Best Fantasy Landing Spots For Top NFL Free Agents

Beginning Monday, March 7th, teams will be permitted to speak with unrestricted free agents and may begin contract negotiations. On March 9th at 3 PM CT, free agency officially begins and new contracts can be made official.

There seem to be more impact players on the defensive end this year, but playmakers are still to be had that can make a serious difference on your fantasy team…as long as they’re on the right NFL team.

As the free agency vastly approaches, lets take a look at some of the best destinations for the top free agents from a Fantasy Football perspective.

Jessica Kleinschmidt of FanDuel and I had a similar discussion weeks ago on The Piffcast. Click here to check it out. 

 

Running Back

Doug Martin

Hamster

Doug Martin tops the list for sought after offensive players this offseason. The 4-year vet and 2-time Pro Bowler went from injury prone running back to the league’s 2nd leading rusher last year. At the age of 27, Martin has some mileage on him but a few more years before the dreaded “wrong side of 30” tag that plagues most veteran running backs. Tampa Bay is in the Top 5 for available cap space this season, but Martin could be destined to run for a bigger market club and behind bigger offensive linemen.

Dallas 

In the last 2 seasons, the Cowboys proved they are a much better team when they can effectively run the ball and set up the pass after forcing opponents to load up the box. It would be in their best interest to sign a premiere back like Martin if they want to preserve Tony Romo for a full season too. With the same play-callers and top tier offensive line for the past few seasons, you can project similar production for Martin as DeMarco Murray’s in 2014. Maybe not Murray’s 392 carries from that season, but leading the league in rushing (1,845 yards) and rushing touchdowns (13) is very attractive.

New York (Jets)

The Jets were just one game away from making the playoffs and a big part of their success was the dependability of their running game. Chris Ivory provided the punch between the tackles and Bilal Powell was reliable as an easy target on passing downs. Neither are under contract but Martin’s skill set accounts for both their talents. Ivory put up the best numbers of his career in 2015 behind an O-Line manned by Nick Mangold and D’Brickashaw Ferguson, even was a Pro Bowler. One would think Martin could perform even better and would be depended on even more with Brandon Marshall and Ryan Fitzpatrick not getting any younger.

 

Matt Forte

NFL: Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings

It’s weird knowing that we’ll be seeing Matt Forte in a different uniform this season. It makes sense for both sides though as the Bears are a team in transition, trying to get younger, and Forte deserves an immediate shot at a championship. Even at 30 years old, Forte is a proven dynamic back who can run, catch and block. Ideally, you would like to see him in an offense that succeeds throwing more and could share his touches.

New England

Something tells me Bill Belichick and Tom Brady would love to have a dependable running back between the 20’s, and that’s Forte’s specialty. The Patriots do have Dion Lewis under contract but he’s coming off a season ending injury and would benefit greatly from being a compliment to Forte, especially in the red zone. The Patriots are a fast paced team that are at their best when Brady is a rhythm passing and Forte is the best pass catching back on the market who can also block. He would be PPR machine again in New England.

Green Bay 

Speaking of teams that are better when they chuck it…

The Packers may be losing James Stars to free agency, so why not upgrade with someone with his skill x 10? This move would probably kill Bears fans, but Forte would be perfect in an offense with Aaron Rodgers. When firing on all cylinders, Rodgers shares the wealth between his receivers and his lead back and they are always in the red zone. The Packers are also much less trusting of Eddie Lacy these days, so Forte would certainly get #1 back touches. Sorry, Chicago. Still love you.

 

Lamar Miller

Lamar

Lamar Miller had a strange season last year. The Dolphins were 6-1 when they gave him 13 or more touches, but that means he was well underused in more than half a season’s worth of games. 19 touchdowns in the last 2 years and the ability to score from anywhere on the field, running and catching, would be pretty sexy to a team looking for a #1 quality back.

Houston

The Texans made the choice to move on from Arian Foster and I don’t think they are particularly sold on Alfred Blue. When Foster was healthy for a whole season playing for Bill O’Brien, he totaled 1,573 yards and 13 touchdowns. Picture Miller, younger and faster, in O’Brien’s scheme and attacking defenses that are already on their heels trying to defend DeAndre Hopkins. Then consider the defenses that the Texans face in their division (Colts, Jaguars, and Titans). I would like Miller in my lineup, if that were the case.

Miami

It sounds like the Dolphins are high on bringing Miller back and I don’t blame them, for the reasons I listed earlier. Miller would also probably like to play in Adam Gase’s system too. Knowshon Moreno, CJ Anderson, Matt Forte and Jeremy Langford all benefitted well with Gase utilizing play-action. If Gase is going to get Ryan Tannehill back on track, getting the ball to Miller will be more helpful than not.

Wide Receiver

Marvin Jones

Screen Shot 2016-03-06 at 8.22.05 PM

The better wide receivers these don’t often hit the open market anymore. When you look at the best in this class, it would appear that Marvin Jones tops the list. He was the #2 man to AJ Green for his entire tenure in Cincinnati but he showed that he could produce like a #1 when called upon, like the 10 touchdowns he scored in 2013. Now he has a chance to prove it and someone is going pay him to try…more than likely overpaid because the market will dictate it.

Los Angeles

The Rams are heading back to California with a very good defense and an elite running back. What they don’t have is a quarterback or a legit wide receiver. Marvin Jones would fit one of those needs and it’s hard to believe they won’t try to fill the other. Getting a shot as a #1 receiver would be huge for Jones’s value, especially when defenses are more focused on Todd Gurley.

Baltimore

It’s pretty common in the AFC North for players to flip to their rivals. The Ravens have Steve Smith Sr. for one more year and Kamar Aiken, but Jones would jump ahead of both on a depth chart and give Joe Flacco better target than he’s had since Anquan Boldin. Flacco’s never thrown 25+ touchdowns twice in his career, but somebody has to catch that deep ball of his. Jones has the talent to do it consistently.

Anquan Boldin

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He turns 36 in October but Anquan Boldin is still a badass. The reigning Walter Payton Man of the Year Award winner is one of the best possession receivers in the game. He’s not the fastest anymore, but he is durable and would compliment any #1 or speedster perfectly.

Detroit

With Calvin Johnson retiring, the Lions need a reliable red zone target. Golden Tate performed well while Megatron dealt with injuries in the past, but Matthew Stafford needs someone who can pull double coverage away from him. Boldin is a savvy veteran who would bring experience to a thin position group and a lot of production with Stafford targeting him.

Atlanta

Like the Lions, the Falcons parted ways with one of their all-time great receivers. However, Roddy White wasn’t their top receiver anymore…Julio Jones is. Boldin would take advantage of all the attention Jones gets and would provide Matt Ryan with reliable target in the end zone. Hopefully Ryan can get the ball out of his own hand.

Quarterback

Brock Osweiler

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With Kirk Cousins signing his franchise tag, there aren’t many other sexy quarterbacks available. Brock Osweiler got a chance to showcase his skills and whatever he learned from backing up Peyton Manning this year seems to have attracted somebody though.

Denver

The reports out of Denver say the Broncos made Osweiler a 3-year extension offer, but he has yet to reach a deal with them. It might be in his best interest to stick with somewhere and a system he knows. It also doesn’t hurt having Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders to throw to.

Houston

Of the teams that need a starting quarterback, the Texans have the best receiver. Heck, DeAndre Hopkins even made Brian Hoyer relevant again. If the Texans were to go out and sign any of the 3 running backs mentioned earlier, that would only add to Osweiler’s value as they are all key for a potent passing attack.

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Chicago Bears: Marshall Out, McPhee In. Now What?

Ryan Pace has made his first personnel moves to kick off his tenure as Chicago Bears GM.

It began with the trade of Brandon Marshall to the New York Jets for a 5th round pick.

Brandon Marshall vs. Vikes

In just 3 seasons with the Bears, Marshall ranked 11th for receiving yards (3,524) in Bears history, tied for 5th in touchdowns (31) and 8th in receptions (279). However, following an injury plagued 2014 season and accumulating off-field issues, Pace and new head coach felt it best to part ways with the former pro bowl receiver. The reception of this move has been polarizing among the team’s fan base, but the bottom line is that the Bears received compensation for an almost 31 year old wide receiver (Birthday – March 23rd) coming off multiple injuries and declining athleticism that they planned on releasing anyway. Marshall has also openly voiced how football is more of a platform than a passion, so at least he won’t have to fly cross country to record his weekly Showtime appearance. 5th round picks are no slouches either…unless you consider Carl Nicks, Richard Sherman, or Kam Chancellor as such.

The second big move came today as the Baltimore Sun reported that the Bears and OLB/DE Pernell McPhee have agreed to a 5-year/$40 million deal with $16 million guaranteed…also a 5th round pick.

Pernell McPhee

McPhee isn’t as sexy a name as Julius Peppers was when Lovie Smith rang his doorbell at midnight of the 2010 Free Agency start. McPhee’s skill set and versatility are VERY sexy though. Just 26 years old, McPhee is a pure pass rusher with experience as a defensive end and outside linebacker in Baltimore’s 3-4 system. He has also played end in a 40 front. McPhee has dealt with injuries to both his knees, but played in every game during the past 2 seasons. He recorded 7.5 sacks in 2014 while spelling for pro bowler Terrell Suggs, who was nursing an achilles injury.

The McPhee signing does 3 things:

1. It provides flexibility in the draft. The Bears needed an edge rusher and now they have one. A proven one. They put themselves in a position where they don’t have to draft a “need” but instead the best available player with 7th overall pick. That could be Alabama WR Amari Cooper. Bears could use another top-end pass catching talent. It could be Clemson’s DE/OLB Vic Beasley. You can’t have enough weapons to go after the quarterback on the field.

2. It gives new Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio options in his unpredictable defense. McPhee has played every technique on the defensive line. He has stood up to rush the edge. He’ll even rush from the middle on 3rd down from a “chaos” look that you see with multiple 3-4 schemes. And chaos is good…That also opens things up for Fangio to assign positions to unknowns currently on the roster like Willie Young, Jared Allen, and Lamarr Houston.

3. It sets the tone for the type of players the Bears are looking for. The defense is in dyer need of a makeover. Lance Briggs and Charles Tillman, both Chicago Bears all-timers, are on the outs due to age and recent injury history. The average age for defensive starters was 29 while more than half were 30+ years old. The 26 year old McPhee adds youth, but also has a recent Super Bowl ring as part of his resume from 2012. There are other free agents with winning experience who would also fit the needs of the Bears roster.

What’s Next? 

The new NFL year and free agency officially begins today at 3:00 PM CT. Teams had already struck deals with high target players over the weekend.

DT Ndamukong Suh to Miami (6 years $114 million, $60 million guaranteed)

S Devin McCourty stays with New England (5 years $47.5 million, $28.5 million guaranteed)

WR Randall Cobb stays with Green Bay (4 years $40 million, $17 million guaranteed)

WR Jeremy Maclin to Kansas City (Total and years aren’t confirmed, suspected $11 million per year)

TE Julius Thomas to Jacksonville (Expected multi-year deal, $9 million per year)

C Rodney Hudson to Oakland (5 years $44.5 million, guaranteed money hasn’t been confirmed)

Note: Guaranteed money is key with NFL contracts. Rarely does anyone make their entire contract total.

So let’s look at the Bears’ needs and the targets to address them.

Defensive Line

While McPhee can be plugged in as a 5 technique DE, and one would assume Lamarr Houston would fit at the other side, the Bears still need a space eater in the middle to play nose tackle.

Terrance “Pot Roast” Knighton – Former Broncos NT under Fox, stellar run defender. Interest from Raiders, Colts, Washington, and the Bears

Dan Williams – Cardinals DT who didn’t get enough playing time. Ranked 8th vs the run by Pro Football Focus. Interest from Giants, Lions, and Washington

Corey Peters – Falcons DT and 5 year veteran. Rebounded well after achilles injury.

Kenrick Ellis – Jets NT. Great 2 down run stopper.

Vince Wilfork – Patriots NT, 5-time pro bowler and proven winner with plenty and knowledge to share. Devin McCourty is trying hard to get him back.

Wilfork GIF

Inside Linebackers

In Fangio’s 3-4 scheme, there are two ILBs…one being the “Mike” (middle) linebacker and the other being the “Jack” backer who lines up weak side of the line. Opponents’ run games will be funneled inside for the most part and while the NT eats up space and OL, the ILBs will be responsible for finishing the plays tackling.

Bruce Carter – Cowboys LB who filled carried a lot of weight with Sean Lee out. Aggressive and uber-athletic. Would be a huge steal away from the Packers who are targeting him.

Brandon Spikes – Former Bills defensive captain yet was treated like a 2 down defender under Jim Schwartz. While he may be on back end of career, provides the violent thump a Fangio LB needs.

Mason Foster – Buccaneers LB who doesn’t fit in Lovie’s Cover 2, but is better built to take on anything funneled to the middle. Bears already linked to Foster.

Nate Irving – Broncos LB that Fox is obviously familiar with but coming off a knee injury. Still in high demand and being pursued by Cardinals. Powerful and prototype for 3-4 ILB.

Nate Irving INT

Cornerbacks

While the Bears do have Kyle Fuller and former pro bowler Tim Jennings, they weren’t all that great with them after the first month. Health reasons have proven you can’t have too many, and Jennings may be better suited for the nickel as he gets older.

Davon House – Packers CB expected not to return, well versed in Fangio’s system as the he was DC for Dom Capers previously. Excelled as slot defensive back last season.

Perrish Cox – 49ers CB who has off-field issues but obviously experienced with Fangio. Great instincts in coverage and reading receivers hips. Doesn’t allow much spacing.

Darrelle Revis – Obviously a big fish to catch in a small pond, but come on…Revis Island.

Darrelle Revis

Safeties

A glaring need for years with the Bears defense, the Bears already missed out on my first choice, Devin McCourty. Don’t necessarily need a playmaker but someone who is at least dependable.

Rahim Moore – Another former Fox defender who was very solid in 2014. Not as flashy as Earl Thomas but fits the “dependable” mold that would make the Bears comfortable.

Antrel Rolle – Giants safety that Bears are linked to. Very vocal about being reunited with University of Miami teammates Andre Johnson and Wilfork. Wouldn’t necessarily rule that out for Bears.

Da’Norris Searcy – Bills safety with run-stop and coverage skills. Young and wasn’t really an every down player, but certainly looked the part.

Mike Adams – Colts safety who does a solid job. Older player but could fit for a year or two and get it done.

Mike Adams

Wide Receiver

Obviously there’s an opening for another split out receiver after the Marshall trade. As mentioned earlier, drafting one is a likely possibility but why not add someone with experience. The preference for the Bears would be a speedster, somebody who can take the top off a defense. They didn’t have that guy last season and it made the Jay Cutler led offense predictable. Marshall and Alshon Jeffery weren’t burning past anybody for a much needed deep threat. But anyone with dependable hands would also do…before the draft.

Torrey Smith – Ravens receiver who has proven to be a risk/reward option for the past few years. Has dropping issues but can certainly stretch the field though and compliment Jeffery well.

Andre Johnson – Very similar career as Marshall production-wise, without the baggage. Doesn’t fit the burner mold but super dependable route runner. I’d blame his lack of touchdowns on his quarterbacks more than him.

Michael Crabtree – Former Heisman candidate that has shown promise but hasn’t met the ridiculous standards we all set for him. Change in scenery and pairing with Jeffery and Martellus Bennett could help him breakout.

Michael Crabtree

Running Backs

The Bears do have Matt Forte, but it wouldn’t be outrageous to start looking beyond the pro bowl “everything” back. Forte will be in the last year of his deal and at the very least will need a backup this season. Bears look to be very run-heavy this coming season, so a 2-back system would be beneficial to not go overkill with Forte touches.

Ryan Matthews – Chargers RB that has had difficulty staying on the field, but solid power runner when given opportunities. Not sure how much Matthews will garner on the market, but would make a great compliment to Forte and can make it an audition to take over after his contract is up.

CJ Spiller – Very similar situation to Matthews in terms of injury history and needing an audition, but a much better pass catcher and versatile offensive weapon. Spiller is also no stranger to the 2 back system.

Knowshon Moreno – Another back with injury history that could also be affordable because of that. Made his money with Dolphins after playing in Adam Gase’s RB-by-committe system and obviously familiar with Fox.

Knowshon Moreno

Of course there are more needs and other options the Bears could go with. Feel free to recommend your suggestions and follow along the Free Agency action with me on Twitter