Tagged in: last season

Ben Roethlisberger expects this to be his last season with Pittsburgh Steelers

Ben Roethlisberger privately has told former teammates and some within the organization that he believes this to be his final season playing quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers, league sources told ESPN on Saturday.

Roethlisberger has not made any such public proclamations, and likely won’t, since he doesn’t want the latter part of the season to be about him as Pittsburgh tries to make a playoff push.

But sources say he and those within the organization are now operating as if he is entering the final five matches of his Hall of Fame career, with two of them fittingly coming versus the Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh’s opponent Sunday and in the final regular-season game.

Roethlisberger is in the final year of his contract. He is 39 years old, turns 40 in March and has seen all of his quarterback draft classmates, such as Eli Manning and Philip Rivers, move on to the next chapters of their lives. Roethlisberger’s 18 seasons with one team is the most by a quarterback in NFL history.

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Roethlisberger has told many that he never would want to play anywhere other than Pittsburgh.

It doesn’t mean he couldn’t surface next season in another NFL city, but that is “highly unlikely,” according to one source.

That would mean that this year is expected to cap the career of one of the Steelers’ all-time greatest players. Roethlisberger will leave the franchise with more victories, touchdown passes and passing yards than any quarterback in Steelers history.

His 410 career touchdown passes entering Sunday’s game are eighth most in NFL history. His 62,870 passing yards are sixth in NFL history. His 161 career wins are fifth in NFL history.

The fact that this is expected to be the final NFL season for the six-time Pro Bowler does not come as a surprise to many around the organization.

They felt that last season could have been Roethlisberger’s last and, in a way, the team even seemed to prepare for that, turning over much of its roster on offense this season and transitioning to the future there.

The Steelers have, on average, the youngest offensive roster in the league, with rookies manning the center and left tackle positions and playing at running back and tight end.

Though the Steelers have quarterbacks Mason Rudolph and Dwayne Haskins on their roster, there are questions about whether either will succeed Roethlisberger.

The Steelers’ home finale is Week 17 versus the Cleveland Browns on Jan. 3, a game that will air on ESPN’s Monday Night Football. Pittsburgh closes out the regular season in Baltimore on Jan. 9.

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LHP Andrew Heaney headed to Los Angeles Dodgers on 1-year deal

The Los Angeles Dodgers, who entered this offseason with several holes to fill on their pitching staff, signed Andrew Heaney to a one-year contract worth $8.5 million, sources confirmed to ESPN on Monday.

Heaney, a 30-year-old left-handed starter, spent the bulk of the past seven years with the crosstown Angels, posting a 4.67 ERA with nearly four times as many strikeouts as walks in 605 innings.

Heaney spent most of the 2016 and 2017 seasons recovering from Tommy John surgery but has since made only three relatively short trips to the injured list.

His ERA ballooned to 5.83 in 129⅔ innings last season, but some of the underlying numbers painted his 2021 season more favorably (most notably an average exit velocity of 89 mph, an expected ERA of 4.03 and a swinging-strike percentage of 13.8).

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The Dodgers have only Walker Buehler and Julio Urias returning from the 2021 rotation, though Tony Gonsolin and David Price will also vie for solidified spots.

The team is attracted in bringing back Max Scherzer, who is poised to sign one of the sport’s richest deals on an annual basis, but will presumably be in play for several big-name free agents and trade candidates.

The Dodgers recently opted against extending an $18.4 million qualifying offer to Clayton Kershaw largely because of the forearm/elbow inflammation that plagued him down the stretch last season.

The ailment kept Kershaw from participating in the postseason and has created an air of mystery around his health at the onset of this offseason. If Kershaw is healthy and wants to return to the Dodgers — and if his hometown Texas Rangers aren’t too much of a pull — both sides are expected to work something out.

Heaney, who made $6.75 million last season, was traded to the New York Yankees in July, gave up 13 home runs in 35⅔ innings and spent all of September in a low-leverage bullpen role.

He was designated for assignment on Oct. 5 and granted free agency two days later. Because of that, Heaney didn’t have to wait until the official start of free agency — typically five days after the conclusion of the World Series — to speak with prospective suitors.

Heaney spoke with multiple teams before deciding on the Dodgers.

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Kansas City Chiefs acquire CB Mike Hughes from Minnesota Vikings

The Kansas City Chiefs obtained cornerback Mike Hughes in a trade with the Minnesota Vikings on Thursday.

The Chiefs traded a 2022 sixth-round pick to Minnesota while the Vikings sent a 2022 seventh-round pick to Kansas City in the deal.

Hughes was drafted by the Vikings in the first round (30th overall) of the 2018 NFL draft. The Vikings declined to exercise the fifth-year option in Hughes’ rookie contract, meaning he will be a free agent after this campaign.

Hughes will be given the opportunity to compete for playing time with the Chiefs immediately. One starter from last season, Bashaud Breeland, is a free agent and remains unsigned.

Hughes will join a group of cornerbacks that contains Charvarius Ward, a starter the past two seasons, and L’Jarius Sneed, a fourth-round draft pick last year who played well as the third cornerback.

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The Chiefs last year acquired another former No. 1 draft pick, DeAndre Baker, after he was released by the New York Giants. Baker broke his left leg in the final regular-season game last season.

Hughes was limited to just four games last season because of a neck injury that resulted in him being placed on injured reserve in October.

Multiple injuries, including a torn ACL his rookie season and neck injury that ended Hughes’ season on injured reserve in 2020, limited the cornerback to 24 games with seven starts over the first three years of his career.

Hughes recorded 80 tackles, had 13 passes defended and two interceptions — returning one for a touchdown — in his three seasons with Minnesota, predominantly playing in the slot in the Vikings’ nickel defense.

With 2020 first-round pick Jeff Gladneyin the legal process after an alleged domestic assault in April, it is possible the Vikings will turn to newly re-signed cornerback Mackensie Alexander, who spent the first four seasons (2016-19) of his career in Minnesota, to play the nickel corner position.

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New York Giants’ Nate Solder intends to play in 2021 after opting out last season

New York Giants offensive tackle Nate Solder intends to play in 2021 as long as the situation is right, he told ESPN in a phone conversation this week.

Solder, who opted out this past season because of concerns for his family with COVID-19, has yet to have that discussion with the team regarding his future. He was considered a high-risk opt-out and his contract tolled.

He is planned to make $10 million in 2021 while costing $16.5 million against the salary cap this season. The Giants haven’t been in a rush to make any moves with the new league year still almost three weeks away. Like everybody else, they’re waiting to see the official salary-cap number for the 2021 season. Then they’re expected to meet with the veteran tackle.

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Solder, 32, was the Giants’ starting left tackle in 2018 and ’19 after signing a lucrative free-agent contract.

He had spent the previous seven years of his career with the New England Patriots, where he won a pair of Super Bowls.

The decision to opt out last season centered around Solder’s family. His oldest son Hudson has battled cancer. So has Nate. Solder and his wife Lexi also had a newborn.

Solder had stated late last year on the Sports Spectrum podcast with former NFL quarterback Brock Huard that if he had another opportunity to play, he would probably take it. He also noted that he was still working out, but hadn’t prioritized his conditioning and weight lifting like he would during a regular football season.

The Giants now have a decision to make if they are going to move forward with Solder. They would save $6 million this season against the salary cap if he’s released, and $10 million if they made it a post-June 1 cut.

New York drafted a pair of tackles in last year’s draft, including Andrew Thomas with the No. 4 overall pick out of Georgia. Thomas started at left tackle and, despite early struggles, got better as the season progressed.

Third-round pick Matt Peart is expected to compete for the starting right tackle spot this year. Cameron Fleming, who started last season, is a free agent.

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