Off-season Update: Final free agents begin to move including Walker, Jones [NFL News]

Now that the fire sale on veterans and the betting wars for top free agents has pretty much all died down, the final group of unsigned players has begun to settle into place. I believe we have entered the downhill slide towards the NFL draft.

First, a few sidebars…

If you are having a hard time keeping track of it all, NFL.com’s Fabiano has a chart of offseason player moves and how the moves affect fantasy football values, [via FFLibrarian] and Smitty of Fantasy Football Xtreme talks about the ones who matter this offseason. Also on the Interwebs, NFL Gribiron Gab breaks down who is still out there.

Maybe you aren’t interested in free agents? If you are just now catching up to all the NFL draft happenings, catch the full results of the NFL Combine on FFToolbox.

Now on to the latest in offseason player movement.

The biggest news is that Brett Favre finally decided to get off the saddle in Green Bay. If you missed the hours upon hours of Favre montages and coverage, I am glad you finally escaped from that dark cave, my friend. FFLibrarian said goodbye in her own way–with Favre’s fantasy stats. The good news is that Aaron Rodgers should be a decent replacement. I would place him near the top of a list of potential QB2 if the receivers in Green Bay continue to impress.

Fantasy-relevant wide receiver Jabar Gaffney re-signed with New England. He will be an interesting player to watch in the 2008 fantasy drafts because he will now take the #2 role with Donte Stallworth gone and Wes Welker staying in the slot. When Randy Moss is getting shut down, who will be scoring those TDs? Gaffney might be someone you could snag on the cheap in the draft to put up big numbers for you. He certainly has the trust of Tom Brady, so take him late in the draft if he ends up being undervalued.

If you were set on taking Brandon Stokley in your fantasy draft expecting him to be a solid #2 in Denver with Javon Walker out, think twice about that. Keary Colbert should get the chance to play for a #2 spot now that he is signed in Denver. I think Stokley will remain a big part of the offense, but if Colbert can beat him out for the #2 spot, he might just be another waiver wire wonder for 2008. Brandon Marshall is still the receiver to watch for Denver in 2008.

The Oakland Raiders somehow dug deeper in their pocketbooks and found it in their hearts to extend a huge contract to Javon Walker. He could be great, or he could degenerate into what Randy Moss was in Oakland–worthless. I tend to lean on the hater side of like The Fantasy Football Geek Blog. Needless to say, his fantasy stock is uncertain.

With about as much fanfare as David Carr got when he was cut from Carolina, Joey Harrington was let go by Atlanta. Apparently, he is not the savior of the franchise. In his last words, he said he had to go see Michael Vick about a dog Vick was dog-sitting for him.

Seattle seems less confident in Shaun Alexander than we are after going out and signing T.J. Duckett and Julius Jones. Rumor is that Alexander could be on the street by June. I think they keep him on the roster and give him one last shot to be all the Shaun that he can be. His leash is certainly shorter for 2008.

Brandon Lloyd, an up-and-comer that never quite “came” after moving to the Washington Redskins signed with the Chicago Bears. Apparently, someone in the Chicago front office realized they just let both starting receivers go in an offense with no quarterback. It’s taken them a year or so to realize that a football team has an offense in addition to a defense. Let’s see if Lloyd makes them better or just causes problems.

The Bears also got Marty Booker signed to a two-year deal. Maybe there’s hope they can get a decent passing game together this offseason.

Not to be seen as cheap, the Browns paid their newly acquired defensive tackle Shaun Rogers his weight in $100 bills. The contract is large for someone they haven’t even put on the field yet, but Rogers should make the Browns defense better since they were absolutely horrible last year.

Combine appearances moving stock for elite players [Combine News]

Darren McFadden cooled worries about his on-the-field game by posting an impressive 40-yard dash.

His official time was recorded as 4.33. (His first run was timed “unofficially” at 4.27). With that show, McFadden proved he was one of the fastest players in Indianapolis. He showed his burst speed, but doubts could still be raised about his ability to run between the tackles. Then, there is always the issue of all his multiple children on the way and off-the-field baggage still to be considered. He still keeps the hype as the first back anyone will take in this year’s draft, but some who don’t desperately need his help might think twice.

The title of fastest running back at the Combine goes to Chris Johnson of East Carolina. Johnson ran a 4.24. Even if a cornerback comes close to those numbers tomorrow, that is one of the top times ever seen at the Combine. His role in an NFL franchise is probably as a returner like Devin Hester or a change up back like Jerious Norwood. He is competing among running backs in the same spot as Jamaal Charles of Texas in my opinion, and his faster time maskes him look more appealing for special teams. His stock definitely rose with that 40-yard time.

QB Joe Flacco was considered by some to be the best quarterback prospect at the Combine. He might end up being a steal in the second round with his powerful arm, but he hasn’t broken into consideration for the first round yet. Flacco didn’t run as fast as he promised in the 40-yard dash, but the hype around him has been rising ever since scouts got a good look at him in the Senior Bowl. He has a pretty nice highlight reel.

As far as strength goes, Vernon Gholston looked like a superhuman beast in the Combine workouts. His stats surpassed Chris Long, his fellow defensive linemen who currently holds the top spot among DL and the possibility of going first overall to Miami. Gholston ran a 4.64–that’s quite the momentum–and tied Jake Long with 37 reps of 225 pounds in the bench press.

Some predict Gholston’s stock rising from his stats and times today, but Chris Long still showed better technique and quickness in the skill drills. I expect Long to keep the top spot come draft day.

One player flying under the radar is Josh Johnson. Cecil Lammey and Sigmund Bloom, the hosts of The Audible podcast at Footballguys.com, really love this guy. Other sports writers are still skeptical that anyone will give him a chance to play quarterback. He posted the fastest 40-yard time for any QB at 4.55 and the highest vertical at 33.5. Even though he only played at San Diego, he reminds scouts of Vince Young. That guy hasn’t turned out so bad–overlooking some possible taint on this year due a defeat of the Madden curse.

For the complete results of all the Combine athletes thus far, check out FFToolbox’s Combine Results tables.

Free agents, controversial players on the move pre-Combine [NFL Rumors]

What better way to start day 1 of the NFL Combine coverage than with a collection of trade and free agency rumors from around the NFL. There are several key free agents making moves out there that you should keep your eye on for fantasy football in 2008.

After making his rounds around the Patriots and Saints, Zach Thomas signed with the Cowboys. His $3 million salary isn’t as much as his stats, but it’s not about the money. Thomas wanted to return to his hometown team and hopes to be able to be tackling for the Cowboys rather than hitting linemen. Thomas could be a high impact player for the Cowboys defense, a unit that did well for fantasy owners in 2007 already.

Rex Grossman signed for another year with Chicago as “the starter.” He got replaced last year after a poor start, so there’s nothing stopping Lovie Smith from replacing mid-season in 2008. The quarterback situation for the Bears probably won’t be worked out until after the draft and training camp, but there are rumors that Brian Griese may have played his last ball in Chicago.

While the talk has been that Alge Crumpler would be happy in Carolina next season after Atlanta released him, the Tennessee Titans have an interest in him for 2008. With Bo Scaife hurt and possibly not starting immediately in 2007, and Ben Troupe probably on his way out, Vince Young could use another tight end target. The Titans utilized the tight end effectively in 2007 with Scaife being third on the team in receptions and receiving yards, so Crumpler might find a productive situation there like he had with Michael Vick in Atlanta.

Tampa Bay is considering a trade with the Denver Broncos for the unhappy Javon Walker. Although he had a bum knee this season, Walker still have a playmaker ability within him that the Bucs could use. It wouldn’t be a very long-term solution for Tampa Bay though since their receivers are all getting up there in age. They might not be willing to make a good enough deal for Walker and could take a young rookie in the draft instead.

After saying he wanted to stay in Atlanta, DeAngelo Hall didn’t receive the warm welcome he wanted from the new coaching staff, and he went off to reporters that he wants out. According to the latest rumors, both the New York Giants and the Miami Dolphins are interested. The Giants are probably more likely to deal for him and could seriously use him with all the poor secondary play they had early in 2007. The Dolphins have expressed interest in Hall and Troy Williamson of the Minnesota Vikings. They likely would only take Hall if they had a good deal for him considering Parcells probably doesn’t want Hall’s off the field drama.

Fullback Lorenzo Neal is on the block with the Chargers. He is 37, but he might still have a good year or two left in him. He spent the last several years blocking for LaDainian Tomlinson in San Diego, so it will be interesting to see whether L.T.’s running game is affected if Neal goes.

Now for players who are staying put…

If you think Rudi Johnson‘s 2007 running game for the Cincinnati Bengals had declined, you might find him a changed man in 2008. Rudi plans to put on weight this offseason and return to his power running game. If he achieves his goal, he could surprise in 2008 and might be a steal come fantasy draft day.

Speaking of player with a lull in 2007, Lee Evans may get some help with the Buffalo Bill. Evans, as the only passing threat of the Bills, was horribly double-teamed and shut down this season. To help him out, the Bills are rumored to be taking a big wide receiver like Malcolm Kelly from Oklahoma or possibly DeSean Jackson from Cal. Depending on Trent Edwards’ development, the Buffalo Bills could have a very improved passing game in 2008.

The Arizona Cardinals, on the other hand, are looking for some speed in the running back department. While they love Edgerrin James for his production in 2007, they want a change up back that can hit those homerun drives–like a Ahmad Bradshaw or Adrian Peterson–and they will seek one in the draft ths year.

New NFL.com Combine Coverage on Fantasy Football Fools

We’ve added a Combine widget from NFL.com to keep the site updated with even more current Combine news as the fantasy football rookies of next year run through practice drills in Indianapolis. Check it out to the right, and come back to find updates.

There’s no way to be sure how some of these players will influence next year’s fantasy football draft. Most of it depends upon what team takes them. Still, you never know when a nugget of info that you passed over will give you an edge come draft time. Make sure you stay informed by following our coverage.