There’s blood in the water, as the window for NFL teams to negotiate with the representatives of unrestricted free agents is now open. Soon enough all hell will break loose, as on Tuesday the dam breaks and the 2013 edition of free agency kicks off.
Among the players in search of new contracts is any number of prominent defensive backs, from a trio of future Hall-of-Famers to some up-and-coming youngsters. Given how much impact a defensive back’s situation can have on their fantasy fortunes this position is likely affected the most of any by free agency in IDP leagues. All it takes is the right landing spot to turn sleeper to star, while the wrong one can flip stud to dud.
So, before the insanity kicks into high gear and the inmates start running the asylum, here’s a look at 15 free agent defensive backs, and how what happens over the next couple of weeks could affect their value in IDP leagues for 2013 and beyond.
Ronde Barber – FS, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Barber was surprisingly effective in his first year at safety in 2012, tallying over 90 tackles for the first time since 2006 and finishing in the top 10 at his position in Default IDP Manor Scoring. Barber’s brother recently told Pro Football Talk that the 37-year-old wants to play again in 2013, and while his age is certainly a factor if Barber does indeed return to Tampa this year he could be worth a look as an IDP DB2 that can be had relatively late in drafts.
Atari Bigby – SS, San Diego Chargers: At the beginning of last year it appeared that Bigby might be primed for a return to IDP relevance, as the 31-year-old averaged nine stops a game over the first three weeks of the season. However, as the season wore on he faded, Bigby missed the last five games of the season, and after being cut loose by San Diego it’s unlikely that Bigby will find a new home that affords him the playing time to have much fantasy value.
Stevie Brown – SS, New York Giants: Brown was one of the big IDP surprises of the 2013 season, coming from nowhere to finish second in the NFL with eight interceptions and post fantasy DB1 numbers. Both the 25-year-old Brown and teammate Kenny Phillips are free agents, and if the Giants stick with youth and retain Brown (as I believe they will) then he should merit consideration as a middling fantasy DB2 for the upcoming season.
Chris Clemons – SS, Miami Dolphins: Another young safety that played better than many expected in 2012, Clemons tallied nearly 100 tackles and picked off two passes a season ago. The Dolphins have expressed interest in retaining Clemons, but even in last year’s breakout season Clemons barely cracked IDP DB3 territory, making him a player who’s at best a late-round draft pick and potential bye-week fill-in.
Dashon Goldson – FS, San Francisco 49ers: The San Francisco 49ers applied the franchise tag to free safety Dashon Goldson in 2012, but not only did the team pass on doing so this year but they reportedly have no real intention of bringing the Pro Bowler back. Jordan Ranaan of The Newark Star Ledger reports that the Philadelphia Eagles are expected to show interest in Goldson, but IDP owners would be well served to keep in mind that Goldson hasn’t cracked the top 30 fantasy defensive backs since 2009 before they do the same.
Rashad Johnson – SS, Arizona Cardinals: I would be remiss in my duties as a Fantasy Sharks staffer if I didn’t throw at least one player on this list with some IDP sleeper potential. The release of Adrian Wilson has apparently ramped up the Cardinals’ efforts to re-sign Johnson, and should the four-year pro return to the desert as the starting strong safety then his IDP vale in 2013 could be quite robust, especially when compared to what should be a modest asking price. If you’re the type of IDP owner that waits to draft defensive backs, then Rashad Johnson is a name worth remembering if things break right in free agency.
Dawan Landry – SS, Jacksonville Jaguars: Despite racking up 100 tackles for the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2012, Landry was one of a number of starting safeties shown the door on March 8th. That release was due in large part to Landry’s deficiencies in coverage, an area in which he ranked 40th out of 59 safeties graded by Pro Football Focus last year. Unfortunately those deficiencies also don’t bode well for Landry’s odds of landing an every down role with a new team, calling into question how many snaps Landry will play in 2013 and casting a cloud of doubt over his IDP value.
LaRon Landry – FS, New York Jets: LaRon Landry entered the 2012 season badly needing to show both NFL teams and IDP owners that he was healthy and capable and producing after a pair of injury-marred seasons. The 28-year-old accomplished that goal, racking up a career-high 100 tackles and finishing among the top 15 fantasy defensive backs. Landry will now likely be moving on from New York with the cap-strapped Jets probably unable to meet his asking price, and while his new home could affect his fantasy value it’s fairly safe to pencil Landry in as at least an IDP DB2 for 2013.