February 21, 2006


by Michael Stephens

Jerome Bettis Will Join NBC as a Studio AnalystThe Bus stopped in Detroit with the Pittsburgh Steelers’ win in Super Bowl XL. But it’s refueling and getting ready for another trip… albeit one without the physical punishment.

The broadcast booth.

Just a few weeks into retirement, Jerome Bettis has joined NBC as a studio analyst for Sunday night football games, according to the Associated Press. The future Hall of Fame running back went out on top as his Steelers beat the Seattle Seahawks, 21-10, for the league title in his hometown of Detroit. With NBC taking over Sunday night games next year, Bettis seized an opportunity to stay in football and begin a new career.

His first game as a member of the media will, fittingly, be in Pittsburgh on Thursday, September 7. The Steelers will receive their Super Bowl rings and open their title defense with #36 cheering them on… impartially, of course.

“I am looking forward to this new opportunity and to still be involved in the game I love,” Bettis said. “That night will be the proudest of my life. I will finally get my ring and I will start my new career in television in front of all the Steelers fans.”

The Bus made it to fifth all-time on the NFL’s career rushing list after 13 great seasons. In recent seasons, he was relegated somewhat, to short-yardage or goal-line situations. You can bet that Bettis will be a proud and happy man when next season opens in the Steel City. You can also bet that Willie Parker, who became the Steelers’ feature running back this year, will skyrocket in fantasy value without the Bus bogarting half his TDs.



by JJ Cameron

After a period of undecidedness over what to do about their starting quarterback, it appears as though the San Diego Chargers are likely to let Drew Brees test the open market as a free agent.

The deadline for tagging a player with the “franchise” label is this Thurday and San Diego general manager, A.J. Smith, said it was unlikely Brees would receive the team’s deignation. The club is afraid that the star QB’s injured shoulder makes it too much of a risk to guarantee as much as $10 million on the position.

The Chargers can - and might - still sign Brees to a long-term deal.Brees and LT Celebrate

“Our proposals have not been acceptable at this point and time, but we will continue to talk,” Smith said. “Drew Brees wants to be here, we want him to be here. Drew wants a long-term contract, we want him to have a long-term contract.”

If this doesn’t take place, the job falls to Philip Rivers. While there’s no question that he should be avoided at all costs by fantasy players, this decision would have an impact on a candidate for the number-one overall draft pick: LaDainian Tomlinson.

With an unproven starter under center, San Diego would face multiple run-stuffing defenses. This could curtail Tomlinson’s production. Meanwhile, Brees would join a long list of other solid quarterbacks on the market - all of whom are worth keeping your eye to see where they land.


February 20, 2006


by JJ Cameron

As Nick Saban curses him off, Ricky Williams should be expecting bouquets of flowers from grateful fantasy owners. Or perhaps some other type of paraphernalia as a gift.

Ricky Williams After spending the 2005 campaign rotating with fellow Miami running back, Ronnie Brown, Williams caused strife and confusion in fantasy leagues across the country. Which tailback should players start? Both? Neither? Would there be bonus points for late-night food binges?

According to reports in The Miami Herald, however, Williams has failed his FOURTH drug test. Evidently, off-season yoga and holistic medicine classes just haven’t been relaxing enough for this former Heisman Trophy winner. If these rumors are accurate, the back is in line for a one-year suspension from the league.

If that’s the case, Brown could become an early second round selection. The only remaining teams that would have alternating running back scenarios would be the Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs.


February 19, 2006


by JJ Cameron

As Brett Favre has wrestled with the decision of whether to call it a glorious career or not, he’s sought advice from other star quarterbacks that faced a similar decision at the end of their playing days. One of them has been Troy Aikman.

The three-time Super Bowl champion doubts Favre will return for another season behind center in Green Bay.

“I’d hate to see him retire,” Aikman told The Associated Press. “But I know that going out and having seasons like what he went through this past year is really frustrating and it just isn’t much fun. I think the fact that he is having a hard time making the decision, in some ways, to me, that kind of has made the decision for him.”

Brett Favre Mulls Retirement
The Packers are coming off an embarrassing 4-12 campaign, their only losing season with Favre taking the starting snaps. Injuries to stars such as Ahman Green and Javon Walker didn’t exactly help matters, but Favre led the league with 29 interceptions.

Aikman, a television analyst for Fox, hasn’t spoken with Favre since the end of the season. He relates the situation in Green Bay to the surroundings in Dallas when he ended his Hall of Fame career.

“Brett has drawn some comparisons to what he’s currently going through with what I went through at the end of my career - not from a health standpoint, but just kind of where the team is,” said Aikman. “I just didn’t think that we were doing what was necessary to be competitive any longer. And I know that Brett is dealing with that currently.”

If Favre does return, he can still be a solid starter for any fantasy team. The interception total may be high once again, but expect over 20 touchdown passes and close to 4,000 yards for a quarterback that would have to carry the bulk of his team’s offense.


February 17, 2006


by JJ Cameron

While there is a question mark surrounding the knee of stud quarterback, Carson Palmer, the Bengals made sure there were no doubts about who’d be running their recently successful ship for the next few years. The team extended the contract of Head Coach Marvin Lewis, signing the intense leader through 2010.

Coming off its first playoff appearance in 15 seasons, Cincinnati lost in the first round to the eventual Super Bowl Champion Steelers. The club did, however, sport THREE of the top fantasy players in the league. If Palmer is healthy in 2006, he could even be the first signal caller selected.

Meanwhile, Rudi Johnson is often overlooked, but can be relied upon for double digit touchdowns, as well as fun chants of his first name. A certain Notre Dame alum would be proud.

Finally, there’s Chad Johnson. He’s never overlooked. Ever. As enjoyable - and productive - a wide receiver as there is in the league, this is the anti-TO. With Lewis at the helm of this Bengal barrage, the Files sees no reason why there should be any drop off in this trio’s numbers. Select each within the first two rounds of next year’s draft.



by Michael Stephens

Will Colts According to the Indianapolis Star, the Colts have signed 16 free agents since the end of the season.

Not among them? Edgerrin James and Reggie Wayne.

The Colts face big decisions as free agency looms for these two stars, and may begin next year without at least one of the two. James, a star running back who has gained 9,226 yards and scored 75 times in seven seasons in Indianapolis, reportedly thinks he is on the way out. Wayne has established himself as a solid #2 receiver alongside Marvin Harrison and would get big offers if the Colts let him become a free agent.

Indianapolis can only use the “franchise” tag — in which the player is considered signed, for one year, at the average salary of the five highest-paid players in the NFL at that position — on one of the two. Since G.M. Bill Polian isn’t afraid to let veterans go and start over with younger players, the Colts are not likely to offer a contract to whichever star they do not franchise.

Compounding the issue are other key areas the team must address following its 14-2 season, which ended in a disappointing home loss to Pittsburgh in the divisional playoffs.

If linebacker David Thornton is let go, they must acquire another playmaker at that position. Defensive end Robert Mathis is a restricted free agent (meaning the Colts can match any offer to keep him) but the demand for his services is high and could cost Indy a bundle. Another of their own free agent defensive linemen, Raheem Brock, has developed nicely and the Colts do not want to see him depart. Prolific, idiot kicker Mike Vanderjagt is also rumored to be out the door.

The Files thinks this means the end of James’ days in Indianapolis. He has clashed with the organization over his contract status before, and Wayne seems like the safer “franchise” option for the Colts at this point. If they can keep Peyton Manning’s receiving corps intact, they may be content to sign a lower-priced free agent to replace James. Failing that, they might opt for a committee approach, comprised of current backups Dominic Rhodes and James Mungro.

The Edge will be a hot free agent commodity if he leaves Indy. Rumors have him landing in Arizona, which just shelled out big bucks to keep Kurt Warner and badly needs a running back to improve its pathetic ground game. Warner may have been the moribund franchise’s biggest signing since Rod Tidwell, and if they want to build a contender in the Valley of the Sun, they may be willing to show James the money.


February 16, 2006


by JJ Cameron

It’s a scenario that seemed unimaginable less than two years ago. Following one of the greatest statisical seasons by a quarterback in NFL history, Daunte Culpepper was one of the most sought after players in the 2005 fantasy draft.

Then, the Vikings traded Randy Moss; then Culpepper severely injured his knee; then there was a well-publicized sex cruise; and then Culpepper’s replacement almost led the team to the playoffs.

Now? Minnesota seems open to dealing its 29-year old starting signal-caller. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports the Vikings are gauging Culpepper’s trade value around the NFL, with the team seeking a second-round draft pick.

The QB and the club are involved in a contract dispute, with the former claiming that he was promised an increase to the paltry $6 million roster bonus he’s due on March 14. Owner Zygi Wilf has denied this deal was ever discussed.

If Culpepper is truly on the market, there are many teams in need of a solid starting quarterback. Among them would be:

  1. Miami

  2. Oakland

Will Daunte Remain in Minny?Sources have also speculated that the Ravens might be interested in placing their franchise tag on running back Jamal Lewis and then trading him for Culpepper.

However, health remains a question mark for this former All-Pro. After suffering his injury last season, Culpepper won’t be able to practice until the summer at the earliest. A team acquiring him would have to view him as a starter for 2007, while considering any playing time in 2006 to be a welcome surprise.

So, should you take a risk and draft Culpepper in an early round? Approximately 67 million players that made that mistake this season would probably advise against it. Possible replacement, Brad Johnson, may make a solid back-up for a fantasy squad, however.



by Michael Stephens

Antwaan Randle El, the receiver who threw the bomb to Hines Ward that broke open Super Bowl XL and propelled the Pittsburgh Steelers to victory, is considering joining the Bears, according to the Chicago Tribune. It would be a homecoming of sorts for the electric wideout and kick returner, who attended Thornton (Ill.) H.S. in the Chicago area and then starred as a quarterback at Indiana University.

“Certainly my family members want me to come here and play here,” Randle El said. “I have to make sure I make the decision based on the important things. If God leads me here to Chicago, I certainly prefer that situation for my family if it is the best situation for me coming in and playing. If this is a team that needs a receiver or a punt returner or what have you… those are the things that are most important.”

God could not be reached for comment, but unrestricted free agency begins March 3 and Randle El wants to get this figured out by the end of next month. The Bears have an interest in landing him, and could certainly use a playmaker of his caliber in their offensive attack. But they’ll have to show him more than the money.

“Money is not the biggest factor,” said Randle El, whose services are also reportedly coveted by the Eagles. “Of course there’s a business side to it, but you have to make sure what is best for your family. You have to make sure you don’t go to a team that doesn’t have a clue about using a guy like myself.”

Randle El wants to start at wide receiver and return punts for his new team. He appeared in every game in four seasons as a Steeler, catching 162 passes for seven TDs. The speedster also returned four punts and a kickoff to paydirt, and completed 14 of 16 passes on trick plays (such as his Super pass to Ward) with a pair of TD tosses.

The Steelers have not indicated an interest in re-signing Randle El, and are apparently ready to go with Cedrick Wilson, Quincy Morgan and Nate Washington along with Super Bowl MVP Ward at wide receiver.

If the Bears sign him, it’s hard to say how this would impact his fantasy value. He would get plenty of looks as a starting receiver alongside Muhsin Muhammad, but Kyle Orton and Rex Grossman are question marks at QB. If you are in a deeper league that counts return yards, it’s definitely worth keeping an eye on Randle El as a bench player and spot starter.



by Michael Stephens

Last Year, Jamal Lewis Walked Out of Prison...Regarding the future of running back Jamal Lewis, the Baltimore Ravens are undecided and may not use the franchise tag on him, writes Jamison Hensley of the Baltimore Sun.

The Ravens have a week before the NFL deadline that will force them to either place the tag on their all-time leading rusher or let him walk, and G.M. Ozzie Newsome has indicated that the team is weighing all options. Baltimore can stop Lewis, who gained a career-worst 906 yards rushing last season, from becoming a free agent with a one-year offer of $6 million.

Lewis’ agent, Mitch Frankel, has talked with the Ravens but doesn’t know which way they are leaning.

“I have no idea,” Frankel said. “I have no indication one way or another. I won’t know for another week.”

Even if he is designated a franchise player, it doesn’t necessarily mean Lewis will remain with the Ravens. There has been speculation that he would be tagged as such, only to be dealt to Minnesota for quarterback Daunte Culpepper. Other rumors have the Ravens coveting USC running back LenDale White with the 13th overall pick in the draft, which would make Lewis expendable.

Lewis earned $3.5 million last year, the final season of his original six-year, $35.5 million contract he signed as the fifth overall selection in the 2000 draft. He became one of only a handful of rushers to gain more than 2,000 yards in a single season in 2003, but has fallen out of favor since — with fantasy owners as well as his own front office.

He was a first round pick in many a draft last year, and a colossal bust at that. This writer was among those confounded with the decision to take Lewis in the top 10. The University of Tennessee product was simply unable to pull his weight, perhaps due to the extra weight he lugged around the previous offseason, if you know what I am talking about.

I’m talking about handcuffs and leg irons. Lewis spent four months in prison after accepting a plea bargain on federal drug charges, then returned just in time to inflict agony and ruin upon my fantasy team. He is a bad person, and not just because he deals illegal narcotics. Stay as far away from Jamal as possible, whoever he suits up for in 2006.


February 15, 2006


by JJ Cameron

He might be the biggest question mark in the 2006 fantasy draft. He’s definitely the most spoiled, arrogant jerk in it. And now Terrell Owens will be one of the most televised athletes in the country. We can barely contain our enthusiasm.

Banyan Productions - the geniuses behind shows such as Trading Places - has struck a deal with the self-centered, immature receiver to star in his own reality television show. It will be based around the perfectly logical theme of celebrity fitness.

Terrell Owens, Weight Lifter, Prima Donna Terrell Owens is one of the most talked about and dominating athletes in all of sports. He’s also honest, articulate and one of the most physically fit competitors in the country. We’re looking forward to tapping into all of those qualities to create an original and groundbreaking series,�? said Banyan President Ray Murray.

There will be guests on the program, but don’t expect an appearance by Donovan McNabb. Ryan Leaf, however? That’s a different story. It would also be the greatest sign of the apocalypse since Paris Hilton was born.

How will this nonsense affect T.O.’s draft status? Well, he’ll be in good shape - but that’s nothing new. Will he actually stick around for an entire season or shoot his team in the cleats once more? Stay tuned.


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