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Volume 6, Issue 99 (Tuesday, July 26th)

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INSIDE THIS ISSUE

1. SEA - RB Alexander Signs and Will Report to Camp
2. MIA - RB Williams Back in the Game for the Money
3. CIN - OC Bratkowski Talks About the Bengals' Offense
4. NFL - Al Michaels to Move To ESPN With MNF For 2006
5. PIT - WR Ward To Hold Out?
6. PIT - TE Miller Signs Rookie Contract
7. IDP: DET - CB Law Close to Receiving Offer
8. IDP: IND - Colts Hope to Have CB Jackson In Camp Soon
9. IDP: OAK - Rookie CB Washington Signed
10. IDP: SDG - Rookie DT Castillo Signed

1. SEA - RB Alexander Signs and Will Report to Camp

Clipped from: Seattle Times by Jose Miguel Romero

The Seahawks and Shaun Alexander have reached a one-year contract agreement that will have the star running back in training camp when practices begin Friday morning.

Alexander signed the $6.32 million contract this afternoon following a half-hour visit to team headquarters. The figure is the same as the one-year franchise tender, which the team had hoped Alexander would sign after it gave him its franchise tag earlier in the off-season.

Alexander balked at signing the tender, and it appeared he would boycott camp until today's development.

The contract Alexander signed is not the tender. It contains language that prohibits the Seahawks from franchising Alexander at the end of this season, and if Alexander plays out the season, he can become an unrestricted free agent.

The Seahawks and Alexander's agents are still planning to talk about a long-term deal, which is what Alexander sought in the first place and threatened to miss camp and regular-season time if such a deal was not agreed to.

If no long-term deal is reached by the end of this season, Alexander can hit the free-agent market and go wherever he chooses.

[ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ OUR VIEW ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ]

GREAT news for fantasy owners. Maybe the best news of the last month. There was only one negative hanging over the head of Shaun Alexander, who was projected as the #1 or #2 fantasy running back in most fantasy players' preseason rankings, but has fallen a bit with questions about the contract situation. Alexander seemed to have contentious objections to being franchised. Alexander will be on the field for the Seahawks in 2005. Beyond that is still an open question, but Alexander's "no franchise tag" clause means he will likely be playing for a new contract in 2006. He will be the single most sought after free agent in 2006 if he does not sign a long-term extension with the Seahawks. Either way, this should bump Alexander back to the top of everyone's fantasy lists.

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2. MIA - RB Williams Back in the Game for the Money

Clipped from: AP wire by Steven Wine

Williams said he decided in February to play this season, and the court ruling was a factor.

"I was looking at my future," he said. "Whether I wanted to go back to school or start a new job, I'd have that settlement chasing me."

Said Williams' agent, Leigh Steinberg: "It's like the sword of Damocles hanging over someone's head."

Because Williams sat out last season, he's due only the NFL minimum $540,000 this year, compared with the $3.7 million he passed up in 2004. The team has yet to seek repayment of the $8.6 million, and Steinberg said financial issues regarding Williams' return can be addressed later.

Greeted with hugs from teammates and cheers from fans, Williams took the field for the Dolphins' first training camp practice under new coach Nick Saban.

"I think everybody is accepting of his ability and respectful of him as a competitor," Saban said. "I think everybody is anxious to see that he is committed and to evaluate his level of commitment."

At a team meeting after players reported for camp, Williams spoke briefly and apologized for the impact caused by his retirement a year ago.

[ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ OUR VIEW ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ]

I appreciate Williams not insulting our intelligence and saying something like the money wasn't a factor. Of course it was. And it would be for any of us. An $ 8.6 million dollar judgment is not something most people on this Earth would ever be able to satisfy in their lifetime. Luckily for Ricky, he has God-given skill that make him extremely marketable in that price range. With a good year of football for the Dolphins, there is an excellent chance the team will forgive a lot of that judgment. Williams should have at least three or four productive NFL seasons ahead of him and the opportunity to earn a lot of money. It's still VERY early, but right now, everything is pointing towards him devoting himself body and soul to the Dolphins in 2005 in order to land himself a juicy contract. There is still the possibility of course that he is traded away after he's featured in the preseason games, but that's just speculation at this point. Remember, he is facing a league mandated four game suspension so you have to factor that into your projections.

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3. CIN - OC Bratkowski Talks About the Bengals' Offense

Clipped from: Bengals.com by Geoff Hobson

OC Bob Bratkowski opens the first series of training camp with answers to some questions from Geoff Hobson. He thinks No. 2 running back Chris Perry is healthy enough to start camp, he'd like to cut down Rudi Johnson's load as well as see quarterback Carson Palmer cut down on his interceptions (18) and improve his completion percentage (61). As for the talented scrum at wide receiver, he says, "To handicap it right now would be foolish."

Geoff Hobson (GH): It's also the first time since you arrived here in 2001 that you have the same starting quarterback from the previous season. That has to be a huge lift.

Bob Bratkowski (BB): It's a bonus. That's what it is. That position is so important. When you have continuity there, there's a comfort level with the quarterback, what we expect of him, the relationship between myself and the quarterback and how we call things. All of it is critical, again, allowing us to move forward quicker.

GH: What do you expect from Carson? What are you looking for him to take to the next level?

BB: We're looking for progress in every area. In terms of technical things, we're always looking at the footwork, the rhythm he gets himself into. Improving that will help him in all the other areas. He made good strides in the spring. What that will lead to hopefully is lower turnovers, higher completion percentage. At the same time we need to see the numbers in terms of interceptions decrease and see him use his mobility to make plays outside the pocket. When he started doing that last year, that's when his game was really elevated to a new level.

GH: Probably the best competition on the team is at wide receiver. Do you see third-rounder Chris Henry playing a lot outside in three wides when T.J goes into the slot?

BB: He's going to be fighting with Kelley Washington for that playing time, and (rookie) Tab Perry. Tab's a little bit behind because he came late (to the spring practices because of UCLA's graduation date), but he showed a lot of things. We've got Kevin Walter. We've got great competition, it's just going to have to sort itself out. Those guys are not only competing for a roster, but for playing time. To handicap it right now would be foolish, but what we're going to do is let it play itself out in camp and in the pre-season games and hopefully come up with the right mix.

GH: If Peter Warrick is close to what he was, that really gives you something to see.

BB: That's another thing that has to play itself out. We have to see how he is. How he handles the day-to-day stress on that leg. It will have to play itself out. We've got to get to camp and let those things happen. We have to know that we can count on him for 16 weeks. We'll see what happens.

GH: T.J. and Chad are your two outside starters. Does the ideal three-wide set for you have T.J. in the slot?

BB: If Peter's not here, then yes. If Peter is here, then you have two really good slot guys and try to use that strength. It's all on going, The beautiful thing about the NFL is what have you done lately. T.J. had a great year last year, he's got to come and back it up this year. Same with Chad and any of the guys. What you did last year was great, but we're starting a new one all over again, and everybody is getting ready to write their stories for the 2005 season, and that's what these guys have to do. They've got to improve.

GH: A healthy Chris Perry at running back can obviously give you something you didn't have last year in the passing game. The ability to exploit explosive mismatches.

BB: We're very excited to get Chris Perry up and running. If we have him available for all 16 games, and he plays the way we think he can play, he can be a big threat for us and a big weapon. We're anxious to see him. As we start camp, it looks like he's going to be ready to go.

GH: Would you like to spell Rudi a little more? He carried almost 340 more times than any other of your running backs.

BB: Yeah. It helps. It not only helps Rudi, but it gives us a change of pace. A different style of runner that the defense has to prepare for, and certainly Chris is a great runner. He proved that in college and what we saw in the preseason last year. He's a very hard, physical runner. It would be nice if it took a little bit of the burden off Rudi. Keep him fresher throughout the year, and it gives us a nice change of pace. Their physical builds are different.

[ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ OUR VIEW ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ]

Very interesting read on the Bengals' offense, which should be the best offense in the AFC North to find your fantasy players. The Bengals were very potent in 2004, including good offensive output against solid defenses, and they return all 11 offensive starters in 2005. There are interesting comments about the WR situation - essentially acknowledging that T.J. Houshmandzadeh is the starter opposite Chad Johnson and that the third WR spot, which was Peter Warrick's spot in 2004, is an open battle. Also interesting is the comment that Rudi Johnson will likely be spelled more this year by Chris Perry. That should not surprise anyone - Johnson ran the ball 361 times in 2004 and is definitely due for a lightening of the load. We may, however, see more passes to Perry or another back - Johnson caught only 15 passes in 2004, so his fantasy worth is tied exclusively to how well he rushes the ball.

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4. NFL - Al Michaels to Move To ESPN With MNF for 2006

Clipped from: AP Wire by Yahoo

Al Michaels is staying with Monday Night Football when it moves from ABC to ESPN for the 2006 NFL season, parting with John Madden after four seasons in the booth together.

Michaels has been the play-by-play man on Monday Night Football since 1986, the last three with Madden as analyst. After this season, Madden is moving to NBC, which is taking over the Sunday night time slot in 2006 for what the NFL considers its main prime-time package.

"I feel like I'm a creature of Monday night. I'm home and I'm staying home," said Michaels, who had been heavily pursued by NBC, but said he wanted to stay where he has worked for 29 years -- ABC and ESPN are both owned by the Disney Co.

[ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ OUR VIEW ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ]

Not really fantasy news, of course, but definitely at least mildly interesting news. Al Michaels and John Madden will be splitting up in 2006. The rumor is that Al Michaels will be joined by ESPN's Sunday night color commentator Joe Theismann. It is up to the reader to decide if Michaels has made an upgrade or not with this move...

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5. PIT - WR Ward To Hold Out?

Clipped from: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette by Ed Bouchette

With talks for a new contract going nowhere, Hines Ward plans to pay a visit to the Steelers' offices this week to discuss his situation with his coaches and possibly management.

Agent Eugene Parker declined to say yesterday whether Ward would report to training camp with the rest of his teammates.

Ward planned to boycott the start of training camp a year ago to protest his contract situation, but changed his mind after coach Bill Cowher placed a phone call to him a day before camp opened.

Ward, 29, does not necessarily want to be the highest-paid receiver in the game but wants to be among them, according to a source close to him.

Randy Moss led the parade of wide receivers last season with a salary cap value of $8,882,727, with Marvin Harrison second at just over $8 million. Only three other receivers topped the $7 million salary cap list in 2004 -- Isaac Bruce, Eric Moulds and Terrell Owens.

After Ward made waves about his relatively low pay last year, Steelers president Art Rooney publicly promised to make him a priority in 2005.

"We said he'd be our priority and that's still the case," Rooney said at the NFL meetings in March. "In terms of signings, I would expect that should be our big signing."

Yet five days before players report to camp, not only is there no contract, there has been little progress.

[ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ OUR VIEW ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ]

This seems like a deal the Steelers need to make happen. They can ill afford to do anything other than make a commitment to Ward that he's a cornerstone of the offense. After promising to renegotiate last year in exchange for not holding out, this is one of those rare situations where fan sympathy will be with the player and not the team if Ward decides to hold out. It is hard to imagine a deal not getting done, however. Ward may not need the time in training camp to still have a big season (anyone remember Tony Gonzales holding out until the day before the season started in 2003? He still finished as the #1 TE that year). But, Ben Roethlisberger needs time with Ward - that's the bigger worry. I don't believe a downgrade of Ward is yet warranted, but we'll be keeping an eye on this.

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6. PIT - TE Miller Signs Rookie Contract

Clipped from: Pittsburgh's KDKA, Channel 2 news

With five days to spare before training camp opens, the Steelers have reached an agreement with their number one draft pick, Heath Miller.

Miller's first professional contract is a five-year-deal worth close to $10 million.

Miller will get a signing bonus of $2.5 million right now and then another $1.4 million in bonus money next March.

Miller, the 30th overall pick out of Virginia, is expected to figure prominently in the Steelers' passing game this season.

[ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ OUR VIEW ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ]

Let's hope signing their top rookie gets the Steelers' organization on the ball to deal with a new contract for WR Hines Ward. It is great that the Steelers have their first round tight end signed before camp starts. However, rookie tight ends have a poor fantasy history and Steelers tight ends have not had a significant impact on the fantasy radar in quite a few years - Eric Green finishing as the TE6 in 1997 is the last tight end the team has had with any fantasy impact. Miller may have dynasty implications, but you probably want to look elsewhere in 2005 for a fantasy TE.

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7. IDP: DET - CB Law Close to Receiving Offer

Clipped from: ESPN.com

According to Law's agent, Carl Poston, Lions general manager Matt Millen was excited and surprised about how well Law worked out.

"They told us that they had to work some things around financially and they could give us an offer by Tuesday," Poston said.

The four-time Pro Bowl performer, released by the New England Patriots in February, has been rehabilitating his surgically-repaired left foot in Miami. The injury limited the 10-year veteran to just seven appearances in 2004 and he finished the season on the injured reserve list.

[ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ OUR VIEW ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ]

If Ty Law is healthy, there might not be a better situation for him to put up great fantasy numbers than Detroit. The team faces quite a few teams that pass the ball a lot - including Green Bay, Cincinnati, and New Orleans during your fantasy playoffs. Also, Law will get plenty of opportunity to provide run support. Law is a ball hawk and comes up with a decent number of interceptions each year, but, more importantly, he provides good run support, averaging 67 tackles per year, excluding last year's injury shortened season.

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8. IDP: IND - Colts Hope to Have CB Jackson In Camp Soon

Clipped from: Clipped from: NFL.com Wire Report

First-round pick Marlin Jackson wants to join his Indianapolis Colts teammates at training camp July 27, and his agent is optimistic he can make it happen.

Doug Hendrickson said he hoped to complete a deal this week before the Colts reporting deadline at Terre Haute.

"It sounds, from the tone, like they want to get something done, and we want to get something done, so we've just got to come together and get a fair deal," Hendrickson said. "I think something will get done."

Typically, first-round picks receive five-year deals, which is what Hendrickson expects. Potential stumbling blocks include the amount of Jackson's signing bonus and the performance incentives that can increase the value of the contract.

But the biggest obstacle might be out of the Colts' hands.

Only two of the NFL's 32 first-rounders have signed: offensive lineman Logan Mankins with the New England Patriots and defensive tackle Mike Patterson of the Eagles. No. 1 pick quarterback Alex Smith agreed to terms with the San Francisco 49ers.

Many agents use the players drafted around their clients to establish an asking price, while teams use those figures to gauge the market.

Jackson, a defensive back from Michigan, was selected 29th in April.

Hendrickson, though, doesn't believe he can wait. With the Colts reporting earlier than usual because of a trip to Tokyo next week, Hendrickson said he must act.

"I think ultimately guys in Round 1 will get a modest increase," he said. "But I'm not afraid to set the tone or the market."

[ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ OUR VIEW ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ]

The Colts CBs, at least the starters, may see a lot of fantasy action in 2005. With the Colts' high-octane offense often placing opposing teams in a deep hole early in the game, opponents are forced to the air more often. That increases the cornerbacks' tackle and potential interception numbers. And opposing quarterbacks love to pick on rookie CBs. If Jackson can get in camp soon, which sounds like it'll happen, he should compete for a starting spot in the Colts' defensive secondary.

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9. IDP: OAK - Rookie CB Washington Signed

Clipped from: CBS SportsLine.com wire reports

The Raiders, determined to upgrade a defense that was one of the worst in the league last season, selected the speedy cornerback with the 23rd overall pick in the first round of April's draft out of Nebraska.

The 5-foot-11, 185-pound Washington ran a 4.29 40-yard dash at the scouting combine in February in Indianapolis, but has been clocked at 4.23 and 4.25. The Raiders' biggest priority in the draft was to add speed and upgrade a defense that underachieved in Rob Ryan's first year as coordinator.

[ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ OUR VIEW ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ]

Like all rookie cornerbacks, Washington will get picked on whenever he is on the field. That often means a lot of tackles and interception opportunities. For a defense that was one of the worst in the league in 2004, Washington will probably make the starting lineup - especially after the off-season defensive secondary housecleaning the Raider undertook. Moreover, if you get points on special teams for your defensive players, Washington has insane speed and may figure prominently on the Raiders' return squad.

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10. IDP: SDG - Rookie DT Castillo Signed

Clipped from: CBS SportsLine.com wire reports

Defensive tackle Luis Castillo, one of the San Diego Chargers' two first-round draft picks, agreed to a five-year contract on Tuesday and was expected to be at the second practice of training camp.

Talks continued with San Diego's other first-round pick, outside linebacker Shawne Merriman. General manager A.J. Smith said talks with second-round pick Vincent Jackson have broken down.

Chargers rookies and selected veterans opened camp with a practice Tuesday morning.

Castillo, taken with the 28th pick, tested positive for androstenedione at the scouting combine in February. He later said it was "a huge mistake" in taking the steroid to help his performance at the scouting combine after he was slow to heal from an elbow injury sustained his senior year at Northwestern.

Castillo got a signing bonus of $1.38 million and will receive an option bonus of $2.53 million in March. He'll earn $754,000 his first season, including a roster bonus of $524,000.

[ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ OUR VIEW ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ]

Not the biggest fantasy news on defense of the day. The middle of the Chargers' defense is important as the Chargers are in a division that contains the potent Denver and Kansas City rushing offenses, and the starting defensive tackle for the Chargers could get quite a workout chasing down Tatum Bell, Priest Holmes, and Lamont Jordan. Talks are still progressing with 12th overall selection OLB Shawne Merriman, who is more likely to have a fantasy impact than Castillo - and for substantially the same reasons of having to chase opposing running backs.

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That'll do it for today, Folks. Have a great day and we'll see you tomorrow with the update. Remember to check out our writing opportunities if you're up for it.

J

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