2012 Fantasy Football: 6 Possible Free Agency Signings with the Most Impact
When Randy Moss signed with San Francisco, the move registered about a 4.0 on the fantasy Richter Scale.
Assuming quarterback Alex Smith returns to the team, questions will nag about Moss' ability to make any kind of fantasy splash considering the questions about his quarterback's ability.
Moss could be great like he was in most of his stint with New England. Or he could be like he was in 2010.
Alex Smith could be turning the corner considering his great playoff performance against the Saints and Giants. Or he could be like he was most of 2011.
Then there are other potential free agent moves that just look like fantasy dead ends, such as Mario Manningham to the Buccaneers or Michael Bush to Cincinnati, where it looks like they're setting up a fantasy-killing committee rotation.
Not all free agent signings turn into fantasy gold. Here are six possible free agent deals that would have the greatest fantasy impact.
1. QB Peyton Manning to Arizona
March Madness could very well refer to the frenzy surrounding Peyton Manning's next team.
Manning visited Denver on Friday, Arizona on Sunday and Miami Monday. He is also expected to meet with Tennessee.
Of these final four, some say Denver is the front runner. The greatest fantasy impact with a realistic possibility of becoming reality is for Manning to join the Cardinals.
Wideout Larry Fitzgerald is a fantasy stud no matter the quarterback. But he would be in the same breath as Calvin Johnson if Manning signs with Arizona.
Arizona has the most complete offensive arsenal of Manning's four known possible destinations, having a top wide receiver and a pair of explosive running backs in Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams.
If Reggie Wayne joined Manning in Arizona, as the previously reported package deal suggests, the Cardinals would have an dynamic offense that would create fantasy fireworks in multiple positions.
Denver has an aging running back in Willis McGahee. The Broncos do have a budding star in receiver Demaryius Thomas, but he is no Fitzgerald.
And Tennessee has a star in receiver Kenny Britt but running back Chris Johnson is on the downside of his career.
Manning to Arizona would be fantasy madness.
2. WR Vincent Jackson to Chicago
Many teams need a wide receiver. Many teams that need a wide receiver have cap space.
Not many teams need a wide receiver, have cap space and have a viable quarterback to throw to that receiver.
Vincent Jackson to the Chicago Bears is not only a realistic possibility, it's the best fantasy destination for Jackson.
Assuming Washington drafts Robert Griffin III, Jackson wouldn't be a wouldn't be a bad fit there. But a couple realities will hamper Jackson's value in Washington.
First, RG3 will be a rookie. All rookie quarterbacks adjust to the pro game, whether it's NFL-quality defensive backs and linemen, deciphering defensive schemes or handling an entirely new scheme from what was run in college.
Cam Newton was a fantasy stud as a rookie but much of his fantasy points came on the ground. Of course, Griffin will likely tuck it and run often as a rookie also. But that's the point: running quarterbacks tend to make the receiver more likely to come up small.
We've seen what Cutler can do with a premier wide receiver like Brandon Marshall. Since then, Cutler has been worth no more than a fantasy backup.
Jackson to Chicago would see Jackson's fantasy numbers remain stable while boosting Cutler's fantasy value.
3. QB Matt Flynn to Miami
If Peyton Manning goes to any team besides Miami, the next domino to fall will be Matt Flynn to the Dolphins.
Since new Miami head coach Joe Philbin is also the former Packers offensive coordinator, he would be most familiar with Flynn, who was Aaron Rodgers' understudy in Green Bay.
Since Flynn would already know Philbin's offensive philosophies, Flynn's transition to a full-time gig under center would be smoother than for any other potential Miami quarterback.
This is a very likely scenario to play out once the Manning sweepstakes is over.
The good news for fantasy owners is that receiver Brandon Marshall would finally have a steady presence at quarterback.
While Flynn's body of work has been small (two starts in the past two years), those two starts were impressive.
On the road at New England in Week 15 of 2010, he went 24-for-37 with 251 yards, three TDs and one interception, good for a 100.2 QB rating.
And at home against Detroit in Week 17 of 2011, he went 31-for-44 with 480 yards, six TDs and one interception, good for a 136.4 QB rating.
For his career, his rating is a strong 92.8. Flynn has the potential to make Marshall a high No. 2 or even a low No. 1 fantasy receiver.
4. RB Mike Tolbert to Green Bay
With James Starks once again coming up small in fantasy (a scant 5.6 FPPG) and Ryan Grant a free agent, the Packers are in the market for a reliable running back.
Enter Mike Tolbert.
The pass-blocking, pass-catching bruiser would fit in well with Green Bay's pass-first offense. Tolbert's knack for the goal line would also add a new dimension to the Packers offense.
What's more, Tolbert's departure from San Diego would make Ryan Mathews the undisputed back with the Chargers.
Eliminating a running-back-by-committee in San Diego while solving a void at running back in Green Bay would open up two fantasy opportunities in one free agent move.
Tolbert has put Green Bay on his list but it remains to be seen how serious he is. For fantasy purposes, here's hoping he's dead serious.
5. WR Marques Colston Stays in New Orleans
Initially, Colston said he wasn't giving the Saints a hometown discount.
Recently, though, Colston wants to return to New Orleans so much, the two sides are near a deal.
If so, fantasy owners rejoice.
Colston averaged 10.3 FPPG in 2011, 16th among fantasy wideouts. Starting over with a new quarterback would hurt his value.
In addition, a Colston departure would hurt Brees' value as well. Lance Moore and Devery Henderson would move up the receiver depth chart. Having Marques Colston atop your receiver depth chart with Moore and Henderson backing him up is much more useful for Brees.
This looks like it will happen, which is good news for fantasy owners.
6. WR Mike Wallace Stays in Pittsburgh
Wallace, as a restricted free agent, would cost his new team its first-round draft pick if they lure him away from Pittsburgh.
Wallace, perhaps the most dangerous deep threat in the NFL, is arguably worth a first-round pick.
New England, for example, has two low first-round picks. Speculation has the Patriots sending one of them to Pittsburgh while signing Wallace to turn their offense from dangerous to downright scary.
From a fantasy standpoint, Wallace to the Patriots would make other fantasy commodities like Wes Welker and Rob Gronkowski a bit less valuable. After all, divvying up passes from quarterback Tom Brady is going to make fantasy production less predictable.
Wallace would be a great fit for Jay Cutler's arm in Chicago, but the Bears are more likely to sign Vincent Jackson.
Wallace obviously won't be going to other receiver-needy teams like the Rams (whose first round pick is too high to give up) or the Redskins (who already gave up a lot of picks to move up to No. 2 overall in the draft).
Other receiver-needy teams like Cleveland and Jacksonville don't have quarterbacks who could make use of Wallace's talent.
Wallace returning as the undisputed top dog in Pittsburgh's offense would be safer for fantasy owners. With running back Rashard Mendenhall starting the season on the PUP list, we may see the Steelers chuck the ball around more than usual.
That would bode well for Wallace, which in turn would bode well for his fantasy owner.