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Top 5 NFL teams whose free agent signings benefit you in 2014 fantasy football

Wide receiver Brandon LaFell has the best situation now that he is paired with quarterback Tom Brady in New England.  Look for his receptions, receiving yards and touchdown catches to go up in 2014.
Wide receiver Brandon LaFell has the best situation now that he is paired with quarterback Tom Brady in New England. Look for his receptions, receiving yards and touchdown catches to go up in 2014.
Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Baltimore, Detroit, the New York Jets, New England and Washington are the top five teams when it comes to signing free agents that will yield fantasy football dividends.

Here are the parameters used to form this opinion:

  • Skilled position players (QB, RB, WR, TE) are the backbone of fantasy football, so they become the most crucial in evaluating a team’s free agent standing.
  • Teams had to acquire a minimum of two free agent skilled position players to qualify for evaluation.
  • Salaries, signing bonuses and impact on the team’s salary “cap” don’t matter. Scoring bundles of points is more important to fantasy football participants.
  • Since you do earn points via your defense in fantasy football, defensive players were included in the evaluations. They were assigned a less significant weighted value than skilled position players, but they were not ignored or forgotten.
  • Offensive linemen were also included in the evaluations, since they provide the protection that enables the skilled position players to accumulate fantasy football points. Like the defensive players, a weighted value was used to measure centers, guards and offensive tackles.

Baltimore is No. 1 because they re-signed three critical players and added a highly-valued veteran wide receiver and a veteran tight end to their offense.

The crucial signing for the Ravens was getting offensive tackle Eugene Monroe to agree to a five-year deal. NFL experts had Monroe rated No. 2 at his position behind Branden Albert, who left the Kansas City Chiefs to sign with the Miami Dolphins. Baltimore had some offensive line issues last year, so they could not afford the loss of their best offensive tackle.

Re-signing linebacker Daryl Smith, who did an admirable job replacing the retired Ray Lewis in 2013, and wide receiver/return specialist Jacoby Jones reduces the chances that Baltimore’s offense will take a downturn in fantasy football productivity this fall.

The acquisition of wide receiver Steve Smith should boost the offense. It gives quarterback Joe Flacco one more reliable wide receiver with breakaway capability after a catch.

And on Thursday Baltimore added former Texan tight end Owen Daniel to their roster. In previous years, Daniel has been rated anywhere from No. 8 to No. 12 at tight end in fantasy football draft kits.

The one criticism of the Raven’s free agents signings is the average age of their additions. It is 31, which is two years older than the average age of 2014 NFL free agents.

Detroit is No.2 because they accomplished a lot with very little available cap room.

I suspect my hometown Lions fans are giving me “the look” for this selection. (You know the look that asks the question: "Do you really want to go there?”)

Seriously, one of Detroit’s biggest needs is to find a reliable (and for us, fantasy point producing) No. 2 wide receiver. Nate Burleson wasn’t the answer, so the acquisition of Golden Tate makes great sense. There are people who believe the Lions overspent in signing Tate, but remember the parameters outlined in this article say that money doesn’t matter in evaluating personnel for fantasy football purposes.

The re-signing of tight end Brandon Pettigrew was also an important move. The Lions young offensive line earned quite a bit of praise last year, but one critical aspect of the line was the blocking of Pettigrew. Undoubtedly, second-year tight end James Fauria will see a lot of action in Red Zone passing situations and Pettigrew will be the principal blocking tight end when Detroit elects to run the ball inside the 10-yard line.

Detroit is looking to get a boost from their third off-season free agent signing. Strong safety James Ihedigbo comes over from the Ravens to play alongside Glover Quin. New Lions head coach Jim Caldwell, who was Baltimore’s offensive coordinator last year, probably put a bug in general manager Martin Mayhew’s ear that adding Ihedigbo would easily offset the loss of Louis Delmas.

The New York Jets are No. 3 because they are not afraid to “make a splash” in their efforts to address their needs. (Maybe we should call them the “Dolphins of the North”? Nah.)

Splash No. 1 is signing wide receiver Eric Decker to a five-year contract. Decker is a great all-purpose player, who flourished as a reliable target for Denver quarterback Peyton Manning. His experience and ability to add yards after the catch will help whoever starts at quarterback for the Jets in 2014.

Splash No. 2 is signing quarterback Michael Vick to a one-year contract. It creates a “make or break” situation for Vick, but one benefit is Jets offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg. Mornhinweg was the Eagles offensive coordinator before joining the Jets staff in 2013 and he is well aware of Vick’s abilities on the football field.

Will Vick be the No.1 quarterback when the season starts? The former Eagle quarterback will have to show head coach Rex Ryan that he is better than last year’s starter, Geno Smith.

In the midst of all the splashing, the Jets went out and acquired personnel to protect their quarterbacks. New York added offensive tackle Breno Giacomini (formerly of Seattle) on the same day that they signed Eric Decker. A week later the Jets re-signed starting guard Willie Colon.

On April Fool’s Day, New York added wide receiver Jacoby Ford (a former Raider) and cornerback Dimitri Patterson (an ex-Dolphin) to their roster. It looks like the Jets-Jets-Jets addressed their needs.

New England is No. 4 because they are experts at identifying and re-signing players they want to keep and aggressively pursue and sign the talent they need for the upcoming football season.

In four days (3/12-3/15), the Patriots added cornerback Darrelle Reavis (formerly of Tampa Bay), cornerback Brandon Browner (an ex-Seahawk) and wide receiver Brandon LaFell (a former Panther) to their team. They also re-signed wide receiver Julian Edelman.

LaFell will be missed in Carolina and paired with Edelman should give the Patriots some much needed stability at wide receiver. Reavis’ health may be a question mark, but Browner was part of the Seattle defense that handcuffed Denver quarterback Peyton Manning in this year’s Super Bowl. New England also re-signed center Ryan Wendell to complete their free agent moves (for now).

Washington is No. 5 because they signed former Eagle wide receiver DeSean Jackson.

Without adding the talented Jackson, the Redskins would be further down in the team ratings. This move and the signing of six other players may put Washington back into the playoff hunt.

The re-signing of linebacker Brian Orakpo was extremely important. Orakpo was the highest-ranked linebacker in the free agent market. The Redskins not only made him their “franchise” player, but they got him to sign a tender agreement.

Helping Orakpo at linebacker are Perry Riley (a former Giant) and Akeem Jordan (an ex-Chief). They also solidified the defense by signing former Cowboy tackle Jason Hatcher to a four-year deal.

One of their first free agent acquisitions was wide receiver Andre Roberts (a former Cardinal) to strengthen their wide receiving position and their latest signing was former Steeler safety Ryan Clark.

So who on this top 5 teams' list will score plenty of fantasy football points in 2014?

  1. Brandon LaFell, wide receiver, New England Patriots
  2. Steve Smith, wide receiver, Baltimore Ravens
  3. Golden Tate, wide receiver, Detroit Lions
  4. Eric Decker, wide receiver, New York Jets
  5. DeSean Jackson, wide receiver, Washington Redskins

The "Sleeper" pick is quarterback Michael Vick of the New York Jets.