Contract Year Player Research
Money is generally considered one of the great motivators. That fact isn't lost on fantasy football owners.
It's the reason players entering the final year of their contracts get a longer look than they normally would when fantasy owners are putting together their draft list. The belief is contract-year players improve on their three-year average, with the promise of untold riches just a few months away if they show they can be "The Man."
But is there merit to that line of thinking, or is it wishful thinking? To get that answer, let's look at how last year's "money men" fared.
While there were several part-time players hoping to cash in last year, the list of regulars who had a solid body of work the previous three seasons in which to draw some conclusions were limited. It simply wasn't a stellar crop of soon-to-be free agents.
There are also a couple of factors that have to be taken into account.
Was the player with the same team last year that he had been with at least the previous season, or was he having to get accustomed to unfamiliar surroundings (which would seem to automatically put him at a disadvantage in most cases to equaling his three-year averages)? Another factor is free agents who were getting their first chance at being a starter. How did their numbers compare on average to when they were backups?
Green Bay Packers running back Ahman Green was the premier soon-to-be free agent still with his same team entering last season. But Green only played five games in 2005 after suffering a torn thigh tendon, so his average (to have merit) had to be based on his previous two seasons.
While Green averaged a little more than 1,500 yards in 2003 and 2004, he showed significant signs of decline in 2004-- rushing for 700 less yards on the season and averaging almost one yard less per carry than the prior campaign. That trend continued in 2006.
Green's yard-per-rush average was the lowest of his career (with the exception of his injury-shortened campaign) and he only gained 1,059 yards and scored five touchdowns-- both the lowest total of any full season since he became a starter in 2000.
Seattle's Bobby Engram was the biggest name among upcoming free agent receivers who hadn't changed teams prior to 2006. But the 12-year veteran contracted Graves' disease, which brought on a host of complications and limited him to seven games. So, the best receiver for statistical purposes is Travis Taylor, formerly of the Minnesota Vikings.
Taylor averaged right at 700 yards receiving his three previous full seasons, including two with the Baltimore Ravens. Last season he had 651 receiving yards and three TDs, which fell one short of his 2005 TD total. He also had the lowest yards-per-reception average (11.4) since his rookie season.
There were several veteran wide receivers who changed teams prior to last season. It did nothing to help their bargaining power when contract talks began.
Eric Moulds is the most accomplished of this group. He averaged just under 900 yards receiving a year between 2003 and 2005 while playing for the Buffalo Bills and he scored five touchdowns in 2004 and four in 2005.
Last year with the Houston Texans, it went downhill for Moulds, who had 557 receiving yards and one TD.
But it could have been worse for Moulds' owners. They could have drafted Ashley Lelie.
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