One of the biggest questions in fantasy football has been whether or not Brett Favre will return to play for the Vikings. Of course, Favre hasn't been the lone big name whose status for the 2010 campaign was a conundrum. Terrell Owens was also at the NFL forefront, as he'd been unable to find a team that would sign him.
That is, until now.
Owens has agreed to a one-year contract with the Cincinnati Bengals, where he'll join fellow wide receiver and VH-1 reality "star" Chad Ochocinco. That should be one heck of a locker room (or media circus) with T.O., Ochocinco and Cedric Benson all in the mix.
But unlike Favre, Owens' return won't have a major impact in fantasy land.
Over the last three seasons, T.O.'s reception, yard age and touchdown totals have experienced a steady decline. He's coming off his worst full statistical season since 1999, posting a mere 55 catches for 829 yards and five touchdowns in what was a punchless Bills pass attack. He also finished just 26th in fantasy points among wide receivers on NFL.com. That was his worst final ranking since 2005, when he endured a tumultuous seven-game season with the Eagles.
Sure, some could argue that the Bills' quarterback combination of Trent Edwards and Ryan Fitzpatrick wasn't the most talented in the NFL. That, in part, was one of the reasons T.O. experienced a decrease in statistical success. But another reason was age. In fact, Owens became part of a little-known trend for wideouts who reach the age of 36.
During the Super Bowl era, just four wide receivers have put up 1,000-plus yards at 36 or older. The immortal Jerry Rice did it an unbelievable three times between the 49ers and Raiders. Rod Smith, Jimmy Smith and Joey Galloway were the lone others to accomplish the feat at such an extended age. Even looking at wideouts at 35 or older, the list of players to reach the 1,000-yard plateau is a short one. Including Rice, Galloway, Rod Smith and Jimmy Smith, a mere 12 players have made it to that level of success.
Aside from the fact that Owens is long in the tooth, there's another reason to temper his statistical expectations with the Bengals -- that team needs another receiver like Joan Rivers needs another facelift. Aside from Ochocinco, there are plenty of other wideouts in the mix. That list includes fellow veteran Antonio Bryant.
Bryant, who signed a four-year deal worth $28 million in the offseason, was considered the favorite to start opposite Ochocinco. But recent reports had surfaced about his problematic knee, which could be one of the reasons the team added Owens. The Bengals also have Andre Caldwell on the roster, not to mention Jordan Shipley. Fellow rookie Jermaine Gresham (a tight end) is also in the equation, so there will be a lot of mouths to feed.
As a result, you can't expect Owens to be much more than a borderline No. 3 or No. 4 fantasy wideout. That sort of status would put him somewhere in the low middle rounds in most drafts. With the numbers of weapons now available in this pass attack, I wouldn't be at all shocked to see Ochocinco's numbers remain stagnant or decline compared to his 2009 totals (72 receptions, 1,047 yards, nine touchdowns). He's still a No. 2 fantasy wideout in most formats, but I wouldn't expect him to be consistent.
Bryant's stock drops the most among the team's wideouts. Couple his troublesome knee with the fact that he'll now likely be third on the depth chart, and Bryant is worth little more than a late-round pick. Caldwell and Shipley, who could fall to fourth and fifth in the wideout pecking order, have virtually no value in seasonal leagues.
Carson Palmer now has one heck of a cast of characters around him, so his fantasy appeal is on the rise. Owens is past his prime, but he's still in terrific shape and will no doubt make his share of plays in the offense. With Ochocinco, T.O. and company at his disposal, Palmer is now a much more attractive No. 2 fantasy quarterback and worth a middle-round selection.
How the addition of Owens affects the value of Cedric Benson remains to be seen, though.
The Bengals had a successful season in 2009 while riding Benson and the ground attack, and I don't think they'll abandon that offensive philosophy. Remember, the team was able to find success both on the ground and through the air during the days of Rudi Johnson. For a three-season stretch (2004-06), he averaged 1,407 rushing yards and scored a combined 36 touchdowns. Johnson also saw 337 or more carries in each of those three seasons, which is quite a large workload in what was perceived as a pass-laden offense.
I still see Benson as a borderline No. 1 running back -- remember, he's also in a contract year -- so he'll come off the board in the second round in most fantasy formats.
One thing is for sure ... things are going to be very interesting in the Queen City this season.