NFL.com Staff | Tags: Free agency, Peyton Manning, James Jones, Chris Johnson, rashard mendenhall, Matt Cassel, Steven Jackson, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Greg Jennings, Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd, Reggie Bush, Drew Stanton, David Garrard, Kevin Kolb, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Mark Sanchez, Brian Hoyer, Mike Goodson, Brandon Gibson, Shonn Greene, Martellus Bennett, Jared Cook, Mike Wallace, Delanie Walker, Fred Davis, Isaac Redman, Anthony Fasano, Brandon Myers, Demaryius Thomas, Donald Jones, Antonio Brown, Jonathan Dwyer, John Skelton, Emmanuel Sanders, Eric Decker, Danny Amendola, Jordy Nelson, Christian Ponder, Jacquizz Rodgers, Mikel Leshoure, Randall Cobb, Ryan Tannehill, Bilal Powell, Isaiah Pead, Ryan Lindley, Daryl Richardson, Rod Streater
Colts sign deal with Heyward-Bey
Released by the Oakland Raiders earlier in the offseason, Darrius Heyward-Bey has found a new home in Indianapolis. The Maryland product will compete with LaVon Brazil for the third spot on the team’s depth chart behind Reggie Wayne and T.Y. Hilton.
DHB, considered a bust on the gridiron based on where he was taken in the 2009 NFL Draft, still has yet to post his first 1,000-yard season at the pro level. Chances are he won’t do it with the Colts either, so fantasy leaguers shouldn’t expect a spike in value – even with a talented quarterback like Andrew Luck under center.
In fact, Heyward-Bey still isn’t worth more than a late-round look in most leagues.
Kolb, Bills agree to deal
Add one more name to the Buffalo Bills’ list of QB contenders for 2013 – Kevin Kolb. The former Arizona Cardinals signal-caller agreed to a two-year deal with the Bills Saturday and joins Tarvaris Jackson and Aaron Corp as competitors to begin the season as the No. 1 quarterback. While Kolb’s on-field performance hasn’t been particularly scintillating, the bigger issue has been his health — or lack of it. During his two seasons in the desert, Kolb played just 15 total games. His move to western New York doesn’t move the needle much on his fantasy value … if anything, it’s good for C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson, who could be leaned upon more heavily.
Washington retains TE Fred Davis
The tight end position should be a little deeper from a fantasy perspective in 2013, and we now know where one of the position’s young playmakers will suit up. Fred Davis, a sleeper in the past, has decided to remain with the Washington Redskins after signing a one-year deal.
Davis, who continues to recover from a torn Achilles’ tendon, allows himself a chance to prove he’s 100 percent this season in order to earn a bigger, long-term deal in 2014. That motivation will add to his value in fantasy drafts. What’s more, he would be the favorite to serve as the No. 2 option in the pass attack (behind Pierre Garcon) for Robert Griffin III in a best-case scenario.
Barring setbacks, Davis should be back in time for the start of training camp. He’ll be worth a late-round look as a No. 2 tight end with No. 1 potential in fantasy land.
Fitzpatrick, Titans agree to deal
Not long after cutting ties with Matt Hasselbeck, the Tennessee Titans agreed to a two-year deal with former Buffalo Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. The Amish Rifle never came close to duplicating the success that led the Bills to giving him a big contract extension early in the 2011 season.
Now he lands in Tennessee as the No. 2 quarterback behind Jake Locker, where he’ll have no fantasy draft value.
Hasselbeck signs with Colts
Wanting to add a veteran presence, the Indianapolis Colts signed Matt Hasselbeck to a two-year contract. Now at the end of his career, there’s little doubt that his only role is to be injury insurance for Andrew Luck.
Last season, Hasselbeck played in eight games (five starts) — mostly in place of the injured Jake Locker — and acquitted himself fairly well when he was on the field. But with Luck locked in as the unquestioned No. 1, the veteran signal-caller isn’t likely to be drafted in any fantasy leagues in 2013.
Brandon Lloyd released by Patriots
It took just one season for Brandon Lloyd to apparently come and go in New England. The Patriots released the wideout over the weekend after one mediocre campaign with the squad in which he posted 911 receiving yards and four touchdowns.
This move solidifies Danny Amendola’s place in the pecking order as the No. 3 option in the passing game — at least for now. New England added Donald Jones last week and there’s a chance the team could still chase another receiving option to try and stretch defenses on the outside. There’s also a good chance the Patriots could re-sign Julian Edelman, but it wouldn’t have a major impact on Amendola’s targets.
As for Lloyd, the market for receivers isn’t great so he will likely have to take a pay cut — he could even return to New England. However, it would be a major upset if he didn’t land with one team or another next season. Yet right now, he appears to be slotted as a mid-round option as a No. 2 fantasy pass-catcher.
Brandon Myers lands in the Big Apple
I think I feel another Fantasy Man Crush coming on …
This time it’s for Brandon Myers, who signed with the New York Giants over the weekend. Myers, who is coming off a season with 79 catches, 806 yards and four touchdowns as a member of the Oakland Raiders, is now in great position to be a No. 1 fantasy tight end.
The position has done well over the years in New York’s system, as players like Jeremy Shockey, Jake Ballard and Kevin Boss have all found some level of statistical success. Last season, Martellus Bennett (now with the Chicago Bears) had his best pro season for Big Blue.
Myers, a tremendous pass catcher, could turn into one of Eli Manning’s most popular red-zone targets in 2013. He’s not an elite fantasy tight end like Rob Gronkowski, but Myers is definitely a No. 1 option and worth a look in the middle to late rounds.
Minnesota lands Greg Jennings
After a lengthy visit with the team, Greg Jennings has finally agreed to terms with his one-time NFC North rival, the Minnesota Vikings. A fantasy star during most of his time with the Green Bay Packers, Jennings is now in a less favorable situation from a statistical perspective.
First, the downgrade at quarterback is enormous from Aaron Rodgers to Christian Ponder. Second, the Vikes don’t have a single wideout to take defensive pressure off Jennings – unless you consider Jerome Simpson a threat (maybe Kyle Rudolph?) Finally, Jennings is joining the team he made the most hay against as a member of the Packers.
In fact, he had more receptions (65) receiving yards (964) and touchdowns (10) against Minnesota during the regular season than any other opponent.
Jennings, 29, has also missed a combined 11 games over the last two seasons so clearly, durability is at least a slight cause for concern. Overall, I see him as a borderline No. 2 or 3 fantasy wideout somewhere in the middle rounds.
The real winner as a result of this signing is Randall Cobb, who is guaranteed to retain a major role in the Packers offense moving forward. He’s a definite breakout candidate and could come off the board as soon as the third or fourth round in standard formats.
Jordy Nelson and James Jones will also see a bump in appeal with Jennings out of the mix.
Dolphins nab Brandon Gibson
The Miami makeover continues with the addition of former St. Louis Rams receiver Brandon Gibson.
2012 was a banner year for Gibson, setting career highs in receiving yards (691) and touchdowns (5) while working as the de facto No. 1 receiver in St. Louis while Danny Amendola was out of action. That’s not likely to be the case in Miami, where the recieving corps is getting awfully crowded with Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline and Dustin Keller already in town. Right now, Gibson is checking in as the No. 3 receiving option in the offense. And unless there’s major improvement from Ryan Tannehill in his second season, Gibson’s production could see a dip.
As for the Rams, with Amendola and Gibson now gone, Chris Givens and Brian Quick are the top two WR options. Both should be looked at as No. 3 or 4-type fantasy receivers.
Woodhead heads west to San Diego
With the addition of Leon Washington in New England, Danny Woodhead quickly became expendable — now he’s a member of the San Diego Chargers after signing a two-year deal with the team.
While I don’t think he’ll become the next Darren Sproles, Woodhead does offer an upgrade over Ronnie Brown and Jackie Battle as a change-of-pace option. When you also consider Ryan Mathews’ proneness to injuries, Woodhead should see more than his share of opportunities.
Not the biggest runner in the world, Woodhead has still averaged a very respectable 4.8 yards on 265 career carries. He’s also coming off his best season as a receiver with 40 receptions and 446 yards, so he will clearly be on the PPR radar in 2013.
With Woodhead in the mix, Mathews will have a tougher time establishing himself as a third-down option for new coach Mike McCoy. Remember, he saw just five touches on third downs last season — don’t look for an enormous increase in that stat.
Looking back to New England, Shane Vereen is now second on the depth chart and will be the favored fantasy handcuff for Stevan Ridley.
Cardinals release Kolb
The Kevin Kolb experiment is over in Arizona. The Cardinals announced the release of the star-crossed quarterback Friday morning. Kolb’s biggest problem was staying on the field in Arizona, playing just 15 games in two seasons. When he was on the field, his performance left a lot to be desired. He eventually lost his job in 2012 to John Skelton.
However, there is reportedly already interest in Kolb. Not surprisingly, it’s from the New York Jets. If Kolb lands in the Big Apple, he would be in the midst of a three-way competition with David Garrard and Mark Sanchez. Not a particularly appealing fantasy prospect.
Back in the desert, the Cardinals are currently looking at a QB depth chart of Skelton, Ryan Lindley, Drew Stanton and restricted free agent Brian Hoyer – which is equally unappealing.
Keller taking talents to South Beach
With Anthony Fasano collecting mail in Kansas City, the Miami Dolphins have found his replacement at tight end, agreeing to a one-year deal with Dustin Keller.
Keller has been a fantasy enigma throughout his career — a tight end who (until 2012, at least) was always healthy and fairly reliable. However, he was never a huge part of the Jets offense and remained in the middle of the pack at his position.
That seems unlikely to change in South Florida with Mike Wallace and Brian Hartline battling for targets. Until further notice, Keller remains a No. 2 fantasy tight end option who can stay on the board until the late rounds.
Jones joins Patriots
The Patriots are rebuilding their receiver corps. They’ve already added Danny Amendola. Now they’ve agreed to a three-year deal with Donald Jones, a move that could signal the end of Brandon Lloyd’s stay in New England.
Jones wasn’t on many fantasy radars last season, catching just 41 passes for 443 yards and four touchdowns with the Buffalo Bills. But depending on how things shake out, he could be the No. 2 receiver in New England’s offense. Of course, it likely means he’s fourth in the target order behind Gronk, Hernandez and Amendola. Jones has deep sleeper value, but he’s best left alone until the late rounds.
Goodson heading to the Big Apple
The New York Jets added a running back to their backfield mix on Friday, signing veteran Mike Goodson to a three-year deal. Goodson hasn’t made much of an impact in fantasy land, as he’s spent much of his career buried on depth charts in Carolina and Oakland. Now with the Jets, though, Goodson could have some deep sleeper appeal.
Currently, the Jets have Bilal Powell listed atop their depth chart among runners. And while he did show signs of potential last season, he’s far from a lock to be a featured back. In fact, Goodson and his career 4.51 yards-per-carry average will be a threat to him during training camp. This is one of those fantasy situations owners need to watch in the months to come.
Steven Jackson agrees with Atlanta
After weeks of speculation, it’s finally official — Steven Jackson will be running the football for the Atlanta Falcons in 2013. Despite the fact that he’ll be 30 in July, the move still makes him a more attractive option in fantasy football drafts next season.
Jackson, who has rushed for 1,000-plus yards in each of his last eight seasons, will take over the top spot on the depth chart that was left vacant when the team released Michael Turner. If fantasy owners had one complaint about Jackson during his time with the St. Louis Rams, it was his lack of touchdowns.
Well, that shouldn’t be an issue with the Falcons.
Keep in mind, Turner rushed for no fewer than 10 touchdowns in his five years in Atlanta — a big part of that success is the fact that he had more than his share of opportunities — that’s something Jackson missed out on in what was typically a far less explosive Rams offense.
While he will lose some time to Jacquizz Rodgers in passing situations, I expect Jackson to be the bell cow for coach Mike Smith, which includes seeing goal-line work. When you also consider that he has one of the easiest schedules among running backs based on fantasy points, Jackson should be considered a very solid No. 2 fantasy runner in 2013.
The Rams are now left with the combination of Daryl Richardson and Isaiah Pead in their backfield, so that’s a competition to keep tabs on during preseason as long as the team doesn’t add another veteran into the mix.
Matt Cassel heading to Minnesota
It appears Matt Cassel is heading north for the winter. The quarterback was released this morning by the Kansas City Chiefs. Several hours later, NFL Network contributor Jay Glazer reported that Cassel was joining the Vikes.
During his four year stint with the Chiefs, the USC product never found the same level of success he had during his one season as a starter with the New England Patriots. More recently, Cassel has been a target of the injury bug, playing just nine games in each of the past two campaigns.
Cassel, who turns 31 in May, is ostensibly being brought in as the backup to Christian Ponder. That means the veteran’s fantasy value is nearly nil unless Ponder suffers an injury or is beyond ineffective. Neither signal caller will have much value if the Vikings don’t do anything to shore up its weak wide receiver corps.
Patriots agree to deal with Danny Amendola
Well, that didn’t take long.
Just hours after losing Wes Welker to the Denver Broncos, the New England Patriots find his replacement, agreeing to a five-year deal with Danny Amendola. Amendola was an effective slot receiver for the Rams over the past few seasons … when healthy. That’s been the problem. In the past two campaigns, the Texas Tech product has missed 20 games due to injury, something that will keep his fantasy value depressed.
What else will keep his value down? The rest of the Patriots offense. Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez will likely be the first two options for Tom Brady in the passing game. Even still, it’s hard to imagine Amendola being a one-to-one replacement for Welker — especially since it appeared the Pats were lessening the veteran’s role in the offense last season before injuries to their two tight ends forced him to regain his previous stature. Add to it, New England might not be finished when it comes to adding another pass catcher with the likelihood that Brandon Lloyd won’t be back.
The bottomline: Amendola will see a boost in value simply by joining a more productive offense and playing with a better QB. He was on track to enter 2013 as a borderline No. 2 or 3 receiver, and probably lands solidly as a No. 2 option now — even with so many outlets for Brady to throw to (don’t forget Julian Edelman).
As for the Rams, with Amendola gone and Brandon Gibson likely leaving, it opens the door for Brian Quick and Chris Givens to start earning more targets in the offense. But before you overinflate their value, keep in mind that newly-signed Jared Cook is likely to be a larger part of the offense than Lance Kendricks ever was, meaning that Sam Bradford’s two WR targets are slated to come off the board in the later rounds in most fantasy drafts.
Wes Welker heading to the Mile High City
According to NFL Network’s Albert Breer, Wes Welker and the Denver Broncos have agreed to a two-year deal. This move has enormous fantasy implications, but not all of them are good.
First, this deal is going to hurt the value of both Welker and Eric Decker. In an offense loaded with talent, it’s hard to envision a scenario where Welker catches 100-plus passes like he did in all but one of his six seasons with the Patriots. On the flip side, Decker now has virtually no chance to even come close to the 13 touchdowns he scored in 2012.
So instead of both Welker and Decker being considered borderline No. 1 fantasy options in drafts, this duo will have to settle for being ranked as twos. As for Demaryius Thomas, he’s going to be on the field regardless and shouldn’t see a decline in fantasy draft value.
Clearly, the big winner here is Peyton Manning.
Still one of the top five quarterbacks in fantasy football at the age of 36, Manning now has the best corps of receivers he’s ever had in his career. Also keep in mind that in 2004, he had three wide receivers (Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, Brandon Stokley) with 1,000-plus yards and 10 or more touchdowns — yes, Manning knows how to spread the football around.
As for the New England Patriots, well, I would be shocked if Danny Amendola’s name didn’t start rolling around. If he ends up signing with the P-Men, Amendola’s value would soar.
Shonn Greene joins the Titans
Backfield assistance, thy name is Shonn Greene.
The Tennessee Titans had been angling to find help in their running back rotation for Chris Johnson and it comes in the form of a deal with the former New York Jets rusher. The duo now team up to form a committee similar to that of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart in Carolina. Expect there’s one big difference — the Titans don’t have a quarterback like Cam Newton to steal any carries from them.
Nonetheless, it’s yet another timeshare for fantasy owners to be aware of. That’s disappointing when you consider both Greene and Johnson were top-15 fantasy backs in 2012. Having them in the same backfield will knock them down a couple of pegs in the pre-draft rankings. CJ2K will enter the 2013 campaign as a low-end No. 2 fantasy back.
As for what happens with the Jets’ running game … well, who knows exactly what their plans are offensively at the moment. There is still much to be sorted out with Gang Green.
Rashard Mendenhall flies to Arizona
On a very busy day for running backs, Rashard Mendenhall has reunited with coach Bruce Arians (former coordinator in Pittsburgh) and signed a one-year deal with the Arizona Cardinals. This is good news for his fantasy value, but there are some question marks heading into 2013.
The Illinois product is an upgrade over the recently released Beanie Wells, but he’ll need to beat Ryan Williams in training camp for the top spot on the depth chart. Considering Williams’ proneness to injuries, I would give the edge to Mendenhall. The Cardinals also need to shore up their offensive line, which was dreadful for most of 2012.
On a positive note, Arians isn’t a fan of backfield committees and will prefer one main runner. Mendenhall, who received around 20 carries per game in Arians’ offense in 2010, is still a young player at 25 — he’s also now one full season removed from major knee reconstruction.
While a return to his enormous 2010 totals is unlikely, Mendenhall will now warrant middle-round consideration as a flex starter in standard leagues. As for Williams, he’ll be more of a late-rounder unless he makes some serious noise in the preseason.
In Pittsburgh, the Steelers are currently looking at Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman in their backfield, though I’m guessing the team will be looking for an upgrade either via free agency or the draft.
Reggie Bush, Lions agree to contract
One of the big free-agent running back names is off the board. Reggie Bush has reportedly agreed to a four-year deal with the Detroit Lions. The multi-talented rusher is taking his talents away from South Beach where he will find himself splitting carries with Mikel Leshoure.
The good news is that Bush’s ability to catch the ball out of the backfield should earn him extra snaps in the Motor City. It also gives Detroit the back they were hoping they had in Jahvid Bell, whose slow recovery from concussion symptoms will likely force him out of football. Bush’s past two seasons in Miami were his most productive as a runner in the NFL, combining for more than 2,000 yards and 12 touchdowns — he should be a great fit for that offense.
Meanwhile, the move officially clears the way for the Dolphins to turn their running game over to Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas. With the Fish beefing up their passing attack, it will take some of the pressure off those young RBs to produce right away. Consider both of them to be late round reserve options.
Donnie Avery agrees to deal with Chiefs
The Kansas City Chiefs are re-making their offense piece by piece. The latest addition is wide reciever Donnie Avery, formerly of the Indianapolis Colts.
Avery had his best year as a pro in 2012, logging 60 receptions for 781 yards, but there’s little doubt that he’s no one’s No. 1 receiver. It’s a worry he won’t have lining up opposite Dwayne Bowe in KC. It will hurt his value somewhat that he’s going from Andrew Luck to Alex Smith, but Avery was best viewed as a No. 3 fantasy wideout anyway. Very little has changed with a change of scenery.
Raiders release Darrius Heyward-Bey
So … do you think the Oakland Raiders regret passing on Michael Crabtree in the 2009 NFL Draft?
The team released the player it took ahead of Crabtree, Darrius Heyward-Bey, after just four years with the team. While he did show some potential at times, he will be remembered in the Bay Area for his limited route-running skills and inability to be a playmaker in the pass attack. He averaged just 37.8 yards per game in his short tenure with the team.
With DHB no longer in the mix, the Silver & Black will move forward with Denarius Moore, Rod Streater, Jacoby Ford and Juron Criner at wide receiver. Moore has the most fantasy appeal and could be a sleeper in his third pro season. You also have to keep an eye out on Streater, who had some nice stat lines in 2012 and will be the favorite to start opposite Moore.
Anthony Fasano signs with Kansas City
The Chiefs have had the “Tight End Wanted” sign out ever since Tony Gonzalez packed up his tent at the end of the 2008 season. They hope they’ve found their guy after signing Anthony Fasano to a multiyear deal, where he’ll be paired with Tony Moeaki.
Don’t expect this to be a Rob Gronkowski-Aaron Hernandez redux. The bigger danger is that two already-No. 2 tight ends will cut into each other’s production. Moeaki should remain the primary target at TE, but with Dwayne Bowe back as the No. 1 target in the offense and Jamaal Charles expected to catch quite a few balls, that could leave slim pickings two tight ends in the offense.
Jared Cook heading to St. Louis
NFL Network’s Jeff Darlington is reporting that Jared Cook is “heading to the Rams” via his Twitter account. The talented tight end will have a chance to meet the statistical expectations he’s had (and failed to accomplish) the last two seasons as a member of the Tennessee Titans.
Cook, seemingly always listed among the top sleepers at his position, has finished no better than 15th in fantasy points since 2011. He’s also never found the end zone more than four times in a season. So while his talent between the white lines is intriguing, I’d hold off on drafting Cook as a No. 1 tight end. Instead, go after him in the later rounds as a No. 2 option with upside.
With Cook now in the mix, the seasonal and dynasty appeal of Lance Kendricks takes a major blow. He won’t even be drafted in most traditional formats in 2013.
Bears add veteran TE Martellus Bennett
A five-year veteran out of Texas A&M, Martellus Bennett made a nice impact with the New York Giants last season — his 55 receptions, 626 yards and five touchdowns were all career bests, as were his 92.60 fantasy points (13th among tight ends).
Now in the Windy City, Bennett will have to break the trend of Bears tight ends who have failed to make a consistent or significant fantasy impact. If new coach Marc Trestman opens up the pass attack with Jay Cutler, Bennett could turn into a nice No. 2 option or matchup-based starter.
His fantasy value is limited to the late rounds.
Delanie Walker agrees with Titans
NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reports that Delanie Walker has agreed to a four-year deal with the Tennessee Titans. The move signals that the Titans are willing to let Jared Cook walk. But it would seem to be a downgrade for a team looking to build around Jake Locker. What Walker adds as a blocker, he lacks as a pass catcher. Last season, Walker had nine drops in just 37 targets with the 49ers — nearly a 25 percent drop rate — making him less than reliable. He’s little more than a low-end No. 2 tight end option in most leagues.
Bills release Ryan Fitzpatrick
It’s easy to joke that after the ill-fated Deadspin release of Buddy Nix’s phone conversation that Ryan Fitzpatrick’s release had to happen, but it is a little surprising. Sorta the way it was surprising that the Bills dump-trucked a huge contract on a player that had produced just one good (but not great) season. Why the two sides couldn’t have tried to re-structure the deal is still a mystery. But what’s done is done.
Add Fitzpatrick’s name to a list of free agent quarterbacks that isn’t much to write home about. He immediately jumps to the top of the list, but that’s not saying much in a group that includes Jason Campbell, Chase Daniel and Brady Quinn. Over the past three seasons, Fitzpatrick has averaged 24 touchdowns, but 18 interceptions — a ratio that won’t do much for the confidence of fantasy owners. Yet he could end up on the radar of a team like the Arizona Cardinals, who are also in desperate need of a quarterback.
For Buffalo, the move could point toward the team targeting Geno Smith with its first round pick. And if the Amish Rifle decides to ply his trade in the desert next season, the Bills could possibly get their man without having to trade up. That’s especially good news for a franchise that has just six picks in this year’s draft and would prefer to acquire more (as we all learned from Nix himself). If, for some reason, Smith doesn’t fall all the way to the No. 8 spot, the Bills could wait and reunite Ryan Nassib with his former college coach Doug Marrone with the No. 41 overall selection.
- Marcas Grant
Mike Wallace agrees with Miami Dolphins
NFL Network’s Jeff Darlington is reporting that Mike Wallace has reached an agreement with the Dolphins. This move was expected, as Wallace has been linked to the Fins for weeks now.
A top-10 fantasy wide receiver based on points in 2009-2010, the Mississippi product slipped in the stat sheets last season with a 25th-place finish at his position. He did find the end zone eight times, though, and missed a game due to an injured hip.
So where will he rank as a member of the Dolphins?
Well, I don’t see Wallace as a top-10 fantasy receiver with Ryan Tannehill throwing him the football. Instead, I like him as a No. 2 fantasy option who will be worth a look in the middle rounds. The addition of Wallace is clearly good for Tannehill, but he’s still just a late-round reserve.
In Pittsburgh, the value of Antonio Brown is on the rise. He’ll take over as the new No. 1 option in the pass attack for Ben Roethlisberger and is now a borderline No. 2 or 3 wideout in fantasy land. Emmanuel Sanders is also in line to see more targets and will be worth a late-round look.