The offseason for Fantasy Football is, admittedly, pretty slow. However, there are two times when those of us that follow football year-round get excited. One of those times is the NFL Draft in late April or early May… and the second time is free agency! Free agency started this week and there have already been some notable signings. Let’s take a look at some of the bigger names that either re-signed with their 2013 team or signed with a different team for 2014. Many players are still working out the details (or waiting for a call) so there are certainly more signings to come, but for now, here are some guys with new contracts.
Josh McCown, QB, TBB
After taking over for Jay Cutler, McCown actually looked impressive… to the point where Chicago Bear fans wanted McCown to play even though Cutler was healthy. However, McCown was clearly looking to get the chance at a starting job – and that wasn’t going to happen in Chicago. Lovie Smith (formerly of Chicago) is now the head coach in Tampa Bay and he wanted McCown. So it may be the end of the Mike Glennon regime – at least to start the season. In eight games last year, McCown threw for 1,829 yards, 13 touchdowns and one interception. He added a rushing touchdown as well. In 13 games, Glennon threw for 2,608 yards, 19 touchdowns and nine interceptions. In comparing yards per game averages, McCown threw for almost 229 yards per game and Glennon threw for almost 201 yards per game. All signs point to McCown getting the starting gig for as long as he can handle it. Glennon might benefit from a year or so of learning as well. As far as Fantasy goes, McCown could be good, but he also could also be a bust. Come draft day, he’s worth a flier in the late rounds if you have a quarterback with an early bye and want a backup, but don’t count on him to save your season.
Rashad Jennings, RB, NYG
After spending three years with Jacksonville, Jennings spent 2013 with the Oakland Raiders. Because Darren McFadden is so injury-prone, he got his chance to play. In 15 games, Jennings had 733 rushing yards and six touchdowns. He added 36 receptions for 292 receiving yards as well. At 29 years old for the start of the season, don’t expect miracles from Jennings. However, this is a team that gave washed-up Brandon Jacobs and Peyton Hillis a chance last year and they didn’t struggle as much as we all thought. It is unclear whether David Wilson will return, and Andre Brown may even sign with Jennings’ old team, the Raiders. Watch the Giants running back situation, but if Jennings ends up as the feature back, he’s worth RB2 consideration.
Darren McFadden, RB, OAK
Trivia time. McFadden has played for six years in the NFL. How many seasons did he play all 16 games? Those who guessed zero win. What is the most games that McFadden has played in one season? Answer: 13, in 2008 and 2010. He’s clearly earned the injury-prone tag that he’s slapped with, and he’s decided that Oakland is the place where he can find success. With Jennings gone, the Raiders clearly need a back-up (Andre Brown, perhaps?), but McFadden will be their starter while healthy. 2013 was a lost season, and it’s possible that he felt that he had more to prove to show his worth. He’s had a 1,000 yard season once (2010) and has struggled since. He’s signed a one-year contract, likely with the hope of finally putting together another season like 2010 to lure a team to sign him to a more lucrative deal in 2015. You know what you’re getting if you draft McFadden – a back that has the potential to produce for you, but also will likely spend weeks on your bench because he’s injured.
Eric Decker, WR, NYJ
Decker put together a very good 2013 campaign, but he had to share receptions with Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker and Julius Thomas. He also had Peyton Manning throwing to him. He goes to the Jets as the clear-cut No. 1 receiver but he will have Geno Smith throwing to him. It will be interesting to see if Smith can take advantage of having a top receiver on his team, but unfortunately for Decker, his Fantasy value takes a hit. His real life value is also going to take a hit. Coming off a career-best season where he had the most receptions of his career (87), the most yards (1,288) and the second-most touchdowns (11), Decker faced a free agency where he should have been swooped up quicker than he was. He ended up with a very good five-year contract, but only time will tell if he can replicate his 2013 numbers. For Fantasy, Decker drops to a WR3 with upside. Smith at QB and the fact that there are no other pass-catchers for the Jets hurts Decker’s value.
Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper WRs, PHI
There was chemistry between Cooper and Nick Foles in 2013, but it’s hard to understand why the Eagles inked Cooper to a five-year deal. The Eagles signed Cooper before turning to Maclin. They gave Maclin a one-year contract, likely to give him the chance to prove that he is healthy after tearing his ACL in July 2013. Maclin is on track to be ready for training camp. However, both pass catchers will still be behind DeSean Jackson on the depth chart. Maclin is the No. 2 receiver, who will be a WR2 with upside and Cooper will be the No. 3 wideout. He has WR4 Fantasy value because it is unclear if Maclin will be able to play at the level that he had played at before his injury. If Cooper could slide back into the No. 2 wideout role, he will bump back up to WR3 status.
Golden Tate, WR, DET
Poised as a sleeper for the 2013 season, Tate was considered a disappointment overall, even though he had career-highs in receptions (64), receiving yards (898) and his second-highest touchdown total (five). He didn’t get many yards after the catch in Seattle, but he will have a chance to improve on that in Detroit. Playing opposite Calvin Johnson will only help Tate, as No. 2 receivers in Detroit typically do well. If Matthew Stafford can get his mechanics straightened out, this could be a great season for the Lions and Tate could be a big part of that. Tate is a WR2 in 2014. Look for him to get to 1,000 receiving yards as the Lions certainly throw the ball a lot more often than Seattle does.