Falcons’ roster bubble last summer, but he impressed them enough to earn a new contract this off-season. However, he has not shown any potential as a receiver in his four-year stint in the league – those duties will be left to Austin Hooper next season. Toilolo has caught just 20 passes in the past two years combined. He finished the season with 13/264/2 receiving on 19 targets (68.4% catch rate, 20.3 YPC) while playing 54.4% of the snaps in 16 games. The Falcons believe that Hooper is the future of the position for them, but Toilolo will be expected to open up some running room for Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman next season in 2-TE sets.
Phillip Supernaw (Ten) – The Titans re-signed Supernaw, according to Jim Wyatt of the team’s site.
Fantasy Analysis: Supernaw is coming off a career year with 4 catches for 62 yards in 2016! The Titans did lose Anthony Fasano to the Dolphins so there’s a chance that Supernaw could see more playing time as a depth guy behind Delanie Walker. Supernaw has been with Houston, Baltimore, and Tennessee and has just 10 career catches in four seasons, so he won’t be fantasy relevant. At least he has a super cool last name.
Thomas Duarte (Mia) – The Dolphins signed Duarte to a one-year deal, according to the team’s site.
Fantasy Analysis: Duarte was an intriguing prospect as a receiver coming out of the 2016 draft, but he’s got a long way to go as a blocker. The Dolphins cut the seventh-round pick just before the season before signing him to their practice squad and stashing him there for most of the season – he appeared in just a game. Duarte needs to put on more weight to be just an average blocker, but he also needs to keep his explosiveness as a receiver. He may be stuck as a move TE for at least the early part of his career.
David Johnson (Pit) – The Steelers re-signed Johnson, according to The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Fantasy Analysis: The Steelers brought back the versatile Johnson, who has been used primarily as blocker. Pittsburgh has used Johnson as a TE, as a fullback, and as a H-back, but he brings absolutely nothing to their passing game or to fantasy.
Asante Cleveland (LAC) – The Chargers and Cleveland agreed to a one-year deal, according to the Houston Chronicle.
Fantasy Analysis: Cleveland has just one career catch in three season and has appeared in just 14 games. He played in just four games last season and didn’t have a single catch. He’ll battle it out for a roster spot next season in training camp, and he’ll be only depth behind Hunter Henry and Antonio Gates.