Offseason Extra: Free agency fallout
What does the free agency landscape look like this offseason and how might it impact some key Fantasy contributors? Our Dave Richard shares his take on the top options at each position.
They say money makes the world go 'round.
It also makes the talent go 'round in the NFL. Free agency sets into motion how teams plan out the rest of their offseason and sheds light as to how they'll operate for the coming season. Prominent players move to new teams (or settle for a bag of cash with their old teams) while unproven talents fall into opportunities created by player movement. And players who we might have had our sights set on become less meaningful because of new talent joining their team.
The 2013 season might not be here for a while, but any savvy Fantasy Football veteran knows paying attention to player movement around the league is a key to success. Leave it to us to track the free agent movement here.
Some additional free-agent notes:
UFA: Unrestricted Free Agent -- A player who can sign anywhere.*
RFA: Restricted Free Agent -- A player who can sign anywhere but original team can match offer or receive compensation from new team. (Compensation will be added upon announcement of team designations.)
ERFA: Exclusive Rights Free Agent -- A player who can only negotiate with current team.
FRAN: Franchised Player -- A player who is guaranteed a one-year deal from his original team relative to highest-paid players at his position. The new team must give two first-round picks as compensation to original team if signed away.
*- released players also have this designation
|Jackie Battle , Chargers|
|Joique Bell , Lions (ERFA)|
|Ronnie Brown , Chargers|
|Justin Forsett , Texans|
|Mike Goodson , Raiders|
|Ryan Grant , Packers|
|Peyton Hillis , Chiefs|
|Chris Ivory , Saints (RFA-2nd)|
|Rashad Jennings , Jaguars|
|Felix Jones , Cowboys|
|Isaac Redman , Steelers (RFA-ROFR)|
|Bernard Scott , Bengals|
|Kevin Smith , Lions|
|LaRod Stephens-Howling , Cardinals|
|Michael Turner , Falcons|
|Beanie Wells , Cardinals|
|Danny Woodhead , Patriots|
|LeGarrette Blount , Bucs|
|Jonathan Dwyer , Steelers|
2012 Average Draft Position: 22.29
2012 stats: 1,042 rush yards, 4 rush touchdowns; 38 catches, 321 receiving yards
Jackson decided in late February to void his contract, allowing him to test free agency for the first time in his career. He'll do so after recording his fifth straight 1,350-total-yard campaign and rumbling for an average of at least 4.1 yards per carry for the eighth time in nine seasons. It all sounds great until you realize that he's played an awful long time and the track record for running backs that play an awful long time doesn't end well. Jackson will turn 30 just before the start of training camp this summer and has over 2,400 career carries and over 400 career receptions (including the postseason). Though he keeps his body in great shape we've done enough research to know that once a running back gets past the 2,400 carry mark (if not the 2,000 adjusted touches mark) there's serious risk of a breakdown.That's the reality for Jackson and all of his suitors to face.
Potential landing spots: Atlanta, Green Bay, N.Y. Jets, Pittsburgh, St. Louis
Optimal landing spot: Atlanta. Jackson desperately wants to play for a Super Bowl contender and could fit right into the Michael Turner role with the Falcons seamlessly. He's spent his career running indoors and would continue to do the same with the Falcons. He'd split with Jacquizz Rodgers, likely limiting him to around 250 carries again, but assuming he can avoid injury he should be quite effective there. Turner scored at least 10 touchdowns every year with the Falcons and Jackson would get those opportunities -- something the Rams couldn't quite give him over the last three years. Jackson would be a medium-risk, high-reward No. 2 Fantasy running back that would get picked within the Top 30 spots on Draft Day if he went to Atlanta, though drafting Rodgers with a mid-round pick would be an absolute must.
2012 Average Draft Position: 35.96
2012 stats: 1,015 rush yards, 6 rush touchdowns; 23 catches, 245 receiving yards
During the week of the Super Bowl, Bradshaw appeared in a number of places on a scooter, announcing he had had surgery on his foot. That would be the fourth procedure he's hadon his feet since 2009 -- and that doesn't include ankle and head injuries he's had along the way. Pair that track record with a sizable salary for 2013 and 2014 and the Giants saw fit to cut him loose, opening the door for David Wilson and Andre Brown to step into a tandem at tailback. There's a chance they could always re-sign Bradshaw but once he proves his foot is healthy there will likely be a line of suitors lining up to sign Bradshaw on a one-year deal as at the very least a change-of-pace back.
Potential landing spots: Arizona, Atlanta, Cincinnati, Dallas, Detroit, Green Bay, Indianapolis, Miami, N.Y. Giants, N.Y. Jets, Oakland, Pittsburgh, San Diego, St. Louis
Optimal landing spot: Arizona.If he can't finagle a job as the primary back with a contender, the least Bradshaw could do is land a similar role with another team. He'd have to compete in training camp for the work with Ryan Williams and maybe Beanie Wells but the versatility he offers should stand out to a team like the Cardinals. Throw in what should be an improved O-line and he could net his third 1,000-yard rushing season in four years. He'd shoot right back into the Top 60 picks in drafts if that scenario were to play out this spring. Until then, there's trepidation in drafting Bradshaw in Fantasy leagues.
2012 Average Draft Position: 56.17
2012 stats: 986 rush yards, 6 rush touchdowns; 292 receiving yards, 2 receiving touchdowns
Bush proved doubters wrong again last season, totaling over 1,200 yards for the second year in a row as Miami's primary rusher. Though he had six games with 12 carries or less, he was still mostly productive over a career-high 262 touches, especially at the end of the year when the coaching staff utilized him more as a receiver out of the backfield, which is something he likes to do. Many view Bush as an older running back but he'll be 28 years old entering next season with 967 career carries, 372 career receptions and one game missed (Week 17 in 2011) in his last two seasons. He still has something left to give an NFL team and thus is capable of helping Fantasy owners in 2013.
Potential landing spots: Arizona, Cincinnati, Detroit, Green Bay, Miami, N.Y. Jets
Optimal landing spot: Miami. For Bush to be at his best for Fantasy, he needs a chance to get 15 touches per game. If he leaves the Dolphins there's a pretty good chance he'll have to split reps to some degree and that won't help his cause. In Miami, Bush has already proven to the coaching staff he can handle whatever they throw at him. Though the Dolphins are stocked with running backs who would potentially take playing time away from Bush, they could move a younger talent like Daniel Thomas toward the bottom of the depth chart (or onto another roster) and keep Bush as a prominent playmaker. Figure Bush to make the cut as a No. 2 rusher in your drafts.
2012 Average Draft Position: 60.04
2012 stats: 1,063 rush yards, 8 rush touchdowns; 151 receiving yards
Call it a career year for Greene, who posted career-bests in rushing attempts (276), yards (1,063) and touchdowns (eight). But no one is calling Greene an elite running back, especially when five of the eight touchdowns came over two games and the 100-total-yard mark was surpassed only three times. Greene has a role in this league but it's not as a primary, featured back. He's a powerful runner with pretty good hands, but speed just isn't his thing.
Potential landing spots: Arizona, Chicago, Indianapolis, N.Y. Jets, Pittsburgh, San Diego
Optimal landing spot: N.Y. Jets. The reality is that no one will draft Greene with a high Fantasy pick unless he's in a situation like he was over the past year, and even then he'll be a guy an owner will settle for starting in Round 6. At least with the Jets he would resume his role as a primary rusher, however unappealing that might sound to you. There he'd have a chance at reaching 1,000 rush yards and a bushel of touchdowns again, whereas if he moves into a part-time role he might deliver a handful of touchdowns -- Mike Tolbert style -- but not pick up a ton of yardage. Either way, no one is going to be excited to have him as a No. 2 rusher.
2012 Average Draft Position: 130.76
2012 stats: 244 total yards, 1 TD
Just how bad was the Steelers' run game in 2012? According to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, their combined 1,537 yards was the second-worst by any team since the NFL expanded to a 16-game season in 1978. Mendenhall wasn't to blame for all of that but as the former primary rusher-turned-enemy of the coaching staff, Mendenhall didn't play well. Coming back from a torn ACL had plenty to do with it and it remains to be seen if last season was a mirage for Mendenhall or if this is what he is going forward. It looks as if a new team will make that determination.
Potential landing spots: Arizona, Denver, Miami
Optimal landing spot: Arizona, where he would reunite with Bruce Arians and have a chance to work alongside another injury-prone running back in Ryan Williams. If Williams were to get hurt Mendenhall would then be in line for a lot of playing time. It's almost enough to spend a decent pick on Mendenhall until you realize he hasn't been the same since his injury and the Cardinals' offensive line is among the worst in the league. Mendenhall is still safest as a late-round pick.
|Danario Alexander , Chargers (RFA-ROFR)|
|Danny Amendola , Rams|
|Donnie Avery , Colts|
|Austin Collie , Colts|
|Brandon Gibson , Rams|
|Domenik Hixon , Giants|
|Donald Jones , Bills|
|Mohamed Massaquoi , Browns|
|Randy Moss , 49ers|
|David Nelson , Bills|
|Kevin Ogletree , Cowboys|
|Emmanuel Sanders , Steelers (RFA-3rd)|
|Dwayne Bowe , Chiefs|
|Andrew Hawkins , Bengals|
|Brian Hartline , Dolphins|
|Jerome Simpson , Vikings|
, Giants (RFA-1st)
2012 Average Draft Position: 36.70
2012 stats: 86 catches for 1,092 yards and 10 TDs
A lot of Cruz's Fantasy owners might be quick to call him a bust after disappointing down the stretch in 2012, but he actually scored one more touchdown and caught four more passes than he did in his breakout 2011 season. A second-half swoon (under 70 yards receiving in seven of his last nine games) pushed his yardage total well south of what he had last season. But what's fact is fact -- Cruz had 100 yards and/or a touchdown in nine games this year and 17 times in his last 31 regular-season games. That keeps him in the spotlight as a great Fantasy contributor and obviously as an asset to the Giants offense.
Potential landing spots: New York. He's not leaving. Grab some lunch and get ready to see Cruz and the Giants settle in for an interesting offseason battle. Cruz pretty much deserves a top-end salary given his role in the offense and how valuable he's been for the team over the last two seasons. But the Giants don't have to give him that salary just yet -- they've already slapped him with a first-round tender in restricted free agency and next year they can franchise him. That gives them two years to table any kind of long-term contract. That stinks for Cruz but great for Fantasy owners who might shy away from drafting him if he were to get paid from another team.
2012 Average Draft Position: 26.85
2012 stats: 36 catches for 366 yards and 4 TDs in eight games
After missing the last three games of 2011 and the middle of the 2012 with leg injuries, Jennings can safely be put in the injury-prone category. That's not so good, especially with his receiving average sliding in consecutive years. What's more, the Packers are loaded at receiver thanks to James Jones leading the league in touchdowns, Randall Cobb exploding on the scene and Jordy Nelson providing some highlight-reel plays despite being hurt himself. None of those guys are going anywhere, so if Jennings was to stick in Green Bay he'd have to settle for fewer looks from Aaron Rodgers than he might have had, say, a year earlier.
Potential landing spots: Buffalo, Green Bay, Kansas City, Miami, Minnesota
Optimal landing spot: Minnesota. At first we liked Miami but after some further evaluation the idea of Jennings staying in the NFC North and continuing to work in a West Coast system is for the best. Jennings won't have to be the big-play receiver for the Vikes, though he could still put up some big games there. Percy Harvin is expected to stick with Minnesota and he'll keep the coverage on Jennings to a minimum. Christian Ponder is a downgrade at quarterback from Aaron Rodgers of course but he's still capable enough to get Jennings the ball 12-plus yards off the line of scrimmage. The Vikings need a seasoned receiver badly and Jennings' knowledge of the NFC North will help him out a lot. He'll be an interesting player to consider on Draft Day, but chances are he'll settle into the No. 2 receiver range.
2012 Average Draft Position: 53.99
2012 stats: 64 catches for 836 yards and 8 TDs
If there's one thing Wallace proved this season, it's that he continues to be a boom-or-bust receiver. Of his eight touchdowns, five came from outside the red zone. He also scored in seven of his 15 games but failed to get even 70 yards receiving in seven of his other eight contests. And while he had four games with seven-plus receptions he had over 100 yards (his only 100-yard games of 2012) in two of them. Speed continues to be Wallace's best asset, and with free agency looming you can be sure a team that desperately needs that quality in its offense will pay handsomely for his services.
Potential landing spots: Buffalo, Kansas City, Miami, N.Y. Jets
Optimal landing spot: Miami. It sounds like the Dolphins want Wallace and think he can work as their primary receiving threat. You might not think Wallace can handle such a role but any opportunity for him is good news for his Fantasy prospects. The Dolphins tried hard to use Brian Hartline's deep speed last season and while he had a couple of great games and finished with over 1,000 yards, he really wasn't impressive. Wallace would at least do as well as Hartline with some decent touchdown potential. Think Flex on Wallace.
2012 Average Draft Position: 29.00
2012 stats: 118 catches for 1,354 yards and 6 TDs
Many people subscribe to the theory that players in a contract year do everything they can to put up big numbers in an attempt to cash in the following offseason. This is something Welker has done in consecutive years, posting his best yardage stats in 2011 and 2012 while catching over 115 passes each season. It's amazing -- everyone knows what Welker's role is with the Patriots and he still finds a way to play effectively, albeit without as many visits to the end zone as you might like.
Potential landing spots: Buffalo, Dallas, Kansas City, Miami, New England, San Diego
Optimal landing spot: New England. Would we even want to have Welker on our Fantasy teams if he were in another team's jersey? Just wouldn't feel right if he wasn't catching passes from Tom Brady , but that's the stark reality. The Patriots tried their darndest to put Julian Edelman into the offense this season and reportedly had/have interest in Danny Amendola , who like Welker is a quick slot receiver (and a Texas Tech pedigree as well). To franchise Welker again this offseason would mean committing upwards of $11 million in guaranteed money after giving him over $9 million guaranteed just for 2012. This is after the Patriots put out some good dough for Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez . It's possible the Patriots keep Welker tagged instead of extending him for a few years, and it's what we'd like to see since Welker's arrival in a new town with a new quarterback and a new offense could mean some new, not-so-good expectations for him. Fantasy owners already know what to do with him if he stays with the Patriots.
|Dallas Clark , Bucs|
|Fred Davis , Redskins|
|Ed Dickson , Ravens (RFA-3rd)|
|Anthony Fasano , Dolphins|
|Tony Gonzalez , Falcons|
|Dustin Keller , Jets|
|Brandon Myers , Raiders|
|Benjamin Watson , Browns|
|Delanie Walker , 49ers|
2012 Average Draft Position: 162.26
2012 stats: 55 catches for 626 yards and 5 TDs
Bennett had a career season seeing an uptick in playing time, but it feels like he left a lot on the field. Bennett had six drops according to Stats, Inc., and didn't make the most of his 90 targets in the Giants offense. After beginning the year with a score in three straight, Bennett caught two touchdowns over his remaining 13 games and had under 50 yards in 12 games total. That doesn't help a player who has worn the "underachiever" label through the first four years of his career.
Potential landing spots: Buffalo, Chicago, Kansas City, Miami, N.Y. Giants, N.Y. Jets, Oakland, Tampa Bay
Optimal landing spot: Giants, if only for the sake of familiarity and role in a good offense. Tampa Bay would be a close second. The truth is, if he had a career year with the Giants and managed only 626 yards, there just isn't a lot of upside here. He might go undrafted this summer.
2012 Average Draft Position: 141.33
2012 stats: 44 catches for 523 yards and 4 TDs
Cook's been a player it seems like we've waited a long time for. When he had a 'breakout' 2011 campaign (759 yards, three touchdowns) many felt he'd be the next great tight end for Fantasy. But the 6-foot-5, 248 pounder took a big step back last year for the Titans as his receiving average dropped over 3.5 yards per grab. Maybe it's an issue with the scheme he played in, maybe it had to do with his quarterback, or maybe it had to do with his 61 percent target-to-catch percentage (72 targets). However you want to slice it, Cook looks like he's on his way out of Tennessee after the team chose not to tag him in March.
Potential landing spots: Chicago, Miami, N.Y. Jets, St. Louis, Tampa Bay
Optimal landing spot: Tampa Bay. This could be a real coup for the Bucs as Cook is a good enough run blocker and potential seam threat for the offense. Rolling out Cook with Mike Williams and Vincent Jackson every week should really improve Josh Freeman's numbers. In turn, Cook could see plenty of targets ( Dallas Clark had 76 last year with the Bucs) and be an ideal red-zone threat for defenses to sweat. He should land a minimum of six scores in Tampa Bay and would be worth a late-round pick in every league.
, Ravens (RFA-2nd)
2012 Average Draft Position: 171.83
2012 stats: 61 catches for 669 yards and 7 TDs
Entering a contract year, Pitta came through as Joe Flacco security blanket for a good chunk of games including much of the postseason. Though he was red hot to start the season (50-plus-yards and a score in three straight games), Pitta showed a lot of inconsistency once there was film on him for defenses to start chewing on. He had two games without a catch, three others with two catches or less and nine games total with under 50 yards receiving. But he still finished as the seventh-best tight end in Fantasy Football and should be motivated to do it again assuming he plays on the one-year tender the team offered him this offseason.
Potential landing spots: Baltimore is it. The Ravens have already given him a second-round tender, all but locking him into the team in 2013. But it puts him in another contract year and if he and Joe Flacco can keep their hot connection going (they connected for touchdowns in three of four postseason games) they'll be an effective duo in 2013. Pitta will be drafted as a Fantasy starter for sure.
|Jason Campbell , Bears|
|Rex Grossman , Redskins|
|Byron Leftwich , Steelers|
|Joe Flacco , Ravens|
|Matt Moore , Dolphins|
2012 Average Draft Position: Undrafted
Career stats: 55 passing yards
With Flacco re-signing with the Ravens and Matt Moore hanging with Miami, Daniel stands as the best free agent quarterback available. Yep, it's pretty sad. Daniel has experience in working with a potent, high-powered offense in New Orleans and also ran a good system at Missouri.
Potential landing spots: Arizona, Chicago, N.Y. Jets. It's not going to matter because Daniel just isn't appealing to Fantasy owners. He'd have to fall into a situation where he's throwing to an awesome receiving corps for considerable time in order to get even a sniff in Fantasy Football. If you think that's bad then imagine how a team that needs a quarterback feels!