The Baltimore Ravens continued their efforts to rebuild their talent base at wide receiver, signing Seattle Seahawks castoff T.J. Houshmandzadeh to a one-year contract.
The signing comes on the heels of the offseason trade for Anquan Boldin and the free agent signing of Donte Stallworth. With Mark Clayton subsequently being dealt to the St. Louis Rams, the Ravens have turned over half of their depth chart at wide receiver since the end of the 2009 season.
Reports indicate the 32-year old Houshmandzadeh will sign a one-year contract for the veteran minimum.
Despite signing a lucrative free agent contract with Seattle during the 2009 offseason, Houshmandzadeh was let go by new head coach Pete Carroll despite the team’s lack of proven players at the position. He had 79 receptions for 911 yards and three touchdowns in his only season in Seattle.
With Stallworth expected to be out for the first five or six weeks of the regular season with a broken foot, Houshmandzadeh provides the Ravens with veteran insurance behind Boldin and Derrick Mason. The Ravens also have third-year player Marcus Smith and rookie fifth-round pick David Reed at the position.
Known more for his route running ability, good hands and willingness to go over the middle, Houshmandzadeh is a possession receiver at this point of his career. He has averaged just 10.5 yards per reception over the last three years.
Houshmandzadeh’s prospects in Baltimore are clearly less favorable than being the number one receiver in Seattle were he shaped up as a WR3 in most formats. But in Baltimore, he is waiver wire fodder in all leagues other than extremely deep leagues that utilize the flex position. His signing has more fantasy implications for Baltimore’s other offensive players than for Houshmandzadeh himself.
Quarterback Joe Flacco, a high quality fantasy backup with upside prior to the signing, should move up draft boards a couple of positions with Housh on board. He gains an excellent option on third downs and should help the Ravens keep drives alive. Houshmandzadeh is also an excellent receiver in the red zone, although the Ravens favor running the ball when inside the 20-yard line. Flacco moves up to borderline fantasy starter.
Boldin and Mason should be dropped a few notches at wide receiver. In effect, Boldin, Mason and Houshmandzadeh are all very similar receivers with each player better at running short and intermediate routes at this point in their careers.
Boldin is clearly entrenched as the Ravens top player at the position so his fantasy outlook isn’t impacted as much as Mason’s. Mason figures to come off the field when the Ravens want to target Houshmandzadeh and he may see far fewer targets in the red zone.
Boldin and Houshmandzadeh are excellent red zone receivers, with Boldin using his strength and cutting ability to find the end zone and Houshmandzadeh relying on his height on fades and size on quick slants.
Therefore, the biggest fantasy loser with the Houshmandzadeh signing is Derrick Mason.