Bears Sign Eddie Royal
On the second day of free agency, the Bears signed former Chargers wide receiver Eddie Royal to a three-year deal. This signing helps fill a void at wide receiver left by the recent trade of Brandon Marshall to the Jets.
The 28-year-old Royal is coming off the two best seasons since his rookie season in 2008. In 2013, he racked up 47 receptions for 631 yards and eight touchdowns. He followed that up with 62 catches for 778 yards and seven touchdowns in 2014.
During his three seasons with the Chargers, Royal proved to be one of Philip Rivers’ most-trusted receivers. In 2014, lining up primarily in the slot position (86.2 percent of his routes ran), he caught 72.1 percent of his targets, averaged 5.9 yards per reception, and had team-high 22 receptions on third down. Moreover, between the numbers, he caught 40 of his 44 targets at short or intermediate distances.
Rivers is not the only quarterback who has ever developed a strong trust in Royal. In 2008, as a rookie playing for the Broncos, Royal caught a considerable 91 passes from Jay Cutler. Now that they are reunited, Royal can provide Cutler with something he has never had while in Chicago: a trustworthy possession slot receiver.
Unfortunately, his value to the Bears offense is not equal to his value in fantasy. In general, slot receivers have minimal value in fantasy—especially in non-PPR formats. They simply do not rack up yards and touchdowns comparable to the outside receivers. Last season’s only exception was Randall Cobb, who was the only receiver that reached 1,000 yards receiving or double-digit touchdowns from the slot position. This reason alone explains why Royal did not finish any higher than 30th among fantasy wide receivers in 2013 or 2014.
In 2015, Royal will continue to see considerable action from the slot in three wide receiver sets, while Alshon Jeffery and Marquess Wilson will line up on the outside. Royal is projected to have 49 receptions for 539 yards and three touchdowns. Jeffery continues to be the only truly fantasy-relevant wide receiver in Chicago.