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4/23/2014
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Jimmy Graham Not Taking Part In Offseason Workouts; Nobody Is Worried (4/23 3:07 PT)

The Facts: Following up on the ongoing story. ... HC Sean Payton indicated Graham wouldn't be participating in the team's offseason workout program while the tight end and the team still haggle over a new contract. "I think it's pretty normal," Payton said of Graham's status Wednesday. "Everything the first week was pretty much as expected." Reported by the New Orleans Times-Picayune

Diehards Line: Graham and the Saints have until July 15 to hammer out a long-term contract. If the deadline passes without such a deal, Graham would play the 2014 season under the franchise tag, which the Saints placed on him Feb. 28 at a price of $7.035 million. There's still the question of whether Graham will file a grievance to contend he should be franchise tagged as a wide receiver ($12.3 million base salary in 2014) rather than as a tight end. The report of an April 22 deadline to file a grievance was incorrect, so the most important deadline remains July 15. Graham said a couple months ago he had a contingency plan this offseason if contract talks remained stagnant. He's working out in Miami with former Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma during negotiations. ... Stay tuned.

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E.J. Manuel Healthy And Ready To Continue His Development (4/23 1:25 PT)

The Facts: Raising his right leg for emphasis, Manuel declared both knees to be fine, and his mind feeling refreshed. The next step is showing how capable Manuel is in shedding the injuries and inconsistencies that limited the first-round draft pick's development during his rookie season last year. "I definitely agree there's a lot out there for myself as a quarterback to get better," he said, after joining his teammates for the start of Buffalo's offseason voluntary conditioning program on Tuesday. "I had some success. And I had some bad games as well. It's obvious." Reported by the Associated Press

Diehards Line: According to AP sports writer John Wawrow, with a season behind him, Manuel has a new perspective for the job and feels better prepared to work on what he needs to improve upon. "I'm eager about it. I'm excited," he said. "I know there is a lot of area for me to grow. That's why I took these last four months to allow that growth." The first step was getting healthy after being sidelined three times because of knee issues. "I feel fine. I feel normal," Manuel said, adding there were no limitations placed on him during Tuesday's workout. "I'm very eager to play a full 16-game regular season." HC Doug Marrone maintains his trust in Manuel's potential, and expects him to continue developing. Fantasy football owners should focus on that last bit -- the continuing development. Until he's more fully developed, there are better options out there.

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Mike Wallace Thinks New Offense Fits His Style Of Play (4/23 1:22 PT)

The Facts: What did Wallace find in his return to Miami for the start of the off-season program this week? A whole new offense, one that he believes is better suited to his strengths. “My style: Big-play offense,” Wallace said, referring to first-year coordinator Bill Lazor’s new system. “I see Ryan’s excited about it. He’s called me about eight, nine times. Reported by the Miami Herald

Diehards Line: Ryan, would be Ryan Tannehill, who told reporters on Monday that getting in sync with Wallace -- especially on deep passes -- is a major goal this season. Wallace had a career-high 73 catches last year, his first in Miami, but believes he left 15 to 20 touchdowns on the field because he and Tannehill could never figure out the deep ball. “I just want to make some plays for my team,” Wallace continued. “Go out and make some plays for my team and have a much better year than last year. We can't have the kind of year we had last year. We need to be on the same page.” Again, their ability to do that will be of great interest to fantasy owners in coming weeks.

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Jeff Demps To Focus Solely On Football This Season (4/23 1:18 PT)

The Facts: HC Lovie Smith and the Bucs will get Demps’ full attention this year, though. Roy Cummings of the Tampa Tribune reports that Demps said that he is putting his track career on hold for the foreseeable future and concentrate only on his football career. Reported by Profootballtalk.com

Diehards Line: Last month, Smith said he was excited to coach the fastest guy in the NFL. He was referring to Demps. Previous coaches never got much of a chance to actually coach him because Demps was splitting his time between football and track. Demps’ choice paid off with a silver medal in the 2012 Summer Olympics, but his track focus didn’t leave much time for football. Demps played two games for the Bucs last year and didn’t play for the Patriots in the 2012 regular season, which makes him largely an unknown on the gridiron at the professional level. As PFT suggests, lick returns are one obvious spot to look for Demps to make a contribution to the Bucs in what will be his first real shot at turning his speed into a regular role at the professional level.

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Shaun Draughn Signing With Chicago (4/23 1:16 PT)

The Facts: Draughn, who has played for the Chiefs, Ravens and Colts, is signing a one-year deal with the Bears according to his agent Sean Stellato. Reported by FootballDiehards.com

Diehards Line: With Michael Bush no longer on board, Draughn, who is also a capable kick return man, will compete for a roster spot behind Matt Forte. For the record, Draughn carried the ball four times for two yards in three games with the Ravens last season before being released and spending a week on the Colts' roster.

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C.J. Spiller Has An Eye On The Future... Wherever It Might Be (4/23 12:39 PT)

The Facts: Spiller is able to become a free agent after this season. Speaking to reporters following his first offseason workout Tuesday, Spiller dropped a line that could send shivers down Bills fans' spines. "It's my first rodeo. I'll take advice from guys that have been there before. I'll reach out to Jairus [Byrd] and see how he handled it," Spiller said. "I haven't talked to him. I've seen him this offseason but I will [reach out] eventually."  Reported by ESPN.com

Diehards Line: As ESPN.com's Mike Rodak reminded readers, Byrd was in negotiations with the Bills for over a year until he signed a lucrative, six-year deal with the New Orleans Saints last month, so he's probably not the first person that Bills fans would want talking to Spiller. Unlike Byrd, who was franchised last offseason and chose not to sign his tender then out the offseason program and most of training camp, Spiller, on the other hand, was with his teammates Tuesday. "The biggest thing is, I'm here. Last year, Byrd and his situation was different and he didn't show up," Spiller said. "But I'm here, ready to work." As for any negotiations, Spiller is in the process of hiring an agent and didn't say when he would like to begin negotiations with the Bills' brass. ... Playing into the contract talks will be the diminished market for free-agent RBs. Not surprisingly, Spiller still sees the position as valuable. "To me, you're always going to need a running back. A quarterback's best friend is the running game," he said. And while fantasy football owners might agree, the NFL hasn't in the past year. Adding to his issues, Spiller's production and playing time dipped from the season prior as he battled an injured ankle. He'll need to stay on the field more this year to have a shot at high-end (whatever that might be for RBs) money.

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Cam Newton Surprised By Smith's Release; QB Ready To Move Forward (4/23 12:37 PT)

The Facts: Newton said he was surprised -- like everyone else -- when the team released WR Steve Smith last month. “Did it catch me by surprise? It caught all of us – if you were in the 704 [area code], you were caught by surprise,” Newton said Tuesday. “Everybody in the Carolinas was surprised, including myself.” Reported by the Charlotte Observer

Diehards Line: Newton said he still talks with Smith and wished him well with the Ravens. But Newton said he’s moving on and eager to get started working with an entirely new group of wideouts. In addition to Smith, the Panthers lost three other key receivers in free agency -- Brandon LaFell, Ted Ginn Jr. and Domenik Hixon. Newton met the Panthers’ new receivers -- Tiquan Underwood, Jerricho Cotchery and Jason Avant -- for the first time Monday when the team’s offseason workouts began. Though Newton won’t be on the field with the group until training camp following offseason ankle surgery, he said he will have “plenty of time” to develop chemistry with them. Newton said he hopes the Panthers will draft a receiver or offensive player with their first-round pick, but only if it’s the right player who can help them. Whatever the case, Newton's recovery from his ankle surgery and ability to get up to speed with his receiving corps will be something fantasy football owners need to watch closely.

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Ravens Impressed With Ray Rice's Conditioning (4/22 8:14 PT)

The Facts: With his legal troubles having cast doubt on his playing future, Rice has been committed to what he can control: losing weight and getting back to full strength after a hip injury derailed him last season. Rice is attending the start of the Ravens' offseason conditioning program and has impressed team staff. "He looks great," strength and conditioning coach Bob Rogucki told reporters Tuesday. Reported by ESPN.com

Diehards Line: Rice suffered a hip flexor injury in Week 2, and the injury led to the Pro Bowl running back putting on some weight. According to HC John Harbaugh, Rice weighed as much as 217 pounds last season. The team would like Rice to play at about 207 pounds. "He's doing some things differently as far as his diet and so forth, and he told me has a handle on it," Rogucki said. "Whatever he did from the end of the season until now, he's in a good position right now." Rice rushed for 660 yards last season, his lowest output since becoming the Ravens' featured back in 2009. He had only one run over 20 yards. Fantasy football owners should be encouraged by Rice's commitment to conditioning, but there are no guarantees he regains past form. In addition, Rice was indicted by a grand jury last month on third-degree aggravated assault for allegedly striking his now-wife unconscious on Feb. 15. His arraignment is set for May 1 in New Jersey. Even if he is cleared of all charges or receives probation, he could still face disciplinary action from the league under its personal conduct policy.

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Maurice Jones-Drew's Goal This Year: Be Explosive Again (4/22 4:26 PT)

The Facts: Motivation is a powerful tool. It makes Jones-Drew well worth keeping an eye on in 2014. "My goal last year was to show people I was healthy again and finish the season strong," Jones-Drew said Tuesday. "My goal this year is to be explosive again." Reported by NFL.com

Diehards Line: Jones-Drew said at the kickoff of offseason workouts that his foot "feels phenomenal" now one year removed from surgery. The running back said he held off on surgery because he wanted to be a contributor for the Jaguars. A healthy amount of fuel for MJD's motivation comes in how his eight-year run in Jacksonville ended. Jones-Drew said he was "done wrong" by the Jaguars. Now, a fresh start. Jones-Drew joins Darren McFadden in Oakland's backfield. A time-share is logical, but Jones-Drew isn't conceding anything. "First, we're going to compete," Jones-Drew said. "Let's see if someone can win the job. I expect us both to be better coming out of training camp because of that competition. It's going to be fun. There's no reason we can't be one of the best 1-2 punches in the league. ..." Remember; at least one local observer believes McFadden has the inside track to open as the starter. We're not so sure. Either way, fantasy football owners will want to keep a close eye on developments. We'll follow up as needed.

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DeSean Jackson Pleased He'll Get Two Shots At Eagles This Year (4/22 4:01 PT)

The Facts: When the NFL announces the 2014 schedule this week, Jackson already knows which games he's going to highlight first. Speaking on "The Arsenio Hall Show" Monday night, the new Redskins wide receiver said he is looking forward to the two matchups with his former team, the Philadelphia Eagles, who recently cut the Pro Bowl pass catcher. "Oh yeah, twice, two times," Jackson said of facing the Eagles. "Not once, twice. There's going to be something special about those two games for sure."  Reported by NFL.com

Diehards Line: While he's looking forward to facing the Eagles -- twice -- Jackson said there was no ill will with anyone in his former locker room. "As far as being a bad energy in the locker room, none of that stuff ever occurred," he said. "I love my teammates, I love to go out there and do the things I can to help my team win and at the end of the day, that's all it's about." Still, as NFL.com suggested: "Jackson will be circling those two dates he faces Philly. We suggest you do the same."

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Eli Manning Expects To Be Full Speed For Start Of Training Camp (4/22 3:38 PT)

The Facts: Manning told reporters on Tuesday that his offseason ankle procedure won't get in the way of Big Blue's summer plans. "I think I'd be safe to say I'd be 100 percent for the start of training camp. I would hope so," Manning said, per Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News. Reported by NFL.com

Diehards Line: Following this month's arthroscopic surgery on his left ankle, Manning expects to be running again by late May. Amid whispers that Manning has tumbled into the decline phase of his career, the 33-year-old quarterback is anxious to escape an on-field slump that stretches back into the 2012 campaign. As NFL.com notes, his suspicious play peaked with a league-leading 27 interceptions this past season, but Manning remains the unquestioned No. 1 over the recently signed Josh Freeman, who looms as a bigger threat to unseat Curtis Painter or Ryan Nassib.

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David Wilson Hopes To Be Cleared In Time For OTAs (4/22 3:17 PT)

The Facts: Following up on the ongoing story. ... Wilson doesn't feel any pain in his neck, and never has. The only thing keeping him off the field are "pictures," or X-Rays that will show whether or not his spinal cord has fused properly following surgery in January. He's not sure when that clearance will come, but has appointments for future MRI exams set up. Nonetheless, he expects to be ready for offseason training activities, which begin in less than a month. "For sure," he said. "I expect to. I want to." Reported by the Newark Star-Ledger

Diehards Line: As Star-Ledger staffer Conor Orr suggests, Wilson's prediction is a bold one, especially considering that the team was extremely worried about his prognosis. Jerry Reese talked about the need for a contingency plan at running back -- one he sought in Rashad Jennings. "Me and the doctors know," Wilson said. "As soon as the doctors see what they need to see, I'm good. For right now, he said I'm doing really well and I'm ahead of schedule. I'm staying positive and my teammates and family are all giving me support." Wilson said that he was never advised to stop playing football and never had any thoughts about retirement. At 22, he still feels like he can have the career he envisioned despite a heightened risk of another injury. ... Nonetheless, fantasy football owners should watch Wilson's progress closely over the coming months. Don't believe he's ready until you see it with your own two eyes.

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Julio Jones Will Be Limited This Offseason; Focus On Week 1 (4/22 1:46 PT)

The Facts: HC Mike Smith said Jones' participation in offseason workouts will be limited as the team continues to monitor the wide receiver's status coming off foot surgery. "Julio is participating with our athletic performance department,' Smith said Tuesday. "He will be able to get out on the field and do some walkthrough stuff with us when we start going. Our focus on Julio is one thing, and that's having him prepared for our opener. ... He's progressing well. We're not going to do anything to hinder his timeframe in terms of getting back to work with us." Reported by ESPN.com

Diehards Line: Jones injured his foot in Week 5 of last season and missed the remainder of the 2013 campaign. Smith previously said Jones was ahead of schedule in his recovery, but the coach never put a timetable on when Jones would start running routes again. ... Assuming he's at full speed in advance of the regular season, fantasy football owners would be wise to remember the torrid pace he set prior to suffering the injury last season (41 catches, 580 yards and two TDs) and rank him accordingly this summer.

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Ryan Tannehill Focusing On Deep Pass (4/22 1:41 PT)

The Facts: With new OC Bill Lazor taking over for the fired Mike Sherman, Tannehill said Monday he's been specifically focusing on improving his deep ball. "We have a guy in Mike Wallace who can really stretch the field vertically, as well as some other guys, too," Tannehill said, per the South Florida Sun Sentinel, "but I think everyone when you think deep ball you think Mike Wallace right now."  Reported by NFL.com

Diehards Line: When the Dolphins signed Wallace last offseason, they imagined him consistently hauling in deep bombs from Tannehill. Those images turned out to be mirages as the Wallace-Tannehill combo didn't offer many explosive plays during a disappointing 2013 season. "So that's one that I've really been working on is being more consistent on my deep throws and I think it'll match up with our passing game we put in going forward," Tannehill said. That would be a nice change. According to Pro Football Focus' deep-passing statistics, Tannehill completed just 16 of 64 attempts targeted 20 or more yards downfield in 2013; he also had five passes dropped. He compiled just 560 yards on those 16 completions for three touchdowns and was picked off six times. According to PFF, Tannehill threw deep on 10.9 percent of his drop backs, with a 32.8 percent accuracy rate. ... Fantasy football owners shouldn't get their hopes up, but drafting Tannehill late as a QB2 could provide reasonable value.

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Alex Smith Says Contract Talks With Chiefs Ongoing (4/22 1:36 PT)

The Facts: Following up on the ongoing story. ... Smith said on Monday that his agent, Tom Condon, has been in negotiations with the club about a contract extension, and that’s the way Smith wants it. “My agent handles all of that, and that’s why you hire that guy to take care of that, so you can focus on football,” said Smith, who has one year remaining on his contract. “It’s really not my place. I have a contract for this year.” Reported by the Kansas City Star

Diehards Line: Smith, who will earn $7.5 million in 2014, said he has not set a timetable for when he’d like to get a deal done, nor does he feel any insecurity not playing under a long-term contract. “I’ve played long enough, going into year 10 now, it’s all year-to-year in my mind anyway at this point,” said Smith, who was acquired from San Francisco in a trade in 2013. “You’ve got to continually prove yourself. I don’t think it changes anything as far as my mindset or approach to the game. ...” Smith played well enough to be of interest as a solid fantasy QB2 who might deliver high-end point totals on any given week. You could do worse in that regard.

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Chiefs Re-Sign WR/KR Kyle Williams (4/22 1:33 PT)

The Facts: The Chiefs have re-signed Williams to a one-year contract.  Reported by the Kansas City Star

Diehards Line: Williams, who has claimed on waivers from San Francisco last season, appeared in one game in 2013 before suffering a season-ending knee injury. With Dexter McCluster gone, Williams' chances of competing for a contributing role in the passing attack increase slightly. But not enough to interest fantasy owners.

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Peyton Manning Says He Didn't Violate Rules (4/22 12:23 PT)

The Facts: Following up on the ongoing story. ... Manning said he and Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase didn't violate any league rules during visits with Alabama coach Nick Saban. Reported by NFL.com

Diehards Line: Speaking on the first day of the Broncos' offseason workout program, Manning told reporters that he and Gase met separately with Saban. The Alabama coach told the Denver Post on Friday night that the signal-caller and coordinator interacted "only to say hello." Under the rules of the collective bargaining agreement, coaches and players can't work together outside designated times during the offseason. If Manning and Gase were together when they met with Saban, it would represent a violation of the rules. The league is investigating the situation. Manning dismissively shot down any notion that he and Gase acted outside the rules Monday. "I know there isn't a rule that says you can't get better," Manning said. As NFL.com summed up, "Manning doesn't seem to be taking the issue too seriously, and we don't imagine the league will, either." Nor should fantasy football owners.

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Kyle Orton A No Show On Day 1 Of Off-Season Program (4/22 12:13 PT)

The Facts: Following up on the ongoing story. ... Orton was not at Valley Ranch for Day 1 of the team's off-season program, according to sources. The workouts are voluntary, and a source said the team remains hopeful Orton eventually shows up.  Reported by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Diehards Line: Orton was wavering on whether to retire, but Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said last month that after talking to Orton's agent, David Dunn, the team expected Orton to return. Orton would have to repay the Cowboys $3 million of his $5 million signing bonus if he calls it quits. Orton, 31, played in the regular-season finale against the Philadelphia Eagles after Tony Romo had back surgery. Orton completed 30 of 46 passes for 358 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions as Dallas lost the win-or-go-home game. Orton has played in four games, with one start, in two seasons in Dallas. The Cowboys signed former Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden last month. But they have not carried three quarterbacks on their 53-player roster since 2011 when Stephen McGee served as a developmental prospect after the Cowboys made him a fourth-round pick in the 2009 draft.

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Agent: Dustin Keller Ready To Go (4/22 12:08 PT)

The Facts: Eight months after suffering one of the more gruesome injuries you'll ever see, Keller is ready to play football. The free agent is just waiting for the right call. Reported by the Newark Star-Ledger

Diehards Line: The former Dolphins and Jets tight end tore his ACL, MCL and PCL, and dislocated his kneecap last preseason on a controversial hit. But as teams begin their offseason workouts, Keller's stunningly read to get back on the field. In fact, he's "good to go" right now, according to his agent Eugene Parker. Keller, if healthy, has proven to be a reliable target. The Jets' first-round pick out of Purdue in 2008 averaged 48 catches and 575 yards in his five seasons with the Jets. He didn't play a game after shredding his knee in a preseason game last year with the Dolphins. Star-Ledger staffer Jordan Raanan believes Keller would be a good fit for the Giants. The Patriots have also been mentioned as a possible landing spot. ... We'll be watching for more.

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A.J. Green Adds Muscle To Upper Body In Effort To Be More Physical (4/21 7:25 PT)

The Facts: According to FOX19 in Cincinnati's Joe Danneman, Green says he's 6-10 pounds heavier at the start of off-season work outs. Green told reporters he wanted a stronger upper body to be more physical. Reported by FootballDiehards.com

Diehards Line: Last season, Green caught a career-best 98 passes for 1,426 yards and matched his career high of 11 receiving touchdowns. Green has made the Pro Bowl in all three of his NFL seasons and the Bengals picked up the option on his original rookie contract earlier today. ... It'll be interesting to see if the increased upper body strength translates to more catches. Worst-case, fantasy football owners should be keen on any already high-end prospect putting in the extra work necessary to improve. We suspect it will pay off nicely -- especially when Green is battling for passes in the end zone.

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