Roster Reconnaissance: One move every team should make

Justin Jefferson

The 2023 DFL offseason is underway. Teams will be strategically moving their chess pieces around the board and preparing their strategies for the coming league year. Roster composition is never a finished product and remains a perpetual work in progress.

The following is one roster move that every DFL team should make to better their team — or, at least, to bring them one step closer to cornering the king.

Australia Blue Heelers

Sign a deeper running back corps: Signing Jonathan Taylor to a league-high $31 million contract turned out to be the biggest decision that led to the downfall of the 2022 Blue Heelers. Taylor was hobbled all season by an ankle injury and didn’t come even close to paying off on his big deal. The Blue Heelers might be tempted to place the NFT on Taylor, which would give him a starting offer of the average of the Top 5 running back salaries in the league. Is Taylor a Top 5 running back? I tend to think so, but is he a Top 3? Will he return successfully from ankle surgery? The Blue Heelers have good young depth at the receiver position but were haunted by a lack of depth at running back. They should try to get two or three usable ones with the money they were paying Taylor last year.

Bolivia Llamas

Use the Non-exclusive Franchise Tag on Derrick Henry: It might be tempting to use the NFT on Stefon Diggs, as he has finished as a Top 7 receiver in each of the past three seasons, including with two Top 4 finishes. Josh Allen is not going anywhere and this offense will come back next year as strong as usual. If the Llamas don’t believe Diggs can finish in the Top 5, then it’s not worth tagging him. It might be wiser to tag Derrick Henry and lock up a strong backfield with Ken Walker for another season. Henry is getting up there in age but he continues to churn out Top 5 finishes and the running back position remains a premium.

Colombia Capybaras

Go get a stud quarterback: The Capybaras won the Super Bowl without a stud quarterback. Modification: they won without a Top 12 quarterback. One more modification: they even won without a Top 14 quarterback. Tua Tagovailoa, who couldn’t even be counted on to play each week, finished all the way down at QB15. Colombia won the championship behind 4.08 points from Baker Mayfield. That’s how good the rest of their team was. Now imagine if they had a good quarterback to go with it.  Joe Mixon and Tee Higgins are free agents and the team will have to replace their production, sure. But they’re set elsewhere.  Landing a stud quarterback this offseason will give them an additional boost.

Greece Trojans

Sign two solid running backs: The Trojans went hard after Najee Harris last offseason and inked him to one of the richest contracts for a running back in the DFL. Unfortunately, he woefully underperformed and the team suffered because of it. The Trojans should probably not place the EFT or NFT tag on him because the EFT would cause his 120% escalator to go into effect, giving him a 1-year salary of $30 million, which is obscene. And the $15.5 million NFT price tag would likely dissuade other owners from bidding on him, but he might not be worth a Top 5 salary. The $25 million that they spent on Harris in 2022 would be better used on two players for depth purposes.

Ireland Shamrocks

Use the Non-exclusive Franchise Tag on Travis Kelce: The $25 million that the Shamrocks spent on Kelce last year did not hinder them from making a run at the Super Bowl. Kelce outscored the second-best tight end by more than 100 points, so the salary might have been worth it. However, placing the EFT or TT on Kelce would kick in his 120% escalator clause and give him a salary of $30 million, which just doesn’t seem worth it. Due to a lot of 1-year contracts for high-priced veteran tight ends, the NFT price tag for Kelce would be $6.9 million. Obviously, there will be owners who are willing to sign Kelce for far more than that and give up a second-round pick as compensation if the Shamrocks decline to match his highest offer. But the Shamrocks will probably match anything up to what they paid Kelce last year, so the NFT seems like their best option.

Italy Emperors

Target a stud wide receiver: The Emperors have quite the rebuild ahead of them. They have two high-priced running backs coming off torn ACLs and will likely need to add some depth there, which they can do with any of their 7 picks in this year’s draft. They have a good, yet overpaid tight end in Kyle Pitts, and can always pick up a decent quarterback at any cost. So the focus of their attention ought to be signing a big-time wide receiver to pair with youngsters Darnell Mooney, Alec Pierce, and Nico Collins. Of course, adding depth and competition across the board is needed for a team with a lot of holes.

Kazakhstan’s Very Nice Team

Use the Non-Exclusive Franchise Tag on either Austin Ekeler or A.J. Brown: Austin Ekeler finished as the No. 1 running back this year, and as the No. 2 in 2021. Can he finish in the Top 3, or even the Top 5 again next year? That’s the question that Kazakhstan needs to answer this offseason. $15.5 million is not a bad opening offer for a stud running back, although I’m sure there will be some other team willing to offer that plus a second-round pick to secure his services. How high they’re willing to go remains to be seen, but this seems like Kazakhstan’s best move there. An alternative option would be to place the EFT or NFT on A.J. Brown. Both tags would give Brown a starting salary of $18.2 million. I’m not sure if anybody would bid on him at that cost if he received the NFT. But I’m also not sure he might be worth it. He finished as the WR6 last year and Davonta Smith made some major strides last year.

Papua New Guinea Pigs

Use the Non-exclusive Franchise Tag on Davante Adams or Josh Allen: Davante Adams finished as the WR3 even with a bad quarterback situation, proving that it wasn’t necessarily the quarterback that elevated his play for the past several years of his career. He is likely worth the NFT price tag and it’ll be interesting to see if any owners bite. If the Pigs don’t want to use the NFT on Adams, they can use it on Josh Allen, who finished as QB2. He’d receive an opening offer of $6.3 million and then we’d see if any other teams would be willing to raise that offer and include a second-round pick as compensation. The Pigs could even place the NFT on Allen and the EFT on Adams. Adams’ 120% escalator clause would kick in and give him a 1-year contract of $22.8 million, which would make him the 3rd-highest paid receiver in the league, which seems commensurate with his production.

Peru Gurus

Use the Non-exclusive Franchise Tag on Christian McCaffrey or CeeDee Lamb: It was good to see Christian McCaffrey shake off the “injury-prone” label of the past two seasons and come roaring back to finish as the RB2. Assuming he avoids injury again next year, there’s no reason to expect him not to finish in the Top 5. He’s well worth the $15.5 million opening price tag of the NFT. I’m sure he’d have other suitors in the league, but the Gurus could match the offer or receive second-round compensation. Peru alternatively could use the NFT tag on CeeDee Lamb. $18.2 million and a second-round pick would probably scare off other teams, but it would make him the third-highest paid wide receiver in the league — before other possible tags are placed, of course.

Saint Kitts & Nevis Shockers

Use the Non-exclusive Franchise Tag on Justin Jefferson: It goes without saying, Justin Jefferson is an absolute stud. And barring injury — which you can say about any player in the league — I don’t think anyone could envision him finishing outside the Top 5 at the receiver position. Hence, placing the NFT on Jefferson would be the wise choice for the Shockers. I’m sure he’d likely receive a few bids at that price with second-round compensation thrown in, but Ja’Marr Chase and Cooper Kupp have a salary in the mid-20s and there’s no reason the Shockers couldn’t match a salary offered to Jefferson in that range as well.

Sint Maarten Savages

Use the Non-exclusive Franchise Tag on Patrick Mahomes: Patrick Mahomes is clearly one of the best quarterbacks we’ve seen and he’s consistently at the top of the league in scoring. The Savages can place the NFT on him this offseason and see how many offers come rolling in. He’d be worth that price plus a second-round draft pick, so I’m sure other teams would court him. But the Savages would likely match and sign him to a 3-year deal to lock him up as the face of the franchise.

South Africa Ballstrikers

Resist the urge to use the EFT or NFT on Josh Jacobs: Jacobs has been a stud RB2 since he entered the league. This year, he threw a monkey wrench into the financial hierarchy at the running back position by finishing as the RB3 overall. Fluke, or sign of things to come? Personally, I’d resist placing the EFT or NFT on the guy because there is not a track record of him finishing in the Top 5 — or even in the Top 10 — at the position, so the Ballstrikers would be gambling by using one of those two tags. They could place the TT on him, giving him a starting salary of $10.8 million. Jacobs would likely receive some action at that price tag, but South Africa would ultimately retain matching rights on him.