Nelson finished the season with 53 catches for 482 yards and six touchdowns.

“To be honest, it doesn’t really bother me at all,” Acuna said. “I actually feel pretty humbled and honored and grateful that I’ve received some notoriety and attention, and really all I can try and do is prepare mentally and physically and just do my best and try to make the team.”

Acuna’s acumen started to show at last year’s spring training. He played in the final 13 games and started to prove that Jones was on to something with his assessment. He had a slash line of.296/.387/.444 in the Grapefruit League, including a triple and two doubles.

The Redskins have moved on to Alex Smith, whose acquisition will become official when the new league year begins March 14.

Cousins could set a new bar for NFL contracts, perhaps in excess of $30 million annually.

To that point, he had six touchdowns in the first five games of the season, but he didn’t catch another one.

He was released Wednesday.

Just one season before, he was the NFL’s comeback player of the year when he caught 97 passes for 1,257 yards and 14 touchdowns.

So while 2017 may not suggest he’s a $10 million upgrade, the Vikings are paying that premium for stability.

That’s what Keenum’s career completion rate was before landing in Minnesota. His big season was aided by the presence of offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, who has worked wonders with his quarterbacks as an assistant coach. He won’t work with Keenum or Cousins this season, as he’s now head coach of the New York Giants. That leaves the very legitimate concern the journeyman quarterback could turn back into a pumpkin.

Grade for Washington: B Plenty of people figured the Chiefs were going to trade Alex Smith this offseason to free up their starting job for 2017 first-round pick Patrick Mahomes.

They were half-right. ravens_150

Tavon Austin restructures deal to stay with Rams

Tavon Austin was drafted to be the Rams’ X-factor, and while he flirted with the role from time to time, he never fully filled it.

It seemed after a year in which Los Angeles turned to other options to stock its receiving corps, Austin was on his way out. He was making far too much money ($14.97 million cap hit in 2017) to justify his marginal usage (13 catches, 47 yards; 59 rushes, 270 yards, one touchdown in 2017).

Also, whoever lands Jordy Nelson and Ndamukong Suh would have an argument for being on here too. 1) Cleveland Browns It’s one thing to have a lot of draft currency stocked up, but it’s a complete other to make good use of it. Former Browns exec Sashi Brown loaded up on future draft picks before losing his job with Cleveland.

New GM John Dorsey has come in and gotten some impressive hauls with the excess picks while still keeping many for the upcoming draft. The Browns acquired Tyrod Taylor, Jarvis Landry and Demarious Randall via trades. That gives them their best quarterback in years, a play-making wide receiver, and a good defensive back. They also signed running back Carlos Hyde, which should serve as a strong replacement for Isaiah Crowell, whom they lost to the Jets. Further, Cleveland has said that signing Hyde would not prevent them from drafting Saquon Barkley. On top of adding Randle, the Browns signed T.J. Carrie to a four-year, $31 million deal, giving them a nice cornerback duo.

Butler also suggested that the matchups against the Eagles receivers may have played a role as well, in speaking with Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald. So we still don’t know exactly why Butler was benched. Maybe he was ill during the week, or maybe he was out partying a bit too hard. If the latter was the case, it wouldn’t be a good look for him or the Patriots organization, so that’s a scenario where both parties would favor a vanilla reason such as “matchups” rather than what actually happened. It doesn’t matter now, though, as that’s all water under the bridge, and Butler has a fresh start with a new team. This is likely the last we’ll hear about it.

The Broncos landed their quarterback at the start of free agency when they signed Case Keenum to a two-year deal and they’ve also created cap space to use for other moves this offseason. They did so by reworking linebacker Von Miller ‘s contract.ravens_022

Report: Jets re-signing Claiborne to 1-year deal

The New York Jets are re-signing cornerback Morris Claiborne on a one-year, $7-million contract, sources told NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. Claiborne, 28, joined the Jets last season and started all 15 games he was active for, making 43 tackles, eight pass deflections, and one interception. He and the freshly signed Trumaine Johnson will likely be the Jets’ starting corners next season. The former sixth overall pick is entering his seventh season in the league after spending the first five years with the Dallas Cowboys.

Despite having more than $71 million in cap space, Colts GM Chris Ballard has mostly hung back at the start of free agency.

The Browns added a starting-caliber running back by bringing Carlos Hyde aboard on a three-year deal. But that should hardly change the team’s view of Penn State’s Saquon Barkley, a do-everything ball carrier whose biggest obstacle for the No. 1 pick appears to be whether his relative positional value warrants the slot. The same applies for the Giants at No. 2 after they added Jonathan Stewart, an odd fit for Pat Shurmur’s offense.

The move reunites Jason with his twin brother, Devin McCourty, a longtime defensive back for the Patriots.

Thursday’s swap marks the second offseason trade between the teams after the Browns sent run-stuffing defensive lineman Danny Shelton to Foxborough in exchange for a third-round selection in 2019.

In New England, the 30-year-old McCourty will join a Patriots cornerback room that includes Stephon Gilmore, Eric Rowe, Jonathan Jones, Cyrus Jones and Ryan Lewis.

In Cleveland, new general manager John Dorsey and his cadre of front-office handlers are rebuilding both sides of the ball with their own hand-picked players. After trading for cornerback-turned-safety Damarious Randall, the Browns signed free-agent cover men T.J. Carrie and Terrance Mitchell. With Briean Boddy-Calhoun and Jamar Taylor still in the mix, Cleveland opted to move on from the 30-year-old McCourty.

He also fumbled three times after going his entire career without one. canucks_015

Here’s how all those trades ruined all of your NFL free agency predictions

Not content just to have their franchise quarterback signed to the NFL’s richest contract, the 49ers struck early in free agency to fill one of the biggest holes on their roster, cornerback. The Seahawks released Sherman, and he wasted no time signing with the Niners relishing the chance for “vengeance.” It’s clear the 49ers have no intention of hiding behind the rebuilding label; they want to contend and they want to do it now.

The 49ers are going to be aggressive on the free agent market. Only four teams have more cap space the 49ers with $64 million to spend, and three of those teams the Jets, Browns, and Colts are in the process of a roster makeover. They still need pass rushing help, receivers, linebackers, and interior linemen, positions which also happen to have some of the best available free agents this year. San Francisco can set the market.

The Broncos signed Case Keenum
Denver was expected to be in on the Kirk Cousins action, but they shook up the quarterback market when they came to terms with Keenum.

Now it’s a three-way race for Cousins’ services. The Browns were also expected to be in the mix because of their glaring need at the position and their ample cap space, but they’re out after trading for Tyrod Taylor. That leaves the Vikings, Jets, and the Cardinals as the last teams standing. Now it’s just a matter of waiting and seeing where Cousins actually lands.

Brees is probably closer to Smith than it might have seemed a few years ago, and while the Saints didn’t need him to throw the ball downfield very frequently last season, it will be interesting to see what happens if the defense doesn’t play as effectively as it did in 2017.

Brees should remain effective in 2018.

It’s also fair to say that there’s significantly more risk in Brees’ profile than there was even a year ago.

But the two-year, $50 million deal the Saints gave Brees was a no-brainer, and given that Brees could have forced the Saints to eat up $18 million in dead cap space from his old deal by hitting free agency, he did his longtime club a favor.

G Andrew Norwell, Jaguars Grade: B We found what the Jags were saving money to add! If you’re going to sign a free agent, it might as well be a 26-year-old coming off a first-team All-Pro appearance, as is the case with Norwell.packers_100

Predicting surprise: Young players who could shine for Dodgers, Indians in 2018

Why he could break out: Don’t let Mejia’s paltry performance with the bat last September fool you: He has the unmistakable ability to hit, and hit well. As a minor leaguer, Mejia has a .293 career average, and it’s worth noting that during his major league tenure Mejia was penciled into the lineup as a starter only once. That means that 10 of his 14 at-bats came as a pinch hitter, an unenviable position for a 22-year-old still fresh out of the Eastern League.

As a top-10 pick, Evans was entitled to a far bigger fifth-year option, as the Bucs were on the hook for $13.3 million before signing him to an extension.

With that in mind, it’s a surprise that Evans was able to make only a modest leap over the maximum value of Hopkins’ deal, with his contract coming in at five years and $82.5 million.

The trade-off is in the money early in the deal.

Spotrac reports that Evans will make $54 million over the first three years of the deal, which would be the most of any wideout in history.

Thomas, a 10-time Pro Bowl left tackle, played in every snap for the Browns from when he was drafted in 2007 until he suffered a triceps injury in October 2017. That amounted to 10,363 snaps, a record the team plans to enshrine in its 2018 Ring of Honor.

“From the moment I was drafted, the city embraced me in a way that I could never fully describe. I am proud to call Cleveland home,” Thomas said. “The loyalty and passion of the fans is unmatched and it was an honor to play in front of them from the past 11 years. I would like to thank all of the coaches, teammates, staff, fans and everyone who has shown me support throughout my career. Even though I will be hanging up my cleats, I will always be a Cleveland Brown.”

Though his career was marked by his excellence and endurance, he also was part of an era of unrivaled quarterback ineptitude. In his career, he protected a seemingly endless parade of starting QBs.

“Joe means so much to me both personally and professionally,” Jackson said. “Joe has been not just a tremendous Cleveland Brown, but one of the best to ever play in the National Football League. I appreciate everything he has done for this organization and not just on the field, his leadership and what he brought to the locker room, as a coach you couldn’t ask for a better captain than Joe Thomas.packers_003

The Giants and owner John Mara have said on multiple occasions that Beckham would be a Giant for life and that it was only a matter of when he received a long-term deal.

It’s unclear at this time whether the videos could factor into the equation.

Marijuana remains banned by the NFL’s substance abuse policy. Beckham is not known to have ever failed a test or to have at any point entered the league’s substance abuse program.

“He’s such a versatile player, he’s played both for us,” coach Pete Carroll said last week at the scouting combine. “We’ll see what happens. We know he can play corner, and we like the way he plays at corner, but everything is open. I have not talked directly to him about that, but we have mentioned it to him.”

Cornerback has suddenly become a position of need for Seattle following Sherman’s release and that of Lane, which had been expected for some time. Byron Maxwell, who was brought back following Sherman’s season-ending Achilles injury, is also a free agent. Of the four cornerbacks the Seahawks have under contract for 2018, only one — 2017 rookie Shaquill Griffin — has started for Seattle.

Beckham has spent most of the offseason rehabbing and working with his trainer in Los Angeles.

“In my mind now, it’s going to come down to, ‘Do I feel like health-wise I can survive another NFL season’?” he told WKYC.

Thomas seemed most pleased about the addition of Taylor at quarterback. On a previous edition of the podcast, he had said Taylor was his favorite QB on the market.

“Obviously, his ability to make plays with his feet — not only running, but also moving around when something breaks down and throwing the ball down the field — I think is going to be a huge asset for a team that has a lot of young talent but is starting to add some of these other positions. I think he’s a great fit,” Thomas said.

Strief, who was always a media darling in New Orleans, also injected plenty of humor into the 45-minute event, including self-deprecating comments about his unimpressive vertical and 40-yard dash times, plugs for the new brewery he co-owns, and lumping in his failed opportunity at a touchdown pass with his other most lasting memories.

Strief said he felt “indebted” to Payton and Loomis for giving him the opportunity. He added that he never seriously considered leaving for any other teams when he had the chance — even before he married a New Orleans native.buccaneers_090

Felix Hernandez injury update: Mariners star ‘day-to-day’ after hit in pitching arm

Mariners ace Felix Hernandez left Monday’s game against the Cubs after being struck in the pitching arm by a line drive.

Hernandez left with one out in the bottom of the second after being hit by a comebacker off the bat of Cubs catcher Victor Caratini. Hernandez appeared in considerable pain as trainers checked him before he left the field.

I also watch the games and how the players approach the game. Anything I can pick up and then provide feedback that I feel will help players is what I focus on. I also report back to [Yankees general manager] Brian Cashman with the progress of those players. As far as being in the front office, I don’t think my perspective of baseball has really changed much. Even though I’m on the front-office side, I think that mindset of wanting to do whatever is necessary to help the ballclub is still the same. The context and my responsibilities may be different, but that mindset hasn’t really changed.

What’s it like working with Brian Cashman?

My primary duty is to report back to him on the progress and status [of players], and it’s only on a periodic basis. There’s not a whole lot to it. It’s interesting because as a player, I always interacted with him on a regular basis… Having known him since my playing days, he’s very easy to work with.

But the list of unsigned players remains long, and for guys like Jake Arrieta and Mike Moustakas, the end of a frustrating offseason might not be around the corner. Teams need starting pitching, but seem to be balking at the money and years Arrieta is asking for. There were a handful of teams looking for the type of third-base upgrade that Moustakas offers, but they’ve almost all gone in different (cheaper) directions.

So here are some of the most common clichés in spring training, what they really mean and how to decipher them when you hear them.

Translation: “We’re going to play baseball this year.”

Explained: I mean, yeah, right? It’s pretty obvious. Why else would you dedicate your life to playing a sport? Well, sure, there’s the paycheck, too. But there’s always golf or tennis for the individual glory.buccaneers_024

MLB trade rumors: 10 potential destinations for Rays ace Chris Archer

Chris Archer is under contract for four more seasons.

That fact has to be the starting point for any discussion about the potential of Chris Archer being traded by the Tampa Bay Rays. It doesn’t matter whether the discussion is you and your friends talking about the hypothetical possibility or whether it’s an actual big-league GM calling actual Rays GM Erik Neander. Four years of control.

Samardzija got hit hard hard by the home run explosion of 2017, being one of 11 pitchers who surrendered 30 dingers last year. That ballooned his ERA to 4.42, but that spike could also be attributed to the defense behind him.

The 2016 Giants were the third best defensive team in baseball, accruing 58 defensive runs saved as a club. The 2017 Giants were the fifth worst, costing their team 44 runs. That’s a 102 run swing in the wrong direction. Samardzija pitched 207.2 innings last year, or roughly 15 percent of the team’s total innings pitched. If 15 runs are subtracted from his season total, his ERA is virtually identical to what it was in 2016 (3.78).

Kansas City lost Eric Hosmer to the Padres this offseason, so Duda should have a clear shot at first base duties as the team enters rebuilding mode.

Add Shohei Ohtani to the ever-growing list of batters to fall victim to Clayton Kershaw’s infamous curveball.

Ohtani led off in the third inning as the Angels’ DH against the Dodgers on Wednesday for his first matchup against the three-time Cy Young winner. Despite getting ahead in the count, the Japanese international went down looking on strike three as Kershaw’s curveball proved to be too much.

This strikeout was the only matchup between the two players, but it still managed to overshadow even the concept of a Trout vs. Kershaw face-off.

Ohtani, who went hitless in two at-bats Wednesday, could have a shot at redemption against Kershaw March 22 at Camelback Ranch, or perhaps during the exhibition Freeway Series from March 25-27. If neither of those come to fruition, the first Angels-Dodgers series of the regular season will be July 6-8.seahawks_117_327518212f9164ec-180x180

Of course, those balls 20-plus feet away from Kiermaier are more difficult to make a play on than the balls five-plus feet away from Kemp.

What’s their current CB situation? Houston let A.J. Bouye leave as an expensive free agent last offseason, and that impact was palpable. After holding opposing quarterbacks to the league’s third-worst passer rating in 2016, the Texans ranked 29th in that same category a year later. Johnathan Joseph was still productive at age 33 last season, but the clock is winding down on his impressive career.

The answer lies in range: Kemp might not be able to make a play on a ball hit 20 feet away from him, but he can easily make plays on balls five feet away from him. Kiermaier has far better range, so he can make plays on balls that are much further. Errors are only charged to players who can make a play and flub it, not to players who are unable to make a play.

While Kiermaier is responsible for more outs, he still is penalized for being unable to make tough plays, and hence his fielding percentage is lower than Kemp’s by virtue of attempting to make more difficult plays.

What does this mean for the Broncos? Denver has plenty of holes to fill this offseason after a 5-11 season sunk the team to the bottom of the AFC West. Fortunately for general manager John Elway, the team has few priority free agents to re-sign, and cutting Talib gives the franchise more cap space to work with this offseason.

Priority No. 1 will be finding a quarterback — perhaps Kirk Cousins — to replace the ineffective three-headed Paxton Lynch-Trevor Siemian- Brock Osweiler monster.

As good as Talib as been during his tenure, the Broncos have his replacement all ready to go: Bradley Roby , their 2014 first-round pick. Roby has started just 16 times in his four-year career, but he’s played in all 64 regular season games. The uber-athletic corner also shown a knack for making plays, totaling six interceptions (including two pick-sixes) and five forced fumbles in that time. seahawks_104_73b74cd6e6e3492c-180x180

Mike Conley injury update: Grizzlies guard out for rest of season, needs surgery

Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley has been ruled out for the rest of the season, as he’ll undergo surgery to repair a bone protrusion in his left heel, the team announced Saturday.

Grizzlies GM Chris Wallace announces in email moments ago to MVP season-ticket holders that Mike Conley will require season-ending surgery “to smooth a small bone protrusion” in his left heel. Conley is expected to make a full recovery ahead of training camp.

It’s not yet known whether Bobrovsky will be available against the Avalanche. The Blue Jackets didn’t practice Wednesday.

“It’s been a tough last four weeks for me,” said Korpisalo, who was 1-4-0 in his previous five starts. “Every win, every solid game and every time I feel like I help the team helps me a lot.”

The Avalanche stymied the Blue Jackets 2-0 on Jan. 4 in Denver in the only meeting between the teams this season. They’re coming off a 2-1 overtime loss on the road to the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday night.

D’Antoni was named head coach for Curry’s team after the Rockets secured the best record in the West through games played on Feb. 4 among teams coached by eligible candidates. The Rockets are sitting second in the Western Conference with a 34-13 record, behind the Warriors at 39-10, but Golden State’s head coach Steve Kerr was ineligible since he coached the West in last year’s All-Star Game.

This is the first year of a new format for the All-Star Game where the player with the most All-Star votes from each conference was named captain and selected his own team. The coaching staffs are selected based on their teams’ winning percentages, and the coach of the team with the best record will lead the team that includes the captain from the same conference.

D’Antoni earned All-Star Game head coaching honors for the second time. He coached in the 2007 NBA All-Star Game, when he led the Western Conference past the Eastern Conference 153-132 while he was head coach of the Suns.

In his second season with Houston, D’Antoni has an 89-40 record with the Rockets. D’Antoni has coached in the NBA for 14 seasons with five different teams and has a career coaching record of 544-466 (.539).lions_033