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Report: Crabtree’s 1st free-agent visit will be Ravens

After being released by the Oakland Raiders on Thursday, wide receiver Michael Crabtree is scheduled for his first free-agent visit with the Baltimore Ravens on Friday, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter. The Ravens have put an emphasis on the receiver position this offseason, already adding John Brown and Ryan Grant and releasing veteran Jeremy Maclin. Crabtree, 30, showed he could still be a productive player in his ninth season, catching 58 passes for 618 yards and eight touchdowns through 14 games as the Raiders had a down year in 2017.

“I look forward to playing here,” Cousins said during his introductory news conference Thursday. “As [general manager Rick [Spielman] said yesterday, this is a lifetime deal. That’s the goal. Yes, it’s a three-year deal but the expectation is from both sides that we’d raise our kids here and if everything goes as planned that I’d be here a long, long time.”

Entering his seventh season, Cousins has ranked as one of the NFL’s top 10 quarterbacks since 2015, measuring third in completion percentage and game-winning drives. This and more played a big role in pushing him to the very top of NFL.com’s Top 101 Free Agents of 2018.

But this day was about Smith, not Cousins, who becomes a part of the franchise’s history.

“We’re not looking in the rearview mirror,” said Williams, the Redskins’ senior vice president of player personnel. “We’re going forward, and that’s where we are today. Everything is going forward, nothing behind us.”

The Redskins wanted it to be a special occasion. Williams used the word “historic” to describe the day to a packed auditorium, and the news conference was timed to be televised live on local TV.

Robinson and Watkins got paid most, but Richardson (five years, $40 million from the Redskins) and Wilson (three years, $24 million from the Dolphins) can’t complain about averaging $8 million in annual salary coming off limited production.canucks_003

Sam Bradford has made so much money in his NFL career, holy crap

Sam Bradford is set to make up to $20 million this year as the starting quarterback for the Arizona Cardinals. That will bring his lifetime earnings to over $134 million. That’s absolutely astonishing when you think about the path he’s taken and that he has never taken his team to the playoffs or even made the Pro Bowl.

Bradford was drafted first overall by the Rams in 2010. Although his career has been marred by injury, he’s still been paid like a top pick throughout it. That’s not changing with his latest deal in Arizona, either. Let’s look at Bradford’s career and compensation by the numbers.

His first deal signed before the current CBA put a rookie wage scale into effect was the priciest ever for a rookie. The $78 million deal carried $50 million in guarantees and had escalators that could have maxed it out at $86 million. The early returns were promising: Bradford broke Peyton Manning’s record for the most completed passes by a rookie and was named the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year.

The Rams didn’t end up paying out that much, though. Spotrac shows that Bradford earned over $65 million with the Rams, which is still a whole damn lot, especially when you consider the following:

Bradford was on the field for all but one game in his first season with the Vikings. He played well, finishing with 3,877 passing yards, 20 touchdowns, and five picks. His second season started strong, with a 346-yard, three-touchdown performance against the Saints in Week 1. But wear and tear on his knee cost him most of the rest of the 2017 season.

The Vikings went 9-8 with Bradford as the starter. That’s over $1.47 million per start and $2.78 million per win.
He made $5,876 per passing yard and $1.088 million per touchdown.
Quarterback salaries have skyrocketed, and teams have no choice but to throw outrageous amounts of money at players they think can be viable starters. If we were to break down any quarterback’s pay per win or touchdown or any other key stat, the numbers would be astronomical. That’s the nature of the position right now.

When Bradford has been healthy, he’s generally played well. And it’s not like he tricked teams into giving him these deals. None of this is Bradford’s fault.

But injuries have kept him from reaching his potential and turned him into a bit of a journeyman. He’s never started a playoff game with any team and he hasn’t finished with a winning record as a starter in even one of his eight seasons. That’s why it is staggering to look at the fact that the Cardinals are handing him another $20 million for the 2018 season with an option to hold on to him for $20 million more in 2019. Ravens safety Eric Weddle agrees.

But the Cardinals need a quarterback, so they’re willing to gamble on Bradford. And who knows? If he stays healthy and plays up to his first overall pick potential, he’ll be worth every penny.packers_096

MLB 2018: Mets must add to habitually unhealthy rotation to reach contender status

It may not seem like it after a 92-loss season that was preceded by similar sentiments, but if all goes well this team can at least make a run at a wild card.

Of course, the Mets have a history of things not going well, especially on the injury front. It’s why 2017 went from hopeful to tragic in the blink of an eye. It’s why sticking with the rotation they have now, one filled with talented but often-hurt pitchers, would be a disappointing waste to what has otherwise been a quietly successful offseason.

Kyle Fuller, CB 2017 team: Chicago Bears | Age: 26 The Bears declined Fuller’s fifth-year option for 2018 based on his 2016 knee injury, but on Tuesday they decided to use the transition tag to maintain some control over his movement.

The Bears can match any offer he might receive.

The tag itself is worth $12.97 million.

Wilson, who is expected to appear at the team’s Grapefruit League camp in Tampa later this month, took to Twitter to share the news and thank the Rangers for giving him the opportunity to play.

“I want to personally thank the Texas Rangers and (GM) Jon Daniels for drafting me and giving me the chance to experience professional baseball again,” Wilson said in a statement. “Growing up taking grounders, hitting BP, and throwing deep post routes in football early in the mornings at 6 am with my dad and brother is where my love of sports came from and those memories stick with me every morning I wake up. During my two springs with the Rangers, I was reminded just how much I love the game.

“While football is my passion and my livelihood, baseball remains a huge part of where I came from and who I am today. I’ve learned so much on the baseball field that translates to my game physically and mentally playing Quarterback in the NFL. I thank the Rangers and their great fans for making me feel at home and a part of the family! While I embrace the chance to be a New York Yankee, I will forever be grateful to be a part of a world class organization like the Texas Rangers.”

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman described the move as a “unique opportunity for us to learn from an extraordinary athlete.”packers_009

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