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2009 NFL Players in the Final Year of a Contract

Michael WhooleySenior Writer IMarch 23, 2009

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ -  JANUARY 11:  Eli Manning #10 of the New York Giants looks on against the Philadelphia Eagles during the NFC Divisional Playoff Game on January 11, 2009 at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  The Eagles defeated the Giants 23 -11. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

When it comes to evaluating players for the 2009 fantasy football season we all have our own theories on how we evaluate and rank talent. We all like to believe we know more about NFL players and fantasy football strategy then anyone in our league.

There are the obvious great players that everyone knows about like the Peyton Manning's, Adrian Peterson's and Larry Fitzgerald's of the world. So veteran fantasy football players are always looking for the next breakout player and we all use different ways to try and find them. We follow free agency; the NFL draft and we use theories like Third-Year Wide Receivers.

Another commonly used theory when trying to find a player who is about to breakout is the infamous player in the final year of a contract. Many of us believe that players have their best years when they are playing for their next contract. The Bruno Boys do see the logic behind it, but let’s face it like any other theory this is not going to be 100 percent effective.

Even though I don’t believe that just because a player is playing for a contract they are automatically going to have a great season, I do believe some of them might. So for the sake of covering all bases, let’s take a look at some NFL players who are in the final year of a contract heading into 2009.

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Quarterbacks

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Phillip Rivers (San Diego Chargers) – Phillip Rivers is far and away the best quarterback on this list. He passed for 4,009 yards with 34 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in 2008. Rivers is a high-end QB1 heading into 2009 and could very well improve on last season’s numbers.

Eli Manning (New York Giants) – Eli Manning has been known to make fantasy football owners pull their hair out. Thanks to his big brother (Peyton) he has been overrated from day one. Sure he already has a Super Bowl ring and a Super Bowl MVP on his resume, but he does not put up huge fantasy football numbers. Consider him a top-tier QB2 heading into 2009; he is someone you can use as a platoon quarterback.

Jake Delhomme (Carolina Panthers) – This 11-year veteran may be on the downside of his career, but he does play in an offense full of talent. The Panthers now run a balanced offensive attack, which allowed Jake Delhomme to throw for 3,288 yards with 15 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in 2008. He will be hard pressed to make a drastic improvement on those numbers in 2009, so he should be targeted as a low-end QB2 in this summer’s drafts.

Other notable quarterbacks playing for a contract: Jason Campbell (Washington Redskins); Kellen Clemens (New York Jets); Kyle Orton (Chicago Bears).

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Running Backs

Maurice Jones-Drew (Jacksonville Jaguars) – Heading into his fourth NFL season expectations are going to be extremely high for Maurice Jones-Drew. The Jaguars released their all-time leading rusher Fred Taylor this offseason and have been working on improving their offensive line. This should help MJD improve on last season’s 1,389 combined yards and 14 total touchdowns. Consider Jones-Drew a RB1 heading into 2009, worthy of a top-ten pick in upcoming fantasy football drafts.

Jerious Norwood (Atlanta Falcons) – As a backup running back Jerious Norwood has shown flashes of brilliance during his first three seasons in the NFL. He a career rushing average of 5.8 yards per carry and if he can get enough touches in 2009, he has chance to cash in on free agency in 2010. Consider Norwood a RB3 heading into 2009, as he should get 10-15 touches a game as Michael Turner’s backup in Atlanta.

Willie Parker (Pittsburgh Steelers) – Injuries limited Willie Parker in 2008. He ran for 791 yards with five touchdowns in 11 games in 2008. When healthy Parker is a speedy back who fits perfectly in the Steelers run oriented offense. Consider Parker a low-end RB2 heading into 2009, but if he remains healthy he will likely exceed expectations and earn a nice big contract.

LenDale White (Tennessee Titans) – LenDale White is one part of a very formidable duo in Tennessee. He and Chris Johnson form a nice one-two punch at running back. White carried the ball 200 times for 773 yards with 15 touchdowns while splitting carries with Johnson in 2008. Consider White a RB2 heading into 2009 while once again sharing time with Johnson.

Other notable running backs playing for a contract:

Kevin Faulk
(New England Patriots); Edgerrin James (Arizona Cardinals); Chester Taylor (Minnesota Vikings); Leon Washington (New York Jets); Ricky Williams (Miami Dolphins).

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