Aside from the Eagles signing and trading for everyone under the sun, there were two other NFC East teams that made some news so far this Summer.
As expected, the Cowboys cut Marion Barber last week, making Felix Jones the true featured back in the offense. The release really wasn't a surprise. The surprise was that Barber didn't sit in free agency hell for very long after the Bears swooped in and signed him to a two-year, $5 million contract.
Barber was terribly injury prone the last two years and his yards per carry average of 3.3 in 2010 was the lowest of his career. The Bears consider Barber ideal short-yardage back, so that tells us that starter Matt Forte could lose goal-line carries this year, which would obviously knock his fantasy value down. I currently have Forte ranked as my No. 15 running back in my rankings. I really can't see him dropping that much farther down the list, unless Barber miraculously finds the fountain of youth and reverts back to his early years. If Barber has to start, the team is in for a rude awakening.
This move spells disaster for Chester Taylor's chances of being retained. After signing a four-year deal last offseason, Taylor looked absolutely dreadful as Forte's backup, averaging 2.4 yards on a total of 112 carries. With the signing of Barber, Taylor is expected to be cut. He should get a chance to compete elsewhere, but I don't see him as a anything more than a No. 3 on the depth chart. He may have to wait for an injury to get a team to look at him.
Aside from the Cowboys, the Redskins also looked to add to their plethora of running backs by trading defensive end Vonnie Holliday and a pick to the Cardinals for backup running back Tim Hightower. And in typical Mike Shanahan fashion, he went from saying Hightower will compete for the starting job to stating that he considers him a third-down back.
What does this mean for the Redskins' backfield? Your guess is as good as mine. Trying to get a read on what Shanahan is going to do is like trying to read in the dark. Ryan Torain still figures to be the starter Week One, but how long he can hold the job and how long he can stay healthy are the two big questions. His value on my running back rankings (No. 34) is plummeting. The team really likes rookie Roy Helu. I listed him as one of my early fantasy sleeper picks and projected him to eventually win the starting job over Torain sometime during the season. There is also Keiland Williams, but he is sure to be on the roster bubble in the days leading up to teams having to cut down to 53.
As a fantasy owner, I would stay away from this situation altogether during draft day. I can see Torain, Helu and Hightower all getting chances to start at least one game. That's the way Shanahan works. As for the regular season, my money is still on Helu to make the most of his chances on early downs, with Hightower coming as the scat back. If I was in deeper leagues and Torain was already taken, I would have no problem drafting Helu and stashing him away in the hopes Torain doesn't pan out.