The last few days have been bittersweet.
The NFL season is essentially over for all intents and purposes and I have officially switched into offseason mode. I call the end of the season bittersweet because prepping for a slate of NFL games -- something I have been doing since early-September -- became a part of my weekly routine. With the offseason looming and the eventual NFL draft approaching, it’s nice to take the proverbial foot off of the accelerator and review the 2015 season.
I’m sure the next few months will be chock full of great fantasy studies, articles, and new ways to think about the game. As for the draft, Rotoworld’s own Josh Norris already has a (second) Mock Draft up and he’s taking notes from this week’s Senior Bowl.
Still, there is a decent amount of non-Super Bowl related NFL news to get to.
News and Notes From Around the League
The big news of the week is Zach Ertz’s new contract extension. Philadelphia locked up the 25-year-old to a five-year, $42.5 million deal making him the fourth-highest paid tight end in the NFL. Only Jimmy Graham ($10 million), Julius Thomas ($9.2 million), and Rob Gronkowski ($9 million) currently make more per year than Ertz ($8.5 million). After shredding defenses in the last four games of the season (5-98-1, 8-78-1, 13-122, 9-152) it seems as if Ertz has finally turned his solid athletic profile into production after three full seasons. As DraftSharks’ Jared Smola noted here, Zach Ertz finished the season sixth in targets and catches, seventh in yards, but 33rd in touchdowns among all tight ends. He’s due for some positive touchdown regression in 2016.
Brent Celek (3-years, $13 million) also received a contract extension but he’s mainly the Eagles’ blocking tight end. Ertz ran a pass route on 63.4% of his snaps in 2015 while Celek ran a route on 37.2% of his total snaps.
Per Calvin Johnson’s agent, there is no timetable for Johnson’s retirement decision. Megatron himself said earlier this month that he expects to reach a decision in the “not-too-distant future” -- but it’s possible this situation could drag out a bit longer. He’ll be 31 years young by September and has fought injuries in the last three seasons. Here are Johnson’s yards per-game averages starting with his NFL record-breaking year in 2012: 122.8, 106.6, 82.8, and 75.9. During 2012-2014, Megatron had 10 (in 16 games), 7 (in 14 games), and 4 (in 13 games) top-12 (WR1) weekly PPR performances in each relative season; while this past year, he only cracked the top-12 receivers four times in 16 total games played. He can still produce -- albeit at an aging level -- but it is certainly worth wondering how much gas is left in Megatron’s tank.
According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Steelers will not "break the bank" to resign Le’Veon Bell (MCL, PCL) this offseason. Going into the last year of his rookie deal, Bell is only due $967,000 in the 2016 season. For perspective, Adrian Peterson is due $7.8 million (base salary) in 2016, LeSean McCoy is due $4.8 million (base), and Jamaal Charles is owed $2.8 million (base) next season. Pittsburgh will likely not extend Bell this offseason given his extremely cheap deal, especially since he’s coming off back-to-back seasons shortened by knee injuries. He turns 24 in mid-February.
Finally, the Raiders apparently considered “shutting down” Amari Cooper in December due to a previously undisclosed foot injury. This might explain why Cooper failed to muster more than 20 receiving yards in three of Oakland’s final four games. Still, by any stretch of the imagination, Cooper had an unbelievably successful rookie campaign at age-21. Per Pro Football Reference, Cooper finished second all-time only behind Randy Moss in total receiving yards as a rookie at just 21-years-old (1,070 yards). Mike Evans (1,051) and Keenan Allen (1,046) are the only other 21 years olds ever to clear 1,000 receiving yards as rookies (Sammy Watkins did come close with 982 yards in his rookie campaign at 21). I personally have Cooper ranked sixth among my Dynasty receivers after Odell Beckham, Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, DeAndre Hopkins, and Dez Bryant.