Browse Month by March 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

This left Arizona and new head coach Steve Wilks in a bind entering the offseason.

The Cardinals’ salary cap situation is such that bidding for Kirk Cousins, who will be signing a mega-deal with Minnesota, couldn’t happen. Others QBs available through either free agency or trade like Keenum, Alex Smith, Tyrod Taylor, AJ McCarron, Teddy Bridgewater, ex-Cardinal Josh McCown or dare I say it Colin Kaepernick apparently weren’t affordable or as appealing as Bradford from either a financial or Xs-and-Os standpoint.

“It does get you excited, and at the same time, we know we’re only one year into this process. We’re deeper into the phase where player development is going to be at the forefront, and we’re going to have to be patient and allow these players the time and latitude to develop and inevitably fail and recover from that failure.”

If the first phase was selling off nearly every tradeable piece and hoarding many of the best prospects in baseball, Hahn and company have done that with mastery.

Now having spent a full year in the White Sox organization after being traded from Boston last winter, Kopech has the kind of team-first attitude about the upcoming season that is common in Chicago.

“I’m going to do whatever I can to help the team, whether that’s going to be to pitch in Triple-A and leave me out of the big leagues altogether, or if it’s going to be to go to the big leagues and take the ball every fifth day,” Kopech told Sporting News. “My focus first and foremost is for the White Sox to use me in a beneficial way, and whatever way that is for them is going to work for me.”

The Cincinnati Bengals backup was nearly traded in October, until the Cleveland Browns botched (possibly on purpose) the deal at the last minute. Then, less than a month from his trip into restricted free agency, McCarron won a grievance in February making him an unrestricted free agent.

Cincinnati argued that McCarron’s 2014 rookie year wasn’t an accrued season because he spent all but three games on the non-football injury (NFI) list. But an arbitrator agreed with the quarterback’s argument that he was healthy enough to come off the list in time for the season to count, but was stashed by the team anyway.

Now he’ll be free to sign with the highest bidder in free agency. Despite his limited sample size, there will be a buyer, although Kirk Cousins, Sam Bradford, Case Keenum, Teddy Bridgewater, and even Mike Glennon all found landing spots first.

He had missed the 2015 season because of a torn ACL.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Raiders to release wide receiver Michael Crabtree

The Oakland Raiders are releasing wide receiver Michael Crabtree, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Analysis:?Aaron Rodgers might be doing flips about landing Graham. The tight end hauled in 10 touchdown catches last year and should be a major red-zone weapon even if he can’t recapture his early-career form. Nelson, however, was perhaps Rodgers’ favorite target. Though he turns 33 in May, he could be an intriguing addition for a team looking for a reliable veteran target.

The move:?Former Jacksonville Jaguars CB Aaron Colvin is signing a four-year deal with the Houston Texans, according to multiple reports.

Analysis:?Houston is getting some payback after Jacksonville nabbed A.J. Bouye last offseason, a move that contributed to a woeful year for the Texans in which the defense gave up 30 touchdowns through the air. Colvin is a standout in the slot, but the Texans might want to keep pursuing?other options in the secondary.

The deal will be for three years. The amount could not immediately be confirmed by the Observer.

Poe will immediately start on Carolina’s defensive interior to replace former defensive tackle Star Lotulelei, who signed with the Bills in free agency.

Haloti Ngata is joining the Eagles’ deep defensive line.

Per multiple reports it’s a one-year deal. Ngata, 34, is no longer a perennial Pro Bowler but will likely become a valuable part of Philly’s rotation, replacing Beau Allen.

Analysis:?Talent as never been the issue for Eifert, just his durability. He’s missed 22 games over the past two seasons and has never played a full 16-game schedule. But he is valuable when available. He gets a one-year deal after back injuries cut short each of his past two campaigns.

RB Doug Martin has agreed to a deal with the Raiders, per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.

Minnesota Vikings

The Bears are signing former 49ers defensive end Aaron Lynch to a one-year deal, Rapoport reported.

The Bears re-signed punter Pat O’Donnell to a one-year, $1.5 million contract, Garafolo reports.

Saints free agent pass rusher Alex Okafor, who is recovering from a torn Achilles, is visiting the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Rapoport reported.

RB Jerick McKinnon, 49ers Grade: F McKinnon hit free agency in pursuit of a deal where he could serve as a primary running back, but his case for a larger role isn’t quite clear.

The Georgia Southern product was hyperefficient over his first two seasons, averaging 4.9 yards per carry over 165 rushing attempts, but as the larger half of a rotation over the two ensuing seasons, his 309 rush attempts have produced just 3.6 yards per attempt.

14.2 percent of his runs have turned into first downs, which ranks 50th among 51 qualifying backs over that time frame.

Some of that could be chalked up to a dismal offensive line in 2016, but McKinnon wasn’t much better behind a much better line in 2017.

Sherman said veteran Seahakws players had “kind of heard every story, every funny anecdote” that Carroll has to tell and that made it easier to tune them out even though those stories were big for team-building in earlier years. Sherman said he didn’t sign with the 49ers for a chance to prove his point about the Seahawks’ player evaluation twice a year, citing location and the 49ers’ level of interest as big factors in his ultimate choice. That won’t make it any less interesting the first time the two teams get together this fall, however.

Ravens free agent center Ryan Jensen, who visited the Buccaneers on Wednesday, is set to visit with the Indianapolis Colts, Rapoport reported.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

His roller-coaster career is moving on to its next set of peaks and valleys, but it won’t be in Foxborough.

In 2015, Malcolm Butler was a New England hero; an undrafted free agent rookie who made the biggest play in Super Bowl history to secure the Patriots’ victory in Super Bowl 49. Three years later, he saw exactly one snap as his team was picked apart by Eagles quarterback Nick Foles in a 41-33 Super Bowl 52 defeat.

On Tuesday, the former All-Pro cornerback agreed to a five-year, $61 million deal with the Tennessee Titans, that will include more than $30 million guaranteed, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. It’s the blockbuster contract he sought but never received from the Patriots.

It’s the next step on a four-year career that’s included three Super Bowl appearances. Butler broke into the league in 2014 as an undrafted free agent out of Division II West Alabama. slowly earning Bill Belichick’s trust before stepping up to intercept Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson late in the fourth quarter of a 28-24 Super Bowl win. He followed that up with a second-team All-Pro performance in his first year as a full-time starter, becoming a standout in a loaded Patriots defense.

Covered Vikings for Minneapolis Star Tribune, 1999-2008 Follow on Twitter Facebook Twitter Facebook Messenger Pinterest Email comment Welcome to the NFL’s annual scramble for top talent.

Less than two months remain before the 2018 draft (April 26-28), when teams will jockey for the prospects who will make up the majority of the league’s rosters in the coming years.

Free agency, of course, is a supplementary exercise.

What follows is a subjective ranking of the high-end players still available, and the ones who have already agreed to terms.

Crabtree’s receiving yards were significantly down from 2016, but he also had too many dropped passes to overlook.

He only caught 57.4 percent of the 101 passes that came his way, and he was tied (with teammate Jared Cook, among others) for ninth in the league with five dropped balls.

What Crabtree did on the field just didn’t live up to the expectations set by his contract.

He also served a one-game suspension after a little shoving and jawing with Talib turned into a full-blown fight.

Minnesota Vikings

In departure, Ndamukong Suh robs Dolphins of success once promised

Ndamukong Suh knew what was coming before the sun had even risen on the West Coast.

While apparently heading to an early Monday morning workout in his hometown of Portland, Suh posted a cryptic Twitter video.

With Judge and Stanton taking their cuts, advertisers are clamoring to buy time in YES’ “Batting Practice Today” pregame show. After Judge memorably cracked a TV camera thought to be unreachable above center field, “Batting Practice Today” posted its highest ratings ever last season. YES is also incorporating new technology into telecasts to better track tape-measure blasts this season.

Joe Thomas announced his retirement on Wednesday, and with that, a Hall of Fame career comes to its close.

There were just two constants for the Browns during Thomas’ 11-year career: They were generally not very good, and they had a constant revolving door at the quarterback position.

As a matter of fact, Thomas blocked for 20 different starting quarterbacks during his time in Cleveland.

Bradford has been solid for the Vikings when he’s been healthy enough to play. Minnesota brought him in via trade with the Eagles as a stopgap when Bridgewater went down with a gruesome knee injury before the 2016 season. Bradford completed 71.6 percent of his passes for 3,877 yards, 20 touchdowns, and just five picks. He completed 27 of 32 passes for 346 yards, three touchdowns, and no picks against the Saints in Week 1 before that knee injury derailed his season.

He showed similar promise with the Rams early in his career, but injuries slowed him down. If Bradford bounces back from the degenerative knee condition he dealt with last season, he has a shot to be a viable starter again.

“The question with Sam is two years ago he plays in 15 games, starts, and plays well,” Zimmer said. “This year, he plays in one game and gets hurt, so you go back and look at his track record.”

He’s had his ACL repaired in the same knee twice. That’s the knee that sidelined Bradford for most of last season. There was no structural damage, but Bradford did have to have surgery to clean up the knee. In theory, this is a cost-effective signing that gives the Cardinals a quality veteran starter. But Bradford’s health is the biggest question.

Minnesota Vikings

Upon landing Sherman, the Niners filled their biggest offseason need for help at cornerback.

They almost certainly aren’t done adding to the position that last year contributed to allowing a Total QBR of 87 last season, second-worst in the league, according to ESPN Stats & Information. At the NFL scouting combine, Lynch said it didn’t take a “savant” to see the team’s need at the position.

Once healthy, Sherman will be expected to start opposite Ahkello Witherspoon in the Niners’ Cover 3 defense. That scheme is similar to the one Seattle has run for many years and though the Seahawks have become a bit more diverse defensively in recent years, it’s still the foundation of what they’ve done.

As a bridge quarterback, Taylor is a massive upgrade on AJ McCarron, who seemed like an obvious target in free agency after the Browns tried to trade for him last season. Taylor is under contract for $16 million in 2018 before his contract automatically voids, so this will likely be a one-year deal if the Browns draft a quarterback. If he succeeds, the Browns shouldn’t have much trouble signing the 28-year-old to an extension during the season.

The latest: Cordy Glenn is headed to Cincy. Before that it was Richard Sherman, Tyrod Taylor, Jarvis Landry, Aqib Talib, Michael Bennett, and others on the move. Bill Barnwell evaluates every big move of the offseason.

On Saturday, Sherman met with more of the 49ers brass, including Lynch and Marathe. Included in the visit was a series of medical tests intended to give the Niners a better idea of how far along Sherman was in his recovery from not only the right Achilles injury but also from a more recent and minor surgery to clean up bone spurs in his left ankle/heel.

Ultimately, it became clear to Sherman that his best fit would be with his once-hated rival in San Francisco, a fit Sherman attributed to many things, including a desire to stay on the West Coast, the presence of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, Shanahan’s offensive scheme and, of course, the chance to play the Seahawks twice a year.

“Neither side really wanted to walk away without a deal because we felt like there was a great relationship and great understanding and something that both sides would benefit from,” he said on the conference call. “And we came to an agreement. It was awesome.”

Minnesota Vikings

Joe Maddon wants better plate discipline out of Javier Baez

The Cubs have been busy strengthening their rotation and bullpen this offseason, but Joe Maddon understands the lineup is important, too.

Second baseman Javier Baez flashed breakout potential last season, bashing 23 home runs with 75 RBIs, but the 25-year-old also struck out 144 times in just 469 at bats, often swing wildly at pitches out of the zone.

None of these things matter because Chris Archer is under contract for four more seasons, and those four seasons are very, very club friendly. Archer, a 29-year-old starter who has made more starts than any pitcher in baseball over the past four seasons (133) and has a 3.66 ERA/3.37 FIP in those years, is making just $6.25 million in 2018 and $7.5 million in 2019. There are two club options, for $9 million in 2020 and $11 million in 2021.

The Rays are not trading Chris Archer for anything less than what they feel is his full value as a player. They aren’t DFA’ing and then trading him to save a couple million bucks, like they did with Dickerson. They aren’t dealing him like they did Longoria because Archer doesn’t have no-trade power kicking in anytime soon (at all, actually).

Not because of some unseen weather forecast, but because Sandy Alderson and the Mets won the offseason. Crazy, right? Human sacrifices, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria. Since their World Series appearance, the Mets have been allergic to winning like that one kid in your first-grade class who was allergic to peanut butter.

That’s right, the Mets won the offseason. It’s like giving an Oscar to Uwe Boll. It just doesn’t happen.

Despite missing out on big-name free agents — which they have a near 1.000 average in — the Mets did a really good job of filling out their roster with some good, cost-efficient players.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

According to NFL.com, the extension is for three years at $36 million with $20 million guaranteed.

You can never have enough Cowboys in an NFL TV?booth, so it seems. Fox Sports is targeting?tight end Jason Witten?to become its new “Thursday Night Football” analyst, sources tell Sporting News.

Fox and ESPN spent February?pursuing Peyton Manning to call “TNF” and “Monday Night Football,” respectively,?offering him anunprecedented $10 million a year .?But if Manning doesn’t want to do TV, the 35-year-old Witten could step right off the playing field and into the TV booth for Fox.

Witten’s representatives declined to comment.?Fox also declined to comment.?

The Cowboys signed Witten to a?four-year contract extension in March?2017. His retirement would be a blow to a squad trying to play catch-up in the NFC East, having fallen behind the Super Bowl champion Eagles.

Although he turns 36 in May, Witten continues to play an important role in Dallas’ offense as an all-purpose tight end. He caught 63 passes for 560 yards and five touchdowns last year while also helping to create holes in the running game for Ezekiel Elliott. Witten’s durability also remains a plus with his streak of consecutive games now at 239.

Hayward then confirmed the report.

Hayward earned a Pro Bowl selection?and was a Second-Team All Pro selection in each of the last two seasons.?In 2016, he led the league with seven interceptions, becoming the first player in franchise history to accomplish that feat outright. He added four more interceptions last season.

Explained: Yes, a lot of good will come of asking a member of the Johnsonville Bratwursts how his 54-108 season went last year. Or what went wrong, because, you know, that will yield great results in an interview.

Minnesota Vikings

The New York Giants are letting Brad Wing fly into free agency.

The veteran punter was cut by the Giants on Saturday following an inconsistent 2017 campaign. Wing’s 36.7-yard net average ranked last among NFL punters and his 44.1-yard gross average left him in a tie for 24th last year for the struggling Giants .

New defensive coordinator Paul Guenther needs an explosive?disruptor in the mold of his best Bengals lineman, Geno Atkins. Justin Ellis is a free agent, as well, leaving tackle as a big?need for a unit?being reworked into a base 4-3.

Mayfield is the biggest wild card in the first round once Darnold, Allen and Rosen are off the board. The idea of Miami taking him for coach Adam Gase built some momentum at the Combine. The Dophins likely?have hit their ceiling with Ryan Tannehill. Mayfield offers a more dynamic opportunity.

Sherman said he wants to play for a contender, and the 49ers could be one rather quickly based on the success enjoyed by the team after acquiring Jimmy Garoppolo . Sherman discussed Friday on KIRO-AM in Seattle what he was looking for in a new team.

“I want to go to a contender,” Sherman said. “I play at a high level. I’ve always been a guy that can work well with others and continue to elevate if my teammates elevate and elevate others.

“…Would I go to a young secondary that is like we were when we were younger and help them grow and help them advance? Sure, if the number looks right and the situation is comfortable for me and my family.”

That second scenario sounds a lot like the 49ers .

Since the wild-card games were instituted in 2012, just two teams, the 2014-2015 Pirates and the 2012-2014 A’s, made the playoffs in consecutive years with a bottom-10 opening day payroll. One caveat, of course, is that some teams in that bottom tier raise payroll into the top 20 in July or August once contention is viewed as a possibility.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Russell Westbrook thought he was picked last by LeBron James

Russell Westbrook isn’t known as the best interviewee in the NBA, but his exchange with reporters Thursday was priceless.

With the NBA All-Star teams being selected by the leading vote-getters from each conference this year, players had no idea who they would be playing with Feb. 18. So when Westbrook found out he had been selected by LeBron James, he was excited, but at the same time, he wasn’t thrilled with where he was picked.

The reigning MVP then gave Anthony a piece of his mind.

“See? I told you man,” he yelled at his new teammate. “Alphabetical order man, of course I was first pick.”

No one knows who the first pick was, but with this reaction, who cares. Just watch it again and again. It’s great.

The Avalanche lost 4-3 at home to Nashville on Sunday.

Gustafsson was credited with opening the scoring 5:08 into the game.

The defenseman whipped a crisp pass from the top of the left circle toward Kane at the right side of the crease. Kane was covered by Colorado’s Patrik Nemeth, but the puck deflected off Nemeth’s left skate and into the net.

MacKinnon’s power-play goal with 3:42 left in the second tied it. After taking a cross-ice feed from Tyson Barrie, MacKinnon fired in a high shot from the left circle, beating Berube on the stick side as the goalie slid across the crease.

The most publicized issue to come out of the Cavaliers’ meeting this week was the team reportedly ganging up on All-Star forward Kevin Love. The most interesting item changed Thursday.

Isaiah Thomas is irritated, but more importantly, the Cavaliers’ new guard is frustrating his teammates, according to Joe Vardon of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer.

“The practice thing rubbed some guys the wrong way because, here’s Isaiah and he won’t let this practice thing go, ‘We don’t practice, we don’t practice,’ and the irony to some of the guys in the locker room was, ‘Wait a minute, you’re talking about how we don’t practice the day after games, but you Isaiah, are not allowed to play on back-to-back days, so how does this work? What were you supposed to do on these days that we’re not practicing if you’re not allowed to do the back to backs?'” Vardon said.