Last Updated, 4/17/14 @ 1:00pm ET
Players acquired by new teams:
Josh McCown (Signed by TB from Chi) – The veteran signed a 2-year deal with the Buccaneers worth $10 million with reportedly another $1 million available in playing time incentives as well as a $3 million bonus for making the playoffs, according to his agent Mike McCartney. It looks as if the plan is for McCown to at least open the 2014 season as the Bucs’ starting QB.
Fantasy Analysis: When asked at a press conference if McCown is his starting QB, Buc coach Lovie Smith didn’t mince words: “Yes, he is,” Smith told the Tampa Bay Times. And the pieces are certainly coming together. We asked Smith about QB Mike Glennon at the Combine last month and he focused on what Glennon did as a rookie. In other words, he though he did a good job – for a rookie – but he didn’t seem incredibly sold on Glennon and spoke about his lack of mobility. Smith did tell us that he likes how Glennon can make all the throws, but it’s not a surprise that they’ve brought in a veteran to mentor the young QB. As for McCown, it’s rare to see a QB play his best football at 34, but that’s exactly what happened with McCown last season. Initially re-signed to back up Jay Cutler in 2013, McCown – who played for Smith in Chicago in 2011 – ended up playing a much larger role when Cutler battled through multiple injuries in the second half of the season. McCown appeared eight times and had five starts for the Bears, going 149/224 (66.5%) for 1829 yards with 13 TDs to just 1 INT. He went 3-2 as a starter with the offense remaining strong, despite Cutler’s absence. McCown made six of his starts from Weeks Nine through Fourteen, and during that time, he was tied for 9th in FPG (23.0) among QBs. He certainly benefited from the fantasy-friendly offense HC Marc Trestman ran in Chicago, so it’s fair to wonder if McCown will have that level of success in Tampa, where there is only one gifted wideout on the outside (Vincent Jackson), as opposed to the two he had in Chicago. The Buc OL is also shaky, but they should have a good running game. McCown will be heading into training camp as the presumed starter, and he’s already been officially named the starter. It’s a bit odd they would name him the starter right out of the gates, but we suppose a team wouldn’t sign and pay well a 34-year QB unless they had designs on starting him. But it’s still too early to try to get a grasp on McCown’s ranking for this coming season, as we’re not certain how long a leash he has before the new Buc staff under OC Jeff Tedford is inclined to give Glennon a try. Considering he’ll be 35 by the time the season kicks off, won’t have nearly the supporting cast he had in 2013, and that Glennon was solid as a rookie, we’re not exactly high on the veteran McCown for this upcoming season as we stand now.
Michael Vick (Signed by NYJ from Phi) – The Jets signed Vick to a one-year, $5 million deal, reuniting him with his former offensive coordinator with the Eagles in Marty Mornhinweg. The Jets also this week released veteran Mark Sanchez. For as much criticism as GM John Idzik has received for the team’s lack of activity in free agency, New York has now signed the top available WR in Eric Decker and arguably the top QB in Vick.
Fantasy Analysis: Vick insisted throughout the 2013 season that he still feels he can be a starter in the league, and he opted to sign with a team that will give him a legit chance to start in the Jets. After an encouraging start to his career in September, rookie Geno Smith was horrendous for about two months in the middle of the season. They were encouraged by Smith’s progress late in season, but not encouraged enough to be sold on him as their QB of the future. With Vick in the fold, it doesn’t mean Smith is out in New York as their QB of the future, but it’s not looking good for him to start in 2014. Of course, with Vick turning 34 in June, and given the fact that he still has the same flaws that he had as an inexperienced player, and how he can’t be trusted to stay healthy, it won’t be a surprise if Smith plays a significant number of snaps this coming season. And this is still a weak situation overall, since the Jets don’t have a great OL or running game, are lacking in talent at TE, and still have a thin WR corps even with Decker added. When you add it up all, Vick looks more like a throwaway pick late in 2014 drafts than he does a player who should be drafted as a backup with higher expectations. Considering he’s still a threat to produce on the ground, it’s certainly possible that Vick strings together a solid run of productivity – especially if gang green gets more help at receiver – but we know from his past that he can’t be counted on, so Vick is merely a lower-end backup for fantasy this year. If he’s the guy, we’ll have to keep an eye on his chemistry with his receivers, especially the TEs. In Philadelphia, Vick never really seemed to be comfortable throwing the ball to the TE.
Matt Schaub (traded to Oak from Hou) – The Raiders acquired Schaub for a sixth-round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, the team announced. He was expendable in Houston after the acquisition of Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Fantasy Analysis: Honestly, this looks like a move to spend money for the sake of spending it. Raider beat writer Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle tweeted that the Raiders are using the “McGloin Bar” to evaluate their QB situation in 2014, meaning they want someone better than Matt McGloin to be their starter. But is Schaub guaranteed to be that? Last season, Schaub ended up benched, booed, and reviled in Houston. He appeared in 10 games, starting eight of them, and completed 219/358 passes (61.2%) for 2310 yards, with 10 TDs and 14 INTs. In Week Five, Schaub set an NFL record by tossing a pick-six for the fourth consecutive game, and it was just about all she wrote from that point on. Schaub dealt with an ankle injury throughout the year, but aside from a few random appearances and two starts at the end of the year for an injured Case Keenum, his career in Houston was just about unsalvageable once the Texans lost four in a row after their 2-0 start. So he’s a player who has already declined. Another old addition to the Raiders in an off-season of many 30-and-over signings, Schaub might give James Jones a “name-value” QB throwing him the ball, but not much more. We’ll see if the Raiders still draft a QB in May.
Ryan Fitzpatrick (signed by Hou from Ten) – The Texans have either a veteran backup/mentor QB for an unknown young starter, or a stopgap starter until their QB of the future is in town. They signed Fitzpatrick to a two-year deal worth up to $7.5 million, with $4 million guaranteed, according to NFL Network.
Fantasy Analysis: We definitely think that Fitzpatrick is one of the league’s best backup QBs who is clearly a backup. Ideally, he won’t be starting many games for the Texans, and can serve as a mentor for a guy like Blake Bortles. When playing, Fitz still makes way too many turnovers in critical spots. The Titans finished the year 4-7 in the 11 games that he appeared in during 2013, with Fitz completing 217/350 passes (62%) for 2454 yards, 14 TDs, and 12 INTs. He added 43 carries for 225 yards, 3 TDs, and 2 fumbles, which ranked him 18th among QBs with 19.9 FPG. He’s certainly capable of putting up similar numbers in Houston’s offense under Bill O’Brien, with a good WR pair in Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins. But if we had to bet on it at this point of the off-season, the Texans aren’t planning on Fitzpatrick starting many games.
Matt Flynn (GB) – Flynn understands now where he’s at his best, and it’s in Green Bay. According to NFL Network, he’s back with the Packers as Aaron Rodgers’ top backup.
Fantasy Analysis: Since leaving the Packers after the 2011 season, Flynn’s struggled to find his way, so maybe it shouldn’t have been that surprising to see him return to relevance when he ended up back in Green Bay at the end of last season. Back in 2012, Flynn was beat out by rookie QB Russell Wilson for the starting job in Seattle, and after Wilson’s strong rookie season, Flynn was expendable. A few weeks before the 2013 Draft, the Seahawks traded him to the Raiders for a 2014 5th-round pick and a conditional 5th-round pick. Flynn competed with QBs Terrelle Pryor and Tyler Wilson, but ended up losing out to Pryor. Flynn did see action in Week Three, thanks to a Pryor concussion, and he ended up starting in Week Four, going 21/32 for 227 yards with 1 TD, 1 INT, 3 fumbles, and 7 sacks. He was demoted to third-string after the game and eventually released. The Bills signed him a week later, but he never played for the team and was cut loose in early November. The Packers ended up bringing him back with injuries to Aaron Rodgers and Seneca Wallace, but Flynn didn’t see his first action until Week Twelve, a relief appearance for the struggling Scott Tolzien. Flynn would hang onto the starting job until Rodgers returned in Week Seventeen. Flynn went 2-2 over that span and did a pretty good job directing the offense and keeping the team in the playoff hunt. On the season, he started five of seven appearances, going 124/200 (62%) for 1392 yards, 8 TDs, and 5 INTs. A favorite of QB coach Alex Van Pelt, we at least know Flynn can harbor fantasy relevance for both his receivers and himself when he plays.
Mark Sanchez (signed by Phi from Was) – Sanchez signs a one-year deal with the Eagles to serve as a backup to Nick Foles, according to FOX Sports. The deal is worth a maximum of $4 million, about the going rate for backup QBs.
Fantasy Analysis: With the signing of Sanchez, Chip Kelly has certainly signaled that he doesn’t need a mobile QB to run his offense, if that wasn’t obvious already, With Foles, Sanchez, and Matt Barkley (Sanchez’s successor at USC), the Eagles don’t have any particularly improvisational QBs. It’s clear that Kelly values a quick release and decision-making above all (although in that department, Sanchez can be questioned). Additionally, Kelly sure loves his Pac-10/12 QBs. Although the assumption is that Sanchez, now fully recovered from shoulder surgery, will be Foles’ top backup, the team insists it’ll be a battle between him and Barkley (and even G.J. Kinne). Either way, Foles’ grip on Philly’s starting job is rock-solid.
Brandon Weeden (signed by Dal from Cle) – Just days after the Browns released him, Dallas gets Weeden to come in on a two-year contract, according to NFL Network. If Kyle Orton retires, Weeden could be Tony Romo’s primary backup.
Fantasy Analysis: With the Browns in 2013, Weeden saw action in eight games and had five starts, compiling 1731 yards, 9 TDs, and 9 INTs on 141/267 passing (52.8%), which put him at 15.9 FPG. In addition to having the starting job taken away from him on multiple occasions, Weeden also dealt with concussion issues. A big-armed passer with the ability to throw it downfield, Weeden nonetheless operates slowly in the pocket and doesn’t react well under pressure. While ESPN’s Ed Werder reports that the Cowboys are actually very high on Weeden in the event that Tony Romo’s back issues cost him some time in 2014, we feel that expecting more development from a player who is already 30 is foolish at this point. We did like Weeden a little a year ago, but if Kyle Orton does decide to retire, we’d consider Weeden a clear downgrade behind Romo at this point.
Shaun Hill (signed by Stl from Det) – The Rams have a new backup QB, signing Hill to a one-year deal, according to Adam Caplan.
Fantasy Analysis: A very capable backup, Hill has thrown only 16 passes over the last three seasons combined, appearing in four games. Hill’s last significant action came back in 2010, when he made 11 appearances when Matthew Stafford was injured. Hill is 34 now, and with a new coaching staff coming to Detroit under HC Jim Caldwell and OC Joe Lombardi, he was considered expendable. However, we still view him as a solid backup option, and with Sam Bradford coming off a torn ACL and no real track record of health even if he recovers from that, Hill could see significant snaps this year. If he does, he’s a good bet to outperform Kellen Clemens.
Josh Freeman (signed by Min from NYG) – Freeman signs a one-year deal with the Giants, according to our Adam Caplan.
Fantasy Analysis: Freeman is clearly a physical specimen, but his play has slipped considerably, and it bottomed out in his lone start for the Vikings last year, when he was flat-out awful… against these Giants. But GM Jerry Reese understands that a reclamation project like Freeman is still probably worth it. At best, he’ll be the Giants’ #2 QB in 2014, but he has to beat out Ryan Nassib and Curtis Painter for even that. Perhaps it’s a good thing that Freeman will have to compete to even make the roster. We haven’t totally given up on him because he’s had good years and is so talented, but it’s getting next to impossible to believe in him.
Jason Campbell (signed by Cin from Cle) – Campbell crosses the state of Ohio to presumably back up Andy Dalton in Cincinnati, agreeing to a one-year deal, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Fantasy Analysis: Released from the Browns shortly after the free agency period began, Campbell gets his shot at another backup job in Cincinnati. He should provide a stabilizing effect behind Andy Dalton, at least more so than Josh Johnson. Campbell started eight games for the Browns this past year and chucked 11 TD passes, so while he won’t blow anyone away, we at least know he can get A.J. Green the ball the way he did with Josh Gordon, in the event he needs to play.
Kellen Clemens (QB, signed by SD from Stl) – Clemens moves to the West Coast to become Philip Rivers’ backup, signing his deal mere minutes after Charlie Whitehurst left San Diego for Tennessee. Clemens signs a two-year deal, according to NFL Network.
Fantasy Analysis: If the Rams want to avoid a complete overhaul of their QB position, Clemens going west would mean that Sam Bradford will remain on the roster in 2014, at least in some capacity. As for Clemens, he’s a good backup for Rivers in San Diego. Clemens has proven in his NFL career that, while he’s a capable passer, he’s not going to be the answer for any team looking for a long-term solution. But he led a Ram team in transition to a 4-5 record in his nine starts this year (for the injured Sam Bradford), steadying the ship, despite lacking big numbers. The Rams leaned heavily on their ground game, while Clemens did his best to keep the passing game on track. In nine starts, he went 142/242 (58.7%) for 1673 yards, 8 TDs, and 7 INTs, good for just 12.2 FPG.
Charlie Whitehurst (QB, signed by Ten from SD) – Whitehurst becomes the Titans’ new backup QB after the release of Ryan Fitzpatrick, therefore saving the Titans $3.25 million. Whitehurst’s deal is for two years and is worth up to $8 million, according to the Tennessean.
Fantasy Analysis: New coach Ken Whisenhunt brings in a familiar face, as Whitehurst was the backup QB in San Diego last year and knows Whiz’s system (he was also the backup in 2012). Whitehurst hasn’t attempted a pass in his last two years as a backup to Philip Rivers in San Diego. Before that he spent a couple of seasons with the Seahawks in a backup role, but had just four starts in nine appearances and that came after he was traded to Seattle after starting his career in San Diego back in 2006. This appears to be strictly a veteran move to help tutor Jake Locker or whomever the Titans bring in to compete with or replace Locker. However well Whitehurst knows the system, though, won’t mean much if he actually has to play. He hasn’t demonstrated the ability to be even a near-capable fill-in in his career.
Blaine Gabbert (Traded to SF from Jac) – The Jaguars traded Gabbert to 49ers, reportedly for a 6th round pick.
Fantasy Analysis: The Gabbert project in Jacksonville was a complete and utter failure, and the franchise has officially moved on from the 10th overall pick of the 2011 draft. Gabbert played in just three games this past season, dealing with hand and hamstring issues, but the Jags eventually benched him for Chad Henne even when Gabbert was back to full strength. Gabbert finished the year 42/86 (48.8%) for 481 yards and a whopping 1 TD to 7 INTs. Gabbert is still young (still only 24) and at least has appealing physical tools – very good height, a strong arm, and some athleticism – to work with. And in this excellent situation, he might actually have a chance to play decently if called upon if he’s coached up well. Gabbert hasn’t shown an ability to stand tall and tough in the pocket, but the Niners have one of the better OLs in the league and what should be a strong power running game. They also have a nice trio of receivers and could get stronger there in the draft. Finally, San Fran has a good QB coach in Jim Harbaugh, who might be able to salvage any potential Gabbert has left. Gabbert isn’t even a lock to be the backup, so he obviously won’t be worth a late pick as a handcuff for starter Colin Kaepernick even in deeper leagues. But he at least has a good chance to be upgrade over 2013 backup Colt McCoy due to Gabbert’s superior physical skills. While he has mobility and some speed, he won’t be nearly the rushing threat Kaepernick is (especially with the read option) if Gabbert plays. But it’s fair to say that he’s gone from one of the worst situations in the league in Jacksonville to one of the best in San Francisco.
Dan Orlovsky (signed by Det from TB) – The Lions found their new backup QB, adding Orlovsky on a one-year contract, the team announced.
Fantasy Analysis: On the surface, the move makes sense, because Orlovsky has starting experience under Jim Caldwell with Indy in 2011. But it’s also hilarious, because “Safety Dan” returns to the team with which he made this play. Obviously, the Lions hope he doesn’t have to play.
Colt McCoy (signed by Was from SF) – Washington has added McCoy for some QB depth, the team announced.
Fantasy Analysis: For now, McCoy looks like the #3 in Washington behind Robert Griffin III and Kirk Cousins, but we suppose he could be the backup if the team finds a trade taker for Cousins. With at least some degree of success as an NFL starter, McCoy is one of the better #3 QBs in the NFL right now, so the Redskins have options. They just hope he never has to play.
Joe Webb (QB/WR, signed by Car from Min) – The Panthers signed Webb as a backup quarterback, an important distinction, according to NFL Network.
Fantasy Analysis: The Panthers remain thin at WR, so Webb can help there in theory, but the Panthers fully intend to use him as a backup QB. He’s more mobile there than Derek Anderson, and the Panthers need warm bodies going into camp with Cam Newton coming off ankle surgery. Webb is a great athlete but never put it together at either of his positions. If he’s playing, Carolina’s in trouble.
Ben Tate (Signed by Cle from Hou) – The Browns have signed the former Texan to a 2—year deal, according to numerous reports. The deal is worth up to $7 million, ESPN’s Adam Schefter says.
Fantasy Analysis: This is not a surprise considering the need in Cleveland, and the connection with OC Kyle Shanahan, who was Gary Kubiak’s offensive coordinator in Houston from 2008-2009 and his assistant coach from 2006-2009. Tate has dealt with significant injuries in each of his four seasons, including last year when he played through four broken ribs before landing on the injured reserve for the final two weeks (this was the key reason the Browns went only two years on the deal, we presume). He took over the starting job in Week Ten with Arian Foster also landing on IR, but Tate failed to make a strong impression in his contract year. While we give credit to Tate for playing through such a painful injury, he’s also made it tough to treat him as a lead back since he’s had so much trouble staying on the field. In 14 games (7 starts), Tate rushed 181 times for 771 yards (4.3 YPC) and 4 TDs while adding 34/140 on 49 targets to finish 35th among RBs at 10.7 FPG. Fumbles continued to be a problem with Tate putting the ball on the ground a career-high five times in 2013. At his best, Tate is a pretty violent power back between the tackles, can get to the edge, and is a threat to take any carry a long way, thanks to his good straight-line speed. He’s a serviceable receiver with some upside in that role and he can be a load to bring down once he gets going. He’ll turn 26 in August, and he doesn’t have much tread on his tires, but his rugged running style has clearly shown to lessen his effectiveness, if not keep him on the sideline. It will be interesting to see if the Browns draft a back of note in the first three or four rounds this coming May. If they do, that might actually be a good thing for Tate, who seems to be best cast as a member of an active rotation and/or a dual backfield. Regardless of his exact role this summer, Tate will have a good chance to be impactful, if he’s at full strength. In Shanahan's first season as OC in Houston in 2008, Steve Slaton was the #7 RB in PPR (#6 in non-PPR). Based on the solid volume he’ll likely get no matter who else they bring in, Tate will be in the #2 fantasy back conversation this year.
Knowshon Moreno (Signed by Mia from Den) – The Dolphins agreed to terms with Moreno on a one-year, $3 million contract. This move clearly opens the door for second-year back Montee Ball to be the bell-cow back in Denver.
Fantasy Analysis: This move may not be beautiful for fantasy purposes, but the fit makes a ton of sense. Moreno may not be a stud, and we still have some questions about his ability to produce outside of Peyton Manning’s offense, as he ranked only 39th in the league in yards after contact (per attempt) and was tied for 29th in missed tackles (he’s always been a player who isn’t great at making people miss and doesn’t have great natural power). And although he’s been durable the last two seasons, he does have injury baggage in his past. But he’s obviously very experienced and can be a productive player. He’s a major upgrade in this backfield in basically every area, with his pass-protection and ability to do fine work in the passing game topping the list. Even though Denver spent an early pick on the Wisconsin star Ball last April, Moreno opened the 2013 season as the Broncos’ starter and never relinquished the job. Providing value on the ground, through the air, and as a pass protector, Moreno totaled 242/1039/10 rushing (4.3 YPC) and 60/548/3 receiving on 74 targets (81.1%). In PPR leagues, he was a beast, ranking #5 among all RBs, with 18.5 FPG. Down the stretch and in the playoffs, Moreno and Ball did split touches, and Ball arguably outplayed Moreno, which is probably one of the reasons why Moreno is now a Dolphin. Miami struggled to run the ball all year in 2013 (ranked 26th in rushing), and the OL was a major problem. There’s still a lot of work to be done even after the free agent signing of LT Brandon Albert (who isn’t great blocking for the run). So while Moreno will be very valuable to the Dolphins and will stabilize this backfield, we can’t say this is a tremendous spot for him. But there’s clear potential with a good young QB and a great deep threat in Mike Wallace. His value basically comes down to Lamar Miller’s role this year. Miller got his chance to take over this backfield last year and he failed to capitalize, so his value and potential obviously takes a hit. He’s probably best being more of an active complementary back, and you’d think the coaches will want him to handle the ball 10+ times a game due to his game-breaking speed. That could be fairly prohibitive for Moreno, but he’ll clearly be their top back in 2014. Miami completed only 41 passes to Miller and Daniel Thomas in 2013, so this might not be a great team for Moreno do rack up the catches, but he should be in the 30-40 range, since Miller has pass-protection issues and didn’t exactly look comfortable catching passes out of the backfield last year. And unless they bring in another bigger back or haven’t given up on Thomas, you’d have to think Moreno will get most of the goal line opportunities. He has a chance to produce as a low-end #2 RB, but we’d prefer to slot him in as a high-end flex starter.
Toby Gerhart (Signed by Jac from Min) – The Jaguars signed the 27-year old Gerhart to a 3-year deal worth $10.5 million with $4.5 million guaranteed, according to NFL Network. That that looks like starter’s money for the Jaguars, but a closer look at the deal reveals that it compares the deal Shonn Greene signed with the Titans in 2013. In fact, they are nearly identical with Gerhart getting $500,000 more in salary, but with the same amount of guaranteed money.
Fantasy Analysis: Even though this deal is comparable to Greene’s last year, this does look like a significant investment for the Jags. While we haven’t exactly been big Gerhart supporters because he doesn’t move well, we have continually pointed out that he can and will produce if he’s receiving volume as a runner and a pass-catcher. And we have to assume for now that the Jags know this and plan to afford him plenty of touches. In fact, the day after the signing Jaguar head coach Gus Bradley said he believes Gerhart could receive 15-20 touches per game this season. The Jags moved last year to a more up-tempo approach on offense and more of a West Coast scheme. While Gerhart doesn’t exactly fit the “up-tempo” theme, it’s worth pointing that he can catch the ball well and he played for Jim Harbaugh at Stanford, so he should be a quick study. Gerhart has topped 100 carries in a season just once, which came in 2011 when Adrian Peterson went down with a torn ACL, and he did average a strong 4.9 yards per carry along with a decent 8.3 yards per catch. In 2013, Gerhart was limited to 14 games by a hamstring injury and had just 36/283/2 on the ground (but a shocking 7.9 YPC), while adding 13/88 on 19 targets. If the Jags still have designs on giving Gerhart 15-20 touches a game this summer, he’ll obviously be worth drafting for fantasy and should be ranked as a top-30 back. He could be the lead back, the goal line back, and also the third-down back, so he could have a lot of value. On the other hand, if his lack of explosive ability becomes evident, it’s possible that they simply utilize a RBBC with Gerhart, RFA Jordan Todman, and also second-year back Denard Robinson, for whom we’ve learned recently the coaching staff has definite plans this coming season. Time will tell, but while the Jaguar offense isn’t exactly a productive one just yet, there’s no denying the fact that Gerhart’s standing in the fantasy world has improved considerably with this signing.
Chris Johnson (Signed by NYJ from Ten) – Johnson signed a 2-year deal worth $8 million plus $1 million in incentives based.
Fantasy Analysis: Johnson’s put together 1000-yard seasons in each of his first six years, but he hasn’t been an elite back since his 2009-2010 seasons. He’s been looking for a larger workload to help his chances of breaking off a long run, but he continues to shy away from contact and leave a lot of yards on the field, and he didn’t have a run longer than 30 yards this past season (career-low 3.9 YPC). CJ2K managed to finish 12th among RBs this season with 15.3 FPG, greatly helped by a couple long TD catches. He finished with 279/1077/6 rushing and 42/345/4 (8.2 YPC) receiving on 51 targets (82.4% catch rate). He’s unlikely to get that level of volume in New York, where he’ll be in a true dual backfield with Chris Ivory. Ivory will do a lot of the work inside with the hope that Johnson’s big-play ability can be utilized in space on the outside. Bilal Powell will be the #3 RB and could certainly see snaps as their third-down back. With Johnson added, the Jets will part ways with veteran Mike Goodson. Despite being afforded a lot of volume with the Titans, Johnson has been an unpredictable fantasy option the last few years, but he was pretty consistent in a PPR in 2013 due in large part to those surprising 4 receiving TDs. He had 4 receiving TDs total in his first five seasons heading into 2013. His high ranking was also a function of availability, and he also played hurt last year with a meniscus tear suffered in Week Three. He certainly deserves credit for his durability, but he used to “hit it up in there” a lot more often in his younger days. His touch totals will be going down in this backfield, but it’s worth mentioning that Ivory’s had a pretty lengthy injury history, and that Johnson’s an Ivory injury away from once again getting a lot of work. The Jets have quickly put together an interesting offense in free agency and now have some intriguing talent at all skill positions, but it’s not like any of them are really jumping off the page as savvy fantasy picks. It’s unlikely Johnson will be considered a legit #2 fantasy RB in a typical league, so he is what he is: a #3 at best. His role on 3rd down and in passing situations will be a huge key to his value because a healthy Ivory will likely get double-digit carries most weeks, but he remains literally worthless in the passing game. Also, Johnson should be rooting for Michael Vick to win the QB battle, since the threat of Vick’s speed should help open up space for Johnson.
Maurice Jones-Drew (Signed by Oak from Jac) – Jones-Drew switches coasts thanks to a three-year deal that puts him in the black and silver with the Raiders after spending his entire career with the Jaguars.
Fantasy Analysis: Jones-Drew didn’t have a lot of chances to win in Jacksonville, so the belief was he’d try to land with a contender, but instead he heads Oakland, his local team as a kid and the team he rooted for. The Raiders re-signed Darren McFadden for 2014 before this MJD contract, but it’s a cheap deal without much risk, so now they’ll have a pair of RBs who’ve been among the best in the league when healthy (but haven’t been healthy the last two years and have both seen better days). The Raiders are in rebuilding mode, but the current regime knows it needs to win now to save their jobs, which is likely the thinking by bringing the veteran MJD into the fold. After being limited to just six games in 2012, thanks to a foot injury, MJD returned to play in all but one game last season, but he did battle through a hamstring issue down the stretch. He rushed 235 times for 803 yards (3.4 YPC) and 5 TDs and added 43/314 on 59 targets, putting him 24th at the position with 12.6 FPG. That’s not a terrible year for Jones-Drew, who was once again the focus of opposing defenses. While he’s been able to overcome that extra attention in previous seasons, Jones-Drew is slowing down a bit, as evidenced by a career-worst 3.4 YPC. We love MJD and consider him a friend, but he was probably a little out of shape heading into 2013, so it’s worth noting that he’s expected to play at a lighter weight in 2014, and he’s already slimmed down. MJD just turned 29 and with eight seasons and 1800+ carries on his resume, he’s probably best fit for a tandem backfield along with McFadden, who he’ll technically battle in camp for the “starting” job. In theory, the Raiders can use both backs at the same time, since McFadden can be used effectively as a receiver flexed from the formation. Playing in a timeshare is obviously a hit to Jones-Drew’s his fantasy value, but considering McFadden’s injury history, MJD could still get plenty of touches if his body can hold up (which is definitely a serious question). It’s now unlikely that second-year RB Latavius Murray takes a noticeable step forward in 2014. They do still like Murray’s long-term potential, but he’s incredibly inexperienced, so his short-term value is minimal and his long-term value takes a small hit with another capable body added to this backfield. As things stand, Jones-Drew is probably just a #3 fantasy RB, but there’s no question he has a chance to sneak in another productive season if McFadden misses a lot of time again (he’s missed multiple games every one of his NFL seasons). If not, a reduced role is probably for the best for MJD, who can still produce flex-worthy numbers with fewer touches because of his versatility and ability to pound the ball into the endzone from short range. The OL isn’t great here, but they at least have a serviceable new QB in Matt Schaub and a deeper receiving corps due to the addition of veteran James Jones.
Rashad Jennings (Signed by NYG from Oak) – Jennings announced on his Twitter account that he signed a four-year deal with the Giants. According to CSN Bay Area, the deal is for a max of $14 million with only $3 million guaranteed. That’s less guaranteed money than either Toby Gerhart or Donald Brown.
Fantasy Analysis: With the Raiders surprisingly re-signing veteran Darren McFadden, Jennings found a similar opportunity in New York to provide an insurance policy for a talented #1 pick at his position. The Giants aren’t giving up on David Wilson, but as GM Jerry Reese told us at the Combine, they are not going to “put all their eggs in his basket” anymore (for obvious reasons). Jennings, who turns 29 this month, had a bounce-back season after a dreadful 2012 campaign with the Jags. It’s clear now that Jennings’ 2012 injury lingered for most of that season and caused him to average a pathetic 2.8 YPC. He looked significantly healthier this past season, carrying 164 times for 733 yards (4.5 YPC) and 6 TDs. Jennings added 36 catches for 292 yards (8.1 YPC) on 47 targets (76.6 catch rate), averaging 11.6 FPG, despite being a backup for a decent chunk of those games. The Giant OL has been a bit of a mess the last two seasons, and while the recent addition of free agent G Geoff Schwartz helps, the line is still an issue. But at least the running game in New York is still extremely important to Tom Coughlin, and by signing Jennings they certainly helped their backfield situation. Jennings is talented and versatile enough to be a difference-maker, if not the lead back, and he’s a good fit for Coughlin. But it’s hardly a lock that he delivers for fantasy in 2014. Jennings has durability issues, for one. They’re not as severe as former Giant Andre Brown’s, but Jennings missed four games in 2010, the entire 2011 season with a knee injury, and he missed six games in 2012 with concussion and shoulder issues. He’s not exactly been a picture of health, and his upright style invites a lot of contact. Jennings is a solid player, but a healthy David Wilson could easily get the first crack at the lead role this summer, since he’s such a talented player with rare speed. In addition, the team did re-sign veteran Peyton Hillis to a two-year deal, and while Hillis is a plodder who’s seen better days, he’s still a big back who can catch the ball, similar to Jennings. This could wind up being a duel backfield with Wilson and Jennings each getting 150+ carries, but if there are injuries again this could also morph into another ugly backfield situation and a week-to-week committee. A healthy Jennings should clearly have value as their power back, goal line back, and closer, and until we know anything about Wilson it’s fair to think Jennings was signed to be the top dog here. But it’s difficult to truly understand Jennings’ 2014 worth and handicap this backfield until we know more about Wilson later in the year.
Darren Sproles (Traded to Phi from NO) – The Saints dealt the veteran Sproles to the Eagles for a 5th round pick in 2014’s draft. The Eagles then signed Sproles to a two-year extension that pays him about the same money as Toby Gerhart and Donald Brown were given, according to ProFootballTalk, so it’s clear the Eagles feel he still has plenty left, even at 31.
Fantasy Analysis: The Eagle offense is still evolving under head coach Chip Kelly, so it’s not easy to make definitive statements about the system after just one season. What we do know is that Sproles had more targets (89) in 2013 than all Eagle RBs combined (82) on the pass-happy Saints (so did Pierre Thomas with 84). Sproles, at 31 years old in June, can be a tricky player to handicap on a new team because his production really comes down to his usage and how well they can take advantage of his unique skills. Kelly does have a history of featuring smaller, quicker backs like LaMichael James and Kenjon Barner at Oregon, but those backs didn’t catch a lot of passes under Kelly. However, RB/WR De’Anthony Thomas was very Sproles-like at Oregon for two years under Kelly. Sproles is probably slowing down, but he still passes the eyeball test pretty well, and his yards-per-catch totals have been remarkably consistent the last four years, including 2013 (8.5 compared to 8.9 and 8.3 in 2011-2011). He did dip almost a full yard per carry (from 5.1 in 2012 to 4.2 in 2013), but he should have success running the ball behind an excellent OL and in a spread system that creates a lot of space for its backs to run. Sproles could help this offense considerably even if he’s used a lot as a decoy, since he’s someone who the defense has to account for, so this is good news for QB Nick Foles, who is starting to have an embarrassment of riches around him. Philly really has it all with an excellent line, a very strong WR trio, a nice TE duo, and now Sproles in the backfield along with stud LeSean McCoy (a duo they can utilize on the field at the same time). The team has been down on backup Bryce Brown, but they may still want to utilize a bigger back at times, whether it’s Brown or (more likely) Chris Polk. McCoy’s touches should be going down, which isn’t great news for his fantasy value. But on the other hand, McCoy had nearly 370 touches in 2013, and that’s a lot. It’s probably for the best that they pull back from their usage of McCoy a little in 2014 and beyond, so we’re not exactly inclined to downgrade McCoy much at all. He’s still young, durable, and in an excellent situation, so we still see him as a top-5 pick overall. As for Sproles, he will no longer be a viable #2 RB in a PPR, but he’s still an appealing depth option with some upside in all formats, especially PPR. It’s also worth noting that defenses in the NFC East look shaky at best.
Andre Brown (signed by Hou from NYG) – Brown becomes the Texans’ new backup RB on a one-year, $650,000 deal, according to the Houston Chronicle.
Fantasy Analysis: Brown ostensibly will be the Texans’ #2 RB behind Arian Foster. That’s his best role, because he’s really injury prone. Brown’s 2013 season got off to a miserable start when he broke his leg in a meaningless preseason game. He eventually came off the short-term IR to play in the final eight games of the season, carrying for 139/492/3 (3.5 YPC) and adding 20/103 on 29 targets (68.9%) receiving. He ranked 27th in a PPR, with 12.2 FPG over that span. Brown, 27, lost three fumbles and suffered a concussion. He did rush for more than 100 yards in two of his first three games, but he finished the season with a sputter, rushing for under 20 yards in two of his final three games. If new coach Bill O’Brien keeps the Texans in a zone-blocking scheme, Brown is a rock-solid fit if he can stay on the field.
Donald Brown (Signed by SD from Ind) – The Chargers effectively replaced Ronnie Brown in their backfield by bringing in the former Colt, who had a resurgent year in 2013. According to NFL Network, the deal is for three years and $10.5 million, with $4 million guaranteed. On the surface, the deal has a lot of similarities to the one Toby Gerhart signed with Jacksonville, and the one Shonn Greene signed in Tennessee last year. The re-signing of Ahmad Bradshaw in Indy made him expendable.
Fantasy Analysis: We already have a candidate for one of the NFL’s messiest backfields in 2014. This move seems to signal that coach Mike McCoy prefers Ryan Mathews as his first and second-down back, and given Mathews’ career year in that role last season, it makes sense. In addition, Charger GM Tom Telesco told us at the 2012 Combine that he prefers a committee at RB. Telesco knows Brown from his days in Indy, and Brown is considered a high-character guy and a great teammate. Brown isn’t a very good blocker, but he can thrive on third downs, which begs the question: what does this mean for Danny Woodhead? This past year, Brown played every game, rushing 102 times for 537 yards (5.3 YPC) and 6 TDs, while adding 27/214/2 on 35 targets (77.1% catch rate), which was good for 9.4 FPG (41st among RBs). Meanwhile, Woodhead racked up 76/605/6 on 87 targets (87.4% catch rate) and 106/425/2 (4 YPC) on the ground, putting him at 14.2 FPG (15th among RBs). While Woodhead had somewhat of a role as a runner, he was the primary pass-catcher out of the backfield and did a great job in that role. How much of Woodhead’s role does Brown siphon away? (For comparison’s sake, Ronnie Brown had 45 carries and only 8 catches last year). If either guy is going to have significant fantasy relevance, they might need to be on the field at the same time. If McCoy and the Chargers view Woodhead as more of a movement/slot guy, it’s certainly possible. Ultimately, their main motivation for signing Brown likely stems from the fact that, when Mathews went down late last season, the Chargers struggled to run the ball. So while the signing makes this backfield a trickier one to get a handle on, it certainly makes sense for the team in the "insurance" department.
LeGarrette Blount (Signed by Pit from NE) – Blount stays in the AFC after signing a two-year deal worth $3.85 million including a $950K signing bonus with the Steelers, according to ESPN. Blount had also drawn interest from the Ravens and Patriots.
Fantasy Analysis: The Steelers seemed to be intent on finding another established back to play behind Le’Veon Bell and got their man with the addition of Blount, although it’s probably not a move that makes the fantasy world very happy. Blount really busted out at the end of last season, culminating in his 4-TD performance against the Colts in the Divisional Round. Not bad for a player the Patriot organization viewed as the #4 running back in training camp. Stevan Ridley’s failures opened the door for Blount, and he bided his time and took advantage of his opportunities once Ridley landed in Bill Belichick’s doghouse. As the lead runner in the Patriot offense, Blount posted 431 rushing yards and an amazing 8 TDs in three straight games before the AFC Championship. He finished the regular season with 153 carries for 772 yards (5.0 YPC) and 7 TDs. Blount ran with more power and speed at the end of the season than he previously had shown in his first three NFL seasons with the Buccaneers. It appears as if coaching and their propensity to penalize RBs who don’t hit the hole decisively in New England helped Blount in 2013. We’re hoping he doesn’t make as big of an impact in Pittsburgh, since Bell looked like the real deal as a rookie and can be even better in 2014 if he stays healthy. Health may have played a factor in the decision, as Bell battled a foot injury that delayed the start of his rookie season yet still ended up with 244 carries in 13 games. We’d expect Blount to play a complementary role to Bell with the hope he’s not vulturing much at the goal line. We were wrong to believe Blount wouldn’t be a major threat to Ridley last year, but Bell is a much more versatile player, and he proved a ton as a rookie, especially regarding his ability and potential in the passing game. That will help prevent a repeat of the Ridley situation in New England.
Jonathan Dwyer (Signed by Ari from Pit) – The Cardinals signed the former Steeler to a 1-year deal. Cardinal head coach Bruce Arians was Dwyer’s offensive coordinator from 2010-2011.
Fantasy Analysis: Right before Dwyer was cut by the Steelers last September we had heard from someone close to the team that he had some “desire” issues, which is not good. But at least his new head coach was with him for two seasons in Pittsburgh and knows him will. Dwyer ended up second on the Steelers in rushing and finished the year with 49/197 (4.0 YPC) in 2013. He ran hard all year, and he was a decent power back for them with good size, plus he’s shown an ability to catch the ball out of the backfield (26 catches in limited work the last two years). Dwyer will compete hard for the Rashard Mendenhall role in 2014. If he’s in shape and properly motivated, he could be their “bigger back” and their banger inside, and he could be their goal line back, as Mendenhall was. As much as we know how much Bruce Arians loves to throw the ball, Mendenhall was afforded double-digit carries in 14 of his 15 games last year. Mendenhall averaged only 3.2 YPC, but he was rarely 100%, and since he’s more talented than Dwyer it would be a surprise to see Dwyer receive that much work (Mendenhall had 218 carries in 15 games), especially with Andre Ellington’s role only growing in the offense. In fact, it’s premature to close the ball on second-year back Stepfan Taylor. Taylor doesn’t move well, but he’s a smart and versatile player who could emerge from camp with a role. If not, there could be enough work for Dwyer to be a serviceable flex starter in a typical fantasy league – assuming he’s getting the bulk of the goal line carries – but it’s premature to assume Dwyer will have noticeable value in 2014. Based on Dwyer’s history, we can’t even assume he’s a lock to actually make the team.
Justin Forsett (signed by Bal from Jac) – The Ravens announced a one-year deal with Forsett. He’ll have a shot to compete for #3 RB duties in training camp.
Fantasy Analysis: Forsett had a foot injury for most of last year, and as a result had only 21 touches in nine games for Jacksonville. But at his best, he’s an explosive rotational option, which the Ravens are hoping he shows in camp. Baltimore’s run game (notably Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce) lacked big plays all year, both as rushers and receivers.
Anthony Dixon (Signed by Buf from SF) – The Bills agreed to terms with Dixon, but the terms of the contract were not disclosed.
Fantasy Analysis: Dixon’s only fantasy impact comes from a tendency to vulture short TDs. He had only 28 carries for 56 yards this past year, but he turned 2 of his 5 goal-line opportunities into TDs. Dixon has scored exactly 2 TDs in each of his four NFL seasons, and capped off his rookie contract with a TD in this year’s NFC Championship Game. He’s a big back but with little lateral movement, he isn’t overly talented. He could emerge as a goal line option for the Bills, but Buffalo has had success with Fred Jackson on top of the goal, so any goal line role for Dixon could be minimal, as it’s been in SF. He can also contribute on special teams. At worst, it’s more bad news inside the 5 for C.J. Spiller, who already gets minimal TD opportunities.
Jed Collins (FB, signed by Det from NO) – The Lions announced they signed Collins to a one-year contract. He reunites with new Lion OC Joe Lombardi, who was the QB coach in New Orleans.
Fantasy Analysis: A strong lead blocker, Collins nonetheless is better known to fantasy players as a vulture. In three seasons with the Saints, Collins scored 7 TDs on only 48 touches, and it’s easy to envision him having a similar role in Detroit in Lombardi’s scheme. It certainly appears that Lombardi will be employing a lot of the Saints’ scheme in his first go-round as an offensive coordinator himself. By our count, the Lions haven’t carried a fullback on their roster during the regular season since Jerome Felton in 2010. That’s likely to change under Lombardi.
Erik Lorig (FB, signed by NO from TB) – The Saints, among the NFL teams that uses a fullback the most, is added on a four-year deal, the team announced.
Fantasy Analysis: Practice cursing Lorig’s name if you haven’t already. In replacing Jed Collins, the Saints have their newest fantasy vulture. Lorig had no carries and only 30 receptions with 1 TD in his four years with Tampa, but he steps into Collins’ spot, which vulture 7 TDs from more noteworthy players over the last three seasons, despite a grand total of 19 carries and 39 catches over that span. While the Saints’ offense seems a little less messy for fantasy after the departure of Darren Sproles and Lance Moore, Lorig is still more than capable of eating up a meaningless TD or two.
DeSean Jackson (Signed by Was from Phi) – After being released by the division-rival Eagles, Jackson signed a 3-year $24 million deal with the Redskins. A reported $16 million is fully guaranteed and he will make $8 million this season.
Fantasy Analysis: Jackson is coming off by far the best season of his career. In 16 games, he posted 82/1332/9 receiving on 125 targets (16.2 YPC, 65.6% catch rate). He ranked 12th among all WRs with 16.8 FPG. The emergence of a consistent QB in Nick Foles helped a lot, but Chip Kelly also used Jackson in a variety of ways, unlike Andy Reid, who too often shoehorned Jackson into being a deep threat, forcing him to make low-percentage plays. Consider Jackson’s 65.6% catch rate – his previous career-best was 57.1% in 2011. His 82 catches were 19 more than in 2009, when he had his previous career-high of 63. Jackson was getting the ball closer to the line of scrimmage and was simply more reliable in making plays. He had five 100-yard games and seven games of 5 or more catches. But Jackson was still fairly inconsistent. He had six games of 20 or more FP in a PPR, but also six games of fewer than 10 FP. That’s because Jackson still struggles to get off press coverage from the league’s best corners, plus #2 Riley Cooper didn’t exactly help take coverage away from Jackson. His situation in Washington may not be as good right away, since Kelly’s offense was generally ahead of defenses last year, and since this is a new staff in Washington. But this is a great fit overall. New head coach Jay Gruden isn’t considered the brightest and most-proven offensive mind out there, but he does like the throw the ball and he did allow several key offensive players to post good numbers the last couple of seasons in Cincinnati. He will certainly attack with the pass downfield, and he does a fairly good job of keeping defenses on their toes with trick plays. Jackson should get more support at receiver in Washington with Pierre Garcon being a major threat and TE Jordan Reed potentially a serious difference-maker in the middle of the field, but the best news for Jackson owners is that QB Robert Griffin III has a great arm for the deep ball – as good or better than Jackson’s ever seen – and his sense of timing and anticipation is better than players like Michael Vick and Donovan McNabb, who Jackson played most of his career with in Philly. So there is major deep ball and run-after-the-catch potential with Jackson in Washington. Jackson’s addition is huge news for RGIII, who should also be a lot more comfortable come Week One, nearly 20 months after his ACL surgery. He still has durability issues and will have to regain his confidence and play a little smarter, but on the heels of a poor season, and even though fantasy players will clearly appreciate Jackson’s impact, Griffin III should be an excellent QB target 2-3 rounds after the top options are taken off the board. Jackson will also help Garcon, who was unable to make big plays in 2013 due in part to a lack of support and frequent double teams. Garcon’s yards-per-target average was down 2.0 full yards in 2013, and Jackson’s presence should really open up some great RAC opportunities, which should boost Garcon’s yards-per-catch number (a poor 11.9 last year down from 14.3 in an injury-plagued 2012). It will be impossible to consistently stack the box now against the Redskins, so this move is also good news for top runner Alfred Morris. The team already added free agent wideout Andre Roberts, whose value takes a major hit with the Jackson signing. But he should still help the QB and this offense with his play and versatility. The addition of Jackson is great news overall for this offense because he’s a difference-maker who changes how teams play defense, thus opening opportunities up for other players. But Jackson’s own value will probably take a small hit in 2014 simply because it’s a new environment and because there’s only one ball. Still, Jackson will be a featured player and he should get 2-3 deep shots per game with the Redskins, so the big plays should still be there, and RGIII not only has a big arm but he’s accurate deep. We’d expect his catch totals to drop to the 60-65 range, but his yards-per-catch number should rise and approach 20.0. For comparison’s sake, deep threat Aldrick Robinson has averaged 21 YPC on 29 catches over the last two seasons playing with RGIII. Jackson should be in the upper-teens, so he could hit 1000 yards on only 60 catches. Consistently should still be an issue with Jackson, but he will make plenty of big plays and will still present upside as a #2 fantasy WR in this solid situation.
Golden Tate (Signed by Det from Sea) – The Lions agreed to terms with Tate on a five-year contract that is expected to pay $31 million with $13.25 million guaranteed. They paid him essentially what accounts to #2 WR money.
Fantasy Analysis: Tate has never been a dominant receiver, but his numbers have improved in each of his four seasons in Seattle. Tate led the Seahawks in receiving last season, but he didn’t make huge strides into becoming a consistent force on a team that remained run-heavy and had poor production in the passing game. He finished with 64 catches for 898 yards (14.0 YPC) and 5 TDs on 98 targets (65.3% catch rate), ranking 30th among WRs with 11.7 FPG. We liked him as a mid-to-later round pick last year and ranked him 38th on our PPR cheat sheet, and we were also only 5 points off his 2013 total in our preseason projection. That tells us that he’s a fairly easy wideout to project, and he should be again this year, even on a new team. Obviously, playing with Calvin Johnson is an excellent situation, and they have a QB in Matthew Stafford who, despite his issues, is still an elite arm talent. In 14 games, Calvin totaled 304.9 FP and the other eight Detroit WRs to play offensive snaps combined for 279.6. That shows both how much production there is to be had in Detroit, but it also illustrates how much they need a consistent receiver opposite Calvin. And it’s fair to say that he’s leaving one of the worst situations for fantasy for one of the best. Still in his prime at 26, Tate is a tough and versatile player who can play in the slot or outside, and he projects very well as a complement to Calvin, especially in a new offense that will mirror the offense run in New Orleans (Tate indicated he will move around in this offense, playing both outside and in the slot). He’s certainly not a burner, but he gets open deep, makes plays after the catch, and plays with an edge. He’s been a pretty underrated playmaker for two years now. Needless to say, we’re high on this move and the durable Tate in 2014. He could be looking at about 120 targets this year, and based on his catch rates the last two years, that could result in 80+ catches. Tate looks like a terrific #3 fantasy wideout this year, especially in a PPR league. For return-yardage leagues, also take into account the fact that Tate wants to return punts this year (the Lions do have Jeremy Ross coming back). Whatever the case, his fantasy value takes a huge leap, on paper.
Emmanuel Sanders (Signed by Den from Pit) – The Broncos have signed the veteran Sanders to a 3-year deal. The deal reportedly is worth a maximum of $18 million, according to FOXSports.
Fantasy Analysis: The Broncos clearly aren’t messing around in 2014 and are once again doing the best they can to form the best roster possible for this coming season. So it wasn’t enough for them to bring veteran Andre Caldwell back; they had to bring in another versatile veteran in Sanders. Sanders had a solid season stepping into the #2 role with Pittsburgh in 2013, but he did have a number of key drops. Sanders hauled in 67/732/6 (10.9 YPC) on 111 targets (60.4% catch rate), finishing 35th among WRs with 11.2 FPG. Sanders, who just turned 27 in March, is in his prime and fits here well, if for no other reason than his versatility and ability to play outside and in the slot. With Wes Welker here, Sanders will likely play the majority of his snaps outside. While the Bronco receiving corps has lost some size with Eric Decker moving on, it gains some speed in Sanders, who is very good at breaking tackles and making people miss after the catch. That skill should be utilized in Denver, where they like to run a lot of screen passes to their receivers. Sanders, who has been more durable the last two years, has clearly picked a great team for his fantasy prospects, since Denver’s passing game was by far the best in the league in 2013. He may be frustrating on a week-to-week basis simply because there’s only one ball here, but his overall numbers should be rising, and he should slip into the top-30 at his position if he’s healthy and doesn’t miss time (which he did his first two seasons in 2010-2011). He had only 25 fewer targets in Pittsburgh last year than Decker had in Denver, but the Broncos will almost certainly score more TDs than the Steelers did last year, and Sanders should be more effective after the catch in this offense. We should expect his solid 2013 numbers to rise at least slightly, making him a very good depth option, with great upside.
Eric Decker (Signed by NYJ from Den) – The Jets and Decker agreed to a five-year, $36.26 million deal Wednesday, March 12. The deal includes $15 million in guaranteed money, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Fantasy Analysis: There were a number of ways Decker could have gone in free agency, but unfortunately, for the purposes of statistical production, this was not one of the good paths for him to take. Decker has now gone from playing with possibly the best QB of all time in Peyton Manning – and as only a #2/#3 WR, which typically helped him get better matchups – to playing on a team with a QB who is in the bottom third of the league’s starters (even if they do sign Michael Vick). The good news is that he should see plenty of targets as likely the top wideout, and he should be a solid fit for Marty Mornhinweg’s West Coast system. But he’ll also command more attention than ever, and he’ll likely get the tougher matchups each week against opposing corners. Heck, we can already assume that he’s going to be contained two games against the Patriots, who can smother him with CB Darrelle Revis. As much as we’ve been high on Decker the last two seasons in Denver, he is a player who can be slowed, if not shut down, by high-end man-to-man coverage. He’s also had plenty of key drops for the Broncos the last two seasons. And obviously, we have to see who the QB will be in 2014. Second-year man Geno Smith can throw the ball very well at times, but he appears to be a player who will continue to struggle with consistency. Decker is a very good red zone threat, so it’s possible that he produces as a #2 WR level due to TDs. But this is a Jet team that threw only 13 TD passes total in 2013, so Decker looks like a #3 WR only, and he might not even produce well for fantasy owners in that downgraded role.
Hakeem Nicks (Signed by Ind from NYG) – Hicks was essentially in a "prove it" year for the Giants, and the only thing he proved is that he can't be relied on. He signs another one with the Colts, who signed the veteran to a 1-year, $3.5 million deal that is worth a maximum of $5.5 million with incentives.
Fantasy Analysis: Nicks sleepwalked through his contract year in 2013. In 15 games, he hauled in 56 passes for 896 yards on 98 targets (16.0 YPC, 57.1%). Amazingly, he was unable to find the endzone, which is hard to do in that offense as the X receiver. Nicks did have three 100-yard performances, but also six games with fewer than 50 yards. Ironically, it wasn’t injuries this time for Nicks – he missed only one game with an ab injury, tying a career-high in games played. Instead, he looked lethargic, and Giant GM Jerry Reese suggested he lacked focus. We do wonder if Nicks’ numerous lower-body injuries have taken a toll on him, so he’s not an easy player to handicap right now. But what we do know is that this is a very good situation. Playing with a QB already closing in on elite status (if he’s not there already) in Andrew Luck, Nicks will also play with a legendary player in veteran Reggie Wayne, a terrific influence, and with another dynamic slot receiver on the field with him in T.Y. Hilton. According to Nicks, he picked Indy over other locations because it’s an ideal situation, and he’s right. We’d imagine Nicks will remain at X, given Wayne’s positional versatility, and the trio looks potentially dominant on paper. Given the attention those two will command, Nicks would was hard-pressed to find a better landing spot. He’ll see a lot of single coverage on the outside, and we know Luck can get him the ball. Of course, Nicks hasn’t been right for two years now, and while he’s still only 26, there are legit concerns about his body (and, possibly, his mind). So he’s merely a later-round guy to grab for depth for now. We might get more excited about him if things are looking great in the summer, but Nicks’ past forces us to temper our enthusiasm. This is certainly a very solid pickup for Luck, who could potentially have the league’s best WR trio if things go perfectly. Add in their two TEs, and Luck’s supporting cast is looking very strong.
Kenny Britt (signed by Stl from Ten) – Britt reunites with coach Jeff Fisher on a one-year deal worth up to $2.9 million, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Fantasy Analysis: Britt missed time early last season with a rib fracture, but with the way the Titans treated him, we doubt a healthy Britt would have made much of an impact. He openly complained about his treatment early on and didn’t think he got a “fair shake” after being inactive for three of the final four games. While he was singled out for his issues with drops and penalties, Britt didn’t have much good will built up, thanks to multiple off-field issues in his five years with the team. He finished the year with just 11 catches for 96 yards (8.7 YPC) on 35 targets (31.4% catch rate). He certainly burned his fair share of bridges during his five years in Tennessee, so the franchise was more than happy to let him walk. But Britt “returns” to playing under Jeff Fisher, this time in St. Louis, and Britt is certainly capable of putting up big numbers if he’s healthy and motivated. Fisher has been a “Britt whisperer” in the past, but even if Britt is happier in St. Louis, he’s got to stay on the field to produce. If he manages to do that, he could be a sleeper here. He immediately projects as their #1 WR if all goes well, and while Sam Bradford isn’t a stud, neither is Matt Hasselbeck. Hasselbeck is the best QB Britt’s ever played with, and back in 2011, when Britt was right physically, he dominated the first two games of that season and put up 14/271/2. No one is ever going to confuse Britt with a reliable fantasy option, but the talent is there to be a real difference-maker, and this is a good opportunity if he’s up to it.
Steve Smith (Signed by Bal from Car) – The Ravens signed Smith to a three-year deal that is worth $10.5 million and will include a $3.5 million signing bonus, according to Adam Schefter.
Fantasy Analysis: Smith himself admitted years ago that he’s no longer a “No. 1” WR, something he reiterated to the Ravens’ official website after signing his contract with the club. Smith continues to play with a nasty edge, but his numbers were underwhelming and down across the board in 2103. He had 64/745/4 (11.6 YPC) on 106 targets (60.4% catch rate) to give him 10.8 FPG (t-46th). Smith never had more than 69 yards in a game and topped out at 6 catches, which he did just three times. He had just three games with more than 15 FPG. He’s just not the downfield threat that he used to be. Smith missed Week Seventeen with a sprained PCL, but was able to return for the team’s Divisional Round loss to the 49ers, which was actually one of his best games (4/74/1). If he couldn’t produce acceptable fantasy numbers as a higher-volume wideout in Carolina, he’s probably not going to do it in Baltimore (remember, the guy he is ostensibly replacing, Anquan Boldin, was never more than a #3 fantasy WR in Baltimore, and then rebounded to post big numbers in San Francisco this year). Smitty will give the team another move-the-chains receiver, which is exactly what they need, and his addition does give QB Joe Flacco an intriguing group of receivers. TE Dennis Pitta will get fewer targets now, but he’ll remain a key receiver here. Paying Smith as much as they are, we feel this move is something of an indictment on Torrey Smith, who just hasn’t grown into being a complete receiver or a legit #1. Perhaps under Gary Kubiak, who loves play action and downfield passing, and with Steve in the fold, Torrey can make big plays more consistently, and the Ravens can post big-time passing numbers for the first time in franchise history. But Kubiak does also run the ball more than most coaches, and he tends to run in the red zone and inside the 10, so with more mouths to feed here, Torrey will have to make more big plays to come through. But the Raven offense became more complete with the signing of the veteran (Steve) Smith, even if it doesn’t translate perfectly to fantasy.
James Jones (WR, signed by Oak from GB) – The Raiders upgraded their receiving corps with the addition of Jones on a three-year deal, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Fantasy Analysis: It’s fair to be skeptical of Jones for fantasy next year. Hey, any player leaving Aaron Rodgers will presumably face a serious downtick in QB quality, but as we stand now there is literally no indication as to who will be throwing Jones passes in Oakland next year. What we do know, however, is that GM Reggie McKenzie is familiar with Jones through their time together in Green Bay, so he certainly doesn’t feel Jones is merely a product of Rodgers and the Packers’ system. That said, there is some concern here. Jones had two 100-yard games in the first four weeks of 2013, but he was never quite the same after a knee injury in Week Five (PCL injuries can be nasty for WRs even if they’re able to play on them). He missed nearly three games to the injury and never hit 100 yards in a game again. Jones also played through broken ribs at the end of the season after suffering the injury in Week Sixteen. We knew it would be difficult for him to even come close to his 14 TD catches from 2012, but he managed only 3 TDs this season. He finished with 59 catches for 817 yards (13.8 YPC) and 3 TDs on 92 targets (64.1% catch rate) for 11.3 FPG. He’s now 30, so it’s fair to wonder if he only has a couple great years left. That said, Jones has decent long speed and is a physical receiver who can make plays after the catch, which would almost certainly make him the #1 option here. He’s also very strong in the red zone. Remember, even with the mediocre rotation of Matt McGloin and Terrelle Pryor last season, the Raiders harbored half-decent fantasy performances from guys like Rod Streater, Andre Holmes, and Denarius Moore. It’s pretty obvious at this point that the Raiders aren’t enthused with Moore, and they wanted a veteran to provide some security outside of the young Streater and Holmes. On paper, this looks like a blow to the fantasy value of the Raiders’ young receivers, but it’s truly impossible to handicap Jones until we know who the QB will be. It’s possible he has steady #3 WR value in 2014.
Mike Williams (traded to Buf from TB) – Williams was dealt to the Bills for a sixth-round pick in the upcoming draft, ESPN reports.
Fantasy Analysis: A really talented player who has had some off-field and injury problems, Williams is now a reclamation project for his former college coach, Doug Marrone. Once a player who looked like a promising #1 type of WR, Williams hauled in 22 passes for 216 yards and 2 TDs in six games of action in 2013 before a torn hamstring landed him on IR (40 targets, 55%). Williams had problems reporting to rehab sessions after his injury, and it was clear he wasn’t in the plans for the new regime under Lovie Smith. However, he now joins an intriguing group of young receivers in Buffalo that includes Stevie Johnson, Robert Woods, and Marquise Goodwin. There’s depth here if Buffalo can get some consistency out of the QB position. As for Tampa, this move opens up a ton of possibilities in a really deep WR draft. Hello Mike Evans at #7?
Jerricho Cotchery (WR, signed by Car from Pit) – The veteran WR finally gives Carolina someone with a pulse in its receiving corps, officially agreeing on a contract, Cotchery’s agent announced on Twitter. The deal is for two years, the team announced.
Fantasy Analysis: Things can be pretty dire if a team needs a guy like Cotchery, who is typically a luxury/depth type. But make no mistake, the Panthers need Cotchery after losing Steve Smith, Brandon LaFell, Ted Ginn, and Domenik Hixon this off-season. Cotchery really made the most of his targets last season in Pittsburgh, as he became a favorite of QB Ben Roethlisberger in the red zone. He scored a whopping 10 TDs on 22 red-zone targets, finishing the year with 46/607/10 (13.2 YPC) on 76 targets (60.5% catch rate). Cotchery, 31, stole WR Plaxico Burress’ potential role in the end zone last year, as Plax tore his rotator cuff before the season even started. It’s actually surprising that Cotchery, considered a priority signing for the Steelers this off-season, is moving on. But he’ll have presumably a bigger projected role in Carolina, where Cam Newton doesn’t yet have a single reliable receiver outside of Cotchery. At 32, it’d be a surprise to see Cotchery put up career numbers in Carolina, but as of now it looks like he’s got a shot to top 100 targets for the first time since 2008 with the Jets. Where else will Cam be throwing the ball? We may not know until after the draft.
Lance Moore (signed by Pit from NO) – Moore joins the Steelers on a two-year deal, the team announced.
Fantasy Analysis: Moore’s shaky 2013 made him expendable for the Saints, who are in cap hell and need to re-sign Jimmy Graham (same thing happened with Darren Sproles). Fortunately, he found a needy team with the Steelers, who just lost their highly productive slot receiver, Jerricho Cotchery. Moore, once as reliable a #3/flex WR option as there was, battled injuries and never really got going in 2013. In 13 games, Moore posted 37/457/2 on 54 targets (12.4 YPC, 68.5%). Moore missed three games with a wrist injury, and only four times did he post double-digit PPR numbers. This was Moore’s first season below a double-digit PPR average since 2009, when he also battled injuries. Moore is an older player and an injury risk, but he can still perform at a high level in the right situation, which we’d consider this to be. He’s smart and should get on the same page as Ben Roethlisberger quickly, playing in a slot role.
Andrew Hawkins (Signed by Cle from Cin) - The Bengals decided not to match the 4-year, $12.2 million offer sheet that includes $5.3 million in guarantees the former restricted free-agent Hawkins signed with Cleveland. So Hawkins is officially a Brown.
Fantasy Analysis: It’s been a little while since we’ve truly seen it on the field, but Hawkins is a dynamic slot receiver with excellent speed and quickness, and his potential remains untapped. He opened the 2013 season on the IR, thanks to an ankle injury and would later battle hamstring issues that limited him to just 12/199 in eight games. In our opinion, the Bengals underutilized the speedy Hawkins, even going back to his “breakout”2012 season (51 catches). Last year, Hawkins had only 12 catches in eight games, for 199 yards. However, he landed in a good situation in Cleveland – at least in terms of playing on the same field as a stud #1 WR talent in Josh Gordon and a high-end and productive athlete at TE in Jordan Cameron. This draft doesn’t have a slam-dunk, plug-and-play QB like Andrew Luck, yet the Browns are a good bet to use their first pick (currently sitting at 4th overall) on a signal-caller. That means Hawkins will likely be working on a new team and with a rookie QB, but he’s still looking like an interesting later pick for WR depth. We’d love to see what he can do if used well and gets 100+ targets (career-high is 79), and his speed is a potential difference-making asset if used correctly, so we’ll keep a close eye on his role this summer.
Dexter McCluster (Signed by Ten from KC) – McCluster, still only 25 (26 in August), got a three-year deal with $4.5 million guaranteed, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Fantasy Analysis: A large part of evaluating McCluster’s fantasy value rests on deciding what positional eligibility he has. If he’s the player he was the last two years in Kansas City, McCluster adds another body to a crowded Tennessee receiving corps. Last year, McCluster emerged as the better fantasy option playing out of the slot over Chief #2 WR Donnie Avery, but no Chief WR really stood out for fantasy purposes. McCluster caught 53 passes for 512 yards (9.7 YPC) and 2 TDs on 82 targets (64.6% catch rate) for 7.8 FPG. HC Andy Reid finally started to get McCluster a little more involved later in the season, which helped the fourth-year pro to post career-best numbers. However, if he’s what coach Ken Whisenhunt envisions, he could be more. Whisenhunt said in McCluster’s introductory press conference this week that he views McCluster more as a running back, with the potential to play in the slot. Sound like anyone you know? Indeed, Whiz coached Danny Woodhead in San Diego last year. The Titans already have a good outside/slot receiver in Kendall Wright, so it looks like McCluster will be used as a jack-of-all-trades in terms of being a receiver, returner, and rusher. So it’s clearly possible that Whisenhunt uses McCluster at “running back,” a la Woodhead, but McCluster has only 20 carries the last two years combined after 114 in 2011, and he’s also 20 pounds lighter than Woodhead. We give Whisenhunt plenty of credit and will certainly be watching closely the next few months in an effort to handicap McCluster’s fantasy value this year. But unless he settles into a clear and solidified role, our initial reaction is that McCluster will continue to frustrate fantasy players with his inconsistency. At worst, he can certainly help them in an area where they struggled last year – in the return game.
Brandon LaFell (Signed by NE from Car) – The Patriots signed LaFell to a three-year deal that is expected to earn him roughly $11 million over the three years of the contract, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. No information was available on how much money is guaranteed.
Fantasy Analysis: This deal makes sense because second-year wideout Aaron Dobson recently underwent surgery to repair the stress fracture in his left foot. The team had hoped that rest would help the team avoid surgery, but now Dobson is in danger of missing most (if not all) of the team’s off-season program. He should be fine for the start of training camp, but this injury could hurt his development in his second season. Enter LaFell, who not only has some size but also experience. LaFell played 15 games and racked up 49/627/5 (12.8 YPC) on 79 targets (62% catch rate), which was good for just 9.5 FPG (t-59th). LaFell, 27, is better than his numbers would indicate in Carolina, but he’s hardly a stud. He does have size, but he’s not exactly physical, and while he’s not slow, he’s not a burner. LaFell could possibly thrive in a great passing game as the clear #2 WR, but in NE he’ll likely be in more of a WRBC because they still have the three rookies drafted in 2013 (Dobson, Kenbrell Thompkins, and Josh Boyce), and they also still have Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman, who was the top receiver and was re-signed as a free agent (Amendola could be on the move at some point, however). This addition does add to their depth nicely, which is solid news for QB Tom Brady, but unless LaFell looks locked into a prominent role this summer, he’s only a late-round pick for fantasy and is more likely WW material once the season starts.
Andre Roberts (Signed by Was from Ari) – Roberts agreed to a four-year deal worth $16 million with the Redskins, according to ESPN. And per NFL Network, Roberts is a favorite of QB Robert Griffin III, who obviously has at least some pull with new coach Jay Gruden.
Fantasy Analysis: In Roberts, the Redskins get an unspectacular but versatile receiver to play opposite Pierre Garcon. And Roberts is likely happy to get out of Arizona. Roberts had a bit of a stunning fall back to grace last season, despite playing with a true NFL quarterback in Carson Palmer. Roberts actually led the Cards in FPG in 2012, but he fell way off in 2013. In 16 games, he posted only 43/471/2 receiving on 76 targets (11.0 YPC, 56.6%), and his 6.4 FPG ranked him 88th at the position. Roberts’ snap totals were usually in the 50-60% range in terms of percentage of their plays. He wound up losing snaps due to the emergence of WR Michael Floyd and also RB Andre Ellington, who split out wide quite a bit in 2013. But he also lost snaps because the team was inclined to go with 2-TE sets to help out the offensive line that was shaky all year (although a little better than expected). Roberts had only three games with more than 10 FP in a PPR and was Waiver Wire fodder all year. He’s more talented than that and his ability to play inside or outside should give the Redskins some flexibility. However, given the addition of DeSean Jackson, Roberts could be in a WRBC behind Jackson and Garcon, since they still have veteran Santana Moss and also Leonard Hankerson, who is presumably still in the mix. That means that Robert isn’t going to be worth even a late-round pick. His presence does give Robert Griffin III another very capable and versatile receiver, which does help this offense overall.
Brandon Lloyd (signed by SF) – After taking a year off of football, Lloyd joins the 49ers on a one-year deal, the team announced. The deal is for the veteran minimum, according to ProFootballTalk.
Fantasy Analysis: The Niners are looking for a field-stretching aspect to their offense, which explained their rumored interest in DeSean Jackson. And at his best (when he’s not fighting zombies with a Baldwin brother), Lloyd can do that. So perhaps this is good news for Colin Kaepernick. But before chalking up Lloyd as someone you certainly want to target in the later rounds of your draft, remember that the 49ers have struck out in a WR reclamation project recently (Braylon Edwards), and utilized another (Randy Moss) but didn’t exactly make him fantasy relevant. And after breaking out with Denver in 2010, Lloyd had two decent but ultimately disappointing seasons to follow, at least for fantasy and relative to where he was drafted. He posted 74/911/4 with the Patriots in 2012 in a mostly up-and-down year.
Nate Burleson (signed by Cle from Det) – According to the Cleveland Plain-Dealer, the veteran receiver is joining the Browns on a one-year deal.
Fantasy Analysis: The most memorable event of Burleson’s 2013 season was the freak injury he suffered when he broke his forearm attempting to save a pizza while driving in September. In nine games, Burleson posted 39/461/1 receiving on 55 targets (11.8 YPC, 70.9%). He averaged 10.0 FPG and ranked 56th at the position, so he wasn’t a total zero. But after posting 19/239/0 in three games before getting hurt, Burleson had only 20/222/1 in his final six appearances of the year, and he failed to step up with Calvin Johnson hurting late. The Lions cut Burleson loose, and he now lands in Cleveland, where he won’t be expected to play a #2’s worth of snaps. Cleveland can still draft a receiver in way, but with Burleson, Josh Gordon, and Andrew Hawkins in the fold, the Browns are well on their way to forgetting the Greg Little/Davone Bess nightmare.
Ted Ginn (signed by Ari from Car) – Ginn departs Carolina for Arizona to sign a three-year deal with the Cardinals worth $9.75 million with the ability for the deal to jump to $14.25 million, including $5.2 million, according to the Arizona Republic.
Fantasy Analysis: Ginn had to be considered a surprise contributor to the Panthers in 2013 and he turned that success into a nice deal with the Cardinals. After catching a total of 33 balls in three seasons with the 49ers, Ginn revitalized (or just plain vitalized) his career, with 36/556/5 receiving for the Panthers this past season. Ginn also contributed on special teams, so his versatility definitely added to his value, especially if the Cardinals want to limit or complete take away Patrick Peterson’s role as a returner. Ginn had a strong year when the Panthers needed him to step up, and as a weapon on offense, he wouldn’t have to do much more than be a deep threat with Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd making up a strong starting combo. That shouldn’t translate to much for fantasy.
Damian Williams (signed by Mia from Ten) – According to ESPN.com Williams joins the Dolphins on a one-year deal worth $800,000. He’ll be a depth option.
Fantasy Analysis: Williams has been nothing more than a depth option for the Titans in his four years with the team and is coming off his worst season. Williams was limited to 10 games, mostly thanks to a quad injury, and posted just 15/178 on 22 targets. He was deactivated in Week Fifteen for violating team rules, but did return to play the final two games. It definitely makes sense that he’s opted to move on to somewhere he may have a better shot to play. After all, he’s only going to be 26 when the season starts and he can play both inside and outside. It’s a good depth move for Miami.
Tiquan Underwood (signed by Car from TB) – Underwood leaves one WR-starved NFC South club and joins another, agreeing to a two-year deal with the Panthers, according to the Baltimore Sun.
Fantasy Analysis: To make a crude comparison, Underwood seems likely to fill the Ted Ginn deep threat role in Carolina’s offense. Underwood proved himself to be a viable deep threat himself this past season, hauling in 24/440/4 on 46 targets (18.3 YPC). His line was buoyed by a couple big games in Weeks Twelve and Seventeen, but we also have to remember that the Bucs really put a cap on their passing game over the second half of the season. As it stands, Underwood has enough skill to stick as a #3 for Carolina’s offense, presuming Jerricho Cotchery is the #2. The Panthers still need a #1, however, and they may not find that player until the draft. Underwood should remain a week-to-week Waiver Wire type.
Darrius Heyward-Bey (signed by Pit from Ind) – The Steelers added some WR depth with the addition of Heyward-Bey on a one-year contract, the club announced.
Fantasy Analysis: Heyward-Bey’s first season in Indianapolis was a disappointing one, although that shouldn’t be a big surprise, considering he’s been a bust as a former first-round pick of the Raiders. Heyward-Bey had a terrible season, catching 29 of 64 targets (45.3% catch rate) for 309 yards and a TD in 13 games, putting him at 5.3 FPG. Heyward-Bey had plenty of chances to step up with a weak receiving corps, especially with WR Reggie Wayne out with a torn ACL, but he never did, and needed to make his hay on special teams. He now lands with a club that has lost Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery in free agency, but also added Lance Moore. If DHB has significant snaps with the Steelers this year, that’s likely a bad sign for second-year speedster Markus Wheaton.
Jacoby Ford (signed by NYJ from Oak) – The Jets announced an agreement with Ford, the former Raider speedster who just can’t manage to stay on the field, on a short-term contract.
Fantasy Analysis: No, DeSean Jackson he is not, but if Ford is healthy (the biggest if of all), he can at least stretch the field for Michael Vick and Geno Smith. Ford missed all of the 2012 season with a foot injury and returned in 2013 to have his worst year with free agency on the horizon. In 14 games, Ford posted 13/99 on 23 targets and was a healthy scratch for the last two weeks of the season. That’s a terrible sign, since the Raiders really needed Ford’s help at times in 2013. But overall, this is a solid, low-risk depth move for the Jets, because Ford still has plenty of ability, and after the signing of Eric Decker, he isn’t going to be counted on for much at all. What he does provide is a light under Stephen Hill’s seat, a potential special-teams contributor, and depth if all else fails.
Mario Manningham (WR, signed by NYG from SF) – The Giants added some veteran depth to their receiving corps, orchestrating a reunion with Manningham on a one-year contract, according to ProFootballTalk.
Fantasy Analysis: Manningham’s two years with the 49ers, after spending the opening stanza of his career with the Giants, were derailed by serious knee injuries. He caught just 51 passes in 18 games with San Francisco, after hauling in 160 passes in 50 games with the Giants. The Giant medical staff gave Manningham a lookover before this signing, so it’s possible his surgically repaired left knee is in good shape. But Manningham, who turns 28 in May, hasn’t been fantasy-relevant since 2010 with the Giants, so it would be foolish to assume his return to New York is for anything more than depth, at least for now. It’s highly doubtful he puts up even the numbers Hakeem Nicks posted in a disappointing 2013 campaign.
Jason Avant (signed by Car from Phi) – The Panthers add another veteran receiver for depth, announcing the signing of Avant to a one-year deal.
Fantasy Analysis: Avant, Jerricho Cotchery, and Tiquan Underwood are now, by default, the top three WRs in Carolina. Draft, anyone? A great leader and locker room presence, Avant nonetheless isn’t going to give you much in the way of production anymore. Avant’s hands have long been regarded as solid, but he can’t really run anymore and his impact will be better felt off the field for QB Cam Newton and whatever young receivers Carolina decides to add.
Tandon Doss (signed by Jac from Bal) – The Jaguars add Doss to provide depth for their receiving corps, according to the Florida Times-Union. Terms of the deal were not immediately disclosed. Doss can also help out on special teams, as he's returned punts in the past.
Fantasy Analysis: Doss was a restricted free agent but wasn’t offered a tender from WR-starved Baltimore, which tells you exactly how much he was valued in that organization. In his three-year career, Doss has 26 catches and 1 TD total. He had a decent stretch in 2013, in which he caught at least 2 passes in six of seven games between weeks Four and Eleven. But after that, he caught only 1 pass (for no gain) the rest of the year. He’s a mediocre possession guy who’ll be lucky to be #4 on this depth chart, even in Jacksonville.
Trindon Holliday (WR/KR, signed by NYG from Den) – The Giants hope Holliday gives their poor return game a spark, signing him to a one-year contract, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. He’ll have to compete with Quintin Demps for kick return reps.
Fantasy Analysis: Holliday’s only fantasy worth comes in return-yardage leagues, and he’s obviously dynamic in that regard, averaging nearly 28 YPR on kickoffs and nearly 9 YPR on punts last year. He’s scored 4 times the last two seasons. However, the Broncos didn’t tender him a contract because his ball security is brutal – Holliday has lost 3 fumbles over the last two seasons, and muffs many more kicks than that. But if the ball is in his hands, he’s clearly a game breaker.
Devin Hester (KR/WR, signed by Atl from Chi) – For the first time in his career, Hester will be wearing a uniform other than Chicago’s. He signed a three-year deal with the Falcons, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Fantasy Analysis: Hester’s one of the greatest return men in NFL history, but his role is completely limited to that at this stage of his career. For the first time since his rookie season in 2006, Hester didn’t catch a pass in 2013, and the new Bear coaching staff even tried to get him some reps in the defensive backfield to help out their woeful defense. Hester’s now 31 and might be on his last legs, but he proved this past year that he still has some juice left as a return man (1698 combined KO/PR yards, 1 TD). He gives the Falcons a dedicated return man, as Harry Douglas returned punts for them last year, and Jacquizz Rodgers returned kickoffs. The Falcons were actually in the top 10 with a 24.4 YPR kickoff average last season, but haven’t had a return TD since 2010. They hope Hester can change that.
Domenik Hixon (signed by Chi from Car) – Hixon and the Bears agreed to a one-year deal, according to the team.
Fantasy Analysis: Hixon had only 7 catches for 55 yards in 15 games with the Panthers, his first and last year with Carolina. As someone who will turn 30 during the 2014 NFL season and has multiple serious knee injuries on his resume, he wasn’t exactly a coveted free agent. He also couldn’t see significant playing time last season in pretty weak group of wide receivers in Carolina. At this stage in his career, Hixon is a mediocre depth guy at best, but he could come in and compete to be a return man to replace Devin Hester. He’ll be battling Eric Weems for a roster spot, which should tell you how much fantasy value Hixon has.
Louis Murphy (signed by TB from NYG) – The Bucs announced they signed the journeyman Murphy, on his fourth team in four years, to a one-year deal.
Fantasy Analysis: You might decide that Murphy will play the deep threat role of the departed Tiquan Underwood, but you must realize that he caught only 6 passes for 37 yards and a TD with the Giants last season, and he hasn’t been able to stick anywhere. He is, at best, a depth option on a team that still needs multiple receivers, especially if the Mike Williams relationship is on its way to ending.
Lavelle Hawkins (signed by TB from Ten) – Hawkins signs a one-year deal with Tampa Bay, reuniting with his college coach, Jeff Tedford, the OC for Tampa.
Fantasy Analysis: Hawkins has caught a grand total of 5 passes the last two seasons, but can play on special teams and provide depth at WR. He had 47 catches in 2011, but has a grand total of 24 catches in his other five NFL seasons. It would be a shock if he had fantasy value in 2014.
Owen Daniels (signed by Bal from Hou) – Daniels agreed to a one-year deal with the Ravens, reuniting with Gary Kubiak and TE coach Brian Pariani, according to the Houston Chronicle.
Fantasy Analysis: The nice part about this deal is we won’t be fooled for fantasy again, because Daniels is a clear #2 to Dennis Pitta. But it also can be a savvy move for the Ravens, who can run 2-TE sets as their base personnel, a favorite of Kubiak. It also helps the Ravens avoid digging into their still-thin WR depth. Daniels won’t be relied on to play a large percentage snaps, which could help him stay healthy, and if that’s the case, he can be kind of a thorn in our side for fantasy. Consistently, Kubiak’s offense can harbor a #1 fantasy TE, and we absolutely expect Pitta to be in that range. But after years of being vultured by Joel Dreessen and Garrett Graham, does Daniels now become the “vulture” himself?
Ed Dickson (signed by Car from Bal) – Dickson joins the Panthers’ revamped WR/TE positions on a one-year deal, worth about $750,000, according to the Charlotte Observer.
Fantasy Analysis: Dickson’s a player whose production has never matched his talent level, but he’ll get an opportunity to play for the Panthers, who may have to use a lot of “12” personnel given the dire status of their offensive line and WR group. Still, it’s easy to forget that Dickson was actually drafted ahead ofDennis Pitta back in 2010. But after a “breakout” 54-catch season in 2011, Dickson has totaled only 46 catches the last two years, and his struggles with drops make Raven fans basically cringe at the sound of his name. Comparable to a poor man’s Vernon Davis when he came out of the University of Oregon, Dickson simply never improved. He hasn’t been a good receiver, nor a blocker, but perhaps he needed a change of scenery. He’s no real threat to Greg Olsen.
Brandon Myers (Signed by TB from NYG) – Myers joins the Buccaneers on a two-year deal worth $4 million, according to ESPN.
Fantasy Analysis: Myers’ only season with the Giants confirmed his solid numbers in 2012 were nothing more than an aberration. In New York under long-time TE coach Mike Pope, Myers totaled only 47/522/4 receiving in 16 games. And after OC Kevin Gilbride retired, he told SiriusXM NFL Radio that he thought Myers was more of a backup at his position. That makes sense to us, especially since the Buccaneers have an intriguing talent in TE Tim Wright. Myers is a solid receiver with good hands, but he lacks explosive ability and is more a chain-mover and check-down option than anything else. But the biggest detriment to Myers’ chances of landing a significant role is the fact that he’s a mediocre blocker, and that’s on a good day. In this day and age of freak-athlete TEs, Myers isn’t going to draw a lot of attention in the passing game, given that he’s a poor athlete. With Wright providing a more athletic option in the passing attack, Myers likely won’t have much fantasy value.
John Carlson: (Signed by Ari from Min) – Carlson signed a two-year, $4.65-million contract with the Cardinals, according to NFL.com.
Fantasy Analysis: The Vikings finally cut ties with Carlson after giving the tight end a disastrous five-year, $25-million contract just two seasons ago. Carlson, who will turn 30 in May, has had a long history of concussions, which has hindered his career. Carlson missed the final three games of 2013 after suffering yet another concussion, but he consulted with medical experts and has been cleared to keep playing. Carlson did play well for about a month later in the season, and he was good for 50 fantasy points total in a PPR from Weeks 10-13. He finished with 32 catches for 344 yards and 1 TD in 13 games. Carlson’s signing can’t be good news for disappointing TE Rob Housler, as HC Bruce Arians prefers a TE who can block and catch the ball. Carlson is probably a better blocker than Housler, but the veteran isn’t exactly viewed as a great blocker himself. That’s probably why the team also re-signed veteran Jake Ballard, who offered some relief as a blocker late in 2013. So it looks like they will continue to utilize a lot of 2-TE sets, and if Carlson is a factor in the passing game he could be just productive enough to limit any remaining breakout potential Housler has.
Jim Dray (signed by Cle from Ari) – Dray leaves Arizona for Cleveland, signing a three-year deal worth $5.625 million, including $2.25 million in the first year, according to multiple reports.
Fantasy Analysis: After four years with the Cardinals, Dray moves onto the Browns, where he’ll serve as a backup behind Jordan Cameron and Gary Barnidge, as Dray is probably more of a blocker than anything else. After spending the majority of his first three seasons with the Cardinals as a special-teamer, Dray ended up starting 15 of 16 games in 2013, being used mostly as a blocker. He had 26 grabs for 215 yards and 2 TDs on 32 targets. Dray will never fool anyone into thinking he’s a dangerous threat as a receiver and doesn’t have any fantasy value.
Kellen Davis (signed by NYG from Sea) – The Giants finally added a veteran TE to their mix, adding Davis on a one-year contract, according to ProFootballTalk.
Fantasy Analysis: Obviously, this will not exclude the Giants from drafting a TE in May’s draft. Davis is a big, skilled guy, but he’s made it painfully obvious in his NFL career that he is not a receiver. He’s a good blocker, however, and should help protect Eli Manning. That, plus maybe some red-zone vulturing, will be his role.
David Johnson (TE/FB, signed by SD from Pit) - Johnson agreed to a two-year deal with the Chargers, according to the team's official website.
Fantasy Analysis: Johnson has played in just five games the last two seasons, after a knee injury made him miss the entire 2012 season and a wrist injury ended his 2013 season after five games. The Steelers and OC Todd Haley had big plans for Johnson heading into the 2012, moving him from tight end to fullback, but his career obviously got derailed the last two seasons. Will Johnson took over at fullback, and David Johnson moved back to tight end in 2013 because of injury issues with Heath Miller and Matt Spaeth. Johnson has just 22 total catches during his five-year NFL career. Johnson, 26, obviously adds some versatility to the Chargers, but he's nothing more than a depth option as a blocker. Remember, they cut FB Le’Ron McClain earlier this off-season.
Branden Albert (LT, signed by Mia from KC) – The Dolphins tried to trade for Albert last year, so their interest in him was one of the worst-kept secrets in the NFL. They finally got their man this off-season, locking him into a five-year, $46 million contract with $25 million guaranteed, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Fantasy Analysis: Albert’s a good player (if a little bit overrated), and the Dolphins gave up a whopping 58 sacks last season. As such, the fit is natural. He also allows them to avoid either side of the Richie Incognito/Jonathan Martin fiasco. So if he’s healthy, we’d expect the protection for franchise QB Ryan Tannehill to improve significantly (it may also help Tannehill take more time on his deep balls, one of the worst aspects of his game). That said, Albert has missed seven games the last two seasons, dealing with knee, back, and shoulder injuries. Perhaps the injuries were the reason his play started to slip a bit in 2013 and he’ll be healthy in 2014, and that’s all Dolphin fans can hope for. This addition is solid news for Tannehill, especially since his OL situation looked dire before the signing. But keep in mind Albert is considered a much better pass protector than run-blocker, so coupled with his durability issues we can’t say he’ll be a savior for Miami.
Jared Veldheer (LT, signed by Ari from Oak) – Veldheer agreed to a five-year, $35-million contract with the Cardinals, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Veldheer will receive $17 million in guaranteed money and a $6.5-million bonus.
Fantasy Analysis: Veldheer’s 2013 season didn’t get off to a great start when he suffered a torn triceps last August. He had surgery and opened the regular season on the designated-to-return IR where he remained until making his debut on Thanksgiving Day. Veldheer is one of the best pass-blockers in the league and while he was limited to just five games, the Cardinals saw a great opportunity to upgrade their offensive line by signing him. Veldheer, who turns 27 in June, was somewhat limited in his return from injury, but he had great years in 2011 and 2012, and is one of the most consistent, athletic players at the position. Veldheer will be protecting QB Carson Palmer’s blindside next season, replacing the likes of Nate Potter and Bradley Sowell. The Cardinals needed all the help they could get along the offensive line, going against the defensive lines in the NFC West, so Veldheer’s signing is a significant upgrade for Arizona and is good news for their passing game overall in 2014. We know HC Bruce Arians wants to throw the ball plenty, and this will help him do that.
Zane Beadles (OG, signed by Jac from Den) – Beadles departs Denver for Jacksonville, signing with the Jaguars for $30 million over five years including $13 million guaranteed, according to ESPN.
Fantasy Analysis: The Jaguars were expected to address their OL issues as a top priority in free agency and have gotten off to a nice start with the addition of Beadles. The OL struggled through injuries and personnel changes in 2013 and then lost C Brad Meester to retirement and cut RG Uche Nwaneri. Beadles hasn’t missed a game since entering the league in 2010. While Beadles did play some OT in his first season, he now plays exclusively at LG. Beadles was part of a group in Denver that gave up just 39 sacks over the last two seasons protecting Peyton Manning. He’ll be part of what the Jaguars hope will be a strong twosome on the left side along with LT Luke Joeckel.
Geoff Schwartz (T/G, signed by NYG from KC) – Schwartz and the Giants have agreed to deal, according to NFL Network. The deal is worth $16.8 million with $6.2 million guaranteed over four years, according to Yahoo Sports.
Fantasy Analysis: The Giants desperately needed to upgrade their putrid offensive line, and they made their first move to improve the unit by locking up Schwartz. He can play all along the offensive line, and early indications are that right tackle and left guard are his most likely landing spots (the Giants could move Justin Pugh to left tackle). He also could play at center if the Giants can’t find a replacement for David Baas. Schwartz, who will turn 28 in July, started seven games for the Chiefs last season after spending 2012 in Minnesota. He previously started 16 games for Carolina in 2010 before missing the all of 2011 with a hip injury. He’s coming off the best year of his career in almost every area, so the Giants look to have improved this offensive line on the opening day of free agency.
Jon Asamoah (RG, signed by Atl from KC) – Asamoah agreed to a five-year contract with the Falcons, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Fantasy Analysis: Asamoah is a big, physical offensive lineman who will bring some much-needed nastiness to this Falcon O-line. He started 41 games over the last four seasons with the Chiefs as a former 3rd-round pick in 2010. Asamoah figures to plug right into the right guard spot and boost the interior of this Falcon offensive line, but the Falcons still need to address their weakness at tackle. The Falcon offensive line was atrocious in 2013, and while Asamoah isn’t the total answer to their problems, he is an upgrade in front of QB Matt Ryan.
Austin Howard (RT, signed by Oak from NYJ) – Howard inked a five-year, $30-million contract with the Raiders, including $15 million in guaranteed money, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Fantasy Analysis: Howard, a former undrafted free agent in 2010, hit his big payday thanks to the Raiders. And unlike with the bizarre situation with Rodger Saffold, Howard actually passed his physical. It still appears as if Howard will be playing RT for Oakland despite the Saffold fiasco, so the Raiders still have a major hole for next season after letting Jared Veldheer leave for Arizona. Howard spent the last two seasons starting at RT for the Jets and he steadily improved, allowing just 2 sacks last season. Howard did struggle a bit as a run blocker despite his huge size (6-7, 333 pounds), but he’s still a nice upgrade over Tony Pashos at right tackle. Letting Veldheer walk hurts the Raiders on paper, especially after the Saffold situation. Whether it was a prudent move remains to be seen.
Donald Penn (LT, signed by Oak from TB) – The Raiders finally filled their void at left tackle, inking Penn to a contract worth up to $9.6 million over two years, according to NFL Network. $4.2 million is guaranteed.
Fantasy Analysis: Penn will play LT with Austin Howard at RT, giving Oakland an entirely new set of bookends. At the least, things have calmed down for the Raiders following the Rodger Saffold failed physical. But Penn is 31 and constantly had conditioning problems in Tampa, so expect the Raiders to try to focus on developing a prospect behind him. The evidence obviously suggests they don’t believe in 2013 rookie Menelik Watson.
Breno Giacomini (RT, signed by NYJ from Sea) – Giacomini heads from the Northwest to the Northeast, signing a four-year deal to start at right tackle for the Jets, the team announced. He’ll replace Austin Howard, who signed a big deal with the Raiders.
Fantasy Analysis: Giacomini is a “try hard” lineman who will fit in with the Jet line simply because he goes really hard on every play, sometimes making up for his lack of talent and technique with pure effort. GM John Idzik and Giacomini know each other from Seattle, and while he’s likely a downgrade from Howard, he gives them an experienced starter to slide into the right tackle spot. He missed seven games last year with a knee injury.
Michael Oher (RT, signed by Ten from Bal) – Oher inked a four-year, $20-million contract with the Titans, including $9.5 million in guaranteed money, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Fantasy Analysis: The Titans gave Oher some big-time money for a player that has underperformed the last couple years in Baltimore. Oher was a pathetic run blocker last season for RB Ray Rice, and his pass protection wasn’t much better. He’s also proven that he can’t play on the left side, so he’ll take over as the starter at RT for David Stewart. Oher, who will turn 28 in May, has mostly been a disappointment since the Ravens took him in the 1st round of the 2009 draft, so this is some puzzling money. The Titans are banking on Oher to improve with a change of scenery, but right now this move doesn’t greatly improve the Titan offensive line.
Shawn Lauvao (OG, signed by Was from Cle) – Lauvao agreed to a four-year, $17-million contract with the Redskins, according to Pro Football Talk.
Fantasy Analysis: Lauvao missed the first five games of last season with an ankle injury, but he’s started in the last 43 games he’s played in over the last three seasons with the Browns. Lauvao, 26, didn’t appear to fit under new Brown OC Kyle Shanahan, who likes smaller, quicker linemen in his system. Lauvao (6-3, 315 pounds) should add some much-needed size to the Redskins’ offensive line, and it could signal a bit of a change in what this Redskin offense could look like under new HC Jay Gruden.
Chris Williams (OG, signed by Buf from Stl) – The Bills are trying to bulk up their offensive line, signing the former first-round pick to a four-year deal worth up to $13.5 million with $5.5 million guaranteed, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Fantasy Analysis: Buffalo failed to effectively replace Andy Levitre at LG last season, and Williams will ostensibly fill that role, where he started 16 games with the Rams last year. A first-round “bust” who struggled at tackle but managed to make a name for himself along the interior, Williams is a monster guard at 6’6” and nearly 330 pounds. But Bill fans shouldn’t expect Williams, who has had lapses at guard as well, to be the next coming of Levitre. He’s a 29-year old who isn’t owed a ton of guaranteed dough, so he appears to be a stopgap that Buffalo hopes is better than the crappy rotation it threw out there last year.
Anthony Collins (LT, signed by TB from Cin) – Collins signed a five-year, $30-million contract with the Bucs, including $15 million in guaranteed money, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Fantasy Analysis: The Bucs have been one of the most active teams in free agency, and they landed they’re starting left tackle to protect new starting QB Josh McCown. Collins had been a career backup for his first five seasons, but he finally got his big break to start at the end of last season. Collins emerged at the end of the season, which allowed the Bengals to move LT Andrew Whitworth inside to left guard. Collins started seven games last season, and he didn’t allow a single sack and was dominant as a pass blocker. Collins, 28, has started 25 of his 59 games in six seasons, so he’s obviously a little bit inexperienced despite his service time. Collins is clearly an upgrade over current LT Donald Penn, and new QB McCown should be quiet happy having Collins protecting his backside.
Evan Dietrich-Smith (G/C, signed by TB from GB) - Dietrich-Smith inked a four-year, $14.25 deal with the Bucs, according to NFL Network.
Fantasy Analysis: The Buccaneers nabbed yet another top free agent, snagging one of the top available centers in free agency in Dietrich-Smith. The Buccaneers have gone out of their way to upgrade their offensive line with the signing of LT Anthony Collins, and Dietrich-Smith, 28, is definitely an upgrade over C Jeremy Zuttah. Dietrich-Smith has appeared in all 16 games over the last three seasons at center and guard, and he started all 16 games last season. Dietrich-Smith is a better pass blocker than he is a run blocker, but he's been one of the best centers in the league over the last three seasons, so the Buccaneer offensive line has already greatly improved since last season.
Jeremy Zuttah (G/C, traded to Bal from TB) – The Ravens acquired Zuttah from the Bucs for a fifth-round pick in this May’s draft, the team announced. Zuttah is also getting an extension from Baltimore.
Fantasy Analysis: Zuttah isn’t a game-changer, but he was probably worth a fifth-rounder from the Ravens, who badly needed an upgrade over Gino Gradkowski, who started at center for them in 2013. Zuttah will provide a reasonable upgrade for the Ravens, as he fits in Gary Kubiak’s system and didn’t cost an arm and a leg. Just don’t expect him to be a Pro Bowler.
Paul McQuistan (G/T, signed by Cle from Sea) – McQuistan brings a Super Bowl ring and 14 starts on last year’s Seahawks team eastward to Cleveland. McQuistan signed a two-year deal with the Browns worth up to $3 million, according to Adam Caplan.
Fantasy Analysis: McQuistan turns 31 in April, but his ability to play four spots along the offensive line will extend his career for as long as his body holds up. As always seems to be the case with him, he’ll go into camp competing for a job, but if he doesn’t win one right away, he should open the year as his team’s most valuable offensive line reserve.
John Jerry (G, signed by NYG from Mia) – The Giants added depth and competition to their offensive line, signing Jerry away from the Dolphins, the team announced. The deal has no guaranteed money, according to the Baltimore Sun.
Fantasy Analysis: Jerry, going on 28, was perhaps most famous this past year as allegedly being one of the primary antagonists in the Jonathan Martin bullying scandal. But the Giants felt a veteran presence who started all 16 games at RG for Miami last year was worth a look. He could provide depth or could unseat the oft-injured and declining Chris Snee at RG. Either way, he likely won’t be a difference maker, but could prevent the Giants from totally collapsing up front the way they did last year.
Marshall Newhouse (OT, signed by Cin from GB) – The Bengals announced the signing of Newhouse, who presumably will replace Anthony Collins as the team’s swing tackle and can compete for a job.
Fantasy Analysis: Packer fans won’t be sad to see Newhouse, a colossal first-round bust, gone. But the Bengals are betting on the talent that made him that first-round pick. Newhouse, still only 25, will have a chance to resurrect his career under longtime Bengal offensive line guru Paul Alexander, who consistently churns out some of the NFL’s top units. It’s an excellent spot for Newhouse to try to take his career back.
Shelley Smith (OG, signed by Mia from Stl) – Smith signed a two-year, $5.5-million contract with the Dolphins, including $1.5 million in guaranteed money, according to the Denver Post.
Fantasy Analysis: The Dolphins are trying to upgrade this offensive line decimated by poor play and controversy over the last year. They did it with a big-name signing with LT Branden Albert, and they did with an under-the-radar move with Smith. He’s made only eight career starts in two seasons, but Smith has gained a reputation as a punishing run blocker that needs work as a pass blocker. He should also excel as a zone blocker for the Dolphins. Smith, who will turn 27 in May, will likely get a good shot at earning a starting spot next preseason, and he could help this run game but certainly needs more work as pass protector.
Vladimir Ducasse (G/T, signed by Min from NYJ) – Ducasse signs a one-year deal with the Vikings to add depth to the line, the team announced.
Fantasy Analysis: One of the Jets’ bigger early-round busts in recent memory, the hope for both Ducasse and Minnesota is that he needed a change of scenery. We aren’t counting on it, as he managed to earn only five starts in his four years with the Jets.
Phil Costa (G/C, signed by Ind from Dal) - Costa agreed to a deal with the Colts, according to the team.
Fantasy Analysis: Costa, 27, appeared in just six games over the last two seasons after starting 16 games in 2011. However, the Cowboys pushed Costa out of the starting lineup when they used a 1st-round pick on C Travis Frederick last season. He also dislocated his ankle three games into the 2012 season. Costa could be plugged right into the starting lineup in Indianapolis after the Colts cut Samson Satele earlier this off-season. He'll likely compete for the job with 2013 4th-round pick Khaled Holmes for a starting job, so Costa will have a chance to get his career back on track.
Kevin Boothe (OL, signed by Oak from NYG) – Boothe gets a two-year deal worth up to $2.6 million, according to the Baltimore Sun.
Fantasy Analysis: A versatile reserve who can play everywhere on the line, Boothe gives the Raiders valuable depth and should also have a shot to compete for a bigger role. He’s part of the Raiders’ offensive-line rebuild this off-season.
Ted Larsen (G/C, signed by Ari from TB) – Larsen agreed to a two-year deal with the Cardinals, according to the team.
Fantasy Analysis: Larsen will bring some versatility and depth to the Cardinal offensive line, and he also brings some much-needed experience to the unit. Larsen has appeared in 60 games during his four seasons with the Bucs, including 31 starts between guard and center. Larsen, who will turn 27 in June, is a former 6th-round pick in 2010 and appeared in all 16 games and started four games last season. Larsen has proven pretty durable and reliable in his first four seasons, so he’ll bring some depth to the interior of the Cardinal offensive line.
Brian de la Puente (C, signed by Chi from NO) – De la Puente almost certainly expected his market to be better this off-season, but the 29-year-old center had to take a one-year deal in Chicago with only $165,000 guaranteed, the team announced. De la Puente will compete with Roberto Garza for a starting job.
Fantasy Analysis: A solid player, de la Puente nonetheless couldn’t shake the notion on the open market that his success is somehow tied to the fact that Drew Brees was his QB in New Orleans. However, he has one big supporter in Chicago, OC Aaron Kromer, who used to coach the offensive line in New Orleans. De La Puente is six years younger than incumbent Bears’ starter Roberto Garza, so it wouldn’t be a shock to see him win out in training camp.
Jonathan Martin (OT, traded to SF from Mia) – The 49ers acquired Martin from the Dolphins for a conditional 7th-round pick in 2015, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Martin must make the 49ers’ 53-man roster for the Dolphins to get the 2015 7th-round pick.
Fantasy Analysis: Martin certainly isn’t a lock to even make the 49ers’ 53-man roster next season, so the Dolphins might not get any kind of compensation. If Martin does make the roster, he’ll likely be a backup and swing tackle for San Fran, a spot previously held by Alex Boone. Martin, 24, is a former 2nd-round pick in 2012, so he certainly has the skill set to play at the NFL level. Martin now just needs to get his career back on track after the Dolphin bullying scandal, and San Francisco might be the right place for him to rehabilitate his career. Martin played two seasons under his new HC Jim Harbaugh at Stanford, and Harbaugh has supported Martin his ordeal. The 49ers will keep expectations low for Martin, so any contributions that he makes next season would be gravy for the 49ers.
Oniel Cousins (G/T, signed by TB from Cle) – Cousins agreed to a one-year deal with the Buccaneers, according to the team.
Fantasy Analysis: Cousins has started nine games during his six-year career, including the first four games with the Browns last season. The Browns then dispatched Cousins back to the bench after he got roughed up in pass protection, and he barely played the rest of the season, so he’ll merely be competing for a backup spot next preseason. Cousins, 30, played the last three seasons in Cleveland under new Buc offensive line coach George Warhop, so at least he’s familiar with the new coaching staff.
J.D. Walton (C, signed by NYG from Was) - Walton reached a deal with the Giants, according to the Denver Post.
Fantasy Analysis: Walton has played in just four of his last 32 games the last two seasons because of a broken ankle suffered in 2012. He broke his ankle four weeks into the 2012 season and had a setback last summer, which forced him to miss the entire 2013 season. The Broncos waived Walton last December before the Redskins picked him up, but he didn't appear in a game or even practice with Washington. Walton, who will turn 27 in late March, never really impressed as a center in Denver even before his injury, so the Giants are simply taking a flier on Walton and hoping that he can make some contributions to a weak offensive line.
Gabe Carimi (OL, signed by Atl from TB) – Carimi joined the Falcons this off-season, according to Fox Sports.
Fantasy Analysis: The Buccaneers waived the former 1st-round pick of the Bears, and the Falcons have brought Carimi in to try to salvage his career. Carimi has been dogged by knee problems throughout his career, and he failed to take Carl Nicks’ guard spot last season when he went down a MRSA infection. The Falcons could certainly use the help along the offensive line, but it sure looks like Carimi isn’t a solution at this point in his career. He could struggle just to make the 53-man roster as offensive line depth next season, so he’s isn’t likely to help this Falcon OL very much.
Jared Allen (DE, signed by Chi from Min) – Allen opted to shun the Seahawks’ better team for more money and likely more playing time, signing with the Bears on a four-year deal worth up to $32 million, but it’s more like a two-year, $15.5 million deal, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Allen has remained an elite IDP DL producer.
Fantasy Analysis: Allen is the third new DE addition the Bears have signed in free agency, joining Lamarr Houston and Willie Young, as well as the reunion tour of Israel Idonije. The snaps likely won’t be there for Allen as numerous they have in the past, and they probably should not be for a player who turns 32 in April, although he’ll likely see more here than he would have in Seattle, his other rumored destination. That said, the mentality of “just go get the QB” as the Bears’ go-to pass rusher could leave owners in for more bad days than good. The last two years have seen Allen fall out of the top 10 amongst DLs in FPG, but he will likely still be one of your first DEs off the board, simply for his knack for getting to the QB. His 12th place finish last year (5.4 FPG), followed 2012’s 24th (4.6). Those two and his 2004 rookie campaign (3.2) are the only times Allen has not been a top-eight defensive lineman in fantasy. He’ll be productive, but likely overdrafted.
DeMarcus Ware (DE/LB, signed by Den from Dal) – Ware gets a three-year, $30-million deal with $20 million guaranteed to go to the Broncos, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Ware wasn’t healthy last year and registered just 6 sacks, the lowest total of his nine-year career. But if he’s close to 100% this year, he and Von Miller (coming off an ACL tear) could be the NFL’s most deadly edge-rush duo. Signing in Denver gives Ware his best shot at a championship, as long as Peyton Manning is around.
Fantasy Analysis: Ware’s move to defensive end in the Cowboys’ 4-3 last year paid off with 4 sacks, 8 tackles, and an interception in the first three games. Then the next 10 happened. He had just 2 more sacks, never surpassed 5 tackles and finished tied for 39th in FPG among DEs at 4.2 — the worst average in his career (injuries certainly had something to do with that). Ware lands with the great crop of free agents Denver has acquired on defense this offseason, and will still be considered a top-flight DE, especially if Von Miller (ACL) is healthy on the opposite side. Chances are you will overpay for Ware come draft day, though.
Lamarr Houston (DE, signed by Chi from Oak) – The Bears targeted Michael Bennett, but were able to land Houston on a five-year, $35 million deal, according to FOX Sports 1. Raider fans were incredibly disappointed that Houston was not franchised. Houston racked up 56 solos, 6 sacks, 2 FFs, 1 FR, and was tied for 12th among DLs at 5.4 FPG. He has at least 4.5 sacks in three of four seasons and hasn’t missed a game in his career.
Fantasy Analysis: Julius Peppers’ replacement scored .1 FPG fewer per game than his predecessor, and the two went about it much differently. Houston, in 16 games, racked up 69 tackles and 6 sacks to Peppers’ 45 and 7.5 in 16 games. Houston provides the Bears with a good run stopper, whose best performances came in the front half of 2013 (4 of his career-high 6 sacks in the first seven games) and the back half of 2012 (3.5 sacks in the last five games). That’s 7.5 of 16.5 sacks in four seasons as a Raider in 12 of the last 21 games. He will remain a #1 or #2 DL, as he has been for the last two seasons.
Justin Tuck (DE, signed by Oak from NYG) – After eight seasons with the Giants, Tuck is moving out to the West Coast, inking a two-year, $11-million deal with the Raiders, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Tuck was a high-end IDP DE last year, posting 41 solos and 11 sacks with the Giants. He still has something left in the tank.
Fantasy Analysis: It was Tuck, not Jason Pierre-Paul (injured), who was the Giants’ standout DE last season. He finished tied for 7th in FPG among DEs (5.6). Three double-digit fantasy days in the last five weeks — thanks to 8.5 of his 11 sacks — certainly helped boost that ranking as he was fantasy’s 48th-best (3.9 FPG) prior to Week Thirteen, so those last five weeks really skewed his numbers. However, you have to wonder how often the Raiders will be in a position to rush the passer in regards to playing from behind. Tuck can also slide over to a tackle spot, and does play the run well. There’s certainly something left in the tank for Tuck, who will be 31 when the season begins, but a history of injury-plagued seasons, along with the expectations being placed on him after the team let Lamarr Houston walk, you will likely overpay for him in the draft. On draft day, remember how the last five weeks skewed his numbers.
Michael Johnson (DE, signed by TB from Cin) – Johnson agreed to a five-year, $43.75-million contract with the Buccaneers, according to ESPN. The deal includes $23 million in guaranteed money for Johnson, after he receiver the Bengals’ franchise tag in 2013. Johnson was tied for 15th among DLs at 5.2 FPG thanks to 35 solos, 4 sacks, 1 INT, and 2 FF. He’s had at least 4 sacks the last three seasons, including 11.5 in 2012.
Fantasy Analysis: Part of a stout defensive line in Cincinnati with Carlos Dunlap and Geno Atkins, Johnson was fantasy’s 15th-ranked DL last season. He now joins top-20 DLs from a year ago, Adrian Clayborn and Gerald McCoy, in Lovie Smith’s defense. As head coach of the Bears from 2004-12, Smith has had at least one DE finish in the top 21 in fantasy in all but one season. Johnson and Clayborn should see no significant dip this season.
Julius Peppers (DE, Signed by GB from Chi) – Peppers agreed to a three-year, $30-million contract with the Packers, including $7.5 million in guaranteed money, according to ESPN. Peppers collected 30 solos, 7.5 sacks, and 1 INT last season, finishing with 5.4 FPG. It was Peppers’ worst season as a pass rusher since he recorded just 3 sacks back in 2007, but he could be used more as a situational pass rusher next season.
Fantasy Analysis: Peppers started 16 games for the fourth straight season, but only registered fantasy stats in 12 of them. That is the fourth straight season he’s laid some eggs for fantasy owners despite playing all 16 games. But four missed opportunities is a career-high. He moves to a 3-4, he’s 34, and he’s a late-round pick at best.
Jason Hatcher (DE, signed by Was from Dal) - Hatcher agreed to a four-year, $27.5-million contract, according to NFL Network. Hatcher really broke out at the age of 31, racking up 34 solos and 11 sacks for 4.8 FPG in 15 games last season in Dallas' 4-3 scheme. He previously had just 16 sacks in his previous seven years, and he'll likely move to DE in Washington's 3-4 scheme.
Fantasy Analysis: Do you have to catch yourself a bit when you read that the Redskins’ biggest free agency deal so far is to a defensive tackle? Feels like we’ve been down this road before. No Albert Haynesworth comparisons here, just a quick reminder. Hatcher is coming off his best season (11 sacks), which included his high-watermark fantasy games in Weeks Two (9 points), Seven (11.5), and Seventeen (10). In between were four games at 5-plus. He is reported to be moving from his 4-3 tackle spot of a year ago back to end in the Redskins’ 3-4. He played end in Dallas’ 3-4 before, but was nowhere near the fantasy factor he was as a top-25 player last season.
Antonio Smith (DT, Oak) – The Raiders signed Smith to a 2-year, $9 million deal. According to CSNBayArea.com, the Raiders are expected to use Smith as a defensive tackle in their 4-3 defensive alignment. Smith played defensive end in a 3-4 defensive alignment when he was with the Houston Texans.
Fantasy Analysis: One of the game’s leading snap-getters at defensive end. He finished 30th, with 770 snaps in 15 games, on the way to 3 FPG and a tie for 93rd amongst DLs. Let’s see what the Raiders do with their defensive scheme — how hybrid they are between their old 4-3 base and perhaps some 3-4 — before we write Smith off just yet. But it struck us funny that on the Raiders’ team site, introducing Smith to their readers, the last line of the story began: “Smith’s description of himself is reminiscent of the Raiders defense of old.” With the addition of Smith, who will be 33 in October, Justin Tuck, soon to be 31, and LaMarr Woodley, who will turn 30 on November, the Raiders’ new defensive guys are certainly old.
Linval Joseph (DT, signed by Min from NYG) – Joseph and the Vikings have reached a five-year, $31.5-million contract, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Joseph is coming off a solid season for the Giants, where he ended up with 34 solos, 3 sacks, 2 PDs, 1 FF, 1 FR, and 3.9 FPG. His FPG has increased slightly over the last three years.
Fantasy Analysis: For a defensive tackle, it was hard not to like what Joseph was giving you to end the season. He only dipped below 3 points once from Week Eight on — and only four times in 15 games altogether. He will get his chance to shine with defensive-minded head coach Mike Zimmer, who saw Geno Atkins play as an overall #29 DL in FPG when healthy (seven games) in Cincinnati last season and as an overall #6 DL in 15 games in 2012. He has a chance to be very good in DL-required leagues, and borderline elite in DT-required leagues.
Paul Soliai (DL, signed by Atl from Mia) – Soliai helps the rebuild along Atlanta’s defensive line on a five-year, $33 million deal worth up to $14 million guaranteed, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Soliai, 30, has played nose tackle under Falcon DC Mike Nolan in Miami. Soliai hasn’t had much fantasy value in his seven-year career, topping out at 2.8 FPG last season thanks to 20 solos, 2 sacks, 6 PDs, and 1 FF.
Fantasy Analysis: What does the best run stopper on the NFL’s 24th-ranked run defense do to get better? He goes to the NFL’s 31st-ranked run defense. Soliai was part of a three-man rotation in Miami’s 4-3, eclipsed 4 points only four times and now joins the re-signed DT/DE Jonathan Babineaux and new DL Tyson Jackson on a Falcons’ team that might switch to a 3-4. More rotation for Soliai? If Babineaux plays end, Soliai is intriguing in DT-required leagues. Otherwise, don’t worry about it. There’s also the re-signed Corey Peters to contend with in Atlanta.
Red Bryant (DE, signed by Jac from Sea) – Bryant joins the Jaguars on a four-year deal worth $19 million, according to ESPN. Bryant played in a rotational role for the Seahawks last season and ended up with just 16 solos and 1.5 sacks, which brings him to a grand total of just 3.5 sacks over his six-year career.
Fantasy Analysis: In 14 games with Seattle last season, it took until the last of those for Bryant to register his season high in fantasy points (6). It was one of just two games in which he eclipsed four points. In 38 games with his new coach, Gus Bradley, as Seattle’s defensive coordinator, Bryant only surpassed 4 points five times. He’s never been much of an IDP contributor.
Arthur Jones (DE, signed by Ind from Bal) – Jones and the Colts agreed to a five-year deal worth $30 million. In 2013, Jones had 27 solos and 4 sacks, putting him at 3.5 FPG. He dealt with a concussion at the end of the season and was limited to 14 games. Jones has played all 16 games just once in his four-year career.
Fantasy Analysis: It was sort of sad that a defensive guy like Chuck Pagano never had a DE we could rely on as a fantasy play last season. Perhaps that changes as he reunites with Jones. The two did nothing together during Jones’ rookie season in Baltimore with Pagano as his defensive coordinator — one game above 2 points — whereas he hit at least 3 points in nine games last season, not too shabby dependent upon his eligibility. He’s certainly worth a look in DT-required leagues, but it’s wait-and-see if he’s listed as a DE.
Willie Young (DE, signed by Chi from Det) – Young signed a three-year, $9-million contract with the Bears, which includes a $2-million signing bonus and $3.95 million in guaranteed money, according to the USA Today. Young, 28, collected 29 solos and 3 sacks for 3.5 FPG in 16 games last season, and he should see a lot of time at left end next season.
Fantasy Analysis: In his first full season as a starter, Young eclipsed 5 points three times in 16 games and finished tied for the 69th-ranked DL in FPG (3.5). And that was playing alongside Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley, and Ziggy Ansah, and playing more snaps than all but Suh (913 to 801). He is now part of a new pair of bookends in Chicago with Lamarr Houston to try and help the team improve on its league-low 31 sacks. The 48 hurries Young had were fourth in the league, but color me a pessimist until I see hurries converted to sacks (at least for fantasy). He can be had at a bargain in your draft anyways, so no need to run out and covet Young just yet. As for the Bears, they hope he improves their awful run defense.
Ziggy Hood (DT, signed by Jac from Pit) – Hood and the Jaguars agreed to a deal, according to the Florida Times-Union. Hood, a former 1st-round pick in 2009, registered 26 tackles and 3 sacks for 2.8 FPG last season. Hood, 27, never lived up to expectations in Pittsburgh, and he’ll likely play in a rotation next season.
Fantasy Analysis: He went from part-time starter (2010), to two-year starter (2011-12), to reserve (2013), to off the Steelers. He is another free-agent piece in Jacksonville as the Jaguars re-work their front four. Hood would be a deep waiver add in DT-required leagues only — and that’s if he goes on a hot streak.
Earl Mitchell (DT, signed by Mia from Hou) – A prototypical one-gap penetrating DT, Mitchell gets a four-year deal worth up to $16 million from the Dolphins, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Mitchell is coming off the best statistical season of his career, racking up 30 solos and 1.5 sacks in his first full year as a starter.
Fantasy Analysis: He was 33rd in snap counts among DTs last year (553) and it provided the most productive season of his four-year career. Still, that meant just one game above 4 points, and four at 3.5 points. It will be interesting to see how this Dolphin defensive line comes together, which could lead to Mitchell being an intriguing DT-required league play down the road based on opportunity. He’s a talented, underrated player.
Tyson Jackson (DL, signed by Atl from KC) – Jackson, a 3-4 end and a strong run defender, goes to DL-needy Atlanta on a five-year deal worth up to $25 million, according to NFL Network. This move could signify a switch to DC Mike Nolan’s preferred 3-4/hybrid defense. Jackson had a career-high 4 sacks in 2013 and added 24 solos, good for just 3 FPG.
Fantasy Analysis: A 3-4 DE who has nine sacks in five seasons, played 16 games just once and only once has he finished top 50 overall among DLs? Meh. No one is stealing the former #3 overall pick off of your draft board. Keep an eye on what the Falcons look like they are going to do defensively, and monitor Jackson throughout the offseason to see how he is fitting in with Atlanta. But it doesn’t appear he’ll have significant IDP value either way.
Clinton McDonald (DT, signed by TB from Sea) – The underrated McDonald had a strong season in a rotational role with the Seahawks last season, posting 5.5 sacks after being cut during training camp, then re-signed. He parlayed that season into a four-year, $12 million deal with the Bucs, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Fantasy Analysis: You can look at McDonald two ways: there will either be a lot of empty fantasy days as he works to free up his fellow DLs and LBs, or he can pounce while the opposition worries about line mates Gerald McCoy, Michael Johnson, and Adrian Clayborn. McDonald put together eight games of at least 3 FP and six of at least 5 last season. Like in Seattle, there are a lot of players on that Bucs’ defensive front to feed, and while it might be great in real football, it could mean headaches selecting a Tampa Bay defensive lineman.
Henry Melton (DL, signed by Dal from Chi) – The Cowboys signed Melton to an interesting deal, giving him a one-year “prove it” contract that becomes a four-year deal if Melton is on Dallas’ roster at the start of the 2015 league year, according to FOX Sports. He played only three games last season before a torn ACL ended his 2013 and helped derail the Bear defense.
Fantasy Analysis: A contract with which Melton bets on himself and reunites with a defensive coordinator that helped guide him to a Pro Bowl sounds like a good combo for an IDP sleeper. A couple of problems instantly jump out with Melton, however: returning from the ACL and playing tackle. But in two years as a starter in Chicago with new Dallas DC Rod Marinelli, Melton saw a significant jump in production in Year 2. He played 639 snaps and finished tied for 70th amongst all DLs in FPG (3.3) in 2011 and followed it up with 616 snaps for 4.1 FPG to finish tied for 33rd. You’re not going to have to draft Melton, but if he’s healthy then don’t be surprised if he’s an early waiver add, at least in DT-required leagues.
Jeremy Mincey (DE, signed by Dal from Den) - Mincey and the Cowboys reached terms on a two-year, $4.5-million deal, including $2 million in guaranteed money, according to ESPN Dallas. Mincey started 2013 with the Jaguars, posting 9 tackles and 2 sacks before being cut for a rules violation in December. The Broncos picked him up, and he served as a rotational player during their playoff run.
Fantasy Analysis: Mincey, 30, hasn’t started a game since back-to-back seasons of starting all 32 games for Jacksonville (2011-12). The personnel on the Cowboys’ defensive line — with new coordinator Rod Marinelli — is still a work in progress. Mincey’s not on your draft board, but he’s worth being on the radar, if for no other reason than we don’t know who is on this line yet (as it stands now, it’s one of the least-talented defensive lines in football).
Alex Carrington (DT, signed by Stl from Buf) – An underrated player, Carrington is taking a one-year deal to reestablish some value with the Rams, according to NFL Network. He played in only three games last year because of a torn quad. At his best, he can provide an effective interior rush rotational presence.
Fantasy Analysis: The Rams were the best-scoring team for fantasy DLs last year. So a spot in that rotation for Carrington is nothing to scoff at just yet. However, a defensive tackle who has done little in 44 games over his first four years means Waiver Wire watch, at best.
Darryl Tapp (DE, signed by Det from Was) - Tapp and the Lions agreed on a deal, according to the Detroit Free Press. Tapp, who will replace Willie Young on the defensive line, recorded 7 solos and 1 sack in 11 games last season. Tapp has barely been used the last three seasons and hasn't recorded 3 sacks in a season since 2010.
Fantasy Analysis: Tapp steps in for the departed Willie Young in the Lions’ defensive end rotation, and Young was a player who finished tied for 69th in FPG (3.5) last season in Detroit. The only thing that piques my interest with Tapp is the nine-year vet reuniting with defensive line whisperer, Jim Washburn, an assistant DL coach in Motown. He played under Washburn in Philadelphia in 2011-12 and recorded 3 sacks, 6 PDs, and 32 solos in a pretty limited role (563 snaps). I will not draft him, but will throw his name in the deepest recesses of my memory banks.
Corey Wootton (DT, signed by Min from Chi) – Wootton crosses the division to play for the Vikings, where he lands on a one-year, $1.5 million deal, the team announced. Wooton made a career-high 27 solo tackles last year, to go with 3.5 sacks.
Fantasy Analysis: He will likely be a rotational player in Mike Zimmer’s defense, but Zimmer likes to rotate a lot. Wootton can also play both end and tackle. A hip injury slowed Wootton down in 2013, and he had surgery in January. You will not have to worry about drafting him, but keep an eye out in the early part of the season to see just how “rotational” he is, and whether he could be a decent spot start down the road.
Letroy Guion (DL, signed by GB from Min) – An underrated, versatile defensive lineman, Guion moves within the division to the Packers, according to the Baltimore Sun. On a one-year deal, expect Guion to play multiple DL spots, but he’ll struggle to produce IDP numbers.
Fantasy Analysis: In his first six seasons, Guion has never averaged more than 2.2 FPG, and despite starting all 28 games he appeared in the last two seasons, does not play enough snaps to warrant drafting in fantasy.
Terrell McClain (DT, signed by Dal from Hou) – McClain and the Texans agreed to a three-year contract, according to the Baltimore Sun. McClain registered just 8 solos and no sacks for 1.5 FPG last season with Texans. He failed to register a tackle in five games in 2012 after notching 13 solos with the Panthers in 2011.
Fantasy Analysis: This is McClain’s fifth team since joining the league in 2011. No reason to make it a sixth by joining your fantasy team in 2014. He will be a rotational player for the Cowboys.
Israel Idonije (DL, signed by Chi from Det) – Idonije returns to the Bears after a one-year sabbatical in Detroit, inking a one-year deal with the Bears, according to ProFootballTalk. Idonije’s once decent IDP production hit a wall in Detroit this past year, as he made only 7 solo tackles.
Fantasy Analysis: Idonije did not just hit a wall, the wall fell on him as an IDP. And it’s not as if he didn’t participate last season. He was 93rd amongst DEs in snaps (347), appeared in at least 15 games for the seventh straight season, but produced nothing. He returns to the site of his solid three-year run (2010-12) where he finished top 40 twice in FPG (4.6, 4.0) and 58th in 2012 (3.4). Re-worked defensive line or not, the decline has already happened for the 33-year-old, and there will be better options at end once draft season arrives.
C.J. Wilson (DL, signed by Oak from GB) – The Raiders added some depth to their rebuilt defensive line in the former Packer Wilson, according to CSN Bay Area. Wilson is still young at age 26, unlike some of their other recent signings. He played only a slight rotational role with Green Bay last season.
Fantasy Analysis: In limited action last season — 127 snaps in eight games due to an ankle injury and being a healthy scratch numerous times — Wilson only registered fantasy numbers in three of those games. This comes a year after posting fantasy numbers in 10 of 11 games, and five of those of at least 3 points, He at least gives the Raiders a free agent signing under 30, but will simply be a Waiver Wire watch.
Karlos Dansby (ILB, signed by Cle from Ari) – Dansby inked a four-year, $24-million contract with the Browns, according to the Arizona Republic. Dansby will make $14 million in guaranteed money and $10 million in his first season. He was a fantasy beast in 2013, totaling 112 solos, 6 sacks, 4 INT, and a career-high 10.1 FPG, which put him 5th among LBs.
Fantasy Analysis: Fantasy’s #5 LB joins his third team in as many years. He is coming off back-to-back seasons of 120-plus tackles, and his seventh straight season of at least 98 tackles — with at least 89 solos in six of those seasons. He added a career-high 6 sacks and 4 interceptions — two returned for scores — on his way to Cleveland, where he will take over for the departed D’Qwell Jackson. He will be the clear leader of this LB corps, and one of the first off your draft board at the position. Remember that new coach Mike Pettine has been very fantasy friendly to ILBs.
D’Qwell Jackson (ILB, signed by Ind from Cle) – Jackson joins the Colts on a four-year deal worth $22 million, including $11 million guaranteed, according to multiple reports. Jackson was a solid fantasy contributor in 2013, tying for 28th among LBs at 7.7 FPG thanks in part to 75 solos, 1 sack, and 1 INT.
Fantasy Analysis: After back-to-back finishes outside the top 20, we’re pretty far removed from the top-5 fantasy LB Jackson was three years ago. Competition with Jerrell Freeman on his own team as 3-4 LBs, Colts statisticians’ affinity for handing out assisted tackles, and the recent decline in play do not make Jackson the high-end play he once was.
Brandon Spikes (MLB, Signed by Buf from NE) – The Bills have agreed to terms with Spikes on a one-year deal worth $3.25 million. Typically, a 2-down LB, Spikes hopes to prove to that the can play more in passing situations and by a full-time LB. He is expected to start in the middle and will be reunited with new Bill DL coach Pepper Johnson, who was Spikes' linebackers coach with the Patriots the last two seasons. Second-year man Kiko Alonso will move over to the weak side LB spot to make room for Spikes in the middle. This will be Spikes’ first season in a pure 4-3 scheme.
Fantasy Analysis: In the 12 games in which he played a majority of the snaps last season, Spikes averaged 5.7 FPG, which would put him on the back end of the LB5 tier. With the news that Kiko Alonso is moving from the middle to the weakside, Spikes walks right into what should be a full-time starting gig. Will he play three downs? He hasn’t done well at it so far. But a show-me contract might light a flame, and the stats-happy crew in Buffalo is not a bad place to land on a prove-it deal.
Wesley Woodyard (MLB, signed by Ten from Den) - Woodyard and the Titans agreed to a four-year, $16-million deal, according to ESPN. Woodyard, 27, racked up 47 solos, 1.5 sacks, and 1 INT, tying for 56th among fantasy with 5.7 FPG in 14 games last season. He averaged 70 solos from 2011-12, but he did lose his starting job at the end of last season in Denver.
Fantasy Analysis: Defensive coordinator Ray Horton and linebackers. Enough said. Tennessee sought D’Qwell Jackson and missed, and needed help with its underperforming LBs. Enter Woodyard, who adds more speed to one of the fastest LB corps in the NFL. Woodyard can play the middle or the weakside. Obviously, where he is penciled in on the depth chart makes a difference in his draft position, but the opportunity is going to be there for him to make plays on a consistent basis. He should be able to be had late in drafts.
Darryl Sharpton (ILB, signed by Was from Hou) - Sharpton inked a one-year deal with the Redskins, according to Pro Football Talk. Sharpton, 26, collected 55 solos and no sacks for 5.1 FPG in 15 games last season, as he saw extended time filling in for the injured Brian Cushing. Sharpton had by far the best season of his four-year career, as he had just 51 solo tackles in his previous three seasons.
Fantasy Analysis: A day after Perry Riley re-signed with the Redskins, the team perhaps added his running mate inside (and London Fletcher replacement) in Sharpton, who was picked one spot ahead of Riley as fourth rounders in the 2010 NFL Draft. Ironically, Sharpton saw his best production when filling in for Brian Cushing, but has been oft injured himself. Don’t overdraft him just because he potentially gets Fletcher’s high-production job, but do keep an eye on the ’Skins’ LB corps as the season approaches.
LaMarr Woodley (OLB, signed by Oak from Pit) – Woodley heads to the Raiders on a two-year deal worth $12 million, according to ESPN. Woodley hasn’t had much fantasy value as of late and hasn’t played every game since 2010. In 2013, he played just nine games thanks to a calf injury, totaling 20 solos, 5 sacks, 2 PD, 1 FF, and 1 FR to finish with 4.9 FPG.
Fantasy Analysis: From the East to the West. From OLB to DE? Woodley has a lot of transitioning to do. The Raiders have two frequently injured veterans on the outside in DE Justin Tuck and Woodley. A move to defensive end in the Raiders’ 4-3 could be the spark needed for Woodley’s first double-digit sack season since he had three straight from 2008-10. It will be a wait-and-see approach for both. Your benefit is you can wait on Woodley, a defensive end in college, whereas you will have to overpay for Tuck. And he’ll certainly have more value if he gets DE eligibility.
Shaun Phillips (OLB, signed by Ten from Den) – Phillips leaves Denver after DeMarcus Ware made him expendable, signing a two-year deal with the Titans worth up to $6 million, according to FOX Sports. Phillips had 10 sacks with the Broncos last year.
Fantasy Analysis: He appeared in all 16 games, starting 12 last season, and finished 85th in PPG (4.3) as a linebacker in Fantasy Guru scoring. Phillips lined up as a defensive end in his lone season in Denver last year, and will likely be considered an OLB in Ray Horton’s defense. Forty percent of his production (25 of 64 points) came in two games — Week One’s 11.5 and Week Eleven’s 13.5. As a full-time starting linebacker the previous seven years in San Diego, Phillips registered fantasy stats in 100 of 105 games, averaging 5.7 FPG. Unless you are in a deep league you won’t have to worry about drafting him, but Phillips will likely be an early Waiver Wire add as the Titans transition to the 3-4, where he should excel under Horton.
Joe Mays (ILB, signed by KC from Hou) - Mays signed a two-year, $6-million contract with the Chiefs, according to Adam Caplan. After spending the last three seasons with the Broncos, Mays recorded 40 solos and 1 sack in 14 games to finish with 4.2 FPG. His best season came back in 2011 when he recorded 64 solos for the Broncos.
Fantasy Analysis: Mays had flashes last year, particularly during the last half of the season. He scored at least 5 points in six of his last eight games, which included a career-high 13 tackles in Week Fifteen. Brought in to perhaps start alongside Derrick Johnson inside, Mays could be a deep sleeper in IDP leagues this season.
Jameel McClain (OLB, signed by NYG from Bal) – McClain lands with the Giants after agreeing to terms, according to multiple reports. With 2012 being a lost season thanks to a spinal contusion and that same injury keeping McClain on the PUP to start 2013, he was able to return to the starting lineup for 10 games, totaling 27 solos and just 4 FPG. His versatility was certainly a selling point.
Fantasy Analysis: He is expected to be the strong-side starter, and a healthy Jason Pierre-Paul lining up in front of him at right defensive end is not a bad front man to have. McClain, a former defensive end himself at Syracuse, will be someone to keep an eye on if for not other reason than opportunity to help bolster a LB corps that was 20th in fantasy FPG.
Akeem Jordan (LB, signed by Was from KC) – Playing 16 games and starting 10, Jordan made 51 solo tackles in 2013 in Kansas City, the most of his career. A veteran who can play multiple LB spots, the Redskins decided to add him on a contract. Terms were not disclosed.
Fantasy Analysis: In the four games where Jordan played a majority of the snaps last season, he hit 4.5 fantasy points in the last three and had 6.5 in the other. His two highest scoring games of the season (7 and 7.5) came when he played a combined 38 snaps. Go figure. The 3.8 FPG average for the season was his highest since 2009’s 5.2, and the first time he registered fantasy stats in all 16 games. Don’t discount Jordan just yet on a team that has now signed three free-agent inside linebackers to go along with re-signing ILB Perry Riley. As it stands now, give Jordan a 33 percent chance to nail down a starting job on a team desperate for LBs. Washington ranked third in FPG scored at the position last season.
Keith Rivers (OLB, signed by Buf from NYG) – Rivers inked a two-year, $5-million contract with the Bills, according to ESPN. Rivers, who will turn 28 in May, collected 22 solos and 1 sack for 2.8 FPG in 16 games last season. Rivers has collected 50+ tackles just once (2010) in his six-year career, and he’s never registered more than 1 sack in a season.
Fantasy Analysis: The man Jameel McClain replaced in East Rutherford has moved on to Orchard Park to try and make his mark on his third team. He provides a potential starting SLB for the Bills to compete with Manny Lawson, who did finish tied for 63rd in fantasy FPG (5.3) among LBs. It’s nothing to write home about, but perhaps Rivers is a name to remember midway through the season when you’re scraping that waiver wire.
Dekoda Watson (LB, signed by Jac from TB) – The former Buc has agreed to terms with Jacksonville, according to 1040 The Team in Tampa. Watson is a freak athlete capable of playing SAM LB. He made 29 solo tackles in 12 games last year, splitting between spot starts and a special teams role.
Fantasy Analysis: Watson only played 20-plus snaps six times in Tampa last season, and averaged 5 FPG in those six games. The strongside backer with a knack for rushing the passer, moves across the state and can only help a run defense ranked 29th against the run, and last in sacks.
Jasper Brinkley (LB, signed by Min from Ari) – Brinkley returns to the Vikings after spending one season in Arizona, inking a one-year deal, the team announced. A run-defending MIKE, Brinkley’s career-high in solos came in 2012 with the Vikings, when he made 62.
Fantasy Analysis: The majority of his production came during Daryl Washington’s four-game suspension to open last season in Arizona. Brinkley started those four games — collecting 19 tackles and two PDs — and contributed stats in just four more, in a very minimal role. He is not on your fantasy radar for 2014.
Kavell Conner (ILB, signed by SD from Ind) – Conner inked a three-year deal with the Chargers, according to the Baltimore Sun. Conner recorded just 13 solos and no sacks for 1.8 FPG in 10 games last season, the worst season of his four-year career. His previous career-low in solos came during his rookie season in 2010 when he collected 36 tackles.
Fantasy Analysis: Expected to compete for a reserve role and not fantasy relevant since 2011’s 5.5 FPG, which came in part to three double-digit tackle days the first four weeks of that season. There were no such games prior or since.
Arthur Moats (LB, signed by Pit from Buf) – Moats played a part-time role in Buffalo the last four years, peaking with 12 starts this year, in which he made 27 solo tackles. He signs in Pittsburgh on a one-year deal, where he’ll get a shot to compete for a job opposite Lawrence Timmons.
Fantasy Analysis: The 2.9 FPG he averaged in last year’s career-high 16 games played was the best he’s done in the first four years of his career. He’s a versatile player, but not versatile enough to warrant fantasy interest.
Adam Hayward (ILB, signed by Was from TB) – Hayward and the Redskins have agreed to a three-year contract, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Hayward has been a part-time player for his entire career, but hasn’t missed a game in the last four seasons. In 2013, he had 18 solos and a PD with two starts in 16 games.
Fantasy Analysis: Considered more of a special teams stud, this seven-year veteran is not your London Fletcher replacement to play along side the newly re-signed Perry Riley.
Darrelle Revis (CB, signed by NE from TB) – Merely hours after being released by the Buccaneers, Revis inked a deal with the Patriots, his oft-predicted landing spot. The Pats replace Aqib Talib with Revis on a two-year, $32 million deal, according to USA Today. It’s essentially a one-year deal, as the Patriots can’t franchise Talib if they don’t pick up the $20 million option for the second year. As one of the game’s top “shutdown” corners, Revis rarely puts up IDP-worthy numbers, as he averaged only 4.3 FPG last season with the Bucs.
Fantasy Analysis: Revis has not been a fantasy factor since his rookie season when he finished 14th in PPG (6.6). He has only cracked the top 50 once since then — 2009 (6.0) —and unless his skills have greatly diminished, it is unlikely he will crack that 50 in New England. Revis admitted in his first conference call with the media that it took him time to get going in 2013, which is understandable.
Jairus Byrd (S, signed by NO from Buf) – The Saints announced on their official Twitter account that Byrd agreed to a six-year deal with the club. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the deal is for $54 million with $28 million guaranteed. In 2013, Byrd was limited to 11 games, thanks to a foot injury he to extra precaution with in a contract year. He wound up with 37 solos, 4 INTs, 6 PD, and 1 FF. Byrd had missed a game in three straight seasons before last year.
Fantasy Analysis: He joins Rob Ryan’s aggressive defense and has a talent on the rise alongside in second-year player Kenny Vaccaro. Last year was bizarre in Buffalo for Byrd, to say the least. He played 11 games, including a stretch between Weeks Ten and Fifteen where he scored at least 5 points each game out; he did not do that in any of the other six weeks he played. Only twice has Byrd finished inside the top 25 among DBs, so he’s real world vs. fantasy world. And does aggression equal fantasy production? Ryan’s recent history says no. After placing safeties inside the top 18 in fantasy in four of his first five years as a DC, Ryan has only seen that feat accomplished once since 2009 (T.J. Ward, 16th, 2010).
T.J. Ward (S, signed by Den from Cle) – The Broncos confirmed via president John Elway on Twitter that they agreed to terms with Ward, one of the top safeties on the market. Ward will make $23 million over four years, including $14 million guaranteed, according to the Denver Post. Ward is coming off a career year that saw him set a new high with 6.8 FPG (tied for 6th among DBs) thanks to 76 solos, 2 INTs, 2 sacks, 5 PDs, and 1 FR.
Fantasy Analysis: Ward has bookended his first four years in the league with top-16 finishes and duds in between. The big hitter now plays on the other side of a Bronco offense that can make up for any risks he may take, and this does not count the defense the front office is still not done putting together in front of him. It does likely push second-year player Duke Ihenacho from starter to reserve, taking away a first-half fantasy stud from a year ago.
Antoine Bethea (S, signed by SF from Ind) – A longtime Colt, Bethea will head to the Bay Area to replace Donte Whitner. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Niners and Bethea agreed on a four-year contract. Bethea finished as a top-10 fantasy defensive back with 6.7 FPG, recording 78 solos, 1 sack, and 2 INTs. Bethea has averaged 75.7 tackles per season over the last six years with the Colts.
Fantasy Analysis: If nothing else, Bethea will be there for you. He has started all 16 games for six straight seasons and finished with at least 94 tackles all six of those seasons. And that’s what you get — tackles. Bethea, who has finished top-8 in tackles among DBs each of the last three years, will be an upgrade over Donte Whitner, whose highest finish was 31st (83 in 2012).
Donte Whitner (S, signed by Cle from SF) – Whitner goes from San Francisco to Cleveland on a four-year deal paying him $28 million. Last year, Whitner had 58 solos, 2 INTs, 12 PDs, 2 FF, 1 FR, and 5.5 FPG. He’s missed just one game over the last four years.
Fantasy Analysis Whitner returns to his hometown of Cleveland and joins defensive-minded coaches Mike Pettine and Jim O’Neil. Organizational overhaul or not, the Browns had three DBs finish as top-50 in fantasy last year. That would be par for the course for Whitner. He has played in at least 15 games in five of his seven seasons and finished inside the top 50 all five seasons, including as the #2 DB in 2010. Pettine coached four safeties to top-41 fantasy finishes the last three years, including LaRon Landry’s #8 ranking in 2012.
Aqib Talib (CB, signed by Den from NE) – The Broncos locked up arguably the market’s top cover corner, signing Talib to a monster six-year, $57 million contract with $26 million guaranteed, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Talib replaces Champ Bailey, and then some. Talib has yet to play 16 games in any of his seven seasons, including last year when he missed three games due to a hip injury. In his first full year with New England, Talib had 35 solos, 4 INTs, 14 PDs, and 1 FF.
Fantasy Analysis: Fantasy 101: You never play the game’s best corners. For his first half of the season, Talib sort of disproved that — at least in CB-required leagues. He was the overall #55 DB through six games until a hip injury shelved him until Week Seven. He only dipped below 3 points once upon his return (Week Eleven). He goes from Tom Brady to Peyton Manning at QB, meaning teams must play catch-up while Talib’s on defense. Adding T.J. Ward at safety doesn’t hurt, neither does having Von Miller rushing the passer. Talib is still only a CB-required league play, but might not have to be the avoid-the-shutdown-corner selection we are accustomed to.
James Ihedigbo (S, signed by Det from Bal) – Ihedigbo shunned interest from several other teams to sign with the Lions, joining his Raven secondary coach Teryl Austin, who is now the DC in Detroit. A traditional “in the box” safety, Ihedigbo made 61 solo tackles and 3 INTs for the Ravens last year.
Fantasy Analysis: One of the later free agent signings who was actually a top-20 producer last season, Ihedigbo finished tied for 16th amongst DBs at 6.5 FPG. He moved up from being tied for fantasy’s 74th best through the first half of the season (5.2 FPG) to its eighth best the last half (7.4 FPG). Ihedigbo can only help a Lions defensive backfield that was 30th in FPG scored last season. He will likely be a DB2 or DB3 in many drafts, and should be a great value pick.
Alterraun Verner (CB, signed by TB from Ten) – The Bucs may have landed their eventual Darrelle Revis replacement, signing the young corner Verner to a four-year deal worth up to $26 million, with $14 million guaranteed, according to NFL Network. Last season, Verner had 49 solos, 5 INTs, 22 PDs, and a TD while playing every game for the fourth straight season.
Fantasy Analysis: The NFL’s a funny thing. Verner entered last season in a silly battle for a starting spot with the Titans, and seven months later has $14 million guaranteed from a new team. Verner earned that money right after winning the spot over Tommie Campbell, recording four of his five interceptions and eight of his 22 PDs in the first four weeks. Verner was the #46 DB last season, and should only improve in Lovie Smith’s defense, also benefiting from the Bucs’ stellar defensive line hurrying opposing QBs. Smith’s system always produces strong CBs for CB-required leagues.
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (CB, signed by NYG from Den) – The Giants completed an overhaul of their CB position by signing the mercurial DRC to a five-year deal worth up to $39 million with $15 million guaranteed, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. DRC had a good year in Denver last year, playing mostly man coverage, after two poor seasons in Philadelphia. Often going unchallenged last season, DRC had only 25 solo tackles, but did have 3 picks and a TD.
Fantasy Analysis: In our default scoring, DRC has not been in the top 100 in fantasy points per game at the defensive back position since 2008, and that was a career-best tie for 87th (5.0 FPG). He’s a pure man cover corner whose game doesn’t translate to IDP.
Captain Munnerlyn (signed by Min from Car) – Munnerlyn signs with the Vikings on a three-year deal worth $14.25 million including $7 million guaranteed, according to the Charlotte Observer. Munnerlyn had a strong season with 2 INTs, 12 PDs, 48 solos, and 5.4 FPG.
Fantasy Analysis: A solid slot cornerback who has played outside, who also brings the occasional big play to your fantasy team in the form of five interceptions returned for scores, five sacks, five forced fumbles and 39 PDs in a five-year career. And he will be tested plenty out of the slot in the NFC North alone. He tied for 58th among fantasy DBs in FPG (5.4).
Mike Mitchell (FS, signed by Pit from Car) - Mitchell agreed to a five-year, $25-million contract, according to the Chicago Tribune. Mitchell had a career season in his fifth year, collecting 50 tackles, 4 sacks, and 4 INTs last season with the Panthers. He finished tied for 43rd among fantasy defensive backs with 5.8 FPG.
Fantasy Analysis: Pittsburgh gets a hard hitter and a free safety that can handle the run well and the pass — well, that is to be determined behind a line not nearly as solid as Carolina’s. Mitchell is coming off career highs in tackles (67), sacks (4), interceptions (4), passes defended (8) and forced fumbles (2). The pairing with Troy Polamalu will make for an interesting back end to say the least.
Ryan Clark (S, signed by Was from Pit) – The Redskins still need secondary help, and they’re hoping the veteran Clark can stall the onset of Father Time for one more year. ESPN Radio 980 reports that Clark agreed to a one-year deal with Washington for his age 34-35 season. He’s coming off six straight seasons of 50 or more solo tackles.
Fantasy Analysis: As mentioned later in this article with the re-signing of Brandon Meriweather by the Redskins, the NFC East saw all four of its teams finish in the top 13 in tackles allowed to DBs last season; Clark was the fifth-best tackling DB himself (104). Will the veterans be the ones taking the snaps — will they stay healthy enough to do so — or will they be early placeholders for some of the younger safeties the Redskins have on the roster? It is unlikely you will have to draft any of the Washington safeties — unless in deep leagues, and still late-round picks then. There’s time to see what the plans are, and there’s still the Draft. One thing’s for sure: When it does shake out, you will one to own the two starting safeties for a team that finished second in points scored by DBs last season.
Malcolm Jenkins (S, signed by Phi from NO) – The Eagles plugged a hole and gave Jenkins, the former Saint, a three-year deal worth $16.25 million with $8.5 million guaranteed, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Jenkins finished tied for 63th among fantasy defensive backs with 5.3 FPG, registering 43 solos, 2.5 sacks, and 2 INTs last season. Jenkins 43 solos were a career-low total after registering 63 and 65 tackles the last two seasons.
Fantasy Analysis: The last DB as part of the DB6 tier (ranked 72nd in 12-team leagues) from a year ago, he moves to an Eagles defense ranked 10th in the NFL against the run and last against the pass. The former college corner replaces Patrick Chung — a DB12 tier a year ago — and with such a low bar should be an upgrade. Will Jenkins be an upgrade to your fantasy team? Well, the six-year veteran was a 30th two years ago and a 37th in 2011. He likely won’t be part of your fantasy draft, but is worth keeping a close eye on.
Roman Harper (S, signed by Car from NO) – Harper goes to the Saints’ division rival on a two-year deal worth $4.5 million, with $1.5 million guaranteed, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Harper made 25 tackles in nine games with the Saints last season, missing significant action with a knee injury.
Fantasy Analysis: He steps in for Mitchell, who finished tied for 43rd (5.8 FPG) amongst DBs with 67 tackles, four sacks, four interceptions, eight PDs, and two fumble recoveries. Harper, 31, will likely fall into a rotational role in the Panthers’ secondary, and has two stout LBs in Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis playing in front of him to limit tackle opportunities. He can likely be had off the waiver wire in most fantasy leagues.
Chris Clemons (S, signed by Hou from Mia) – Clemons, fresh off of two years starting with the Dolphins, signs a two-year contract with Houston worth up to $2.7 million, according to the Houston Chronicle. Clemons joins Kendrick Lewis, D.J. Swearinger, and (for now) Danieal Manning in the Texans’ safety depth chart. He has made a total of 128 solo tackles the last two seasons, playing in every game.
Fantasy Analysis: He started all 32 games the last two seasons, posting basically the same fantasy seasons — 83.5 and 92 points to finish in the DB4-5 range. He joins Kendrick Lewis as the second safety signed by the Texans in less than a week. They join Shiloh Keo and D.J. Swearinger in the Houston defensive backfield, which will likely see the exit of Danieal Manning. Let’s wait for the Draft and some OTAs before we even begin to project how this all shakes out.
Louis Delmas (S, signed by Mia from Det) – Delmas inked a one-year contract with the Dolphins, and the deal has a maximum value of $3.5 million, according to Pro Football Talk. Delmas collected 49 solos, 2 sacks, and 3 INTs, tying for 100th among fantasy defensive back with 4.7 FPG. Delmas’ 3.1 tackles per game was the lowest average in his five-year career.
Fantasy Analysis: So Delmas played the first full season of his five-year career, as part of a terrible secondary, and was still just the 164th-ranked DB. Knee injuries have plagued him, and he still has not come close to his final ranking of #21 as a rookie in 2009.
Nolan Carroll (CB, signed by Phi from Mia) – The Eagles added some depth to the CB position, signing the good-sized Carroll (6’0”, 210) to a two-year deal worth $5.2 million, according to Adam Caplan. Carroll will have a chance to compete on the outside with Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher. He started 12 games for Miami last year and made 43 solo tackles, 2 sacks, 3 INTs, and defended 11 passes.
Fantasy Analysis: He had the best fantasy output of his first four seasons last year; playing a career-high 809 snaps can do that. However, his 4.1 FPG was still only good for 141st among DBs. The Eagles’ pass defense cannot get any worse, so Carroll could carve out a significant role. But you will have the luxury of waiting to see if that happens without using a draft pick.
Corey Graham (CB, signed by Buf from Bal) – Graham signs a four-year deal worth up to $16 million with the Bills, according to Adam Caplan. He should have a chance to open camp as a favorite for a starting job. Last season, he appeared in all 16 games for the Ravens, making 50 solo tackles with 1 sack, 4 INTs, and 10 passes defensed.
Fantasy Analysis: The Buffalo native has reached double digits in games played in three of his first five years. And two of those three seasons he has been a top-60 IDP player —2008’s tie for 17th at 6.4 PPG being the best. Special teams play is almost a certainty for Graham, where he fits in Jim Schwartz’s defensive backfield is TBD. Monitor this secondary in flux during the offseason.
Tracy Porter (CB, signed by Was from Oak) - Porter and the Redskins have to come to terms on a deal, according to NBC Washington. Porter, 27, played his first full season in his six-year NFL career, racking up a career-high 53 solos to go along with 1.5 sacks and 2 INTs for 5.3 FPG.
Fantasy Analysis: He can play outside or in the slot, and a bad Redskins pass defense from a year ago is likely not done adding to its secondary through free agency. Porter averaged 5.3 FPG last season, doing most of his damage in the first eight weeks by eclipsing that average seven times, compared to just twice the last eight weeks. He was thrown at 94 times last season — as many as his new teammate DeAngelo Hall, who averaged 6.1 FPG. But this is a fun secondary to have in fantasy (see Josh Wilson).
Cortland Finnegan (CB, signed by Mia from Stl) - Finnegan finalized a two-year deal with the Dolphins, according to NFL Network. Finnegan, 30, has been IDP standout in the past, but he accounted for just 23 solos and 1 INT for 4.1 FPG in 7 games last season. Prior to 2013, he had 50+ solos in his first seven seasons, and he had multiple INTs and a defensive TD in four of his last five seasons.
Fantasy Analysis: There is a little bit of a fantasy roller coaster here. Finnegan was fantasy’s 73rd-best DB (5.2 PPG) his last year in Tennessee, followed by finishing as DB #13 (6.9) his first year in St. Louis, and followed it up as DB # 141 (4.1) last year. Way to split the difference. He is expected to start opposite Brent Grimes at corner, and could have fantasy value as the guy teams pick on. He allowed 77 percent of the 34 passes thrown his way to be completed last year for four scores with just one interception in seven games. Not good in real football, with guaranteed snaps, perfect in fantasy.
Antonio Cromartie (CB, signed by Ari from NYJ) – The Cardinals are betting on a return to form if Cromartie is healthy, signing him to a one-year deal, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Cromartie wanted to return to the Jets but the feeling was not mutual. He will pair with Patrick Peterson and join one of the NFL’s most talented secondaries.
Fantasy Analysis: Cromartie and Patrick Peterson make up a talented pair of starting corners, and something’s got to give. Peterson averaged 3.9 FPG last season to finish tied for 154th amongst DBs, while Cromartie tied for 181st at 3.4 FPG. Instantly, you think Cromartie will be the benefactor of teams avoiding Peterson’s side of the field. But Peterson had the fifth-most passes in the NFL thrown his way last season, allowing the third-most yards and fifth-best completion percentage. However you cut it, it is likely neither will be a good fantasy play — CB-required leagues or not.
M.D. Jennings (S, signed by Chi from GB) – Jennings, who was not tendered a contract in Green Bay despite being a restricted free agent, signed a one-year deal with the Bears to help out their troublesome safety play from last year. In 16 starts with the Packers last year, Jennings made 50 solo tackles and had 1 sack. He didn’t intercept a pass.
Fantasy Analysis: He has 26 starts the last two years and was tied for 154th among DBs in PPG (3.9) last season and 165th (3.4) when he started Weeks Seven through Seventeen in 2012. He was brought in for depth, and will not be a fantasy prospect until Chicago’s secondary picture becomes more in focus.
Chris Cook (CB, signed by SF from Min) – Cook joins the 49ers on a one-year deal, according to the Sacrament Bee. Various injuries limited Cook to just 12 games last season (11 starts) with him posting 41 solos, 3 PD, and just 4.3 FPG. He’ll likely provide the 49ers with a depth option who has starting experience as a four-year veteran.
Fantasy Analysis: There is a tiny glimmer of hope here for fantasy. The 49ers lost their two leading snap producers at cornerback in Carlos Rogers (1,068, not re-signed as of March 17) and Tarell Brown (772, signed with Oakland), but do return their most reliable in Tramaine Brock. Whether the team can coach up Cook, who has certainly underperformed for a second-round pick, will be the question. He has an opportunity to line up opposite of Brock or as a slot corner. Rogers (3.9) and Brown (3.8) did not eclipse 4 FPG last season, but both of them exceeded 4.5 FPG in 2012.
Derek Cox (CB, signed by Min from SD) – Cox becomes a Viking on a one-year deal, according to Union-Tribune San Diego. The Chargers parted ways with Cox after just one season that saw him post 34 solos, 1 INT, 7 PD, and just 3.8 FPG.
Fantasy Analysis: It seems as though there should be more to say than “nothing to see here,” but that’s about it. He is in Minnesota for depth and perhaps the third cornerback role, but no role on your roster. He was a free agent bust in San Diego last year, but he did perform well in Jacksonville the year before.
Ryan Mundy (S, signed by Chi from NYG) – Mundy, the former Giant, gives the Bears much needed safety help on a two-year deal. He didn’t have much IDP value though, with 50 solos and 1 INT last year.
Fantasy Analysis: Mundy was the odd man out with Stevie Brown slated to return from last year’s ACL injury, the emergence of Will Hill and Antrel Rolle in Big Blue’s secondary. Mundy started nine games and bookended the season with his most consistent efforts — at least 7 points in Weeks One through Three and Weeks Fifteen and Sixteen. Mundy should likely see an immediate role in Chicago, and will be one to keep two eyes on as draft season approaches.
Walter Thurmond (CB, Signed by NYG from Sea) – The Giants have agreed to terms with Thurmond on a 1-year deal worth $3.5 million. In 2013, Thurmond stared in three of 12 appearances, but was forced to sit out late in the season due to a four-game suspension for violating the substance-abuse policy. Injuries have limited Thurmond to just 34 games in four seasons, but Thurmond will be just 27 in August and is coming off his best season, as he racked up 24 solos, 1 sack, 1 INT, 6 PDs, 1 FR, 1 FF to finish with 3.5 FPG. He might not have a lot of fantasy value, but may have more chance to play with the Giants.
Fantasy Analysis: Thurmond played in 12 games in 2013 after a four-game suspension, registered fantasy numbers in all 12, and finished tied for 177th among DBs in FPG (3.5). The opportunity may be there for him to start, but it does not appear the Giants are done retooling their defensive backfield just yet. Hold off on any true assessment of Thurmond’s outlook until after the Draft, but coming off 3.5 FPG, you likely won’t have any trouble landing him in your draft.
Brandon Browner (CB, Signed by NE from Sea) – The Patriots agreed to a three-year, $17 million deal with Browner.
Fantasy Analysis: The four-game suspension means you will not have to worry about drafting Browner in your IDP leagues. In eight starts last year, he tied for fantasy’s 154th-best DB (3.9 FPG). Put a reminder on your calendar for Week Five if still interested, given he’ll have Darrelle Revis patrolling the other side of the field and could see a ton of targets come his way.
Champ Bailey (CB, signed by NO from Den) – Bailey’s new contract suggests he’s not done just yet, as he got a two-year deal from the Saints worth up to $7 million, according to ESPN. The Saints are hoping Bailey, who played in only five games last year, is healthy in 2014. He’ll have a chance to start opposite Keenan Lewis.
Fantasy Analysis: It’s hard to gauge what Bailey has left to offer for the Saints, but his days of offering something to fantasy players left in 2007 — his last finish inside the top 50 in FPG (26th). The 8.5 points he had in Week Six last season — his season debut and highest snap total of the season (72) — was his best fantasy effort since a 10.5-FP day in Week Ten of the 2010 season. In between those two games, he was fantasy’s 57th, 128th and 97th best corner. The Saints were 22nd in FPG scored by DBs last season, in an NFC South in which the other three teams were all top-10 against DBs.
Carlos Rogers (CB, signed by Oak from SF) – Not even a month after the veteran was released in San Francisco, the Raiders added yet another 30-plus vet, signing Rogers, according to CSN Bay Area. He can play the slot or on the outside, but preferably the slot. His 39 solo tackles last year were his least since 2009.
Fantasy Analysis: He played 1,068 snaps last season — top 10 at the position — and averaged 3.9 FPG to finish tied for 154th amongst DBs. He joins Tarell Brown, also recently departed from across the Bay, as two 49ers starters apparently set to start for the Raiders. Only once in the last five seasons has Rogers finished inside the top 100 in FPG at the position. Until proven otherwise, he’s a super reach play at best
Zackary Bowman (CB, signed by NYG from Chi) – The Giants added a veteran depth option to their secondary, inking Bowman to a deal, according to Adam Caplan. Bowman played a lot in Chicago last year due to injuries, making 42 solo tackles, but he’s best as a special-teamer and emergency guy.
Fantasy Analysis: In replacing Charles Tillman from Weeks Eleven-Seventeen, Bowman produced 6.1 FPG to finish tied for 33rd amongst DBs in that span. He also scored 6 points in his Week Six start for the injured Tillman. Bowman will be depth for the Giants, but could become a solid commodity again if one of the starters goes down. The Giants were the highest-scoring team amongst DBs last season.
Mike Jenkins (CB, signed by TB from Oak) – Jenkins moves to Lovie Smith’s Cover-2 system, inking a one-year deal with Tampa for $1.5 million, according to FOX Sports. Jenkins averaged a career-high 4.9 FPG last year in Oakland, making 57 solo tackles and 2 INTs in 15 games.
Fantasy Analysis: A 12-point fantasy day — thanks to 12 tackles and one of his four PDs on the season in Week Twelve — helped boost Jenkins’ 4.9 FPG season average by over a half a point. He could get in the mix opposite of Alterraun Verner, but second-year player Johnthan Banks is also there. One thing to keep in mind is only six of Tampa Bay’s 2014 opponents finished in the top half of the league in points allowed to DBs. The Bucs’ three division opponents were 12th (New Orleans), 23rd (Atlanta), and 30th (Carolina) in FPG surrendered to the position. Last year’s last year, but it’s just a nugget.
Kendrick Lewis (S, signed by Hou from KC) – The Texans announced they signed Lewis, who has spent all four years of his career with the Chiefs, to a contract. He could emerge as a starter in Houston if the Texans decide to move on from Danieal Manning. Lewis made 46 solo tackles and 1 INT in 16 games with the Chiefs last year.
Fantasy Analysis: Lewis played over 1,000 snaps last year and was good for 3.6 FPG (tied for 174th among DBs). It was the second time in his first four years in the league he appeared in all 16 games. He averaged 4.5 FPG (tied for 108th) when he appeared in every game in 2011. Stewart could get an opportunity for another big chunk of playing time, and does reunite with former Chiefs head coach and current Texans defensive coordinator, Romeo Crennel, but despite starting 50 of 53 games in his career, has not been a consistent enough fantasy producer to warrant more than being placed in the “keep an eye on” category of safeties.
Darian Stewart (S, signed by Bal from Stl) – A part-time starter with the Rams the last four seasons, Stewart now joins the Ravens on a contract, the team announced. Stewart played under Raven secondary coach Steve Spagnuolo in St. Louis and can play both safety spots. He made 28 solo tackles in a part-time role last season.
Fantasy Analysis: In the eight games in which Stewart played a majority of the snaps — including all of them from Weeks Five through Ten — he averaged 4.6 FPG. He ranked 170th overall amongst DBs for the season (3.7 FPG), but the average Stewart was carrying as a full-time player would have had him finish around 106th. He averaged 6.1 FPG in 2011 with Spagnuolo to finish tied for 27th. Like many of the later free agent signings, Stewart will not be drafted, but is worth keeping an eye on if for no other reason than a Baltimore safety has finished inside the top 50 in FPG in five of head coach John Harbaugh’s first six years, and three times 16th or better. Monitor the Ravens’ safety situation closely leading into the preseason.
Quintin Demps (S/KR, signed by NYG from KC) – The Giants added some depth to both their secondary and their return game with Demps, the team announced. In a part-time role with the Chiefs last year, he made 22 solo tackles and averaged 30.1 YPR on kickoffs, scoring a TD. He’ll battle it out with Trindon Holliday for return reps.
Fantasy Analysis: Battling for time as a return man does not scream “use me in your IDP leagues!” Demps has only averaged above 3 FPG once in his first five seasons, and it is unlikely 2014 will be his second.
Players re-signed by their 2013 teams:
Matt Cassel (Min) – The Vikings re-signed Cassel to a two-year, $10-million contract, according to CBS Sports.
Fantasy Analysis: In an interesting move, Cassel voided his $3.7-million contract for 2014 to become a free agent. It turned out to be the right idea, as Cassel earned more money and years from the Vikings by voiding his old deal. Cassel is now the favorite to start next season, but he could end up being the veteran backup to a potential rookie quarterback if the Vikings use an early draft pick on a QB. Cassel, who will turn 32 in May, finished out the year as the starter ahead of Christian Ponder and Josh Freeman, and while he really wasn’t any better than average, Cassel was clearly the team’s best starting option all season. He started in six of his nine appearances last season, going 153/254 (60.2%) for 1807 yards, 11 TDs, and 9 INTs, while adding 18/57/1 on the ground to finish at 16.2 FPG. Cassel has established himself as a low-end NFL starting QB or as a high-end backup, so he could be used as a stopgap until the Vikings’ franchise QB is ready to take over. Even if Cassel does open the season as the Vikings’ starting QB, he still has very little fantasy value in an offense that revolves around RB Adrian Peterson. For what it’s worth, WR Greg Jennings cheered this move on Twitter on 3/11, so it’s fair to say the veteran wideout prefers Cassel to Ponder.
Chad Henne (Jac) – Henne returns to the Jaguars on a two-year deal worth $8 million, including $4.5 million guaranteed, according to ESPN. Henne spent the previous two seasons with the Jaguars.
Fantasy Analysis: Henne has been the primary starter for the Jaguars ahead of (the since traded) Blaine Gabbert for the past two seasons and will be in the mix to keep the job to open 2014, as he should be a great bridge for the team to a potential new franchise QB drafted 3rd overall this May. Henne started 13 of 15 appearances last season, going 305/503 (60.6%) for 3241 yards, 13 TD, and 14 INTs, which ranked him 42nd among QBs at 14.8 FPG. He’s started in 19 of 25 appearances with the Jaguars, but has never had any real fantasy value, although the lack of weapons around him hasn’t helped, especially with WR Justin Blackmon serving multiple suspensions and WR Cecil Shorts battling a sports hernia. Henne turns 29 in July and would be entering his seventh season after spending his first four with the Dolphins. The return of Henne gives the team a reliable veteran option to roll with no matter what happens in the draft, and doesn’t cost the team much. And in fact, coach Gus Bradley told the Florida Times-Union that he still expects Henne will start the Jags’ opener, even if they pick a QB at #3. We’re still a while away from that.
Luke McCown (NO) – McCown returns to the Saints as Drew Brees’ backup, signing a one-year contract, according to his agent Mike McCartney.
Fantasy Analysis: The other McCown didn’t see nearly as much work as his older brother Josh McCown this past season, as Luke remained parked on the bench behind durable starter Drew Brees. Brees has played in every game the last four seasons and has missed two games in his last 10 seasons, so the backup clearly hasn’t done much work. McCown played in all 16 games as a holder, but he attempted just one pass. He’s a career backup at the age of 32 (33 by Week One 2014) and has played on five franchises, but the Saints like him and he’s comfortable in New Orleans.
Tarvaris Jackson (Sea) – Jackson returns to the team that gave him a ring, backing up Russell Wilson on a fully guaranteed $1.25 million deal for one year, according to USA Today.
Fantasy Analysis: Jackson actually finished out Seattle's Super Bowl victory, as he got his moment in the sun during the fourth quarter, taking the field for starting QB Russell Wilson in the blowout victory over the Broncos. Jackson also saw mop-up duty in four other games last season, but he’s got some previous NFL starting experience. He started 15 games with the Seahawks in 2011, so he’s got some value as a backup in a system that he’s quite familiar with.
Derek Anderson (Car) - Anderson and the Panthers agreed to a two-year deal, according to his personal Twitter account.
Fantasy Analysis: Anderson stuck with the Panthers last season, and both sides seemed to like the arrangement enough to do it again this off-season. Anderson didn’t throw a single pass for the second time in last the three seasons he’s spent under QB Cam Newton. Newton’s proven to be extremely durable in his career, never missing a start, and Anderson is only 4/4 passing for 58 yards in three seasons with Carolina. Anderson, 31, is a reliable backup and the Panther coaching staff remains the same, so Anderson's familiarity with the offense helped to keep him around as Newton's backup.
Curtis Painter (NYG) – The Giants re-signed their veteran backup Painter, according to Fox Sports.
Fantasy Analysis: Giant starting QB Eli Manning has started 162 games in a row, so Painter had very little to do as the backup QB in his first year with the team. He beat out David Carr for the role in the preseason, but Painter threw only 16 passes in three appearances and two of those passes were intercepted. Painter, 28, had some playing experience from his time in Indianapolis, which is why he served as the backup over rookie Ryan Nassib. Painter’s future with the Giants will most likely depend on if the club thinks Nassib is ready to be Manning’s backup, and the Giants did invest a 4th-round pick in Nassib in 2013. Expect Painter and Nassib to compete for the backup job this preseason.
Joique Bell (Det) - Bell agreed to a two-year, $7-million contract to remain with the Lions, which includes $4.3 million guaranteed, according to our friend Adam Caplan. The two-year deal is an extension on top of his RFA tender, which is worth $2.187 million, so he’s under contract for three years.
Fantasy Analysis: As frustrating as he was for fantasy, Bell was an important piece of the Lions’ offense last year, and he should remain active in the attack under new OC Joe Lombardi, who is expected to bring the Saints’ offense up North. Overall, Bell ranked #16 among RBs with at least five appearances, with 13.8 FPG in a PPR league. By that number, Bell was an every-week #2 RB that you put in your lineup and didn’t worry about. However, Bell topped 20 FP in a PPR league on five separate occasions, including both times Bush missed games (Week Three and Week Fourteen). But he also had a whopping eight games of fewer than 10 FP in a PPR league. The Lions made it a priority to lock up Bell to a multi-year contract this off-season, especially given the fumbling and injury problems that Reggie Bush has had in the past and in his first season with the Lions. We wouldn't be shocked to see Bell get more opportunities next season under Lombardi and new HC Jim Caldwell, which should help Bell become a more consistent fantasy performer.
Darren McFadden (Oak) – McFadden has surprisingly returned to Oakland after signing a 1-year deal for the 2014 season. The deal is for $1.75 million, but could reach $4 million if he hits all the incentives, according to USA Today.
Fantasy Analysis: The former 1st-round pick showed some major promise after a breakout season in 2010, but he’s never come close to playing a full 16-game season in any of his six years with the Raiders and in fact has missed multiple games in each of his NFL seasons thus far. In 2013, McFadden’s balky hamstring never let him get on track, as it bothered him for most of the year. McFadden’s injuries have run the gamut over his six years as he’s dealt with toe, knee, hamstring, shoulder, foot, and ankle issues. While the Raiders wisely transitioned to power running in 2013 (as opposed to zone blocking), McFadden still finished with only 114 carries for 379 yards (3.3 YPC) and 5 TDs, adding 17 catches for 108 yards (6.4 YPC) on 25 targets (68% catch rate) to average 10.1 FPG in 10 games. The Raider OL has been a problem for years, and shortly after the 2014 league year commenced at 4pm ET on 3/11, they lost one of the five best players on their 2013 roster in LT Jared Veldheer while also signing a veteran replacement in Rodger Saffold, whose career has been very up-and-down (mostly down). They also let Rashad Jennings walk (Giants), so we’d expect McFadden will be penciled in as their starter this year. McFadden certainly has potential as the clear feature back if he’s on the field (although we’d love to know who the QB will be), and it’s worth noting that he’s betting on himself by signing only a 1-year deal (he claims there was other interest in the league). But fantasy owners know all too well that he’s hard to count on. The big winner here could be second-year back Latavius Murray. We’ve been talking about Murray as a sleeper dating back to last year, and we asked head coach Dennis Allen about him this past February at the combine. Allen called him a “big back with excellence speed, excellent size, and who runs tough.” Allen discussed how inexperienced Murray is, so they might sign another back. But he told us there “were a couple of plays where he got a run over on the sideline and was able to lower his shoulder and really finish off the run really well," and he seemed intrigued by Murray. So unless they bring in another "bigger back" of note, which is very possible mind you, Murray is officially on the radar as a late-round sleeper because he could be a McFadden injury away from significant playing time.
James Starks (GB) – After testing the waters of free agency, Starks has opted to return to the Packers on a two-year deal, our Adam Caplan reports for ESPN.
Fantasy Analysis: This off-season, the free agent market was stuffed with good running backs, but only a few teams with open starting jobs and even fewer teams willing to commit money to bring in a “starter” from an outside organization. So Starks may have flirted with outside clubs, but ultimately didn’t find any situation more appealing than returning to Lambeau Field. Starks’ career has been slowed by injuries, and he couldn’t avoid partially tearing his MCL and missing three games last season. However, Starks tied a career-high by playing in 13 games last season, and he showed he could be an effective – if not explosive at times, believe it or not – backup to RB Eddie Lacy. Starks finished with 89 carries for 493 yards (5.5 YPC) and 3 TDs, and he added 10 catches for 89 yards and 1 TD. He picked up 54% of his yards after contact, so he can be a bruising runner like Lacy. Starks’ injury history may give us some pause, but we wonder if his re-signing opens the door for Green Bay to deal Johnathan Franklin, a second-year back whose rookie year paled severely in comparison to Lacy’s. For fantasy, Starks looks like a handcuff/change-of-pace type, but a proven one.
Ahmad Bradshaw (Ind) – The Colts have re-signed the veteran Bradshaw to a 1-year deal, terms were undisclosed.
Fantasy Analysis: This signing guaranteed that veteran free agent Donald Brown will not be back with the team in 2014, and he will not be. While Bradshaw is still under 30 (28) and doesn’t have a ton of mileage on his legs, he obviously has major durability issues. Bradshaw's injury-riddled career continued in 2013, as foot problems have been a major issue for the seventh-year RB. Bradshaw also had another issue last season, as he played in just three games before he finished the year on the IR with a neck injury that needed surgery. Overall, he totaled with 41 carries for 182 yards and 2 TDs and 7 catches for 42 yards. Bradshaw certainly has enough game to get it done when he's on the field, but his durability issues generally outweigh his talent at this point in his career. However, if he’s healthy and on the roster this summer you have to give him a chance for fantasy. While the team has younger options already under contract in Trent Richardson and Vick Ballard, neither player truly jumps off the page based on skill sets and/or 2013 production. The versatile Bradshaw is excellent in pass protection and is simply an effective and productive player, due in large part to his toughness. Bradshaw right now is little more than a late-round flyer, but if he’s healthy and poised to handle some work in this backfield in August, he’ll be worth a late pick and will complicate the mercurial Richardson’s fantasy value in 2014.
Peyton Hillis (NYG) – Hillis will remain with the Giants on a two-year, $1.8 million deal, according to the New York Daily News. He’ll provide depth behind Rashad Jennings and David Wilson.
Fantasy Analysis: With the Giants and Bucs last season, Hillis appeared in seven games (one start) rushing for 247 yards and 2 TDs on 73 carries (3.4 YPC) and added 13/96 through the air. Hillis missed the last two games of the season with a concussion, but the Giants were apparently pleased with his versatility and opted to bring him back. A true plodder/power runner, Hillis can’t be expected to have much fantasy value outside of being a handcuff next year, even as the awful Giant backfield is in flux. The Giants may not be done picking up RBs this off-season, and they do still hope that David Wilson can be their main guy. But while Wilson could/should be ready for training camp, New York is hesitant to put all their eggs in his basket. Hopefully there’s some stability here with either Wilson or the newly signed Rashad Jennings, because if Hillis is playing a major role, the Giants’ run game will be in serious trouble again.
Jackie Battle (Ten) – Battle gets a one-year deal for less than $1 million to stick with the Titans, according to the Tennessean.
Fantasy Analysis: This is strictly a depth move for new coach Ken Whisenhunt and the Titans. Big-bodied Battle ran for only 142 yards and a TD last year, but also contributes on special teams. Battle at least guarantees the Titans will have a warm body behind Shonn Greene in the event they cut Chris Johnson, but even if Johnson goes bye-bye, the Titans will still be looking to upgrade RB. Battle (31 in October) likely won’t even have handcuff value next year.
Leon Washington (RB/KR, Ten) – Washington is re-signing with the Titans on a one-year deal, according to the Tennessean.
Fantasy Analysis: After the signing of Dexter McCluster and bringing Washington back, the Titans have their punt and kick returns seemingly tied up for 2014, after struggling with them for most of 2013. The Titans signed Washington for the final five games last year after several disasters with their return game. Washington performed well in those five games, but will be 32 by the time the 2014 season rolls around. He’s a return guy who can’t be expected to have much fantasy impact, if any at all. He’s a guy whose roster spot should be in question for the rest of his career.
John Kuhn (FB, GB) – Kuhn re-signed a one-year deal with Green Bay worth about $1 million, according to FOX Sports.
Fantasy Analysis: Much to the delight of fantasy owners, Kuhn’s role in the offense in 2013 was limited to being a lead blocker and pass protection, which explains why he had just 10 carries for 38 yards and 13/81 on 19 targets, his lowest totals since 2009. The Packers didn’t need him in short-yardage situations thanks to the emergence of Eddie Lacy. He has only 2 TDs over the last two seasons, so his days as a serious fantasy vulture appear over.
Henry Hynoski (FB, NYG) - Hynoski re-signed with the Giants to a one-year, $1-million contract, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.
Fantasy Analysis: Hynoski’s 2013 season came to abrupt end after he fractured his shoulder in Week Three. The injury landed him on the IR, and the Giants signed John Conner to fill in for him. Hynoski, 25, battled through an off-season knee surgery before the 2013 season after he was one of the top blocking FBs in the league in 2012. Hynoski appears to be a good fit for OC Ben McAdoo’s offense, as McAdoo previously worked with John Kuhn in Green Bay. Hynoski will battle Conner for the lead-blocking job for most of the preseason next summer.
Julian Edelman (NE) – The Patriots have re-signed the veteran Edelman. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Fantasy Analysis: As recently as a day or two before this signing became official, there was legit concern about the Patriots’ ability to bring Edelman back. But the WR market dried up quickly, and it became apparent that Edelman’s best course of action was to stay put. Although the club did also sign veteran wideout Brandon LaFell, this move means more to the Patriots because of the injury that Aaron Dobson (stress fracture in his foot) will deal with for the next 2-3 months, as well as the situation with TE Rob Gronkowski, who is coming off an ACL injury. With the focus on new addition Danny Amendola in 2013, Edelman ended up destroying his previous career marks, recording 105 catches for 1056 yards (10.1 YPC) and 6 TDs on 149 targets (70.1% catch rate), ranking 15th among WRs with 15.5 FPG. Edelman closed out the year on fire, ranking 2nd behind Brown WR Josh Gordon in the final six weeks of the season, hauling in 53/556/4 for 22.1 FPG. Edelman played above and beyond even the wildest expectations for him this season, as he clearly had more chemistry out of the slot with Tom Brady than Amendola ever had. However, we should note Edelman totaled 69/714/4 in four seasons prior to 2013, so it’s fair to wonder how much of his huge performance was a result of the increased role out of necessity for the Patriots and how much of it was Edelman’s talent. While he’s never played as big of a role as he did this past season, it was the first time Edelman appeared in all 16 games, and he’s battled various injuries in the past. The team was in no rush to re-sign him last off-season when Edelman was a RFA, and that was likely injury-related because he wasn’t 100% until the summer. It is fairly clear now that the Patriots do value Edelman, and his chemistry with Brady will likely keep him in a very active role in their passing game. We’d temper expectations from 2013 because of his durability issues and what now looks like a crowded WR corps that could morph into a serious WRBC, but there’s no question Edelman is a player with nice potential sill, especially in PPR formats. But due to the injury issues and the presence of Amendola and others, we’d prefer to view Edelman as only a #3 WR in fantasy. What should be noted is the possibility the Patriots cut ties with Amendola, who was one of the biggest disappointments in 2013. Patriot beat writers have already begun discussing the possibility.
Anquan Boldin (SF) – Boldin will be back with the 49ers on a five-year deal, which can void after two years, during which he’ll get $12 million, including $5.5 guaranteed, according to CSN Bay Area.
Fantasy Analysis: In a move that looks even better a year later, Boldin last March was traded to the 49ers by the Ravens in exchange for a 6th-round pick. Boldin ended up playing a bigger role than expected with WR Michael Crabtree suffering a torn Achilles’ in the off-season, which kept him until for all but the last six games. Boldin and QB Colin Kaepernick clicked quickly and he was the team’s top receiver in 2013. While Boldin may not run as well as he used to, he can still get off press coverage and in addition to being a big, physical target, like TE Vernon Davis, he also has strong hands. He’s a nice move-the-chains receiver even at this late stage of his career. Boldin ended up with 85/1179/7 (13.9 YPC) on 128 targets (66.4% catch rate) with 15 RZ targets and was 19th among WRs with 15.4 FPG. It was his best season since 2008 and his most targets since 2009. Boldin turns 34 in October, but is in a great spot with Crabtree and Davis both healthy and looking strong by the end of the season. The 49ers would like to get Quinton Patton more involved after a quiet rookie season, but with their championship window still open and Boldin making up an important part of their receiving corps, he should remain an active target in 2014. However, we’ll have to see if they add another receiver in the draft this coming May. They still do have a need for speed at the position, and if they add a receiver of note Boldin’s numbers could fall significantly on a team that won’t likely have a ton of production to go around.
Jeremy Maclin (Phi) – The Eagles re-signed Maclin to a one-year deal worth up to $6 million. A report from ProFootballTalk.com suggested that the Eagles actually wanted to lock up Maclin for multiple years, but Maclin wanted to sign a one-year deal with a chance to cash in next off-season if he has a solid 2014 (he turns just 26 in May).
Fantasy Analysis: The PFT report shows that both sides believe that Maclin, who suffered a torn ACL last July, is well on his way to being 100% in time for training camp (he also suffered an injury to the same knee before his freshman year at Missouri). Maclin now becomes one of the more interesting mid-round WRs in 2014 immediately. We believe he would have had a monster year in Chip Kelly’s offense, one that produced career years for fellow WRs DeSean Jackson and Riley Cooper (also re-signed this off-season). Maclin has better size and more strength than Jackson, and he’s able to get off press coverage a little bit better. He also has better deep speed than Cooper. His versatility makes him an ideal fit with Kelly and QB Nick Foles. We’re going in blind with Maclin, but his re-signing adds more great depth to the Philly offense and fantasy WR group in general, and gives Foles yet another weapon as he tries to replicate a magical 2013 season.
Riley Cooper (Phi) – Cooper signed a five-year, $25 million deal with the Eagles for $8 million guaranteed. The size of Cooper’s contract appears jarring on the surface, but as with most Eagle contracts, most of the money and cap hit come early in the deal.
Fantasy Analysis: We can’t help but think Cooper’s numbers in his career year in 2013 were artificially inflated by the nature of the offense and the fact that the Eagles had no one else capable of playing his role. Cooper had 8/241/5 receiving in Weeks Nine and Ten in beautiful matchups against the Raiders and Packers, combining for 63.9 FP in those two outings. That accounted for 35.4% of his total fantasy production on the year, in only 12.5% of the games. Cooper too often didn’t win when faced with single coverage, and it limited DeSean Jackson’s chances to have a bigger year. But Cooper has a good rapport with QB Nick Foles, and coach Chip Kelly loves Cooper’s red-zone ability and willingness to commit himself to blocking downfield. With Jeremy Maclin also in tow this off-season, Cooper seems to be a #3 receiver in this offense as we stand now, someone who will likely need TDs to come through for fantasy next year. Also, Cooper’s value would obviously rise if the Eagles shockingly part ways with Jackson, which has been rumored this off-season.
Sidney Rice (Sea) – Just over a month after releasing Rice, the Seahawks brought him back on a one-year deal, the veteran receiver announced on his Twitter account.
Fantasy Analysis: Rice turns just 28 in September, but it feels like he’s been around forever. Mostly, he’s been a tiring player to cover for fantasy because he’s essentially never available. After playing all 16 games in 2012 and maybe forcing us to believe he was over his chronic issues, Rice was back to playing only eight games in 2013. That means he’s played fewer than 10 games in three of his last four seasons. When healthy, he gives the Seahawks a sizeable option at X, something they lacked on their roster without him. So this makes absolute sense as a depth option. But “counting on” Rice to do much for fantasy in an offense that doesn’t throw it all that much anyway is pretty futile.
Jacoby Jones (Bal) - The Ravens announced a four-year deal with Jones. According to the Baltimore Sun, the deal is worth a max of $14 million with $4.5 million guaranteed.
Fantasy Analysis: Jones is a return man and a vertical threat at this point in his career and nothing more, even though the Ravens tried to get more out of him last season as a #2 WR. He even saw a lot of single coverage at times with WR Torrey Smith drawing most of the attention. Jones, 29, did have part of his season derailed by a MCL sprain, which ended up limiting him to 12 games. Jones posted 37/455/2 (8.5 YPC) on 62 targets (59.7% catch rate) and scored just 7.9 FPG. Rookie WR Marlon Brown was already a better option on the outside and the Ravens could still look to upgrade at the position through the draft, despite re-signing Jones. New OC Gary Kubiak cut Jones back in 2012 while with the Texans, but Kubiak called Jones one of his “children” because he watched him grow as a player. However, Jones has exceeded 50+ catches just one time (2010) and caught 4+ TDs just one time (2009), so it's tough to get too excited about Jones even with Kubiak calling the offense.
Jerome Simpson (Min) – The Vikings announced Simpson has agreed to a contract to remain with the team in 2014. No terms were immediately available.
Fantasy Analysis: Simpson wasn’t exactly an attractive free agent after pleading guilty to careless driving and a DUI in January, resulting from an arrest last November. The NFL already suspended Simpson three games to start the 2012 season, so it’s very likely he’ll miss additional time in 2014. Simpson opened the 2013 season as a starter, but other than flashing here and there, he was hardly consistent, which pretty much sums up his career. Simpson finished with 48/726/1 (15.1 YPC) on 100 targets (48% catch rate) and just 7.9 FPG. He finally gave way to rookie WR Cordarrelle Patterson down the stretch, which should’ve happened much sooner. Simpson, who turned 28 in February, could fit in well with new OC Norv Turner’s offense as a vertical threat, and HC Mike Zimmer is familiar with him from their time together in Cincinnati, so the Vikings opted to bring him back for depth. He’s not a particularly attractive fantasy player.
Andre Caldwell (Den) – Caldwell re-signed with the Broncos to a two-year, $3.45-million contract, according to Pro Football Talk.
Fantasy Analysis: Caldwell was typically the forgotten man in Denver’s receiving corps behind Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, Wes Welker, and Julius Thomas. That could change a bit next season if Decker leaves via free agency. However, the Broncos could still look to upgrade over Caldwell if Decker does indeed leave. Caldwell wound up playing every game and posted 16/200/3 on 29 targets. He provided a solid depth option and he can play in the slot or outside, but never had a consistent role in the offense, as you might expect with all of that talent around him. Caldwell’s now spent six seasons between the Bengals and Broncos and will turn 29 in April. With the signing of Emmanuel Sanders, he remains a depth option who is a viable Waiver Wire target if any of the Broncos’ top options go down.
Santana Moss (Was) – Moss signed a one-year deal to return to the Redskins, according to the Washington Post.
Fantasy Analysis: Moss is clearly on the backside of his career as age is catching up to him at this point, and the once sure-handed receiver is dropping too many passes of late. Moss finished with 42 catches for 452 yards (10.8 YPC) and 2 TDs on 79 targets (52.2% catch rate) for 6.4 FPG last season. In 2014, Moss will go into his 10th season with the franchise. He may have a deal, but may not be a lock in any particular role on this team, especially since the team also signed WR Andre Roberts. Moss will be 35 in June and will enter his 14th season in September.
Brandon Tate (Cin) – Tate has returned to the Bengals, the team announced, although details weren’t disclosed.
Fantasy Analysis: Tate doesn’t have much of a role on offense anymore (just 1 catch in 2014), but has become a vital part of the special teams as both a kick and punt returner, the latter of which he took over when Pacman Jones was taken off the unit due to mounting injuries. Tate, 26, averaged 26.1 YPR on kick and 9.3 YPR on punts in his fifth season.
Kevin Ogletree (Det) – Ogletree and the Lions agreed on a one-year deal, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Fantasy Analysis: Ogletree started the season with the Buccaneers before being cut and picked up by the Lions in October. He ended the year with 21 catches for 269 yards and 2 TDs, including 13/199/1 in 12 games with Detroit. Ogletree, 26, has shown some potential in the past, but he’ll be just a depth option because a lack of consistency. The Lions are a good bet to select an outside receiver early in the draft, and WR Kris Durham will be back, so Ogletree will just be a depth player.
Dennis Pitta (Bal) – The Ravens and Pitta avoided any issues with a franchise tag by agreeing to a five-year deal worth $32 million including $16 million guaranteed and an $11 million signing bonus, according to the Baltimore Sun.
Fantasy Analysis: Pitta’s presence in the offense was sorely missed for much of last season after he suffered a hip injury that landed him on the designated-to-return for the first 12 games. Pitta had 20/169/1 on 33 targets and 10.7 FPG in four games, but admitted that he lacked both explosiveness and strength in his return and is still getting back to 100% in early March. At the press conference announcing his new deal, Pitta said, “The big thing for me right now is just continue to strengthen my hip and my leg and all that. Typically, you don’t regain that four months after surgery, and so that’s something that I continue to work on, and I’ve been training and trying to get that to 100%, which I’m close.” He’ll be able to take part in all off-season workouts. Pitta, who turns 29 in June, enters his fifth season, all with the Ravens. In 2012, he set career highs with 61/669/7 on 91 targets and was tied for 9th among TEs with 11.3 FPG. Pitta has a great rapport with QB Joe Flacco, and is arguably his most reliable receiver, although the team doesn’t have a lot of high-end talent with a receiving corps that featured WRs Torrey Smith, Marlon Brown, and Jacoby Jones last year, although they added Steve Smith this off-season. Baltimore will attempt to improve their offense under new OC Gary Kubiak. The Kubiak hire looks like good news for Pitta, who has already been getting praise from Kubiak, who expects Pitta to “be a big part of the offense.” Flacco still needs another move-the-sticks receiver in the short-to-intermediate passing game, but Pitta will clearly give them that type of player.
Garrett Graham (Hou) – Graham will remain with the Texans in 2014 and beyond, inking a three-year deal in Houston, according to the Houston Chronicle. This was a priority for the Texans after releasing Owen Daniels.
Fantasy Analysis: Even though there’s a new coach in staff in Houston, the fit for Graham in Bill O’Brien’s offense was obvious. In New England, he helped orchestrate the “Tight End Revolution” with Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, something he continued in his two years at Penn State. And with Graham and a very gifted second-year player in Ryan Griffin, O’Brien has himself a great start toward doing the same thing in Houston, even without Owen Daniels. Graham, 27, played in 13 games last season and posted decent numbers, going for 49/545/5 on 88 targets (55.7%), before missing the final three games of the year with a hamstring injury. He averaged 10.3 FPG and was a half-decent fantasy fill-in guy if you needed him (although 3 of his 5 TDs came in games in which Daniels was active). He’s got a shot to be a fantasy contributor yet again, but he’s not an athletic freak type, and it appears likely that O’Brien will split targets between multiple options here. And we still don’t know who the QB will be.
Brandon Pettigrew (Det) - Pettigrew inked a four-year, $16-million contract, including $8 million in guaranteed money, according to the Detroit Free Press.
Fantasy Analysis: The Lions sent some mixed signals on Pettigrew this off-season, as new HC Jim Caldwell sounded pretty noncommittal about him, but GM Martin Mayhew said at the combine that signing Pettigrew was a priority for the Lions. Pettigrew shopped around a bit and drew some interest from the Jets, Raiders, and Chiefs, but he ultimately came back to the Lions. He's got the size and ability to be a big-time player but hasn’t produced the last two seasons. Pettigrew, 29, played in 14 games before an ankle injury knocked him out late last season. He posted 41/416/2 receiving on 63 targets (10.1 YPC, 65.1%), and his 6.8 FPG ranked him tied for 32nd at the TE position, so he wasn’t even viable for fantasy purposes. Pettigrew is an above-average blocker but dropped way too many passes, but he ended up being one of the top tight ends on the market and the Lions didn’t have a slam-dunk option behind him with rookie Joseph Fauria. Pettigrew is a divisive player at this point because his market value was much higher than his actual value, but at least he's still a decent red-zone target and run blocker. The Golden Tate signing also should take quite a few targets away from Pettigrew next season, so his PPR potential won't likely be as a high as it has been in the past. Pettigrew had just 100 combined catches the last two seasons after posting 154 catches in 2010-11, so he hasn't been a PPR factor the last two seasons.
Scott Chandler (Buf) – Chandler stays in Buffalo thanks to a new two-year deal, according to multiple reports.
Fantasy Analysis: Believe it or not, Chandler has been in and out of the NFL since 2007, but he’s only been relevant in his last three seasons as a member of the Bills. Chandler was coming off an ACL injury suffered in 2012, but he actually led the team in receiving last season, with 53 catches for 655 yards (12.4 YPC) and 2 TDs on 81 targets (65.4% catch rate), which ranked him 22nd among TEs with 8.2 FPG. Chandler had been a bigger factor in the red zone with former QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, but E.J. Manuel and Thad Lewis looked his way just 6 times in the red zone this season. While the Bills still have an unproved receiving corps, the return of Chandler is a little surprising since the Bills already have Tony Moeaki, Chris Gragg, and Lee Smith under contract. Chandler certainly isn’t a special talent, so the incredibly athletic Gragg could get more opportunities in the passing game, with Moeaki and Smith handling run-blocking duties. HC Doug Marrone threw his support behind Chandler early in the off-season, so it likely played a factor in his return. Chandler turns 29 in July and would actually be entering his eight season.
Jeff Cumberland (NYJ) – Cumberland is back with the Jets on a three-year deal worth $5.7 million, including $1 million guaranteed, according to the New York Daily News.
Fantasy Analysis: With Dustin Keller moving on, it looked like Cumberland would get a chance to take over the starting job last season, but the team decided to add veteran Kellen Winslow to the mix. Cumberland ended up starting 12 of 15 games, posting26/398/4 receiving on 40 targets (65%), and ranked 38th among TEs with 6.0 FPG. He’s more of a rotational player or #2 TE, but the Jets are “bullish” on his development, according to the New York Daily News and are also high on the development of TE Zach Sudfeld. As it stands, Cumberland looks like the starter for 2014 barring another big move in free agency or the draft, but with a lack of quality players around him, it’s hard to imagine him having a lot of fantasy value, especially with the QB situation – whether it’s Geno Smith or a veteran – still in question.
Andrew Quarless (GB) – Quarless elected to remain with the Packers, the team announced.
Fantasy Analysis: Quarless actually played a much bigger role last season than anticipated, coming back from missing the entire 2012 season to a knee injury. Starting TE Jermichael Finley went down with a season-ending injury, and Quarless hauled in 32 passes for 312 yards (9.8 YPC) and 2 TDs on 52 targets (61.5% catch rate) in his place with a slew of backup QBs. Quarless, 25, was little more than a check-down option in the passing game, so they can certainly do better than him, but for now, he’s a good fall back option. TE Brandon Bostick is an intriguing former WR who can really run, but he struggles in run blocking. The Packers could try to carve out a role for Bostick as a receiver next season, so but we’re told he’s probably a reach in terms of being their guy of the future. Green Bay will likely draft a top TE in May. Quarless showed he’s little more than a backup at this point in his career, despite also drawing interest from the Giants.
Michael Hoomanawanui (NE) – Hoomanawanui will return to the Patriots on a two-year contract, according to the Boston Globe.
Fantasy Analysis: Well, Hoomanawanui played a much bigger role in 2013 than the Patriots had hoped he would, thanks to the Aaron Hernandez arrest and yet another Rob Gronkowski injury. Hoomanawanui, 25, played on 58% of the snaps last season, but he caught only 12 passes for 136 yards and 1 TD in 13 games. He previously played two seasons with the Rams before landing with the Patriots in 2012. Hoomanawanui isn’t a threat in the passing game and is used primarily as a blocker, so we’d still expect the Patriots to be aggressive in their pursuit of another tight end through free agency or through the draft.
Anthony McCoy (Sea) – McCoy agreed to a one-year contract to remain with the Seahawks, according to Yahoo Sports.
Fantasy Analysis: An exceptional but raw talent who played for HC Pete Carroll at USC, McCoy missed all of 2013 with an Achilles injury suffered last May during OTA. He has only 31 catches for 437 yards in his four NFL seasons. Of course, he also has landed on IR twice in those four seasons, including a knee injury in his rookie season, so he’s had durability issues. McCoy, 26, should be close to 100% for OTAs this off-season, and he’ll likely compete with rookie Luke Willson for playing time next season. However, starting TE Zach Miller could still be a cap casualty if he doesn’t renegotiate his contract, which could open the door for a bigger role for Willson and McCoy.
Jake Ballard (Ari) – After not tendering the RFA, Arizona still ended up signing Ballard to a one-year deal, according to the team’s official site.
Fantasy Analysis: Picked up by the Cardinals in July after he recovered from knee surgery, Ballard’s presence with the Cardinals coincided with better protection for Carson Palmer and a more efficient, effective run game. For fantasy, he was only a vulture, scoring on 2 of his 7 catches in eight games. But he instantly became the club’s best blocking TE behind the pass-catching Rob Housler. Ballard sat out all of 2012 recovering from a major knee injury after posting 38/604/4 on 61 targets in his only notable season since entering the league in 2010. He should play a similar role for the Cardinals in 2014, as they won’t bring back TE Jim Dray.
Clay Harbor (Jac) – Harbor inked a two-year, $3-million contract with the Jags, according to NFL.com.
Fantasy Analysis: Harbor had a career season in 2013, his first with the Jaguars after spending his first three seasons with the Eagles. He posted 24/292/2 on 35 targets while playing every game. Harbor, 26, actually got 7 starts with Marcedes Lewis limited by a calf issue for a good portion of the season, but still failed to make much of an impact. Harbor fractured his leg in Week Seventeen, but the Jaguars still felt comfortable bringing him back. Harbor has never been more than a #2 TE and has never been relevant for fantasy, but he should be ready for OTAs coming off his broken right leg.
Phil Dawson (SF) – The 39-year old veteran Dawson has re-signed with the 49ers. The deal is a two-year contract, a source told CSNBayArea.com.
Fantasy Analysis: Despite a very slow start in September that saw Dawson kick only 3 FGs with 3 misses in his first four games, Dawson finished 6th in overall scoring in 2013 and was 1 FG away from landing in the top-3 at his position (according to our site default scoring system). From Week Five on, Dawson led all PKs in total fantasy scoring and points-per-game with 29 FGs and only 1 miss. Even with that poor start in 2013, Dawson kicked the second-most field goals in 49ers history (32), which included a franchise-record 27 in a row at one point. Although he’s not a kicker they usually trot out to attempt very long kicks, Dawson was a very strong 4-for-6 from 50+ yards in 2013. He also made all seven of his field-goal attempts in the playoffs, so he connected on 36 of his final 37 tries this past season. Dawson was our #1 ranked PK going into 2013, and he’ll likely be #1 again this year. In addition to playing in what should be an improved offense that moves the ball well, Dawson will also no longer be kicking at Candlestick Park, where the winds can be tough for kickers. Their new Levi’s Stadium is not as close to the water as their old stadium was, which is good news for Dawson.
Steven Hauschka (Sea) – Hauschka inked a three-year, $9.15-million contract with the Seahawks, according to the NFL Network.
Fantasy Analysis: Hauschka had an excellent season for the Super Bowl champs, connecting on 94.3% of his field goal attempts (33/35). He made 11/12 attempts from 40+ yards out, including a perfect 3/3 from 50+ yards out. Hauschka finished 5th among fantasy kickers with 8.9 FPG, behind just Stephen Gostkowski (9.9), Matt Prater (9.4), Adam Vinatieri (9.3), and Nick Novak (9.0). The conditions aren’t always the easiest in Seattle, but Hauschka handled them well last season. Also, this Seahawk offense should continue to move the ball next season, so Hauschka should be top option in fantasy drafts next season.
Graham Gano (Car) – Gano signed a four-year contract with the Panthers, worth up to $12.4 million.
Fantasy Analysis: Gano was rock-solid in 2013, hitting 24/27 field goals (88.9%) and all 42 of his extra points. But playing in what amounted to a pretty boring Panther offense, he finished #19 in our site-default scoring system with 7.1 FPG. He was a Waiver Wire type for most of the year. Kickers are fickle, however, and Gano is a pretty good one, so he’s capable of putting up starter-worthy numbers next year if the Panthers can improve the weaponry around Cam Newton.
Nick Folk (NYJ) – Folk, the Jets’ franchise player, will stick with the club on a four-year deal, according to Metro New York. The deal could be worth around $3 million per season, ESPN New York reports.
Fantasy Analysis: The Jets have been bringing in competition in training camp for Folk basically since the beginning of time, but Folk shut the door on that last season, drilling 33/36 field goals (91.7%). He did well enough to be designated as the Jets’ franchise player, but that will be superseded by his new extension. Folk likely won’t be an in-demand fantasy kicker next season, however, unless the Jet offense significantly improves.
Adam Vinatieri (Ind) - The Colts retained Vinatieri to a two-year contract, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.
Fantasy Analysis: Vinatieri, 41, made a career-best 35 field goals last season, connecting on 87.5% of his attempts (35/40). He also made 19/23 from 40+ yards, including 4 field goals from 50+ yards. He finished the year 3rd among kickers with 9.3 FPG, behind only Patriot K Stephen Gostkowski (9.9) and Bronco K Matt Prater (9.4). Vinatieri is still kicking at a pretty high level, as he's made more than 85% of his field goal attempts in three of his last four seasons. It also doesn't hurt that he's kicking in a dome and for a Colt offense that is led by QB Andrew Luck, so he'll be one of the top fantasy options next season.
Shayne Graham (NO) – The Saints and Graham agreed to a one-year deal worth the veteran minimum of $955,000, the team announced.
Fantasy Analysis: Graham joined the Saints in mid-December of last year after they finally parted ways with the inconsistent Garrett Hartley. Graham made his only two attempts in two regular season games and went 4/4 in the Wild Card Round before missing his only two attempts in the Divisional Round. Graham was originally signed by the Browns last April, but got cut loose at the end of August and spent just one game with the Steelers in September. Graham has made over 10 stops in his career and has made 85.5% of his FGs since entering the league in 2001. The 36-year-old will likely see some competition in training camp, possibly from Derek Dimke.
Dan Carpenter (Buf) – The Bills re-signed kicker Carpenter to a four-year contract, according to the Buffalo News.
Fantasy Analysis: Carpenter is coming off a career-best 2013 season, converting 91.7% of his field goal attempts (33/36). Carpenter finished 9th among fantasy kickers with 8.2 FPG, not bad for a guy the Bills had to scoop up off the streets just before the season started. Rookie K Dustin Hopkins suffered a season-ending groin injury before the season started, opening the door for Carpenter. He previously spent five seasons with the Dolphins, and he now has converted 83.8% of his kicks during his career. Carpenter does have to deal with the conditions kicking outdoors in Buffalo and the Bill offense isn’t elite right now led by QB EJ Manuel, so Carpenter will most likely be Waiver Wire material to start the year.
Jay Feely (Ari) – Feely gets a one-year deal from the Cardinals, he announced on his Twitter account.
Fantasy Analysis: Feely’s 7.9 FPG last season tied him with Nick Folk for 12th among kickers, so he was always someone worth considering if he was on your Waiver Wire. He drilled 30/36 FGs (83.3%) and all 37 of his XPs last year, and the Cardinal offense has a chance to improve if the club upgrades the offensive line this off-season. He should be in the mix to be drafted late next season, but is most likely WW material only again at least to open 2014.
Josh Brown (NYG) – Brown inked a two-year, $2.5-million contract to stay with the Giants, according to Fox Sports.
Fantasy Analysis: Brown connected on 23/26 field goal attempts last season to finish at 88.5% conversion rate, which isn’t too bad kicking in East Rutherford. He also nailed 7/8 attempts from 40+ yards, including a season-long 52-yard kick. Brown finished 27th among fantasy kickers with 6.3 FPG, as he was clearly hurt by this anemic Giant offense last season. Brown won’t be fantasy option to start the year after a measly 26 field goal attempts last season, so the Giant offense will have to improve next season before he becomes a Waiver Wire option.
Billy Cundiff (Cle) – The Browns re-signed Cundiff to a one-year, $1 million deal, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Fantasy Analysis: By our site-default scoring system, only one kicker who kicked in all 16 games last season finished lower than Cundiff, Jacksonville’s Josh Scobee. Cundiff hit 21/26 FGs (80.8%) and all 32 of his XPs last season. We hope the Brown offense improves under Kyle Shanahan and (hopefully) with stability at QB, but we don’t expect fantasy players to be racing to draft Cundiff next season.
Eugene Monroe (LT, Bal) – Monroe remains a Raven after signing a five-year deal worth $37.5 million including $19 million guaranteed, according to NFL Network.
Fantasy Analysis: Monroe was a high priority for the Ravens this off-season and he was taken care of quickly, to remain with the team that traded for him from the Jaguars during the 2013 season. Monroe has missed just one gave in his five seasons and has been one of the best players at his position for the last few years. The return of Monroe was a big one for the Ravens after QB Joe Flacco was sacked 48 times in 2013. There is no way the Ravens would let Monroe go, given that he protects Flacco’s blindside, and the club traded two 2014 draft picks to acquire him back in October (the Jags got 4th and 5th rounders for him). The 27-year-old was arguably the class of this free agent market and cashed in with a monster deal.
Rodger Saffold (G/T, Stl) – In one of the most bizarre free agent situations we’ve ever seen, Saffold returns to the Rams on a five-year deal worth about $32 million, with around $20 million guaranteed, according to Adam Schefter. This comes after Saffold’s $42 million contract with the Raiders was voided because of a failed physical, reportedly because of shoulder issues. The Rams clearly didn’t have the same problem.
Fantasy Analysis: You could say the Raiders got bailed out of what we called a “puzzling” deal at the time, but there’s little indication that GM Reggie McKenzie deserves that kind of credit. The Raiders initially gave Saffold more money than departing LT Jared Veldheer cost the Cardinals, and it’s entirely possible Saffold’s best position is inside at guard. That’s where the Rams will be playing him. Saffold is a talented player who has never really reached his potential, and this contract involves a lot of projection. But the Rams will be putting him in a better position to succeed than the Raiders would have.
Zach Strief (RT, NO) – Strief returns to the Saints on a five-year deal worth $20.5 million, including $8.4 million guaranteed, according to the Times-Picayune.
Fantasy Analysis: Strief appeared and started in all but one game last season. Over the last three years, he’s missed 10 games with various injuries, yet has remained the starter throughout on the right side. Strief was considered one of the better free agents available coming into this off-season and did draw interest from other teams before ultimately agreeing to remain in New Orleans. The 30-year-old is coming off his best season and should continue to be one of the better pass protectors for QB Drew Brees.
Dominic Raiola (C, Det) – Raiola agreed to a one-year deal with the Lions worth $1.25 million, including $250,000, according to the Detroit Free Press. Raiola took a pay cut last season and ended up restructuring down to $1 million from just over the $4 million he was supposed to make last season.
Fantasy Analysis: Raiola is back with the Lions for the 14th straight season, all with the Lions after a fantastic 2013 campaign, in which he didn’t allow a sack. He has started every game in every season since 2002 outside of 2008, when he missed four games. Raiola turned 35 in late December and should remain a vital part of the Lion OL in 2014.
Chad Rinehart (OG, SD) – Rinehart will be back with the Chargers on a two-year deal worth $6 million, including $2 million guaranteed, according to multiple reports.
Fantasy Analysis: Rinehart was limited to 11 games last season thanks to a toe injury, but his absence was noticeable for an OL that attempted to piece things together all year thanks to a variety of injuries. Rinehart started in 10 appearances with eight games at LG and two games at RG. Before joining the Chargers in 2013, Rinehart spent the previous five years with the Bills and Redskins. The six-year veteran turns 29 in May and will likely be in the mix to start in 2014.
Roberto Garza (C, Chi) – Garza remains with the Bears, with whom he’s spent the last nine seasons, on a one-year, $1.5 million deal, the Chicago Tribune reports.
Fantasy Analysis: A respected clubhouse guy who has missed only two games in his nine years with Chicago, Garza remains a solid center who was at the middle of the best offensive line performance the Bears had since Jay Cutler arrived in town. With Cutler now locked up to a monster deal, it was imperative to keep his comfort level with Garza intact. Garza turns 35 in late March, but his play hasn’t slipped yet, and it’s only a one-year commitment.
Ryan Wendell (C, NE) – Wendell couldn’t find any interest on the open market, but inked a two-year deal to return to the Patriots. The deal is worth around $8 million, according to ESPN Boston.
Fantasy Analysis: Wendell is coming off a poor season, but he’s started all 16 games the last two seasons for the Patriots, giving them some stability up front. Don’t be shocked if the Patriots draft a youngster for some competition here.
Joe Hawley (C, Atl) – Hawley re-signs with the Falcons on a two-year deal, according to ESPN’s Adam Caplan.
Fantasy Analysis: Hawley played a pivotal role for the Falcons down the stretch, starting the final seven games on a team that dealt with OL issues dating back to the preseason. While Hawley took over for Peter Konz, he wasn’t any better than average and shouldn’t be a lock to start in 2014, although at the very least, he’ll provide decent depth. Hawley, 25, has spent all four seasons with Atlanta and last started back in 2011 (12 games).
Garry Williams (OG, Car) – Williams signed a one-year contract with the Panthers.
Fantasy Analysis: Williams opened the season as the starting RG before he tore his ACL in Week One, which cost him the rest of the year. Williams, 27, has also started 13 games at right tackle in the past, so he could figure into the mix as a starter at either right guard or right tackle next season. The Panthers have some work to do along the offensive line after LT Jordan Gross retired this off-season, and bringing Williams back will help with depth. Either RG Nate Chandler or RT Byron Bell could move to left tackle to replace Gross next season, opening up a potential starting spot for Williams on the right side of the line. The Panthers still need to upgrade along the offensive line to make up for the loss of Gross and Geoff Hangartner, who also retired.
Matt Slauson (LG, Chi) – Slauson gets a four-year contract with about $5 million guaranteed, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Fantasy Analysis: With the re-signings of Slauson and C Roberto Garza, the Bears’ offensive line remains intact, which is pretty good news for their offense. Slauson won’t be confused for one of the game’s best guards, but he works well with teammates and remains in his prime at age 28. He played every snap in 2013, his first with the Bears after four years with the Jets. His one-year deal with Chicago last year turned out to be one of the better bargain signings of the 2013 off-season.
Khalif Barnes (G/T, Oak) – Barnes re-signs with the Raiders yet again, this time on a one-year deal, according to CSN Bay Area.
Fantasy Analysis: Consistently among the league’s worst starters along the offensive line, it’s shocking to us that the Raiders keep bringing Barnes back in what projects to be at least a semi-significant role. Barnes’ versatility and familiarity with the club are both plusses, but at some point the Raiders would be much better off if he were warming the bench. Barnes turns 32 in April and isn’t getting any better. With Austin Howard signed and the Raiders still trolling for more depth after the Rodger Saffold fiasco, if Barnes is starting this year, it’ll probably be on the inside.
Mike Pollak (OG, Cin) – Pollak returns to the Bengals on a three-year deal worth $5 million, according to the team’s official site. He can make up to $7.5 million with incentives.
Fantasy Analysis: Pollak started in five of eight games last season after battling a knee injury for the first half of the year. He ended up replacing an injured Kevin Zeitler in the starting lineup and remained at RG even after Zeitler recovered. Pollak adds some versatility to an OL that needed depth and could be in the mix to start in 2014. Pollak enters his seventh season in the league and second with the Bengals after starting his career with the Colts before moving onto the Panthers in 2012, where he missed all but one game with a shoulder injury.
Willie Colon (OG, NYJ) – The Jets are bringing back Colon on a one-year deal worth $2 million, the team announced. Colon started all 16 games for the Jets last season at right guard.
Fantasy Analysis: Colon is a solid player and was a good bargain for the Jets last year, but he’s coming even cheaper this season, likely because he tore his biceps in the last game of the year in 2013. If he’s healthy, he at least gives the Jets some stability up front, although they’d ideally like to upgrade. At 31, Colon isn’t getting any better.
Greg Hardy (DE, Car) – Hardy was given the non-exclusive franchise tag worth $13.116 million for the 2014 season. Hardy has signed the tender and the two sides continue to work towards a long-term deal, according to multiple reports. Hardy finished the year with 40 solos and 16 sacks, tying for 4th among fantasy defensive linemen with 5.8 FPG. Hardy has now registered double-digit sacks the last two seasons.
Fantasy Analysis: When you could not decide which Panthers DE you could rely on over the first month of the season, Hardy erased all doubts as he emerged ahead of line mate Charles Johnson over the last 13 weeks. Playing two more games certainly helped, but Hardy still nearly doubled Johnson’s production after the Week Four bye (73-37.5). He tied the franchise’s record with 15 sacks, and the defensive line remains intact for Hardy to post his third straight stellar season.
Michael Bennett (DE, Sea) – Bennett inked a four-year, $28.5-million contract, which includes $16 million guaranteed, according to Pro Football Talk. The Bears offered Bennett more money and used his brother, TE Martellus Bennett, to try to lure him away from Seattle, but in the end he took a bit of a hometown discount to stay with the defending Super Bowl champs. Bennett collected just 18 solos and 8.5 sacks, tying for 57th among defensive linemen with 3.8 FPG.
Fantasy Analysis: Part of a great Seattle front in the real world — the Seahawks did win the Super Bowl — but not so great in fantasy’s eyes. Bennett was 53rd among DLs last season. He played just under 60% of the snaps as part of the Hawks’ rotation. Perhaps the departure of DE Red Bryant and DT Clinton McDonald means Seattle will lean on Bennett more, but free agency is not done, and speculation is another standout DE could arrive in the great Northwest.
Everson Griffen (DE, Min) – Griffen re-signed with the Vikings to a five-year, $42.5-million contract, which includes $20 million guaranteed, according to NFL.com. Griffen will make more than $27 million in the first three years of his deal. Griffen recorded just 17 solos and 5.5 sacks in 14 games last season, tying for 132nd among fantasy linemen with 2.5 FPG. Still, he should see a rise in playing time next season after collecting 13.5 sacks the last two seasons as a rotational player.
Fantasy Analysis: The new starting defensive line is being pieced together in Minnesota as Griffen moves from reserve to starter to be the new bookend with Brian Robison, new starting DTs Sharrif Floyd, from last year’s draft, and Linval Joseph, from this year’s free agency pool. Griffen has played in all 16 games for the last three years, collecting 17.5 sacks in that time. He’s a sleeper right now, and teaming up with new coach Mike Zimmer might awaken him more to the fantasy public sooner rather than later.
Mike Neal (DE, GB) – Neal announced that he reached a two-year agreement with the Packers on his personal Twitter account. Neal can play all over the field as a pass rusher, and he led the team with 37 quarterback hurries last season. He racked up 36 solos, 5 sacks, and 1 INT, tying him for 34th among fantasy defensive linemen with 4.3 FPG. Neal’s tackle total spiked last season after collecting just 12 solos in his first three seasons.
Fantasy Analysis: “Mr. 5.” Neal had five performances of 5 or 5.5 fantasy points in 10 starts and 16 games played last season. The other 11 games he averaged 2.8 points — and that’s with two 7-pointers in there. His appeal came in the form of being designated a defensive end but playing as a linebacker. However, those times we would peg Neal for a weekly play, he would disappoint. When we wouldn’t, he would. But look forward not back, right? His position eligibility in fantasy this season is everything in regards to his draft stock, but he is likely to be used in both roles again for the Packers. They liked him enough to re-sign him for two years – he’s durable and gets plenty of snaps (746). Ready to enter his second year playing OLB, put him in your “to monitor” category.
Randy Starks (DT, Mia) – Starks will stick with the Dolphins on a two-year, $12 million deal, according to FOX Sports 1. A run-stuffing DT, Starks made 35 solo tackles this past season and 2.5 sacks. He’s not much of an IDP value, but was a major priority for the Dolphins after they lost Paul Soliai to Atlanta.
Fantasy Analysis: Like a lot of IDPs, Starks peppered in some solid efforts with some stinkers. He finished tied for 47th in PPG (4.0) among DLs, his best since 2009. Still, he’s worth a look in DT-required leagues as the Dolphins re-work their interior front.
Tony McDaniel (DT, Sea) - McDaniel and the Seahawks reached terms on a two-year, $6.3-million contract, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter. McDaniel, a run-stuffing interior player, racked up 23 solos and 2 sacks for 3.2 FPG in his first season with the Seahawks in 14 appearances. McDaniel's previous career-high in tackles came back in 2010 when he racked up 30 solos with the Dolphins.
Fantasy Analysis: In his eighth year he started a career-high 15 games for the Seahawks, collected a career-high in fantasy PPG (3.2) and still finished tied for 81st. He’s not an IDP factor as part of one of the most active defensive line rotations in the NFL.
Jay Ratliff (DT, Chi) – Ratliff inked a two-year, $4-million contract, which includes $600,000 guaranteed, according to the Chicago Tribune. Ratliff recorded 7 solos and 1.5 sacks in five games last season, finishing with 2.6 FPG. Ratliff hasn’t recorded more than 5 sacks in a season since 2009.
Fantasy Analysis: Cut from Dallas last season after the Cowboys did not think he was able to play (groin), Ratliff played the final five games with the Bears and had some flashes. But even in DT-required leagues you’re not spending a pick or even a Waiver Wire claim on Ratliff. He has not finished inside the top 35 among DLs since 2009 — a feat he accomplished in back-to-back seasons preceded by three finishes outside the top 100.
Frostee Rucker (DE, Ari) – The Cardinals and Rucker agreed to a two-year deal, the team announced. Rucker registered 10 solos and 2 sacks in nine games last season, finishing him with 2.1 FPG. Rucker previously registered 32 and 29 tackles the last two seasons, both outside the organization (Cincy and Cleveland) and 16-game seasons.
Fantasy Analysis: A reserve last year in Arizona, Rucker appeared in all 16 games and only registered fantasy numbers in nine of them. He finished as DL157. It’s hard to believe he will enter his ninth season in the NFL this fall, but while he provides leadership for the Cards, he provides a waste of a fantasy roster spot if you were so inclined.
Jonathan Babineaux (DT, Atl) – Babineaux has agreed to a three-year deal with Atlanta, the team announced. Contract details were not revealed. Though 32 years old, Babineaux was one of the Falcons’ top priorities this off-season. Babineaux tied for 87th among fantasy defensive linemen with 3.1 FPG, collecting 28 solos and 1 sack in 14 games last season.
Fantasy Analysis: It depends entirely on what he is eligible to play as in your league whether you can play Babineaux with confidence or not. Is he a DT or a DE? If the Falcons do switch to a 3-4 and he plays DT, does the signing of Paul Soliai affect his use? Babineaux was a 32-year-old DL82 on a 4-3 defensive line that did little last season, and he will be a watch-and-waiver pick this season.
Corey Peters (DT, Atl) – Peters signed a one-year deal to stick with the Falcons, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Peters, 25, is coming off the best season of his career, but he tore his Achilles in Week Sixteen and is facing several months of rehab. Peters signed a one-year contract in hopes of getting a multi-year contract next off-season. Peters recorded career-bests with 29 solos and 5 sacks in 14 games last season, tying for 61st among fantasy defensive linemen with 3.7 FPG. Peters had more sacks last season (5) than he had in his first three NFL seasons combined (4).
Fantasy Analysis: Peters had a decent fantasy season for a tackle on a line that struggled mightily. He scored at least 3 points in each of his last four games and 10 of his 15 games altogether. However, the Achilles tear puts into question his workload for 2014. The addition of Paul Soliai doesn’t help, either – dependent upon health, Peters is worth monitoring in DT-required leagues as a waiver pickup once the season gets in gear.
Nate Collins (DT, Chi) – Collins returns to the Bears on a one-year deal, the team announced. Collins collected just 7 solos and 1 sack in five games last season, finishing with 3.1 FPG. However, those were career-best numbers for the four-year pro, as he’s been a depth player his entire career.
Fantasy Analysis: He played in five games before a season-ending knee injury, collecting 11 total tackles and a sack. He started the last two games before the injury. He’s only a thought in DT-required leagues, monitor his health through OTAs and training camp.
B.J. Raji (NT, GB) – Raji returns to the Packers on a one-year deal worth about $4 million, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. He’ll play nose tackle, which historically is a black hole for IDP production. He’s never made more than 29 solo tackles, and that was back in 2010.
Fantasy Analysis: It was also 2010 when he last had a fantasy impact — career highs in sacks (6.5), tackles (39) and PDs (5) — and still had six games at 2 points or less that season. He’s not draftable.
Peria Jerry (DT, Atl) – Jerry played in all 16 games with the Falcons last year, starting 14 and registering 25 solo tackles with 3.5 sacks. The Falcons re-signed him to provide a rotational player on their rebuilt defensive line.
Fantasy Analysis: Playing all 16 games — and playing the 23rd-most snaps amongst DTs — yielded just a 2.6 FPG average (tied for 119th). It’s wait-and-see with everyone on the Falcons’ defensive line — heavy on the wait.
Jason Worilds (LB, Pit) – Worilds signed a one-year, $9.754-million transition tag with the Steelers, according CBS Sports. Worilds and the Steelers continue to negotiate on a long-term contract. Worilds broke out last season with 37 solos and 9 sacks in 15 games, tying for 67th among fantasy linebackers with 5.2 FPG. Worilds sack total in 2013 (9) matched his previous sack total from his first three NFL seasons, but Worilds is clearly a pass rusher trending upward.
Fantasy Analysis: Worilds was out of this — I’ll stop there — last year. He posted four games of at least 9 fantasy points over a four-week stretch (Weeks Eleven-Fourteen), and saw his tackle total, sack total, and passes defended total increase for the fourth straight year. Early ADP has Worilds as a great, great value. It will be interesting to see how high he shoots up boards as the summer progresses.
Donald Butler (LB, SD) – The Chargers re-signed Butler to a seven-year, $52 million deal, but the contract essentially becomes a three-year, $20 million contract when looking at it closer, the Union-Tribune San Diego reports. Should the Chargers not pick up Butler’s $12 million roster bonus after the third season of the deal, he’ll hit the market again at age 28. Still only 25, locking up Butler was the Chargers’ #1 priority this off-season.
Fantasy Analysis: IDP players will be pleased. In 12 games this year, Butler made 71 tackles under DC John Pagano, in whose system he is clearly comfortable (his 5.9 solos per game were easily a career-high). Butler’s also a solid player in big-play IDP leagues, posting 6 sacks in his three-year career thus far, with 3 INTs, 3 forced fumbles, and 2 fumble recoveries as well. As always, he’ll be a solid lower-end starting option, and a great depth guy available in the later IDP rounds.
Daryl Smith (ILB, Bal) - Smith inked a four-year, $16.1-million contract with the Ravens, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter. Smith finished with 57 solos, 5 sacks, and 3 INTs in 16 games last season, tying for 18th among fantasy linebackers with 8.1 FPG. Before playing in just two games in 2012, he averaged 77.7 solos from 2009-11 with the Jaguars.
Fantasy Analysis: Likely an afterthought in last year’s fantasy drafts as a free-agent signing from Jacksonville, and most prognosticators hoping rookie Arthur Brown would do more, Smith had a career year. Brown should emerge alongside Smith more this season, and perhaps cut into the 123 tackles, five sacks and the outstanding 19 PDs. The chances of both ILBs having stellar seasons are unlikely. So you have to hedge your bet on either the veteran doing it again, or the youngster living up to rookie expectations a year late.
Perry Riley (ILB, Was) - The Redskins re-signed Riley to a three-year, $13-million contract, according to The Washington Post. Riley registered 66 solos, 3 sacks, and 1 INT last season, tying for 39th among fantasy linebackers with 6.9 FPG. Riley posted similar numbers (72 solos and 3.5 sacks) in 2012, but he has the potential to be even more active next season with fellow ILB London Fletcher retiring this off-season.
Fantasy Analysis: He started off strong last season, with four games of at least 9 tackles in the first eight weeks. But Riley only reached 9 tackles once after that (Week Thirteen). It will be interesting to see who joins him inside with the departure of London Fletcher. That will go a long way in determining the forecast for Riley, who will likely be overpaid for or over-drafted in your upcoming fantasy season regardless of who his new ILB running mate is.
Jon Beason (MLB, NYG) - Beason and the Giants have agreed to terms on a new deal, according to ESPN. Beason had a resurgent season with the Giants, racking up 72 tackles and 1 INT to tie for 43rd among fantasy linebackers with 6.6 FPG in 14 games. Beason had played in just five games the previous two seasons in Carolina before joining the Giants in 2013.
Fantasy Analysis: The former Carolina stud was a great value for those that were able to get him after the first month of the season. He racked up 8-plus tackles in eight games from Weeks Six through Seventeen. He should be a good mid-round value again this year.
Jo-Lonn Dunbar (LB, re-signed by Stl) – Dunbar remains with the Rams after signing a two-year deal at $3.5 million, according to NFL Network. Dunbar was actually cut after being hit with a four-game suspension to start the season, but came back for the final 12 games to put up 33 solos and just 3.2 FPG.
Fantasy Analysis: He reunites with defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who was in New Orleans with Dunbar (2009-11). Outside of that, there’s really not much that is too intriguing about the re-signing of this two-down LB. He did have one sack, and 76 tackles over 14 starts in his final season with Williams.
Matt Shaughnessy (OLB, Ari) – Shaughnessy was an unheralded but essential part of one of the NFL’s best defenses last year, and he’s back on a two-year contract, according to the Arizona Republic. He made 31 solo tackles and had 3 sacks last season, so he didn’t have much IDP value even if he had DL eligibility.
Fantasy Analysis: He showed flashes on the strong side last year, but had about the same ho-hum fantasy season he did a year earlier. The 31-3 followed 25-3.5 from 2012 in Oakland. The eligibility thing is fun to have if he qualifies as a DE this season, but the sub-5-point games (10 last season) far outweigh having that novelty at your disposal.
Jonathan Casillas (LB, TB) – Casillas signed a one-year deal to stick with the Bucs, the team announced. He finished with 13 solos and no sacks last season in 11 games last season, finishing with 2.1 FPG.
Fantasy Analysis: Casillas’ first year with the Bucs ended early, landing on IR with a knee injury. He’s a talented coverage linebacker, but it leaves him with little fantasy value, as he typically plays a part-time role. His 30 solos with the Saints in 2011 were a career-high. He’s a great depth guy to have around for an NFL team, but is unlikely to make an IDP impact.
D.J. Williams (LB, Chi) – Williams, a veteran who will be 32 in July, is a depth guy at this point in his career. He’s back with the Bears on a one-year deal, according to ESPN. Williams collected 19 solos and 2 sacks in six games last season, finishing with 4.8 FPG.
Fantasy Analysis: Brought in as a free agent last year, Williams battled a calf injury in the preseason and a torn pectoral put him on injured reserve after six games. He will be 32 when the season begins, has not played a full season since 2010, and has others nipping at his heels (he’ll likely back up Jon Bostic). Monitor him if you’d like, but there are better values to find elsewhere when you draft.
Charles Tillman (CB, Chi) – Tillman re-signed with the Bears on a one-year deal for about $3.5-million, according to ESPN’s Adam Caplan. Tillman, 33, recorded 32 solos and 3 INTs in eight games last season, finishing 6.7 FPG. Tillman scored a remarkable 5 defensive touchdowns in 2011-12, and he has an incredible 42 forced fumbles during his career, so Tillman is capable of making plays for IDP purposes.
Fantasy Analysis: A top-10 player in PPG the last four years, Tillman saw that average dip from 8.3 in 16 games in 2012 to 6.7 in eight games last season. Health and age might be catching up to Tillman, but a one-year deal is perhaps the show-me deal he took to prove he still has it. He still had three interceptions and three forced fumbles before torn triceps cut last season short. He will likely cost you a high pick on name brand alone. Let’s monitor how the rest of free agency and the draft will go in Chicago before we pass judgment on Peanut, but a gut feeling is we get one more good year in the Windy City out of one of the good guys.
DeAngelo Hall (CB, Was) – Hall, now 30, re-signed with Washington on a four-year, $17 million contract. However, Washington could cut him before next season, when $1.2 million of his salary would become guaranteed. With 57 solos, 4 INTs, and 3 TDs last year, Hall was once again an effective IDP at 6.1 FPG. He has had 4 or more INTs in eight of his last nine seasons.
Fantasy Analysis: Now this is a corner who is great for fantasy. Hall finished as overall DB19 after being thrown at 94 times, allowing a 64-percent completion rate, and missing 18 tackles. Those are numbers that are music to fantasy players’ ears. He is the gift that keeps on giving. Hall has finished inside the top 20 among fantasy DBs — as a corner — each of the last four years, and inside the top 25 in six of the last seven.
Charles Woodson (S, Oak) – Woodson agreed to a one-year deal to return to Oakland, ESPN reports. Woodson was an extremely productive IDP last year, starting 16 games and tying for 12th among defensive backs with 6.6 FPG.
Fantasy Analysis: He just keeps on keeping on. The 6.6 FPG he posted in 2013 meant it was the sixth straight season Woodson eclipsed 6 FPG after only having done so once the first six years of his career. You’re not going to spend a draft pick on a player who will be 38 a month into the season, but his 12th-place finish as waiver add last season proves he can still get it done, and that he is the Raiders’ last line of defense — or first, dependent upon your perspective.
Sam Shields (CB, GB) – The Packers re-signed Shields to a four-year, $39-million contract, which includes $12.5-million signing bonus, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Shields will make $30 million during the first three seasons of the contract, including $15 million in the first year. Shields made 51 solos, picked off 4 passes, and defended 17 others, ranking 43rd among DBs with 5.8 FPG last year.
Fantasy Analysis: Shields flashed to begin the season with a 10-pointer that set off three straight games of at least 6.5 points. He was then mired in four straight games of 2.5 or fewer before another late-season spurt of 6.5-11-point games over a five-week span. Which Shields will we get in 2014? Which Green Bay defense will we get? As always with corners, it’s fluid. And you’re not going to have to break any draft bank to grab Shields this summer.
Brent Grimes (CB, Mia) – Grimes and the Dolphins agreed to a new four-year deal worth $32 million the team announced. He’ll get $16 million guaranteed. Grimes, as a strong cover corner, didn’t register much IDP impact last year, with only 52 solos to go with 4 INTs. He tied for 88th among DBs with 4.9 FPG.
Fantasy Analysis: In reporting his re-signing, the Miami Herald called Grimes arguably the team’s best and most consistent player from last year’s Dolphins. It didn’t mean a whole lot for fantasy with 52 solos, 4 interceptions, and 14 PDs, but he did bounce back from an Achilles injury that sent him to a one-year deal with Miami last season. Is there more in store for a player who got his mutli-year contract, will be 31 when the season starts and had his best season since 2010’s 20th-place finish? Doubtful.
Bernard Pollard (S, Ten) – Pollard gets a two-year, $6.3 million contract to stick with the Titans, according to his Twitter account. Always a big-time IDP player as an in-the-box safety, Pollard made 78 solos, 1.5 sacks, and 3 INTs last season, ranking as a borderline #1 DB in tackle-heavy formats.
Fantasy Analysis: A priority signing for new defensive coordinator Ray Horton, Pollard gets to build on a seventh-place finish among DBs last season. And Horton and new head coach Ken Whisenhunt were two of the reasons he elected to re-sign in Nashville. The decline will come, and you might have to eat it when it happens, but Pollard, who has only finished outside the top 20 among DBs once in the last seven years (25th), is still going to be one of your draft’s top safeties off the board.
Vontae Davis (CB, Ind) – Colts owner Jim Irsay announced on Twitter that the club was bringing Davis, their top cover corner, back. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Davis signed a four-year deal worth up to $39 million, with $20 million guaranteed. As an IDP, Davis made little impact last season, with 41 solos and only 1 INT. But that’s not his type of game.
Fantasy Analysis: A perfect example of great corner, bad fantasy play. The career high in PDs (12) aside, Davis gave up very little to the opposition. He was thrown at 85 times — 36th among corners — and allowed a 50-percent completion rate with 8 TDs. Perhaps the 8 TDs — third-most among corners — will make teams think they can throw at Davis, but the overall fantasy ranking of 117th among DBs is not worth your roster spot to test that theory.
Tim Jennings (CB, Chi) – One of the Bears’ off-season priorities, Jennings got a four-year, $22 million contract worth about $12 million guaranteed, according to the Chicago Tribune. Jennings wasn’t much of an IDP threat last season, with 48 solos to go with 4 INTs.
Fantasy Analysis: Playing 16 games for the third time in four years did not produce another top-30 fantasy season for Jennings. Despite being thrown at 110 times — seventh-most among corners — Jennings was 57th in DB rankings after years of 23rd and 28th. Throw Jennings in the category of another good corner in the real world, but not so much — at least last season — in the virtual world.
Brandon Meriweather (S, Was) – The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t to the Redskins, who re-signed the oft-injured and mostly ineffective Meriweather to a one-year deal, according to ESPN. In 13 games last year, Meriweather made 53 solo tackles and 2 INTs.
Fantasy Analysis: When he’s on, he’s on. But it’s just a question of whether he can stay on — on the field, that is. Meriweather finished tied for 49th in FPG last season (5.7), eclipsed 5 points in nine of the 13 games he played in, including going below 6.5 points just twice from Weeks Ten through Seventeen. The retirement of LB London Fletcher only means more opportunity for Meriweather in a defensive backfield that already had a ton of fantasy opportunities last season. The NFC East alone placed all four of its teams in the top 13 in tackles allowed to DBs last season, while the New York Giants and Washington were 1-2 in FPG scored among DBs.
Nate Allen (S, Phi) – The Eagles re-signed Allen on a one-year contract worth up to $3 million with playing-time incentives, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. In 16 games last year, Allen made 59 solo tackles and had 1 pick.
Fantasy Analysis: Allen is nothing if not consistent. He averaged 5.1 FPG for the third time in his four-year career — only dipping below in 2011 (4.8). The Eagles so far have signed Malcolm Jenkins in free agency, and a healthy Earl Wolff will be in the defensive backfield as well. Allen is likely a rotational player, but you never know who could lead the charge for a Philly team that has had three different safeties atop the FPG chart over the last four years.
Trumaine McBride (CB, NYG) – The Giants re-signed one of their most important reserves, inking McBride to a $3.1 million deal over two years, according to the Newark Star-Ledger. As multiple CBs battled through injury for New York last year, McBride made 10 starts and held his own. He made 30 solo tackles, intercepted 2 passes, and defended 14 more. He wasn’t much of an IDP contributor, however.
Fantasy Analysis: Everything you need to know was told to you above. His 10-point effort in the season finale last year was a career best thanks to 2 interceptions and 6 PDs.
He hadn’t had combined for that many interceptions or PDs in his entire six-year career leading up to Week Seventeen.
Will Blackmon (CB, Jac) – The Jaguars re-signed Blackmon to a two-year contract, according to the Florida Times-Union. Blackmon made 30 solos, 1 INT, and 10 PDs last year in a rock-solid role, coming off of two ACL tears.
Fantasy Analysis: In 10 games where he either started or saw a majority of the snaps, Blackmon averaged 4.4 PPG, which was also his season average for 12 of the 15 games where he registered fantasy points. That equates to him being 119th among fantasy DBs and still firmly on your Waiver Wire this season.
Richard Marshall (CB, SD) - Marshall re-signed to a one-year contract with the Chargers, according to NFL Network. Marshall finished with 49 solos without an INT or sack, finishing with 4.9 FPG. Marshall averaged 72.3 solos in the six seasons prior to an injury-riddled 2012 season, so he's been a IDP factor in the past.
Fantasy Analysis: He’s not going to be on your draft board, or even waiver wire fodder, but when he took over the starting job from Weeks Thirteen-Seventeen, Marshall averaged 5 FPG. He allowed 71 percent of throws his way to be completed for 4 TDs last season. He’s another case of real world “meh” vs. fantasy world “maybe”. Pardon the broken record, but monitor his play in the first quarter of the season, and with opportunity could come production for your roster.
Usama Young (FS, Oak) – Young and the Raiders agree to a two-year deal, according to this agent. Young ended up backing up Charles Woodson last season, starting just once in 12 games before landing on the IR with a neck injury. Young ended up with 15 solos, 2.5 sacks, 1 INT, 3 PDs, and just 3.3 FPG.
Fantasy Analysis: Ah, I remember it like it was a Week Three Friday IDP preview. Fantasy stud Tyvon Branch (fibula) goes down and one of the most coveted spots in recent fantasy memory is up for grabs. Young or Brandian Ross was suggested as a reach play that week. Young played 10 snaps, registered nothing; Ross played all 79 snaps and had a 2.5-point Monday night against Denver. Ross went on to have just two more days under 4 points; Young had just two days above 4 points after that (he landed on IR with a neck injury). A free-agent signing last April for Oakland, Young was replaced in the lineup by Charles Woodson, a free-agent signing in May. He will likely remain as depth for the Raiders. For the record, since I’m sure the suspense is killing you, I suggested Ross and his mighty 2.5 for a Week Three play.
Husain Abdullah (S, KC) – Abdullah re-signed with Kansas City on a two-year deal, according to Yahoo Sports. Abdullah, mainly a special-teamer and reserve, made 12 solos and 1 INT last year, which he returned for a TD.
Fantasy Analysis: Abdullah closed 2013 with a season-high seven points in Week Seventeen, but was otherwise not a fantasy contributor.
Stevie Brown (FS, NYG) - Brown re-signed with Giants, according to his personal Twitter account. Brown missed all of last season with a torn ACL but made 8 INTs and scored 2 TDs in 2012.
Fantasy Analysis: An ACL injury last preseason forced Brown to miss 2013, halting a potential momentum-building season coming off a 66-tackle, 8-interception, 11-PD campaign in his third year. It’s a prove-it year for Brown after signing a one-year deal and trying to get back into the fold. The injury will push him down the draft board. Monitor his progress this summer and perhaps catch a late steal if all arrows are pointing up.
E.J. Biggers (CB, Was) – The Redskins are bringing back Biggers on a one-year deal, according to ProFootballTalk. He didn’t play well in a reserve role last season, but the Redskins can’t be picky with secondary help, because they need it.
Fantasy Analysis: Not much fantasy value here as the fourth corner in this defensive backfield. Biggers will again likely not play enough snaps this season (432 snaps last season) to warrant fantasy consideration.
Taylor Mays (S, Cin) – Mays re-signed with the Bengals on a one-year deal, according to CBS Sports. In seven games last year before suffering a shoulder injury, Mays made 11 solo tackles in a rotational role. He’s never been an IDP contributor.
Fantasy Analysis: Only once has Mays cracked the top 150 in PPG for fantasy, and that was when he started a career-high six games his rookie season of 2010.