Free Agency Winners and Losers - IDP Version
By Anthony Borbely
August 9th, 2011

Well, that was certainly a wild ride. NFL free agency was unlike anything we have seen in recent memory. There were a boatload of players that changed teams and the majority of it happened within a one week period. I have listed some of the key IDP free agent signings along with the fantasy winners and losers that resulted from said signings. As you will see, the majority of the impact IDP free agent movement was at LB.

News: Falcons sign DE Ray Edwards

Winner - Brian Robison: Someone has to replace Edwards and Robison, who signed a three-year $14.1 million contract, has the inside track to the job. Robison is not the accomplished pass rusher that Edwards is, but playing opposite stud DE Jared Allen ensures that Robison will see plenty of single coverage. Edwards' leaving changes Robison from unrosterable to a matchup-based DL3/4 with plenty of upside.

Loser - Kroy Biermann: Biermann will lose significant playing time as a result of the Edwards signing. He goes from a matchup-based DL3/4 to barely rosterable. The only silver lining is that John Abraham is getting up in years and with the Falcons now having solid depth at DE, he may see reduced playing time. Even with that, it is hard to recommend spending a roster spot on Biermann.

News: Eagles sign DE Jason Babin

Winner - Derrick Morgan: The departure of Babin should open the door for Morgan, last year's first-round pick, to see an even bigger increase in playing time than was originally expected. Morgan is far and away the most talented DE on the Titans and with the DE rotation losing their best pass rusher, someone has to take up the slack and I believe Morgan will be the biggest beneficiary. Prior to Babin's departure, I considered Morgan a DL4 with upside, but now I think he should be classified as a mid to low DL3 with DL2 upside. Since Morgan missed most of his rookie year with an injury, his play in preseason is very important.

Loser - Darryl Tapp: With the declining performance of Juqua Parker and with Brandon Graham expected to begin the season on PUP, the door was open for Tapp to see a significant increase in playing time. that abruptly changed when the Eagles signed Babin. Tapp was a potential DL3 prior to Babin signing, but much like Biermann, I can't foresee Tapp having much value now.

News: Lions sign LB Stephen Tulloch

Winner - Barrett Ruud: Prior to Tulloch leaving Tennessee, there was very little chatter about Ruud and some, including me, wondered if any team would sign him as a starter. Ruud could not have went to a better place than Tennessee. Although his run defense is not as good as it once was, Ruud is still solid in coverage and should be a three-down MLB for the Titans. I expect mid LB2 numbers with top-ten upside. A short time ago, there was a possibility that Ruud would fall off the IDP map.

Loser - DeAndre Levy: Levy was expected to be the starting MLB for the Lions. Instead, he will play on the weak side. Although he is expected to retain his three-down role, Levy's value takes a big hit. Not only is Levy losing value by being moved out of the middle, he also loses a huge numbers of opportunities because of Tulloch's tackling prowess. Prior to Tulloch's arrival, I had Levy ranked as a mid-LB2 with top-15 upside. Levy now takes a significant drop into the mid to low LB3 tier.

News: Titans sign LB Barrett Ruud

Winner - Mason Foster: With Ruud's departure, the door is open for rookie Mason Foster to take the reigns as the Bucs' starter at MLB. Although Foster is unlikely to be a three-down LB, he still could have LB4/5 value. That may not seem like much, but LB depth can be important during bye weeks and Foster goes from having no value to being a possible matchup-based starter.

Loser - Colin McCarthy: Prior to Ruud's signing, McCarthy was in line to be the starting linebacker for the Titans. Now the rookie will bide his time on the bench for at least a year. Although his redraft value is non-existent, dynasty players may want to take a shot at buying low on McCarthy and holding for a year, assuming you have deep enough rosters to do so.

News: Seahawks release LB Lofa Tatupu

Winner - David Hawthorne: Hawthorne is arguably the biggest winner of all players during the free agent frenzy. He moves from the mid to low LB3 range all the way into the top-10. In case you forgot, the last time Hawthorne played MLB was in 2009 and he put up top-10 numbers...and that was with Hawthorne having two games with zero tackles. With Seattle having a weak team, I expect Hawthorne to have a high number of tackle opportunities and find it hard to imagine him not cracking the top ten LBs.

Loser - Tatupu: As of this writing, Tatupu has not yet signed with anyone. He was not going to be an impact fantasy LB with Seattle, but even a LB4/5 is better than nothing.

News: Jaguars sign LB Paul Posluszny

Winner - Nick Barnett: From a fantasy perspective, Barnett is stepping into a tremendous situation with the Bills. There is very little competition for tackles on the Bills and their home scoring crew is very generous. Although he doesn't have the instincts and tackling ability that Posluszny has, Barnett should see a ton of tackle opportunities with the Bills. I am not as optimistic as some of my esteemed colleagues, but I think Barnett slots in nicely in the middle of the LB2 tier with possible LB1 upside. I highly doubt Barnett could have done better had he signed elsewhere.

Loser - Posluszny: I had Posluszny ranked in the top five when he was still with the Bills. Although he arguably has a better fantasy situation playing at MLB in a 4-3 defense, the Jags scorers are not nearly as generous passing out tackles as the Bills scorers are. Posluszny drops from a possible top five LB to the bottom of the LB1 tier.

News: Jaguars sign LB Clint Session

Winner - Ernie Sims or Kavell Conner: The WLB for the Colts is almost always a viable fantasy LB, even if it is a marginal player like Sims or Conner. I would probably consider either of them a LB4/5 with upside. I think either of them could eventually wind up being in the top 40, but right now I can't commit to that high of a ranking.

Loser - Session: Session leaves the Colts and their productive WLB spot for the Jags and their largely unproductive one. Not only that, but it is unknown if Session will play third downs. If he does, I would think a mid to low LB4 is as high as I could go. If Session plays two downs, he would not be worth rostering.

News: Cardinals sign LB Stewart Bradley

Winner - Casey Matthews: This one came out of left field. Not the fact that the Eagles were not going to sign Bradley; the fact that Casey Matthews was named as the starting MLB with Jamar Chaney moving to the outside. Most observers thought that if Bradley left, Chaney would be the one playing in the middle. Needless to say, Matthews went from an afterthought to a top 30 LB with LB2 upside. This all assumes Matthews stays in the middle. My guess is that this is permanent, but it's certainly not etched in stone.

Loser - Paris Lenon: Prior to the Cardinals signing Bradley, Lenon seemed like a virtual lock to not only start, but to be a three-down LB, much as he was last year. The signing of Bradley likely spells the end of Lenon's starting days.

News: Redskins sign LB Rocky McIntosh

Winner - Rocky McIntosh: A few days ago, I didn't think there was a chance of McIntosh returning to the Redskins. But things changed fast. The Redskins were not successful in their attempts to replace McIntosh and he was not having much luck in free agency. This is a solid fit for both McIntosh and the Redskins. McIntosh was a low-end LB3 last year and a mid LB4 in each of the previous two years. That is not all that bad for a LB that is often overlooked in fantasy drafts. Expect more of the same this year.

Loser - Perry Riley: Had McIntosh not returned and depending on other free agent moves, Riley was in line to take over for McIntosh. He may or may not have played three downs, but either would be better than sitting on the bench. Although he has no value this year, dynasty leaguers should hold. McIntosh only signed for one year and London Fletcher can't play forever.

News: Raiders sign DB Michael Huff

Winner - Tyvon Branch: This signing came as a surprise. Huff was not expected back and the Raiders were prepared to move Tyvon Branch to free safety and start Michael Mitchell at strong safety. Obviously, remaining at strong safety is huge for Branch's value. Had Branch moved to free safety, I would have considered dropping him into the mid to low DB2 tier. With Huff signing, I will once again rank Branch in the top five. I consider him one of the safest fantasy DBs.

Loser - Michael Mitchell: The thud you just heard was the sound of Mitchell's fantasy value crashing to the ground. He could have been a DB2 (or possibly higher) playing at the very productive Oakland strong safety spot. Now, his value is all but gone.

News: Rams sign SS Quintin Mikell

Winner - Jaiquawn Jarrett: Although we knew Mikell was not going to be back with the Eagles, it still classifies as a win for Jarrett. The strong safety spot for the Eagles has been very productive and they do not have any elite LBs that rack up high tackle numbers. The only thing Jarrett has to do is learn the pro game and beat out journeyman Kurt Coleman for the starting job. I expect both to happen and if they do, Jarrett should make a solid DB2 for us this year.

Loser - Craig Dahl: Dahl put up DB2 numbers last season as the Rams starter at strong safety. He is likely to move to free safety, but his tackle numbers are likely to decline significantly. Instead of being a DB2 as the strong safety, I see his value taking a steep drop. I would consider him a DB5 at best and probably would not bother drafting him.

News: 49ers sign SS Donte Whitner

Winner - George Wilson: Wilson is now the starter at strong safety for the Bills. In recent years, their starting strong safety has been a fantasy stud. In 2009, Wilson became a starter in week four and proceeded to post DB1 numbers for the balance of the season. Whitner was the #2 overall DB last year. I am confidently ranking Wilson in the top ten this year.

Loser - Taylor Mays or Reggie Smith: I'm not sure who would have won the 49ers' starting strong safety job. Mays has reportedly fallen out of favor, but who knows what would have happened had Whitner not signed. Regardless, Whitner effectively eliminates Smith and Mays from fantasy relevance.

Questions, suggestions and comments are always welcome to borbely@footballguys.com.

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