Tagged in: free agent

Tampa Bay Buccaneers to sign WR Cole Beasley to practice squad

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will sign Cole Beasley to their practice squad, a source confirmed to ESPN, adding the 11-year veteran to a short-handed wide receiver corps.

Beasley was released by the Bills in March and did not sign with another team as a free agent in the offseason.

The Bucs plan to elevate Beasley to their active roster soon, according to NFL Network, which first reported the signing Tuesday. The Bills had granted Beasley permission to seek a trade in early March but lastly released him in a move that created about $6.1 million in salary-cap space.

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Beasley, 33, now will join a Tampa Bay team entering its Week 3 showdown versus the Packers without star receiver Mike Evans, who was suspended one game for his role in Sunday’s brawl with the Saints.

The Bucs also are dealing with injuries to veteran receivers Chris Godwin and Julio Jones, who both missed their triumph over the Saints.

Evans’ appeal of his one-game suspension was heard Tuesday, sources told ESPN, confirming a report by NFL Network. James Thrash, who is jointly appointed by the NFL and the NFLPA was the appeals officer. A ruling is expected this week, possibly as soon as Wednesday.

Beasley concluded with 82 receptions in each of the past two seasons with the Bills and has been a reliable slot receiver over his 10-year career with Buffalo and the Cowboys.

He missed a match during the 2020 season after testing positive for COVID-19 while being unvaccinated and reportedly was fined multiple times for violating the NFL’s COVID-19 protocols.

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James Harden’s new deal with Philadelphia 76ers includes player option for 2023-24 season

Philadelphia 76ers free agent star James Harden is returning to the franchise on a new two-year, $68.6 million contract, including a player option for the 2023-24 season, sources told ESPN on Wednesday.

The deal guarantees Harden $33 million for next season and the chance to decline his $35.6 million player option and negotiate another free agent deal next summer, sources said.

Harden, who had declined a $47.4 million player option for next season, delivered the 76ers salary-cap flexibility with his pay cut for 2022-23 — allowing them to sign free agents P.J. Tucker and Danuel House by using the midlevel and biannual exceptions, and facilitating the ability to get De’Anthony Melton in a draft night trade with Memphis.

Harden — a 10-time All-Star and a six-time first-team All-NBA guard — told Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey that he wanted to do his part to fortify the team’s roster and give it a better chance to fight for a championship. And declining that $47.4 million player option could also give the organization flexibility to make deals once this coming season is underway.

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The franchise is hopeful Harden’s commitment to winning will include him returning to preseason training camp in better physical condition than he played in both Brooklyn and Philadelphia last season.

Harden, who turns 33 next month, averaged 22 points and 10.3 assists across 65 games with the Nets and Sixers.

Brooklyn traded him to Philly in February as part of a blockbuster deal that included Ben Simmons joining the Nets. For the fourth time in five years, though, the Sixers were eliminated in the second round of the playoffs.

Harden spent only a year in Brooklyn, after his wildly successful eight-year run in Houston ended near the start of the 2020-21 season, when he was sent to partner with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving on the Nets for a significant package of draft assets and players.

After a second-round loss to the Milwaukee Bucks two years ago, Harden’s relationship with the Nets deteriorated in the wake of Irving’s inability to play in New York due to the city’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

In Philadelphia, Harden was reunited with former Rockets general manager Morey, and they worked together to find a way to keep Harden a Sixer on this new deal and improve the franchise’s roster this summer.

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Caleb Martin agrees to 3-year, $20 million deal to return to Miami Heat

Caleb Martin has agreed to return to the Miami Heat on a three-year deal worth $20 million, a source confirmed to ESPN’s Tim Bontemps.

A restricted free agent, Martin broke out last season for Miami, providing a solid rotation option on the wing to an injury-plagued Heat team.

After playing his first two seasons alongside his twin brother Cody in Charlotte, Caleb signed a two-way deal with Miami and went on to average a career high 22.9 minutes per match. He scored 9.2 points per game while shooting 50.7% from the field and 41.3% from 3-point range.

Martin, 26, started 12 games last campaign — mostly as a replacement for the injured Jimmy Butler — and his all-around offensive game and strong defense helped the Heat stay afloat without one of their stars.

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Martin is the latest role player to return this offseason to the Heat, who have also agreed to re-sign guard Victor Oladipo to a one-year deal earlier this month.

It’s not as much money as his twin brother got, but it’s still a good deal.

Martin said he wanted to be back in Miami, and the Heat wanted him back, the only question was the price. That turned out to be the taxpayer mid-level exception. 

This is for the taxpayer mid-level exception, which starts at $6.4 million and has raises from there.

Martin earned this. He was waived by Charlotte less than a year ago, had to sign a two-way contract with the Heat to keep his foot in the NBA door, and played so well they had to convert him to a regular deal.

Miami is not done rounding out its roster, with the biggest question — can the Heat find a way to win the Kevin Durant sweepstakes — still hanging out there.

Miami had the best record in the East last season and brings back Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler, but they need something more to win the East over a healthy Bucks or improved Celtics team. It doesn’t have to be a KD-level move, but the Heat need to do something more.

Brining back Martin is a good move, however.

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Dallas Mavericks land free-agent center JaVale McGee for 3 years

The Dallas Mavericks and center JaVale McGee have agreed to a three-year deal worth $20.1 million, sources told ESPN’s Tim MacMahon.

The deal includes a player option for the third season, sources said.

McGee enjoyed arguably the best season of his career as the backup center and stopgap starter on a dominant Phoenix Suns team last season, averaging near career highs in points and rebounds on a per-minute basis.

He proved to be a key depth piece for Phoenix after the Suns lost Frank Kaminsky for the season with a knee injury and saw Deandre Ayton miss several matches.

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McGee gives Dallas some much-needed rim protection and a big lob-threat target for Luka Doncic.

McGee joins Christian Wood as the second frontcourt addition Dallas made this offseason after getting crushed on the boards by Golden State in the Western Conference finals.

McGee told ESPN he expects to be the Mavs’ starting center. “I saw some opportunities out there where I was like, ‘Oh yeah, if they had a rolling big, they could dominate in a different aspect,'” McGee said of choosing Dallas and playing with Doncic.

Entering his 15th campaign in the NBA, McGee has been a part of three championship teams — two with the Golden State Warriors (2017, 2018) and one with the Los Angeles Lakers (2020).

He is also reuniting with Mavs head coach Jason Kidd, who was on Frank Vogel’s staff during L.A.’s run to the title. A pure rim-rolling center, McGee has averaged 1.5 blocks while shooting 57.6% from the field for his career.

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Aaron Judge to receive extension offer from New York Yankees, ‘pencils down’ by Opening Day, GM Brian Cashman says

New York Yankees star slugger Aaron Judge will soon get a proposal for a long-term contract extension, general manager Brian Cashman stated Saturday.

“Between now and opening day we’ll make an offer and he’ll obviously receive an offer and all the conversions will have taken place and will either resolve into a multiyear deal or it won’t,” Cashman said.

“We’re committed. We’ll make an offer and hear what he has to say in response and then it will be pencils down before opening day,” he said.

The Yankees open on April 7 at home versus the Boston Red Sox.

Judge said Saturday he was “pretty sure” he doesn’t want to negotiate a new contract during the regular season. The outfielder, who turns 30 next month, is eligible to become a free agent after the World Series.

“We haven’t decided yet, but for right now that’s what we’ve got,” Judge said. “I want to be here. Get a chance to play here for quite a few more years, that would be great. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. I’m not too worried.”

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The Yankees and Judge so far have failed to reach a deal for 2022, which could result in the two sides heading into arbitration during the season. He asked for a raise from $10,175,000 to $21 million, and the Yankees offered $17 million.

“Our position has always been, we wind up only in a hearing if we’re dragged there,” Cashman said. “We only go when forced to go. We’re not afraid of going. Our history shows that we stay out of that arena unless we’re compelled to get there. We’ll see how it all plays out.”

Judge, who hit .287 with 39 homers and 98 RBI in 148 games last season, hopes an agreement can be reached to avoid arbitration.

“Go back and forth until we, maybe, can settle on something before the court date and if not, we’ll see each other in court,” Judge said.

Judge said the contract talk isn’t a distraction. “Not really, I’m a baseball player,” he said.

“I’m going to come out and do my usual on the field. I’ve got people that are going to worry about the other stuff for me and put me in the right position and give me the right answers. If I take care of what I’ve got to do on the field, everything is going to workout.”

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Chicago Bears sign Buffalo Bills OG Ryan Bates to offer sheet

Buffalo Bills restricted free-agent offensive guard Ryan Bates signed an offer sheet with the Chicago Bears on Thursday.

Bates, 25, had free-agent visits with the Bears, Minnesota Vikings and New England Patriots this week, according to league sources, after the Bills offered an original-round tender of $2.4 million.

As a restricted free agent, Bates is free to meet and receive offers from other teams, but Buffalo has the right of first refusal to match any contract offer he gets.

The Bills now have five days to match the contract that Bates signed with Chicago. Because he is tendered at the lowest level, the Bears will not need to send a draft pick to the Bills if Bates ends up in Chicago.

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The 6-foot-4, 302-pound Bates spent the past three campaigns primarily as a backup for the Bills after he signed as an undrafted free agent in 2019.

Due to injuries along the offensive line, Bates started the final three games of the regular season and two postseason contests, most of which came at left guard, and played 223 total snaps between left and right guard last season. He also has experience at center.

While injuries led to him taking the field, Bates maintained the starting job for the end of the season and playoff run due to his performance alongside left tackle Dion Dawkins. For the season, Bates had a 93% pass block win rate at guard, which hovers around league average, and a 59% run block win rate, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

The Bills offensive line as a unit improved with Bates on the field. Quarterback Josh Allen was not sacked once over the final three games of the season and was sacked twice in the postseason.

At the start of free agency, Buffalo signed Rodger Saffold III, who said he expects to be starting at left guard in 2022. The Bills released offensive linemen Jon Feliciano and Daryl Williams earlier this month.

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Minnesota Vikings reach deal with free agent linebacker Jordan Hicks

The Minnesota Vikings have reached a deal with free-agent linebacker Jordan Hicks, the team revealed Tuesday.

Terms were not released, but multiple reports said the two-year deal was worth $12 million.

The Arizona Cardinals released Hicks last week in a move that saved the team $6.5 million on their salary cap. Hicks, who turns 30 in July, has started 51 consecutive matches, the third-longest active streak among all NFL linebackers.

He played at a high level last season, registering 116 tackles and four sacks, but the Cardinals made the move to give fellow inside linebacker Zaven Collins, drafted in the first round last year, more playing time.

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The Vikings already have veteran middle linebacker Eric Kendricks on their roster, but new defensive coordinator Ed Donatell has said he plans to use both the 3-4 and 4-3 schemes. Hicks thrived in the Cardinals’ 3-4 and wore the green dot on his helmet, which signaled he was calling defensive plays.

Hicks signed with the Cardinals in 2019 and posted more than 100 tackles in all three seasons with Arizona, including a career-best 150 his first year there.

He spent the first four campaings of his career with the Philadelphia Eagles, who selected him in the third round of the 2015 draft.

He missed 21 regular-season games due to a variety of injuries during his time with the Eagles but didn’t miss a game (all starts) in three seasons with the Cardinals.

Hicks has career numbers of 638 tackles, 10.5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles and 11 interceptions.

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Las Vegas Raiders releasing LB Cory Littleton after 2 seasons

The Las Vegas Raiders are releasing high-priced linebacker Cory Littleton after two underwhelming seasons, a source told ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler.

The Raiders are expected to designate the move with a post-June 1 designation, according to the source.

After spending his first four campaigns with the Los Angeles Rams, Littleton, 28, signed a three-year, $35.25 million free-agent deal with $22 million guaranteed with the Raiders in 2020 and was expected to help in sideline-to-sideline pass coverage. Instead, he lost his starting job to rookie Divine Deablo late last season.

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The post-June 1 designation will save Las Vegas $11.75 million against the cap after that date but will cost the Raiders $4 million in dead money this year and $10 million in 2023.

Earlier Thursday, the Raiders restructured the contracts of foundation left tackle Kolton Miller and versatile running back Kenyan Drake to save $14.525 million in cap space.

They also informed fullback Alec Ingold they were not tendering his contract.

Littleton started 27 of 31 games for the Raiders and had just 0.5 sacks and a fumble recovery. He did not have an interception among his four passes defended. He also had six tackles for a loss among his combined 180 tackles.

The Raiders have a new regime with general manager Dave Ziegler and coach Josh McDaniels, who came over from the New England Patriots.

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Free agent Matt Harvey could be suspended by MLB after admission of opioid distribution

If Matt Harvey can find a team willing to sign him, he could immediately be suspended for at least 60 days for saying that he provided opioids to Tyler Skaggs on several occasions, a Major League Baseball official told ESPN on Wednesday.

Harvey’s admission in federal court Tuesday qualifies as distribution under MLB’s drug policy, the official told ESPN on the condition of anonymity.

Harvey, currently a free agent, would be able to appeal any suspension.

“Once the trial is complete, MLB will conduct a comprehensive review of the potential violations of our drug program,” MLB said in a statement.

MLB can’t take any action, however, until it reaches a new labor agreement with the players’ association.

Harvey received immunity from the government in order to testify, and may not be criminally prosecuted for anything he admitted to in court, unless he lied.

The other players who testified — C.J. Cron, Mike Morin, Cam Bedrosian and Blake Parker — testified to their own opioid use but did not say they ever distributed drugs to anyone else.

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Under MLB’s drug policy, those players would not face suspensions, unless they previously violated the policy regarding drugs of abuse.

Unlike players caught using performance-enhancing drugs, player using drugs of abuse like opioids or cocaine are referred to an evaluation treatment board for their first offense, and the violation is not made public. The board then develops a treatment plan that the player must follow.

The players testified Tuesday and Wednesday in the federal criminal trial of Eric Kay, the former Los Angeles Angels communications director. Kay faces two felony charges of distributing fentanyl and causing Skaggs’ drug-related death in July 2019.

Both sides will give closing arguments Thursday. With the exception of Parker, the players stated Skaggs introduced them to Kay and said they could get oxycodone from him. Parker said he couldn’t recall who introduced him to Kay.

The players went on to describe how Kay sometimes left pills for them in their lockers, and how some snorted or ingested the pills in the clubhouse.

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Denver Broncos hire Justin Outten as OC, Klint Kubiak as QBs coach

Newly hired Denver Broncos coach Nathaniel Hackett continued to fill out his staff on Wednesday, as Green Bay Packers tight ends coach Justin Outten was hired as the team’s offensive coordinator and former Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Klint Kubiak was hired as the quarterbacks coach/passing game coordinator.

The Broncos also hired Butch Barry as offensive line coach. Barry was the assistant offensive line coach with the San Francisco 49ers this season.

Since being formally introduced on Friday as the team’s head coach, Hackett has spent much of his time interviewing candidates for all his staff positions.

Hackett has said he will call plays, but he, Outten and Kubiak will all do the heavy lifting to try to repair one of the league’s most sluggish offenses. The Broncos have not averaged more than 23 points per match since 2014 and haven’t averaged more than 21 points per game since 2015.

And over the past six seasons, the Broncos have averaged fewer than 20 points per game three times, including this past season, when they finished 7-10.

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“First and foremost, any offense that you have has to be maneuverable and adjustable for whoever you have on your team,” Hackett said last week.

“It’s about finding out what your guys do the best and being able to do that over and over again and taking advantage of their skill sets. … I think the starting point is outside zone. Outside zone on offense is what you want to do, and you want to base that off of play-pass. You want to make the defense cover the entire field. You want to take shots down the field. Let’s all face it: That’s what the people in the stands love — they love those bombs down the field.”

The Broncos still have a major question to answer at quarterback in the coming months as well. 

Drew Lock is set to enter the last year of his rookie deal, and Teddy Bridgewater is planned to be an unrestricted free agent.

The Broncos have started 10 different quarterbacks — running back Phillip Lindsay also started behind center in the no-quarterback game in 2020 because of COVID-19 issues — since the midpoint of the 2016 season.

Outten was the Packers’ tight ends coach during Hackett’s three seasons with the team and was with the Atlanta Falcons during Kyle Shanahan’s time as offensive coordinator, so he is well versed in the version of the West Coast offense that Hackett wants to run, which has roots back to former Broncos coach Mike Shanahan.

Kubiak is also seasoned with the scheme, as he previously spent three seasons as a Broncos assistant for his father, Gary, and later Vance Joseph.

Kubiak was the Vikings’ offensive coordinator last season after two years as the team’s quarterbacks coach. “I remember watching [former Broncos quarterback] John Elway throw the ball down the field to [former Broncos wide receiver Ed] McCaffrey on all of those boot fakes. That was unbelievable,” Hackett stated.

“This is really where this system evolved from and was created. You’re always looking for that, and mixing in that West Coast principle of the dropback game.”

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