The New York Giants have some big choices up ahead when it comes to managing the cap, and the most apparent one is the selection of Dalvin Tomlinson or Leonard Williams. It’s looking like the Giants are going to have to choose between a more consistently solid defensive lineman and one who stepped up his game big time as of recent to contribute more in the sacks department. And if they handle things wrong, they may see the line take a big step back this year.
With the flashier numbers last season, however, it may be Leonard Williams that’s the most likely to leave in free agency. That’s what Pro Football Focus predicted when they ranked 100 free agents, including giving predictions on their destinations.
Williams was traded from the New York Jets to the New York Giants in 2019 and had to move his locker across Metlife Stadium. He may be moving much further than that after the 2020 season unless he can agree to a long-term extension with the Giants coming off the franchise tag. A second franchise tag for Williams would cost the Giants $19,351,200 (120% of his current tag) and isn’t out of the question. That number also provides a solid floor for Williams in negotiations in terms of an average per year amount.
Prediction: Panthers sign Williams for four years, $80 million ($20M APY): $47.5M total guaranteed, $32.5M fully guaranteed at signing.
On the other hand, the Giants are predicted to sign Tomlinson to a four year and $52.5 million dollar deal with $26.5 million guaranteed. Williams is rated as the 20th best free agent while Tomlinson is rated as the 39th best.
Williams raised his performance to complete the season with 11.5 sacks, the most from a Giants pass rusher in recent memory. Arguably, Williams turned into the best pass rusher the Giants have had since they fully started rebuilding.
Tomlinson on the other hand doesn’t bring in numbers as flashy as that, but has more consistently shown up for the Giants in four seasons with the team. After all, he’s started every game during those four seasons and his numbers haven’t jumped around wildly like Williams’ have.
At the end of the day, the Giants will want to keep both players, but it’s increasingly looking like they won’t be able to do that. If one of the two is going to leave, it would make sense that the more expensive of the two goes elsewhere to make more money.
Right-hander Joe Musgrove was sent packing to San Diego, while the Bucs are getting four prospects from the Padres and one from the Mets.
To bring the lefty starter to the Mets, the team gave up outfield prospect Endy Rodriguez, who was ranked 14th in the club by MLB.com.
Lucchesi is a 27-year-old hurler that was a fixture in the Padres rotation in 2018 and 2019. However, he was a victim of San Diego’s depth and spent most of the 2020 campaign in the alternate training site. In 5 2/3 frames, he had a 7.94 ERA.
When at his best, the Mets are getting a capable back-of-the-rotation starter that relies more on deception than on raw stuff to get outs. In 299.1 career innings with the Padres, the southpaw has a 4.21 ERA, a 4.21 FIP and a 3.98 FIP with a solid 9.26 K/9. Those numbers are actually comparable with those of Steven Matz.
The Mets rotation is getting deeper
Speaking of Matz, Lucchesi’s arrival means that he won’t be guaranteed a rotation spot. The top four are set with Jacob deGrom, Carlos Carrasco, Marcus Stroman, and David Peterson. Matz and Lucchesi will presumably fight for the fifth spot until Noah Syndergaard comes back from his Tommy John surgery rehab.
The move also means that the Mets are definitely using Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman out of the bullpen in 2021l.
Overall, it wasn’t an overly flashy addition by the New York Mets, but not every one needs to be. Lucchesi will bring some much-needed pitching depth to Queens, and it’s a solid insurance policy in case Matz or Peterson don’t perform as planned.
The New York Giants‘ offensive line was inconsistent in 2020. The Giants have had struggles across their offensive line for years now. It is a problem the Giants seemingly cannot fix. However, they are slowly working towards improving the offensive line, investing plenty of assets into the unit over the past two years.
The Giants traded for Kevin Zeitler in 2019 and signed Nate Solder to a huge contract in the 2018 free agency period. These are the two moves New York has made to acquire veteran talent on the offensive line. In 2020, though, the Giants shifted towards a more youthful approach on the offensive line.
New York spent the fourth overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft on left tackle Andrew Thomas. They then doubled down at the position in the third round, selecting offensive tackle Matt Peart with pick number ninety-nine. But the Giants were not done there. They also spent a fifth-round pick on offensive guard Shane Lemieux in 2020.
These rookies saw plenty of playing time in the 2020 regular season. However, their performance was not always consistently good. However, there are reasons to believe that the Giants’ offensive line will improve further in 2021.
Continuity is key
The New York Giants’ offensive line severely lacked continuity and experience in 2020. Along with the rookies that saw extensive playing time, the Giants started second-year lineman Nick Gates at center, a position he had never played before. Gates was practically a rookie as well.
Taking that into consideration, the Giants had experienced players at only two of the five offensive line positions last season. Right guard Kevin Zeitler is an excellent, veteran player. Right tackle Cam Fleming is also an experienced veteran. However, the rest of the line was comprised of rookies and inexperienced players for the majority of the season.
The Giants also had no continuity along their offensive line. In terms of calling protections and passing off stunts, continuity and chemistry is crucial. No one on the Giants’ offensive line in 2020 lined up next to a teammate that they lined up next to in 2019.
Kevin Zeitler was placed between a brand new center and a brand new right tackle. The absence of Nate Solder left rookie Andrew Thomas as the Giants’ starting left tackle, sandwiching the left guard position between two newly acquired players.
The 2021 season will see the Giants’ offensive line play with far more chemistry and continuity than they did in 2020. There is not likely to be much overturn at all along New York’s offensive line. There could be a change made at the right tackle position, but the other four positions will likely be manned by the same players from last season. Additionally, the Giants made a change at the offensive line coach position midseason in 2020. Hopefully, in 2021, New York’s front line can enjoy the coaching of a singular coach. This second-year together could allow the Giants’ offensive line to grow and develop into a more continuous and consistent unit.
After a hard-fought battle with Lamar Jackson and the Ravens, Buffalo Bills fans came through in droves to support his charity.
The Buffalo Bills weren’t in a giving mood during the AFC Divisional playoffs, as they didn’t turn the ball over in their 17-3 win over the Baltimore Ravens. Their fanbase, on the other hand, was another story.
Shortly after Buffalo wrapped up their first visit to the AFC Championship Game since 1994, the base known as Bills Mafia came through in droves for Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson. Bills supporters began donating to one of Jackson’s favorite charities, Louisville-based “Blessings in a Backpack”, many in increments of eight dollars, matching the number on Jackson’s Ravens jersey.
“Our donation box just started flooding with donations from Bills fans for Lamar,” Chief Marketing Officer Nikki Grizzle said in a report from Mike Reiss of ESPN. “It’s just been overwhelming, in the best possible way.”
Grizzle told Reiss that, as of Sunday afternoon, over $240,000 have come in for the charity since Saturday’s game. The collaborative gesture from Bills Mafia is an act of goodwill toward the injured Jackson, who left Saturday’s game early with a head injury. Jackson first became affiliating with the charity during his days at the University of Louisville and has remained active in its endeavors, routinely making monetary or memorabilia donations. Blessings in a Backpack’s mission statement is defined on their website as “(mobilizing) communities, individuals, and resources to provide food on the weekends for elementary school children across America who might otherwise go hungry”.
Bills Mafia, perhaps best known for their gameday antics, has become well knows for its philanthropy for both Buffalo representatives and their opponents in recent years. After the 2017 regular season finale, Bills fans donated over $415,000 to Andy Dalton’s personal foundation after the then-Cincinnati Bengals quarterback led a game-winning drive to defeat the Ravens, helping the Bills clinch their first playoff berth since the 1999-2000 season. The fans haven’t forgotten their own athletic heroes, famously coming through for quarterback Josh Allen through donations to the Oishei Children’s Hospital after the passing of his grandmother. Further information on donations to Blessings in a Backpack can be found here.
The Bills will continue their Super Bowl trek on Sunday evening, taking on the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game (6:40 p.m. ET, CBS).
If the NFL is going to continue to hire retreads, former New York Jets boss Todd Bowles undoubtedly deserves another opportunity.
The NFL is full of unusual phenomena. For example, fans rue the creation of the fumble/touchback rule seen in Sunday’s AFC Divisional playoff action. A team based in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex partakes in the NFC East competition.
But perhaps the NFL’s most bizarre trend is trying to force a square peg into a round hole and trying to make the same few names work in different places.
The New York Jets recently went through this trend with Adam Gase, hiring him in 2019 after a modest tenure with Miami. Despite Gase’s losing record (23-25 and one forgettable playoff appearance) and a propensity for his pupils to succeed elsewhere (Ryan Tannehill, Kenyan Drake), the Jets were convinced that he was the missing ingredient and perfect overseer of Sam Darnold’s developmental years. Two years and nine wins later, Gase is gone and the Jets are in even more dire straits.
This time around, the Jets opted for a fresh face in former San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, whose hiring was announced last week. But while they opted for a new face, some of their NFL brethren didn’t seem to get the message. Jason Garrett rewrote the definition of football mediocrity in Dallas but that didn’t stop the Los Angeles Chargers from granting him an interview. Before Saleh’s hire, the Jets interviewed Marvin Lewis, owner of the most inexplicable 16-year head coaching tenure in NFL history. The Dallas Cowboys gave Mike McCarthy control of their future after the former Packers foreman reached a mere single Super Bowl with Aaron Rodgers in tow. Though the concept appears to be slowly dying off, it’s particularly frustrating to see some claim that Eric Bieniemy doesn’t “interview well” while Bill O’Brien did. Sure, sometimes a change in the narrative is possible, but for every Pete Carroll, there are multiple Hue Jacksons.
If the retread trend is going to continue, those who deserve redemption should get another shot. Former Jets boss Todd Bowles has more than earned the right. The owner of a Super Bowl ring from his endeavors with Washington, Bowles is now a win away from earning a return trip as the defensive coordinator of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. His unit will have their work cut out for them as they face Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers in Sunday’s NFC title game (3:05 p.m. ET, Fox).
Obviously, Bowles’ next head coaching opportunity won’t come in a New York reunion, but rumors have surfaced that he will interview for the Philadelphia Eagles’ vacancy this week. Like Saleh, Bowles’ modern hiring was a risk with the Jets back in 2015 and it’s a risk today with the modern NFL’s worship of a deity known as fantasy football. But in this world where the “over” is routinely hit and goal-to-go situations can be created through merely breathing on a receiver, Bowles is doing anything he can to prove that defense still wins championships. So far, he’s succeeding.
Tampa Bay’s late surge, winners of six in a row after health protocols, has coincided with Bowles’ defense coming up with big plays. They’ve forced multiple turnovers in three of their last four games and have let up less than 300 passing yards in each of that quartet. The magnum opus was Sunday’s NFL Divisional playoff tilt in New Orleans, when the Buccaneers forced four game-changing turnovers in a 30-20 win. In a game headlined by Drew Brees and Tom Brady, Bowles made sure that the true difference-makers were Devin White and Antonie Winfield Jr.
Those four steals perhaps weren’t even the most impressive turnovers of the evening, but rather the growth that Bowles’ unit made from their last tilt with New Orleans. In a nationally televised visit to Cigar City, the Saints tallied 38 points and 420 yards in a one-sided victory. Tampa Bay let up only 294 yards and 20 points on Sunday, with two of the New Orleans scoring drives netting less than 50 yards.
“I think the No. 1 thing is (that) Todd Bowles said we were going to be feisty,” White, he of 11 tackles, an interception, and the recovery of Winfield’s forced fumble on Sunday, said in a report from Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times. “We were going to challenge those guys. He’s said he’s going to take us over them. I know we might be young, but we can get after it when we get our mindset to it. Everybody was saying, where’s the Tampa Bay defense from the Green Bay game? We were really feisty and challenging them at the line of scrimmage and really getting after the quarterback, and we had the same mentality.”
White’s reference to Tampa’s conference title game opponent stemmed from a stellar showing at home back in October. Tampa defenders earned five sacks of Rodgers and limited Green Bay to 201 yards in a 38-10 blowout victory.
Bowles’ success in his Tampa Bay role, having joined Bruce Arians’ staff in 2019, could well be a case of being a brilliant coordinator whose skills as a head coach fall short. We’ve seen it throughout recent history in examples like Steve Spagnuolo, Wade Phillips, and Josh McDaniels, among others. After their respective rough patches at the helm, they have each established themselves as championship coordinators, and there’s no shame in that. But for his role in shutting down some of the more potent offenses in football, a task rendered brutal by the love of offense in today’s league, Bowles deserves a chance to prove he can go beyond coordination.
If Bowles’ on-field performance isn’t an indicator of why he’s so worthy of a second chance, it’s the love his players have bestowed upon him. If a team is looking for a new head coach, it usually means there are some raw feelings flowing through the organization. A unifier like Bowles could be just the antidote to quell these feelings, if only for a short while.
Sure, Bowles’ tenure seems only sweet in the lens of a New York retrospect because the Gase era was so brutal. The Jets went 24-40 in four seasons under his supervision and even the one season of progress…his 2015 debut…is remembered best for one of the most heartwrenching memories in recent New York memory, the ugly Week 17 loss in Buffalo that cost the team a rare playoff spot. But there was no denying that Bowles was beloved by his players, who lauded him with accolades upon receiving news of his exit.
“I hate to see the news,” linebacker Avery Williamson, traded to Pittsburgh in 2020, said in the aftermath. “He’s a great person, great coach. I feel like he definitely helped get my game up to another level this year. He definitely taught me a whole lot of plays.”
Compared to the de facto restrained jubilation in the wake of Gase’s departure, Bowles’ ousting a solemn occasion in New York. The firing was flipping to a new chapter that no one wanted to turn to.
“To come up short and to hear the news that Coach Bowles wasn’t going to be here anymore, it (stinks),” quarterback Sam Darnold added. “I think Coach Bowles, his type of leadership, he showed me that you can just be you and people will respect that. as long as you come in and be the same person day in and day out. He showed me how to lead and that it’s possible to lead that way.”
Much as we, the football-loving public, will continue to turn to the NFL to get our professional fix, it will continue to do things and make moves that shock and perplex us. The powers that be should make sure that Todd Bowles being denied a second opportunity at head coaching, one granted to countless others, isn’t one.
For a couple of weeks now, it has been reported that the New York Mets and the Toronto Blue Jays are the two finalists in the pursuit of free agent center fielder George Springer. After all, both teams have money to spend and the specific need of a big two-way contributor in the outfield’s most important position.
However, the New York Mets, after acquiring Francisco Lindor, don’t have a pressing need to add Springer, like Toronto still does. The Mets, therefore, are also looking at glove-first options such as Jackie Bradley jr. and Albert Almora.
In any case, both teams remain in the hunt, as the Mets haven’t entirely dismissed the possibility of adding Springer. In fact, both teams made offers north of $100 million, according to the latest reports.
Will Springer choose the Mets?
According to MLB.com’s Jon Morosi, Springer could come to a decision on where he wants to play next season this week. In the last few days, a flurry of free agents have signed after months of a slow market: reliever Liam Hendriks went to Chicago, the Yankees secured both DJ LeMahieu and pitcher Corey Kluber, and the Phillies inked bullpen star Archie Bradley.
The Mets have been extremely active ever since new owner Steve Cohen took over, but are not done yet. SNY believes that while several free agents remain unsigned, Springer may very well be the next big fish to put his signature into paper.
Springer, who is 31 years old, is reportedly looking for something in the neighborhood of $175 million. That number seems unlikely in the current market, but the final contract could be very well worth at least $150 million.
Additionally, he is said to prefer playing closer to his home in Connecticut, which would give the Mets the edge.
In the shortened 2020 season, Springer slashed .265/.359/.540 with a 146 wRC+ and a 1.9 fWAR. He hit 14 home runs and played stellar defense in center field for the Houston Astros.
The New York Knicks went to their defense and their big guns when the going got tough to pull off an ugly 91-84 win Monday at The Garden.
Struggling all game long, Julius Randle picked the right time to come alive.
Randle pumped in seven points and pulled two huge rebounds inside the final 93 seconds that carried the Knicks to their second straight win.
The Knicks moved up to 7-8, a big turnaround from last season. It took them 28 games to reach seven wins last year.
But it wasn’t easy. The Knicks showed tremendous growth and a lot of fight to pull off the close win.
“It was a tough one for us. [It’s] Tough to have a back-to-back schedule. Two early games are even tougher. [Magic] were a good team. We stayed together. We get it done,” Randle said postgame. “We got the job done.”
Randle helped the Knicks get the job done by continuing to make plays despite his worst shooting performance this season.
“When shots are not falling, you have to find another way to help the team,” Randle said.
“I stayed mentally strong the whole game. The body is fine. I had hard long summer to prepare for this.”
The Knicks’ starting power forward looked exhausted at times as he struggled to shoot. He went 5-for-19 from the field. But he still willed his way to a massive double-double of 21 points and 17 rebounds.
Barrett also had another strong performance coming away with 22 points, including a transition basket off a Magic turnover that gave the Knicks a four-point cushion, 85-81, down the stretch.
The sophomore wing added 10 rebounds and four assists.
Immanuel Quickley scored 11 points off the bench, but Elfrid Payton played solid (12 points and four assists) to earn the nod to close out the game. Payton was a team-high +/- 20 in this win.
The Knicks nearly squandered a 14-point lead as the Magic got hot in the fourth quarter.
“They showed a lot of toughness,’’ Thibodeau said. “I knew it would be a challenge for us — back-to-back, early start. We played with the lead for most of the game. Then we took the hit to start the fourth quarter. Having the ability to take a punch, keep fighting and finding a way to win that’s a big part of this league. I loved the toughness we showed down the stretch.’
The Knicks missed 10 free throws in a game that had the 90s vibes.
Magic coach Steve Clifford and Thibodeau, who both came from the 90s Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy tree, had a chess match.
With both defensive coaches exchanging tactical moves, neither team shot well. The Knicks shot 35.6 percent, but the Magic were worse with 33.7 percent.
It marked the second straight game that the Knicks have held their opponents under 85 points and under 35 percent. Orlando, though, fared better than Boston, which only scored 75 against New York’s defense in a 30-point rout Sunday.
The Knicks made their free throws when it mattered. They sank their last seven at the line to survive the Magic’s comeback.
Orlando took the lead briefly on a Terrence Ross’s magical heave with the shot clock winding down, 81-80. But they fell apart in front of the Knicks’ tenacious defense.
Nikola Vucevic paced the Magic, who fell to their sixth straight loss, with 24 points and 14 rebounds.
The Knicks will fly to the West Coast and play another back-to-back game against the Golden State Warriors on Thursday and the Sacramento Kings on Friday before closing out the tough week schedule in Portland on Sunday.
One of the UFC‘s most hyped prospects entering 2021 was Joaquin Buckley (12-4). Buckley had perhaps the viral knockout of the decade back in 2020 and he followed that up with another brutal knockout win back at UFC 255.
Dana White has said in multiple interviews that he was one of the fighters to watch in 2021. The promotion decided to throw Buckley on the main card for their debut on ABC. They gave Buckley, Alessio Di Chirico (13-5), as an opponent at UFC Fight Island 7.
Di Chirico is a tough fighter, however, he had lost three straight entering Saturday. To me, this had a UFC showcase fight written all over it. In the past, Di Chirico had struggled against powerful punchers who pushed the pace.
Well, that’s exactly who Joaquin Buckley is. That said, I figured Buckley would storm through Di Chirico on Saturday as did most of the MMA community. Boy, was everyone wrong about that one.
Di Chirico looked incredibly sharp striking from the outside. Buckley looked frustrated and he wasn’t able to get in on Di Chirico during the exchanges. Di Chirico was sharp and was throwing shots down the middle that continuously popped Buckley.
Then out of no where, Di Chirico landed a beautiful headkick that sent Buckley crashing down. A few follow up shots later the referee called a stop to the fight and Alessio Di Chirico stopped the UFC hype train of Joaquin Buckley.
What’s next after UFC Fight Island 7?
Joaquin Buckley is still a very exciting prospect for the UFC, but let’s be honest, this was a big setback. He was given this opportunity against a guy who had lost three straight fights. Buckley was supposed to deliver and further push his stock.
However, the exact opposite happen. He lost in devastating fashion when he was a big favorite. Now, the UFC is going to have to figure out a good opponent to assist Buckley in regaining some of the steam that he had.
I thought for sure that the next fight would come against James Krause (28-8). Those two are from the same area in the US and they have major beef. However, with this loss, I’m not sure that Krause will be as interested as he was before.
The UFC needs to look for an opponent that will stand in trade with Buckley for his next fight. Win or lose, the fight will need to be entertaining. I like Jamie Pickett (11-5) as a potential option for Buckley’s next matchup.
The New York Giants‘ defense exceeded all expectations this season. New York saw incredible performances out of multiple newly-signed free agents. Cornerback James Bradberry had an elite season, totaling 18 passes defended and linebacker Blake Martinez was phenomenal, racking up 151 combined tackles.
But the Giants’ defense was not perfect and did have a glaring weakness. The Giants’ edge rushers struggled to create consistent pressure on the quarterback and were often injured. New York could be in the market for an edge rusher this offseason, and there is a familiar name they could consider.
In Week 14, the Giants’ offensive line was terrorized by one edge rusher on the Arizona Cardinals. Haason Reddick dominated the Giants and racked up five sacks. Now, with Reddick set to become a free agent in March, he could be a name to keep in eye on as the Giants look to improve their pass-rush.
Haason Reddick stats and highlights
The Arizona Cardinals’ defense benefited from the breakout season of Haason Reddick in 2020. Reddick posted a career-high 12.5 sacks this season, breaking his previous career-high of 4 sacks in 2018. With this being Reddick’s firs time posting double-digit sacks in his career, some might be concerned that 2020 was just a fluke. But regardless, he will get paid as he has proven to be a solid pass-rusher in the NFL.
Pro Football Focus recently suggested that the New York Giants could pursue Haason Reddick in free agency this offseason. PFF pointed out that no Giants edge rusher recorded 20 or more pressures in 2020, but Haason Reddick had 56 total pressures this season on 412 pass-rushing snaps, 26 of which came in the last month of the season.
The reason for Reddick’s slow start to his career was a position change. In college, Haason played edge rusher. Once he made it to the NFL, though, the Cardinals decided to convert him to an off ball linebacker. This conversion was only mildly successful, though, and the Cardinals decided this season that it was best to move him back to his original position.
After switching back to the edge, Reddick had a slow start to the season, but really picked it up towards the end of the year. Haason totaled 7.5 sacks and 13 pressures from Weeks 14 to 17. He seemed to hit a real groove before season’s end and could be looking at an even larger breakout in 2021, his second season playing edge rusher in the NFL.
The New York Giants schemed together many pressures and sacks in 2020, but the roster could greatly benefit from having a consistent pass-rushing presence off the edge. The Giants should consider taking a chance on Haason Reddick if the price is right in free agency this offseason.
The New York Rangers will host the New Jersey Devils at Madison Square Garden Tuesday night in another tough divisional battle.
New York Rangers: 1-1 New Jersey Devils: 1-0-1 Venue: Madison Square Garden Television: MSG Networks Radio: ESPN 98.7
The New York Rangers look to build on their 5-0 shutout over the New York Islanders on Saturday night when the Devils come to Broadway on Tuesday night.
Head coach David Quinn confirmed the same lineup would be used on Tuesday night following practice while also announcing that Alexandar Georgiev would start in net for the Blueshirts. Defenseman Anthony DeAngelo will sit for the second straight contest.
“Much more about sticking with what worked. The discipline piece is done and over with,” Quinn said of DeAngelo as was reported by beat writer Vince Mercogliano.
The Rangers were 1-for-8 vs. NY Islanders on the power play and killed off all four penalties they took on Saturday night.
The Blueshirts’ game against New Jersey tomorrow is one of only 10 scheduled games this season that is not part of a multiple-game set against one of their opponents (also Feb. 4 vs. WSH, Feb. 6 at NJD, Feb. 8 vs. NYI, Feb. 24 at PHI, Mar. 2 vs. BUF, Mar. 19 at WSH, Mar. 22 vs. BUF, Apr. 20 at NYI, Apr. 23 vs. PHI) via the new york Rangers PR Department.
Mika Zibanejead and Pavel Buchnevich are tied for the team lead in goals scored with two goals each. For the Devils, Myles Wood leads the teams in goals also with two.
This will be the Devil’s first road game of the year. Jack Hughes, the Devil’s first overall selection in last year’s draft, has three assists in the team’s first two games this year.
New Jersey is 0-8 on the power-play this season while allowing one short-handed goal.