By: Russell Shaffer
After the first day of free agency, we discussed the Wallace, Bennett and Cook signings. The second day of NFL free agency brought another flurry of moves, including a stunner that saw one of the game’s most prolific receivers trade in one future Hall of Fame QB for another. In all, there were three key signings that should have major fantasy impact.
Welker Goes West
The big news from Tuesday’s signings had to be Wes Welker taking a 2-year, $12M deal to join forces with Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. Welker seemed resigned to move on from New England – where he and Tom Brady revolutionized the way slot receivers are used – following friction between Welker and Coach Bill Belichick.
The move to Denver shouldn’t do anything to hurt Welker’s fantasy value as he joins another up tempo offense that will look to throw at least 35 times per game. In Manning he’ll be teamed with a QB that loves quick-hitting passes over the middle and who has turned low-ceiling players such as Austin Colle and Brendan Stokley into fantasy relevant WRs. A player of Welker’s caliber in a Broncos system that favors slot screens and other hot read routes should flourish.
Welker should also benefit from having two dynamic playmakers, Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, on the outside to loosen up coverage and provide him with mismatches against safeties, nickel corners and linebackers. Lest you worry there won’t be enough targets to go around to keep Decker, Thomas and Welker all well fed, Manning will chuck the rock more than enough in Denver’s no-huddle offense to get all three their fair share of catches and TDs.
I currently have Welker as the #10 WR, just a few spots behind new teammate Thomas who I have #6. Both should be good values in the 4th or 5th round. Decker currently sits at #20 in my WR rankings.
The movement does nothing to either aid Manning’s value or hurt Brady’s. Both are top 5 QBs and will stay there no matter what save a major injury. The two Canton-bound signal callers should both come off the board in the 1st or 2nd round.
Amendola Slots in with Pats
The big winner in the Welker deal had to be Welker-clone Danny Amendola who the Patriots inked to a 5-year, $31M deal just hours after Welker’s signing was announced. It was reported the Pats had a 2-year, $10M deal on the table to Welker but the speed at which they inked Amendola following Welker’s westward migration seems to suggest Amendola was Belichick’s man all along.
You have to like what this does for Amendola’s fantasy value as it immediately vaults him from a PPR #3 or Flex to a legitimate low-end #2 in standard leagues. The upgrade in QB from Sam Bradford to Brady doesn’t get much bigger, and the transition into a system that arguably had more to do with Welker’s success than Welker himself is equally encouraging.
The knock on Amendola in New England will be the same it has been his entire career – can he stay healthy? He looked to be right on the cusp of finally breaking through as an elite receiver several times last year only to be derailed by injury every time. The Pats must feel confident he can stay on the field in order to give him a 5-year deal, so we’ll wait and see. For now, I’ve got Amendola at #19 in my WR ranks.
The Lions and the Bush
The other notable move Tuesday was the 4-year, $16M jackpot Reggie Bush hit with the Detroit Lions. Desperate for a three down back, the Lions probably overpaid for Bush. But when you take the dollars out of the equation, Bush should be a great fit in the Motor City.
After never being able to live up to the hype in New Orleans, Bush worked hard to remake himself with the Dolphins as a legitimate feature back. He started being able to run between the tackles with some effectiveness and continued to be a potent weapon in the passing game. Bush should join with Calvin Johnson and Matthew Stafford to create an explosive offense in Detroit. The move doesn’t change my evaluation of Bush very much; I still see him as the low end RB #2 or high Flex that he was in Miami. That makes him a late 5th round or early 6th round pick.
Bush’s official departure from South Beach opens things up for Daniel Thomas and Lamar Miller. Problem is, nobody is certain who will get the bulk of the carries or if it will be the dreaded backfield by committee in Miami. For that reason, until (hopefully) training camp brings more clarity I have Thomas and Miller both as low end Flex plays worth no more than an 8th round selection.
What do you think of the Welker signing? Can Amendola fill his shoes in New England? Do you think Bush will thrive in Detroit? Let us know what you think by leaving questions and feedback in the Comments section.
Follow Russell Shaffer on Twitter @RussellShaffer