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The Week in NFL News - 3/23

A look at news around the NFL from the past week and how it might affect fantasy football.

AFC

Buffalo - The Bills signed WR Andre Holmes to a three-year, 6.5 million dollar contract.

Why It Matters: The Bills have no proven #2 receiver and Sammy Watkins has been far from durable thus far in his career. Holmes is a size/speed receiver who could create mismatches opposite Watkins. He’ll compete with Corey Brown to start.

Indianapolis - The Colts signed WR Kamar Aiken.

Why It Matters: The team has already said that Aiken will have a chance to win the #3 job against Phillip Dorsett, who has been a disappointment and was not selected by current GM Chris Ballard. Aiken was highly productive in 2015 when Steve Smith down and he could have fantasy relevance this year if Donte Moncrief or TY Hilton can’t stay healthy.

Jacksonville - ESPN’s Michael Dirocco expects the Jaguars to take a running back in the top half of the draft and that LSU’s Leonard Fournette could be that back.

Why It Matters: The Jaguars are being linked to Fournette in a lot of mock drafts, and it makes sense for the priorities the team has shown in recent years. They probably want a do-over on the Chris Ivory signing and TJ Yeldon draft pick, and Fournette’s power/speed game represents that. While Jacksonville isn’t the best fantasy destination for a running back in this year’s draft, that he is in discussion as a top five pick in the running back value depressed NFL should indicate the caliber of prospect he is. 

New England - The Patriots waived RB Tyler Gaffney.

Why It Matters: Rex Burkhead is now the closest thing to a “big back” on the Patriots roster. Gaffney was reportedly pushing LeGarrette Blount for a roster spot last summer, but neither are on the team now. It’s not a stretch to say that he has 10-15 touchdown upside if New England doesn’t bring in another running back before the beginning of the season.

New York Jets - The Jets signed QB Josh McCown to a one-year, six million dollar contract. The deal has incentives that make it worth up to 13 million.

Why It Matters: The Jay Cutler-Jeremy Bates reunion is called off, as it appears that McCown will open the season as the starter. He’s not a terrible quarterback when it comes to generating fantasy value, but he also has a lot of trouble staying on the field. Expect to see Christian Hackenberg or Bryce Petty more than any Jets fan would want to this coming season.

Oakland - Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network reports that a source said retired Seattle RB Marshawn Lynch coming back to the NFL is “realer than it has ever been” and that “it’s Raiders or bust”.

Why It Matters: Lynch reportedly met with the Seahawks to ask for his release and multiple sources have corroborated the notion of him wanting to play for his hometown Raiders. He didn’t look to be in great shape in a recent appearance, but if Latavius Murray could be a solid RB2 in that offense, a less-than peak form Lynch could, too. The Raiders backfield is wide open and the idea of him being more attractive than Adrian Peterson isn’t outlandish, even after a year off of football.

Oakland - The Raiders signed TE Jared Cook to a two-year, 10.6 million dollar deal with five million guaranteed.

Why It Matters: Clive Walford is going to have to fight for playing time and targets with Cook in town. After rejuvenating the Packers offense and creating some fantasy value of his own, Cook should be in one-on-one situations that he can win because of the Raiders quality wide receivers. He’s an upside pick late in fantasy drafts in his new digs.

Pittsburgh - The Steelers signed RB Knile Davis to a one-year contract.

Why It Matters: There are no signs that DeAngelo Williams will return to Pittsburgh, so Davis only has to beat out Fitzgerald Toussaint to backup LeVeon Bell, who had offseason surgery yet again this year. The Steelers offense can produce numbers for the running back position as long as they are minimally competent, so Davis’s profile in deep dynasty leagues just got a big boost.

NFC

Atlanta - D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Journal-Constitution reports that WR Julio Jones is expected to be at full strength by the start of training camp.

Why It Matters: Jones is going in the first round of draft no matter what the prognosis is after offseason foot surgery, but this is the optimistic news you would want to hear if Jones is a cornerstone of your team. The Falcons will take it slow with their #1 receiver, but everything is on track for Jones to be his usual self to open the season

Carolina - The Panthers official website reports that QB Cam Newton will undergo surgery for a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder. The team’s goal is to have him back for the beginning of training camp.

Why It Matters: This at least explains Newton cratering with five interceptions in the last two games of the season. He suffered the injury in Week 14. The team tried to have him rehab the injury without surgery, but he was still experiencing pain, so that’s why the surgery didn’t happen earlier in the offseason. While he should be ready for training camp if he stays on schedule, we’ll be monitoring this closely. He should be approached with caution at early ADP with this added uncertainty. Derek Anderson returned in free agency and would be the starter if Newton misses time due to a slow recovery, with Joe Webb as his backup.

Chicago - The Bears signed RB Benny Cunningham to a one-year contract.

Why It Matters: Cunningham will compete for passing down snaps with Jeremy Langford, and he could push Ka’Deem Carey out of a roster spot. Jordan Howard isn’t a true three-down back, and Cunningham’s presence will keep it that way, although Howard’s dominance in a bad offense last year should still encourage investment in the early rounds of drafts.

Dallas - The Cowboys signed RB Darren McFadden to a one-year contract.

Why It Matters: Pencil McFadden in as the backup to Ezekiel Elliott, who is still under investigation by the NFL for domestic violence allegations. The Dallas running game is plug and play, which means that McFadden is one injury or suspension away from having big value in fantasy leagues.

Green Bay - The Packers signed RB Christine Michael.

Why It Matters: Green Bay let Eddie Lacy walk and has been very quiet in the free agent running back market. Michael could figure into a committee with Ty Montgomery and fullback Aaron Ripkowski, but he could also go by the wayside if the team drafts a running back early next month.

New Orleans - Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network reports that Saints head coach Sean Payton and former Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel were “spotted together” during Super Bowl week and that a return to football was discussed.

Why It Matters: The Saints don’t have a strong backup quarterback, and Manziel has a more than high enough ceiling to be worth carrying as a #3 if Payton feels he can get through to him. Manziel wasn’t terrible the last time we saw him on an NFL field, and if his head is on straight, he could have a future in the quarterback-starved league yet.

Seattle - ESPN’s Sheil Kapadia reports that WR Tyler Lockett is “ahead of schedule” and should be ready to go for Week 1.

Why It Matters: Lockett’s leg injury was gruesome and one that did not inspire confidence for his Week 1 status. If he can be ready for camp and back up to speed by Week 1, that is a great development for him and the Seahawks. He finally regained his 2015 form after fighting through a knee injury for most of the season and could be an undervalued receiver in 2017 drafts.

Tampa Bay - Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times reports that RB Doug Martin finished rehab in February. GM Jason Licht said “Fortunately, we have some time to make that decision” regarding Martin’s future with the team.

Why It Matters: The Bucs showed a commitment to the run and the addition of DeSean Jackson won’t hurt their running game because safeties may have to play on their heels. Right now Jacquizz Rodgers, Charles Sims, and Peyton Barber are all on the roster, and if the team makes no other moves at running back, they would handle the work while Martin is suspended for the first three games of the season. Martin is due over five million dollars this year with no cap hit if he is released, so if the team gets a back they like in the draft or if they otherwise aren’t happy with the prospect of paying a high price tag for a partial season of a back who wasn’t all that effective last year anyway, they could give Martin his walking papers.

Tampa Bay - The Buccaneers signed PK Nick Folk.

Why It Matters: Interestingly, Folk’s contract included 750,000 guaranteed, which means that they are giving him every chance to beat out 2016 second-round pick Roberto Aguayo, if not favoring him to do it. The stories of early kicker picks are mostly cautionary tales, and this one is on track to be one of the worst busts yet.