Shark Bites

7 hours ago

RB Jacquizz Rodgers has inked a 1-year deal with the Bears.  The 5'6, 196-pounder was never able to carve out more than a change-of-pace role in Atlanta and certainly won't do so behind Matt Forte in Chicago.  Rodgers is a plus pass-catcher, with 155 grabs over his 4-year career, but Forte is perhaps the best pass-catching back in the NFL.  It's tough to see Rodgers emerging as a fantasy asset with the Bears as long as Forte is healthy.  And if Forte goes down, we'd likely see a committee backfield with Rodgers and 2nd-year RB Ka'Deem Carey.

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11 hours ago

The Ravens have signed QB Matt Schaub.  Turning 34 in June, Schaub has tossed 10 TDs and 16 INTs in 11 appearances over the past 2 seasons.  He's well past his prime and will obviously be a pure backup in Baltimore.  QB Joe Flacco has yet to miss a game through 7 NFL seasons.

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Patriots DE Chandler Jones has been seen on crutches recently as he rehabs from post-Super Bowl surgery, according to ESPN Boston. We haven't seen details on the procedure, but those close to Jones reportedly say there's no long-term concern. Jones lost 6 games last year to a hip injury. We'll keep an eye on his status once on-field workouts begin.

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The Denver Post reports that Broncos WR Demaryius Thomas plans to skip offseason workouts and training as he and the team work on a new contract. Denver placed the franchise tag on Thomas just before the start of free agency, but he doesn't need to sign that tender or report to any team functions until July 15. Fantasy football owners shouldn't worry about this situation at all for now, but it will be one to watch if we get to summer and still have no long-term deal worked out. In the meantime, 2014 rookie Cody Latimer could get some key extra reps with QB Peyton Manning -- starting at Manning's upcoming passing camp at Duke.

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1 day ago

The Eagles are expected to sign WR Miles Austin, as long as he passes his physical, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.  Austin turns 31 in June and has averaged just 11.4 yards per catch over the past 2 seasons.  He's also played in all 16 games just once in the last 4 seasons.  As the roster stands now, Austin would battle 2nd-year WR Josh Huff for the #3 spot on the depth chart.  The Eagles are still likely to add at least 1 more WR in the draft.

Update: Philly has signed Austin to a 1-year deal, $2.3 million deal.

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ESPN's Boston Mike Reiss hears that free-agent RB Stevan Ridley (knee) is expected to receive full medical clearance in about 6 weeks.  That'd be just 7-and-a-half months after he tore his ACL.  Ridley reportedly has his 1st visits of free agency lined up for this week.  If healthy, the 26-year-old is the top RB left on the open market.

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Cardinals HC Bruce Arians called WR Michael Floyd "a thousand-yard player every year."  Of course, Floyd wasn't a 1,000-yard receiver this past season.  He finished with just 841 yards on 47 catches after going for 1,054 in 2013.  Arians concedes that Floyd was a "victim of the QB situation" last year but also said that Floyd needs to be more consistent.  He won't turn 26 until November, so he should theoretically still be on the ascent.  With a healthy season from QB Carson Palmer, Floyd is plenty capable of bouncing back in 2015.

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Bears DE Jared Allen told the Chicago Tribune that a nagging back issue from 2014 got diagnosed as a herniated disc after the season. He also said that he spent 4 weeks trying to regain the weight and muscle mass lost to the pneumonia that forced him out of Week 4 and shed 15 pounds from his body. Allen swears he's "still good" and says he's energized by the challenge of switching to 3-4 OLB for the 1st time in his career. We'll see what he has left for his age-33 season, but the position switch is bad new for his fantasy value if it changes his designation in your IDP league.

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"I think it’s time for him to make a big jump, not just a little jump." That's what Broncos HC Gary Kubiak told the team website about 2nd-year WR Cody Latimer this week. The 2014 second-round pick plans to join Peyton Manning next week for his annual workouts at Duke University to work on timing and chemistry. Kubiak said he saw "a lot of flashes" in practice from Latimer in his rookie season -- which Kubiak spent as Baltimore's OC -- and that the young wideout has already displayed "a lot of skill." Latimer will be the #3 WR in Denver, likely lining up outside in 3-WR sets with Emmanuel Sanders moving to the slot. Kubiak's teams have historically not run a ton of multiple-WR sets, but he's probably now working with the most talented trio of wideouts that he's had at any point. A smart offensive coach isn't going to keep his biggest playmakers on the sideline just so that he can get as many TEs on the field as possible. That said, Latimer's role will cap his fantasy upside and certainly limit his week-to-week consistency. He'll make for an intriguing pick in the double-digit rounds of 2015 redraft leagues. Any earlier, though, and you'll likely be overpaying.

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Cardinals HC Bruce Arians plans to get 2nd-year QB Logan Thomas plenty of work this offseason. “He’s going to get a ton of work and those reps are invaluable,” Arians told the team’s website. “Just in decision-making, how fast you’re getting it out of your hand, where you’re going with it, where you’re going when ‘one’ and ‘two’ are still covered. Are you still scrambling around or are you going to find your outlets? That growth process comes strictly from reps.” Thomas has the physical tools but entered the league as a raw 4th-round pick whom Arians didn't feel ready to play in 2014 even after Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton went down. We'll see how far Thomas can progress in his 2nd pro offseason, though we still wouldn't expect much regular-season action from him in 2015. If he can develop, however, the strong-armed athlete could present some real fantasy intrigue in the future. There's no better candidate on the current roster to succeed the 35-year-old Palmer.

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Panthers HC Ron Rivera would like to limit RB Jonathan Stewart to about 15 carries per game this season.  “The thing you’ve got to be careful about in this league is you can’t rely on one player at one position,’’ Rivera said. “Running back has definitely been proven that you’ve got to have a good two-back tandem. And that’s what we’re looking for. We’re looking for that complement to Jonathan."  Fifteen carries per game would put Stewart at 240 for the season.  That'd actually be a career-high and would have ranked 10th league-wide last year.  It's a workload that makes sense for a RB who's struggled with durability throughout his career.  Carolina currently has Fozzy Whittaker and Mike Tolbert behind Stewart on the depth chart, but they've shown interest in rookies Todd Gurley, Tevin Coleman and Buck Allen.  

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The Panthers on Friday signed former Packers WR Jarrett Boykin to a 1-year deal. Boykin made a fantasy impact 2 years ago in Green Bay when injuries to Randall Cobb (10 games missed) and James Jones (2 games) created opportunity. Boykin managed 49 catches for 681 yards and 3 TDs. But he quickly fell out of use with Cobb back healthy and rookie Davante Adams on board last year. And then the Packers didn't even tender him as a restricted free agent. Carolina presents clear opportunity, with 32-year-old Jerricho Cotchery ranking 3rd on the team in targets last year. But Boykin will need the Panthers to avoid adding an early-round WR in the draft if he's to realize any real 2015 fantasy football value.

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Patriots LB Dont'a Hightower could be in danger of missing the start of the 2015 NFL season. The Boston Herald reports that he's expected to need 6-7 months to return from recent shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum, an injury he played through in the Super Bowl (among other games). We'll certainly keep an eye on Hightower's status this summer, but the recovery period obviously threatens his IDP value heading into next season. At the same time, it should increase Jerod Mayo's fantasy upside in his own return from the patellar tendon tear that ended his 2014 season early. The combo of both LB injury situations only solidifies LB Jamie Collins' top-10 status for IDP leagues. The injuries at LB and loss of both starting CBs could hurt the fantasy value of the Patriots' team D.

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Lions QB Matt Stafford chucked it 602 times last year.  That ranked 5th league-wide but was his lowest total in 4 full NFL seasons.  HC Jim Caldwell doesn't want Stafford's volume to climb in 2015.  "We're probably not going to throw it (more)," Caldwell said. "If we do throw it more, that means we're behind, we're struggling, we're not winning, we're not a very good football team, plain and simple."  Detroit is looking to establish a more balanced offense after being among the pass-heaviest teams in the league from 2011-2013.  That's good news for RB Joique Bell, although we wouldn't be surprised if the Lions add to the backfield in next month's draft.  As for Stafford, he's just a borderline QB1 without the huge volume.

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Rams HC Jeff Fisher admitted that WR Brian Quick (shoulder) might not be ready for the start of training camp.  "There will be some question marks there," Fisher said. "He may be [ready]. I can't say. The next three or four months are going to be important.  It was a very, very difficult early rehab process. It was an extensive, extensive injury. He's starting to see the light now. He's doing good. He's worked hard.”  Quick suffered a torn rotator cuff and separated shoulder last October.  He was seemingly in the midst of a breakout season before going down, but missing this entire offseason could stunt his progress.  Quick looks like a WR4 or 5 -- albeit with upside -- in 2015 fantasy drafts.

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Chicago's new coaching staff has committed to Jay Cutler as their starting QB this season.  But it sounds like they want to limit his volume.  “Football-wise, there are things you can do in coaching to minimize some of the exposure,” HC John Fox said. “Playing defense. Playing complementary football is going to be something that helps."  Fox went on to mention the Cowboys' run-heavy blueprint last year.  The Bears have a top RB in Matt Forte and have beefed up their defense this offseason.  Look for a significant drop from last season's 63.2% pass rate.  That will lower Cutler's fantasy ceiling.

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