It’s a “safe bet” the Broncos will be applying the franchise tag to receiver Demaryius Thomas, per a source with knowledge of the situation. While the two sides are talking, a deal currently isn’t expected in the next two days.
While the magnitude of the parties’ positions isn’t known, Thomas stands to earn $13 million fully guaranteed in 2015, if the tag is applied and if he signs the franchise tender. After the tag is applied, the Broncos and Thomas will have until July 15 to strike a long-term deal.
With three straight top 5 finishes in both PPR and standard formats, and Peyton Manning likely back under center, the 27-year-old Thomas is one of the “sure things” at the receiver position. He got off to a slow start in 2014, averaging just 4.3-47-.33 (11.0 PPR FP) in the first three games, but caught fire after his team’s bye, posting 7.5-114-.77 (23.5 PPR FP) over the final 13 weeks.
After 10 straight top 25 finishes in PPR formats, Wayne finished #72 and #50 in the last two seasons, respectively. He missed half of the season due to an ACL tear in 2013 and played 15 games (but wasn't himself) last season. If he retires, Donte Moncrief figures to be the biggest beneficiary.
Brian Hartline has been released, the Palm Beach Post has confirmed.
Looking at the running back position, Kyle Shanahan presided over three stellar fantasy seasons in his seven years as an offensive coordinator. In 2008, while Shanny was the OC of the Texans, Steve Slaton turned 327 touches (50 receptions) into 1,659 yards and 10 touchdowns. (Slaton averaged 77.6 total yards on 15.9 touches in 2009.) In 2012, rookie Alfred Morris racked up 1,690 total yards and 13 touchdowns. He followed it up with 1,353 total yards and seven scores in 2013. Shanahan even coaxed 86.7 total yards (on 18.2 touches) from Ryan Torain in 2010 and 67.9 yards on 13.3 touches from Roy Helu in 2011. Freeman wasn't terribly impressive in his rookie season (248 yards rushing, 3.8 YPC), but he was active and effective in the passing game (30 catches for 225 yards), so a Slaton-esque season isn't out of the realm of possibility. With Jackson out of the way, GM Thomas Dimitroff said that there was “no question” that Freeman is ready to be the feature back in Atlanta.
Even though he missed four games with a foot injury, Douglas was set to make $3.5 million in the final season of his contract and offered a relatively cheap insurance policy for Roddy White. It's possible that the Falcons plan to upgrade the position to prepare for White's retirement. This year's crop of free agent receivers is deep and talented.
The move will open up starter's snaps for Travis Kelce, who didn't get heavy run until Week 11. Kelce played 54% of the snaps from Week 1 to Week 10, averaging 3.8 catches for 49 yards and 0.44 TD in that span. He played 86% from Week 11 on, posting 4.7 receptions for 61 yards and 0.14 TD over the final seven games of the season. The rise in fantasy points wasn’t as dramatic since his touchdowns didn’t increase with his playing time, but that should rectify itself in 2015. He was the #4 TE in both standard and PPR formats in the final seven weeks of the season and is likely to go in the top 5 at his position in 2015 fantasy drafts.
Eagles beat writer Jeff McLane on the team's negotiations with free agent WR Jeremy Maclin:
Maclin should be the No. 1 priority for the Eagles before free agency starts on March 10. They lose him and they’re really going to have to pay if they want to sign a free agent of comparable skill -- if there is one remaining. It shouldn’t come to that. Maclin wants to stay, the Eagles want him, and last I heard they weren’t significantly far apart. He should end up with a contract somewhere in the $9.5-$10 million a year range with most of around $20 million guaranteed in the first two years. If a deal can’t be struck by Monday afternoon, the Eagles will have to decide whether or not to use the franchise tag ($12.8 million). It’s unlikely the Eagles will want to pay Maclin that much over one season.
Maclin was the #9 wide receiver in both standard and PPR formats last season. However, he did most of his damage in the first eight games (46-801-8, #2 WR) and faded from Week 10 on (40-528-2, #23 WR). His targets dropped from 10.5 per game in the first half of the season to just 7.5 T/G down the stretch. If Maclin re-signs with the Eagles, fantasy owners should keep his late-season swoon in mind.
NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported Thursday that U.S. District Judge David S. Doty has ruled in favor of Peterson, granting an NFL Players Association motion to vacate a previous ruling by Harold Henderson.
"Petition to vacate the arbitration award was granted," Judge Doty remarked, according to Rapoport. "Case was remanded for further proceedings ... as the (collective bargaining agreement) may permit."
The NFL says it will "review the decision" by Judge Doty to make Peterson immediately eligible. According to NFL Media's Albert Breer, the league has the ability to seek a circuit court injunction to keep Peterson from being reinstated.
Peterson's Vikings future remains murky. The former league MVP said in a recent interview he is "still uneasy" about rejoining the Vikings after the team helped expedite his placement on the Commissioner's Exempt List in September. The two sides could also reach a financial impasse -- Peterson is scheduled to earn a base salary of $12.75 million and count $15.4 million against the salary cap in 2015. Peterson has said he doesn't believe he should have to take a pay cut.
Peterson and the Vikings seem to be on the outs. He doesn't seem flexible about taking a pay cut, so the Vikings may cut him or attempt to trade him away. Peterson would likely have to agree to a restructured contract to convince another team to bite on a trade. He has been linked to the Dallas Cowboys. If Peterson is out of the way, then Jerick McKinnon would likely see the most running back touches for the Vikings, though they could add a runner in free agency or the draft. 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.
Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome said he spoke with trainers about Dennis Pitta’s status this week, and their main message was that an answer on his availability won’t come until this summer. The Ravens likely won’t wait until they get that definitive answer to spur into action.
“Are we going to try to add some tight ends to this offense? Yes,” General Manager Ozzie Newsome said during Tuesday’s press conference.
Newsome’s comment made it clear that the Ravens will look outside the building to bring in new pieces over the next few months. This year’s draft is considered thin at the position, but the Ravens will keep a close eye on prospects who could help the offense this fall.
After finishing in the top 20 for three straight seasons in PPR points per game (including #6 in 2013), Bush was #32 in that category last season. His departure should solidify Joique Bell's workload and give Theo Riddick the opportunity to shine as the team's primary passing down back. Bell finished #14 in standard formats and #13 in PPR, so he should continue to produce high-end RB2 numbers provided he stays healthy and the Lions don't make any major moves at running back. As for Riddick, he averaged 13.2 fantasy points (in PPR formats) in the five games that Bush missed last season. That's about what Fred Jackson averaged as the #17 running back in 2014.
If they can bring back Justin Forsett, the Ravens are expected to pair him with a young running back. They met with Melvin Gordon (Wisconsin), David Johnson (Northern Iowa) and Duke Johnson (Miami) at the NFL scouting combine.
"He doesn’t have the wear and tear, and Justin did a very good job of coming in, competing and then being our bell cow," GM Ozzie Newsome said. "We would like to retain Justin, but I’ve learned something since the end of the season about Justin that I didn’t really know. He has mentored some very good, young backs, starting with Arian Foster, Marshawn Lynch, Maurice Jones-Drew when he was in Jacksonville.
"Having Justin here, and with the opportunity also bringing in hopefully another young running back, to have Justin be around that guy would be an asset also. So, we will work to try to retain Justin.”
Under OC Marc Trestman, Matt Forte caught 176 passes in the last two seasons, including 102 catches in 2014. Forsett caught 44 passes last season, and could potentially see that number double if he's the RB1 for the Ravens in 2015. Depending on his asking price, re-signing the 29-year-old Forsett isn't a no-brainer for the Ravens, though he's not likely to garner a huge contract in free agency. As the #8 RB in both standard and PPR formats in 2014, he'll likely hold RB2-type draft value if he stays in Baltimore. If the Ravens draft a running back early, it would certainly damper Forsett's outlook in 2015.
Jordan Raanan on the Giants' receiving corps:
This has nothing to do with free agency, but wide receiver Rueben Randle remains part of the Giants plans despite a season where he was twice benched for a quarter because of tardiness to meetings. Randle is not being shopped after multiple run-ins last season with Coughlin.
The Giants are moving forward as if Randle is part of the future, with the hope that he can excel next season playing alongside Odell Beckham Jr. and Victor Cruz. Randle is still just 23 years old and the team was happy with the way he played late in the season, when they used him more as a downfield threat instead of the possession-receiver role he filled early in the season.
"I think Rueben gets banged on a lot. Sometimes he should get banged on, but I think he gets banged on sometimes a little too much," general manager Jerry Reese said. "I think he is a good, young player and all he needs are some chances. With Odell and Victor, I think he will get plenty of chances."
But if things don't work out with Randle or Cruz (returning from a serious injury), one player I was told to keep an eye out for was Marcus Harris. The Giants were close to using Harris as a starter (in three-wide-receiver sets) last year before injuries shut him down at the end of the summer for the season. The 25-year-old really impressed the Giants last spring and summer.
Randle finished #32 in PPR formats and #37 in standard despite seeing the 20th-most targets (127) on the year, so he wasn't very efficient in his targets. He finished the season with 12 catches for 290 yards and a touchdown in the final two games. He's probably not going to finish in the top 30 in 2015 if Cruz comes back healthy since Cruz and Beckham will likely dominate the targets.
Monday, February 23, 2015, 5:15pm
Ted Ginn, who signed a three-year free-agent contract in 2014, was released by the Cardinals Monday after a disappointing year both as return man and wide receiver. The Cards will absorb $1.5 million in dead salary cap money, although they will save $2.5M in cap space that would have been spent if Ginn stayed.
Williams told WBTV in an exclusive interview Monday that he was cut by the Panthers last week during a meeting with coach Ron Rivera and general manager Dave Gettleman.
"We sat down, and he told me, 'The fact of the matter is we're going to have to release you,'" Williams told the station. "I said, you know, 'Why?' and he said, 'Because we don't run the ball enough. Just like you said back before the season started, we don't run the ball enough to keep you and [Jonathan Stewart] both, so we're going to release you.'"
Carolina will save $2 million in salary-cap space by designating Williams as a post-June 1 cut. Williams has one year left on his deal and is scheduled to count $6.3 million against the 2015 salary cap.
Jonathan Stewart was tremendous down the stretch, averaging 105 total yards (97.0 rushing) in the final seven games, including two playoff games. He averaged 5.30 YPC in that span, including 5.13 YPC versus Arizona and 5.38 YPC against Seattle in the playoffs. Over the final five games of the regular season, he was the #10 fantasy running back. He turns 28 in March, so there is definitely some tread left on his tires. Even though he has missed 20 percent of his team's games due to injury throughout the career, he'll be a high-upside pick with Williams out of the way.