Tagged in: star

Atlanta Falcons, star DT Grady Jarrett reach three-year extension worth up to $51 million

The Atlanta Falcons are keeping one of their cornerstone defensive players around for the foreseeable future.

The club agreed to a three-year extension with defensive tackle Grady Jarrett on Tuesday that is worth up to $17 million per year in new money and $51 million in totality for the extension if he reaches certain incentives, a source confirmed to ESPN. The extension contains $34.5 million guaranteed.

Jarrett is now signed through the 2025 season at a total value of $67 million, including the money he was slated to earn in 2022.

The news of the terms of the deal was first reported by WSB-TV in Atlanta. The Falcons confirmed that Jarrett agreed to a three-year extension but did not disclose financial terms. Jarrett — who celebrated his 29th birthday Thursday, the first day of the NFL draft — was a fifth-round pick by the Falcons in 2015 out of Clemson.

The player from Conyers, Georgia, became a starter for Atlanta in his second season, in 2016. He made back-to-back Pro Bowls in 2019 and 2020 and has started every game he has played in for Atlanta since the start of that 2016 season.

In all, he has played in 110 games — starting 95 of them — with 359 tackles, 26.5 sacks, 5 forced fumbles and 3 fumble recoveries.

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Jarrett, the son of former Falcons linebacker Jessie Tuggle, moved around a bit from defensive tackle to defensive end in defensive coordinator Dean Pees’ 3-4 scheme last season in an attempt to create even better matchups.

Jarrett (6 feet, 305 pounds) became the focal point of opposing offensive lines, sometimes facing triple-teams as he tried to work off of blocks.

“Based on the way Grady plays and his reputation, I think people will account for him in protection,” Falcons coach Arthur Smith said. “We also move him around a little bit too, but yeah, I mean, if you’re playing us, you’re certainly going to account for him in your protection schemes.”

With Jarrett staying, he will become one of the key leaders for the Falcons as they transition most of their roster.

He’s the second Falcons player to receive a long-term extension this offseason, joining left tackle Jake Matthews. The team also traded quarterback Matt Ryan to the Indianapolis Colts and in the past 12 months traded wide receiver Julio Jones to the Tennessee Titans and had receiver Calvin Ridley suspended for at least one year for gambling.

Atlanta is in the middle of restructuring its front seven as well, with Jarrett as the centerpiece. Linebacker Foye Oluokun signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars in free agency, and the Falcons signed Rashaan Evans to potentially replace him.

The team has brought in three new edge rushers — signing Lorenzo Carter and drafting Arnold Ebiketie and DeAngelo Malone — to try to lighten some of the attention opposing teams give to Jarrett every down. Atlanta also signed defensive tackle Vincent Taylor, potentially to offer Jarrett more help on the interior.

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Star receiver Deebo Samuel asks San Francisco 49ers to trade him

For the past few months, the San Francisco 49ers have repeatedly stated they’d like to keep wide receiver Deebo Samuel for a long time. On Wednesday, it became clear that Samuel and the Niners don’t quite see things the same way.

Samuel, who is entering the final year of his rookie contract, told ESPN’s Jeff Darlington that he has asked the 49ers to trade him. Samuel declined to offer specific reasons for requesting the trade but acknowledged that he has informed the team of his desire to leave.

That comes on the heels of what has become an increasingly turbulent relationship between the two sides following Samuel’s breakout 2021 season. In recent weeks, Samuel has scrubbed any mention of the 49ers from his Instagram account, unfollowed the team and removed most photos of him in the team’s uniform from the platform. When the Niners opened their offseason conditioning program on Tuesday, Samuel did not attend, and sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter that he was not expected to participate in any on-field work during the voluntary portion of the offseason program.

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Samuel’s trade request comes at a time when the salaries for wide receivers have skyrocketed.

The Las Vegas Raiders gave Davante Adams $28.5 million per season on an extension after trading for him, and the Miami Dolphins rewarded Tyreek Hill with a contract averaging $30 million per season one week later after acquiring him from the Kansas City Chiefs. Buffalo’s Stefon Diggs also received a lucrative contract extension recently.

Despite all of that, at every chance this offseason, San Francisco general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan have stated they intend to keep Samuel with the team well into the future. At the NFL owners meetings at the end of March, both sounded optimistic that deals for Samuel and defensive end Nick Bosa would be forthcoming.

“Like I’ve long said, those guys are going to be a part of us for a long, long time,” Lynch said. “They’re fantastic players. They’re very much at the core of who we are and they’re fabulous players, fabulous people and a big part of who we are.”

Shanahan said he wasn’t involved in the negotiations but was also adamant that Samuel remains a foundational player for the franchise.

“But we need to figure it out,” Shanahan said. “Those are guys who have earned a lot, two guys that I’m hoping that they are Niners forever, or at least as long as I’m here.”

After the 49ers lost to the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC Championship Game, Samuel was asked about staying with the Niners long term on a new contract.

“That is not my call,” Samuel said then. “That’s out of my hands.”

But Samuel now seems to be taking matters into his own hands. The 49ers have been open to working out a deal with Samuel, but those talks have not gone anywhere. In the meantime, there are other wideouts who are also still in line for big-money deals.

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Golden State Warriors star Steph Curry has sprained left foot, expected to return by playoffs

Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry is expected to return for the beginning of the Western Conference playoffs with a left foot sprain, but will undergo further evaluation with specialists, sources told ESPN.

Curry and the Warriors are conferring with Dr. Richard Ferkel, a renowned foot specialist, on the injury, sources said.

Curry suffered the injury in a collision with Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart on Wednesday night, and an MRI overnight revealed the foot sprain. There’s no structural damage and Curry is considered to have avoided serious injury, sources said.

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The play occurred in the second quarter when Curry and Smart dove for a loose ball and Smart rolled on top of Curry’s leg.

Curry initially tried to walk off the pain but left the game after being checked out on the bench. After halftime, he was ruled out for the rest of the night.

Neither Warriors coach Steve Kerr or forward Draymond Green called the play on which Curry was injured dirty but deemed it “dangerous” and “unnecessary.”

“I saw the ball, I dove for the ball, trying to make a play,” Smart stated after the game. “Unfortunately, that occurred.”

Curry’s injury comes just two games after Green returned from a back injury that held him out two-and-a-half months. Curry, Green and Klay Thompson, who returned from two-and-a-half-month hiatus in January, have played just 11 minutes together this campaign.

“It seems like every time we get someone back, someone else goes down,” Green said. “So, it’s definitely a worry.”

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Baker Mayfield requests trade from Cleveland Browns, says it is in ‘best interests of both sides to move on’

Baker Mayfield has requested a trade from the Browns, telling ESPN’s Adam Schefter that it is “in the best interests of both sides” for Cleveland to split with the star quarterback.

“It’s in the mutual interest of both sides for us to move on,” Mayfield told ESPN’s Adam Schefter. “The relationship is too far gone to mend. It’s in the best interests of both sides to move on.”

The Browns, however, have informed Mayfield’s camp that they are “not accommodating his request.”

Mayfield’s request comes on the same day the Browns learned they were out of the running to obtain quarterback Deshaun Watson in a trade from the Houston Texans.

The Browns were one of four teams to meet with Watson in the past week to gauge his interest in waiving his no-trade clause, but they now face significant doubt at the quarterback position.

A source told Trotter earlier Thursday that the Browns, upon falling out of contention to acquire Watson, would prefer to move forward with Mayfield. But Mayfield’s request might force Cleveland to trade the quarterback who won the 2017 Heisman Trophy and then got picked first overall in the draft.

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Mayfield has strong interest in the Colts, who are in the market for a quarterback after trading Carson Wentz to the Washington Commanders, and considers Indianapolis offers a good chance for him to win, a source told ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler.

As Cleveland officials were flying back from their Tuesday meeting with Watson, Mayfield posted a statement on social media thanking the city of Cleveland and its fans “who truly embraced who I am.”

“With many uncertainties, here is where my head and heart is,” Mayfield wrote as an introduction to his message, which he addressed to Cleveland and posted to Instagram and Twitter.

A source told Trotter that Mayfield and his camp learned about the Browns’ meeting with Watson over social media.

Mayfield has endured a tumultuous tenure in Cleveland, where he has played under four head coaches through his first three seasons in the league. But he led Cleveland to its first playoff victory in 26 years after the 2020 season and finished in the top 10 in the league in QBR.

Mayfield suffered a torn labrum in his non-throwing shoulder in Week 2 of this past season and struggled the rest of the way, finishing 27th in QBR as the Browns missed the playoffs and concluded with a disappointing 8-9 record.

Mayfield, who underwent surgery to repair the labrum Jan. 19 and is expected to be fully cleared well before training camp, is entering the final year of his rookie deal, which will pay him $19 million in 2022.

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Knicks recover to beat Lakers team missing suspended James

Evan Fournier scored 26 points, Immanuel Quickley had 12 of his 14 in the fourth quarter after New York had blown a 25-point lead, and the Knicks defeated a Los Angeles Lakers team missing suspended star LeBron James 106-100 on Tuesday night.

Julius Randle added 20 points, 16 rebounds and five assists for the Knicks, but sat for eight minutes of the fourth quarter after picking up his fifth foul. Quickley made sure that didn’t matter, hitting four 3-pointers in the period.

Russell Westbrook had 31 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists, with 18 points in a sensational third quarter that permitted the Lakers to tie the game. But with James not in the arena, Anthony Davis struggling through an illness and Carmelo Anthony’s shot off in his old home, the Lakers never could take the lead.

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They beat Detroit on Sunday after overcoming a 17-point deficit in the game James was ejected from for striking Pistons center Isaiah Stewart in the face and drawing blood.

The NBA suspended the superstar forward for one match.

But the best Los Angeles could do in this one was tie it twice after New York dominated most of the first two quarters.

Davis, who woke up with a fever, had 20 points on 7-for-17 shooting. Anthony was just 3 of 14 for 12 points, and the Lakers lost for the fourth time in five games.

Randle went to the bench with his fifth foul with 9:18 remaining and was hit with a technical foul from there that allowed the Lakers to cut it to 90-87. But Obi Toppin scored before Quickley made a 3-pointer to push it back to eight, and it was back into double digits when another 3 by Quickley made it 105-93 with 4:58 to play.

The Knicks raced to a 10-0 lead that grew to 36-15 on RJ Barrett’s 3-pointer with 1:11 left in the first quarter. It was 59-35 with under 5 minutes left in the half before the Lakers put together a 16-2 run that trimmed it to 61-51 just before the break.

The Lakers scored nine consecutive to open the third and cut it to 63-60, and finally tied it for the first time at 79 on Anthony’s dunk.

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Broncos are expecting same old Raiders even without Gruden

Denver Broncos star linebacker Von Miller still sees the Las Vegas Raiders as Jon Gruden’s team even after their rival’s iconic coach resigned in disgrace.

While acknowledging “how they call the game will definitely change because they have a new play caller,” Miller insisted, “what they do is what they do.”

“They’re not going to come out here and be an option team. They’re not just going to come out here and change their whole identity because Gruden’s gone,” Miller argued. “They’re still going to do some of the things that they do well. We just don’t know when they will do it.

“To be honest, that’s really every week that we go out there,” Miller added. “We really don’t know what the other team is going to present.”

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Longtime special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia makes his debut as the Raiders’ interim head coach Sunday, with offensive coordinator Greg Olson taking over play-calling duties in a matchup pitting 3-2 teams who are seeking their first victory in October.

“No one wants to be a head coach in this particular situation, no one wants to be put in front of this under these particular circumstances,” said Bisaccia, whose first NFL job was under Gruden in 2002, when he was hired as special teams coordinator for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

“But it’s an incredible opportunity, not only for me but for all the other coaches to see what we can do with this adversity, see what we can do with this challenge.”

Olson’s voice isn’t an unfamiliar one to Raiders quarterback Derek Carr.

“My rookie year he called plays,” Carr said. “I’ve heard his voice through the headset. I know how he calls the game and I know how he thinks. We’re in the same room. Every conversation I had with coach Gruden, I had with Oly this whole time.

“It’s not going to be anything crazy new but there are philosophies that some people have. So, I don’t want to give Oly’s secrets away, but could things be different? Yes. Could things be similar? Yes, absolutely.”

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Cleveland Browns reach 3-year, $36.6 million deal with star RB Nick Chubb

The Cleveland Browns and star running back Nick Chubb have reached an agreement on a three-year, $36.6 million contract extension, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Saturday.

Chubb’s $20 million in guaranteed money is the seventh-highest total in the league among running backs. He will be a free agent again at age 29.

Chubb has been the backbone of the Cleveland offense the past two seasons, averaging 5.25 yards per carry during that span. In 2019, he came within 47 yards of besting Derrick Henry for the rushing title.

Last season, Chubb missed four games because of a knee injury, but he still concluded seventh in the league with 1,070 rushing yards.

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Proving to be one of the top closers in the league, Chubb led the NFL with an average of more than 10 yards per carry in the fourth quarter of games last campaign.

During Cleveland’s first playoff triumph in 26 years, Chubb delivered one of the game’s decisive plays, taking a screen pass 40 yards for a fourth-quarter touchdown, propelling the Browns to the 48-37 win in Pittsburgh.

Chubb, whom Cleveland selected out of Georgia in the second round of 2018 NFL draft, was entering the final season of his rookie deal.

“I think you all know the affinity that we have for him both as a player and as a person,” general manager Andrew Berry said when asked in the offseason about a potential Chubb extension.

“He has modeled that over the first three years of his career here. I think that is something that we certainly see every day and that you all can see externally.”

Last summer, the Browns extended Chubb’s backfield sidekick, Kareem Hunt, to a two-year extension worth $13.25 million, keeping Hunt under contract in Cleveland through the 2022 season.

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Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo returns from knee injury in Game 1 loss

As the Milwaukee Bucks played their first NBA Finals match in nearly half a century Tuesday night versus the Phoenix Suns, they did so with superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo in the starting lineup.

Antetokounmpo, who suffered a hyperextended left knee on an awkward and ugly-looking fall in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals a week ago against the Hawks in Atlanta, played 35 minutes in the opener and battled throughout. He concluded with 20 points, 17 rebounds and four assists, but the Suns took a 1-0 lead via a 118-105 victory.

Antetokounmpo was listed as doubtful for Games 5 and 6 of the East finals, and he was ruled out early in the afternoon before each of those games. On Tuesday, however, Antetokounmpo was upgraded from doubtful to questionable on the league’s initial injury report, which is released at 1:30 p.m. ET.

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Then about two hours before the game, Antetokounmpo was on the court testing out his knee, going through some shooting and dribbling drills to see if it would feel good enough to go versus the Suns.

During his pregame media availability, Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer declined to get into specifics regarding where Antetokounmpo was at in his recovery.

Antetokounmpo, 26, who averaged 28.2 points, 12.7 rebounds and 5.2 assists in the 15 postseason games leading into the Finals, is coming off a third straight first-team All-NBA season and fifth straight All-Star campaign for the Bucks.

The two-time league MVP signed a five-year supermax contract extension with Milwaukee in December to remain with the franchise for the foreseeable future, a move that came in the wake of the Bucks sending several future first-round picks to the New Orleans Pelicans in exchange for star guard Jrue Holiday.

The Bucks are in the Finals for the first time since 1974 and hoping to win their first NBA championship since 1971, when Oscar Robertson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar were starring for Milwaukee. The Suns, on the other hand, have never won an NBA title and are in the Finals for the first time since 1993, when Charles Barkley’s team lost to Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls in six games.

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Khris Middleton lifts Milwaukee Bucks past Atlanta Hawks, into NBA Finals

The Milwaukee Bucks are headed to the NBA Finals for the first time since 1974 — and they secured the final wins of the series without star Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Milwaukee defeated the Atlanta Hawks 118-107 in Game 6 on Saturday behind 32 points from Khris Middleton. Jrue Holiday added 27 points, 9 rebounds and 9 assists.

After the final buzzer sounded and the Bucks swarmed the center of the court, putting on caps and T-shirts that announced them as Eastern Conference champions, players hugged each other and laughed. Coaches embraced.

“It feels awesome,” Holiday said. “I’m still kind of on this high, but I’m going to the Finals. It’s cool to think as a little kid, this is what you watch the playoffs for. This is all the moments that I felt as a little kid watching TV. I lived them and went through them and now I get to go to the Finals and see what this is about.”

Antetokounmpo, who has been out since injuring his knee in the third quarter of Game 4 when he landed awkwardly after contesting an alley-oop, was in the middle of it all — a triumphant fist raised in the air.

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Thursday marked the end of a slew of Milwaukee playoff runs that were cut short or went awry. In the 2019 postseason, the Bucks swept the Detroit Pistons, defeated the Boston Celtics in five games and built a 2-0 lead versus the Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference finals. Then, after losing back-to-back games only once during the entire regular season, the Bucks lost four consecutive games to the Raptors and were eliminated.

Last season in the NBA’s bubble, the Bucks fizzled to a disappointing end in the playoffs.

Milwaukee earned the No. 1 seed and defeated the Orlando Magic in five games. But Antetokounmpo sprained his ankle in Game 3 of the team’s series against the Miami Heat.

He gave it a go in Game 4, but re-sprained his ankle in that game and was unable to play in Game 5, when Milwaukee was eliminated. Back then, Antetokounmpo said that “nobody was going to be happy” with the outcome of Milwaukee’s 2019-20 playoff run. He said he hoped the Bucks could learn from that loss.

It appears they did — and those losses, Middleton said, made their success this season that much better.

“It’s been a long journey,” Middleton said. “But it’s been a great journey. It’s been worth it. After winning 15 games in our first year here and seven years not making the playoffs, to the last two years thinking we had a chance and just didn’t do enough and now we’re here. This is what we’ve worked for.”

The Bucks avenged last season’s loss and rolled the Heat in four matches in the first round. Midway through that series, starting guard Donte DiVincenzo injured his ankle. He had season-ending surgery on a ligament in his left ankle in June and P.J. Tucker slid into a starting role.

Still, Milwaukee kept rolling. After falling down 3-2 in a wild series versus the betting title favorite Brooklyn Nets, the Bucks outlasted them in a seven-game series. And after losing at home for the first time in the playoffs in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals, the Bucks battled back, including winning two games without Antetokounmpo.

All the while, Antetokounmpo stood — almost never sitting down — on the sidelines in black shorts and a Bucks warm-up shirt. A protective sleeve swaddled his hyperextended left knee. But even injured and unable to play, Antetokounmpo was in the middle of the celebration. His longest hug was reserved for his brother and teammate, Thanasis.

“There’s a bittersweetness to him not being able to play these last two games,” Budenholzer said. “Khris and Giannis are the key to this team, to this organization. To have the opportunity to coach them and come here three years ago and try to build something special, those two guys are special, and it starts with them.”

And while there has been no public decision on whether or not Antetokounmpo will be available to play in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, one thing is certain: The Bucks are sitting atop a hill that Antetokounmpo has envisioned summiting for years.

Now, they have just one more leg to complete. “We ain’t did nothing yet,” Tucker said.

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James Harden (hamstring) struggles in 5-point return, but Brooklyn Nets win Game 5

Brooklyn Nets star James Harden was held to five points in his return to the starting lineup Tuesday night, but the Nets went on to defeat the Milwaukee Bucks 114-108 in Game 5 in the Eastern Conference semifinals. Brooklyn leads the series 3-2.

The decision to let Harden to play was made after he tested his right hamstring on the court before tipoff. He played 37 minutes and shot 1-for-10 from the field, missing all eight of his 3-point attempts, and went scoreless in the first half. He added six rebounds, eight assists and four turnovers.

It was the first time Harden was available to play in a game since June 5, when he injured his hamstring in the first minute of Game 1 of the series. Since then, he has been dealing with what the team has called hamstring tightness.

“I’m not sure the level of risk,” head coach Steve Nash said before the game. “I think it is James’ decision. He wants to play. Ultimately, he wants to play. He’s been pushing.”

Harden participated in the Nets’ shootaround Tuesday morning with improvement in his hamstring, and that prompted the team to upgrade his status from doubtful to questionable for Game 5, sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

The Nets are preparing to be without guard Kyrie Irving (right ankle sprain) for the rest of the series, sources said. The team hasn’t officially ruled Irving out beyond Game 5.

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Nash stated Sunday that the team would try to approach the injuries as isolated incidents and not let Irving’s ankle sprain rush Harden back to the floor before his hamstring is fully healed.

Still, Nash admitted Monday that Irving’s injury was a “driving” factor for Harden in pushing to return.

“He wants to play,” Nash said. “He wants to win a championship. He loves the playoffs and the ability to play this time of year. So, I think it’s been really difficult for him on how much he cares, how much time he puts in, how much effort he’s put in to get to this position.”

Irving was injured midway through the second quarter of Sunday’s Game 4 in Milwaukee when he landed awkwardly on Giannis Antetokounmpo’s foot after making a layup over Jrue Holiday. Antetokounmpo crashed the paint in what was an attempt to help Holiday, who was the primary defender.

Irving remained on the ground for several minutes as Nash and the team’s athletic trainers attended to him. Eventually, Irving walked to the locker room without assistance but was limping. He left the arena in a walking boot and on crutches. An MRI on Monday confirmed Irving’s ankle sprain.

The Nets have battled injuries all campaign.

The Big Three of Harden, Irving and Kevin Durant played just eight games together in the regular season and six games together in the playoffs — including the game in which Harden was injured after just 43 seconds.

Harden missed 18 games in the regular season with a hamstring strain, and before that he missed two with hamstring tightness.

During warm-ups Tuesday, Harden was moving well as he shot, did cutting motions and threw passes to Jeff Green. Harden had protective kinesiology tape stretched over his right hamstring.

“We have to support him the best way we can,” Nash said of Harden, “and be an aid for him to figure this out, but it’s a tricky situation — but one that we are willing to go down with James. He’s just been unbelievable for us this year, and we want to support him.”

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