By: Gregg Rosenthal
The third law of free agency movement: For every NFL player transaction, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Or something like that.
When Thomas Jones jumps from the Bears to the Jets, it doesn't only affect our projection for Jones. It creates collateral damage for players like Leon Washington and Cedric Houston. It also boosts the outlooks for Cedric Benson and Adrian Peterson.
Laurence Maroney, Patriots
While Corey Dillon was expected to get cut, it should still come as a huge relief for Maroney owners. So should Sammy Morris' signing. Morris is a classically versatile Patriots reserve, but not a true threat to Maroney's touches. With Kevin Faulk and Bill Belichick's playbook around, Maroney may get fewer touches and even touchdowns than the average "workhorse" back. But his yardage can be elite because of his big-play ability. He looks like a borderline first-round pick next season.
DeDe Dorsey, Colts
Congratulations if you already knew the current backup running back of the world champion Colts. Indianapolis should bolster the position in the draft, but there are some indications that the organization believes Dorsey is up for the task. I don't know much about Dorsey, but I happily picked him up for cheap in my deep dynasty league.
LenDale White, Titans
The plan all along was to let Lendale White take over the starting running back job this season. Travis Henry's surprising campaign and White's struggles adjusting to pro life didn't change the mind of Jeff Fisher or Norm Chow.
With both Henry and Chris Brown off the roster, White is the only option Fisher has. If White gets his head screwed on straight, he's bound to be an undervalued top-50 pick in fantasy leagues next season. He looked good when he was on the field in 2006 – he just wasn't there enough.
Derek Hagan, Dolphins
Wes Welker's departure opens a role for Hagan in Cam Cameron's offense. Hagan struggled with drops as a rookie, but also showed surprising toughness. He came through with 11 catches and 119 yards in two starts with Marty Booker out during the middle of last season. Like every other player in the NFL, he has a better catch percentage than Chris Chambers.
I thought Booker may get cut this off-season, but that appears less likely now. Hagan should still have a sizeable role increase.
Sage Rosenfels, Texans
Jeff Garcia is in Tampa. Patrick Ramsey went to Denver. Jake Plummer is in the Colorado State Handball Championships. Since David Carr is reportedly the quarterback non grata in Houston, Rosenfels will probably be the favorite to start in Houston in 2007.
Cedric Benson & Adrian Peterson, Bears
Benson, Lendale White, Brandon Jacobs, and Laurence Maroney make up a crucial subsection of young running backs to evaluate before draft season. They have achieved varying levels of success as backups, but now will get the chance to be The Man. Benson can run well enough inside and out. Consistency and durability are the two big questions, but he'll rack up numbers if he's on the field.
Peterson is one of the more underrated backups in the league. He can be a quality third-down back who becomes valuable in fantasy leagues if Benson gets hurt. He'll be high on our handcuffs list and should be owned in most dynasty leagues.
Troy Williamson, Vikings
I don't understand why the Vikings didn't aggressively court Donte' Stallworth, Drew Bennett and every other receiver on the market. They went after Kevin Curtis, but not hard enough. Instead, they signed Viscanthe Shiancoe and Bobby Wade to big money. You don't want free agency to solve all of your roster problems, but it's worth overpaying when you have a Billy McMullen-sized hole on the roster. The cap space has to be used somehow.
Minnesota's inactivity will give Troy Williamson another chance to start. He's been working on ways to improve his hand-eye coordination, which one would think is important to an NFL receiver.
Vincent Jackson, Chargers
San Diego was rumored to be looking at wideouts in free agency, but didn't sign anyone. They released Keenan McCardell to clear the way for Jackson to be the number one option outside for Philip Rivers next season.
It wouldn't be a big surprise if the Chargers drafted a wideout in the first round, but any rookie will likely be part of a rotation behind Jackson. Jackson will be a fantasy WR3 at worst during draft season.
Brodie Croyle & Jeff Webb, Chiefs
Herm Edwards is trying to start a youth movement. Bringing back Damon Huard will allow Croyle to compete for snaps sooner than later. Failing to sign any aging wideouts may allow Webb to compete for a starting job with Samie Parker.
Vernand Morency, Packers
It looks like the Packers won the Vernand Morency-for-Samkon Gado blockbuster of a year ago. Morency is set to share running back duties with a rookie to be named later. Gado looks like a longshot to make the Texans with Ahman Green and Ron Dayne on board.
David Thomas, Patriots
The Patriots didn't have to get in a bidding war for Daniel Graham because they know Thomas is starting-caliber. He has similar big-play ability to Graham, better hands, and is a solid blocker.
In a deep field at tight end, Thomas may not get drafted in fantasy leagues. But he'll improve and make enough noise to be a bye-week option.
Steve Heiden, Browns
This isn't a true collateral benefit from free agency, but instead from an injury. Profootballtalk.com reported Monday that Kellen Winslow's status for the 2007 is in doubt because of his recent microfracture surgery. Heiden caught 36 passes last season as a backup, with a microscopic 6.9 yards-per-catch average.
Willie Parker, Steelers
The Steelers were one of the few teams with serious cap problems this off-season. They couldn't afford to upgrade from Najeh Davenport as their backup running back even if they wanted to. While it's possible Pittsburgh could draft a pounder, FWP is in line to receive another 350 touches.
Devery Henderson, Saints
Henderson is a prototypical number three receiver, but he could get his chance to start with Joe Horn off the roster. The Saints need to add a receiver, but Henderson will be the favorite to start in Sean Payton's explosive attack.
Vernon Davis, 49ers
Quality backup Eric Johnson is gone. So is Antonio Bryant. Despite still being raw, Vernon Davis enters 2007 as Alex Smith's top option in the passing game. At tight end, only Antonio Gates and Tony Gonzalez can say the same thing.
Marc Bulger, Rams
Scott Linehan historically loves to throw inside the red zone. When drawing up plays for 2007, Linehan and Bulger will have the following options to throw to: Torry Holt, Isaac Bruce, Drew Bennett, Steven Jackson, Randy McMichael, and Joe Klopfenstein.
They won't all be on the field at the same time, but the Rams threaten to have the best offense in the NFC if the offensive line holds up. 30 TDs and 4,000 yards are within reach for Bulger.