11

Why Bills should consider trading sacks leader Jerry Hughes

The Buffalo Bills will be under pressure over the upcoming two months to improve what was the 30th-ranked offense in 2018 and put pieces around second-year quarterback Josh Allen, whose late-season play fueled optimism about his future.

Yet as the Bills approach the start of free agency in March with $79 million in cap space and April’s draft with the No. 9 overall pick, some of the team’s most important decisions involve the defensive line.cheap nfl jerseys china nike

This NFL offseason is a prime opportunity for teams to reshape their defensive lines. Of the 32 picks in ESPN NFL draft expert Mel Kiper’s latest mock draft, 13 are either defensive linemen or edge rushers — including the first five players off the board. Defensive linemen, especially pass-rushers, dominate the top of ESPN’s top 50 free agents.11

Some of those players might not be available to the Bills because of the franchise tag (in the case of free agents) or because they are drafted ahead of where Buffalo selects in the first round. But the Bills should not avoid adding to their defensive line in free agency or the draft simply because they have more pressing needs on offense.

The Bills’ defensive line is in a state of flux. Stalwart defensive tackle Kyle Williams retired at the end of this past season, and rotational backup Jordan Phillips will become an unrestricted free agent March 13. Defensive end Jerry Hughes’ contract expires after the 2019 season, as does that of fellow end Shaq Lawson.

How the Bills handle Hughes, 30, will be particularly important. The former first-round pick of the Indianapolis Colts in 2010 was traded to Buffalo in 2013 and has played in all 96 games since, making 80 starts. He is Buffalo’s longest-tenured player following Williams’ retirement.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

Statistically, Hughes’ production has tapered off since he posted back-to-back 10-sack seasons in 2013 and 2014. However, his impact was still felt with a team-high seven sacks in 2018, including three forced fumbles that matched his career high. Pro Football Focus graded Hughes as the NFL’s seventh-best edge defender last season and the best player on Buffalo’s roster.

11

One year on, how the U.S. men’s national team missed the 2018 World Cup

In the bowels of Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva, Trinidad, champagne and beer sat chilled in the U.S. locker room. All the men’s national team had to do was tie Trinidad & Tobago on this humid October evening, and a trip to Russia for the 2018 World Cup was theirs.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

There was every reason to plan a celebration. The U.S. had taken part in the previous seven World Cups, qualifying six times and hosting the event in 1994. Of the 23 players on the roster that night, 16 hadn’t even been born when the U.S. last failed to qualify for a World Cup, in 1985. Plus, the U.S. was playing a T&T side that had already been eliminated, having lost eight of its nine matches in the final-round Hexagonal. In seven career road World Cup qualifiers against T&T, the U.S. had lost only once, and that was during the 2010 cycle, when its progression to the Hex had already been assured.

But then the first goal went in for T&T, another followed 20 minutes later and a furious second-half fight back from the U.S. fell short. Meanwhile, some 1,200 miles away in Panama, defender Roman Torres scored to put the Canaleros ahead against Costa Rica. When the final whistle blew in Couva, the U.S. staff hustled the champagne and beer out of the locker room. The celebration was not to be — and neither was the trip to Russia.11

In the bowels of Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva, Trinidad, champagne and beer sat chilled in the U.S. locker room. All the men’s national team had to do was tie Trinidad & Tobago on this humid October evening, and a trip to Russia for the 2018 World Cup was theirs.

There was every reason to plan a celebration. The U.S. had taken part in the previous seven World Cups, qualifying six times and hosting the event in 1994. Of the 23 players on the roster that night, 16 hadn’t even been born when the U.S. last failed to qualify for a World Cup, in 1985. Plus, the U.S. was playing a T&T side that had already been eliminated, having lost eight of its nine matches in the final-round Hexagonal. In seven career road World Cup qualifiers against T&T, the U.S. had lost only once, and that was during the 2010 cycle, when its progression to the Hex had already been assured.

But then the first goal went in for T&T, another followed 20 minutes later and a furious second-half fight back from the U.S. fell short. Meanwhile, some 1,200 miles away in Panama, defender Roman Torres scored to put the Canaleros ahead against Costa Rica. When the final whistle blew in Couva, the U.S. staff hustled the champagne and beer out of the locker room. The celebration was not to be — and neither was the trip to Russia.cheap nfl jerseys china nike

The ensuing months have resulted in considerable soul-searching within the U.S. soccer community. ESPN FC spoke to 18 current and former players and staff associated with the program about what happened that night in Trinidad and how the past four years might have contributed to the breakdown. What has emerged from those conversations is a sense that the men’s program has lost its identity.

12

Trout: ‘Haven’t even thought about’ contract

Mike Trout says he is only concentrating on one thing regarding his future — the upcoming season.

The Los Angeles Angels star said he is happy for Bryce Harper, who has agreed to a $330 million, 13-year contract with the Philadelphia Phillies, but that he hasn’t considered how Harper’s deal will set the stage for his own negotiations.

Trout can become a free agent after the 2020 season. He is owed $33.25 million in each of the next two seasons, completing a $144.5 million, six-year contract.cheap nfl nike jerseys china

“I haven’t even thought about it,” Trout told reporters before a spring training game Friday against the Kansas City Royals. “Obviously, you guys bring it up a lot and I appreciate you asking me all these questions, but right now is not the time to think about it. I still have a couple more years.”12

Angels owner Arte Moreno reiterated last month at the start of spring training that re-signing Trout is at the top of the franchise’s priority list.

“One of the last interviews I gave, I said it’s not in the back of our mind but in the front of our minds,” Moreno said. “I think it also depends a little bit upon the agent and the player. It’s not like it’s just us.”cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

Trout is a two-time American League MVP who has finished in the top two in voting six of the past seven years. He led the majors last season in on-base percentage (.460) while hitting .312 with 39 home runs and 79 RBIs.

Trout, who said he called Harper to congratulate him on the contract, mentioned that he also followed the recent deals involving Nolan Arenado and Manny Machado. Arenado agreed to an eight-year, $260 million deal with the Colorado Rockies while the San Diego Padres signed Machado to a $300 million, 10-year deal earlier in spring training.

“It took longer than people expected,” Trout said. “You look at the health of the player. The first couple weeks you are not used to that baseball conditioning. But now they are going to be ready for opening day.”

11

Altuve set for return to 2B; Bregman ready, too

Jose Altuve struck out three times in his second game since offseason knee surgery and will return to second base for the Houston Astros on Saturday.

Altuve had surgery just after last season ended to repair a broken right kneecap and had two plate appearances in his spring training debut Monday.

“He wasn’t too far off,” Astros manager AJ Hinch said after a 7-5 win over the Marlins on Thursday. “It’s very rare for him to swing and miss on the strike threes. But he’s in a really good place physically and even timing-wise, right on time.”

The 2017 American League MVP and six-time All-Star will play the field for the first time this year when the Astros visit the New York Mets in Port St. Lucie.

“I have no concerns with him, it’s just a matter of repetition,” Hinch said. “It’s the first time post-surgery but I’m not apprehensive about putting him out there … based on how he’s worked on the back fields with the defensive work we’ve done he’s more than ready.”cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

All-Star third baseman Alex Bregman will play for the first time this year on Saturday, starting at third. Bregman was limited after minor elbow surgery in January.11

Hinch is also encouraged by the progress of shortstop Carlos Correa, who is looking to bounce back after an ailing back led to a tough 2018. The 2015 AL Rookie of the Year got his first hit of spring training — an RBI double — in the first inning Thursday.

“Both swings were really good and more so because his body was under control, it was in a good posture,” Hinch said.

This veteran team has very few questions to answer this spring, but is working to determine who will be the fifth starter, behind Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, Wade Miley and Collin McHugh. On Thursday the Astros got a look at one of the players vying for the position when Brad Peacock made his first start.cheap nfl nike jerseys china

The 31-year-old struck out two in two perfect innings, making a good early impression as he looks to outdo rookie Framber Valdez and return to the rotation after pitching almost exclusively in relief last season.

Hinch said the performance was “exactly” what the team wanted to see. And though the easygoing Peacock insists he’ll be ready for whatever role he gets, he admitted that he does prefer being in the rotation.

“I do like starting,” he said. “I did it my whole career pretty much and I’m just more comfortable starting. So we’ll see. I love the bullpen, too.”

12

The Warriors might have the most talented starting five ever

Steve Kerr is no stranger to being surrounded by Hall of Famers. He was a reserve guard on a 1996-97 Chicago Bulls team that had four players — Michael Jordan, Robert Parish, Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman — eventually enshrined in Springfield, along with head coach Phil Jackson and assistant coach Tex Winter. He ended his playing career on a 2002-03 Spurs team that has already seen David Robinson go into the Hall of Fame, with Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and Gregg Popovich certain to follow someday.

But even he has never seen a roster quite like this season’s Golden State Warriors.nike nfl jerseys cheap china

“I’m well aware of how lucky I’ve been to basically inherit a team that had multiple Hall of Famers on the roster,” Kerr told ESPN recently with a laugh. “I probably wasn’t aware of it when I took the job, but it quickly became apparent how good these guys were.”12

The Warriors’ starting five of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and DeMarcus Cousins has combined for 19 All-NBA selections, 28 All-Star Game appearances, five scoring titles, five Olympic gold medals, three MVP awards and a Defensive Player of the Year trophy. Andre Iguodala comes off the bench with an All-Star appearance, an Olympic gold medal and a Finals MVP in his trophy case.

When Cousins made his Warriors debut on Jan. 18, he was immediately inserted in a starting lineup that bore more resemblance to a Dream Team than a typical NBA lineup.cheap nfl nike jerseys from china

“I think our starting five could be a Team USA starting five,” Thompson said. “That’s how good it is. I’m very grateful to be in this position, not a lot of players ever experience something like this in any sport.”

For Cousins, who is still trying to get up to speed playing alongside the most talented teammates he has had in his career, the idea of playing with Hall of Famers is something he has come to terms with over the past few months.

“I kind of got past that part of it,” Cousins said with a smile. “Just kind of seeing them in the gym every day and thinking like that when I first got here. It’s fun. It’s fun to play with great players, it’s fun to play with guys with a lot of talent that know how to play the game.”

12

Bills release tight end Charles Clay

The Buffalo Bills have released tight end Charles Clay, the team announced Friday.cheap nfl jerseys china nike

Clay, 30, was scheduled to count $9 million against the Bills’ salary cap in the final season of a five-year, $38 million contract. He finished last season with a career-low 184 receiving yards while averaging a career-low 8.8 yards per catch. Despite playing in 13 games and making 12 starts, his 21 catches were his fewest since 2012.12

Former Bills general manager Doug Whaley made signing the transition-tagged Clay away from the division-rival Miami Dolphins one of his signature moves of the 2015 offseason. The Bills guaranteed $24.5 million of Clay’s deal, but his production in Buffalo never matched what remain his two best seasons — for Miami in 2013 and 2014.

Clay’s most recent touchdown came in Week 3 of the 2017 season. He surpassed 30 receiving yards in only two games during the 2018 season and was made a healthy scratch for a Week 16 contest at New England.china nike nfl jerseys cheap

In eight NFL seasons, Clay has caught 339 passes for 3,631 yards and 23 touchdowns. He also rushed for a score in 2013.

11

Chelsea boss Sarri benches Kepa against Spurs, says it’s a ‘message’

Kepa Arrizabalaga has been dropped by Maurizio Sarri for Chelsea’s vital Premier League clash with Tottenham at Stamford Bridge after his refusal to be substituted in the Carabao Cup final on Sunday.cheap nfl nike jerseys from china

Sarri has instead gone with Willy Caballero — the man who who was intended to replace Kepa for the penalty shootout that Chelsea ultimately lost to Manchester City at Wembley — in goal against Spurs.11

“It’s a choice, it’s a message for my group,” Sarri said ahead of Wednesday’s match on the switch at goalkeeper.

Chelsea confirmed earlier this week that Kepa had been fined one week’s wages for waving away Sarri’s attempts to substitute him for Caballero in extra time against City, with the proceeds donated to the club’s foundation.nfl nike jerseys cheap china

Kepa apologised for his public show of insubordination towards Sarri, calling it “a big mistake”, and Chelsea’s head coach said in a news conference on Tuesday that he did not want to “kill” his £71.5 million goalkeeper for his error of judgement.

Sarri has also restored Marcus Alonso, Mateo Kovacic and Gonzalo Higuain to his starting XI against Tottenham with Emerson Palmieri, Ross Barkley and Willian making way.

12

76ers’ Boban Marjanovic to have MRI after injuring right knee

Philadelphia 76ers center Boban Marjanovic had to be helped off the court after he went down clutching his right knee late in Monday night’s 111-110 win over the New Orleans Pelicans.

Marjanovic had 12 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks in less than 22 minutes to help fill the void in the middle created by the absence of 7-foot All-Star Joel Embiid, who has missed all three of Philadelphia’s games since the All-Star break.

But Marjanovic’s right leg got tangled up between Pelicans forward Cheick Diallo’s legs, and both players crashed to the court after pursuing a rebound with just over a minute left. Marjanovic needed assistance getting off the court and later used crutches to get the team bus.

Shortly after Sixers coach Brett Brown sought out Marjanovic in the trainer’s room, a team spokesman said the injury would be further evaluated on Tuesday, when an MRI was scheduled.12

“It was tough to see him go down and be in pain. So I’m praying that everything will be all right for him and we can get him back ASAP,” Tobias Harris said. “He did an amazing job out there when he was playing.”

Philadelphia nearly squandered a 10-point lead after Jimmy Butler’s 12-foot jumper made it 110-100 with 2:48 left. The Sixers missed five shots and three of four free throws, including two misses by Jonathon Simmons with 9 seconds left, allowing the Pelicans a chance to win it with any type of field goal on their last possession.

“My head at the moment is completely with Boban, to be frank,” Brown said when asked about his team’s nearly squandering the lead. “So whatever level of disappointment I may have, I don’t feel it so much now. We won the game, and I’m really thinking about him.’‘china nike nfl jerseys cheap

Ben Simmons echoed that sentiment when asked to sum up the night.

“We wanted to win. We won. We’re happy that we won. A teammate got hurt. … It’s sad to see a teammate go down,” he said.

Marjanovic was acquired Feb. 6 in a trade with the LA Clippers that also sent Harris to Philadelphia. The 7-foot-3 reserve is averaging 7.0 points and 4.4 rebounds this season.

11

Embiid, Marjanovic both ruled out for OKC game

All-Star center Joel Embiid and backup center Boban Marjanovic are both out for the 76ers’ game Thursday against the Thunder in Oklahoma City, the team announced Tuesday.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

Embiid is in Philadelphia for rehab on his sore left knee and has not yet been re-evaluated. The Sixers said they expect they will have an update before Saturday’s game against the Golden State Warriors in Philadelphia.

Last Wednesday, the Sixers announced that Embiid would be out at least a week with left knee soreness.11

Marjonovic was diagnosed with a bone bruise and mild sprain of the right knee and will be re-evaluated in around five to seven days, the team said Tuesday.

Marjanovic injured his knee in the Sixers’ win over the Pelicans on Monday. He underwent imaging, including an MRI and CT scan, that revealed the extent of the injuries.cheap nfl jerseys china nike

Coach Brett Brown said results of Marjanovic’s MRI provided “a sigh of relief given what my gut feel was.”

The Sixers last faced the Thunder on Jan. 19, with OKC coming away with a 117-115 win in Philadelphia. In that game, Thunder guard Russell Westbrook took exception to a foul by Embiid with 1:46 remaining in the fourth quarter, leading to a war of words between the two players who ended up on the same All-Star team last week.

12

Cardinals sign OF Jose Martinez through 2020

The St. Louis Cardinals have signed outfielder Jose Martinez to a new two-year contract, the team announced Saturday.

Financial terms were not disclosed, but Martinez said he would send some of the money to relatives in his native Venezuela, which has been plagued by food and medical shortages and a political crisis.china nike nfl jerseys cheap

“It’s not even for me, just for my family,” Martinez said. “It’s a tough situation there. You have a little incentive for sure.”

Martinez led the Cardinals with a .305 batting average and 163 hits last season. He was also second on the team with 83 RBIs.

The 30-year-old Martinez, who can also play first base, will compete with Dexter Fowler and Tyler O’Neill this spring for the right-field job. He could also back up Marcell Ozuna in left.

“Jose is going to get at-bats somewhere this year,” general manager Mike Girsch said. “We just don’t know how it’s going to work out. And I’m sure he’ll continue to hit.”12
Martinez would have been eligible for arbitration after the season. He won’t be eligible for free agency until after the 2022 season.

He played 887 games in the minors before finally reaching the big leagues but has hit .309 over parts of three seasons since arriving.

“He has had a unique career path and has been a huge part of our team the last couple of years,” Girsch said. “We felt the right thing to do was to give him some certainty.”cheap nfl nike jerseys from china

The Cardinals also announced that right-hander Miles Mikolas will start Opening Day at Milwaukee on March 28. Mikolas returned to the major leagues last year after three seasons in Japan, became a first-time All-Star and went 18-4.

“A year ago, saying Miles would be our Opening Day starter this year would have been a shock to everyone,” Girsch said. “He pitched amazing last year.”