As the calendar nears the end of January and the Super Bowl approaches, it brings the NFL free agency season closer and closer. Ah yes, that magical time when fans throughout the world will dream and scheme about the players that their favorite NFL teams will go out and sign.
It is doubly exciting for fantasy owners as where a player decides to sign can be vitally important as to what his fantasy value will be moving forward. Or in some cases (I'm looking at you Mike Tolbert), just how far his fantasy stock may plummet.
Since patience has never been a friend of mine, I have decided to jump ahead a couple months or so and take a look at some dream landing spots, from a fantasy perspective, for a few big name 2013 free agents.
These are matches made in fantasy heaven and are not necessarily based on any inside information or hot rumors I have been privy to, but rather an idea of just where some player's talents could best be put to use.
Let's get to it!
Greg Jennings, WR: Jennings didn't exactly help in bolstering his value leading up to becoming a free agent by missing eight games with a groin injury. Once he did return to action he would put up 34 receptions for just under 400 yards with four touchdowns in Green Bay's final seven games of the season, including the playoffs.
He'll be arguably the most sought-after free agent wide receiver, and the Miami Dolphins are expected to make a big play for him as they are starved for talent at the position. Brian Hartline is not a No. 1 wideout and Davone Bess is better suited to play from the slot so Jennings could step right in and bolster the Miami passing game as a deep ball threat. While the Dolphins are a logical choice they are not the dream landing spot for Jennings from a fantasy perspective.
The Detroit Lions are expected to head into the 2013 season with a very different looking roster and after a dismal 4-12 record last season it's not surprising. They have 22 unrestricted free agents and approximately half of their salary cap tied up in three players - quarterback Matthew Stafford, wide receiver Calvin Johnson and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. It's renegotiating time in Detroit, and general manager Martin Mayhew is looking at a very ‘hat in hand' type of offseason.
Signing Jennings is a complete long shot for Detroit, but what the heck? This is a fantasy football article, after all Ryan Broyles (injuries), Titus Young (head case) and Nate Burleson (injury, $6.5 million cap number in 2013) are not the answer at the wide receiver position and the main reason defenses can afford to sell out to cover Johnson.
While most folks are assuming that he will look to sign somewhere as a No. 1 receiving option, Jennings could have immense fantasy value lining up opposite Johnson for the Lions.
Single coverage on nearly every down and lots of wide open space to exploit his yards after the catch skills could see the kid out of Western Michigan (Detroit is in Michigan, right? See what I'm doing there) amass huge stats in 2013.
If Matthew Stafford is truly on board with improving the Lions offense moving forward, he will be first in line to restructure his current deal and he'll be encouraging other players to do the same in hopes of bringing Greg Jennings into the fold.
Reggie Bush, RB: Bush has had a career resurrection since landing in South Beach. He just missed putting together back-to-back 1,000 yard rushing seasons for Miami after finishing with 986 in 2012. In his two seasons since leaving the New Orleans Saints, he has amassed more than 2,600 total yards from scrimmage and posted 15 touchdowns.
Showing toughness between the tackles that wasn't utilized during his stint in the New Orleans, he's managed to compile seven 100-yard rushing games over the past two seasons. While he had a career low in receptions this year with only 33, he remains one of the best receiving backs in football.
The Dolphins don't seem intent on bringing Bush back, although there is talk that they will offer him a ‘team friendly' (what player wouldn't jump at that?) deal, so Bush will get to test the market. Bush is only 28 years old, so it would seem like the suitors list would be long, but knee issues along the way create a bit of concern when it comes to bringing him on board. The offers for his services may be fewer than expected, and for me, there is one dream fit for Bush.
The Green Bay Packers should have Bush at the top of possible running backs to bring on board for the 2013 season. It is a match made in fantasy football heaven and makes sense for both parties from a NFL perspective as well. If DuJuan Harris can manage to climb to the top of the depth chart in the short amount of time it took him, Bush would be the ultimate upgrade.
His pass blocking skills showed some improvement in 2012, and while he has shown a willingness to tote the rock between the tackles, he wouldn't be asked to nearly as much in Green Bay. Their passing game, which Bush would enhance greatly with his receiving skills, keeps defenses from keying on the run and Bush will see huge lanes to run through.
Green Bay has never been a franchise to go out and spend top dollar on a free agent running back (case in point, Cedric Benson), and while his name still has some cache, Bush may just find himself in the price range that Green Bay likes. The Packers can sell him on the chance to make it to another Super Bowl while also greatly improving their running game and their chances of actually getting there.
Mike Wallace, WR: After sitting out training camp and the majority of the preseason in protest to having to sign the $2.7 million tender the Pittsburgh Steelers placed on him, Wallace finally reported to the team in late August.
Wallace would manage to post a second straight eight-touchdown season but see his reception total dip by eight from 72 in 2011 to 64 last season. More disturbing would be the drop in receiving yards by a whopping 355 yards (1,193 to 838) and a dip in yards per reception from 16.6 in 2011 to 13.1 in 2012.
Wallace never seemed to get fully on track last season, and, while he was not a bust, he didn't exactly put up the type of production that would garner a fat new deal from the Steelers. With cap issues to deal with and negative feelings possibly lingering from last year's holdout, Pittsburgh has indicated that it has no intention of tagging Wallace again. That makes Wallace a very hot name heading into the 2013 free agent season, and he won't be out of work for long.
The first team to be calling Wallace should be the New England Patriots. Yes, it is time for the annual "The Patriots haven't had a deep ball threat since Randy Moss" rant and I'm getting the ball rolling early.
The reviews are in for Brandon Lloyd regarding his shot at replacing Moss, and they are not favorable. Lloyd and Tom Brady never seemed to gel, and his 12.4 yards per reception was the second lowest of his career, the first being when he averaged 7.0 on two receptions back in 2007 for Washington.
Wallace is the ultimate deep threat receiver with the burst and speed off the line to blow past both cornerbacks and safeties and the yards after catch ability to turn a 5-yard reception into an 80-yard touchdown.
With Wes Welker manning the slot (the Patriots will bring him back, trust me) and tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez stretching the middle seam of defenses, Wallace will be able to utilize his speed in any number of ways to exploit secondaries. He would be a Top 5 fantasy wide receiver should he land in New England for the 2013 season.
Jared Cook, TE: Cook put together an impressive three-game streak at the end of the 2011 season during which he posted 335 yards on 21 receptions and added a touchdown. He had finally displayed the athleticism and speed that was expected when the Tennessee Titans selected him out of South Carolina in the third round back in 2009. That late-season surge had many folks (my hand is raised) looking for a breakout campaign in 2012.
Well, we are still waiting for that breakout to come and are now staring down the barrel of 2013. Inexplicably, the Tennessee offense which was a disjointed mess for most of the season, rarely involved Cook and a shoulder injury would send him to the Injured Reserve for the final three games. Cook finished the 2012 season with 44 receptions, 523 yards and four touchdowns.
The Titans have made some noise that they are looking get Cook more involved in the offense moving forward, but first they have to re-sign him, or, a more likely scenario, will be to use the franchise tag on him.
Cook and fantasy owners have both heard the "we need to get him more involved" rhetoric from the Tennessee coaching staff before, so take that for what it is worth. He is likely to want to move on to a team that will actually look to feature his talents.
At 6-foot-6 and nearly 250 pounds with speed and agility to burn, Cook would be an ideal fit with the Oakland Raiders. If the limited (I'm being kind) Brandon Myers was able to post 79 receptions, 806 yards and four touchdowns for Oakland last season, just imagine what Cook would be able to do.
Myers amassed a lot of his yards late in blowout losses and has limited (again, being kind) abilities in creating any yards after the catch. Myers is also a free agent heading into 2013 and is likely to be offered a minimal amount by Oakland to remain there.
New Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Olson is no stranger to utilizing an athletic tight end as Kellen Winlsow Jr. led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in receptions during all three years that Olsen ran their offense (2009-11). Adding Cook to their stable of young and fast wide receivers would not only enhance the fantasy value of the big tight end but that of quarterback Carson Palmer as well.
Should the Titans decide not to franchise him, the Raiders should be first in line to sign Cook for 2013.
Peyton Hillis, RB: Oh, how the mighty have...