NFL experts were not kidding when they said this NFL offseason would be like no other that we had ever seen before. As we approach the end of the first week of the NFL offseason, we have seen a number of players join new teams. Another large group of veteran players have signed lucrative deals with their former teams, due to the desire of most teams to have their players attend the entirety of training camp as well as the reduced amount of salary cap money that is being given to rookies in the new collective bargaining agreement. It has been truly tough to keep up with all the different moves, so, instead of straining your eyes to see the news scroll along the bottom of ESPN’s family of channels, take a look at this list of the 6 biggest transactions that will alter fantasy football in 2011.
1. Santonio Holmes returns to the New York Jets– Holmes wanted to come back and the Jets, in turn, wanted him. It did take a 5-year, $50 million deal to secure Holmes, but the Jets made sure they retained the top playmaker on the market. How will Holmes fare as a fantasy player in 2011? After serving a suspension to start the 2010 season, Holmes became more and more comfortable in the Jets offense as the season progressed. With Braylon Edwards not coming back, Holmes is more likely to see even balls thrown his way this year. As a clear-cut, number one receiver, fantasy owners should look to grab Holmes as one of the first 10 receivers off the board.
The Cardinals gave up quite a bit to secure Kevin Kolb
2. Kevin Kolb gets traded to Arizona, finally getting the chance to be a starter – In one of the poorest kept secrets in recent memory, the Philadelphia Eagles sent Kevin Kolb to the Arizona Cardinals for 2009 Pro Bowl cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a second round pick. Arizona had to get a quality quarterback in place to keep Larry Fitzgerald happy, and the folks in Arizona clearly see Kolb as that guy. How will this move make a difference for the 2011 fantasy season? Fitzgerald’s value should increase now that a competent (although still somewhat unproven) quarterback is in place, although the loss of Steve Breastonshould allow defenses to focus on Fitzgerald a little more. Kevin Kolb sees his value skyrocket as he moves from holding a clipboard to running the Arizona offense, although fantasy owners should hesitate before making him an early round pick. There are still many more proven quarterbacks available on the market that would be safer to draft. If Arizona is able to pick up a receiver to start opposite Fitzgerald, Kolb’s value will rise, but until then make Kolb a bye week fill-in at best.
3. DeAngelo Williams stays in Carolina– In a move that shocked me, the Carolina Panthers brought DeAngelo Williams back to share carries with Jonathan Stewart and Mike Goodson. After an incredible 2008 season (18TDs) that won many grateful fantasy owners a title, Williams has struggled to both produce and stay healthy over the past 2 seasons. The biggest impact of the Williams signing on the 2011 fantasy season is that it devalues Jonathan Stewart. Most fantasy players were looking at Stewart as a fringe first round pick as it appeared he would be the Panthers feature back. With Williams back in the fray, both players fit in as third or fourth round picks in 2011.
4. Matt Hasselbeck signs with the Tennessee Titans– Despite winning a division title last season, the Seattle Seahawks decided to move on from the Matt Hasselbeck era. It did not take long for Hasselbeck to find work as the Tennessee Titans scooped him up to be their starting quarterback- as well as mentor to quarterback of the future, Jake Locker. At this point in his career, Hasselbeck is not the fantasy stud that he once was, and with Kenny Britt facing punishment from the league office for his offseason legal troubles and superstar running back Chris Johnson holding out for a new contract, Hasselbeck may struggle to put up big numbers early in the year while he is surrounded by some unproven players in the huddle. As a fantasy owner, you should not make Hasselbeck your every week starter, although he should serve as a solid guy to cover a bye week for you or to spot start for an injured player.
Plays like this one made Sidney Rice a target for the Seahawks
5. Sidney Rice joins the Seattle Seahawks– The second biggest playmaker in the free agent pool joined the defending NFC West champs in a 5-year, $41 million deal. Although he is not sure who will be throwing him the ball this season, former Viking teammate Tavarris Jackson or the unproven Charlie Whitehurst, Rice will be a key piece in the Seattle offense. With the uncertainty at quarterback in Seattle, Rice will not match his incredible season of 2009 (1312 receiving yards, 8 TDs) in 2011,although fantasy owners could see Rice top the 1200 receiving yard mark and add a handful of touchdowns this season. As the QB situation improves over the life of his contract, the 24-year old wideout will see his fantasy value improve in the coming seasons.
6 . Donovan McNabb is traded to the Minnesota Vikings – After a disastrous 2010 season, Donovan McNabb needed a change of scenery in 2011. The Vikings are banking on McNabb returning to his Philadelphia Eagles form in 2011, as opposed to the 2010 Washington Redskins version of himself. Although the Vikings need to sure up the wide receiver position, crippled by the departure of Sidney Rice and the likely departure of Bernard Berrian, McNabb will get the chance to play with one of the most dynamic running backs in the league in Adrian Peterson. From a fantasy perspective, McNabb should not be your starter, but, like Matt Hasselbeck, he can clearly be relied upon as a great short term answer to deal with a bye week or an injury. If the Vikings are able to grab another receiver, McNabb’s value could improve, however it will not improve enough to make him a viable fantasy starter in 2011.
Other notable moves:
Reggie Bush traded to the Dolphins – Bush should remain a fringe fantasy player, especially since Dolphins missed out on Kyle Orton.
Steve Breaston signs with the Kansas City Chiefs– Breaston should be the started opposite the streaky Dwayne Bowe. With Matt Cassel proving he is a solid NFL quarterback, Breaston should have value in 2011, especially since you should be able to get him in a later round.
Chad Ochocinco signs with the New England Patriots– Do not expect a 23 touchdown season from Ochocinco in 2011, like we saw from Randy Moss in 2007, but teaming with Tom Brady never hurts a receiver’s value. Brady is going to continue to target Wes Welker and his tight ends alot in 2011, but the move to New England makes Ochocinco worthy of a late round pick.