With the NFL season looming and fantasy football owners getting ready for their drafts I figured I would give them a look into some players that are in the final year of their contract.
As we all know, the final year of an NFL player’s contract is huge. If they are just coming off of their rookie contract they are looking for that big payday. For the veterans of the league they are looking for their last big contract before they hang up their pads. Either way, players that are in the final year of their contract will be working harder than ever to have a big year and prove themselves to the owners in the NFL. A big year could mean a HUGE payday in the off-season. Look for these guys to be working their tails off to earn their next big contract.
10. Shonn Greene
Greene has been an average NFL running back. This year he will need to get the job done on first and second down. He will lose goal line carries to Tim Tebow and the Jets will be using Joe McKnight and Bilal Powell on third downs. Since Greene is obviously in the last year of his contract with the Jets he will need to run the ball like a mad man to prove to the rest of the league that he is a viable option as a starting tailback.
Here is a guy who had a big year with the Cleveland Browns not too long ago. He fell into the abyss last year and landed himself in the doghouse by being a wuss and cry baby. From missing a game due to illness and nursing a hamstring injury most of last year, many fantasy football owners are likely to stay away. He left the Browns and signed a one year contract with the Kansas City Chiefs. He is now teamed up with Brian Dabol who was his Offensive Coordinator during his big year in Cleveland. The only downside for Hillis is that he will be sharing carries with Jamaal Charles. Hillis will most likely sign with another team next year so he has this season to show everyone that he still has some gas in the tank. He will be a great handcuff player if you draft Charles, who is coming off a torn ACL from last year.
8. Michael Turner
It’s no coincidence that the bottom three players are big running backs. Powerful runners typically have the shortest careers due to their pounding style of play. Turner is no different. If he wants to extend his career he needs to mix some carrots into his meal plan and stay away from carbs all together. Turner is one of the veterans looking to get one more big year so he can sign his last lucrative contract. The Falcons will lean on him again this year so to keep defenses honest and open up the field for Matt Ryan to throw the ball. If Turner can stay healthy he will be a great pick in the draft this year.
7. Jason Witten
Witten is always a good pick at tight end. The Cowboys throw the ball a lot and he is one of Tony Romo’s favorite targets. Although Witten finished last season off well, the whole season was sub par for him. He is looking to bounce back this year. Don’t be fooled though, Witten is one of those players that will get drafted too early because of his name. There are other tight ends that should be drafted before him. If that infamous run on tight ends begins and you are on the outside looking in, Witten will be an awesome option.
Reggie had a great year in 2011. It was his first 1,000 yard rushing season and he should be used even more this year. Bush wants that big contract and the Dolphins will be moving him all around the field in 2012. If Daniel Thomas is bitten by the injury bug again this year look for Bush to carry the load at running back again. Bush works well in the west coast offense so watch out for him. He will be drafted high in many drafts this year but try to hold off if you can. Even though he had a great year in 2011 there are still people soured by his performance in years past. He still needs to get through a full season without injury.
5. Matt Schaub
The Houston Texans have been plagued with bad luck the past few years. On their way to the playoffs the whole offense was crushed by injuries. Matt Schaub going down towards the end of the season was the nail in the coffin. The Texans are now saying they will wait until the end of this season to discuss his contract. They want to see if he will stay healthy. Schaub wants to stay in Houston so his motivation to play well is at an all time high. If he has a big year it will be due to Andre Johnson staying healthy as well, which has been difficult for the wide receiver. Camp has just started and Johnson already has a pulled groin. Schaub will need some help, so if they can get better play from the other WRs in case Johnson goes down again Schaub should have one of his best seasons this year.
Outside of Giants fans, no one really knew who Victor Cruz was until the 2011 season. He has proven to be one of Eli Manning’s favorite targets and he is looking to build on that. Cruz is looking for his first big contract so watch for him to have an even better season in 2012. He has grown as receiver and he shows no signs of slowing down. With Eli, once again, trying to prove that he is a top 5 QB in the NFL watch for the Giants to throw the football even more. Cruz should be one of the top 5-10 WRs taken in the draft this year.
3. Greg Jennings
Greg Jennings is the number one WR in Green Bay and they throw the ball quite a bit. He will continue to be great. He is a stud WR and with this being the final year of his contract look for Jennings to have another stellar year. He proved that he is the best WR option for Aaron Rodgers in week 14 when he was injured, as Rodgers had one of his worst games throwing the ball. Jennings scored in 9 of the 13 games that he played in last year. He is obviously Rodgers’ favorite target and will once again have a great season while he looks for that next contract.
2. Joe Flacco
Flacco has been under fire for not performing as a top-tier QB. That’s mostly because the Ravens think that running the ball and playing great defense is still the way to go. Look for Flacco to have a breakout year. He has better WRs, more depth and his next contract will be his biggest if he performs well. I know the Ravens just paid Ray Rice a ton of money but they can’t lean on him forever. They are going to have to open up the offense and let Flacco win some games for them. Flacco has passed for 3,600 yards in three out of his first four seasons. He has also passed for 20-25 TDs each season. He is not the sexy pick but he has been good and may be great this season if he can keep the interceptions to a minimum.
1. Wes Welker
Yes, Welker and the Patriots have gone back and forth on his contract extension. Don’t let this whole situation scare you…Welker is still a top 5-10 WR. Two words make him a stud receiver, Tom Brady. Welker had career highs in both receiving yards and TDs in 2011. I don’t see this changing any time soon. Because of this contract dispute I think Welker will have his best season to date this year and make the Patriots back the Brinks truck up to his house. He also plays in the AFC East which makes him the best WR in the league for at least 6 games every year.
Well, there it is. These are the top 10 NFL players in the final year of their contracts. Keep your eyes open during the draft because you might get a steal with one of these guys.
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