With the official start of the new league year mere hours away, teams continued to take full advantage of the legal tampering period Wednesday to firm up possible commitments from free agents, sign players already released outright, secure some of their own pending departures through either re-signings or the re-structuring of existing contracts, and, in one case, even come to terms on a trade. Without further ado, here's a look at how some of the notable NFL dominos fell Wednesday:
Brandon Marshall signs with Giants- The Giants made the biggest splash of the day with the inking of Brandon Marshall to a two-year, $12 million contract. Even at 32 years of age, Marshall is a candidate for a major bounce-back season in 2017 given the significant upgrade he'll enjoy at the quarterback position. After enduring the likes of Ryan Fitzpatrick, Geno Smith and Bryce Petty behind center in 2016, Marshall will be on the receiving end of Eli Manning's throws in 2017, a signal-caller that while not quite elite, still serves as a much steadier and capable force than the aforementioned trio. While his 59 receptions over 15 games last season were certainly disappointing overall, Marshall is just one year removed from a 109-catch, 1,502-yard, 14-touchdown campaign in 2015, and he's seen over 20 red zone targets in eight of his nine NFL seasons. However, it's important to bear in mind that incumbent Giants No. 1 receiver Odell Beckham also boasts very similar usage inside the 20 over his first three seasons, and that second-year wideout Sterling Shepard saw 13 red-zone looks of his own in 2016. Something's likely to give next season with respect to each receiver's production, but the Giants could also see an overall uptick in their passing attempts, given the talent they'll trot out at the position.
Kenny Stills re-signs with Dolphins- Stills re-upped on a four-year, $32 million deal with the team that traded for him prior to the 2015 campaign, a development that seemed rather unlikely at this time last year. The 24-year-old speedster had turned in a rather pedestrian 27 catches for 440 yards and three touchdowns in 2015 despite playing in all 16 games, certainly not the production Miami had hoped for after Stills' 63-reception, 931-yard campaign in New Orleans the year prior had lured them into make a deal for his services. However, new head coach Adam Gase's system, which significantly benefited several players on the Dolphins offense, helped Stills make a much stronger case last season. He looked more like the emerging speedster the Dolphins had traded a player and third-round pick for, as he snagged 42 receptions for 726 yards and hauled in a career-high nine scores, while also notching 10 receptions of over 20 yards, including four over 40. With a second consecutive year in Gase's system, Stills once again will project as a highly effective complementary presence alongside starters DeVante Parker and Jarvis Landry, and another uptick in overall production is certainly conceivable provided QB Ryan Tannehill's knee is back to full health.
Tyrod Taylor restructures contract with Bills- The 27-year-old was set to hit the open market come Thursday afternoon, but will apparently reclaim his place under center in the Bills offense for a third straight season in 2017, albeit under a new head coach in Sean McDermott. Named a surprise starter two seasons ago by then-head coach Rex Ryan after Taylor had thrown just 35 passes in four seasons in Baltimore, he went on to compile a pair of 3,000-yard seasons and a sparking 37:12 TD:INT over the next two campaigns. Just as important were Taylor's 1,148 rushing yards and 10 running touchdowns over that span, a dimension that's rendered him an above-average fantasy asset during his starting tenure despite average production through the air. With his return to Buffalo, Taylor gets another opportunity to work with ultra-talented but injury-ridden wideout Sammy Watkins, whose eight missed games last season due to a problematic foot undeniably helped cap the quarterback's fantasy ceiling. The talented backfield duo of LeSean McCoy and Mike Gillislee will also once again be available to keep opposing defenses honest and prevent too much focus on the passing game. Taylor should once again serve as a Top 15 fantasy option at quarterback, with potential for a notable boost in passing numbers if Watkins remains healthy for all 16 games.
Dwayne Allen traded to Patriots- NFL general managersand fans of other teams alike likely cringe any time the Patriots bring someone else's underused talents into the fold, as those transactions somehow seem to work out in New England's favor the overwhelming majority of the time. Allen could be the latest example, as the athletic but underwhelming 27-year-old was sent to the Patriots by the Colts along with a sixth-round pick in exchange for a fourth-rounder. Allen's arrival essentially signals the imminent departure of Martellus Bennett, and provides the 2012 third-round selection a chance to perhaps finally pay off his considerable potential while catching passes from Tom Brady. Allen grabbed 45 receptions in what was an impressive rookie campaign five seasons ago, but has not topped 35 catches since. However, the one constant has remained red-zone production, as he has 19 touchdowns over 57 NFL games. New England targeted the tight end position in the red zone 22 times in 2016, and while Rob Gronkowski naturally commands his fair share of that type of volume when healthy, head coach Bill Belichick likely has no peer when it comes to maximizing the talent of each player on his roster; therefore, given his past proficiency near the goal line, Allen is a good bet for plenty of looks in the end zone again next season.
Vernon Davis re-signs with Redskins- Davis re-signed with Washington on a three-year deal Wednesday after parlaying a one-year pact last season into his most productive campaign since 2013. The 33-year-old grabbed 44 of 59 targets for 583 yards and a pair of scores, but perhaps just as important, demonstrated that rumors of the demise of his downfield speed were greatly exaggerated. Davis' 13.3 YPC was his highest since that aforementioned 2013 season in San Francisco, as were his 11 catches of greater than 20 yards, which outpaced his number in that category over the previous three seasons combined. Somewhat like Dwayne Allen in New England, Davis will line up behind a supremely gifted starting tight end in Jordan Reed who has trouble remaining healthy. Additionally, the Redskins could be sporting a dramatically different receiver corps come Thursday night with the rumored departures of both Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson, potentially thrusting the tight end position further into the spotlight come next season.
DeSean Jackson to Buccaneers- This one has picked up plenty of steam this week, as the Bucs have made their interest known and have the cap room ($66 million) to accommodate the veteran speedster, who could command $10-$12 million annually after notching the fifth 1,000-yard season of his career in 2016. Jackson would provide the Bucs with the deep threat they desperately need opposite towering No. 1 Mike Evans and automatically improve the fantasy prospects of both Evans and QB Jameis Winston with his game-breaking ability, one that produced a 17.9 YPC and 19 receptions of greater than 20 yards last season in Washington.
Pierre Garcon to 49ers- Like Jackson, it appears Garcon's time in DC has come to an end,as the veteran wideout is rumored to be rejoining former Redskins offensive coordinator and current 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan out west. Garcon posted 44 and 113 receptions, respectively, in his two seasons under Shanahan's offense in 2012-13, racking up 1,979 yards, nine touchdowns and 25 receptions of 20+ yards in the process. The 30-year-old showed he had plenty left in the tank last season (79 receptions, 1,041 yards, three TD), and in San Francisco, he would presumably be a major target in a familiar offense on a receiver-starved squad, all harbingers of potentially robust fantasy production.
Kyle Juszczyk to 49ers- The Ravens undoubtedly hate to lose a versatile player like Juszczyk, but the Niners are reportedly prepared to offer him a deal that will make him one of the league's most well-compensated fullbacks. He's rather quietly racked up 78 receptions in Baltimore the last two seasons while showing some impressive wiggle in the open field and finding pay dirt through the air on five occasions. New Niners head coach Kyle Shanahan is clearly overhauling what was one of the league's most anemic offenses last season, and Juszczyk, who is also an effective lead blocker, appears set to be an important component.
Brian Hoyer to 49ers- Speaking of the rebuilding effort out west, Hoyer is another new piece that looks likely to be added to the Niners roster as early as Thursday evening. The veteran signal-caller acquitted himself well in his only Bears season in 2016 before going down with a broken forearm in Week 7, throwing for 1,445 yards with six touchdowns and no interceptions while completing passes at a 67 percent clip. He also compiled a respectable 31:20 TD:INT ratio over the prior two seasons in Cleveland and Houston, respectively, and could be a sleeper candidate in Kyle Shanahan's proven offensive scheme in 2017.
Danny Woodhead to Ravens- After spending the majority of 2016 recovering from his Week 2 ACL tear, the 33-year-old is the apparent replacement in Baltimore for Kyle Juszczyk, whom the Ravens are expected to lose to the Niners as early as Thursday afternoon. Woodhead will have to prove he is back to full health, but certainly can be a formidable pass-catching presence if his knee injury is behind him. He notched 80 receptions in his last full season in 2015, and could quickly become as valued a safety valve for QB Joe Flacco as he was for Philip Rivers in San Diego.