Why It Matters: Eifert has had an injury history to match or even surpass fellow stud TEs Jordan Reed and Rob Gronkowski. If he’s back for the beginning of training camp, that’s a win, because he wasn’t able to accomplish that goal last year after ankle surgery following an injury suffered in the Pro Bowl. For now Eifert is jockeying for TE4 with Greg Olsen, but returning to OTAs could give him the clear edge. The Bengals will need him to stay healthy to offset the offensive line losses if they want the offense to return to form in 2017.
Cleveland - ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports that the Browns have not made up their mind on whether to use the first pick of the draft on Texas A&M DE Myles Garrett or North Carolina QB Mitchell Trubisky.
Why It Matters: April is “lying season” in the NFL, so we must take this with a grain of salt. It could be accurate as head coach Hue Jackson needs a quarterback and might not be convinced that Trubisky will be there at #12. The Browns are still in play to trade up from #12 to get Trubisky and satisfy both sides of the debate at #1.
Why It Matters: This is an update from a previous story that said Anderson might not be ready after meniscus surgery in the fall. He will still face competition from Devontae Booker and quite possibly a draft running back, even Christian McCaffrey in the first round. Anderson is currently going in the fourth round of early drafts, and he is unlikely to be going higher next month.
Why It Matters: Thomas struggled through a hip issue and uneven quarterback play last year, and still got 90 catches and over 1000 yards. With more screen passes and better health, he could flirt with WR1 numbers again no matter who plays quarterback for Denver. He’s a good value in the fourth round of early drafts.
Why It Matters: Frank Gore could be at the edge of the running back cliff, and the Colts will likely have to turn to someone else to pick up the slack. It will probably be a back from the draft, but injuries and rookie mistakes happen, so Turbin could be a surprise if given the chance. He’ll be on our waiver wire watch list to open the season.
Indianapolis - The Colts signed DT Jonathan Hankins to a three-year, 30 million dollar deal.
Why It Matters: Hankins was arguably the top free agent left at any position. He just happens to address a huge weakness for the Colts - their run defense. The team has thrown some resources at the front seven this offseason and landed Jabaal Sheard, John Simon, Sean Spence, and Barkevious Mingo in addition to Hankins. They will still be looking at corners and edge rushers in deep classes, but this move could allow them to look at offensive players when they are on the clock at #15, perhaps even Stanford RB/WR Christian McCaffery.
New England - The Patriots hosted restricted free agent running backs Damien Williams (Miami) and Mike Gillislee (Buffalo).
Why It Matters: The Patriots are trying to send a message to LeGarrette Blount that they aren’t going to give in to his contract wishes after also bringing in Adrian Peterson for a workout recently. The Bills are trying to hammer out an extension with Gillislee according to draft analyst Tony Pauline, and he would cost the Patriots a fifth-round pick, so he’s unlikely to leave Buffalo.
New England - According to Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald, RB LeGarrette Blount has no plans to sign the Patriots current contract offer, which was made at the beginning of free agency.
Why It Matters: Blount has been among the cheapest veteran backs in the league the last two years, but he wants to be paid more in line with his production this year. We still expect Blount to play in Foxboro this year, but someone is going to have to blink first. The Patriots shouldn’t have to up their offer as long as a veteran option like Adrian Peterson is still out there.
Why It Matters: Decker is due over seven million dollars in each of the next two years and the Jets appear to be in rebuilding mode. They probably can’t trade him until he is recovered from his multiple surgeries, but it makes sense that they would be looking to move on from the veteran. Any move would be an upgrade for fantasy with the Jets nightmarish quarterback situation.
Arizona - Head coach Bruce Arians said a “top-round pick isn’t necessary” to bolster the team’s wide receiver group.
Why It Matters: This is a bit of a surprise with John Brown’s health uncertainty, Larry Fitzgerald’s advanced age, and Jaron Brown returning from an ACL tear. Arians was effusive about Patriots castoff Aaron Dobson, and tiny deep threat JJ Nelson should also figure into the mix. It could be an attempt to throw us off of the Cardinals’ trail, but Arians is usually one of the straightest shooting head coaches in the business.
Atlanta - The Falcons signed CB Desmond Trufant to a five-year 69 million dollar extension with 42 million guaranteed.
Why It Matters: Trufant is one of the best corners in the league and he is entering his prime. This contract is very rich by current standards, but with the cap rising every year, it will reasonable in a year or two. Stephon Gilmore got a similar deal from the Patriots, and Trufant outplayed him last year. Now the team can move on to Devonta Freeman’s extension.
Atlanta - GM Thomas Dimitroff said the team “will address” an extension for RB Devonta Freeman and he is “confident that something can get wrapped up and he’s going to be part of us for years to come.”
Why It Matters: Sorry Tevin Coleman dynasty owners. It’s possible the team drafts a running back this year, it sounds like that back would be more of a Coleman replacement than a Freeman replacement. While the two cap each other’s season-long upside, Freeman is the more proven and durable player and Coleman is much more likely to hit the free agent market at the end of his rookie deal.
Why It Matters: The Saints were left without a proven backup/complement to Mark Ingram II when Tim Hightower signed in San Francisco, so Peterson would certainly fill a need. He could still be looking for a starter’s role and pay, but he will be waiting until after the draft according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, when there are even fewer running back slots available around the league. This offseason has been a rude reality check for Peterson.
Philadelphia - Jimmy Kempski of Philly Voice believes that WR Dorial Green-Beckham “must be significantly improved to make the roster in 2017”.
Why It Matters: Green-Beckham was a second-round pick with a high athletic ceiling just two years ago. It appears that all of the downside projections based on his character are coming to fruition. His inability to help on special teams will make his quest for a roster spot tougher. Green-Beckham might be running out of chances soon if the Eagles don’t keep him.
San Francisco - According to NFL draft analyst Tony Pauline, “sources with knowledge” say the 49ers are “very high” on LSU RB Leonard Fournette and may use the second pick on him. The sources also say the team is ready to give up on RB Carlos Hyde, who has struggled to stay healthy. GM John Lynch didn’t dismiss the report, but said the team is “really high” on Hyde, although there are thoughts about whether his skills translate to what the team will do on offense.
Why It Matters: The 49ers want to trade down and probably want to induce a team like Jacksonville or Carolina to trade up for the back. While the news on Hyde isn’t encouraging, the team is probably overstating this position in the media to give the possibility of Fournette at 2 more credence.
San Francisco - GM John Lynch said the is team is “open for business” and will “listen to anything” concerning a trade down from #2.
Why It Matters: SI’s Albert Breer reported that San Francisco, Chicago, Tennessee, and the Jets all want to move down from the top six, which tells you that the absolute value (including quarterbacks) of picking that high is down this year. The 49ers could take a trade for under the classic Jimmy Johnson chart value with so many other teams in the top six willing to move down.
Seattle - ESPN’s Ed Werder reports that RB Marshawn Lynch has begun the reinstatement process and NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reports that Seattle and Oakland are expected to work out a trade, contingent on a reworked contract.
Why It Matters: We might as well start projecting Lynch as the starter in Oakland. He won’t be prime Lynch, but he might not need to be with the quality of their offensive line and passing game. Consider him as an RB2 easily able to reproduce Latavius Murray’s numbers from last year.
Why It Matters: Deadlines spur action, and the draft is the functional deadline for this deal. Sherman is due a market value salary of over 11 million dollars, but his production and play merit that and more. The cornerback class is very deep this year, but Sherman could help more for team like Dallas, which is clearly in a Super Bowl window.
Washington - Head coach Jay Gruden said the team will “gradually build” WR Josh Doctson through OTAs to “hopefully get him to full speed in training camp”.
Why It Matters: Doctson didn’t have offseason surgery, so while the cautious approach is prudent, it is also underscores the somewhat mysterious nature of the severity of these issues. Doctson is basically still in his rookie year, and while he has a tremendous opportunity with both Washington starting receivers from 2016 elsewhere this year, Terrelle Pryor, Jamison Crowder, and Jordan Reed are all better situated to benefit from the targets freed up in the prolific pass offense.