If the Patriots proved one thing this season, they proved it is absolutely required for top fantasy managers to track free agent movement. Don’t be distracted by rookies taken in the NFL draft. Besides a few impact first-rounders, you probably won’t see a lot of impact to your fantasy season by anyone in the draft until 2009 or even 2010 year.
This offseason, many critical fantasy players are up for new contracts. Football Jabber provides some analysis of some of the top offensive free agents [Link no longer available]–although I suspect many of the players he discusses will stay where they are besides Michael Turner–and Draft Daddy went in-depth to rank and track all the offensive free agents [Link no longer available]. Note that Draft Daddy pulls out the Key Restricted Free Agents from their rankings and lists them below each position.
Offensive free agents that I suggest you pay attention to in the offseason:
Rex Grossman, QB Chicago Bears
If someone else gives Grossman a chance, i.e. Atlanta, Baltimore or Miami, Grossman could become fantasy-relevant again. I like the guy even though he has never been solid. He might be worthy of a QB2 spot if given a different supporting cast.
Shaun Hill, QB San Francisco 49ers
I know Hill has already signed an extension, but with Alex Smith on rocky terms with the coach, Hill could be the quarterback that Mike Martz gives his offense. Hill fits the mold a little better than Smith does, and Smith might not take kindly to returning from injury only to take part in an offense built around Frank Gore.
Chris Redman, QB Atlanta Hawks
I, for one, felt that he showed promise with the games he started for Atlanta. He might be on the same level as Grossman. If someone is willing to give him a chance–like Miami maybe–he could make a mark in the NFL and be fantasy-relevant. He certainly had his shining moments to end 2007.
Michael Turner, RB San Diego Chargers
Turner is where the big free agent money is aiming this offseason. He has been touted as a guy that can carry the full load for more than two season now. With no contract in hand, he is ready to take all offers and see what he can do outside of L.T.’s shadow. Big hopes and big money will be put on him in 2008 for whatever team gets him. The Houston Texans and the New York Jets are two teams that could benefit from a running back in free agency if not from the draft.
Justin Fargas, RB Oakland Raiders
The Raiders have enough running backs. Fargas is most likely on his way out and might land a decent back up role somewhere. I don’t expect him to be carrying the full load anywhere even though he was solid for the Raiders in 2007. He could very well end up in a decent committee somewhere after this season though.
Derrick Ward, RB New York Giants
He’s in talks with the Giants already, but considering they don’t need him as bad as other teams do, you could see Ward popping over to another team. He filled in nicely for Jacobs this season and handled starting and taking a full load–until he got injured, that is.
Bernard Berrian, WR Chicago Bears
Berrian is the top receiver that has the potential to move. Most likely, the Bears will franchise him and keep him one more season, but I bet Berrian would love to escape Chicago’s QB problems to the Raiders and see what JaMarcus Russell can do with him.
L.J. Smith, TE Philadelphia Eagles
Smith has been plagued by injuries lately. While he is most likely headed right back to the Philly locker room, he could test the waters. When healthy, L.J. Smith can be a critical receiving tight end, and plenty of teams could use more offensive production from their tight ends in 2008. Anyone else thinking Seattle?
Offensive linemen will be significant this offseason, and impact the offensive production more than you would think. I won’t break down each and every one, but watch who moves where to know how your quarterback and running back production could be impacted. Draft Daddy ranked all the top centers and linemen for your enjoyment [Link no longer available].