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What Did We Learn - Free Agency Edition

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Anyone who plays fantasy football knows that the last week in the NFL has been ridiculous. As a result of the lockout, roster moves usually made over the course of six months were condensed down to six days. Trades, free agent signings, rookie signings – we’ve had all of it in less than a week. It has been a dizzying time for NFL fans and fantasy players alike, leaving even the most astute followers of the game curled up in the fetal position.

Everyone knows that DeAngelo Williams re-signed with the Carolina Panthers. Everyone knows that Santonio Holmes re-signed with the New York Jets. Everyone knows that Brett Favre signed with the … oh, thank God he’s gone.

But what about the guys who signed that may have flown under the radar? What about the guys who might not have signed the big money contracts? If you were paying attention, you may know about these signings, but they’ll have fantasy impacts that far outweigh the fanfare they didn’t receive.

Marion Barber was released by the Dallas Cowboys, and ended up signing with the Chicago Bears. At first glance, this seems like no big deal, a move made more for depth than anything else. But upon closer inspection, it becomes clear that Chicago made the move not only for depth, but for more offensive flexibility. Barber is a fantastic short yardage back, meaning he’ll likely end up vulturing some goal line touches and/or touchdowns from Matt Forte. In addition, his pass catching and pass protection skills will get him on the field, giving offensive coordinator Mike Martz and the Bears offense just another option in their arsenal.

Trending up: Felix Jones, Tashard Choice

Trending down: Matt Forte

Matt Hasselbeck left the home of grunge rock for the home of country. As the Seattle Seahawks’ signal caller, Hasselbeck enjoyed some productive years, but has been slowed in recent seasons by nagging back injuries. The Tennessee Titans look to him to mentor young rookie Jake Locker, whom Tennessee took in the first round back in April. But Hasselbeck still has enough left in the tank to be productive, and is a skilled enough passer that opposing defenses need to respect him. This means that defenses might have to think twice before loading up the box against Chris Johnson.

Trending up: Chris Johnson, Kenny Britt

Trending down: Jake Locker, anyone on Seattle’s offense

Todd Heap was a stud tight end about five years ago. So what happened? Well, besides now being on the wrong side of 30, he was also bit by the injury bug. When the Baltimore Ravens released him, Heap began looking for work elsewhere. His job search took him west to the desert, where he signed on to play tight end for the Arizona Cardinals. So why are we talking about an aging tight end who has been hampered by injuries? In Arizona, he’ll have newly acquired Cardinals quarterback Kevin Kolb throwing him the ball and wide receiver extraordinaire Larry Fitzgerald attracting defensive attention. He may end up the No. 2 target after Fitzgerald, and Kolb loves using his tight ends anyway. Just ask Brent Celek. And if given the choice between covering Fitzgerald or Heap, who are you going to focus on?

Trending up: Kevin Kolb, Todd Heap (sleeper)

Trending down: None

Vonta Leach left Houston in free agency and signed with Baltimore. Wait, who’s Vonta Leach? He’s the guy who opened up holes all day long for Arian Foster last year. He’s the guy who looks like a grizzly bear running full speed into defensive linemen and linebackers so Foster could rush for 1,600-plus yards. He’s now blocking for Ray Rice. And Willis McGahee is no longer there to steal short yardage carries. Ray Rice is happy.

Trending up: Ray Rice

Trending Down: Arian Foster

Lawrence Vickers left the depressing Cleveland Browns as an unrestricted free agent, eventually signing with the Houston Texans to replace the aforementioned Vonta Leach. Keep in mind, Vickers was opening holes for his own stud tailback last year in Peyton Hillis. While Vickers isn’t as terrifying an individual as Leach, it’s all sort of relative, you know? Would you rather fight a grizzly bear or a gorilla? Trick question, both will eat your face. Vickers will do just fine blowing up defenders on Foster’s behalf.

Trending up: Arian Foster

Trending down: Peyton Hillis