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New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman (knee) wants to play in 2021, but he continues to rehab from a knee injury he suffered last season and it remains to be seen if he'll be able to play from a physical standpoint. The 34-year-old veteran played in just six games in 2020 because of his knee ailment and failed to find the end zone for the first time in his career since 2011. His return would be a big boost for a New England offense that will also have a huge hole to fill at quarterback if they don't bring Cam Newton back. However, even if Edelman returns, it's unknown how effective he'll be after coming off that knee injury. He'll be more of a late-round flier if he's healthy, and the team's QB situation will play heavily into his fantasy value.
The Houston Texans released running back Duke Johnson on Friday, according to a source. Johnson was set to have a salary cap hit of more than $5 million, so the team will move on instead. After playing in all 16 games in his first season with Houston in 2019 while carrying the ball 83 times for 410 yards and two touchdowns -- he also caught 44 passes for 410 yards and three more scores -- Johnson played in only 11 games in 2020 and had 77 carries for 235 yards and a TD while adding 28 catches for 249 yards and another score. The 27-year-old spent four years in Cleveland before a trade sent him to Houston in 2019. The Texans could also decide to cut David Johnson after acquiring him from the Cardinals in the swap that included All-Pro wideout DeAndre Hopkins when former head coach Bill O'Brien was still calling the shots.
Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay said he thinks running back Cam Akers can be an "every-down back." Akers got off to a slow start in his rookie season after being taken with the 52nd overall pick in the draft while being hampered by an injury that reduced his playing time. But Akers stepped up in Week 11 by carrying the ball 29 times for 171 yards against the Patriots and in the playoffs with a 28-carry, 131-yard, one-touchdown performance. The 21-year-old from Florida State averaged 21.5 carries and 2.8 targets per game while playing over 60 percent of the snaps in the last four regular season games. He became the team's go-to back down the stretch and should see the majority of backfield touches in 2021 with Matthew Stafford now at quarterback. Consider Akers a low-end RB1 with upside heading into his sophomore season.
The Pittsburgh Steelers and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger have committed to tweaking his contract to allow him to come back for the 2021 season. The first day of the new league year is Wednesday, March 17, which is the opening of free agency and also when teams must be compliant with the 2021 salary cap. That means that the deadline for the Steelers and Big Ben to get a new deal worked out is March 17. "His arm, I would say, is as strong or almost as strong as ever, so I think he's certainly capable of getting the job done," president Art Rooney II said. The 39-year-old threw for 3,803 yards, 33 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in 2020, but age and injury concerns will make him a shaky QB1 option for fantasy managers in what will likely be his last season.
New England Patriots linebacker Dont'a Hightower, safety Patrick Chung and offensive tackle Marcus Cannon, who all opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19, are planning to return in 2021, according to sources. All three are in a good place physically. Without them last year, New England finished 27th in yards per game and points scored per game while also finishing 15th in yards allowed per game in 2020. As a result, the Patriots missed the playoffs in their first season without quarterback Tom Brady for the first time since the 2000 season. They still have plenty of holes to fill in order to make a return to the postseason, including under center, but getting Hightower, Chung and Cannon back is a good first step as we approach the start of the new league year in March.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers impending free-agent wide receiver Chris Godwin would love to return to the Buccaneers and said he'd be willing to play on the franchise tag in 2021. The four-year pro wouldn't be ecstatic about that outcome, but he'd be willing to accept the tag should the team go in that direction. Godwin was a key contributor during Tampa's Super Bowl run last season after being a third-round pick in 2017. Wide receivers are projected to earn $16.43 million on a 2021 franchise tag ($14.26 million on the transition tag), according to Over the Cap. The 25-year-old would prefer a little more long-term security, but he's also willing to sacrifice a few dollars to play for a contender. After catching 81 passes for 1,072 yards and eight touchdowns in 2020, Godwin will remain a highly coveted fantasy wideout if he sticks in Tampa with quarterback Tom Brady.
Green Bay Packers impending free-agent center Corey Linsley said that he feels his departure is coming in free agency. "We're not closing the door for anything," Linsley said. "Obviously we'd never do that for any team, especially the Packers, but yeah it definitely feels weird. Looks like all signs are pointing towards snapping the ball somewhere else next year." Pro Football Focus rated Linsley, who will turn 30 in July, as the best center in football last year. The Packers currently sit around $11 million over the salary cap, and Linsley is likely to command a salary that would put him among the top-10 centers in the NFL. His departure on the offensive line would be bad news for quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who won the MVP in 2020.
New York Jets defensive tackle Quinnen Williams said he'd "be disappointed" if the team traded him this offseason to the Houston Texans in a package to acquire quarterback Deshaun Watson. The third overall pick of the 2019 draft has been the subject of trade rumors for months. "I really want to be a Jet for life. I like New York, and I want to play in New York," Williams said. The 23-year-old improved in 2020 with seven sacks, 10 tackles for loss, 14 QB hits and two forced fumbles after disappointing in his rookie season. Williams is hoping to continue improving under defensive-minded head coach Robert Saleh. As of right now, the Texans front office remains steadfast in not dealing Watson, but that could change in the coming weeks.
The Houston Texans remain unwilling to talk about quarterback Deshaun Watson with other teams, with some clubs resorting to leaving voicemails with their trade offers, according to sources. Watson spoke with head coach David Culley recently, but the two have yet to meet in person. The 25-year-old franchise signal-caller hasn't backed off his demands to be dealt, but the Texans aren't budging. This situation will continue to be the biggest offseason storyline as we head into the new league year next month. Even without All-Pro wideout DeAndre Hopkins as his top receiver in 2020, Watson finished as the No. 4 fantasy QB behind Josh Allen, Kyler Murray and Aaron Rodgers. He could land in a better situation if he's ultimately traded, but even if he stays in Houston, Watson will be a top-tier, dual-threat fantasy quarterback.
The Chicago Bears re-signed running back Ryan Nall to an undisclosed deal on Thursday. In his second season with the Bears in 2020, Nall had 67 yards and a touchdown on just 11 touches (three carries, eight receptions) in 16 games. He was scheduled to become a restricted free agent next month, but he'll remain in Chicago for the 2021 season as depth behind David Montgomery and Tarik Cohen. The 25-year-old went undrafted out of Oregon State before signing with the Bears, and he has just five carries for eight yards and eight catches for 67 yards and one touchdown in his first two NFL seasons. It would take several injuries in Chicago's backfield for Nall to see a significant boost in playing time.
The Tennessee Titans are releasing wide receiver Adam Humphries on Thursday, according to a source. The move saves the Titans around $4.47 million in salary cap space for the upcoming 2021 season. Humphries, who is still only 27 years old, was a big-ticket signing two years ago for Tennessee, but he caught only 60 passes (82 targets) for 602 yards and four touchdowns in 19 games (four starts) for the team in the last two seasons. He played in only seven games due to injury in 2020 and caught 23 passes for 228 yards and two scores. The New England Patriots were interested in Humphries two years ago, and they could be interested again as they look to beef up their receiving corps after failing to make the playoffs for the first time since 2000.
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson has not demanded a trade, according to his agent, Mark Rodgers. Wilson wants to stay in Seattle and has a no-trade clause, but if a trade were considered, the only teams he would play for would be the Dallas Cowboys, New Orleans Saints, Las Vegas Raiders or Chicago Bears. Another reason a trade is unlikely: Wilson has a pre-June 1 dead salary cap number of $39 million ($7 million in savings). He also carries a post-June 1 dead cap number of $13 million in 2021 ($19 million saved) and $26 million dead cap number in 2022. The 32-year-old has made the Pro Bowl in seven of his nine seasons in the NFL and was on pace to be the MVP in 2020 before Seattle's offense crumbled in the second half. Wilson is ultimately expected to remain with the Seahawks and mend his relationship with them, but it's not out of the realm of possibility that he's traded. He's likely to remain a top-tier QB1 no matter where he's playing in 2021.
Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson reportedly is frustrated with the team, and it has led his camp to broach trade destinations with the Seahawks, according to sources Thursday, Feb. 25. The possible destinations include the Las Vegas Raiders, Miami Dolphins, New Orleans Saints and New York Jets, per sources.
Fantasy Spin: The disgruntled Wilson rumors persist in the Pacific Northwest, and if anything, they seem to be growing louder. And even even though Wilson's fantasy finishes in recent seasons have fallen noticeably short of his strong starts, he's still finished as a top-six fantasy QB in five of his last seven seasons. It's hard to imagine Seattle and Wilson parting ways after nine successful seasons, but the reports and rumors persist, and we have to imagine the possibility that Wilson takes his QB1 talents elsewhere. We'll most definitely stay tuned.
San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch said that quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo remains in the team's plans as the starter under center. Lynch said that there wasn't any doubt that Garoppolo would be the team's starter in 2021 if he's healthy. There have been questions as to whether the Niners would go in a different direction at the position since Garoppolo has only had one fully healthy season after the team traded for him. In that one healthy season, he led the 49ers to the Super Bowl in 2019. The team is 22-8 with him and 6-17 without him. The 29-year-old signal-caller was more of a product of a creative offense under head coach Kyle Shanahan than anything in 2019, though, and he'll be an unattractive QB2 coming off another injury-marred season in 2021 fantasy drafts.
Denver Broncos DT Jurrell Casey on Thursday, Fewb. 25, was released by the Denver Broncos.
The Denver Broncos released defensive tackle Jurrell Casey on Thursday, according to a source. Denver acquired Casey in a trade with the Tennessee Titans before the 2020 season, but he played in just three games before he landed on Injured Reserve for the rest of the year due to a serious biceps injury. He's entering his age-31 season, and his release will free up $12 million against the salary cap for the 2021 season. The five-time Pro Bowler will most certainly latch on with another team as he tries to bounce back in 2021. Casey hasn't played a full season since 2017, but he recorded 168 solo tackles and 30 sacks for the Titans from 2015-19 in his run of five straight Pro Bowls in Tennessee. If healthy, Casey still has what it takes to be a difference-maker for his next squad.
Free-agent defensive lineman J.J. Watt has received contract offers from multiple teams, according to league sources. The largest offer on the table is believed to be worth between $15 million and $16 million. The Cleveland Browns are one of the teams interested in the pass-rusher, but it's unclear if they have submitted an offer to the five-time Pro Bowler. The three-time Defensive Player of the Year was released by the Houston Texans earlier this month after a decade-long run with the team. Around a dozen teams, including the Browns, Pittsburgh Steelers, Tennessee Titans and Buffalo Bills, expressed interest in Watt shortly after his release. The soon-to-be 32-year-old ranked 15th out of 119 qualified pass-rushers in pass-rush win rate in 2020. Watt has been slowed by injuries in recent seasons, but he can still make a huge impact with any team that signs him.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers impending free-agent running back LeSean McCoy, who has won two Super Bowl rings in the last two years with the Chiefs and Buccaneers despite playing a single snap in either championship game, wants to continue playing in 2021. McCoy is unlikely to return to Tampa, but he wants to play for a contender if he's to keep lacing up his cleats on Sundays. The veteran back had 101 carries for 465 yards and four touchdowns for the Chiefs in 2019, but he ran the ball only 10 times for the Buccaneers last season in a tertiary role behind Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones II. It's fair to wonder if the 33-year-old has anything left in the tank, and if he does continue playing next season, it'll likely remain in a backup role. McCoy won't be on the fantasy radar entering 2021.
Pittsburgh Steelers impending free-agent WR JuJu Smith-Schuster could re-sign with the Steelers, but it'll be very difficult with their salary cap situation. The Steelers can't use their franchise tag on him with their cap situation.
Fantasy Spin: Smith-Schuster hasn't been the same receiver since Antonio Brown left, but he has been a decent one. He'll be a WR2 target in fantasy.
The Seattle Seahawks re-signed running back Alex Collins to an undisclosed deal on Wednesday. Originally a fifth-round pick by the Seahawks in 2016, Collins played in 11 games as a rookie before he was cut in 2017. He rushed for 973 yards in 2017 with the Baltimore Ravens but was injured in 2018 and was waived in 2019 when he was arrested for marijuana and handgun possession. The 26-year-old ran the ball 18 times for 77 yards (4.3 yards per carry) and two touchdowns in just three games (one start) in 2020 in his return to the team that drafted him. Even though both Chris Carson and Carlos Hyde are set to be free agents next month, Collins will likely represent running back depth in 2021 behind the likes of Rashaad Penny, Travis Homer and DeeJay Dallas.