2011 NFL free agency fantasy impact

BY Ryan Fowler • July 26, 2011

With the NFL lockout so focused on money, it's only fitting that even the league's free agents are anything but on the house.  As we know football's free agency period is normally spread out over five months, but thanks to the "extended vacation" we are about to enjoy a free agent frenzy like we've never seen before. To keep owners informed, we'll be updating all major fantasy acquisitions, adds, cuts, depth charts changes and personnel moves right here in this running blog.

Be sure to check back often for the latest NFL transactions and fantasy analysis.



***UPDATE 8:15p July 27***

Transaction: Sidney Rice signs with Seahawks

Fantasy Impact: FOXSports.com’s Jay Glazer reports Rice has agreed to terms with the Seahawks. The move reunites the wide receiver with Tarvaris Jackson and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell. It will also pay Rice $41-million, which is a nice nest egg.

Fantasy owners fell in love with Rice in 2009 when Brett Favre targeted him often (122 targets, ranked 23rd among WR) in Minnesota. In Week 9, he racked up 201 receiving yards on just seven catches against Detroit and a fantasy star was born. Rice scored six touchdowns and tallied 526 yards receiving in the Vikings last seven games.

Then came the hip injury, the decision not to have surgery, only to elect to have surgery right before the 2010 season started. Rice was out of commission until November and the same owners who praised him, cursed his name. He managed to play in six games, but only broke 100 yards receiving once with two touchdowns total.

Jackson, if he is the QB in Seattle, needed a deep threat and now has it to go along with Mike Williams.

Rice is the 23rd-best wide receiver in our 2011 Fantasy Football Composite Rankings, but could drop a few slots with him sharing targets with Williams, Ben Obamanu and Golden Tate.  Bevell and T-Jax will determine his value at the end of the day.  Right now, I say low #2/high #3 WR.

- Ryan Fowler

***UPDATE 4:35p July 27***

Transaction: Bruce Gradkowski signs with Bengals.

Fantasy Impact: Although Gradkowski has thrown for just 3,883 yards in five seasons, the Toledo product is a dependable field general who will keep his team in ballgames. Unlike Oakland, where he worked with a subpar supporting cast, Gradkowski will have some weapons at his disposal in A.J. Green, Jordan Shipley and Jerome Simpson. If Cedric Benson returns to Cincinnati, the Bengals suddenly have a viable offensive attack.

Although Andy Dalton is projected to compete with Gradkowski for the starting spot, owner Mike Brown is notorious for signing his draft picks late into training camp. Assuming this trend continues, Gradkowski will be manning the reins of the Bengals offense in Week 1.

He may not be the most attractive name on the market, but Gradkowski has the capability to be a decent backup in deeper fantasy formats. Gradkowski’s presence elevates the value of Green and Simpson, who have the potential to be solid contributors with a veteran QB at the helm. The same applies to Benson, although his eligibility remains somewhat in doubt after recent off-the-field issues.

- Joel Beall

***UPDATE 3:30p July 27***

Transaction: Jabar Gaffney traded to Redskins

Fantasy Impact: The first trade of the 2011 season sends Kyle Orton’s number two target to our nation’s capital. To say Gaffney benefited from the Broncos playing from behind last season would be an understatement. He hauled in 65 receptions for a career-high 875 yards (13.5 Y/R) and two touchdowns in 2010.

Gaffney joins a receiving corps that includes Santana Moss, Anthony Armstrong and Donte’ Stallworth. On top of the competition to slide in as the #2 receiver on the Redskins, is the larger question as to who will actually get Gaffney the ball. With Donovan McNabb all but relocating to Minnesota, Rex Grossman, John Beck and Kellen Clemens are the ‘Skins QBs at the moment. Gaffney’s fantasy value is no better than a late-round flier and I’m being kind.

- Ryan Fowler

***UPDATE 3:30p July 27***

Transaction: Lance Moore signs with Saints

Fantasy Impact: Lance Moore played in the Mid-American Conference with the Toledo Rockets and really hit NFL fans’ radar after converting a crucial two-point conversion for the Saints in the 2009 Super Bowl. To see the 5-foot-9-inch spark plug ink a five-year deal with the Saints proves even little guys, from a mid-major conference, can possess real/fantasy value in the NFL.

Moore caught eight touchdowns in 2008, two touchdowns in 2009 and 10 touchdowns in 2010. He amassed 763 yards receiving – second-most in his career- last season. Brees spreads the wealth to his receivers, but has built up a strong rapport with Moore. A five-year contract screams “get him the damn ball often!”

I like Moore as a flex play/#3 receiver and gains more value in PPR leagues.

- Ryan Fowler

***UPDATE 3:30p July 27***

Transaction: Santana Moss signs with Redskins

Fantasy Impact: Moss, 1115 yards receiving and six touchdowns in 2010, will return as the top receiver in Washington. He’s the 24th best wide receiver according to FOXSports.com’s Fantasy Football Composite Rankings. Although, depending on who winds up as the starting QB, Moss could watch his draft stock plummet over the next month. Donovan McNabb has one foot in Minnesota and we can expect his other to follow. This leaves Rex Grossman, John Beck and Kellen Clemens at quarterback. It’s a tough fantasy sell.

On the other hand, if the Redskins’ defense fails to improve (6228 total yards allowed in 2010, ranked 31st), the offense could be playing from behind on a regular basis (see: Broncos passing game, 2010).

Still, I think Moss is a #3 fantasy receiver.

- Ryan Fowler

***UPDATE 1:40p July 27***

Transaction: DeAngelo Williams re-signs with Carolina.

Fantasy Impact: With Williams staying in Charlotte, the Panthers maintain one of the most formidable backfields in the league. Unfortunately for fantasy owners, the continued existence of Williams and Jonathan Stewart negate each other’s overall fantasy value. While they both were able to achieve 1,000-yard seasons in 2009, neither should be considered an elite back worthy of a top 15 pick at their position.

However, this move does have a positive impact on Cam Newton, as the presence of Williams and Stewart should help alleviate some of the rookie learning curve.

- Joel Beall

***UPDATE 10:35a July 27***

Transaction: Santonio Holmes signs with Jets

Fantasy Impact: Holmes re-signing with New York provides Mark Sanchez a go-to receiver that he desperately needs.  Holmes missed the first four games of the season due to suspension, but still racked up 746 yards receiving and six touchdowns in his abridged 12-game campaign.  His 14.3 yards per reception ranked 27th in the league.

In five NFL seasons, Holmes has averaged 916 yards and five touchdowns.  He remains a Top 20 receiver.

Rumors of Holmes to the Redskins probably fizzled when he heard John Beck could be his quarterback.

- Ryan Fowler

***UPDATE 9:30a July 27***

Transaction: Matt Hasselbeck signs with the Titans

Fantasy Impact: As Joel Beall addressed in his piece following Kerry Collins' retirement, Hasselbeck was the most coveted quarterback in this free agent class.   Seattle's franchise QB departs after leading the Seahawks to the playoffs with a 7-9 record.  Despite tossing more interceptions (17) than touchdowns (12) in 2010, Hasselbeck isn't expected, nor required (see: CJ2K), to break out like he did in 2007 where he threw for nearly 4,000 yards, 28 touchdowns and only 12 interceptions.  He's rookie quarterback Jake Locker's new best friend as the Titans turn the page on offense.  If you carry two QBs on your roster, Hasselbeck is your man.

With a shortened training camp and little time for Hasselbeck to learn the playbook, expect running back Chris Johnson's value to increase.  He should capitilize on the new face behind center and improve upon last season where he rushed for 1,364 yards and 11 touchdowns.

- Ryan Fowler

***UPDATE 4:30p EST July 26***

Transaction: Tarvaris Jackson signs with Seattle Seahawks

Fantasy Impact: Seattle could be in for a long season.   Right now, they have Jackson and Charlie Whitehurst as their top two options at quarterback.  They did sign Clinton Portis' cousin, Josh, as an undrafted rookie QB.  So, there's that.  With Jackson familiar with Seattle offensive coordinator, Darrell Bevell's, offense he should have the upper hand - whatever that's worth.  We would know more about Jackson had #4 not shown up in Minnesota. T-Jax has 24 TDs and 22 INTs with a 76.6 QB rating in five NFL seasons. No reason to think a fantasy owner would draft him at this point.  

In six games last season, Whitehurst passed for 507 yards with two touchdowns, three interceptions and a QB rating of 65.5.   

Christian Ponder now waits for a Donovan McNabb to show up in Minnesota.

- Ryan Fowler