Guest of the League
make it happen
FFL: Offseason | NFL: Offseason

Dolphins-Bills Preview

1571349958

Players: Frank Gore, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Lee Smith, Josh Allen, Josh Rosen

In this Sept. 15, 2019, file photo, Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (14) looks to pass during the first half at an NFL football game against the New England Patriots, in Miami Gardens, Fla. Ryan Fitzpatrick will start at quarterback Sunday for the winless Miami Dolphins at Buffalo, and Josh Rosen will be back on the bench. Coach Brian Flores announced the decision Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File)


Buffalo Bills running back Frank Gore (20) tries to get past Tennessee Titans inside linebacker Jayon Brown (55) in the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Oct. 6, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn. The Bills won 14-7. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)


ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) The Buffalo Bills haven't seen the last of FitzMagic.

Ryan Fitzpatrick picked up many of his colorful nicknames for his fearless flair for dramatics during a four-year stint in Buffalo.

Seven years and five teams later, the Harvard-educated swashbuckler will be back in town facing his former team Sunday, this time with the winless Miami Dolphins. He reclaimed the starting job this week in rookie coach Brian Flores' bid to spark an offense that's scored just 42 points.

''Decided that we feel like that was the best thing for this team and give us an opportunity - the best opportunity - for this team to go up into a tough environment and try to pull out a win,'' Flores said, in explaining his sudden change of heart in having Fitzpatrick take over for turnover-prone Josh Rosen.

Fitzpatrick, 3-2 against the Bills since being released by Buffalo, is more accustomed to playing in what should be a rowdy environment, where the folding table-breaking Bills Mafia has jumped on board a 4-1 team that's off to its best start since 2011. He's proven to be more productive in running a talent-depleted offense after engineering two fourth-quarter touchdown drives before coming a failed two-point conversion short in a 17-16 loss to Washington last week.

Perhaps most of all, Fitzpatrick's easygoing approach might be what the frustrated Dolphins need to stay loose amid questions of tanking, and facing a defense that has yet to allow more than 17 points or 250 yards passing - a big reason Buffalo is 4-1.

Fitzpatrick was already busy cracking jokes upon being named the starter Wednesday. He noted it'll be easy to pick out friends and former neighbors in the stands because they'll be the only ones wearing his old No. 14 Bills jersey.

More seriously, the 36-year-old understands the importance of leading the Dolphins on the field and mentoring Rosen, a former first-round pick now on his second team in two years.

''He knows I'm there and he knows I've been through a lot of different things,'' Fitzpatrick said. ''Every Sunday I have the fate of this whole team on my shoulders and that's what you do as a quarterback. But if you allow it to overpower you and you allow it to cripple you, it will. So just trying to play free.''

Tight end Lee Smith certainly remembers Fitzpatrick's freewheeling style when the two were teammates in Buffalo.

''Josh reminds me a lot of him,'' Smith said, referring to Bills second-year starter Josh Allen. ''Both of them are wild. They're diving headfirst into dudes because they want to get every inch they can for their team.''

Fitzpatrick's ability to throw caution to the wind has both extended his career and limited his chances of being a long-term starter. With a 50-77-1 record, he ranks 53rd on the career list with 192 touchdowns, and 59th with 152 interceptions.

One way or the other, he'll have the Bills secondary on its toes.

''With Fitzpatrick, he's a gunslinger,'' Bills safety Micah Hyde said. ''He's going to give us opportunities and he's going to give them opportunities.''

FRANK TALK

Containing Bills running back Frank Gore, the NFL's active leading rusher, is nothing new for Flores. He was a linebacker at Boston College when his team lost to Gore and the Miami Hurricanes in 2001.

Flores said he didn't actually get a chance to tackle Gore.

''I wasn't very good,'' Flores said. ''I wasn't in there very much.''

MORE GORE

Gore, who spent last season with Miami, is 79 all-purpose yards from becoming the ninth player to reach 19,000. He's also two touchdowns shy of becoming the 25th player to reach 100.

LOSING THE SPREAD

Bills defensive tackle Jordan Phillips might be on to something when he said, ''What's that mean?'' when informed the Bills opened as 15 1/2-point favorites.

The Bills have lost the last two times they've been favored by 15 1/2 or more points. Buffalo lost 24-17 to the New York Jets on Dec. 6, 1992, and 16-13 at Indianapolis the previous week.

TUA TRENDING

By losing a matchup of winless teams against Washington, the Dolphins are favorites in the race for the No. 1 draft pick.

That fits nicely with the organization's rebuilding effort and pursuit of a franchise quarterback. ''Tankfortua'' is a popular Twitter hashtag, as Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is well aware.

''It's flattering,'' Tagovailoa said this week. ''But we have a season to worry about now. Everyone is saying `Tank for Tua' now. But if we end up losing all our games the rest of the season, they won't be there saying it then.''

FITZ-MEMORIES

Chan Gailey's first win as Bills coach in 2010 came courtesy of Fitzpatrick. Same went for interim coach Perry Fewell, who turned to Fitzpatrick after Dick Jauron was fired nine games into the 2009 season.

Fewell had an anxious moment with Buffalo nursing a 17-14 lead over Miami. Taking over with 2:31 remaining, Fitzpatrick ignored his coach's suggestion to play conservatively and instead launched a 51-yard touchdown pass to Terrell Owens in an eventual 31-14 win.

Player Notes
Everson Griffen Feb 25 2:00am ET

The Cleveland Browns will likely be looking to replace defensive end Olivier Vernon this offseason, as he's due to make $15.25 million in 2020. Vernon will either be released or will need to take a pay cut to stay in Cleveland. If Vernon is released, the Browns could look to defensive end Everson Griffen or free safety Anthony Harris on the open market. New head coach Kevin Stefanski is familiar with both players from his time with the Vikings. The Browns will be looking to upgrade their pass-rushers and safeties in the offseason. Vernon, 30 this October, played in just 10 games in 2019 with the Browns and recorded just 3.5 sacks and one forced fumble.

From RotoBaller

Hayden Hurst Feb 25 1:50am ET

There's a real chance that the Baltimore Ravens move tight end Hayden Hurst this offseason, and the Patriots could be involved, according to sources. The Patriots were heavily linked to Hurst prior to the 2018 draft. Hurst was selected with the 25th overall pick in the first round that year, but he's underwhelmed with 43 catches for 512 yards and three touchdowns in his two seasons in the NFL and has fallen down Baltimore's depth chart behind Mark Andrews and Nick Boyle. New England will be looking to beef up their receiver depth, including at tight end, so Hurst could be a player on the rise if he's dealt to New England. Of course, the Patriots might not have Tom Brady under center in 2020 either.

From RotoBaller

Justin Simmons Feb 25 1:50am ET

Denver Broncos safety Justin Simmons said in an interview on SiriusXM NFL Radio on Monday that he expects to receive the franchise tag. Over the Cap estimates that the tag for safeties this year will be worth $12.7 million. Simmons is hoping that he'll be able to work out a long-term deal by the deadline of July 15 if the Broncos put the tag on him. The former third-round pick on 2016 is developing into one of the better safeties in the league. The 26-year-old had 93 tackles (65 solo)and a career-high four interceptions over a full season in 2019. Simmons has had 90-plus total tackles each of the last two seasons and should remain in Denver for the long-term.

From RotoBaller

Dak Prescott Feb 25 1:40am ET

Dallas Cowboys vice president Stephen Jones said that the team hasn't met or negotiated with quarterback Dak Prescott's agent Todd France since September of last year. There haven't been talks between the two sides this offseason, but they may meet during the scouting combine this week. Jones also said that no contracts with Prescott or wide receiver Amari Cooper will be agreed upon until the new collective-bargaining rules for 2020 are decided. The Cowboys had a "very upbeat" conversation with Cooper's representation during Super Bowl week. The Cowboys continue to say that Prescott is their quarterback of the future. Expect talks to heat up this week, with Prescott ultimately staying in Dallas as a high-end QB1 for fantasy owners.

From RotoBaller

Leighton Vander Esch Feb 25 1:40am ET

Dallas Cowboys linebacker Leighton Vander Esch (neck) is expected to take part in spring workouts to some degree. "Once we see him, we'll have a better feel for it. But he'll have some limitations up until training camp before we really turn him loose," executive vice president Stephen Jones said. Vander Esch was a stud in his rookie season, but he played in just nine games in 2019 because of his neck injury, recording 72 tackles (43 solo), half a sack and one forced fumble. If fully healthy entering the 2020 season, LVE can be an IPD force because of his tackling ability from sideline to sideline. The Cowboys need him in the middle of the field on defense.

From RotoBaller

Tom Brady Feb 25 1:30am ET

In a discussion between ESPN reporters Jeff Darlington and Adam Schefter on the Rich Eisen show last week, Darlington said that he expects the Tennessee Titans to "be in the mix" to sign New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who will become a free agent next month. The Raiders might also try to make a splash and sign Brady if the Patriots let him reach the open market. It would be a surprise if Brady left New England, but he's considering other options and could choose a playoff contender like the Titans after they reached the AFC Championship last year. Brady also played with Titans head coach Mike Vrabel in New England. Brady lacked weapons in the passing game in 2019, but he also looked a little washed up. If he were to go to Tennessee's run-first offense, Brady would be squarely in the QB2 mix with limited fantasy upside.

From RotoBaller

Yannick Ngakoue Feb 24 4:10pm ET

Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Yannick Ngakoue wants a long-term deal and is looking for $22 million annually. Ngakoue said he would be unlikely to show up until Aug. 11 if he had to play under the franchise tag. The young pass-rusher has compiled 37.5 sacks (second on the all-time franchise list) since being drafted in the third round of 2016. He also has 14 forced fumbles in that time. If the Jags place the tag on Ngakoue, which ESPN's Mike DiRocco expects, it would be for around $19.3 million in 2020. The 24-year-old (25 next month) had eight sacks, four forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and an interception last year and is firmly in the mix in IDP leagues with what he's done the last four seasons.

From RotoBaller

Adam Vinatieri Feb 24 4:00pm ET

The Indianapolis Colts are unsure if kicker Adam Vinatieri, who will be a free agent next month, will return in 2020. The 47-year-old future Hall of Famer is rehabbing the knee injury that he dealt with last season, and he hasn't decided yet on if he will retire. The 2019 season was the worst year of Vinatieri's long career, as he missed 14 kicks total -- eight field goals and six extra points -- and landed on Injured Reserve in Week 13. The Colts also signed Chase McLaughlin to a one-year extension in January, so Vinatieri might not be back even if he decides to keep playing.

From RotoBaller

Matt Schaub Feb 24 3:20pm ET

The Atlanta Falcons are expected to pick up quarterback Matt Schaub's $2 million option for the 2020 season, according to a source. Schaub made just one start in 2019 and was underwhelming in place of Matt Ryan. The veteran signal-caller attempted 67 passes for 580 yards, three touchdowns and one interception in parts of six games last season. He'll be 39 in June and is a shaky backup option if Matty Ice were to miss any more games next season due to injury. Even if Schaub is starting games at some point next year, he'd be a shaky second QB in two-quarterback leagues.

From RotoBaller

Vontaze Burfict Feb 24 2:13pm ET

Free-agent LB Vontaze Burfict (Raiders) was reinstated by the league in January and has reportedly been working out at his alma mater (Arizona State) in an effort to returning to the NFL in 2020. Burfict was suspended for the final 12 games of the 2019 season after delivering a helmet-to-helmet hit to Indianapolis Colts TE Jack Doyle.

From TheHuddle

Yannick Ngakoue Feb 24 11:33am ET

Jacksonville Jaguars impending free-agent DE Yannick Ngakoue is seeking a long-term deal that pays $22 million annually. The franchise tag would be worth around $19.3 million if used on him.

Fantasy Spin: Ngakoue was tied for fifth in fantasy points at the position last season in 15 games. It was a down year that he only had eight sacks, and there is certainly is more in the tank.

From TheHuddle

Austin Ekeler Feb 23 11:43pm ET

Los Angeles Chargers RB Austin Ekeler needs to see 15 to 20 touches per game, according to head coach Anthony Lynn.

Fantasy Spin: Ekeler is one of the more versatile backs in the NFL, and he finished 2019 with 92 catches and eight receiving touchdowns. There's a good chance he will be he unquestioned top back and a potential RB1 in 2020 if Melvin Gordon doesn't return, but even if Gordon is back, Ekeler can be a RB2 in PPR formats.

From TheHuddle

Marlon Mack Feb 23 11:40pm ET

Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay said on Sunday that the team isn't pursuing a long-term contract extension with running back Marlon Mack currently. It doesn't mean that it's not on the table or that the Colts don't want to keep Mack around for the long-term, but it's not a pressing issue. The 23-year-old (24 next month) is scheduled to become a free agent after the 2020 season. He's been the starter the last two years and had 247 carries for 1,091 yards and eight touchdowns in 2019. However, he's also missed eight games the last two seasons, so Indy might be hesitant in thinking he'll continue to be a lead back for years to come. Mack does have a strong offensive line in front of him, but he'll be more of a low-end RB1/high-end RB2 going into the final year of his contract in 2020.

From RotoBaller

D.J. Chark Feb 23 10:13pm ET

Jacksonville Jaguars WR DJ Chark Jr. credits his success in 2019 to an improved commitment to preparation, and Mike DiRocco of ESPN.com believes Chark should deliver 1,000 receiving yards and eight to 10 touchdowns in 2020.

Fantasy Spin: Chark emerged as the top receiver for the Jaguars in 2019, and while Jacksonville is unlikely to have a high-powered passing attack, Chark should be able to deliver WR3 production as the No. 1 option.

From TheHuddle

JuJu Smith-Schuster Feb 23 9:53pm ET

Pittsburgh Steelers WR JuJu Smith-Schuster had eight catches on 11 targets in the six quarters he played with QB Ben Roethlisberger (elbow) in 2019, and Brooke Pryor of ESPN believes Smith-Schuster needs another 'reliable offensive weapon' to be at his best.

Fantasy Spin: While Smith-Schuster's numbers would have been better with a healthy Roethlisberger under center, we still don't know if he can replicate his monster 2018 numbers as the go-to option of the passing attack.

From TheHuddle

Mike Gesicki Feb 23 9:43pm ET

Miami Dolphins TE Mike Gesicki will likely be used as a slot receiver in sets featuring three or more receivers in offensive coordinator Chan Gailey's system, according to Cameron Wolfe of ESPN.com.

Fantasy Spin: After a quiet rookie year, Gesicki showed signs of life in 2019, finishing with 51 catches for 570 yards and five touchdowns. He could be worth a flier as a high-upside TE2.

From TheHuddle

Jihad Ward Feb 23 8:53pm ET

The Baltimore Ravens are hopeful of re-signing DE/LB Jihad Ward, a pending unrestricted free agent. The team thinks he fits well with them and they like his motor, versatility. The two sides have had discussions over the past week.

From TheHuddle

Devin McCourty Feb 23 8:43pm ET

New England Patriots FS Devin McCourty might be a candidate for the franchise tag, and he could cost $11.5 million against the cap if that's the route head coach Bill Belichick and company elect.

From TheHuddle

Stephen Gostkowski Feb 23 8:23pm ET

New England Patriots PK Stephen Gostkowski (hip) has one year remaining on his contract, but he is 36 years old and coming off hip surgery. Releasing him would free up nearly $3.5 million in salary cap space.

From TheHuddle

Marlon Mack Feb 23 8:03pm ET

Indianapolis Colts RB Marlon Mack is not in line for a contract extension at this time. '(Marlon), we love him, but we love the other two guys. We want him back and he wants to be back, really. There were some mis-reports that we were pursuing an extension there. That's not the case. I don't know where those came from,' team owner Jim Irsay said Sunday, Feb. 23.

From TheHuddle