Shark Bites

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.

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.

The Giants have released WR Victor Cruz. It was a no-brainer move with Cruz set to count $9.4 million against the 2017 salary cap. It's possible that the G-Men bring him back at a cheaper salary, but it shouldn't be as more than a #4 WR. The 30-year-old Cruz hauled in just 54.2% of his targets and scored 1 TD this past season. He's a long shot to re-emerge as a fantasy asset.

The Jets have voided the final year on QB Ryan Fitzpatrick's contract, making him a free agent. It was an easy decision after Fitzpatrick tanked in 2016, completing just 56.6% of his passes with 12 TDs and 17 INTs. The 34-year-old will need to settle for a backup job in 2017.

Bucs K Robert Aguayo's roster spot isn't a lock heading into 2017. “We will do everything we can to bring in the best competition at that position,” GM Jason Licht said. “I think Dirk [Koetter] even said he’s not locked into this roster. He needs to have a great camp just like all of our players, but we will continue to find the best competition that we can and ultimately have the best kicker that we can on this roster – whether it’s him or somebody else.” It seems ridiculous to consider cutting Aguayo after Tampa just spent the 59th overall pick of last year's draft on him -- but it was ridiculous to spend that pick on a K to begin with. Aguayo missed an NFL-high 9 FGs as a rookie.

The Seahawks have signed K Blair Walsh. He's likely viewed as a fall-back option if Seattle can't agree to a new deal with impending free-agent K Steven Hauschka. Walsh has struggled mightily over the last 3 seasons, connecting on just 80% of his FGs and 90.6% of his XPs. He was cut by Minnesota this past November.

The Colts on Thursday released veteran LB D'Qwell Jackson, who finished the season on a drug suspension. As it stands, 2016 rookies Edwin Jackson and Antonio Morrison look like the leading candidates to start at ILB for Indy in 2017. Of course, we have yet to hit free agency or the NFL Draft

Cardinals QB Carson Palmer announced that he'll return for another season in 2017. The 37-year-old had a disappointing 2016 campaign, finishing 16th among QBs in fantasy points. His 61.0% completion rate and 7.1 yards per attempt were both his worst marks in 4 years in Arizona. Palmer wasn't helped, though, by WR Michael Floyd's disappearance and WR John Brown's health issues. And he still tossed multiple TDs in 6 of his final 7 games. Palmer shouldn't be drafted as a QB1 in 2017, but he's capable of at least being a fantasy spot starter.

The 2016 Falcons led the league in scoring and finished 2nd in total yards. So, not surprisingly, they don't want to alter the offense, despite the departure of OC Kyle Shanahan. "We love the way that we attack, and it took a lot of work to put that system in place," HC Dan Quinn said. "Along with [GM Thomas Dimitroff], we have a real emphasis now on how we can fit guys into that system. It's very important that we stay consistent with that." In theory, it's good news for QB Matt Ryan and Atlanta's skill-position guys. But we'll see exactly how similar the offense is under new OC Steve Sarkisian.

Bears TE Zach Miller expects to be recovered by April from the fractured Lisfranc he suffered in his right foot this past November. "Everything's going great. I'll be ready when we get back in April," Miller said. "Everything's going according to plan, ahead of schedule. I've been through this exact rehab schedule before. I know what it entails and I've been able to bounce back and play at a high level before, and I'm comfortable with that." Miller suffered the same injury during the 2014 preseason and was placed on IR. He's never made it through a full 16-game season and will be nearly 33 years old when the 2017 season kicks off. Chicago needs to address TE this offseason.

The Browns have released QB Josh McCown. The 37-year-old appeared in 5 games as part of Cleveland's 2016 QB carousel, completing just 54.5% of his passes with 6 TDs and 6 INTs. McCown reportedly wants to continue his playing career but will only draw interest as a veteran backup. The Browns, meanwhile, are left with QBs Robert Griffin, Cody Kessler and Kevin Hogan. They'll likely add to that group via free agency and/or the draft.

The Packers have released RB James Starks. He averaged an ugly 2.3 yards per carry before a concussion ended his 2016 campaign. Turning 31 later this month, Starks will need to battle just for a roster spot this summer. He's droppable in keeper and dynasty leagues.

 
 
 

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