Nick Mensio

Free Agency Dose

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NFL Hot Stove, Day 2

Thursday, March 13, 2014


The stove remained hot Wednesday. After a helluva ride out of the gates Tuesday, we here at Rotoworld were able to catch our breath a bit on day two of free agency. The news slowed some but still remained steady enough to keep us occupied.

Quite a few big names traded in their old digs for new ones and fat pay checks, while one big move from day one was nixed due to a failed physical. The Bucs found a new starting quarterback. The free-agent receiver market kicked into gear. Two recently released star veterans quickly landed back on their feet with Super Bowl contenders. Let's dive in even further.

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McCown Lands in Tampa, Named Starter

After going 3-2 in five starts and reviving his career under quarterback whisperer Marc Trestman with the Bears in 2013, soon-to-be 35-year-old Josh McCown landed a two-year, $10 million deal from the Bucs. McCown was actually one of the better success stories of last season. He compiled a 13:1 TD:INT ratio, completed 66.5 percent of his passes, and ended the year with a studly 109.0 quarterback rating.

But this is the same guy that had a career 13-20 record in his previous ten seasons and even spent the 2010 campaign out of the league coaching high schoolers. At a press conference for Tampa's four Tuesday signings, coach Lovie Smith named McCown the Bucs' starter. Sophomore Mike Glennon will head to the bench after a rookie season that ended on a low note. Lovie has always had a special place in his heart for veterans. Something may have clicked in Chicago, but we have doubts McCown will find the same success in Tampa. There are strong odds Glennon makes starts in 2014. Fantasy-wise, McCown will barely be on the back end of the QB2 radar most weeks. This Bucs team is going to run the football and run it some more with Doug Martin, Bobby Rainey, and whoever else lines up in the backfield for OC Jeff Tedford.

Wide Receiver Market Gets Rolling

The Lions got the ball rolling on the free-agent wide receivers by striking a five-year, $31 million agreement with Golden Tate. It's quite possibly our favorite signing of the first two days. The Lions desperately needed a No. 2 receiver opposite Calvin Johnson, while the best use of Tate's talent was to get out of Seattle's run-heavy offense. 25-year-old Tate set career-highs across the board (64-898-5) for the Super Bowl champs but shouldn't have much trouble topping them in Detroit. New Lions OC Joe Lombardi comes from New Orleans, where they clearly know how to get the ball in the hands of their playmakers. After playing exclusively outside with the Seahawks, look for the Lions to get Tate looks all over the field. Tate played some running back in high school and is a beast with the ball in his hands. According to Pro Football Focus, Tate has broken more tackles than any other receiver the past three seasons. He'll see reps out of the slot, X and Z spots, and could even line up in the backfield. Tate was fantasy's No. 28 receiver last season. The top-20 is within reach, making Tate a locked-in WR2. He'll fly off draft boards this summer.

Eric Decker spent all of Wednesday in the Big Apple visiting the Jets. Late Wednesday night, the two sides came to terms on a five-year, $36.25 million pact. It's actually a very reasonable deal for the Jets. Decker was previously reported to be seeking $8-10 million annually. His $7.25 million per year puts him 17th among NFL receivers (tied with Stevie Johnson and just behind Marques Colston), while the $15 million guaranteed puts him in the No. 13 slot. The Jets are paying Decker like the high-end No. 2 receiver he ultimately seems to be without Peyton Manning. Going from a future Hall of Fame quarterback like Manning to Geno Smith will certainly suppress Decker's numbers, but he should be the go-to guy for Gang Green's offense, at least in 2014. If Michael Vick enters the fold for the Jets, Decker's stock could see a slight increase. A year after finishing as fantasy's No. 9 receiver, Decker will probably dip closer to the mid-teens in 2014. He's going to see Darrelle Revis, Brent Grimes, and Stephon Gilmore six times next season, providing all stay healthy. GM John Idzik may now turn his attention to James Jones to fill the No. 2 receiver role. Mike Evans could be an option in the first round of May's draft.

Pair of Released Vets Quickly Find New Homes

The Bucs had until 4 PM ET Wednesday to try and find a trade partner for Darrelle Revis. It predictably didn't happen, and Revis was let go shortly before 3:30. He was on the market for under five hours before landing in New England on a one-year, $12 million deal. Less than 24 hours after seeing Aqib Talib secure a six-year, $57 million deal that included a record-setting $26 million guaranteed from the Broncos, the Patriots threw a haymaker back at their chief AFC rivals and, in our opinion, came away with the far better deal and player. Instead of locking themselves in for years with an injury-prone Talib, Bill Belichick commits to Revis for just one season that could eventually turn into a long-term deal next winter or spring. Revis will shadow all opposing No. 1 receivers and lock down half the field, allowing pass rushers Chandler Jones, Rob Ninkovich, and Jamie Collins more time to get after quarterbacks. Revis, 29 later this summer, will be two years removed from ACL surgery and should be at 100 percent.

Four-time All-Pro pass rusher DeMarcus Ware was also on the market for a short period of time after being granted his release from the cap-strapped Cowboys. Ware, 31, hopped on a plane to Denver to make his first visit and had zero plans of leaving without signing his name on the dotted line. Broncos GM John Elway gave Ware a three-year, $30 million contract that includes $20 million guaranteed. The Cowboys clearly underestimated the market Ware would face. Anyone that watched Ware last season clearly saw he was playing hurt, just like he has throughout his entire career. He's a true warrior. Ware underwent surgery on his balky elbow following the season and declared himself 100 percent. He'll rush the passer from the right side, opposite SLB Von Miller, and the two will wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks. Current projected left tackles in the AFC West whom Ware will see six times in 2014: Eric Fisher, King Dunlap, and Menelik Watson. Good luck. Ware should easily return to his double-digit sack form.

Raiders, Saffold Deal Called Off

After agreeing to terms with the Raiders on a five-year, $42.5 million deal that included $21.5 million guaranteed on the opening day of free agency, Saffold flew to Oakland Wednesday to undergo his physical. Late Wednesday night, the Raiders failed Saffold on his medical exam due to concerns regarding his shoulder, voiding the agreement. It's almost as bizarre as the Elvis Dumervil fax snafu from last March. Saffold was back on the market for mere minutes before the Rams stepped in and gladly handed the 25-year-old a five-year contract. The Rams have no concerns over Saffold's shoulder after he injured it last preseason and was back on the field for Week 1. NFL Network's Mike Silver reports Raiders owner Mark Davis was the one who nixed the deal. According to Silver, Saffold could have had surgery and been 100 percent for training camp. This reeks of the Raiders having buyer's remorse a day after guaranteeing Saffold more money than Branden Albert and Eugene Monroe. Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie is made out to look like a clown by his boss, and one Oakland front office member called it "one of the worst days of my life as a professional." McKenzie isn't the one to blame here, but he might not be calling the personnel shots for the Silver and Black much longer. Saffold will man one of the guard spots in St. Louis, while the Raiders are back to square one at left tackle. Second-year OT Menelik Watson is penciled in on (insert Raiders quarterback's name here) blind side. Anthony Collins is the lone remaining viable starting left tackle left in free agency but will reportedly choose between the Bucs, Panthers, and Bengals. The Raiders are an utter mess.

Free Agency Quick Slants

The Browns threw in the towel on 2012 first-round QB Brandon Weeden and waived the quarterback Wednesday. Jason Campbell was also released by Cleveland, leaving Brian Hoyer atop the depth chart. The Browns are said to be eyeing Matt Schaub should he be released by the Texans, but GM Ray Farmer appears to have his sights set on a quarterback early in May's draft. Weeden is already almost 31 years old and won't have a hot market in free agency. He was one of the bigger busts in recent memory. … One day after inking Toby Gerhart to a three-year deal, the Jaguars said they see Adrian Peterson's former backup as a 15-20 touches-per-game back. It looks as if the volume will be there for Gerhart, but he'll still struggle for RB2 consistency in Jacksonville's offense that will likely be in comeback mode most of the time again in 2014. The good thing is that Gerhart has reliable hands and could catch a number of passes. … Steve Smith's agent confirmed the veteran will not be back in Carolina. The Panthers are attempting to trade Smith but are unlikely to find any takers. Smith and the Ravens reportedly have mutual interest. He'd be a nice fit as a reliable set of hands opposite Torrey Smith. … Cleveland signed restricted free agent WR Andrew Hawkins to a four-year, $12.2 million offer sheet on Tuesday. The Bengals reportedly plan to match and keep Hawkins away from their division rivals. Hawkins stands 5-foot-7, 180 pounds but has video game-like shiftiness and quicks. His fantasy stock would have received a major boost with the Browns. Instead, he'll likely struggle for consistent touches in a loaded Cincinnati offense that has A.J. Green, Giovani Bernard, and Marvin Jones, among others to feed.



Nick Mensio is a football writer for Rotoworld.com. The 2014 NFL season marks his third with Rotoworld. He can be found on Twitter at @NickMensio.
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