Hey Fantasy Freaks! StatsGuru here, a new contributor in the Fantasy Cafe. I’m already amped up for Draft Weekend, followed by mini-camps, training camps, preseason and then the most wonderful time of the year, NFL 2009! There’s a lot happening out there in free agency, so let’s have a look at what’s been going on from a fantasy perspective. We will also touch on some Draft Day needs for each team and list their selection numbers for the first three rounds.
The Cards have re-signed QB Kurt Warner, QB Brian St. Pierre, TE Leonard Pope. The Cards also signed Unrestricted Free Agents RB Jason Wright (Clev) and TE Anthony Becht (STL). Wright looks to take over Arrington’s role. The Cards want to upgrade at the TE spot, but Becht is not the answer.
The Cards most notable loss on offense is RB J.J. Arrington, who went to Denver. WR Anquan Boldin is trying to negotiate a new deal but is still under contract with the Cardinals. The Giants, Dolphins, Jaguars and Buccaneers are the latest teams in the rumor mill. Expect “Q” to be back in crimson in 2009.
The Cardinals first three are selections are 31st, 63rd and 95th. They will be looking for some value at RB and TE, as well as help on defense and O-Line in the draft.
The Falcons have been very quiet so far when it comes to offensive UFAs. They did re-sign WR Michael Jenkins to a four-year deal that will lock him in as the Falcons #2 WR.
The Falcons appear confident that Harry Douglas will succeed as the #3 WR, as they’ve traded Laurent Robinson to the Rams to move up in the fifth and sixth rounds in this year’s draft.
If they can find some value, the Falcons will pick up a TE, but they will be more about defense on Draft Day with the 24th, 55th and 90th selections.
The Panthers re-signed TE Jeff King to one-year contract. King will compete with third-year TE Dante Rosario and second-year TE Gary Barnridge for playing time. King will see playing time because of his blocking skills but has limited fantasy value. Keep an eye on Barnridge, who could develop into the Panthers starter sooner rather than later.
The Panthers lost WR Mark Jones to the Titans and cut WR D.J. Hackett. They also cut aging RB Nick Goings.
The Panthers do not have a first round pick and hold just the 59th and 93rd selections. The WR position is the Panthers most pressing offensive need in the draft.
The addition of QB Jay Cutler (Den) is great news for Bears fans. Now they need someone he can throw the ball to!
The Bears re-signed RB Kevin Jones, who will once again act as the handcuff for RB Matt Forte. Adding Cutler is a good thing for Forte, as teams will need to respect the Bears passing game more in 2009.
The Bears released QB Rex Grossman and WR Marty Booker, and WR Brandon Lloyd remains unsigned.
The WR position will be a top priority for the Bears but without a first round pick, don’t expect them to get an impact player unless they trade up. The Bears hold the 49th and 99th selections.
The Cowboys signed UFA Jon Kitna (Det) to act as the backup for QB Tony Romo. They are still negotiating with RFA WRs Sam Hurd and Miles Austin. Austin is scheduled to visit the Jets, and the Cowboys are doing what they can to get him under contract.
As has been well documented, the Cowboys gave Terrell Owens his outright release, and he subsequently signed with the Bills. Veteran QB Brad Johnson has also been released.
The Cowboys don’t have a draft pick until the second round and hold the 51st and 69th selections. Look for them to seek out a speedy WR to compliment Roy Williams, who is the new #1 in Dallas. Should they re-sign both Hurd and Austin, the need becomes somewhat less desperate.
The Lions have been aggressive in free agency, having signed RB Maurice Morris (Sea), WR Bryant Johnson (SF) and TE Will Heller (Sea). They also re-signed RB Aveion Cason. Morris and Johnson should have an immediate impact for the hapless Lions.
WR Shaun McDonald and RB Rudi Johnson remain unsigned, while QB Dan Orlovsky has moved on to the Texans. WR Mike Furrey was released outright.
As far as the draft goes, where do you begin? The Lions have so many pressing needs. With Cutler gone to the Bears, the Lions main focus is back on a QB with the first overall pick. They also have the 20th, 33rd, 65th and 82nd selections, but expect them to use all of them for defense and O-line help on Draft Day. If QB Daunte Culpepper and QB Drew Stanton are both healthy, the Lions would be wise to avoid a QB selection with their first three picks all-together. The 2010 crop of QBs will be much better, and the Lions should be drafting high again next year.
GREEN BAY PACKERS
For a team that missed the playoffs, it’s surprising that the Packers have not made a single significant free agent move this off-season.
They will look to get better in the draft and hold the 9th, 41st, 73rd and 83rd selections in the first three rounds. With the Packers moving to a 3-4 defense (and with so much help needed), don’t expect much offensive fire-power to come out of this draft. The Packers will be a mirror image of 2008 on offense next year.
The Vikings have been relatively quiet during the free agency period. They acquired QB Sage Rosenfels in a trade with the Texans and re-signed TE Jim Kleinsasser. Rosenfels looks like the preseason favorite to start, while Kleinsasser is a blocking TE who has limited fantasy upside.
The Vikings released QB Gus Frerotte, which will probably end his career.
The Vikings are another team in dire need at the WR position. If they knew WR Sidney Rice could stay healthy for an entire season, the need wouldn’t be as pressing as it is. Watch the health of Rice in the preseason, as he could come in as quite a sleeper pick in fantasy circles. The Vikings have the 22nd, 54th and 86th selections in the draft.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
The Saints signed FB Heath Evans away from the Patriots with a two-year contract. Evans should step in immediately as a power back at the goal line and may even put a dent in the stock of RB Pierre Thomas. The Saints also agreed to terms with UFA WR Devery Henderson and are said to be close to a restructured deal with RFA WR Lance Moore. For what it’s worth, the Saints re-signed QB Joey Harrington and he appears to be the backup/handcuff for QB Drew Brees.
Veteran WR David Patten and RB Deuce McAllister have both been released. RB Aaron Stecker remains unsigned and the addition of Evans is a blow to his chances of him sticking with the Saints.
The Saints will be all about defense during the draft but hold just one selection, the 14th overall, in the first three rounds.
NEW YORK GIANTS
The Giants have not made any gains on the offensive side of the ball thus far in 2009. They extended the contract of RB Brandon Jacobs with a four-year deal. The somewhat-fragile Jacobs will miss RB Derrick Ward. WR Amani Toomer remains unsigned, and his best years are well past him.
The Giants made it official and have given troubled WR Plaxico Burress his outright release. The Giants also lost RB Derrick Ward to the Bucs and released RB Reuben Droughns. If Burress can stay out of jail (which is not a given at this point), he will land somewhere and we will keep you posted. Would Burress play for the Eagles?
The Giants have five picks in the first three rounds with the 29th, 45th, 60th, 91st and 100th selections. They have a glaring need at the WR position and may look to trade up to get one.
The Eagles signed FB Leonard Weaver (Sea) to help lead the way for RB Brian Westbrook. Otherwise, they have not made any significant free agent signings. QB Donovan McNabb is still looking for a contract extension but talks have been quiet so far.
RB Correll Buckhalter signed with the Broncos and oft-injured TE L.J. Smith signed with the Ravens. The Eagles continue to negotiate with RFA WR Hank Baskett.
The Eagles are in line, with so many other teams, when it comes to the WR position and will also be looking for a TE. They have the 21st, 28th, 53rd and 85th selections so there will be talent there to fill their needs. It’s also time for the Eagles to start looking for their future starting RB.
SAN FRANCISCO 49ers
The 49ers have had a mixed bag of loses and gains during the free agent period. They signed QB Damon Huard from the Chiefs and WR Brandon Jones from the Titans. Huard is buried as the third QB on a weak depth chart, but Jones could lead the Niners in receptions in 2009.
They lost QB J.T. O’Sullivan to the Bengals and WR Bryant Johnson to the Lions. Veteran RB DeShaun Foster remains unsigned and a non-factor in fantasy land.
The Niners are one of a handful of teams that will take a serious look at the QB position. They have the 10th, 43rd and 74th selections. Look for the Niners to hope that QB Matt Sanchez falls to the 10th spot.
The Seahawks have been very active this off-season but have lost more than they have gained. They made a big splash by landing WR T.J Houshmandzadeh. I see a big year coming from T.J. if QB Matt Hasselbeck can get back to his Pro Bowl form.
The Seahawks lost RB Maurice Morris, FB Leonard Weaver, TE Will Heller and WR Bobby Engram. WR Koren Robinson and QB Charlie Frye remain unsigned.
The health of Hasselbeck is a primary concern for the Seahawks. The Seahawks have the 4th, 37th and 68th selections and may look at using one of them on their QB of the future. The Seahawks will also look at adding a RB with one of their selections. That being said, expect this draft to more about defense for the Seahawks.
ST. LOUIS RAMS
The Rams have been dealing with no less than 34 free agents but, in reality, they have not accomplished anything. Offensively, they have not signed anyone. Veteran WRs Dane Looker and Dante Hall remain unsigned, but neither of them would be considered valuable in fantasy circles. They did add Laurent Robinson (Atl) in a trade.
The Rams have opened up some cap space by releasing veteran WRs Torry Holt and Drew Bennett, as well as QB Trent Green and TE Anthony Becht. It’s certainly the end of an era for the once-fantasy stud Holt. We will keep you posted as to where he ends up, as he will land somewhere.
The Rams have the 2nd, 35th and 66th selections and need help across the board. At this point, the Rams starting WRs are Donnie Avery and Keenan Burton. Not pretty, is it? Starting QB Marc Bulger is one hit away from retirement, but is QB Brook Berlin ready to step into the starting role? All things considered, it’s hard to say what direction the Rams will move. It will definitely be a rebuilding year in the Show Me State.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
The Bucs have been very busy adding and releasing players. They signed RB Derrick Ward away from the Giants and he should step into a dreaded RB-by-committee system with RB Earnest Graham. RB Cadillac Williams is out of the repair shop, but one has to wonder if the Bucs have given up on him. The Bucs also lured TE Kellen Winslow out of Cleveland and he is having the first healthy off-season of his career. The Bucs re-signed (and over-paid) WR Michael Clayton, making it a near lock that he will start as Tampa’s #2 WR. They also resigned TE Jerramy Stevens but with Winslow in town, Stevens targets will drop off in 2009.
The Bucs released QB Jeff Garcia, WRs Ike Hilliard and Joey Galloway, and RB Warrick Dunn. While they all have big names, their 2009 contract values don’t match their production levels at this stage of their careers.
The Bucs have a ton of needs on Draft Day and a pirate ship full of cash to get the job done. What will be available to them is a different story all together. The Bucs have the 19th and 81st selections and will be looking at a QB first and a WR second when it comes to the offense.
The Redskins have been silent on the free agent market from an offensive standpoint. WR Antwaan Randle El negotiated a lower contract to stay with the Skins, but sophomore WRs Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly will also compete for the starting job opposite WR Santana Moss.
The Shaun Alexander experiment is over in D.C., as the Skins cut the veteran RB and former fantasy stud loose. Retirement is probably next for this once-great warrior.
Washington has the 13th and 80th selections, but they’re in need of line help on both sides of the ball. What you saw in 2008 on offense is basically what you’ll see out of the Redskins in 2009. Ouch!
There’s a look at the free agent period for the NFC. StatsGuru will be back with a look at the AFC soon!
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