The NFL is now a 24/7 league and this offseason was no different. Contract signings and potential holdouts still loom on the horizon with some fantasy studs. However, some players remain unsigned, giving current players greater value. Although it's only May we’re just a few weeks from when the media begins heating up with football talk heading into training camps.
Ray Rice wants Adrian Peterson or Chris Johnson type of money and it does not appear as if the team is willing to give him that much. Peterson is guaranteed $36 million and CJ2K is guaranteed $30 million with a $20 million signing bonus. Texans’ Arian Foster is guaranteed $20.7 million with a $12.5 million signing bonus. LeSean McCoy’s deal has $20.765 million guaranteed with an $8.5 million signing bonus. Rice has three productive seasons and is in line with Foster and McCoy more than CJ2K or Peterson, and many believe the Titans overpaid CJ2K. If Rice does hold out, then Bernard Pierce becomes the backup to target with Anthony Allen warranting a late-round flier pick.
I don’t believe Bears RB Matt Forté is an elite back but I do believe he has earned pay better than most backs in the league. It's not his fault Mike Martz's offense fit his skills and he exploited the situation by posting great numbers. The team signed Michael Bush, reducing Forté’s fantasy value and giving the Bears leverage in contract negotiations. If Forté plays for the $7.742 million franchise tender it could be his ticket out of Chicago and to a big contract similar to what the Titans gave CJ2K. Whether he holds out, no one knows but his value drops if he doesn’t get into camp on time. He will be in a more conventional offense and a decrease in pass receptions is likely. Plus, with Bush on board Forté is no longer a first-round fantasy pick. I still like Forté in PPR formats but without the ability to be the goal-line back in nonPPR formats he might be overvalued in 2012.
Trouble in paradise?
Jaguars RB Maurice Jones-Drew is not happy with his contract but the truth is he has nothing to complain about. The five-year, $30.95 million contract he signed in 2009 gave him $17.5 million guaranteed, including a $9 million signing bonus. At age 27, he’s still young enough but has six years of wear and tear and is still under contract through 2013, earning $9.4 million over the next two years. There have been no discussions with the team and MJD did not attend the voluntary OTAs but the real stand-off will come when camp begins. Considering he's in a small market and is already being paid well, MJD may not get the fan support he will need to win this battle if he were to hold out.
Featured-back role in Green Bay?
The Packers have not brought back Ryan Grant and Alex Green (ACL) is still recovering from his ACL tear. That leaves Brandon Saine as the team's only legitimate backup at the RB position. FB John Kuhn is not RB material but Saine is known as a better pass receiver than runner. Right now, starter James Starks' value is high but I expect Green Bay to bring in a veteran for quality insurance. No one doubts Starks' talent, but his ability to stay healthy is what's in doubt. Starks is a low-end No. 2 fantasy back if he does not share the load in 2012.
Chiefs RBs Jamaal Charles and Peyton Hillis reportedly will play a similar role to the one that Charles and Thomas Jones did the past couple seasons. However, Charles is only about 80 percent ready, according to kcchiefs.com, and Hillis is on a one-year contract and we know players playing for a contract tend to play much harder. With Charles not quite 100 percent, Hillis could make a big impact early on. Both players have value but I prefer the healthier of the two and would recommend letting someone else take Charles and taking Hillis as a value pick. Both players are dual-threat backs and despite sharing time this is a good fit that should keep both backs healthy and productive all season long.
Training-camp battle in name only
Technically speaking, LeGarrette Blount and rookie Doug Martin will compete for the Buccaneers' starting job. However, by all accounts, Martin should easily win the battle. Blount, who says he has lost 5-10 pounds, is the definite handcuff to Martin. I’m not disparaging Martin at all but he has yet to play an NFL down, so don’t overvalue him on draft day.
Eagles head coach Andy Reid said he overplayed LeSean McCoy in 2011 after McCoy saw 342 utilizations — an average of 22.8 utilizations in 15 games. Reid says he will look for ways to limit McCoy this season to keep him fresh, but the Eagles do not have a proven back behind him, with youngsters Dion Lewis, Bryce Brown and Chris Polk the candidates to back up McCoy. McCoy goes into the 2012 season as one of the top fantasy players to have. He’s a clear-cut, elite No. 1 back.
I love 49ers RB Frank Gore and any player that can overcome injury or misfortune. However, Gore is in denial when he said that there was no physical reason why the Niners decreased his workload. It was obvious his nagging injuries down the stretch and the wear and tear of a physical season caught up to him. With Kendall Hunter, Brandon Jacobs and rookie LaMichael James on board in a loaded backfield, Gore’s featured-back status will take a hit as the team limits his touches to keep him fresh.
Bills RB Fred Jackson signed a two-year extension, which only includes a $3 million signing bonus as guaranteed money. It's less than he deserves but at 31 years old and entering his sixth season he may have believed it was best to get what he could now for financial security. The contract, in combination with his previous one gives him $10.8 million over the next three years with $2.3 million in incentives. That won’t change the fact that he will share time with C.J. Spiller in 2012. However, Jackson should be the primary back and is worthy of an early midround pick.
The ‘B’ team
- Joseph Addai was signed by the Patriots but is not guaranteed a roster spot and after two subpar, injury-prone seasons no one knows how much he has left in the tank. Addai warrants a late-round flier pick as he’s a great fit in this offense.
- Colts RB Delone Carter had offseason thumb surgery and has yet to practice but should be ready by camp. As the top backup to Donald Brown, Carter is a late-round flier pick who fits the ground-and-pound style that head coach Chuck Pagano wants to implement.
- Chargers FB Le'Ron McClain will see offensive touches and could be a quality short-yardage, goal-line back. Preseason will dictate his value but he’s another potential late-round flier.
- Jets RB Joe McKnight has gained 15 pounds and struggled with fitness this offseason, attributing the weight gain from eating a lot of food at McDonald's. At least he was honest about it. He's competing for No. 2 status behind Shonn Greene and is a late-round flier right now.
- Dolphins RB Steve Slaton has no fantasy value right now but head coach Joe Philbin views him as a good fit in the team's West Coast offense. If the Dolphins suffer injuries at the position, Slaton will gain immediate fantasy value.
- Adrian Peterson
- Jamaal Charles
- Peyton Hillis