On March 2, the Buccaneers signed free-agent running back Derrick Ward, previously with the Giants, to a four-year deal worth $17 million. The signing has a big effect on the depth charts both in Tampa and New York. Only Brandon Jacobs will be slotted for the same role he had the previous year and remains unaffected by the deal. As for who was affected, read on.
Ward will still be splitting time in Tampa, but with the money the Bucs are paying him, he will likely get the majority of carries. Whether that shakes out to a 55/45, a 60/40, or an even greater split remains to be seen. Ward should do well running behind a zone-blocking scheme, but it’s up to the Tampa Bay linemen to execute properly and give Ward some wiggle room. Ward is the big benefactor in this deal, in regards to both his bankroll and fantasy stock. I’d look at Ward as a late-end RB2 for 2009 at this point.
Graham owners will probably hope that he can fill the Brandon Jacobs role in tandem with Ward, but that scenario is unlikely. Graham has actually done quite well for the Buccaneers when healthy, but an injured ankle ended his 2008 season early and likely is the reason Tampa Bay brought Ward in. It’s still up in the air as to who will get the goal-line carries, but Ward has just as much chance of landing that role as Graham. Graham makes a good handcuff to Ward in 2009 fantasy leagues, but I wouldn’t use anything more than a late-round pick on him.
It’s been a long time since Williams has been healthy, as he combined for only 117 carries the last two seasons, and 2009 doesn’t look like it will be his year either. The Bucs have already moved on from Williams, and I suggest fantasy owners do the same. It’s possible that Williams could eventually resurface as a viable option in the future, but it’s pointless to try and speculate as to when he’ll be fully healthy.
If there’s another big winner in the Ward deal, it’s Bradshaw. An immensely-talented back, Bradshaw will see his carries rise dramatically as he attempts to fill Ward’s role in the offense. Remember that Ward was able to rush for over 1,000 yards last season, and Bradshaw should be able to at least approach that mark in 2009. I’d take Bradshaw as my RB3 and be happy with his 1,000-yard upside.
A relative unknown, Ware does have a shot at beating out Bradshaw for Ward’s role in the Giants’ offense. But he’s far from a sure thing, so the only people that should be concerned with knowing his name are deep-league dynasty owners, as he makes for a solid lottery ticket heading into 2009 training camps.
To recap, this news should have owners higher on Ward and Bradshaw, while keeping Ware’s name in the back of their minds. He can fill the spot vacated by Williams, whom you should forget about. Don’t forget about Graham, but he receives a significant downgrade. That’s it for now, but check back in periodically for more offseason articles from your friends at the Café.
R.J. White (or daullaz) has been actively involved in fantasy sports for over 14 years. He is addicted to fantasy sports and loves writing, the Atlanta Braves, music, the Buffalo Bills, theatre, the Philadelphia Eagles, his family, and the number 42, though not in that order.
Questions or comments for R.J.? Post them in the Cafe Forums!
Want to write for the Cafe? Check out the Cafe's Pencil & Paper section!