Several with Strong Fantasy Impacts
The first day of the free agency season is in the books and we trudge into day 2. While I will keep updating our 2013 NFL Free Agents list pages and rankings as players sign new contracts, I figured I'd share some thoughts on some of what has happened so far. There were some signings that will impact fantasy football in 2013.
*-RB Reggie Bush signs 4 year deal with Detroit Lions (money undisclosed as this was just announced). It has been rumored that the Lions were willing to give the starting RB job to Bush over Mikel Leshoure and he has bought into that. Bush's addition means Leshoure takes the complementary role of between the tackles grinder. It also likely means last season's surprise, Joique Bell will be relegated to being the #3 RB. Bush actually lands in an excellent spot for him. The Lions are more of a pass first team and have a solid QB in Matt Stafford, along with the best WR in the league in Calvin Johnson. Bush has proven capable of being a good fantasy RB2 the last 2 seasons in Miami despite only getting 443 rushing attempts the last two seasons combined. Those rushing attempts aren't likely to change much but his receptions (only 78 in that span) should come up a little. There's no reason to not expect him to retain good RB2 fantasy value in 2013.
*-RB Rashard Mendenhall signs a one year deal with Arizona Cardinals. Mendenhall has a firm grasp of the RB role in new Head Coach Bruce Arians offense from their days together in Pittsburgh. The Cardinals released Beanie Wells on Monday and while Arians had spoke glowingly about Ryan Williams, the signing of Mendenhall on a one year "prove it" type of deal means there are plenty of concerns about Williams ability to stay healthy after two seasons marred by injuries. Mendenhall will be nearly two years removed from a torn ACL by the start of the regular season in 2013 and has proven to be capable of being a featured RB. If the Cardinals can improve their run blocking, Mendenhall is fully capable of putting up good numbers. While there's upside with him, there's also concern about whether he'll regain his pre-injury speed. Mendenhall should be considered a low end fantasy RB2 who could seriously swing in either direction.
*-WR Mike Wallace signs with Miami Dolphins. Wallace got a 5 year $60 million deal and instantly becomes the top WR in Miami. With the Dolphins having re-signed Brian Hartline last week, the WR corps for Miami appears set with a top 3 of Wallace, Hartline, and Davone Bess. Wallace may not put up top 10 fantasy WR numbers in 2013 as the jury is still out on QB Ryan Tannehill, but at least he should be an adequate fantasy WR2 with upside.
*-WR Donnie Avery signs with the Kansas City Chiefs. This signing happened at the time of this writing and no terms were released. Avery becomes a complementary starting option opposite of Dwayne Bowe. While some think the Chiefs may try to trade former first round pick Jon Baldwin, I expect Baldwin to be kept and Avery to be the speedy "stretch the field" WR the Chiefs have lacked recently. Avery is coming off a good season with the Colts, but expecting him to be better in 2013 than the inconsistent WR3 he was last season is a bit of a stretch unless we see glowing things from Alex Smith in training camp and Avery clearly beats out Baldwin.
*-TE Jared Cook signs with St. Louis Rams. Cook leaves Tennessee to hopefully become a much more utilized weapon for Sam Bradford and received a 5 year $38 million deal. Cook is an instant upgrade over draft bust Lance Kendricks and with the Rams expecting to lose WR Danny Amendola, Cook could become the new favorite weapon on short-to-intermediate routes for Bradford. Cook was never properly utilized to his full potential in Tennessee and I expect that will change in St. Louis as they didn't pay him all that money to not use him. Cook's value on upcoming 2013 fantasy football TE rankings is likely to go up.
*-TE Martellus Bennett signs with Chicago Bears. After a strong season with the Giants in 2012, Bennett got a 4 year $21 million deal to become the pass catching TE the Bears have lacked since they foolishly got rid of Greg Olsen. The Bears have Brandon Marshall as a dominant WR1 but no proven WR2. While it's hoped that Alshon Jeffery will make strides in his second season, if he doesn't, Bennett could become the second most targeted player by Jay Cutler. I'm cautiously optimistic that Bennett will be a medium to low end TE1 in 2013.
*-TE Anthony Fasano signs with Kansas City Chiefs. Fasano got a 4 year $16 million deal and will compete with Tony Moeaki to be the starting TE for the Chiefs. Fasano has never lived up to expectations in Dallas or Miami as a pass catcher, but has a chance to surprise in 2013 in the new Chiefs offense. Andy Reid's offenses have usually done well with TE's and Moeaki disappointed greatly in 2012. Part of it could be blamed on the QB situation in KC last season, but Moeaki looked nothing like the promising rookie TE he was in 2010 (Moeaki missed most of 2011 with a torn ACL). Fasano is my bet to win the job and with the Chiefs having a suspect WR corps (even after signing Donnie Avery) outside of Dwayne Bowe, Fasano could have value as a fantasy TE2 in 2013.
*-TE Delanie Walker signs with Tennessee Titans. Walker was never used to his full potential as a TE/H-Back with the 49ers and received a 4 year $17.5 million deal to help replace departed Jared Cook. Walker isn't the same league talent-wise as Cook and the Titans didn't use him properly. Walker probably will "start" for the Titans but is unlikely to have much fantasy value as he competes with second year TE Taylor Thompson for the pass catching TE role for the Titans.
*-TE James Casey signs with Philadelphia Eagles. Casey has a lot of untapped potential as a pass catching TE and received a 3 year $14.5 million deal to join the Eagles. Philly already has an accomplished pass catching TE in Brent Celek so this signing is interesting. Celek could remain the primary TE with Casey reprising his (under-utilized) role as TE/H-Back that he had with the Houston Texans the last couple of seasons. Maybe the Eagles are planning on trading Celek and giving Casey more opportunities; it's just too early to tell. But keep Casey in the back of your head as a potential deep fantasy football sleeper as training camps approach.