After his first franchise tag, Cousins had made more than $22.5 million in the NFL.

Philadelphia’s defense was one of the league’s best last year. The unit finished 2017 ranked No. 3 in the league and shut down ground games with the top-ranked run defense. The Eagles’ free agency addition of defensive end Chris Long helped with that. Long had 28 tackles, five sacks, and four forced fumbles playing in rotation.

Center Stefen Wisniewski was set to hit free agency in 2017, but the Eagles retained him to anchor a line that analyst and former NFL center Shaun O’Hara rated as the league’s best unit last year. They also kept tight end Trey Burton, who threw that touchdown pass that Foles caught in the Super Bowl.

Until we see otherwise, Cousins is less likely to change the market for players than he is to change it for veteran quarterbacks who have already made life-changing sums of money.

He might very well have taken a reasonable extension if Washington had offered one.

Just as Tom Brady chose the privilege of taking below-market deals after making a fortune over his first three NFL contracts, quarterbacks like Cousins are likely to be the only ones who will have the leverage and the slow aging curve required to bet on themselves and wait to make this sort of deal.

Verdugo has the previously mentioned above-average hit tool and the potential for power, though it has not translated to in-game just yet. Even if it doesn’t, Verdugo’s plate approach belies his years and professional experience.

In his short stint last season, Verdugo struck out only 16 percent of the time, but this was up significantly from his usual rate in the minor leagues. Prior to being recalled to the majors, Verdugo was striking out only 10 percent of the time in Triple-A.

With the glove, Verdugo has a strong arm and has shown that he can handle all three outfield spots, though right and center are more natural fits. That presents a problem, with Chris Taylor who had something of a breakout of his own last season blocking the way in center, and Yasiel Puig doing the same in right. But regardless, Verdugo’s potential with the bat is legit, so Dave Roberts is going to find him room in the lineup in 2018.

Baker Mayfield’s NFL Draft stock continued to rise Wednesday.

During Oklahoma’s Pro Day, the 2017 Heisman Trophy winner didn’t run, jump or participate in any other agility tests. Rather, Mayfield showed off his arm in a series of throwing drills and the results were strong. He completed 62 of 70 scripted throws, with one drop.

“I think I put myself in a good position today,” Mayfield said.

Other than a drunken arrest in Arkansas last winter, a cocky moment of celebration with an OU flag at Ohio Stadium and a loss of composure on the sideline at Kansas, Mayfield’s stock has been trending up since his senior season got underway. Since the offseason began, that trend has picked up steam.

Denver has a pair of talented wideouts in Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas, but unlike the duo of Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, the Broncos’ wideouts are on the wrong side of 30 and declining as opposed to improving.

Each team has invested plenty in their offensive lines, but the jury’s decidedly still out on Denver’s Menelik Watson and Garett Bolles, with the 25-year-old Bolles committing 12 penalties and allowing 8.5 sacks during his debut season at left tackle.

Analysis:?Jay Gruden gets a vertical threat to help fill the DeSean Jackson role in his offense. Washington needed some kind of shift in its receiving corps after Terrelle Pryor fell flat as a free-agent addition and Josh Doctson didn’t quite take off as hoped. Richardson is an ascending talent, but this is a rich contract for a player who has 95 catches in four years.

Analysis:?GM Ryan Pace is intent to lift the league’s worst passing attack, and he’s off to a good start. WR Allen Robinson was the real prize, but Burton could thrive in Matt Nagy’s attack, which has proven to provide plenty of opportunities for TEs. Burton will have to establish a connection with second-year QB Mitchell Trubisky and compete with Adam Shaheen for playing time, but his potential is high.?canucks_002

Report: Bills to re-sign Travaris Cadet to one-year deal

“It really gives me a chance to show the rest of the team who the leader of the franchise is. It’s going to be Tyrod Taylor,” Jackson told reporters. “We’re going to get in line with him and follow him and he’s going to lead this organization to winning.”

Cousins’ contract comes with a base salary of $22.5 million in 2018, $27.5 million in 2019, and $29.5 million in 2020 with resulting cap hits of $24 million, $29 million, and $31 million in the next three seasons. He can be franchise tagged a final time in 2021 but it would cost the Vikings $44.64 million, according to The MMQB’s Albert Breer.

Cousins and his agent first approached the Washington Redskins in 2016 with the idea of a three-year, fully guaranteed contract, Breer adds, but the club opted instead to franchise tag him for two seasons.

Cleveland acquired Taylor from the Buffalo Bills in exchange for a third-round pick last week. He’ll turn 29 in August and is coming off a 2017 season in which he recorded 2,799 passing yards, 14 touchdowns, and four interceptions with a completion rate of 62.6 percent. He added another 427 yards and four touchdowns as a rusher. Taylor has never played a full 16-game season in his three years as a starter.

And while Cleveland lost franchise stalwart Joe Thomas to retirement, they signed right tackle Chris Hubbard to a five-year, $37.5 million deal, taking him away from division opponent Pittsburgh. They also added tight end Daniel Fells, whose specialty is blocking. If the Browns nail their draft, they could turn things around in a hurry. 2) Chicago Bears The Bears wanted to give Mitch Trubisky some serious options next season, and they have succeeded at doing so. Chicago signed wide receiver Allen Robinson to a 3-year, $42 million deal with $25 million guaranteed.

But regardless of what happens in the draft, Jackson said, the starter will be Taylor, whom the Browns acquired in a trade with the Buffalo Bills earlier this month. Jackson, who has won just one game in two seasons as Cleveland’s head coach, said it is the first time in his coaching career that he’s decided on a starting quarterback at this point in the offseason. 

Wright identified two potential emerging players in safeties Bradley McDougald and Tedric Thompson.

“Watching what he did off the field was just amazing,” Wright said. “He stood up when things were going on with police brutality and the stuff he does with his football camp and the way he stepped up to lead this team whenever we faced controversy.”

Besides having to replace all the talent, Wright said the Seahawks must now form camaraderie with new players and with backups being elevated to more prominent roles.

“You don’t get mad or upset at management,” said the 28-year-old Wright, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent himself in 2019. “It’s just that when a guy leaves like Sherm, for example, you have to rebuild that chemistry with someone else.”

Wright said the recently re-signed McDougald “is going to be tremendous for us” and pointed to Thompson having gotten “a few interceptions” off quarterback Russell Wilson during practice last season as a rookie.

“This is the NFL. A lot of guys are real talented,” Wright said. “I believe we have people who will step up for us.”

He has also been one of the league’s worst goal-line backs over the past two seasons.

There’s always a non-zero chance that a player like this takes a sudden leap forward in a new situation — Marshawn Lynch in Seattle is the famous example — but far more frequently, teams stifle their chances at finding a guy who will actually make a difference for them at running back at a fraction of the cost.

Crowell is more likely to block a useful Jets halfback than be one.

CB TJ Carrie, Browns Grade: C In a move which makes the Terrance Mitchell deal even more curious, GM John Dorsey made another move at cornerback by signing away Carrie from Oakland.

The 27-year-old gets four years and $31 million with $10 million in guarantees, suggesting he’ll challenge Jamar Taylor for a starting role across from Jason McCourty.

Carrie is a Bay Area native who suggested he didn’t want to leave Oakland, so it’s perhaps telling that the Raiders released both of their starting cornerbacks from last season and didn’t think it was worth matching this offer for a guy who was their best corner last season.

With Yu Darvish signing, National League tilts in Cubs’ favor

From a postseason perspective, one of the most notable advantages to signing Darvish might come from who this leaves to pitch a Game 4 for the Cubs, Dodgers and Nationals. In Los Angeles, that’s probably Kenta Maeda, in Washington that’s probably Tanner Roark, and in Chicago that’s probably three-time World Series champion Jon Lester. The last man on that list has more career innings in the postseason than Maeda had during the 2017 regular season, and Roark has only made one postseason start in his career.

If/when Darvish gets the ball this October, he’ll get his shot to silence critics who arose after his final two starts in the 2017 postseason. And with his decision this weekend, there’s a good chance he has put himself, and the Cubs, in position to take that shot all the way to the World Series.

“I try to find positive things and blessings in everything that happens,” Rivera said Tuesday at the Thurman Munson Awards Dinner to benefit the AHRC New York City Foundation. “Surgery, usually people are down, but my main goal was I’m having a baby. I get to spend more time with my wife and I’ll get to spend more time with the baby when she gets here.”

Here for two months now, Rivera’s newborn daughter has provided him with a new perspective.

He had forced his way into the lineup and was playing well when his 2017 season ended in July. In 73 games, he slashed .290/.330/.430 with five homers and 27 RBIs while playing first, second, third and the outfield.

Had he kept playing like that, he could have factored into the Mets’ infield plans for 2018. Instead, he got hurt and New York proceeded as if he would not be around, re-signing Jose Reyes and adding Todd Frazier and Adrian Gonzalez.

Rivera is not yet sure when he will begin throwing again or when he will be back. Surgery has taken a mental toll on him, but he’s fortunate to have a new outlet in which he can channel his energy: Ava Rose. packers_164

With Richard Sherman on the way out of Seattle, oddsmakers have already reacted.

At the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook, the Seahawks began the day as 25/1 long shots to win it all next season, the same as the 49ers, Chargers, and Chiefs. Within hours of Sherman’s release, those odds had slipped all the way to 30/1, placing the Seahawks in the same boat as the Panthers and Broncos.?

Bovada noted that Wilson’s presence will keep the Seahawks’ Super Bowl odds somewhat stable. The NFC West, however, isn’t the doormat it has been in recent seasons. Sean McVay led a resurgence in Los Angeles last year, the 49ers caught fire down the stretch behind new franchise quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, and the Cardinals still have a playoff-caliber defense. Few will count Seattle out completely, but winning their division, much less another Super Bowl, could prove to be a challenge with a new-look roster.

Arizona may feel that it’s a quarterback away, so it may make a heavy run towards Cousins. The Cardinals don’t have the money that the Vikings do at the moment, but the Vikings have a lot of players on young contracts that they’ll have to pay. With that in mind, the Cardinals may be able to give Cousins longevity. It would depend on how competitive he views Arizona, and if he believes the Cardinals truly are “a quarterback away.” The Vikings made it to the NFC Championship Game last year, so that will be hard to challenge.

Cousins threw for 4,093 yards, 27 touchdowns and 13 interceptions in 2017 before the Redskins agreed on a trade for Alex Smith. Although Cousins is still technically a Redskin until March 14, he’s not expected to suit up in burgundy next year.

Johnny Manziel is desperate for a return to the NFL, so it should come as no surprise that he would love to join the New England Patriots if given the opportunity. A TMZ cameraman ran into Manziel outside a restaurant in Los Angeles over the weekend and asked the former Heisman Trophy winner whether he would go to New England, which was suggested by an NFL Network analyst. Manziel said he would “in a heartbeat.”

Giants, NFL aware of Odell Beckham Jr. video

The New York Giants and the NFL are aware of a potentially troubling video involving wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. that was leaked Friday while he was on a Nike-sponsored trip in Europe.

Suh has a history of being fined for player-safety violations. The only two games Suh missed in his career were due to a suspension after he stomped on then-Green Bay Packers offensive lineman Evan Dietrich-Smith in 2011. Suh was initially suspended for Detroit’s playoff game against the Dallas Cowboys in 2015 before his suspension was overturned and replaced with a $70,000 fine for stepping on the calf and ankle of Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

Timmons, 31, signed a two-year, $12 million contract with the Dolphins last offseason, leaving the Pittsburgh Steelers after 10 years with the team. He recorded 677 tackles and 35.5 sacks during his time with the Steelers.

Said Brady: “When we met, I was 29, 30 years old, and I thought, ‘Man, if I could get to 40, it’d be amazing.’ It’d be a great career — 18 years in the NFL, learned a lot, and it’s been such a great love for me. I love the sport, I love the competition, I love my teammates, I love working with people that I love to work with. So that part is really hard to give up, especially when I feel like I can do it, and I look around the league and see these other quarterbacks and I’m thinking, ‘Man, I can do what they do.’ I want to continue to do it the best I can because it really brings a lot of joy to my life.”

Brees also praised Strief in an Instagram post:

Honored to be a part of Zach Strief’s retirement ceremony today in New Orleans. An incredible teammate, leader and man. Epitomizes everything that is good about our game. Love you brother. Gonna miss you greatly. But we are all better for having had the chance to play alongside you.

Strief’s retirement wasn’t a surprise, since he tore his ACL and MCL last year. He has also repeatedly expressed his confidence (and relief) that first-round draft pick Ryan Ramczyk is ready to take over his job.

How much does Sherman have left in the tank?

Sherman will supply San Francisco with a mentor who can help Ahkello Witherspoon and any other additions reach their full potential in the 49ers’ secondary.

The concern about the signing — and the reason the Seahawks were so willing to part with Sherman — is the fact that end could be near.

Translation: “My name is John McThirteenthprospect, and I know I have no shot at making the team this year. But I’ll say the right things anyway.”

Explained: For guys like McThirteenthprospect, spring training is a tryout for the big-league squad, even though everyone knows there’s no shot the team is going to risk service time and a 40-man roster spot on a guy whose major-league ETA is 2022.

So of course, this is the guy who’s going to steal bases, attempt the diving catch on a ball hit 30 feet from him and try to make his mark on a game whenever possible, including in a post-game press conference.

Then, come the end of spring training, everyone talks about his “grit” and “determination” and how he’ll have a “bright future.”

I’m pulling for you, McThirteenthprospect.

“I [couldn’t] care less now,” Kershaw told reporters Wednesday when asked about facing Ohtani. “He didn’t pick us. Good luck to him.”

“I fell behind him 2-0, had to throw two fastballs that he fouled off,” Kershaw said, via “So, I had to throw four straight fastballs and felt I had to throw something a little slower.”

Ohtani said he was expecting Kershaw’s 12–6 curveball but thought the called Strike 3 was low.

“I don’t know if I’ll be able to hit it the next time he throws to me, but I was kind of expecting it with two strikes,” Ohtani said. “I thought it was kind of low, so I decided to take it. Next time, I’ll try to at least foul it off.’

“It is still spring training, but it was somewhat of a special moment to be able to face Kershaw.”

Phillies: The Phillies are, unmistakably, a team on the rise. They have promising youngsters at nearly every position, and they signaled their intention to transition from rebuilding to contending when they signed veteran first baseman Carlos Santana to a three-year, $60 million free-agent contract early in the offseason. They have a stable of young, high-upside starting pitchers who could develop into impact rotation pieces in the majors.seahawks_052_4c5862a69a60bb38-180x180

Carlos Correa wants to be the best player in MLB

Carlos Correa has had lofty goals from the time he was nine-years-old, when he asked his father to put him in a bilingual school to learn english so he would be prepared to do interviews in MLB.

The No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 MLB Draft has never been one to accept mediocrity and he has been anything but since coming into the league in 2015, and while he may not think he is the best player right, now he is willing to work to get there.

“I feel like I had a really great year last year, but there’s still many holes in my game I can fix in order for me to get better,” he said. “Obviously, my expectations are even higher than last year. With the experience I acquired last year and the things I’ve learned through the 2 1/2 years I’ve been playing in the big leagues, I’m thinking about becoming an even better player this year, and I know what I need to do in order for me to do that.”

Lucroy slashed 265/.345/.371 last season while splitting time between the Rangers and Rockies. Although he only hit six home runs last year he’s only one season removed from a career-high 24 homers.

He has been regarded as one of the best defensive catchers in baseball during his career, even though the 31-year-old backstop’s defensive metrics have declined the past couple of seasons.

No, really. Actual rain in the Arizona desert. It rained for a long time Wednesday, in fact. Hours, not minutes.

That wasn’t exactly expected. Until Wednesday, this had been the ninth-driest winter in recorded Phoenix history, at just 0.44 inches of rain since the beginning of December. Ohtani, the two-way baseball superstar from Japan, is in Arizona for his first spring training with the Angels. In Anaheim, Calif., where his new — and very excited — franchise plays its home games, not much wet stuff falls from the sky during the season, either: 0.79 inches in April, 0.28 in May, 0.12 in June, 0.04 in July, 0.0 in August and 0.24 in September. seahawks_043_26981f75b9011279-180x180

Wizards need to start living up to expectations, Bradley Beal says

Bradley Beal is excited to be selected to his first All-Star game, but he has more on his mind than accolades.

When interviewed Tuesday by TNT, Beal was asked if he was frustrated by those calling the Wizards one of the more disappointing teams in the NBA. Beal isn’t upset because he can’t argue with the claims.

“Sometimes after the game we’re like, ‘Man, what just happened? What’s going on?’ We’ve got to figure it out,” Beal told TNT, via the Washington Post. “Granted, it’s a long year, we’re an experienced team, we’ve been in the trenches before, we’ve played in the playoffs, we know that we’re capable of making a run like everybody expected us to, but we’ve got to be more consistent with everything.”

Frontcourt: Karl-Anthony Towns, Timberwolves. Towns had my vote as a starter. His scoring is down, but only because he’s taking fewer shots to accommodate Butler. He takes heat for the Wolves’ defensive problems, but they’ve improved there, and the guy is averaging 20.2 points and 12.0 rebounds while shooting 41.5 percent on 3s.

Frontcourt: LaMarcus Aldridge, Spurs. Aldridge has held the Spurs together through the injury woes of star Kawhi Leonard, with 22.3 points and 8.7 rebounds. He will be a shoo-in for the All-Star team.

Both teams are obviously stacked with exceptional talent, but which one has the advantage according to an “NBA 2K18” simulation? In terms of pure ratings, that edge goes to Team LeBron, which totaled 10 more Overall ratings points.

In a game that sees very little effort on the defensive end of the court, however, there are other ratings categories that may better project an outcome. Again, any advantages are slight, but Team Stephen rates out better in 3-point shooting and passing while Team LeBron comes out on top in rebounding and finishing near the rim.

With all that in mind, a simulation was run in “NBA 2K18” with anticipated minutes and rotations, along with slider adjustments that were made to better represent the style of play in an All-Star Game. The results mirrored the last two years of games as the scores approached 200 for each team.lions_039