I posted Part I about a month back...you can see it online here:
F R E E A G E N C Y R E V I E W (PART II)
by John Hansen
Publisher, The Guru Report
Originally published, April 15th 2003
There are still a handful of free agent skill players yet to know the
colors of their 2003 uniform - if they have one at all - but it's now safe
to say the bulk of this year's free agency activity has passed. As we
suspected, the most interesting player movement happened early in the game
and was covered in Part I of this article. To put this year's free agent
movement into perspective, we've ranked all moves below in terms of their
Below the offensive players, fantasy defense maven Adam Caplan has ranked
his top-22 free agent moves from the defensive side of the ball and also
added some honorable mentions. As always, keep in mind all the analysis
below is from a fantasy football perspective. This is especially
important to remember when reading the defensive analysis.
1. Stephen Davis (RB, signed by Car from Was) - See Analysis in Free
Agency Review Part I
2. David Boston (WR, signed by SD from Ari) - See Analysis in Free Agency
Review Part I
3. Peerless Price (WR, traded from Buf to Atl) - See Analysis in Free
Agency Review Part I
4. Laveranues Coles (WR, signed by Was from NYJ)
The Skinny: Coles last month agreed to a seven-year, $35 million offer
sheet from the Redskins. Coles' signing bonus was $13 million, the largest
in Redskin history. The Jets, who tendered the restricted free agent only
a $1.3 million offer rather than a $1.8 million offer (which would have
commanded a 3rd round pick in addition to the 1st rounder), opted not to
match Washington's offer. They did so mainly because it was actually more
than the four-year receiver was asking for. The Redskins had no qualms
about giving up the money and their 13th pick overall for Coles. The Jets,
meanwhile, didn't feel the player was worth the money, especially since
losing him netted them such a high first round draft pick.
The Fantasy Analysis: In today's NFL, the 5'11", 196-pound Coles isn't
considered a prototypical WR, but he's exactly what Steve Spurrier wants
in his offense. Coles runs a 4.3 40, runs excellent routes, has superb
hands, and will give Spurrier a legitimate deep and run-after-the-catch
guy. He should also have more opportunities to find the endzone in
Washington. It should be pointed out, though, that Coles' chemistry with
QB Chad Pennington last year developed over a three-year period and that
it may take time for him to develop anything close to that in Washington
with Patrick Ramsey. But the bottom line is that Coles will step in as
the team's #1 WR - with fellow starter Rod Gardner the possession guy -
and Coles could still catch 100+ balls in this pass-happy system. At 26
years old and having proved himself as an elite NFL receiver, Coles
appears to be a can't-miss fantasy player in this system. The one factor
that could slow him down, though, is the (potentially slow) development of
Ramsey. There is little doubt Ramsey will be an effective NFL QB for quite
some time, but it's hard to say for sure that he'll flourish in just his
second year in the league, especially with a real tough schedule the first
month of the season. But as long as Ramsey, who will at least have the
benefit of two training camps with Spurrier, is coming along well this
summer and there is nothing close to a QB controversy in Washington,
Coles' potential will easily prompt us to advocate him as a #2 fantasy WR.
5. Jake Plummer (QB, signed by Den from Ari) - See Analysis in Free
Agency Review Part I
6. Stacey Mack (RB, signed by Hou from Jac)
The Skinny: Mack, who has averaged a solid 4.0 yards per carry while
rushing for 1,498 yards and 19 touchdowns during his four-year career,
signed what is believed to be a one-year contract with the Texans last
week worth only $530,000 plus a small signing bonus. Texan head coach Dom
Capers was the Jaguars' defensive coordinator during Mack's first two
seasons in Jacksonville, but Mack, who passed on better offers from the
Jaguars and Giants, signed with Houston and for only one year for one
simple reason: He wanted a legitimate chance to start.
The Fantasy Analysis: Mack was a very average back in 1999-00, but he
showed noticeable improvement in 2001 and 2002, so he's an interesting
fantasy option this coming season. Although his speed is nothing special,
he has shown the ability to bust off a long run on occasion; has good
size, which makes him an effective inside/goal line runner; and he is more
explosive than last year's starter, Jon Wells. Speaking of Wells, he'll be
hard-pressed to beat Mack out for the starting job (even though Wells has
lost some weight in an attempt to improve his burst to the hole, which was
terrible last year). Assuming the team doesn't invest a high pick on a top
back in the draft, expect Mack to open the season as the starter in Texas
and have a season that will make him very worthy of being drafted as a #3
fantasy back. That is if - and we repeat if - his OL isn't a total mess
again come September.
7. Curtis Conway (WR, signed by NYJ from SD)
The Skinny: After losing Coles to the Redskins, the Jets wasted little
time signing the 10-year veteran Conway, who was released earlier in the
year by the Chargers. Conway's deal was a three-year one that included a
signing bonus of $1.2 million and could pay him as much as $7.5 million.
In Conway, the Jets finally have a receiver with size - someone who is an
ideal fit for their offense. He will immediately step in as the team's #1
The Fantasy Analysis: There are those who believe Conway, at 32, has lost
a step. He may no longer be the great deep threat he was with the Bears
in, say, 1995, but he's still a fast receiver who can make plays
downfield, and he's definitely not afraid to go over the middle. For the
last two years in San Diego, despite questionable play at QB and a shaky
supporting cast at receiver, Conway performed at a very high level.
Conway, with an accurate and efficient QB in Chad Pennington at the helm,
could easily be an excellent #2 fantasy receiver for the Jets this year,
but there are two obvious reasons why you should draft him only as a #3.
One, although he plays as hard as anyone, durability has always been a big
concern with him, and it certainly is at his advancing age and on the
heels of a season that saw him miss four games due to a shoulder injury.
In ten seasons, Conway has started all 16 games only four times. Secondly,
the transition to the new offense and his new QB will not be one that will
happen overnight, so he'll probably be a little slow off the mark in New
York, where he will also be under more pressure. Still, proven and
legitimate #1 NFL receivers on good teams who are the #1 WR for those
teams are hard to come by, so Conway should be worth the gamble this year
and make a solid middle-round pick.
8. Trung Canidate (RB, traded to Was from Stl)
The Skinny: Canidate, who spent most of the last two seasons in Ram head
coach Mike Martz' dog house, was traded by the Rams to the Redskins for OG
David Loverne and a 4th round pick in this year's draft. He is expected
compete for and win the starting RB job in Washington this year.
The Fantasy Analysis: Clearly, the Redskins covet Canidate's blazing
speed, but it's good they didn't give up too much to get him because he
has plenty of issues. Let's start with the fumbling - it prevented him
from securing the backup job behind Marshall Faulk last year, and he
certainly hasn't proved he can keep the ball off the ground. He's also
been injury-prone since entering the league in 2000. Pass protection and
blitz pickup aren't his strong suits, either. Between the fumbling, the
injuries, and the mistakes, Canidate is bound to spend at least a little
time in "Chateau Bow Wow" in Washington. And with capable backs like
Ladell Betts and Kenny Watson waiting in the wings, a committee situation
seems likely and may even be the best case scenario for the 4th year back.
Does he have upside potential in this system? Sure. Will he be worth
taking even as a #2 RB? No way.
9. Kordell Stewart (QB, signed by Chi from Pit) - See Analysis in Free
Agency Review Part I
10. Emmitt Smith (RB, signed by Ari from Dal)
The Skinny: The NFL's all-time leading rusher last month agreed to a
two-year contract that is believed to have a $3 million signing bonus and
salaries between $2 million and $2.5 million each season. Smith's contract
is also believed to include a provision that allows for "a partnership off
the field," according to VP of football operations, Rod Graves. Smith, who
didn't seriously consider any other teams, is expected to open the season
first on the depth chart and to also provide the team with excellent
leadership and the younger players an example to follow. He's also
expected to put more bodies in the seats, since there is a strong Cowboy
fan contingency in Arizona. Finally, Smith's arrival in Arizona should
signal the end of the Thomas Jones era in the Grand Canyon State.
The Fantasy Analysis: While much has been made of how Smith's star power
will be a public relations boost for the downtrodden Cardinal franchise,
the real story here is the hit RB Marcel Shipp's fantasy value has taken.
Smith, although on the serious downside at 34, can still play, and he's
incredibly durable, so Shipp's 2003 value is reduced significantly. Smith
doesn't make people miss like he used to and at this point in his career
is no longer a threat to bust off a long run, two things Shipp has over
him. He's also been less effective the last few years near the goal,
another factor Shipp has over him. But the problem for Shipp is that Smith
will get plenty of touches and, even if it's in unspectacular fashion,
he'll grind out solid production behind a large Cardinal line, and he
probably won't get hurt, so Shipp's fantasy value in 2003 is iffy at best.
As for Smith himself, since Shipp will also play and has superior skills,
and since the Cardinals will be a bad team that will not give him many
scoring opportunities or 4th quarter leads to protect, Smith's fantasy
value is low, too. Personally, since he'll be available very late in the
draft and probably 3-4 rounds after Smith, I'd rather have Shipp, the
better player, as my 4th or 5th RB and just hope for the best.
11. Jeff Blake (QB, signed by Ari from Bal) - See Analysis in Free Agency
Review Part I
12. Jake Delhomme (QB, signed by Car from NO) - See Analysis in Free
Agency Review Part I
13. Ike Hilliard (WR, NYG, re-signed) - See Analysis in Free Agency
Review Part I
14. Derrius Thompson (WR, signed by Mia from Was) - See Analysis in Free
Agency Review Part I
15. Kevin Dyson (WR, signed by Car from Ten)
The Skinny: The Titans were one of two teams to draft a WR in the first
round of the 1998 draft, and they opted for Dyson over Randy Moss.
Needless to say, Dyson never did live up to expectations in Tennessee.
Injuries were a big problem, but Dyson hasn't proven himself to be a
viable #1 NFL receiver. The Panthers believe his hamstring injury from
last year is fully healed and that he will be 100% entering training camp.
Dyson's contract was believed to have been a one-year deal worth $1
million, which could increase to nearly $2 million if he reaches certain
The Fantasy Analysis: Dyson, 28, will compete for a starting job with WRs
Muhsin Muhammad and Steve Smith. If he starts, it will likely be at
Smith's expense. The speedy Smith could then play in the slot and would
give the team a nice trio of WRs. The Panther offense focuses on the run,
but their ultimate goal is to have balance with the pass, and they are
particularly fond of throwing the ball downfield, which is where Dyson
should come in. Dyson, however, shouldn't be a guy you can count on to
start for your fantasy team. He's injury-prone and the Panthers will
hardly have a prolific passing game. Plus, the team will be distributing
the ball between Dyson, Muhammad, Smith, and another new receiver, former
Ram Ricky Proehl, so there will be only so much production to go around.
Dyson makes a decent #4 or #5 receiver, though, and he could have nice
value during the season if there's an injury to Muhammad, who isn't
exactly an iron man.
16. Terry Glenn (WR, traded from GB to Dal) - See Analysis in Free Agency
Review Part I
17. Shawn Bryson (RB, signed by Det from Buf)
The Skinny: After garnering interest from a few other clubs, Bryson
decided to sign a low-end, one-year contract with a base salary of
$450,000. Coming off his second serious knee injury this past season,
Bryson wasn't exactly a hot commodity on the free agent market.
The Fantasy Analysis: Detroit was a good spot for Bryson. It's a situation
where he'll likely be playing behind a back in James Stewart who has had
trouble staying on the field and where new Head Coach Steve Marriuci is
known for rotating his RBs in a committee situation. If Bryson can prove
(again) that he can be effective coming off his (second) serious knee
injury, he might be able to cash in on a better contract in 2004. A decent
fit for the Lion offense, Bryson has good size and power, has good speed
when 100%, and is a capable receiver. When he's healthy (it remains to be
seen if he'll regain his speed this year), Bryson is an effective back -
he rushed for 130 yard and 2 TDs in one of his last starts in 2001, for
example. But he's someone to consider only very late in your draft or if
it looks like he'll collect substantial playing time in 2003, and only if
he's fully recovered and effective coming off his knee injury of last
18. MarTay Jenkins (WR, signed by Atl from Ari)
The Skinny: Atlanta's need for speed on offense was again addressed with
the signing of the former Cardinal Jenkins, who somewhat surprisingly
signed for the veteran minimum. Where exactly Jenkins fits in with the
Falcons will be a mystery at least until training camp. He has the ability
to challenge WR Brian Finneran for a starting spot but might be better off
serving as the team's #3 wideout. Making matters more confusing is the
presence of WRs Trevor Gaylor and Quentin McCord, two solid backup players
at the position. If nothing else, the acquisition of Jenkins simply adds
to QB Michael Vick's arsenal and upgrades their return game, which can
only help the young Falcon offense.
The Fantasy Analysis: Jenkins is certainly an interesting fantasy option
this year. He has good size, but the key to his game is his blazing speed.
Those two attributes could be utilized well by the Falcons, especially
playing half their games indoors on the carpet. But Jenkins is far from an
accomplished receiver. He did benefit greatly in Arizona from the coaching
of Jerry Sullivan, one of the league's best receivers coaches, so if he
wins the starting job this summer, he will be worthy of your consideration
late in your draft. Most likely, he'll be a member of a WRs committee and
an inconsistent performer, although with Vick's arm, Peerless Price
commanding attention, and Finneran and TE Alge Crumpler occupying the
intermediate area, Jenkins will likely make a few big plays downfield
while working against single coverage.
19. Mike Hollis (PK, signed by NYG from Buf)
The Skinny: One of the most accurate kickers in league history, Hollis was
fifth among AFC kickers with 115 points for Buffalo last season. He hit on
25 of 33 field goal attempts, including 10 of 15 from 40 yards or longer,
and three from 50 yards or longer. Hollis' contract was reportedly a
five-year deal worth just over $4 million.
The Fantasy Analysis: By the end of the season last year, the Giant
offense was virtually unstoppable, but they lacked a reliable kicker. Last
year's kicker, Matt Bryant, started off strong and then slumped a little
down the stretch. He probably cost the team a playoff win against the
49ers by missing a 4th quarter 42-yard FG and failing to spike the ball on
a muffed snap on the last play of the game. Hollis isn't as good as he
once was, but he's a rock solid veteran who should be able to handle the
(sometimes) tough kicking conditions in northern New Jersey. The Giants
attempted a solid 32 field goals last year, and if they continue to have
their problems in the red zone, Hollis should be a busy man, and he should
finish the season as a top-10 fantasy kicker. He's a great backup fantasy
kicker or even a starter, assuming you grab him at a major discount late
in your draft.
20. Rian Lindell (PK, signed by Buf from Sea)
The Skinny: Buffalo signed the restricted free agent Lindell to a
four-year, $4.2 million offer sheet that the Seahawks declined to match.
The Fantasy Analysis: Lindell has been a little uneven in his relatively
short career, which is why the Seahawks considered releasing him a few
times, but he came on and performed well, particularly in the clutch, last
year, hitting 23 of 29 FG attempts. He's no lock to remain consistent in
Buffalo, especially when it's cold in November and December, but on this
improved team, he definitely has a chance to kick over 25 FGs this year,
making him a decent backup candidate.
21. John Hall (PK, signed by Was from NYJ)
The Skinny: The Redskins were in much worse shape at kicker than the
Giants were last year, so the acquisition of Hall was a good one. The
Redskins, however, did overpay for him, signing him to a five-year, $7.13
The Fantasy Analysis: Place kickers, in general, have the reputation for
being a little flaky, and Hall is a guy who perpetuates that image. Hall
is coming off a successful season in which he hit 24 of 31 FG attempts,
but his career success rate is only 73%. He has one of the strongest legs
in the league and is excellent on kickoffs, but he's a little erratic and
had never been a guy you can count on as your starter. On a team that
will likely struggle early because of a tough schedule and a lack of
chemistry due to all their off-season acquisitions, Hall remains only a
backup fantasy kicker.
22. Desmond Clark (TE, signed by Chi from Mia)
The Skinny: The former Bronco and Dolphin Clark signed a whopping
six-year, $12 million contract with the Bears in March. Clark wanted a
chance to start, and he should get that in Chicago, although he'll have to
compete with John Davis, who was re-signed this off-season.
The Fantasy Analysis: A former WR, Clark has good hands and excellent
speed. The Bears wanted more speed from their TE this year, so they
brought Clark into the fold. He should lose scoring opportunities to
Davis, but as long as he emerges from camp with the starting job, he
should produce solid yardage totals and 3-5 TDs. He's not a fantasy
starter, but he's a nice choice as a backup because there's some upside
23. Leon Johnson (RB, signed by Stl from Chi)
The Skinny: The former Jet and Bear signed a one-year contract with the
Rams worth $545,000. He is expected to replace Trung Canidate as the 3rd
down back and will also compete with Lamar Gordon for the backup job
behind Marshall Faulk.
The Fantasy Analysis: This signing is more important than it appears
because it begs the crucial question of who will back up Faulk and carry
the load if the star player goes down. Nothing is etched in stone right
now, but we feel that Johnson may have an edge over Gordon, at least in
terms of any 3rd down or spot duty with Faulk healthy because he's a
better blocker and better in pass protection than Gordon. But if Faulk
went down for an extended period of time, Gordon, the more elusive back,
would be a better fit for the offense as the featured back. The bottom
line here is that we have to see how both perform in training camp. For
now, we'd have to say that Gordon is still the guy to target as protection
for Faulk with Johnson more of a role player.
24. Jay Riemersma (TE, signed by Pit from Buf)
The Skinny: The former Bill, grossly underused last year in Buffalo,
signed a three-year, $3.9 million contract in March that included an
$850,000 signing bonus.
The Fantasy Analysis: Last year, Steeler TEs caught only 18 passes for 350
yards, but that's about to change. Riemersma's old team last year greatly
reduced the role of the TE, but the Steelers are about to do the opposite,
as evidenced by the amount of money they paid the 30-year old Riemersma.
It makes a ton of sense for the Steelers, now a passing team, to acquire a
viable pass-catching TE, and Riemersma is still a good one. He'll compete
for the ball with Jerame Tuman, but under Mike Mularkey, a former TE,
Riemersma should catch 40+ passes and has a chance to score 5+ TDs. And if
the team releases last year's starter Mark Bruener, that will be a clear
indication that they want their TEs to catch more than they block.
Riemersma has good potential here, but he could also turn out to be this
year's version of David Sloan (who did nothing last year), so he's by no
means someone you should draft as a starter.
25. Dan Campbell (TE, signed by Dal from NYG)
The Skinny: The former Giant and Texas native signed a three-year contract
with the Cowboys. Terms were not disclosed, but the deal was believed to
contain a $1.3 million signing bonus, with a first-year cap value of
$970,000. Campbell will compete with Tony McGee and possibly James Whalen
for the starting job/playing time.
The Fantasy Analysis: Although he's not guaranteed a starting job, our
money's on him to make a nice impact for the Cowboys, the team he grew up
rooting for. At 6'5" and 263-pounds, Campbell has the size and bulk Bill
Parcells likes in his TE, and he's also a capable receiver. Campbell is
also familiar with assistant head coach Sean Payton from their days with
the Giants. He should see the field plenty, and we expect him to have 3-4
productive games, making him a viable fantasy backup.
26. Donald Hayes (WR, signed by Jac from NE)
The Skinny: The former Panther and Patriot wideout signed a one-year deal
with the Jaguars that could be worth close to $1 million this season if he
reaches certain incentives. A huge disappointment in New England, Hayes
will challenge for a starting job in Jacksonville.
The Fantasy Analysis: The Patriots signed Hayes last year because of his
great size and his ability to be a serious force in the red zone. But not
only did he turn out to be a poor fit for their offense, but he also
struggled to learn it and spent most of the season on the bench. There is
a reason the Jaguars are optimistic that Hayes can rebound after his
nightmare 2002 season, and that's offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave, who
coached Hayes in Carolina and is convinced that he can perform much better
in a similar offense in Jacksonville. If Hayes, who has good speed to go
along with his excellent size, wins the starting job coming out of
training camp, he'll be a worthy pick as your #4 or #5 receiver, but
there's no question that this once-promising receiver has limited upside
potential. Look for him to be in a dogfight for that starting job this
27. Ernie Conwell (TE, signed by NO from Stl)
The Skinny: The Saints on Monday agreed to a five-year contract with the
former Ram Conwell that is believed to be worth $8.25 million.
The Fantasy Analysis: Conwell is a solid all-around TE, but so is David
Sloan (when healthy), so look for both to play plenty in the team's two-TE
sets. The Saints are hell-bent on getting production from their TE, as
evidenced by this signing. Heck, they may take a top TE in the draft.
Conwell will be the safest bet to make an impact, but it's hard to expect
much from him with Sloan and Eddie "Boo" Williams still currently on
roster. That may change, but for now the person who will benefit most from
this signing is QB Aaron Brooks, who will have another reliable receiver
who can run after the catch to throw to in Conwell.
28. Brandon Stokley (WR, signed by Ind from Bal)
The Skinny: Stokley signed a two-year, $2.9 million contract and will
likely be the team's #3 WR along with Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne.
The Fantasy Analysis: The Colts didn't exactly make good use of their
three WRs last year (Harrison, Wayne and Qadry Ismail). Harrison is, of
course, the go-to guy, and that will not change, but the team needs more
from someone else. Stokely and Wayne are better off playing in the slot,
but it will likely be Stokely who sees most of the time there. He can make
plays downfield, but he's also a decent possession receiver who, if used
correctly, can make an impact working the intermediate area. But he's had
a lot of problems with injuries in the past, and you just can't count on
the Colts producing a consistent fantasy receiver other than Harrison, so
he won't be worthy of drafting even as your #4 or #5 WR this year.
29. Chad Morton (RB, signed by Was from NYJ)
The Skinny: After an arbitrator ruled that the Jets failed to match the
five-year, $8 million offer sheet the Redskins signed Morton to last
month, Morton became a Redskin. He will be the team's primary kick
returner, but he may also have a role in the backfield or even as a
The Fantasy Analysis: Although he's not an accomplished punt returner,
he's an excellent kick returner, and he will immediately upgrade the
Redskins return game and will afford the offense better field position on
a consistent basis. But in addition to that, the team is projecting 10-15
offensive plays a game for the speedy Morton, so he could chip away at
projected starter Trung Canidate's value. If nothing else, Morton's
ability to play in the Redskin backfield makes a committee situation at RB
more likely in Washington, so there are some definite fantasy
implications. Morton himself, even if he gets the 10-15 plays a game, will
have minimal fantasy value at the RB position.
30. Mark Edwards (FB, signed by Jac from NE)
The Skinny: The former Patriot signed a three-year deal last month worth
$3 million that included a signing bonus of $875,000. In addition to
opening up holes for RB Fred Taylor, Edwards will be active in the new
offense's passing game, and he should also get the occasional goal line
The Fantasy Analysis: If you're in a league that for whatever reason
places value on one of the more active FBs in the league, then take a look
at Edwards. He's a good blocker (good news for Taylor), but he's also
quietly been an effective short-yardage receiver and runner the last few
years. In the new West Coast Offense, he could catch 40+ passes, and with
the team occupied with keeping Taylor healthy, he could surprise with 4-5
31. Richie Anderson (FB, signed by Dal from NYJ)
The Skinny: The former Jet will be reunited with head coach Bill Parcells
after signing a three-year, $3.9 million contract that included an
$800,000 signing bonus. The 10-year veteran, 32-year old Anderson will be
the team's starting FB.
The Fantasy Analysis: As it stands now, Anderson has a good chance to be
the primary receiver out of the backfield for the Cowboys. In his Pro Bowl
season of 2000, Anderson had 88 catches for 853 yards and 2 TDs (but only
63 yards rushing). He'll be used as a blocker, too, but if he makes an
impact, it will be as a receiver. Parcells would not have made a strong
push to sign him if he didn't plan on utilizing his receiving skills, so
look for Anderson to finish with over 500 yards receiving and to score 3-4
32. Mark Campbell (TE, signed by Buf from Cle)
The Skinny: Campbell was actually traded to the Bills, so this was not a
free agency move. He was moved for an undisclosed draft pick.
The Fantasy Analysis: On the surface, this may seem like a fairly
significant move, since Campbell should win the starting TE job in
Buffalo. But the TE was almost completely ignored in the Bill offense last
year, and that will likely be the case this year. Campbell is a big and
physical blocker, so this signing is better news for RB Travis Henry than
33. Lorenzo Neal (FB, signed by SD from Cin)
The Skinny: Neal in February signed a three-year contract worth $4.5
million with the Chargers.
The Fantasy Analysis: Neal, as you likely know, has virtually no fantasy
value, but he's still one of the best blocking FBs in the game and he can
only help RB LaDainian Tomlinson. Neal, one of the best lead-blockers in
the league, has blocked for six straight 1000-yard rushers, and he's
coming off his first Pro Bowl berth in 2002. In addition to absorbing
some hits for Tomlinson, Neal, also excellent in pass protection, will
even help the Charger passing game.
34. Ricky Proehl (WR, signed by Car from Stl)
The Skinny: The veteran receiver signed a three-year, $3 million contract
with the Panthers.
The Fantasy Analysis: More than anything, Proehl will give the Panther
passing game a reliable receiver who will help the offense with his
leadership and ability to make the occasional key 3rd down catch. He's
the #4 receiver here, so he has very little fantasy value on his own.
35. Brian Mitchell (RB, signed by NYG from NYJ)
The Skinny: The former Redskin and Eagle kick returner stayed in the NFC
East by signing a four-year, $3.55 million deal with the Giants.
The Fantasy Analysis: If your league includes special team TDs, this
signing immediately upgrades the Giant defense. Mitchell is no longer a
dominant return man, but he's still one of the best in the league and is a
good bet to score 1-2 return TDs. He'll definitely help the Giant offense
field position-wise as well.
36. Reggie Kelly (TE, signed by Cin from Atl)
The Skinny: The former #1 pick of the Falcons signed a four-year contract,
worth $6.8 million with the Bengals last month.
The Fantasy Analysis: Kelly is a decent receiver, but he's known more for
his blocking. So although he should start ahead of TEs Matt Schobel and
Sean Brewer, don't expect him to suddenly emerge as a fantasy threat at
37. Doug Brien (PK, signed by NYJ from FA)
The Skinny: The Jets signed Brien after losing free agent John Hall to the
Redskins. We didn't even bother to research the specifics of the contract
because we're sure he won't be the team's opening day kicker.
The Fantasy Analysis: Brien was horrible last year for the Viking and it's
now been several years since he was an effective kicker. The Jets will
find a better option before Week One.
D E F E N S I V E F R E E A G E N C Y R E V I E W
by Adam Caplan
Special Contributor, The Guru Report
1. Takeo Spikes (LB, signed by Buf from Cin)
The Skinny: The former Bengal linebacker was designated as Buffalo's
transition player but signed a six-year offer sheet with the Bills, which
the Bengals declined to match.
The Fantasy Analysis: Buffalo's biggest problem the past few seasons has
been on defense, not offense. Spikes will immediately improve their
defense because of his talent and leadership. The Bill defensive scheme
will allow him to roam free, so fantasy owners should expect him to put up
solid tackle numbers and a few sacks this year. This is a huge signing
from a defensive team perspective because he becomes their best defensive
player from day one. He's that good.
2. Rosevelt Colvin (LB, signed by NE from Chi)
The Skinny: The former Bear outside linebacker signed a six-year deal with
The Fantasy Analysis: Because the Patriots plan to use more of a 3-4
scheme this season, Colvin figures to have a huge impact on their pass
rush. He'll be able to rush the passer almost exclusively, and he should
be a lock for double-digit sacks. In fact, he could have as many as 16-18
if he stays healthy. From a team defensive standpoint, the improved pass
rush will have a positive ripple effect. The bottom line is that this is
a huge signing for fantasy and NFL purposes
3. Hugh Douglas (DE, signed by Jac from Phi)
The Skinny: The former Jet and Eagle defensive end signed a five-year deal
with the Jaguars.
The Fantasy Analysis: Although he's getting up there in age, Douglas will
provide the Jaguars with a consistent pass rush. His knees were a small
issue last year, but he'll get to play on grass for the rest of his career
in Jacksonville, which will help. As far as fantasy defensive linemen are
concerned, Douglas has always been one of the pass rushers in the league
and an above-average tackle guy, and we see him keeping up with that trend
with his new team. Since they have had a weak pass rush the past few
seasons, he'll improve Jacksonville's defense right away fantasy-wise.
4. Chris Claiborne (LB, signed by Min from Det)
The Skinny: The former Lion linebacker signed a two-year deal with the
Vikings and will take over on the outside.
The Fantasy Analysis: Fantasy baseball owners can compare this signing
with the Phillies' signing of former Brave P Kevin Millwood, who basically
fell into their lap. The Vikings weren't even in the picture to sign
Claiborne, but he suddenly signed within 48 hours of the first serious
talks with his new team. His knock on him this past year was that he
played about 15-20 pounds heavier than his ideal playing weight of around
250. If Claiborne can lose about 15 pounds, he should have an immediate
impact and help their fantasy defense in a big way. As a tackler, he's
always been above average, and he should continue that trend with his new
team, although Greg Biekert will probably get more tackles playing in the
middle. The Vikings have the makings of a really improved fantasy defense.
5. Vonnie Holliday (DE, signed by KC from GB)
The Skinny: The former Packer starting defensive end signed a five-year
deal and will handle the same role for the Chiefs, taking over for Duane
Clemons, who was released.
The Fantasy Analysis: Holliday has been a productive player in the past,
but injuries have prevented him from becoming an elite end. The Chiefs,
with one of the worst pass rushes in the league last year, rolled the dice
and paid him big money, so they will be counting on him for major
production. If Holliday can stay healthy, he'll put up above-average
tackle and sack numbers, but his biggest impact will come on the team
defensive side. If he can be the solid pass rusher the Chiefs so
desperately need, that will help their much-maligned secondary, which is
one of the key reasons the Chiefs coveted an impact DE this off-season.
6. Kevin Hardy (LB, signed by Cin from Dal)
The Skinny: The former Jaguar and Cowboy linebacker signed a four-year
deal and is expected to start inside for veteran LB Brian Simmons, who
would move to the outside.
The Fantasy Analysis: Hardy has been a decent tackler in the past, but
because he'll play inside, he should have the best year of his career as
far as tackles are concerned. He'll also record a few sacks, so Hardy
figures to be a worthy starter for fantasy owners, and he'll also make an
immediate positive impact on Marvin Lewis' revamped defense.
7. Shawn Barber (LB, signed by KC from Phi)
The Skinny: The former Redskin and Eagle outside linebacker is expected to
start outside for the Chiefs, taking the place of veteran LB Mike
Maslowski. The team is expected to move Maslowski inside to start for
veteran LB Marvcus Patton.
The Fantasy Analysis: Barber proved last season that he was fully
recovered from an ACL injury and had a good season with the Eagles. The
Chief outside linebackers have a history of putting up good tackle
numbers, and we see no reason Barber won't be solid for the Chiefs.
8. Nate Wayne (LB, signed by Phi from GB)
The Skinny: The former Bronco and Packer outside linebacker signed a
four-year deal with the Eagles. He'll start outside for the Eagles,
replacing LB Shawn Barber, who signed with the Chiefs.
The Fantasy Analysis: Two years ago, Wayne was looking like one of the
better outside linebackers in the league. Last year, though, he was
clearly worn down by knee problems and didn't have a good year. In fact,
after he signed with the Eagles, some of his former coaches said some
unpleasant things about his play last year. If Wayne's knee problems are
behind him, he could return to his high level of play of two years ago. If
they aren't, he'll be just a mediocre player. One other note to point out
is that the Eagle outside linebackers have been only average tacklers in
the past, so Wayne might not be that good from a fantasy standpoint with
his new team. He will, however, he'll help their fantasy defense if he's
9. Earl Holmes (LB, signed by Buf from Cin)
The Skinny: The former Steeler and Brown linebacker signed a three-year
deal with the Lions.
The Fantasy Analysis: Holmes is expected to be the new starting middle
linebacker, talking over for Chris Claiborne, who signed with the Vikings.
Holmes has always been a proficient tackler, but last year his knees
started giving him problems, so that's a concern. If healthy, he'll be a
very solid tackler, and since he's playing on a bad team and should be on
the field a long time, he should put up good tackle numbers.
10. Mike Peterson (LB, signed by Jac from Ind)
The Skinny: The former Colt outside linebacker signed a six-year deal with
the Jaguars and will take over outside for T.J. Slaughter, who is expected
to move inside for Wali Rainer, who signed with the Lions.
The Fantasy Analysis: Peterson has always been a good tackle guy, and he
should be with the Jaguars, provided his knees, issues for him the past
two seasons, hold up. As one of the better LBs in the league for tackles,
he should help their fantasy defense on a weekly basis.
11. Rodney Harrison (S, signed by NE from SD)
The Skinny: The former Charger safety signed a six-year deal with the
Patriots. He'll take over for S Tebucky Jones, who is on the verge of
being traded to the Saints.
The Fantasy Analysis: Harrison was leaning toward signing with the Raiders
when the Patriots swooped in and scooped him up. Harrison, although
getting up in age and injury prone, can still make big plays and will be a
solid #2 fantasy defensive back in any scoring system, thanks to his
tackling. The negative is that he will have to share the defensive area
with veteran S Lawyer Milloy, who is also a playmaker in the secondary.
12. Denard Walker (CB, signed by Min from Den)
The Skinny: The former Titan and Bronco cornerback signed a four-year
contract with the Vikings.
The Fantasy Analysis: For the first time in a long while, the Vikings
finally have a shutdown cornerback. From a fantasy perspective, Walker's
impact will be on the team's defensive ends. Teams rarely challenge the
talented Walker, so with him on the field opposing QBs will likely be
forced to hold on to the ball a little longer. If the team can get a
better pass rush up front, they'll have the makings of a decent fantasy
defense. We certainly haven't described the Viking defense as "decent"
a long time.
13. Dwayne Rudd (LB, signed by TB from Cle)
The Skinny: The former Viking and Brown outside linebacker signed a
two-year contract with the Buccaneers. He'll take over for former starting
outside linebacker Al Singleton, who signed with the Cowboys.
The Fantasy Analysis: As if the Buccaneers needed another good linebacker!
Although Rudd is a bit inconsistent for our liking, he'll still be a solid
tackler for fantasy owners and a decent #2 fantasy linebacker in most
scoring systems. By adding yet another playmaker on defense, Tampa's
fantasy value as a team remains through the roof.
14. Orlando Ruff (LB, signed by NO from SD)
The Skinny: The former Charger inside linebacker signed a three-year deal
with the Saints, where he will take over for veteran LB Charlie Clemons,
who signed with Houston.
The Fantasy Analysis: Since the Saint middle linebackers have a solid
history of recording good tackle numbers, Ruff is a sleeper in the making.
Though he isn't the most talented player, he's a decent tackler - one you
can select late in your draft - and he could pay off nicely.
15. Ashley Ambrose (CB, signed by NO from Atl)
The Skinny: The former Falcon cornerback signed for the second time with
the Saints, this time for four seasons.
The Fantasy Analysis: Ambrose won't make much of an impact from the
fantasy player standpoint, but he will give their defense a shutdown-type
corner, something they have really lacked since he left four years ago to
play for the Falcons. That fact alone will make the Saint defense a better
unit from a fantasy perspective.
16. Dexter Jackson (S, signed by Ari from TB)
The Skinny: The Super Bowl MVP signed a five-year deal with the Cardinals.
The Fantasy Analysis: Jackson's not as good as some would seem to believe,
but he'll still put up decent tackle numbers and record a few
interceptions. His biggest impact will come from a defensive team
perspective, replacing veteran S Kwamie Lassiter, who won't be re-signed.
17. John Thornton (DT, signed by Cin from Ten)
The Skinny: The former Titan defensive lineman signed a six-year contract
with the Bengals.
The Fantasy Analysis: Although Thornton can play inside or outside, he'll
play at tackle with his new team. They'll probably play him at end on
passing downs. Even though he's not likely to put up good fantasy numbers,
he'll help the Bengals' team defense because he's solid against the run
and also a decent pass rusher.
18. Corey Hall (S, signed by Atl from Cin)
The Skinny: The former Bengal safety signed a five-year deal with the
The Fantasy Analysis: Hall has been penciled in as a starter and is a
better than average tackler who will record a few interceptions. Although
he's not a great playmaker, he'll help their secondary, which has been
inconsistent over the past few seasons.
19. Chike Okeafor (DE, signed by Sea from SF)
The Skinny: The former 49er defensive end signed a two-year deal with the
The Fantasy Analysis: Although he's been mostly a part-time player in the
past, Okeafor, should garner a lot more playing time with the pass rush
starved Seahawks. If used correctly, Okeafor could approach double-digit
sacks this season, so he's someone to keep an eye on.
20. Mark Simoneau (LB, signed by Phi from Atl)
The Skinny: The Former Falcon linebacker was actually traded to the Eagles
for a sixth-round pick this year and a fourth in 2004.
The Fantasy Analysis: His problem hasn't been talent, but rather being
able to play through nagging injuries. Simoneau has been penciled in as
the starting middle linebacker, and he has good enough ability to be a
solid late round sleeper for tackles.
21. Keith Newman (LB, signed by Atl from Buf)
The Skinny: The former Bill linebacker signed a three-year deal with the
The Fantasy Analysis: This is actually a good situation for Newman because
he'll get to play outside in the Falcon 3-4 defensive scheme, which will
give him a solid chance to rush the passer, something he can definitely
do. We see him as a possible solid sleeper late in your draft, as long as
he wins the starting job.
22. Barry Gardner (LB, signed by Cle from Phi)
The Skinny: The former Eagle linebacker signed a two-year deal with the
Browns. The second-year can actually be voided, making him a free agent.
The Fantasy Analysis: The starting middle linebacker job is currently
Gardner's to lose, but he'll have to compete for it (possibly against a
rookie) before it's all said and done. The Brown middle linebackers have
put up decent numbers the past few years, so if Gardner can win the job,
he could turn out to be a solid #3 linebacker as far as tackles are
concerned. However, he's a bit slow and won't make many big plays.
- Charlie Clemons (LB, signed by Hou from NO) - The former Ram and Saint
linebacker will vie for a starting job outside in the Texan 3-4 scheme.
Clemons is a good pass rusher, so he could actually be a nice late
round sleeper who could put up near double-digit sacks, provided he
- James Darling (LB, signed by Ari from NYJ) - The former Eagle and Jet
linebacker should start outside, taking over for veteran LB Rob
Fredrickson, who is unsigned and not expected to return. This is
actually a good situation for Darling, and we see him putting up decent
tackle numbers. Playing on bad teams usually helps tackle numbers.
- Wali Rainer (LB, signed by Det from Jac) - The former Brown and Jaguar
linebacker will compete for a starting job but may wind up backing up
Earl Holmes. If he is given a chance to start outside, he could
actually be decent in that role. Time will tell.
- Ike Reese (S, signed by Buf from Den) - The former Cowboy and Bronco
safety will compete against veteran S Pierson Prioleau for a starting
job. Prioleau put up big tackle numbers for a while last season, so
whoever wins the job may be worth a serious look.
- Montae Reagor (DT, signed by Ind from Den) - The Colts paid big money
for Reagor, who was a backup with the Broncos. Maybe they know
something we don't here. The bottom line is that he will start for the
Colts, has a high motor, and has a decent upside. We'll see how he
progresses in training camp.
- Dre Bly (CB, signed by Det from Stl) - The Lions struck quickly at the
start of free agency and probably overpaid for the former Ram
cornerback. Bly will give up a lot of big plays because of his
diminutive size, but he'll record above-average tackle numbers for a
cornerback because teams will pick on him, and he'll record a decent
number of interceptions. However, he's average at best in coverage, so
from a team defensive standpoint, he likely won't help that much.