New York Giants move up to first place for now with Bengals win

New York Giants, Wayne Gallman

The New York Giants won on Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals, and the game has more impact than just the one on their immediate record. With the win, the Giants not only moved up to become a four win team, but also took first place in the NFC East. They’re currently tied in the wins column with Washington, but they keep the top spot after taking both games in their season series with their regional rival.

The lead might not last that long. The Eagles are a three win team right now and they can move into first place if they beat the Seahawks on Monday Night Football. But the Eagles winning isn’t a guarantee, and there’s still enough games left to be played that the Giants are in control of their own destiny regardless.

Specifically, there’s five games left in the season with one of them being in the division – the season ending game against Dallas. This last stretch of the season should prove more challenging to the Giants as they’ll have a tougher strength of schedule. Their last opponent was one of the worst teams in the league and was missing their starting quarterback, and still came within a few points of winning.

On the other hand, the next opponent of the Giants is the Seahawks, who have a 7-3 record and would have an 8-3 record by the time they meet the Giants if they beat the Eagles on Monday. After that, the Giants are set to take on the Cardinals, who also have a winning record. And they may have to play Seattle without Daniel Jones, depending on how his injury recovery goes.

But after the poor start to the season, it’s hard to complain about the Giants being in the mix at all right now. Regardless of how their chances are to go further and maintain first place in spite of the tough stretch coming up.

New York Giants: Offensive line shows out in clutch Week 12 win

New York Giants, Andrew Thomas

The New York Giants are now in first place in the NFC East. The Giants’ clutch 19-17 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals put them on top of their division. The Giants barely scraped out with a win in this game that saw starting quarterback Daniel Jones go down with a hamstring injury.

The Giants’ offense struggled to get anything going once Jones exited the lineup. But while Daniel was playing, New York’s offense was efficient, minus a couple of miscues that held them back. The Giants’ offense looked primed to breakout in the second half before Daniel Jones suffered his injury.

The reason why the Giants’ offense was performing so well: the offensive line. What has been the Giants’ biggest weakness for years was arguably their biggest offensive strength this week.

Offensive line stats and highlights in Week 12

For the first time this season, the Giants’ offensive line did not give up a sack. This comes just over a week after Joe Judge fired offensive line coach Marc Colombo and replaced him with coach Dave DeGuglielmo. In DeGuglielmo’s first game as offensive line coach of the Giants, the offensive line had its best performance of the season.

The Giants did not allow a sack and were great in the run-game, helping running back Wayne Gallman total 94 yards and 1 touchdown on the ground. The Giants gained a total of 142 rushing yards against Cincinnati.

According to Pro Football Focus, rookie offensive linemen Andrew Thomas and Shanne Lemieux were particularly impressive. PFF states that neither rookie allowed a pressure on the day. This is encouraging for the Giants to see their young linemen continue to improve with a near-flawless game in pass protection.

The Giants saw great improvement from their offensive line this week. But it still was not perfect. Right tackle Cam Fleming struggled against the Bengals, committing a number of costly penalties. This could lead the Giants to start rookie tackle Matt Peart in Fleming’s place once Peart returns from the reserve/COVID list.

This was an encouraging performance from the Giants’ offensive line. New York’s front line has struggled all season long but has seen drastic improvement in recent weeks. As New York pushes for a playoff spot in December, it will be crucial for the offensive line to continue to play at a high level.

Buffalo Bills: Three stars from Sunday’s win vs. Los Angeles

The Buffalo Bills’ rushing offense woke up at a perfect time, as they earned a hard-fought victory against the Los Angeles Chargers.

Trickery and rushing ruled the day for the Buffalo Bills in a hard-fought victory.

Cole Beasley threw a touchdown pass to compliment a 172-yard performance from the run game, which was paced by 82 from Devin Singletary. It was enough to give Buffalo a 27-17 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers at Bills Stadium. The Bills (8-3) has clinched their first pair of non-losing seasons since the 2014 and 2015 campaigns. They maintain a single-game lead on Miami for the AFC East division lead.

ESM looks back on the three stars of Sunday’s big win…

3rd Star: WR Cole Beasley

(3 receptions, 20 yards, 1-for-1, 20 yards, 1 TD)

No. 11 threw a touchdown for the Buffalo Bills on Sunday, but Drew Bledsoe was nowhere to be found. Instead, it was Beasley launching his first pass since a 2018 attempt at theatrics in Dallas. It was good for his first NFL completion, a 20-yard scoring strike to Gabriel Davis. The Bills have done some strong work with their disease-prevention tactics (often keeping rookie thrower Jacob Fromm in quarantine in case of an emergency), but if they ever face a situation like the one Denver is facing this weekend, they could well turn to Beasley, who served as an option quarterback at Little Elm High School.

2nd Star: WR Gabriel Davis

(3 receptions, 79 yards, 1 TD)

How ironic is it that, one of the weekend of the 10th anniversary of the Steve Johnson incident, that a Bills receiver bearing the No. 13 in a throwback jersey would come through in the clutch? That was Davis, who not only came through on Beasley’s toss of glory, but also on a pair of deep passes that kept Buffalo drives going. Davis has turned himself into quite the day three steal, and has situated himself as a crucial piece of the Buffalo offensive puzzle moving forward. His performance alongside Beasley came up huge on a day when they were missing John Brown due to an injury.

1st Star: LB A.J. Klein 

(14 tackles, 2 pass defenses, 1.5 sacks)

Klein continued his Buffalo redemption story on Sunday, becoming a strong prescience when the Bills needed it most. On the final drive, with the Chargers going for a desperation drive at the end of the game, Klein earned himself a 10-yard sack, combining with Jerry Hughes for another at the end of the first half, one that partly led to a Los Angeles punt. He had three other tackles for a loss on the afternoon, including a big shove of Joshua Kelley on a third-and-one with the Bills holding on to a 24-14 lead. It limited the damage to a field goal, and helped Buffalo keep a lead they’d never relinquish. Klein has shown that his breakout game against Seattle was no fluke and he’ll no doubt be relied on as the season hits its final stages.

The Bills return to action next Monday night against the San Francisco 49ers (8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Giants V Cincinnati Bengals: Biggest takeaways, Daniel Jones injury update, defensive performance, more

New York Giants, Daniel Jones

The New York Giants emerged victorious over the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday afternoon, by a slim 19–17 score. However, despite the win, the biggest news of the day was an injury to quarterback Daniel Jones.

Jones suffered a right hamstring injury in the second half, trying to extend the play with his legs and pick up the first down. He immediately felt the injury and was pulled from the game. He attempted to return but simply couldn’t drive off his right leg and was once again taken out and replaced by Colt McCoy.

Fortunately, the Giants’ defense had an incredible outing, limiting the Bengals to 10 points. I am not attributing seven of the points to the defense, considering it was on a kick return for a touchdown in the first quarter. Nonetheless, the Giants won the turnover battle 3-1, with Logan Ryan forcing a fumble and recovering it. They also intercepted Brandon Allen, Cincinnati Bengals quarterback, once, and forced a fumble on the final drive up the game to seal the win. Thanks to Jabaal Sheard and a Leonard Williams recovery.

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While this was a messy game for the Giants, their victory brings them to first place in the NFC East for the time being. If the Philadelphia Eagles fall to the Seattle Seahawks, they will be officially in first place going into week 13.

The Giants could face off against Seattle next week without Jones at the helm, but head coach Joe Judge stated that he was “optimistic” he could play with a week of rest.

The Giants are currently 4-7 and 3-4 in the division, going on their first three-game win streak since 2016. They also rushed for 140+ yards for the third straight game and didn’t allow a sack for the first time this season. Thanks to new offensive line coordinator Dave DeGuglielmo, the line looked a bit more solid in pass protection and once again dominated in the run game.

However, right tackle Cam Fleming allowed three costly penalties, so he will likely be swapped out with Matt Peart next week once he is cleared from the COVID/reserve list.

A few more notable performances came from Graham Gano, who hit four field goals, and was a difference-maker in the contest. Safety Jabrill Peppers also racked up six tackles, two passes defended, and flew around the field with his athleticism. Leonard Williams also had a stellar game, recording three QB hits and his 6th sack of the season. Overall, the defense was the highlight of this contest, thanks to coordinator Patrick Graham and his incredible halftime adjustments.

 

New York Jets: Three stars from Sunday’s loss vs. Miami

Sam Darnold returned to the field, but the New York Jets’ offensive spark did not, as they fell without a touchdown to the Miami Dolphins.

A relic of the New York Jets’ past put them one step closer toward their future.

Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for 257 yards and two touchdown passes, guiding his Miami Dolphins to a 20-3 victory over the Jets on Sunday at MetLife Stadium. New York (0-11) welcomed back Sam Darnold to their lineup, but he failed to keep the offensive progress rolling, throwing two interceptions and only 197 yards in defeat. Miami (7-4), on the other hand, kept pace in the AFC wild card hunt, staying a game behind Buffalo for the division lead and gaining ground on the fallen Las Vegas Raiders in the wild car chase.

ESM does have some game ball to dispense for the Jets, mostly coming from the defensive side of things after yet another defeat…

3rd Star: WR Denzel Mims

(4 receptions, 67 yards)

The Jets’ future with Darnold looks a bit murky, but it’s abundantly clear that Mims has a bright future with this franchise. In the third of what could be dwindling opportunities with the current Jets thrower, Mims earned 67 yards on a quartet of receptions, the primary tally being a 30-yard gain that mostly consisted of yardage after the catch, a gain that brought the Jets out of the shadow of their own goalposts. If the Jets could earn Mims his first 100-yard day and his first NFL touchdown, that just might be enough to call this dreary final stretch a success.

2nd Star: LB Neville Hewitt

(6 tackles, 1 sack, 1 FF)

A case against tanking comes in the form of Hewitt, who may be the type of player trying to impress both the Jets and other teams moving forward. Hewitt has risen to the occasion over the past three seasons as a reliable depth option, duplicating that process on Sunday against Miami. He gave the Jets some hope in the third quarter with a strip-sack of Fitzpatrick that situated the Jets in Miami territory. Hewitt has signed one-year deals with the Jets in each of the past two offseasons; he’s currently working his way toward a third…and possibly even longer.

1st Star: DL Quinnen Williams

(7 tackles, 2 passes defended, 1 sack)

Despite a year from the depths of the football underworld, Williams has taken a major step forward after a difficult season. He was perhaps in the Miami backfield more often than some Dolphin running backs on Sunday, earning a sack of Fitzpatrick and forcing a Matt Breida fumble that set up yet another failed opportunity for the offense. Williams also had a pair of pass breakups in defeat. Not only can the Jets be pleased with his development in a lost year, as Williams is one of the few Jets taking advantage of a season where there’s nothing to lose, but he’s starting to build a bit of a Pro Bowl case as well.

The Jets return to action next Sunday against the Las Vegas Raiders (1 p.m. ET, CBS).

Geoff Magliocchetti is @GeoffJMags

New York Yankees news/rumors: Luke Voit trade nonsense, DJ LeMahieu terms changing, more

New York Yankees, Luke Voit

The hot-stove months are slow developing this year, but the New York Yankees are still in the middle of rumors as we head into December. Extending DJ LeMahieu remains a priority, and sources close to Empire Sports Media have stated he desires a five-year deal and is willing to take a pay cut in order to stay in pinstripes.

Luckily, the Yankees have several players coming off their payroll, including Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton, and JA Happ. That builds to $52 million in open salary cap, let alone the $21 million they’re getting back from Jacoby Ellsbury’s contract. They have more than enough money to sign LeMahieu to a long-term deal.

However, the major concern is that five years is too long, and by the time the contract is up, his value will have dipped significantly. I would make the argument that DJ can play multiple infield positions, eventually transitioning to first base and taking the strain off of his fielding. Considering he earned a .327 and .364 BA the past two seasons, I’d be willing to state that he will still be an above-average player even if he dips down to .270 five years from now with incredible value to the team.

General manager Brian Cashman signed him to a two-year, $24 million deal in 2019, and he has proved his value ever since. He had his lowest strikeout right in his entire career this past campaign at 9.7% and earned the most walks since 2017 with an 8.3% walk rate.

Some believe that LeMahieu could be better suited for first base, which would open up a potential trade for Francisco Lindor from the Cleveland Indians. That would push Gleyber Torres to second base, solidifying the infield for years to come. This would indicate a Luke Voit trade, but I don’t believe the slugging first baseman is going anywhere.

Could the New York Yankees still trade Luke Voit:

If you were in the boat that Voit should be traded based on his increasing value the past two seasons, MLB.com’s Brian Hoch stated the opposite.

“That has been suggested in a few media reports, proposing that the Yankees could cash in on a breakout season in which Luke Voit led the Majors in home runs to obtain a starting pitcher. At this point, that idea does not seem to have generated real traction in the front office. Those around the team believe that Voit’s 2020 performance was real and can be replicated in ’21 and beyond, especially his power and ability to drive the ball to all fields.”

This past season, Voit finished with a league-high 22 home runs and 52 RBIs over just 234 plate appearances. Compared to his 2019 season, he had more home runs in almost half the appearances. He had the lowest strikeout rate in his career at 23.1% and his best defensive performance of his career.

New York Yankees Analysis: A New York Yankees writers worst scenario

New York Yankees

Being a New York Yankee writer can be one of the most interesting journeys of any sportswriter. The Yankees are the winningness sports team in the world. They have won more World Championships than any other team in any sport. Because of the fame and the worldwide interest, the Yankee writer usually finds themselves quite busy reporting the latest news about the team. But it isn’t always easy.

You would think the Yankee writer would be the busiest during the season, but actually, that isn’t true. Yes, you report on the games, the scores, and who did what. But in the offseason, that’s when contemplation and questions mostly take front and center stage. Who will be gone, who will stay, and how the team will improve to be even better next season.

With the New York Yankees having an illustrious history filled with great Yankees superstars, there is always something to write about being a Yankee historian. There is plenty to write about the Yankees’ greats, their stories, and how they became famous. There are the present player profiles, top tens, many analyses’, and news and rumors. But for a writer, you want to break the story that the Yankees just signed DJ LeMahieu to a four-year $85 million contract with options.

This offseason now in its fourth week, and there is little to report on; it’s actually the worst scenario for a Yankee writer. Yes, there are all the rumors, but no hard cold facts to go on. This offseason is just as unique as the season itself was. The coronavirus shadowed the whole season, yet baseball somehow managed to get it done relatively unscathed. Football has also tried to get it done, but they are running into serious trouble as the virus is escalating at unheard of milestones.

With the virus not relenting, it casts even more unknowns for the Yankees and other MLB teams going into a 2021 season. Will, there be fans in the stands again, will there be a 162 game season? For the most part, all of these questions delayed teams from making decisions early on rather than later when more might be known. For a writer, you have to work on mostly rumor, and some slipped tongues. Yes, there is a lot of talk but few answers.

For the New York Yankees, there any many questions. Will the Yankees re-sign DJ LeMahieu? If they do, how much will it cost and for how long? Will the Yankees replace their catcher Gary Sanchez? Will they move Gleyber Torres to second base? Will they bring back Yankee Veteran, fan-favorite Brett Gardner? What will they do with their once star of the future, Miguel Andujar, who now has no use to the Yankees? An what about the Yankees pitching rotation that is in a mess? Will they end up bringing back Masahiro Tanaka?

These are the same questions out there at the end of the World Series and are still the same questions unanswered. The only thing we have really learned for sure is what Yankee prospects the Yankees would protect from the Rule 5 draft. For the sportswriter, this leaves you wondering how many stories can you write about Gary Sanchez and whether he will remain? How many different twists can you put to the story based on the latest sources and rumors?

We keep reading though because we want the latest hint to what might happen with our favorite player, or what surprise move general manager Brian Cashman might make. To a lesser degree, we also watch what other teams are doing that might affect the Yankees.

The good news for Yankees fans and writers is that any day now, the “hot stove” will boil over with more news than you might be able to digest or write about in a day’s time. In the next weeks before spring training begins on February 27, when the Yankees will meet the Tigers. All of these questions will be answered to our delight or chagrin. Though much will probably not be known until the Christmas holiday and the weeks following, we will find out all the answers. Keep the faith; Yankee fans news is coming.

 

New York Knicks could have their future point guard in UDFA Myles Powell

New York Knicks, Myles Powell, Big East, Seton Hall Pirates

The New York Knicks have a ton of point guards to choose from but no established playmakers. Finding a superstar player at the position has been extremely difficult for the Knicks, and it hasn’t been for the lack of trying. They have spent draft capital and free agency money to acquire many different players, but they’re still looking for the perfect one. However, they might have found their answer and UDFA Myles Powell.

The list of PGs goes on and on, and there’s plenty of talent to choose from but more untapped potential. I believe Elfrid Payton and Frank Ntilikina will be the first choice PGs this upcoming season, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Powell earn serious minutes down the line.

Here’s a list of all the New York Knicks’ point guards:

-Frank Ntilikina

-Elfrid Payton

-Dennis Smith, Jr.

-Myles Powell

-Immanuel Quickley

-Jared Harper

-Austin Rivers

There are a few notable attributes to be aware of regarding Powell, the former Seton Hall stand out. At 6-foot-2, Powell was a three-year starter at Seton Hall, averaging 21 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 2.9 assists during his senior campaign. He literally carried Seton Hall in the Big East, leaving historical marks on their franchise. He was a major reason for the college’s resurgence, with the team winning 20+ games and all four seasons Powell was available.

Luckily, he is good friends with Obi Toppin, the eighth overall pick for the Knicks this past NBA draft. There’s a lot to like when it comes to the young point guard, who is a lethal scorer and fearless competitor. His ability to drive the lane with fantastic vision and heave up shots without thinking twice make him a dangerous threat on offense. One of my favorite aspects about him is his ability to play nonstop basketball, needing minimal rest. He’s the definition of a gamer.

His primary issue is defense, considering his lack of size that could be a problem at the NBA level against stronger and more athletic talent. He is a solid floor manager who has the tenacity to make up for his lack of size on defense.

With the Knicks having a long list of players to choose from at the position, it will take a while for Powell to climb to the surface. Veterans like Payton will earn more reps because of that, but he is a team player and will try to fit into the system the best he can. As a student of the game, I expect him to conform his style to Tom Thibodeau’s system and get himself in a position for reps.

As a UDFA, Powell is a low-risk player for the Knicks, and considering staying in New York, he’s already comfortable with the scenery and intensity. I believe he has everything it takes to be a quality point guard in the NBA and could be earning starting minutes by the end of the 2020–21 season.

New York Yankees News/Rumors: There are wildly conflicting views on Sanchez, find out here if he deserves one last chance

New York Yankees, Gary Sanchez

The New York Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez is certainly in the center of the Yankee conversation to improve the team this offseason. If you thought Sanchez was controversial during the last two seasons, he is even more so in the last weeks following the World Series. Those thoughts from fans to sportswriters have varied from the Yankees have supported their defenseless catcher for far too long and should cut him loose, to the claim they have turned him into a broken baseball player.

Sanchez’s problem is that he is a highly talented player that just doesn’t seem to be able to put it all together to become that Yankee star that the front office always thought he could be. In this writer’s opinion, the New York Yankees have been more than patient with the struggling catcher, and it is indeed time to move on from him. But some disagree. They say he’s still young; give him a chance. I say after five years of hope with only diminishing results, that is enough of a chance. If you keep doing the same thing, don’t expect different results. More on that later.

After a breakout season in 2016 and 2017 in which he was second in the Rookie of the year vote, was an All-Star, Silver Slugger, and got MVP votes, he has never regained that excellence. In 2017 he even had the most home runs of any catcher in either league. But in 2018 and 2019, he was off the field with injuries so much that his value to the team dropped significantly. His supporter often saw his lack of playing ability was due to those injuries.

During those years, his batting average dropped, and his strikeouts increased. He had times of increased defense, and times it got worse. At one point, he had the most passed balls in baseball. Fast forward to the 2020 shortened season, Sanchez managed to stay healthy the entire season, but that didn’t help his performance; it only got worse. He ended the season with a batting average at only .147 with ten home runs and an abysmal OBP of just .253. As the season progressed, he seemed totally lost at the plate, just flailing at pitched balls.  There is even news that he is being shopped.

In the last month of the season, the Yankees and Gerrit Cole found that the matchup of backup catcher Kyle Higashioka worked much better than with Sanchez. In the last weeks, Sanchez found himself sat while Higashioka caught for even more pitchers, and in the postseason, Sanchez was sat even more often even in favor of Erik Kratz.

The YES Network’s Michael Kay stated that “I think they broke him.” Kay’s rationale was that he should have jumped up and down and created a controversy when being sat in favor of his backup catcher. The fact that he just went quietly into the background shows that he was a broken player.

My take on that is that I have no way of knowing whether he is broken or not, but if he is depressed and “broken,” it’s because no matter how hard he tried, he just couldn’t hit the ball, not because the Yankees sat him in the hopes of winning a game.

Sanchez got off to a horrible start. In his five July games, he didn’t get a hit or a home run. He did get 10 strikeouts while not walking once. August was a bit better, but his batting average didn’t; he actually hit the lowest of all catchers in baseball at just .056. He did hit 6 home runs in August. In September, he just seemed to fall apart completely, lacking defense and home runs. Fans saw him as wasted space in the lineup for a team that was quickly losing their division. In the postseason ALDS, he caught two games without getting a hit while striking out three times, when the Yankees exited the postseason early again.

Some of my followers have criticized me for being too hard on Sanchez. I believe I may have been too easy on him and think the New York Yankees were as well. The truth be known, I actually like Sanchez and believe he has immense talent and is on the edge of greatness.

When nothing else has worked, I have a plan to give Sanchez one last chance. I believe he truly wants to get better. He is showing that by playing winter ball in the Dominican. Hire Yadier Molina on a one or two year contract and pay him well. Not so much as to be the lead Yankee catcher but to fix Gary Sanchez. In his long career, Molina has always been one of the premier catchers in all of baseball. He knows how to be the best defensively, and he knows how to hit the ball. If anyone can fix Sanchez, it’s Yadier Molina.

On the Yankees and manager Aaron Boone’s part, that move will allow catchers’ platooning between Molina, Sanchez, and Higashioka. This also removes the need to acquire another catcher due to the retirement of Erik Kratz. Although I think this is a plan that might work out well for the New York Yankees, at the same time, it is unfair to Kyle Higashioka, who deserves to be the starting catcher. My reasoning for presenting this plan is that Sanchez has the stuff to be a superstar, “Higgy” is a good catcher but doesn’t have that same potential.

New York Yankees won’t have to overpay DJ LeMahieu with new terms

New York Yankees, DJ LeMahieu

The New York Yankees have made it a priority to re-sign star infielder DJ LeMahieu in the coming weeks, but as free agency slowly blossoms into his normal self, the rumors will continue to flow that other teams are interested in bidding for his services.

Of course, after two incredible seasons in pinstripes, LeMahieu was going to attract attention from other suitors, but he made it clear that staying with the Yankees is his desire. In 2020, he played in 50 of 60 total regular-season games, finishing with a league-high .364 batting average, 10 homers, and 27 RBIs. He had a career-best 9.7% strike out rate and walked 8.3% of the time, his highest since 2017 (Fangraphs).

While the sample size was small, LeMahieu proved once again that he deserves a long-term extension. However, I don’t believe the Yankees are going to have to overpay for his services, as others have suggested with competition looming. As an infielder who can play second base and first base, his value remains high after age takes it’s an evitable toll.

The New York Yankees need to settle for years over money:

At 32 years old, LeMahieu is no spring chicken, but he has plenty of years left to play at a high-level. There is a belief that he could earn upwards of $20 million per season, but he already stated he would accept less money to stay in the Bronx.

The only issue with LeMahieu’s future deal is that he wants a five-year contract, and the Yankees could pull it off by offering him $20 million per season with a fifth-year vesting option.

The Yankees are already on the hook for multiple long-term contracts, including Giancarlo Stanton and GGerritry Cole. They also have six years left on Aaron Hicks’ contract, but it isn’t too pricey. Combined, Stanton and Cole will earn a whopping $65 million next year, more than the entire Tampa Bay Rays payroll by a large margin.

Coughing up another significant contract is not an ideal scenario considering the team lost the most money of any squad this past season due to COVID-19 restrictions. Nonetheless, they have multiple starters hitting free agency, opening up plenty of cap to sign LeMahieu on a long-term deal.

I don’t think his contract is going to blow any minds in terms of money per year, but they will give him the years in exchange for a lower price point, which the Yankees should jump on considering the value he offers the team.