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.

The Denver Trifecta for 2008: Cutler, Marshall and Scheffler

Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall and Tony Scheffler are already back to work on getting their game together for 2008.

I am going to go on record now as saying that I liked what I saw from all three of these players this season, AND I expect even more from them in 2008…

While Jay Cutler has been touted as one of the best (at times) and one of the slowest developing, most unpredictable (at times) of the quarterback class of 2006, I think he has the arm to make it big in Denver. Fans and teammates have been putting a lot on his shoulders since he took the starting job, but he continues to develop at his own pace–as he should. Can’t we say that Eli Manning at least shows that sometimes patience in a young quarterback pays off? Regardless, I think 2008 is his year.

Cutler’s biggest days are ahead of him as his 4 TD performance against Kansas City in week 14 shows. He had 244 yards that game and not a single fumble or interception. As he continues to click with Brandon Marshall and with Tony Scheffler, the Denver passing game is going to come together in 2008. Cutler will start the season high on my cheatsheet for quarterbacks–top 15 at least as long as the offseason progresses as I see it.

Brandon Marshall had a breakout season this year. With Javon Walker injured, he made the big plays and might have completely won over Walker’s job now that Javon can’t get over losing some value with the team during his injury. Going into his third season–the money season for most fantasy receivers–his value looks to be on the upward climb. As many would agree because of the hype surrounding him, he is a top 15 receiver for 2008.

Tony Scheffler was my sleeper tight end this season. I picked him up when Greg Olsen of the Chicago Bears started to slump, and he started for me throughout my fantasy playoffs. Scheffler’s “Superman” catch, along with his 100 yards, saved my fantasy championship run in week 15 when many fantasy studs disappointed. He is a top 10 tight end going into 2008, and I can easily see him jumping higher to a top 5 if he evolves into an even stronger red zone target.

If Javon Walker gets his act together and stays in Denver, Cutler has the makings of a nice passing arsenal. Don’t forget Brandon Stokley is out there, and he helped one Peyton Manning set a record for touchdowns in a season not too long ago.

With that said, the Denver passing offense will be much improved next season. As long as their team stays healthy, I see them as a playoff contender and could see Cutler finishing as a top 10 quarterback for fantasy. Take it or leave it, but a good bet is taking any of these Denver players when you can get your hands on them in your fantasy draft in 2008.

Impact wide receivers on the move this off-season

Many a team in the NFL could use a game-changing wide receiver. Several teams are stuck with either aging veterans or a bunch of young butterfingers running routes each Sunday.

Lucky for them, numerous top receivers are up for free agency or wanting a trade this offseason, and several of them might be moving if they aren’t secured by their current teams. While these players’ value is likely to stay the same, wide receivers who jump ship impact your fantasy quarterback selection come draft time–just look at what the Patriots did in free agency this past offseason.

LEAST LIKELY TO MAKE A MOVE

  • Chad Johnson, WR Cincinnati Bengals

    Starting with the loudest and least free of the bunch, Ocho Cinco A.K.A. Chad Johnson is probably less likely to move than many of the receivers on this list. Despite his moaning and groaning, it would cost the Bengals quite a bit to get rid of him, and he will stay unless the Bengals can’t stand him anymore. If he does move, look for him to make a big impact since he will feel like the eyes are all on him wherever he may go. Johnson has expressed interest in going to Carolina to play with his former junior college teammate Steve Smith or taking the trek down to Miami.
  • Randy Moss, WR New England Patriots

    Almost every team will wish they could get their hands on Randy Moss this offseason. Unfortunately, Tom Brady confessed his undying love for Moss before the Super Bowl, and the Patriots will likely sign him for a smaller paycheck than he could fetch elsewhere so that he can continue to help Brady break records.
  • D.J. Hackett, WR Seattle Seahawks

    After his breakout 2007 season, the Seahawks are sure to bring D.J. Hackett back. Had he not suffered an ankle injury that plagued him throughout 2007, his stats would have been even better. Hackett is the deep threat that the Seahawks need to utilize now that Matt Hasselbeck is Seattle’s main offensive weapon. I don’t see him moving.

BUSTING OUT OF TOWN?

  • Bernard Berrian, WR Chicago Bears

    After a turbulent season with quarterbacks in Chicago, Bernard Berrian actually improved his breakaway stats this season despite having less touchdowns. That stat looks good for him as he enters free agency. The Oakland Raiders are very interested in him–and they should be after giving up Randy Moss just before JaMarcus Russell arrived on the scene. Unfortunately, rumors are that the Bears will at least lock him up with a franchise tag. Berrian is definitely one of the prime target receivers for this offseason.
  • Andre Davis, WR Houston Texans

    When Andre Johnson of the Texans went down, Andre Davis showed up with several big performances–3 TDs receiving and 3 TDs as a returner. The “other” Andre could very easily find himself on another team for 2008 as both a receiver and a special teams performer considering the low price tag he carries. Look for him to find an option elsewhere and maybe earn a starting job. If so, he is worth considering as a sleeper and could definitely improve some quarterback situations. Depending upon coach opinion, Davis could end up in a role almost anywhere.
  • Javon Walker, WR Denver Broncos

    After the emergence of Brandon Marshall during his injury, Javon Walker made a lot of noise that he wanted to get out of Denver. Considering his history of griping, his agent probably advised him to shut up, and now he seems to be happy again. If Shanny decides that he’s not worth the spot–and this could definitely happen–look for him to move to a team with a few old veterans and many inexperienced hands like a Miami, Oakland or Baltimore. For a cheap price, he could even go to Tennessee or could end up in Pittsburgh as a new target for Big Ben.
  • Bryant Johnson, WR Arizona Cardinals

    With Anquan Boldin out late this season, Bryant Johnson stepped up–at least a little bit. He had so-so stats but still showed he has the talent to be a decent WR3 and improve to become a starter. As part of the high-scoring Arizona offense this season, I am sure he showed someone his worth and can get re-signed for 2008 with another team looking for fresh blood. Johnson is an unrestricted free agent.

PROBABLY STAYING PUT (BUT DOES IT MATTER?)

  • Justin Gage, WR Tennessee Titans

    The Tennessee Titans didn’t have much of a passing game this season, but Justin Gage was one of two receivers at the top of it. He is in talks to renew his contract with the Titans as an unrestricted free agent, but he still could go elsewhere considering the Titans might find better options and new blood by bringing in a receiver from the draft and/or free agency.
  • Jabar Gaffney, WR New England Patriots

    The Patriots buried Jabar Gaffney until late in the season in 2007. Although at times he looked better than Donte Stallworth, he will remain a bench reserve. He will likely sign again with the Patriots to make another run at the Super Bowl even if he could fetch a higher tag elsewhere. Maybe–just maybe–he could take on a larger role in the offense in 2008 if the Patriots mix it up a little more.

For more on free agents, stay tuned to our offseason fantasy football–and only football–coverage.

Week 12 Injury Report: Give thanks for back ups

football turkey

Someone just told me that you can buy a turkey at the store these days. Who knew? I just spent the last week in a ditch waiting for a gobbler to get caught in my cage full of blown up surgical gloves–finally got one.

Bet you thought I wasn’t going to get you your fantasy update before turkey day…but you were wrong.

It seems no running back will make it to the playoffs unscathed this year. Almost every single one in the league has sat at least one game or had an injury scare. This week, you may be able to snag a back up before your league handcuffs their players, and these backups could save your season.

Give thanks if you don’t own a player on this huge list.

Vince Young, QB Tennessee Titans
Reggie Bush, RB New Orleans Saints

Don’t worry about these two top NFL draft picks. Young will play through his injury even if it still nags him, and Bush is set to play according to the latest news out of New Orleans.

Santana Moss, WR Washington Redskins
Antwaan Randle El, WR Washington Redskins

The Redskins receivers are taking a beating this year, but Moss and Randle El are reportedly still going to start this week. Moss is coming off a big game as the go to receiver, so even though the lightning rod single-game explosion of James Thrash will be missing for another six years or so week 12 the Redskins could have another hot receiving day against Tampa Bay.

Priest Holmes, RB Kansas City Chiefs
Larry Johnson, RB Kansas City Chiefs

LJ is being secretive about his injury, but it seems like he is planning on making it back in time to help you out in the playoffs. Unfortunately for the Chiefs, while he sits again this week, Priest Holmes will also be abandoning them by retiring today. Rookie Kolby Smith will be taking over for this offense and might be worth starting this week against Oakland–the most holy defensive line in the NFL lately.

Javon Walker, WR Denver Broncos

Walker might be back this week since he is practicing. I say *might* because the star WR has been out eight games now. If he is available in your league, for God’s sake man, pick him up. Walker was a beast near the end of the season last year and could return to make Jay Cutler look very good here at the end of the fantasy season.

The still hurt:

Shaun Alexander, RB Seattle Seahawks

The money man will sit again this week and let Maurice Morris make people think paying high-dollar for a RB is always a bad decision. According to Bill Parcels, the position has a four year life span and is not worth signing anyone at high expense. Maybe Alexander just has a second year’s worth of the Madden curse.

Adrian Peterson, RB Minnesota Vikings

You can pray to the purple Jesus of fantasy football, but you won’t see him back this week.

As a side note, Chester Taylor‘s lead blocker Tony Richardson sprained his MCL. Taylor might be missing Richardson’s large, comforting presence blocking Giants tacklers in front of him this week. He has not been named as out for the game this week yet, but Richardson’s status might be worth watching.

Ahman Green, RB Houston Texans

Ahman has one banged up knee that won’t go away, but the Texans want to keep him around. Surely, there are probably better backs available in most leagues, but if not, you can keep holding out for Green–pick up Ron Dayne in the meantime if no one else has him as they play the Browns this week.

Laveranues Coles, WR New York Jets

Coles will probably sit this week against the Cowboys secondary on Thanksgiving because of his sprained ankle. Coles has had a rough season but might still be worth holding onto if you don’t have a mammoth core of receivers. Justin McCareins will likely start in his place with Jerricho Cotchery moving to the number one receiver spot for Kellen Clemens big arm.

Santonio Holmes, WR Pittsburgh Steelers

Holmes is likely to miss the game this week and sit on the sidelines with Troy Palamalu–bad news for Holmes owners but good news for Miami receivers. Wait, does Miami have receivers? or an offense? Scratch that.

Nate Washington will start in Holmes place.

Patrick Crayton, WR Dallas Cowboys

Crayton didn’t want to miss out on the injury party, so he injured his ankle in practice. If he does not play on Thanksgiving, Sam Hurd will get the nod. Hurd is a fast, breaking WR like Terrell Owens, but against the Jets, expect most of the throws to go T.O. and Jason Witten‘s way. Hurd is probably not a good play this week.

Marshawn Lynch, RB Buffalo Bills

The second best rookie RB might still sit this week but wouldn’t be a very good fantasy pick this week anyway against the Jaguars. Anthony Thomas should be starting again–and probably pretty poorly this week.

Ryan Grant, RB Green Bay Packers

Grant hurt his ankle and might not recover in time to play on Thanksgiving. If you have another option, you might not play him or sit your laptop atop the turkey to update your roster before game time. The family won’t mind, just don’t block the turkey legs. Who knows which GB RB will see more time if he is out–Morency or Jackson?

Aaron Moorehead, WR Indianapolis Colts
Marvin Harrison, WR Indianapolis Colts

The Colts are dropping like flies again. Moorehead is out for the season with a back injury, so Anthony Gonzalez should return as the starter with Reggie Wayne. Harrison is still mysteriously not returning–maybe saving him for retirement playoffs?

Brandon Jacobs, RB New York Giants

Jacobs is out as the big bruiser for this week. Reuben Droughns and/or Derrick Ward will make up for his huge absence. Watch the injury reports to see if Ward will make it back in time for the game. Keep in mind that they play the Vikings run defense this week.

Donovan McNabb, QB Philadelphia Eagles

McNabb is banged up this week, but he is not a good play against the Patriots anyway. A.J. Feeley would probably fill in if every other team in your league has a bench full of QBs.

Lesson of the week: make sure you back up your studs.