More Free Agent Tracking (3/1/09)

The signings and re-signings keep coming, so here are more of my initial reactions to these moves.

Giants sign free agent LB Michael Boley – The former Falcon agreed to a five-year, $25 million contract with $11 million in guaranteed money.

Fantasy Analysis: The Giants had some issues with injuries and depth at LB last year, and they’ve addressed the position well with Boley, still only 26, who has some tangible upside. The athletic, versatile linebacker is expected to start on the weak side, and his speed and pass-rushing ability could really help this defense. Boley was once one of the more promising talents at the position, but he had an off-field issue last May and didn’t play well for new head coach Mike Smith, so Atlanta didn’t make it a priority to bring him back. However, on this stacked defense, he could flourish. This move, as well as the addition of DT Rocky Bernard, bode very well for the Giant’s fantasy defense in 2009.

Giants sign free agent DT Rocky Bernard – The Giants signed the former Seahawk to a four-year deal reportedly for $16 million.

Fantasy Analysis: Although he has a rap sheet, like Boley, this looks like a terrific pickup for the Giants, who are already strong at DT with Fred Robbins and Barry Cofield. The team has a ton of options on their D-Line, and they will rotate players a lot, so Bernard won’t be much for fantasy himself. But he’s a good at getting penetration against the run, and he’s one of the better pass rushing DTs in the league, although his sack totals have been down the last few years. This move definitely helps the Giant DT for fantasy, and they officially have the best D-Line in the league.

49ers sign free agent WR Brandon Jones – The 26 year old, relegated to the third wide receiver (slot) spot in Tennessee the last two years, signed with the 49ers for five years at $16.5 million, with $5.4 million guaranteed.

Brandon Jones is a nice receiver who will help the 49ers, but hes far from a savior.

Brandon Jones is a nice receiver who will help the 49ers, but he's far from a savior.

Fantasy Analysis: I like Jones, but one has to wonder if the 49ers are bringing in someone who is “just a guy” and not someone who can become a go-to receiver. Jones would make more sense for a team that already ha a stud receiver, and the 49ers certainly don’t. Jones’ game has always reminded me of Hines Ward, someone who brings physicality to the position and blocks well, but also someone who is a little more than a possession receiver and has the ability to make plays down the field. He’s also a good threat in the red zone. It remains to be seen if veteran Isaac Bruce will return to the team in 2009, but the signing of Jones can’t be good for his value or possibly Josh Morgan’s. For now, Jones is simply well within the mix to compete for playing time, so his role is still up in the air.

Cowboys sign free agent LB Keith Brooking – The 11-year veteran couldn’t reach a deal with the Falcons, so the 33 year old signed a three-year contract for about $6 million with the Cowboys. Brooking played outside LB for the Falcons in the recent past, but he played inside earlier this decade for Cowboy head coach Wade Phillips, when Phillips ran the Falcon defense. He’s expected to move back inside, with veteran Zach Thomas not expected to return.

Fantasy Analysis: A younger Brooking put up 100+ tackles in 2002-2003 under Philips playing inside, so he might be worth a look as a #3 LB. But at his age, you can’t expect him to produce consistently, so he’ll more likely be a guy to pick up on the WW during the season if he is producing. Just like they did last year with Thomas, the Cowboys are looking for veteran help inside at LB. But Thomas wasn’t comfortable playing inside for Dallas, whereas Brooking should be more comfortable.

Broncos sign free agent S Brian Dawkins – Perhaps the most popular Eagle of all time, the 14-year veteran didn’t like what Philly was selling and jumped ship to Denver, signing a five-year contract worth $17 million.

Fantasy Analysis: Back in 2007, it appeared as if the veteran Dawkins was going to be a liability in pass protection for the rest of his career, but he was effective in coverage last year, as well as being a terrific run-stuffer. He was a top-20 fantasy DB with solid numbers in all categories (93 tackles, 1 sack, 4 INTs, and 8 PDs). He’ll obviously help the struggling Bronco defense in many ways, especially when it comes to leadership. But he is 35, and he is still shaky in coverage, so we can’t assume he will be a savior for Denver at his advanced age.

Saints re-sign free agent T Jon Stinchcomb – The 6-year veteran RT re-signed with the Saints with a reported five-year contract.

Fantasy Analysis: If the Saints are to remain a pass-heavy offense, which is very likely, retaining the rock solid Stinchcomb was a must, so this is good news for QB Drew Brees and their whole offense. Stinchcomb was once again very good blocking for the run and the pass in 2008. He’s started 48 straight games since 2006, and their line has given up only 52 sacks over that period, including only 12 in 2008. This was a good move by New Orleans.

Texans sign free agent DE Antonio Smith – The Texans signed the former Cardinal to a five-year, $35 million contract that included a $12.5 million signing bonus.

Fantasy Analysis: Smith, 27, played for Texan defensive coordinator Frank Bush earlier in his career in Arizona, and he will play on the left side, paired with Mario Williams. This on paper gives the Texans one of the better DE duos in the league, and Smith will also give them more bulk up front against the run. Smith won’t likely be worth having for fantasy, as he’s not a guy we can expect will approach double-digit sack totals, but the Texan defense should be better because of this signing.

Lions trade QB Jon Kitna to the Cowboys for DB Anthony Henry – The Cowboys shored up their backup QB spot by trading for the veteran Kitna, but it cost them a quality and versatile player in Henry, who can play either CB or S.

Fantasy Analysis: Some would argue that the Cowboys paid too much for Kitna, but all those people need to do is pop in the tape of when Brad Johnson started three games for the Cowboys last year to see how important it was to upgrade the backup spot behind Tony Romo. Kitna will be 37 in September, and while he’s far from perfect, he’s officially one of the better backups in the league. The Cowboys are heavily invested in their offense, so securing some protection in the form of the durable and still-capable Kitna is good news for their offense and their skill players’ value. Kitna, of course, has better chemistry with WR Roy Williams than Romo.

Buccaneers re-sign WR Michael Clayton – Tampa Bay’s former 1st -round pick agreed to terms on a five-year deal to stick with Bucs, who somewhat surprisingly shelled out $10.5 million in guaranteed money in a deal that could be worth $26 million if incentives are reached.

Fantasy Analysis: While he has been a monumental disappointment, it’s revealing how the Bucs made such a healthy offer to Clayton, 26, who is not short on talent. Given this deal, it’s obvious Clayton will be asked to play a key role in the offense under coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski. And who knows? Maybe Clayton will turn a corner with a fresh start, now that Jon Gruden is gone. If he steps up his game, the Bucs will have a nice sizable trio of receivers to throw to. All we need to know now is, who will be throwing the ball for Tampa?

Jets trade for CB Lito Sheppard – The former #1 pick of Eagles in 2002, Sheppard is a two-time Pro Bowl selection, yet his play declined the last two years, and he was relegated to the bench in 2008. The Eagles, according to published reports, received only a 5th-round pick in 2009′s draft and a conditional pick in 2010 for him.

Fantasy Analysis: The Jets did have some issues with their #2 CB spot last year, resorting later in the season to starting the ancient Ty Law. A change of scenery could help Sheppard, as well as playing for an aggressive, defensive-minded head coach in Rex Ryan. He will start opposite stud corner Darrelle Revis and should improve their overall coverage, which slipped badly last year. If he does, the Jet defense should be very solid fantasy under Ryan.

Eagles sign free agent OL Stacey Andrews – The Eagles took steps to revamp their aging OL by signing the 6’7″, 342-pound linemen from the Cincinnati Bengals. The deal is for six years and reportedly worth about $7 million a year.

Fantasy Analysis: The Eagles appear willing to part with both of their starting tackles from the 2008 season, which is risky but may wind up being a fiscally sound move, as OT John Runyon is 35 and coming off a knee injury and is not expected to return. It remains to be seen if the Eagles will re-sign veteran LT Tra Thomas, but this signing probably also signals his end in Philly. Teamed with his younger brother Shaun, the Andrews brothers will make the Eagle line very sizable, which should help their running game. And by signing his brother, the Eagles may have helped Shaun, who dealt with personal issues in ’08. The Eagles now have five players to start on their line, even if they lose Thomas and Runyon, as Todd Herremans is a former tackle. Their depth may not be great, but in letting Runyon and Thomas go it looks like the Eagles are once again doing a solid job of not overpaying for established veterans who are on their way out, even if they part ways with them one year too early. On the other hand, if Herremans struggles and/or Andrew disappoints at RT, Philly’s passing game will suffer, since protecting the QB is perhaps the biggest key to this offense.

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