By JEFF PAUR
Sr Fantasy Writer
Marshall hopes to make team
This is the final preview in a series of training camp previews. We will continue to release the previews throughout the week. The previews give you a quick look at each team, going over position battles and injuries to watch in camp. The season is right around the corner.
The Rams had a breakout season last year, so hopes are high for this squad this year. The big thing to watch this training camp is how the team adjusts in year two, especially with the team adding some high-priced talent on both sides of the ball. Will the new talent mold well with players left from last year? This will be the job of the coaching staff to get all the team on the same page for the coming year. Expectations are high for the Rams for the first time in several seasons.
Position battle: Most positions are set for the Rams but the tight end spot remains a bit up in the air. It is likely to be a timeshare with Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett, but those two will compete for the right to start. And the starter in this explosive offense will have a little more value than the backup. So this position battle is one to maybe keep an eye on in training camp. Both these players are young guys with upside for good things. If one emerges and grabs most of the playing time, the fantasy value of that player will increase.
Injury watch: Kicker Greg Zuerlein had his season cut short last year because of a back injury. He was having a career season before the injury. Zuerlein needed surgery to repair a herniated disc. He is expected to be ready for training camp, though, and shouldn't be impacted much by this past injury. It is something to watch because back injuries are worrisome for a kicker.
The Cardinals have a new coaching staff and starting quarterback, so this should be the story of camp for the team. Plus, the return of star running back David Johnson will be closely watched. Arizona seems in rebuild mode for the first time in a few years, which isn't great news for veteran receiver Larry Fitzgerald. The new staff will do all they can to get this team going in the right direction in a hurry, so Fitzgerald can have another year of success.
Position battle: Larry Fitzgerald is the clear No. 1 receiver for the Cardinals but after him, there is a wide open competition for the other starting job. Rookie Christian Kirk, J.J. Nelson and Chad Williams are the top options to start for the Cardinals. Kirk has the top skill set of the bunch but he won't be handed the job. He will need to show he knows the playbook and is ready to start in the NFL. This will be a position battle to watch as the starter for the Cardinals has some obvious value in an offense that likes to throw the ball.
Injury watch: Tight end Jermaine Gresham tore his Achilles' late last year. He is not expected to be ready for the start of training camp but there is hope he will be ready for Week 1. The veteran will be brought along slowly to make sure he doesn't have a setback. His injury opens the door for Ricky Seals-Jones to earn the starter's job and play a big role offensively this year. If healthy, Gresham is likely headed to backup duty for the Cardinals.
San Francisco is a team on the rise. There is a lot of young talent on both sides of the ball. This team is expected to compete for a playoff spot and take a big step forward this year. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo gets his chance to be a No. 1 quarterback from day one this year. He has a lot of pressure on him to play at a high level, but certainly seems up to the task to be an elite NFL quarterback. The 49ers are an exciting team that should be closely watched this training camp to see the progress they are making.
Position battle: The 49ers have a true battle for the No. 3 receiver job. Trent Taylor, Aldrick Robinson, Dante Pettis and Kendrick Bourne will battle it out for the right to man the slot for the 49ers. Taylor is the favorite but he will need to hold off the others gunning for his job. This could end up being a rotation, especially since the 49ers have so many options vying for the job. We should have a better idea about how this all shakes out in training camp and preseason action.
Injury watch: Receiver Trent Taylor had minor back surgery this offseason and might be slowed for the start of training camp. This is an injury to watch because he is battling for the No. 3 receiver job. If he isn't healthy or sidelined any of camp, this could really hurt his chances to win the job. Nothing is certain for Taylor right now.
Seattle lost some players on the defensive side of the ball that had been stalwarts the past several seasons. It will be intriguing to see if the Seahawks can replace these key players, guys there were leaders on this team. These are big losses. The Seahawks are trying get a little younger, though, on both sides of the ball. Quarterback Russell Wilson still leads the offense but will need his offensive line to play better and a running game to take some pressure off of him. The transformation on both sides of the ball begins to take place in training camp.
Position battle: The Seahawks took Rashaad Penny in the first round of this year's draft, hoping to have found their No. 1 back for the next several years. But Chris Carson is still around and No. 1 on the depth chart right now. He has been very impressive in offseason workouts and most consider him the best back on the roster right now. Penny will be given a shot to unseat Carson, though, and should at some point. But for now, Carson will try to hold onto the job and open the season as the starter for the Seahawks.
Injury watch: Newly acquired receiver Brandon Marshall had toe and ankle surgeries last year, which cut his season short. Marshall is expected to compete for a starting job this year but will need to show he is healthy and able to perform near his level of past years if he hopes to just make the team. Marshall is at an age where injuries can start to mount, so keep an eye on his health this training camp to make sure he doesn't have any setbacks.
The Los Angeles Rams signed free-agent quarterback Blake Bortles to an undisclosed one-year deal on Monday. The former long-time Jaguars starter, Bortles will now serve as the backup to Jared Goff and won't have any fantasy value. The third overall pick in the 2014 draft impressed in 2017 but regressed big time last season and was benched midseason.
The Minnesota Vikings re-signed running back Ameer Abdullah to an undisclosed deal on Monday. Minnesota picked Abdullah up on waiver last year, and he ended the season the team's primary kick returner after flaming out in four seasons with the Lions. In 10 games with the Lions and Vikes last year, Abdullah had just one carry. He had 165 totes for 552 yards (3.3 yards per carry) and four touchdowns in 2017 in 14 games. Abdullah will provide depth behind Dalvin Cook and Michael Boone in 2019.
The Kansas City Chiefs are signing free-agent cornerback Bashaud Breeland to a one-year, incentive-laden deal with a max value of $5.5 million on Monday, a source told NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. The sixth-year defensive back was inconsistent in 2019 after he had his contract rescinded by the Panthers due to a failed physical. He appeared in only seven games for the Packers and missed time with hamstring and groin ailments. Breeland had 20 tackles, two interceptions and four passes defensed. He could be in line for a starting role with his new team.
Long-time defensive lineman Haloti Ngata announced his retirement on Instagram on Monday. The 35-year-old played for the Eagles in 2018 after three years with the Lions. He'll mostly be remembered for his days on a dominant Baltimore Ravens defense. Ngata was a first-round pick in 2006 and was named to five Pro Bowls, two first-team All-Pro teams and two second-team All-Pro squads in nine seasons with the Ravens.
New York Giants general manager David Gettleman said that quarterback Eli Manning, who will make a base salary of $11.5 million in 2019, isn't going anywhere. The veteran quarterback is due a $5 million roster bonus on Monday. "This narrative Eli is overpaid and can't play is a crock," Gettleman told reporters Monday during a teleconference. The 38-year-old will count $23.2 million against the salary cap this year and is coming off a season where he was sacked a career-high 47 times behind a bad offensive line. Manning and the offensive line looked better down the stretch, as he threw 13 touchdowns and five interceptions in an eight-game span. Still, Manning is showing his age with diminished arm strength and lost his best aerial weapon when the Giants traded Odell Beckham Jr. to the Browns last week. Manning will be a low-upside, mediocre QB2 in 2019.
The Cincinnati Bengals released linebacker Vontaze Burfict on Monday, according to NFL Network's Tom Pelissero. The Bengals tried to trade Burfict before cutting him. The hard-hitting linebacker has plenty of talent but dealt with injuries and suspensions in his tenure with Cincy. He hasn't appeared in more than 11 games in any season since 2013 due to both suspensions and injury. Burfict was suspended to start a season the last three years and also battled hip and concussion issues that limited him to only seven games in 2018. Cutting Burfict saves the Bengals $5.69 million in salary cap space.
The San Francisco 49ers agreed to terms on a three-year, $8.7 million deal with running back Raheem Mostert on Saturday, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. The deal will include $3 million guaranteed. Mostert spent the last two years with San Fran, compiling 40 rushing attempts, 291 yards and a touchdown in 20 games. He'll be buried on the depth chart behind Jerick McKinnon, Matt Breida and newly-signed Tevin Coleman, so Mostert is unlikely to have any fantasy value.
The Tennessee Titans released quarterback Blaine Gabbert after they traded for Ryan Tannehill on Friday. Gabbert's only season in Tennessee in 2018 saw him make three starts while filling in for an injured Marcus Mariota. Gabbert spent 2017 with the Cardinals, three in San Francisco before that and three years in Jacksonville after being drafted 10th overall in 2010. He'll only attract backup work on the open market.
The Jacksonville Jaguars signed free-agent wide receiver Chris Conley to an undisclosed deal on Saturday, according to NFL Network's Mike Garafolo. The team also signed offensive tackle Cedric Ogbuehi and linebacker Jake Ryan. Conley spent the first four years of his career with the Chiefs and started 34 of 53 games while catching 104 passes for 1,238 yards and six touchdowns. The 26-year-old will likely compete for a role with the Jags and won't be fantasy relevant.
The Atlanta Falcons agreed to terms on an undisclosed one-year deal with free-agent tight end Logan Paulsen on Saturday. Paulsen returns to Atlanta, where he had only nine catches for 91 yards and one touchdown in 15 games in his first season with the Falcons last year. He should not be on anyone's fantasy radar as mostly a blocking tight end behind pass-catcher Austin Hooper and Luke Stocker.
The Cincinnati Bengals re-signed tight end Tyler Eifert to an undisclosed one-year deal on Saturday, a source told NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. The 28-year-old former first-rounder has been hurt by injuries over the course of his six-year career in the NFL and has played in more than eight games in just two seasons. He missed the final 12 games in 2018 with a broken ankle, although he's expected to be ready for organized team activities this spring. Eifert played in only 14 games since his Pro Bowl season in 2015, and fantasy owners are now staying away from him altogether most likely. With C.J. Uzomah also re-signing, Eifert will have to prove to both the Bengals and fantasy owners that he can stay on the field.
The Washington Redskins are expected to sign free-agent cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to an undisclosed deal, a source informed of the situation told NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. DRC announced his retirement just five months ago but has decided to give it another go. He'll be reunited with former Giants teammate Landon Collins, so signed a six-year deal this week. Rodgers-Cromartie will turn 33 on April 7, and it's fair to wonder how much he has left physically. He has plenty of experience and is expected to offer cornerback depth on a team that also has Josh Norman.
The Oakland Raiders signed free-agent wide receiver J.J. Nelson to an undisclosed deal on Friday. Nelson spent the last four seasons with the Cardinals and caught 81 passes for 1,439 yards in 56 career games. The former fifth-rounder had his worst season in 2018, though, catching just seven passes for 64 yards and no scores in 14 games in Arizona's inept offense. The speedster does boast 17.8 yards per catch in his career and will provide another deep threat in Oakland alongside Antonio Brown and Tyrell Williams after the team released veteran Jordy Nelson.
The Tennessee Titans acquired quarterback Ryan Tannehill from the Miami Dolphins on Friday and signed him to a one-year deal worth $7 million guaranteed and worth up to $12 million with incentives. The Dolphins will receive a seventh-round pick in this year's draft and a 2020 fourth-round pick in exchange. Tennessee will also get a 2019 sixth-rounder. Tannehill, a former eighth overall pick in 2012, never lived up to his draft status while going 42-46 over six seasons in Miami. He has a career 62.8 completion percentage and an 87 passer rating and will have zero fantasy appeal as Marcus Mariota's backup in his new digs. The rebuilding Dolphins are likely to look to the draft for their next signal-caller, especially after Teddy Bridgewater elected to re-sign with the Saints this week.
The Denver Broncos re-signed tight end Jeff Heuerman to a two-year deal worth up to $9 million on Friday, a source told NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. The former third-round pick in 2015 played in just 11 games due to injury last year and caught a career-high 31 passes for 281 yards and two touchdowns in his third NFL season. Unless the Broncos add to the position in the draft or free agency, Heuerman will likely be the starter at the position. New quarterback Joe Flacco has targeted tight ends often in his career, so Heuerman could be a TE2 deep sleeper this year.
The Cincinnati Bengals signed free-agent offensive guard John Miller to a three-year, $16.5 million deal on Friday, according to NFL Network's Tom Pelissero. Miller started 47 games the last four years at right guard with the Bills and will likely be viewed as an upgrade over Alex Redmond at the spot in 2019. Cincy also re-signed right tackle Brian Hart to a three-year deal earlier in the week to shore up their offensive line. Quarterbacks Andy Dalton and Jeff Driskel were sacked a combined 37 times last year.
The Jacksonville Jaguars signed free-agent tight end Geoff Swaim to an undisclosed deal on Friday. Ben Koyack and Pharoah McKever are the only other tight ends on roster as of now, so Swaim could become a big part of the offense in 2019. A seventh-round pick by the Cowboys in 2015, Swaim has 35 career catches for 336 yards and one touchdown in four seasons. He caught a career-high 26 passes for 242 yards and a score last year. Quarterback Nick Foles and offensive coordinator John DeFilippo have leaned on the tight end in the past, but Swaim is still likely to be more of a fantasy afterthought.
The New York Jets signed free-agent kicker Chandler Catanzaro to an undisclosed deal on Friday. Catanzaro spent the 2017 season with Gang Green before spending time with the Panthers and Buccaneers last year. He made a career-low 73 percent of his field-goal tries in 13 games in 2018, including going 2-for-2 from 50-plus yards. He represents a downgrade from Pro Bowler Jason Myers a year ago and can be avoided for fantasy purposes.
Updating an immediate report, Cleveland Browns RB Kareem Hunt will not appeal his eight-game suspension.
The NFL has suspended Cleveland Browns running back Kareem Hunt for eight games for violating its personal conduct policy. Hunt violated the personal conduct policy while he was a member of the Kansas City Chiefs, which led to his release in November. The Browns took a chance on the running back, signing him to a one-year contract in February. While Hunt is suspended, running backs Nick Chubb and Duke Johnson will be asked to lead the backfield, although there have been persistent rumors that the team would like to trade Johnson. When he does return from suspension, Hunt's role in the team's backfield is unclear.