NFL Media and offense-only fantasy writers alike are bemoaning an uneventful start to the 2023 league year. While they await the fates of Aaron Rodgers and Lamar Jackson, fans of defense are reveling in the news of huge contracts for Pro-Bowl tackles, high-risk bets on pass-rushers, movement of blue-chip fantasy linebackers, and trades of big-name cornerbacks.
These players dominate the headlines and pose opportunities for teammates left behind. Incoming free agents can question some returning players’ roles while complementing others. IDP fantasy gamers can increase the value of their rosters by recognizing these changes and cashing out players before coverage intensifies in August. IDP gamers need not await observations of preseason games before placing bets on new situations.
This article is the second of two pieces covering returning players whose situation and opportunity will impact teammates' arrivals and departures. The first piece addressed defenders who stand to gain opportunity due to personnel changes around them. A player on the move harms each of the profiled players below.
On the Move: SAF Julian Love (Signed by the Seahawks)
Faller: SAF Jamal Adams, Seahawks
In the risers article, we highlighted Panthers’ safety, Jeremy Chinn. His team signed Vonn Bell to play alongside incumbent Xavier Woods. The pairing should free up Chinn to play primarily in the second level as a slot defender and box in big nickel and big dime personnel.
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The same argument could be made for the Seahawks. Former Giant Julian Love will play alongside incumbent free safety Quandre Diggs. Jamal Adams should play primarily in the second level. Per beat writer Greg Bell, “The plan… is for him not to be the second of two high safeties like he was in 2021, which was a complete disaster.” The Cigar Thoughts podcast host Jackson Bevins replied, “Good,” at the 58:06 mark.
The Panthers' and Seahawks' situations differ in two important ways. The Seahawks brought back Ryan Neal, their third safety last year, to be their fourth this year. The team is also investigating safeties to draft later this spring.
The team has apparently concluded that any production they get from Adams in 2023 will be a bonus. He has missed half of the Seahawks’ last 50 games, including almost all of 2022. Shoulder injuries, which often afflict linebackers, hampered him in 2020 and cost him time in 2021. Unsurprisingly, playing linebacker in sub-packages has taken a toll on the safety’s body.
Adams has neither stayed healthy nor played at an elite level since 2019 with the Jets. The team-leading 9.5 sacks he collected in 2020 barely overshadowed the coverage liability he became in the Seahawks’ defense.
While both Seattle and Carolina can be expected to play a robust number of snaps in three-safety sets, at least one safety on each team will play a part-time role. Utilizing Jamal Adams as a situational defensive weapon, rather than relying on him as a full-time safety with deep responsibilities, would maximize his utility to the Seahawks’ defense and increase the odds his health lasts the season.
Adams could lead all safeties in fantasy points per snap without playing enough snaps to be a reliable weekly option for fantasy gamers. Since he’ll blitz, Adams is a good draft target only in best-ball leagues.
On the Move: SAF Vonn Bell (Signed by the Panthers)
Faller: LB Frankie Luvu, Panthers
Safety Vonn Bell joins a starting defense that includes Jeremy Chinn, Xavier Woods, Shaq Thompson, and Frankie Luvu. As the new arrival with the big contract, Bell is most likely to play full-time in 2023. At least two of the other four won’t.
Linebacker Frankie Luvu was a rotational pass rusher for the first four years of his career, playing 1,018 snaps. He broke out for the Panthers, playing primarily off the ball for 940 snaps in 2022 alone. He collected 111 tackles (a respectable 11.7% rate) and 7.0 sacks in just 146 pass rushes. Defensive coordinator Phil Snow, who spotted this potential in Luvu, has been replaced by Ejiro Evero.
The team has made moves this month to address interior defensive line, linebacker, and safety but not edge. They dealt several picks to the Bears for the top overall choice, thus limiting their opportunities to add defensive talent via the draft.
Luvu could shift back to his original position to supplement the group consisting of Brian Burns, Yetur Gross-Matos, Marquis Haynes, and Amare Barno. Perhaps Evero will concoct a role for Luvu in which he flexes between the box and the edge. To do so would complement Chinn’s duties at STAR and moneybacker.
Evero has specified Shaq Thompson as a player he likes as a three-down linebacker. At this early date, that could prove to be hot air. Luvu is nevertheless in competition with too many mouths to feed to repeat as a top-tier fantasy linebacker.
Fitterer mentions Frankie Luvu will likely move around inside and outside at LB. They made the moves to fill in the front of the 3-4, still sorting out some of the stuff behind there.— Darin Gantt (@daringantt) March 20, 2023
On the Move: LB Kyzir White (Signed by the Cardinals)
Faller: LB/NB Isaiah Simmons, Cardinals
Like the Panthers, the Cardinals have too many mouths to feed in the middle of their defense. There aren’t 5,000 snaps to go around between their three primary linebackers and two starting safeties due to sub-packages. Isaiah Simmons is the player for whom a new coaching staff needs to find a role.
The regime that drafted Simmons eighth overall and developed him into a starbacker is gone. Former Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon will lead the Cardinals in 2023. Gannon brings his 2022 weakside linebacker Kyzir White with him.
White himself didn’t play full-time in 2022, but he and incumbent MIKE Zaven Collins will be the primary linebackers in vanilla nickel sub-packages. Philadelphia traded for nickelback Chauncey Gardner-Johnson on the cusp of the 2022 season and moved him to safety. Budda Baker and Jalen Thompson are fixtures at safety in Arizona. The Eagles’ nickelback, Avonte Maddox, is a career cornerback.
A role in Gannon’s defense that Isaiah Simmons “can really thrive in” appears unlikely to be full-time as it was in 2022 without significant changes in the role or playing time of Collins, Baker, or Thompson.
Will the Arizona Cardinals pick up the fifth-year option on Isaiah Simmons? pic.twitter.com/xuBjMQHJfp— PHNX Cardinals (@PHNX_Cardinals) March 20, 2023
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