More Players & Issues to Get on the Radar for 2013
The FootballDiehards hit the SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio airwaves Saturday night (5 Jan.) to preview the Sunday Wildcard Playoff games with beat reporters for all four teams involved. Co-host Mike Dempsey and I took the opportunity to look ahead to 2013 and ask some fantasy-relevant questions about each team going forward.
Joe Flacco Contract Status
Clearly, Flacco's efforts in Sunday's win over the Colts will work in his favor as he hit 12 of 23 attempts for 282 yards with two touchdowns (and 125.6 passer rating). So does his entire body of work as a pro.
Remember: We're talking about a guy who opened 2012 with more regular-season wins (44) than any other QB in his first four seasons in the NFL and added another 10 wins to that total during the regular season. He is also the first QB to lead his team to the playoffs in each of his first five seasons. He has won six playoff games and played in two AFC championship games with a chance to advance there again this year.
So even though Baltimore's post-season success (or lack thereof) this month will be a negotiating point, Flacco's overall track record will be too. I'll also suggest his willingness to position himself among the league's elite QBs hints at the desire to be paid as such.
For those who missed it, Flacco told a local radio station last April that he believes he's the "best" quarterback in the NFL. "I assume everybody thinks they're a top-five quarterback," Flacco said when asked where he thinks he ranks among NFL quarterbacks. "I mean, I think I'm the best. I don't think I'm top five, I think I'm the best. I don't think I'd be very successful at my job if I didn't feel that way. I mean, c'mon? That's not really too tough of a question."
Especially when you're angling for a high-end contract.
According to Wilson, previous negotiations ended with the Ravens pulling $90 million off the table after Flacco and his agent, Joe Linta, questioned the structure of the deal.
Wilson believes Flacco will get a similar offer the next time the sides sit down, perhaps with some tweaks to address his previous problems with how the offer was set up. But Wilson stressed his belief the team isn't ready to make Flacco a $100 million offer.
And if the two sides can't reach a deal before the start of free agency, Wilson fully expects the Ravens to use the franchise tag on Flacco, just like they did with Ray Rice a year ago, in order to buy the time necessary to reach an agreement both sides can live with.
While that approach cost Flacco and his teammates some valuable off-season workout time together, the end result seems to be a foregone conclusion: Joe Flacco will remain Baltimore's starting quarterback. And he'll be paid very well to do so.
Colts backfield, RBBC?
In indy, one of the main issues concerning fantasy owners in 2013 will be the makeup of the Colts' backfield. I asked Terre Haute Star Tribune beat writer Tom James for his expectations. Specifically, I wondered if Vick Ballard hadn't earned the right to handle a true featured role going forward based on his solid work down the stretch.
A fifth-round draft choice, Ballard was eased into the mix over the season's first four games. But injuries presented opportunities and Ballard quickly proved himself an every-down back. He clearly proved to be the best package of runner, receiver and pass protector on the Colts roster and his workload reflected that as the season wore on.
Turns out, James believes much will depend on Bruce Arians' future with the club. This after the then-interim head coach and offensive coordinator told reporters last month that Ballard reminds him of Edgerrin James.
“He’s powerful. He’s a poor man’s Edge. He’s bowlegged like Edge and he’s about the same size, and tough to bring down,” Arians said. “He’s quick, he’s elusive, doesn’t have the great, great speed, but he can make the first guy miss and he’s going to make a lot of yards because he makes people miss. He’s got a great future.”
But it's likely dependent to at least some degree on Arians remaining with the Colts.
If the coordinator remains, Ballard might better carry over the momentum he generated over the last month with both Delone Carter (out with an ankle injury) and Donald Brown (who finished the season on injured reserve due to an injured ankle) watching from the sidelines.
Regardless of the coordinator, however, James suggests the best-case scenario calls for Ballard being the chairman of a three-man committee with Brown and Carter getting their chances to chisel into Ballard's workload. That's not necessarily the best-case scenario for fantasy owners, but I have a little more faith in Ballard than James. Or at least less faith in Brown, who has missed multiple games in three of his four seasons in Indy.
Matt Flynn on the move again?
In Seattle, Dan Pompei, in a column published by the National Football Post yesterday morning (6 Jan.), suggested that quarterback Matt Flynn could be on the move for the second time in as many seasons, this time via the trade market.
Pompei went on to explain that with Russell Wilson having established himself as the clear No. 1 in Seattle, the Seahawks likely will listen to offers. And in a league where there simply aren't enough starting-caliber QBs to go around (ask the Arizona Cardinals if you don't want to take my word for it), there will be offers.
So it's worth noting that when Liz Mathews, Seahawks reporter for 710 ESPN Radio, joined us and we asked how Flynn has handled Wilson's rise, the answer was "nobody really knows."
Mathews explained that reporters haven't gotten to know him. Flynn doesn't get many chances to talk in front of the microphone and he rarely talks to reporters either on or off the record. The obvious assumption would be he's not especially pleased to have chosen Seattle over Miami last offseason.
Of course, If Pompei is right, Flynn could get another chance to reboot his career. As I mentioned above, Arizona is in desperate need of a QB. But they aren't alone. The Bills have hinted at the possibility of moving on from Ryan Fitzpatrick (although they seem more likely to do so through the draft than others). But don't discount possible interest in Oakland or perhaps even in Jacksonville or from the New York Jets.
And how about the Kansas City Chiefs, who will switch to a West Coast offense with Andy Reid at the helm and who have a distinct lack of talent at the position?
Bottom line: Flynn's next landing spot will certainly offer him a better opportunity to win the starting spot than Seattle will. Because, if you haven't heard, that Wilson kid is pretty good.
Mike Shanahan loves him some Alfred Morris, but...
As for the Redskins, Washington Times staff writer and ESPN 980 In DC's Rich Campbell came on board and made it clear that Alfred Morris is not only the real deal, the rookie running back has fully emerged as everything head coach Mike Shanahan and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan needed him to be and more.
Not just in terms of productivity -- although there was no shortage of that.
Morris took advantage of injuries to veterans Tim Hightower, Roy Helu and Evan Royster to grab the starting running back role in preseason. Campbell pointed to the fact that not only did Morris hold up well throughout the regular season (hard enough for a rookie), but he did so after seeing extensive action in three pre-season games. And he finished the regular season with perhaps his most impressive effort of the year with a 33-carry, 200-yard, three-TD performance in the regular-season finale against Dallas.
Only four backs in the Redskins' 81 seasons ever ran for more yards in a game and Morris wound up breaking Clinton Portis' franchise season rushing mark with 1,613 yards. That total made him the third-most prolific rookie in NFL history behind only Eric Dickerson and George Rogers. Morris also set a Redskins rookie record with 13 touchdowns.
Perhaps as important to the Shanahans as that high-end production was the reliability and durability the sixth-round pick demonstrated.
So the job is Morris' alone in 2013, right?
WellCampbell does believe there's an element missing from Morris' game: Speed.
"Morris doesn't have the Terrell Davis speed," Campbell explained, using the 1995 sixth-round draft pick Shanahan turned into a superstar in Denver as an example. Given that shortcoming, Campbell added they'll be looking for a speedier complement to supplement Morris next season.
Helu might be that guy.
Campbell believes Helu has the speed and the versatility to be a great change of pace back for Washington because he has the vision and good feet necessary to excel in the read option offense the team will continue to rely heavily on with Robert Griffin III under center.
You can catch the Bob Harris on FootballDiehards on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio every Saturday night throughout the offseason on Sirius Channel 210 and XM Channel 87. Check listings for times.