2014 Offseason – Jason Avant to Carolina

Jason Avant signed with the Carolina Panthers today on a one-year deal.  They must read The Art of Score because we suggested this weeks ago.  Here and Here.

In all seriousness, this was a great move for the Panthers.  Avant isn’t the most fantasy relevant player in the league, that much is certain.  However, he is one of the best slot men in the game and will help Cam Newton out as a chain mover on third down.   He also is one of the most sure-handed WR’s in the game, the exact opposite of former Panther WR Brandon LaFell.

The Panthers are not done on the WR front in FA or in the draft.  They have no down field threat at all. The need to get younger and more explosive is a must. WR draftees like Odell Beckham and Brandon Cooks are players that could be looking that team in the face at the end of the first round.  Drafting two such WR’s is a very plausible scenario here. In addition to that, Cotchery and Avant have been signed to cap friendly short-term deals.   Having signed these two veterans means that the Panthers won’t have to start two inexperienced WR’s and that is a good thing.  Conversely, because they are short term deals, Carolina must hit on a WR  in the draft or they will end up in the same situation next year.

The Panthers could also hedge their bet a little after the draft.  Free agent WR’s such as Miles Austin, Sidney Rice, and Santonio Holmes will still be around after the draft and could be tempting depending how the Panthers draft unfolds.

No matter what the move, no matter how subtle, all off season moves matter and its ripples are felt throughout a teams roster.

Overall, the fantasy impact for the Avant move is low.  It helps Cam more than anyone else.  The real impact is the increased roster flexibility throughout the draft and offseason.

-Ron

 

 

 

 

DeSean Jackson to the Redskins: Now Gang Sign free

As a Redskins’ fan even I’m not sure how to feel about WR DeSean Jackson being kicked to the curb by the green, only to find refuge in the burgundy and gold.  There are several elements to this new deal – from a reality and a fantasy football perspective -so let’s deal with the early impressions for each.

IN REALITY

This whole DeSean Jackson story is puzzling to those of us outside the NFL’s inner personnel offices.  What was the Eagles real motivation behind releasing the team’s 2013 leading WR?  Was it conflict with the head coach Chip Kelly?  Was it conflict with teammates?  Was it potential contract demands?  Or was it something more sinister?  Like Jackson’s reported gang ties, and other assorted off field behavior?

I have to think by process of elimination that we are dealing more with one of those personality conflicts between coach and player, and possibly player and player – rather than the sensationalized “Crips” association.   Don’t believe that?  Like the soap opera storyline better?  Ok, but let’s examine what’s happened in the last 48 hours.

Washington signed Jackson to a reported 3 year 24mil  (could actually be a 4 year 32mil deal – but the 4th year is team voidable) dollar contract late last night.  The contract has about 16mil guaranteed and breaks out to about 8mil a season.  Those #’s are fairly high, but by no means are they out of a majority of teams’ budgets.  Greg Jennings for Minnesota is making more per season by comparison (ouch Vikings, ouch).  So I think we can rule out contract demands as a source of Jackson’s Philly release.

Also, one has to believe that the Redskins did some due diligence on researching DeSean’s off-field associations, before handing out that contract.  I know they probably didn’t find everything about him, and I know it’s certainly possible he does hang with shady dudes.   But let’s be real about this, every NFL team is willing to deal with some level of “shadiness” if the player can play.  If it helps, the LA Police department came out publicly on twitter to say to their knowledge  Jackson has no official ties to any gang or other criminal activity  in the LA area.

As a Redskins fan I am very familiar with what happens inside organizations when a player and a coach fall out.  I thought Mike Shanahan’s treatment of players was despicable last season -and the relationship between him and Robert Griffin was ugly and public.  In its aftermath, when Shanahan was fired at the end of the year we had Shanahan’s people leaking stories to Adam Schefter and others – while the Redskins organization leaked its own stories to the press to try to counteract the PR damage.  It was a mess full of exaggerations, lies, and stuff that was just better left unsaid.

The point is I see a lot of these types of things happening now with the DeSean Jackson story.  Philly 1st reported clashes between him and headcoach Chip Kelly, then it was his asking for a new contract, then it was going to get worked out, then it wasn’t, then some teammates came out against him, and finally the gang stories surfaced – just as the Eagles were getting ready to tear up his deal.  The root of the  issue is what makes sense – Jackson was no longer a part of Chip Kelly’s philosophy on how to run a team.

And that’s valid – but it probably seems extreme to many football outsiders (fans for example) to just cut a player outright, and that leads to the other “layers” of the story – gang ties and contract demands, but let’s not be fooled here.  At least part of the “other stuff” is a Philly state sponsored story to defend themselves for the move. How much of it is real- is probably somewhere in the middle – missing meetings for example sounds plausible, running with the Crips sounds less so.  Whatever Jackson and Kelly really had conflict with we’ll never know – we just now have a he said/he said thing to sort through and frankly, it may not even mean much in the end.

POSITIVES OF THE DEAL

The positives for Washington in the new arrangement are fairly obvious: Jackson completes a WR overhaul in DC that was desperately needed.   It’s hard to argue for example that Pierre Garcon, DeSean Jackson, and Andre Roberts aren’t a massive upgrade in talent over 2013′s Garcon, Leonard Hankerson, and Aldrick Robinson.

The contract as a 3 year 24mil dollar (or 4 for 32mil) deal is also a win for them – in the sense that if things do go south for DeSean Jackson in DC, the Redskins can at least mitigate their losses to only a season or two.  And if rumors are true – the shorter deal may be better for Jackson – as he may want to re-evaluate what he’s worth after bigger seasons.

For Philly the positives are that Chip Kelly, who remember has only coached one NFL season, has become the “sheriff” in town.  He’s won the battle vs Jackson and has front office, and seemingly lockeroom support for his move.  Kelly had a terrific offense last season, if he keeps it anywhere close to that – the number of Eagle fans who regret losing Jackson will probably vanish.

NEGATIVES OF THE DEAL

For Washington they are assuming risks here.  Jackson in all likelihood does have some rough edges as a team player.  As with most top WR’s there’s a degree of diva in him – but whether this means that he gets in a few minor shouting incidents with teammates or coaches, or whether that escalates into skipping meetings and whining about his payday to the press – we just don’t know.  1st year headcoach Jay Gruden will have to learn how to manage him when he gets temperamental – and we simply don’t know how that will go.

Also, Jackson’s 1332 yards last season was a career high – in previous years he’s been banged up a bit, and has had bouts of wild inconsistency in production. How much of that was a QB problem?  How much of his recent production was a result of Chip Kelly?

And that’s a risk Kelly is taking on his side as well.  If Jackson succeeds in Washington and the Eagles offense falls off a bit – how will Kelly be viewed by the Front Office?  Wining is everything, and if they don’t win – will letting Jackson go be a part of the criticism’s against him? Almost certainly.

IN FANTASY FOOTBALL

WR DeSean Jackson: I expect Jackson’s #’s to come down a bit from last season, but I think that was fair to assume in any case since it was a career high year for him.  Beyond that, it’s tough to forecast – certainly he will fill a similar role in Washington that he did in Philly – he’ll be the deep threat on a team that desperately needs one.  Good news here for Jackson’s fantasy value is that I anticipate Jay Gruden going downfield with passing more than Mike Shanahan did – it just fits Gruden’s profile and now he has the downfield weapon to exploit that.  Fantasy Football players will have to watch preseason to see if we’ll get a hint of Jackson’s new situation – but there’s no serious need to bump him up or down in value at this point.

QB  Robert Griffin III  – RG3 has to be excited by this move, and IMO he’s the only clear fantasy winner in this situation.  Gruden will want him to throw more this season – and instead of being just Garcon and a bunch of dudes – Jackson gives him another prime weapon.  Robert was probably due for a bounceback year as it was, because he’s now more recovered from his knee injury than he was in 2013 – but having a legitimate deep threat will now take the pressure off him a little more.  It may even open up more running room for him, since teams will be less inclined to walk a safety down into the box on non-obvious passing downs.

WR Pierre Garcon - I think Pierre is, from a talent perspective, still the best WR on the Redskins’ roster – and this is a complicated case.  He won’t be getting the same amount of targets with Jackson there, so it’s unlikely he’ll come close to the 113 receptions (which led the NFL) that he had last season.  On the other hand Garcon will no longer have the entire opposing defense making him a priority – and this may help him improve on his TD total ( 5 in 2013). Also, as Garcon tends to suffer nicks and bruises at a higher rate than average – hopefully this will keep him healthier throughout all 16 games.  In PPR leagues his value may suffer a little from what he was projected to be in 2014 before this deal, but RG3 loves looking his way – and he still has fantasy WR1 potential.

WR Andre Roberts – Roberts is probably the Redskins player hurt most by the deal.  And it’s unfortunate as he had an opportunity to play inside and outside on offense before the deal, and now it looks like mainly slot work for him.  As a Redskins fan I love the idea of Garcon, Jackson, and Roberts working together – but as a fantasy owner of Roberts in a dynasty league I feel a little deflated that Roberts won’t get the volume of chances he probably should.  WR3 or WR4 in fantasy now feels like the right place for him – instead of WR2 high WR3 that I previously had him tracking at.

TE Jordan Reed – Reed was target option #2 for RG3 last season and you have to think that changes now.  Reed, who has proven a little fragile thanks to a severe concussion last season that put him on the shelf for over 5 games, has never really gone multiple games without being banged up somehow.  He remains a risk/reward TE choice – flirting with top 5 TE numbers when healthy, but this season it’s safer to assume with added options for RG3 that his ceiling may be a little lower – like top 10 TE and that’s IF healthy.

WR Leonard Hankerson/Santana Moss – one or both of these guys may not make the club now.  Moss is a veteran leader, but is clearly at the stage where that’s his biggest asset to a team.  Potential perhaps to be clutch on 3rd down – but from a fantasy perspective worthless if he remains in Washington.  Hankerson, is a little more difficult – he’s much younger, fits a possession WR mold the Skins could use, but he’s currently recovering from a torn ACL and won’t be ready til mid-preseason at best.  He’d also suffered a serious knee injury 2 seasons ago, and has never really developed sure hands.  He could be a useful NFL player – but he may even get IR’d for 2014 – and if you’re a dynasty owner of him right now it may be time to give up his roster spot if you need the room.

WR Jeremey Maclin/Riley Cooper – Well we were wondering if Maclin coming back from his 2013 season ending injury would impact Cooper’s targets.  With Jackson gone now, there should be plenty of targets for both of these guys – if Maclin’s recovery goes according to plan. It’s safe to assume in a high volume passing attack these guys are both high end WR2 plays that have chances to become WR1′s.   Cooper was a Foles favorite last season, so he may have the early edge on targets here.

QB Nick Foles -There’s a lot we don’t know about Nick Foles – can he repeat his excellent 2013 level of decision making?  Will defenses around the league “catch up” a little to Chip Kelly and Foles tendencies?  What wrinkles will Foles be able to insert with another year of experience in Kelly’s system?  And now what will Foles do without his leading WR from last season?  I have a feeling  he’ll be ok…but there is a risk of an adjustment period and Foles not reaching the stats of 2013.  Regardless I think it’s safe to draft Foles as your QB1 – just don’t overpay for him because he very well could fall out of the top 6 or 7.

RB Darren Sproles - We know McCoy will get his carries and catches, but there had been some debate (listen to our offseason podcasts) over how much usage Darren Sproles will get.  That’s still an unknown, but with an unproven group trying to be Wr3 – it’s possible we see Sproles split out as a WR more – possibly even to compliment increased uses of the TE’s Ertz and Celek.  I think Kelly will find some very creative ways to generate that third passing threat – and Sproles has to be on the list.  Track comments about him over the preseason – wait and watch.

The Rest of the Eagles WR’s: On the Philly side this is to me where it gets interesting.  Your top 2 WR’s are Riley Cooper who has had exactly one year of proven worth, and Jeremy Maclin who has an injury history.  You’ve lost the deep/speed threat on your offense, and out of the remaining guys on the depth chart WR Damarias Johnson and Brad Smith  seem to be the most promising.  This is an important spot as even the 4th or 5th option in a Chip Kelly offense could bring fantasy depth to your team.  Personally I can see the team getting a cheap veteran like resigning WR Jason Avant, and then drafting a speed style WR in the mid rounds of the 2014 draft.   Whatever happens keep an eye on it there’s some great fantasy potential here – particularly if Cooper or Maclin stumble.

FINAL THOUGHTS

There is a lot to think about with this signing as it was clearly one of the biggest moves of the 2014 offseason.  There aren’t many clear answers right now to some of the biggest questions – will DeSean behave himself?  How will Philly replace his speed and production?  What does this mean for DeSean’s production?

For fantasy you will have to monitor everything in preseason, as with any other player – but remember in uncertainty comes opportunity.  We’ll update these players and more as the offseason rolls on.

:by Mike

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2014 Postcast: Free Agent Review WR’s and TE’s

Check out our second installment of our award winning podcasts.  This episode we talk over the WR and TE signings that have happened thus far.  We also give our worst and best of FA so far.   The recording date was 3/27/14.  Subscribe on iTunes!


 

Intro Music – Carcass - Buried Dreams

Outro Music – Blackalicious – Clockwork  

2014 Postcast: Free Agent Review QB’s and RB’s

Check out our latest installment of our totally radical podcasts.  The recording date was 3/27/14.  So we didn’t have the MJD and Blount signings.   Subscribe on iTunes!


Intro Music – Murder City Devils – No Grave but the Sea

Outro Music – Pinback – Sender

 

In honor of Mark Sanchez going to the Eagles… I know its played out, but it makes me laugh every time.

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2014:Random thoughts: Fantasy uncertainty – FA Week 3

All these situations are very fluid as you all know.  Between, the remaining FA, trades and the Draft, things can change in an instant, weakness become strengths.   However, at this point, this is how we see it…

WR’s

Who is catching passes in Carolina?   Beats me.  Beats the Panthers.  As of press time today, the biggest FA that has been signed is Jericho Cotchery.  Let that sink in.   Brandon LaFell is in New England.  Steve Smith has been jettisoned and is now in Balitmore.  Ted Ginn, who had a resurgence last year with the team, was left to test the market and landed in Arizona.   Now I am sure there is some sort of contingency plan in Carolina, but legitimate options are getting slim.  How is Jason Avant not on speed dial?  I mean, fantasy implications aside, he is one of the best slot WR’s in the league and could be a great addition and safety blanket for Cam.  Sidney Rice?  Miles Austin?  Trade for DeSean Jackson?

With Miles Austin still on the FA market and set to not return, look for Terrance Williams to have an increased role.  The salary cap is tight in Dallas.  Only WR’s willing to accept the veteran minimum are options here.

The #2 receiver role in Cleveland, KC, NYJ, Pittsburgh, Jacksonville are still very much up in the air.  In Pittsburgh, Markus Wheaton could be the man to replace Emmanuel Sanders.  Mike Brown might be the guy in Jacksonville with Justin Blackmon suspended indefinitely.  Jeremey Kerley is looking like the #2 WR on the Jets with Stephan Hill in the doghouse.  Greg Little and Donnie Avery are not going to cut as #2′s  in Cleveland and KC respectively.  I could easily see all of these teams drafting at least one WR in a deep WR draft.

Where is DeSean Jackson going to end up?  According to ESPN’s Sal Palantonio, “Jackson’s act has worn thing with Chip Kelly”  A big cap number presents an interesting situation in the city of brotherly love.  If I am Carolina, the Jets, KC or Oakland, I am definitely asking about this guy.

Since the draft is so deep at WR this year,  I  could see some of the older veteran WR’s being signed after the draft.   It would be prudent for teams to try and address needs via the draft and fill in the holes afterwards.   This not only financially beneficial, but it keeps the team young and, in most cases, they retain the rookies rights longer.

RB’s

Chris Johnson- He is being paid way more than his production is worth and is on the trade block.  I don’t think anything happens until after the draft.  I know that fantasy players don’t want to hear this, but I think he will be most effective in a time share situation regardless of where he goes.

Latavious Murray - I really can’t believe that McFadden came back to the Raiders.  He took a very modest one year deal.   He has to prove he can stay healthy.   If Murray can impress in training camp, he could secure the #2 RB role in Oakland and be a very valuable handcuff moving forward.  That, however, is a long ways off.

Maurice Jones Drew- MJD wants more money than the market is willing to bare at this point.  I  have read that he wants 3.5 mill. a year.   I still think he can be an effective player.  Like most players at this point in their career, his situation will have a greater bearing on his value than his skill level.

Giants RB situation - Well, this is an interesting mishmash of players.  Rashad Jennings was signed in FA, played well for the Raiders down the stretch last year, but has been nondescript for much of his career. The Giants still have David Wilson  who is coming off of neck surgery his value and career is up in the air. They also resigned Peyton Hillis. Picking up another RB in the draft would not surprise me at all.   Training camp will be needed to sort this mess out.

Jags back up? - This situation really surprised me.  I did not see Toby Gerhart going there.  As of now Jordan Toddman and Denard Robinson are the top backups.   I cant see the Jags going to the season with such shallow depth.  keep and eye here for opportunity.

Muddled in Phily? - McCoy, the newly traded for Sproles, Chris Polk and Bryce Brown combine for a muddled situation in Phily.  McCoy is one of the best players in the league, but i can see Sproles cutting into some of McCoy’s touches. The back up situation is anyones guess at this point.  If McCoy was to go down, his back up, at this point, is non-defined.  McCoy is still the man, but with four quality backs, his touches could be curtailed.  Good news for McCoy’s career and bad news for fantasy owners.

Back ups in Chicago and in Minnesota - Both teams have top-level starters and both teams have let their back-ups go.  These are handcuff situations to monitor.  Dynasty leagues wise, I would pay attention to what both do in the draft here.

Stefan Taylor Vs Jonathan Dwyer - Who is the power back that replaces Rashard Mendenhall who retired this off season?  These are the two candidates.  Keep taps on this situation throughout the offseason as the winner could garner 10-15 touches once the season picks up.

QB’s

Cleveland - After missing out on Matt Schaub, the Browns seems destine to be drafting a QB early.  Brian Hoyer is the only legitimate QB on the roster.  He played well for the few games he was in last year, but is coming off of a torn ACL.   I could really see them brining in another vet at some point to help fortify a questionable position.

Jacksonville - Believe it or not, there are several scenarios where the Jaguars don’t draft a QB in the first round.  Chad Henne is not a world beater, we know this. The Jaguars brass knows this and will not reach for a QB when the team still has needs all over the place.  Henne is adequate enough for the WR’s of Jacksonville to be draftable at this point in the offseason.

-Ron

Podcast 2014: Coaching Changes and Available Free Agent Review

Here is the second of our first two off season podcasts.   This one covers all the coaching changes and a short review of available free agents.

Hit us up on Twitter or Facebook for questions and comments.


Intro Music – MachineHead – Davidian

Outro Music –  Mavin Gaye and Tammi Terrell- Ain’t No Mountain High Enough

-Ron