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Offseason Extra: Receivers dominate early free agency

Senior Fantasy Writer
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The deepest talent pool in free agency this spring has dried up the fastest. Wide receivers are signing deals and changing teams faster than any other position so far, and the landscape of Fantasy Football is changing with the flurry of moves.

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Here's what you need to know:

Vincent Jackson
The move: Leaves the Chargers for the Buccaneers on a five-year, $55 million deal.
Jackson finally got what he wanted: A large pay day. The move gives Josh Freeman an established big-play receiver, which he sorely needed last year. Over his last three full seasons (we're throwing out 2010 because he held out and missed a ton of games) he averaged 1,123 yards and 8.3 touchdowns per. But he's also been inconsistent: Jackson hasn't posted back-to-back 100-yard games since December of 2009 and hasn't scored in back-to-back games since November of 2009. And while he finished with 1,106 yards and nine scores last season, he had eight or fewer Fantasy points (standard scoring) in 10 of 16 games. He's also been injured a bunch, though nothing too serious, but it has affected his play.
In Tampa Bay he'll probably see a bump in targets, but there's another issue with Jackson: He's caught 57.9 percent of his targets (201 of 347) over the last four years and 52 percent of his targets last year (60 of 115). For the Bucs to find success with him, Freeman will have to target him a ton, but that's not an unreasonable request. Being effective on those targets is in question, especially since he's coming off his super-rich deal. The biggest concern Fantasy owners should have is whether or not Jackson will slack off after finally getting some long-term guaranteed cheese. Many receivers who have opined for such a pay day and then found it with another team have disappointed in their first season.
Many people will eyeball drafting the 29-year-old receiver with an early round pick -- we don't think it's a good idea. We'd take him in Round 5 for sure, maybe Round 4. He's a risk best left for others in your league to take.

Others affected:
Mike Williams, wide receiver, Tampa Bay: Forget about Williams getting back to that near-elite level he was at back in 2010. This signing is a clear indictment that he couldn't be counted on to be "the guy" in clutch passing situations. However, he will see a lot of single coverage and has big size himself, so he's not a complete loss. Expect him to do better than last year, but not even close to what he did as a rookie.
Josh Freeman, quarterback, Tampa Bay: Jackson might not explode for huge stats, but even a modest season from him would help Freeman's numbers. Throw in Williams moving into that No. 2 receiver role with the Bucs and Freeman should see year-over-year improvement in completion percentage (62.8 percent) and yards per attempt (6.52). He's still a Fantasy backup but worth a late-round pick in case the Bucs get off to a hot start.

Brandon Marshall
The move: Traded from the Dolphins to the Bears for two third-round picks.
Be it because of his off-field issues, less-than-expected production or rich contract, the Dolphins decided that Marshall wasn't going to be part of their long-term future. But the Bears, who have been desperate for a quality receiver, were willing to take on Marshall's contract and behavior if it meant making Jay Cutler happy and opposing defenses miserable. With the Dolphins he totaled 167 catches for 2,228 yards and nine touchdowns -- disappointing stats but partially the result of playing with mediocre passers. In his last two years with Cutler in Denver he had 206 catches for 2,590 yards and 13 touchdowns. Marshall and Cutler's relationship is very well documented -- Cutler was campaigning for Marshall to join him back in January -- and there should be a sense of stablility and trust there for both players.
Despite his troubles off the field, Marshall has delivered receptions and yardage year after year. Playing without another legitimate threat in Chicago and with a quarterback who he trusts (and trusts him) is a positive. Expect a slew of passes to go Marshall's way and for him to challenge the Bears' franchise single-season record for catches (100) while also making a run at the record for yards (1,400) and touchdowns (13). Marshall is a Top 10 Fantasy receiver.

Others affected:
Jay Cutler, quarterback, Chicago: Finally, Cutler has a quality No. 1 receiver. Without that in his three years with the Bears, Cutler has averaged 225.8 yards and 1.5 touchdowns per game. You can correctly assume that these averages will rise with Marshall now in the fold. For the third year in a row, Cutler offers us potential as a guy you draft late as a backup but with potential to finish as a Top 10 quarterback.
Matt Forte, running back, Chicago: Forte might not see 50 receptions again, a number he's had in each of his first four years with the Bears. That's the bad news. The good news? Forte might not see eight defenders in the box again because of Marshall lining up wide. Forte remains a No. 1 Fantasy rusher worth a first-round pick but he could take a hit as a receiver out of the backfield.

Robert Meachem
The move: Leaves the Saints for the Chargers on a four-year, $26 million deal.
The Chargers plunked down some coin for a guy who has averaged 660 yards over his last three years in the league. Consider it a leap of faith by general manager A.J. Smith, who realized he needed to replace Vincent Jackson with a receiver capable of stretching defenses. Meachem can certainly do that -- nearly one-fourth of Meachem's receptions over those three years have gone for at least 20 yards, and 10 have gone for over 40 yards. He's also averaged 15.3 yards per catch; not exactly Jackson-esque but still a guy who can work deep. The best news for Meachem is that he'll be given a chance to play regularly, which didn't happen in New Orleans. That alone makes him a candidate to break out in 2012, especially given the quality of Philip Rivers and the injury history of Antonio Gates and Malcom Floyd (Meachem also has an injury history but he hasn't missed a game since 2008).
Meachem is a good name to put on your middle- to late-round Draft Day shopping list. Rivers might have no choice but to use him like he did Jackson, and good stats could follow.

Others affected:
Philip Rivers, quarterback, San Diego: Losing Jackson and his 1,100 yards and eight touchdowns (on average) hurts. There's no way to sugar coat it. But getting Meachem should help replace some of those numbers. Rivers will need a huge year from Meachem, Gates, Floyd and second-year receiver Vincent Brown to get back to where he was in 2010. He'll still be considered a Fantasy starter but might slip into Round 5 on Draft Day.
Malcom Floyd and Vincent Brown, wide receivers, San Diego: Meachem's arrival doesn't mean both guys are forced into being secondary receivers, but it does represent a training camp competition on the horizon. These guys will be middle- to late-round breakout candidates just like Meachem if they can land regular playing time. We can't rule them out at all.

Pierre Garcon
The move: Leaves the Colts for the Redskins on a five-year, $42 million deal.
Like the Chargers with Meachem, the Redskins hope that Garcon can break the chains from playing in the shadow of other receivers and become a top target. Garcon is certainly trending in the right direction, improving his reception, yardage numbers and touchdowns each year of his career. He should not only fit in fine with the Redskins' system but also come down with lots of long receptions from the quarterback the Redskins are expected to draft in Robert Griffin III. Though the Redskins are suddenly loaded with receivers, one could point to Garcon's contract as it pertains to what kind of playing time he'll get. We expect Garcon to continue trending in the right direction and be worth drafting as a low-end No. 3 Fantasy receiver.

Others affected:
Santana Moss, Jabar Gaffney, Leonard Hankerson, Josh Morgan, wide receivers, Washington: Garcon should be given the chance to be the Redskins' top receiver target, meaning that work could be tougher to come by for these three. Remember, the Redskins also have tight end Fred Davis, who will command some attention. The hunch here is that Gaffney will be the odd man out and possibly on another team.
Robert Griffin III, quarterback, Baylor: Griffin isn't a Redskin yet, and I hate to assume, but let's just pretend the Redskins take him with the No. 2 overall pick. He'll be surrounded by a lot of good, fast receiving talent. When the Redskins break into their three- and four-receiver sets, it's going to be difficult for defenses to catch up with all of the Redskins targets scrambling all over the field. Griffin is adept at reading defenses, keeping plays alive with his legs and throwing accurately, so he should be able to total some good numbers thanks to the depth of his receiving corps. We're already thinking that he'll be the better Fantasy passer than fellow rookie Andrew Luck.

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Reggie Wayne
The move: Stays with the Colts on a three-year deal worth $17.5 million.
Wayne talked a big game in the winter, saying he'd follow Peyton Manning and try to cash in. But he got a nominal deal from the Colts -- a team that will have a new quarterback under center in 2012. Wayne endured a tough 2011 without Manning throwing to him, catching 75 passes for 960 yards and four touchdowns (three coming in the final six weeks), his lowest totals since his third year in the league. But that might have been more about who was throwing to him versus what he's able to do, and that should change for the better with Luck expected to join the Colts. Also changing is the receiving corps in Indy: Pierre Garcon and Dallas Clark are gone. That could mean more targets for Wayne, who has averaged 151.6 targets over his last three seasons. About the only red flag is that Wayne chose to stay in Indianapolis and sign what amounts to a very humble deal (Garcon's getting way more). Was that because Wayne wanted to stay in Indy, or because no one else was knocking on his door? He's still appealing as a a borderline No. 2/No. 3 Fantasy WR worth a pick starting in Round 7

Others affected:
Andrew Luck, quarterback, Stanford: Obviously if the Colts draft Luck as expected, he'll have a reliable target in Wayne. When free agency started, the Colts' best receiver was Austin Collie with Blair White as second best. Obviously Luck will benefit and should find Wayne much to his liking.
Peyton Manning, quarterback, free agent: Manning is going to turn his receivers into quality players regardless of where he lands, but not having Wayne will mean that he'll have to get accustomed to whoever he's throwing to. With Wayne there was an obvious comfort level that would have transcended any destination the two would have wound up going to together. This shouldn't impact Manning minimally.

Laurent Robinson
The move: Leaves the Cowboys and joins the Jaguars on a five-year, $32.5 million deal.
No one might have defined the contract-year receiver better than Robinson last year. Filling in when the Cowboys were in a pinch, he went from underperforming bust to touchdown machine with 11 scores to go with 858 yards and 54 catches. For a guy who was nearly out of the league, last year was exceptional. But he's going from being part of the Dallas machine to getting paid by the Jaguars, where new head coach Mike Mularkey will try to establish him as their No. 1 receiver with Blaine Gabbert at quarterback. While it's a positive that he'll be the top guy and should easily lead the Jaguars in receptions and yards (if he stays healthy, which has been a problem for him previously), the reality is that he's not expected to come close to the touchdown production he had playing in Dallas last year. Robinson is on the cusp of being a No. 3 receiver and might even worth it in a PPR format. But expectations are way down considering his rags-to-riches story.

Others affected:
Blaine Gabbert, quarterback, Jacksonville: Any receiving help makes Gabbert a better Fantasy option, but if Robinson is his No. 1 target and the team doesn't add much else, he's still going to be a player no one will want to touch. He's still a low-end No. 2 quarterback.

Marques Colston
The move: Stays with the Saints on a five-year deal worth $40 million.
Colston's entire career has been with Drew Brees throwing to him, so it's great that he'll stay with Brees in New Orleans. Colston posted his fifth 1,000-yard season in six years with 1,143 yards on 80 catches. He also had eight touchdowns, marking the fifth time in six years he had at least seven touchdowns in a year. Colston has also caught at least 70 passes in five of six seasons. Brees has a lot to do with that. We love Colston as a quality, consistent No. 2 Fantasy receiver worth a Round 4 selection.

DeSean Jackson
The move: Stays with the Eagles on a five-year deal worth $49 million.
Speculation early on was that Jackson was going to move on from Philadelphia. But then the Eagles franchised him, then signed him to this deal. Jackson's wanted to get paid for a while, so there's some worry that he'll slow down now that he's rich, but he sort of did that last season and got taught a lesson for it from his coaches. Of course, despite that he got paid. The good news is that Jackson plays for a high-powered offense that will throw plenty. He will have some real good outings and some stinkers, so it's best to draft him as a low-end No. 2 receiver.

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Player News
QB Sam Bradford's college coach talked him out of retiring last year
(11:09 pm ET) After suffering his second season-ending injury in nine months last year, quarterback Sam Bradford contemplated retiring but his former quarterbacks coach from Oklahoma talked him out of it, according to Philly.com.

Bradford, who was aquired by the Eagles in a trade in March, missed the entire 2014 season with the Rams after tearing his left ACL during a preseason game.

Josh Heupel, a former college coach, talked with Bradford after the injury and persuaded him to stay in the NFL.

"When a player goes through a big letdown, it's natural to be down," said Heupel. "I just tried to reach out to him and say, 'Hey, I still see this in you as a person and a player. I think the best is yet to come for you. You've got to get yourself healthy and get yourself back on the field and get yourself in the right environment ...'"

Heupel, who coached Bradford during his 2008 Heisman Trophy-winning season, is currently the offensive coordinator at Utah State.


Seahawks re-sign Demarcus Dobbs
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(4:12 pm ET) The Seahawks re-signed defensive lineman Demarcus Dobbs to a one-year contract on Sunday.

Dobbs' agent, Wesley Spencer confirmed the news on Twitter.

Dobbs joined the Seahawks in November after being waived by San Francisco. He had six tackles in four games with the Seahawks. 


C.J. Anderson enters offseason as Broncos top RB
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(3:19 pm ET) Broncos coach Gary Kubiak declared that C.J. Anderson was the team's starting running back entering OTAs. 

"He made a big jump as a player, and I think he's earned the right to walk in to the offseason program -- the OTAs -- and line up as our starter," Kubiak said, per DenverBroncos.com. "But he's got to continue to earn it on a daily basis. I think he's shown he has all the ability to be an excellent starter in this league, so we're really looking forward to working with him."

Anderson rushed for 849 yards and eight touchdowns last season, most coming late in the season, after Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman went down to injury. 

"All those guys are young. I think all three of those guys ... have all kind of had their little spurts of success with the club when they've had their opportunity," Kubiak said. "But they're all young. Who's going to be the bell cow, who's going to play every down, who's going to be the three-down player, they've got to sort that out. C.J. has shown the flashes of doing that."


Erin Henderson will meet with Jets
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(2:39 pm ET) Linebacker Erin Henderson has scheduled a meeting with the Jets. Henderson is looking to reenter the NFL after sitting out last season, following his release from the Vikings.

Henderson met with the 49ers GM and coach on Thursday and also had dinner with the team's linebacker coach, his agent told the Sacramento Bee


Jared Allen tells Bears 'I'm still good, really'
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(2:12 pm ET) Bears defensive end Jared Allen met with coach John Fox and GM Ryan Pace at last week's NFL Owners' Meetings to tell them he's not on the decline. 

"I was less anxious and so much more eager to talk to them," Allen said, per NFL.com. "Just to say, 'Hey guys. I know the film from last year only shows 5.5 sacks. But don't believe that's all I have left. I'm good still. Really."

Allen also said he was willing to play a stand-up pass rushing spot instead of the hand-in-the-dirt stance he's used most of his career. "It requires you to refocus and rekindle your energy," he said. "You can't get stuck in your same old patterns."


Saints' Brian Dixon arrested for resisting officer
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(11:45 am ET) Saints cornerback Brian Dixon was arrested in Miami on Sunday morning. He's been charged with resisting an officer, per the Times-Picayune.

According to the New Orleans Advocate, Dixon was pulled over for riding a moped. He questioned the officer about why that wasn't permitted, which led to his arrest. 

Dixon was booked at 5:50 AM and was being held on $1,000 bond. The team is aware of the incident, and NFL security is investigating. 

Later in the morning, Dixon tweeted, "It hurts to know that I wasn't causing no trouble and was fully cooperating. :( "


Report: LB Desmond Bishop will visit 49ers
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/28/2015) Linebacker Desmond Bishop will visit the 49ers on Monday, according to csnbayarea.com.

Bishop played in two games for the 49ers last season after beginning the year with the Cardinals. After losing both Patrick Willis and Chris Borland to retirement, the team is looking for linebackers.

Over his eight-year NFL career, the 30-year-old has 299 total tackles, nine sacks, nine passes defensed, one interception and eight forced fumbles.


Packers want to keep RB Eddie Lacy fresh this season
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/28/2015) Packers head coach Mike McCarthy is working on ways to keep running back Eddie Lacy fresh this season, reports the Journal Sentinel.

McCarthy had talks with Lacy at the end of the last two seasons talking about his number of snaps and what he expected of the running back.

"I really felt that last year's conversation was more important than this year's, the ability to make a huge jump from Year One to Two, being a three-down player, that was something we stressed from Day One, and I thought he delivered," McCarthy said at the NFL owners meetings this week.

The head coach liked the way that the team used Lacy last season, limiting his snaps early in the year before increasing them as the season wore on.

"Maybe not run attempts," McCarthy said of hitting the target he set. "But I thought we were really smart the way we used him....I thought his pass protection he made a huge jump, and his ability to play out of the backfield.

"Eddie has excellent hands, and just his understand and his feel with Aaron, he definitely made a step."

In his first two seasons in the NFL, the 24-year-old has 2,317 yards rushing and 20 touchdowns. He has also added 77 receptions for 684 yards and four touchdown catches. 


Vikings CB Captain Munnerlyn working to earn starting spot
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/28/2015) Although Vikings cornerback Captain Munnerlyn likes the addition of Terence Newman to the team, he believes that he will beat him out for a starting job, reports twincities.com.

“I’m ready for the competition,’’ Munnerlyn told the Pioneer Press on Saturday. “I’m an athlete, so I never feel like anyone can beat me out. I feel I can hold onto the job. I’m betting on myself.’’

Munnerlyn, a six-year veteran, seems to embrace the competition that will be had at the cornerback spot.

“I think it’s great,’’ said Munnerlyn, a six-year veteran. “He’s a veteran. It’s great for competition. It will bring out the best in me. I’m excited about the competition. I just know that I’ve got to play a lot better than I did last year.’’

There have been a lot of questions this offseason as to whether or not he will settle in as the team's nickel back. He wants to shed the label of being relegated to the nickel spot.

“I don’t want that to happen,’’ Munnerlyn said. “I’ve been labeled my whole career as just a nickel back but I’ve been able to show people I’m more than that. But I know that I’ve got to work hard this offseason."
The 26-year-old has registered 343 total tackles, 5.5 sacks, 44 passes defensed, nine interceptions -- five of which were returned for touchdowns -- and three forced fumbles.

Packers still interested in signing FB John Kuhn
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/28/2015) The Packers are still interested in signing fullback John Kuhn to the roster, reports the Journal Sentinel.

When head coach Mike McCarthy was asked if Kuhn still has value, he replied, "Absolutely."

"I've always looked at the fullback and tight end position as one. I feel you have to have flexibility and versatility within those two positions. It keeps you in and out of a number of different personnel groups."

Kuhn, 32, has spent eight of his nine seasons with the Packers, rushing for 591 yards and 18 touchdowns. As a receiving option, the fullback has 76 receptions for 516 yards and eight touchdowns.


 
 
 
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