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Baltimore - GM Eric DeCosta said the team is keeping CB Jimmy Smith and targeting wide receiver in the draft
Why It Matters: Smith has had trouble staying on the field in recent years, but still plays at a high level. His 9+ million dollar salary is steep, but his presence gives the Ravens one of the best #1-#4 cornerback depth charts in the league. Willie Snead and Chris Moore are the only experienced wide receivers on the roster, so if the team is focusing on the draft for reinforcements, that implies that tight end will remain a big part of a small passing game and the Ravens wide receiver group will be no place to look for breakout fantasy players. The Ravens are taking a big risk on offense carrying no credible starting outside receivers, one that could make their running game much easier to defend.
Why It Matters: Ivory’s release clears the way for Frank Gore to be the clear #2 back. He might wait until midseason running back injuries strike to be on a regular season roster. Gaines was once a solid starter for the Bills and could elevate back to that role with a wide open depth chart at corner opposite Tre’Davious White. Fisher was a failed second-round pick with the Bengals and has reinvented himself as a tight end. He could help the running game in heavy sets.
Cincinnati - QB Andy Dalton won’t get an extension as the team wants him to re-establish himself before committing
Why It Matters: The Bengals are an outside possibility to take a quarterback in the first round at #11, and this item won’t lessen the buzz around that possibility. The Bengals are starting fresh with a new offensive-minded head coach. Dalton is past his prime and the team could conceivably move on from him with no cap hit next year even though he’s under contract for $17.5 million, a very reasonable number for any credible starting quarterback.
Denver - head coach Vic Fangio said RB Phillip Lindsay won’t be ready for OTAs after offseason wrist surgery
Why It Matters: Lindsay’s wrist surgery was not minor, and he could have trouble regaining all of the wrist strength he had before the injury. Royce Freeman still figures prominently in the team’s plans and could use this opening to remind them why they took him in the third round last year.
Houston - signed OT Matt Kalil (Carolina) to a one-year deal
Why It Matters: Deshaun Watson will need some prayers to make it through the season in one piece behind a line that features Kalil as their best tackle. He should be ready by training camp, but he looked like a broken player in 2017 before missing all of 2018 with a knee injury. The Texans reportedly were one of three teams in on Trent Brown before he chose Oakland and they were in on Rodger Saffold before he chose division rival Tennessee.
Indianapolis - signed EDGE Justin Houston (Kansas City) to a two-year, $24 million dollar deal
Why It Matters: The Colts are a playoff team in a more open than last time we checked AFC, so making a “win now” move with some of their copious cap room makes sense. Houston was released, so he won’t count against the compensatory pick formula. While durability has been an issue for him, impact when healthy has not been. He could get a defensive end designation, which would be a boost to his stock in IDP leagues. The Colts can now put Houston and Jabaal Sheard out there on passing downs while the pair of 2018 second-round pick defensive ends Tyquan Lewis and Kemoko Turay develop.
Jacksonville - head coach Doug Marrone believes WR Marqise Lee will return from knee surgery “late in the preseason”
Why It Matters: Lee’s ACL tear happened in the preseason, and a 12-month recovery timeline is a bit long for a simple ACL reconstruction. He might have a slow transition back to full speed, which probably means Dede Westbrook will be the #1 receiver for Nick Foles entering his first season as the Jaguars starter.
Why It Matters: Henry appears to be fully healthy and his knee intact after returning to the active roster during the playoffs. He is expected to have a larger role in the passing game along with Mike Williams after Tyrell Williams signed with Oakland, but if Gates does return, that will cap Henry’s upside and targets.
New England - TE Rob Gronkowski announced his retirement, defensive coordinator Greg Schiano announced he is stepping down
Why It Matters: The impact to the Patriots offense can’t be overstated, although Gronkowski’s blocking was more impactful to the running game than his receiving skills were to the passing game. His vacated targets should be soaked up by a combination of Julian Edelman, James White, and any number of wide receivers who will comprise a committee approach to the position. Stephen Anderson and Jacob Hollister are the best candidates to replace Gronkowski’s receiving contributions, although the team is likely to take a tight end from this strong and deep draft class. They were also pursuing Jared Cook before he decided instead to join the Saints. Many have indicated that Gronkowski could return for the playoffs if the Patriots asked nicely, or that we shouldn’t completely believe that we have seen him play on an NFL field for the last time. Schiano's stint as defensive coordinator was a blink and you'll miss it event. He was not even officially announced as the hire. There has been no report as to the nature of the change of heart by Schiano. Bret Bielema is on the staff and could be named defensive coordinator if Bill Belichick doesn't look outside of the organization. It's fair to wonder if losing two defensive coordinators and one possible replacement will affect the defense, but as long as Belichick is there, they should be ok.
New York Jets - GM Mike Maccagnan said the team is “very open to potentially moving back from three.”
Why It Matters: The Jets did the opposite last year to get their quarterback. This year, they hope that Kyler Murray gets past Arizona and San Francisco, or that a team wants Dwayne Haskins badly enough to get ahead of the Giants and Raiders. Everything is uncertain right now, but as the draft gets closer, we should have some clarity on the Cardinals decision. Maccagnan can set up the framework for a deal with quarterback-needy teams contingent on their guy being there in the meantime.
Oakland - signed S Curtis Riley (New York Giants), signed QBs Mike Glennon (Arizona) and Landry Jones (Pittsburgh), GM Mike Mayock said RB Marshawn Lynch will decide about his future with the team after the draft, will host QBs Kyler Murray and Dwayne Haskins for private workouts, signed RB Isaiah Crowell (New York Jets) to a one-year deal
Why It Matters: Riley was a starter for the Giants last year and could get significant snaps when free agent acquisition Lamarcus Joyner plays slot corner. Glennon and Jones will compete with Nathan Peterman to back up Derek Carr… if Oakland doesn’t select Murray or Haskins. We can’t believe what Jon Gruden has said about his commitment to Carr. Lynch looked good last year and could return because the Raiders are confirmed to be playing in his hometown of Oakland again this year, but now he would face stiff competition from Crowell, a similar back, and the Raiders could also take a back in the draft.
Arizona - Joel Klatt of Fox Sports reports that QB Josh Rosen “is going to get moved”
Why It Matters: Talk of Rosen’s availability and the Cardinals decision about Kyler Murray at #1 picked up again this week. Klatt said the Chargers, Patriots, and Giants are the teams most interested in Rosen. Certainly it makes no sense for the Cardinals to hold onto Rosen if they are selecting Murray, even if they have to trade him at a loss from what they gave up to get him when they moved up to #10 for Rosen last year. His value will only decline on the bench behind Murray and the buzz around league circles about Rosen has not been good. This story is the key to unlocking the first round of the draft, and we should get more clarity on the question soon.
Atlanta - Bleacher Report’s Mike Freeman reports that the Falcons and Jones are “closing in” on a four or five-year contract extension worth $20 million a year that would include $50-$60 million in new guarantees
Why It Matters: After the Antonio Brown fiasco in Pittsburgh and the shocking Odell Beckham trade, it looks like at least one organization is handling their #1 receiver well. Jones just turned 30 and is still in his prime. He’ll be a top 15 pick in most leagues.
Carolina - head coach Ron Rivera said he has learned the “value of numbers” from owner David Tepper, re-signed RB Cameron Artis-Payne to a one-year deal
Why It Matters: Rivera expanded the answer to “taking time to step back… and analyze some of the data we have and how best to use it”. He cited GPS, next gen stats and analytics of fourth-down plays as the type of data they could value more this year. Rivera is jokingly known as one of the most conservative coaches in the league, so we’ll believe him backing off of “old school” thinking to embrace new approaches supported by data when we see it. Artis-Payne appears to be the primary backup to Christian McCaffrey, although the team could still take a back in the draft to provide competition.
Chicago - head coach Matt Nagy said RB Jordan Howard has a role in the offense, but reiterated that the team will always listen to offers involving any player that could improve their team
Why It Matters: The bottom has dropped out of Howard’s value, but he’s only 24 and a proven, effective runner in the NFL. He only has one year left on his rookie deal and teams are likely waiting on the draft to commit any more money or assets to a running back. The best the Bears can hope for if they want to trade Howard is a training camp or early season injury. New signing Mike Davis could get more work than Howard if both are on the Bears roster for the entire season.
Why It Matters: Frederick being cleared from Guillain-Barre Syndrome, an immune system disorder, after it cost him the 2018 season, and January shoulder surgery would be a huge win for the Cowboys offense. Iloka might actually start on a very cheap contract, but that exposes the Cowboys problems at the position more than him being an underrated commodity. Look for opponents to try to expose this weakness. The Cowboys need a boost to their pass rush after basically losing Randy Gregory and David Irving this offseason, and Quinn will provide it. His deal is reportedly being reworked and Miami will only ask a sixth-round pick in 2020. They may even pay part of his salary like they did in the Ryan Tannehill trade.
Detroit - signed CB Rashaan Melvin (Oakland) to a one-year, $3.5 million dollar deal
Why It Matters: Melvin could start opposite Darius Slay, although the Lions must be hoping 2017 second round pick Teez Tabor seizes the job. Melvin played a half season under Matt Patricia in 2015, which should help his transition to a new team.
Green Bay - WR Jordy Nelson announced his retirement
Why It Matters: Nelson’s last team was Oakland, but he’ll always be a Packer to us. He was still getting interest around the league and could get calls during the season if a team is in a bind. Nelson was actually relevant in fantasy late last year due to volume on shorter targets in the Raiders offense, so his days of being useful weren’t quite over, but he decided to bow out gracefully, instead of showing a continued decline in his abilities.
Why It Matters: The Lions offer sheet was almost a favor for the Rams, as his per year rate is less than his one-year pay under his original round RFA tender. The Rams might feel set at running back now, and if they don’t add a back in the draft, it will be a good sign for Todd Gurley’s knee worries. Kupp’s knee has no worries about it now, but seeing him play in the preseason after November surgery would be even more comforting.
New Orleans - signed TE Jared Cook (Oakland) to a two-year, $15.5 million dollar deal
Why It Matters: The Saints had competition from the Gronk-less Patriots, but won out in the end. Cook is the best tight end the team has had since Jimmy Graham was traded to the Seahawks. He should be an instant top 5-6 fantasy consideration at the position in fantasy drafts, although he’ll still be behind Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara in the pecking order and might have some peaks and valleys. The biggest payday of the soon-to-be 32-year-old’s career came late because he languished under Jeff Fisher earlier in his career.
San Francisco - GM John Lynch said RB Jerick McKinnon will be a 49er in 2019
Why It Matters: After Tevin Coleman was added and Raheem Mostert was re-signed, there was some speculation that McKinnon would be released, but Lynch shot that down. This jives with Kyle Shanahan’s earlier comment about possibly have four running backs active on game days. The best outcome for the 49ers - that all of their running backs stay healthy - would be the worst for fantasy players, as the team could use a “hot hand” approach. Every one of the top four backs on the roster has upside because of their proven abilities and the lack of proven durability from any of their peers. This could be a situation that rewards patience and active waiver wire players.
Tampa Bay - GM Jason Licht said WR Chris Godwin could play the Larry Fitzgerald role in the Bruce Arians offense and Arians said he can be “close to a 100 catch guy”, signed QB Blaine Gabbert (Tennessee)
Why It Matters: Prepare for Godwin hype to get out of control. His draft cost could move into the 3rd/4th round range by August. He has the talent, surrounding offense, and opportunity to still pay off at that cost a la Juju Smith-Schuster last year. Arians knows Gabbert from their time together in Arizona in 2017, when Gabbert displayed a few glimmers of hope to at least become a solid backup. He’ll compete with Ryan Griffin to be the #2 behind Jameis Winston.
Washington - Head coach Jay Gruden thinks RB Derrius Guice will be a full go for the open of training camp
Why It Matters: Guice had three additional procedures when infections set back his recovery, but all footage of his progress and comments from the team indicate optimism. He’ll still have to share with Adrian Peterson in an offense led by Colt McCoy, Case Keenum, or a rookie, so his early draft cost being similar to last year might be a bit overeager.