Dan Quinn addresses Julio Jones’ absence at Falcons OTAs

Dan Quinn seems optimistic that Julio Jones will be back with the team sooner rather than later.

The Falcons receiver has been absent from voluntary organized team activities, with reports surfacing that he wants a restructured contract.”

Jones, 29, signed a five-year extension worth $71.25 million in 2015 and has three years and $34.43 million left on that deal. The five-time Pro Bowl player logged 88 catches for 1,444 yards and three touchdowns last season.

Gobert, named to the team for the second year in a row, is a finalist for Defensive Player of the Year. Gobert, who had 2.3 blocks per game, earned 192 of a possible 200 points, including 94 First Team votes. Gobert missed 26 games this season with a knee injury and returned in late January to lead a resurgence by the Jazz, who finished the season 30-8 and won their first-round playoff series against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Oladipo led the NBA in steals and closed out the year with an active streak of 64 consecutive games with a steal. It was his first time on the All-Defensive team.

Holiday, who racked up 64 blocks, made his first appearance on the team. Covington, also a first-timer on the team, led the NBA in deflections.

76ers center Joel Embiid (90 points), the third finalist for Defensive Player of the Year, led the second team.cowboys_041

Seahawks likely to save $5.975 million on Cliff Avril release

Unlike in 2017, the Seattle Seahawks aren’t strapped for cash heading into the 2018 season. In fact, barring a major change or sudden offseason pickup, like signing a big name player to a one-year deal like Dez Bryant, the Seahawks have more than enough money to navigate the entire season comfortably and will be in the middle of the pack in terms of cap space heading into the season; they also may open up a bit more if they hand out an extension to veterans Earl Thomas, Duane Brown and/or K.J. Wright, not that they need it. They’ll open up $2 million more when they cut punter Jon Ryan following training camp in favor of fifth-round pick Michael Dickson. It hurts but it’s happening guys. Best to prepare yourselves now.

All this to say, defensive end Cliff Avril wasn’t cut for cap relief — although he does open up a significant amount of cap — and the only cap blow back the Seahawks will receive for releasing him shouldn’t have a large affect on their final cap number. Remember additional cap space carries over to the next offseason.

Of course, interviewing for a job as an engineer isn’t quite like interviewing to become the face of one of 32 NFL teams. If Patricia doesn’t understand the difference, he’s not intelligent enough to be an NFL head coach in the first place. Since that probably isn’t the case, it leaves us with the even greater sin of purposeful omission.

If the Lions never investigated Patricia’s background to an extent that would have revealed the grand jury indictment, which the Detroit News had little problem procuring, it’s bad. If they asked Patricia if there were any criminal or civil proceedings in his background and he did not disclose, that’s worse.

Barring new information or Patricia’s accuser coming forward, it’s impossible to discuss the merits of the case, which fell apart 10 months after the alleged incident when the accuser decided not to testify. Though a Texas grand jury deemed the evidence strong enough to move forward with the case, we don’t know what that means. Other details, including from the police report, have been lost over two decades.colts_018

Maddox was the Steelers entrenched starter when they drafted Roethlisberger, and was willing to help his eventual replacement learn how to adjust to the pro game.

Howie Kendrick (R), 17 percent, Washington Nationals at San Francisco Giants (LHP Ty Blach): Kendrick smacked lefties to the tune of a .322/.390/.511 line last year. He’s batted fifth or higher in the bulk of his games so far this season and his 35 percent hard contact rate is the second-highest of his career. Blach loves allowing contact with a meager 11 percent strikeout rate for his career and has always had a sharp platoon split favoring righty hitters with a .290/.340/.471 line.

Aaron Sanchez (R), 66.6 percent, Toronto Blue Jays vs. Boston Red Sox: He’s logged three straight quality starts, but made them eventful with seven walks and just six strikeouts across the past two. If he continues nibbling, Boston’s unforgiving lineup will punish him.

Of course, an arm injury in the second week of the season handed the job to Roethlisberger and he never gave it back, so it wasn’t as if Maddox had a long time to show him how it was done. But he thinks once they get to camp, the two will be fine.

“I think Ben will treat him with respect,” Maddox told Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com. “His No. 1 goal is to get ready to play and help the team be successful.

“I’ve heard a lot of people say he owes it. That kind of gets into a little bit of a slippery slope. His job is to win football games right now. But, with that said, I think everybody in the locker room, the more it gets along, the better this team is going to be.”

Maddox, now coaching high school baseball in Texas, said it’s not a one-to-one comparison because Roethlisberger’s a better player than he was at the same stage.

“Everybody’s going to handle things differently. I’m not going to sit here and say I think Ben owes it to him to [mentor],” Maddox said. “I think all of us, when you’re playing, you owe it to your teammates to be respectful and do what’s best for the team and all that.orioles_023

T.J. Jones signs tender with Lions

Wide receiver T.J. Jones signed his restricted free agent tender on the first day of the Lions’ offseason program.

The Lions made the announcement on Monday afternoon. Jones was tendered at the lowest of the three levels earlier this offseason and stands to make a little more than $1.9 million during the 2018 season.

Jones made the first six starts of his NFL career last season and set career-highs with 30 catches and 399 yards in his 14 overall appearances with the team. He’s played 27 games for Detroit over the last three seasons and will return to a complementary role alongside Golden Tate and Marvin Jones.

“I’m excited about it,” Davis said. “There’s a lot of momentum coming out of New York from people who have seen what we’ve done there, and there are people in New Orleans who are looking forward to using the platform to advocate on their behalf.”

Which means NFL players could be in the halls of another state house or university before long, with attentive audiences waiting.

“That was another playoff game. That was just tough, physical for 48 minutes,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said.

One more win Wednesday night at Minnesota and the Nuggets will end a five-year playoff drought.

The Trail Blazers have lost four straight but still harbor hopes of clinching the third seed in the Western Conference playoffs.

“At the end of the day this team is going to make a shot. I’m not worried about that,” said Jusuf Nurkic, who had 20 points and 19 rebounds. “We have one more at home (against Utah) and it’s probably going to be for the third spot. We’re going to fight for that.”

The Nuggets kept their season alive thanks to Nikola Jokic’s 10th triple-double of the season and a stifling defense on a night their starters made just 22 of 61 shots.

“I told them at halftime, I was honest, I said, `Fellas, if we lose, we’re out.’ I knew some of these other teams had won games. And I felt we played like our lives were on the line,” Malone said. “It wasn’t pretty, but I thought our defense was phenomenal.”texans_130

Raptors hold off Pistons 108-98

VanVleet was out with lower back tightness, and Ibaka had the night off to rest for Toronto.

The game didn’t mean much in terms of seeding in the East, but Toronto (59-22) now leads Golden State (58-23) by a game for home-court advantage in a possible NBA Finals matchup.

Manziel, 25, completed 13 of 32 passes for 136 yards and an interception in a 17-13 loss to the Chiefs in the last game he played. He has not played the past two seasons.

Brent Burns, Joe Pavelski and Timo Meier scored for San Jose. Martin Jones allowed five goals on 19 shots before being replaced by Aaron Dell to start the third period.

The Sharks started strong in the second period and held Minnesota without a shot for more than eight minutes. But the Wild then struck twice within less than a minute midway through the period to take control.

Granlund started it with a wrist shot for his 21st goal before Zucker took over with two goals of his own, giving him 33 on the season and the Wild coasted from there to the victory.

“We didn’t play too well,” Sharks forward Logan Couture said. “We should have played better. Disappointing. I think over 82 games in the season we had a pretty solid year to make the playoffs.”

The 49ers announced they have signed linebacker Korey Toomer to a one-year deal.

“We’re excited to add a talented player like Korey to our defensive unit,” 49ers General Manager John Lynch said, via quotes distributed by the team. “Korey is a good fit for the ‘stack linebacker’ position in our scheme, and he provides our team another good football player with plenty of NFL experience in similar systems.”

Toomer, 29, entered the NFL as a fifth-round pick of the Seahawks in 2012. He has spent time with the Seahawks (2012-13), Cowboys (2014), Rams (2014), Raiders (2015) and Chargers (2016-17).

In 46 career games, Toomer has 115 tackles, two sacks, one interception and five forced fumbles. He also has added 14 special teams tackles.

The way Chiefs general manager Brett Veach sees it, why wait?texans_113

Saints hoping draft goes as well this year as last

No team had a better draft than the Saints in 2017. Alvin Kamara and Marshon Lattimore became the first teammates to sweep the AP Rookie of the Year awards since 1967.

Ryan Ramczyk, Marcus Williams, Alex Anzalone and Trey Hendrickson proved big contributors, too.

But the Saints don’t have as many picks — or draft as early — as they did in 2017. Their first pick this year is No. 27, and New Orleans’ next choice after that is No. 91. Six of the Saints’ eight choices are third-day picks.

A Beckham deal would go straight to the top of that star-studded marquee, and wide receiver is a need for the Rams after they failed to re-sign Sammy Watkins. But two factors make such a move undesirable and unreasonable for the Los Angeles.

Adding Beckham to an already volatile personality mix with Peters, Talib and Suh might be much too much to handle. The Rams also need to worry about paying Aaron Donald, the best defensive player in the NFL, what he wants beyond 2018. Taking on another contract concern from the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft, in which Beckham was selected one spot ahead of Donald, would put the Rams in a tough situation with running back Todd Gurley and quarterback Jared Goff needing big deals, too, in the near future.

But what begins now for San Antonio after Monday’s 98-85 win over the Sacramento Kings is one final push to improve playoff seeding Wednesday when the Spurs face the New Orleans Pelicans at Smoothie King Arena. As it stands, the Spurs can finish anywhere between fourth and eighth in the Western Conference standings with one game remaining in the regular season.

“It feels good,” said Rudy Gay, who came off the bench to record a team-high 18 points as one of five Spurs to score in double figures. “It feels great, actually.”

The Spurs currently sit at sixth in the standings, and with a victory over New Orleans, they’re assured at least the No. 5 seed but could move up to fourth depending on the outcomes of other games in the conference.

For a franchise that tied the Portland Trail Blazers on the NBA’s all-time list for the second-longest streak of consecutive postseason appearances — and had captured back-to-back 60-win seasons in the previous two years — the Spurs expressed sincere relief in finally clinching the latest berth. Typically, at this time of the season, the Spurs are resting players in preparation for the playoffs.texans_096

Tony Romo lands nomination for Sports Emmy

After just one season as the top color man for CBS Sports’ NFL coverage in 2017, Tony Romo has been nominated for an Emmy award.

The broadcasting giant announced this news on Wednesday.

According to 247 Sports, Romo will be competing against Kirk Herbstreit, John Smoltz as well as fellow CBS peers Gary Danielson and Brad Nessler for the award.

Of course, one of the reasons Ballard might feel this way is that in the end the Colts came out smelling like roses. Instead of landing the offensive coordinator of the team that lost Super Bowl LII, they signed the offensive coordinator of the winning team, former Philadelphia Eagles coach Frank Reich. Still, it’s pretty interesting that the team that was most impacted by the situation that triggered this potential change didn’t want it to begin with.

Fast forward a couple months and Redskins head coach Jay Gruden had this to say when asked if the team is now better off with Smith.

Yeah, without a doubt, Gruden said, per John Keim of ESPN. I don’t want to compare two players, but we’re always trying to be better at every position. We got better. Alex’s experience is well-noted, and his record the last five years is what it is. You could argue that all day, but we feel very good.

These remarks must be a bit of a gut punch to Cousins, who did the team no wrong while patiently playing under franchise tender for the last two seasons.

But ultimately, Washington allowed Cousins to walk. Accordingly, the Redskins made a smart move in acquiring Smith who would have been snatched up quickly by any team in need should he have officially hit the trade block.broncos_023-500x500

Jets CEO ready to get involved in draft process now

Browns owner Jimmy Haslam made himself visible when his coaches and scouts were watching pro days for the top prospects last month.

Now the guy who runs the Jets is ready to join the fray, as the ultimate decision-makers are wont to do when it comes to quarterbacks.

For a proud franchise like Big Blue trying to rebound from a disastrous 3-13 season, obtaining a boat-load (pardon the pun) of draft picks in return for OBJ would be a smart play. The team has plenty of holes to fill on the league’s second-worst defense statistically, not to mention an offensive line that struggled in the run game and at times in pass protection.

There’s no doubt Beckham can be productive in Shurmur’s offensive system that was so effective for the Vikings last season (without a $20 million-per-year receiver). But Beckham also could be a major headache with his contract, his love of the limelight and his often poor decision-making on and off the field.

That’s the juggling act a team faces with a player such as Beckham. Is he worth the drama he invariably brings? You’re hoping he changes his M.O., but that might not happen until several years down the road. It’s hard to see him changing now as a 25-year old who clearly likes to party and hang out with celebs.

The Ravens opened a Wednesday press conference with outgoing General Manager Ozzie Newsome, his impending replacement Eric DeCosta and head coach John Harbaugh with the announcement that Robert Griffin III will be joining the team as a backup quarterback.

“One of the things we brainstormed was, ‘Well, we’re going to get picks (for Smith). Let’s go after a corner that maybe we can’t get in the free-agent market or the draft.'”

Speaking of free agency, the Reese’s Senior Bowl in late January proved as valuable a chance for franchises to begin laying the groundwork for upcoming veteran signings as it was for scouting college players. With no fear of league repercussions for tampering, agents and executives that met face-to-face in Mobile continued to make such headway in negotiations that free-agent deals featuring specific contract terms began surfacing the day before the actual start of the NFL’s signing period.texans_071

Reggie Bush Won’t Encourage Son to Play Football Due to Injuries

Former USC standout and NFL running back Reggie Bush isn’t particularly bullish on the idea of his son growing up to play football one day.

I’m not going to encourage him to play football, but I will definitely support him whatever he does, Bush said, per TMZ Sports.

Bush noted he would be extremely happy if his son plays another sport and explained of football it’s not a matter of if you get injured, it’s a matter of when.

A year later, there will be higher expectations for Mitchell Trubisky entering his sophomore season, and the 2017 No. 2 overall pick will have a lot more support. New head coach Matt Nagy worked magic with Alex Smith in Kansas City, and new receivers Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel and Trey Burton will team up with Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen to become one of the best young arsenals in the league.

If returning wideouts Cameron Meredith and Kevin White can stay healthy, that receiving corps will be loaded for the relatively well-protected Trubisky, who completed more than 67 percent of his passes in the final month of his rookie campaign.

That same month, the Bears defense surrendered just 13.6 points per game to finish the season with a top-10 ranking in both points and yards allowed. Prince Amukamara and Kyle Fuller return to a talented secondary, positioning that unit for a strong 2018 campaign.

If Trubisky can continue to progress and third-year linebacker Leonard Floyd can put it together, the Bears could become a wild-card team in 2018.

But at least the Rams know what they’re getting themselves into. Other teams are taking even bigger risks. They just don’t know it yet because it isn’t as obvious.

Those teams are making the NFL’s favorite bad gamble: the no-risk risk. They’re trying to somehow get better by getting rid of their best players. The dreaded culture change. The rebuilding project that is driven by personalities, not potential. The play-it-safe-and-guarantee-mediocrity gambit.patriots_150-223x223

Panthers Bids Are Said to Pass $2.5 Billion

The price of the Carolina Panthers has reached $2.5 billion, according to people familiar with bids for the NFL team, which would set a record for a U.S. professional sports franchise.

The rapid escalation in bidding has prompted Michael Rubin, the billionaire executive chairman of sports-apparel company Fanatics, to drop out of the process, said the people, who requested anonymity because the matter is private.

Not only are the Bears coordinated on defense by Vic Fangio (who was in San Francisco when the 49ers drafted Reid in the first round), but Chicago could use his hybrid skill set, especially if he’s still interested in playing more linebacker. Reid transitioned to a roving linebacker role for the 49ers in 2017, and he’d give the Bears an athletic option at the position in certain sub-packages, plus extra depth at safety.

Reid produced a Pro Bowl season (and four interceptions) under Fangio as a rookie in 2013.

Ayers joined the Bucs in 2016 and made 20 starts over his two seasons in Tampa. He had 60 tackles, 8.5 sacks and three forced fumbles in those outings.

In addition to Curry, the Bucs have signed Beau Allen and Mitch Unrein on the defensive line this month.Report: Seahawks in talks with several teams about Earl Thomas

The Seahawks are having discussions with several teams about safety Earl Thomas, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reports.

La Canfora adds Seattle is seeking a first-rounder and a third-rounder and may get more, which seems unlikely unless the team already has an agreement with Thomas on a contract extension.

Thomas has one year left on a four-year, $40 million extension he signed after the 2013 season that made him the league’s highest-paid safety. He is scheduled to make $8.5 million in 2018.

Thomas already has threatened to holdout if he doesn’t get a new deal.jets_098