The Browns signed CB E.J. Gaines (Buffalo) to a one-year, four million dollar deal
Why It Matters: Gaines was surprisingly good for the Bills after coming over from the Rams in the Sammy Watkins deal. He should compete for a spot as a starter on the outside and help a poor Browns pass defense.
Why It Matters: The Browns already have Tyrod Taylor in tow and decided to make moves to add experience at backup quarterback. It appears that they are aiming to not play their rookie quarterback in 2018 if they can avoid it.
The Broncos traded a 2018 fifth-round pick and conditional 2020 sixth-round pick and swapped 2018 fourth and fifth round picks with Washington for S/LB Su'a Cravens
Why It Matters: The Broncos vaunted pass defense gave up 29 passing touchdowns last year after giving up only 13 in 2016. Safety play was a big reason why, so perhaps Cravens can help. He'll likely be part of their sub packages. Cravens is a bit of an unknown after being a 2016 second-round pick and strong contributor in multiple roles as a rookie. He had a head injury, contemplated retirement, and had a dispute with Washington that resulted in him not playing last year. He was reinstated in February and appears to be committed to football again.
The Broncos traded a sixth-round pick to Arizona for OT Jared Veldheer.
Why It Matters: Veldheer was once considered a top tackle and came on after a slow start for the Cardinals last year. He’s turning 31 this year, so he could still be a huge upgrade at right tackle for the offense and provide help to Case Keenum and the running game.
GM John Elway would not commit to RB CJ Anderson being on the team for the 2018 season.
Why It Matters: The team seems to love Devontae Booker even though he hasn’t shown much through his first two years. Anderson is due 4.5 million, but if he’s not in their plans as the starter, he’s not worth that kind of money. They could be waiting to see how the draft shakes out before making a decision on Anderson. If Denver releases Anderson, Dolphins head coach Adam Gase could make a bid for him and add him to compete with Frank Gore to be the complement to Kenyan Drake.
Head coach Frank Reich said QB Andrew Luck has resumed throwing.
Why It Matters: We are still wary of getting too optimistic about Luck’s 2018, but if this puts him on track to throw on the practice field to teammates in OTAs, then that would remove a lot of the anxiety about selecting him or any other Colts in fantasy drafts. Early signs point to a repeat of 2017’s uncertainty and disappointment being unlikely for Luck in 2018.
Los Angeles Chargers
Chargers DT Corey Liuget was suspended for four games for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs.
Why It Matters: The team is likely to keep Liuget despite his eight million dollar contract, but this will put Damion Square and Darius Philon on the field more in the first month of the season and could make the team more inclined to draft a defensive tackle.
The Dolphins signed QB Brock Osweiler (Denver) to a one-year deal.
Why It Matters: Osweiler is reunited with Adam Gase, who oversaw his development in Denver. At the end of his rookie contract, he was tabbed as a starter by Houston and got paid 37 million dollars for two years. If anyone can find Osweiler’s game to make him even an adequate backup, Gase can.
New York Jets
The Jets signed WR Terrelle Pryor (Washington) to a one-year deal worth 4.5 million dollars with two million guaranteed.
Why It Matters: Pryor never clicked with Washington last year, and was hurt worse and for more of the year than we knew at the time. He has played with quarterback Josh McCown before and had two 100+ yard games with him. He could leapfrog Jermaine Kearse on the depth chart, and at least start in place of deep threat Robby Anderson while Anderson is likely suspended for his second offseason run-in with the law. Pryor is still worth a late-round flier in redraft and hold in dynasty leagues.
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin and GM Kevin Colbert attended Louisville QB Lamar Jackson’s pro day. Tomlin previously said he was going to attend to watch Jackson.
Why It Matters: Ben Roethlisberger’s retirement watch has cooled down, but the team clearly hasn’t ruled out taking his successor this year. The team also has experience using players like Kordell Stewart and Antwaan Randle-el in a “slash” role and while those coaching staffs are long gone, Jackson could bring back memories of those players while he’s developing as a rookie. The idea of Jackson in the Steelers offense is exciting for fantasy and it would be an excellent landing spot for long term value.
The Cardinals acquired a sixth-round pick from Denver for OT Jared Veldheer.
Why It Matters: The Cardinals signed Andre Smith to play right tackle, which made Veldheer expendable. Smith and CJ Humphries will be on the spot to keep Sam Bradford healthy and upright considering his lengthy injury history and possibly degenerative knee condition.
The Panthers signed CB Ross Cockrell (New York Giants) to a two-year, 6.8 million dollar deal.
Why It Matters: After Bashaud Breeland failed his physical, the Panthers were back in the market for a starting corner. Cockrell might not be a liability, but he’ll also be picked on by strong passing games elsehwere in the division. The Panthers will remain a good passing matchup for opponents.
The Panthers are exercising the fifth-year option on 2015 first-round pick LB Shaq Thompson.
Why It Matters: Thomas Davis has defied his three ACL tears and age, but that shouldn’t reflect on how the Panthers view Thompson. He is a three-down linebacker who should be considered a core part of the defense going forward. His smaller role earlier in his career has more to do with Davis’s longevity and intensity than anything lacking in Thompson’s play or development.
Why It Matters: The Stewart role could yield touchdowns and fantasy relevance in wins, but Artis-Payne is limited and if he is the second best running back on the team after the draft, it is a good sign that Christian McCaffrey’s value is going up in his second year.
Head coach Ron Rivera said there is no timetable for the return of WR Curtis Samuel.
Why It Matters: Torrey Smith was more of a fantasy afterthought last year in Philadelphia, but with Samuel slow to recover from ankle surgery and possibly missing the offseason, Smith should have a head start to be the designated deep receiver. Samuel is a long shot to make a big impact early this year, and maybe this year at all if Smith plays well.
Head Coach Matt Nagy confirmed that Trey Burton will play the “U” hybrid WR/TE role in his offense.
Why It Matters: Burton will be in the more fantasy friendly role than 2017 second-round pick Adam Shaheen, and should be drafted earlier - if Shaheen is drafted at all in fantasy leagues. He’ll be in the slot and could be a featured receiver for Mitchell Trubisky in the role that Travis Kelce dominated in last year under Nagy in Kansas City. Burton has as much upside as any tight end outside of the top five, although he could yield targets to Shaheen in the red zone.
The Cowboys signed WR Allen Hurns (Jacksonville) to a two-year, 12 million dollar deal.
Why It Matters: Hurns could be the team’s number one receiver if Dez Bryant isn’t retained. He has a higher ceiling than he had at any point with the Jaguars, and should at worst supplant Terrance Williams as the number two. Getting released from Jacksonville has ended up being great for his fantasy stock.
WR Terrance Williams broke his right foot earlier in the offseason and had surgery a month ago. He is questionable for OTAs.
Why It Matters: Noah Brown will get more run in OTAs, and any rookie the team drafts could get a chance to secure a spot on the depth chart while Williams recovers. Deonte Thompson will also get a chance to have increased reps while Williams is out. Williams is missing time while the receiving group is in flux.
Dallas Vice President Stephen Jones said the team still needs to talk to WR Dez Bryant about his contract, although there is no timeline for a decision and Yahoo Sports Jordan Schultz stated that Bryant will be released after the draft
Why It Matters: Bryant is due 12.5 million dollars this year and he did not play up to that level of pay last year. The signing of Allen Hurns gives the team a replacement, and they could make an additional move to bolster their receiver corps in the draft to prepare for the loss of Bryant. Bryant could also take a pay cut to stay with the team.
Los Angeles Rams
The Rams signed DT Ndamukong Suh to a one-year, 14 million dollar deal.
Why It Matters: A very strong defense just got an unfair advantage in the interior defensive line. Suh will play the nose, and offensive lines will more than have their hands full with Suh, Aaron Donald, and Michael Brockers keeping each other fresh and throwing combinations of size, strength, quickness, and motor that will confound the opposition. The Rams might be the most valuable fantasy defense in the NFC now and only behind the Jaguars across the NFL. Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips has to be thrilled at the offseason the Rams have had on the defensive side of the ball.
The Saints signed TE Ben Watson (Baltimore) to a one-year deal.
Why It Matters: Watson wasn’t getting downfield as often last year, but he still had his second-highest reception and fourth-highest touchdown and yardage totals of his 14-year career. The Saints offense tends to amplify the fantasy value of their pass catchers, and Watson should have enough value to be relevant as a bye week fill-in and matchup start. Head coach Sean Payton said the team needed to add a tight end and receiver earlier in the week, so look for a move at wideout soon or in the draft.
New York Giants
Jordan Raanan of ESPN reports that the Giants won’t take a quarterback at #2 unless USC’s Sam Darnold is still on the board.
Why It Matters: It would be odd for the team’s quarterback plans to be leaked this early with so much riding on their pick, but this does match some of the rhetoric coming out of the Giants camp. Darnold is rumored to be the #1 pick for the Browns, although there is some word that Wyoming QB Josh Allen is still in the running. The Jets are presumably going to take a quarterback at #3, so if the Giants are going to pass, the Bills could be a candidate to trade up to the #2 pick, or the Broncos or Cardinals. The Giants hold the key to how the early first round will cascade, and if the Browns take Darnold first, it sounds like that development could open up the potential options for the #2 pick for the Giants.
Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports that WR Odell Beckham Jr won’t play in 2018 without a new contract and Giants owner John Mara said no player is “untouchable”. The Rams are reportedly interested in trading for Beckham. Head coach Pat Shurmur said Beckham is “on our team right now”.
Why It Matters: This could represent another huge power shift in the NFC if Beckham is traded, especially if it is to the Rams, who have ample cap room in 2019 and beyond to sign Beckham long term. The price is reportedly a first round pick and a third or fourth, or perhaps two first round picks, but since the Rams project as a playoff team, those picks would likely be in the bottom third of the first round. Acquiring Beckham matches the modus operandi the Rams have shown this offseason, and Giants GM Dave Gettleman ended up letting Josh Norman go for nothing when he was attempting to get a long term deal at market value from the team. If the Giants know they don’t want to commit to Beckham at a price that is likely to be the highest of any non-quarterback in the league, now is the time to trade him. Stay tuned.
Eagles DL Michael Bennett has been indicted on a felony charge for injuring a 66-year-old paraplegic at Super Bowl LI.
Why It Matters: The incident has no video evidence and only one witness at the Super Bowl, so it might not result in any conviction or punishment for Bennett, but obviously this could put a cramp in the Eagles plans for him this year. The Eagles and Seahawks both claimed to have no knowledge of this until it came out. It could take a long time for this to play out since it took over a year for charges to be filed. For now, we’ll err on the side of assuming it won’t affect Bennett’s 2018 prospects, but that is subject to change.
Head coach Kyle Shanahan said they think new RB Jerick McKinnon is “great on third down, and good on first and second down, too.”
Why It Matters: McKinnon has been hyped as one of the biggest fantasy winners of free agency and Shanahan’s comments indicate that he will have every opportunity to deliver on the hype. Carlos Hyde was a solid PPR RB2 last year after not being a big passing game factor before Shanahan, and operating as a receiver out of the backfield is one of McKinnon’s strengths. He is probably still undervalued in early drafts.
Head coach Jay Gruden said he did not expect TE Jordan Reed to participate in OTAs.
Why it Matters: Reed was sidelined with a hamstring issue in 2017, which usually doesn’t keep a player out in the following year’s offseason. He might have had surgery on the injury or his toe issue that plagued him all year, or Washington might just want to give him a full offseason to get as healthy as he can before training camp. Either way, it doesn’t seem like Reed is doing anything to shed the fragile label.