Titans HC Mike Mularkey wants his RBs to focus a bit less on pass protection and a bit more on getting out into their routes. (You don't hear that too often!). “I’d say we’ve got to get our backs out quicker,” Mularkey said. "... We may have over-emphasized it too much that the backs are waiting for something to happen and trying to get an extra chip. But we’ve got to get them out quicker." DeMarco Murray caught 53 balls on 67 targets last year -- both top-8 marks among RBs. It sounds like there's a chance he sees even more action in the passing game in 2017. The big question for the 29-year-old Murray is whether he can hold off Derrick Henry.
The Jaguars have traded TE Julius Thomas to the Dolphins in exchange for a 2017 seventh-round pick. This went from Thomas-for-Albert to no trade to Thomas-for-a-pick in the past 12 hours. Thomas disappointed in Jacksonville, missing 11 games and averaging just 35 yards in the other 21 over the past 2 seasons. He, of course, dealt with inconsistent QB play from Blake Bortles. Whether he's getting an upgrade in QB Ryan Tannehill is debatable. Thomas is at least reuniting with Adam Gase, who was Denver's OC when Thomas scored 24 TDs between 2013 and 2014. Turning just 29 in June, there's some bounce-back potential. But fantasy owners shouldn't bet more than a late-round pick on it.
Multiple outlets are reporting that the Jaguars and Dolphins are working to finalize a Julius Thomas for Branden Albert swap. In Miami, Thomas would be reuniting with Adam Gase, who was the Broncos' OC when Thomas tallied 24 TDs across 2013 and 2014. Of course, QB Peyton Manning also had plenty to do with that. Thomas wouldn't enjoy that level of QB play with the Dolphins, and he'd be battling for targets with DeVante Parker and possibly Kenny Stills behind #1 WR Jarvis Landry. The trade would still leave Thomas as just a TE2 flier in 2017 fantasy drafts, but consider a move to Miami a slight upgrade to his fantasy stock. The deal is reportedly contingent on both Thomas and Albert restructuring their contracts and passing physicals. It can't be made official until the start of the new league year on March 9.
Update: Insider Armando Salguero reports that Jacksonville will be sending Miami a 2018 draft pick, not Thomas, in exchange for Albert. Thomas could still find himself on a new team this coming season. He's due to make $6 million in 2017 on his current deal.
Free agent WR Michael Floyd pled guilty to 1 count of extreme DUI and was sentenced to 120 days of jail. Just 24 of those will be served in an actual prison, with the other 96 home detention. It's all lost training time for the 27-year-old, though. Between the legal issue and a disastrous 2016 season, Floyd will likely need to settle for a 1-year deal on the open market.
Chargers HC Anthony Lynn is excited about RB Melvin Gordon's potential. “I’ve watched some tape on him,” Lynn said. “Man, he has some upside. He did a hell of a job from his rookie year to his sophomore year. And I told him we can take this to another level. We’re going to do some things running-wise that I can think can help him.” Lynn has no head-coaching experience. But he played 6 seasons of RB in the NFL and has spent the last 17 years coaching. He helped the Bills to back-to-back #1 finishes in rushing yards the past 2 seasons. Prior to that, he was with the Jets, who ranked top 6 in rushing in 4 of Lynn's 6 seasons. There's certainly room for Gordon to build on his breakout 2016 campaign under Lynn's tutelage.
Mariota expected to be sidelined until training camp
Titans HC Mike Mularkey said Wednesday that the team will be "very cautious" with QB Marcus Mariota, and that the plan is to hold him out until training camp. "He's right on schedule," Mularkey added. Mariota will spend the majority of the offseason rehabbing that broken fibula, which obviously isn't ideal for a 3rd-year QB. He'll at least be returning to the same offense, though, so there's no learning curve there. Mariota will certainly be worth targeting in 2017 fantasy drafts if the price is right. He was sitting 8th among QBs in fantasy points through 16 weeks this past year.
The Cardinals believe they've found a solution for the sickle-cell problem that hampered WR John Brown throughout the 2016 campaign. “He is very healthy, looks like they found the issue,” owner Michael Bidwill said. “We’ll get Smoke back the way we had him.” Brown missed just 1 game this past season but was limited to less than 60% of the snaps in 12 of the other 15. (He topped 60% in 14 of 15 games in 2015.) The end result was a disappointing 39-517-2 line. Brown is just a year removed from a 65-1,003-7 line and 25th-place PPR finish, though. With Michael Floyd gone, a healthy Brown would be the favorite to operate as Arizona's #2 WR in 2017. There's big bounce-back potential here.
Steelers WR Sammie Coates recently had sports hernia surgery, according to ESPN.com. The issue never appeared on 2016 injury reports and reportedly didn't affect his practice participation at all. It shouldn't inhibit his preparation for 2017 either, given the timing of the operation. Coates' biggest issue heading into next year figures to be the return of WR Martavis Bryant, who plays the Coates role better than Coates does. Expect a diminished presence from Coates in his 3rd season, especially after he saw his playing time dip late in 2016. We'll be surprised if he shows up as a worthwhile fantasy football factor in the coming year.
The Rams will switch their base defensive front to a 3-4 under new DC Wade Phillips, according to the Los Angeles Daily News. That could mean significantly different roles for a number of front-seven players. The most affected in fantasy terms will likely be Robert Quinn, who figures to move from DE to OLB. If that designation changes for 2017 on most fantasy sites, then his IDP ceiling will come down considerably. Aaron Donald will move from his 3-technique DT spot, but he'll retain DL eligibility. Phillips told the Daily News that if Donald doesn't fit your system, then your system isn't working. We'll trust the seasoned veteran DC to put the stud lineman in position to make plays. LBs Alec Ogletree and Mark Barron will face a big change as well, which could include taking on a lot more blockers in the run game. This will be a key defense to look at as we head toward the summer, regardless of your fantasy football format.
The Giants have cut RB Rashad Jennings, saving $2.5 million against the 2017 salary cap. Jennings limped his way to just 3.3 yards per carry this past season and turns 32 in March. His days as a lead back are over. Jennings' departure leaves RB Paul Perkins atop the depth chart. He closed his rookie campaign with 72 carries for 301 yards (4.2 YPC) over his final 6 outings. Perkins is the current favorite for lead-back duties, but it wouldn't be surprising to see the Giants add competition this offseason. The rookie RB class looks deep.