The wide receiver signing most expected to happen entering free agency has finally occurred.
The New England Patriots have signed Brandon Lloyd to a multi-year deal. Reports indicate that Lloyd will sign a three-year, $12-million contract, a discount from what he was expected to sign for, particularly considering the free agent contracts that similar wide receivers have signed for this offseason.
In New England, Lloyd will be reunited with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. McDaniels was Lloyd’s head coach when he had a breakout season in 2010 and last season in St. Louis, where he served as the Rams offensive coordinator.
Lloyd posted career highs in every receiving category in 2010, finishing the season with 77 receptions for 1,448 yards and 11 touchdowns. Traded by the Broncos to the Rams in 2011, he finished last season with 70 receptions for 966 yards and five touchdowns.
The Patriots were in the market for a wide receiver capable of stretching opposing defenses and Lloyd has proven capable in that role over the last two seasons. He will start opposite Wes Welker and join a receiving cast featuring four Pro Bowl quality players including Welker and tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.
Let the hype machine start rolling and it is going to be based on Lloyd’s stellar 2010 production with McDaniels in Denver combined with Randy Moss’ other-worldly production with McDaniels in New England.
Let’s run down the reasons why Lloyd could bust out once again in 2012.
Moss consistently topped 1,000 yards and double digit touchdowns as the Patriots main deep threat, the role that Lloyd figures to fulfill this season. It is also worth noting that Lloyd’s breakout season came with Kyle Orton at quarterback and Tom Brady is several notches up the quarterback food chain from Orton.
Let’s also throw in that BenJarvus Green-Ellis remains unsigned so the Patriots current running back depth chart features a pair of unproven second-year players in Steven Ridley and Shane Vereen as well as Danny Woodhead, whose main role is as a receiver out of the backfield. If that situation doesn’t change, we can assume even more passing attempts in New England in 2012.
Time to switch to the cup is half-empty mode.
In his 2010 breakout season, Lloyd wasn’t just the Big Dog in Denver, he was the only dog. The team’s other wide receivers were Jabar Gaffney, a slumping Eddie Royal and a pair of largely unproductive rookies in Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker.
That factor combined with the fact that Broncos finished 4-12 that season and spent plenty of time playing from behind helped Lloyd finish fourth in the league in targets.
Although the Patriots throw the ball plenty (the 3rd most in the league last season), Lloyd won’t be the Big Dog and there’s a chance he might be the Little Dog behind Welker, Gronkowski and Hernandez.
Not helping matters is that Lloyd certainly won’t be the Red Zone Big Dog given the Patriots preference to either throw underneath to Welker or utilize the size of Gronkowski and Hernandez in red zone situations.
You see where I’m going on this one. The chances of Lloyd finishing as a top ten fantasy wide receiver in 2012 are very low. There certainly won’t be a repeat of his marvelous 2010 production. Consider Lloyd a mid-tier WR3 in 2012.
Welker, Gronkowski and Hernandez are the fantasy losers with Lloyd’s signing as well as Rams quarterback Sam Bradford, at least if you were under the impression that Lloyd was considering re-signing with the Rams.
Welker should no longer be considered a top five fantasy wide receiver, except in PPR leagues.
In Gronkowski’s case, he remains the top ranked tight end but with lower overall production. Hernandez slides down a few notches but remains a top ten option.
The biggest fantasy football winner with Lloyd’s signing? Well, that has to be Brady. The fair-haired one comes out on top once again.