The ultimate incentive

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Players will tell you they want to win for their fans, their teammates and their family, but the No. 1 incentive of all time is cash, greenbacks, coin, moolah, cheddar.

Players who can post big statistical seasons and get the immediate reward of a large contract are likely to be the most intense and ready-to-play guys on the field.

And certainly a bonus for any fantasy lineup.

Lets check out our top-10 of those who will be playing for a new contract in 2012.


Joe Flacco, Baltimore
- Flacco already put the heat on himself last April after claiming "I think I'm the best. I don't think I'm top-five, I think I'm the best." That, plus playing for a new deal, should be plenty of incentive for the Ravens' signalcaller. Unfortunately, the team's best player is running back Ray Rice. Flacco has been consistent in his previous three NFL seasons, throwing for just over 3,600 yards and 20-25 touchdowns. Even improving on those numbers as the latest Sports Network projections indicate (4,077 yards, 26 TDs, 13 INTs) likely won't make him a top-five fantasy quarterback.

Matt Schaub, Houston - Schaub led the league in passing yards in 2009 (4,770), but also struggled with health in 2011 as well as 2007 and 2008. The team has indicated that they will wait until after the season to work out a deal. Schaub has a top-five receiver (Andre Johnson) to throw to as well as a great receiving back out of the backfield (Arian Foster). If Owen Daniels is healthy he's solid, but that's a big if. Houston also has a question mark at the No. 2 and No. 3 receiver spots. The Texans don't need Schaub to throw as much as he did in the past, but we still think he can post 4,176 yards and 23 touchdowns.

Running Back

Reggie Bush, Miami
- It's going to be difficult for Bush to match last year's totals. It's not his fault. The team is likely to use him differently. The Dolphins have used a high draft choice in each of the last two seasons on a running back (Daniel Thomas, Lamar Miller) and Bush is likely to find himself split out as a receiver more often in 2012. That and last season was the first time in a long time that Bush managed to play a full season. We think the crowded backfield will make it tough for Bush to improve on last season, but we believe what he loses in rushing yards he'll make up for in receiving yards and he can still total 1,300 yards from scrimmage.

Peyton Hillis, Kansas City - Hillis wasn't going to see much time in Cleveland with rookie Trent Richardson in town, but depending on the health of Jamaal Charles, could get enough opportunities to help him get a nice contract next offseason. Look for Hillis to start the season quickly, but lose playing time in the second half of the year as Charles gets stronger. Hillis is the better red zone runner and the Sports Network projections predict 742 rushing yards and nine touchdowns.

Isaac Redman, Pittsburgh - The first six games of the season will likely determine Redman's financial future and his fantasy value. Rashard Mendenhall doesn't figure to be ready on Opening Day and may start the season on the PUP list. That means it's Redman's job to carry the Steelers running game for at least the first six weeks. The Sports Network projections have Redman rushing for 867 yards and six scores, but he better get them early.

Michael Turner, Atlanta - It's a bad year for Turner to be playing for a new contract as all indications are that the Falcons are going to be a pass-first offense. Matt Ryan is coming into his own, Roddy White is still a fantasy stud and Julio Jones is about to blossom into a superstar. Turner is also going to share some duties with Jacquizz Rodgers. Turner should still get close to 250 carries, rush for 1,000 yards and gobble up the rushing touchdowns. He's no longer a first or early second round selection, but he's going to be a solid RB2.

Wide Receiver

Victor Cruz, New York Giants - I'd love to be Cruz's agent. He's going to have another huge season, maybe as big as last year. That's because while he won't surprise anyone this year, the opposing defenses will still defend against Hakeem Nicks first. And with Mario Manningham now plying his trade in San Francisco, most of Eli Manning's throws will be to this top tandem. Cruz should be a top value and we are projecting 88 receptions for 1,337 yards and nine touchdowns.

Malcom Floyd, San Diego - Vincent Jackson is gone and Antonio Gates is getting old which is the perfect scenario for Floyd to cash in big. Floyd has averaged over 19 yards-per-reception over the past two seasons. However, his biggest obstacle is staying healthy. He's played all 16 games in just one of seven NFL seasons, but a new contract can be quite an incentive. Sports Network projections are for him to catch 60 balls for 998 yards and seven touchdowns.

Greg Jennings, Green Bay - Jennings has been the No. 1 target for Aaron Rodgers and defenses for the past three seasons. That may change in 2012 as Jordy Nelson proved to be a dynamic weapon last year and forced defenses to play the Pakcers more straight up. With James Jones the target of trade rumors and Donald Driver getting old, Jennings could find himself with more action coming his way than last season's 101 targets. Sports Network projection of 79 receptions, 1,145 yards, 11 touchdowns which would be a significant increase on last year.

Wes Welker, New England - Welker led the league in receptions in three of the past five seasons, but can't get a contract out of the Patriots that he believes is worthy of his performance. In PPR leagues he's pure gold and that will continue, however, the addition of Brandon Lloyd and the continued maturation of record-breaking Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez may eat into some of Welker's totals. Our projections of 101 receptions, 1,130 yards and seven touchdowns would have most receivers smiling, but for Welker that's a slight decrease.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Steve Schwarz at

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