Fantasy Football

2019 Fantasy Football Contract Year Players


You may often hear the phrase “contract-year” as in “Oh, it’s a contract-year for him so you know he’s going to ball out.” A contract-year refers to the last year of a player’s contract, meaning that when the season ends they will be a free agent and eligible for a new one. So it makes sense! If you knew you were up for a payday based on your most recent performance, you’d put your best foot forward. The 2019 Fantasy Football contract year players you might draft have that added incentive.

This is even more relevant for professional athletes who are judged on production. More importantly, they are heavily susceptible to recency bias. So it’s in their best interest to put up career years in their contract-years and then sign as big of a contract as possible.

Take Joe Flacco for example. His case wasn’t a full year (just a playoff run), but it still applies. Going into the 2011-12 season, he was scheduled to be a free agent. Instead of taking an extension which he felt underpaid him, he gambled on himself and played out the season. He ended up parlaying his legendary 2012 playoff run into – at the time – the highest quarterback salary of all-time. Since then, he hasn’t exactly lived up to it, but this example proves the motivational power that money has.

Here’s some players at each position that are playing for something more than just wins.

2019 Fantasy Football Contract Year Players

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Note: While they are technically free agents after 2019, I’m going to skip Drew Brees and Philip Rivers since I don’t see them changing teams.

Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Winston, the number 1 overall pick in 2011, has not yet lived up to the hype. He holds a career record of 21-33 and a very average 87.8 career quarterback rating. The Buccaneers have not offered him a contract extension and that offer could hinge on his performance this year.

If he’s unable to perform after four years in the NFL, with a new coach and a plethora of weapons, this may be his last season in Tampa Bay.

Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans

Drafted right after Winston at No. 2 is Mariota, who is on an even shorter leash. The Titans also have not offered him an extension and even brought former Miami Dolphins starter Ryan Tannehill in as insurance and competition.

Mariota showed real flashes in his sophomore season with a 26/9 TD to INT ratio, but has since slumped, throwing 24 touchdowns and 23 interceptions in his last two seasons. He’s also dealt with nagging injuries over every year and will have to be healthy AND productive to earn an extension with the Titans.

Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys

Prescott has been in the news lately due to his reported rejection of $30 million per year. Supposedly, he wants a contract that will pay him $40 million per year which has been roundly mocked. But hey, you are worth what you can negotiate and if Prescott can negotiate it, good for him.

He does have some leverage over the Cowboys. He has the fourth-most wins for any quarterback through his first three seasons. More importantly, he’d be hard to replace as above-average quarterbacks don’t grow on trees. Look for Jerry Jones and Prescott to work something out before the season ends.

Running Backs

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Melvin Gordon, Los Angeles Chargers

By now you’ve probably heard but Gordon is holding out for a contract extension and hasn’t reported to camp yet. I completely understand and respect any running back who wants a long-term contract given the punishment that the position takes.

However, I don’t think the Chargers view Gordon as an irreplaceable, transcendent talent and will not want to pay him as such. Don’t be surprised if we don’t see Gordon on the field this year and he’s suiting up for a different franchise in 2020, a-la LeVeon Bell.

Derrick Henry, Tennesee Titans

Henry has been one of the most frustrating running backs in recent history. His measurables and physical profile suggest he should be absolutely dominant, yet he’s mostly disappointed so far.

2019 will be a make-or-break season that could define him as an NFL player. He’s also number 6 on my list of Fantasy Football Top 10 Riskiest Players.

Lamar Miller, Houston Texans

I remember when Miller was splitting touches with Jay Ajayi in Miami and we all thought: “Man, if only this guy could get his own team, he’d be awesome.” Well, it turns out the coaches in Miami knew what they were doing, as since Miller has become “the man” in Houston, he’s 0.3 YPC less.

He’s the definition of a steady running back as each year he hovers around 1,200 yards and 6 touchdowns – no more, no less. He hasn’t been running behind the best offensive line in recent years, but it will be interesting to see if the Texans choose to move on from him after 2019 or continue to submit themselves to mediocrity.

Kenyan Drake, Miami Dolphins

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Like Henry, Drake is an Alabama product that has been tough to figure out. At times he shows flashes, yet Adam Gase repeatedly refused to hand him the reins to the offense. With a new coach in town, Drake may finally get an opportunity to shine.

Adrian Peterson, Washington Redskins

A likely first-ballot Hall-of-Famer, Peterson is doing things at his age that few players are able to do. He is one of only five players to rush for 1,000 yards in their age 33 or older season.

At the end of his contract, he will be 35 and I wouldn’t bet against him latching on to another team to bring some veteran leadership and competition to their team. If he can help Darius Guice develop while still being productive, it could go a long way towards helping him secure his next contract.

LeSean McCoy, Buffalo Bills

McCoy is clearly slowing down – career-low 514 yards and 3.2 yards per carry in 2018 – but has built up enough equity over an impressive career to earn the benefit of the doubt. If he wants to continue to play past 2019 (like his new teammate Frank Gore), he’ll show up motivated and in-shape and maybe we can chalk up his dismal 2019 to a bad offense.

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Jordan Howard, Philadelphia Eagles

After a Pro-Bowl rookie season where he rushed for 1,313 yards and six touchdowns, it seemed like Howard would be the next great Bears‘ back. But that didn’t happen as his production steadily dropped over the next two years, culminating in a trade to the Eagles’ this past offseason.

In Philadelphia, he’ll need to prove he had the same juice he had in 2016. It might be difficult though with burgeoning star Miles Sanders waiting in the wings and veterans Darren Sproles and Corey Clement also looking to make a mark.

Matt Breida, San Francisco 49ers

Breida is an undrafted free agent from the 2017 class who burst onto the scene in 2018. He rushed for 814 yards on just 153 carries (5.3 YPC) and also caught 27-of-31 targets for 261 yards. Unfortunately, a laundry list of injuries limited his production and often held him out for series at a time.

He’ll be in a competition with Tevin Coleman this season and may have a chance to impress for his next contract or even seize the starting role.

Wide Receivers

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Amari Cooper, Dallas Cowboys

Like his quarterback, Cooper is currently in talks with the Cowboys about a potential extension. At times, his talent explodes off the screen but he can disappear from games as well. Is that type of player deserving of a contract that will pay him similar to Julio Jones or Odell Beckham Jr? That consistency is what Cooper will have to prove in 2019.

Tyreek Hill, Kansas City Chiefs

It’s hard to discuss Hill’s future without discussing his domestic violence case, but since the NFL did not punish him, I assume he will be allowed to continue to play football.

Obviously, Hill is one of the league’s most dynamic talents and a threat to score every time he touches the ball. The Chiefs spoke of extending him even when he was dealing with his legal issues so I’m sure they’ll get something done with him. Hill and Patrick Mahomes are a match made in heaven and will be playing pitch-and-catch for years to come.

A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals

Although Green is probably the best player in franchise history, don’t be surprised to see him on a different team in 2020. Green has missed 17 games in the last three seasons and is already now dealing with a broken leg which should hold him out another four to start this season. On top of that, the Bengals handed a hefty extension to Tyler Boyd and recently spent a first-round draft pick on John Ross. They may be looking to move on from Green.

Emmanuel Sanders, Denver Broncos

I admit that I doubted Sanders’ ability to bounce-back coming off an Achilles tear in late December. The history of 30+ year old speed receivers returning to form from that injury is not long. However, Sanders looked good in his first preseason action and reports out of camp have been strong. I’m certainly rooting for him to put up another productive season and secure another bag.

Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals

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Larry Legend is in his age 36 season and still remains one of the more productive wide receivers in the NFL. Even with the worst quarterback play in the league last season, he played 16 games and caught 69 (nice) balls for 734 yards and six touchdowns. He should build on those numbers in a pass-friendly Air Raid offense with Kyler Murray.

If Fitzgerald wants to keep playing past this season, I’m sure the Cardinals won’t tell him no. But if they did, it’d be interesting to see if Fitzgerald ring-chases with a more proven franchise. It’s hard to imagine him in a different jersey.

Robby Anderson, New York Jets

Anderson is an undrafted free agent who should be highly motivated and looking for his first real payday. He’s flashed some big-time playmaking ability but he, and his quarterback, need to be more consistent.

Still, outside of Le’Veon Bell, he’s the best playmaker on the team and someone that management could look to pair with Sam Darnold for years to come.

Geronimo Allison, Green Bay Packers

Allison has a huge opportunity to step up and fill the void left by longtime Packer Randall Cobb. The Packers have him penciled in to the slot role (a position Aaron Rodgers loves to target) and if he steps up, he could be the next Lambeau Legend. Or he could be another Packers receiver who didn’t work out.

Tight Ends

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Vance McDonald, Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers have a Club Option on McDonald meaning if they want they could choose to retain him in 2020. Assuming he wants to stay, McDonald is in the perfect opportunity to impress. The Steelers are missing a ton of targets due to the departure of Antonio Brown and Jesse James and will look to McDonald to fill some of them.

Eric Ebron, Indianapolis Colts

Ebron will need to prove his 2018 season was not a fluke in order to secure a big contract in 2020. He’s uber-athletic and talented and one of the league’s best at scoring touchdowns. He will have some competition this year as the Colts added a bevy of pass-catchers, but if his talent shines through he could secure another large contract.

Jack Doyle, Indianapolis Colts

Also of the Colts, Doyle will be competing with Ebron for snaps, catches, yards, touchdowns, and maybe even a contract. It’s hard to imagine the Colts re-signing both of these players to big money. Doyle has been more productive than Ebron when he’s been on the field, but that’s the problem – he’s often not on the field. Doyle missed 10 games in 2018, allowing Ebron to showcase his talents. Doyle’s earning power in 2020 will depend on his availability and productivity in 2019.

Hunter Henry, Los Angeles Chargers

Once labeled the “next Gronk,” Henry missed all of 2018 due to a knee injury. He’s healthy and looking to pick up where he left off. With Antonio Gates retiring and Tyrell Williams now in Oakland, Henry has a chance to get back to catching touchdowns and expand the “Big 3” tight ends (Travis Kelce, Zach Ertz, and George Kittle) to a Big 4.

Austin Hooper, Atlanta Falcons

Hooper has increased his production in each of his last three seasons and will look to do that again in his contract year. He’s the perfect complement to Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley, but I wonder if 1) he sees himself as just a complementary player and 2) if the Falcons will look to pay him as just a complementary player.

Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys

I’m really rooting for Witten to play well and secure another contract in 2020 because I can’t listen to him for 17 Mondays again.

Get prepared for the 2019 Fantasy Football season by checking out the rest of our Fantasy Football content.

About Kevin Huo

Kevin is a fantasy football writer for Fantasy Six Pack. He considers every angle - whether statistical or theoretical - when weighing his options and isn't afraid to be a contrarian. You can follow him on Twitter: @KevinMHuo

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