As fantasy football players, we are always looking for reasons to choose one player over another. Maybe it is that time in your draft when you’re deciding between two or three players that you have ranked very close together and not sure which way to go. Without having any significant statistical evidence to prove it has any benefit, one way to break your tie is to see if any of those players are in a contract year. I get it, in today’s NFL it seems as if everybody is playing for a new contract every year, but what about those that are legitimately in the final year of a contract? Wouldn’t it just seem like normal human behavior to have that extra motivation to collect millions of dollars? Drafting a player in a contract year shouldn’t be something that you are looking to do, but if you’re absolutely stuck and need anything to break a tie of rankings, then just keep this list in the back of your mind.
(R) = Restricted Free Agent
Kirk Cousins- The clock is ticking for Cousins and the Redskins to work out a long-term contract to keep the quarterback in Washington. It is being reported that the two sides are trying to get that deal done, otherwise, Cousins will play under the franchise tag for the 2nd straight season. If hits the free agent market next off-season, there is much speculation that he will join the 49ers in 2018. Either way, the motivation of free agency, to prove that Washington was right or wrong to extend or not extend him will be there for the 2017 season.
Matthew Stafford- Stafford has played well and is the face of Detroit Lions. With or without an extension before the season, he isn’t going anywhere. ( Update: Stafford signed an extension with the Lions, making him the highest paid player in the NFL- 8/29/17)
Drew Brees- Even at the young age of 38, Brees continues to want to play beyond this season. Whether or not that is with the Saints remains to be seen. I personally don’t expect the Saints to bring him back next season, and even though he isn’t hurting in the financial landscape, the thought of free agency and a new home could have a little extra motivation for him.
Sam Bradford- Bradford wants to remain in Minnesota and be the franchise quarterback for the Vikings. He’s in for a nice pay day if he can put together another successful and injury free season.
Jimmy Garoppolo- With only 2 games started and less than 100 pass attempts in his NFL career, the 25 year old (26 during the season) quarterback will be one of the most sought after free agents to hit the market. If the Patriots let him that is. The Patriots remained true to their word (for once) and didn’t trade him, despite what was being said about “aggressive” offers from multiple teams during the off-season. The Patriots unwillingness to deal Garoppolo, suggest that Tom Brady could be nearing the end of his career. Nobody knows Jimmy G better than the Patriots, and I would much rather see them spend the money to keep him, than for another team to make the Matt Cassel mistake.
Tom Savage- If the Texans stick to what they’re saying about Savage being the starting QB for them, then this is a great opportunity for him to show someone what he can do and get a nice contract in the off-season. The problem for him though, is that I’m not buying into him as the starter due to the Texans trading up for and drafting Deshaun Watson in the 1st round. At least not for the whole season. With the way the QB landscape is, and the talented group that could potentially enter the 2018 draft, I don’t see a big pay day for Savage in the near future.
Teddy Bridgewater- The only way that Teddy could be in line for a big pay day is if Bradford gets hurt and he can show his effectiveness and that his own injury isn’t an issue. Of course the first part of that is something that can easily happen.
A.J. McCarron (R)– More than likely his future isn’t with the Bengals. However as a restricted free agent, the decision isn’t entirely his. The Bengals will prefer to keep him around unless they can get compensated with perhaps a first round pick.
Full List of Quarterbacks- Alphabetical
Le’Veon Bell- Could the Steelers really move on from Bell after the season? Simple answer: Yes. The haven’t offered him a long-term deal to this point primarily due to his injury and off the field history. As of now, Bell hasn’t signed his franchise tender, resulting in what could be an ugly start to the season. No doubt that Bell will be even more motivated for a huge pay day whether it is with the Steelers or someone else.
Devonta Freeman- Freeman wasn’t drafted by the current regime so it will be interesting to see how both sides handle the situation. With Tevin Coleman due a new contract in the next year, there probably isn’t enough cap room for two high-priced running backs. As it stands, both sides are confident that they will work out an extension before the season. (Update: Freeman has signed a 5 year contract extension worth $41.25 million. The contract includes a $15 million dollar signing bonus and $22 million guaranteed. )
Isaiah Crowell- Crowell is an interesting contract year player because he has the potential to get a big pay day with another solid season. Hopefully for Crowell, the Browns can keep games close enough so they can continue to run the ball for the duration of the game. Both the player and fantasy players as well, all hope the game flow doesn’t limit his production and potential earnings.
Carlos Hyde- It doesn’t seem as if Hyde is long for the 49ers, so he may be auditioning for a new team in 2018 (or even the second half of this season). That, in addition to being in a contract year, could motivate Hyde into a very good season.
Jamaal Charles- Charles will already be motivated in 2017 as his contract with Denver is incentive-laden. At 30 years old and coming off major knee injuries, Charles will hoping for maybe one last pay day at starter salary.
Eddie Lacy- The only thing in the way of Lacy is himself. He needs to keep his weight in check and his contract with the Seahawks already has weigh-ins through out the pre-season and regular season. If he can stay at his suggested weight all season and has a good season, he should be in for a long-term deal.
Terrance West- West is in the perfect contract year situation. With Kenneth Dixon serving a four-game suspension to start the season, West has the opportunity to play well and keep the early-down job even when Dixon comes back. At 26, he’s still young enough to get a long-term starter type contract.
LeGarrette Blount- I was completely surprised that someone coming off a season in which they ran for over 1,100 yards on 300 carries, and scored 18 TD’s, could only fetch a little over a million dollars in free agency. Was it the market? How the league values teams that can also catch the ball out the back field? For what ever the reason, it is going to be hard for Blount to match those numbers and get a big contract in 2018. So can we say that he’s less motivated in 2017? I couldn’t argue that point if that is what you believe.
Dion Lewis- Unfortunately for Lewis,not only has he been an injury magnet, but now he’s also part of a RBBC that includes James White, Mike Gillisllee, and Rex Burkhead.
Charles Sims- I’m a big Sims fan and believe he is arguably the most talented back in Tampa Bay. There’s more competition there now, so it’s important he stays on the field and is productive for him to get a nice contract next season.
Jeremy Hill- A far cry from what we saw in the second half of 2014. With Joe Mixon in the mix, the most talented complete back on the team, Hill’s numbers in Cincy appear to be numbered. To his credit, Hill has reportedly came to camp in better shape and he looks faster. At only 24 years old, Hill still has time for a decent pay day.
Chris Thompson- I mentioned above how the market for Blount wasn’t there and it could’ve been because he’s a one trick pony in the running game. The same can be said for Thompson, except his trick is the one that teams want. A pass-catching running back. He should have no trouble getting paid on the open market next season.
Jerick McKinnon- McKinnon is an athletic freak, but could’t take advantage in 2016 when A.P. missed the season. With Latavius Murray and Dalvin Cook in Minnesota now, how much we see of McKinnon remains to be seen.
Frank Gore- At 34, does he have anything left? His play hasn’t said otherwise, but his age does dictate that he’ll be looking at 1-year deals if he continues to play beyond 2017.
Restricted- Thomas Rawls / Zach Zenner
Full List of Running Backs- Alphabetical
Jarvis Landry- There is a chance that Landry won’t be a “contract year player” when the season starts, as both parties are interested in getting a deal done. However, If he ends up hitting the open market, he may get priced out of the Dolphins range and the franchise tag may be too steep for them as well.
Davante Adams- Let’s be real here. The Packers, who usually don’t delve too much into free agency, aren’t going to let Adams become a free agent. With Jordy Nelson getting into his 30’s and Randall Cobb declining, Adams looks like he’s going to be the Packers #1 for the foreseeable future.
Allen Robinson- His 2016 season wasn’t as strong as his 2015 campaign, so he’s looking to get back in form and get that extension. With the Jags having already extended Allen Hurns last season, Robinson may be competing with Marqise Lee for the other extension. It’s unlikely the team extends all three receivers.
Sammy Watkins- The Bills didn’t pick up Watkins’ 5th year option and that may actually work out for everyone. Watkins now has the motivation to stay on the field and produce, which is good for the Bills 2017 season. As for Watkins, a big season while staying healthy will result in a large pay day. A check bigger than he would’ve earned had they picked up his option.
DeAndre Hopkins- Hopkins shouldn’t be going anywhere at the end of the season, as the team wants him to be there and the feeling is mutual. If a deal doesn’t get done by the start of the season, it will before he hits the market.
Terrelle Pryor- Though I was a bit surprised by the lack of interest in Blount, I was much more surprised by the same with Pryor. I thought he did enough as a receiver in 2016 to warrant a long-term deal, but apparently NFL front offices didn’t agree. That’s a good thing for the Redskins as they get him on a one year deal with that extra motivation.
Martavis Bryant- Even if he stays out of trouble and has a big year, I don’t think he’ll be getting a long-term contract with the Steelers or anyone else. One more mishap and we’re looking at a Josh Gordon situation.
Alshon Jeffery- He hasn’t had much success as a contract year player so far, but he’ll try again as a member of the Eagles. Still only 27, Jeffrey is looking to get that long term contract with the Eagles or someone else.
Jordan Matthews– Matthews joins fellow teammate Alshon Jeffrey in the contract year group. I think the odds are slim that the Eagles sign both Jeffrey and Matthews to long term deals, so Matthews very well could be competing with his own teammate for a deal.
Donte Moncrief- Moncrief has and will be given every opportunity to earn a long term contract with the Colts. To this point, he has shown flashes but has been inconsistent for the most part.
Larry Fitzgerald- Being a contract year player does’t mean anything to Larry Fitzgerald. He’s either going to retire or play on a year to year contract with Arizona.
Eric Decker- After getting released by the Jets, Decker found a home in Nashville and it couldn’t have been more of a perfect spot for the Decker clan. Decker needs to stay healthy and prove his worth, but if he does that, I think both parties would welcome a longer deal.
John Brown- Brown’s health and ability to only be a deep threat will hurt his chances of a long-term contract.
Mike Wallace- I believe Wallace is playing for a long term contract with someone else. With the addition of Jeremy Maclin and the hopeful emergence of Breshad Perriman, Wallace’s targets could take a hit. He can still get down the field, so he does have value there.
Taylor Gabriel- Leave it to the Browns. Gabriel burst onto the scene in 2016, but his usage and production in 2017 is what is going to get him paid next off season. He could get a contract as as good second wide receiver for someone.
Other notable unrestricted Wide Receivers: Michael Floyd/Kamar Aiken/ Paul Richardson/Kendall Wright
Willie Snead (R) Snead’s camp appears to be moving towards a extension before the start of the season. With Brandin Cooks no longer in town, Snead is the #2 behind Mike Thomas and should be in for a big year.
Cameron Meredith (R)– The Bears plan to have Meredith there as their #1 for this season and beyond. He’ll get a new deal before he becomes a RFA.
Tyrell Williams (R)– For 2017 I still think that Williams will be the #2 behind Keenan Allen, assuming Allen is healthy. However, the selection of Mike Williams at #7 overall may not bode well for Tyrell moving forward.
Quincy Enunwa (R)– I’d like to believe that Enunwa is in the Jets plans for the future, but this is the Jets we’re talking about. They have signed and drafted a plethora of young wide receivers so you would have to think that the position is up for grabs throughout the depth chart.
Full List of Wide Receivers- Alphabetical
Jimmy Graham- Graham seems to be back from his torn patellar tendon and looking for that one last big long-term deal. It wouldn’t surprise me if it isn’t with the Seattle Seahawks.
Tyler Eifert- We’ve been teased by Eifert in the past, as we have seen what he can potentially do. He needs to have a big year to get that long term contract.
C.J. Fiedorowicz- Having locked up Ryan Griffin to a 3 year deal earlier in the off-season, Fiedorowicz may be auditioning for a long term deal with another team for 2018.
Cameron Brate (R)– Even with the selection of O.J. Howard, Brate could still find his way back to Tampa Bay after the season.
Antonio Gates– I’m not expecting Gates to return to football after this season.
Other notable unrestricted Tight Ends: Austin Seferian-Jenkins/Benjamin Watson/ Zach Miller
Full List of Tight Ends- Alphabetical