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7 Free Agent Moves with Major Fantasy Implications

Daniel StackContributor IIMarch 14, 2014

7 Free Agent Moves with Major Fantasy Implications

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    Evan Vucci/Associated Press

    The free-agency signing period has been as good as advertised and much more. The implications from all the signings will certainly have an impact in fantasy circles as well.

    The free-agent frenzy has only just begun and more dominoes are sure to fall. There will be more names switching places or staying at home in the coming weeks. For now, this list will cover the players who made the biggest splash for fantasy purposes in the first week of the free-agency period.

    Here are the seven most significant moves (ranked in order of fantasy relevance) made during the signing period and what the fantasy implications will be for the players listed.

    Disclaimer: These moves exclude deals made before this week’s signing period (i.e. Anquan Boldin, Jeremy Maclin, etc.). Also, this report was filed prior to 3 p.m. ET, so more moves could have been made prior to you reading this.

Honorable Mentions

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    The following players listed here have fringe fantasy value, but they bear monitoring to see how their roles change heading into 2014.

    • Dexter McCluster goes to Tennessee.
    • Andre Roberts signs with Washington.
    • Jacoby Jones re-signs with Baltimore.
    • Brandon Pettigrew re-signs with Detroit.
    • Garrett Graham re-signs with Houston.
    • John Carlson inked by Arizona.
    • Brandon Myers moves to Tampa Bay
    • Scott Chandler re-signs with Buffalo.

7. Donald Brown, San Diego Chargers

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    Donald Brown’s move to San Diego is a bit perplexing.

    Brown will now join a Chargers squad that already has Ryan Mathews and Danny Woodhead at running back, so the chance for Brown to make an impact will be slim.

    Brown, who signed a three-year, $10.5 million deal, will now have to compete for carries. It’s not like he hasn’t done it before. Brown filled in admirably for Trent Richardson last year in Indianapolis, when Richardson struggled after coming over from Cleveland in the beginning of the season. Brown had a career-high 5.3 yards per carry clip and six rushing touchdowns with the Colts last season.

    Although the Chargers possibly signed Brown as insurance since Mathews and Woodhead are free agents after next season, this will not help Brown’s fantasy value in 2014.

    As such, he’s probably nothing better than a late-round flier on draft day.

6. Josh McCown, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    If you paid any attention at all last year, then surely you know how impactful Josh McCown can be when given the chance to quarterback a team. He did a masterful job in Chicago filling in for Jay Cutler.

    McCown totaled 1,829 passing yards with 13 touchdowns to just one interception, while completing 66.5 percent of his passes after filling in for Cutler. Yeah, McCown had Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Matt Forte and Martellus Bennett to work with, but he has an underrated group of receivers to work with in Tampa as well. Vincent Jackson, Mike Williams and tight ends Timothy Wright and newly acquired Brandon Myers are no slouches. Not to mention he has solid running backs Doug Martin and Bobby Rainey to work with as well.

    It’s a little puzzling that the Bucs would cast aside Mike Glennon so quickly, but new coach Lovie Smith loves his former Bears quarterback, and Smith has already gone on record saying that McCown will be the starter.

    While you shouldn’t target McCown to be your starter, he’s a quality backup in the event he carries over the momentum he built up in 2013.

5. Rashad Jennings, New York Giants

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    Ben Margot/Associated Press

    While not the biggest free-agent acquisition of the week, Rashad Jennings signing with the Giants could be an under-the-radar move that could eventually make some noise.

    With the Giants having no stable running game at the moment (David Wilson’s future is murky with neck issues and Andre Brown is a free agent), Jennings could come in and get a good bulk of carries. He is coming of a great season in which he had career highs in carries (163), rushing yards (733), touchdowns (six), receptions (36) and receiving yards (292).

    With the Giants rebuilding their line and with the chance for steady playing time, Jennings may enter drafts as a trendy sleeper. He could make for a valuable No. 3 running back on draft day.

4. Toby Gerhart, Jacksonville Jaguars

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    While this move will not reverberate around the NFL, Toby Gerhart getting out of Adrian Peterson’s tremendous shadow and heading to Jacksonville should be an incredible boom to Gerhart’s fantasy value.

    With the Jaguars not likely to re-sign Maurice Jones-Drew, Gerhart will now only have to battle untested Jordan Todman to be the Jaguars’ lead back. There may be a chance, though, that Jacksonville looks to draft a running back in the upcoming NFL draft. But at the moment, this is Gerhart’s job to lose.

    While filling in for Peterson, Gerhart showed that he was more than up to the task. He has a career 4.6 yards per carry clip on 276 carries. While he is not a game-changer, he has some appeal in the middle rounds on draft day simply for the fact that he’s in line for 15-20 touches a game, as Hays Carlyon reports in The Florida Times-Union.

    Think of Gerhart as a steady No. 3 running back in drafts this season.

Darren McFadden, Oakland Raiders

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    The Raiders re-signing McFadden has to come as a bit of a shock.

    After it was assumed that the Raiders wouldn’t re-sign him, McFadden tested the market and thought accepting a one-year, $1.75 million deal with Oakland would be best for all involved.

    With Rashad Jennings heading to New York, McFadden should still get the bulk of carries in Oakland, although Latavius Murray may get a chance to spotlight his talents.

    With McFadden sticking with the Raiders, his fantasy value will only plateau. You know his bugaboo—McFadden’s value is always tied to his health. He’ll always be a risk to miss a few games, but if—and this, of course, is a huge if—McFadden can stay healthy, then he could have some bounce back appeal in the middle rounds of drafts.

Eric Decker, New York Jets

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    Perhaps the biggest splash—and surprise—during the free-agency period was Eric Decker cashing in on his fantastic 2013 season campaign by accepting the Jets' lucrative five-year, $36.25 million deal.

    By all indications, he was out of the Broncos’ price range, as they did not want to commit so much money to a No. 2—or even a No. 3—WR (since they already have Demaryius Thomas and Wes Welker). Good for Decker for cashing in. He was fabulous last year en route to career highs in receptions (87) and receiving yards (1,288), while putting up double digits in touchdowns (11) once again.

    However, for fantasy purposes, Decker may have just committed career suicide.

    The Jets do not have a potent passing attack and at this point the Jets don’t even know who will be quarterbacking the team. Will it be incumbent Geno Smith, or will they look to a free-agent quarterback (Michael Vick, perhaps)? Either way, Decker moving on from Peyton Manning and the high-octane Broncos passing attack to the uncertainty in New York is disconcerting at the very least.

    You shouldn’t think of Decker as anything better than a No.3 WR on draft day, as we don’t really know how well he can do without a Hall of Fame quarterback getting him the ball.

1. Golden Tate, Detroit Lions

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    After a nice run with the Seahawks—picking up a Super Bowl ring in the process—Tate will go from ultimate team success to conceivably more personal success with his move to the Lions.

    Sure, he was adequate in Seattle, but he now has a great chance to up his game in Detroit while playing with Matt Stafford and the high-voltage Lions offense. Playing alongside Calvin Johnson, Reggie Bush, Joique Bell and Brandon Pettigrew, Tate will be sure to see many single-coverage looks.

    Although Russell Wilson is a good quarterback (of course he is, he’s fresh off winning the Super Bowl!), Matt Stafford is the quarterback you want if you want your stats to make a huge jump (just ask Megatron) and this move makes Tate an especially enticing option on draft day.

    Think of Tate as either low-end No. 2 WR or (more likely) a very appealing No. 3 WR for fantasy drafts this summer.

    Follow me on Twitter @Stacdemon

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