Looking at the list of Unrestricted Free Agents this year, it seems like a fantasy team fielded from just that list would cruise to a championship. While there are some names that seem guaranteed to re-sign with their current teams (Brees, Rice, Welker, etc), many are far less certain. Watching these situations and knowing how they affect the relative value of players is a key part of dynasty league success.
Don’t just follow the news on major sites. If you have one or more of these players on your team, or are targeting them in trades, it would be a good idea to follow both the beat writers of the teams that they are currently on, and any potential landing spots on Twitter. Staying ahead of the curve on the news will allow you to have more accurate current values for these players, and more accurate player valuations will lead to better long term success.
Matt Flynn, Green Bay Packers: Obviously there’s a ton of hype surrounding Flynn after his Week 17 six touchdown explosion. When I look at some possible landing spots (Seattle, Cleveland, Washington, Miami), my feeling is that selling high is a good option. Whatever you could have gotten for Kolb before he played a snap in Arizona is surely more than you could get now. Even if you like Flynn more than Kolb, he will not be playing with that set of receivers (even without Jennings) and, more importantly, against a banged up Detroit secondary, all of next season as he did the final week of the year.
Josh Johnson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: No one is mentioning a reunion with Jim Harbaugh in San Francisco anymore, huh? Alex Smith now seems like a lock to sign a long term deal with the Niners; thus eliminating a popular spot for Johnson. Where he lands will be key, but wherever it is, it will be a competition at best. Johnson looks like a hold to me with upside if he can win a starting job next year.
Shaun Hill, Detroit Lions: Hill was a big reason you could feel comfortable with Stafford last year. The dropoff, though steep, would not have been an aboslute killer if Stafford had gotten hurt. At 32, Hill may want one last chance at a starting job, which he certainly is not going to get in Detroit. He’s not a bad guy to monitor in deep leagues. If he lands in a good spot and if he wins a starting job, he might keep it for the next couple of years and be a decent, low cost starting option.
Other interesting UFAs: Kyle Orton, Jason Campbell, Dennis Dixon
Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks: His value is obviously the highest it’s ever been, but it will be interesting nonetheless to see what Seattle does here. Lynch is only 25 and has a few good years left in his legs. My best guess right now is that the Seahawks slap him with the franchise tag, but if not, it’s a situation to monitor. His best case scenario is staying put as his 19 Week 17 carries were his lowest number since Week 8. Seattle found its winning formula in the second of the 2011 season and Lynch was and should continue to be a big part of that moving forward.
Michael Bush, Oakland Raiders: I’m not sure if it was the heavy workload or Hue Jackson’s unraveling towards the end of the season that rendered Bush less effective as the season wore on. He had four straight 90+ yard rushing games in Weeks 7 through 11, then failed to top 78 yards for the rest of the season. If Bush ends up in a good situation, I’d either be looking to capitalize on that value bump right away, or hope he starts the season off strong, then move him.
Peyton Hillis, Cleveland Browns: Hillis’ value is fairly low right now. Locker room issues, Madden curse, injuries — it runs the gamut. It might actually create a decent opportunity to buy Hillis low. He indisputably has skills and if he lands in the right spot, rededicates himself and isn’t overworked, he could have RB2/high-end flex value moving forward. If you can acquire him for the right price, it could end up being a value play moving forward.
Mike Tolbert, San Diego Chargers: If the Chargers move on from Tolbert, he could end up in a situation where he reprises his 2010, early 2011 value. Somewhere where he can get around 150 carries and 40-50 targets, should lead to about 600 yards, 35-45 receptions, and 7-10 touchdowns – good enough for a high end Flex play.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis, New England Patriots: Considering the Patriot Way, it would not be a surprise if the Pats let the Law Firm start practicing in a different jurisdiction, with Stevan Ridley taking over early down duties. BGJE proved himself as a capable runner, including at the goal line (13 TDs in 2010 and 11 TDs in 2011). He’ll be 27 at the start of the 2012 season and could hold value (especially in non-PPR leagues) for a couple more years.
Justin Forsett, Seattle Seahawks: I covered Forsett in my previous article. This is a situation to monitor to see where he lands.
Other interesting UFAs: Matt Forte, Cedric Benson, Tim Hightower
Brandon Lloyd, St. Louis Rams: There is immense speculation that Lloyd will be following Josh McDaniels to New England. If that’s true, expect a bump in this value that you should try to exploit considering that Lloyd will be 31 at the start of next season.
Pierre Garcon, Indianapolis Colts: Garcon will be just 26 next year. If Wayne moves on as expected, Garcon re-signs and Manning is healthy enough to play, Garcon will likely be a borderline WR1 next year. If he leaves, it’s a situation to monitor to see if he ends up in a spot where he is a first option like – gasp – Jacksonville (insert foreboding music).
Robert Meachem, New Orleans Saints: Both Meachem and Marques Colston are UFAs, and you have to figure that the Saints focus on re-signing Colston. I’m looking for Meachem to land as a WR2 somewhere. He’s produced when he has played as a primary option, so if he ends up in a situation where he gets more playing time, he could be a good value player.
Mario Manningham, New York Giants: With Victor Cruz emerging this season, it’s a safe bet that the Giants let Super Mario move on to greener pastures. In the unlikely event that he stays in New York, his value is seriously capped by Cruz. If he leaves, his value will greatly depend on the type of offense that he lands in.
Other interesting UFAs: Vincent Jackson, Steve Johnson, DeSean Jackson, Laurent Robinson, Jerome Simpson
Jermichael Finley, Green Bay Packers: Early on this season, there’s no way anyone thought the Packers would let Finley walk. He had a down year coming off of ACL surgery though, and there has been talk that the Packers would use the franchise tag on Matt Flynn to protect his trade value. The Packers likely won’t sign Finley to a long-term deal after his performance this year, so it’s probably franchise or bust. It is interesting, because with the distribution of targets in Green Bay, depending on where Finley went, if he was a second option in a good offense, a la Dallas Clark in his heyday, it could actually increase his value. A situation to keep tabs on, but I’m holding right now, because I don’t think you can get full value for him.
Fred Davis, Washington Redskins: Davis is likely to sign a one year “prove it” deal with the Redskins in the wake of his three game drug suspension. I mention Davis only because I actually feel like he is overvalued right now. Yeah, he has immense talent, but he is one failed drug test away from a one year suspension. I just don’t trust him.
Jacob Tamme, Indianapolis Colts: Tamme has chance to move to another team and prove his 2010 season was not a Manning-fuelled fluke, but that he has some real talent. While the former is probably closer to reality, if he ended up on a team that used the tight end as a real pass catching option, he could have some value moving forward.
Other interesting UFAs: Martellus Bennett, John Carlson, Joel Dreessen, Kellen Davis
Neil Rackers, Houston Texans: Ha! Just kidding!