It’s difficult to imagine Brees and the Saints parting ways, especially with the team again competitive and without his heir on the roster.

Landry, meanwhile, heads to Cleveland following a four-year stint with Miami in which he was targeted 563 times (sixth-most in the NFL) while catching 400 passes (No. 3 in the league). Primarily a short-area asset, Landry’s career 6.3 average depth of target is higher than only Cole Beasley (6.2) and Adam Humphries (6.2) among wide receivers with 100-plus targets since he entered the league in 2014. His conservative role was more than offset by the heavy volume, allowing Landry to post a top-14 fantasy campaign in each of the past three seasons, including a career-best No. 5 WR ranking in 2017. that effort was fueled by nine touchdown receptions. He had entered the season with only 13.

Brees himself has said he doesn’t anticipate testing the open market, but it’ll be a little tricky. Brees’ contract did not allow the Saints to use the franchise tag, so they’ll have to meet his price for a standard contract before a March 14 deadline that would accelerate $18 million in salary-cap space. The situation provides an opening for Brees to test the market if he changes his mind.

You can’t make decisions just for yourself, and I think that’s one thing I’ve learned as I’ve gotten older: There is collateral effects to every decision that I make,” Brady said, per “I have a wife [Gisele Bundchen] that aspires to be a lot of things, and she travels a lot. My oldest son lives here in New York, three kids, and you’re just always trying to juggle and you want to be there for them, and you want to be there for the hockey games and the soccer games. But you also realize the level of commitment it takes to give as much as you can to the team that needs you.” Brady has talked openly about playing into his mid-40s. The immediate task, though, is shifting gears away from February’s Super Bowl loss to Philadelphia and toward his 19th NFL campaign.

Mike Zimmer cautioned that the Vikings shouldn’t “go crazy” when signing a quarterback in free agency. It might appear that they’re not heeding that advice on the front end of Cousins’ deal, but after the guaranteed money is paid out, Cousins’ concession to the Vikings for all the guarantees would be those final two years of his contract where Minnesota has the upper hand. — Courtney Cronin, ESPN Vikings reporter

What if the Vikings can’t get Cousins? They have contingency plans. The first of those plans centers on their three free-agent quarterbacks: Case Keenum, Sam Bradford and Teddy Bridgewater. Even with more than $54 million in cap space, I’m not certain the Vikings will want to make a long-term investment in Keenum for upward of $20 million.buccaneers_081

Hold on a second, did the Mets just win the offseason?

Laugh it up, Sandy. It’s a cold day in Port St. Lucie.

On paper, that’s a pretty good lineup. There’s lots of power between Frazier (111 career OPS+), Cespedes (125 career OPS+) and Bruce (110 career OPS+). Should Conforto rebound from his shoulder injury (he will return in May, according to reports), he adds more bop to the lineup (145 OPS+ in 109 games in 2017).

The lineup is also sprinkled with a fair amount of prove-it guys: Can Rosario and Smith prove they belong at the major-league level? Can Cespedes prove he can stay healthy? Can Mr. Met prove he’s a family-friendly mascot once again?

Obviously, the Mets aren’t without those question marks. To take it a bit further: Adrian Gonzalez is far from a guarantee to return to previous All-Star form and the front office doesn’t seem sold on Dominic Smith. Their bench could use some depth, as well. But there are a few different reasons why the Mets have handled this offseason — shockingly — expertly.

“He’s at that point now (that) to get those 500 to 600 plate appearances, (he needs to) organize (his) strike zone, accept walks and use the whole field,” Maddon said Wednesday, via the Chicago Tribune. “That would be the next level for him.”

Maddon would like to get Ben Zobrist and Addison Russell more days off, but that hinges on Baez getting control of the strike zone.

The Cubs signed starting pitcher Yu Darvish earlier this month to help solidify an already strong rotation. But Chicago struggled to hit in key moments last season. An improved Baez could help the Cubs rejoin the game’s elite and see them contend for another World Series.

Another thing that doesn’t matter: that the Rays traded franchise icon Evan Longoria to San Francisco this offseason, or that they dealt starting pitcher Jake Odorizzi to Minnesota or that they dispatched 57 home runs worth of production when they traded Steven Souza Jr. (30 homers in 2017) to Arizona and Corey Dickerson (27 homers) to Pittsburgh. And it doesn’t matter that, barring a baseball miracle, the Rays are not going to be competitive in 2018.buccaneers_011

Shohei Ohtani perfect at plate in first spring training game as Angels’ DH

If first impressions are any indication, Shohei Ohtani will indeed be able to contribute to the Angels at the plate as well as on the mound — or better.

The two-way superstar from Japan reached base in all three plate appearances Monday in his spring training debut as a hitter.

Obviously, I couldn’t directly communicate with my teammates, but it wasn’t something that was entirely necessary. Once you get on the field, it’s baseball. We all play baseball and that’s a universal language. It’s not like we need to be talking to each other, per se. Fortunately, I was surrounded by great teammates and great coaching staffs. Communication wasn’t really an issue.

There’s been so much talk lately about ways to improve baseball, both on and off the field. Is there anything MLB could borrow from Nippon Professional Baseball that you think would work?

The New York Post reported Tebow could serve as the designated hitter in the Mets’ exhibition Monday vs. the Astros if X-rays on the ankle check out.

In case you were wondering, this injury won’t cost Tebow an opportunity to make the big club, even though Mets general manager Sandy Alderson predicted last week that Tebow will someday play in the major leagues. The plan has long been for the 30-year-old outfielder to begin the season with the Mets’ Double-A affiliate in Binghamton, N.Y.

That plan isn’t changing even though major-league outfielders Juan Lagares (hamstring), Jay Bruce (foot) and Michael Conforto (shoulder surgery) are also out. Conforto, in fact, is expected to miss the first month as his recovery drags.seahawks_128_113c5eed8dd9ea01-180x180

In addition to Hyder, the Lions also re-signed long snapper Don Muhlbach .

Ian Rapoport reported earlier Saturday Sherman has an affinity for the West Coast, which makes plenty of sense and helps explain such a swift signing. The Southern California native is a Stanford graduate and is familiar with Niners defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, who was Seattle’s defensive quality control coach from 2011-2013, Sherman’s first three seasons in the NFL. He’ll stay in the NFC West while also avoiding having to learn a new scheme.

“It’s kind of like college again. You got an athlete coming to your school and you want to try your best to get them there. And that’s the same thing with us. We would really like to have Kirk. I think him and his personality and the things that he brings to the table fits in with Denver. But there are a lot of great teams out there with large pocket books. So we’ll have to just wait and see. But I’ll have to give him the ultimate spiel on why Denver is special to me.”

The Broncos join the Vikings, Cardinals and Jets as teams who are making a run at signing the veteran quarterback, but Miller is ready to give his pitch adding that other markets don’t have someone like him that will be there for Cousins for the rest of his career.

“That’s one thing that these other markets are just not going to have. They’re not going to have a guy like me on the other side that’s going to be with him for the duration of his career, so hopefully that will be enough. I know it won’t, but I’m here all in for the Kirk Cousins sweepstakes.”

Miller is up against some tough competition as Cardinals stars Larry Fitzgerald and David Johnson have already lobbied for the veteran to go to Arizona earlier this week.

With 12-sack monster Ezekiel Ansahreturning on the franchise tag, the Lions ‘ pass rush under new coach Matt Patricia could cause plenty of problems for NFC North rivals in 2018.

Small-market teams have been making the playoffs more often lately, especially with the added wild-card spot in each league. But getting in year after year has proven more difficult. Minnesota has the 20th highest payroll in baseball, according to Sportrac, but with many offseason moves still yet to be made, the Twins will probably end up in the bottom 10.seahawks_094_c074a3d65b735726-180x180

Draymond Green, Klay Thompson joke about consequences if not picked by All-Star captain Stephen Curry

Stephen Curry better be careful with his All-Star picks, or else a potential Warriors dynasty could fall apart — OK, not really.

The Thunder have rattled off seven wins in a row, and they are right behind the Timberwolves and Spurs in the Western Conference standings. OKC was coming together and showing signs it would be a tough out in the playoffs. That’s what makes Roberson’s injury so tough.

Wild card: Kristaps Porzingis, Knicks. Porzingis will benefit from the lack of talent in the East and get a spot on the team, beating out Beal, Ben Simmons and Hassan Whiteside. He is averaging 23.3 points and making 38.5 percent of his 3s, but he’s gotten worse as the season has gone on.

Snubs: Simmons is close, but his offense needs work; Whiteside has missed too many games; Beal’s Wizards have disappointed, and he is one-dimensional.

Backcourt: Jimmy Butler, Timberwolves. It was a rocky start for Minnesota, but they’ve recovered and are now on pace for 51 wins. Butler is averaging 21.7 points, 5.4 rebounds and 5.0 assists, giving the Wolves just what they needed.

The odd thing is Windhorst was on the Warriors’ side. He wasn’t criticizing anyone, and said Durant has a target on his back from officials. So we’re not exactly sure why Green felt the need to go after him, but clearly he doesn’t want his name to be brought up.

After the Rockets-Mavericks game, ESPN went back into the studio to hype up the Celtics-Clippers game later in the night. When discussing All-Star snubs, Paul Pierce said Paul George was more deserving than Green, and Windhorst joked, “Now Draymond’s going to tweet at you.”

“It’s getting old,” coach Doug Weight said. “We should have won the game.”

“We’ve just got to find a way, a full 60 minutes to finish one out,” Tavares said. “We just haven’t seemed to finish games off. Whatever that is, whether it’s mental or just execution of a few plays, we’ve just got to find a way to do it. No one’s going to feel sorry for us or change the outcome. Obviously, this isn’t a whole lot of fun right now.”lions_016

Danny Salazar injury opens up rotation spot for Mike Clevinger

Cleveland Indians pitcher Danny Salazar will be sidelined at the start of the regular season because of a shoulder injury, opening a rotation spot for Mike Clevinger.

Indians manager Terry Francona confirmed Monday that Salazar is “not going to be ready” for the start of the season as he deals with inflammation in his pitching shoulder.

Salazar is a few weeks behind his originally scheduled throwing program but threw from 90 feet Monday, prompting Francona to say that the hard-throwing right-hander is “going in the right direction.”

On top of that, when you start pulling for your players and against the players on your opponent’s team each week, you’ll find a new way to enjoy watching MLB games. Suddenly, that Sunday Night Baseball game between two out-of-town teams carries some meaning to you because you want your players to succeed and your opponent’s to fail.

Whenever you read some of our experts’ columns on, it’s clear that some people take fantasy baseball as seriously as MLB general managers do the real game. The good news is that the experts do all of the heavy lifting to make things easy for newbies such as you.

“If I can be more versatile, it’s something that should help our team in a lot of different ways,” Braun said early in spring training.

Counsell has said in camp that he wanted Braun to get game experience at first base and allow Braun to learn from mistakes that can’t be taught from drills and workouts alone.

“Some of it you can coach, and you can tell him, but you have to experience it,” Counsell said. “We’re really at the start of this process.”

But it’s that referenced second half of Bauer’s last season that makes his strongest case. Beginning with his July 21 start, which was the first one during which he exhibited a clear increase in use of his slider while shelving his cutter, he had 10 quality starts, a 2.60 ERA and 26.7 percent strikeout rate in his final 14 appearances. It was the first time in his career that Bauer seemed to exhibit good control — his walk rate was an uncharacteristic-for-him 6.7 percent — which is something he has carried through his first two Cactus League starts (zero walks).

I can formulate a case for any of the other five and think McCullers has a definitively higher ceiling — McCullers’ raw stuff is tops from this group — so the decision could come down to roster context, but Bauer is the most well-rounded choice for me.lions_097

Jackson has not used one of the major pre-draft workout centers that many of the draft-eligible players have used.

Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen and USC quarterback Sam Darnold have trained together, with several others players, in California.

Jackson said he instead has used private training” in his native South Florida and has spent much of his time leading up to the combine working on my accuracy, because I feel like that’s why they’re down on me now.”

Eagles OT Lane Johnson. Remember when Johnson blew up at the 2013 combine? His broad jump was 118 inches. That’s comparable to an above-average mark from a running back — and he did it while weighing 303 pounds. Johnson’s performance proved to scouts that he had the lower-body power to develop into a good left tackle.

Texas OT Connor Williams. Williams is coming off an injury-riddled 2017 season, and the medical exam will be huge for him. His numbers in the broad jump don’t need to be Lane Johnson-esque, but anywhere in the same neighborhood would help his first-round cause and show off his lower-body explosion. Many of the top offensive tackles in the NFL have performed well in this drill. Williams will be looking to eclipse 9 feet (108 inches) — something only four OTs did at last year’s combine.

Redskins senior vice president of player personnel Doug Williams said Wednesday that he doesn’t think they would try to tag Cousins for a third straight season. The idea, if they did, would be to then trade Cousins, hoping to get more than just the possible compensatory pick they would receive in 2019 if Cousins signs with another team.

Virginia Tech LB Tremaine Edmunds. A 6-foot-5, 250-plus-pound LB who can run off the edge, cover tight ends, play on or off the line of scrimmage — and who had 102 stops last season? Yeah, this dude is a freak. According to the folks I’ve spoken to in Blacksburg, Edmunds is going to light up the combine. With a long-levered player like Edmunds, I’m interested to see his lateral agility and body control in this drill.patriots_011

How the NFL franchise tag works

The heart of NFL free agency starts March 12, when teams can begin meeting and negotiating with representatives of free agents. But it really began, in earnest, Tuesday, when the window opened for teams to use franchise or transitional tags.

Top 2018 NFL free agents like Le’Veon Bell could be candidates for their teams’ respective franchise tags. Bell, however, was franchise-tagged in 2017, and he recently said he won’t play if the same thing happens to him in 2018.

The franchise tag allows teams to lock up a top free agent for one season. Some free agents want to cash in with massive, long-term contracts filled, including guaranteed money. If teams aren’t ready to commit to that type of deal, the tag gives them more time to work out a long-term extension, or evaluate a given player’s value for another season.

The franchise tag gives players basically no leverage, unless a player decides to not sign it and sit out the next season. Von Miller threatened to do that in 2016 before signing a six-year, $114.5 million contract with the Broncos.

Players who are tagged run the risk getting injured or playing poorly on their one-year deals, which would negatively affect their value on the free-agent market. Most players don’t like the franchise tag.

That his second career choice now involves punching out crime isn’t out of character for the son of an Army sergeant who graduated from Louisiana-Lafayette with a degree in criminal justice and spent some of his NFL offseasons working with law enforcement personnel.

Investigators believe Jackson and 54-year-old ride-share driver Jeffrey Monroe pulled to the side of Interstate 70 due to Jackson becoming ill. Both Jackson and Monroe were outside the vehicle when a pickup truck swerved into the emergency shoulder striking and killing both men.

It is believed to be a case of drunk driving, according to Sgt. John Perrine. Via the Indianapolis Star:

The driver of the pickup truck, identified as 37-year-old Alex Cabrera Gonsales of Indianapolis, tried to flee the scene on foot.

He was apprehended shortly after on the ramp to Holt Road by Mays, police said.

”It is believed Gonsales was intoxicated and was driving without a license,” Perrine said in a statement. ”He was transported to the Marion County Jail, the result of the test for intoxication is pending.”jays_322_c2f803b9c1613618-180x180

Portland is 16-15 on the road. The Suns are 9-21 at home.

Since beating Dallas on Jan. 31, the Suns are 0-for-February and have been outscored by 181 points in eight defeats. They have lost by 32, 48, and 26 points in that run, and their 48-point loss to San Antonio on Feb. 7 tied a franchise-worst set against Portland on opening night.

“Inexcusable,” interim coach Jay Triano said of the listless start against the Clippers.

“We knew that they’re an ‘iso’ team and they were going to put it down and drive it right at us. They did and we couldn’t keep anyone in front of us.

The Kings were unable to get rolling, and Lehtonen thwarted their late attempts to tie it.

“In the second period, we took the game over,” Lehtonen said. “We were the team that seemed to have more legs and more will at the end there.”

Quick made several outstanding stops and finished with 26 saves. But with Dallas controlling the puck after the first period, Los Angeles could never find any offensive rhythm.

With New York (24-36) out of playoff contention and Kristaps Porzingis sidelined following ACL surgery, the club will use its final 23 games to evaluate younger players.

Hornacek said this week that younger players such as Mudiay, first-round pick Frank Ntilikina and Trey Burke will play more often over the remainder of the season.

Burke led the Knicks with 26 points on 12-for-22 shooting against the Magic. He also handed out six assists in 30 minutes off of the bench as New York snapped an eight-game losing streak. Ntilikina played 30 minutes and helped the Knicks slow Orlando down on defense in the second half.

Mudiay, who was acquired via trade earlier this month, said Wednesday that he’d value the chance to start after falling out of the Denver Nuggets’ starting lineup this season.

“There’s risk in playing, risk in not playing in terms of tradeability,” Blashill said of Green. “But there might be teams that want to see him, too.”bears_103-223x223

Does Golden State want to keep him?

So far, the United States has managed a bronze medal in the figure skating team event, but fell short of the podium in the men’s events after Nathan Chen’s struggles in the short program. The sport now moves on to ice dancing, which begins on Sunday evening with the short program and will conclude on Monday with the free dance.

As usual, the figure skating will be front and center during NBC’s primetime television coverage beginning at 7 p.m. ET on Sunday evening. There will also be live streaming online, via NBC Olympics (enhanced, non-enhanced) or FuboTV (NBC simulcast).

Thompson was asked during a recent media session whether he wants to remain with the Warriors when his first unrestricted free agency rears around in 2019. His answer, according to The San Jose Mercury-News’ Mark Medina:

Absolutely, he said. Playing for one team your whole career is definitely special. Only so many guys have done it in professional sports, so it’ll be a goal of mine. Hopefully it all works out.

It’s so far away. Anything I can do to stay with the Warriors is first and foremost. God willing, it happens. If not, I don’t even think about that.

Popovich continued: What’s really strange is that [Tony Parker] has the same injury, but even worse. They had to go operate on his quad tendon and put it back together or whatever they did to it. So to have two guys, that’s pretty incredible. I had never seen it before those guys.

Parker rehabbed after the injury in last season’s Western Conference Semifinals and hadn’t played until Nov. 25, but has since returned and is averaging 8.5 points and about four assists per game. He’s been demoted to a bench role behind budding young guard Dejounte Murray, but the Spurs’ biggest issue isn’t at the point guard: It’s on the wings.

San Antonio has fallen to 35-24 this season, now tied with and in danger of falling behind the Minnesota Timberwolves for the fourth seed in the West. The Wolves are only two games ahead of the Thunder, who are only separated by 1.5 games from the ninth seed in the West. In short: The Spurs need Leonard back to be anything close to the team they were last year.bears_119