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There’s a phrase I’ve heard and read more this season than ever before, “He’ll never play another down for that team.” This is a very strong opinion that has been said about many players this season for a variety of reasons. This year more than most, it seems there are players who are sure to be changing teams once the off-season is in full swing.

As dynasty owners, it is very important to not only follow these situations, but to be one step ahead in assessing how a change in scenery could affect the their value. In the past, we have seen Hall of Fame careers revitalized by a switch to a new team, like Randy Moss being dealt by the Raiders to the Patriots. We have also seen promising fantasy players fade away. A recent example is tight end Zach Miller signing with the Seattle Seahawks, only to see his catches, yards and dynasty value evaporate. We could see some similar changes this season as players find new teams.

While it is impossible to predict exactly where these players might end up, it is crucial to follow along with the news and rumors surrounding these players and make the appropriate moves with our dynasty teams. Here, I’ll take a look at a few players that are almost certain to be sporting a new jersey next season, how that will affect their dynasty value and what they might be leaving behind.

Michael Vick, QB PHI

Why is he going?

Eagles quarterback Michael Vick has been one of the most talked about players in the league for years, whether it be due to his amazing athleticism and rushing ability, the enormous contract awarded to him by the Atlanta Falcons, the animal abuse that put him in prison and out of the National Football League for two full seasons, or his surprising comeback with Philadelphia. Early in 2010, Vick replaced an injured Kevin Kolb for the Eagles and enjoyed two impressive seasons, both finishing as a top twelve fantasy passer. This season, it all fell apart for the Eagles. Vick, along with running back LeSean McCoy, wide receiver DeSean Jackson and tight end Brent Celek have dealt with injuries and more importantly, the team has struggled from day one. Once Vick was forced from the week ten matchup with the Dallas Cowboys, it was the beginning of the end. Vick had been struggling for weeks and the Eagles had been losing. The team did not seem to be in a hurry to medically clear Vick for a return to action and then, just last week, head coach Andy Reid announced that Vick had been benched and would not start for the team again. Although Vick is not a free agent, he is due over $15 million, a number he will never see from the Eagles.

Where could he end up?

There are a large number of teams that will be looking for a new starting quarterback this off-season and Vick certainly believes he should still be a starter in this league. Among the teams that will be shopping for a new signal caller are Arizona and Kansas City. Others that might be included are Buffalo, Cleveland, Jacksonville, the New York Jets and Oakland. Based on his history, Vick would likely want to remain in the eastern part of the country. Signing with a smaller market team like Jacksonville or Buffalo would be surprising, but Vick may not have many options. I spoke with one fantasy expert today who floated the scenario that the new regime in Cleveland could hire Andy Reid, who would then bring in Vick. Crazier things have happened. In the end, I do think Vick gets one more shot at being a starter in this league, just as Donovan McNabb did before him. Hopefully, it works out better for Vick than it did for McNabb in Minnesota.

What’s left in Philadelphia?

The Eagles always seem to be prepared for these types of transitions, as difficult as they may be. When former starter McNabb began showing signs of wear, the team had a young backup with upside in place. Although things did not work out for Kevin Kolb, Vick was there to pick up the slack. Last season, the team chose Nick Foles in the third round of the draft. With Vick battling injuries this preseason, Foles lit the league on fire and one Eagles fan told me the entire city was calling for Vick’s job to go to Foles. That sounded crazy at the time. Now, just a few months later, Vick is certainly on his way out of town. There is still some doubt about the future of Foles though. As so often happens, Foles has not enjoyed the same success as he did in preseason action, throwing for four touchdowns and just over 1,100 yard in almost five full games. The Eagles have continued to struggle, but the blame for that can be placed on a lame duck coaching staff and a terrible offensive line. With limited available options, Foles is the favorite to start the 2013 season for the Eagles and should have some electric weapons to help at the offensive skill positions. Much of Foles’ fate, along with the Eagles as a whole, will depend on who is brought in to replace Reid, who like Vick, is assumed to be gone at the conclusion of the regular season.

Alex Smith, QB SF

Why is he going?

49ers quarterback Alex Smith has started for the team since his rookie season, and has been much criticized his entire career. He has failed to live up to his status as the number one overall pick and as he struggled, so did the team. Smith’s play finally began to improve and the Niners began winning when head coach Jim Harbaugh was hired. Even with the team winning, Smith has never proven to be an elite fantasy or NFL quarterback. In fact, he could be considered a fantasy roster clogger. But, the team was having great success and a winning team would never make a mid-season change at quarterback, would they? In week ten, Smith suffered a concussion and was relieved by backup Colin Kaepernick, who promptly led the 49ers to a comeback against division rival St. Louis (a game that ended in a tie). Smith was ruled out for the next week and then came the decision from Harbaugh that he was no longer the team’s starter. Smith just signed a new three year deal in March of this year, guaranteeing him $9 million, but he is due another $7.5 million in 2013, plus a $1 million roster bonus due to him in March. I am no salary cap expert and I am unsure of the cap hit it might cost the team to release him, but considering the complaining he has already made public, Smith is likely to be looking for a new team come March.

Where could he end up?

The market may not be as kind to Smith as it will be for Vick. It is hard to imagine any team handing Smith the starting job in March or April. If anything, he could sign with a team that is completely barren at the position, then see that team select a rookie in the draft as well, just as Seattle did last off-season. A year ago, Seattle had one of the worst quarterback situations in the league. Now they have a talented rookie as a starter and a very good backup in Matt Flynn. The question with Smith is will he easily accept a backup role. If so, there are many teams that would be interested. Some teams that need an improvement at backup quarterback include Houston, Pittsburgh, San Diego and Tampa Bay. Smith is a West Coast kid, growing up in California, playing college at Utah and spending his entire professional career with the 49ers. Signing with the Chargers as the backup to Philip Rivers or going to Oakland to compete for a starter’s job would both be ideal situations for Smith.

What’s left in San Francisco?

It is not easy to base franchise altering decisions on four and a half games, but as I said, dynasty owners need to stay one step ahead in order to compete. Colin Kaepernick, the new starter in San Francisco, has performed as a QB1 over the past five games, something Smith has never consistently done over his seven year career. Kaepernick has been an adequate passer, with a high game of 243 yards, but he also offers the 49ers and fantasy owners something Smith could not – a rushing threat. Kaepernick has rushed for over 350 yards this season and five touchdowns. That’s more than Chris Johnson, Jamaal Charles, Steven Jackson and many other starting running backs in the same time period. If Kaepernick continues this strong play through San Francisco’s final three games and into the playoffs, Coach Harbaugh will hand him the keys to the team for 2013 and beyond.

Matt Cassel, QB KC

Why is he going?

Matt Cassel was a backup quarterback in college at USC and was a reliable backup to Tom Brady in New England for three seasons. In week one of 2008, Brady’s knee was shredded and his season was over. Cassel played in all sixteen games and led the team to eleven wins, finishing as the QB8 on the season. With Brady returning, the Patriots cashed in their lottery ticket and shipped Cassel to the quarterback needy Kansas City Chiefs. Cassel posted two mediocre seasons, finishing as QB21 and QB13 respectively. In 2011, he missed seven games due to injury and this season, has dealt with other injuries, as well as being benched for current starter Brady Quinn. Although the team did make the playoffs in 2010 under Cassel, his tenure overall in Kansas City has been disappointing. With his struggles this season and his $7.5 million salary for 2013, even Cassel has admitted he will not be back with the team next season.

Where could he end up?

The good news for Cassel is he likely understands he will not be given starter money or a starter’s job on the free agent market. Again, there are many teams in need of a reliable backup quarterback. A good fit for Cassel might be a team with a young starter, such as Minnesota or Philadelphia. On the other hand, there have been mixed reports on how the Patriots feel about young backup Ryan Mallett, so maybe Cassel could reclaim his position as Tom Brady’s clipboard holder.

What’s left in Kansas City?

Not much. Although Brady Quinn has been respectable as the starter, it is clear he cannot consistently win games and lead teams to the playoffs. Quinn is better suited as a backup. Also on the roster is Ricky Stanzi, who has never taken a regular season snap in the league. It is apparent how the Chiefs feel about his future. There is also the matter of the coaching staff. The team will likely be searching for a new head coach and that will certainly have an impact on how the quarterback position is handled.

Rashard Mendenhall, RB PIT

Why is he going?

Rashard Mendenhall was a first round pick of the Steelers and was expected to quickly supplant starter Willie Parker. Instead, Mendenhall suffered a season ending injury in his first start and was placed on injured reserve. He followed that up with two very good seasons, finishing as the RB13 and the RB7 in 2009 and 2010. Mendenhall struggled in 2011 and injury was added to the insult when he tore his ACL in the team’s final regular season game. At that time, I did not think we’d see Mendenhall in a Steelers uniform again. Of course, I was wrong when he returned in week five this season. Again this year though, he has dealt with injuries and even when healthy, he failed to overtake Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman. The past two weeks, Mendenhall has been a “healthy scratch,” one of the players chosen to be inactive on game days, and now he’s been suspended for this week’s game. I was a year early, but as he approaches free agency, it is now safe to say Mendenhall will never see another snap for the Steelers.

Where could he end up?

With the recent trend of nearly every team moving to some form of a “running back by committee,” Mendenhall should have a lot of suitors, especially considering that he is only 25 years old. With that said, his poor production and poor attitude are not earning him any fans. Among teams that could be in search of a new running back (or an additional running back) are the Broncos, Colts, Jaguars, Packers and Cardinals. It is difficult to predict which teams may have interest in Mendenhall, or who he might prefer to play for, but the Packers have a glaring hole and he would fit in well in the high powered Green Bay offense.

What’s left in Pittsburgh?

The Steelers have had a merry-go-round at running back this season, with Mendenhall, Redman and Dwyer all starting at times this season. Dwyer has been the team’s most successful runner this season, but has gained just over 500 yards rushing and scored a lone touchdown. Redman, who was the presumed starter heading into the season, has amassed 350 rushing yards with two scores. The team has spent multiple picks on the running back position over the years, including Mendenhall, Dwyer and most recently, Chris Rainey, yet they have been unable to find a bell cow runner who can serve as the team’s every down back. With their modest salaries, it is reasonable to expect both Redman and Dwyer to be back with the team in 2013, but little offers much upside for dynasty owners.

Steven Jackson, RB STL

Why is he going?

Steven Jackson, drafted in the first round out of Oregon State in 2004, has been one of the top fantasy running backs for the past nine seasons. Despite gaining a reputation as having injury issues, Jackson has only missed thirteen games over nine seasons and has rushed for over 1,000 yards every season, save his rookie year when he backed up Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk. Jackson is again on pace to crack 1,000 yards this season. He has finished as a top fifteen fantasy running back for the past seven seasons, though he has fallen off that pace this year, currently ranking as the RB21. In October, as the trade deadline approached and another sub-par Rams season was well underway, trade rumors started to surface from some of the most reliable reporters in the game. These rumors, in part, came from the Rams restructuring Jackson’s contract, which will allow him to become a free agent following the season. Although the trade deadline came and passed without Jackson being dealt, it was clear at that time that Jackson was not part of the Rams’ long-term plans.

Where could he end up?

Jackson, who turns 30 just before the 2013 season gets underway, will likely be an attractive option for many contenders, and as a veteran who has accomplished so much in the sport, Jackson will likely be considering only teams that have a chance to win the Super Bowl. The team that would seem to be the best fit, again, is the Green Bay Packers, who have sorely lacked a running game this year. Other possibilities would include the Broncos and maybe even the Pittsburgh Steelers.

What’s left in St. Louis?

The Rams must have seen this coming. The team spent two of their ten 2012 NFL draft picks on running backs. The Rams chose Isaiah Pead from Cincinnati in the second round, then selected Daryl Richardson with the next to last pick in the entire draft, number 252 overall. Most fantasy owners expected Pead to be part of a job share this season and then overtake Jackson, thus he was a first round rookie pick in many dynasty leagues. Richardson was left on the waiver wire for much of the off-season, until he began to impress Rams coaches and was playing in the preseason ahead of Pead. Richardson has been a solid contributor to the Rams offense this season, but never threatened Jackson’s starting job. With three games remaining, Richardson has gained nearly 600 total yards.  Pead, who also serves as the team’s kick returner, has been hardly used as a ball carrier, gaining 33 yards on four rushes this season. It would not be a surprise for Pead to get a few carries as the season winds down so the Rams and head coach Jeff Fisher can see what they have in the second rounder. The team will have little time this off-season to evaluate the position before free agency and draft season begins. Both Pead and Richardson offer a lot of upside to their dynasty owners, but neither can be counted on to hold down a significant role until we see how the Rams handle the off season.

Kevin Smith, RB DET

Why is he going?

Detroit’s Kevin Smith is an interesting case. Smith earned the starting job for the team as a rookie in 2008, beating out veteran Rudi Johnson. After two and a half seasons of solid, but unspectacular production, Smith was released from the team following the 2011 season. After receiving little interest from other teams, he re-signed with Detroit late in the 2011 season and totaled 535 yards and seven touchdowns in eight games. With running back Jahvid Best still dealing with injuries and Mikel Leshoure suspended for the first two games, as well as dealing with recovering from his own injury, Smith earned the starting job entering week one this season. In the team’s first two games, Smith totaled over 160 yards and scored two touchdowns. Once Leshoure was reinstated, he was named the team’s starter. In the nine games since, Smith has only managed 35 total yards of offense. With Smith entering free agency, it is clear the Lions are not interested in retaining his services and Smith is likely looking for a team that would make better use of his skills.

Where could he end up?

There will not be a team willing to sign Smith as their starting running back, but he would make a very good second back for most teams. Some teams that could use an upgrade behind a solid starter include Cincinnati, Cleveland, Jacksonville, Tampa Bay, Tennessee and Oakland. If Smith has his choice, he might prefer to return to Florida, where he was raised and attended college.

What’s left in Detroit?

The Lions are in good shape at the running back position. It is clear they like Leshoure quite a bit, and backup Joique Bell has been earning more and more touches on offense each week. The team is still holding out hope that explosive Best could also return, though most seem to think that is unlikely.

Check back next week we examine some wide receivers and tight ends that are going, going, gone.

Follow @RyanMc23 on Twitter

Ryan McDowell
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Peter Juetten
9 years ago

Sorry to bring this up, but while the 2008 New England Patriots had an 11-5 record under Matt Cassel, they did not make the playoffs as the AFC had several teams with 11-5 records.

9 years ago

Ryan, you mentioned that Vick would want to stay on the East coast…is that speculation or has he said that in the past during interviews? I know he’s from that side of the country & has always played there, but is there more to it than that?

Also, the only one on this list I think will be back in the same uniform is SJax…I think he’ll likely play the market & see what’s out there, but I have a feeling he’ll be back in St. Louis for less money. He’s a very loyal guy from all indications and they are improving as a team. Of course, a team in a better position could make him a nice offer, but at his age/workload, I’m not sure there will be a lot of suitors willing to pay enough to move the needle.

James Young
9 years ago

Reggie Bush?

He’s a starter who could absolutely be on his way out of Mia

James Young
Reply to  Ryan McDowell
9 years ago

There has been a lot of speculation that he’d be gone. Almost every write up of L.Miller and D.Thomas 2013 value has some sort of mention tied to Bush leaving. Many would feel he’s worthy of this list

James Young
9 years ago

Also, I would say Kolb but no one cares about him. Still, would like to get insight on where Reggie is going..

BAM Nation
Reply to  Ryan McDowell
9 years ago

Could be a good place for Smith to go to as they can sign Smith and get a rookie. Smith is a dominant guy but ARI has better receivers than SF. But ARI needs OL help in a big way

Allen Sarvinas
9 years ago

Concerning Jackson, if he does wind up in GB, we are talking about a guy who would get every GL touch which could surmount to huge TD totals. His stock will be incredibly low after the SB in dynasties, so what’s the Max you’d give to acquire his upside landing in GB? 14 team 60 player full IDP roster lets say…

Reply to  Allen Sarvinas
9 years ago

Pick 1.07-ish (or an upside rookie like Hillman/MiFloyd) is about the most I could see giving up for SJax.

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