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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).

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.

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.”

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

After surgeries, Chapman ready to help A’s contend again

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Matt Chapman didn’t have a lot of time to savor his strong season — or the Oakland Athletics’ surprise playoff run — during the winter.

The 25-year-old third baseman had planned to have surgery on his right thumb after the season ended, but he also ended up getting an operation on his left shoulder in December. Both injuries had been bothering Chapman for a while.

“The shoulder was kind of a fluke thing, but it was hurting me the last couple years,” Chapman said. “Just overuse. … I didn’t really think it was anything besides just being sore.”nike nfl jerseys cheap china

Now he’s ready to build on a year in which he hit 24 homers, won a Gold Glove and finished seventh in AL MVP voting.10

His preparation has been compressed because of the surgeries and Oakland’s early start to spring training and the regular season. The A’s will travel to Japan to play the Seattle Mariners in the season-opening series on March 20-21.

“I think he’s right on schedule,” Oakland manager Bob Melvin said Friday. “We maybe got him in there a day earlier than we expected. He’s running up close to 20 at-bats, which I didn’t think we’d have right now. I think everything’s going great with him.”nfl nike jersey cheap

Chapman has been to the plate 16 times this spring, with four walks and four hits including a double and a home run.

“Just getting more and more healthy and strong each day,” he said. “No excuses now.”

The A’s won a surprising 97 games last year even with injuries to their entire starting rotation. Now they’re aiming even higher.

“Hopefully continue to build on what we did last year,” Chapman said. “One hundred wins. Win the division. If your goals going into the season aren’t to win your division or make the playoffs, then what are you playing for?”

Source: Bennett reunion with Patriots possible

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There could be a Bennett brothers reunion in New England, with Michael set to join the team via trade and Martellus contemplating a return to football.

The Philadelphia Eagles have informed Michael Bennett that they are planning to trade him to the Patriots, the defensive end told ESPN’s Josina Anderson on Friday. With that trade set to be finalized, tight end Martellus Bennett is interested in coming out of retirement to join his brother in New England, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

The Eagles would receive a fifth-round pick in the 2020 draft and send Michael Bennett and a 2020 seventh-round pick to the Patriots, a league source told Schefter. Philly.com was first to report that a trade was close to completion.10

Bennett played in 16 games (10 starts) last season and totaled nine sacks. He has 63 sacks over his 10-year career.

He told NFL Network earlier Friday that he was looking for a pay raise. He is scheduled to earn a base salary of $6.2 million in 2019 with a $1 million roster bonus.cheap nfl jerseys china nike

Michael Bennett could have a quick reunion with the Eagles, as they are set to host the Patriots next season.

By acquiring Bennett, it could soften the blow if the Patriots lose defensive end Trey Flowers, who led New England in sacks each of the past three seasons, in free agency. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Bennett had 51 total pressures last season to tie for 13th in the NFL. Flowers led the Patriots with 45 pressures.

Bennett, 33, told Anderson that Patriots coach Bill Belichick has been fond of his game.

Locked in at a reasonable salary for the upcoming season, the Eagles recognized there could be a market for Bennett given the lack of quality pass-rushers in free agency.

What matters when evaluating QBs today? Not height and arm strength

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The secret sauce remains elusive to those trying to find the perfect formula for scouting college quarterbacks. It’s quite possible the code will never be cracked. There will always be hits and misses as the search for the next Patrick Mahomes or Tom Brady ensues. There is no perfect process.

Different evaluators concentrate on different traits. Some might be physical and easy to spot, others like trying to find a foul stench in the wind.

The answers received around NFL combine week about top priorities for a quarterback prospect ranged from instincts to leadership to functional intelligence to decision-making to production. One thing became certain roaming Indianapolis: Height isn’t at the top of the list.cheap nfl nike jerseys from china

This is especially relevant with Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray, all 5-foot-10 1/8 of him, in this year’s NFL draft. It seemed as if all the talk out of Indianapolis — from those working for teams to those close to Murray — was he would be the No. 1 overall pick by the Arizona Cardinals.8
The decision could depend on what the Giants see in each prospect. General manager Dave Gettleman is looking for a quarterback who can make all — or most — of the throws. He wants a quarterback who is athletic, but pass-first, not run-first. It’s the subtle pocket movements that matter most to the evaluator who has watched Jim Kelly, John Elway, Manning and Cam Newton most of his career.nfl cheap jerseys nike

This could play a large part in the Giants’ decision. Haskins’ pocket presence and ability to navigate around pressure might be the biggest question about his game. Can he move enough?

This is important to Gettleman, but not necessarily the most important quality being sought.

“A non-negotiable for me is instincts. It really is,” Gettleman said. “There are guys that are big, great arm, great athletes. They can’t figure it out. I don’t think people talk about it enough. Instincts are critical. You turn around at every position — people will fall in love with the height, weight, speed, defensive tackle, but you put his hand in the dirt, he can’t find the ball, he doesn’t understand blocking schemes — so all this great height, weight, speed, whatever he’s got, it doesn’t make a difference.”

Chelsea’s Hudson-Odoi should not be held back by age – Loftus-Cheek

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Hudson-Odoi came off the bench to cap a lively 12-minute cameo with Chelsea’s third goal in a 3-0 victory over Dynamo Kiev in the Europa League round-of-16 first leg on Thursday. And after the match, Loftus-Cheek said talent should be the only consideration when deciding his teammate’s minutes on the pitch.cheap nfl nike jerseys china

“If he’s good enough, he’s good enough,” Loftus-Cheek said of Hudson-Odoi. “I think the manager knows him well.

“He sees him in training every day and he will make the decision. But Callum is doing well at the minute and that’s all you can do. I think he is doing so well now; he just wants to play. He is young, fresh, has that momentum. He is scoring so when he doesn’t start and feels he should, it’s part of the game.10

“I’ve told him: ‘You’re at a big club, you’re young, just keep your head focused and keep doing what you’re doing’ — like he did against Dynamo. He came on and did well.”

Hudson-Odoi submitted a formal transfer request in January after Bayern Munich bid £35 million to sign him, and fears remain that the 18-year-old will simply force his way out of Stamford Bridge this summer by threatening to run down his contract, which expires in June 2020.

Loftus-Cheek, who spent years on the fringes of Chelsea’s first-team squad before joining Crystal Palace on loan in 2017, said he sympathises with his teammate.

“I know what he is going through, having been at that age in the first team as well,” Loftus-Cheek said. “If I can help him do well, I’d love to do that.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

“He is such a good kid and seeing him do so well I’m really happy for him — to give him that assist felt good.”

Loftus-Cheek’s own attempts to break into Chelsea’s starting XI under Sarri this season have been undermined by persistent back injuries, but the midfielder said he is cautiously optimistic that the worst of his fitness nightmare is behind him.

After combine, Broncos still have to decide if they see QB of future in this draft

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But in the weeks to come, they still have to decide if quarterback is still high on their list of draft priorities, and whether they think any of the quarterbacks in this draft can help them fill out what is still an unfinished long-term plan at the position.

“I think that being 6-10, you evaluate every position,” Elway said at the combine. And as for this year’s draft class behind center, Elway added: “We’re still in the process of studying them. We’ll keep looking at them. I think that there are a lot of people excited about next year’s class. But we’re going to spend the time on this year’s class and see where we come out on that. I think there’s some good players in this draft too.”nike nfl jerseys cheap paypal

The Broncos have the framework of a trade in place for Joe Flacco to be their starting quarterback. That deal, for what is expected to be one of their two fourth-round draft picks in exchange for Flacco, 34, will become official on or shortly after March 13 when the new league year begins.9

Elway has also said his “preference” would be that last year’s starter — Case Keenum — stays (if Keenum is willing to take a pay cut) to be Flacco’s backup. Keenum is set to earn an $18 million base salary at the moment and is guaranteed, whether he’s on a roster or not, $7 million of that base salary.

Making Flacco the Broncos’ starter and trying to keep Keenum might well say everything about what Elway really thinks about this year’s draft class of quarterbacks, and what he thinks about the ability of any of those quarterbacks to move into the lineup quickly.

It was clear as the combine drew to a close that, no matter how optimistic the league’s talent evaluators are about Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray and Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins — the top two quarterbacks in this draft — most in the league do not think either player is as NFL ready as Baker Mayfield, who was the No. 1 pick in the 2018 draft, was a year ago.

In the end, the Broncos are in need of solution that goes beyond Flacco and Keenum. They do not have a quarterback on their current roster they selected in the draft, as none of the five Elway has selected since being hired in 2011 remains with the team. But to use a premium pick on a quarterback the organization isn’t totally sold on, or isn’t up to the challenge, is no solution either.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

“We’re going to do everything we can, at every position, to get back to playing the way we need to play,” Elway said. “That includes quarterback and every other position on the field.”

Essam El-Hadary is about to break a World Cup record … just don’t ask him about his hands

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Essam El-Hadary’s face is broad and unlined. He has a majestic head of midnight-black hair. His eyes are clear, his smile is full, and his frame — 30 pounds lighter than it has been — is lean and unbent. He does not look 45 years old, like he’s about to become the oldest man to play in a World Cup. Sitting in a hotel lobby in Zurich, he looks more like a man at ease, like a titan of industry, content in his skin and the surrounding luxury. Only his hands betray the truth of his life and trade. He has the hands of a working man twice his age.

He holds them up for examination with equal parts pride and reticence. Seeing El-Hadary’s hands without gloves is a little jarring, like seeing a lion shaved of its mane. “Egyptian hands,” he calls them. They are huge and incalculably damaged. Several of his fingers look as though they’ve been smashed with hammers. He has knuckles where the human hand is not meant to have them.cheap nfl jerseys china nike

Has he broken all of his fingers? “Almost,” he says, before tucking his hands back out of sight.10

He has been a professional goalkeeper since 1993, earning 156 caps for Egypt. Saves made, not goals allowed, have left the plainer scars. “Life has sometimes been difficult,” he says through a translator. “Football has made me. But I always feel like I’m at the beginning. I always feel like I’m starting over.”

El-Hadary seems destined to answer the call for Egypt once again in Russia. (His principal domestic rival, 26-year-old Ahmed El-Shenawy, injured his knee in April and will not be fit for the tournament.) El-Hadary has mixed feelings about the record he is poised to break, the way he feels conflicted when he’s asked to show his hands. He says he’s been beset by media requests. He has turned most of them down.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

Goalkeepers have long been football’s most probable ancients. It’s the position for which wisdom can most compensate for physical decline. The World Cup’s longevity record is held, at least for the moment, by Faryd Mondragon, who was 43 when he played goal for Colombia in 2014. Dino Zoff remains the oldest winner of a World Cup; he was 40 when he captained Italy to victory in 1982. Peter Shilton of England and Pat Jennings of Northern Ireland also played into their 40s.

El-Hadary looks to outstrip them not by weeks or months but by years. In Africa, he is already regarded as an all-time great — Didier Drogba called him his “best opponent” — but he knows that breaking Mondragon’s mark, possibly during Egypt’s opener against Uruguay on June 15, will subject him to the most intense global attention of his storied career. He also knows too well every question that will follow.