Raiders RB Latavius Murray will be given every chance to show he can be a feature back, but HC Jack Del Rio said it's far from a done deal. He'll give Maurice Jones-Drew a chance to rejuvenate his legs, but he's a question mark based on last season's 2.2 yards per carry average. Darren McFadden is an unrestricted free agent.
We don't think that Murray will need extra chances to prove he's a feature back. He rushed 82 times for 424 yards (a 5.2 YPC) and two touchdowns, including an incredible four-carry, 112-yard, two-TD performance against the Chiefs in Week 12. He still averaged a solid (if unspectacular) 4.0 YPC when that game is excluded. With good size (6'2", 223 lbs) and great speed (4.38 40-yard dash), Murray has all the physical tools to succeed at the position. He even showed solid hands with 17 receptions on 23 targets.
At tight end, the Packers like what last year's third-round pick, Richard Rodgers, showed late in the season, when he became more involved in the offense, but it's still too early to say whether he'll be the playmaker that Jermichael Finley was before his neck injury. Behind Rodgers and Andrew Quarless, the Packers are thin. Once a promising prospect, Brandon Bostick was released on Monday, a month after he botched the onside kick recovery in the NFC Championship Game.
Neither Rodgers nor Quarless established themselves as a consistent threat as a fantasy tight end. The Packers may look to shore up the position this offseason.
Julius Thomas' representatives, with his back-to-back seasons of 12 touchdown receptions, are looking to move him into the upper reaches of the pay-grade at the position. With a long list of free agents that includes wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, the Broncos are not expected to put a better offer in front of Thomas than he could get elsewhere.
Thomas finished with the 4th-highest PPG in standard formats in each of the last two seasons, but he missed two games in 2013 and three more (plus reduced snaps in three additional games) in 2014. His value is likely to take a hit if he signs elsewhere.
Friday, as a guest of Doug and Wolf on Arizona Sports 98.7 F for Newsmakers Week, GM Steve Keim had a similar tone.
"He's awesome," Keim said. "He came in, I believe it was yesterday and I talked to him at length, he's more energized than ever and he looked fantastic.
"It looks like he put on some lean muscle; he is working his tail off. And I know he's at a point in his rehabilitation process where he's doing some running and he's ahead of schedule. And again, he's more energized than ever."
Palmer averaged 271 yards, 1.8 touchdowns and 0.5 interceptions in six 2014 starts, or 17.2 fantasy points per game. Those are fringe QB1 numbers, so if Palmer is good to go for 2015, he'll be on the radar as a late-round value for those owners looking to stream or form a committee at the position. Keep an eye on the Larry Fitzgerald situation -- if he parts ways with the team, it's going to be a blow to Palmer's upside.
Welker, who ranks 20th all time among receivers with 890 career catches, said Monday he intends to play on.
"Just getting ready for 2015," Welker told The Denver Post via text.
FoxSports.com cited sources in its report on Feb. 10 that Welker was considering retirement.
"Never ever came out of my mouth," Welker said.
Where Welker plays is uncertain. He becomes an unrestricted free agent on March 10.
Welker's numbers were way down last year (49-464-2) compared to his first season in Denver (73-778-10) even though he played one additional game. The Broncos' pass attempts dropped by 10 percent, and Welker's targets took the biggest hit. We don't expect him to be back in Denver, especially if the team is serious about getting Cody Latimer more involved. Emmanuel Sanders can play the slot with (free agent) Demaryius Thomas and Latimer playing on the outside.
Jerick McKinnon entered December with not only a spot near the front of the NFL’s rookie rushing ranks, but also a painful lower back injury.
While many of his teammates headed home after the season or to exotic locales much warmer than Minnesota, the Georgia native has stayed in the Twin Cities so he can rehab his injury at Winter Park with the team’s athletic training staff. He has only a couple more weeks left before the process is completed.
“It’s been pretty good. It’s been a long process, but that’s just the way it goes after surgery. I’ve been here all offseason working really hard,” McKinnon said last week in a phone interview. “I’ve just been in the training room with [assistant athletic trainer] Tom Hunkele pushing myself to the limit and just trying to get back ready. It’s been a long grind but it’s definitely working.”
There have been no setbacks, and McKinnon says he will be ready to participate without any limitations in the offseason workout program, which can begin April 20.
McKinnon was the team’s primary runner from Week 4 to Week 12, averaging 81.5 yards on 16.4 touches per game. During that span, he was the #25 RB in standard formats and #20 in PPR. However, he failed to score a touchdown while Matt Asiata found the endzone 10 times. Asiata is a restricted free agent, so he should be back in 2015. Adrian Peterson is also under contract, but his future in Minnesota is cloudy. If Peterson leaves town and McKinnon enters the season as the team’s primary back, then low-end RB2 numbers are within reach.
Jaguars WR Allen Robinson’s late-July hamstring injury kept him out of every preseason game. But he had at least four catches in each of his last nine games and was targeted 10 or more times in four games. Robinson had eight “explosive” receptions and played 516 snaps.
Robinson underwent surgery in November for a stress fracture but is expected to be full-go when the offseason program starts in April.
“He’ll have an offseason, an OTA, a training camp and should be able to accelerate his game,” WR coach Jerry Sullivan said. “The thing about all these young guys, they come out of college, they train for the Combine and then they train for each team that wants to work them out. Now they can really compartmentalize what they need to do.”
Robinson averaged 5.2 catches for 61 yards and 0.22 TD from Week 2 to Week 10, which extrapolates to an 84-9774-3.6 over the course of a full 16-game season. Those are fringe WR2-type numbers. The Jacksonville receiving corps should feature Robinson, Marqise Lee, Allen Hurns and perhaps Justin Blackmon. If QB Blake Bortles can progress, this could be a dangerous passing game.
Giants beat writer Dan Graziano: They really like Larry Donnell and believe he's in the midst of developing into a very good player. They like his athleticism and his size, and most of all they really believe in his offseason dedication and determination to work on and learn the things he still needs to learn. Donnell made a huge leap from 2013 to 2014, and the Giants believe that his offseason work ethic will lead to another big leap in 2015. They believe they have not only a starter, but a future star in Donnell.
Donnell finished the season as the #11 TE in both standard and PPR formats, but did not crack 60 yards or find the endzone in the final six games. He had the 17th-most targets (5.2 T/G) over that span, after seeing the 7th-most (6.1 T/G) in the first 11 weeks. He'll continue to be a red zone threat, but with Odell Beckham and a presumably healthy Victor Cruz gobbling up targets, Donnell is unlikely to see more than six looks per game in 2015.
The team will not exercise its option on running back Chris Johnson and he can become an unrestricted free agent on March 10.
Johnson's release is not a surprise, though there are now approximately 179 touches up for grabs in New York. The team has been linked to free agent C.J. Spiller, who had his best season (250 touches, 1703 total yards, eight touchdowns) under new Jets OC Chan Gailey back in 2012. If the Jets sign Spiller, he would form a one-two punch with Chris Ivory, who rushed for 821 yards (on 4.1 YPC) last season.
NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported on Friday's edition of NFL Total Access that Lynch's back issues are chronic and will be a major factor in his decision-making this offseason, according to people close to the star running back. Lynch has compressed cartilage in his back, a condition that will not heal and can get worse as a result of Lynch's punishing running style.
It seems quite possible that Lynch hangs 'em up this offseason, but we may not know for sure until we get deeper into the summer. The Seahawks have Robert Turbin and Christine Michael under contract in 2015. Michael (career 4.9 YPC) has been considered the heir apparent, but he's been consistently running behind Turbin (4.0 YPC), who's physical style more closely resembles Lynch. The team may be active at the position in free agency and/or the draft, and their actions will give us a better indication of how they feel about Lynch's availability heading into the 2015 season.
If the Broncos continue emphasizing three-WR sets, and Wes Welker does not return, there's a role for WR Cody Latimer, perhaps lining up outside with Emmanuel Sanders moving into the slot in that package, or even in the slot, on routes like the one he ran in Dallas in the preseason finale last summer.
One aspect of Latimer's skill set that must be noted is his blocking ability, considered by some to be the best among last year's wide receiver class. If he can take his outside blocking skills and transfer them to the inside -- not as a tight end, but standing up in a tight slot alignment -- then the Broncos could have the blocking effectiveness of a two-tight end set with a three-wide receiver formation.
Latimer is unproven, but presents possibilities that the new coaching staff will likely explore.
Latimer is a player to monitor this offseason, especially if Welker retires and Sanders moves inside. Latimer had a disappointing rookie season and wasn't even able to beat out Andre Caldwell. However, it takes time to earn Peyton Manning's trust and the franchise didn't draft him in the second round to ride the proverbial pine.
It's possible that the Colts still may want to bring the highly-effective yet injury-prone Bradshaw back in 2015. Through the first nine weeks, Bradshaw was the #6 RB in standard formats (#5 in PPR). He averaged 79 total yards and 0.88 TD per game (including six receiving scores).
Peyton Manning reassured Denver Broncos officials, including general manager John Elway, that he is physically and mentally prepared to play at a significant level in 2015, league and team sources told ESPN's Chris Mortensen.
The two sides met Thursday in Denver and while retirement technically remains an option for Manning, it is not one he expressed to Elway and CEO Joe Ellis, sources said.
Manning took it upon himself to get a comprehensive evaluation from a renown performance manager and trainer, Mackie Shilstone, during the past 2½ weeks in New Orleans. Shilstone, who was worked with several elite athletes in the latter stages of their careers, has given the quarterback a strong assessment based on numerous workouts and tests, a source said.
The quad injury that plagued Manning at the end of the 2014 season is fully healed.
Manning first popped up on the injury report with a thigh injury after Week 15 (vs. San Diego). When looking only at his first 13 games, Manning averaged 301 yards, 2.8 TD and 0.8 INT, or 21.4 fantasy points per game. That would have been good enough for the third-highest average if he were able to keep that pace. In the final three weeks, including the game in which he injured the thigh, Manning averaged 272 yards and just 1.0 TD versus 1.3 INT. Even with the reduced production, Manning finished as the #4 quarterback in 2014. If he's fully healthy and ready to go, we'd expect him to be selected in the top 5 in 2015 fantasy drafts, though the Broncos' activity in free agency (namely re-signing Demaryius Thomas and Julius Thomas) will impact his value.
Steelers star running back LeVeon Bell is expected to be suspended for the first two games of next season as a result of his August arrest on marijuana charges, sources told ESPN NFL Insider John Clayton.
Bell was shaping up as the top overall pick in 2015 fantasy drafts, but a potential two-game suspension will cause his draft stock to take a hit. It's difficult to draft a player who is going to miss at least two games in the first round.
Steven Jackson, who turns 32 in July, is likely to be released with one year left on his contract. The move would save the Falcons $3.75 million against the salary cap. And the Falcons no doubt want younger, fresher legs in Kyle Shanahan's offense.