Fantasy football 2024 free agency: Where key players might land

Stephen A. and Shannon discuss the no-win situation of NFL running backs (1:44)

Stephen A. Smith and Shannon Sharpe discuss how NFL running backs are "run into the ground" by NFL teams during their rookie contracts. (1:44)

The 2023 NFL season is behind us, and 2024 offseason activities are already underway. Free agency, which will include players who were waived or released, is one of the first big sessions on the calendar. For the purposes of this column, I'll be taking a look at the top free agents at the key fantasy football positions: quarterback, running back, wide receiver and tight end (sorry not sorry, kickers), and also listing a few players who could be released or traded, as well as notable teams with needs at each position.

Note: Only unrestricted free agents are included (info courtesy of Over the Cap). Ages shown are as of 9/5/2024.

Running backs

Notable unrestricted free agents: Saquon Barkley (NYG, 27), Josh Jacobs (LV, 26), Derrick Henry (TEN, 30), Austin Ekeler (LAC, 29), D'Andre Swift (PHI, 25), Tony Pollard (DAL, 27), Devin Singletary (HOU, 27), Antonio Gibson (WAS, 26), J.K. Dobbins (BAL, 25), Ezekiel Elliott (NE, 29), Zack Moss (IND, 26), AJ Dillon (GB, 26), Clyde Edwards-Helaire (KC, 25), Gus Edwards (BAL, 29), Damien Harris (BUF, 27)

Same as last year, running backs are the highlight of fantasy free agency -- and it's not even close. Barkley's efficiency and reliability has left a lot to be desired in recent years, but a struggling Giants offense hasn't helped. Barkley is 27, so this may be his last chance to cash in on a pricey, multiyear deal ... Jacobs is in a similar position, as a feature back coming off a year of underwhelming efficiency. He figures to have another season or two left of lead back usage ... Henry led the NFL in carries last season for the fourth time in five years, and the 30-year-old figures to latch on with a title contender for a season or two ... Ekeler had a rough go in 2023 but was still sixth among RBs in targets and should land a substantial role as, at least, a major contributor in the passing game.

Swift and Singletary are journeymen who helped their stock with strong seasons in good offenses in 2023... Pollard was a disappointment as a lead back in Dallas last season, so expect him to land in a committee in 2024... Dobbins is a name to watch after the explosive back tore his Achilles in Week 1 last season.

Potential cut/trade candidates: Nick Chubb (CLE, 28), Aaron Jones (GB, 29), Alvin Kamara (NO, 29), Miles Sanders (CAR, 27), Dameon Pierce (HOU, 24), Nyheim Hines (BUF, 27)

Combined with last season's gruesome knee injury, Chubb's contract and age suggest he'll, at least, be looking at a restructure this offseason. I listed him here, but I suspect he'll remain in Cleveland... Jones and Kamara looked good when active and healthy last season, but both are nearing age 30 and have unappealing cap numbers... Sanders was a massive free agency flop last offseason and, while it will be expensive, Carolina figures to try to find a way to move on.

RB-needy teams: Cowboys, Giants, Chargers, Eagles, Raiders, Texans, Ravens

It's a buyer's market, especially in terms of short-term options. The draft is not particularly strong at the position this season, so along with the recent huge boost in the salary cap, the likes of Barkley and Jacobs could get paid. The Eagles are notoriously conservative at running back (another win with Swift last season), so don't expect them to make an expensive, long-term investment.


Notable unrestricted free agents: Kirk Cousins (MIN, 36), Baker Mayfield (TB, 29), Gardner Minshew (IND, 28), Ryan Tannehill (TEN, 36), Joe Flacco (CLE, 39), Jacoby Brissett (WAS, 31), Jameis Winston (NO, 30), Tyrod Taylor (NYG, 35), Joshua Dobbs (MIN, 29), Drew Lock (SEA, 27), Mason Rudolph (PIT, 29), Marcus Mariota (PHI, 30)

As usual, this isn't a super enticing class, and it will be even uglier if Cousins and Mayfield re-sign with their current teams. Cousins was producing at a high level prior to his season-ending injury, leading the league in passing TDs, and Minnesota figures to try to bring him back... Mayfield is fresh off a career year in Tampa Bay and has a good shot to return, but perhaps a reunion with Dave Canales (his 2023 offensive playcaller) in Carolina is in play. No one else on this list figures to land anything more than "veteran bridge" interest.

Potential cut/trade candidates: Justin Fields (CHI, 25), Russell Wilson (DEN, 35), Mac Jones (NE, 26), Jimmy Garoppolo (LV, 32), Brian Hoyer (LV, 38), Zach Wilson (NYJ, 25), Andy Dalton (CAR, 36), Taylor Heinicke (ATL, 31), Davis Mills (HOU, 25) or Case Keenum (HOU, 36), Malik Willis (TEN, 25)

Fields is the big name here, and his availability will depend on if the Bears prefer him or a quarterback available with the first overall pick of April's draft (presumably Caleb Williams). He won't cost as much as you might think to acquire, as he'll also soon require a contract extension ... Wilson is also a good bet to land elsewhere after he was benched down the stretch last season.

QB-needy teams: Buccaneers, Vikings, Falcons, Steelers, Titans, Patriots, Commanders, Raiders, Giants

Many teams need a quarterback upgrade, but several of the above franchises will look to the draft, which could see upward of five QBs selected in the first round. Three figure to come off the board in the first three picks, which would cover the Commanders, Patriots and either the Bears or whichever team moves up to 1.1 via trade. The Falcons and Steelers would be intriguing landing spots for Fields and Wilson.

Wide receivers

Notable unrestricted free agents: Michael Pittman Jr. (IND, 26), Mike Evans (TB, 31), Calvin Ridley (JAX, 29), Marquise Brown (ARZ, 27), Gabe Davis (BUF, 25), Michael Thomas (NO, 31), Tyler Boyd (CIN, 29), Curtis Samuel (WAS, 28), Odell Beckham Jr. (BAL, 31), DJ Chark (CAR, 27), Darnell Mooney (CHI, 26), Kendrick Bourne (NE, 29), Noah Brown (HOU, 28)

Tee Higgins was already franchise-tagged and Pittman is a good bet to follow, which eliminates two of the prime-age stars from the list... Evans is an intriguing name, as he's entering his age-31 campaign eyeing his 11th consecutive season with 1,000-plus yards and a top-25 fantasy finish. Same as Mayfield, a return to Tampa Bay seems likely, but Canales will surely be eyeing a No. 1 wide receiver for his new, young QB, Bryce Young... Ridley is tricky, as the Jaguars will need to send Atlanta draft compensation if they re-sign him. They could choose to move on after a boom/bust lone season together in which Ridley led the NFL With 25 end zone targets (five more than any other player) ... Marquise Brown has been a high-volume, weak-efficiency producer the last four seasons and should attract teams as a No. 2 receiver ... Believe it or not, Davis has zero top-35 fantasy seasons (PPG) and as never finished top 50 in receptions. He didn't break out in seemingly ideal conditions in Buffalo and will be hoping the open market offers something better than the "Marquez Valdes-Scantling" role he played with the Bills ... Boyd and Samuel should attract teams as solid No. 3/slot options.

Potential cut/trade candidates: Mike Williams (LAC, 29), Tyler Lockett (SEA, 31), Zay Jones (JAX, 29), Michael Gallup (DAL, 28), Russell Gage (TB, 28), Marquez Valdes-Scantling (KC, 29), Kadarius Toney (KC, 25), Hunter Renfrow (LV, 28), Allen Robinson (PIT, 31), Tim Patrick (DEN, 30), Robert Woods (HOU, 32), Allen Lazard (NYJ, 28)

Williams tore his ACL last season has a prohibitive contract, which could lead to a split with Jim Harbaugh's Chargers... Lockett's production took a hit in 2023, and he could be expendable at his price point and with DK Metcalf and Jaxon Smith-Njigba in post-Pete Carroll Seattle...Jones is a valuable piece in Jacksonville, so a restructure could be in play... The Chiefs' WR room could be in for a big shakeup behind Rashee Rice.

WR-needy teams: Cardinals, Colts, Patriots, Giants, Falcons, Panthers, Chiefs, Buccaneers, Jets, Bears, Bills

Arizona has been connected to Marvin Harrison Jr. with the fourth overall pick of April's draft and, considering how deep this draft is at the position, several of these teams could find a high-impact player on Day 1 or 2... Jerod Mayo's Patriots could use some perimeter targets to surround DeMario Douglas... Will the Giants finally address wide receivers?... The position will be a larger priority for Atlanta now that Arthur Smith is out and Zac Robinson in as playcaller.

Tight ends

Notable unrestricted free agents: Dalton Schultz (HOU, 28), Hunter Henry (NE, 29), Noah Fant (SEA, 26), Gerald Everett (LAC, 30), Mike Gesicki (NE, 28), Irv Smith Jr. (CIN, 26), Austin Hooper (LV, 29)

Schultz is the most interesting name here following a solid season in Houston. The former Cowboy has now finished no lower than 12th among TEs in receptions, yards, touchdowns and fantasy points each of the last three seasons. Reuniting with C.J. Stroud might be his best-case scenario ... Henry, who has gone three straight seasons without a top-12 finish in targets and fantasy points per game, could move on after the shakeup in New England ... Fant once looked like a budding fantasy star, but that star faded in Seattle. He has the raw talent for a rebound elsewhere.

Potential cut/trade candidates: Jonnu Smith (ATL, 29), C.J. Uzomah (NYJ, 31), Mo Alie-Cox (IND, 30), Logan Thomas (WAS, 33)

Smith's cap number is too high for a No. 2 tight end, and he won't be as valuable in post-Arthur Smith Atlanta and was already cut... Washington could look to upgrade from Thomas.

TE-needy teams: Bengals, Patriots, Chargers, Texans, Seahawks

The Bengals turned to Tanner Hudson as their primary tight end last season and are the only team without a single TE on the roster.