Tagged in: free agent

Mike D’Antoni tells Houston Rockets he won’t return as coach

Houston Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni has informed the franchise that he’s becoming a coaching free agent and won’t return to the Rockets next campaign, D’Antoni told ESPN on Sunday.

“It’s with tremendous sadness and gratitude that my wife Laurel and I announce that our incredible journey in Houston has ended for now and that we’ll be moving to a new chapter,” D’Antoni told ESPN in a statement.

D’Antoni, whose contract expired with the end of Houston’s season in the Western Conference semifinals on Saturday, turned down extension offers prior to the season. He will be considered among a group of candidates for the Philadelphia 76ers coaching opening, sources tell ESPN.

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D’Antoni was 217-102 in his four campaigns as Rockets coach, advancing once to the Western Conference finals and three times to the conference semifinals.

D’Antoni, a two-time NBA Coach of the Year, led the Rockets to the highest winning percentage in the Western Conference over the last four years (.682), trailing only the Toronto Raptors (.695) in the entire league.

Only the Golden State Warriors (46), Boston Celtics (33), and Raptors (31) have more playoff triumphs than the Rockets (28) in D’Antoni’s four-year run in Houston.

The Athletic reported Sunday morning D’Antoni had not “completely ruled out the possibility of a return.” None of these answers or reports were definitive and the reports all season were that D’Antoni wasn’t likely to stay in Houston.

For the Rockets, it will be difficult to find a replacement that is on par with the impact that Mike D’Antoni provides. He has been key in James Harden emerging as a superstar and that’s why the former MVP expressed he wanted D’Antoni to be brought back.

It’s early in the process but the Rockets have been linked to Jeff Van Gundy as a potential candidate. He has been in the broadcast booth for years as he last coached in the NBA in 2007 when he was in Houston. There should be plenty of other candidates to enter the mix, too.

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Chargers considered signing Cam Newton

After the Chargers and Philip Rivers split ways, the search for a quarterback started in free agency.

Los Angeles was in the sweepstakes for Tom Brady, but they came up short after he decided to sign with the Buccaneers. Another free agent option was Cam Newton, who was released by the Panthers in March.

Newton was seen as an ideal target for L.A. because his presence would help sell tickets in their new season. However, they passed up on the opportunity to sign the former MVP.

Were the Chargers actually interested in signing Newton? Coach Anthony Lynn said that the team did contemplate it. “Absolutely, Cam is a tremendous quarterback,” Lynn said on a recent CBS Sports interview.

“He’s been MVP of this league, he’s led his team to the Super Bowl and he’s healthy now from what I hear. Cam is going to be on somebody’s roster and he’s going to help somebody win a few games, but yeah, we did take a look at that, sure.”

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Los Angeles ended up drafting former Oregon product Justin Herbert with the No. 6 overall selection in this year’s draft with the hopes of him being the long-term solution at the position.

Prior to Herbert being selected, Lynn was already confident with the quarterbacks that were already on the roster.

“I feel really good about the quarterback room that I have,” Lynn said. “With Tyrod Taylor, Easton Stick — those are guys that a lot of people don’t talk about, but he was a Division I AA — he won like three national championships. He’s a hell of a leader, hell of a professional and I think he has a bright future in this league one day.”

While the Chargers quarterback room is set, Newton remains a free agent. Lynn trusts that he will be signed in 2020 by a team.

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Free-agent RB LeSean McCoy wants to play 2 more years

LeSean McCoy isn’t ready to retire despite his decline in production the past two campaigns. In fact, he believes he has multiple seasons left in the NFL.

“I really just want to play two more years,” McCoy said Friday in an interview with SiriusXM NFL Radio. “I talked to Frank (Gore) about this. He always tells me, ‘never put a ceiling on your career. Hey, if you feel good and you do well, do another one year and vise versa. If it doesn’t go well, just let your body talk to you.’ My body feels fine.”

The 31-year-old free-agent running back, who finished his 11th NFL season in 2019, added: “My body feels good. So I will let my body speak for when I want to be done.”

McCoy, a six-time Pro Bowl selection, said he has “a couple teams that I’m looking at” as possible fits for himself.

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“I’m just waiting for the right moment. This stuff is tricky now, because there’s no visits. There’s no real activities with the teams as much as it used to be. The thing I can control is just making the right choice, going to an offense that fits. I want to go to a team that’s a winning franchise that has all the right pieces that’s waiting for me. That veteran running back to help the room out. To add a spark. The teams I’m looking at right now are those teams,” he said. “I won’t discuss who they are. I look forward to probably after the draft or right before the draft, signing on with a team.”

McCoy’s playing time with the Kansas City Chiefs diminished as last season went on and he was inactive for the AFC Championship Game and Super Bowl LIV but that didn’t diminish his satisfaction at finally being on a Super Bowl winner and he said in the interview he was happy to cross that off his “bucket list.”

McCoy said he embraces his role as a veteran mentor just like Brian Westbrook did for him when he was a rookie with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2009.

“If I could be that guy to help that young superstar to emerge into that superstar superstar, I would love to do that,” he stated.

After rushing for 465 yards last campaign, McCoy is ranked third among active players with 11,071 career rushing yards, behind only Gore and Adrian Peterson. Gore also is a free agent and his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, told NFL Network last month that his client plans to play in 2020.

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Eli Apple remains free agent after deal with Riders falls through

Eli Apple is back on the open market. Apple, who reportedly came to terms on a contract with the Raiders back on March 18, is once again a free agent after the two sides were “unable to finalize a contract,” according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. 

Before coming to terms with Apple, the Raiders reportedly had a two-year contract offer for former Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr., but ultimately determined to instead sign Apple, according to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle. Harris, a four-time Pro Bowler, has signed a two-year contract with the Chargers. 

The 10th overall pick in the 2016 draft, Apple, a boundary cornerback, began his career with the Giants before being traded to the Saints midway through the 2018 campaign.

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Apple has logged 48 career regular season starts in 55 games.

He has 233 career tackles, three interceptions, 33 passes defensed, three forced fumbles and six fumble recoveries. Last season, his only full season with the Saints, Apple tallied 53 tackles along with one forced fumble and four passes defensed in 15 games. 

Apple was set to join a Raiders team that had already signed former Bears linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski, former Rams linebacker Cory Littleton, former Cowboys defensive tackle Maliek Collins, former Cowboys safety Jeff Heath, and former Buccaneers defensive end Carl Nassib during the first two weeks of free agency. 

With Apple off the table, the Raiders may decide to look into signing Dre Kirkpatrick, a veteran cornerback who was released by the Bengals earlier this week.

In 99 regular season matches with the Bengals, Kirkpatrick received 67 starts while recording 302 tackles, 10 interceptions, two interceptions returns for touchdowns, and 65 passes defensed. His play helped the Bengals move forward to the playoffs four consecutive years from 2012-15.

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Ravens’ Lamar Jackson working out with Antonio Brown

Last year, Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson drew attention for his offseason work with teammates Willie Snead IV and Chris Moore.

On Wednesday, his company was a little more famous.

In an afternoon session in Fort Lauderdale, Florida — county seat of his native Broward County — the NFL’s reigning Most Valuable Player worked out alongside Ravens wide receiver and close pal Marquise “Hollywood” Brown; Alabama wide receiver and future first-round pick Jerry Jeudy, another Broward County native; and, most notably, former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown, a cousin of the Ravens’ Brown.

Responding to a tweet Wednesday showing Antonio Brown catching passes from Jackson, the Ravens star tagged the six-time All-Pro wide receiver and stated that they would do it again.

Brown, 31, a free agent, missed most of last campaign after two ugly departures.

The Oakland Raiders, who voided the guaranteed money in his contract after Brown missed nearly all of training camp, cut him in early September when he requested to be released.

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After quickly signing with the New England Patriots, Brown was named in a lawsuit by his former trainer, who alleged that he had sexually assaulted her on multiple occasions. Less than a week later, another woman accused him of sexual misconduct.

The Patriots cut Brown after just one game, and the NFL started an investigation into the allegations against him.

Even amid the coronavirus pandemic, Brown and Jackson have been active this week. On Tuesday, Brown appeared in social media posts alongside former Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson and Antonio Brown at his cousin’s Florida gym. On Wednesday, both Brown cousins and Jackson worked out on a football field in what Jeudy told “The Rich Eisen Show” was Fort Lauderdale.

It could be their last public workout for a while. On Wednesday afternoon, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis issued a statewide stay-at-home order to help curb the spread of COVID-19. The order will go into effect at midnight Thursday and last for at least 30 days.

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Falcons won’t offer DE Vic Beasley new deal

The Falcons announced Monday they will not pursue contract negotiations with the defensive end. Beasley is set to become an unrestricted free agent on March 18 when the new league year starts.

“As we continue to craft our 2020 roster, we’d like to thank Vic for five years of effort on behalf of our organization,” general manager Thomas Dimitroff said, per the Falcons’ official site.

The decision shouldn’t come as a surprise, though as the team is looking to upgrade its defense ahead of the 2020 campaign. Plus, the former 2015 first-round pick played the 2019 campaign on the fifth-year option of his rookie deal.

In addition to Beasley, Atlanta will need to make decisions on Adrian Clayborn and Jack Crawford, who are also set to become free agents this offseason.

The Falcons finished 31st in the league in sacks, despite Beasley’s eight on the year and the defense’s late-season resurgence.

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Beasley, who was coach Dan Quinn’s first draft pick in 2015, eighth overall, did not show consistency despite leading the NFL with 15.5 sacks in 2016 — the season the Falcons went to the Super Bowl.

Beasley made the Pro Bowl that year but managed just five sacks in each of the 2017 and 2018 seasons.

Although Beasley had eight sacks this past season, 6.5 of those came in the second half of the season.

The Falcons dangled Beasley for a trade before last season’s trade deadline with no takers. Beasley told ESPN the trade talk did not serve as motivation to play better in the second half of 2019.

Now that the Falcons have decided to move on, acquiring a pass-rusher via the draft or free agency becomes even more of a priority this offseason. The Falcons hope to get more production out of another former first-rounder, defensive end Takk McKinley, who is recovering from shoulder surgery.

The Falcons need more pressure off the edges, particular with the Pro Bowler Jarrett creating havoc on the interior of the defensive line.

Penn State’s Yetur Gross-Matos and Iowa’s A.J. Epenesa are just a few of the draft prospects the Falcons might consider to help improve the rush. The Falcons have a new defensive coordinator for 2020 in Raheem Morris.

Beasley finished his time with the Falcons recording 37.5 sacks, 156 tackles and 11 forced fumbles.

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Raiders to pursue Tom Brady if QB becomes free agent

A couple of teams have been named as possible landing spots for Tom Brady in free agency, but one specific team separated itself from the pack on Sunday.

The Las Vegas Raiders are “poised” to pursue Brady if the New England Patriots don’t re-sign him before free agency starts in March, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

It’s unclear at this point if Brady will leave the Patriots, who he has spent his entire 20-year career playing for. 

Owner Robert Kraft recently told TMZ Sports the Patriots “plan to” re-sign Brady.

The 42-year-old can become an unrestricted free agent for the first time when the new league year starts in March.

He still a productive player, throwing for 4,057 yards and 24 touchdowns in 2019. 

Schefter noted the Patriots are expected to want a decision from Brady before the start of free agency on March 18, but Brady is being “open-minded” about this process with several teams expected to look into signing him.

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The Raiders currently have Derek Carr under contract for three more seasons, but his deal is structured with just $5 million in dead cap for 2020 and $2.5 million in 2021 if they decide to release him. 

Moving from Oakland to Las Vegas would seem to give the Raiders more incentive to land a marquee name who can help sell season tickets and be used to market the team. 

The Raiders also have a solid offensive foundation in place that could appeal to Brady. Running back Josh Jacobs ran for 1,150 yards as a rookie in 2019; Darren Waller’s 1,145 receiving yards ranked second among tight ends (Travis Kelce, 1,229); and Tyrell Williams has blazing speed and averaged 15.5 yards per reception. 

Brady would give the Raiders instant credibility in their new city, not to mention an enormous marketing advantage that could be presented on billboards across Nevada.

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Stephen Strasburg opts out of deal with Nationals

As expected, Washington Nationals right-hander and reigning World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg has opted out of his contract, according to MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand.

The Nationals have not yet established the news. Strasburg is walking away from four years and $100 million. Saturday was the deadline to opt out.

Strasburg, 31, threw a National League leading 209 innings during the regular season, and ended with 3.32 ERA and 251 strikeouts. He then threw another 36 1/3 innings with a 1.98 ERA during Washington’s postseason run, including 8 1/3 innings of two-run ball with the season on the line in World Series Game 6.

The Nationals signed Strasburg to a seven-year extension worth $175 million in May 2016.

The contract included heavy deferrals, as big Nationals contracts often do. Because a dollar today is worth more than a dollar five years from now, the present day value of those four years is much less than $100 million. Strasburg would come out ahead financially simply by re-signing a new four-year, $100 million deal with no deferrals. 

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The Nationals will almost certainly try to re-sign Strasburg, who they selected with the No. 1 overall pick back in 2009. He is the second best starting pitcher on the free agent market behind Gerrit Cole and could command upwards of six years and $150 million this winter, even at age 31 and with injuries throughout his career. That might even be selling him short.

Washington will also try to re-sign third baseman Anthony Rendon this winter. Should they lose Strasburg to free agency — I imagine his hometown Padres will make a big push to sign him — the Nationals would still have Max Scherzer and Patrick Corbin to front to the rotation going forward. 

The Nationals will undoubtedly make Strasburg the qualifying offer prior to Monday’s deadline, ensuring they receive draft pick compensation if he signs elsewhere.

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