In the new pass-happy NFL, the quarterback is more important than ever. The same can be true for your keeper/dynasty team. Winning without a franchise QB is certainly possible, but not recommended. With a lackluster free agency market for the position this offseason, we did see a few noteworthy trades and transactions to delve into. We will also cover another position that has seen its Fantasy profile rise, the tight end. The current crop of talented pass catching TEs is redefining the significance of the position in both Fantasy and the NFL. In this, the third edition of Make It Reign, we explore how all of the QB and TE free agency and trade movement affects players on your keeper/dynasty roster.
The Move: The Raiders trade for Matt Flynn; send Carson Palmer to Arizona
No one was quite sure the Seahawks would be able to find a trade partner for Matt Flynn, but you should never count out the Raiders. Flynn is an average talent with solid accuracy and a high football IQ. He is best suited as a NFL back-up, but he will get a chance to start in Oakland. He is, at best, a low-end QB2 for 2013 and more of a QB3 in Dynasty leagues.
Terrelle Pryor, who the Raiders took in the supplemental draft two years ago, will compete with Flynn. The dual-threat QB is a freak athlete on par with the new gold standard of Colin Kaepernick and Robert Griffin III. The only issue is that his ability to pass the ball with accuracy is light years behind those two, and that is what will hold him back in the NFL. Still, in QB-heavy keeper leagues Pryor is worth a spot as a low-risk roster stash. There is also a good chance that the Raiders draft a QB on the second or third day that will also compete for time under center. The situation is less than ideal for Fantasy purposes, especially for young receivers like Denarius Moore and Rod Streater.
One person who will not be competing for the starting spot in Oakland is Carson Palmer, who has the job locked down in Arizona. No, this is not 2006 Palmer, but even this more turnover-prone version can keep an offense moving with his arm. For dynasty purposes, the 33-year-old Palmer is a low-end QB2 who might still have a few solid seasons left in him. If you are grooming a young QB such as Ryan Tannehill (more on him in a few) or Jake Locker, Palmer makes for a solid tag team partner.
This helps the entire Cardinals offense, especially the receivers. Larry Fitzgerald owners can breathe a sigh of relief. He should return to Top 10 production with Palmer fully capable of feeding him the ball. Palmer’s presence could also lead to a breakout for second year receiver Michael Floyd. He showed flashes last year and makes an excellent dynasty buy if someone is selling. Slot machine Andre Roberts could also be in line for a value upgrade. He had 64 catches for 759 yards and 5 TDs last season, which is impressive given the circumstances.
The Palmer trade foils recently signed Drew Stanton’s shot at Fantasy glory. Stanton is purely a deep league handcuff. Ryan Lindley, who was a disaster as a rookie, will likely be the third QB. Big-armed John Skelton was cut and found work with the Bengals. He should have an excellent chance to be Andy Dalton’s backup and is stashable in two QB leagues with deep rosters.
With Flynn out of Seattle, the Seahawks signed Brady Quinn to backup Russell Wilson. Quinn is athletic enough to be a serviceable second in command, but he carries little keeper/dynasty value outside of extremely QB-heavy leagues. On the bright side, he has a better shot at producing than fellow 2007 draftee Jamarcus Russell.
The Move: Alex Smith was traded to the Chiefs.
Under Andy Reid he should be a solid short term QB2, but nothing more in keeper/dynasty leagues. If someone in your league values him higher, cut a deal.
The Chiefs also paid a decent amount for former Drew Brees handcuff Chase Daniel. He is not going to light the Fantasy world on fire, but an apprenticeship under Brees and Sean Payton, along with increased arm strength since college make him a speculative add in QB-heavy leagues.
With Smith and Daniel on the Chiefs roster, the writing was all over the wall for Matt Cassel. He was cut and quickly signed with the Vikings to back-up Christrian Ponder. Cassel is better suited as a real life back-up QB, but he might get some time this year if Ponder does not take a step forward. Ponder had a promising outlook but faces a make or break year. This situation could be a Fantasy headache all year.
The Move: The Dolphins invest in improving their offense.
A commitment to improve the offense is great news for emerging prospect Ryan Tannehill. A raw QB talent, he held his own last season without any legitimate receiving options to work with. He represents a QB2 gamble heading into this season, but has long-term potential to be a Top 12 talent at the position. This will be a pivotal season for his development. The additions of Mike Wallace, Brandon Gibson and Dustin Keller add firepower to a previously lackluster group of Miami pass-catchers. If you are in a QB-heavy league and cannot afford the sky-high prices for an Andrew Luck or Colin Kaepernick, he makes for an excellent alternative. Matt Moore heads back to the Dolphins as the number two behind Tannehill. Moore has some game, but try to move him to the Tannehill owner in your league. He is only taking up a roster spot at this point with little long term value.
The Move: The Bills cut Ryan Fitzpatrick
Ryan Fitzpatrick was given the pink slip by the Bills. He found work a week later as the new Jake Locker backup in Tennessee. Locker is a talented prospect that the Titans are hoping takes the next step in his development, but that is not a certainty. There is a chance Fitzy gets into some games this year, but he is most valuable to Locker’s owners in deep and 2QB leagues at the moment.
With Fitzpatrick now in Tennessee, there was no room for Matt Hasselbeck on the roster. Hass heads to Indy to be Luck’s caddy. At 37 years old, he is only worth rostering in the deepest of leagues as insurance.
The Bills had only Tarvaris Jackson and Aaron Corp on their roster after axing Fitzpatrick. Those names do not exactly inspire confidence or have much Fantasy intrigue. The Bills realize this and signed recently released Kevin Kolb. He was an overpaid disaster in Arizona, but he might get a shot this year to reclaim some value. It is likely that Buffalo spends an early pick on a QB this year, but Kolb will have the inside track at a starting job. Still, he is at best a QB4 in keeper/dynasty leagues right now.
Under The Radar Moves:
- Jason Campbell signs with the Browns after a season as Jay Cutler’s backup in Chicago. The former first round pick will have a chance to compete for the starting job, but the competition should be weighted heavily in Brandon Weeden’s favor. Neither player carries much long-term value, but Weeden has the most to lose. If he shows improvement in his second season, he could have a few seasons as a low-end QB2. If not, the Browns will move on quickly after 2013.
- After signing Campbell, the Browns traded Colt McCoy to the 49ers. This is a solid landing spot for McCoy, who should be a reliable, athletic backup behind Colin Kaepernick. He is worth the most to the Kaep owner in your league.
- David Garrard, who has not played in an NFL game since 2010, was signed by the Jets to compete with the ever-regressing Mark Sanchez. Garrard has just about zero long-term value at 35 years old, but he has an outside shot to win the starting job in New York. Sanchez has fallen into QB3/4 territory and may never be a reliable starting Fantasy QB. Tim Tebow hangs in limbo.
- The Bengals sign Josh Johnson and John Skelton to compete for the backup QB job. Both players had some deep dynasty appeal a few seasons ago, but neither has turned their raw talents into Fantasy success. While Dalton may not be the long-term answer in Cincinnati, neither player is more than roll of the dice worthy.
- After flirting with the Raiders, Seneca Wallace signs a deal with the Saints to compete for QB2 duties with Josh McCown. Either player is only on the radar as a potential handcuff to Drew Brees. The potential ship has sailed on both veterans.
- Jamarcus Russell is looking to make a comeback. Yes, he apparently he says he is serious, but is reportedly still out of shape and overweight. Not one team has expressed interest thus far, to no one’s surprise.
The Move: Packers don’t part ways with Jermichael Finley. Yet.
If Jared Cook is the premiere Fantasy tease at TE, it is only because people have become way too frustrated with Finley. In a somewhat surprising move, the Packers did not cut him after another underwhelming season filled with drops and a lack of chemistry with Aaron Rodgers. He has been expected to break out since his second season in 2009. His keeper/dynasty value has hovered around the Top 5 at the position but after years of not living up to the hype, it is on the decline. The talent is still there for him to be a Top 3 TE, but his current value is a backend TE1 or high upside TE2.
The Move: Tony Gonzalez comes back for one more season.
What was all that one in a million talk? After previously saying he would retire after the 2012 season, Tony Gonzalez re-upped with the Falcons in early March. It goes without saying that Tony G is the godfather of the position. It also goes without saying that he has limited long-term value. Expect another TE1 performance in 2013 before he rides off into the sunset. The Falcons are certain to draft a potential replacement later this month.
The Move: Martellus Bennett is taking his talents to the Windy City.
The Black Unicorn, who was a reliable target for Eli Manning last season, could flirt with TE1 status in Chicago. He is an above-average blocker with plenty of athletic ability for his size. He should be a reliable chain-mover and red zone target for Jay Cutler, bringing a new dimension to the Bears offense. Long-term he is a TE2 because of a lack of elite receiving skills.
With the Giants losing Bennett and not ready to turn things over to raw second year TE Adrien Robinson, they went out and signed Brandon Myers. Myers had a career year for the Raiders last year, catching 79 passes for 806 yards and 4 TDs in his age-27 season. His keeper/dynasty value is limited to that of a TE2, but he should find himself a capable option in 2013. If Robinson develops as planned, he will take over by the 2014 season. He should be stashed in deep leagues.
The Raiders are left with a hole at TE after letting Myers walk. The most intriguing dynasty option is converted WR David Ausberry, who offers a solid size/speed combination. It is best to keep an eye on his summer progress but there is no need to pluck him off the waiver wire just yet. It is a situation worth monitoring, as Oakland should add talent via free agency and/or the Draft.
The Move: Jared Cook signs with the Rams.
Consummate Fantasy tease Jared Cook drew plenty of interest in free agency. He landed one of the most lucrative tight end deals in the NFL, as he reunited with Jeff Fisher in St. Louis. The question with Cook is not one of ability; he is a physical specimen with the raw talent to dominate. Still, he has yet to put together a full season of top notch production – never more than 49 catches in a year, only one season of more than 500 yards and only 8 career TDs. Can he breakthrough with the Rams and Sam Bradford? He absolutely could, but at this point it is best to take a wait and see approach unless you can get him on the cheap. If you own him and have someone offering you TE1 value in exchange, it would be beneficial to explore.
The long-term value of Lance Kendricks takes a hit with the Cook signing. Kendricks had potential as a pass catcher but will take a backseat to Cook for the moment. Coming out of Wisconsin three years ago, Kendricks had intriguing upside despite lacking ideal height and strength. Right now his value is in the TE3 range, but there is Top 20 potential if he can get a change of scenery or if Cook does not work out. He is worth a buy in leagues with deep rosters.
The Titans wasted no time filling Cook’s spot, adding former 49er Delanie Walker. Before you rush to your waiver wire keep in mind that he is going to be 29 years old before the season starts and has never had more than 344 receiving yards in a season. Still, he was playing in the shadow of one of the best TEs in the game (Vernon Davis) and will now get a chance to be more involved in the offense. Consider him a TE3 for 2013 with not much more upside in long-term leagues. The Tennessee TE you want is second year raw talent Taylor Thompson. His ceiling is elite, but he will need to continue to develop and make use of his size and athleticism. He makes a definite buy this offseason as a TE2 simply based on his potential.
The Move: Dustin Keller signs with the Dolphins.
After a solid but unspectacular five seasons with the Jets, Keller signed with a familiar foe, the Dolphins. He will bring his solid pass-catching skills to the Dolphins rebuilt offense and be a reliable target for Tannehill. He is no more than a TE2 in keeper/dynasty leagues as he enters his age-29 season. It is worth noting he is on a one-year deal and the potential is there for a career season in South Beach.
With Keller in Miami, Anthony Fasano explored his options and ended up in Kansas City. He is a solid red zone threat but offers little in the way of Fantasy upside. He will be insurance for oft-injured, but talented TE Tony Moeaki. There is upside here because of Moeaki’s size, speed and athletic ability. If he can somehow manage to stay healthy, he could approach TE2 value.