4:00 PM EST on Tuesday, March 12 marks the beginning of the 2013 NFL Free Agency period, when teams will look to better their squads for the upcoming season and utilize some of that pesky cap space. Let’s take a look at the leading free agents at the top fantasy positions and determine which might have a change in fantasy value in 2013.
Note: Age is based on player’s age around Week 1 2013. All rankings are per ESPN Standard Scoring.
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Joe Flacco BAL – 28 years old – 2012 Stats: 3,817 yards, 22 TD, 10 Int, #13 QB – One of the story lines sure to be beaten into the ground for the next few weeks is Flacco’s negotiations with the Ravens and his place among today’s top QBs hierarchy. After an amazing playoff run and Super Bowl MVP, Flacco’s “football” value has never been higher, but how will that translate for fantasy? With an unresolved situation at WR (Boldin’s cap hit), tight ends Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson both hitting restricted free agency, as well as other personnel changes looming, I can’t see Flacco being more than a top-8 to top-12 fantasy QB in 2013.
LeGarrette Blount TB – 26 years old – 2012 Stats: 151 yards, 3.7 YPC, 2 TD, #89 RB – After looking like a very good back in 2010, Blount has fallen into the “allow me to give our franchise running back a breather” status, thanks to the emergence of Doug Martin. Safe to say that the Bucs will hold onto Blount, but there doesn’t seem to be much upside other than a handcuff for Martin.
Reggie Bush MIA – 28 years old – 2012 Stats: 986 yards, 4.3 YPC, 6 TD, 35 rec, 2 TD, #14 RB – Currently being described as “confused by Miami’s lack of interest“, there will be quite a few teams pining for Bush’s services in 2013. Depending on his landing spot, Bush should return just outside the top-12 RB, making him a nice RB1 in deeper leagues.
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Shonn Greene NYJ – 28 years old – 2012 Stats: 1,063 yards, 3.9 YPC, 8 TD, #15 RB – Surprisingly, Greene finished the season just behind Bush and Chris Johnson, but that won’t be enough to guarantee a return to New York. Initial reports are that the Jets are unlikely to retain Greene. The slow-footed back may still be a nice middle-round pick depending his destination, as he has proven to be productive, even in the most dire of situations.
Cedric Benson GB – 30 years old – 2012 Stats: 248 yards, 3.5 YPC, 1 TD, #65 RB – On the wrong side of 30 and a few more injuries to show for his 2012 campaign, Benson will likely compete in camp for a roster spot and we wouldn’t be surprised to see him without a job in 2013.
Felix Jones DAL – 26 years old – 2012 Stats: 402 yards, 3.6 YPC, 3 TD, #32 RB – In his five-year career, Jones has never proven himself to be a workhorse back; one capable of more than 800 yards or 3 TDs (his career highs). Jones likely finds work as a backup RB, a la Michael Bush in Chicago last season.
Peyton Hillis KC – 27 years old – 2012 Stats: 309 yards, 3.6 YPC, 1 TD, #72 RB – It really is a shame that “2010 Peyton Hillis” ever existed. Had we all not been teased with an 1,100 yard, 11 TD campaign from him that year, maybe fantasy owners wouldn’t buy in year after year that a once-in-a-career season was repeatable and stop adding Hillis to our rosters. Some NFL owner may fall for it in 2013, but let’s agree not to do it as fantasy owners.
Rashard Mendenhall PIT – 26 years old – 2012 Stats: 182 yards, 3.6 YPC, 0 TD, 9 rec, 1 TD, #85 RB – It’s never a good time when your boss says he expected more out of you; in this case Steelers owner Art Rooney in reference to Mendenhall. With NBC Sports/Rotoworld’s Evan Silva suggesting the Arizona Cardinals as a potential Mendenhall suitor, it appears the six-year pro may find work rather quickly, but it may be “buyer beware” after his not so graceful exit from the Steel City.
Victor Cruz NYG – 26 years old – 2012 Stats: 86 rec, 1,092 yards, 10 TD, #13 WR – A new contract, a first-round tender a lengthy hold out? All potential outcomes as Cruz hits restricted free agency, as he and the Giants seem to be far apart in determining the part-time salsa dancer’s worth. With back-to-back 1,000 yard seasons in the books, Cruz is looking for a healthy raise from his 2012 salary of $540,000. It is difficult to image a scenario (outside of a regular season holdout) where Cruz is not a WR1 in 12-team leagues. If your draft is early, the daily updates on Cruz’s status may become quite annoying.
Mike Wallace PIT – 27 years old – 2012 Stats: 64 rec, 836 yards, 8 TD, #25 WR – After receiving the franchise tag in 2012, Wallace is free to offer his services to the other 31 teams. Wallace ended the 2012 fantasy regular season (Weeks 10-13), with only 11 points total. There is a good chance that a change of scenery works wonders for Wallace and he ends up with a very good year, much like Vincent Jackson‘s first year in Tampa.
Wes Welker NE – 32 years old – 2012 Stats: 118 rec, 1,354 yards, 6 TD, #12 WR – If we have learned anything from the Billichick-era Patriots, it’s that the team doesn’t hang on to guys much past their “sell by” date. So the question here is if the geniuses in Foxboro determine Welker’s best days are behind him, how many teams will line up for his services. Welker has had an amazing run in New England and even half his 2012 production still makes him the #50 WR. This may be a case where you let some other owner over-draft Welker, but you snap him up late and hope for another solid year.
Dwayne Bowe KC – 28 years old – 2012 Stats: 59 rec, 801 yards, 3 TD, #46 WR – Bowe has been a solid fantasy player, effectively producing 1,000 seasons in half of his six years. Bowe missed three games due to a rib injury in 2012 and carries some risk, but Bowe would be an improvement for many teams. A best-case scenario will be if Bowe’s new team already has an established WR, resulting in some single coverage and a situation which Bowe has never had before.
Danny Amendola STL – 27 years old – 2012 Stats: 63 rec, 666 yards, 3 TD, #55 WR – Amendola had a very impressive season in 2012, compounded by the fact he only played in 11 games. Couple that with the fact that he has only appeared in 12 games the past two seasons and you see the red flag teams will be lamenting over this off-season. If Amendola can stay healthy and surfaces in the right situation, he has the talent to be a solid WR3.
Julian Edelman NE – 27 years old – 2012 Stats: 41 rec, 235 yards, 3 TD, #83 WR – Does Edelman automatically fill the void created when Welker leaves? Maybe not. Edelman missed nine games with a foot injury and has not proven to be as durable as Welker. Additionally, Edelman hasn’t proven to be very productive, outside of a 37-catch rookie year. It wouldn’t be shocking to see Edelman show up on many pre-season sleepers list, but expecting Welker-level production could be dangerous.
Brian Hartline MIA – 26 years old – 2012 Stats: 74 rec, 1,083 yards, 1 TD, #35 WR – The departure of Brandon Marshall to Chicago opened the door for Hartline in 2012, as he doubled his catches and yards over the 2011 campaign. He didn’t score many touchdowns, but then again rookie QB Ryan Tannehill didn’t throw many (just 12, with TE Anthony Fasano catching five of them). Hartline’s destination will be very interesting, as well as what effect his departure has on the second-year thrower in Miami.
Greg Jennings GB – 29 years old – 2012 Stats: 36 rec, 366 yards, 4 TD, #74 WR – It will be a strange visual in Week 1 to see Greg Jennings suited up in a uniform other than the Packers. Jennings missed eight games in 2012, which gave plenty of opportunities to Green Bay’s seemingly endless group of young wide receivers. As #85 progresses toward the end of his career, he has shown that he still has something left and would be a solid addition to shore up any team’s receiving corp.
Randy Moss SF – 36 years old – 2012 Stats: 41 rec, 573 yards, 3 TD, #75 WR – The self-proclaimed G.O.A.T will be another year closer to retirement in 2013 and I don’t see any team other than San Francisco willing to subject themselves to another season of Moss.
Steve Smith STL – 28 years old – 2012 Stats: 14 rec, 141 yards, 0 TD, #143 WR – Appearing in only nine games each of the past three seasons, the “other” Steve Smith hasn’t been able to remain healthy enough for teams to view him as anything more than the back end of the wide receiver depth chart.
Tony Gonzalez ATL – 37 years old – 2012 Stats: 93 rec, 930 yards, 8 TD, #3 TE – We won’t examine any other tight ends except for Gonzalez, as they all pale in comparison to both the talent level, as well as the impact left if he doesn’t return to Atlanta. GM Thomas Dimitroff has made the team’s preference very clear; don’t retire. The void left by Gonzalez’s retirement would have an effect on QB Matt Ryan as well as both of their talented wideouts, Julio Jones and Roddy White. The outcome of this story is definitely one to watch this off season.