Feb 27, 2009
The free agency period has begun, and things are heating up more than ever when it comes to trades, so let’s keep up with it all with my initial reactions to all these moves. All moves added will be the newest, with older additions to this post going down the page.
Chiefs get Cassel for only the 34th overall pick? - The latest word is that the Chiefs are basically getting only the 34th pick this year (along with LB Mike Vrabel) for Cassel. Wow, that is a major bargin and to me it speaks to how the Pats might have panicked a little with the prospect of paying Cassel $14 million this year. It’s also yet another indicaiton that Tom Brady’s progress is going well – very well.
Matt Cassel Traded to the Chiefs – According to NFL Network, the Chiefs have agreed on the compensation to acquire the Franchised Matt Cassel from the Patriots.
Fantasy Analysis: This is a huge move, and will likely go down as the story of the off-season on so many fronts. For one, the Patriots clearly feel good about QB Tom Brady’s ability to play in 2009. They like young backup Kevin O’Connell, but they will likely need to find a veteran backup. With Cassel out of the mix, as long as Brady’s recovery is going well this summer, you have to believe he’ll be worth a low 2nd round pick in fantasy drafts. For the Chiefs, this addition is massive. They obviously now have their QB of the future, and it’s not Tyler Thigpen, who ironically played in a similar spread offense in 2008, and played well. With new GM Scott Pioli running the show, the Chiefs are quickly building a competitive team, so TE Tony Gonzalez and RB Larry Johnson can no longer talk about playing for a team in rebuilding mode – assuming they’re not traded or even in this deal. With this move, along with some other additions the last two years. the offense is basically rebuilt, at least at the skill positions. With former Cardinal OC Todd Haley – who may be the next great offensive mind in the league – running the show, this offense could be very good right out of the gate. Gonzalez is still playing at an elite level, and WR Dwayne Bowe is a very nice young receiver, a budding star. Wideout Mark Bradley has major injury issues, but he has a lot of talent, plus second-year man Will Franklin has ability. If (Larry) Johnson is content, Haley can pound the ball with him and also get the ball to the speedier Jamaal Charles as a changeup runner and receiver. That’s potentially a very good tandem when you have an effective passing game around them. I had some doubts about Cassel outside of New England, but with Haley running the offense and some nice supporting cast players to throw to, Cassel looks like a good bet to put up very serviceable numbers. At a very quick glance of the QBs for 2009, I see Cassel cracking the top-12, so he should be considered a viable starter, albeit one on the lower end. Amazingly, the Chiefs may quickly have a very good offense in ’09.
Redskins sign free agent G Derrick Dockery – The former Bill G signed a five-year deal for $26 million, including $8.2 in guaranteed money.
Fantasy Analysis: Dockery, who started his career with the Redskins, was something of a disappointment in Buffalo, but he’s an above-average G who will make the Redskins a little younger up front, which was needed. Dockery will be only 29 in September, so this was a pretty smart addition. Veteran Pete Kendall started at LG last year and won’t likely return.
Bills sign free agent QB Ryan Fitzpatrick – The former Bengal and Ram signed a three-year contract with the Buffalo Bills.
Fantasy Analysis: Although Trent Edwards is younger than Fitzpatrick, don’t expect anything close to a QB battle in Buffalo. Fitzpatrick is a backup all the way. He has ability, but he’s a limited thrower. He doesn’t kill you by making the brutal mistake, but there’s no challenging of a defense with him, especially vertically, so he’s a caretaker. That makes him a good fit for the Bills, who aren’t very aggressive in the passing game.
Broncos sign free agent WR Jabar Gaffney - The former Texan, Eagle, and Patriot signed a four-year, $10 million deal that includes $3 million guaranteed to play for the Broncos.
Fantasy Analysis: Gaffney, of course, played for new Bronco head coach Josh McDaniels in New England. Gaffney is a versatile #3 receiver who can play the slot, or outside if needed. He’ll likely slide into the same role he had in New England, with Eddie Royal playing something close to the Wes Welker role. While he won’t have much value himself, he gives QB Jay Cutler another viable receiver to throw to, and someone who knows McDaniels’ system. This could be the end of Brandon Stokley’s run with the team.
Broncos sign RBs Correll Buckhalter and J.J. Arrington - Denver on Friday signed both free agent backs to relatively modest contracts.
Fantasy Analysis: The Broncos are clearly going with the sum-is-greater-than-the parts approach at the RB position. Denver has a plethora of backs on the roster now, but we’ll most likely see guys like Michael Pittman, Selvin Young, and Andre Hall sent packing, with Ryan Torain and Peyton Hillis sticking. Buckhalter’s the assumed “starter” for now, but new head coach Josh McDaniels will likely utilize a committee approach with Arrington picking up the Kevin Faulk role for McDaniels, who ran the Patriot offense the last two years. Both Buckhalter and Arrington are solid receivers who can be productive in the passing game. An interesting question is will Hillis, a fan favorite, get some opportunities in the passing game and more importantly as a short-yardage back on top of the goal? McDaniels in New England did tend to utilize a short-yardage back the last two years (Sammy Morris), so Hillis, who definitely seems to be a New England type of (role) player, could have value in TD-only leagues. Buckhalter, 30, has been very productive the last two years when called on (5.0 YPC), and while he’s not a difference maker, he has the ability to handle and produce with 10-15 carries a game. Arrington is no slouch himself, and he appears to be a perfect fit for the role Faulk has handled the last few years in New England, so he will have some value in PPR leagues, as Faulk has had. But clearly, there are too many players involved here to have much confidence in anyone. Most likely, there will be 2-3 RBs here who will be relevant and worth starting at times in 2009. As for the youngster Torain, he’ll have to prove himself in 2009 and beyond, and prove he can stay healthy. His value in a keeper league takes a significant hit, but it’s certainly possible that, with a good off-season and training camp, he emerges as the #2 RB behind Buckhalter with Arrington and Hillis sticking as role players.
Colts re-Sign C Jeff Saturday - The veteran C signed a three-year contract that should ensure he ends his career with the Colts. Financial terms were unavailable.
Fantasy Analysis: This was very good news for the Colt offense, since keeping Saturday is key for them for them to maintain the offense’s continuity for both the running and passing game. Saturday and QB Peyton Manning have played in 138 games together since 2000. The Colt line was in disarray in 2008, partly due to Saturday missing time, so locking him up was a key step to getting their running game back on track.
Lions sign free agent RB Maurice Morris – According to NFL.com, the Lions have signed the former Seahawk to a three-year deal with $7 million.
Fantasy Analysis: Well, that didn’t take long for Kevin Smith’s stock to suffer, did it? Smith did a great job last year considering the circumstances, but he has limitations. Later in the season last year, he was a little more fluid than what he showed we saw earlier in the year, and he more physical than he showed in college, but he’s still robotic with his movement, and he clearly lacks ideal quickness and speed. He’s a grinder with very little juice. Morris, on the other hand, has some “zuzu” and some speed, and he’s a pretty good RB, plus he can carry the load for a decent stretch if need be. Smith should remain the “starter” and he should get most of the goal line carries, but Morris will limit his potential, and likely push him out of the top-20 at the RB position.
Ravens sign free agent QB Domonique Foxworth – The former Bronco and Falcon played well for Atlanta last year, and he parlayed that to a nice four-year, $28 million deal that includes $16.5 million guaranteed. Foxworth is a smaller corner with solid ball skills. He’s a solid cover corner, but the Ravens may have overpaid a little for him. Still, with Chris McAlister gone and Samari Rolle ancient, something had to be done.
Fantasy Analysis: The Raven defense is expected to lose LB Bart Scott, and while Foxworth will help their secondary, he’s not exactly the type of player who’ll make a serious fantasy impact for this fantasy D, one that will be something of a shadow of it’s former self if Scott and Ray Lewis depart. He averaged only 4.8 FPPG last year with Atlanta.
Sage to the Vikings a reality – I dealt with this one a few posts ago, so check that out if you want. I know this is an upgrade for the Vikings, but are they really going to be a serious contender with Rosenfels? Probably not. And are they set now at the position for the next 3-5 years? Probably not. In fact, while this is an upgrade, I’ll predict here the Vikings have a worse record in 2009 than in 2008, so is this really a good signing? Probably not.
Fantasy Analysis: Rosenfels is erratic and prone to turnovers, but he does have a decent arm and solid mobility, and he should somewhat stabilize their offense, so this signing is relatively good news for the Vikings players. But Rosenfels himself is strictly a fantasy backup who’ll be lucky to total 20 TDs on this team – and that’s assuming he wins the starting job (it would be a shock if he did not).
More on the Browns TE situation – If you’re in a keeper or dynasty league, it’s now time to take a look at TE Martin Rucker, who will have every chance to be the Browns’ TE of the future – and possibly the present. Rucker’s a pretty solid player. Here’s his profile from our friends at TFYDraft.com:
Full Name: Martin Rucker
Bio: Three-year starter awarded All-Conference honors the past two years. Led Missouri in receiving as a senior with career-high numbers of 84/834/8.Junior-year totals included 53/511/5.
Positives: Effective pass-catching tight end with a good degree of upside. Displays natural receiving skills and adjusts to the errant throw, reaching back to grab the ball and making the reception in stride. Effectively uses his frame to shield away opponents and to protect the pass. Comes back to the ball, works to make himself an available target, and effectively catches the pass with his hands.
Negatives: Does not show consistent focus or concentration on the field. Marginal blocker and lacks intensity.
Analysis: Rucker possesses the physical skills to be a starting tight end in the NFL. He must significantly improve his blocking and polish the rough edges of his game to achieve the results he is capable of generating.
Browns trade TE Kellen Winslow to Buccaneers – Not a free agency move, but this one is big, and the NFL Network is confirming that this deal is done. Winslow is looking for a new contract, and the Bucs do have some money to play with after their roster purge this week. The Bucs, too, needed to make a big splash after releasing favorite players like Derrick Brooks, Joey Galloway, and Warrick Dunn, and they have.
Fantasy Analysis: First for the Bucs, this move signals to me that they might be ready to roll with youngster Luke McCown, since a great TE can be a young QB’s best friend. The Bucs will obviously no re-sign Jerramy Stevens now, and Alex Smith’s value plummets. Now, with a pretty good offensive line and a solid #1 wideout in Antonio Bryant with Winslow added, the Bucs have some definite talent on offense, specifically now in the passing game, which will help McCown, who has a strong arm and is something of a gunslinger. As for the Browns, while I understand some concerns with Winslow with his contract demands, his attitude, and his tricky knees, this move leaves the offensive cupboard very bare. Word is the new regime isn’t very high on QB Brady Quinn, and this moves speaks to that, since Winslow would have been very active with Quinn under center. Now we’re looking at a Brown receiving corps that is terrible other than WR Braylon Edwards, who is coming off a horrible season. Not good.
Patriots sign free agent RB Fred Taylor – We knew Taylor wouldn’t be on the market for long, and he wasn’t, agreeing to a 2-year deal with the Pats. This move is vintage Bill Belichick in that Taylor, 33, is a proven veteran with 11 years of service in the league, yet one who can still play and who was brought in for an affordable price.
Fantasy Analysis: Unfortunately, Taylor’s signing creates a very muddled situation in the New England backfield. We know Taylor won’t be asked to carry the ball 20 times a game, but he won’t be relegated to the bench, either. The Patriots last year lost starter Laurence Maroney, and then when Sammy Morris got hurt their depth at RB was greatly tested (remember BenJarvus Green-Ellis?). To me this signing is also yet another indication that the team is down on Maroney. The good news for Maroney is that he might still have a chance to see the field, since he’s got some speed and juice, at least more compared to Taylor and Morris. But Maroney’s nothing more than a late pick now. As for Morris, it’s interesting to note that he’s been their goal line back the last two years and Taylor has never been very effective on top of the goal. That leads me to believe Morris could stick as their goal line back. So right now, I’d likely rank the Patriot backs as follows when it comes to fantasy value: Taylor, Morris, Maroney, and Kevin Faulk. In a PPR league, I’d still rank Faulk over Maroney. I wouldn’t feel comfortable rolling with any of them as anything better than a #3 fantasy back, however.
Patriots sign free agent TE Chris Baker – Details have not been released, but the Pats have added the 29-year old who has played his entire career for the division rival Jets.
Fantasy Analysis: We know he won’t have much value, but he does give QB Tom Brady another viable option in the passing game, perhaps an even more consistent one than Ben Watson, whose talent is immense but whose production has been sporadic. Baker’s a solid receiving TE who can also block. This signing does not bode very well for youngster David Thomas, who’s had a lot of injury issues.
Redskins sign free agent DT Albert Haynesworth – He’s one of the most dominant players in the NFL at any position, and now he’s a rich man, as the Redskins have signed him to a $100 million contract. According to NFL.com, the deal includes $41 million guaranteed during the first three years, and the deal could be $115 million. It’s the biggest contract ever given to a defensive player, and it also includes more guaranteed money than in any contract in league history.
Fantasy Analysis: The Redskin’s fantasy defense will definitely be better, but they will likely be, at best, a low-end starter. Haynesworth will help their pass rush significantly, however, and if DE Jason Taylor can take advantage, Haynesworth addition should greatly help him. The Redskins do have a deep secondary, so in addition to their sack numbers going up, their INT numbers will go up. It remains to be seen, however, if this addition will result in more defensive touchdowns. You also have to be concerned – if you’re a Redskin fan at least – about Haynesworth’s downside. He’s had injury issues in the past, and he seemed to play at his best when in a contract year. You can’t argue too much with adding a stud defensive player, but my guess is Redskins fans aren’t exactly thrilled with Haynesworth in 1-2 years. He appears destined to break down fairly often these next few years – especially with fat contract in hand.
Redskins re-sign free agent CB DeAngelo Hall – Hall signed just after the start of free agency early on Friday. The deal is a six-year one worth $54 million, and it includes $22.5 million guaranteed money and $30 million in the first three seasons.
Fantasy Analysis: Hall’s not much of a fantasy prospect, and I have to go back to how he was released by the Raiders after being let go by the Falcons. Hall did play well for the Redskins when he signed on last year, which totally earned him this payday. But while he’s very talented, his play on the field the last 2-3 years showed him to be one of the overrated players in the league, and he’s been head case, too. Between Shawn Springs, Carlos Rodgers, and Fred Smoot, this didn’t look like a huge need for the Skins. Surely, 1-2 of those guys won’t be back in ’09.