Cutdowns: T.J. Houshmandzadeh let go
Updated Monday, Sept. 6, at 7 p.m. ET
The Seahawks couldn't trade T.J. Houshmandzadeh's $7 million-guaranteed contract before Saturday, so they've decided to eat his salary and release him.
Housh was a huge fantasy disappointment his first year in Seattle in an offensive system that never suited his receiving style; he finished with 911 receiving yards and just three touchdowns. He often looked frustrated and disinterested with the Seahawks, though at age 32 (he turns 33 on Sept. 26), it would be a stretch to say that Houshmandzadeh is completely done. He was never much of a runner and has been even slower lately, but he's known for toughness and good hands, something that could serve him well wherever he lands. (Imagine, say, if the Rams signed him; wouldn't he be a starter on that team?) For the moment, I bumped Housh down from No. 42 in my wide receiver rankings (which was significantly lower than most folks to begin with) to No. 57, which reflects the fact he could have some value, depending on where he lands.
Amazingly, for the moment, this seems to leave Mike Williams -- the former Matt Millen-related bust with the Lions -- as the Seahawks' most attractive fantasy wideout. I have Williams at No. 40 on my wideout list right now, because despite the fact he wasn't always playing with the "ones" during preseason games, Williams did consistently make plays (he sat out the fourth preseason game). Of course, there's still rampant speculation that the Seahawks might be adding someone else, so it's a fluid situation. (Vincent Jackson's name has been bandied about, and Jackson will never be more valuable as trade bait to the Chargers than he is on Saturday, because if he signs a new contract Saturday he'll miss only three games. If he doesn't, he'll miss at least six.)
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Oft-injured Deion Branch appears to be the starting flanker at the moment, but I can't get worked up about him fantasy-wise. In fact, I'd still rather draft Golden Tate or Deon Butler. Tate has fallen down the depth chart to the point where he doesn't appear likely to get much action at the beginning of the season, but my logic in still ranking him as the No. 2 Seahawks fantasy receiver (at No. 69 on my wideout list) is that he still has upside later in the season, if the game starts to slow down for him. I have Butler next, at No. 89 on my list. He's small, but he's a very interesting speedster with good quicks (he was one of my super-deep sleepers earlier this week), and finally I have Branch at No. 95. Maybe that will wind up looking foolish, but better men than I have gone broke betting on Branch the past few years.
Leinart released by Cardinals
As I wrote in this week's What I learned from training camp column, I'm vexed by this move from a purely football perspective. I know it's now fashionable to bash Leinart, and he probably was too conservative in his dump-offs during preseason games. But he didn't make big mistakes, something his presumptive successor, Derek Anderson, won't be able to say a month into this season. I have no reason to doubt Ken Whisenhunt; I don't know him, and he seems like a smart football man. But I'm wondering if maybe this was a non-football decision, as in Leinart wasn't a good leader, or a hard worker, or a good guy, or something. And I'm not saying that isn't a good reason for him not to be your starting quarterback. But shouldn't you have known this about Leinart in, say, March?
If Anderson is the best you can do as insurance, you're not doing a good job. He's terrible. His completion rate was 44.5 percent last year. That's unbelievable. I mean, the dude had three scores and 10 interceptions. I don't care how bad the rest of the Browns were, that's laughable. I don't think Anderson being under center hurts Larry Fitzgerald all that much, because the passing offense still has to run through Fitz. He'll still get double-digit targets every week, and I still think he's a No. 1 receiver in fantasy. (I did drop him from No. 4 on my receiver list to No. 7.) But the other guys? Steve Breaston and Early Doucet? No, thank you. I have Breaston at No. 50 on my wideout list now, and Doucet at No. 61. It would seem the days of the high-flying Cardinals are but a memory.
Incidentally, it's worth noting how much hype undrafted rookie quarterback Max Hall is getting. To me, the BYU product is a middling-armed, relatively small guy with admittedly good accuracy and not a ton of upside. But let's face it, I'm 3,000 miles away from Cardinals camp. The team seems very interested in grooming Hall to be their quarterback of the future, and if Anderson struggles, the future could be this year for Hall. Dynasty leaguers should remember this.
For his part, Leinart is now looking for backup work. There's a chance his old college coach, Pete Carroll, could give him a look in Seattle, but the Seahawks did spend to get Charlie Whitehurst as their quarterback of the future just a few months ago. The Texans would also seem to be a logical landing spot.
Parker, Torain out of Redskins backfield
As expected, the Redskins cut Formerly Fast Willie Parker Saturday, meaning Larry Johnson has made the team as Clinton Portis' backup. More interesting is the fact the Redskins also waived Mike Shanahan pet Ryan Torain (though they did bring him back to their practice squad). Most revealing in these couple of moves is how quickly undrafted rookie Keiland Williams has gotten himself into position to make a fantasy impact this season. Williams is the third-stringer in D.C. behind two veterans who seem well past their primes. I wrote more about him in that same super-deep sleepers column, but suffice to say Williams might not be that deep a sleeper all of a sudden.
Julius Jones almost released
The Seahawks did do some roster shuffling Sunday afternoon. They claimed Michael Robinson off waivers from the 49ers, and, it was reported, released veteran running back Julius Jones. Except they didn't. Jones came back and agreed to take a paycut so that he can remain a Seahawk.
Nobody really expected Jones to be a fantasy factor this season, not after he accounted for all of 663 yards rushing and four total touchdowns in '09, the third straight season in which he failed to eclipse 700 yards on the ground. But Jones was enough of a nuisance last year to cause Justin Forsett owners to tear out their hair in frustration, so it was widely accepted that Jones would stick around the Pacific Northwest this season and perform the same frustrating function in '10. Though he will stick around Seattle, he won't play that role. We're looking at a clear backup, if not distant No. 3 back.
The Seahawks signed Robinson to be a special teams maven, and will turn their backfield over to two similar players: Forsett and Leon Washington. Forsett is the starter and probably deserves to be higher in the fantasy rankings, but I believe Washington is actually a better weapon if he's healthy (remember, he suffered a broken leg with the Jets last year). Washington will be Seattle's kick and punt returner but likely will alternate freely at halfback with Forsett, stealing some of the value Jones nabbed in '09. In other words: I'm not ready to bump Forsett way up on this news. I have him No. 33 among running backs, and Washington No. 41.
The Seahawks offensive line still looks mighty shaky, and it doesn't help that much-revered line coach Alex Gibbs retired before the season even started. But it would be wrong to proclaim that Jones' "demotion" doesn't produce some clarity in the Seattle backfield, so those who are high on Forsett just found another reason to like him.
Fantasy kickers are nuisances, and no more so than when they get cut after you draft them. Shayne Graham and Dave Rayner were released by the Ravens and Bengals, respectively, on Saturday. Graham in particular is a surprise, considering we had him listed in our top 15 kickers for the 2010 season. Billy Cundiff (Ravens) and Mike Nugent (Bengals) each should start for their respective clubs, though I wouldn't make either a top-10 guy right now. Then again, they're kickers. I don't really have any idea.
Other skill-position names you might know who were cut (or placed on IR) Saturday:
Michael Clayton, Buccaneers (signed with Rams)
Josh Reed, Chargers
Pat White, Dolphins
James Hardy, Bills
Javon Walker, Vikings
David Martin, Dolphins
Samkon Gado, Titans
Chad Jackson, Bills
Sam Aiken, Patriots
Troy Smith, Ravens (bad day to be a Heisman winner; see: Leinart, Matt)
Demetrius Williams, Ravens
Kenny Moore, Panthers
Derek Schouman, Bills
Cornelius Ingram, Eagles (waived, but might be placed on IR)
Andre Brown, Giants (signed with the Broncos)
Kris Brown, Texans
Chase Coffman, Bengals (signed for practice squad)
Brandon Stokley, Broncos (placed on IR)
Chris Jennings, Browns
Bobby Engram, Browns
Troy Williamson, Jaguars
Dennis Northcutt, Lions
David Clowney, Jets
Chauncey Washington, Jets
Clifton Smith, Bucs
LeGarrette Blount, Titans (might go to practice squad)
Christopher Harris is a fantasy analyst for ESPN.com. He is a six-time Fantasy Sports Writing Association award winner. You can ask him questions at www.facebook.com/writerboy and follow him at www.twitter.com/writerboyESPN.
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