Tagged in: free agent

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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Washington Football Team places K Joey Slye on IR because of hamstring injury, signs Brian Johnson

The Washington Football Team has placed kicker Joey Slye on injured reserve due to a hamstring injury and signed Brian Johnson to fill its need at the position, the team revealed Tuesday.

Slye was injured in Monday’s 17-15 win over the Seattle Seahawks. He’ll miss at least the next three matches for Washington because of the IR designation.

Johnson had been on Chicago’s practice team but spent four weeks on the active roster with New Orleans. During that time he made all eight of his field goals but only five of eight extra points. Johnson was signed by the Bears as an undrafted free agent out of Virginia Tech, where he made 76.1% of his field goals and was perfect on 131 extra points.

Johnson will be Washington’s fourth kicker of the campaign. It released Dustin Hopkins on Oct. 21; the veteran kicker had missed two field goals and two extra points in the first six games. But his replacement, Chris Blewitt, had three kicks blocked in his two games — all because of a low trajectory.

His signing was a big gamble because Blewitt had not kicked since 2016 while at the University of Pittsburgh.

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But Slye had steadied the kicking duties.

In his first two games, Slye had made all five of his field goal attempts as well as all five extra points. He made one field goal Monday night. But he had an extra-point attempt late in the first half blocked. While in pursuit of Rasheem Green, who blocked the kick and was running with the ball, Slye shot to the ground.

He injured the hamstring on his left leg, also his plant leg.

Without Slye, Washington could not kick a field goal or extra point in the second half. Punter Tress Way was the emergency kicker, but it also meant having a new holder in quarterback Kyle Allen. Washington converted a 2-point try in the second half for a 17-9 lead that turned out to be the difference in the game. It eschewed a 21-yard field goal late in the game and had a touchdown pass overturned on replay.

Washington is still awaiting news on running back J.D. McKissic, who was carted off the field late in the game. Quarterback Taylor Heinicke said McKissic was up and walking around in the locker room after the game. His agent, Doug Hendrickson, tweeted after the game that McKissic “is all good.”

Center Wes Schweitzer injured an ankle and slowly limped off the field. Schweitzer, usually a backup guard, was starting at center because of injuries to two others. His status also hasn’t been updated.

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Odell Beckham Jr. agrees to contract with Los Angeles Rams

Odell Beckham Jr. has agreed to a one-year contract with the Los Angeles Rams, the team revealed.

The free-agent wide receiver joins a high-powered offense led by quarterback Matthew Stafford and adds to a depth chart at the position that already includes Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods and Van Jefferson.

Beckham became a free agent when he cleared waivers on Tuesday after being released by the Cleveland Browns.

The Kansas City Chiefs, Green Bay Packers, New Orleans Saints, New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks were among the other teams Beckham considered this week, sources had told ESPN.

Stafford stated Thursday he has a lot of respect for Beckham, who he played with at a Pro Bowl. He lauded Beckham for being “outstanding” both when the ball is in the air and after the catch and said he was “excited” to be able to work with him on the Rams.

“It’s an opportunity for us as a team, it’s an opportunity for him to come in here and prove himself to us. What our room is about in the receiver room is pretty special. I know he’ll fit right in and continue to get better and hopefully help us as a team,” Stafford said.

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Stafford said if Beckham wants to win, “that’s what we’re all about,” and he was confident he’ll be able to contribute.

“Everybody on our team carves out their role. They do a great job of figuring out what that role is going to be and going out there and proving it both on the practice field and in games and given the opportunities I know he’ll do the same,” he said.

In Los Angeles, Beckham essentially replaces veteran wide receiver DeSean Jackson, who was released after the trade deadline last week. Jackson signed with the Las Vegas Raiders this week.

Beckham is the second high-profile player added by the Rams this month, after Los Angeles traded for star pass-rusher Von Miller before the deadline last week. Miller welcomed Beckham to Los Angeles on his Instagram Story, posting: “Let’s chase this ring family!!!!”

Beckham was also welcomed to L.A. by Lakers superstar LeBron James, one of his good friends, who tweeted: “Welcome to LA my brother @obj ! It’s GO TIME!!”

The Rams lead the NFL in total offense this season behind a potent passing attack led by Stafford, who is first in the NFL with 2,771 passing yards. Kupp is the team’s No. 1 receiver and leads the NFL in receptions (74), receiving yards (1,019) and touchdown receptions (10).

The Browns excused Beckham from practice last week while the sides negotiated his exit. He had asked to be traded and never developed an on-field connection with Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield.

Beckham essentially forced his release last week when his father shared an 11-minute video on social media — hours before the trade deadline — of plays in which Mayfield didn’t pass him the ball.

The three-time Pro Bowl selection has 17 catches for 232 yards and zero touchdowns in six matches this season. Beckham had 1,035 receiving yards in 2019, his first season with Cleveland, but suffered a season-ending knee injury in 2020. He has passed the 1,000-yard receiving mark five times in his career.

Browns safety John Johnson III, who spent the past four seasons with the Rams, was on a Zoom call with Cleveland reporters when the news of Beckham’s signing broke. Johnson wondered how OBJ will fit in L.A.

“They had a good thing going, like a complete offense,” Johnson said. “I don’t know. I just feel, like, from being in L.A., I know for a fact the offense runs through Cooper Kupp; even in the run game, the pass game, the screen game, it kind of runs through Cooper Kupp. So obviously, Odell’s a big name and he’s going to want that attention as well. It will be interesting.

“Coach [Sean] McVay, he’s one of the best doing it. He’ll find a way to get it done, but right off the bat, I really wouldn’t want to go there if I were him. But we’ll see how it goes, and I wish him the best.”

The Rams have been remarkably successful at managing the egos and needs of their elite players, with McVay assuaging almost all public disenchantment with the organization.

Cornerback Jalen Ramsey was considered a potential locker room problem after he forced his way out of Jacksonville, but he has been a model citizen and a clear team leader in Los Angeles since arriving in 2019.

The Rams (7-2) play the San Francisco 49ers (3-5) on Monday night.

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Odell Beckham Jr. is free agent after clearing waivers for Cleveland Browns

Former Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. has cleared waivers Tuesday and is eligible to sign with any team as a free agent.

Beckham wants to spend the rest of this season with a playoff contender and in a winning environment, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter earlier in the week.

Multiple teams with winning records and established offenses are expected to be interested in Beckham, sources told ESPN.

Certain players already have reached out to Beckham, pitching the merits of their organization, according to sources.

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The Browns excused Beckham from practice last week while the sides negotiated his exit, which was finalized Friday.

After he was officially released Monday, Beckham was suitable to be grabbed by the other 31 teams, but none wanted to put in a waiver claim and pick up his renegotiated contract of $7.25 million by Tuesday’s 4 p.m. deadline.

Cleveland must pay Beckham $4.25 million but will save $3 million.

Beckham, 29, had 17 catches for 232 yards and zero touchdowns in six matches this season. He had only two 100-yard games in 29 games after joining Cleveland in the 2019 blockbuster trade with the New York Giants.

He asked to be traded and never developed an on-field connection with Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield.

Beckham essentially forced his release last week when his father shared an 11-minute video on social media — hours before the trade deadline — of plays in which Mayfield didn’t pass him the ball.

The three-time Pro Bowler had 1,035 receiving yards in his first season with Cleveland but suffered a season-ending knee injury in 2020 and was out when the Browns ended a long playoff drought and won their first playoff game in 26 years.

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Trevor Bauer, Nolan Arenado, Charlie Blackmon decline opt-outs; Michael Conforto, Noah Syndergaard get qualifying offers from New York Mets

Right-hander Trevor Bauer, third baseman Nolan Arenado, outfielder Charlie Blackmon and infielder-outfielder Jurickson Profar declined to opt out of their contracts to become free agents.

Bauer agreed to a three-year, $102 million deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers in February and stated 8-5 with a 2.59 ERA in 17 starts. He has been on paid leave since July 2 while he is investigated under Major League Baseball’s domestic violence policy. He is keeping salaries of $32 million in each of the next two seasons.

Elsewhere, the New York Mets revealed Saturday that they have extended $18.4 million qualifying offers to outfielder Michael Conforto and pitcher Noah Syndergaard — a day ahead of Sunday’s deadline. Players have 10 days to decide whether to accept the one-year offer.

Arenado was owed $214 million over seven seasons as part of the contract that was amended when he was traded Feb. 1 to the St. Louis Cardinals by the Colorado Rockies.

He had the right to opt out after this season and also has the right to opt out after the 2022 season.

Arenado hit .255 with 34 homers and 105 RBIs in his first season with the Cardinals.

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Blackmon struck a six-year, $108 million deal with the Rockies in April 2018 that included a $21 million player option for 2022 and a $10 million option for 2023. He kept his contract for 2022 after hitting .270 with 13 homers and 78 RBIs.

Profar agreed in January to a three-year, $21 million contract with the San Diego Padres and had the right to opt out of a deal that involved $6.5 million for 2022, $7.5 million for 2023 and a $10 million mutual option for 2024. He hit .227 with four homers and 33 RBIs for the disappointing Padres.

Gold Glove catcher Tucker Barnhart’s $7.75 million option was exercised Saturday by the Detroit Tigers, who acquired him Wednesday from the Cincinnati Reds for infield prospect Nick Quintana. Barnhart’s option price included a $250,000 escalator for winning a 2020 Gold Glove and would go up again by the same amount if he wins for 2021.

The Chicago White Sox declined a $6 million option on 31-year-old infielder Cesar Hernandez. He hit .232 with 21 homers and 62 RBIs for Cleveland and Chicago, which got him on July 29.

Reds left-hander Justin Wilson exercised a $2.3 million player option, part of a two-year, $5.15 million deal he signed with the New York Yankees. By exercising the player option, Wilson gave the Reds a club option for 2023 at $500,000 above that year’s minimum salary. He had a 2.81 ERA in 21 games after the Reds obtained him on July 28.

Josh Tomlin’s $1.25 million option was declined by the World Series champion Atlanta Braves, who must pay a $250,000 buyout. The 37-year-old right-hander was 4-0 with a 6.57 ERA but did not pitch in the postseason.

St. Louis declined a $17 million option on right-hander Carlos Martinez, who gets a $500,000 buyout, and a $12 million option on infielder Matt Carpenter, who receives a $2 million buyout. Martinez was 4-9 with a 6.23 ERA, completing a five-year, $51 million contract. Carpenter hit .169 with three homers and 21 RBIs, finishing a two-year, $39 million contract.

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