Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
The other day, I saw a clip from the new Denzel Washington movie, "2 Guns."
Mark Wahlberg is in it too, in case you were wondering.
In the scene, after one of the characters does something diabolical, he asks Washington, "Have I properly incentivized you?"
Immediately, three things popped into my head. I will now share them with you.
1. Is "incentivize" really a word? (According to spell check, it's not)
2. That's a cool line.
3. This makes me think about fantasy football.
It's option No. 3 that we'll be exploring today.
What motivates football players? Super Bowls? Records? A chance to be on the cover of Madden?
For some players, yes. But for most, it's about the money.
And these players have a chance to make an awful lot of it next winter.
Here are ten fantasy studs who will be looking for new contracts after the season.
Anquan Boldin, WR, San Francisco 49ers: For a second, it looked like Boldin might retire. The Ravens threatened their star wideout with a paycut, which prompted Boldin to contemplate leaving the game.
Instead, the Niners scooped him up for a sixth-round pick and now with Michael Crabtree lost for the year (or at least most of it), Boldin could be the most productive receiver on a team that made it to the Super Bowl last season (which, ironically, he was last year as well). At age 32 (he turns 33 in October), Boldin isn't likely to receive a long-term contract. But another good season could get him a raise and that's not such a bad thing, is it?
Kenny Britt, WR, Tennessee Titans: Britt is another mediocre season away from reaching "bust" status. A first-round pick in 2009, Britt has never come close to 1,000 yards and his touchdown production has fallen significantly since his breakout 2010 campaign (nine TD grabs in 12 games that season).
True, he doesn't have Tom Brady or Drew Brees throwing to him (Jake Locker was 28th in the league in QB rating last season), but there's no denying that Britt has underachieved during his first four seasons in the league. Injuries were partially to blame last season (he dealt with ankle issues from Week 3 on), but he won't have that excuse in 2013. With free agency looking him square in the face, it's put up or shut up time for No. 18.
Jay Cutler, QB, Chicago Bears: Nobody knows quite where to put Jay Cutler. Some think he belongs with the elites. Others put him in the same category as Mark Sanchez and other train-wrecks around the league, pointing out his interception problems and overall inconsistency as reasons for concern.
Realistically, Cutler probably belongs somewhere in between, ahead of Sanchez, but still miles away from Aaron Rodgers. But as Joe Flacco learned last season, a decent stat line and a deep playoff run can still get you paid like Aaron Rodgers. Not many people outside of Chicago will be rooting for Cutler to have a big year, but that's exactly what he needs if he hopes to make Aaron Rodgers money next offseason.
Jermichael Finley, TE, Green Bay Packers: Finley was a stud in 2011 (career- high eight TD and 767 receiving yards), but inexplicably, his production dropped in several key areas the following season (667 yards with only two TD). And unlike Britt, he can't point fingers at his QB.
Finley has the physical tools to be an elite tight end in this league. He just needs to prove it on the football field. Otherwise, this could be his final year in Green Bay.
Jacoby Jones, WR, Baltimore Ravens: After five years of anonymity in Houston, Jones finally gained some notoriety last season thanks to a couple of fluky plays that helped the Ravens win the Super Bowl (chiefly, his 70-yard TD grab to force overtime against the Broncos in the second round of the playoffs).
Unfortunately, Jones' numbers don't back up the hype (406 receiving yards, one TD last season) and he faces an uphill battle in his quest to get paid like a Pro Bowler. To make matters worse, he showed up to camp out of shape and failed his conditioning test last week. That's not how you become a millionaire.
Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars: It's pretty clear that Jones- Drew wants out of Jacksonville and it's equally obvious that the Jaguars aren't willing to pay him the kind of contract he desires.
But what Jones-Drew thinks he's worth and what he's actually worth are two different things. Once a perennial Pro Bowler, Jones-Drew was a disaster last season, scoring just one touchdown before a foot injury ended his season in Week 7.
MJD's foot has healed and the team's quarterback problems will force him to be a big part of the offense this season. That's encouraging, but at age 28, you have to wonder if Jones-Drew's best years are already behind him.
Darren McFadden, RB, Oakland Raiders: People who have read my column before are well aware of my love/hate relationship with McFadden. His relationship with the Raiders over the years has taken on a similar dynamic.
The Raiders don't have anyone who could replace him this season (Rashad Jennings, a career backup, is No. 2 on the running back depth chart). But next year is only a year away and the Raiders' fan base has grown restless after missing the playoffs ten years in a row. If the team decides to make major changes next offseason, you can bet McFadden will be one of the first players to go.
Santana Moss, WR, Washington Redskins: Moss' situation is similar to Boldin's in that Moss is already 34 and probably nearing the end of his career. With that said, he's looked great in training camp and the Redskins are counting on him to be Robert Griffin III's primary deep threat in 2013.
It's not too late for one more big pay-day. Moss knows that better than anyone. He's played with a chip on his shoulder his entire career and we wouldn't expect him to play any differently this upcoming season.
Hakeem Nicks, WR, New York Giants: Nicks and the Giants have been at an impasse in contract talks for months now and it doesn't appear progress on that front will be made any time soon.
Nicks watched his streak of consecutive 1,000-yard seasons come to an end in 2012 with just 53 catches for 692 yards. He'll have to do a lot better than that if he wants to be one of the highest paid receivers in next year's free agent class.
Emmanuel Sanders, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers: The Steelers rescued Sanders from the Patriots in free agency this past offseason, but only at the last minute.
Sanders now has one last chance to prove himself in Pittsburgh before he hits free agency again after the season. His 626 yards last year were a career- high, but will a repeat of that be enough to keep him in black and gold? We'll find out soon enough.
Wins and losses won't be the only thing on the line this season. Millions of dollars will be, too.
But you don't have to remind these guys. They already know.
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