News and Rumors: Forte Retires; Gronkowski to Return
Catch-up on some key fantasy football news and rumors that could affect your fantasy teams in 2018, including the likely return of Rob Gronkowski and expected workload boosts for Joe Mixon and Derrick Henry.
ROB GRONKOWSKI EXPECTED TO RETURN
New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski is expected to return in 2018 after contemplating retirement after the team’s Super Bowl loss to the Eagles, according to sources. Gronk was contemplating opportunities in the entertainment industry. Constantly dealing with nagging injuries, Gronkowski still remains one of the most dynamic and productive tight ends in the NFL when he’s on the field, and he’ll once again be one of the top tight ends off the board for fantasy owners as long as quarterback Tom Brady is throwing him the ball.
MATT FORTE ANNOUNCES RETIREMENT
New York Jets running back Matt Forte announced his retirement from football on Wednesday. In his two seasons with New York, Forte looked his age and battled through various nagging injuries that left him far less than 100 percent. But in his eight seasons with the Bears, Forte became one of the most versatile three-down backs in the NFL, racking up over 1,000 yards on the ground five different seasons. With him gone in New York, Bilal Powell and Elijah McGuire figure to split the backfield duties in 2018, although Gang Green could also address the position in the draft.
JOE MIXON TO BE BELL-COW NEXT SEASON
Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon will be a bell-cow next season, according to Bengals director of player personnel Duke Tobin. Mixon will mix in occasionally with Giovani Bernard, but the majority of carries will go to Mixon. Mixon rushed for 626 yards and four touchdowns last season and looks primed to be the guy next season. If he stays healthy, he should be able to post a 1,000-yard season in Cincinnati next year.
AMARI COOPER EXPECTED TO BE FOCAL POINT OF OFFENSE
Oakland Raiders head coach Jon Gruden said he expects wide receiver Amari Cooper to be “the focal point of our offense” in 2018. Coming off a disappointing season in which he had career lows in catches and yards in his third season, Cooper will be a value candidate in drafts for a potential bounce-back year under a new coaching staff. He posted less than 10 yards in a game five times and only went over 100 yards three times. Michael Crabtree is slated to return as the No. 2 wideout, which should continue to take some pressure off of Cooper.
DERRICK HENRY SET UP FOR BIG ROLE IN 2018
With Tennessee Titans veteran running back DeMarco Murray a candidate to be released this offseason, Derrick Henry figures to be in line for a heavy workload in 2018. Henry led the team with 744 yards rushing and five touchdowns last season, and he also had 11 receptions for 136 yards and a TD. General manager Jon Robinson is encouraged with what Henry can do with more work. “He is a bigger back as we all know, and has good speed in the open field. He is a guy who can get downhill, and he has the ability to pick and slide and get up in a crease. We are looking forward to him getting back, and working with him in the new offense. … He is obviously a little more acclimated to the pro game. I think he can be a guy we can hand the ball to, and throw it to,” Robinson said. All signs point to Henry being the bell-cow back in 2018 in what should be an improved all-around offense. Target Henry as an RB1.
COWBOYS NOT PLANNING ON MEETING WITH DEZ BRYANT’S REPRESENTATIVES
The Dallas Cowboys do not plan on meeting with wide receiver Dez Bryant‘s representatives at the NFL combine in Indianapolis this week. Executive vice president Stephen Jones did say, however, that the two sides would have to meet “sooner rather than later.” Bryant is owed $12.5 million for 2018, but his performance in 2017 doesn’t seem to warrant that paycheck. Whether due to his skills being in decline or his quarterback’s struggles, Bryant simply hasn’t been the same guy since Tony Romo came off the field. Bryant would be a pay-cut candidate, but he’s already mentioned not being interested in doing so. There’s a chance Bryant dons a different uniform for the first time in his career next season.
PANTHERS EXCITED ABOUT DEVIN FUNCHESS
Carolina Panthers general manager Marty Hurney is excited about the future of wide receiver Devin Funchess. “The ‘X’ role that he moved over to is the role that really fits his skill set the best. Obviously he’s got size and he’s got good athletic ability for a guy at that position, and he’s got the desire to be good. He’s still growing. We’ve just scratched the surface with Devin. He is now in the position that really maximizes his skill set, and now we just want to see him continue to grow,” Hurney said. Funchess had a career year in 2017 after the team traded Kelvin Benjamin to Buffalo, as he racked up a career-high 63 catches for 840 yards (13.3 yards per catch) and eight touchdowns. Funchess isn’t a true No. 1 wideout, so the Panthers will likely look to add help, but he can be a solid No. 2 fantasy wideout, especially with new offensive coordinator Norv Turner looking to push the ball more downfield in 2018.
TEDDY BRIDGEWATER EXPECTED TO BE FREE AGENT
Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is expected to be a free agent, according to sources. The Vikings aren’t planning to assert that his contract tolls, and the quarterback is proceeding as if he’ll be a free agent. Bridgewater made a nice comeback from a serious knee injury in 2016, but the fact is he’s attempted just two passes since 2015, and the Vikings will be targeting Washington Redskins impending free-agent quarterback Kirk Cousins. Bridgewater could land with a QB-needy team this offseason, but if he lands a starting role somewhere, fantasy owners should take a wait-and-see approach.