If you’re like me (and you’re all like me, yes?), you’re selfish, and you enjoy making money. That’s why even in the still cold days of early March when there’s, oh, 26 more weekends to go until we can watch meaningful football again, you’re already thinking about how you can make some fantasy profit from the free agency musical chairs.
Don’t lie. Nearly a year ago when the Brandon Marshall trade went down in the opening hours of the new league year, you thought about how much fun it will be to give him fake employment while he receives passes from a real quarterback who can throw a spiral. That anticipation resulted in an uptick of nearly 300 receiving yards, and the highest single-season touchdown total of Marshall’s career (11). Straight cash, homey.
So with the market opening in a week, we’ll start that wistful imagining by running down our list of preferred destinations for the free agents at positions that impact the fantasy game. The exact length of each listicle (usually top five-ish) will vary depending on the depth of the free agent pool at each position, and especially the amount of appealing names with potential fantasy impact at the top.
Let the dreaming begin with wide receivers.
1. Wes Welker
Current team: New England Patriots
Preferred destination: New England Patriots
Oh sweet, some real creativity here to start. While this may reflect a severe lack of originality, it more truly reflects the fantasy hesitancy that will surround Welker if he’s wearing a uniform that doesn’t have a violent patriot man on it. Those fears may be entirely unfounded, but the Patriots’ high volume usage of Welker (he’s had 100 or more receptions in five of his last six seasons) from the slot makes him a target perfect tailored to their spread scheme.
2. Mike Wallace
Current team: Pittsburgh Steelers
Preferred destination: Buffalo Bills
Wallace does one thing: he runs far, and he runs fast. But he excels at that singular trick if there’s someone who’s nearly his equal on the opposite side, and they’re capable of attracting attention. That’s why with Stevie Johnson to be his wingman, Buffalo could be an ideal fit and a fine place for Wallace to continue being a consistent 1,000-yard threat, and to score in large volumes (he has 16 touchdowns over the past two years). There’s also the added benefit that more attention on the outside will lead to less eight-man fronts for C.J. Spiller to run against.
3. Greg Jennings
Current team: Green Bay Packers
Preferred destination: Miami Dolphins
There are injury concerns due to both Jennings’ extended time wearing ice bags over the past two years (he’s missed 11 games), and somewhat advancing age (he’ll turn 30 in September). But a healthy Jennings is a highly productive Jennings, as during his last full season in 2010 he finished with 1,265 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns, good for 198.5 fantasy points. Sure, that production will drop when someone not named Aaron Rodgers is under center, but there’s plenty of room to cushion that fall enough so that Jennings still retains at worst WR2 value, while also boosting the production of Ryan Tannehill for those in the late-round QB school. That should be all of you, all the time.
The chances of Miami retaining Brian Hartline only look sort of OK at this point (he’ll likely hit the open market after Randy Starks was franchised), which also makes South Beach a fine fantasy destination for Jennings due to the increased looks he’d get as potentially the undisputed No. 1 receiver.
4. Dwayne Bowe
Current team: Kansas City Chiefs
Preferred destination: Detroit Lions
This may be unrealistic given Bowe’s likely asking price (around $11 million annually), and the Lions’ reported lack of cap room which currently sits at about $9 million, depending on which interweb report you happen to land on. But dammit, this is my wishing wishlist, and if there’s any hope of Matthew Stafford returning to being the efficient, reliable passer we saw a year ago when he had 470.9 fantasy points (incredibly, an average of 29.4 per week), he needs support from a receiver who isn’t Calvin Johnson, and he needs it now. Titus Young failed in that effort because he’s the NFL’s leading turd, and Ryan Broyles is recovering from an ACL tear.
Bowe becoming a Lion may be a reach, but it’s possible if Detroit uses some cap creativity (see: cut more players or restructure contracts).
UPDATE: Annnd one of our dreams has died a horrible death. The Chiefs have signed Bowe to a five-year contract.
5. Danny Amendola
Current team: St. Louis Rams
Preferred destination: Denver Broncos
Free agents are usually free agents for a reason. And if the Rams don’t tag Amendola today (extremely unlikely) or sign him by next Monday (a little less unlikely, but still pretty damn unlikely), he’ll walk because much like Jennings he shatters too often. Amendola has missed 20 games over the past two years, which is your answer if you’re somehow wondering why he’s not worth a tag that would cost $10.54 million. But with their estimated $17 million in cap room, the Broncos could quickly have an overflowing treasure chest at wide receiver by taking an affordable risk on Amendola at the right price.
Affordable would be in the five-to-six million range annually for a receiver who caught 63 balls this past season despite essentially missing seven games (he actually missed five, but had only decoy status in two others). The WR depth in Denver is more than deep enough to make such a play with Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas forming the core, and what’s most appealing for fake footballers is that Peyton Manning historically thrives when he has an elite slot receiver at his disposal.
For years that role was dedicated to Brandon Stokley. He’s aging and possibly leaving as a free agent now, and Amendola could quickly excel with the space opened up underneath by Decker and Thomas.