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.

Week 17 Wire: Find players that still care this week

If you are playing a week 17 championship, my condolences. You really should try to get that changed for next year–and I do mean really.

Week 17 is unpredictable because you don’t know who will start let alone who will show up to play well. Lucky for you, plenty of injuries this week will give you players to vulture off the waiver wire.

Najeh Davenport, RB PIT
Najeh will fill in for an injured Willie Parker. If he plays like he did this week in Parker’s absence, he just might be the hottest pick up for week 17. The Stealers play Baltimore, but the Ravens have nothing left to play for this season. Keep in mind that the Steelers could rest him for their playoff run since they clinched their spot this week.

Musa Smith. RB BAL
If he takes on the full load in Willis McGahee’s absence, he could be a somewhat decent fantasy start. Against he Steelers, I wouldn’t expect much, but the Steelers have already clinched their spot in the playoffs. They might not care about giving Musa or whoever fills the McGahee void a few yards.

Laurent Robinson, WR ATL
Laurent was a preseason standout for Atlanta in a season that was never looking good. This week, he had a breakout performance with over 100 yards and a TD against Arizona with Chris Redman at the helm. He is trying to impress–and succeeding. I had him on my sleeper list to the begin the season–yeah, I’m that good. If you are hurting at receiver, he could put up another standout performance against a Seattle team resting it’s starters.

Ahmad Bradshaw, RB NYG
If you didn’t notice him breaking for an 88-yard TD run late in the Buffalo game this week, you should have. Bradshaw will do some great things for the Giants with his speed in the playoffs and could be decent for week 17. Look for him to get some more touches than usual next week against the Patriots. My guess is that the Pats will put a hurting on the Giants to clinch their undefeated season, and the Giants will rest most of their starters for the playoffs–including Jacobs since he is ailing again. Bradshaw could have a decent number of yards but probably won’t have another one of those breakout runs. A short yardage TD might be all to hope for in this one.

Luke McCown, QB TB
Tampa Bay sat their starters early this week, so McCown is sure to see a lot of playing time next week against Carolina. He might be your QB of choice if you were starting Jeff Garcia or someone likely to sit out this last week.

Seneca Wallace, QB SEA
Like McCown, he may see some playing time with Seattle are locked into the playoffs.

If you are looking for subs for your usual starters, try to find players that have something to play for this week. Avoid starters from any of the already clinched teams that look to sit. You might even try to find some young talent that will see more playing time with their starters resting. Follow the reports through the week and see which coaches are looking to play safe and sit their best guys.