Free Agency Tracking (3/4/09)

Here’s the latest activity. On Friday, I’ll incorporate all of these moves into a large player movement review (Part I), broken down by position and status (signed, re-signed, etc).

Jake Grove (C, signed by Miami from Oakland) - The former Raider signed a five-year, $29 million deal. Grove is one of the taller centers in football (6’4″) and has made an impact when he’s healthy. But that’s the biggest issue. In five seasons Grove has played in just 54 games, making 46 starts, and 2006 was the only season in which he started every game. Grove will presumably replace Samson Satele, who started every game in 2008, at the heart of Miami’s line. Given Grove’s injury history, it will be a nice cushion for the Dolphins to have an experienced backup, but they must like the potential upgrade Grove provides.

Fantasy Analysis – The Dolphins apparently don’t like Satele, who is a young guy, so while Grove has issues, adding him to the mix has to be considered good news for their line. If Grove can stay healthy and reach his potential, it could be great news. Worst case, he’ll improve their depth.

Jim Leonhard (S, signed by NY Jets from Baltimore) - New Jets head coach Rex Ryan is wasting no time putting his signature on the New York defense. Interestingly enough, the best way he found to accomplish that is by signing his old players, and Leonhard gets three years at the Meadowlands. Leonhard started 13 games last season for the Ravens after Dawan Landry went down, and he was impressive enough to earn a multi-year deal with his old coach. Leonhard is tiny for his position (5’8″, 186) but he’s versatile, including being able to return kicks in a pinch. Ryan is looking to improve on the Jets’ 29th-ranked pass defense from last season, and Leonhard will join Lito Sheppard in a revamped New York secondary.

Fantasy Analysis – This looks like a very good move, and being paired with Kerry Rhodes, the Jets should be in good shape at S. Leonard is a hard-hitter who is usually around the ball, plus he’s considered a very smart player. He may be a little unproven starting over the course of a full season, but you have to have confidence in Ryan, who is clearly comfortable bringing him over to start for a Jet secondary that ranked 29th against the pass last year. The Jet DT will definitely be a trendy fantasy pick this year.

Cedric Benson (RB, re-signed by Cincinnati) – Benson, who signed for two years for  $7 million, started 10 games for Cincinnati in 2008, and was re-upped soon after visiting Houston. Benson burned bridges in Chicago, but impressed in Cincy, where he finished the season with back-to-back 100+-yard rushing games, a total he topped in four of his final eight starts. Benson was actually a “premier” name on a tragically thin list of free agent backs, so he was drawing marginal interest from teams that needed a back. But Benson opted to return to the Bengals, where he has a better chance to start, rather than going back home to Texas and backing up Steve Slaton.

Fantasy Analysis – Sticking in Cincy is good news for Benson’s fantasy value. This is still a power running game and they want and need their starter to carry the rock a ton, and Benson last year did prove capable. He’s certainly not a difference-maker, but he can be a sustainer for their offense and take some pressure off QB Carson Palmer, who needs all the help he can get. Even though he’ll likely be one of the dwindling number of backs in the league not in a committee situation, Benson still isn’t a guy to target in fantasy per se. After all, he is still a player who has a lot of baggage and has proven to be far from special. But he would still make a solid 3rd back as long a the Bengals don’t bring in someone else with a legitimate chance to collect a substantial number of touches.

Drayton Florence (CB, signed by Bills from Jaguars) - Florence was one of 2008’s biggest free-agent busts after he signed a lucrative six-year, $36 million with Jacksonville. His minutes decreased as his production plummeted (no interceptions, three passes defensed), and the Jaguars opted to eat the $12 million he had guaranteed on the deal when they cut him. The Bills are making no such error, giving Florence a two-year, $7 million deal, and he will enter the season behind Leodis McKelvin and Terrence McGee. In addition to severely decreasing the chances that Buffalo re-signs free agent Jabari Greer, the signing also puts an end to rumors that Florence would return to San Diego, which drafted him, and the Chargers would trade oft-injured Antonio Cromartie.

Fantasy Analysis – Florence is a liability as a starter, and he was terrible for the Jags last year. He’s a decent nickel corner, at least.

Lamont Jordan (RB, signed by Broncos, from Patriots) - Two years, $2.5 million for the eight-year veteran. Jordan ran for 363 yards and 4 TDs in eight games with New England last season, and he must have done enough to impress new Denver coach Josh McDaniels. Jordan’s deal comes in the wake of Denver’s deal with J.J. Arrington falling through, but he’s still the second back the Broncos have added this offseason, joining former Eagle Correll Buckhalter. Jordan is also the sixth (!) free agent of 30 years or older Denver has signed, and the funny part is their questions in the backfield still haven’t been resolved. It’s a crowded pack without a leader.

Fantasy Analysis – This season is shaping up to be rather ugly for backfield committees, and it’s about as bad as it gets now in Denver. Jordan can still play a little, but injuries are a huge concern, so there’s no way he should merit anything more than a throwaway pick late, and that’s assuming he’s still with the team in late August. The one point to bring up here is that Correll Buckhalter isn’t exactly a reliable option, so the addition of Jordan, who is a decent goal line and power back, doesn’t help his value.

Laveranues Coles (WR, signed by Bengals from Jets) – Coles doesn’t have too much speed, but he can make tough catches, and that’s why the Bengals were willing to lock him up to replace T.J. Houshmandzadeh. Coles gets four years, $28 million, a pretty nice payday for a 31-year old receiver who was consistently listed as questionable last season. But despite his bumps and bruises, Coles was able start all 16 games for the Jets, making 70 catches for 850 yards and 7 touchdowns, and he’ll take a decent amount of pressure of off both Carson Palmer and Chad Johnson.

The tough Laveranues Coles should handle the tough possession catches for the Bengals now.

The tough Laveranues Coles should handle the tough possession catches for the Bengals now.

Fantasy Analysis – That’s a big payday for a guy who is likely on his last legs and it likely signals their concern over the development – or lack thereof – of young wideouts Jerome Simpson and Andre Caldwell. We’re told Simpson is still a little behind in terms of picking up the offense, so Caldwell is considered ahead of him right now. But Coles will start, and he should be an active possession receiver for QB Carson Palmer, so he’ll have definite value in PPR leagues. If Chad Johnson implodes, which is always possible, Coles may have more value than expected. He has very little juice at this point, so there won’t be much upside, but the tough and gritty Coles should have some value in ’09, especially, again, in PPR leagues.

Kurt Warner (QB, re-signed by Arizona) – The Warner-Cardinals-Niners love triangle finally came to an end when Warner signed a two-year, $23 million deal, which includes $19 million in guaranteed money. Though the 37-year-old had contemplated retirement, he also made it clear that he wanted to comeback to Arizona, but that didn’t stop him from making a visit to San Francisco. Warner went into the 2008 season competing with Matt Leinart for the starting job, but as bad as ownership wanted to go with the younger Leinart, the obvious choice was to go with the veteran. Thanks to the outstanding receiving corps of Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin, and Steve Breaston, Warner threw for 4583 yards and 30 TDs, which was his best season since 2001 when he put up 4830 yards and 36 TDs. Now, Warner’s definitely the guy over Leinart through 2010, if healthy.

Fantasy Analysis – It’s obviously great news for the Cardinal receivers, and as long as Boldin remains in the fold, which appears to be better than 50/50 right now, Warner is easily a top-10 fantasy QB, if not top-5. They will miss OC Todd Haley, but with those three receivers on the field, the Cardinal passing game should be relatively unstoppable, and the durable Warner should once again be a consistently productive fantasy producer.

Category: Fantasy Football

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2 Responses

  1. JB says:

    First I just want to say I love this website ! I am still curious why Denver is loading up on RBs? I know they had a TON of injuries in 2008, but they have Buckhalter, Hillis, Arrington, Torrain, Selvin Young, I’m not sure if Tatum Bell is going to be in the mix and now they throw in Lamont Jordan…what a mess. I thought Buckhalter could put up 1200 and 8 tds and be the solid #1, but now I’m gonna stay clear of the Denver RBs in 2009.

  2. John Hansen says:

    I can say right that Hillis should stick at FB, and Arrington you have to think they want to be their version of Kevin Faulk. Then that leave us with Buckhalter, Jordan, Torain, and Young (and also possibly Bell and Andre Hall). I would say Bell and Hall are out, possibly Young as well. So it will be Buckhalter and then it comes down to wheather or not Torain is healthy and can stay healthy to challenge Jordan for the backup job. Very simple situation, really!

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