Rumor of soon to be deal would be good fit
You know it's the dead time of the off-season when the trade rumors are swirling, reports of players opting out of contracts and heading into the 2013 NFL free agent market, and teams reportedly ready to cut players if they aren't willing to restructure contracts.
Ahhhh! The time between the end of the NFL scouting combine and the beginning of the new league year!
For those who don't know, the new NFL year begins on March 12. That's the first day teams can sign available free agents and make trades. And there are expected to be a few that happen right out of the gate. One that is being speculated on right now, but might not happen right away is the rumor of St. Louis Rams RB Steven Jackson to the Atlanta Falcons.
Jackson holds the ability to become a free agent in 2013 or not. He has until March 12th to exercise a player option for a 1 year, $7 million deal to stay with St. Louis. He can either accept that, or decline it, and become an unrestricted free agent. While many prior reports had indicated that Jackson's preference is to work out a long term deal to stay with St. Louis, at the scouting combine rumors began to swirl that Jackson was indeed ready to decline the option, become a free agent, and that his preference is to finish his career with a team that can contend for a Super Bowl. Realistically, while anything is possible, it doesn't appear that the Rams are ready to make that jump up in the next couple of seasons.
The primary team mentioned so far has been the Atlanta Falcons. The Falcons need to replace rapidly declining Michael Turner and while Jackson isn't young anymore himself (Turner is 31; Jackson turns 30 in July), Jackson has yet to show the decline in skills that Turner has shown. In 2012 Jackson still ran as tough as ever (averaging 4.1 yards per rush attempt and eclipsing 1,000 rushing yards for an 8th consecutive season), and with his superior skills as a pass catching RB, he could excel for a couple of years as a featured RB still within the Falcons offensive system, if his body can hold up. Luckily, Jackson is known for keeping his body in top shape and he hasn't experienced the letdown some other RB's who have accumulated the amount of mileage he has.
Let's go ahead and suppose Jackson were to go the free agent route, and did sign with Atlanta. What would this mean for his fantasy prospects?
If you look at Jackson's stats every season since the 2005 season, you'll see that in standard fantasy football scoring systems (both ppr, and non-ppr); he has never finished worse than the 17th overall highest scoring RB. A couple of years he's been in the top 10, and even in the top 5 twice. He's been a steady, reliable contributor on a Rams team that hadn't finished a single season in that span with a winning record. Most of those seasons, Jackson has barely had even an adequate supporting cast around him in the offense.
If he can be that reliably good over that span of time on a bad offensive team that rarely put the fear of a passing attack in opposing defenses, imagine how much better he would be on a team like the Falcons, with an emerging into an elite QB Matt Ryan? Matt Ryan who has both emerging stud WR Julio Jones and still better than most WR's Roddy White? Jackson could be the missing piece for the Falcons offense so it has no holes. He would likely still be able to put up his annual 1,000+ rushing yards, catch another 40-50 passes, and (unlike in any single season since 2006) score more than just 8 total TD's.
Now personally, I would hate to see Jackson go anywhere (after all, I am a Rams fan and would prefer to see the Rams all-time rushing yards leader in the franchise stay with St. Louis). But as a fantasy owner? Seeing Jackson go to Atlanta? He'd challenge to move into my top 10 2013 fantasy football RB rankings. The fit is that good.
Could be Good Stop-gap for Chiefs
So the world is abuzz about the rumored trade of San Francisco 49ers QB Alex Smith to the Kansas City Chiefs? Who would have thought that Alex Smith would create such news?
It's hard to believe that the Chiefs really think Smith is the savior at the position. But apparently, if recent reports are accurate, the Chiefs will trade for Smith very soon after the NFL trading period opens March 12th.
Don't misunderstand me; Smith would represent a huge upgrade over what the Chiefs have endured the last 2 years with Matt Cassel. But realistically, Smith is no more than a 2-4 year stop-gap solution while new Chiefs Head Coach Andy Reid finds a higher upside long term answer at the position.
Smith could be a good fit for Reid's "west coast" style of offense. In essence, Smith is very much like a guy Reid drafted in Philadelphia back in 2007 named Kevin Kolb. Like Kolb, Smith lacks the big time arm strength for a vertical passing attack, but could do very well in a quick read and react style like Reid's. If the Chiefs can come to an agreement with free agent WR Dwayne Bowe, there would be a proven #1 WR for Smith to throw to, and the Chiefs would just need Jonathan Baldwin and TE Tony Moeaki to take their game's to the next level to give Smith a good amount of weapons to throw to.
A player who would likely benefit from Smith's presence in Kansas City would be RB Jamaal Charles. Charles is very underrated as a pass catching RB and is similar in size to both current Eagles RB LeSean McCoy, and former Eagles RB Brian Westbrook (both of whom have proven to be excellent receiving RB's). Charles in open space as a safety valve for Smith would be a dangerous weapon for the Chiefs offense.
Now, there's no sure thing about this happening between the two sides. While I'm sure parameters of a trade between the 49ers and Chiefs were discussed during the NFL's scouting combine, no actual deal can take place until the league's 2013 season officially begins March 12th. And between now and then, any discussed deal that appears to be ready to happen could fall apart.
But Smith in Kansas City would make a lot of sense and be a good fit.
What is Flacco Really Worth?
Amongst a 2013 NFL free agent quarterback class is one great name: Joe Flacco. After an outstanding post-season run while leading the Baltimore Ravens to a Super Bowl victory, Flacco is in for a big payday as an unrestricted free agent. But now that he's answered his many critics, how much money does Flacco really deserve?
If you listen to the rhetoric in the media, Flacco's camp says he should be the highest paid player in the league. But do they really believe that? Plain and simple; it's just not going to happen. Flacco had a good regular season, but nothing outstanding statistically. He wasn't in the top 10 in passing yards or passing TD's. He wasn't top 10 in fantasy points, and even in my early 2013 fantasy football rankings, Flacco didn't even crack my top 10 fantasy QB's.
So what is fair value for Flacco?
If a long term deal can't be reached by Flacco and the Ravens by the start of free agency March 12, then the franchise tag will almost certainly come into play. But which one?
The exclusive rights franchise tag would guarantee Flacco a one year deal worth between $20-21 million. It would also bar him from negotiating with any other teams. It would also distress the Ravens salary cap wise as they are currently believed to be only about $15 million under the 2013 salary cap. But at least it would handcuff Flacco to the Ravens.
The non-exclusive rights franchise tag would "only" guarantee him a one year deal worth between $14-15 million. But it would also allow Flacco to negotiate with other teams. If he were to come to a contract agreement with another team, the Ravens then could either match it, or let him go for two 1st round draft picks. Given the state of QB needy teams, I would venture to guess that after a Super Bowl victory, there would be teams that wouldn't hesitate to pony up those draft picks.
These are the facts in the matter. But really, I'm interested in what is fair. I know it's a bizarre concept in the world of "get as much as you possibly can", but here's what I think is fair:
6 years, $105 million. That's an average of $17.5 million per season which puts him below most of the truly elite QB's in the game, and above the next group of near elite QB's. It's also about right in the middle between the two different franchise numbers.
With teams having the ability to be creative in how they structure the salaries thru the length of the contract and add signing bonuses, roster bonuses, etc, this type of deal seems to be "fair". It may even be above being fair for Flacco, who has yet to have to top 4,000 passing yards or 25 passing TD's in any of his 5 NFL seasons. And with creative structuring, it likely would turn out to be more realistically a 5 year deal worth between $75-80 million.
That sounds a lot more in line with realistic fair value. But you know these contracts usually are never this easy.