2014 Free Agency Fantasy Football Recap: Tight Ends and Defenses

Hola fantasy amigos! After months of activity, free agency is finally winding down. It’s time to analyze the laundry list of fantasy implications. Lucky for you, they are compiled right here on Gamedayr. In case you missed it, we’ve already hit on FA running backs, quarterbacks and wide receivers.

Bothering to put a fantasy spin on free agency prior to the NFL draft is like getting married when you’re 20. You might think you’ve got everything figured out, but a lot will change and you’re better off waiting to see what happens. That said, let’s get to it.

If you passed out during Seattle’s manhandling of Denver and then went into a four month coma, don’t worry baby bird! I’ll nurse you back to health with some concise fantasy analysis and a chicken wing inspired hotness scale.

While not as frightening as the free agent quarterbacks, the tight end free agent class is pretty mundane (aside from Graham and Pitta, who were franchised). The mediocrity of the whole tight end position worries me a little bit. There has been an influx of young talent worthy of a sitcom title (2 Jordans and a Julius, anyone?), but unfortunately several high-quality TEs are on their way out (Gonzalez, Witten, Gates). But, I digress. I’m only here to talk about free agents, even if most of them are “mild.” Keep reading for a summary of all the tight ends who have changed teams or been re-signed.

Change Of Scenery

TE John Carlson (Minnesota to Arizona, 2y/$5MM) – Once considered a prospect on the rise, Carlson has really struggled the last few seasons. Also, Arizona hasn’t had a tight end surpass 500 yds since … wait for it … 2007! To make matters worse for Carlson, the Cards signed Jake Ballard and drafted Troy Niklas. Value: [mild] Actually, less than mild.

TE Brandon Myers (NY Giants to Tampa Bay, 2y/$2MM) – This is a good deal for the Bucs. He regressed statistically after a nice 2012 season, but in Myers’ defense Eli was absolutely terrible last year. However, he doesn’t have much to look forward to. The Bucs were last in passing yds/game last season and they drafted Austin Seferian-Jenkins. Value: [mild] Keep him on your radar as a waiver add, but ASJ puts a serious damper on his value.

TE  Owen Daniels (Houston to Baltimore, 1y/$1MM) – Like most of the roster cuts this off-season, he’s been fantasy relevant for several years and now faces a closing window. After being cut by Houston he was finally signed by Baltimore, but he’ll be insignificant to fantasy owners unless Pitta gets injured again. Value: [mild] He was very good once upon a time, but don’t let the name fool you.

Staying Put

TE Jimmy Graham (New Orleans, 1y/?MM) – Graham enters a second consecutive “contract year” because of the franchise tag. The Saints are burning the Atchafalaya Basin Bridge by trying to pay him as a TE and not a WR (a grievance has been filed, twitter is being summoned). He’s going to play with a big chip on his shoulder. Value: [blazing] If I’m picking in that 10-14 range (at the first turn), I want him on my team!

dennis pitta

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

TE Dennis Pitta (Baltimore, 5y/$32MM) – Despite Pitta’s 2013 season being derailed by a hip injury, Baltimore opened their checkbook and locked him up for the long haul. Value: [hot] Like last year (before the injury), he’s in the running for “best TE not named Jimmy Graham.” Hopefully he stays healthy and earns that huge contract.

TE Garrett Graham (Houston, 3y/$11.5MM) – The lesser of the Grahams, Garrett is coming off an okay 49/545/5 season, which included some painfully meager games. The Texans showed their faith by giving him a nice contract, but they also drafted C.J. Fiedorowicz – who will start out as a blocking TE. Of note: Andre Johnson’s status is uncertain, which could free up a lot of targets for Graham. Value: [medium] In most leagues, he’ll be a low-end TE1. Not because he’s that good, but because the TE crop is that bad this year.

TE Brandon Pettigrew (Detroit, 4y/$16MM) – Pettigrew looked very promising in 2010 and 2011, but the last two seasons have been disappointing. For unknown reasons, the Lions gave him four more years and more money than most people will see in their lifetime. Value: [medium] Pettigrew looks like he’s hit a statistical wall. A fat new contract only makes me wonder if he’ll mail it in. The Lions also curiously reached for the freakishly athletic TE Eric Ebron in the draft, thus demoting Pettigrew to “barely draftable.” With so much uncertainty at TE across the NFL, it makes grabbing a good one that much more important.

TE Scott Chandler (Buffalo, 2y/$5MM) – Chandler has had a few respectable seasons for the Bills, but he’s nowhere near TE1 status. Value: [medium] I could see drafting him as a TE2 or part of a TEBC. You could do worse. Speaking of worse …

TE Zach Miller (Seattle, 2y/$6MM) – Miller took a pay cut to stay with the champs. He’s failed to meet expectations since joining the Seahawks three years ago, mostly due to a lack of targets. Value: [mild] Sigh … Add him to the list of TEs you aren’t touching with a 10 foot pole, along with …

TE Jeff Cumberland (NY Jets, 3y/$4MM) – Just another ho-hum TE.  Rookie Jace Amaro is going to take this gig and run with it. Value: [mild] Meh.

See Ya Later, Alligator

TE Tony Gonzalez (Atlanta, Retired) – I hate to see this warrior leave the game. Not only because he’s an all-time great, but also because TE talent is wasting away like the fantasy version of this movie.

TE Jermichael Finley (Green Bay?, Injured) – At one point Finley thought his career was over. Now he’s been cleared to play, but hasn’t yet signed with a team. Some think the Packers will re-sign him. Even if he is signed, there’s a huge health risk here.

For the scoop on rookie TEs, check out our NFL draft coverage.

Team Defenses

Every season there are teams that surprise us with their defense, and it’s rarely the teams said to have “won” the off-season.  But, alas, it’s the off-season, and here I am saying which teams look good and which ones look bad.

[Hot] Defenses

Denver faced a great defense in the Super Bowl and now they’re saying “we want THAT.” Champ Bailey retired and they let DRC walk, but the Broncos broke the bank in signing Aqib Talib, TJ Ward, and DeMarcus Ware. They also used their first-round pick on DB Bradley Roby. Big time defensive moves up in Mile High.

Tampa Bay let Revis go, but replaced him with CB Alterraun Verner (5 INTs and 23 PDs in 2013) and also signed Michael Johnson (only 3.5 sacks last year but 11.5 in 2012). Don’t let their arena-league uniforms fool you, they’ll play better than they look in 2014.

St Louis returns the majority of a sneaky-good defense from 2013, and got even better through the draft by adding DT Aaron Donald, DE Michael Sam, and several DBs.

[Mild] Defenses

The Dallas defense was buoyed by several fortunate TDs last season. I expect that to normalize. Most people know they cut DeMarcus Ware, and even though Ware had a career low in tackles and sacks last season, it will be hard for them to replace a player of that caliber. To make matters worse, they lost DT Jason Hatcher to the Redskins Redskin Potatoes.

Tennessee was an OK defense that you could have started occasionally last season. However, losing their best CB (Verner) is going to put too much pressure on the front seven. They’ll be a juicy matchup for your WRs in 2014.

Kickers

For intriguing free agent kicker signings, like Steven Hauschka, click here. And don’t forget about our analysis on rookie kickers.