Month: March 2018

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Adam Schefter believes that the Jets will be the most aggressive of all teams in signing Cousins.

Yet the Seattle rotation doesn’t seem to be anywhere near up to snuff. Hernandez, as great as he once was, is now entering his Age 32 season and hasn’t pitched like an ace since 2015. He missed most of last year with shoulder issues. Paxton, as great as he was, missed time with two different muscle strains. The highlight of the rest of the group is Mike Leake, which should say enough.

There were other factors — the offensive line was the healthiest in football that year, to start — but it would be foolish to say Mack didn’t play a major part in pushing the Falcons toward the Super Bowl.

The 49ers have orchestrated some curious re-signings over the past week, notably retaining former Seahawks washout Garry Gilliam to serve as a swing tackle and bringing back the underwhelming Daniel Kilgore on a three-year, $11.8 million deal.

It seemed like general manager John Lynch was setting his sights low in protecting Jimmy Garoppolo, but the Richburg move makes things look much better.

He’ll slot in as the starting center, where he has both the athleticism to excel in a zone scheme and the brains to set and reset protections.

Kilgore will likely move to guard, where he’ll fight with Zane Beadles, Laken Tomlinson and 2016 first-rounder Joshua Garnett for starting work.

“I learned how to be patient,” Acuna said. “I had to learn how to handle things not going my way. It’s tough because I want to be the best. But I have to learn.”

Potentially, he could wait a little longer even if he continues to build on the hype. If Acuna breaks camp on the MLB roster, he would be eligible for free agency after his sixth full season. That would be 2023. However, the Braves could wait until late April or early May to bring him up, meaning Acuna would not be eligible for free agency until after the 2024 season.

The Jets are willing to throw a ton of money at Cousins with hefty guarantees built in, but that won’t matter if Cousins just prefers the Vikings. That’s a possibility, according to SNY’s Ralph Vacchiano.

The Jets are one of the four teams vying for Cousins, according to a report from Adam Schefter.


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New England Patriots reunite McCourty brothers after trade with Cleveland Browns for Jason

In the NFL this time of the year, things happen quickly. Apparently, they can also be undone quickly, too.

Just one hour after the Cleveland Browns announced ?they were terminating the contract of cornerback Jason McCourty Thursday – one of among 10 transactions they publicized – the team traded McCourty and a seventh-round draft pick in the 2018 draft to the New England Patriots for a sixth-round selection in 2018.

Under any circumstance, the Jets-Wilkerson relationship needed to end for the sake of both parties.

If you believe the Wilkerson-got-rich scenario, you should probably like the one-year, $8-million deal the Packers handed him on Tuesday, given that the 28-year-old would presumably be using his one-year deal as leverage for a multiyear contract to come.

The Packers might not necessarily want to sign Wilkerson to a long-term pact, but for one year, he should be motivated to play his best football.

An interested Wilkerson and a healthy Mike Daniels would be one of the best one-two punches in the league.

Tuesday, March 13 RB Dion Lewis, Titans Grade: B- Let’s take a minute and bow our heads for the folks who owned Derrick Henry in dynasty leagues.

The McCourty brothers will be reunited on the field for the first time since Rutgers, but it won’t be because the Patriots signed Jason following his release. Despite the Browns’ announcement, McCourty remained a member of the team long enough to be traded to the Patriots.

The Browns announced that they have traded McCourty and a 2018 seventh-round pick for a 2018 sixth round pick. The move gives the Patriots a corner to help fill the void left by Malcolm Butler‘s departure and gives Devin McCourty something he wanted when his brother was released by the Titans last year.

He will protect Manning. And in turn Manning will support him. Solder is not Anthony Munoz, Jonathan Ogden or Walter Jones, but he’s a two-time Super Bowl champion and a big upgrade at left tackle over Ereck Flowers, although his four-year, $62 million contract with $35 million guaranteed is more of a function of the Giants desperation than Solder being considered among the league’s elite players.


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The strength of Todd Bowles’ 2018 roster figures to be the defensive backfield.

The Jets are re-signing cornerback Morris Claiborne to a one-year, $7 million contract, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported, via a source informed of the situation.

I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Tom Benson. I have had the great fortune of knowing Mr. Benson for decades. He possessed a deep passion for the game and was committed to its growth.

We’ll revisit this grade if the terms of the contract don’t match the initial numbers, but if not, this is one of the most stunning deals of the offseason.

TE Jimmy Graham, Packers Grade: C It was a strange run in Seattle for the former Saints star, who never quite lived up to the lofty heights of his peak years in New Orleans but did manage to overcome a serious knee injury to serve as an effective member of the offense.

Graham oddly wasn’t a red zone factor before the knee injury in 2015, catching just two touchdown passes, then retained his downfield ability immediately afterward in averaging better than 14 yards per reception in 2016.

Although ASJ isn’t much of a threat with the ball in his hands, he possesses reliable hands to move the chains as a possession receiver and the size and athleticism to help Bortles as a red-zone weapon.

Since the onset of free agency, Jacksonville’s David Caldwell-Tom Coughlin braintrust has imported Seferian-Jenkins, re-signed Marqise Lee, splurged on former Colts wideout Donte Moncrief, added ex- Redskins tight end Niles Paul and landed the best guard on the market in former Panthers Pro Bowler Andrew Norwell.

The Jaguars aren’t resting on their laurels after reaching the AFC Championship Game in 2017.

After spending their top two picks in 2017 on Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye, this move gives Bowles his Patrick Peterson.

There are minor concerns about Johnson, mostly regarding his health, given that the 28-year-old missed a total of 11 games from 2014 to’16 before playing a full season again in 2017.


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Since taking over the Marlins last September, Jeter jettisoned several of Miami’s best players.

Last year’s entire starting outfield of Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna and Giancarlo Stanton are gone, as is second baseman Dee Gordon.

“I understand the frustration of a fan,” Jeter said. “The bottom line the way I looked at it was, it’s been a challenge for us getting people to the stadium for years. And from everything I have heard, the challenge is because there has not been a winning product on the field. So, if there is not a winning product on the field, you have to make a change.

“It’s a team that has not been to the postseason since 2003 and hasn’t had a winning record in years. And in my mind, that’s unacceptable and it should be unacceptable for the fans. The only way for us to fix that is to make some changes. Like I said, I know it’s unpopular.”

Yankees pitchers and catchers reported to spring training Tuesday. The TV network most eagerly anticipating the 2018 Major League Baseball season is the Yankees’ own YES Network, which will market telegenic young sluggers Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton as a modern-day Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris.

Anticipation is off the charts from viewers and advertisers for the new season, according to YES executives. Led by young stars like Judge, Gary Sanchez, Luis Severino and Didi Gregorius, the Baby Bombers came within one game of the 2017 World Series. At a time when even the mighty NFL’s TV numbers are falling, YES average game rating rose a whopping 57 percent to 3.57 last season.

That was YES’ best number in five years. It enabled the New York-based network (majority owned by 21st Century Fox with a minority stake held by the Yankees) to reclaim its title as most-watched regional sports network, or RSN, in the country.

If expectations were not high enough, the Yankees swung a trade with the Marlins in December to land Stanton: the reigning National League MVP, who belted 59 home runs last season to Judge’s 52 for the MLB lead.


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NFL free agency 2018: Top 25 free agents, best players by position

NFL free agency in 2018 won’t open for business until the new league year kicks off at 4 p.m. ET on March 14. But before then, teams will hope to reach terms on long-term extensions with the free agents they would like to keep for next season and beyond.

Here’s predicting who among those players will and will not be released this year as teams prepare for free agency and the NFL Draft.

Miami is looking to clean house for Year 3 of Adam Gase to save both salary cap space and create a culture change, and Suh, a big-time free-agent signing, isn’t immune.

Dez and Dallas might appear to be headed for a breakup, but they need each other more than they will admit. Bryant stays as an appeased wideout with a restructured deal to continue trying to help Dak Prescott.

He gets an A-plus for life.

LB Anthony Hitchens, Chiefs Grade: D+ The Chiefs certainly went after their Derrick Johnson replacement.

Hitchens seemed likely to head to the Colts, where former Cowboys linebackers coach Matt Eberflus was installed as defensive coordinator as part of the Zombie Josh McDaniels staff, but the Chiefs outbid former Kansas City executive Chris Ballard to bring Hitchens to town on a massive contract.

The Iowa product signed a five-year, $45 million deal with a $14 million signing bonus and $21.3 million due over the first two years of his new contract.

This is a remarkably large deal for a player who wasn’t a building block for the Cowboys, who weren’t a very good defense while Hitchens was in the lineup.

“Spring training has always been associated with hope for a new season. This year a significant number of teams are engaged in a race to the bottom. This conduct is a fundamental breach of the trust between a team and its fans and threatens the very integrity of our game.”

In an increasingly contentious atmosphere, MLB responded with its own statement (via ESPN.com), saying the number of unsigned players is a failure on their agents’ parts to correctly assess their clients’ values in the current market.

“Our Clubs are committed to putting a winning product on the field for their fans. Owners own teams for one reason: they want to win. In Baseball, it has always been true that Clubs go through cyclical, multi-year strategies directed at winning.

“It is common at this point in the calendar to have large numbers of free agents unsigned. What is uncommon is to have some of the best free agents sitting unsigned even though they have substantial offers, some in nine figures. It is the responsibility of players’ agents to value their clients in a constantly changing free agent market based on factors such as positional demand, advanced analytics, and the impact of the new Basic Agreement. To lay responsibility on the Clubs for the failure of some agents to accurately assess the market is unfair, unwarranted, and inflammatory.”


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Arizona’s five-year offer worth $140 million with $101 million fully guaranteed at signing shows a long-term commitment to Cousins.

Life is good for Jimmy Garopollo. After toiling in Tom Brady’s shadow for three years, the quarterback was shipped off to the 49ers last year, upgrading New England for the Bay Area in the process. He killed it once he got to San Francisco, leading the Niners to five straight wins and earning himself a massive contract to become the highest paid player in the history of the NFL.

The Cardinals are shooting for the moon — and the future — with their historic offer to make Cousins the NFL’s highest-paid quarterback while working around their salary-cap limitations. With the Cardinals’ cap number around $22 million for 2018, Arizona will have to back-load its offer while still trying to entice Cousins to sign.

To make their intentions clear, the Cardinals would give Cousins a $5 million base salary with a $35 million signing bonus and a $5 million roster bonus, all of which is guaranteed at signing. That way, Cousins will get $45 million lump sum immediately.

The rest of Cousins’ contract is worth $95 million, including $56 million guaranteed. And because the Cardinals have plenty of cap space to work with starting in 2019, they can afford to make Cousins’ cap number more than $30 million in three of the next four seasons. — Josh Weinfuss, ESPN Cardinals reporter

Kirk Cousins is about to become the highest-paid player in NFL history, and we should know his decision in days. Patrick McDermott/Getty Images
What if the Jets can’t get Cousins? They will have $90 million in cap room to address the quarterback position and other needs. At quarterback, they would look to double down with two veterans who would compete for the job. Two of their targets are Josh McCown and Teddy Bridgewater. They’re both short-term solutions, although Bridgewater has long-term upside if he can rebound from his devastating knee injury. Others on their radar are running back Dion Lewis, center Weston Richburg and cornerback Malcolm Butler. — Cimini

How likely are the Jets to draft a QB? 99.9 percent. With the sixth pick, the Jets probably would be in position to draft one of the top four quarterbacks. They also could look to trade up. If they miss out on Cousins and the top four prospects, it’ll be a bitter defeat for this Jets regime. — Cimini

Top draft needs: The Jets have one of the worst top-to-bottom rosters in the NFL, with needs all over on both sides of the ball. If they land Cousins and don’t pick a quarterback at No. 6 overall, they should take the best player on the board. Cornerback, pass-rusher and offensive line — yes, the entire O-line — are their biggest needs. — Kiper


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Rays prospect Brent Honeywell leaves practice with ‘forearm strain’

The inside story of the “This Week in Baseball” theme: Baseball fans of a certain age look back fondly on “This Week in Baseball,” which used to air on Saturdays before the Game of the Week. The closing music, which was usually paired with slow-motion highlights as the credits rolled, was something that left a mark on fans in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s. The theme is often cited among the greatest sports-related music of all time. The story of how it came to be was one I wanted to tell.

Offensively, it’s intuitive: a single is worth so many runs, a double is worth so many more runs and so forth. Defensively, it’s a completely different story.

In this edition of Stat to the Future, we’ll look at Defensive Runs Saved: the backbone of the defensive component of rWAR’s calculation.

This one comes with an asterisk. Liriano recently signed an incentive-laden deal with the Tigers, which may indicate that he hopes to compete for a spot in the rotation. His days as a starter are likely behind him, but he could be a solid reliever.

The Astros thought the same way, which is why they took a flyer on him at the trade deadline last season. He did not do very well for the eventual world champs, recording a 4.40 ERA over 20 appearances, resulting in him being limited to mop-up duty in the postseason. Still, he’s worth another look.

Wilson is a four-time Pro Bowl quarterback on the football field, who also played minor league ball with the Rockies in 2010-11. According to ESPN.com, Wilson will remain in Yankees spring training for six days, leaving March 3, the day the Yankees play the Red Sox.

In the Instagram video, Wilson called out Yankees sluggers Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, challenging them to a home run derby.

If first impressions are any indication, Shohei Ohtani will indeed be able to contribute to the Angels at the plate as well as on the mound — or better.

The two-way superstar from Japan reached base in all three plate appearances Monday in his spring training debut as a hitter.

Batting second for the Angels against the Padres, Ohtani drew a walk in the first inning after starting with a 0-2 count, then added another walk in the third. His biggest contribution came in the fifth, when Ohtani followed Eric Young Jr.’s one-out double with an RBI single to center, starting what became a four-run inning for the Angels.


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Watch: Russell Wilson blasts homers at Yankees batting practice

A “circus-like atmosphere” accompanied Russell Wilson’s arrival at Yankees spring training on Monday but the highlight for many fans had to be watching him go yard multiple times during batting practice.

Wilson, whose day job is quarterbacking the Seahawks, had his baseball rights traded from the Rangers to the Yankees last week, and he’ll in be in pinstripes at Steinbrenner Field in Tampa for the next five days.

If a ball can be fielded by either of two players and both miss, DRS punishes those players each more than UZR. If either succeeds, that player receives more credit with DRS than they would with UZR. Because of these and other factors, DRS tends to assign a greater spread of values than UZR. Among qualified players, the best and worst player in 2017 by DRS differed by 59 DRS, but that figure was only 33.8 for UZR.

Cabrera has spent much of the past three seasons sharing the right half of the infield with Ian Kinsler, who has consistently graded out as a stellar defensive second baseman (37 DRS, 20.9 UZR from 2015-2017). Cabrera, with very limited range, might opt to cover the bag and let Kinsler dive after balls in both directions. If Kinsler can’t make the play, both are punished more by DRS than UZR, but Kinsler has a better ability to make plays than Cabrera, so he can make up for his shortcomings with those plays.

Despite battling an injury, Martinez slashed .303/.376/.690 with 45 home runs and 104 RBIs in just 119 games last season. He started the year in Detroit but was traded to the Diamondbacks before the July 31 trade deadline.

Boston was 27th in MLB in 2017 with 168 home runs, so Martinez’s power production is much needed as the Red Sox hope to content with the Yankees in the AL East. Only the Braves, Pirates and Giants had fewer homers than Boston last season.

The legends and tales of Shohei Ohtani have rumbled across Major League Baseball for a couple of years now.

The whispers told stories of a teenage phenom in Japan who wielded a bat like Babe Ruth and used his golden arm to throw triple-digit fastballs like Nolan Ryan. And not only did he hit and pitch in Japan, he was a superstar at both tasks. In 2016, this wonder hit 22 homers with a .322 average and 1.004 OPS in 104 games as a hitter AND posted a 1.86 ERA with an average of 11.2 strikeouts per nine innings in 140 innings as a pitcher.


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Once trades become official Wednesday, Aqib Talib will be off to the West Coast to begin a new chapter in his career with the Los Angeles Rams .

He’ll be joining a secondary that features another newcomer in cornerback Marcus Peters (also acquired via trade) and one of the league’s better safeties in Lamarcus Joyner , who received the franchise tag. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that Talib is excited for what’s next.

Not this exact conversation, maybe, but conversations with the same basic theme. When (and how) is it OK to incorporate modern technology into baseball? The answer with this sport, eternally, seems to be the same: Probably at least 10 years ago.

Today, let’s talk about allowing pitchers and catchers to communicate pitch signals with words, instead of having to rely on caveman-era hand signals. Here’s the idea: Let the catcher and pitcher — and maybe the manager and/or pitching coach, but more on that in a minute — wear earpieces and microphones and call pitches that way. In the NFL, coaches send quarterbacks their play-calls through a headset in the QB’s helmet. Honestly, this is something baseball should have been implemented years ago.

He gained that experience during his three-season run in New England and four-year stint in Denver, where he was one-fourth of the No Fly Zone. His departure has cut that group down from four to two — leaving just Chris Harris and Darian Stewart — and officially spelling the end of an era.

“It’s in the books now, man,” Talib said of the No Fly Zone defense. “It’s definitely in the books. … We’ll definitely go down in the books as one of the best secondaries in history.”

That secondary was part of a suffocating defense that won Denver a Super Bowl . Perhaps Talib can be a senior member of another memorable defense. He already has a familiar face (Phillips) calling the shots.


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Joakim Noah may not return to Knicks until next Thursday

Knicks center Joakim Noah may not return to the team until next Thursday, the New York Post reported Friday.

Noah, his playing time near zero with two-plus years remaining on a four-year, $72 million contract, abruptly left the team in Denver for what the Knicks called “personal reasons,” the Post reported Thursday.

Noah wasn’t with the team for Thursday night’s game against the Nuggets. The Knicks close out a six-game Western Conference trip Friday in Phoenix against the Suns and Noah is not expected. A source told the Post that Noah would likely miss the Knicks’ next two games after that as well, Tuesday against the Nets and Wednesday against the Celtics.

Brunson is a more difficult piece to figure out insofar as he doesn’t have the same physical advantages as Bridges. Yet, he has the highest offensive rating in the country among players using at least 20.0 percent of their teams possessions, per KenPom. If the 6-7 wing is the energetic and athletic high school kid in the pick up game, Brunson is the cunning old guy, even though he’s exactly one day younger than Bridges.

As one of just four players (min. 500 minutes played) in the last nine seasons with an assist rate above 30.0 percent and a turnover rate below 10.0 percent, Brunson is the definition of sure-handed. He operates with the ball on a string, does a good job keeping his dribble alive and has an excellent feel when it comes to finding his teammates.

That ultimatum was enough to persuade Gilbert and the Cleveland front office to honor Irving’s wish and trade him.

In the offseason’s biggest trade, Irving was sent to the Celtics in for Jae Crowder, Isaiah Thomas, Ante Zizic and two draft picks.

Well, they do. Who doesn’t? The 20-year-old goalie was instrumental in helping the Americans win gold for the first time in 20 years. She maintains that it was a team effort, and no doubt it was. But her teammates point to her serene, enthusiastic approach as a key in that victory. As well as some incredible stops against Canada, like her miraculous overtime save on Rebecca Johnston.

“I didn’t see her shooting until the last second. In that moment you have to make a desperation save. Just get a piece of it. I didn’t know I hit it at first,” Rooney says, with a laugh. “I thought it hit the post until I saw it.”