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Apr 03

Amari Cooper reminds Jon Gruden of ‘young Tim Brown’

Since Jon Gruden left the Monday Night Football broadcast booth to become the head coach of the Oakland Raiders in January, he and general manager Reggie McKenzie have been reshaping the roster of the NFL team. Seventeen players who weren’t Raiders last season are now.

But with all the new, Gruden would like at least one thing that’s old — the old Amari Cooper, the one who was a Pro Bowler in his first two NFL seasons.

Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Martavis Bryant said Sunday he believes all the trade buzz surrounding Beckham will die down soon and the wideout will get the huge deal he wants eventually.

He’s a great player, Bryant said. He just wants his money. He wants his money and what he’s worth. I hope he gets it. I know he’s going to get it. It just takes time.

Perhaps co-owner John Mara’s comments about Beckham and his stance that no player on New York’s roster was untouchable in the trade market was just a message to Beckham, rather than insight into the team’s actual future plans.

If that is indeed the case, in Green’s eyes at least, that would save the Giants from making a crazy decision.

We’ve got some pretty good players on this football team, Schneider said. And there’s a lot of young players that people don’t necessarily — they haven’t heard their names yet… Tedric Thompson was one of our best special teams players this last year. He didn’t get to play much at strong safety. Kam was one of our best special teams players the first year he played. He didn’t get to play strong safety because Lawyer [Milloy] was here. Trust the process, man.

Keeping together a nucleus of talented players capable of leading a franchise to a Super Bowl title, six playoff appearances and four division crowns is no easy feat — and Schneider managed to do that over the last eight seasons. Seattle’s drop in the standings in unison with its aging defensive corps and salary-cap issues spearheaded many of the changes deemed necessary by the process. jets_059

Mar 30

Brian Costello of the New York Post, explained that the “whatever” in “whatever it takes” could be a five-year, $150 million offer.

As great as Acuna was last season, there was one thing missing. He saw roommates Ozzie Albies and Johan Camargo have success in the majors while he made his way through the minors. The three shared an apartment near SunTrust Park. Albies and Camargo walked to work in September when they were at home, and Acuna made the 35-mile drive to Coolray Park to play for the Braves’ Triple-A affiliate in Gwinnett.

It taught him a valuable lesson.

The NY Daily News’ Manish Mehta said sources told him the Jets want Cousins and will make a strong push for him, but they won’t just hand him a “blank check” either.

A source speculated to Costello that the cash flow for Cousins could consist of $60 million in 2018.

The Jets will be willing to “pay whatever it takes” to get Cousins, according to ESPN’s Rich Cimini. They might even be willing to fully guarantee Cousins’ contract to sweeten the deal.

Kirk Cousins is a big fan of new offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates. Cousins said as much during an appearance on KFAN during Super Bowl week. Bates would run a system similar to the one Cousins had in Washington, per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.

The depth behind these starters is largely the same group of uninspiring faceless starters who threw far too many innings in 2017. Health has been an issue for the Seattle rotation for years now, of course, yet Dipoto hasn’t exactly put meaningful depth behind his rotation. The Mariners can’t afford another 59 innings of Andrew Moore, to say nothing of letting Miranda repeat his 2017 workload.

The farm is littered with uninspiring options such as Max Povse and Rob Whalen, who were acquired in a trade that sent former top prospect Alex Jackson to Atlanta. Povse and Whalen look like little more than filler, while Jackson has had something of a resurgence with the Braves. Seattle’s top pitching prospect was sent to Miami in the Gordon trade.

After a frustrating, inconsistent season in Atlanta in 2015, Shanahan’s offense only really began to click with the Falcons in 2016 after they brought over Mack from the Browns as an unrestricted free agent.ravens_148

Mar 27

Eric Reid: NFL teams won’t sign me because of anthem protests

Eric Reid: NFL teams won’t sign me because of anthem protests More Eric Reid believes kneeling with Colin Kaepernick is the reason he is still a free agent. The safety was the first 49er to protest inequality during the national anthem alongside Kaepernick and a few days into the signing period, he isn’t on a roster.

[U.S. hits Russians with sanctions over election interference, cyberattacks]

Lawmakers have been telling the White House for months that Russia will surely try to expand its interference in the upcoming congressional midterm elections.

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), the senior Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called the sanctions announcement a “long overdue response” but noted that the administration has failed to implement six other mandatory provisions of the law enacted last year, including penalties affecting Russian defense and other industries.

Reid went on to express his belief that the league’s general managers aren’t the ones keeping him from signing a new deal. Rather, the root of the problem is at the ownership level.

After spending the past five seasons with the San Francisco 49ers, Reid became an unrestricted free agent when the new league year began on Wednesday. Even as other free agents have found new deals and some continue to take visits, Reid has not been publicly linked to any potential landing spots yet.

That likely doesn’t come as a surprise to Reid, who in December acknowledged the possibility that his protests could be held against him in free agency.

Having assembled a top-five farm system in baseball that has already graduated guys such as Yoan Moncada and Carson Fulmer, they have many others prepared to make that final jump. One of these is Michael Kopech, the Texan who has already fried radar guns in the minors with his triple-digit speed.ravens_039

Mar 25

Report: Ebron to visit Panthers, Colts, potentially Patriots

Former first-round tight end Eric Ebron is set to visit with the Carolina Panthers on Friday and the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, a source told Adam Schefter of ESPN. It was also suggested to Schefter that Ebron will subsequently meet with the New England Patriots if he leaves both prior destinations unsigned.

He remained at Boston Children’s Hospital for a week and then continued chemo. One year later, the tumors had shrunk enough that he no longer required treatment. Deep breath. Hudson was able to attend the Patriots Super Bowl victory over the Falcons 13 months ago and celebrated with his dad on the field in the confetti after the game. The Solders were told by doctors to brace themselves that the tumors could one day be back. They had 11 months of hope before an MRI revealed the tumors had indeed returned in both kidneys last September. He’s back on chemotherapy.

He’s handling it really well, Solder told the Boston Globe in November.

It’s really difficult to have to restart all that stuff, but we kind of knew it was coming so we’ll do whatever it takes for him to be healthy.

He finished the season with 482 yards on 53 catches and averaged just 9.1 yards per catch. However, Nelson is a dominant red-zone player, having caught 27 touchdowns combined in 2014 and 2016 (he missed all of the 2015 campaign due to a torn ACL).

New York/New Jersey has world-class cancer hospitals so he knows Hudson will get great care. It’s easy to say players follow the money in free agency and more often than not it’s true. But with Solder, the story runs deeper. Although he has not yet spoken about his signing with the Giants, it’s logical to assume if he was going to relocate after seven years in New England, he only wanted to play in a city that had facilities with a great reputation that could treat his son. Solder himself had survived testicular cancer in 2014. The Patriots rave about Solder’s character and how he’s handled every parent’s nightmare.

It’s amazing what he and his family have gone through and the support that they’ve gotten for little Hudson and we’re right there with him, Brady said on the Jimmy Fund Radio-Telethon in 2016.canucks_037

Mar 22

Why the Packers released Jordy Nelson after 10 seasons in Green Bay

Jordy Nelson emerged as Aaron Rodgers’ top target in a decade of playing with the Packers. Now, he’ll have to build a connection with a new quarterback after Green Bay released its longest-tenured wide receiver Tuesday, the team announced.

“We cannot thank Jordy enough for all that he has given the Green Bay Packers and our community for the past 10 years,” Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst said in a release. “He has been an exemplary professional and teammate and greatly contributed to our success. Jordy will always be a member of the Packers family and we look forward to his eventual induction into the Packers Hall of Fame. We wish Jordy, his wife Emily, and the rest of their family all the best.”

Baseball’s love affair with the long ball is “timeless,” noted Litner. Who knows better than the Bronx Bombers?

“There’s something romantic about home runs. It goes back to Babe Ruth because he was the first great home run hitter,” Litner said. “If you include Greg Bird, we’ll have four guys who lead the Major Leagues, probably the world, in how fast the ball comes off their bats and how far they hit the ball.”

The day after the eventual World Series champion Astros beat the Yankees in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series, YES’ ad sales team hit the ground running, according to sales chief Howard Levinson. The network has a strong story to tell after last season’s surprise success.

Less than three years ago, the crosstown Mets reached the 2015 World Series and were poised to take over the Big Apple with young pitchers like Matt Harvey. The Yankees, meanwhile, were in rebuilding mode with aging, expensive stars like Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira and Derek Jeter in retirement.

Then came the 2017 season. The emergence of Judge (voted the unanimous American League Rookie of the Year) and the rest of the Baby Bombers changed everything. Suddenly, the Yankees “future was now,” noted Levinson. TV viewers and advertisers came pouring back.

More than five million TV viewers in the New York TV market watched all or parts of a Yankees game on YES in 2017. Primetime games out-rated every local newscast in the market. Forty game telecasts averaged a 4.0 household TV rating or higher compared to none in 2016.packers_099

Mar 20

MLB free agents: Spring training is here, but the offseason still has a ways to go

Meanwhile, the Yankees, Astros, Angels and Phillies have already made enough big moves to have their offseasons considered successful. But questions regarding New York’s and Los Angeles’ starting rotations and whether Philadelphia’s young players can do enough to contend for a wild-card spot are still left unanswered.

Spring Training hasn’t begun with this much uncertainty since replacement players took the field in 1995 after the players strike canceled the 1994 World Series and continued into March. Like 1995, there will be a training camp run by the players association for the more than 100 free agents still out on the market, but the media will reportedly be unable to cover it.

The multiple-team-option structure is particularly friendly to teams and shouldn’t be the way things are in a league in which the attrition rate for players is impossibly high.

Just as the Cousins scenario was the best possible outcome for a player betting on himself, though, the Watt contract was the best possible outcome for a player taking early guaranteed security.

Kirk Cousins.

Once the three-year deal is officially signed after Wednesday’s start of the NFL calendar year, Spielman will have landed the franchise quarterback that has eluded him during two tenures as a general manager.

In fact, Spielman’s futility in trying to snare that elite signal-caller may help explain why the Vikings have taken the unprecedented and potentially dangerous step of guaranteeing that Cousins will reportedly receive all of the money in what is believed a contract averaging $28 million per season.

Spielman has tried every conceivable route possible to address the position when given the final say on personnel moves with Miami (2004) and Minnesota (2012 to present).

There was the 2004 free-agent gamble in Miami on A.J. Feeley, a backup in Philadelphia who Spielman incorrectly believed could become a quality starter. There was the draft with Vikings first-round picks used on Christian Ponder and Teddy Bridgewater. There was the trade with Philadelphia for Sam Bradford during the 2016 preseason.

And there were varying fill-ins thrust into action like Case Keenum, Shaun Hill, Matt Cassel, Joe Webb and shudder Josh Freeman.

Instead, after Brate’s 591-yard, six-touchdown season, the Buccaneers made a major investment and signed him to a six-year, $41 million extension with $18 million guaranteed.packers_005

Mar 17

In his letter, Cousins touched on the positive memories of playing in Washington.

That included having his “car mobbed” by fans at 3 a.m. at Redskins Park when they returned home from the division-clinching win at Philadelphia. There was his “You like that!” comeback win over Tampa Bay in 2015 that led to this becoming his catchphrase, one that he used to help raise money for the International Justice Mission.

“My family and I will always have a piece of Washington deep in our hearts,” Cousins wrote. “I arrived as a single, 23-year-old from the Midwest — with a lot to learn and prove. I now leave as a husband of four years to my wife, Julie, and a father to my son, Cooper — but still with lots to learn and prove.”

Enberg was fondly remembered by former broadcasting partners, athletes and friends on a drizzly morning at Petco Park, the downtown home of the San Diego Padres. Enberg spent the last seven years of his long, decorated career as the TV voice of the Padres from 2010-16.

Many athletes have had writers follow them to tell a story like this; Cousins is producing his own video.

“We are opening up our home to allow a behind-the-scenes look into what really transpires before the contract number scrolls across the bottom line of ESPN,” Cousins said Monday night.

Starting Monday at noon ET, teams can begin contacting free agents, who can officially sign deals when the new league year kicks off Wednesday at 4 p.m. ET.

By now, we’ve covered all the predictions and best fits for the top available players, but where do you think they should land?

Vote below on the best destinations for 12 of the biggest names slated to hit the market, starting with quarterbacks:

The Rams decision to trade Robert Quinn is a reflection on what the 27-year-old has looked like since undergoing back surgery in January of 2016. Quinn has just 12.5 sacks and 18 knockdowns over the past two years. That would be an upgrade for the Dolphins, who foolishly gave Andre Branch a three-year deal last offseason with $8 million fully guaranteed for 2018 to play across from Cameron Wake.buccaneers_092

Mar 15

Aaron Judge injury update: Yankees slugger won’t be fully healthy until Opening Day

Yankees star Aaron Judge will see his first action of the spring Wednesday, but won’t be at 100 percent until the games truly matter.

Judge told ESPN.com on Monday his surgically repaired left shoulder is a “work in progress until Opening Day.” He’s taken part in practice and live BP sessions, but sat out the team’s first four games of spring training.

Judge said the pain in his shoulder began in July, but refused to blame his dip in production after the All-Star break on the injury. He underwent arthroscopic surgery earlier this offseason.

That unpredictable weather Wednesday seems like a fitting beginning to a season that figures to be full of unpredictability for Ohtani and the Angels. It’s not that anyone doubts Ohtani’s baseball talents. His right arm is a thunderbolt on the mound. The baseball jumps off his bat at the plate. These things are undeniable.

But Ohtani, a left-handed hitter who turns 24 in July, wants to do both things, like he did when he was a superstar with the Fighters. He wants to be a regular in both the Angels’ rotation and in the Angels’ lineup. That’s not exactly a normal thing in Ohtani’s new league. Sure, there are a handful of guys who have done both things in the majors — Rick Ankiel, Brooks Kieschnick and Adam Loewen — but they didn’t do both simultaneously (OK, Kieschnick did make three starts in the outfield and four at DH when he was a relief pitcher with the Brewers in 2003).

But Rockies prospect Colton Welker had an incredible perspective no other player could match: He says he rode the school bus for three years with the alleged shooter, Nikolas Cruz.

“I went to middle school with him, I rode the bus with him for three years,” Welker said (via the Denver Post). “It was a complete shock.”

The minor league third baseman is a 2016 graduate of Stoneman Douglas High School, where he played on a state championship team in 2016.

“You read about it on the news and think, ‘Oh that’s miserable, that’s terrible.’ And it breaks your heart,” Welker told the Post. “But when it happens in your hometown, I was really thrown back. I was in shock. Total disbelief.”

Welker says he knew several of the 17 victims in the shooting, including Aaron Feis, the football coach who has been hailed as a hero for saving students, and athletic director Chris Hixon.buccaneers_026

Mar 13

MLB free agents work out, wait for calls at camp in Florida

As the baseball season quickly approaches and spring training begins, there are still many talented veteran free agents that remain unsigned.

Pitchers like Jake Arrieta, Lance Lynn and Alex Cobb, first baseman Lucas Duda, third baseman Mike Moustakas and outfielders Jon Jay and Carlos Gonzalez still have a hazy and unclear future.

What might be the cause of so many highly talented players not making it on a team?

MLBPA union representative Tony Clark points to teams rebuilding as part of the reason, making the way the league does business completely different than he was once accustomed to.

“We have teams openly suggesting that they’re not as interested in winning today’s ballgame and they’re not as interested in being the last team standing. I did not anticipate being in that world,” Clark said. “So if that is the world we are going to be in, then there are going to need to be some conversations moving forward.”

Wilson led off the bottom of the fifth against left-hander Max Fried, one of the Braves’ top prospects. He took an aggressive cut at the first pitch, fouling back a high fastball, before taking a breaking ball for a called strike and watching a couple of pitches in the dirt to work a 2-2 count. Wilson went down swinging on a 93 mph fastball from Fried but earned appreciative applause from the crowd at Steinbrenner Field in Tampa.

Wilson has spent time with the Yankees in spring training, although the team originally said he would not appear in a Grapefruit League game. But Wilson and the Yankees apparently got the Seahawks’ blessing to allow him a plate appearance in a game.

The Colorado Rockies originally chose Wilson in the fourth round in the 2010 MLB amateur draft. In two minor league seasons in Single-A ball, the infielder hit .229 with 118 strikeouts in 335 at-bats. After that inauspicious start Wilson decided to try his hand at football, and the rest is history.

MLB.com reporter Bryan Hoch caught up with the last pitcher to face Wilson in a pro baseball game. Chasen Shreve, now a reliever with the Yankees, induced Wilson to ground into a double play in a June 2011 game.seahawks_127_f9a65b5932a27ec5-180x180

Mar 12

This move also means that Trumaine Johnson will hit free agency. That’s a smart financial play for the Rams.

Why Sherman would make sense: Pairing him with Sherman would give Houston a veteran duo on the sidelines with accomplishments few other cornerback pairings could match. The question is whether or not they could still be effective on the wrong side of 30.

What’s their current CB situation? As is tradition, the Browns need help nearly everywhere, but the one area that stands out (non-quarterback division) is a secondary that allowed opposing passers to post a league-worst 102.2 QB rating (the rough equivalent of 2017 Tom Brady ). Cleveland turned to Jason McCourty and Jamar Taylor to man its corner positions last fall and that duo left plenty of room for improvement in a winless season.

Why Sherman would make sense: The franchise has plenty of money to spend this offseason (a league-high $108 million in cap space) and could absorb Sherman’s contract demands in the name of luring a big name to northeastern Ohio. That’s something that could appeal to both Sherman and his agent , who is, uh, also Richard Sherman.

Last season, Kiermaier had six errors and a .976 fielding percentage, and Kemp committed only one error and ran a .993 fielding percentage. Clearly, something is wrong here: the eye test can tell you that Kiermaier is a better fielder than Kemp.

It’s not a surprise that Sherman’s time is up in Seattle. He’s pushing 30 and coming off of a season-ending torn Achilles, plus offseason surgery. But Sherman still played at a high level last season, with seven pass breakups and two picks in nine games. He’ll have suitors.

What’s their current CB situation? The Patriots created a firestorm of controversy when they benched Malcolm Butler for Super Bowl LI. Now Butler’s expected to hit free agency, and the Patriots are in the market for a replacement.

Why Sherman would make sense:The Patriots explored the possibility of a Sherman trade last year . And being plugged into the secondary on a team that’s a perpetual Super Bowl contender should make New England appealing for Sherman.

What’s their current CB situation? Oakland has a huge hole at cornerback after releasing David Amerson. Sean Smith remains a possible cap casualty . Maybe Reggie McKenzie and Jon Gruden could set their sights on a quality veteran replacement, like Sherman. seahawks_117_327518212f9164ec-180x180