What a long, strange trip it's been since the Patriots and Rams departed from the field at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in February. Le'Veon Bell finally got his (kind of), two of the game's greatest receiving talents of all time found new homes in Oakland and Cleveland. The draft brought outrage over Dave Gettleman and the Giants taking Daniel Jones at No. 6 overall – but whoops! He might be good. Dak Prescott wants to get paid, Ezekiel Elliot has been training in Cabo, Baker Mayfield trash-talked the Texas quarterback, Jalen Ramsey arrived at camp in a Brinks truck and Antonio Brown in a hot air balloon. Yada, yada, insert Devante Parker fantasy buzz here. Did we miss anything?
All that aside as we break huddle… it was a hot Saturday slate on the news front, and we've got it all for you right here on this seventh and final installment of the Saturday edition Rotowire Training Camp Blog. Lesean McCoy on the move, Melvin Gordon is granted permission to seek a trade, and the Texans go crazy with a flurry of late-August trades, signings and back-door deals! We've waited 209 days since Super Bowl LIII, what's five more?
Shady McCoy has been dumped by Buffalo after four seasons – three of which were Pro Bowl campaigns – as the workhorse back for the Bills. He averaged over 4.6 yards per carry across his first nine NFL seasons, but during an injury-plagued 2018 dipped to 3.2 yards per attempt with a career-low three total touchdowns. We know about the physical toll that the running back position takes on the body, and McCoy is no exception, last year being saddled with a concussion, hamstring and rib injuries while missing multiple games for just the third time in his career. He's one of the most accomplished running backs currently playing, just one yard behind Jamal Lewis for 24th on the list of all-time rushing leaders, with both a 20-touchdown season and a 2,100-yard season on his resume. According to Over The Cap, the release of McCoy will save Buffalo $6.4 million. It's an understandable move from the Bills' perspective, with the option to instead deploy the more affordable trio of Frank Gore, Devin Singletary and T.J. Yeldon with little (if any) dip in production. McCoy, meanwhile, landed in Kansas City, where he'll be reunited with Andy Reid. Our early expectations are Damien Williams will remain the lead back, but Kansas City runs a dynamic offense and McCoy's value could receive a nice boost if he carves out a sizable role.
Now on to Houston, where the GM-less Texans elected to move on from Jadeveon Clowney – one of three No. 1 overall draft choices in team history – by trading him to Seattle on Saturday morning. Clowney would not agree to the $15.97 million franchise tag Houston wanted to apply to him, and made it clear that he would be willing to miss regular-season games if his contract dispute was not resolved. Houston controversially tagged him as a linebacker instead of a defensive end, costing Clowney over $1 million in potential incentives. The trade provides the Seahawks with a pair of powerful veteran pass rushers, teaming Clowney with Ziggy Ansah, who has collected 12-plus sacks in two of his past four seasons. Seattle also invested first-round draft capital in TCU's L.J. Collier at No. 29 overall, though his Week 1 status remains questionable due to a high-ankle sprain suffered in a July 30 practice session. Personnel-wise, the middle of this defense is absolutely stacked, with Pro Football Focus's No. 1 linebacker of 2018 in Bobby Wagner, an excellent outside linebacker in K.J. Wright, as well as Jarran Reed, who picked up 10.5 sacks as an interior defensive lineman last season, but will have to serve a six-game suspension to start the year for violation of the NFL's personal conduct policy. The current secondary arrangement is a far cry from the Legion of Boom, but with the coaching of Pete Carroll and Ken Norton Jr. should outperform what they appear to be on paper.
In return the Texans get a third-round pick, linebacker Jacob Martin, as well as 2013 No. 6 overall pick Barkevious Mingo. J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus anchor what will still be a strong pass rush in the wake of Clowney's departure.
Woah, woah but Houston wasn't done there, stirring up a flurry of other transactions that flipped the roster on its head overnight.
The Texans went out and landed a new left tackle, sending two first-round draft picks, a second-rounder, special teams player Johnson Bademosi and offensive lineman Julien Davenport to Miami in exchange for former No. 13 overall pick Laremy Tunsil, and wideout Kenny Stills. Tunsil has played in 44 of a possible 48 games for the Dolphins over the past three seasons, and has developed into one of the more sound offensive tackles in the league. This acquisition will help the Texans shore up an offensive line that has posted 32nd and 31st-place finishes in sacks allowed over the past two years.
Stills is an interesting get as well, though his fantasy value may take a hit as he prepares to participate in an offense that has more mouths to feed than the one he was working within in Miami. Stills had four double-digit PPR outings in 2018, with all four coming in games in which he got into the end zone. The seventh-year man out of Oklahoma has amassed an impressive 21 receiving scores over the past three years, and should add considerably to that total by playing with Deshaun Watson, who has tossed 45 touchdown passes in 23 career games. Stills is a potent downfield threat with 16 yards per catch for his career, but he's been rather inefficient in posting a catch rate below 58 percent in four consecutive seasons. He provides another viable option behind DeAndre Hopkins should Will Fuller and Keke Coutee (ankle) continue to struggle with injuries.
The Texans added further to its cast of playmakers Saturday, acquiring Carlos Hyde in a trade with Kansas City for offensive tackle Martinas Rankin. Hyde has really bounced around the league since establishing himself as a reliable back in San Francisco, spending time with the Browns, Jaguars, Chiefs, and now Texans since the start of the 2018 season. Over his last two seasons with the 49ers in 2016 and 2017, Hyde averaged 4.2 yards per carry while accounting for 17 total touchdowns. Last year in stints for the Browns and Chiefs he only mustered 3.3 yards per tote, while compiling his lowest touchdown count since 2015, and contributing a meager 10 catches for 33 yards in the passing game. The 28-year-old Hyde has a chance to recapture fantasy relevance with Houston, playing within an offensive attack that reached the red zone at the seventh-highest rate last season.
AFC South Rival Jacksonville, meanwhile, re-signed one of its defensive stalwarts to a long-term deal, as Myles Jack inked a four-year, $57 million extension Saturday per ESPN's Adam Schefter. As of print the Jaguars D/ST is being drafted as the No. 3 unit behind only the Bears and Rams, with many fantasy GMs being allured by a formidable pass rushing trio of Yannick Ngakoue, Calais Campbell and rookie phenom Josh Allen, who picked up 31 sacks and 40.5 tackles for loss in three years as a starter for Kentucky. Jacksonville is also rolling out Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye as its top two corners, an ultra-imposing duo that's helped the team ranked fifth (2018) and second (2017) in pass defense during their two mutual seasons as Jaguars.
Saturday also brought news that Hard Knocks star Keelan Doss was let go by the Raiders, as first reported by NFL Network's Mike Garafolo. This came in quick sequence to Luke Willson being waived Friday, another fan favorite from the show who should find work in short order.
It's been one heck of an offseason for DA RAIDAS – from Antonio Brown's helmet grievance, to flashy signings of Tyrell Williams, Vontaze Burfict and Richie Incognito, as well as the arrival of rookies Clelin Ferrell and Johnathan Abram. In a top-heavy AFC West, Oakland is an underdog to make the playoff at +600 (per OddsShark.com), but it's a certainty that this will be an entertaining bunch to watch if nothing else.
The Eagles made some moves Saturday as well, most notably letting running back Wendell Smallwood walk. A fifth-round pick of Philadelphia in 2016, Smallwood has started in 12 games and made 37 appearances overall, while starting in the Eagles' wild-card matchup last season against Chicago. He has averaged a respectable 4.0 yards per carry to this point in his career, and last year showed some pass-catching upside by compiling 28 receptions for 230 yards and two touchdowns. He's liable to be scooped up by a running back-hungry team in the near future, and there are still a number out there given preseason injuries, disappointing performances, and contract disputes.
Elsewhere in the division, Washington cut ties with 2016 first-round pick Josh Doctson, leaving Paul Richardson, Trey Quinn and Terry McLaurin as the primary targets for announced Week 1 quarterback Case Keenum. There isn't much mystery to what Washington intends to do this season – pound the rock, manage time of possession by limiting turnovers, and play sound defensive ball. Doctson's 2019 $3.2 million salary cap hit didn't make sense given that philosophy, and his lack of production in three pro campaigns, with 39 receptions, 533 yards and 3.9 touchdowns per 16 games. Competent quarterback play is required, but if attained this is a team that could exceed expectations and stay in the playoff mix until mid-December. Last year Washington got off to a 6-3 start and found itself atop the NFC East, before Alex Smith suffered a devastating leg injury in the Week 11 loss to Houston.
Back to the Bills (Kill Bill Vol. 3 anybody?), T.J. Yeldon appears well-situated to make the 53-man roster following Shady McCoy's release. The ageless Frank Gore will surely eat up a healthy share of carries early on, and rookie Devin Singletary is expected to be the long-term solution at the position, but Yeldon carries sneaky value headed into the 2019 campaign after delivering an RB22 finish in PPR formats last season. The 25-year-old back played well when Jacksonville entrusted him with a moderate rushing workload last year, picking up 4.1 yards per attempt while fielding 11.3 carries per game between Weeks 1 and 7. His contributions as a pass catcher are undeniable, as he recorded five-plus receptions six times in 2018, while collecting seven or more catches on three occasions.
The Chargers, too, may soon be moving towards clarity at the running back position, with the team granting Melvin Gordon permission to seek a trade Saturday. Gordon and the Chargers have been at a stalemate in regards to the two-time Pro Bowler's contract, and he has been absent from training camp and preseason action while seeking restructured terms to his current deal, which offers $5.6 in total 2019 cash payout. Gordon has been immensely productive since posting a goose egg in the touchdown column as a rookie, amassing 38 total scores and 4,372 scrimmage yards over the past three seasons. This latest development allows him to determine his value on the open market, and gauge whether accepting a multi-year "hometown discount" deal from LA would make any sense for his long-term outlook.
Filling in if Gordon were to depart would be Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson – a duo that performed competently in his four-game, injury-induced absence last year (missed time with a combination of hamstring and knee issues). Ekeler has proven to be a better-than-average pass catcher, last year posting a 39-reception, 404-yard, three-touchdown output, but his ability to inherit a bell cow workload is questionable because of his relatively slight frame. The 5-foot-10, 200-pound Ekeler averaged an electrifying 5.2 yards per carry overall in 2018, but 4.0 when garnering double-digit carries and just 3.2 yards per attempt in three starts.