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April 03, 2016

Joe Flacco expects Mike Wallace to have a "huge impact"

Released by the Minnesota Vikings in early-March, Mike Wallace signed a two-year deal with the Baltimore Ravens in the middle of March.

Citing the "need" to play with a "good quarterback," Wallace is certainly a better fit in an offense with a strong-armed quarterback like Joe Flacco.

Flacco recently talked up Wallace at Torrey Smith's charity basketball game on Saturday.

I plan on him having a huge impact,” Flacco said (via the team's website). “I think he’s a talented guy. He can run, he can catch, he can do a lot of things. I’m planning on him coming in here and having a big impact on our football team and helping us win a lot of games.”

Wallace had two 1,000-yard seasons during his four seasons with Pittsburgh, but he has now finished with less than 1,000 yards in four consecutive seasons. In addition, he set or tied career lows across the board in Minnesota last season with 39 receptions for 473 yards and two touchdowns.

Not only did Joe Flacco's season end prematurely due to a torn ACL, but first-round rookie Breshad Perriman missed the entire season, Steve Smith and Justin Forsett both missed more than half of the year.

The Ravens go into 2016 with the additions of Wallace and tight end Ben Watson, Smith postponed his retirement by a year and Perriman will be healthy as well. Perriman was one of the best deep threats in the 2015 wide receiver prospect class.

Wallace should certainly bounce back some from his career-worst 2015 season, but it's unlikely that he approaches the 1,000-plus yards he had playing with Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2010 and 2011.

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March 25, 2016

Browns sign RG3 to 2-year deal

On Thursday, the Cleveland Browns signed quarterback Robert Griffin III to a two-year deal worth $15 million, of which $6.75 million is guaranteed, per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.

The second overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft after Andrew Luck, RG3 won the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year and led Washington to the postseason as a rookie. In that 2012 rookie campaign, Griffin threw for 3,200 yards with a 20:5 TD-to-INT ratio and ran for 826 yards and seven touchdowns.

Since his outstanding rookie season, however, RG3 has played just 22 games over three seasons (and none last season) due to injury and/or benching. With Kirk Cousins starting all 16 games last season and getting the franchise tag last month (and potentially a long-term deal before the July 15th deadline), Washington released Griffin this offseason.

Meanwhile, RG3 joins Josh McCown, Austin Davis and Connor Shaw in Cleveland's quarterbacks group after the team released former first-rounder Johnny Manziel earlier this month.

Browns head coach Hue Jackson reportedly said that "it felt like the Earth moved beneath my feet" at one point during RG3's workout with the team, according to NFL Network's Jeff Darlington.

With the second overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, how will Griffin's arrival impact their draft?

As ESPN's Adam Schefter tweeted (above), it's certainly possible that the Browns will still select a quarterback, such as North Dakota State's Carson Wentz, at No. 2. [Wentz has been my selection for the Browns in most updates of my 2016 NFL Mock Draft.] With RG3 signed for just two years, RG3 could start with Wentz adjusting to the transition from FCS to the NFL. That said, it's just as possible that the Browns draft a prospect like Jalen Ramsey or Joey Bosa at No. 2 overall and add another quarterback later in the draft.

Even though Griffin has said the right things about taking a rookie quarterback "under his wing," it will be interesting to see how things play out.

Based on his early-career success and opportunity to play for Jackson, RG3 will be a high-upside late-round QB2 flier in fantasy drafts this summer, especially if Josh Gordon is reinstated for the 2016 season.

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March 10, 2016

Jets re-sign Bilal Powell

Earlier today, the New York Jets re-signed free-agent running back Bilal Powell, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.

While Chris Ivory left in free agency for Jacksonville, the Jets signed Matt Forte to a three-year deal yesterday.

In 11 games last season, Powell carried the ball 70 times for 313 yards and added 47 catches for 388 yards and scored a total of three touchdowns.

Down the stretch, Powell had five-plus catches in five of his final six games. In fact, he finished as a top-25 PPR running back in each of those five game during that stretch, which also included three top-seven PPR weekly finishes.

A natural complement to Ivory due to his pass-catching prowess, it's less clear how the workload will be split with the addition of Forte, who set the running back single-season receptions record a couple of seasons ago.

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Matt Forte agrees to a deal with the Jets

Not only has Chris Ivory signed a multi-year deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars, but Bilal Powell is also a free agent and expected to sign elsewhere.

With Ivory gone and Powell likely gone, the New York Jets have agreed to terms with free-agent running back Matt Forte, although the terms of the deal are not yet known.

A workhorse for most of his career, Forte averaged more than 20 touches per game (20.15/G) last season for the Bears. Forte missed three games last season, but the do-it-all back still averaged 99.0 yards from scrimmage per game.

Even though he missed three games, Forte still finished as a top-10 fantasy producer (RB9) among running backs last season.

At this point, it's unclear where free-agent quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick will sign, but Forte should benefit from playing in Chan Gailey's spread offense with some talented receivers (Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker) on the outside.

Forte, who turns 31 in December, may not average 20-plus touches a game this season, or ever again, but this is a great landing spot for Forte's 2016 fantasy value. Depending on who the Jets add via the NFL Draft next month, it wouldn't surprise me if Forte finished as a top-12 fantasy running back in 2016.

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March 09, 2016

Chargers re-sign Antonio Gates to two-year deal

The San Diego Chargers have re-signed tight end Antonio Gates to a two-year contract, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.

With Gates turning 36 years old in June, it means he will spend his entire career with the Chargers.

Missing five games, which included a four-game suspension to begin the year, Gates finished with 56 catches for 630 yards and five touchdowns in 11 games. Despite missing five games, Gates still scored the 11th-most fantasy points among tight ends last season.

Not only did Gates finish with 50-plus yards in eight of his 11 games, but his per-game average of 57.3 yards was a four-year high.

While Keenan Allen will lead the team in targets and the Chargers signed Travis Benjamin to a four-year deal, Gates is the most trusted red-zone option for Philip Rivers and he had 12 touchdowns two seasons ago.

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Chargers, Travis Benjamin agree to 4-year deal

The San Diego Chargers have agreed to a four-year deal with free-agent wide receiver Travis Benjamin today.

Per Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, the deal is worth a total of $24 million, of which $13 million is guaranteed.

Benjamin had a breakout season for the Browns as he finished with 68 catches for 966 yards and five touchdowns last season. Benjamin scored the 28th-most fantasy points among wide receivers in 2015.

In his first three NFL seasons, Benjamin racked up a total of 41/717/5 over 38 games.

With Malcom Floyd retiring this offseason, Benjamin will provide Philip Rivers with a deep threat opposite star receiver Keenan Allen.

Considering Cleveland's issues at quarterback last season and the upgrade to Rivers going forward, it wouldn't surprise me if Benjamin approached his 2015 numbers even if he's second, or third, behind Allen (and Antonio Gates) in line for passing-game targets.

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Marvin Jones, Lions agree to 5-year deal

Per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, the Detroit Lions and free-agent wide receiver Marvin Jones have agreed to a five-year deal worth $40 million.

In a weak free-agent wide receiver class, Jones and Travis Benjamin were top-two free agents available at the position. In addition, it's a relatively weak wide receiver draft class as well.

Jones had 65 catches for 816 yards, both of which were career highs, and four touchdowns for the Cincinnati Bengals in 2015. Jones scored the 40th-most fantasy points in standard-scoring formats among wide receivers last season.

Before sitting out all of 2014, Jones had 51/712/10 stat line although his 10 touchdowns were boosted by a four-touchdown game.

With Calvin Johnson retiring this offseason, it will be Jones and Golden Tate that will dominate the wide receiver targets and Eric Ebron should continue to see his role expand going forward.

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Brock Osweiler, Texans agree to 4-year deal

Both Peyton Manning and Brock Osweiler started games for the Super Bowl-winning Denver Broncos, but neither will be on the roster this season.

Of course, Manning retired earlier this week, but Osweiler has signed a four-year deal to become quarterback for the Houston Texans, per NFL Network's Rand Getlin.

Osweiler completed 170-of 275 pass attempts (61.8 percent) for 1,967 yards (7.2 Y/A), 10 touchdowns and six interceptions last season.

Not only do the Texans have one of the league's best young receivers in DeAndre Hopkins, they signed Lamar Miller to a four-year deal today as well.

The Texans averaged 38.4 pass attempts per game, 10th-most in the NFL, last season and Osweiler will be little more than a low-end QB2 in fantasy football leagues in 2016. That said, Brian Hoyer finished as a top-15 fantasy quarterback in six of 11 games played last season.

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Lamar Miller, Texans agree to 4-year deal

The Houston Texans and free-agent running back Lamar Miller have agreed to a four-year deal worth $26 million, of which $14 million is guaranteed, per ESPN's Adam Schefter.

Since Bill O'Brien took over as head coach in 2014, the Houston Texans (1,023) are one of two teams to exceed 1,000 rushing attempts. The Seattle Seahawks (1,025) are the other team.

Meanwhile, fantasy owners have been frustrated by the Miami Dolphins' reluctance to give him higher workloads warranted by Miller's per-touch efficiency.

For a second season in a row, Miller has finished as a top-10 fantasy running back.

Scoring the sixth-most fantasy points among running backs last season, Miller rushed for 872 yards and eight touchdowns on 194 carries (4.5 yards per carry) and added 47 catches for 397 yards and two more scores. In 2014, Miller rushed for 1,099 yards and averaged 5.1 YPC.

With Arian Foster released earlier this month, Miller assumes the lead-back role for the Texans and I wouldn't be surprised if he say a 50-touch jump in workload from the 241 he had last season.

Meanwhile, Miller's free-agent departure opens the door for Jay Ajayi to assume the lead-back role there. Per Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, the Dolphins view Ajayi as a "three-down back."

When I make a post-free agency update to my 2016 fantasy football running back rankings, I will move both Miller (currently 11th) and Ajayi (31st) up.

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Report: Bucs, Doug Martin "nearing a deal"

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and running back Doug Martin are nearing an agreement on a deal, according to Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times.

After a pair of injury-plagued and disappointing seasons, Martin rushed for 1,402 yards on 288 carries -- 4.9 yards per carry -- and added 33 catches for 271 yards with a total of seven touchdowns in 2015.

Only Atlanta's Devonta Freeman and Minnesota's Adrian Peterson scored more fantasy points among running backs than Martin last season. In addition, Peterson (357) and Freeman (338) were the only backs with more touches than Martin (321) last season.

There seemed to be at least some risk that the Bucs wouldn't re-sign him and that he'd hit the free-agent market at 4 p.m. today. Returning to Tampa is a positive for his outlook and makes sense for both sides.

In my early (pre-free agency) 2016 fantasy football running back rankings, Martin was my eighth-ranked running back, but I'll move him up a spot or two in my next update.

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March 08, 2016

Report: Chris Ivory expected to sign with the Jaguars

Free-agent running back Chris Ivory is expected to sign with the Jacksonville Jaguars, per ESPN's Adam Schefter. Furthermore, the deal is reportedly "well above $6M per year," per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.

Eclipsing the 1,000-yard mark for the first time in his career, Ivory scored the eighth-most fantasy points among running backs in 2015.

Carrying the ball 247 times for 1,070 yards, Ivory added 30 catches for 217 yards and a total of eight touchdowns, all of which were career highs.

Ivory, who turns 28 later this month, will join second-year back T.J. Yeldon to form a 1-2 rushing attack. Meanwhile, the team will release Toby Gerhart.

Both Ivory (18.47/G) and Yeldon (18.17/G) averaged more than 18 touches per game last season, but both should see a lighter per-game workload in 2016 as teammates. Even though the Jags used a top-40 draft pick on Yeldon last season, I'd expect this to be fairly close to an even timeshare given how much they will reportedly pay Ivory.

Before the start of free agency, Yeldon and Ivory were 12th and 24th, respectively, in my early 2016 fantasy football running back rankings, but I will move Yeldon down about 10 spots with my next update.

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