All posts by phnseo

Jets trade QB Sam Darnold to Panthers for package of NFL draft picks

The New York Jets seem to have cleared the way for the franchise to draft a quarterback with the No. 2 overall pick and turn the keys over to him on Day 1.

The Jets have traded Sam Darnold to the Carolina Panthers for a 2021 sixth-round pick and 2022 second-round and fourth-round picks, the Panthers announced on Twitter.

The Jets traded up in 2018 to use the No. 3 pick on Darnold. But the USC product had anything but a smooth transition to the NFL, and much of it had to do with the constant state of turmoil that the Jets have found themselves in. Already, he has played for two head coaches in three campaigns. 

In 2019, the Jets replaced Mike Maccagnan, who drafted Darnold, with current general manager Joe Douglas. “I want to publicly acknowledge the commitment, dedication, and professionalism Sam displayed while with the Jets,” Douglas stated Monday in a statement. “He is a tough-minded, talented football player whose NFL story has not been written yet.

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While all these things are true, this move is in the short- and long-term best interests for both this team and him.

We thank Sam for all of his work on behalf of this organization and wish him well as he continues his career.”

The Jets fired Todd Bowles following Darnold’s rookie year and this offseason dismissed Adam Gase after two turbulent seasons. Robert Saleh was hired as head coach, and Darnold faced an unclear future with the organization holding the second overall pick and positioned to take one of the top quarterbacks in this year’s draft.

Jets brass, including Saleh and offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur, attended BYU quarterback Zach Wilson’s impressive pro day two weeks ago.

It’s expected that the Panthers will exercise the fifth-year option on Darnold’s contract, giving him two seasons to work to reboot his career with Carolina.

Offensive coordinator Joe Brady, who is considered one of the NFL’s bright, young minds, will be tasked with helping Darnold, who ranked 35th in the league in 2020 with a passer rating of 72.7, live up to the potential that he boasted coming out of college.

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Washington Nationals to open season vs. Atlanta Braves on Tuesday

The Nationals will start their season on Tuesday by hosting the Atlanta Braves after Major League Baseball postponed Monday’s opener of the teams’ three-game series because of a coronavirus outbreak that involves 11 of Washington’s players.

Four Nationals players have tested positive for COVID-19 over the past week and are isolating, while another seven are under quarantine because contact tracing determined they might have been exposed to the virus.

Washington general manager Mike Rizzo said earlier Sunday that none of those 11 — a majority of whom, although not all, were supposed to be on the Opening Day roster — would be available if the three-game set with Atlanta start Monday.

Rizzo has not publicly identified any of the players involved or the two staff members who also have been placed under quarantine due to possible exposure.

Washington has yet to play this season; its opening three-game series at home versus the New York Mets on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday was postponed.

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“Believe me, we’re in constant contact with MLB,” Rizzo said in a video call with reporters Sunday afternoon, while he was still awaiting a decision about Monday’s game.

Rizzo has been adamant that Washington would need to be able to hold team workouts before facing an opponent.

Pitchers were able go to Nationals Park one by one on Saturday and Sunday to throw bullpen sessions.

“Position players haven’t worked out in a week. And pitchers haven’t thrown any competitive pitch in that same period of time. It’s something that we’re taking very seriously here. We’re thinking of creative ways under the protocol and under the guidance to get these guys as ready as possible,” Rizzo said.

“It makes a lot of sense for baseball, player protection-wise, to have these guys go through their paces in a full workout before we take the field,” he added.

The reigning National League East champion Braves are 0-3, coming off a season-opening sweep in which they managed to score a total of three runs at the Philadelphia Phillies.

Braves manager Brian Snitker stated Sunday afternoon — before MLB’s ruling arrived — that he was going to assume his club would be playing Monday until he heard otherwise.

“This is the COVID era. Everything’s fluid,” Snitker said.

The Nationals and Braves are now slated to face each other Tuesday and Wednesday. The 2019 World Series champions, who tied for last in the division last season, then would have Thursday off before heading out for a trip that is to start Friday at the Los Angeles Dodgers.

MLB did not announce when the first four games on Washington’s schedule will be made up.

Rizzo said the four players who tested positive are “feeling much, much better,” adding that any symptoms that appeared earlier have subsided.

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Clippers rout short-handed Lakers 104-86, end 2-game skid

Marcus Morris scored 22 points and the Los Angeles Clippers dominated the short-handed Lakers in a 104-86 triumph on Sunday to end a two-game skid.

Kawhi Leonard had 19 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists, and Paul George added 16 points for the Clippers.

“We set the tone early defensively, we were physical and got into bodies,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said.

The Lakers trailed the entire game in which they were without injured All-Star duo LeBron James and Anthony Davis, as well as Andre Drummond and Wesley Matthews. They’ve dropped six of nine.

Montrezl Harrell led the Lakers with 19 points against his old team. Marc Gasol was the only starter in double figures with 11 points. Kyle Kuzma’s shooting typified the Lakers’ offensive woes. He was held to six points as one of four starters who combined to shoot 12 of 41.

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“We got to play the right way on the offensive end,” Kuzma said. “Defensively, we’ll be all right. Offensively, we got to find ways to play together. Can’t win games scoring in the 80s and 90s. Got to find ways to incorporate everyone.”

The Clippers built a double-digit lead midway through the second that the Lakers never reduced to single digits the rest of the way.

“Credit the Clippers’ defense,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “They got up into us and we didn’t handle their pressure at all and we had a tough shooting night. We got to play through their pressure and physicality better than we did.”

Five different Clippers powered a 12-3 run to start the third, with George’s 3-pointer capping the spurt that created their largest lead of 24 points. They matched that lead later in the quarter on a 3-pointer by Luke Kennard, who scored 12 of his 15 points in the fourth.

The Clippers stretched their lead to 20 points in the second, running off 10 in a row that ended with back-to-back 3-pointers by Marcus Morris.

The Clippers raced to a 13-2 lead to open the game, making their first six shots. Markief Morris scored the Lakers’ first seven points.

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Chicago Bears coach Matt Nagy returning to calling plays on offense

Chicago Bears head coach Matt Nagy has ended any expectation over who will call the team’s offensive plays in 2021.

The former NFL Coach of the Year confirmed on Friday that he will handle playcalling duties after temporarily ceding the responsibility to offensive coordinator Bill Lazor for a time last season.

“I’m going to be the one calling the plays this year, and so I know that you’ll probably be asking that, so we can just let you know that from the front end,” Nagy said on a Zoom call.

Last year, the Bears struggled to find any rhythm on offense until a late-season three-game winning streak lifted Chicago to a wild-card playoff berth.

The Bears concluded the 2020 season ranked near the bottom in most offensive statistical categories.

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However, Nagy expressed enthusiasm over Chicago’s acquisition of veteran quarterback Andy Dalton, who is the team’s new starter after former second overall pick Mitchell Trubisky signed with Buffalo in free agency.

Veteran Nick Foles is penciled in as Chicago’s No. 2 quarterback on the depth chart.

“Some things will be a little bit different (on offense),” Nagy stated.

“There’s going to be some things that Andy likes that Mitch and Nick hated, and vice versa. But we’re going to work together to figure out what that is. So you know, as a personnel department, as Ryan Pace as the GM, myself as the head coach and a coaching staff, when we collectively came together and said, hey, when you go through free agency and you look at everybody that’s available, it was really a consensus for us to get Andy in here and move forward as the starting quarterback.”

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Defending champ Ash Barty returns to Miami Open final

In her first match at this year’s Miami Open, Ash Barty was one point from elimination.

Now she’s one win from becoming a repeat champion. The top-ranked Barty returned to the final by defeating No. 5-seeded Elina Svitolina 6-3, 6-3 on Thursday.

Barty has gained momentum after starting the tournament by saving a match point versus qualifier Kristina Kucova. That was Barty’s first match outside her native Australia since February 2020.

“Whenever you come back from a match point, it’s a little bit of a strange feeling,” Barty said. “You have to be more open with what the possibilities the rest of the tournament could be, and keep going out there and keep fighting, knowing you could have just as easily been out of the tournament.”

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Barty, who is assured of maintaining her No. 1 ranking next week, will play for the title Saturday versus the winner of the second semifinal between No. 8 Bianca Andreescu and No. 23 Maria Sakkari.

Barty was locked down for a year in Australia because of the coronavirus pandemic, which forced the cancellation of the 2020 Miami Open. She won the event in 2019, and said her run to that title was different from this year’s matches in Miami.

“Chalk and cheese,” the Aussie said. “The conditions have been different here this week. It has been a lot warmer and physically very demanding.”

Barty had been 1-5 previously against Svitolina, but took charge with two early breaks and used her strong serve and deep slices to keep the Ukrainian on the defensive.

Midway through the second set, Svitolina made a rare trip to the net, and Barty responded with a perfect lob winner that drew an appreciative pat of the racket strings from her opponent. On match point, Barty closed out the triumph with a forehand winner and a fist pump.

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Seattle Seahawks giving WR Tyler Lockett a $69.2M extension

The Seahawks are giving wide receiver Tyler Lockett a four-year, $69.2 million contract extension that incorporates $37 million guaranteed, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Wednesday.

Lockett was entering the final season of a three-year, $31.8 million extension he signed in 2018. He has had his three best seasons since then, with 28 receiving touchdowns (fifth among NFL wide receivers) and 3,076 yards (13th).

The $17.3 million new-money average in Lockett’s extension ranks 10th among NFL wide receivers, according to Spotrac.com.

Lockett, 28, was a third-round pick by Seattle in 2015. He made the Pro Bowl and was a first-team All-Pro as a returner in his rookie season, then came back from a compound leg fracture late in the 2016 season to start every game in 2017.

He has since supplanted the retired Doug Baldwin as Seattle’s No. 1 receiver. Last season, Lockett and DK Metcalf became only the second pair of Seahawks receivers in team history to each top 1,000 yards in the same year.

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With Metcalf a year away from becoming eligible for what is expected to be a massive payday, there was no guarantee that Seattle would reinvest in Lockett with a third contract.

Lockett was set to have the third-largest cap hit of any Seahawks player in 2021 at $14.95 million. His extension lowers that number to around $7 million, a source told ESPN.

That gives Seattle some needed breathing room against the cap and is one reason for the timing of Lockett’s extension, which comes much earlier in the offseason than when the Seahawks typically do new deals for players who are under contract.

Lockett has shown a knack for improbable catches. Among players with at least 200 targets, he has the second-highest catch percentage over expectation since 2018 at plus-12%, according to NFL Next Gen Stats.

That ability was on display during an overtime loss to the Arizona Cardinals last campaign, when Lockett turned in the most productive game of his career with 15 catches for 200 yards and three touchdowns.

“It’s one thing to make a catch like that some time in your life, but to do it every time you get a chance, it’s pretty crazy — and particularly under pressure and the stress of the game and the situation, all that,” coach Pete Carroll said after that game.

“He’s a phenomenal, phenomenal football player.”

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Héctor Neris gets the Phillies’ closer role to start the season, Joe Girardi says

The Phillies’ rebuilt bullpen incorporates four new relievers who have experience closing games, but the ninth-inning duties will remain with the same closer from last season’s historically poor unit.

Manager Joe Girardi said Tuesday that Héctor Neris, the team’s primary closer for the last three seasons, will again handle the ninth. Archie Bradley and José Alvarado will be used in setup roles while other newcomers Sam Coonrod and Brandon Kintzler will be utilized when needed.

Neris had a 4.57 ERA in 24 appearances last campaign, converting five of his eight save chances. His production dipped last summer, but Neris’ strikeout rate (11.2 per nine innings), contact rate (61.4%), swing rate (66.2%), and hard-hit rate (39.7%) were similar to his marks in 2019 when he finished with a 2.93 ERA and 28 saves.

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There is an argument that Neris’ biggest detriment last season was bad luck as his batting average on balls in play was .381, the 14th highest among all relievers and 59% higher than it was in 2019.

More balls seemed to fall in last season against Neris, whose FIP — a stat that is similar to ERA but removes the results on balls hit into play — was the 22nd-best among relievers and two runs lower than his ERA.

The Phillies will give Neris the opportunity to show that he’s more the pitcher he was in 2019 than the one who never seemed to find his footing in last year’s truncated season. But if Neris stumbles, there are options waiting to take the ninth inning.

“Héctor’s been a successful closer, Archie’s been a successful closer. I know Alvarado can close and Kintzler’s been a successful closer,” Girardi said.

“I know they can all do it. I just decided to go with Héctor. He’s done it, he’s done it in this town, and I like the way he’s throwing the baseball.”

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Colt McCoy signs 1-year deal with Arizona Cardinals, will back up Kyler Murray

The Red River Rivalry is coming to Arizona Cardinals’ quarterbacks room.

Colt McCoy, the former Texas standout, signed a one-year deal with Arizona, where he will back up former Oklahoma star Kyler Murray, the team revealed Tuesday night.

The Cardinals let quarterback Brett Hundley, who backed up Murray in 2019 and was the team’s third-string quarterback in 2020, walk in free agency, leaving the team with former CFL quarterback Chris Streveler as Murray’s backup.

Coach Kliff Kingsbury, a former standout quarterback at Texas Tech before becoming the Red Raiders’ head coach from 2013 to 2018, had thrown his support behind Streveler as his selection to be Murray’s back-up multiple times last season.

McCoy could fill Hundley’s role as the veteran presence in the Cardinals’ quarterbacks room while being inactive all season.

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McCoy has played for four teams in his 11-year NFL career, most recently spending the 2020 season with the New York Giants.

He played in four matches with two starts last season, while throwing for 375 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

McCoy also played for the Washington Football Team from 2014 to 2019, the San Francisco 49ers in 2013 and the Cleveland Browns from 2010 to 2012.

A third-round pick of the Browns in 2010, McCoy has been a backup for the majority of his career. He started 21 games in his first two seasons, including 13 in 2011 with the Browns but has started just nine games while playing in 23 in the last nine seasons.

In his career, McCoy has played in 44 games (with 30 starts) and thrown for 6,455 yards and 30 touchdowns while completing 600-of-989 pass attempts (60.7%). He has rushed for 509 yards and two touchdowns on 139 carries.

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Man City’s Aguero has Barcelona, PSG, Juventus as transfer options – sources

Sergio Aguero is considering interest from Juventus, Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain after ruling out a return to club football in Argentina following confirmation of his exit from Manchester City this summer, sources have told ESPN.

The 32-year-old, who is the highest-scoring non-Englishman in Premier League history with 181 goals, will leave the Etihad at the end of the campaign after City confirmed on Monday that he would not be offered a new contract to replace his existing deal, which expires on June 30.

Aguero had previously stated that his ambition, at the end of his stay at City, was to return to Argentina to play for boyhood club Independiente. But sources have told ESPN that Aguero considers he can still perform at the top level in Europe for at least two more seasons and the forward is now ready to take advantage of his free agent status this summer to secure a move to one of the game’s top clubs.

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ESPN reported recently that Barca were monitoring Aguero’s situation at City amid concerns that Lionel Messi will leave Camp Nou at the end of this season.

PSG are also interested in the Argentina international, while Juve are another option with the Italian champions keen to plan for life without Cristiano Ronaldo in the event of the former Manchester United and Real Madrid forward leaving the Turin club at the end of the season.

Sources have told ESPN that Aguero is aware of interest from within the Premier League, but after 10 years in England, the player would prefer to move to Europe.

Having signed for City in a £35 million move from Atletico Madrid in 2011, Aguero has won four Premier League titles, five EFL Cup trophies and one FA Cup in his time at the club, with his winning goal, four minutes into stoppage time versus QPR in May 2012, sealing City’s first title in 44 years and becoming one of the most memorable moments in Premier League history.

But injuries, and a spell on the sidelines with COVID-19, have restricted Aguero to just four Premier League starts and one goal this season.

In total, he has made just 14 appearances in all competitions, scoring three goals. Aguero is now fit, however, and ready to contribute to City’s push for an unprecedented quadruple of Premier League, FA Cup, EFL Cup and Champions League this season.

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Minnesota Vikings, safety Xavier Woods reach 1-year deal

The Minnesota Vikings agreed to a contract with free-agent safety Xavier Woods, the team revealed.

Terms were not disclosed but a source confirmed to ESPN on Saturday that it’s a one-year, $2.25 million deal that contains $1.75 million guaranteed.

The 25-year-old Woods, who developed into a versatile safety with the ability to cover the slot over his first four seasons with the Dallas Cowboys, is expected to fill the Vikings’ opening at free safety opposite Harrison Smith after Anthony Harris’ departure in free agency.

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After concluding the season ranked 29th in points allowed and 27th in yards allowed, Minnesota has focused its efforts on the defensive side.

In addition to Woods, the Vikings have acquired only defensive players in free agency — defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson, linebacker Nick Vigil and cornerbacks Patrick Peterson and Mackensie Alexander as head coach Mike Zimmer looks to revamp a unit that allowed 29.7 points per game in 2020 (third-worst in the NFL).

A sixth-round draft pick in 2017, Woods became a full-time starter in his second season with the Cowboys and started his last 44 matches, missing four games over three seasons because of injury.

Heading into 2020, he was viewed as a cornerstone piece to the Cowboys’ secondary, but he struggled despite finishing second on the team with 72 tackles. He had just two tackles for loss, did not record a sack and had just two passes defended while not intercepting a pass for the first time in his career.

Woods can play both safety spots and also played as a nickel cornerback as a rookie.

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