I have played in free leagues on CBSsportsline and I have been the commissioner of a $$ league for many years. What I found about the free leagues is that a number of players quit after seven or eight weeks of losing. Once eliminated from any hope of the playoffs, they simply stopped managing their teams and a number of active owners get “free wins” as the season moves towards the playoffs. In my opinion, this is not an ideal situation. I’m not saying it is like this in all free leagues, just the public ones I have played in.
I learned quite a bit from observing this. It was pretty commonplace in my $$ league as well until I instituted a small weekly payout for the high scorer in the league. This keeps everyone involved. Even if they are eliminated from playoff contention, if they make the right waiver moves and choose a good starting lineup they have a chance to take the weekly pot.
As far as continuity from year-to-year goes, unless you have a full league of fantasy football fanatics, you will always be looking for players to fill in. The top reasons that I have had players drop out over the years is divorce, financial difficulties, time commitments and inability to compete with the best players in the league. I had to come to grips with this. Some players aren’t “all in” and think this fantasy thing is going to be easy money and when it isn’t they say the hell with it.
However in my overall opinion, if you risk nothing it’s much easier to walk away. I hope this helps.