Tracking the transactions

September 6, 2020

Massive extensions, shocking cuts and puzzling trades — all that and more

A long-awaited offseason has reached its end as training camp winds down and final cuts are being made. The 53-man rosters have been finalized and all eyes are on Week 1. Let’s take a minute to get some final news and notes about some changes around the league.

Cuts

Washington waived RB Adrian Peterson, WR Trey Quinn.

Sound the alarms. It’s Antonio Gibson time.

Peterson was set to see first and second-down work as the tried-and-true veteran on the roster. Just enough to siphon fantasy relevance away from guys like Gibson and Bryce Love but not enough to provide any himself given his lack of involvement in the receiving game.

But now the opportunity is sitting there for Gibson, who shot up rankings everywhere. While his 33 collegiate carries may give some pause, he is undoubtedly the coaching staff’s favorite running back. Love has faltered in recent weeks and was close to the roster bubble and J.D. McKissic is strictly a depth receiving back. His biggest competition for carries will likely be Peyton Barber, who just is not very good. Before long Gibson will have the majority hold in this backfield through the air and the ground, making him an attractive RB2. His ceiling might be capped in a limited Washington offense, but the opportunity is there to be a force in fantasy football. It does not hurt that head coach Ron Rivera and offensive coordinator Scott Turner have traditionally used a workhorse back.

For Peterson, teams are already asking about the 35-year-old running back, according to Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio. His signing would likely be only bad news for fantasy owners as he vultures fantasy points elsewhere. (Update below).

It’s the end of the line for 2018’s Mr. Irrelevant who manned the slot often for Washington over the past couple seasons. His release all but ensures Steven Sims’ role inside, making him an intriguing deep league option given his breakout at the end of 2019.

The Buccaneers waived RB Dare Ogunbowale.

With the signing of Leonard Fournette, the writing was on the wall for one of the many running backs in Tampa’s backfield. LeSean McCoy and Ogunbowale were likely fighting for the final spot, with the former winning the team over likely due to his experience. Ogunbowale, a solid pass-protector and special teams captain, should find an opportunity elsewhere. His release opens up a lot of third-down opportunities for Fournette, McCoy, Ronald Jones and Ke’Shawn Vaughn. It’s anyone’s bet as to who inherits the 35 receptions Ogunbowale had — but McCoy will likely get the first crack at it as the best pass-protector on the team.

The Dolphins waived QB Josh Rosen.

Hopefully Rosen gets a fair shake somewhere else, but odds are he just is not cut for the NFL level. Sitting and learning behind a veteran quarterback would likely be best for the 2018 first-round pick. For what it’s worth, Rosen is still younger than Cincinnati’s Joe Burrow.

Update: Rosen went unclaimed on waivers today.

The Patriots release RB Lamar Miller, WR Jeff Thomas, WR Mohamed Sanu.

Miller’s release should not come as a surprise. Even after he got off the PUP last week, he faced a steep challenge for playing time. His release likely means that the team feels confident in Sony Michel (knee) and Damien Harris’ (finger) health. James White remains the running back to own, though Harris provides some interesting late-round upside.

Thomas was an undrafted dynasty darling for many this offseason but couldn’t crack the roster in an offseason where most of the Patriots wide receivers disappointed. He will likely find himself on a practice squad somewhere.

A second-round pick put to good use. Like Thomas, Sanu could not impress enough to make the roster despite a thin depth chart ahead of him. One has to imagine that he still has not fully recovered from his ankle injury. His experience and career alone might earn him a look elsewhere, but he is barely a hold in deep dynasty formats at this point.

The Panthers waived RB Reggie Bonnafon.

The handcuff to Christian McCaffrey is now clear; Mike Davis.

The Chiefs released RB DeAndre Washington.

Washington was brought in with the expectation to be the handcuff in Kansas City only to fall short. Darrell Williams and Darwin Thompson will serve as the backups behind first-round pick Clyde Edwards-Helaire. Neither should challenge for touches.

Hype

ESPN’s Mike Reiss believes Patriots WR Damiere Byrd is the “top candidate” for the No. 3 role.

No, Byrd won’t have fantasy value. But fantasy owners would be wise to know the starting three wide receivers on NFL teams. Byrd will be stretching the field while Julian Edelman works the slot. N’Keal Harry will be the outside, physical “X” receiver. Gunner Olszewski and Jakobi Meyers will work and alternate in with Byrd.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports QB Mitchell Trubisky is expected to start Week 1.

It’s a testament to how poor Nick Foles played in camp that Trubisky will be at the helm once more, not that Trubisky has shined. Both have had forgettable camps, although Trubisky showed signs of improvement after training this offseason with Jeff Christiansen, a QB specialist who helped Patrick Mahomes. Expecting a jump forward would be a foolish bet — there is a reason the Bears waited this long to announce this. It is much easier to transition from Trubisky to Foles than it is Foles to Trubisky.

Sports Illustrated’s Eric Williams projects RB Malcolm Brown to start Week 1.

Anyone remember when Mike Davis was the starter in Chicago last season?

Yeah, me neither.

Brown will likely receive the first snap, but the arrow continues to look up for rookie Cam Akers as Darrell Henderson continues to nurse his hamstring injury. It’s a bit worrisome about the lack of noise Akers has made given the opportunity he has, but maybe head coach Sean McVay is simply keeping his talent under wraps. Either way, Akers is a high-upside RB3 I would love to have on my team.

Patriots QB Cam Newton is expected to start Week 1.

Head coach Bill Belichick reportedly told the locker room but refused to confirm it to the media.

Typical Bill, am I right?

Either way it is the only decision after Newton played his heart out in camp, committing to the team and earning a captain’s badge along the way. He has played well enough to earn the starting job over 2019 fourth-round pick Jarrett Stidham, who to his credit played better as camp progressed. Regardless, Newton is in the drivers’ seat as the Patriots look to win the AFC East for the 12th straight season. Draft him as a middling QB2 with QB1 upside.

Signings/Trades/Visits

Philadelphia Inquirer’s Jeff McLane reports the Eagles are “still trying to trade” WR Alshon Jeffery.

In a world where Kalen Ballage gets traded (or tried to) I suppose anything is possible. But it is hard to believe that any team wants to absorb Jeffrey’s $9.9 million contract and the foot injury that follows with it. McLane called a trade “improbable” at this point and it should remain that way. Jeffrey will be an Eagle and could be worth a look on the waiver wire when he returns in late September.

The Athletic’s Jourdan Rodrigue reports teams have called the Rams to see if TE Gerald Everett is available for trade.

The Rams’ answer speaks volume to their scheme for the 2020 season: no. Everett is on a contract year and the team just resigned tight end Tyler Higbee last September to a big four-year, $31 million deal with even more incentives, so teams were right to ask about his availability. While this certainly gives some pause for Higbee truthers as it seems clear that Everett will be a big part of this Rams’ offense, it’s more telling that what we saw towards the end of the year will be the truth in 2020.

The Rams utilized three-WR sets more than anyone else over the past few years but as quarterback Jared Goff faltered under pressure last season when the offensive line play dipped, the team transitioned to 12 personnel. Two tight ends were on the field to help Goff play better, Higbee emerged while Cooper Kupp stumbled. The team started to win games and the offense performed like years’ past.

Everett might vulture some points away from Higbee and Kupp might struggle if he is forced to play on the outside once more rather than in the slot. But this report makes it obvious to me that the Rams will continue to use 12 personnel like they did last season.

Lions sign veteran RB Adrian Peterson to a one-year, $1.05 million contract.

Nobody tell free agent Devonta Freeman, but 35-year-old Peterson is still kicking it around.

As I said above, Peterson exists only to ruin fantasy value and this has not changed with his signing. Peterson makes Kerryon Johnson’s late-round appeal non-existent and puts a damper on the breakout potential in Swift. It’s also a huge blow to any dynasty owners holding out hope for Bo Scarbrough. He did not sign a deal to back up a team at his age with his reputation — he will get the rock. Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell also coached Peterson from his glory days in Minnesota, so that’s another layer on the inedible fantasy cake for Detroit running backs.

Ironically, the biggest winner is quarterback Matthew Stafford who will certainly be airing the ball out more as drives stall with an ineffective backfield. But the biggest loser without a doubt is anyone who had faith that Detroit would ever have a good running game again since they failed legend Barry Sanders decades ago.

Free agent RB Devonta Freeman visited the Jaguars on Saturday.

Speaking of Freeman, perhaps he has been humbled by the myriad of running backs who have been signed before him and lowered his asking price. The Jaguars are in desperate need for a running back, but by the same token they are committing to a complete rebuild. Freeman would be an interesting signing that would give quarterback Gardner Minshew some much needed help but remember what Freeman is at this point in his career — a running back with over 1,200 career touches that has dealt with injuries and ineffectiveness despite playing in a prolific offense. Coming to Jacksonville won’t fix any of that.

The Dolphins acquired RB Lynn Bowden Jr. and a 2021 sixth-round pick from the Raiders in exchange for a 2021 fourth-round pick.

Well. You don’t see that every day.

A third-round pick just five months prior to today, Bowden had a poor camp and could not fit in Las Vegas as they hoped. He was expected to transition to running back as a Raider, perhaps leading to more struggles than head coach Jon Gruden wanted. His failures in pass-protection were not the only issues Bowden had — according to The Athletic’s Vic Tafur his character issues worried the young Raiders team to the point where they viewed him as a negative rather than a positive. Regardless, his trade reinforces my belief in Josh Jacobs as my RB7 who could make the leap into the top five at the position.

For Bowden, he is expected to line up as a wide receiver in Miami. It helps the offense to have another weapon, but this should not have much fantasy impact. It could be seen as a knock to return specialist and burner Jakeem Grant, but more likely it is simply a low risk move for a player who did not fit in Gruden’s system.

The Chargers signed WR Keenan Allen to a four-year extension worth $80 million through 2024.

This extension makes Allen the second-highest paid wide receiver in football. He will continue to serve as a safety blanket in the slot for whoever is at the helm, providing route-running highlights for the world to enjoy. The extension seemed bound to happen, although it undeniably and unfairly hurts my desire to see Mike Williams take over as the No. 1 wide receiver. However, both can and will be productive in the coming years due to the talents that they are. With Allen and Ekeler both locked up, it will be interesting to watch whether Williams earns an extension before next season and what happens to tight end Hunter Henry, who will be a free agent in 2021.

Texans extend QB DeShaun Watson to a massive four-year, $160 million deal.

The deal that Cowboys Dak Prescott was dreaming about ended up going to a different Texas quarterback as Watson secured his money ahead of the 2020 season. The extension came with $110 million in guarantees and makes him the second-highest paid quarterback behind Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes. Watson has been nothing short of spectacular since entering the league as a first-round pick in 2017, earning two Pro Bowl appearances in his two healthy seasons. His rushing ability paired with his ridiculous arm talent and IQ makes him a lock for top production and should be a safe bet to repeat as a mid-to-high-end QB1, even with wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins in Arizona.

NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reports extension talks between Zach Ertz and the Eagles have come to an “abrupt halt.”

The Eagles reportedly offered a deal with less guaranteed money than they did in November as well as a “backloaded offer” that included less than Austin Hooper’s new deal, leading Ertz and his representation to cut the talks for now. The Eagles are in salary cap hell as they try to figure out what the bar even is for the 2021 offseason. Should the cap be lowered to the $175 million floor, the Eagles will be over $70 million. Cuts will need to be made, and Ertz might not be immune with a young and cheaper talent in Dallas Goedert behind him. General manager Howie Roseman will have to work some magic to get any deal done with Ertz, which likely won’t happen until 2021 at best.

Ertz still has two years remaining on his deal.

The Seahawks re-signed WR Josh Gordon to a one-year, $1 million contract.

Gordon still needs to be reinstated by the NFL, though this deal makes it appear imminent. He will be a valuable red zone option and talent whose real-life value trumps his fantasy value. With the NFL’s marijuana rules loosened, we may get to see Gordon stick around a bit longer than usual. Cross your fingers.

Injury Report

ESPN’s Mike Reiss reports Patriots RB Damien Harris (hand) could miss the team’s season opener against the Dolphins.

Should Harris not be able to go, Sony Michel should see the brunt of the first and second-down work in a favorable matchup, making him an uneasy flex option. James White is once more the running back to own in New England given Newton’s love for throwing to the running back and the need for White to step up as a receiver provided the lack of weapons. White’s role is fairly safe as the most reliable player in the backfield. If Harris is ready to go, White is the only running back I would start.

But this is the New England Patriots. Rex Burkhead will end up as the most valuable running back this week and be inactive next. Mark it down.

Jaguars RB Ryquell Armstead is back on the reserve/COVID-19 list.

With Leonard Fournette now in Tampa Bay the opportunity was sitting for Armstead to take control of the backfield. With his availability in flux, Devine Ozigbo and James Robinson will be leaders of an unappealing backfield. The coaching staff is saying all the right things about both, but ultimately, I have no interest. Fournette was only appealing as a volume-based starter but with Chris Thompson, Ozigbo, Robinson and Armstead all likely sharing touches in a low-scoring offense, my interest is minimal. Watch out for who touches the ball and when in Week 1, but expectations should be kept low.

The Athletic’s Daniel Popper reports that the Chargers are “preparing for the possibility to playing a majority of September without” WR Mike Williams (shoulder).

This follows a quote by offensive coordinator Shane Steichen who was “optimistic” about Williams’ Week 1 availability. So much for that.

The door remains open for Williams to make a return in Week 2 or Week 3, but the Chargers will likely err on the side of caution when it comes to their young star wide receiver. The team kept six wide receivers as insurance for Williams. A combination of Jalen Guyton, K.J. Hill and Joe Reed will fill in until Williams can return. In other words, Allen, Henry and running back Austin Ekeler will carry this offense.

Colts TE Trey Burton to miss at least the first two weeks of the regular season with a calf injury.

Fire up Jack Doyle in half and PPR formats against the Jaguars.

The Seahawks placed RB Rashaad Penny (knee) on the reserve/PUP list.

No surprise here. Penny will be eligible to return in Week 7. Until then, Chris Carson should perform as a high-end RB2 at the minimum. Carlos Hyde will back him up with rookie DeeJay Dallas mixing in at times.

The 49ers activated WR Deebo Samuel (foot) off the NFI list.

The move puts Samuel on track to practice ahead of Week 1. Don’t count on him being ready to contribute for fantasy — he could be used as a decoy — but the door remains open. At the very least it’s a good sign for his return to health and ability to produce in an offense short of pass-catchers. Draft him at a WR4 price with legitimate WR2 upside.

WR Preston Williams (knee) is expected to play in Week 1.

It has been trending that way all summer. Williams is a sneaky late-round pick who performed extremely well as an undrafted rookie last season and will continue to be a thorn in the side of DeVante Parker and Mike Gesicki owners.