The Steelers and Le’Veon Bell did not agree to a long-term deal before the 4 PM ET deadline.
Bell will now play the 2018 season on the franchise tag—his second straight year playing on the tag. The All-Pro running back will make an NFL-high $14.5 million for his position, which will equate to $26.2 million earned over two seasons. If Bell is tagged next season, he’d be paid another $20+ million, but that’s a long way away and might be unlikely. Now, Bell is very likely to sit out all of training camp and the preseason like he did last season, but it would be a surprise if he holds out into the regular season. Expect Bell to report to the Steelers a handful of days before their September 9 regular season opener versus the Browns. Because he keeps himself in extraordinary shape, Bell missing the entire preseason isn’t a big concern; however, it could be the tie-breaker if you’re stuck between a few guys atop fantasy drafts.
C.J. Anderson could be Carolina’s lead runner this season.
Jourdan Rodrigue of the Charlotte Observer writes “it appears that Anderson will take the lead in the traditional running back role” over Christian McCaffrey. Rodrigue also calls Anderson the “likely starter” for the team. Anderson is coming off his first-career 1,000-yard season and has shown he can play at a high level when he’s at his best, and the Panthers brought him in for an important role, but we’re still not so sure McCaffrey won’t be the Panthers’ lead runner in the backfield this season. Also, it’s worth considering how long Anderson was available in free agency and how long it took him to sign with a team—if the Panthers wanted him to be their lead back, one would think they would have went after him sooner. The Panthers backfield will be one of the biggest positions to watch this preseason.
Jourdan Rodrigue of the Charlotte Observer doesn’t believe Christian McCaffrey will get many more carries this season.
Rodrigue writes that McCaffrey could be even more involved as a receiver after catching 80 passes for 651 yards as a rookie last season, but that “he’ll have to capitalize on the carries he gets, since it appears that Anderson will take the lead in the traditional running back role.” This is only one reporter, with a lot of time to go until the season, but it’s a little concerning to hear McCaffrey could have about the same role as last season. However, McCaffrey is a very good runner, and we expect his talent could lead him to getting a lot more work on the ground than people might expect.
The Jets are releasing former second-round receiver Devin Smith, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Smith was a 2015 second-round pick of the Jets, but his career has unfortunately been derailed by injuries. As a rookie, Smith tore his ACL in Week 14 and then started the 2016 season on the PUP and was limited to four games that season. Then, Smith tore his ACL to the same knee during last offseason. Smith has played in 14 games, catching ten passes for 135 yards and a touchdown. Despite not playing since 2016, Smith is a talented deep threat and should get another chance with another team. Hopefully he can get to 100% and stay there as he attempts to have a long NFL career.
Aaron Rodgers hopes to play until he’s 40.
Rodgers spoke to Peter King of NBC Sports and said he’d “love to play to 40.” The key is that Rodgers says he doesn’t plan or want to change his playing style of moving around, which is something he says no one (like Steve Young and John Elway) were able to move around the same as when they were younger. Rodgers’ “aim” is to be able to continue moving the way he is now as he approaches 40. Rodgers had previously said he might want to play to his mid-40s like Tom Brady does, but now it sounds like he’ll be happy to keep playing at an elite level at 40. The bottom line for this season is that Rodgers isn’t going to play any differently because of another broken collarbone suffered last year. Expect him to be his usual dynamic self in 2018.
John Schmeelk of Giants.com projects Saquon Barkley at around 20-25 touches per game this season.
Schmeelk gave this total if he “had to guess,” and it would include carries, receptions, and kick returns. Barkley is extremely explosive and can do a ton of damage on returns, but we’ll see if the Giants want to use him there. If he can hit around that 20-25 mark on just offense, it’d put him among the league’s top workhorses. There has been some talk of veteran Jonathan Stewart potentially taking some goal line touches from Barkley, but that’s not a huge concern right now. The Giants drafted Barkley second overall for a reason, and he’ll be used a lot as a rookie in 2018. Barkley must be selected in the first round of all fantasy drafts.
DeMarco Murray is retiring from the NFL.
Unfortunately ESPN’s Adam Schefter felt the need to spoil the news when Murray probably would’ve have liked to announce it himself. Murray is just 30 years old, but he leaves the league as an extremely accomplished player over his seven-year career. As a third-round selection of the Cowboys in 2011, Murray burst onto the scene as a rookie, including his Cowboys-record 253 rushing yards on 25 carries against the Rams—the 10.1 yards-per-carry in that game set a Cowboys record for most YPC on 20+ carries in a game; it was also the tenth most rushing yards in a game in NFL history, and the second-most rushing yards in a game by a rookie. From then on, he was a huge part of Dallas’ success on offense, and he had his best season in his last season with the Cowboys in 2014, when he led the league with 292 carries for 1,845 yards (a franchise record) and 13 touchdowns and was named First Team All-Pro and awarded Offensive Player of the Year. In the 2015 offseason, Murray signed with the division rival Philadelphia Eagles, but big interior offensive line issues led to an unsuccessful year—though his absence clearly hurt the Cowboys. He was then traded to the Titans in the 2016 offseason and rushed for 1,287 yards and nine touchdowns before battling injuries in his final season last year and rushing for 659 yards. Murray finishes his career with 1,604 carries, 7,174 rushing yards (4.5 average), 49 rushing touchdowns, 307 receptions, 2,165 receiving yards, and six receiving touchdowns. We’re sure Murray is going to have a seamless transition to his post-playing-career life, but we wish him luck.
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