The Detroit Lions have made the first big splash in free agency, signing former Seahawks wide receiver Nate Burleson to a 5-year, $25 million contract.
The Lions have struggled to find production at the wide receiver position over recent years and their interest in a solid player to start opposite Calvin Johnson was well known. In Burleson, the Lions are getting arguably the most sought after unrestricted free agent on the market.
The 28 year old Burleson missed 15 games in 2008 after tearing knee ligaments during the opening game of the season but bounced back this year with 63 receptions for 812 yards and three touchdowns in 13 games. He suffered a high ankle sprain late in the season, causing him to miss the final three games of the season.
In Detroit, Burleson will push Bryant Johnson out of a starting spot and, given Johnson’s lack of use on special teams, perhaps off the roster. With the team looking to expand the role of 2009 3rd round pick Derrick Williams and Dennis Northcutt a solid slot receiver, Johnson may be looking for a new team in 2010.
Burleson provides the Lions with a solid receiving threat opposite Johnson and his presence should help reduce the constant double teams that he sees. However, it’s doubtful that Burleson will improve his production substantially in Detroit given the presence of Johnson and second-year tight end Brandon Pettigrew, although a marginal increase can be expected if he can stay healthy for 16 games.
At this point, he should be considered a fantasy WR3 with upside given his big play ability and quarterback Matthew Stafford’s ability to throw the deep ball.
Stafford was already expected to put up better fantasy points in 2010 but this signing enhances his prospects for next season. With Burleson on board, Stafford now has three solid wide receivers, an emerging tight end and a solid pass catching running back in Kevin Smith, provided he is fully recovered from his ACL injury. Consider him a mid-tier backup fantasy quarterback with upside and a solid option in dynasty leagues.
In Seattle, quarterback Matt Hasselbeck figures to suffer with the loss of his top wide receiver but given his struggles in 2009, continuing injury concerns and lack of upside, he shouldn’t have been on your radar for 2010 anyway. Look for the Seahawks to add to their stable of wide receivers due to declining production of veterans T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Deion Branch and the uneven play of 2009 3rd round pick Deon Butler in his rookie season.