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Top Ten Free Agent Wide Receivers for 2014

By: — February 24, 2014 @ 11:00 pm
Filed under: Free Agents

Updated: March 7th, 2014 @ 9:00 AM

Eric Decker

Decker may want to get paid, but the best fit for him is in Denver.

1. Eric Decker (DEN) – Decker is coming off a huge season for the AFC Champ Broncos and is looking at a lucrative multi-year deal. However, he won’t get No. 1 WR money because he’s a much better secondary option than a stud wideout. He’s a big body who can create space and haul in big catches, but the best fit for him is still in Denver. He might sign with the rival Colts – who like the Ravens and Patriots are in need of experienced receivers, but teams will likely remember that he was shut down Seattle’s defense in the Super Bowl.

The Best Fit: Broncos, Colts, Ravens, Patriots

UPDATE: He’s still looking at a deal just under that of a bona fide WR1 and with the confirmation from GM John Elway that he’ll likely hit the open market, there’s been increasing interest from the Colts.

2. Jeremy Maclin (PHI) – The Eagles would love to bring back both Maclin and Riley Cooper, though it will be difficult to pull that off. The Chiefs’ while a bit cash-strapped themselves, are likely to be able to afford one of the guys hitting the open market and Maclin makes the most sense as he flourished in Andy Reid’s offense in the past and won’t cost a ridiculous amount of money. Maclin is coming off a July 2013 ACL injury and there’s still a chance he stays in Philly — he said as much a couple weeks ago to the Philadelphia Inquirer — but Kansas City seems like the best fit.

The Best Fit: Chiefs, Eagles, Packers

UPDATE: SIGNED. The Eagles and Maclin agreed to a one-year, $5.5 million contract with a max value of $6 million, keeping the talented young receiver with one of the most potent offenses in football. Other teams may have been wary about signing Maclin to a big deal after last season’s major injury, so this is a good fit.

3. Anquan Boldin (SF) – I expected Boldin to sign another one-year deal with a contender – but based on ongoing talks between him and the 49ers, it appears they’ll figure out an extension similar to the three-year deal Reggie Wayne signed with the Colts in 2012 ($17.5 million). Boldin is 33 and surely wants another ring, and the 49ers still have a team capable of pulling it off. He probably won’t be the standout fantasy factor he was in the past, but he’s still a capable of big games and hot streaks.

The Best Fit: 49ers, Ravens, Colts

UPDATE: SIGNED. Boldin got a two-year deal with the 49ers reportedly worth $12 million – about what we expected. Now, the Niners have to deal with Colin Kaepernick.

4. Hakeem Nicks (NYG) – Nicks recently signed with Jay Z’s sports agency firm, so he’ll probably go get paid and find his way out of New York. There’s still some question as to why Nicks couldn’t get it done last season (56-896-0 was a truly disappointing fantasy line), though it’s possible it had to do with coaching. With the Giants’ receiving corps featuring so many young and talented options, Nicks feels like the odd man out. The Patriots have a history of rejuvenating disgruntled players so New England could definitely be a landing spot. but there will be competition for such an accomplished receiver (155-2,244-18 TDs in 2010-11).

The Best Fit: Patriots, Colts, Chiefs

UPDATE: The Ravens have popped up on the rumor mill for Nicks as they have a ton of cap space and need another wideout. He could sign a one-year deal similar to Maclin’s, if only because there are questions about his long-term durability/effectiveness.

5. Golden Tate (SEA) – While Tate has said he’d like to stay with Seattle, the receiving corps is too crowded for the Seahawks to make signing him a priority. And WR/PR guys who combine playmaking ability with consistency – like Tate – make GMs salivate. If the Colts miss out on Decker, they’ll make a play for Tate, although the Chiefs and Jets (who desperately need offensive playmakers) will be knocking on his door.

The Best Fit: Colts, Chiefs, Jets

UPDATE: With Sidney Rice now gone, the Seahawks need to keep Tate, and they’ve announced as much in anticipation of a possible offer prior to the March 11 date. He could still hit the open market, but the fit in Seattle is good.

6. James Jones (GB) – Jones is the wild card of the free agent market and it’s likely his days in Green Bay are over. He’s not really needed there and although Aaron Rodgers has lobbied for him to stay, agent Frank Bauer doesn’t think GM Ted Thompson really wants him back. This has nothing to do with Jones’ play – which has been solid if not superb for the Packers over the past few seasons. His TD production plummeted to just 3 in 2013 (he had 14 TDs in 2012) and it’s likely that he’ll command a big deal if he skips town – maybe a tick below what Nicks would make since he’s a few years older but has considerably less wear and baggage. It’s anybody’s guess where he lands, though it’s clear he’ll be used as a red zone target and as a No. 2/3 WR.

The Best Fit: Panthers, Dolphins, Colts

UPDATE: The New York Giants are reportedly in the mix for Jones, who could make a viable red zone target and worthy replacement for Nicks, who is all but gone. The Giants can’t afford to make a huge splash, so signing Jones to a one-year deal is a distinct possibility.

7. Riley Cooper (PHI) – Cooper broke out in a big way in 2013 (47-835-8 on 83 targets), and while he might be able to land a big contract by leaving Philly, I think he fits in great with Nick Foles and the current Eagles offense. The Eagles don’t ask much of Cooper and that’s a good thing, because he’s not that physically gifted a receiver. If he does leave town, I’m almost positive it’ll be to sign an abnormally large contract with the Jets – because that’s something they would do. If teams don’t overspend, he could end up a pawn on Bill Belichick’s chess board.

The Best Fit: Eagles, Jets, Patriots

UPDATE: SIGNED. Cooper inked a five-year, $25 million deal that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense considering the Eagles had leverage in this situation. But, Cooper will get a fat paycheck and resume No. 3 WR duties with Maclin healthy and back to business.

8. Julian Edelman (NE) – Speaking of Belichick, he’s a shrewd guy, which means he’s not going to show his hand and fawn all over Edelman who bailed Tom Brady and the Patriots out on multiple occasions last season. But, Edelman has yet to hear from his team in regard to a new contract. The best fit for Edelman, who had 105 receptions for 1,056 yards and six TDs (151 targets!!) last season, is clearly New England. But if things so sour in negotiations he could make sense in any of the aforementioned cities.

The Best Fit: Patriots, Jets, Colts

UPDATE: The Texans have emerged as a candidate to land Edelman, who just started discussions with the Pats. It’s entirely possible the New England will add Emmanuel Sanders or another upside-laden receiver into the fray as a No. 1 – and make do with Danny Amendola, Aaron Dobson and company out of the No. 2 and slot.

9. Emmanuel Sanders (PIT) – I apologize if I can’t stop talking about the Patriots, but they really wanted Sanders last offseason and even signed him to an offer sheet before the Steelers matched it. Sanders has amassed 161 catches for 2,030 yards and 11 touchdowns in four seasons with Pittsburgh and he’s full of promise without much downside. He’s fast with good hands and will likely court offers from the Pats, Colts and Chiefs.

The Best Fit: Patriots, Colts, Chiefs

UPDATE: Sanders is probably staying somewhere in the AFC, as both the Patriots and Jets have expressed an interest in adding him. Heading to New England would probably be best for his fantasy value.

10. Andre Roberts (ARI) – Roberts and the Cards haven’t engaged in contract talks yet which means he might be taking off for greener pastures – especially since GM Steve Keim has made a point of saying the Cards have offers on the table for a few other players. The truth is that Roberts doesn’t really add another dimension to the Cards’ offense, but he could be a valuable additional to a few other teams. If Sanders leaves Pittsburgh, the Steelers might want to add Roberts to complement Antonio Brown. The Panthers and Cowboys might also be looking for a steady veteran like Roberts to play a minor role.

The Best Fit: Steelers, Panthers, Cowboys

UPDATE: There’s no news from Arizona regarding resigning Roberts, so I’m betting he skips town in search of a sweeter deal and a better QB.

Honorable mention: Kenny Britt, Danario Alexander, Jacoby Jones, Dexter McCluster, Brandon LaFell

Top Ten Free Agent Running Backs for 2014

By: — February 20, 2014 @ 2:57 pm
Filed under: Free Agents

1. Knowshon Moreno (DEN) – The Broncos know that Moreno will transform his excellent 2013 campaign into a big payday in 2014, and they have the depth at RB to let him go without much of a fight. He finished 2013 with 1,586 total yards (including 548 receiving yards on 60 receptions) and 13 TDs. He’s a complete back and could find a home in Indianapolis or Tennessee if he doesn’t get a new deal in Denver.

The Best Fit: Colts, Broncos, Titans

Ben Tate

Ben Tate will land a starting gig in 2014 but it won’t be in Houston.

2. Ben Tate (HOU) – It’s highly unlikely that the Texans will spend the money necessary to keep Tate slogging through limited use in a backup role, where Arian Foster rules the roost and other fresh talent has been emerging. The Browns are in hot pursuit of Tate, according to ESPN, although that report came out before Gary Kubiak (considered for the OC position) headed to Baltimore to run the Ravens offense. Still, the Browns need an all-purpose back with upside, and Tate makes sense in Cleveland as well as Baltimore – where both Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce have shown glaring inconsistencies.

The Best Fit: Browns, Ravens, Colts

3. Darren McFadden (OAK) – If McFadden re-signs with the Raiders, it won’t be good for his fantasy value. He’s 26 years old and coming off yet another injury-plagued season, so a fresh start in a new environment could mean another chance at success. Unfortunately, Run-DMC will probably ask for way too much money and end up as a late addition in training camp for a non-contender. In a perfect world, he’d go to the Colts and compete for a starting spot in a potent offense, but there’s just no telling where he’ll land.

The Best Fit: Colts, Cardinals, Raiders

4. Andre Brown (NYG) – Both Brown and the Giants are on amicable terms heading into 2014 and could reach a deal to keep the talented back in New Jersey. Brown’s injury issues aren’t that big of a concern and he’s been effective as a lead back when called upon the past two seasons. There’s a chance he signs a lucrative deal elsewhere, but the smart money is on a reunion with the Mara family and another season playing for the Giants.

The Best Fit: Giants, Steelers, Bucs

5. Rashad Jennings (OAK) – If the Raiders don’t bring back McFadden, they’d be smart to sign Jennings to a one- or two-year deal. The 28-year-old (he’ll be 29 in March) played well last season in 15 games and doesn’t have a lot of wear on his body after spending several seasons as Maurice Jones-Drew’s backup in Jacksonville.

The Best Fit: Raiders, Colts, Cowboys

6. Maurice Jones-Drew (JAC) – The Jags seem uninterested in signing MJD, who’s nearly 29 with an odometer that just keeps flipping. He looked worn out last season playing behind a bad offensive line and doesn’t have a shot at a long-term contract on the open market. When somebody signs him, it’ll be an incentive-laden deal that won’t exceed a couple seasons – an offer that makes sense for a team like the Cards, who could use a pass-catching back with experience to transition into the Andre Ellington era.

The Best Fit: Cardinals, Packers, Browns

7. Rashard Mendenhall (ARI) – The once-effective Mendenhall was unimpressive in 2013, rushing for just 687 yards on 217 carries (3.2 YPC) and making little impact in the passing game. In his defense, he’s a grinder, not much of a receiving threat and was best when deployed near the goal line (8 rushing TDs). That’s the kind of job he’ll assume again, either for the Cards or for another team desperate for red zone upside from a big body.

The Best Fit: Bucs, Jaguars, Giants

8. Donald Brown (IND) – Brown may have spent his last day in Indy, where he’s never really gotten the vote of confidence needed to make his mark. He’s still an explosive back with upside in the passing game, but he has to be unhappy with the Colts constant search for a lead back. While the Colts should probably offer him a contract as insurance against the enduring flop that Trent Richardson has become, it’s hard to say if the two sides can come together.

The Best Fit: Colts, Packers, Steelers

9. LeGarrette Blount (NE) – The Pats got a lot out of Blount last season, when the former Buc rejuvenated his career and took over lead back duties after Stevan Ridley fumbled away the job. The Pats will probably offer Blount a couple million bucks for a one-year deal to stick around, which makes sense for both sides. If not, I could see the Dolphins or Jags making a run at him.

The Best Fit: Patriots, Dolphins, Jaguars

10. James Starks (GB) – The Packers have expressed an interest in bringing Starks back after the 27-year-old back had his best season (5.5 yards per carry), albeit with limited touches. Starks has had injury issues but was once a postseason hero for the Packers. If he doesn’t come back to Green Bay, he’d fit in well with the Giants and the Vikings – who will need a capable backup for Adrian Peterson if Toby Gerhart leaves for greener pastures.

The Best Fit: Packers, Giants, Vikings

Honorable mention: Ahmad Bradshaw, Toby Gerhart, Jonathan Dwyer

Top Five Free Agent Tight Ends for 2014

By: — February 17, 2014 @ 9:16 am
Filed under: Free Agents

1. Jimmy Graham (NO) – It’s unlikely that the Saints will let Graham walk in 2014, and we’re probably looking at a landmark contract for a TE – if that’s what we’re still calling him (apparently Drew Brees still is). Recently, Graham – easily the best fantasy TE in the league over the past couple of seasons – brushed off questions about if he should qualify as a TE or WR in contract negotiations. He did express a desire that the Saints not slap him with the franchise tag, a designation that could be applied as soon as today. Even if there’s a serious breakdown and a volatile contract dispute occurs, it’s almost outside the realm of possibility that Graham spends 2014 anywhere but New Orleans.

The Best Fit: Saints, Packers, Steelers

Dennis Pitta

The Ravens have made signing Pitta a top priority.

2. Dennis Pitta (BAL) – The Ravens absolutely love Pitta, who missed 12 games last season following a hip dislocation. Pitta is already best friends with franchise QB Joe Flacco and the tight end’s sharp intermediate routes complement the big-play ability of Torrey Smith. Just last week, it was revealed that Gary Kubiak, the Ravens new OC, has big plans for Pitta in his offense – one that made relevant fantasy contributor out of several TEs in Houston, including Owen Daniels, Joel Dreessen, James Casey and free agent Garrett Graham. GM Ozzie Newsome said re-signing Pitta is a top priority and if a deal cannot be reached, he’s a prime candidate for a franchise tag. The Falcons and Dolphins will make every attempt to woo Pitta if he can’t reach a deal in Baltimore.

The Best Fit: Ravens, Falcons, Dolphins

3. Brandon Pettigrew (DET) – Pettigrew will draw interest from plenty of teams looking for a balanced TE with experience, even if the 28-year-old has underperformed relevant to expectations during his career. According to Pro Football Focus, he played 925 out of 1,158 snaps for the Lions offense last season as the team emphasized Pettigrew’s run-blocking ability and utilized the other skill positions and featured Joseph Fauria near the goal line. While new Lions OC Joe Lombardi seems high on Pettigrew’s fit in the offense as a well-rounded blocker/receiver, I think he’d also do well joining the Falcons, where they need to fill a gaping hole at TE in the wake of HOFer Tony Gonzalez’s retirement.

The Best Fit: Falcons, Lions, Steelers, Packers

4. Jermichael Finley (GB) – Finley had neck fusion surgery this off-season after a scary mid-season injury that put his career in considerable jeopardy. His doctor, neurosurgeon Joseph Maroon (who actually works for the Steelers) believes Finley will make a full recovery within the next 4-8 weeks, although he’s already running routes and catching footballs. The Packers are unlikely to re-sign the veteran TE, who’s still only 26 and was having a solid season in 2013 before bruising his spinal cord in Week 6. The Seahawks could be a player in the courtship of such a talented offensive weapon, and while the Giants have been mentioned as a possible landing spot, they probably don’t have the cap space to land a guy like Finley. Also in the mix are the Jets, who have a glaring need to fill at TE.

The Best Fit: Seahawks, Steelers, Jets

5. Garrett Graham (HOU) – Graham’s career year in 2013 could mean decent money on the free agent market, but he’s not enough of a household name at 32 to make a big splash. The Texans would be wise to offer him a relatively low-cost deal and bring him back – he was a bright spot in an otherwise disappointing season. Another team that could use the services of a TE is the Giants – who might not be able to land a high-profile FA but will be in the mix for a value buy. The G-Men might also be interested in the services of Fred Davis, who’s eager to get targets and reestablish himself as an offensive contributor in the NFL.

The Best Fit: Texans, Giants, Dolphins

Honorable mention: Brandon Myers, Fred Davis

Top Five Free Agent Quarterbacks for 2014

By: — February 13, 2014 @ 10:21 am
Filed under: Free Agents

Michael Vick

With so many teams looking for a QB, Vick will land a starting gig in 2014.

1. Michael Vick (PHI) – Vick is very much still in the conversation as a relevant fantasy asset and effective NFL QB, and the next couple seasons could be productive ones if he lands with the right team. It makes little sense for Vick to resign with the Eagles, since they’ve clearly moved on to the dynamic Nick Foles. That leaves us with a handful of teams still looking for something more than a stopgap. The Browns stand out as a team without much identity outside of Josh Gordon and his freakish abilities, and since there’s already a massive overhaul going on, I like the fit – defensive-minded head coach (Mike Pettine) and all. That’s not to say the Vikings (who also have a new coach in Mike Zimmer) couldn’t use a talented QB to compliment some outstanding skill players.

The Best Fit: Browns, Vikings, Jaguars

2. Josh McCown (CHI) – What a difference a year makes. All but written off before 2013 as a journeyman QB with mediocre arm strength, McCown threw 13 TDs in five starts and won thrice – filling the gap for the Bears while Jay Cutler got healthy. He’s 34 and possibly looking at a multi-year contract with a team desperate for a viable starter. Immediately, the Raiders come to mind – as he could rejuvenate his career a la Rich Gannon in Oakland, a city and organization desperate for a QB with some tangible experience and leadership ability. The Texans could also use McCown’s services as they attempt to close the door on the Matt Schaub Era and forget their disastrous 2013 campaign.

The Best Fit: Raiders, Texans, Jaguars

3. Matt Cassel (MIN) – Things just didn’t work out last season for Cassel in Minnesota, and he’s opted out of his contract (and $3.7 million in 2014) in search of greener pastures and a bigger payday. But is anybody really interested? While it makes little sense for Cassel to resign with the Vikings, it’s still a possibility. And while there aren’t many exciting options in the free agent pool, Cassel has experience and two 10-5 seasons as a starter (New England in 2008, Kansas City in 2010) to his credit. The Raiders, Browns, Texans and Jaguars will all be giving him a call.

The Best Fit: Texans, Vikings, Jaguars

4. Josh Freeman (MIN) – Did I have Josh McCown going to the Raiders? Hold up. This guy would fit right into the dysfunction of Oaktown and the team has already expressed an interest. The Raiders tried to sign Freeman last season after the Bucs released him and offensive coordinator Greg Olsen is apparently a big fan. The Raiders have also indicated they’re not likely to go for a QB in the draft, so Freeman and McCown are probably the top two options available. And while nobody wants to go to the Jaguars, they’re going to have to sign somebody.

The Best Fit: Raiders, Jaguars, Browns

5. Kellen Clemens (STL) – While I’m not pointing any fingers, I tend to think the Jets definitely gave up on Clemens too quickly – a mistake that may have cost them a few wins over the past several seasons. He’s not going to command a big contract in free agency, but he’s a capable stopgap who shows off a decent arm at times. Unfortunately, the Rams season was already in the toilet last year when Sam Bradford went down so the team didn’t ask much of Clemens, who finished with 1,673 passing yards, 8 TDs and 7 INTs over 10 games (nine starts). He’s probably going to end up back in St. Louis holding a clipboard, but there’s a shot he finds a starting gig somewhere else – like Houston or another stint in New Jersey.

The Best Fit: Rams, Texans, Jets

Honorable mention: Matt Flynn, Chad Henne

Fantasy Impact – Greg Jennings Signs with Division Rival

By: — March 16, 2013 @ 9:35 am
Greg Jennings

Jennings gives Ponder a legitimate weapon on the outside.

Following the path of other ex-Packers (QB Brett Favre, K Ryan Longwell, S Darren Sharper), wide receiver Greg Jennings tested the free agent market and found a home in Minnesota.

Jennings signed a five-year, $47.5 million deal with the Vikings worth roughly $27 million over the first three years. His contract comes in below deals recently signed by Mike Wallace (5 years $60 million) and Dwayne Bowe (5 years, $56 million) but substantially above Wes Welker’s agreement in Denver (2 years, $12 million).

Minnesota had little choice but to sign Jennings after trading away their main receiving threat, Percy Harvin, to the Seahawks in exchange for draft picks. Jerome Simpson was resigned earlier this week but given the lack of talent in the receiving corps it won’t come as a surprise if the Vikings use one of their two first-round draft picks (#23 & #25) on a receiver.

Fantasy Impact

The 29 year-old Jennings appeared in eight games last year due to injury and turned in his worst season as a pro (36 rec, 366 yds, 4 TDs). He fills a gaping hole in the Vikings offense and has the ability to play on the outside or in the slot. Regardless of any moves at the receiver position yet to come, he will be the focus of the passing attack.

An attack led by Christian Ponder, not Aaron Rodgers.

Ponder and the Vikings passing offense won’t be confused the Packers aerial assault anytime soon. Minnesota ranked 31st in passing yards last season and with Ponder averaging 6.1 yards per attempt (31st also), Jennings could catch 90 balls and not break 1000 yards. And do forget, the offense runs through Adrian Peterson and their run-first philosophy won’t change anytime soon.

It’s not all doom and gloom however, as Jennings would be one of many mouths to feed in Green Bay as Randall Cobb, James Jones, Jordy Nelson and TE Jermichael Finley are very deserving of targets… and will get them. In Minnesota, Jennings will be the big fish in the purple pond but will have a hard time cracking WR1 territory without significant improvement from QB Christian Ponder and the Vikings demonstrating a willingness to open up the offense.

In the end, this likely is a neutral move for Jennings’ fantasy value, representing as a low-end WR2 with very little upside due to below average quarterback play.

2013 Fantasy Impact – Falcons Land Steven Jackson

By: — March 15, 2013 @ 10:07 am
Steven Jackson

The Falcons have themselves a workhorse at running back.

With a gaping hole at running back following the release of Michael Turner, the Atlanta Falcons have landed the top free agent at the position in former Ram Steven Jackson.

Reports indicate that Jackson will sign a three-year, $12 million contract.

Atlanta’s interest in Jackson was perhaps the league’s worst kept secret entering the free agency period. It is likely that only the lukewarm interest Jackson received from the Green Bay Packers kept him from agreeing to terms with Atlanta earlier.

In the 29-year-old Jackson, the Falcons gain a player long considered one of the league’s premier power running backs and perhaps the most consistent player at his position, as evidenced by his eight consecutive 1000-yard seasons. In 2012, he gained 1,042 rushing yards and scored four touchdowns while averaging 4.1 yards per carry. He also chipped in 38 receptions for 321 yards.

With Jackson on the roster, third-year player Jacquizz Rodgers will remain the team’s top backup, with Jason Snelling providing additional depth.

Fantasy Impact

Jackson has ranked as the 17th, 11th and 14th fantasy RB in the past three years, as his low touchdown totals (4, 6, and 6, respectively) have held his ranking down.

In Atlanta, with one of the league’s leading offenses, Jackson figures to approach the 11 touchdowns Turner scored in 2012, meaning the only issues that could prevent Jackson from being a lower-tier RB1 in 2013 are injuries (two missed games over the last four years) and a decline in performance.

While Jackson will hit the dreaded 30-year-old mark prior to the season and has accumulated 2,395 rushing attempts and 407 receptions over his nine-year career, his performance in 2012 was not indicative of a player on the downside of his career.

His yards per carry was a respectable 4.1 (just off his career average of 4.2) and he caught 38 passes, making it the eighth straight year he has caught at least that many, while averaging 8.4 yards per reception. With Roddy White, Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez around to keep opposing defenses honest, Jackson won’t face the eight- and nine-man fronts he saw during most of his tenure in St. Louis.

In an era dominated by the running-back-by-committee approach, Jackson bucked that trend as a true workhorse during his stay with the Rams. However, with Rodgers in tow as his backup, and worthy of 8 to 10 touches per game, Jackson is likely in line for 250 to 280 touches in 2013. That should make him an upper-tier RB2 with an outside chance of low-end RB1 production. Rodgers is a solid handcuff and decent flex option in 12-team leagues.

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan gains another option in the passing game (Turner had a career-high 19 receptions in 2012), which should add to his production. He remains just outside of the big four at quarterback.

Jackson’s presence has little to no impact on White, Jones and Gonzalez.

2013 Fantasy Impact – Welker Jettisons Patriots for Denver

By: — March 14, 2013 @ 9:04 am
Wes Welker

Wes Welker moves from Hall of Fame QB to another.

In one of the more stunning free agent signings in recent years, Wes Welker has agreed to terms with the Denver Broncos.

Unable to reach a deal with New England after playing the 2012 season under the franchise tag, Welker chose to leave the Patriots and end his longstanding and productive relationship with quarterback Tom Brady to sign with the Broncos, where he will join Peyton Manning.

In an era of ever-churning news cycles, Welker’s decision to leave New England for Denver will be debated for a long time, particularly given that he agreed to a modest deal (reportedly two years and $12 million) shortly after Brady signed a below-market extension that granted the Patriots an abundance of salary cap space.

Brady’s reaction to the deal will be almost as interesting as watching Welker on the field in Denver with Manning.

Regarded as the league’s premier slot receiver, Welker recorded 672 receptions during his six-year stint in New England, endearing himself to the team’s fan base with his solid production and toughness. He missed just three games due to injury despite suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament in the final game of the 2009 season.

Last season, Welker caught 118 passes for 1,354 yards and six touchdowns.

Fantasy Impact

Well, the widespread assumption was that if Welker left the Patriots, he would be hard pressed to match his production in New England with his new team. However, if there is a quarterback that can keep Welker relevant, it is Manning.

If a 36-year-old Brandon Stokley can catch 45 passes playing out of the slot with Manning, Welker has a solid chance to surpass 100 receptions for the sixth time in the past seven seasons.

In Denver, Welker joins a pair of 1000-yard receivers in Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, but there is little reason to suggest he can’t top 100 receptions and 1,000 yards with the Broncos. Throw in another six- or seven-touchdown season and Welker will once again rate as a high-end WR2 in 2013.

With Welker owning the slot, the team’s tight ends will almost certainly become persona non grata in the Broncos passing attack. Jacob Tamme and Joel Dreessen are once again expected to share that role, so neither will be worth owning for fantasy purposes.

Thomas and Decker both had outstanding seasons in 2012, and Welker’s signing shouldn’t have a major impact on their production as both players enter their fourth season in the league.

Of the two, Thomas has the most upside, having accumulated 1,442 receiving yards and ten touchdowns last season. He has the potential to become a top three fantasy WR in 2013.

Decker was the seventh-ranked fantasy WR in 2012, with 1,064 yards and 13 touchdowns. But since such a large portion of his production came from touchdowns, another top 10 fantasy season seems unlikely. Decker still shapes up as a mid-tier WR2 next season, however.

As for Manning, he moves from being a mid-tier QB1 to an upper-tier option, given the plethora of outstanding talent the team now possesses at receiver.

In New England, Brady will be left to lament the loss of his security blanket, as will his fantasy owners. Although reports indicate that the Patriots have signed former Ram Danny Amendola to replace Welker, he is little more than a poor man’s version—and an injury-prone one at that.

With Welker’s departure, Brady becomes a riskier fantasy option, though he remains an upper-tier fantasy QB for 2013.

Free Agent Frenzy – Day 2

By: — @ 1:04 am

Fantasy highlights from Day 2 of free agency. It didn’t disappoint.

The biggest splash occurred when Wes Welker moved on from Tom Brady and into the arms of Peyton Manning. The Patriots reportedly offered the prolific slot receiver $10 million plus incentives for two years. The Broncos offered $12 million for the same time frame. This move creates a ripple effect in Denver. Eric Decker‘s fantasy value takes a hit along with the Broncos’ tight ends. Downgrade the fantasy value of Welker also. It’s hard to catch 100 passes with Demaryius Thomas on the outside… but our own Dave Stinger doesn’t agree.

Danny Amendola

Injury history is a huge red flag with Amendola.

After losing Welker, the Patriots turned right around and picked up Danny Amendola to fill the void. Long thought of as a poor man’s Wes Welker, Amendola’s fantasy value took a jump today but his huge injury risk limits his leap. He’s missed 20 games in the last two years.

If the Patriots hold firm with the receivers they have now, the biggest beneficiary may be TE Aaron Hernandez who is capable of playing in the slot and could rack up huge numbers if Amendola continues to demonstrate his brittle nature.

After a quiet Day 1, the running back position made some noise as Reggie Bush left South Beach for Detroit, signing a four-year deal. This gives Bush added upside but with Mikel Leshoure still in the mix and likely to get goaline carries, Bush’s value will be greatest in PPR leagues with 60 catches a real possibility.

Rashard Mendenhall reunites with Bruce Arians as the former Steelers running back signed a one-year deal with Arizona. Mendenhall tried to come back last season after tearing his ACL in early January of 2012. He never rushed for more than 50 yards in any game. If Mendenhall can win the starting job over Ryan Williams he may slide into low-end RB2 territory but with injury concerns and no quarterback play, that’s wishful thinking.

Tennessee added depth at running back, picking up Shonn Greene from the Jets. Both Greene and Chris Johnson take hits to their fantasy value with this move. Greene could become a vulture at the goaline and gives the Titans the option to form a RBBC if desired. This is still CJ2K’s starting job but a 65-35 split wouldn’t surprise me.

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