Michael Vick signs with Eagles, playing tight end?

When you think about it, an eagle is just an older, more mature cousin to the falcon. I guess once you’re a bird, you’re always a bird.

Michael Vick finally landed in Philadelphia after an offseason of speculation. The most recent rumors had him signing with the Patriots or Bills, but the Eagles jumped to work out a deal this week after current backup quarterback Kevin Kolb went down with a knee injury.

The Eagles expect Kolb to return “in about a week,” but his injury along with all the other freak injuries the Eagles have had in camp may have urged them to err on the side of caution and add more depth with Vick. Current statements from McNabb and Andy Reid suggest there is no threat to McNabb’s starting job or Kolb’s backup role, but if that is the case, how will Vick be involved in this offense?

One theory out there has him slotted as a tight end, but can you really believe what you hear on TMZ? It’s an interesting proposal, nonetheless, since playing Vick at tight end would keep him on the roster each week without unseating Kolb or McNabb and allow for some creative playcalling with Vick, McNabb and Brian Westbrook on the field at the same time.

From a fantasy perspective, getting him on the field more can only serve to increase his value. If put on a shelf as a backup quarterback or used only in a Wildcat role, Vick’s fantasy stock would be nothing more than as a late flier in your drafts this season. As a tight end, he might really be worth something.

We know that the Eagles are in “win now” mode this year. McNabb isn’t getting any younger and Philly fans have tasted blood too often not to have made it to a Super Bowl in recent years. Three weapons in the backfield may be the surest way to guarantee they make it as far as possible this season even if their defense comes up shorter than expected without their starting middle linebacker Stewart Bradley or Brian Dawkins’ leadership.

On less of a fantasy note, the reactions to the Vick signing have been mixed. The NFL’s tweeting players seem excited, but some NFL fans are having a hard time accepting the news. When it comes to Philly fans, every single one of them that types in all caps seems to like this decision.

Maybe that’s why Brandon Marshall wanted out of Denver

According to a recent AP report, the Denver Broncos are priming Eddie Royal to be one of the featured weapons of their offense this season. Josh McDaniels even hopes that Royal might one day be mentioned in the “same breath” as Wes Welker.

With so much praise for his receiver counterpart, could hints of this feeling be the reason Brandon Marshall wanted out of Denver this offseason?

As I imagine it, McDaniels must have whispered that part about the “breath” while looking skyward — and towards New England — and holding a small portrait of the famed Welker in one hand. If you’re Marshall, “former” star wide receiver of the Denver Broncos under Mike Shanahan and current team malcontent, you don’t enjoy hearing these kind words about the second-year player on the other side of the field without some mention of your impact.

Perhaps the blow might have been lessened if McDaniels had compared Marshall to Randy Moss? But they must have stopped quoting McDaniels before he went that far.

Regardless, Marshall can’t be too pleased with this latest focus, and he likely caught wind of McDaniels Royal fetish earlier in the offseason workouts as he recovered from surgery and whatever television punching he did upon hearing that Jay Cutler had been traded.

Marshall is still keeping to the sidelines after little to no offers came the Broncos’ way for him during his trade demands, and it may be getting even worse for him in Bronco land. Royal launched himself onto the fantasy pedestal last season with a huge first week while Marshall was suspended, and Marshall’s already looking like a no-go for the preseason.

It is becoming increasingly unlikely that wide receiver Brandon Marshall will play in the Broncos’ preseason opener Aug. 14 in San Francisco. He has missed the past six training camp workouts with a leg injury that may have been related to his offseason hip surgery.

Marshall may find that it’s not his leg injury preventing him from making an impact on the field if he sits out much longer.

His injury and this news about Royal in the passing game have forced me to drop Brandon Marshall a few notches in my rankings. While he’s still one of the elite, I would suggest passing on him as an early wide receiver choice and drafting Eddie Royal as a value pick. If Marshall ends up getting suspended again or falling out of favor in Denver — more than he already has — he won’t be the same player he was last season with Cutler.

We all know receivers are a little … self-confident, and surely, this kind of talk from the head coach doesn’t reassure a troubled receiver approaching the end of his contract. Marshall may have been gunning to get out of Denver as soon as he heard that Jay Cutler was out. After all, Kyle Orton isn’t going to get him the ball as much as old Cutty did to make him look spectacular, but McDaniels may also be rubbing the Broncos players the wrong way once again.

Perhaps he just needs to give Marshall the Royal treatment.

Brett Favre stays retired: What Good are Favre-less Vikings

Brett Favre isn’t going to save the Purple People Eaters and their Purple Jesus. So what? Favre wasn’t going to have a large fantasy impact on the team this season anyway. To prove my point, let’s take a look at all the purple players affected in this one.

Adrian Peterson, RB
Well, it would have been nice for Brett Favre to come in and scare defenses away from stacking the box against ol’ “All Day,” but the scare would have come at a price. Favre would have turned the Vikings into more of a passing team — taking away a few of Peterson’s opportunities. In the past, A.P.’s proven to be one of the running backs in the NFL that needs a fair amount of carries to get going each game at his full potential, and any reduction in carries might have been detrimental to his production over the course of the season.

Inevitably, Favre would have turned the ball over more as well, which would take away some of the drives Peterson might have scored on with a more conservative quarterback — read: not a gunslinger — calling the shots. Peterson fumbled enough last season on his own. He doesn’t need another player on the team to kill more drives.

It’s hard to determine how much of a trade off Favre’s presence would have been for Peterson’s fantasy point total, but I believe A.P. comes out better with Sage Rosenfels scaring defenses but still giving A.P. plenty of chances to run.

Bernard Berrian, WR
Sure, it would have been nice for Berrian to finally have one of those big arms to throw him the ball. Berrian is a speedster who has never really had a quarterback that could hit him consistently. But Favre isn’t the only guy who can throw it. Sage Rosenfels was the new guy in town before the Favre saga began anew.

As long as Sage beats out Tarvaris Jackson for the starting job, which is likely, he’s shown the ability to lead long scoring drives in Houston and hit his wideouts deep consistently. The only danger is that Rosenfels can suffer from the same “Captain Turnover” mentality that could sometimes get the best of Favre, but, at this point in their careers, I’d rely more on Sage’s accuracy than Favre’s. Sage will only get the starting call if he proves he can take care of the football for Minnesota.

Percy Harvin, WR/RB
Favre’s absence doesn’t change the fact that the Vikings have one of the more versatile players in the game at their disposal. Much like Berrian, Favre might have advertised more readily that the Vikings could hit Harvin deep, but I think Rosenfels will have just as much success if he takes the reigns in Minnesota.

Harvin is unaffected — Favre or no Favre — and Harvin’s presence on the field could open things up for Adrian Peterson more than Favre’s arm could.

Sidney Rice, WR
A sleeper wide receiver for the past two seasons, Rice is still developing into what he could become in the NFL. As a big-target wide receiver, Rice could have benefited from Favre’s knack for throwing the ball in the red zone rather than just handing it off to Adrian Peterson, but there’s nothing stopping Rosenfels or Tarvaris Jackson from taking advantage of Sidney Rice’s ability just the same.

Rice is probably the only player who looks less promising without Favre in-house, but that’s mostly because many are still waiting to see what he is capable of in this Vikings offense. Any of several factors could lead to him stepping up in the passing game or disappearing for a few more years.

Visanthe Shiancoe, TE
Brett Favre’s country charm might have convinced Shiancoe to keep more clothes on when the news cameras are around, but otherwise, Shiancoe’s not any better with Favre around. Tarvaris Jackson, surprisingly enough, made him into a legit star last season, but Rosenfels is capable of doing just that or more.

In fact, Shiancoe actually might have been more limited if Favre was starting for the Vikings because he might have been tasked with staying in and blocking more frequently for the less mobile veteran.

Sage Rosenfels and Tarvaris Jackson, QBs
Obviously, these two guys benefit because they actually get a chance to play. Let’s hope that all the Favre talk inspired them to work harder rather than deflating their confidence as they entered training camp.

Minnesota Vikings D/ST
No doubt, the Favre deal failure helps the Vikings defense and special teams because they are less likely to encounter sticky situations if the Vikings stay with their conservative, run-based offense and don’t get too crazy with Rosenfels or Jackson passing the ball.

Favre might have forced the ball into a gap from time to time that just didn’t exist, and that would have required the Vikings defense, as good as it is, to bail him out of a jam. No Favre-jams this season, Vikings fans.

Looking ahead at a Favre-less 2009

So all in all, I’d say it’s a pretty good deal that Brett Favre decided to stay retired for the Vikings’ fantasy football values. While his own stock would have been on the rise and Berrian and Sidney Rice might have perked up a bit at the sound of his Wrangler jeans, the rest of the Vikings couldn’t have expected much of a drastic shift from having Sage Rosenfels or Tarvaris Jackson leading the team.

For the sake of the passing game, let’s hope that Sage secures the job now that Favre is out of the picture.

Without T.O., is Romo still an elite fantasy quarterback?

It’s the debate that began as soon as the Cowboys released Terrell Owens: Where does Tony Romo rank without his prized target in the passing game? I’ve exchanged emails with fellow Fools writer Chadam and several other fantasy football compatriots since my post on the release of the infamous No. 81, but I’ve been reluctant to pass judgment…until now.

T.O. was the big target, drawing the most balls from Romo, even when he couldn’t catch them all, and striking the most fear in opposing defenses. Sure, the Cowboys still have tight end Jason Witten, who is likely to be the leading receiver again anyway, but will he be open across the middle without a legitimate playmaker demanding coverage on the outside? Hard to say.

The Hole T.O. Leaves Behind
Romo’s hopes for fantasy glory this season rest in newly-promoted No. 1 receiver Roy Williams, a playmaker during his days at Texas who has had just one dominant season in the NFL. Williams spent most of his time in Detroit putting up mediocre numbers and suffering from injuries before falling into the shadow of Calvin Johnson.

After being traded to Dallas, Williams never seemed to get on track, either due to unknown injuries or an inability to get in sync with Romo. While the talent may be there for him to be a true No. 1 in the Cowboys’ offense, Williams will have to duplicate or exceed his best season in the NFL to make it happen.

Finding Stability at the No. 2 Position
As if it wasn’t enough to have a questionable No. 1, the Cowboys also have a hole on the other side of the ball. While he currently ranks No. 2 on the depth chart, Patrick Crayton has been inconsistent and untrustworthy as a No. 2 wide receiver for the Cowboys. Without T.O. drawing coverage, his No. 3-ish talents just won’t cut it. The promising but oft-injured Miles Austin has a chance to snag this spot in 2009, but, once again, we’re looking for a player to have a breakout year, better than any of his previous seasons. Crayton, if he keeps his starting spot, can do little to help Romo remain at the top of the fantasy charts.

More Running, More Problems
Romo’s chances to put up those fantasy points may also be limited this season by adjustments to the offense. The emergence of Tashard Choice late last season gives the Cowboys the opportunity to put the Giants’ three-headed beast running attack into place. The New York Giants ran over almost every team in the league last season thanks to Brandon Jacobs, Derrick Ward and Ahmad Bradshaw playing Earth, Wind and Fire. Carries slotted for Marion Barber, Felix Jones and Tashard Choice will balance out the Cowboys’ attack but would also take the ball out of Romo’s hands more than in the past two seasons, which will further limit his chances for fantasy success.

Slotting Romo for 2009
In short, Romo’s got a question mark for a No. 1 receiver, a battle for the No. 2 spot and a potential shift in the offense towards the running game. He may still have his tight end in Witten, but all of these uncertainties don’t bode well for him remaining among the best of the best in fantasy.

It takes a lot for a Cowboys fan to admit that his quarterback has been taken down a notch, but all signs point to a downgrade.

Last season, the Cowboys aerial attack suffered because teams would shade towards Owens and keep him from getting open, a problem Roy Williams was brought in to combat. Without Owens, Williams will get the same treatment. Miles Austin or Sam Hurd could breakout this season and raise the talent level at the No. 2 spot, but that’s expecting a lot of players who haven’t shown they can carry a starting load just yet.

I still expect Romo to finish in the top 10 at his position, but gone, at least for this season, are the days when you could safely draft the Cowboys’ quarterback in the first round and build a team around his production. He’s a high second-tier quarterback selection at best but a solid starter, and I still have him among my top seven fantasy quarterbacks going into 2009. Depending on your location — I’m out of luck in Texas — you might just be able to talk him down enough to get him at a bargain rate this season in the fourth round of your fantasy draft or later.

If you agree to disagree, do it up in the comments. I’m certainly open to keeping this talk going. After all, Tony Romo is my quarterback — single tear.

Marion Barber Redux: Introducing Shonn Greene

He’s a power back and strong between the tackles. He’s tough to bring down, especially late in games, and his offensive line might be one of the best in football when it comes to run-blocking.

It’s not just Marion Barber III anymore. Shonn Greene could be the next Barbarian.

Drafted in the third round of the 2009 NFL Draft by the New York Jets, Greene is a big, 227-pound back built for tough running. A beast in the backfield for Iowa, he rushed for more than 100 yards in every game and 20 touchdowns last year.

Whether rookie Mark Sanchez or almost-rookie Kellen Clemens starts under center, the Jets need a strong rushing attack to support their young starter this season. The Atlanta Falcons and Baltimore Ravens enabled their rookie quarterbacks, Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco, to find success sooner than expected by giving them all the help they needed in the run game.

Luckily for the Jets, they almost had to deal with this situation last season before Brett Favre fell into their lap. As a result, they assembled one of the more dominating offensive lines in the league, a line that enabled Thomas Jones to lead the AFC with 1,312 yards and set the Jets’ single-season touchdown record with 15 scores.

Put Shonn Greene behind a line like that and the rest of the AFC will have to take notice.

Thomas Jones has reached the dreaded 30-year mark, an age where running backs typically start to break down — see Shaun Alexander. While Jones has been demanding an extension this offseason, it’s unlikely the Jets will give it to him. His backfield partner, Leon Washington, already won the hearts of the fans and the coaching staff last season with his more explosive runs and pass-catching ability. Expect Washington to play a bigger role in 2009 with some help from Shonn Greene, and perhaps, if he returns to the fold before they tire of him, whatever Thomas Jones has left in the tank.

Julius Jones and Marion Barber were a daunting duo in Dallas — yes, I came up with that myself — until Julius Jones began to lose his burst. Jones could pick up the quick yardage while Barber, especially late in the game, punished defenses and controlled the clock. Barber has always been a hard player to keep out of the end zone. I expect Greene to be the same.

It wouldn’t surprise me if Greene matches or overtakes Thomas Jones’ touchdown record for the Jets in his rookie season, especially if he gets the red zone touches over Jones. Much like Marion Barber won over hearts in fantasy footballers everywhere early in his career with his touchdown numbers, Greene could be the next touchdown champion of fantasy football.

Greene hasn’t become a household name in fantasy football just yet since being drafted on the second day kept him out of the early round festivities, but we’ll see how long that lasts.

How good will Pat White be?

Now that that the 2009 NFL Draft has come to and end and Mel Kiper Jr.’s hair has been safely removed and returned to its storage locker in Guantanamo Bay, the fantasy football world has to slot, rank and file the rookies of 2009 based on their expected fantasy impact.

But when it comes to classifying Pat White, he just doesn’t fit.

White was one of the most talented rushing quarterbacks college football has ever seen, and he holds the NCAA record for career rushing yards by a quarterback with 4,385 yards.

All eyes are on White to takeover the Ronnie Brown role in the Dolphins’ Wildcat formation. A gimmick play that turned into an offense against the New England Patriots last season, the Wildcat has its doubters heading into 2009. With an entire offseason to game against it, defenses should be able to stop most of the single-wing offenses they’ll see this year.

Would Bill Parcells, proving himself as a master of rebuilding franchises, draft Pat White as high as he did just to have White star in his Wildcat? I don’t think so. And neither do many of the draft analysts out there.

Along with his rushing records, White was also a pretty good all-around quarterback. His record as West Virginia’s starter was 34-8, the best of any WVU quarterback and more victories than all but five quarterbacks ever to play in the NCAA. He is the only quarterback to win four bowl games as a starter in Football Bowl Subdivision history, and he joins an elite club in NCAA history as one of eight athletes to rush for 200 yards and pass for 200 yards in a single game.

Determined to play at quarterback at the pro level, White almost refused to run any sort of wide receiver drills before the draft. He caved only once and then never did it again. Apparently, teams didn’t need to be convinced since many still had him ranked highly on their draft boards.

While Pat White may be listed on the roster as a wide receiver in his first season and see some time in the slot, he might just have a shot at the starting gig in Miami. He was the MVP of the 2009 Senior Bowl at that position after all. Chad Henne, be warned.

For dynasty and keeper leagues, ranking Pat White is a real problem. Is he a gimmick player like Devin Hester before Hester became a starting receiver, a player who never lives up to his role as a full-time fantasy starter? Or is he the quarterback of the future in Miami and someone who can generate points immediately as a slot receiver?

At this point, we don’t even know what position he’ll play, but his role should become clear after his rookie workouts this weekend, closed to the public. It’s turning into a big story and intel should be plentiful out of Miami.

Where do we rank Pat White? How big will he be in 2009 and beyond? Let the debate begin. Drop your take in the discussion thread below.

How about that Rundown: Things you should have known before the 2009 NFL Draft

Unlike me, you may not have been following all the NFL news since the offseason began. Sometimes people have lives. That’s okay — so I am told. In order for you to keep your edge and get in the right state of mind now that football is only a few months away, you just might need a “rundown” of the news you may have missed or overlooked during your hiatus from the land of football.

The thing about Marshawn Lynch is…
Lynch received a suspension for three games due to his increasing talent of finding himself in bad situations at bad times (and somehow also avoiding any major legal consequences). The Bills will be without his services to start the season, but they have also acquired Dominic Rhodes to help them out while their workhorse running back pays his debt to society the NFL. Fred Jackson is still said to be the starter in Lynch’s absence, but Rhodes may win the hearts of the coaching staff before the end of camp. He’s got a pretty good talent for that.

The Jenny Craig Effect
Both Daunte Culpepper and David Garrard returned to their teams from the offseason a little lighter and a little more in shape. For Culpepper, claiming he was in the best shape of his life since he was a good quarterback might have led Detroit to believe they were safe with him under center in 2009. (Unfortunately for him, no such luck.) For Garrard, his lightened load could mean his ability to get out of the pocket and run is on the rise. If you remember his run in the playoffs against the Steelers, he can get up and going pretty quickly for a big guy, but with a little less weight, he might do it more often in 2009.

And then there’s the fat one…
On the other end of the weight shift, Adrian Peterson claims he wants to beef it up for 2009. Unfortunately for Peterson, that weight can’t all be added around his knees, which are almost ready for their next breakdown after he made it through 2009 mostly unscathed. The wrath cometh, no matter much bacon you pack on those bones, A.P.

Coles becomes a Bengal (pending felony conviction)
Yes, I know that most of the Bengals are trying to get the team’s reputation under control, but then they go out and sign Tank Johnson, and yeah, that’s not working so well. Laveranues Coles obviously didn’t want to wait around and see what one-armed batting practice machine became the man for the Jets in 2009, so he took a deal with the Bengals as somewhat of a replacement to T.J. Houshmandzadeh. I wouldn’t exactly call him the perfect complement to Chad Johnson, but he’s got a pulse and no parole, unlike Chris Henry.

Matt Hasselbeck has a back again
Hasselbeck told us all he was healthy before the draft — mostly because he wanted to make sure he didn’t get a little punk like Mark Sanchez or Matthew Stafford drafted onto the Seahawks’ bench and waiting for him to injure his back again. It remains to be seen how much Hasselbeck will be able to do when the season starts after his injury-plagued 2008 season.

Well, I guess if Jay’s gone…
Tony Scheffler, the tight end companion of choice of Jay Cutler, may no longer have a home in Denver now that Josh McDaniels has arrived to kick everyone out of the party and start a math club that worships Belichick.

But was he the Right-wich?
The Bucs signed Byron Leftwich to be their quarterbacks of the now — or was it all just a clever smokescreen for their Josh Freeman pick? Leftwich is an upgrade over the quarterbacks currently developed in the Bucs’ stable, but they may still be overlooking what they have in Josh Johnson.

Sweed takes three
With the departure of Nate Washington to the Titans, Longhorn standout Limas Sweed moves up to the third wide receiver spot, and he might just have his head in the game this year. That’s a good sign for dynasty owners and Big Ben Roethlisberger.

Young no more in 2010?
Speaking of Longhorns, Vince Young may be on his way out of Tennessee in another season if he doesn’t find his game again. His contract isn’t going to make him any friends in 2010. If he’s going to prove he’s the quarterback of the future for the Titans, he better get back into that “hoopla” soon.

Laurent Robinson is a Ram
He was all the rage each preseason that the Falcons had him, and now, he’s one of a few receivers with a name we know and somewhat trust on the Rams roster. Don’t forget about Robinson when it comes time to make those last round selections in your fantasy draft. He might be all they got.

And Detroit quarterbacks will throw to Megatron AND…
Former Cardinal and former 49er Bryant Johnson signed a contract with the Lions this offseason. Assuming he hopes to find himself opposite Calvin Johnson on Sundays — and thereby form the unstoppable Johnson & Johnson duo — he should probably stop dislocating his fingers in practice. Johnson is one of those players who always looks like he improved his situation, i.e. moving to San Francisco last season, just before he disappears off the map. His main competition at receiver is former Raider Ronald Curry, who is expected to be the slot guy in Detroit.

Torry Holt makes final growl with the Jags
It’s no secret that Holt is old. He’s got the freaky fingers to prove he’s a veteran in this league, and he’s crafty. The Rams gave up on him in favor of getting younger, but the Jaguars will be giving him another chance. What could go wrong? Taking the old guy worked so well with Jerry Porter last season, didn’t it? Holt is the likely No. 1 in Jacksonville, but he might not hold that position all season if his skills and health fade.

Jeff Garcia on the Al Davis payroll
Garcia joined the Raiders before the draft to back up and help develop JaMarcus Russell. But how can someone so large learn anything from a man as tiny as Garcia? Time will tell whether the leadership and veteran instincts rub off on Russell, who has been looking very raw since taking the reins in Oakland.

Jake Delhomme fully extended
What’s the first thing you should do when your franchise quarterback throws more passes to the opposing team than his own to end your season? That’s right, contract extension — and a massive one at that. Carolina signed Delhomme to a 5-year deal that he will probably never see the end of as the starting quarterback. I am sure there is logic to it in saving the team a little money now, but Jake isn’t getting any younger. Maybe they’re resting their future on current backup Matt Moore’s Romo-like potential.

Matt Ryan gets his tight end
In a move that might have more impact than anything that happened in the draft, Kansas City traded veteran tight end Tony Gonzalez to Atlanta. Rather than spend a pick on Brandon Pettigrew, the Falcons got Gonzalez at a good price, and they’ll have one of the more weapon-laden offenses in football next season with Michael Turner, Matt Ryan, Gonzalez and Roddy White all threatening opposing defenses. The Gonzalez trade may prove to be exactly what Ryan needed to progress next season into a more fantasy-worthy quarterback.

Now, I think we’ve covered just about everything to get you back into sync with all the latest NFL news before the NFL draft. Drop your questions, discussion items and comments in our brand new commenting system down below and let the predictions for next season begin. I have just one question to start: What exactly is a “rundown” anyway?

NFL Draft 2009: The live blog has landed

Welcome to the NFL Draft 2009 live blog. Snag a spot on the couch and crack open a cold beverage of your choice. There’s going to be plenty of time to build a comfy groove on the couch today. Oh, and my excitement quivers are still going strong. How about you?

How to play: The window below is the live blog. You can sit back and watch it as we go, or if you want to be more involved — and we know you do — enter a name in the live blog window and send us a comment, question or justified outrage. All the comments go into a queue that we’ll approve as we go, so don’t freak out if your comment hasn’t appeared in the stream yet.

Pick out your Mel Kiper Jr. fro. We’re drafting! Look, Mom, no hands!

Jay Cutler traded to Chicago Bears for Neckbeard. Set your Broncos free.

Jay Cutler is now on his way to The Windy City. For first-round picks in both 2009 and 2010, a third-round pick in 2009 and Kyle Orton — founder and president of the Neckbeard for Men Club, which just so happens to be moving its headquarters to Denver this summer — the Chicago Bears have acquired a Pro Bowl quarterback and an additional fifth-round pick in 2009.

Da Bears

While it’s certainly better than Detroit might have been for the promising young quarterback, this trade leaves Cutler’s status a little iffy. Other than Greg Olsen and the project that is Devin Hester, the Bears don’t offer a lot of talented receivers up as targets. Without Marty Booker, it’s hard to even rely on guys like Rashied Davis for a good circus catch.

Luckily, Jay Cutler’s arm happens to be bionic and stronger than three of John Elway’s arms acting in sync. It’s hard to doubt that he can make something out of the Bears with his arm and his legs, and he’s sure to bring the passing game up a notch across the board — lucky you, Hester and Olsen owners.

Matt Forte could certainly use a boost in the passing game to take the pressure off of him out of the box, but he could fade a bit in his production now that the Bears aren’t constantly feeding him the ball. This new offense is one you’ll want to watch come preseason because there’s no telling what Chicago will do now that they have a quarterback — and not a Rex Grossman. I’d still like Forte as a borderline RB1/RB2, but that could change.

Busted Broncos

As I tweeted earlier — excuse me — you can mark your calendars today as the day the Broncos started a downward slide. Brandon Marshall could soon potentially face another suspension for his continued off-the-field issues; Josh McDaniels is going to try to establish a new offense while running a season of The Apprentice to decide who’s going to carry the ball between J.J. Arrington, Correll Buckhalter, Peyton Hillis, LaMont Jordan, Ryan Torain, Selvin Young and Andre Hall; but at least they have a savior in their new quarterback, Kyle Orton…

Orton is an extreme downgrade. Despite his phenom run last year — during which, he was keeping pace with Peyton Manning in the fantasy points department — he’s an inconsistent signal caller. He limits what the Broncos can do through the air and takes Brandon Marshall down a notch whenever Marshall does get a chance to return to the field.

Eddie Royal, sadly, might drop off the radar entirely unless Marshall is out for a prolonged period of time. It would seem that, at least in the short term, Josh McDaniels is content running the ball with 67 different running backs, so it’s hard to rely on him to keep the passing game up to the level it was at last season. Don’t even start looking to the tight ends. Tony Scheffler could be out of Denver sooner rather than later, and then it all goes to this very scary place where Daniel Graham might be the only one of the field.

In short, maybe it’s time you let your Broncos go. Orton’s worth a chance in 2009 just because of the talent around him — and his relative bargain value as a quarterback. Marshall can’t be passed on even with his potential problems, which could make him a value pick in 2009 anyway. But there’s no telling which running back emerges as the best option, and Eddie Royal could be decent or completely invisible in 2009.

Mark your calendars and thank Josh McDaniels. Today, the Broncos blew apart their fantasy goodness…just when I thought they had so much promise. Does anyone feel good about this new Broncos team?

Mark Schlereth, please explain how this happened.

Houshmandzadeh upgrades Seahawks, downgrades self

With the departure of Bobby Engram to free agency, Seattle was hurting for a reliable target — especially one who wasn’t also hurting like most of Seattle’s receiving corps. Playmaker Deion Branch has been too injury-prone during his time with the team, and none of the Seahawks’ young prospects showed that special spark last season when the wide receiver positions were up for grabs.

That’s probably why they dropped the big contract that T.J. Houshmandzadeh was seeking, five years for $40 million with $15 million guaranteed.

With a limited window for Matt Hasselbeck, the Seahawks need to try to make a run or two at the Super Bowl soon, and I’m sure Housh recognized the Seahawks desire and likelihood of making the postseason out of the relatively easy NFC West.

Other than two rebuilding franchises, the San Francisco 49ers and the St. Louis Rams, the Seahawks only have the Cardinals to contend with in 2009. The Cardinals, dormant for years, could suffer a setback with the loss of some free agents and the post-Super Bowl slump, which would leave the door open for Seattle.

Holes at running back aside, Housh upgrades Seattle’s ability to move the ball and score in the red zone. As the most trustworthy hands in their arsenal, he’s likely to see most of the action from Hasselbeck, who jumps a couple of notches up fantasy quarterback rankings as long as he’s back in good health this preseason.

If he keeps drinking those Myoplex shakes, he’ll get there.

Hasselbeck’s been pretty low on my list, even last year, with the general evaporation of all that was good out of Seattle. Jumping up a spot or two still won’t break him into my list of reliable starters, but he could be a top backup with Housh as a target.

From Housh, I expect a little less than his usual. 2008 was an off year with Carson Palmer sidelined for the majority of the season, but his 2007 numbers — 1,143 yards and 12 touchdowns — are probably his ceiling in Seattle.

A guns-blazing Carson Palmer was putting everything in the air in 2007, but Hasselbeck will likely more limiting early in 2009. Seattle might put the ball on the ground as much as they can despite their lack of a legitimate running back. 

Housh could, however, blow us away with his scoring in the red zone. Without knowing how exactly he’ll fit in the offense for the moment, he probably hits around the third tier at wide receiver. Karabell’s got the right idea.

For now, I wouldn’t call Houshmandzadeh a safe top-10 wide receiver but rather a borderline choice. In his recent Top 200, colleague Matthew Berry placed Houshmandzadeh at No. 46 overall, good for 14th among wide receivers, and with this move he bumped him up to No. 9 among receivers. I slot Houshmandzadeh in at No. 11, behind  Larry Fitzgerald,  Andre Johnson,  Calvin Johnson,  Greg Jennings,  Reggie Wayne,  Steve Smith,  Randy Moss,  Roddy White,  Marques Colston  and  Terrell Owens.

Although I have never seen him as a worldly talent, Houshmandzadeh has outplayed Chad Johnson for several years now. His good hands and ability to run the possession routes should become a trusted asset for Hasselbeck.

Now the Seahawks just have to look to Deion Branch and Nate Burleson to provide the speed and maneuverability on the outside to keep defenses off of their new toy.