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2014 Draft Prep: Jay Cutler will have a career season

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Here's a question for you. How would you feel about a quarterback who passed for 4,450 yards, 32 touchdowns and 13 interceptions? My guess is you would like that a lot.

What if that quarterback had more than 360 Fantasy points? To put that in perspective, Andy Dalton was third in points last season with 353. You'd probably like that number in the majority of leagues, too.

Well, that's what Jay Cutler is capable of this season if he plays 16 games. And health is really the only knock on him. The prediction here is Cutler will have the best season of his career. He's a tremendous value pick based on his Average Draft Position at No. 82 overall as the No. 12 quarterback off the board.

Cutler and Josh McCown combined for those passing stats last year. When you factor in their rushing stats, the duo scored 366 Fantasy points in a standard league, which would have made them the No. 3 quarterback behind Peyton Manning and Drew Brees.

Now, it's difficult to say Cutler will replicate those stats on his own, and he's been injury-prone the past three years. He played in just 10 games in 2011 because of a thumb issue, missed one game in 2012 with a concussion and was limited to 11 games last season because of groin and ankle problems.

But he's healthy now and the Bears are committed to him. He signed a seven-year, $127 million deal this offseason with $54 million guaranteed. On top of that, they let McCown sign as a free agent in Tampa Bay without bringing in a top backup since Jordan Palmer and Jimmy Clausen are the other quarterbacks of note on the roster.

The Bears have faith in Cutler and so do we. The big reasons why are his receiving corps -- led by Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Matt Forte and Martellus Bennett -- and coach Marc Trestman.

Trestman's offense helped Forte finish as a top-three running back in standard leagues, and Marshall and Jeffery were top-10 receivers. Cutler and McCown combined for a standout campaign, but now we want to see Cutler stand on his own.

When he was healthy last season, Cutler was awesome with six of 10 games (he was hurt early in the Week 7 game at Washington) with at least 20 Fantasy points. He opened the year with 20 or more points in five of six games and he should continue to thrive this season.

Cutler has been a solid Fantasy quarterback in the past -- he has three top-12 finishes on his resume from 2007 to 2009 -- but this could be the best year of his career. His best season was 2008 in Denver when he passed for 4,526 yards, 25 touchdowns and 18 interceptions. He finished with 312 Fantasy points as the No. 5 quarterback. He's been trying to reach that plateau again ever since.

With the Bears, Cutler's best season was 2009 when he passed for 3,666 yards, 27 touchdowns and 26 interceptions, but this year he should shatter those stats. He's going to be one of the best buys on Draft Day.

In my leagues, I like waiting for quarterbacks, and Cutler is usually my fallback option on Draft Day. I'll let other owners reach for their signal-callers early while I horde running backs and receivers, but I know a big reward is waiting for me when I snag Cutler later.

It might not work out how I hope, and Cutler's injury history speaks for itself, but if Cutler stays healthy and plays like we think he can, he could be the biggest difference-maker in all leagues.

His best year is going to happen in 2014.

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Player News
WR Andre Johnson: I didn't join Colts for revenge against Texans
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4/18/2015) Perennial Pro Bowl wideout Andre Johnson insists that he did not sign as a free agent with the Colts with two matchups against his old Texans team in mind. He claims the move was because Indianapolis, led by quarterback Andrew Luck, gives him the best chance to win.

Johnson was surprisingly released by Houston, but revenge was not part of his game plan.

"(Leaving the Texans) hasn't even really set in," he told the Houston Chronicle. "I was just talking about that with someone (Thursday). Everybody thinks that I went to the Colts to try and get back at the Texans and stuff like that. That had nothing to do with it. I just went to the ... place where I felt was the best fit for me and where I can have a chance to win a championship.

"It wasn't about circling (game) dates or nothing against the Texans. I had 12 great years here. Been around some great people, built some great relationships, a lot of great friends. Houston's always going to be my home."

Johnson remained productive in 2014, but his yards-per-catch average declined to 11.0, its lowest since 2005.


Report: Jaguars restructure contract of Marcedes Lewis
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(4/18/2015) The Jaguars restructured the contract of tight end Marcedes Lewis, according to a report by Jacksonville.com.

Lewis did not receive an extension. This year will be the last year of his contract. The restructuring should reduce his cap number, which is currently $8.2 million. 


Jaguars sign Stefen Wisniewski
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(4/18/2015) The Jaguars announced the signing of free agent center Stefen Wisniewski on Saturday. 

Wisniewski reportedly signed a one-year contract for $2.5 million, per Jacksonville.com.

"We had the opportunity to spend time with Stefen earlier this month and remained in contact with him with the hopes of getting a deal done," GM David Caldwell said. "We are excited to get him on board before we officially start our offseason conditioning program next week. He gives us great position flexibility along our offensive line as he has started at both center and guard during his career. He has a familiarity with our offensive system and brings a lot of experience to our offensive line room."


49ers looking to extend Michael Wilhoite
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(4/17/2015) After the unexpected retirements of two linebackers, the 49ers are looking to lock up Michael Wilhoite to a contract extension. 

Wilhoite is an exclusive rights free agent, but GM Trent Baalke told the media he hopes to negotiate a long-term deal. 

"We’re working on something with him as we speak … He’s kind of in a unique situation. He was kind of caught in a numbers deal," Baalke said, per SFGate.com.


DeMeco Ryans likes improved Eagles' defense
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(4/17/2015) Eagles linebacker DeMeco Ryans likes the changes that the team has made to its defense in the offseason.

"We got better on the outside, which we struggled at last year,” Ryans said, per ESPN. “We had a lot of struggles there on the outside at the corner position, so I feel we've upgraded there with (Byron) Maxwell , a guy that you've seen make a lot of plays for the Seahawks. A guy like Kiko (Alonso), who his rookie year was a really outstanding player, up for defensive rookie of the year, a playmaker all over the field, and another guy in (Walter) Thurmond , who is expected to definitely push guys to be the starting corner on the other side. So I feel like we upgraded at a lot of positions, and I feel like it's really going to improve our defense."


Kubiak: Time for Broncos' backup Brock Osweiler to step up
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(4/17/2015) Broncos quarterback Brock Osweiler hasn't had much playing time, as Peyton Manning's backup, but coach Gary Kubiak wants to see progress from him.

"I think it's time for Brock to take a big step as a player," Kubiak said, per NFL.com. "A lot of times in this league, the young quarterbacks don't get the opportunity to be behind a player of Peyton's status and learn before they get the opportunity in this league ... I think Brock needs to take advantage of this. But he's going to be very competitive. I'm very impressed with his skills. I'm very impressed with how hard he works in the classroom. I know he's got all of the ability."


Kubiak: Broncos will run no-huddle with Peyton Manning
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(4/17/2015) Gary Kubiak said he plans to take advantage of future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning when designing the Broncos' offense for next season. 

We'll definitely be running the hurry-up offense," Kubiak said per NFL.com. "Peyton's been the best at the business at it for many years, so that's a strength that we'll stay with."

That doesn't mean everything will be the same for Manning. Kubiak said he planned on having Manning under center more than in recent seasons. 


Steelers claim LS Brandon Hartson off waivers
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(4/17/2015) The Steelers announced on Friday that they claimed long snapper Brandon Hartson off of waivers. 

Hartson was waived by the Chiefs on Thursday. 


S Chris Banjo signs EFA tender with Packers
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(4/17/2015) Packers safety Chris Banjo signed his exclusive-rights tender on Friday, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

The tender is good for one year and is worth $585,000 for the 2015 season. 


Trent Baalke praises 49ers LB Aldon Smith's offseason work ethic
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(4/17/2015) 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith has had plenty of off-field issues since entering the NFL.

After serving a nine-game suspension a year ago for violating the NFL's personal-conduct and substance-abuse policy, Smith returned and only tallied two sacks. 

The time off followed by sub-par performances has ignited Smith on the practice field thus far, according to general manager Trent Baalke. 

"He’s probably in as good a shape as he’s been in a long time," Baalke said, via the San Jose Mercury News. "He’s starting to develop into a leader out there, which is good to see and been a pleasure to watch."

Baalke knows that Smith has an uphill climb in repairing his image. But while Smith attempts to do so, Baalke wanted the San Francisco media to know that Smith is doing what he can to improve ont he playing field. 

“He’s got a great look in his eye,” Baalke said. “He’s doing well. I look forward to having you guys visit with him.”


 
 
 
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