Jimmy Graham and Dennis Pitta were locked up before they hit the open market. That leaves Jermichael Finley as the top player in this class. But the guy sitting #2 in our rankings could be a 2014 fantasy football sleeper.
ESPN's Adam Schefter reports that the Saints are "shopping" RB Pierre Thomas and WR Lance Moore. Schefter adds that New Orleans "even could be open" to trading RB Darren Sproles. Both Thomas, 29, and Sproles, 30, are entering the final years of their contracts. The departure of either would make the other a stronger fantasy option. It might also open up a role for RB Khiry Robinson. Moore, meanwhile, is coming off his worst season since 2009 and turns 31 in August. He'd be a weak bet for fantasy-starter value outside of New Orleans.
RB Chris Johnson has yet to be cleared to resume running after undergoing offseason knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his knee. Johnson is still working to strengthen the muscles around the knee but says he's "closer to 100%." It's the 1st surgery of his pro career and shouldn't impact his market value once the Titans release him. For what it's worth, Johnson hinted that the injury suffered in Week 3 impacted his performance the rest of the season. “I am not going to make excuses, but you can talk to anybody who’s had a torn meniscus and they know how it affects you," Johnson said. "I’m not going to sit here and tell you if I wouldn’t have had a torn meniscus I would have had 1,600-1,700 rushing yards last year, but my teammates know what I was going through.” Johnson averaged a career-worst 3.9 yards per carry last year, and the knee was at least partly to blame. But he's also turning 29 in September and clearly on the decline. The days of Johnson as an elite fantasy RB are gone. How much he can help your fantasy squad in 2014 will depend on where he lands.
Bucs RB Bobby Rainey has signed a 1-year extension. The 26-year-old would have been an exclusive-rights free agent, which would basically have locked him in with Tampa unless the team decided not to retain him. Rainey enjoyed a pair of 100-yard games as the 3rd man in for the Bucs last season, but he'll fight for a backup job in 2014.
The NFL has reinstated Seahawks CB Brandon Browner following his December suspension for violating the substance abuse policy. That allows Browner to hit the free-agent market and take part in all offseason activities. He still must sit out the 1st 4 games of the 2014 season, however.
The Rams released CB Cortland Finnegan on Wednesday, saving $4 million in cap space rather than paying him $10 million in 2014. The 30-year-old didn't play very well in his 2 seasons after signing a 5-year, $50 million deal in 2012. He might catch on somewhere to play the slot on a short-term deal, but Finnegan seems unlikely to make much IDP impact going forward.
The Broncos released veteran CB Champ Bailey late Wednesday. The move comes as no surprise. Denver would have owed Bailey a $1 million bonus come March 15, and he would have counted $10 million against the 2014 salary cap. The Broncos reportedly didn't talk restructure before cutting Bailey. The 35-year-old seems destined for a short-term deal elsewhere. He has said that he would still prefer to play CB but is open to moving to safety.
LB D'Qwell Jackson has reached a deal with the Colts. ESPN reports he'll get $22 million over 4 years, including $11 million guaranteed. That seems a hefty sum for a 31-year-old ILB whom PFF graded 49th against the run at his position each of the past 2 years. The money suggests that Jackson will play 3 downs, which would obviously help his IDP value. Jerrell Freeman's presence -- as the much better player -- hurts a bit, though. Look for Jackson to settle into low LB3 range in our 2014 IDP rankings.
The Steelers have extended S Troy Polamalu's contract for 2 more years, through 2016. The move gives Pittsburgh cap relief from the $10.8 million hit Polamalu was due. We'll be surprised if the soon-to-be 33-year-old makes it through 3 more seasons as a starter. Polamalu missed multiple games in 3 of his past 5 seasons, including 9 in 2012. He remains a good player when healthy but also a low-value IDP.
Bills S Aaron Williams has signed a 4-year $26 million extension, which makes him the league's 8th highest paid safety in annual salary. Williams enjoyed a strong 2013 -- when healthy (he missed 2 games) -- after converting from CB. The deal clearly locks in Williams as a starter going forward and likely doesn't leave much money to chase after 2013 franchise player S Jairus Byrd. We've all expected, of course, that Byrd and the Bills would part ways this offseason anyway.
Per beat writer Jim Wyatt, Titans QB Jake Locker (foot) is still “a
few” weeks away from shedding his walking boot. The plan is for Locker to begin running shortly after that. If all goes according to plan, he’ll be ready
for OTAs in June. Locker’s missed 14 of
a possible 32 games over the past 2 seasons. And while nothing is cemented, it appears that new HC Ken Whisenhunt
will let him earn the starting gig. Locker has already spent time studying film of Whiz’s 2013 offense with the
Chargers. With some injury luck, the dynamic QB could
blossom into a viable QB2.