His early arrival has caught the attention of the Braves brass.

All the roster shuffling hasn’t amounted to much, and there have been missteps along the way. Dipoto freely admits to bungling the Chris Taylor trade, for instance. The Mariners still haven’t made the playoffs and have what may be the worst farm system in baseball. Given Seattle’s aging roster, this season may be the last gasp of life for the Mariners’ contention window and it’s probably not going to go very well.

26 CB Vontae Davis, Bills Grade: B+ The one-year, $5-million deal the Bills inked with Vontae Davis is a good short-term risk for a team who probably would have had to pay more to bring back the oft-injured E.J.

Gaines next season.

Davis slipped badly in 2016 and was impacted by injuries in 2017, but the former Colts standout won’t turn 30 until May and was a legitimate number-one cornerback up to that point.

In a free-agent pool where mid-market starting corners are likely to approach $10 million per season with two years of guaranteed money, getting Davis on a short-term pact for half that is a win for Bills general manager Brandon Beane.

“I showed up early to try and win this roster spot and prove that I’m ready and give it my all,” Acuna said through an interpreter Thursday.

“I love it that he’s here already,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “It’s great to have him here running around, hitting and working out.”

“We know spring training’s long, but to see guys take ownership of their careers and want to show up, get the work in and be around, it’s certainly a good thing,” Anthopoulos said. “You love to see it across the board, so for someone like that to want to do that, it speaks volumes about him.”

The Venezuelan is also learning how to deal with the spotlight.

What’s next for Crabtree? ravens_152

Jets sign Cairo Santos

The Jets have signed unrestricted free agent placekicker Cairo Santos, who arrives after Chandler Catanzaro, the Jets’ kicker last season, signed Wednesday with Tampa Bay.

“The moment I stepped in the door, I was sold,” Santos said. “I wanted to sign here because what a beautiful complex. It just keeps getting better as you meet the people from top to bottom. I’m so excited to be a part of it and where the program is headed.”

Last season was a painful transition year. Santos suffered a groin injury in training camp, sat out the preseason, then kicked in the Chiefs’ first three regular-season games. But he was placed on injured reserve on Sept. 26 and four days later was waived by KC. Chicago signed him in November and he kicked in two games for the Bears before reinjuring his groin and again going on IR.

Graham is now 31 and never quite broke out in Seattle the way he did in New Orleans, but he did put up 10 touchdowns last season. In the past, Aaron Rodgers has thrown eight touchdowns in a season to tight ends Jermichael Finley and Richard Rodgers, so you can figure Graham will be able to at least match that. But the bigger move was signing Mo Wilkerson. Wilkerson is very talented but had disciplinary issues with the Jets. A change of scenery with new coaches, new teammates, a fresh start, and being on a winning team should help refocus him. Between Wilkerson and Mike Daniels, the Packers will have an excellent defensive line. This move should pay big dividends.

According to Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee, Shanahan was effusive in his praise of the latest weapon added to San Francisco’s offensive attack. “There’s so many things I liked about him, just visualizing how I would use him and the stuff that we would do,” Shanahan said. “Even though there wasn’t a ton of it, you’ve still got to see him do some stuff that we do a lot.

And whenever he did, he excelled a ton and looked very good at it.” Shanahan had success with Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman as the offensive coordinator in Atlanta. His offense allowed Alfred Morris to succeed in Washington when he served as coordinator of the Redskins. Now McKinnon will be the latest back to get a chance to thrive in a Shanahan offense.ravens_019

Panthers lure Dontari Poe with three-year, $27 million deal, per report

The Carolina Panthers have found a new run-stuffing defensive tackle.

Dontari Poe, who played last year with the Atlanta Falcons, agreed to a three-year, $27 million contract Thursday, according to The Charlotte Observer.

Poe replaces former first-round pick Star Lotulelei, who signed his own free agent deal with the Buffalo Bills this week.

It repeated the key findings shared by the agencies in July, when they said that there was no evidence the hackers penetrated or damaged the core systems that control operations at the infrastructure sites and that public safety was never in jeopardy.

While the administration joined Britain and other allies Thursday in condemning Russia for the attack in Salisbury, England, that left the former spy and his daughter comatose, it has not said whether it plans any retaliation against Moscow. Britain has expelled Russian diplomats in protest.

After days in which the administration had not fully affixed blame over the incident, U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley blasted Russia during a Security Council session Wednesday. Her remarks were approved by White House officials but went further than other officials had gone at that point.

Reid, 26, also suggested it’s not general managers or coaches that need to be convinced he’s worth bringing in – it’s owners.
In December, Reid said he was aware that, like Kaepernick, his protests could be held against him in free agency, and declared, “I’m fine with whatever outcome happens.” None of the other top free-agent safeties – Tyrann Mathieu, Morgan Burnett, Kenny Vaccaro, Tre Boston, or Tyvon Branch – have signed with new teams yet.

But the workout wouldn’t sway evaluators either way, Mayock says. The real work on Mayfield was being done behind the scenes, in private meetings and in conversations with folks around the facility who interacted with him every day for four years.

I think people look at his attitude and say we can embrace that, and he can be the face of our franchise, Mayock says. canucks_013

Josh Gordon is an exclusive rights free agent. What is that?

The Cleveland Browns have officially tendered Josh Gordon as an exclusive rights free agent for the 2018 league year, according to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero.

This makes Gordon’s offseason pretty simple, and lacking choices.

As NFL.com’s Chris Wesseling mentions, there’s nothing “free” about Gordon’s exclusive rights free agency. “The Browns maintain exclusive rights,” Wesseling writes, “Which means the former Baylor star cannot negotiate with other teams. Once Cleveland tenders a qualifying offer, Gordon’s options are limited to signing the tender or sitting out yet another season.”

The move is hardly a surprise — Hue Jackson said at the NFL Combine that they’ll tender Gordon:

These are the players with 2 or less seasons in the league, a status reserved almost solely for undrafted rookie type players. Once tendered they can only negotiate with their former team. The tender offer is only a one year non-guaranteed contract at the minimum salary level so most teams would use the ERFA designation on players who were on the roster late in the prior year and signed to a 1 year deal. Usually these offers are signed as soon as they are made since nothing is gained by waiting.

So basically, Gordon has less rights than a restricted free agent.

He’s missed a lot of time since the end of his second NFL season in 2013. He played five games in 2014, and missed both the 2015 and 2016 seasons. He was reinstated and played five games in 2017, where he had 18 receptions for 335 yards and a touchdown.

When he had the opportunity to sign a five- or six-year offer, Cousins instead took a shorter-term deal that will have him either negotiating a new extension with the Vikings after the 2019 season or hitting free agency after the 2020 campaign.

He also didn’t move the average annual salary needle significantly forward, given that his deal won’t reach $30 million per year.

At $28 million per year, Cousins’ deal will narrowly top Jimmy Garoppolo ‘s per-year average ($27.5 million), although both Garoppolo and Matthew Stafford will make more over the first three years of their new pacts.

Curiously, though, veteran quarterbacks with significant leverage like Cousins have less to gain from fully guaranteed short-term deals than players at just about any other position.

He could have called his shot in free agency, signed with the Vikings, and come away with something like a five-year, $150 million deal with $80 million in guarantees. packers_102

Goose Gossage calls out steroid users again: ‘It’s a bunch of bulls—’

Goose Gossage has Joe Morgan’s back. He doesn’t want anyone to vote known or suspected steroid users into the Hall of Fame.

“I agree with Joe Morgan, 100 percent,” Gossage told the NY Daily News Wednesday. “It’s a bunch of bulls— that they’re even considering these guys. They don’t belong in the Hall of Fame.”

Elected to the Hall in 2008, Gossage has always been a man with strong opinions, and was quick to back up fellow Hall of Famer Morgan, who wrote a letter to voters not to cast ballots for those who have used PEDs.

Gossage said he was thrilled for Chipper Jones, Trevor Hoffman, Jim Thome and Vladimir Guerrero, all of whom were elected into the Hall of Fame this year.

“I was very happy with the way the voting went this year. All of the players voted in, I don’t think there was any question they were very deserving. There wasn’t any doubt in my mind,” Gossage said. “I was disappointed Edgar (Martinez) didn’t make it. But I was glad to see Trevor get in.

“I couldn’t believe it took him this long, that it took three years. Of course, Mariano had the opportunities and all of the success in the postseason, which separates him from everybody. But that shouldn’t be a reflection on Trevor. So I was happy to see him go.

“But I’m just glad people didn’t make a jump in the steroids bunch.”

That “part” is the cities of Ruston and West Monroe, where Williams and Whitworth were respectively raised and the makings of long NFL careers for both began to take root.

Williams officially decided to continue his for a 13th season with Buffalo on Tuesday by agreeing to a one-year, $6 million contract. Before making up his mind, Williams consulted extensively with Whitworth about whether to retire or keep playing.

“We talk all the time,” Williams told co-host Bill Polian and me on SiriusXM NFL Radio. “I spoke with him (Tuesday) and everything leading up to (re-signing).”

While the two play on different sides of the ball and have never been on the same NFL team together, Williams and Whitworth began forming a strong bond well before the two represented Louisiana State as members of the NFL’s 2006 draft class. Whitworth was drafted in Round 2 by the Bengals while Williams joined the Bills as a fifth-round pick.

“He and I played middle school and high school sports against each other,” Williams said. “When we went to LSU we lived together. We got out and have been at it (in the NFL) ever since.packers_001

A Mitchell departure opens the door for J.J. Wilcox, whom the Steelers recently told they have interest in bringing back, according to a source.

Upon his arrival in San Francisco and a return to health, Sherman will be expected to hold down a starting cornerback spot opposite Witherspoon in coordinator Robert Saleh’s defense. Saleh and Sherman have a previous relationship from Saleh’s time as a defensive assistant in Seattle.

Because Saleh runs the Cover 3 defense Sherman spent most of his time playing with the Seahawks, the Niners don’t expect the veteran cornerback to have to make much of an adjustment in terms of scheme.

One of the most accomplished cornerbacks of his generation, Sherman made four Pro Bowls and was named a first-team All-Pro three times during his seven seasons with the Seahawks, who drafted him in the fifth round in 2011. His 32 interceptions in that span are first among NFL players, as are his 99 passes defended, according to the NFL.

At the scouting combine, two weeks before the start of free agency, Elway did compare the “fluid” nature of chasing a quarterback in free agency this year to the pursuit of Manning.

“Even with Peyton, we weren’t a for-sure thing with Peyton,” Elway said. “That was always fluid, too, but he was our target.”

The safety, acquired from Tampa Bay in a trade last year, should be in the mix for playing time, though the Steelers would save $3.125 million in cap space if they decided to release him at any point.

The NFL Network first reported the news on Mitchell, who is entering the last season of a five-year, $25 million contract. He has recorded 281 tackles, four interceptions and four forced fumbles as a starter. His lack of splash plays during an injury-riddled 2017 season doesn’t help his cause, but he has been a steady starter and good locker-room presence.

Mitchell, 30, is also known for big hits, including takedown attempts on Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert and Chiefs running back Charcandrick West that drew hefty fines. Last season, Mitchell passionately expressed his displeasure for the NFL’s targeting rules.buccaneers_089

Shohei Ohtani has mixed results in MLB debut

Shohei Ohtani, the most celebrated hitter/pitcher in baseball since Babe Ruth, had mixed results in his first MLB game appearance in Tempe, Ariz.

The 23-year-old former Japanese star got the start for the Angels against the Brewers. He went 1 1/3 innings, throwing 31 pitches, before manager Mike Sciosia pulled him with the score tied 2-2. That’s standard procedure for most pitchers in early spring games, to have a low pitch count and come out early.

Ohtani’s final line: 1 1/3 innings, two hits, one earned run, two strikeouts, one walk, a wild pitch, and that home run to Broxton.

Of course, the eyes of the baseball world were watching Ohtani — as they will be all season — to see how he adjusts to the American game. The early consensus is that he showed good movement on his pitches, even if some ended outside the strike zone.

Former MLB All-Star pitcher Mark Gubicza, now an Angels analyst, tweeted, “Fun to watch #ShoheiOhtani on the bump!! One unearned run with 2 punch outs!! Velocity, split and curve were solid in his 1st inning pitched! Overthrew a few but wow!! He is legit!”

Bailey added he will join the Angels’ coaching staff this season.

Thank you to the A’s, Red Sox, Yankees, Phillies and Angels organizations for believing in me, allowing me the opportunity to play the game and realizing my childhood dream. Thank you to all of my incredible teammates along the way who helped me and inspired me. Thank you to the coaches and coordinators who pushed me and taught me the game. Thank you to the countless athletic trainers, PT’s, strength coaches, surgeons and therapists who helped me through a long list of injuries. Thank you to the fans for always cheering and demanding the best out of me.

“Thank you to the A’s, Red Sox, Yankees, Phillies and Angels organizations for believing in me, allowing me the opportunity to play the game and realizing my childhood dream,” Bailey wrote. “Thank you to all of my incredible teammates along the way who helped me and inspired me. Thank you to the coaches and coordinators who pushed me and taught me the game. Thank you to the countless athletic trainers, PT’s, strength coaches, surgeons and therapists who helped me through a long list of injuries.buccaneers_021

MLB free agency rumors: Tim Lincecum to sign with Rangers

Tim Lincecum is coming back to MLB.

Poor Starlin Castro. It’s pretty rough to go from being one win away from the World Series to baseball’s island of misfit toys. There’s a reason he’s reportedly already requested a trade. Fortunately for Castro, he can claim to be the best second baseman in the state of Florida, so he’s got that going for him, which is nice.

What Castro is going to give the Marays is known by now. He’s going to hit for a high average while swinging at everything and anything thrown in his general direction, and he’s going to make most of the plays in the field. Just don’t expect it to be pretty. Castro also found some power in his two years with the Yankees. How much of that was a product of the totally-not-juiced ball and Yankee Stadium’s friendly confines can be debated, but the homers don’t count for less regardless of what caused him.

The individual breakout candidates have been tallied here already, so now it’s time to name the two teams who, after missing the playoffs in 2017, are most likely to nab a postseason spot this year.

This could all turn out to be laughably wrong, but over the months of the baseball season there’s ample chance for surprise — and Philadelphia has many of the right pieces to make them contenders. With two wild-card spots to be claimed, the Phillies should absolutely be in the mix to reach at least the one-game playoff this October.

Batted balls can be grouped based on similarity, and then the frequency at which players turn those batted balls into outs can be evaluated as a percent. DRS gives credit for players based on how they perform on based on that percentage.

Now, a hypothetical: a screaming line drive hit just over the shortstop’s head.seahawks_119_60362ab9cd2e4be2-180x180

At the core of the team’s issues was an offense that scored the fewest points in the NFL.

The Dallas Cowboys locked up defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence by using the franchise tag on Monday, which guarantees the pass rusher won’t hit free agency during the 2018 offseason.

It wasn’t unexpected. David Moore of the Dallas Morning News reported earlier that the Cowboys planned to give Lawrence the franchise tag , with the intent of working out a long-term deal with him before the July 16 deadline. But team vice president Stephen Jones said that the ultimate goal was to lock Lawrence up long-term.

“We won’t let D-Law not be a Dallas Cowboy next year,” Jones said, via the team’s website . “We’ll do everything we can to try to make something work, and if we don’t get it done then we’ll franchise him. Then we’ll go back to work.”

Lawrence signed his tag on Thursday, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter . Now the two sides will try to come together to make sure Lawrence sticks around beyond 2018.

Those nine steals, though, were likely born of opportunity and teams not expecting Ramirez to run. If Ramirez is going for 30 steals, people are going to catch on at some point. He’s going to need more than the element of surprise to swipe 30 bags. There were just six players who cracked 30 steals last year. Three of them (Dee Gordon, Billy Hamilton and Trea Turner) feature speed as their primary attraction. If we’re going to put a 34-year-old Hanley Ramirez into that bunch, we’re going to need to get funky.

There are some weapons on the offense in Josh Gordon, David Njoku and Corey Coleman, but Landry adds another threat to the mix for Taylor or whoever else the Browns might draft at quarterback.

You might say “poor Jarvis Landry,” but he’s evidently excited about the new opportunity in Cleveland.

Landry, like Kirk, did himself a ton of favors at the Combine. The Titans were a good pass-rushing team in coordinator Dick LeBeau’s final season, but it was?done by committee. At outside linebacker, Derrick Morgan and Brian Orakpo are?signed through 2018, and Erik Walden is a free agent. Landry can help situationally before stepping into a regular role next season.seahawks_102_d9225c51be4c0cc7-180x180

NBA rolls out plan to mend rift between players, game officials

According to the NBA’s statement:

1. Johnson, McCutchen and their staffs will conduct meetings with all 30 teams to discuss rules interpretations, on-court conduct and the expectations of NBA referees. These meetings will begin before the NBA All-Star break (Feb. 17-19 in Los Angeles).

2. The league will re-emphasize its “Respect for the Game” rules with referees, coaches and players to ensure consistent enforcement of those violations.

3. The NBA Referee Operations department will expand its overall rules education initiative for coaches, players and team personnel to ensure clarity of the game’s rules and their proper interpretations.

4. Johnson and McCutchen will conduct enhanced training for the referees on conflict resolution. In addition, they will more closely monitor the on-court interactions of coaches, players and referees to ensure referee decorum meets league standards.

5. Through the NBA’s Officiating Advisory Council, the league will create opportunities for engagement with all key stakeholders to find common ground between all parties.

“I want to take this time to express my sincerest apologies to my teammates, coaches, and most of all the amazing Boston Celtics fans,” Smart wrote on Twitter. “I’m embarrassed and disappointed in my actions. I swiped at and hit a picture frame on the wall. I feel like I let all y’all down.”

If your league consists of 12 or more teams, you may want to consider going to three divisions with the three division winners earning the top seeds in the playoffs and the one or three other teams (depending on whether your playoffs call for four teams or six) with the next-best records claiming a playoff berth as a wild card.

If that isn’t your thing, you can also create leagues that don’t use divisions, which many believe is the fairest way of rewarding the teams with the best record during the regular season. Without any divisions, the teams that make the playoffs (whether it be two, four or six) are simply the ones who finished with the best records.lions_034