Shark Bites

The Bills declined to match the Patriots' 2-year, $6.4 million contract offer to restricted free agent RB Mike Gillislee. So he's off to New England, while Buffalo receives a 5th-round pick as compensation. Gillislee joins an extremely crowded backfield that includes Rex Burkhead, James White and Dion Lewis. Gillislee and Burkhead figure to be battling mostly for early-down, ball-carrying duties. And, most importantly, the goal-line role. Patriots RBs have averaged 16.4 rushing scores over the past 5 seasons, with 18+ in 3 of those. In Buffalo, meanwhile, talented 2nd-year RB Jonathan Williams now has a big opportunity to step in as LeSean McCoy's backup.

Falcons WR Taylor Gabriel on Saturday signed his 2nd-round tender as a restricted free agent. That will keep him in Atlanta for 2017. We'll see if the 2 sides work out any extension beyond that. Gabriel cracked the top 50 among WRs in PPR points per game but ranked just 90th at the position in targets and enjoyed a high TD rate. He'll have a tough time delivering predictable, usable fantasy value without a significant increase in his role.

Washington RB Chris Thompson signed his restricted free agent tender this week. It's a 1-year contract with the team; we wouldn't bet on a longer-term extension. Thompson reached double-digit carries just once last season and surpassed 40 receiving yards only once as well. He's not much of a week-to-week fantasy football option but returns to an open backfield that sports Rob Kelley as its current lead back. We're expecting Washington to add someone in the NFL Draft.

Panthers GM Dave Gettleman said QB Cam Newton is “on schedule” to participate in training camp. He played the final 4 games of last season with a partially torn rotator cuff and underwent surgery on his right shoulder on March 30. Per the Panthers, Newton should resume throwing around late June. We’ll track his progress throughout the summer as he tries to rebound from a disappointing 2016.

On the same day they signed Bills RFA RB Mike Gillislee to an offer sheet, ESPN's Adam Schefter reports that the Patriots signed RB James White to a 3-year extension. The Super Bowl star would have been facing unrestricted free agency at the end of the 2017 season but is now under contract through 2020. With White, Dion Lewis and the additions of Rex Burkhead and Gillislee (unless the Bills match), New England's backfield is looking quite crowded. It's a high-value situation, but the committee could prove tough to predict week to week for fantasy football owners. All 4 RBs carry some late-round intrigue -- especially in early best-ball drafting -- though White's new deal might threaten Lewis the most. We'll be watching this situation develop into and through the summer.

The Patriots signed restricted free agent RB Mike Gillislee to a 2-year offer sheet worth $6.4 million. The deal includes $4 million in year 1. Buffalo has 5 days to match the offer, although a shortage of cap space might lead them to pass. In New England, Gillislee would join a loaded backfield that includes Dion Lewis, James White and Rex Burkhead. If you're drafting in MFL10s or FFPC Draft Experts leagues right now, we'd recommend avoiding LeGarrette Blount while the Gillislee situation plays out.

As expected, RB Doug Martin reported for the start of Tampa Bay’s offseason workout program on Monday. 2016 was a lost year for the veteran, as hamstring trouble and a PED suspension limited him to 8 games. Note that Martin will serve the final 3 games of his suspension during the 2017 regular season. We’ll see if the Buccaneers select a RB come draft day.

The Titans this week dumped veteran CB Jason McCourty. The 29-year-old (30 in October) spent 8 seasons in Tennessee but lost 16 games to injury over the past 2 years. He's likely to find a new landing spot fairly easily in a league always hungry for solid CBs. We'll see whether that new home keeps McCourty in a full-time role and supports his consistent IDP value.

The Rams hired Wade Phillips this offseason to be their new DC, after switching from Jeff Fisher to Sean McVay in the head job. That move likely startled some IDP owners who wondered how it might affect DT Aaron Donald's role and production. According to ESPN.com, however, Donald expects to do the “same thing. I’m still going to be a 3-technique; still a penetrate, get-up-field type of guy. I got to come here during the offseason and got to sit down and talk with him. I like his game plan and how he’s going to use us, and the position he’s going to put us in to have success.” Phillips is a 3-4 maven, but he's also a smart, career-long defensive coach. He's not likely to apply the Rams' best defensive player in a way that mutes Donald's effectiveness. We'll see what the numbers say come the season, but don't worry too much about Donald's IDP outlook as we move toward fantasy football draft time.

Washington OLB Trent Murphy lost his appeal of a 4-game PED suspension this week, according to the Washington Times. So Murphy will miss the 1st 4 games of the 2017 season. Washington's defense will still have OLB's Ryan Kerrigan and Preston Smith in the starting lineup.

NFL Network's Michael Silver reports that the Raiders and RB Marshawn Lynch have agreed to contract terms. Oakland will still need to work out a trade with the Seahawks to officially acquire Lynch, but we'd guess that step should be easier than the contract. Seattle has Thomas Rawls, C.J. Prosise and Eddie Lacy in the backfield after playing 2016 without Lynch. Assuming the whole situation does get worked out, we'd bet on Lynch leading the Oakland backfield in carries this season -- barring injury, of course. DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard will be bigger threats in the passing game, however, which should keep the work spread around. The Raiders finished 2016 ranked 6th in yardage and 7th in scoring, despite losing Derek Carr for the final game and Latavius Murray for 2 others. It's a good situation for RB value, especially behind 1 of the league's best offensive lines. But don't expect any Oakland back to sit higher than RB3 range when our official 2017 rankings arrive.

Update: Lynch and the Raiders haven't officially reached an agreement on a new deal, per NFL Network. They're still expected to come to terms, though. Stay tuned.

Broncos WR Demaryius Thomas conceded to The Denver Post this week that a hip issue bothered him for much of last season. “It was tough. Sometimes I couldn’t stop. Sometimes I couldn’t run certain routes that I wanted to run. Sometimes I couldn’t get off press (coverage) because I had no power in it,” Thomas said. “It wasn’t my excuse. I was out there trying to help my teammates out and trying to make it not look bad on my part.” He didn't miss any games, but Thomas did post a career low in yards per reception, along with his fewest catches and TDs in his 5 seasons as a full-time starter. Thomas had no surgery in the offseason but said that the hip feels great right now. He also intimated that a hit to the wrong spot could force a recurrence. There's bounce-back potential as long as Thomas' offseason continues to go well, and he's going in value range in early drafting. We'll certainly keep an eye on the hip into the season.

NFL Network's Ian Rapoport hears that the Seahawks are expected to trade RB Marshawn Lynch to the Raiders. The deal is contingent on Lynch and the Raiders working out a new contract first. Lynch-to-Oakland has seemed likely for a while now. Frankly, though, we're surprised Seattle is going to squeeze a draft pick out of the Raiders. Regardless, Beast Mode will arrive in Oakland as the favorite for lead-back duties on an ascending offense with an elite offensive line. We're curious to see what kind of shape the soon-to-be 31-year-old is in after a year away from the game.

49ers GM John Lynch suggested that the team isn't sure RB Carlos Hyde is a good fit for new HC Kyle Shanahan's zone-blocking scheme. “You have these thoughts as to ‘Do these skills translate to what we do?’” Lynch said. That came in a response to a report from insider Tony Pauline that the 'Niners are "ready to give up" on Hyde. That seems much too strong -- Lynch added that he's "really high" on Hyde and thinks he can be a "highly productive player." San Francisco only added journeyman Tim Hightower in free agency. We'll see what they do in the draft. Our money is still on Hyde operating as the 49ers' lead back -- at least in 2017, the final year of his current deal.

Broncos WR Demaryius Thomas is happy to have OC Mike McCoy back in the building. DT played under McCoy from 2010 to 2012. That final season produced a breakout 94-1,434-10 line -- albeit with Peyton Manning under center. Thomas is especially excited to get the ball in his hands more often on WR screens. Those helped him rank 2nd among WRs with 561 yards after the catch back in 2012. That number sunk to 336 last year -- 25th at his position. Still in his prime at 29, Thomas is certainly capable of matching or even besting last year's 16th-place PPR finish this season. He's been the 19th WR off the board in recent MFL10 drafts.

Chargers WR Keenan Allen provided an update on his return from right ACL surgery. Recall that Allen suffered the season-ending injury back in September. “I feel amazing,” he said. “No pain, no aches. Rehab is going good. I’m just trying to keep it going.” The 25-year-old added that he’s currently about “85 percent.” The goal is for Allen to be a full-go by training camp, but the team will surely take it easy on their top WR. He’s already missed 25 total games through 4 NFL seasons.

Bengals TE Tyler Eifert (back) won't commit to participating in OTAs but does expect to be ready for training camp. “I’ll be ready and healthy and strong and be ready to go by the time it’s go time,” he said. “I’m close.” Eifert is rehabbing from late-December back surgery. That injury delayed his 2016 debut and cost him the final 2 games of the season. Eifert has missed 42% of Cincinnati's games since joining the team in 2013.

Broncos HC Vance Joseph said Monday that RB C.J. Anderson (knee) is ready for the start of OTAs. He's about 5-and-a-half months removed from surgery to repair a torn meniscus. Anderson mustered just 4.0 yards per carry in 7 games before going down last year. But RB Devontae Booker was worse, averaging 3.5 for the season. Denver only added RB Bernard Pierce in free agency. We'll see what they do in the draft. For now, Anderson is the favorite for lead-back duties.

WR Anquan Boldin reiterated this week that he plans to return for a 15th season. He told ESPN's Jim Trotter that he'll probably sign closer to training camp, as Boldin did with the Lions last July. He finished 2nd on the team with 67 receptions while leading the Lions with 8 TD catches in 2016. Detroit and Baltimore have reportedly showed interest in the veteran for 2017.

Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger tweeted on Friday that he'll return for his 14th season in 2017. He had suggested earlier this offseason that he was considering retirement, although no one seemed to take it very seriously. Despite turning 35 last month and suffering an assortment of injuries, Roethlisberger remained effective last season. He ranked 7th among QBs in fantasy points per game -- albeit with some nasty home/road splits. Big Ben's return is obviously excellent news for RB Le'Veon Bell, WR Antonio Brown and the rest of Pittsburgh's skill-position guys.

 
 
 

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