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Reports: Justin Ellis agrees to 3-year deal with Raiders to avoid free agency

The Oakland Raiders have agreed to a three-year contract worth more than $15 million to keep defensive tackle Justin Ellis off the free-agent market, according to multiple reports.

Ellis will be guaranteed at least $6 million, according to the reports.

The Rams appeared to enter the offseason with serious question marks at cornerback, but in a matter of two weeks, they’ve pieced together what might be the best cornerback duo in football. After trading for Marcus Peters, the Rams added another playmaking veteran on the outside by dealing a fifth-round pick to the Broncos for Talib, whose departure from Denver had been rumored since the end of the regular season.

Denver had clearly made the decision to promote fifth-year corner Bradley Roby into an every-down role at the expense of Talib, who failed to pick off more than one pass for the first time in his professional career last season. Given that decision, John Elway did well to create a market and pick up a fifth-round pick for a player the Broncos seemed likely to release. With Roby and Chris Harris Jr., the Broncos should still be set at cornerback for years to come, and Denver can put the $11 million they owed Talib toward a new deal for Roby and/or their bid for Kirk Cousins.

When the season ended, Kizer lamented the fact he would be remembered as the quarterback of an 0-16 team. After the season, Jackson said Kizer would be back and would compete for the starting spot. His trade is a bit of a surprise in that the Browns never gave any indication they were eager to move him.

Even after Friday’s deals, the Browns still have the Nos. 1, 4, 33, 35 and 64 picks in this year’s draft. The Bills now own two picks in each of the first three rounds: Nos. 21, 22, 53, 56, 65 and 96.

The stockpiling-draft-picks era of the Cleveland Browns has come to a close. With Sashi Brown fired and replaced by traditionalist general manager John Dorsey, it’s no surprise that the Browns put some of their record-setting draft capital to work by trading for a trio of veterans on Friday afternoon. In three separate deals, the Browns sent out midround selections in the 2018 and 2019 drafts along with former starting quarterback DeShone Kizer for three veterans who should help the team win in the short term. It’s not difficult to understand why the Browns made these trades, but it’s a sign that they’re stuck paying what amounts to a competitiveness tax.

In the case of their trades for Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor and Dolphins wideout Jarvis Landry, the Browns sent out draft picks to acquire a veteran they likely would not have been able to woo in free agency unless their markets totally failed to materialize.buccaneers_095

Phillies’ Will Middlebrooks taken to hospital after collision during game

Third baseman Will Middlebrooks suffered a leg injury during the Phillies’ spring training game against the Orioles Saturday and had to be taken to the hospital.

Middlebrooks, who is at the Phillies’ camp on a minor-league contract, slammed into left fielder Andrew Pullin as the two were trying to catch a fly ball. Middlebrook’s leg got tangled under Pullin and he appeared to be in a lot of pain.

The list isn’t very long, and the situations aren’t exactly like we’ve seen recently, but there are a couple instances in baseball history. Here are four examples (five, if you count a certain right-hander twice).

In the annals of American sports history, perhaps only Brett Favre rivals Roger Clemens when it comes to “will he or won’t he retire?” drama. He initially announced his intentions to retire after the 2003 season, but instead decided to sign with the Astros, and he won the 2004 NL Cy Young at 42 years old. He again hinted strongly at retirement that offseason but came back and was even better in 2005, posting a 1.87 ERA in 32 starts and helping the Astros reach the World Series for the first time in franchise history.

The Angels plan to use Ohtani, 23, as part of a six-man rotation in the regular season and then, depending on his workload, work him into the everyday lineup as a DH.

“He’s going to get the most looks as a pitcher,” Scioscia said when camp opened last week (via USA Today). “If he can pitch to his capabilities, that will always influence your team more than what he would do hitting. But that’s not to say he won’t have a chance to be a difference-maker on the offensive end, too.”

Ohtani can touch 100 mph with his fastball, and he hit 22 home runs two years ago in Japan’s Pacific League.

Early in the offseason, Cobb seemed like a hot commodity almost being overvalued by teams. Now, as the calendar turns to March, Cobb remains unsigned and undervalued. The turn in events seemingly had little to do with Cobb, who went 12-10 with a 3.66 ERA last season. The former Rays starter looks like an ideal No. 3 on a contending team, capable of ace-like starts when healthy.buccaneers_030

Yankees’ Hal Steinbrenner: ‘People are concerned about us’

“That’s a big contract, a lot of money, and we already have a few outfielders,” Steinbrenner said. “But I was very interested in the idea because if you have chance to get a player like him, you’ve got to look at it.”

“David Kaval has had a huge positive impact on the A’s. What’s your take on that? I’m in Virginia and will stay up late to watch A’s games.” — @pol_4_infinite8

That’s tough. It would be tempting to say Lance Lynn or Alex Cobb to add a frontline starter who could anchor a young rotation (Jake Arrieta would be too expensive), but I’d make a move strictly with 2018 in mind. One thing the Braves definitely need this season is pop in the lineup. Apart from Freddie Freeman, there doesn’t look to be a consistent home run source — unless/until Ronald Acu?a becomes an everyday player.

J.D. Martinez is gone to the Red Sox and with him the 29 home runs in just 62 games with the Diamondbacks last season (after coming over from Detroit in July).

But the Diamondbacks hardly missed a beat, announcing Monday that they had agreed to a two-year, $7.5 million deal with Jarrod Dyson shortly after the Red Sox announced a five-year, $110 million contract with Martinez, clearly out of Arizona’s price range, then reportedly acquiring Steven Souza from the Rays on Tuesday in a three-team deal.

“To the extent that we see what we think are upwards of a third of the league,” Clark said. “Some of which have voiced their interest, or lack thereof, publicly in regards to the value of winning, or the value of competing day in and day out, that’s where our concern comes from.”

Clark, the head of the MLBPA, was particularly miffed with the changes Manfred made in regards to pace of play and limiting mound visits to six per game per team.

“There was no agreement on what was put in place,” Clark told reporters at Pirates’ camp Thursday, via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “As a matter of fact, I’ll go so far as to suggest there were fundamental disagreements over what makes the most sense moving forward.”

While the players and union may not like the rules put in place, the way the changes were made were what bothered one Pirates pitcher.seahawks_123_09e47cbf345250a6-180x180

After receiving the franchise tag, Landry is due to make more than $16 million in 2018.

Landry , 25, has been one of the NFL’s most productive receivers in his four seasons in the NFL with 400 receptions for 4,038 yards and 22 touchdowns. He led the NFL in receptions in 2017 with 112 and earned a spot in the Pro Bowl for a third consecutive season.

But now he’ll bring that to Cleveland, where the Browns are trying to rebuild an offense of a team that went 0-16 in 2017. Shortly after trading for Landry, the Browns also traded for quarterback Tyrod Taylor .

With the leverage on his side, and three consecutive Pro Bowls under his belt, the Dolphins were going to be forced to make Landry one of the highest-paid wide receivers in the NFL if they aimed to keep him for the long-term.

That just wasn’t a price tag the Dolphins — a team that is near the bottom of the league in cap space — wanted to pay.

There were also reports that the organization was becoming increasingly frustrated with the receiver, who was described to the Miami Herald as a “pain” and “hard to reach.” That, however, may have been the Dolphins’ attempt to cut away at the value of Landry to get him at a more affordable price. Either way, Landry didn’t appreciate it.

Lawrence is the only one of the Cowboys’ recent additions who has developed into the pass rusher the team need. Losing him wasn’t an option.

“Our first goal is to sign him to a long-term deal, obviously,” Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said at the Senior Bowl, via the Fort Worth Star-Telegram . “To me, the only reason you use a franchise tag is to hopefully protect yourself if you can’t get a long-term deal signed that you like. That’s normally the route we like to go.

“Certainly, we’re going to roll up our sleeves and see if we can do something with DeMarcus without having a franchise tag.”

That did not come to fruition, but it doesn’t mean a multi-year deal won’t be in place soon. For now, the Cowboys did what was necessary to make sure one of the best pass rushers in the NFL stayed in Dallas at least for one more year and likely more.seahawks_121_94a49af8144fd5aa-180x180

Kevin Durant after ejection: Officials T’ing up players to get back at them

Warriors forward Kevin Durant said his ejection Tuesday was the result of official James Williams getting personal, something Durant believes is part of a trend in the NBA.

Durant told reporters after his team’s victory over the Knicks that Williams was looking to toss him “because he was still in his feelings” over Durant telling Williams in the first half he was wrong to call Durant for carrying.

Although Adebayo doesn’t have the upside of fellow rookies Ben Simmons, Jayson Tatum or Donovan Mitchell, there’s no doubt he has a future in the NBA as a starting center. He’s a remarkable athlete and an elite defensive prospect who can do enough offensively at this stage of his development to stay on the floor. There is some skill overlap with Hassan Whiteside, but Adebayo has the potential to replace Whiteside when he becomes a free agent in 2020 — and possibly sooner if Whiteside turns down his player option following the 2018-2019 season, or if the Heat decide to trade him.

Thomas has been the focus of controversy this week as there were reports he led the charge against Love in a heated team meeting Monday. Then it came out a couple of days later that teammates were frustrated with their point guard.

Players apparently had grown tired of Thomas harping on the team’s defense and not practicing enough. They pointed out he wasn’t allowed to practice on back-to-back days or play on back-to-backs, according to the Cleveland Plain-Dealer.

Despite those facts, Thomas once again complained about the team’s defense and deflected blame from himself Saturday.

“We’ve been a lowest five [rated] defensive team in the NBA the whole time [this season],” Thomas told reporters. “So when I come back, it’s my fault now. Which, life isn’t fair, but that’s not fair, bro. At all.”lions_020

Golf cart to bring in relief pitchers is reborn with Diamondbacks

The bullpen car is coming back after being gone for an entire generation of baseball fans.

The Arizona Diamondbacks will use a helmet-clad golf cart for the first time since the vehicle left Major League Baseball more than two decades ago.

“I think it wore out its welcome,” Diamondbacks president and CEO Derrick Hall said. “There were these new stadiums, and the focus shifted to the guys running through gates and onto the mound. We think the time is right to bring it back.”

“Everyone was used to watching the carts with the hats on them as a kid,” said Diamondbacks bullpen coach Mike Fetters, who pitched for the 1995 Brewers. “I think what happened is that a couple guys who came in on it, got lit up and then it became a superstitious thing to stay off it.”

Within a few years, relievers started having entrance songs, including New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera, who adopted Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” in 1999.

Fetters said he thinks today’s pitchers will give the bullpen cart a try, though the Diamondbacks won’t tell the pitchers what to do.

“Whatever makes them comfortable,” he said. “We’re not going to force it.”

The Diamondbacks’ carts will come from the bullpens onto the warning track, head down the first- and third-base lines and stop at the dugout. The pitchers will then make their way to the mound.

MLB’s only rule regarding the bullpen cart is that it must be offered equally to both the home and visiting pitchers and that using the cart doesn’t grant the pitcher any extra warm-up time.

Leo Howell: As Eric mentions above, I have long been a fan of McCullers, and I think he has the most upside here. The first half of 2017 showed us his ceiling, and it’s backed up by some fantastic stuff in his arsenal.

You can’t use any one statistic without context, but even with his poor second half post-injury, McCullers finished with an FIP of 3.10 — right in line with his totals from the previous two seasons. Among pitchers with 100 or more innings pitched, that ranks No. 10 for 2017. He’s a special talent with all of the upside in the world, and as long as he’s not the first pitcher on my roster, he’s always the name I’ll select around this spot in the draft, happily taking the gamble on his health and consistency.

Fantasy baseball isn’t as straightforward as fantasy football, which is almost always played in a head-to-head format in which everything earns you points and the manager with the most points wins. Our three most popular formats of fantasy baseball offer different experiences, and our experts provide you with an overview of each to help you decide and prepare.lions_085

The Titans aren’t the only team trying to replicate the Patriot Way.

Lions GM Bob Quinn, New England’s former director of player personnel, got his first chance to a hire a head coach and went after a Belichick disciple. Patricia had been the Patriots’ defensive coordinator since 2012, winning two Super Bowls and appearing in three.

Reeling in a top-flight pass rusher is an expensive prospect. Calais Campbell only left Arizona after securing $15 million per year and $30 million in guarantees from the Jaguars. In 2018, players like Ziggy Ansah and Demarcus Lawrence will fill that role as well-compensated defensive ends (though they both could end up getting the franchise tag).

Lynch doesn’t necessarily need to pay a prohibitively expensive quarterback crusher yet. Buckner and Thomas were both reliable pass rushers in college who still have time to develop as they head into their third and second years in the NFL, respectively. Lynch would still be smart to chase some veteran talent who can add more punch up front, even if it means overspending on short-term deals. Players who fit that bill include Adrian Clayborn, Alex Okafor, Connor Barwin, or Lamarr Houston.

You can only do so much, Jones said. These are grown men. I have a lot of confidence that Zeke has learned a lot. Hopefully he has. Because if he has and he changes his behavior and he’s able to stay on the field, we all know he can be one of the greatest to ever play the game, if he takes care of himself and takes care of his business off the field. I think Zeke wants that. He’s a competitor. I think he wants to be one of the best. He certainly knows that he’s got to take care of business, too.

We’ve had great players that have had to do better before. Michael [Irvin] will tell you that he had to learn valuable lessons, but he turned out to be a Hall of Famer. I think if Zeke will pay attention and do the right things off the field and be responsible then he can certainly have an amazing career.

Speaking of power-play quarterback roles, the Rangers aren’t guaranteed to get back Kevin Shattenkirk soon and there is talk of shipping out Ryan McDonagh. Skjei surprised with 39 points last season but has been under-utilized this season with Shattenkirk and McDonagh around. If he is the last defenseman standing after the deadline next week, the power play will be all his — at least until Shattenkirk is healed.patriots_033

Anthony Davis: Pelicans would have contended for title if DeMarcus Cousins not hurt

As New Orleans star Anthony Davis prepares for the second half of the season with the Pelicans holding on to the eighth seed in the Western Conference, he still thinks about what could have been this year had teammate DeMarcus Cousins not ruptured his Achilles.

“You kind of have that Russell Westbrook mentality when [Kevin Durant] went out,” Davis said. “Russ just went out there and played, and he shot 40 shots sometimes, you know, whatever it takes to help your team win, and I’m kind of taking that approach.

“I think it’s 3 through 10 is all right there [in the West], so we want to make sure we’re in the mix. We can’t let this thing go away.”

Davis said the Pelicans have been playing for one another — “playing with a lot more energy, a sense of urgency” — but that simply making the playoffs isn’t good enough.

“I’ve done that before, and nobody talks about it. Nobody talks about it at all,” he said. “I feel like we can do more. We have to. You know, they all say basketball is a game of runs. This might be our run. You know, you don’t know, and you just got to play it out and see where it goes from there.”

Editor’s update: Super Bowl 52 blew past the over/under with relative ease. The point total was set between 48 and 48.5 points, depending on your sportsbook of choice. This game went past the number late in the third quarter on a Tom Brady touchdown pass to Chris Hogan. With the score, the Patriots cut the Eagles lead to 29-26.

Neither defense has really shown a whole lot of much in this game. The Eagles have led since kicking a field goal on their opening drive. They have pushed the lead to double digits three different times, but the Patriots keep clawing back as Brady is on pace to surpass his own record for passing yards.

The New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles will collide on Sunday for the NFL’s richest prize: a Super Bowl crown. Super Bowl 52 will take place in Minnesota, and many analysts and fans believe the Patriots will walk away with their sixth Super Bowl victory.

Odd Shark’s predicts New England will win the game, 29.3–16.9. They also favored the Patriots by 4.5 points. The best over for Super Bowl 52 is 48 (-105), and the best under is 48.5 (-105).jays_596_d34162f049e5e40e-180x180

NFL Honors 2018 live stream: How to watch the awards show online

Tom Brady will almost certainly be your 2017 NFL MVP. The rest of the league’s year-end awards? They won’t be settled until the NFL Honors show, 24 hours before Brady plays in his eighth Super Bowl. The NFL Honors take place at the Northrop Memorial Auditorium at the University of Minnesota at 5 p.m. local time, but will be broadcast on tape delay on NBC (live stream at NBC Sports) at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Saturday.

Important distinctions like the league’s top rookies, defenders, offensive threats, and the Walter Payton Man of the Year will all be handed down on the eve of the Super Bowl.

The event will also unveil the newest class of NFL Hall of Fame inductees. This year’s finalists are Ray Lewis, Brian Urlacher, Edgerrin James, Randy Moss, Terrell Owens, Isaac Bruce, John Lynch, Brian Dawkins, Everson Walls, Ty Law, Tony Boselli, Kevin Mawae, Joe Jacoby, Steve Hutchinson, Alan Faneca, Robert Brazile, Jerry Kramer, and Bobby Beathard.

The broadcast kicks off at 9 p.m. ET. The awards will be hosted by Rob Riggle, whom viewers may recognize from his role as “not Frank Caliendo” from Fox’s pregame show.

Another option if the NFL is looking for a big Super Bowl halftime show reunion would be to have Timberlake call upon his old bandmates from NSYNC.

People have been discussing the potential for an NSYNC reunion ever since Timberlake was named the headliner for the Super Bowl halftime show back in the fall. In November, JC Chasez told US Weekly, “I always keep an open mind,” when talking about the possibility of a Super Bowl halftime NSYNC reunion.

This wouldn’t be new territory for the defunct boyband, as they performed at the 2001 Super Bowl alongside Aerosmith, Britney Spears, Nelly and Mary J. Blige.

Former bandmate Joey Fatone — a Giants fan — also says the gang won’t be getting back together at the Super Bowl.

“I’m here right now,” Fatone told TMZ Sports the weekend before the Super Bowl when they spotted him in Los Angeles. “If I was doing something, I’d be at rehearsals right now … there’s your proof.”bears_087-223x223

Celtics strong out of the break, rout Pistons 110-98

Daniel Theis did his part to add to Germany’s big day.

The Boston rookie scored a career-high 19 points to lift the Celtics to a 110-98 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Friday night. Afterward, Theis tried to bring some attention to a surprising Olympic victory for his native country.

Any deal the Cardinals offer Cousins would have to be back-loaded, at least after Year 1, when their salary-cap situation improves drastically starting in 2019.

With new coach Steve Wilks wanting to be aggressive in free agency, the Cardinals would have to give themselves enough breathing room to chase other players as well. Cutting tackle Jared Veldheer, guard Mike Iupati and linebacker Deone Bucannon would create about $21 million more in space, giving Arizona about $43.5 million left to use — enough to give Cousins a sizable and back-loaded contract that doesn’t weigh down Arizona’s cap in 2018.

“I’ll be wearing No. 22 from here on out,” Nance Jr. said during an impromptu news conference in the Cavs locker room before the team’s 110-103 loss to the Washington Wizards on Thursday. “My dad’s jersey will get to stay retired in the rafters, so, I couldn’t be happier with it. I think that starts next week, and I’m thrilled. I’ve been wearing 22 my whole life, and to get to wear it for the Cleveland Cavaliers is beyond a dream come true.”

Nance Jr., who joined Cleveland following a deal with the Los Angeles Lakers at the trade deadline, initially chose No. 24 to “make it easy for everybody.” He was also concerned that if he chose No. 22, that would mean his father’s No. 22 banner would have to come down from the rafters at Quicken Loans Arena.

Over the All-Star break, the Cavs organization revisited the uniform situation and got approval from their marketing department, the front office, the league and Nike in order to make the swap, according to a team spokesman. The league typically does not allow a player to switch his uniform number midseason, but Nance Jr. was granted an exception as a legacy.

Nance Jr., who competed in the dunk contest over All-Star Weekend wearing a replica of his father’s No. 22 Phoenix Suns jersey as he re-created his father’s famous “rock the cradle” slam, was proud to share the news with his dad.jaguars_009-223x223