The 2012 free agency period has slowed to a crawl, college pro days are at an end, and NFL teams are turning their focus to putting the final touches on their collective draft boards. What are we to do as fantasy football fanatics? By now, we have undoubtedly had numerous discussions with leaguemates as to the value of Peyton Manning with the Broncos and what it will do to the wide receiving corps, whether the signing of Michael Bush by Chicago is a harbinger of a Matt Forte hold out, and how many touchdowns will Peyton Hillis vulture from Jamaal Charles? As fantasy savvy folk, we are by nature very knowledgeable NFL fans as well, and all have our opinions on which teams are winners and losers thus far in the 2012 free agency period. That is all well and good and makes for some fine debates, and helps to pass the time as we eagerly anticipate the wildly entertaining, Hall of Fame Game in August. However, before I can turn my full attention to the upcoming NFL draft, I need some closure on this free agency season. I am very puzzled by a few of the signings, and trades that have occurred and believe they merit further examination.
#1 Mike Tolbert , RB, CAR: The Panthers have signed the former San Diego Charger, do it all, and do it well running back Mike Tolbert to be their primary fullback in 2012. What? A four year, $8.4 million dollar contract, with $2.7 million guaranteed, for a fullback, that is ridiculous. I realize that coach Ron Rivera is a former defensive coordinator, and that maybe he is a little naïve in setting up the offensive side of the ball, but surely someone in the Panther organization is capable of recognizing offensive talent. Tolbert has accumulated over 1,225 yards rushing, 19 rushing touchdowns in the last 2 seasons for the Chargers. Add to that, 79 receptions, 649 receiving yards, and another 2 touchdowns in that same time frame. So, the plan is to waste all that versatility as a running back, and have Tolbert lead blocking for a pair of players that he has as much, if not more, talent than. Tolbert attended Coastal Carolina, so merit has to be given to the idea that he took this deal (reportedly, San Diego had offered him more money than Carolina, to remain a Charger) to head back to familiar territory. The fantasy value of Mike Tolbert takes a huge hit with this move to fullback, barring an injury to Jonathan Stewart or De'Angelo Williams; there is no need to select Tolbert before the final 3 rounds of your fantasy draft.
#2 Tim Tebow , QB, NYJ: After falling out of the Peyton Manning sweepstakes early on, the Jets decided that Mark Sanchez is their quarterback of the future and signed him to a 3 year extension in March. Barely a week later, New York signed former Detroit Lion Drew Stanton on March 16th, 2012 to be their back up quarterback. OK, the QB position is set for 2012, and let the mending of the fences between Sanchez and Santonio Holmes commence. Full steam ahead for the Jets, who stumbled down the stretch in 2011 losing their final 3 games, arguing, finger pointing and finally, missing the post season. All is on schedule for a smooth off-season in The Big Apple. Hold on a second, here comes the news that Tim Tebow is suddenly available. Ooooh, yes!! The Jets decide that Tim Tebow is just the player they need to add to the melting pot that is their locker room. Sure, Tebow helped lead the Broncos to the playoffs (actually, they backed in when Oakland lost to San Diego in week #17) and energized the entire NFL for the second half of 2011, but was he really ever on the Jets radar? So now, Mark Sanchez gets to look over his shoulder at perhaps the most loved (and hated) quarterback in the league. Yeah, that will do wonders for the already shaky confidence of the starting quarterback. Should the Jets lose 2 games in a row (or Sanchez continue his tendency to toss 'pick sixes'), the New York media and fans will be calling for the 'Savior'. This move will not work, the Jets are a team in a state of constant confusion and the addition of Tim Tebow only adds to the chaos.
#3 Vincent Jackson , WR, TB: Jackson signed a 5 year $55,555,555 Million dollar contract with Tampa Bay with $26 million guaranteed, so the reason he signed in Tampa is very obvious. It is how he will fit into the Buccaneers offense that is a bit puzzling. First year head coach Greg Schiano, formerly of Rutgers, has the reputation of being a meticulous, structured, and defensive minded coach. That is all well and good in turning around the attitude of a Tampa Bay squad that looked as if they had quit on former coach Raheem Morris, but does it jibe with the signing of perhaps the premier, deep threat wide receiver in the NFL? In the 2011 season, Josh Freeman attempted only 3 passes of 41 yards or more, failing to complete a single one of those attempts. Last season in San Diego, the Chargers attempted 11 passes of 41 yards or more, completing 3, of which Jackson caught 1. This does not appear to be a match made in fantasy production heaven, unless Tampa Bay revamps their offensive scheme heading forward. New offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan (the former quarterback and wide receiver coach for the New York Giants) is the man in charge of getting the Buccaneers to be a more vertical threat style of offense. Eli Manning attempted 13 passes of at least 41 yards in 2011, so the possibility is certainly there for Tampa Bay to attempt to stretch the field. However, for his career, Josh Freeman is 2 of 11 in passes over 41 yards, with a single touchdown; it remains to be seen if he has the deep accuracy to make Jackson a viable, long ball receiving threat. This is a curious signing for the Buccaneers, and one that looks to limit Vincent Jackson as both NFL and fantasy receiver.
#4 John Carlson, TE, MINN: The Vikings signed the former Seahawk tight end to a five- year $25 million deal, with $11 million of the deal guaranteed. Really? The franchise tender offer for tight ends in 2012 is $5.446 million. A second year quarterback-- Christian Ponder -- who needs all the help he can get at the wide receiver position and Minnesota forks over $25 million to a tight end. Minnesota currently lists one Michael Jenkins, the cast off from the Atlanta Falcons, at their number two wide receiver position. Carlson missed the entire 2011 season with a shoulder injury, and somehow gets this sweet deal from the Vikings. Carlson had a career best 55 receptions, with 5 touchdowns back in his rookie season of 2008, and added another 7 touchdowns in 2009 before seeing a big drop off in production in 2010 for Seattle. Kyle Rudolph had a decent rookie season at the tight end position last year for Minnesota, with 26 receptions, 249 yards and 3 touchdowns. Not bad considering the fact Donovan McNabb, Christian Ponder, and Joe Webb were the starting quarterbacks in Minnesota last season. The only line of thinking here can be that the Vikings intend to run a whole lot of two tight end sets in 2012. In his second year as offensive coordinator, Bill Musgrave better have some very inventive ways to get the ball to tight ends up his sleeve, or the Vikings just paid way too much money on a player with 13 career touchdowns in 4 years in the NFL.
So there they are, four moves that make one really scratch their head and wonder just what each franchise was thinking when these deals became a good idea. Doesn't make them winners or losers in free agency, they just make little, or no sense.