After months and months of speculation and media-driven rumors, running back DeAngelo Williams opted out of reuniting with Broncos head coach John Fox, passed on the chance to play in Sunny Miami and decided to come back home to Carolina after agreeing to a five-year, $43 million contract. By doing so, Williams did show some loyalty, but no team was going to match Carolina's contract that includes $21 million in guarantees.
So what does this mean? Well, here is a break down of how this affects Williams, Jonathan Stewart and, once again, Broncos running back Knowshon Moreno.
I'll start with Williams. Let's face it, Williams isn't exactly going into a great situation with a new coaching staff and a new quarterback in Cam Newton. The good news is that the guaranteed money in Williams' contract almost certainly makes him the starter. Plus, somehow the Panthers talked Steve Smith into staying on for 2011. As the starter on a team that is expected to run a lot in order to give Newton time go grow, this gives Williams decent value as a mid-tier RB2. I still have Williams ranked at No. 20 on my running back rankings and I don't see him moving up that much once I update them when free agency dies down. I still worry about the offensive line, which was absolutely awful as a run-blocking unit in 2010, but DeAngelo is just too talented to bump down to a RB3. If he slides in your drafts, pounce on him.
Once again, Jonathan Stewart is pushed to backup status. And that's the worst-case scenario for fantasy owners that had to draft before the lockout even ended. Stewart owners are either stuck with him in the hopes Williams will go down with an injury again, or they can try their best and trade him to the Williams owners for some sort of compensation. Either way, Stewart owners got royally screwed going into August. For those who have yet to draft, Stewart goes back to being a handcuff. And just to throw his name out there, Mike Goodson holds close to no value as the No. 3 on the depth chart
Sigh....Knowshon Moreno comes out unscathed on this one, but he isn't out of the woods yet. It appears that the Broncos and free agent Willis McGahee have mutual interest in each other. So while Moreno may have avoided being a clear backup to Williams, he might still yield more touches to a guy like McGahee. McGahee's odometer slowed down quite a bit behind Ray Rice in Baltimore the last couple of years, but I just don't see him being able to take a full load. Personally, I would avoid this entire situation like the plague. Moreno should still start Week One, but we could see a committee if McGahee can gain at least a hint of his glory days.