Fantasy Players in Contract Years by Position
Once upon a time, there was a wide receiver on the Arizona Cardinals roster who wanted a new contract. Before he played for the Cardinals, he played college football at Arizona State and it was only natural he wanted Arizona dollars. However, the player didn’t have the greatest reputation and didn’t fit the description of the prototypical NFL receiver. He was all about being shown the money. His strong-willed and desperate agent, Jerry Maguire, convinced him to showcase his heart and love for the game, and in the end Rod Tidwell was rewarded with the new contract he desired.
Tidwell is a fictitious character, but there are plenty of guys just like him in the NFL. They have contracts speeding towards their expiration date, and they elevate their play and promote their passion for the game to get a lucrative new deal.
The 2010 free agent class wasn’t special, as many of the guys who would have been unrestricted free agents became restricted free agents due to the NFL’s labor situation. Many guys played hard in 2009 in the hopes that something would be worked out on the labor front, including San Diego’s Vincent Jackson, who posted career highs in receptions, receiving yards, and touchdowns. Jackson is ticked off about his current contract situation as he didn’t get a chance to test his value on the open market, but anyone who saw him play in 2009 knows he didn’t lack motivation.
We don’t know what a new labor deal will bring, but right now, it’s time to focus on players who are slated to be free agents in 2011, because many of these players can bring home the fantasy bacon. We’ve got a future free agent smorgasbord including quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends. All of the players listed at this time are regarded as unrestricted free agents following the 2010 season.
Before we get into detail about specific players, it must be said that both Peyton Manning and Tom Brady’s contracts will expire after the 2010 season. But the odds of the Colts and Patriots letting Manning and Brady move onto other cities are about as good as the odds of Baghdad, Iraq suddenly becoming a safer place to live than Bangor, Maine. Donovan McNabb’s contract is over at the end of the season as well, but the Redskins are hoping to work out a new deal with the former Philadelphia starter. And Brett Favre’s contract is up, but considering Favre doesn’t know what he wants to do this summer, it’s hard to forecast what he’s going to do next year.
Seneca Wallace, Cleveland Browns
Seneca Wallace is currently Cleveland’s backup, but considering fading Jake Delhomme is ahead of him, Wallace will probably start some games for the Browns. A good scrambler who has played well at times in the past with Seattle, Wallace will be hampered by the fact that Cleveland has a weak group of receivers, aside from possibly Mohamed Massaquoi and Ben Watson. Nevertheless, this may be the best chance for Wallace, who will turn 30 in August, to show he can be a starting quarterback in the NFL. He most likely will always be more of a short-term sparkplug, but he’ll play his guts out this year for the Browns if he gets a chance. And if Wallace emerges as the number one quarterback in Cleveland, he might have a decent game or two when the Browns are playing a team that doesn’t have much of a defense.
Matt Moore, Carolina Panthers
Matt Moore is not the second coming of Johnny Unitas. But whenever he’s been given a chance, the former Oregon State Beaver has looked like a decent quarterback. Late in the 2009 season, Moore started five games for the Panthers and won four of them. He threw three touchdowns against a Minnesota team that was fighting for home-field advantage in the playoffs. Until the NFL draft, Moore was poised to be Carolina’s quarterback of the future. But then Jimmy Clausen fell into Carolina’s lap and the Panthers also selected another quarterback in Tony Pike. Add in a potential coaching change after the 2010 season (John Fox is entering the final year of his contract) and it’s safe to say Moore’s long-term NFL future may not be in Charlotte. While Moore’s fantasy potential is limited by a run-first offense, and while he might not merit a roster spot in most fantasy leagues, expect him to play well in 2010 so that he can command a decent deal in case Carolina goes in another direction. In light of that, fantasy owners in a pinch might get some good numbers out of Moore if he’s got a favorable matchup.
Matt Hasselbeck, Seattle Seahawks
Seattle surprised a lot of people during the offseason by signing Charlie Whitehurst, who was previously the third-string quarterback for the Chargers. With Matt Hasselbeck turning 35 in September, it’s not a stretch to say this could be his last season in Seattle. Because of his age, it is unlikely Hasselbeck would command a long-term contract on the open market, but maybe there’s a team out there that could use him in a short-term push towards a title. Like Matt Moore, he’s not someone fantasy owners can rely on regularly, but he might produce well if he’s playing a weak opponent (like division rival St. Louis).
Kyle Orton, Chicago Bears
Kyle Orton is the new Steve DeBerg. For those who don’t remember DeBerg, he was a decent starting quarterback who kept getting cast aside for “the next big thing.” In San Francisco, he was dealt away so Joe Montana could take over as the starter. In Denver, he was sent packing to make room for John Elway. And in Tampa Bay, DeBerg was made to walk the plank twice as the Buccaneers replaced him with Steve Young and Vinny Testaverde. Orton was dealt to Denver last year in the Jay Cutler trade as Chicago felt Cutler was a franchise quarterback and Orton wasn’t. Now the Broncos have selected Tim Tebow, also known as “The Greatest American Hero” and it’s only a matter of time before Orton is looking for a job in another city. DeBerg finally found his own team to run in 1990 with Kansas City, and led the Chiefs to the playoffs. Maybe Orton will have the same fortune someday. For now, he’s not going to be much of a fantasy quarterback, but like Seneca Wallace, Matt Hasselbeck, and Matt Moore, owners might be able to mine some points out of him if they use him at the right time.
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DeAngelo Williams, Carolina Panthers
As mentioned earlier in the capsule on Matt Moore, Carolina might have a new head coach in 2011. John Fox has been a staunch proponent of the ground game, and the duo of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart has been lethal. But if Fox goes and the Panthers hire someone who wants to spice up Carolina’s offense with a heavier emphasis on the passing game, Williams might be deemed expendable. Williams isn’t a selfish player. He’s been willing share the load with Stewart, but you can imagine he’s really motivated to put his best foot forward with potential chaos that could take place in Charlotte. While Williams is a good fantasy back under most circumstances, you might see a little more spark out of him this season, and he’ll give your team plenty of positive vibes.