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Legion of Big Bucks: Ravens spending $58 million on secondary

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Thomas’ present is a Baltimore secondary that lacks a catchy nickname but has been bestowed an investment unlike any other in the NFL.

The Ravens are spending $58 million on their top six defensive backs this year. Baltimore signed Thomas ($22 million with base salary and signing bonus combined), extended the contract of nickelback Tavon Young (a total of $11 million base salary and signing bonus), exercised the option for cornerback Brandon Carr ($6 million) and brought back Jimmy Smith ($9.5 million), Tony Jefferson ($8 million) and Marlon Humphrey ($1.542 million).cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

In terms of salary cap, the Ravens’ secondary has combined for a league-high $56.7 million salary-cap figure, according to ESPN’s Roster Management System. That accounts for 30 percent of Baltimore’s entire cap.

Given this price tag, the Ravens are expecting this defensive backfield to be among the league’s best. Baltimore is essentially returning last season’s fifth-ranked pass defense but with what many believe is an upgrade at free safety. When healthy, Thomas has shown more range and playmaking ability than Eric Weddle.10

The Ravens’ schedule explains why first-year general manager Eric DeCosta has opened up the wallet for the secondary. Baltimore is facing four of the top seven quarterbacks in passing yards (Ben Roethlisberger, Patrick Mahomes, Jared Goff and Tom Brady) as well as Russell Wilson (third-highest passer rating), Deshaun Watson (coming off first Pro Bowl) and Baker Mayfield (27 touchdown passes).cheap nfl jerseys china nike

The Ravens will need Smith to quiet Odell Beckham Jr. like he has done in the past. They’ll want Humphrey to go stride for stride with A.J. Green and DeAndre Hopkins. They’ll look for Thomas to cover the middle of the field when Tyreek Hill goes deep.

This is as deep, talented and physical as any secondary under coach John Harbaugh, who has envisioned this for a long time. There were too many playoff games against Brady and Peyton Manning in which the Ravens started Frank Walker or Rashaan Melvin at cornerback because of injuries and went with Kendrick Lewis and Will Hill at safety because of cap limitations.

There will be additional pressure on the secondary to stick with receivers to help the pass rush get to quarterbacks. The Ravens lost 15.5 sacks when Terrell Suggs and Za’Darius Smith signed elsewhere in free agency. Baltimore is expected to add a veteran pass-rusher in free agency, and the Ravens can go from a bigger (but more expensive) splash with Kansas City’s Justin Houston to a cheaper alternative in Green Bay’s Nick Perry.

In an age when teams are throwing the ball more than ever before, the Ravens have prided themselves at being among the best in slowing down the big-play passing attacks. Since Harbaugh became coach in 2008, Baltimore leads the NFL in lowest passer rating allowed (79.3).

Odell Beckham Jr. trade signifies a complete Giants rebuild

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The once-proud Giants are now the team with eight wins in two years and a roster that indicates it’s not going to get much better in the immediate future. They are in a position quite familiar to the Browns — desperately in need of a savior quarterback and a complete rebuild.

If this trade did anything for the Giants, it made them pick a side. There is no more straddling the line of restocking on the fly or trying to compete. They saw what happened last season (5-11) when they chose the latter. The Giants are now rebuilding, even if it’s a year too late.cheap nfl jerseys china nike

It raises so many questions, such as: Why didn’t they go in this direction last year with a new head coach, new general manager, the No. 2 overall pick in the draft and a 37-year-old quarterback coming off a 3-13 season? Why didn’t they trade Beckham before signing him to a then-record deal for a wide receiver? Now, the Giants wasted a year and will incur a $16 million dead money hit this season adding to their already substantial total. They also paid Beckham $21.5 million for 12 games last season. And, finally, is GM Dave Gettleman really the right man to be tasked with this massive overhaul?9

Gettleman and the Giants surely had their reasons. Beckham butted heads with management on several occasions last year, once when he participated in an interview with ESPN’s Josina Anderson and Lil Wayne, and again when he talked too much publicly about his quad injury. And maybe there was more. But Beckham was a player loved in the locker room and with an unquestioned work ethic. He was a difference-maker when he was on the field. Now, he’s gone and the masses don’t seem pleased. The reaction to their franchise isn’t going to be an easy one for ownership to stomach.

Gettleman received a first-round pick (No. 17 overall), third-round pick and safety Jabrill Peppers in return for Beckham. Peppers was a key. The Giants insisted he should be part of the deal, according to a source. He was a first-round pick two years ago and they viewed him as such. It helped them close this often controversial chapter in their history, which was filled with more noise than victories.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

But the snap-response to it all was not so positive for Gettleman and the Giants. Sources around the league texted me reactions such as “Maybe if the [first-round pick] was higher” and “Seriously?” and “That is nothing.” They didn’t see the tremendous value for such a special talent.

Yankees-Red Sox in London a best-seller

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Following matchups in Mexico and Japan in recent years, the league is making its first foray into Europe with hopes of expanding its international reach with the help of its two most-storied franchises.

Fans from 44 different states in the U.S. and 27 different countries have already purchased tickets for the MLB London series, according to StubHub general manager Jill Krimmel.cheap nfl nike jerseys from china

“The appeal of MLB to a global audience continues to grow, and the overwhelming response for the rivalry matchup between the Yankees and Red Sox in London certainly proves that the sport has fans worldwide,” Krimmel said.

“It is demonstrating that baseball has tremendous potential overseas, much like the NFL and NBA have seen.”10

The Yankees are driving demand stateside, outselling the Red Sox by 18 percent.

The Philadelphia Phillies have seen a surge in ticket sales following the acquisition of slugger Bryce Harper, who signed a record 13-year, $330 million contract.cheap nfl jerseys china nike

Phillies’ ticket sales are up 93 percent from the same time last year and up 157 percent over the last three seasons, the highest three-year growth out of all the teams in the league.

MLB’s Opening Day is March 28. The London Series takes place at the Olympic Stadium over two days, June 29-30.

Tickets for the London Series sold out in December, but the MLB announced on Thursday that a further 5,000 tickets will be released across the two games due to an increase in capacity at the London Stadium.

The stadium, which was built for the 2012 Olympic Games and is now home to Premier League soccer team West Ham United, will see its capacity increase from 55,000 to around 57,500.

Reds’ Lorenzen pitches, then moves to outfield

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Reliever Michael Lorenzen has begun the Cincinnati Reds’ mound-to-outfield experiment, pitching one inning, then moving to center field on Monday in a game against the Cleveland Indians. It didn’t take long for the ball to find him.

Lorenzen chased Jose Ramirez’s leadoff double in the bottom of the sixth inning of a 5-5 tie, his biggest test during his first time in the outfield.

“It was fun,” Lorenzen said. “I didn’t necessarily get any fly balls, but I had a couple hit to me. Hopefully, next time I get to run one down.”nike nfl jerseys cheap china

The Reds are exploring options for replacing center fielder Billy Hamilton, who signed with the Kansas City Royals. Lorenzen was a center fielder at Cal State Fullerton who also closed games on occasion. The Reds drafted him as a pitcher in 2013, and he has lobbied for a dual role in the majors.9

Lorenzen came on to pitch the bottom of the fifth inning and retired all three Indians, two by strikeout. Instead of heading off to ice his shoulder, he looked for his batting helmet. He faced Mike Clevinger and struck out swinging, then replaced Nick Senzel in center field.

Lorenzen started shading Ramirez, the first batter, toward right field, then moved back the other way. Ramirez hit the ball to the gap in right for a double.cheap nfl nike jerseys from china

“The game knows,” Lorenzen said. “It was funny, because I was actually shaded to right-center. I ended up moving into left-center.”

In the seventh inning, Cleveland’s Eric Stamets went from first to third on a single to center. Lorenzen fielded the ball and threw to third too late.

“I’d rather err on the side of overdoing it; that’s my personality,” Lorenzen said.

Lorenzen left after his two innings in the outfield.

First-year manager David Bell likes the option of using Lorenzen in center. After getting him ready to pitch during the first part of camp, Bell finally gave him a chance to play center.

Trail Blazers’ Kanter, former teammate Turkoglu spar again about Turkey’s government

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The volatile, longstanding dispute between Portland Trail Blazers center Enes Kanter and Turkish government officials has added another chapter, this time in separate interviews conducted by E:60’s Jeremy Schaap, with Kanter again comparing Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to a dictator, and former NBA player Hedo Turkoglu, now a Turkish government official, accusing Kanter of abandoning his homeland to support a “terrorist.”cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

The on-camera interview with Turkoglu — now a chief adviser to Erdogan — is the first with American media about Kanter. Turkoglu, who played with several NBA teams, including the Orlando Magic and San Antonio Spurs, played with Kanter on the 2011 Turkish national team. He is also head of the Turkish Basketball Federation. The interviews aired Sunday morning.

Turkoglu spoke carefully and deliberately to Schaap, saying that Kanter has been “openly supporting a terrorist leader” — Fethullah Gulen. Gulen is a U.S.-based Turkish cleric who has been living in exile from Turkey since 1999; he is Kanter’s spiritual adviser and a bitter rival of Erdogan’s. The Turkish government has accused Gulen of masterminding a failed military coup in the country in 2016. Gulen has denied the allegation, and the U.S. government has rejected Turkey’s requests to extradite him from his home in Pennsylvania.10

In the 32-minute E:60 interview, Turkoglu only referenced Kanter by name once and said he had nothing to say to his former teammate: “I don’t send messages to terrorist organization supporters.” In response to a question about how Americans should view the saga between Kanter and Turkish government officials, Turkoglu said: “All I have to say to all my American fellows, be careful.”

Erdogan and Gulen were once political allies, but after a 2013 corruption scandal reached all the way to Erdogan and his family, Erdogan blamed Gulen for having a role in exposing the scandal, and their relationship fractured. Kanter has been an outspoken critic of the Turkish government and Erdogan since.cheap nfl nike jerseys china

Kanter, who has played for the Utah Jazz, Oklahoma City Thunder and New York Knicks, frequently has been quoted saying Erdogan is the “Hitler of our century.” In December 2017, Turkey’s state-run news agency, Anadolu Agency, reported that Kanter faces more than four years in prison for insulting Erdogan and Turkoglu in a series of tweets posted in 2016. In May 2017, Kanter’s Turkish passport was canceled while traveling overseas. He ultimately was able to return to the United States through London. A few weeks later, Kanter’s parents’ home was raided, and his father, Mehmet, was taken into custody and charged with being a member of a terrorist group. Enes Kanter believes the Turkish government targeted his father, a genetics professor, because of the player’s critical stance against the country’s government.

Suns snap 18-game losing streak to Warriors

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Devin Booker scored 13 straight Phoenix points during a decisive fourth-quarter stretch and finished with 37, and the Suns snapped the NBA’s longest active losing streak to one opponent at 18 games by beating the Warriors 115-111 on Sunday night.

The Suns defeated Golden State for the first time since a 107-95 victory on Nov. 9, 2014, and earned their first road win in 20 tries against the Western Conference this season. The Warriors followed a great win against Denver two nights earlier with a dud.nike nfl jerseys cheap china

“Let’s not forget last year was way worse than this, way worse than this, with injuries and things like that. We have pretty much everybody healthy,” Stephen Curry said. “We talked about the things we need to get better at going into the playoffs and just haven’t done it. It’s an uncomfortable feeling, which I think we like right now.

“We’re getting challenged, we’re getting teams’ best shots.”9

Klay Thompson’s two free throws with 1:04 to go made it 111-108. Andre Iguodala secured a rebound after two missed Suns shots but Curry missed on a 3 with 23 seconds left. Booker then converted two free throws.

Booker’s jumper with 5:01 to play put the Suns ahead, then he made it 102-98 on a 3-pointer at 4:45. Booker hit a fadeaway at the 4:04 mark then scored on a driving one-handed dunk after Phoenix pushed in transition after Curry’s turnover.

Kevin Durant had 25 points before leaving with a bruised right ankle midway through the fourth on a night his teammates struggled from near and far. The cold-shooting Warriors couldn’t overcome Booker’s late onslaught in losing to lowly Phoenix.

“Probably the worst loss of the season, unfortunately,” Thompson said.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

Booker was 13 for 23, made all nine of his free throws and also dished out 11 assists for the Suns in a back-to-back and their fourth win in five games.

Splash Brothers Curry and Thompson were a combined 16 of 42 — 8 of 30 on 3s after a 4-for-22 start — and the Warriors went 10 of 43 from beyond the arc.

“One game, you miss shots,” Curry said. “We took ones we thought we could make. If they go down this could be a totally different conversation. So don’t overreact to that.”

Source: Bell plans to join Jets for 4 years, $52.5 million

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Bell, who shocked the NFL by sitting out the entire 2018 season on the franchise tag after failing to agree on a new contract last summer, officially became a free agent when Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert opted not to place a franchise or transition tag on him for the 2019 season.

After gaining nearly 2,000 total yards during the 2017 season, Bell opted to eschew the $14.5 million franchise tag in 2018 — forgoing about $855,000 per game — so he could preserve his long-term viability for a big contract in free agency this offseason.china nike nfl jerseys cheap

Several other teams were said to be interested in Bell, including the San Francisco 49ers, who made a strong offer and were engaged in a wild tug-of-war with the Jets over the past few hours, sources told ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler.

But the Jets emerged as the front-runner late Tuesday. Not wanting to bid against themselves, they held firm on their offer, a source told ESPN’s Rich Cimini.11

Bell, a two-time All-Pro, had used social media to engage with potential suitors, using emojis to make indirect contact with the Indianapolis Colts and Baltimore Ravens, among others. The Ravens never made him an offer, a source told Schefter.

Bell’s average salary per year with the Jets, $13.25 million, would rank him second among running backs in the NFL, behind Todd Gurley’s $14.37 million average.

In finishing 4-12 last season, which resulted in coach Todd Bowles’ ouster, the Jets produced only two 100-yard rushing days, both by Isaiah Crowell. Crowell set the franchise single-game record with 219 yards in an October home game against the Denver Broncos but disappeared for the remainder of the season.

Crowell is likely to be released before Friday, when $2 million of his $4 million base salary becomes guaranteed. The backfield will consist of Bell, Elijah McGuire and Trenton Cannon.cheap nfl nike jerseys from china

The Jets haven’t had a 1,000-yard rusher since Chris Ivory in 2015. They haven’t had a runner with Bell’s skill set since Curtis Martin, a big free-agent signing from 1998 to 2005. Bell has said that Martin, a Pro Football Hall of Famer, was his idol as a kid.

Sources: Morse going to Bills for 4 years, $44.5M

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Former Kansas City Chiefs center Mitch Morse intends to sign what is expected to be a four-year, $44.5 million contract with the Buffalo Bills, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.cheap nfl jerseys china nike

Morse, 26, joined the Kansas City Chiefs as a second-round draft pick (49th overall) from Missouri in 2015. He immediately became a starter and opened each of the 52 games, regular season and playoffs, he played in for Kansas City.9

Morse started 15 games as a rookie but wasn’t available for either of the Chiefs’ two playoff games that year because of a concussion. He was limited to seven games in 2017 and 11 in 2018, plus two in the playoffs, because of injuries.

During last season, the Chiefs re-signed two interior offensive linemen, Cam Erving and Austin Reiter, in case they lost Morse in free agency. Reiter started four games during Morse’s absence last season.nike nfl jerseys cheap china

What will Gerardo Martino’s first full Mexico squad look like?

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Gerardo “Tata” Martino’s first real Mexico national team squad will be out this week. Naturally, there will be a heavy emphasis put on the return of the Europe-based group, which the Argentine coach has already said will make up the bulk of the squad.

However, the most intriguing aspect will not be the return of Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez and Andres Guardado, but which Liga MX players Martino includes in his first squad to face Chile (on March 22) and Paraguay (on March 26).cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

There were clues to Martino’s direction in the February camp. Martino opted not to bring in experienced goalkeepers such as Jesus Corona and Alfredo Talavera, instead picking only two players over 30, 14 in the 20-25 age group and eight in the 25-30 range. The average age was 24.9 years.10

If a gradual generational change Martino has hinted at is to be seen ahead of the Gold Cup, it will have to come from within Liga MX; there is a relative absence of young Mexican players under the age of 25 in Europe: Only Hirving Lozano, Erick Gutierrez, Omar Govea and Diego Lainez are playing with any regularity in respectable leagues.

Let’s do the math. With Hector Herrera out due to issues arranging his Portuguese passport, there’s likely to be 11 Europe-based players making the trip over. Erick Gutierrez should make the squad, even if minutes have been hard to come by at PSV Eindhoven, while Oswaldo Alanis (Real Oviedo), Antonio Briseno (Feirense) and Govea (Royal Antwerp) probably haven’t done enough.china nike nfl jerseys cheap

In MLS, Jonathan dos Santos (LA Galaxy) and Carlos Vela (LAFC) are set to make the cut, although Marco Fabian (Philadelphia Union) may be on the outside this time, given his lack of minutes since the World Cup.

That leaves only 12 places left in a 25-player squad, although we shouldn’t rule out Martino calling in more names.

Mexico-based players such as Carlos Salcedo (Tigres), Alvarez, Luis “Chaka” Rodriguez (Tigres), Jesus Gallardo (Monterrey), Miguel Layun (Monterrey) and Victor Guzman (Pachuca) appear locked in. Then the goalkeeping pool will see Jonathan Orozco (Santos Laguna), Hugo Gonzalez (Necaxa), Raul Gudino (Chivas) and Gibran Lajud (Club Tijuana) all in the mix to back-up Guillermo Ochoa.

For Barca and Brazil, Coutinho finds himself falling down the pecking order

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Ousmane Dembele is an injury doubt for Barcelona against Lyon in the return leg of their Champions League round-of-16 tie on Wednesday. Neymar and Vinicius Junior are definitely out of Brazil’s friendlies later this month against Panama and the Czech Republic. It all means that, for both club and country, opportunity is knocking for Philippe Coutinho, but it knocks on both side of the door — the way in and the way out. Coutinho stands as the crossroads, and these next few days will surely shed some light on which way he is heading.

There are two problem areas for Coutinho: position and personality.nike nfl jerseys cheap china

There is nothing barnstorming or ostentatious about the 26-year-old. He comes across as an introverted figure; not the type, perhaps, to walk into a new environment, impose himself and bend it to his will. In truth, his is a career in which the step up has seldom been easy. With Brazil, for example, he was a flop at Under-17 level, and one of the supporting cast in the team that won the Under-20 World Cup. It took him years to become an important part of the senior side, not making his presence felt until the second half of the 2018 qualifiers.9

And in club football, there is a reason that Liverpool were able to make such a huge profit on him. They picked him up for a song from Inter Milan. The Italian giants had a long-term relationship with Coutinho, but appear to have given up on him, and let him leave for a token fee. Liverpool, though, made him feel important — as had Mauricio Pochettino in a previous loan spell at Espanyol.

Barcelona, however, is an altogether more challenging environment. From a psychological point of view, the club were not going to come to him. He had to go to them, fit into a structure built around Lionel Messi and still justify his massive transfer fee. So far, he has not been able to do that. The fans are losing patience — he was booed when he left the field towards the end of Saturday’s game against Rayo Vallecano. There is the danger of this treatment giving force to a spiral of lost self-esteem, in which a player low on confidence produces worse displays, thus leading to more criticism from the terraces.

The process could, of course, be reversed by an outstanding performance against Lyon, but this opens up the second problem area: Where should Coutinho play?cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale Is he the most attacking member of the midfield three, or a member of the attacking trio?

Barcelona appeared to acquire him in the belief that he could be the former, the replacement for their little maestro Andres Iniesta. But after a lengthy trial, coach Ernesto Valverde seems to have come to the conclusion that this is not Coutinho’s best role, that he is not a genuine midfielder and that using him there leaves the team too exposed from a defensive point of view. Valverde now sees Coutinho as a contender in his original position, as a wide member of the front three.