NFL Free Agency
Article first appeared 3/3/09
By Dalton Del Don
RotoWire Staff Writer
We're only a month and a half away from the 2009 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 3). Be sure to check the latest news page for further developments, though we will update this feature periodically as well.
Free Agent Signings
Derrick Ward signs a four-year, $17 million deal with the Buccaneers – While Tampa Bay isn't quite the ideal landing spot that Denver would have been, Ward is getting starter's money, so he figures to lead the team in carries next season. Still, Earnest Graham will be a part of the committee as well. Ward averaged 5.6 YPC last season, which was the highest in the NFL. He's also a skilled receiver out of the backfield. While he's downgrading teammates, the Bucs actually have an underrated offensive line, so Ward should be able to exceed 1,000 rushing yards for the second straight season.
T.J. Houshmandzadeh signs a five-year, $40 million deal with the Seahawks – Houshmandzadeh leads the NFL in receptions over the past three years, but he'll be 32 years old soon and has averaged just 11.4 yards per catch during his career. He's played a full 16-game schedule just once over the past four seasons, but he's an excellent red-zone target and last year's modest numbers should actually be considered impressive given Cincinnati's dreadful quarterback play. Houshmandzadeh immediately becomes Seattle's No. 1 receiver, but it remains to be seen how the Seahawks' offense will function with Mike Holmgren gone. Matt Hasselbeck's health will be a big factor in Houshmandzadeh's performance.
Correll Buckhalter signs a four-year contract with the Broncos – Buckhalter has averaged an impressive 4.94 YPC over the past two seasons, and he currently sits atop Denver's depth chart. Still, he'll turn 31 next year, and he hasn't topped 85 carries in a season since 2003. Look for him to take the lead role in Denver's backfield committee, but if Ryan Torain can get healthy, he'll be major competition for touches.
Nate Washington signs a six-year, $27 million deal with the Titans - Washington should see a boost in numbers next season, no longer having to compete with Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes for looks, but Tennessee is hardly an ideal landing spot. The Titans will remain run-heavy, but at least Kerry Collins throws a good deep ball, an area where Washington excels.
Albert Haynesworth signs a seven-year, $100 million deal with the Redskins – Haynesworth is one of the best defensive players in football, the rare tackle who stuffs the run and also pressures the passer while constantly demanding double teams. Still, he's never started more than 14 games in a season during his seven-year career, and some question whether he'll remain motivated after the big payday.
Brian Dawkins signs a five-year, $17 million deal with the Broncos - Dawkins will be 36 during the 2009 season, but his veteran presence is an asset for a team that could have used some extra help on defense last season. He can still help in deeper IDP leagues - Dawkins played every game last season and logged 75 total tackles, three sacks, six passes defensed, six forced fumbles and an interception.
Brandon Jones signs a five-year, $16.5 million contract with the 49ers - Jones will provide the 49ers with some much needed depth at wide receiver. With Bryant Johnson not returning and Isaac Bruce's return up in the air, Jones figures to play a major role in San Francisco's passing attack in 2009, probably starting opposite Josh Morgan, though the team figures to employ a run-heavy offense.
Fred Taylor signs a contract with Patriots – At 33, Taylor's career is winding down. He'll be a part of New England's backfield committee next season but don't expect much.
Bart Scott signs a six-year, $48 million deal with the Jets - Scott will join Rex Ryan, his defensive coordinator in Baltimore, in New York and will team with David Harris inside to provide the Jets with an impressive linebacker duo.
Cedric Benson re-signs with the Bengals for a two-year, $7 million deal – Benson remains atop Cincinnati's depth chart, but the team needs to aim higher, possibly through the draft. Even during a supposed bounce back in 2008, he averaged a paltry 3.5 YPC.
Michael Clayton re-signs with the Buccaneers for a five-year, $24 million deal – That's an awful lot of money for a wide receiver who hasn't topped 485 yards receiving since his rookie season in 2004.
Other Moves of Note
Matt Cassel traded to the Chiefs - Cassel's fantasy value has nowhere to go but down after leaving the ideal situation in New England, but as a Chief, he still remains plenty interesting. The team's defense is still in rebuild mode, and the running game is in flux; meaning Kansas City should be pass-heavy. Also, Dwayne Bowe is a budding star, Tony Gonzalez continues to be effective, and if healthy, Mark Bradley is explosive. The team switched to the spread offense last season, which should work to Cassel's skill set (lots of shotgun). Moreover, new GM Scott Pioli obviously knows exactly what he's getting, and new coach Todd Haley's expertise is the passing game.
Sage Rosenfels traded to the Vikings – Rosenfels got an impressive 8.2 YPA in 2008, but that was accompanied by 12 turnovers to just six touchdowns. The year before, he had a 16:15 TD:turnover ratio. Rosenfels has skills, but his recent high completion percentage and strong YPA were likely due to playing in the Texans' underrated offensive system, and during 12 career starts, he's committed 24 turnovers with a 72.2 QB rating. There's little doubt he's worth a fourth round pick since Minnesota is so desperate for an upgrade at quarterback, but this is hardly the acquisition that will push the Vikings over the top. The team needs to aim higher.
The Colts release Marvin Harrison – The future Hall of Famer has clearly lost it, gaining just 636 yards (10.6 YPC) last year despite playing in the Colts' offense. Harrison can no longer separate, and it's doubtful any other team gives him the contract he's looking for. Expect him to retire. As a result, Anthony Gonzalez gets a big boost in fantasy value. The third-year wideout should be considered a top-20 option entering next year.
The Jets release Laveranues Coles – Coles hasn't exactly found suitors banging down his door, and his fantasy value hinges largely on where he signs. A return to New York is still possible, especially after Miami showed no interest.
Things to watch:
The Jay Cutler trade situation – It appears Josh McDaniels prefers Matt Cassel to Cutler, but since that potential trade fell through, the young coach is going to have to do major damage control, as Cutler was angered by the rumors. Still, expect the situation eventually to blow over and Cutler to remain a Bronco.
Brandon Marshall arrested again – Charges were later dropped, but since Marshall is a repeat offender of the NFL's conduct policy, there's a very real chance he's looking at another suspension. Bump Eddie Royal up your cheatsheets, while Marshall owners have to hope Roger Goodell goes easy on him.
Kurt Warner remains unsigned – Warner visited San Francisco on Monday, but he left without a contract, and it looks like it was mostly a ploy to get Arizona to meet his contract demands. It remains a mystery why the Cardinals are low-balling him, but it would be shocking if Warner doesn't eventually re-sign in the desert.
Article first appeared 3/3/09