Here are my Fantasy insights on some of the top early moves in free agency.
Josh McCown signs with Tampa Bay: I would be careful not to overrate him for 2014 based on what we saw with the Bears in 2013. Playing under Marc Trestman certainly helped McCown overcome the erratic tendencies that had plagued him in the past. If McCown can retain the form he displayed this past season in another environment, he’ll show he has officially overcome his previous journeyman status. That is a significant “if”, so I would not draft him as a Fantasy starter, viewing him as more of a high-end No. 2 QB. McCown, who has already been anointed the starter for his new team, does throw a very good deep ball, so his addition bodes well for continued big plays from Vincent Jackson.
Toby Gerhart signs with Jacksonville: Seasoned NFL onlookers have often maintained that Gerhart can be a versatile and determined key cog in an offense if ever given the opportunity to start. He’s tough, strong and is likely ready to make the most of this opportunity. As of now, not much surrounds him offensively in Jacksonville, leading some to believe he may face stacked fronts. But give the Jaguars some time to see what they may be able to possibly add around him during the rest of the offseason. At the very least, he should be a top flex type.
Rashad Jennings signs with the New York Giants: Jennings has shown some flashes of potential in the past, and displays good vision, quick feet and can be a reliable goal-line presence if he plays frequently. Jennings could become the lead guy in the New York backfield, because the David Wilson outlook is obviously cloudy and Peyton Hillis is strictly in the mix for depth purposes. Jennings has some real promise as a No. 2 Fantasy RB for 2014 at this point. He could prove to be a somewhat solid and respectable runner for Fantasy purposes. Keep a watch on a hopefully healthy Latavius Murray in Oakland as the handcuff to the returning Darren McFadden during the upcoming season.
Golden Tate signs with Lions: The ex-Seahawk certainly gets a Fantasy boost in more of a pure passing offense. Tate does not fit any specific mold as a “possession” receiver. He’s a nifty playmaker with a high football IQ. Now he goes from being a primary concern for opposing secondaries to being the partner for the best receiver in the game. Matthew Stafford can look to Tate as a dependable target on key downs when he needs an alternative to Johnson. Tate can make things happen after the catch, and he goes from being a Fantasy WR4 to a borderline high WR3/WR2. The Lions offense just became even more diverse, with Johnson, Tate and Reggie Bush putting tremendous pressure on opposing defenses. Stafford now has the best arsenal of his career heading into 2014, and you have to love his ceiling for the upcoming season. He could easily be the fourth QB off the board in many drafts in ’14. The Seahawks will certainly move to replace Tate in free agency or in the draft, as it was already an area they wanted to address for next year.
Chargers sign Donald Brown: San Diego had to turn to Ronnie Brown too often when Ryan Mathews was unavailable. Now the Chargers have a full-blown committee situation with Mathews, Donald Brown and Danny Woodhead, but the roles seem well-defined, with Mathews still carrying the most value. Donald Brown’s value is that when Mathews goes down, he can play the role of a featured runner if needed, whereas Woodhead is simply not suited for such a role and Ronnie Brown was not the ideal fill-in. Mathews should still be the top runner, but now the Bolts have a true handcuff for him, and that should be noted if you draft Mathews in 2014. Mathews needed another quality ball carrier to make sure he gets needed reps off. Mathews can still be drafted as a mid-tier RB2, and Woodhead will still be viable in PPR formats. The Colts retained Ahmad Bradshaw and the preseason may go a long way to determining if he can beat out Trent Richardson and Vick Ballard for quality playing time. The Indianapolis backfield situation remains fuzzy.
Titans sign Dexter McCluster: Someone always seems to spend a draft pick on McCluster and he rarely contributes enough Fantasy-wise. He may now be ticketed to complement Shonn Greene, but he won’t get enough consistent touches to help your team much.