10 Impending NFL Free Agents Whose Fantasy Value Hinges on Decision
A lot of key free agents will have some serious decisions to make this offseason, and where they ultimately decide to play could be of critical importance for fantasy players as well. The impact of where the likes of Knowshon Moreno and Maurice Jones-Drew will end up will prove to be of paramount importance to their fantasy value.
So, who may be positively or negatively affected by their choices?
Well, in this slideshow will be 10 players (ranked in order of fantasy importance) whose fantasy worth is on the line heading into the offseason. For now, excluded from this list will be Jimmy Graham, as either he and the Saints will come to a long-term deal, or at the very least, they will place the franchise tag on him.
The players in this column are not likely to have the franchise tag pinned on them, and they may head into the free-agency frenzy (set to commence March 11) unsigned.
10. Anquan Boldin, San Francisco 49ers
Seeing as though the San Francisco 49ers want to focus on maintaining and/or upgrading the wide receiver spot, as per CSNBayArea.com's Matt Maiocco, the chances of Anquan Boldin sticking around in San Francisco appear to be good.
After racking up 1,179 receiving yards and seven touchdowns in his debut season in San Francisco, re-signing Boldin makes sense. If the 49ers don’t, several teams would love to acquire the services of the 11-year veteran.
Boldin has kept himself in great shape all these years, and it doesn’t look like a huge drop-off in production will occur anytime soon. Boldin will make for a great No. 3 receiver regardless of where he ends up.
9. Julian Edelman, New England Patriots
Julian Edelman is another in a long line of receivers whose value was raised by playing with Tom Brady. Edelman couldn’t have timed it better to have his best season (career highs in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns) as he enters free agency.
Edelman is as good as it gets for possession receivers, and he filled in admirably after the departure of Wes Welker. The Patriots will probably want to hang on to Edelman, as his presence will signal continuity a year after the team lost its major playmakers in Welker, Brandon Lloyd and the injuries and transgressions of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.
If they don’t, other teams will covet this shifty receiver. Edelman’s fantasy value is best suited if he stays with the Patriots, but even elsewhere, Edelman could thrive.
8. Darren McFadden, Oakland Raiders
If there was ever a player who could use a fresh start someplace new it would be Darren McFadden.
With Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie confirming McFadden will test the free-agency waters, via Paul Gutierrez of ESPN.com (h/t Kevin Patra of NFL.com), it all but officially ends McFadden’s time with Oakland. McFadden still has a great deal of talent left in his 26-year-old body, but will he sign with a team that will make him a lead back?
Considering his sordid injury past, that is probably not likely. Whichever team eventually signs McFadden will likely pair him up with another player worthy of receiving a good bulk of the carries (to cover themselves in the event McFadden succumbs to another injury). In other words, he's probably headed for a timeshare.
The rush won’t be there to snatch up McFadden in the offseason, but if—and of course, this is a big if—he can overcome his injury-plagued past and land on a team that is willing to give him a good dose of carries, he can still hold relevant fantasy value. But, you should still be cautious with McFadden on draft day regardless of where he ends up.
7. Jeremy Maclin, Philadelphia Eagles
After missing the whole 2013 season with a torn ACL, Jeremy Maclin will hit the free-agency market with a lot less fanfare. Knowing that teams won’t overpay for a receiver coming off a major injury, Maclin is open to signing a one-year deal, as he told CSN's Derrick Gunn.
In his last healthy season of 2012, Maclin put up quality numbers to the tune of 69 receptions for 857 yards and seven touchdowns. The Eagles, according to the report, are undecided with what they want to do with Maclin, and he could very well be playing in a new city come the start of the 2014 season.
Maclin still has the requisite skills and experience to be a major weapon in anybody’s offense, and he will still make for an intriguing bounce-back fantasy performer for whichever team he signs.
6. Hakeem Nicks, New York Giants
For some reason, the New York Giants and Hakeem Nicks never saw eye-to-eye this season, and it resulted in Nicks having the worst season of his career—by far.
Nicks didn’t even haul in one touchdown catch in 2013 and accumulated 56 receptions for 896 receiving yards. Nicks is reportedly persona non grata and won’t be back with the club. NFL.com's Ian Rapoport reported the news on NFL GameDay Morning (via Marc Sessler of NFL.com).
Coming off a terrible year, Nicks’ worth on the open market has gone south. With that said, some team may find great value with Nicks’ dropping stock.
Nicks still has a lot of game left in his body, and at 26, he can still offer a team high-end production at receiver. As such, Nicks may be one of the better low-risk/high-reward receivers to gamble on in drafts next summer, depending on where he lands.
5. Andre Brown, New York Giants
After sitting out the first eight weeks of last season, Brown came back and ended the season rushing for 492 yards and three touchdowns on just 139 carries. Brown gave the Giants a lift in the second half, and when given the chance, he has shown he can carry the load for New York.
Would he get a chance to carry the load with another team?
Probably not. So, the thinking here is if Brown doesn’t re-sign with the Giants—amid all the uncertainty they have at the position—he probably won’t find a better chance for sustained success elsewhere.
4. Ben Tate, Houston Texans
"Carry on for the rest of my career thanks Htown for all the support but odds are I won't be back."
Filling in for Foster this year for seven games as a starter, Tate rushed for 771 yards on 181 carries with four touchdowns. He has proven he can handle the rushing load, but he has also proven to be injury prone as well.
There is a decent chance that Tate can land himself with a club that could make him a featured back, but he is no slam dunk to be a starter next year. While he possesses a wealth of talent, he needs to find the right place to succeed.
3. Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville Jaguars
As expected, the Jacksonville Jaguars will allow Maurice Jones-Drew to hit the open market, likely ending their eight-year marriage together.
Jones-Drew could use a change of scenery after years of losing wearing him down. There is a good chance that in a new offense and setting, Jones-Drew can give a team a spark in the running game and can still be considered a No. 1 running back.
However, buyer beware before drafting Jones-Drew irrespective of where he ultimately ends up. In his eight years in Jacksonville, Jones-Drew has amassed 1,804 carries, and each year, he continued to decline. This past year, he posted an all-time low of 3.4 yards per carry—almost a full yard below his career average (4.5).
Jones-Drew will be one of the boom-or-bust players who can make or break your fantasy team.
2. Eric Decker, Denver Broncos
Well, we may find out soon enough, as Decker may hit the free-agency season unsigned, as Chris Wesseling of NFL.com notes (h/t Mike Coppinger of NFL.com). With the Broncos having a plethora of offensive weapons, they may let Decker walk this offseason.
While overshadowed by Demaryius Thomas and Wes Welker, Decker still put together a terrific season en route to career highs in receptions (87) and receiving yards (1,288) while putting up double digits in touchdowns once again (11).
As a result, Decker will want No. 1 receiver money, and the Broncos will not likely give him that. Depending on the place he lands, Decker’s value will hang in the balance until he signs.
1. Knowshon Moreno, Denver Broncos
With the way rookie running back Montee Ball finished the season (rushing for 297 yards and one touchdown in his last five games) for the Broncos, Denver may elect to have Knowshon Moreno walk in the offseason, as Rapoport notes.
While Moreno was a revelation this year, the Broncos may want to use their allotted cap money toward improving their defense which was torn apart in the Super Bowl. Therefore, Moreno might have played his last game with the Broncos on Super Bowl Sunday.
Obviously, Moreno will be a wanted man on the open market, as he has shown he is a tough and versatile back who can handle the majority of the carries for a team. There are several teams (Cleveland, Jacksonville?, etc.) that could use the services of a true No. 1 back.
Hopefully, Moreno finds himself in an ideal situation and remains a bell-cow back. If he does, he’ll make for a great No. 2 running back for fantasy purposes.
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