One team executive on meeting with Penn State running back Saquon Barkley: Barkley is a Boy Scout.


The executive explained it this way: Everything in the interview was, ‘Yes, sir. No, sir.’ His answers were detailed and unrehearsed. He’s the real deal in every possible way. 

How impressed was he? This executive thinks Barkley goes first overall to Cleveland.

One thing I’ve been hearing from team sources around the league is that they think the first round of the draft won’t feature much drama in terms of trades. 

There’s a lot of trade talk right now between franchises, but in the end, these sources say, the trading will be minimal. The reason? They don’t see these quarterbacks as valuable enough to make big moves.

There is some buzz out there among team sources I’ve spoken to that this is the season we see Winston finally break out. I heard some of that last year but not to the extent I am this offseason.

The unforced errors are the big thing with Winston, and there was some positive momentum on them last season. His interceptions per game went from 0.94 in 2015 to 1.13 in 2016 to 0.85 in 2017, while his completion percentage increased from 58.3 to 60.8 to 63.8.

Beyond that, we also get the standard Cowboys and Lions home games, with Detroit and Dallas hosting divisional opponents in Chicago and Washington. It’s a divisional feast!

Revenge. Glorious revenge. What could possibly be more rewarding than vanquishing a foe by way of expert retaliation? We’re talking profound justice, baby!

With the release of the 2018 NFL schedule, we’re now privy to a host of matchups that offer the opportunity of glorious payback for teams and players with business to settle. Take this soap opera drama crossed with manly gridiron action and shoot it into in my veins.

It’s a bit obscured by history now, but the Falcons were probably one Julio Jones slip away from knocking off the eventual Super Bowl champion Eagles in their own building during the Divisional Playoffs. Let’s jump in the time machine, shall we?

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XFL documentary maker plans new football league


While Vince McMahon promises to bring back a revamped XFL in 2020, a son of McMahon’s partner in the original short-lived XFL venture said his football league will come first. And some big NFL names will be involved.

Charlie Ebersol, who directed a documentary on the XFL that aired last year as part of ESPN’s 30 for 30 series, announced Tuesday that his league, the Alliance of American Football, plans to debut Feb. 9, 2019, the week after Super Bowl LIII. The season will run 10 weeks and will have 50-man teams.

Unlike McMahon, whose announcement came without a media plan, Ebersol said that his league, made up of players who didn’t make the cut for the NFL, will have the initial game and the championship game on CBS and one matchup per week on CBS Sports Network. Other games will be available on the league’s app, which Ebersol said promises to integrate live fantasy play into the broadcasts.

He will make the most money and be under the most intense scrutiny. But he cannot do it alone.

Well, I think that it’s going to be a whole group effort,Solder said Friday. I don’t think one particular player is going to change the whole thing, so with everyone that is already there that I know and anyone that is coming in, we’re just going to have to work as hard as we can. It’s going to be an uphill process, and that’s not saying anything about the past. It’s just that the NFL is a difficult, difficult league, and we’re going to have to be the best that we can be to perform at a high level.

In his seven years with the Patriots, Solder has known only winning, and the Giants expect him to bring some of that formula for success with him.

The biggest thing about winning as a player is understanding what it takes to win,general manager Dave Gettleman said, and the understanding that the guys on the other side of the field are getting paid to play, too. That is one thing that Nate definitely understands. The Patriots have a very demanding culture up there, which we’re going to have as well. So it won’t be any surprise to Nate. At the end of the day, he certainly can show people what is required, the preparation and the work to win.

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How the NFL will (try to) rewrite the catch rule


It also lessened the need for players to keep the ball off the ground in the first place. Even under the current rule, a player can avoid the going to the ground mess if he simply keeps it in his hands.

What gets lost in this is that the sheer number of pass plays every year is 17,000 or 18,000, Blandino said. And we’re only talking about, what, five or six of them? That’s what it seems to be every year. Obviously they’re controversial, but I think [previously] the committee ultimately felt they didn’t want to make a change for five or six plays that could impact more plays in other ways. That’s part of the challenge they have now.

The Giants finally made official last week’s trade for LB Alec Ogletree. They sent their fourth-round compensatory pick (135th overall) and their sixth-round pick (176th overall) in this year’s draft to the Rams for Ogletree and the Rams’ 2019 seventh-round pick.

He gives us our defensive quarterback, Gettleman said. As for giving up two picks in this year’s draft, Gettleman said, When you get a player of this quality, you can do it. Alec is 26. He’s young, he’s under contract for the next four years. We really thought he was a great guy to add.

Wanted to make sure to challenge the opportunity to get better, Carroll said. Wanted to find ways to make… and there was some tough decisions here to get that done, but I wanted to work at changing just kind of the approach to it so that maybe we can find our ways and maybe some newness to uncover. It was difficult to make those choices, because the guys that left we have done so much together and worked together in great fashion. But I just felt it was time. It really just comes back to competing and just trying to find a way to get a little better. That’s why we made those choices.

The team hired Brian Schottenheimer as offensive coordinator and Mike Solari as the offensive line coach. Ken Norton Jr. returns to the team to take over as defensive coordinator after three years with the Oakland Raiders. The team also hired Jethro Franklin as assistant defensive line coach, Larry Izzo as assistant special teams coach and Steve Shimko as an offensive assistant.

Seattle also moved Carl Smith from quarterbacks coach to associate head coach, moved Dave Canales from wide receivers coach to quarterbacks coach, and promoted Nate Carroll to wide receivers coach from the assistant position.

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Welcome to the NFL’s annual scramble for top talent.


Less than two months remain before the 2018 draft (April 26-28), when teams will jockey for the prospects who will make up the majority of the league’s rosters in the coming years. Free agency, of course, is a supplementary exercise.

What follows is a subjective ranking of the high-end players still available, and the ones who have already agreed to terms.

A preseason trade from the Jets to Seattle, if nothing else, gave Richardson tape in both the 4-3 and 3-4 defenses. The Seahawks, who gave up a second-round pick and receiver Jermaine Kearse to get Richardson, might want him as a younger replacement for Michael Bennett. Richardson made a few splashy plays in Seattle, but he probably wasn’t dominant enough to spark a frenzied bidding war.

Although he has been slowed at times by knee injuries, Mathieu started all 16 games last season and is as young as anyone on the free agent market. Safeties are critical to current defensive schemes and he should find many suitors.

Crabtree, 30, has made 579 catches for 6,870 yards and 51 touchdowns in nine NFL seasons. He played six seasons in San Francisco after the 49ers made him a first-round pick before spending the past three seasons in Oakland.

The Raiders cut him Thursday after signing receiver Jordy Nelson.

Instead, designate one of the three to ask two or even three questions so it becomes more of a conversation and the guest is heard. It allows for a flow and a much better listen than hopscotching from one question to the next.

A little inside baseball: Over this past summer, Yankees lead TV play-by-player and ESPN New York afternoon host Michael Kay hired Excel’s Casey Close and Jim Murray as his agents. Close is most famous for being Derek Jeter’s player agent and is considered at least among the top five agents in baseball. The Yankees and Close feuded over Jeter’s final contract.

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The winners and losers from a crazy start to NFL free agency


Wednesday at 4 p.m. marked the official free-agent signing period, though negotiations were permitted prior to that. And, based on the flurry of activity in the past two days, particularly Tuesday, a lot of teams and players already have either bettered themselves or find themselves in a lurch.

Here’s a look at the winners and losers based on the early frenzy of activity leading into Wednesday’s official signing period.

2. Da Bears: Chicago added some key weapons to surround second-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, especially in landing Allen Robinson, the best receiver on the open market this offseason. He’s coming off a knee injury, but Robinson is a terrific route-runner who has the ability to break a game open and is highly productive.

The Bears also agreed to terms with former Eagles tight end Trey Burton, who’s best known for throwing that TD pass to Eagles quarterback Nick Foles in the Super Bowl. They, too, are bringing in receiver Taylor Gabriel, a speedster who can stretch the field.

The 27-year-old was serving life without parole for the 2013 murder of Odin L. Lloyd and had recently been acquitted of committing a double murder in 2012.

Baez, who insists the ex-NFL star was innocent, chose to come forward in a two-part docu-series on Oxygen titled, Aaron Hernandez Uncovered, which aims to explore the athlete’s secret double life before his sudden death.

It also features interviews with former teammates, detectives, as well as Shayanna Jenkins, his fiancée and the mother of his only child.

After his death, I can tell you it really disturbed me how many people were throwing out stories and saying certain things that were not only factually inaccurate, but just outright abusive, Baez told Fox News about his involvement with the show.

I thought and I felt, and I still do to this day, that the real story has to get out there. … No one has ever captured the true Aaron Hernandez. It’s been bothersome to me and that’s why I decided to take part of it.

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All the moves Giants made on a busy day of signings


At one time, the Broncos had big hopes for Cody Latimer, making him their 2014 second-round draft pick out of Indiana. Four years and not much impact on the field later, the Giants are taking a chance on him, adding a tall receiver to a room that includes Odell Beckham Jr., Sterling Shepard and, for now, Brandon Marshall.

Mauro joins linebacker Kareem Martin in coming to the Giants from Arizona, where new Giants defensive coordinator James Bettcher ran the defense the past three years. Mauro figures to challenge for a starting spot as an end in Bettcher’s three-man defensive line as the front office adds pieces to improve the run defense.

It’s shoot first, ask questions later, Mauro told the Giants website, describing Bettcher’s defense. It is an offensive defense. I like to play that type of way, just getting off the rock, being explosive, just causing mayhem in the backfield. There’s a lot of pieces that really fit that type of style, that type of mold. I think it’s going to be very effective.

Latimer’s most productive season was in 2017, when he caught 19 passes for 287 yards and two touchdowns.

The Giants are interested in overhauling their roster, but they did not turn their backs on all of their own unrestricted free agents. They brought back Wynn on a one-year contract.
Looking to fortify their depth, the Giants also signed Webb to a one-year deal.

You surrender three second-round picks and your sixth-overall pick to the Colts for the third pick of the NFL draft.

It means you are so desperate for one of the quarterbacks, so terrified that you might have been left standing in the game of quarterback musical chairs that you are willing to settle for the third-rated quarterback on your board.

There remains a danger, of course, that another quarterback-desperate team — the Bills at 12 for example, perhaps the Broncos at 5, perhaps the Cardinals at 15 — could leapfrog the Jets for the apple of their eye.

Maccagnan made a smart play signing Teddy Bridgewater to a one-year deal and bringing back Josh McCown, the 39-year-old godsend.

What those moves do, if the Browns choose Sam Darnold with the first-overall pick, is allow Todd Bowles and offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates to let Josh Allen or Josh Rosen or Baker Mayfield redshirt for most or all of his rookie season, à la Pat Mahomes II in Kansas City.

And there will be no mentor better for him than McCown.

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The space Giants can clear if they want Ogletree’s dream signing


Not long after he was traded to the Giants, linebacker Alec Ogletree took to Twitter to try to lure safety Tyrann Mathieu, recently released by the Cardinals:

Come to the big apple bro!!! It’s going to be lit bro I promise. #1 defense.

It has not reached a level of financial desperation for the Giants but they do not have much more to spend in free agency, edging ever closer to owning almost no space at all under the NFL-mandated salary cap of $177.2 million per team. The trade last week for Ogletree and the signing this week of left tackle Nate Solder trimmed a hefty $20 million off the cap, as each player will count $10 million on the 2018 salary cap. The expectation is the Giants will convert Ogletree’s $7 million roster bonus into a signing bonus, which would free up $5.25 million in cap space.

It is not possible for a down-to-the-dollar accounting of where the Giants are as far as cap space, given that contracts for their free-agent additions are being tabulated in real time. The Giants are about $5.3 million under the cap, according to Spotrac, but that does not include the contracts for linebacker Kareem Martin (expected to be in the three-year, $15 million range) and guard Patrick Omameh (three years, $15 million for a cap hit of $2.5 million).

The Giants can gain a decent chunk of cap space if they trim their roster. They would gain $7.5 million in cap space by releasing receiver Brandon Marshall ($5.1 million cap savings) and receiver/special teamer Dwayne Harris ($2.4 million cap savings).

Ostensibly, the former Minnesota Vikings starter will be the backup to incumbent Josh McCown, but the Jets are expected to select a quarterback with the third overall pick in the draft, acquired last Saturday in a trade with the Indianapolis Colts.

On Wednesday, coach Todd Bowles and the Jets’ top decision-makers attended Sam Darnold’s pro day at Southern California, and they will be in Wyoming on Friday for Josh Allen’s pro day. On the way home, they will stop in Oklahoma for a private workout with Baker Mayfield, the NFL Network reported. UCLA’s Josh Rosen also will have a private workout with the team.

Bridgewater’s contract includes only $500,000 in guaranteed money, so his roster spot can’t be considered secure. He’s a wild card, not having played a full game since the 2015 playoffs. The following training camp, he wrecked his knee in practice — a torn ACL, a dislocation and other structural damage. Some feared that his career was over.

Speaking on a conference call, Bridgewater, 25, wouldn’t say if he will participate in offseason practices, which begin in May.

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What NBA scouts will be watching in each Thursday tourney game


What are the best NBA draft matchups of the day in the NCAA tournament, what’s at stake, and what will scouts be watching for? We’re breaking down the field game by game.

Up first: a Thursday slate featuring nine prospects in the lottery in our latest mock draft.

While trying to develop neophyte point guard Dejounte Murray, Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich is trying to keep a 20-year postseason streak alive. Troy Taormina/USA TODAY
The loss to the Rockets left San Antonio sitting at 10th in the West behind the LA Clippers, Utah Jazz and Denver Nuggets, teams that occupy the Nos. 7, 8 and 9 spots. The Jazz own the tiebreaker with the Spurs, while a tiebreaker with Denver will come down to both teams’ final conference records.

The Spurs are on pace to win just 45 games.

We’re in a position now where we’ve dropped, veteran center Pau Gasol said. We’ve lost a few in a row, and now, there’s no margin for error anymore. Before, it was slim. Now, there is none. So now we’ve just got to go out there, and compete and win.

The current playoff format really hampers the Jets in that they’d have to face the titan of their own division in the second round. I just think Nashville is a deeper team overall — even though I don’t think the gap is as significant as you might think — and after getting so close last year, the Predators are even better now. On the other side, the Caps are used to the playoff format putting them in a tough spot, but you have to find a way, right? They might have just enough to get past the Penguins this time, but I’m going to need to see it to believe it.

Regardless of which team goes further, I think this is going to be an important building-block season for Winnipeg. The Jets are right on the cusp of taking their place among the league’s heavyweights. They have a few key contracts to resolve this summer, namely Hellebuyck’s and Jacob Trouba’s new deals as restricted free agents, but the Jets’ core has a chance to be special over the next few seasons. That Stanley Cup window seems like it’s peeking open. It will be interesting to see what Winnipeg can do during this postseason, where it should be viewed at least as a legitimate threat.

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With 15 games remaining, the Houston Rockets’ primary goal for the regular season is well within reach.


The Western Conference’s top seed is Houston’s to lose at this point. The Rockets (53-14) bumped its lead over the Golden State Warriors to two games by cruising to a 109-93 win Monday night over the struggling, undermanned San Antonio Spurs. The Rockets also own the tiebreaker over the Warriors, so Houston essentially has a three-game cushion in the fight to secure home-court advantage for the West finals.

The best record in the NBA might earn the Rockets a first-round date with a significantly upgraded version of the Spurs, whose struggles without their superstar small forward Kawhi Leonard have put their playoff hopes in serious jeopardy.

The Canadiens return home for a brief two-game homestand. After hosting the Stars, they play the Pittsburgh Penguins at Bell Centre on Thursday. The Canadiens were 1-4-1 on their road trip and are coming off a 5-2 loss to the Blue Jackets in Columbus on Monday.

It’s just another high-end piece for us, Molitor said. As a manager, when you have these types of moves, it is really exciting.

There was an unexpected reunion in the Kansas City Royals’ camp Saturday: Welcome back, sort of, Mike Moustakas.

After setting the Royals’ single-season home run record with 38 last season, Moustakas filed for free agency. He rejected a $17.4 million qualifying offer in November.

The Royals had been grooming Cheslor Cuthbert as a replacement at third. Manager Ned Yost said he needed to find ways to get Cuthbert at least 500 plate appearances.

Moustakas, however, never received the multiyear, mega-million dollar contract he and his agent Scott Boras anticipated. The Royals signed Moustakas to a one-year, $6.5 million contract this week with a mutual option for 2019. Moustakas can make another $2.2 million in incentives this year based on plate appearances, beginning at 225.

It’s fortunate the way it happened for us the way it did, Royals general manager Dayton Moore said Saturday. That’s as simply as I can say it at this time.

Moustakas passed his physical and was in a Royals uniform again.

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The Ottawa Senators had a fast start and a strong finish, and they needed both against one of the hottest teams in the NHL.


Matt Duchene scored twice, including the go-ahead goal with three minutes left, to lift the Senators over the Florida Panthers 5-3 on Monday night.

Magnus Paajarvi also had two goals for Ottawa, and Jean-Gabriel Pageau added one late. Craig Anderson made 35 saves, and Erik Karlsson and Mike Hoffman each added two assists.

Trying to figure out what’s going on, Moustakas said.

Moustakas said the regular season approaching, spring training winding down and the urge to play this season had a lot to do with his signing.

I’ve [sat] for quite some time this spring training, he said.

Moore was happy to close the deal.

He retired the final seven batters he faced, including striking out Justin Upton to end the third and Albert Pujols to lead off the fourth. He threw only 19 of his 53 pitches in the final two innings.

I was throwing a changeup, so I got them out of rhythm, Colon said. That’s why I got the outs quick.

In three appearances, Colon has a 1.04 ERA, giving up one earned run in 8? innings. He has struck out six, walked one and allowed nine hits.

Colon has a base salary of $1.75 million if he makes the team.

Meanwhile, the younger Rangers pitchers are paying close attention to Colon fooling hitters with less than overwhelming stuff.

They can learn a lot, Colon said. There is a reason why I have pitched so long in the major leagues.

And he is hopeful the Rangers want him to pitch even longer.

Arrieta has a relatively low 1,161 major-league innings on his arm at age 32, but a drop-off in performance and a decline in velocity last season generated some concerns about his staying power. In 2015, Arrieta posted a 22-6 record with a 1.77 ERA and won the NL Cy Young Award while averaging 94.6 mph on the radar gun. Last year, Arrieta’s velocity dipped to 92.1 mph and he went 14-10 with a 3.53 ERA. Opponents logged a .283/.364/.528 slash line vs. his cutter, compared to .186/.239/.271 in 2015.

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