NFL Free Agency
Article first appeared 3/16/08
By Dalton Del Don
RotoWire Staff Writer
We're only a month or so away from the 2008 NFL draft, and we figured it might be useful to provide a brief summary of the key free-agent moves to date (as of March 16). Be sure to check the latest news page for further developments, though we will update this feature periodically as well.
Michael Turner signs six-year, $34.5 million contract with the Falcons - Freed from the shadow of LaDainian Tomlinson, Turner will finally be given the opportunity to be a featured back after signing with Atlanta. Turner has averaged 5.5 YPC during his 228 career carries, but he offers little in the passing game and has never been asked to carry the load until the end of last season, when he received extensive action in the postseason thanks to a Tomlinson injury. At 5-10, 237, Turner is a powerful back with surprising speed, but it remains to be seen how effective he'll be away from San Diego's elite offensive line. While Warrick Dunn was jettisoned, Turner still has Jerious Norwood to compete with. Norwood has averaged 6.2 YPC over the first two years of his career, but he works better as a change-of-pace type than a workhorse. Besides, the Falcons didn't give Turner that contract to split work. Expect Norwood to be the third down back, while Turner carries most of the load and is featured at the goal line. Atlanta has a poor offensive line and a shaky quarterback situation, giving Turner an uphill battle to become an elite fantasy option. He makes a better RB2 than RB1.
Julius Jones signs four-year, $12 contract with the Seahawks – Largely a bust after an impressive late-season run as a rookie, Jones hit rock bottom last year, finishing with a career-worst 3.6 YPC despite playing for a Dallas offense that ranked among the best in football. However, Jones landed in one of the best situations possible, as Seattle is another fine offensive system and is likely to cut Shaun Alexander. He only has to compete with T.J. Duckett for carries, and while he'll likely relinquish goal-line looks, Jones is being paid like a starter, so he's the favorite to carry the load for Seattle. The Seahawks' offensive line isn't what it once was, and because Jones figures to leave the field on third downs and short-yardage situations, his upside is limited. He also lacks vision and tackle-breaking ability, so more disappointment could be in store.
Javon Walker signs six-year, $55 million contract with the Raiders
After an impressive first year in Denver in 2006 (8.6 YPA), Walker's body failed him last season, as a debilitating knee injury forced him to miss half the season and severely limited him even when he played. In fact, he finished 2007 without scoring a single touchdown. After the Broncos received lukewarm interest on the trade market (they couldn't even get a seventh round pick for him), Raiders owner Al Davis ponied up $55 million for him. Without direct access to Walker's medical records, it's tough to predict the immediate future for Walker, but it sounds like additional knee surgery is inevitable. Walker clearly becomes Oakland's No. 1 wideout when healthy, but with a still raw JaMarcus Russell at quarterback, he'll have a tough time producing big numbers even if his knee holds up. Bid cautiously.
Bernard Berrian signs six-year, $42 million contract with the Vikings – While it seemed impossible, Berrian may have actually downgraded quarterbacks with the move from Chicago to Minnesota; at least Rex Grossman threw a decent deep ball. Tarvaris Jackson, meanwhile, still has a lot of work to do. The Vikings have an elite ground game, so some play action could free up downfield opportunities, an area Berrian excels at. Still, he has the emerging Sidney Rice competing for targets, and it often takes a season or two for receivers to get fully acclimated to new offensive systems. Berrian is unlikely to improve on the numbers he put up in Chicago.
Jerry Porter signs six-year, $30 million contract with the Jaguars – After sitting out most of 2006, Porter was consistently mediocre throughout 2007. Porter has the physical tools to be a successful wide receiver in the NFL, but his route-running and hands are sometimes unreliable. Porter could immediately step in as Jacksonville's No. 1 wideout, and quarterback David Garrard really impressed last season (7.7 YPA, 18:3 TD:INT ratio). Still, the Jaguars are a run-first team, and that should limit Porter's opportunities significantly.
Donte Stallworth signs seven-year, $35 million contract with the Browns – Stallworth turned in an odd 2007 season, as he stayed healthy while playing in all 16 games yet finished with just three touchdowns and 697 receiving yards despite playing for a record-setting offense in New England. Stallworth is more or less a one-trick pony, as he offers little else besides being a major deep threat. Still, Derek Anderson's strong arm should play to Stallworth's strength, and with defenses forced to focus on Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow, Stallworth could put up respectable stats. That said, he'll be no better than the team's third option in the passing game.
Alge Crumpler signs two-year contract with the Titans – Slowed by injuries and the loss of Michael Vick, Crumpler's 2007 season was one of the worst of his career, so Atlanta let him leave and sign with the Titans. Vince Young is still developing as a passer, but Crumpler could offer a nice safety valve for the signal caller. Expect Crumpler to emerge as one of Young's favorite targets in Tennessee and come close to matching his pre-2007 production.
Antonio Bryant signs undisclosed contract with the Buccaneers - Troubled yet talented, Bryant gets another shot by joining the Bucs after missing last season thanks largely to a suspension for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy. Bryant has plenty of ability, and he landed in a nice spot in Jon Gruden's pass-friendly system. With Joey Galloway now 36 years old and not much else at WR on the roster, there's quite an opportunity for Bryant to emerge as a significant option in Tampa Bay's offense. Consider him a sleeper.
Isaac Bruce signs two-year, $6 million contract with the 49ers – Bruce remained a solid yet unspectacular producer last year and now finds himself reunited with Mike Martz in San Francisco. Since Darrell Jackson was immediately cut after Bruce signed, Bruce could become the team's No. 1 receiver. Still, Vernon Davis and Frank Gore are going to be the center of the offense, and Bruce is 35 years old, so there's a low ceiling here, especially with the ugly QB situation in the Bay Area.
DeShaun Foster signs two-year, $1.8 million contract with the 49ers – Foster received the most carries of his career last season (247) and responded with his lowest YPC (3.5) ever and also lost five fumbles. He now joins a mediocre San Francisco offense and is no threat to steal carries from starter Frank Gore. He'll strictly be a backup.
Chris Brown signs two-year contract with the Texans – Brown is a logical fit for Houston's zone-blocking scheme, and there's no clear-cut starter for the Texans, but he simply can't be counted on to stay healthy, making him nothing more than a change-of-pace option. Don't expect more than 100 carries out of him.
Bryant Johnson signs one-year contract with the 49ers – Johnson has shown flashes as Arizona's No. 3 wide receiver over the past few years and now has the opportunity in San Francisco to become a legitimate WR1. With Darrell Jackson gone and Isaac Bruce aging, Johnson has little competition and pass-happy Mike Martz as his offensive coordinator. The 49ers still have major questions at quarterback, but there's some potential here; Johnson averaged a remarkable 18.5 yards per catch in 2006.
Warrick Dunn signs two-year, $6 million contract with the Buccaneers – After finishing 2007 with a 3.2 YPC mark, Dunn's career appeared to be winding down. Instead, Tampa Bay came calling, so Dunn rejoined his old organization on a two-year deal. At age 33, the 5-9 Dunn can no longer be asked to carry the load, but he's an excellent blocker, so he may step immediately into a third down role. Carnell Williams isn't likely to return this year after a devastating knee injury, but the Bucs still have Earnest Graham and Michael Bennett on the roster, leaving few carries for Dunn.
David Carr signs one-year contract with the Giants – At this stage, it's somewhat remarkable the former No. 1 overall pick can even find work, let alone as the backup QB for the defending Super Bowl champs. Carr finished with an abysmal 4.7 YPA last season and still holds onto the ball far too long. If anything, he's actually regressed as a quarterback after being drafted in 2002. The Giants better hope Eli Manning stays healthy.
Other Moves of Note
Brett Favre retired, leaving Aaron Rodgers as Green Bay's starting quarterback - Rodgers hasn't had much opportunity, given Favre's durability, but he played well in a loss to Dallas, and at this point, there's little doubt he knows the system. Having an improving Greg Jennings and James Jones along with the aging, but steady Donald Driver and a solid offensive line puts Rodgers in a good spot.
The Lions released Kevin Jones - Jones' inability to stay healthy made him a cap casualty. There's talk the Lions might try to re-sign him at a lower price, but given that he tore his ACL late in the season, the earliest he's likely to be a factor is in 2009. There's a decent chance the Lions address their running back needs in the draft. Tatum Bell is the de facto starter for now.
Article first appeared 3/16/08