Offseason? What offseason?
The Super Bowl might be in the rearview mirror, but the excitement of player movement and potential trades is almost here. Which players will be released? Who will sign with a new team? It's all going to start on March 12, when the free-agent period officially begins. Not only does this time of year impact all 32 teams, it also affects fantasy player values for the upcoming NFL campaign.
Since this is fantasy football, I've examined the top impending free agents for 2013 and made a few suggestions as to their best (and most realistic) landing spot from a statistical perspective.
Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, Free agent: Bradshaw is on the open market after being released by the New York Giants, and he'll draw interest from plenty of teams. The problem with Bradshaw isn't age or production, it's the chronic foot problems that continue to plague him. In fact, he's coming off yet another operation to repair multiple breaks in his right foot. Bradshaw, 26, has rushed for 1,000-plus yards in two of his last three seasons and has found the end zone a combined 25 times since 2010, so landing in a place that allows him a chance to start could keep him as a No. 2 option.
Reggie Bush, RB, Miami Dolphins: Let's be honest -- Bush's best fantasy landing spot is in Miami, where he has played and found success over the last two seasons. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like the Dolphins have a lot of interest in retaining his services for 2013 or beyond. Instead, it appears that Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas will be allowed the chance to compete for playing time. As a result, the Southern California product is more likely to end up in a committee situation than as a runner who will lead his team in carries. Bush could be hard pressed to post close to 1,000 rushing yards wherever he winds up.
Shonn Greene, RB, New York Jets: Greene has rushed for 1,000-plus yards and scored a combined 14 touchdowns over the last two seasons, making him a viable No. 2 or 3 fantasy runner in most leagues. However, his running style just doesn't fit the offense of new Gang Green coordinator Marty Mornhinweg -- that means he'll be on the hunt for a new team during the offseason. If he's going to retain his current draft value, Greene will need to land in a spot that allows him a chance to start and see short-yardage and goal-line work in a potential committee situation. Consider Greene a middle-round pick at this point.
Steven Jackson, RB, St. Louis Rams: Jackson has voided the final year of his current contract and will test the open market this offseason. While his lack of overall touchdown production has been his Achilles' heel from a fantasy standpoint, the veteran has been a virtual lock to rush for 1,000-plus yards - despite not having much help on offense. While the Rams are interested in bringing him back, there will be some other suitors prepared to make him an offer should Jackson decide against returning to St. Louis. Unless he retires, Jackson is likely to end up as a No. 2 fantasy runner in most drafts.
Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers: Reports out of Pittsburgh suggest that Mendenhall's time in the Steel City is all but over, so it appears that he'll be wearing a new uniform in 2013. At age 25 and a full season removed from a major knee reconstruction, there's still some hope for the Illinois product to etch out some fantasy appeal. The problem is that he could be hard pressed to land a prominent role with another team. Instead, Mendenhall will likely end up either in a committee or as a backup on a squad that already fields a projected starter. The veteran isn't more than a fantasy reserve for now.
Michael Turner, RB, Free agent: Turner was released by the Atlanta Falcons last week, and at the age of 31 he could have a tough time finding any suitors. While he kept his nose for the end zone with 11 totals touchdowns in 2012, he also saw big declines in rushing yards, yards per carry and fantasy points. Still, the veteran could still be a useful fantasy option - because of that nose for the end zone - if he lands a role where he'll be utilized in short-yardage and goal-line situations. Don't overrate him due to his past success, though. The Burner is already past the prime of his pro football career.
Danario Alexander, WR, San Diego Chargers (RFA): Alexander came out of nowhere to become a legitimate fantasy starter last season, posting 658 yards and seven touchdowns over his last nine games as a member of the Chargers. If you project his totals over a full 16 games, Alexander would have finished among the top-10 wide receivers in fantasy football. When you consider the success he had catching passes from Philip Rivers - and the lack of stats he recorded in his previous two NFL seasons with the St. Louis Rams - well, it's not too tough to figure out where he would have the most fantasy value moving forward.
Danny Amendola, WR, St. Louis Rams: Amendola has shown flashes of brilliance at times, but his proneness to injuries over the last two years had hurt his stock in fantasy football. Still, the 27-year-old is now in the prime of his career and will draw some interest on the open market as a weapon in the slot. The Rams have a boatload of receivers, even after the release of Titus Young, so I wouldn't expect them to offer him an exorbitant contract. Should the Patriots decide against bringing back Wes Welker, Amendola could even end up on their radar. If that happens, Amendola's fantasy appeal will skyrocket for 2013.
Victor Cruz, WR, New York Giants (RFA): The Giants are going to have to find a way to keep both Cruz and Hakeem Nicks (2014 - free agent), and reports suggest the team is putting a bigger emphasis on signing the latter to a long-term deal. Does that mean a potential holdout for Cruz? It's only February, but anything is possible with money at stake. Regardless, it will be in Cruz's best interests to fill the stat sheet for a third straight year in an effort to maximize his financial value. Unless he goes the holdout route, the Massachusetts product is going to be drafted as a No. 2 fantasy wideout in most leagues.
Unofficial list of free agents
Greg Jennings, WR, Green Bay Packers: By all accounts, it appears that Jennings has played his last game in a Packers uniform. So where will he land in 2013? Well, the most obvious destination is in South Florida. Brian Hartline is a free agent, and the team's depth at wide receiver is suspect at best. Furthermore, Jennings is already on record as stating that he'd be open to re-uniting with his former offensive coordinator Joe Philbin. While he would suffer a huge downgrade at quarterback from Aaron Rodgers to Ryan Tannehill, Jennings would have all kinds of opportunities to produce in the Dolphins' pass attack.
Mike Wallace, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers: The Steelers and Wallace are fully expected to part ways, leaving the 26-year-old wide receiver to pursue other opportunities around the league. There are reports circulating that the Dolphins will make a huge push to sign the talented wideout, but I think his best fantasy landing spot is in New England. Imagine what this speedster can do with Tom Brady throwing him the football! With more cap room available and reports that Brandon Lloyd's time with the Patriots is over, this could happen.
Wes Welker, WR, New England Patriots: Welker is coming off yet another season with 100-plus receptions and 1,000-plus yards, but was it his last as a member of the Patriots? Reports out of New England suggest the team won't use the franchise tag on him again, and there's little chance the frugal franchise will pay him what his recent numbers might suggest he deserves. If Welker is allowed to walk, it would almost certainly be to the detriment of his fantasy value -- remember, he was an average wideout before joining the P-Men. The fact that Tom Brady re-did his contract makes it more likely that Welker stays, however.
Tony Gonzalez, TE, Atlanta Falcons: Gonzalez appeared to be set to retire after the 2012 season, but new reports have surfaced that he's at least contemplating the idea of returning to the Falcons for one more year. The one thing that has eluded him in his Hall of Fame career is a Super Bowl, and this team is as close as any in the NFC. Even at 36, Gonzalez has continued to be a prominent option both on the field and in fantasy circles. In fact, he's finished among the five best players at his position in each of the last two seasons. If he does return to action, Gonzalez would continue to be a No. 1 option.
Brandon Myers, TE, Oakland Raiders: One of the more underrated tight ends in fantasy football last season, Myers hauled in a career-best 79 passes for 806 yards and scored four touchdowns. Those totals helped him finish 10th in fantasy points at his position in standard leagues -- and sixth in PPR formats. Some of that production did come in garbage time, though, and teams aren't likely to break the bank for him as a free agent after one big season. If he remains in Oakland, where the Raiders field a group of inconsistent wide receivers, Myers should be able to retain most of his value from a fantasy perspective.