With the NFL free agent market cooling off until the restricted free agent market heats up, the number of important unrestricted free agent signings has slowed to a trickle. However, teams continue to fill their personnel needs for the 2010 season with more modest acquisitions through free agency and trades.
That the free agent market has included so few key signings comes as no surprise given teams’ increased propensity to retain their own free agents over the last few years, and the breakdown of labour negotiations which resulted in 2010 being an uncapped year. The latter point severely reduced the number of unrestricted free agents on the market due to players now requiring six years of experience before qualifying for unrestricted status.
Despite that, there were a number of interesting moves this week that will have fantasy implications for the 2010 season. Some of the players that changed teams this week could provide surprise fantasy value.
Charlie Whitehurst Traded to Seattle
This one qualifies as the most intriguing transaction of the week with the Seattle Seahawks swapping 2nd round picks in this year’s rookie draft and also giving up a 3rd round pick in 2011 to San Diego to acquire Charlie Whitehurst.
The ‘Hawks drop 20 spots in the 2nd round and also have reportedly agreed to a contract extension for Whitehurst that pays him $5 million per season.
Teams don’t pay backups $5 million a season unless they are all but guaranteed to become starters. With Seattle in a rebuilding mode under new head coach Pete Carroll and an injury-prone Matt Hasselbeck hitting 35 early in the season, there’s little doubt Whitehurst will be behind center at some point in 2010 barring a Seattle early season resurgence.
Whitehurst is an unknown commodity, not having thrown a regular season pass during his four years in the league. With the team’s offense expected to struggle and being led by an aging Hasselbeck or the inexperienced Whitehurst, you should downgrade the team’s wide receivers and tight end John Carlson. They carry significant fantasy risk with little upside given the quarterback situation.
Is Whitehurst a sleeper in Seattle? Not in 2010 and maybe not in dynasty leagues given the team’s aging starting wide receivers T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Deion Branch.
Delhomme to Start in Cleveland
If the Whitehurst situation was intriguing, this one is the head scratcher of the week. Cleveland trades a former 1st round pick in Brady Quinn, who never really had much of a chance to succeed, for a fullback, a 2011 6th round pick and a conditional pick in 2012. They also dumped former Pro Bowl quarterback Derek Anderson.
They did this all for the chance to install Delhomme as the team’s starting quarterback on a 2 year deal for a reported $7 million a season. This for a player who has over his last 12 games, thrown for 2,220 yards, nine touchdowns and 23 interceptions while completing less than 55% of his passes.
As with the Seattle wide receivers, avoid Cleveland’s wideouts and tight ends in 2010. In fact, the only useful offensive fantasy player on the roster is running back Jerome Harrison.
Quinn Traded to the Broncos
The Broncos gave up little to acquire Quinn and he will enter training camp with a chance to unseat Kyle Orton as the team’s starting quarterback in 2011. While Quinn has been dismal as a pro, there should be little argument with the notion that he had little to work with in Cleveland, particularly in 2009.
Of course, the other side of the argument is that there’s nothing to suggest that he’s bound for success in Denver in 2010 or even that he’ll push Orton to the bench. However, head coach Josh McDaniels may have seen enough from Orton to know that after five years in the league he’s not about to relinquish his role as a game manager.
Here’s betting that McDaniels gives Quinn every opportunity to win the job and that he does. Quinn’s motivation has never been questioned and it’s possible that the better supporting cast that resides in Denver will propel him from the fantasy backwaters to being a useful fantasy backup quarterback.
Orton was the 16th ranked quarterback in 2009, the team has talented young playmakers on offense and a solid, young offensive line so if Brandon Marshall returns, whoever wins the starting job could provide some upside to your fantasy squad next year.
Derek Anderson Signs with Arizona
Jettisoned by the Browns, Anderson quickly found a home with the Arizona Cardinals. The former Pro Bowl quarterback figures to play behind Matt Leinart, but there are mixed signals coming from the team’s coaching staff regarding where Anderson fits in.
A week ago Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt noted that Leinart would be the team’s anointed starter after he goes to three Pro Bowls and wins a Super Bowl. Then after Anderson signed, Whisenhunt claimed that Leinart was the starter.
However, Anderson’s deal is significant for a backup and reports indicate that it includes $7.25 million over two years with the chance to earn up to $18 million. While Leinart may be the starter heading into camp, Anderson’s deal suggests that the team certainly felt they needed competition for Leinart.
That should come as no surprise given his history off the field as well as his performance on it over the last few years.
Nonetheless, Leinart figures to win the job out of training camp and his fantasy situation is solid given the team’s cast of offensive skill position players, even with the departure of wide receiver Anquan Boldin to the Ravens.
However, while his fantasy situation is solid, he has done little to suggest that he is about to become an elite level quarterback overnight. More likely, he will struggle at times in 2010 and the team will almost certainly look to increase the use of their running attack behind 2009 1st round pick Chris Wells.
Leinart figures to be a mid to low end backup fantasy quarterback in 2010, albeit one with upside. In dynasty leagues, he’s certainly worth taking a chance on.
Johnson Signs on to Backup Portis in Washington
Former Chief Larry Johnson signed a two year deal for the chance to compete for playing time in Washington behind starter Clinton Portis. While Johnson has been an enigma for his entire career and is perhaps the most overrated fantasy running back over the last decade with just two 1,000 yard seasons out of seven in the league, his performance over the last few years hasn’t been as horrible as some would suggest.
He averaged 4.5 yards per carry in 2008 and would have topped 1,000 yards had he not missed four games due to his off the field transgressions. While his performance last year was poor, it seems clear that he is a player that plays best when his back is against the wall or when he is challenged.
His best years in the league came when he had to beat Priest Holmes out of the starting spot in Kansas City. In Washington, his career is on the line and he will be out of the league unless his performs.
In Washington, they might consider him the oldest running back on the roster since at 30, he is two years older than Clinton Portis. However, he’s carried the ball 775 fewer times in his career. He’s worth taking a flier on but certainly not worth reaching for.