Football season never really ends. It just morphs into different forms throughout the calendar year. Kinda like that jug of milk that got pushed all the way to the back of the fridge. If you're patient enough, it might turn into cheese*. You'll just have to go though a whole bunch of other phases first.
So while we wait for curdification to happen on our way to a gloriously dairy-filled new season, let's try to figure out some of the best culinary pairings that could spice things up during the upcoming free agent period.
I probably shouldn't have written this on an empty stomach.
Anyway, I have a list of some of the top fantasy-relevant free agents heading into the March 16 contract negotiating period based on Around the NFL's list of the top 101 free agents (each player's ranking in the top 101 is in parentheses next to their name). Bookmark this page and mock me over how terribly wrong my predictions are. Or just accept this as my own personal wish list and live a much happier, healthier, online existence. Your choice.
*Editor's note: Marcas has no actual idea how cheese is made.
Dak Prescott (1)
In just the past few years, Dak's done a lot to help other people get paid. Prescott piloted the Cowboys offense along the way to helping Ezekiel Elliott get a bank-breaking contract extension. Let's also not forget that Prescott pushed Tony Romo into retirement and subsequently an enormous payday as a television analyst. Okay, maybe both of those are stretches but now Dak is the one looking to get paid. The Cowboys have long suggested that they want to keep Prescott in the Metroplex but with so many players needing to be signed and so little cap space in which to fit them, it's going to get a little tricky.
Best fit: It would be a shock if Dak isn't back in Dallas next year. It just might be on a franchise tag instead of a long-term contract. Considering his growth from talented rookie to the driver of one of the NFL's most potent offenses -- and early-season MVP darkhorse -- plenty of teams would pony up to bring him in. But it's not going to happen. Dak's staying put.
Ryan Tannehill (7)
If Ryan Tannehill's 2019 season was a '90s sports movie, it probably would have starred Kevin Costner or Dennis Quaid. After years of being yoked with the burden of "potential" that he never lived up to, the former Dolphin took over for the struggling Marcus Mariota and helped lead the Titans to the AFC Championship Game. Along the way, Tannehill's rising tide lifted a lot of fantasy boats and left us wondering if we should dare dip our toes in the water again when it comes to our 2020 fantasy drafts.
Best fit: Considering what Tannehill did for their offense last season, the Titans would be foolish not to bring him back for another go-around. I mean, unless there's a Hall of Fame quarterback with a connection to the Titans head coach that might be interested in testing the market. In the weird occurrence that Tennessee takes a pass on Tannehill, Chicago could be an interesting destination. While the Bears have tried to take a positive outlook on Mitchell Trubisky, it's hard to see him making any grand improvements this offseason. It would be interesting to see what Matt Nagy's team could do with a quarterback who has many of the same skills, but, y'know ... better.
Drew Brees (14)
It's a 20-20-20 year for Drew Brees. By announcing that he planned to return in 2020, he'll become the 20th player in NFL history to play 20 seasons. Missing five games with a thumb injury blunted his overall fantasy production but he still averaged better than 20 points per game, including a blistering run through the fantasy postseason in which he scored 22 or better in four straight weeks. Brees might not be better than he once was, but he's as good as he's ever been.
Tom Brady (16)
The NFL's version of Where's Waldo is starting to kick into high gear with multiple teams being linked to the Hall of Fame quarterback as he decides where to play out the likely remainder of his career. In his 20th pro season, Brady wasn't exactly the fantasy darling that he had been in the past and his QB12 finish belied an end to the season that saw his production tail off dramatically. But on the field, Brady still can do things that most NFL offenses covet. He's likely to be the first real free agent QB domino to fall, leaving the rest of the market to sort itself out after that.
Best fit: You'll have to be pretty specific when trying to find fits for Brady. At this point in his career, it will have to be a team with a real shot at a Super Bowl run but also a team willing to pay a high price tag for a relatively short-term player. With reports that early talks with the Patriots didn't go well, it's placed more focus on teams like the Titans and 49ers. The Niners have a long-term interest in Brady's former understudy, Jimmy Garoppolo, while the Titans have no such commitment to Tannehill. If you're making a short-term play with a veteran quarterback, why not make it the greatest QB ever to play the game?
Philip Rivers (22)
Once upon a time, Rivers was a favorite of anyone who waited to draft their fantasy quarterback. Over the first half of 2019, that again looked to be a wise strategy. Then the wheels fell off. In the back half of the campaign, Rivers handed out interceptions like Halloween candy. Things were so bad that there was talk that the veteran could be benched. That led to a mutual parting of the ways with the Chargers reportedly getting in on the Tom Brady Sweepstakes and Rivers trying to find a new football home.
Best fit: Once it became apparent that Rivers wasn't going to be a Bolt anymore the rumor mill almost immediately placed him in Indianapolis. It makes sense. The Colts obviously aren't sold on Jacoby Brissett as the long-term answer. Meanwhile, Rivers is familiar with head coach Frank Reich from their time together in San Diego. If the veteran can curb the turnover problems that plagued him at the end of last year, it could be a boost to T.Y. Hilton and the rest of Indy's pass-catching corps. It would certainly help to play behind an offensive line that's sturdier than what the Chargers have offered the past couple of seasons.
Jameis Winston (25)
Five seasons into Jameis Winston's career, we still don't know what he is. Check that. We know that he's a rollercoaster with some of the highest highs, lowest lows and most harrowing twists and turns that you could imagine. How else do you describe the player who was the QB5 in fantasy last season and led the league in passing yards while also putting together the first 30-touchdown, 30-interception campaign in NFL history? Bruce Arians is noted for saying "no risk it, no biscuit" but even Jameis tested those limits last year. Yet when he's at his best, you understand why Tampa Bay made him the No. 1 overall pick in 2015.
Best fit: The Bucs have been coy about what their plans are for Jameis but the prevailing wisdom is that the team is ready to start over at quarterback rather than pay up for a continuing engima. Plenty of mock drafts have the Chargers taking Oregon's Justin Herbert with the sixth pick but would they consider filling their QB void through free agency instead? It might sound strange to replace one interception machine with another but Jameis' youth, mobility and potential upside could make him an interesting fit on a roster already blessed with talented pass-catchers.
Teddy Bridgewater (63)
Bridgewater seemed on the verge of big things a few years ago before a devastating knee injury derailed those hopes. He was a bit of a reclamation project for Sean Payton and the Saints and while he didn't wow anyone as a fill-in for the injured Brees last season, he did keep the team afloat for a month. However, it looks like his time in the Big Easy is over. He'll hit the market looking to compete for a starting job but most likely landing as a quality backup.
Best fit: It might make sense for Bridgewater to stay in black and gold -- or don black and yellow. Ben Roethlisberger is expected to resume his role as the Steelers starter in 2020 but Big Ben hasn't been the sturdiest quarterback during his career. As we saw last season, Pittsburgh could use some help in its quarterback room. Bridgewater could be the guy to add that needed stability.
Best fit: Mariota never found his groove in the Music City and it's hard to imagine the Titans keeping him around. Even in the best case scenario, he would find himself competing somewhere for a chance to be a starter. Perhaps as another option for Chicago (if the Tannehill domino doesn't fall that way) or maybe battling with Jacoby Brissett if the Colts don't pursue Philip Rivers. Either way, it's hard to see Mariota landing in a situation that would excite fantasy managers in 2020.