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FFL: Offseason | NFL: Offseason

DeSean Jackson, surprising Buccaneers off to blazing start

Mon Sep 17 5:53pm ET
By FRED GOODALL
AP Sports Writer

Players: Ryan Fitzpatrick, DeSean Jackson, Antonio Brown, Mike Evans, Adam Humphries, Jameis Winston, O.J. Howard, Chris Godwin

Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver DeSean Jackson (11) grabs a pass over Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Ronald Darby (21), during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 16, 2018, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)


Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver DeSean Jackson (11) grabs a pass over Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Ronald Darby (21), during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 16, 2018, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark LoMoglio)


TAMPA, Fla. (AP) Ryan Fitzpatrick isn't the only reason the surprising Tampa Bay Buccaneers are off to their fastest start in eight years.

Speedy receiver DeSean Jackson is making a difference, too, finally beginning to deliver what the team has been expecting since signing him in free agency before last season.

Fitzpatrick has thrown for 819 yards and eight touchdowns in victories over New Orleans and defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia the past two weeks. Jackson has a pair of 100-yard games receiving and three TDs - two of them on plays of 50-plus yards.

''It's unbelievable. He's playing out of this world right now,'' said Jackson, who scored on a 75-yard reception of the first play of scrimmage in Sunday's 27-21 win over the Eagles.

''He's in his prime,'' the 31-year-old receiver added of the 35-year-old quarterback who's filling in for suspended starter Jameis Winston. ''Us old guys, we are in our prime. He's playing like he's 28 and I'm playing like I'm 24. So as long as we keep doing that, it's going to be a good year.''

Jackson, coming off a disappointing debut with the Bucs in 2017, has nine catches for 275 yards and three TDs the past two weeks after having one of his least productive seasons with 50 receptions for 668 yards and three TDs in 14 games a year ago.

He followed a five-catch, 146-yard, two-TD performance against the Saints with a four-catch, 129-yard performance against the Eagles.

And with TDs of 58 and 75 yards this season, he's eased ahead of Hall of Famers Lance Alworth and Terrell Owens for the third-most TD receptions of 50-plus yards behind Hall of Famers Jerry Rice (36) and Randy Moss (29).

Jackson, who spent six seasons with the Eagles and three with the Washington Redskins before signing a three-year, $33.5 million contract to join the Bucs, has 23 career TDs of 60 or more yards - tied with Rice for most in league history.

''I talked about this since I was younger, it's being legendary and leaving something for the league to understand that I made my mark, man,'' Jackson said. ''I still have a lot of ball left in me. To tie Jerry Rice's records is very emotional for me.''

When Tampa Bay signed Jackson in March 2017, the Bucs were coming off a 9-7 finish the season before and envisioned the speedy wideout adding a much-needed element to their offense: a deep threat not only capable of stretching defenses, but someone able to turn short completions into big gainers.

''For me, it's unbelievable to have a guy like DeSean out there running around,'' Fitzpatrick said. ''Loft the ball up and he can go get it and turn it into a 75-yard touchdown. He's a special player, and he showed that again.''

Through two games, Fitzpatrick has four completions of 50-plus yards, all for touchdowns. In addition to teaming with Jackson on the first play against Philadelphia, the 14-year veteran connected with tight end O.J. Howard on a 75-yard catch-and-run play against the Eagles.

Meanwhile, four-time 1,000-yard receiver Mike Evans and second-year pro Chris Godwin each have two TD receptions.

''We have good skill guys. ... Chris Godwin is an emerging star. O.J. Howard is an emerging star. DeSean Jackson, Mike Evans (are) proven, big-time players,'' coach Dirk Koetter said. ''If you really think about it, we've still got Cam Brate and Adam Humphries, who just aren't getting very many chances right now.''

Next up is a Monday night matchup against Pittsburgh at home, with a chance to begin a season with three consecutive wins for the first time since 2005.

''You can't peak too early. We have a lot of football left,'' Jackson said.

''We have a big one coming up with Big Ben (Roethlisberger) and AB (Antonio Brown) coming to town,'' the receiver added. ''I grew-up a Steeler fan, so I'm going to be amped up for that game too.''

Player Notes
Thurston Armbrister Feb 20 5:23pm ET

Arizona Cardinals LB Thurston Armbrister was waived Wednesday, Feb. 20.

Hayden Hurst Feb 20 5:20pm ET

Baltimore Ravens tight end Hayden Hurst (foot), who was the 25th overall pick in last year's draft, said an X-ray showed he is now 100 percent after he had a screw removed from his foot. Hurst went down with a stress fracture in August and played in 12 games in his rookie season, catching only 13 passes for 163 yards and a touchdown. Nick Boyle and Maxx Williams will be free agents, so Hurst and 2018 third-round pick Mark Andrews could compete for playing time in 2019. Hurst is only 25 and has pass-catching upside, but he's still probably only an asset in dynasty/keeper leagues to begin next season. He could become a waiver wire pickup if he sees considerable playing time and proves he's healthy.

From RotoBaller

Le'Veon Bell Feb 20 5:00pm ET

There is word on the street that Pittsburgh Steelers impending free-agent running back Le'Veon Bell is up to around 260 pounds after holding out for all of 2018. His playing weight is listed as 225 pounds. Bell may have lost a lot of that extra baggage now, but the Jets and other teams may be concerned about what kind of shape he's in. There's also concern about how much the 27-year-old has left in the tank after his 1,635 touches in five seasons. Bell is believed to be looking for a deal that nets him $48 million in the first three years of his next deal. He is arguably the best dual-threat running back in the last decade and should still be an RB1 in his new home.

From RotoBaller

Le'Veon Bell Feb 20 4:43pm ET

Free-agent RB Le'Veon Bell (Steelers) reportedly weighed around 260 pounds during his year off from football. The Jets are fairly concerned about the shape Bell is in after he played at 225 pounds in 2017. New York is considered to be one of the front-runners to sign Bell this offseason. Despite the weight issue, the Jets will add him for the right price. The Jets currently boast the second largest salary cap heading into the offseason behind the Indianapolis Colts.

Fantasy Spin: Running back will be even more of a need if Isaiah Crowell is not retained. Bell would make a nice fit in green and white but is an RB1 candidate wherever he lands, assuming the weight won't be a big issue.

David Mayo Feb 20 3:33pm ET

Carolina Panthers LB David Mayo (hernia) recently underwent surgery for a sports hernia, according to The Athletic's Joe Person. Mayo is rehabilitating and is expected to make a full recovery.

Landon Collins Feb 20 3:23pm ET

New York Giants impending free-agent SS Landon Collins is expected to be pursued by the Indianapolis Colts in free agency, according to The Herald Bulletin's George Bremer.

Dion Sims Feb 20 3:10pm ET

The Chicago Bears are expected to release tight end Dion Sims, according to a source. He was due $6 million in 2019, so he'll become a salary cap casualty. The 28-year-old played in just 22 games in his two years in Chicago and caught only 17 passes for 189 yards and one touchdown over that span. Sims is mainly a blocking tight end and won't have a huge market for his services this offseason.

From RotoBaller

Dion Sims Feb 20 2:43pm ET

Chicago Bears impending free-agent TE Dion Sims is expected to be released, according to a source. Cutting Sims saves the Bears $6 million in salary cap space.

Landon Collins Feb 20 2:23pm ET

New York Giants impending free-agent SS Landon Collins cleared out his locker and said goodbye to teammates Wednesday, Feb. 20, indicating he does not expect to return to the Giants this year.

Jaelen Strong Feb 20 2:13pm ET

Free-agent WR Jaelen Strong (Jaguars) was signed to an undisclosed deal by the Cleveland Browns Wednesday, Feb. 20.

Le'Veon Bell Feb 20 1:43pm ET

Updating an ongoing saga, Pittsburgh Steelers RB Le'Veon Bell will not be the recipient of the transition tag, according to general manager Kevin Colbert, Wednesday, Feb. 20. Bell will hit the open market in March.

Fantasy Spin: This isn't a big surprise. Gamers will have to wait to see where he ends up to get a true valuation, but Bell will remain in the RB1 ranks, albeit with risk, for 2019.

Todd Gurley Feb 20 1:20pm ET

Los Angeles Rams running back C.J. Anderson said Todd Gurley's knee injury was worse than the team originally thought when they signed Anderson to take over for Gurley for the final two regular season games. "Yeah, he'd never really tell me. It was tough. I would say sprained knee," Anderson said. "Obviously, it's the same knee injury he's had before in his career." Head coach Sean McVay and the Rams were calling it knee inflammation. Gurley has taken a pounding and no player in the league has had more touches than him since the start of 2017. He had just 14 carries in the conference championship and Super Bowl combined, so something was clearly not right with the star back. Gurley has gone over 1,000 yards on the ground in three of his four seasons and had 21 total touchdowns in 2018, making him the league's premiere running back. Despite ending the year hobbled in the playoffs, Gurley is a no-brainer first overall fantasy selection in 2019.

From RotoBaller

Antonio Brown Feb 20 1:20pm ET

Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said the team will attempt to trade wide receiver Antonio Brown this offseason, but they will not give him away. If the trade doesn't benefit the Steelers, they will not trade him. Both sides are ready to move on, but the Steelers are unlikely to get a ton for the star wideout. Brown has rubbed many in the organization the wrong way despite putting up six straight seasons of 1,000 yards and 100-plus catches. While he's still the cream of the receiving crop, Brown is heading into his age-31 season and will likely do so in a whole new offense. He'll remain a high-end WR1, but Brown will come with more risk than ever before.

From RotoBaller

Le'Veon Bell Feb 20 1:10pm ET

Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said the team will not place the franchise or transition tag on running back Le'Veon Bell. "LeVeon is still a great player. We cant afford to use any other type of tags. LeVeon will be an unrestricted free agent at the start of the new league year," Colbert said. Bell held out for the entire 2018 season after the Steelers placed the franchise tag on him. He'll be free to sign any other club next month and is not expected back in Pittsburgh. The versatile back has 1,000-yard seasons in three of his five years in the NFL and is also one of the best pass-catching running backs in the league. He's likely to remain a strong RB1 wherever he goes next, but his upside will depend on the offense that he's in.

From RotoBaller

Adam Thielen Feb 20 12:30pm ET

Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen's agent, Blake Baratz, thinks his client and two-time Pro Bowler could reach an extension with the team this offseason. Thielen signed a four-year deal worth $19.246 million in 2017 that will pay him around $8 million in 2019. He has outplayed his contract after setting career highs in catches (113), yards (1,373) and touchdowns (nine). Thielen just keeps improving season after season and has become a strong WR2 in point-per-reception leagues. It helps that he'll be working with quarterback Kirk Cousins again in 2019.

From RotoBaller

DeVante Parker Feb 20 12:30pm ET

Miami Dolphins wide receiver Devante Parker is believed to already be gone and wideout Danny Amendola is iffy to be re-signed as well. Even Kenny Stills could be at risk with a $4 million salary cap savings if he's cut. The Dolphins have been wanting to move on from Parker for a while, so that is no secret. The former first-round pick in 2015 has been a flop and had just 24 catches (47 targets) for 309 yards and one touchdown in 11 games in 2018. He has just two scores the last two years and has never played a full season in the NFL. Amendola was much more reliable for a stagnant Miami offense and had 59 receptions for 575 yards and a touchdown in 15 games in his first season in Miami. He's getting long in the tooth, though, and isn't a lock to find a prominent role on the open market.

From RotoBaller

Adam Thielen Feb 20 1:03am ET

Minnesota Vikings WR Adam Thielen's agent recently expressed optimism that his client and the team are committed to hammering out an adjusted contract that will make Thielen one of the more highly paid receivers in the league. Thielen is about to enter the third season of a four-year, $19.246 million base deal.

Todd Gurley Feb 20 12:13am ET

Los Angeles Rams RB Todd Gurley (knee) was 'more hurt than we thought' and could have been dealing with a sprained knee as opposed to knee inflammation, as head coach Sean McVay and the team indicated during the season, according to comments made by C.J. Anderson on Fox Sports 1's 'Undisputed' on Tuesday, Feb. 19. 'The injury was a little bit more than what everybody in the building thought, including himself. ... Yeah, he'd never really tell me. ... I would say sprained knee. Obviously, it's the same knee injury he's had before in his career. Obviously, I had surgery on my meniscus and once you have a knee, you always have a knee. So it aggravates and if he was getting a lot of touches earlier in the year -- obviously him being one of the best backs, that probably was the case,' Anderson said.

Fantasy Spin: Gurley's lack of usage down the stretch suggests either he or McVay did not feel the back was not anywhere close to fully healthy. While Anderson admits he has no way to know for sure, a sprained knee can be a serious enough injury to keep Gurley from being able to or wanting to handle a full load. The 24-year-old should be able to enjoy a normal offseason - even if did suffer a knee sprain - and figures to be a fantasy stalwart again in 2019.

Emmanuel Sanders Feb 19 11:30pm ET

Denver Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders (Achilles) said that he wouldn't restructure his current deal. "It aint happening. No way Jose," Sanders tweeted. The 31-year-old tore his Achilles in practice on Dec. 5 and is schedule to count $12.94 million against the salary cap in 2019. If Denver exercises his 2019 salary before March 12, he'd be guaranteed $1.5 million. The Broncos would save $10.25 million by cutting Sanders, leaving only $2.687 million in dead money. Before the injury, Sanders was the team's best receiver, catching 71 passes for 868 yards and four touchdowns while also throwing a TD and running one in. It remains to be seen if Sanders will even be ready for the start of next season, although his production has been fine when healthy. If the Broncos move on, Courtland Sutton would be the unquestioned No. 1 receiver going into his second year.

From RotoBaller

Emmanuel Sanders Feb 19 11:13pm ET

Denver Broncos WR Emmanuel Sanders (Achillies') is sheduled to count $12.94 million against the salary cap in 2019, but he appears to have no interest in restructuring his contract entering the final year of his deal. Denver has until March 12 to exercise his 2019 option, which would trigger a $1.5 million guarantee of his salary. In the event they choose to release him, the Broncos will save $10.25 million against the cap.