Notable NFL Free Agents: Where They Go and How It Affects Fantasy

John ZaktanskyCorrespondent IMarch 5, 2010

INDIANAPOLIS - JANUARY 24:  Running back Thomas Jones #20 of the New York Jets runs the ball against the Indianapolis Colts during the second quarter of the AFC Championship Game at Lucas Oil Stadium on January 24, 2010 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

You know that today’s opening of free agency in the NFL could be remarkable when there are already major moves taking place.

Take, for example, the Jets acquiring ultra-talented cornerback Antonio Cromartie for a third-round draft pick (it changes to a second-rounder depending on his playing time). Sure, Cromartie has a host of off-field issues, but imagine if he can get his act together. Cromartie and Revis in the same defensive backfield?

News from last night also included word that the Bears are on the verge of signing free agent Julius Peppers . This after reports that Peppers would likely go to the Redskins.

Early reports already suggest that receiver Nate Burleson will be signing with the Lions as the No. 2 wideout. Allegedly, Chester Taylor looks close to signing with the Bears.

Free agency this year is marked by what will be an uncapped offseason. The ramifications of this are hard to gauge...opinions seem split on whether or not that will lead to wild spending by certain teams or if most squads will become more financially timid on the signing front.

Regardless, there are a slew of potentially major moves on the horizon. Here is a partial look at some of the main pieces that could be on the move starting today:

First, let me state that this post was oodles harder to write than my 2010 predictions post , where I included my opinions on where some big-named players may be traded this offseason.

Free agent signings, however, are so much more a crapshoot. There are tons of scenarios that could play out for each player...for each team.

To form the following predictions, I checked out several well-known web sites, got a general feel of where guys may be signed and then factored in my gut. For those who missed it, pointed out recently that gut reactions actually hold some merit.

Running Backs

Darren Sproles. The Chargers at first released Sproles, then tendered him for a first and third-round pick. However, many feel that Sproles will still be dealt for the right price. Allegedly, Sproles had trips lined up to visit with the Chiefs, Redskins, Eagles and Rams before the Chargers tendered him.

Someone will be willing to spend the money, and we all know how Daniel Snyder likes to throw cash at players. It isn’t as though Clinton Portis has a whole lot left in his tank.

Thomas Jones. Many overlook how effective Jones was recently with the Jets. Recent news states that Jones could wind up back with the Jets, but I highly doubt they pay him the money he’s looking for. The Eagles, Lions, Chargers, Texans and slew of other squads are expected to make a mad dash for Jones’ services.

The Eagles, Lions and Chargers are all front runners in my book. Flip a coin between them, although I’ll guess (note the word guess) that Jones lands in San Diego.

Chester Taylor. Few expect Taylor to return to the Vikings, making him a nice pickup for many despite his elevated age. Remember that his tires have plenty of tread after playing second fiddle to Adrian Peterson for quite some time. Taylor could be a starter on a number of teams.

My gut reaction was that he would land with the Lions, start over Maurice Morris and ultimately plays thunder to Kevin Smith’s lightning when, and if, Smith returns to the field. However, late-breaking updates on ESPN radio have Taylor close to signing with the Bears, which will directly affect Matt Forte, among others.

Brian Westbrook. One of several older backs with declining skill sets, Westbrook was effective in spot duty with an impressive 4.5 yards-per-carry when he was in the backfield last year. Plenty of teams will be open to taking a chance on Westbrook.

Several are saying that he’ll wind up in Minnesota. Recent reports say that he has no interest in playing on turf, leaving grass-field alternatives of Chicago, Pittsburgh, and San Francisco who are actively looking.

LaDainian Tomlinson. There is little to get giddy over with Tomlinson’s rapidly declining skill set. In a normal offseason, Tomlinson could be facing few options, but that could be different during this uncapped year. It will take some time for Tomlinson to find an employer as he learns that his asking price will need to be adjusted and re-adjusted.

The Eagles, Saints, Lions, Redskins, Texans and a few other teams have batted around the idea of snagging Tomlinson. Philly could be an intriguing option, if it wasn’t for my nagging suspicions that the Eagles make a move via trade for Marshawn Lynch.

Marshawn Lynch. He’s not a free agent, but he is unofficially on the trading block after teammate Fred Jackson outplayed him repeatedly in 2009. Lynch is young (just 23) and a big, bruising back who would compliment a smaller, shifty back like the Eagles’ LeSean McCoy quite nicely. Philly has a slew of quarterbacks while the Bills are in need of one. I still get this weird gut feeling that a trade will be developed here. Time will tell.

There are a few other backs of note who are currently restricted free agents, such as Ronnie Brown and Pierre Thomas . Considering their respective situations, I don’t expect either to move to a new team this offseason.

Wide Receivers

Terrell Owens. It’s hard to get excited about Terrell anymore. He was an also-ran in Buffalo, although shoddy QB play did factor in somewhat there. There are several teams that need some receiver help, such as the Ravens, Bengals and Dolphins. Too bad these teams and others are so actively saying they want no part of Owens.

Antonio Bryant. There is so much baggage surrounding Bryant during his career, but his age suggests that he could still produce somewhere if put in the proper situation. Other sites waffle greatly on where Bryant could/will wind up, although a couple mentioned the Redskins. Time will tell.

There are a few other unrestricted free agent receivers, but none that could provide instant fantasy upside in a new venue. These players include Kevin Walter, Derrick Mason, Chris Chambers, Torry Holt and Nate Burleson (although Burleson is allegedly signing with the Lions).

Restricted free agent receivers include a few more savory options. Vincent Jackson and Miles Austin are the biggest of these names, but as with the running back restricted free agent options, neither of these guys will likely be suiting up for a new team in the fall.

Several notable receivers will likely be moved this offseason. Anquan Boldin and Brandon Marshall highlight the list. Boldin could be had for a third-round pick, according to recent reports. Marshall was tendered for a first and third-round selection. I predicted a little while ago where these guys would wind up .

Teams such as the Ravens, Dolphins, Bengals and Bears are all in the discussion (although the Bears don’t have a first-round pick, so they’d be limited to Boldin on this short list).



There are few big-named quarterbacks that will be moved this offseason. Those who do will likely be moved via trade. Players such as Donovan McNabb have come up in these discussions, and I cover my predictions on McNabb, specifically, here .

Restricted free agent QBs include Jason Campbell, Kyle Orton, and Matt Moore , among others. All three will likely remain on their current teams. Of the three, Moore is looking like a very sneaky upside player for dynasty leagues, especially with word Thursday that Jake Delhomme was officially axed.

Chad Pennington heads the list of unresticted free agents, and several web sites suggested he could wind up in Arizona backing up inconsistent Matt Leinart in the wake of Kurt Warner’s retirement. No such luck, though, as reports out of Miami have Pennington likely to resign with the Dolphins.

Other unrestricted free agent QBs include David Carr, Chris Redman, Jeff Garcia, Rex Grossman, Daunte Culpepper, J.P. Losman and Kyle Boller . I don’t expect any to have fantasy value in 2010, shot of some horrific injuries.


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