Posted on: March 5, 2010 4:59 pm
Edited on: March 5, 2010 5:05 pm

Day 1 of free agency

NFL fans are already wondering how the first day of free agency is impacting Fantasy Football. I'm glad to offer some thoughts, one topic at a time:

1. Brandon Marshall visiting Seattle. This is potentially the biggest news of the day as it would mean a quality, sure-fire No. 1 receiver changing addresses. Marshall is a restricted free agent who can sign an offer sheet with the Seahawks but would cost the team its No. 6 overall pick if the Broncos don't match.

That said, the Broncos are probably begging the Seahawks to sign him to an offer sheet.

The prospect of Marshall in Seattle is good, not great. I don't think he'll be quite as effective as he was in Denver. Fine, he'd still have a pretty good schedule in the NFC West (including a game at Denver), but quarterback issues, offensive line issues and people taking coverage away from him would all hinder his output. I'd still consider him a No. 1 WR, but I wouldn't be over the moon about it.

Domino effect: T.J. Houshmandzadeh, all Broncos receivers and passers would struggle.

And now on to things that HAVE happened instead of speculation ...

2. Chester Taylor signs with the Bears. This is great for the Bears, bad for the Vikings and knife-in-the-eye brutal for Fantasy owners. By virtue of this signing, we've lost another potential 15-to-20-touch running back out of the player pool.

Matt Forte might not have been your favorite choice for a No. 2 Fantasy rusher this summer but at least he had upside to work a lot and accumulate a ton of yardage and maybe more than four touchdowns. That's out the window now -- the assumption is that Taylor will compete with Forte for the starting job but ultimately share the ball with him. Under that guise, it would be a shock to see either running back land more than 15 touches in a game but instead hover around 10 per game.

And then there's the Martz factor: Already potentially hurting Forte's value, the mere presence of pass-happy offensive coordinator Mike Martz scares me further. Martz was phenomenal with Marshall Faulk in St. Louis but couldn't muster the same kind of stats out of Kevin Jones in Detroit, then ran Frank Gore into mediocrity with the 49ers -- Gore had his worst year as a starter under Martz. Don't be shocked if there's a game or two this season where Forte and Taylor combine for 15 touches. 

I'll watch the backs in training camp and the preseason, but the biggest truth of all is that they've very much alike. Good size, great hands, able to block, no breakaway speed. It's going to be a mess. Taylor's Fantasy stock improves -- he's a legit No. 3 Fantasy RB, but so is Forte.

Domino effect: Vikings need a backup rusher for Adrian Peterson; if they don't add one, Peterson could be a beast -- as in, bigger than normal.

3. Nate Burleson signs with Detroit. If you take the financial aspect out of the deal, I like it a lot. I've been a Burleson fan for a while but strictly as him being a contributor, not a leading receiver. He's getting paid pretty well, but that doesn't matter in Fantasy.

What does matter is his presence across from Calvin Johnson in a high-powered Lions offense. On paper I like it a lot -- but I can't consider Burleson as anything more than a low-end No. 3 Fantasy WR. Could he get 900 yards and seven touchdowns? Yeah, and that would be great. But I think 700 yards and four touchdowns is more realistic.

Domino effect: Matthew Stafford has a real shot at 3,500 yards and 20 touchdowns. That would be great for him. Also, the Lions' run game could lose work with the passing game enhanced, but they're thin there anyway with Kevin Smith banged up.

4. More Bears: Julius Peppers signs. Again, I don't like the money involved, but I do think it's a good move for the Chicago defense. Their biggest problem last season was a consistent pass rush. They've got it now, and it should be ferocious because even if you double-team Peppers, you still have to deal with Alex Brown coming from the other side and Tommie Harris from up the middle. And Brian Urlacher blitzing. And so on. The Bears might be the best 4-3 scheme defense in the NFL in 2010. Peppers should also pressure opposing quarterbacks which typically results in interceptions. The biggest key to the Bears DST might be Devin Hester, who is believed to be returning kickoffs again. If that happens, and if he re-dedicates himself, then the unit could be Top 10 once again. That's where I have them ranked now.

Domino effect: Panthers DST is toast.

5. Jake Delhomme cut in Carolina. Matt Moore takes over, and he's OK as a No. 2 Fantasy QB but it's clear that the Panthers are heading in a youth movement direction. Not going to be pretty for them, and not going to be pretty for Steve Smith. He's a fine No. 2 WR but it's clear that this team will run the ball a ton in 2010. Good news for DeAngelo Williams (if he survives the offseason) and Jonathan Stewart (if he can stay healthy.

Domino effect: Jake Delhomme continues to be Fantasy repellent. Many are already pinning him to a backup role with the Saints.

For other Fantasy news from Friday, click here

Posted on: February 2, 2010 9:44 pm

Faulk: Martz will make Bears' offense great

Marshall Faulk knows a thing or two about Mike Martz and his offense. After all, he was easily the most productive running back in Martz's coaching history.

Currently an analyst for NFL Network, Faulk sees Martz as a boon for the Bears, who hired Martz this week to coordinate their offense. Following five seasons of mostly uncreative, vanilla play calling from coordinator Ron Turner, Martz is expected to turn up the juice and give Jay Cutler a shot at maximizing his potential.

If Cutler lets him, Faulk says.

"This will be the first time that Jay Cutler will not have control of the decisions that he wants to make," Faulk said Tuesday from Super Bowl XLIV Media Day. "It will be a challenge to Jay. ... Mike will test his football knowledge. He'll test his willingness to want to get better in the NFL. He'll ask him to do some things that Jay might not feel comfortable with."

Faulk recognizes that Cutler's gunslinger tendencies don't mesh with Martz's offense, which is based on anticipation and putting a ball where a receiver is going to be. But it's something that can be taught, Faulk says. 

"He's a see-it throw-it guy, and when you have a talent that a guy like that has, you sometimes don't rely on your instinct to guide you," Faulk said of Cutler. "That's the part of the game that makes Brett Favre special -- Favre has that arm but he'll throw a ball into a window and wait for the guy to come there instead of throwing the ball after you see the guy because it's too late sometimes.

"Mike will ask him to be an anticipator. And Jay will struggle with it at the beginning but hopefully he'll look at Mike's resume, he'll watch film of Kurt and Marc and Trent Green and he'll [notice]. And it will even be harder with him because he kind of started to do that at the beginning of the year and he threw some picks. Hopefully Mike can get him to move forward beyond that and just accept what it is and to get him to be more responsible with the football."

As you might expect, Faulk's focus is at running back where Matt Forte inherits Martz. While Faulk is a staunch supporter of Martz -- "I'm biased," he said -- he's clearly the only NFL rusher that Martz has had incredible success with. With Martz in Detroit, Kevin Jones posted career-best totals but still never rushed for even 700 yards in a season. And in a 2008 campaign with the 49ers, Frank Gore had his worst season as a starter under Martz's tutelage. There were times in each of Martz's last two stops where he'd call games and seemingly forget the running back.

Forte was a major disappointment in 2009 in spite of totaling 1,400 yards -- a big part of his failure was not getting in the end zone much -- but Faulk thinks Forte will "love" Martz.

"[He needs to] understand and come to grips with the fact that a screen pass or a check-down is just like getting a handoff and breaking the line of scrimmage," Faulk said of Forte. "If you can fix that in your head and not expect to get 30 carries a game, then you can play and play well in Mike's offense."

But the real wild card in the offensive mix in Chicago is at tight end, according to Faulk. Greg Olsen, who had career-best stats in his first season with Cutler, might be the biggest benefactor of all from Martz's playbook. Faulk says Olsen "will be the best tight end that he's ever had."

"Getting a tight end involved, what you're able to do with a running back that can catch the ball and a tight end in that offense, it will be tremendous. It will be hard to stop. ... That combination inside will be tough to defend and it will really open up things on the outside. The Bears might not need a receiver [in the draft]."

But in outlining Martz's offense, Faulk says it all comes back to the quarterback, which is probably a big reason why Martz met with Cutler before the job was officially his. Martz claims he and Cutler had an "instant connection" upon meeting, and Faulk says that it will have to last if this football tandem will work properly.

"If the quarterback can call it and learn it, everybody else can call it and learn it because he has more on his plate than anybody else," Faulk said of Martz's playbook. "Everything is based on the quarterback. They're going to run what Cutler can handle; the offensive line coach, it will be on him to make sure they get the protections, the running backs -- protections and run plays, and the receivers coach will be pressed to make sure his guys are, what Mike likes to call 'in the right place at the right time.' In that offense, the quarterback is rarely wrong. Don't fool the quarterback -- he's expecting you to be at a certain spot. That ball will be thrown there. You have to be there. So the learning curve is based on Cutler and what his abilities are. He's a Vanderbilt guy, he should be able to digest it in a week."

After a year of great expectations gone wrong in Chicago, Faulk predicts a big turnaround -- at least offensively -- because of Martz. And he can back it up.

"I think this is a great move for Mike, going to Chicago," Faulk said. "He understands this may be the last chance for him to prove to people that he can get it done, which doesn't make sense because everywhere that he's been the offense has done well."

Posted on: April 6, 2009 10:43 am

The business end of the Cutler trade

 While the entire city of Chicago rejoiced in the beloved Bears trading for Jay Cutler, there were several underlying factors that also played into the trade. Factors that don't necessarily apply to Fantasy Football, but to the NFL in general. I think it would be interesting to explore these factors.

Let's begin with the notion that Cutler is a crybaby. It's a complete myth. He's been painted with the crybaby brush since he asked for a trade out of town, but mitigating factors forced that issue.

Let's say you worked in a great job with people you trusted. Your primary boss loved you, and you and your immediate manager got along well. Even the owner of your imaginary dream job company thought the world of you.

Now let's say your wonderful company tanked in this economic environment after what appeared to be a promising year. The owner promises change, but promises YOU that your primary boss and immediate manager won't be affected. This puts you at ease as your world will remain the same, happy place.

But the owner fires your boss. It takes you by surprise. Days later, your immediate manager leaves the company.

How do you feel now?

Wait, I'm not done. The owner then hires your boss's replacement -- a disciple of a competing company, and he initiates a workplace that changes most everything you know about your job. New terminology, new rules, new enforcement. And, the new boss really doesn't care whether or not you like it. He won't massage your ego at all or make life easy for you.You've got to accept it or hit the road.


How do you feel NOW?

Anyone in this situation would look for a new job, and that's exactly what Cutler did. The Broncos fired Mike Shanahan, a move they had to make after their late-season collapse, then QB coach Jeremy Bates took a job at Southern Cal, then Josh McDaniels took over as the head coach and really got things in a bind when he tried to trade for Matt Cassel. Yes, Cutler is paid millions to be an NFL quarterback, but being lied to and then almost being traded away leaves some scars and definitely makes a good situation turn sour. How could he trust anyone in the organization again? Cutler might have forced the Broncos' hand, but it was justifiable.

So that set up the trade. Now let's consider why Chicago pulled the trigger.

The Bears organization is notoriously thrifty. If Jerry Jones and Daniel Snyder are the guys chucking millions of dollars at NFL players, the Bears are picking up the loose change and begrudgingly handing it over. It's a family business for the McCaskey family as the principal owner, Virginia McCaskey, is the daughter of the late George Halas, who was outrageously cheap. If you need any further proof of the Bears' frugality, note that their "new" stadium was built IN THE BOWL of their old stadium. I know there are additional details as to why the Bears built their place on the grounds of the old Soldier Field, but it's not like they found new land in Chicago and put up a mega-million dollar stadium.

And part of the reason why the Bears haven't invested in a strong-armed quarterback before? Moolah. I can't say this with certainty, but I would guess that Bears ownership is happy with ANY product they put out on the field because the fan base in Chicago will come to games regardless of how the team plays. It's not like Jacksonville, Detroit or Oakland where the fans won't show up unless the team is playing strong football. The Bears could stink and Soldier Field will still be sold out. So as long as they have a few talented football players on the roster, players whose jerseys they can sell at $80 a pop, the ownership is happy. TV revenue and additional profit from ticketing, sponsorships, etc. is enough for them with very minimal risk.

The Bears were staring down the barrel of paying Kyle Orton a rather large sum following this season, especially if he played well again in 2009. Additionally, the Bears would be on the hook for a large signing bonus for the 18th overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft. Last year they spent a ton on first-round pick Chris Williams and the guy barely played!

Cutler, on the other hand, has three years left on his rookie deal at no more than $1.82 million per year. The Bears don't have to sign him to a new contract until after the 2011 season, and that's assuming they don't franchise him first. Surely, Cutler's contract lasting three years worth about $5 million is cheaper than the signing bonus they'd have to pay Orton next offseason, and certainly way, way cheaper than the signing bonuses they'd have to pay first-round picks in 2009 and 2010.

Financially, the deal made sense for the Bears, even if they gave up two first-round picks and Orton.

There's also the matter of GM Jerry Angelo and head coach Lovie Smith being on the hot seat. Yeah, the Bears were in the Super Bowl three years ago, but haven't made the playoffs since. Rumblings emerged this offseason after Smith took over the defensive playcalling that if the Bears tanked again in 2009, the organization would clean house. Angelo and Smith were/are looking at a make-or-break season.

So now we focus on Angelo's job. He knew he had to do SOMETHING to help the Bears win in 2009, and finagling Cutler from Denver was it. As for giving up the draft picks ... well, Angelo won't be with the Bears to make their picks in 2010 if they go 6-10 in 2009, so what does he care if their first-round pick belongs to Denver? For him, it's a win-win situation because if Cutler leads the Bears to the playoffs, the pick will be a late one in Round 1, and he'll have saved his and Smith's jobs. Plus, when looking back at Angelo's eight previous years of first-round picks, the only one that really was solid was DT Tommie Harris. Most of Angelo's gems came in Rounds 2-5 (Orton being one of them). So the first-round picks had even less value to Angelo and the Bears!

Not only was the money right, but the compensation was too. And if it saves Angelo and Smith's rears and turns the Bears' fortunes around, then they're geniuses. If not, Angelo and Smith are looking for a new job and we'll probably see Mike Shanahan coach the Bears in 2010. Wink

Finally, the Bears probably knew that the Lions and Vikings were interested in Cutler. The thought of playing against Cutler INDOORS once a year and ultimately twice a year, with Bernard Berrian or Calvin Johnson catching his passes, would DEFINITELY seal the Bears' fate as the doormat of the NFC North. The Bears not only win by getting Cutler for 16 games, but they also kept him from going to one of two division rivals. Nothing like addition by subtraction ... or division, in this case.

Speaking from a purely professional viewpoint, I like the move for the Bears as it will force opposing defenses to respect their passing game, something that didn't happen late last season when Matt Forte saw a lot of eight-in-the-box looks. The offense won't be a dynamic passing juggernaut like Cutler was in last season, but it should still be effective. I'd be stunned if Cutler topped the Bears-best 3,838 passing yards in a season, though.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com