2012 Draft Prep: Players with an incentive plan
Who might be motivated by that next potential contract? Our Dave Richard spotlights some Draft Day targets with a little extra to play for in 2012.
Sometimes there's more to a player "doing his job" that motivates him to play well. Sometimes, it's the allure of being wealthy.
It's no secret that players who enter a contract year (the final year of their deal) do everything they can to put up big stats in hopes of cashing in the following offseason. They might practice and play through an injury they otherwise might not, or they'll study game film for an extra hour a week or stay on the practice fields a little longer. They'll do anything they can to put up big numbers to make themselves look better when it's time for a new contract. And the more they do, the better it is for their Fantasy owners.
Last year, two players in a contract year didn't have good seasons in part because they were anxious about receiving a new deal. One of them, DeSean Jackson, got one anyway from the Eagles. The other, Peyton Hillis, was unceremoniously dumped by the Browns and landed with the Chiefs -- on another one-year deal. Both players insist that their contract headaches are in the past and they're focused on football. Jackson has a multi-year deal and has nothing to worry about but we wouldn't be surprised if Hillis is lying through his teeth.
And here's one more factor: In late August the NFL and NFL Players Association agreed to push the trade deadline back until after Week 8. That opens the door for playoff contenders to add talent at midseason, and the kinds of players they'll chase will be those who they won't have to pay in 2013. The lists below also serves as potential midseason breakout players in the event they get moved to a new team.
Here's a look at the players at the big-time Fantasy positions who enter 2012 in a contract year.
Joe Flacco, Ravens: The hope in Baltimore is Flacco sheds
the "consistent" label and picks up the "elite" one. Finishing with just
over 3,600 passing yards in each of his last three seasons with 21-to-26
total touchdowns, Flacco's been good enough to pace the Ravens to
playoff berths every year of his career. But even though he nearly led
them to a Super Bowl last year, some don't buy into Flacco being a
top-flight NFL passer in part because his numbers aren't exciting from
year to year. The Ravens view Flacco differently and have had many
discussions with his representatives about an extension, which could
come at any point. It would be a shock if Flacco didn't stay in
Baltimore past 2012.
Moving on in 2013? Five percent chance. The Ravens don't want to start looking for another quarterback to develop. And you read that part about the playoffs, right?
|Jason Campbell, Bears|
|Joe Flacco, Ravens|
|David Garrard, Dolphins|
|Brian Hoyer, Patriots|
|Tarvaris Jackson, Bills|
|Matt Moore, Dolphins|
|Matt Schaub, Texans|
|Contract-year running backs|
|Jackie Battle, Chargers|
|LeGarrette Blount, Bucs (RFA)|
|Ronnie Brown, Chargers|
|Reggie Bush, Dolphins|
|Jonathan Dwyer, Steelers (RFA)|
|Mike Goodson, Raiders|
|Shonn Greene, Jets|
|Tim Hightower, Redskins|
|Peyton Hillis, Chiefs|
|Chris Ivory, Saints (RFA)|
|Brandon Jackson, Browns|
|Brandon Jacobs, 49ers|
|Rashad Jennings, Jaguars|
|Felix Jones, Cowboys|
|Rashard Mendenhall, Steelers|
|Chris Ogbonnaya, Bengals (ERFA)|
|Isaac Redman, Steelers|
|Javon Ringer, Titans|
|Bernard Scott, Bengals|
|Kevin Smith, Lions|
|LaRod Stephens-Howling, Cardinals|
|D.J. Ware, Giants|
|Danny Woodhead, Patriots|
|Contract-year wide receivers|
|Danny Amendola, Rams|
|Ramses Barden, Giants|
|Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs|
|Deion Branch, Patriots|
|Austin Collie, Colts (RFA)|
|Josh Cribbs, Browns|
|Victor Cruz, Giants (RFA)|
|Malcom Floyd, Chargers|
|Devery Henderson, Saints|
|Greg Jennings, Packers|
|Donald Jones, Bills (RFA)|
|Johnny Knox, Bears|
|Mohamed Massaquoi, Browns|
|Randy Moss, 49ers|
|Louis Murphy, Panthers|
|David Nelson, Bills (RFA)|
|Preston Parker, Bucs|
|Emmanuel Sanders, Steelers (RFA)|
|Jerome Simpson, Vikings|
|Steve Smith, Rams|
|Brandon Tate, Bengals|
|Mike Wallace, Steelers|
|Wes Welker, Patriots|
|Contract-year tight ends|
|Martellus Bennett, Giants|
|Dallas Clark, Bucs|
|Jared Cook, Titans|
|Fred Davis, Redskins|
|Ed Dickson, Ravens (RFA)|
|Anthony Fasano, Dolphins|
|Tony Gonzalez, Falcons|
|Todd Heap, Cardinals|
|Dustin Keller, Jets|
|Heath Miller, Steelers|
|Dennis Pitta, Ravens (RFA)|
|Visanthe Shiancoe, Patriots|
|Benjamin Watson, Browns|
Matt Schaub, Texans: The outlook in Houston isn't as rosy
as Schaub comes back from a Lisfranc foot sprain, his third major injury
in five seasons with the Texans. This is a team with Super Bowl
aspirations after coming the closest it's ever been in 2011 -- without
Schaub for the end of the season and postseason. Schaub has played well
when healthy, averaging well over 300 yards per game with 70 total
touchdowns in his last 36 starts over three years. He's a good
quarterback but if he can't stay healthy or lead the Texans to the
playoffs in 2012, he might not have a future in Houston.
Moving on in 2013? 50 percent chance. There isn't much concern about Schaub's game or the Texans' playoff hopes -- both of those are strong. It's his health mixed with what he'd want monetarily in an extension that could give Houston some pause.
Reggie Bush, Dolphins: By the way he played in 2011, you
might have thought Bush's contract year was last season. In his
first season with the 'Fins, Bush posted career-highs in carries (216)
and rushing yards (1,086) while matching a career-high in rushing scores
(six). He also played in 15 games for the first time since 2006. Bush
re-worked his contract when he arrived in Miami from New Orleans last
summer but will turn 28 next March and might not land the kind of
mega-deal he would want, even if he repeated his numbers from 2011.
Moving on in 2013? 50 percent chance. Bush needs to stay healthy and perform to expectations in a completely different offense this season in order to cash in. That might be asking for too much. His NFL career is far from over and he's certainly a candidate to play through minor injuries in hopes of a new deal, but he might not make a lot of dough in Miami.
Shonn Greene, Jets: After two poor seasons in New York,
Greene crossed the 1,000-yard rushing barrier in 2011 and threw in six
scores to boot. Problem is half of the touchdowns came in one game at
Washington and he had just four games over 80 rushing yards all season.
Greene might be viewed as this year's quintessential contract-year
running back: He's in a spot where he'll dominate carries for an offense
refocused on a "ground-and-pound" attack and doesn't need to do a lot to
break his career-high rushing numbers.
Moving on in 2013? 55 percent chance. Greene will need to really excel in order to break the bank with the Jets. He should have the chance to post over 1,000 rush yards again, but the touchdown numbers could be in limbo given the team's addition of Tim Tebow. He could hoard touchdowns from Greene, who might have to settle for a decent contract, not a lucrative one.
Rashad Jennings, Jaguars: Jennings' situation is very
intriguing as he's the starting running back in Jacksonville to start
the season thanks to Maurice Jones-Drew's holdout. As of late August,
MJD is still nowhere to be found and Jennings has throttled preseason
defenses at a 4.8 yards per carry clip, close to his career rushing
average of 5.0 yards per carry. If he can somehow get a foothold in the
Jaguars offense even after Jones-Drew reports, he'll be in a position
for career-highs and a pay day after the year.
Moving on in 2013? 50 percent chance. Depends on how the Jaguars solve their riddle with Jones-Drew. Also depends on how Jennings does this season. Anything he shows while MJD is out will help him garner attention as a free agent next summer.
Isaac Redman, Steelers: Sometimes it's better to be lucky
than good. Redman will get the first crack at filling Rashard Mendenhall's shoes this season, replacing the Steelers' starter
from 2011 after he tore his ACL on January 1. Some preseason injuries
took some wind out of his sails but despite nagging hip and groin issues
he is on track for the start of the season. He might wind up sharing
carries with Jonathan Dwyer in the
short term and Mendenhall in the long term, but if he can prove he can
play through his problems he'll give owners some incredible value given
he's dropped in drafts through late August and himself some green in his
Moving on in 2013? 30 percent chance. If Redman can match his 4.48 rushing average from his last two seasons (162 carries) and be a little more of a factor as a receiver, the Steelers will gladly reward him. He has every opportunity and reason to excel.
Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs: Bowe was good enough to land the
franchise tag from the Chiefs this spring but not good enough to find
middle ground on a long-term deal. As of late July, Bowe has yet to
report to Chiefs camp and might stay away until the start of the season.
After all, if he shows up, signs the one-year franchise tender and then
gets hurt he jeopardizes his chances of a big pay day. Not only might
his absence raise questions about whether or not he's in game shape by
the time he reports, but the Chiefs are installing a new offense this
season and without any offseason work in the program, Bowe is decidedly
behind in the learning process. But he will be in a contract year once
he signs his tender.
Moving on in 2013? 50 percent chance. If Bowe struggles, the Chiefs will let him walk. If he plays well, they'll do what they can to keep him, including potentially tagging him for a second-straight spring. How good of shape he's in and how quickly he can learn the Chiefs' offense will be major factors in how he'll end up doing. Staying away from the team won't help.
Victor Cruz, Giants: A year ago Cruz was just hoping to
make the Giants roster and contribute in any way he could. Now, he's
entering the season expected to be among the team's biggest playmakers.
He's set to be a restricted free agent this spring, which puts a cap on
his movement in free agency, but the fact remains he will get paid. The
Giants have said all along they'd like to extend him and Cruz is
obviously willing and says he's not sweating the details on an extension
and instead is focusing on the season ahead.
Moving on in 2013? Zero percent chance. We'd be floored if Cruz somehow wasn't a Giant next season. Matching the 1,536 yards and nine touchdowns he had in 2011 will only generate a larger signing bonus.
Greg Jennings, Packers: Jennings is already on his second
NFL contract -- a third should be a major windfall for him. No
discussions have been made public between his reps and the Packers, and
with that in mind it might come to pass that the Packers limit his
movement and give him the franchise tag next spring. Of course Jennings
doesn't want that but the guy has been pretty darn consistent over the
last four seasons and has scored at least nine touchdowns in four of his
last five years.
Moving on in 2013? Zero percent chance. Unless he has a complete meltdown in 2012 the Packers won't let Jennings out of their grasp. Age doesn't seem to be much of a factor as he turns 29 this September and his role and knowledge of the offense is impossible to replace. He should continue to be great for Fantasy and he'd be that way even if he wasn't in a contract year.
Mike Wallace, Steelers: No one botched their offseason more
than Wallace. Tagged with a restricted first-round tender, Wallace
looked for a rich contract from other teams but none were willing to pay
him and give up a first-round pick for his services. Then when
the Steelers offered him a deal they deemed fair, he balked. The
Steelers opted to give up much of that money to Antonio Brown and refused Wallace's contract demands. He has since
reported to camp and signed his one-year tender.
Moving on in 2013? 70 percent chance. The Steelers might be unwilling to sink more cap space into a receiver after paying Brown a nice chunk and they say they won't deal Wallace. If both of those factors come to pass, Wallace will have to eventually report to the Steelers, play out the season and look for a new deal next spring. Playing big will be paramount for him; if he doesn't have a good season he can kiss his guaranteed moolah goodbye.
Wes Welker, Patriots: Welker was franchised this offseason
but opted to sign his tender before trying to land an extension. No new
deal was reached, so he's in a contract year for the second straight
season. That's not all bad as the accomplished receiver notched
career-highs in yardage (1,569) and touchdowns (nine) last season while
falling two catches shy of setting a personal best in receptions (he had
122). Could he do it again? Who's to say he can't? The Patriots' cadre
of weapons will make it hard for defenses to contain Welker, and
everyone knows he and Brady have unbreakable chemistry. He should be a
Moving on in 2013? 60 percent chance. Save for him settling for a reasonable deal to finish his career, the Patriots might let him walk. Welker will be 32 next season and the Pats might figure him to be too old to give a huge extension to. Besides, they are two years away from ponying up cash for Aaron Hernandez and three years from dealing with Tom Brady. To balance their cap, Welker might be the odd man out.
Fred Davis, Redskins: The Redskins hold all the cards here
as Davis had a good 2011 but was slapped with a four-game suspension for
a substance abuse violation. Davis was franchised in the spring and
signed the tender, putting him in a contract year again. Right now, the
only way the Redskins will give Davis an extension is if it's
team-friendly; they won't shell out big bucks for him knowing he's one
failed drug test away from being suspended for a year.
Moving on in 2013? 40 percent chance. It figures to be a make-or-break year for Davis, who must prove his 796-yard year was no fluke. Working with Robert Griffin III seems like a boost on the surface, but RG3 never leaned too much on his tight ends in college. Davis has some work to do.
Dustin Keller, Jets: Keller and the Jets are at an impasse
in contract negotiations and will go into the season tabling their
respective decisions on his future. If Keller wants to get paid he'll
need to kill the disappearing act he's had for each of the last two
seasons after hot starts. It's only in his favor that he'll continue to
play a lot and remain a top target in an offense bereft of good
Moving on in 2013? 40 percent chance. Like so many others, it's going to come down to how Keller does in 2012. If he plays well, the Jets will give him a solid extension. If he's mediocre they might be willing to match any offers he gets in free agency, but it's no certainty he'll be back. Hopefully the smell of a massive payday will be what pushes Keller into Fantasy prominence beyond September.
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