New York Giants want to restructure Nate Solder’s deal this season

New York Giants, Will Hernandez, Nate Solder

New York Giants left tackle Nate Solder has one of the worst contracts in the NFL. The Giants seemingly gave him this big payday right before Solder would suffer a drop off in performance after leaving New England, and once again, it looks like the Patriots organization moved on from a player just in time to avoid suffering the effects of that fall. The Giants, on the other hand, aren’t so lucky due to signing Solder to a deal worth $62 million.

Understandably, it looks like the Giants want to backtrack on that deal. According to Ian Rapoport, the organization wants to restructure the large deal to more favorable terms.

It’s looking so far like Solder is going to play in 2020 – previously, Solder had been ambiguous in public statements and hadn’t ruled out the possibility of retirement. Solder’s decision will come after sitting out the 2020 season entirely after choosing to opt out beforehand.

The Giants can’t just cut Solder without taking up $10.5 million in dead cap money, so they have an incentive to restructure the deal. But of course, that agreement won’t be reached without both sides finding acceptable terms. It’s easy to imagine Solder wanting to stick with the current deal. After all, this is likely his last contract and Solder won’t get a big deal like this again during his career.

However, on the other hand, Solder wasn’t very competitive when it comes to living up to that deal and it’s still not out of the question for the Giants to just cut him if they can’t make the restructuring happen.

Frank Four The Win: Knicks reach .500, tie Raptors at No. 4

New York Knicks, Frank Ntilikina

Julius Randle won the duel of NBA All-Star forwards, then Frank Ntilikina stole the thunder in the end.

The seldom-used French guard completed a steal with 4.7 seconds left, then buried two pressure-packed free throws that preserved Randle’s big game and lifted the New York Knicks to a 110-107 win over the Indiana Pacers Saturday night at the Madison Square Garden.

The come-from-behind win at the start of a back-to-back schedule pushed the Knicks to .500 and tied the Toronto Raptors (17-17) for the fourth-best record in the Eastern Conference.

“We didn’t start the game well. It was funky. We have to work our way through. It was a long game. But the most important thing is we found a way to win in the end,” Tom Thibodeau said. “A lot of people stepped up and made big plays.”

One of them was Randle, who delivered big on both ends.

The first-time All-Star finished with 28 points, 10 rebounds, six assists, and four steals. It was Randle’s ninth game with a 25-10-5 stats line this season, tied for the second-most in a season in Knicks history, according to Elias Sports BureauElias Sports Bureau. Bob McAdoo holds the record with 15 during the 1977-78 season.

But more than closing in on the franchise record, Randle helped the Knicks won the regular-season series against Indiana by locking up fellow All-Star Domantas Sabonis.

Sabonis was held down below his average (21.6 points and 11.5 rebounds) and could only cough up 15 and 7 against five turnovers in 37 minutes.

With Sabonis frustrated, former Knicks Justin Holiday and Doug McDermott carried the Pacers’ offense and combined for 33 points through the first three quarters. Then the Knicks defense held them scoreless the rest of the way.

But the Pacers stretched Thibodeau’s thinning rotation in this game.

Two nights after the Knicks scored a season-high 140 points, they found themselves staring at an 8-0 hole at the start. The Pacers extended it to 16.

To compound the Knicks woes, they lost Taj Gibson to an ankle injury, leaving them with only Nerlens Noel as their lone big man.

“Next man up. We’ve got more than enough with the players that we have,” Thibodeau said afterward.

“I know Leon (team president Leon Rose), and Wes (executive vice president William Wesley), and Scott (GM Scott Perry) will look into players that are available. That’s their area. I’m just focused on the guys we have. We’ll figure out a way,” added Thibodeau putting pressure on the front office to get him frontline help.

Thibodeau had to dig deep, employing Randle as a center with Kevin Knox at four. The small ball worked for a while as the Knicks ended the second quarter with an 11-3 run. They forced the Pacers to three turnovers in the last 2:26 of the opening half and pushed the ball to take a 54-52 lead at the break.

New York built a nine-point lead, 89-80, in the fourth quarter but Indiana, playing on the second night of a back-to-back, refused to quit. They came back behind unheralded guard Edmon Sumner and took a 98-93 lead. Barrett and Randle responded with a 9-0 run as the Knicks took the lead back, 102-98.

Noel played for extended minutes (41:15) and still delivered. He had eight points, seven rebounds, two blocks, a crucial steal, and two free throws with 1:15 left that gave New York a breathing room, 106-103.

Randle extended the Knicks lead to five, 108-103, on two free throws off Sabonis’ fourth foul. But Sabonis made up for it with a three-pointer at the top of the key to cut the lead down to two.

RJ Barrett, who also had a big night (24 points and 7 rebounds), missed two free throws that set up Ntilikina’s endgame heroics.

With Randle nursing five fouls, Thibodeau pulled the defensive ace up his sleeve.

The gambit paid off.

Rose had another strong game with 17 points, a season-high 11 assists, and four steals in his second start. His active hands led to Ntilikina’s pivotal play.

“It looked like Sabonis was being shaky with the ball. I saw the guard was at the top. He didn’t know what he wanted to do. I saw the ball was going back, and I just tried to go for it. It was just perfect timing, and Frank was able to get the ball,” Rose said of the game-sealing play.

Now the Knicks will travel to Detroit with a chance to move above .500 against the Pistons and the rejuvenated Dennis Smith Jr.

The former Knick, who was traded for Rose, is coming off his best game of the season (17 points and six assists) in a road loss to the Sacramento Kings.

Smith has scored in double figures in his last three games, averaging 14 points, 4.7 assists, and shooting 53 percent during that stretch.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Ciryl Gane shuts out Jairzinho Rozenstruik at UFC Vegas 20

Ciryl Gane UFC

In the main event at UFC Vegas 20 we saw a battle between two top seven heavyweights. Jairzinho Rozenstruik (11-1) took on Ciryl Gane (7-0) and the winner of this matchup would put themselves in excellent position in the heavyweight division.

In his brief UFC career, there haven’t been many heavyweights as impressive as Ciryl Gane. Gane is 4-0 with three finishes in his career with the promotion, but it’s been the way he’s earned those stoppages that’s been impressive.

While Gane has an excellent striking pedigree, he has two submissions in his UFC career thus far. In fact, half of his wins that he’s finished have come via submission. That well-rounded game was something he was going to need in taking on a striker like Rozenstruik.

Jairzinho Rozenstruik has over seventy wins as a professional kickboxer and he’s shown off his finishing ability inside the UFC. All five of his wins inside the octagon have come via knockout. Only one out of his eleven victories has gone to the judges.

Rozenstruik looked like he was on the verge of a title shot in early 2020. However, he suffered a quick knockout loss to Francis Ngannou. Rozenstruik bounced back well at UFC 252 with a win over Junior Dos Santos and he was looking to continue that momentum this evening.

UFC Vegas 20 Recap

Round 1

The UFC Vegas 20 main event kicks off with a touch of the gloves. Immediately, Gane is very light on his feet. Rozenstruik throws a wild right hand to start things, but it doesn’t come close to landing. A nice stiff jab from Gane snaps Rozenstruik’s head back.

Rozenstruik blitzes forward, but nothing lands on Gane. Gane seemed extremely comfortable on the outside while Rozenstruik was just looking to time him. A nice calf kick lands for Gane and he follows it with a jab.

Gane lands a body kick and Rozenstruik was looking very patient in round one. A nice jab to the body lands for Gane. Gane throws a sloppy body kick and Rozenstruik blitzes with massive shots. However, nothing landed clean for Bigi Boy.

Gane steps forward with a left hand that lands, but Rozenstruik backs him away with huge power shots. Another solid shot lands for Gane and he shoots for a takedown. Rozenstruik defended well and kept the fight along the fence. Gane lands the takedown just before the round ends. 1-0 Gane at UFC Vegas 20.

Round 2

The second round at UFC Vegas 20 starts with a leg kick and jab from Ciryl Gane. Rozenstruik was staying patient and appeared to be looking for one big knockout shot here. Gane steps forward and lands a decent right hook.

Another nice jab and leg kick lands for Ciryl Gane. Rozenstruik’s head is snapped back by another jab from Gane. Rozenstruik looked a little frustrated by Ciryl Gane. Gane lands another nice shot then throws a huge power leg kick.

Rozenstruik pushes forward with a few punches that don’t land, but he lands a nice leg kick at the end. Gane goes back to work with leg kicks of his own. Another stiff jab lands for Gane. Rozenstruik pushes forward and Gane changes levels looking for a takedown.

However, Rozenstruik defended well and the two ended up along the fence. Gane goes for a throw and briefly gets the back of Rozenstruik. He tries to lock in a rear-naked choke and almost gets it, but Rozenstruik defended well. It’s 2-0 Ciryl Gane at UFC Vegas 20.

Round 3

After two rounds at UFC Vegas 20, it’s all Ciryl Gane. Rozenstruik couldn’t string anything together in the first two rounds, and his corner was incredibly frustrated. The third round starts with a big left straight from Ciryl Gane.

Gane was very light on the feet and he was mixing up kicks to all three levels. Every time Rozenstruik tried to move forward, Gane would slide out of range. Gane was working front kicks and jabs to keep Rozenstruik at range here in the third.

A big overhand right hand lands for Gane. Rozenstruik pushes forward and tries to land his own combination. He seemed to be getting more aggressive halfway through the third. A front body kick lands for Ciryl Gane.

Two nice jabs from Gane pop Rozenstruik’s head back. A straight left lands for Ciryl Gane and he ducks out of the way of a wild shot from Rozenstruik. A big combination lands for Ciryl Gane. The third round closes at UFC Vegas 20 and it’s 3-0 Gane on my scorecard.

Round 4

Jairzinho Rozenstruik needs to get something going as we enter the fourth at UFC Vegas 20. Gane lands two stiff jabs to start the striking in the fourth. Gane abandons a sloppy takedown attempt after Rozenstruik threatened with a massive uppercut.

Once back at range, Gane went back to work with his kicks. A big jumping knee to the body lands for Ciryl Gane and Rozenstruik tries to counter. However, nothing was home for Bigi Boy. Another nice jab lands for Gane.

Halfway through the round and there was very limited offense. A nice leg kick lands for Rozenstruik, but Gane counters with a couple of nice jabs. Another nice jab and a straight left lands for Ciryl Gane.

Gane pressured Rozenstruik against the fence and lands a jab. He goes for a jumping knee to the body, but it lands a little low which pauses the action. Rozenstruik tries to blitz once the action starts, but Gane countered well.

A massive left hook lands for Ciryl Gane which seemed to briefly stun Rozenstruik. Rozenstruik tries to throw heat back, but Gane slipped beautifully out of the way. Two straight stiff jabs land for Ciryl Gane and it’s 4-0 Gane at UFC Vegas 20.

Round 5

Entering the final round at UFC Vegas 20 and Rozenstruik needs a finish in this one. Both touch gloves to start the final round. A hard leg kick opens the striking for Ciryl Gane. After that, a nice jab lands for Gane. Gane was also pressuring Rozenstruik heavy in the final round.

Gane steps forward with a big elbow that doesn’t land, but he uses it to get the clinch. A nice knee lands to the thigh for Ciryl Gane. Rozenstruik shrugs off Gane and the two heavyweights go back to striking.

Halfway through the round and Rozenstruik needs to go. Gane has him pressured against the fence and he lands two more jabs. Big leg kick lands lands for Gane and Rozenstruik tries to blitz forward.

However, Gane used the momentum to get the clinch and push Rozenstruik against the fence. One minute left in the round and Gane is trying hard for a takedown. He briefly gets Rozenstruik down. However, Rozenstruik bounced right back up.

20 seconds left in the round and it’s do-or-die time for Bigi Boy. However, Rozenstruik can’t get Gane off of him at all. The bell sounds and this should be a shutout. Massive win at UFC Vegas 20 for Ciryl Gane.

Ciryl Gane def. Jairzinho Rozenstruik by Unanimous Decision (50-45, 50-45, 50-45)

Magomed Ankalaev grinds out decision over Nikita Krylov at UFC Vegas 20

In the co-main event of UFC Vegas 20, we saw a matchup between two top eleven contenders in the light heavyweight division. Eighth ranked Nikita Krylov (27-7) took on the eleventh ranked contender, Magomed Ankalaev (14-1).

Ankalaev has been on a roll in the UFC over the past couple of years. The native of Dagestan has now won five fights in a row with the promotion after losing his debut. That loss came to Paul Craig and it came just one second before the final bell.

Out of the last five wins for Ankalaev, four of them have been by stoppage. He scored a knockout over the talented Ion Cutelaba in his last fight which put the rest of the light heavyweight division on notice.

Standing across from Ankalaev was the talented Nikita Krylov. Krylov is actually on his second stint with the UFC. Krylov went 6-3 during his first run with the promotion, but they ultimately let him walk.

After a few impressive performances, the UFC resigned him. Since returning, Krylov has gone 2-2 but his two losses came against Jan Blachowicz and Glover Teixeira. If Krylov was able to pickup the win tonight, he could be getting closer to a UFC title shot.

UFC Vegas 20 Recap

Round 1

The UFC Vegas 20 co-main event kicked off with a touch of the gloves. Krylov pushed forward first with a nice body kick. Another body kick slams home for Krylov. Ankalaev takes the center, but Krylov lands a solid shot that he tries to chain into a takedown.

However, Ankalaev defended well at first. Krylov was heavy in the clinch and eventually worked Ankalaev to the ground. Ankalaev was able to use the fence to work his way up to his feet, but Krylov still held control in the clinch.

A nice knee to the body lands for Krylov and the two separate. Ankalaev lands a nice right hand as Krylov comes in. Krylov continued to look for body kicks and then he throws one up top. Ankalaev was doing well holding the center of the cage.

Another solid body kick lands for Krylov. A stiff jab lands for Krylov, but Ankalaev throws some heat back. Krylov lands another solid body kick on Ankalaev. Ankalaev then tries for his own takedown, but the fence saves Krylov. It’s 1-0 Krylov at UFC Vegas 20.

Round 2

The second round at UFC Vegas 20 started with more pressure from Ankalaev. Krylov throws a nice shot that he tries to transition into a takedown. However, Ankalaev just shrugs him off and goes back to the pressure.

A stiff check right hook lands on Krylov as he advances. The pressure was heavy from Ankalaev, but Krylov was holding his own. Another nice body kick lands for Nikita Krylov. Those body kicks were starting to do a little damage.

Ankalaev catches a body kick and forces a clinch where he lands a massive knee. He followed that knee with a big body kick. Another right hook lands for Ankalaev as Krylov tries to advance. Momentum was building for Ankalaev in the second round.

Ankalaev times a Krylov advance and lands a takedown. Krylov did a good job of controlling Ankalaev’s posture, but he couldn’t get off the ground. The round comes to a close and it’s 1-1 at UFC Vegas 20.

Round 3

Heading into the final round at UFC Vegas 20 and this fight is up for grabs. The two touch gloves and Krylov starts the striking with a nice body kick. Ankalaev lands a nice check hook as Krylov tries to advance.

Two more body kicks land for Nikita Krylov. A huge right hand for Ankalaev that snaps the head back of Krylov. Krylov shoots in for a takedown but Ankalaev just throws him aside and goes back to the pressure.

Ankalaev then shoots in for his own takedown attempt, but Krylov defended well. Krylov couldn’t get Ankalaev off of him along the fence. Ankalaev uses a beautiful trip to take Krylov down halfway through the round.

Krylov works his way back to his feet, but he couldn’t get Ankalaev off of him. Krylov tries spinning a couple of times to shake Ankalaev off, but he couldn’t do it. Ankalaev then lands another takedown with one minute left in the round.

It’s do-or-die time for Nikita Krylov here at UFC Vegas 20. Ankalaev pulls Krylov away from the fence and starts throwing a little ground and pound. The round comes to a close with Ankalaev on top. Should be a decision win for Magomed Ankalaev.

Magomed Ankalaev def. Nikita Krylov by Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)

Pedro Munhoz chops down Jimmie Rivera at UFC Vegas 20

Pedro Munhoz, UFC

On the UFC Vegas 20 main card we got to see a matchup between two top ten bantamweights. Pedro Munhoz (18-5, 1 NC) took on Jimmie Rivera (23-4). This was actually the second time that these two met inside the octagon.

The two first met in the UFC back in 2015. that night, Rivera was able to win by split decision. The rematch has been scheduled a couple of times but fell through each time. This booking was originally supposed to take place at UFC 258.

However, a positive COVID test pushed the matchup back to tonight. Rivera was looking to pickup his second consecutive win and build his case towards a top five opponent. Jimmie Rivera has only lost three times in the UFC and those three losses were to Marlon Moraes, Petr Yan, and Aljamain Sterling.

Rivera has some big wins including the victory over Pedro Munhoz. Munhoz was looking for redemption against Rivera tonight and redemption against the judges from his last fight. The last time we saw Pedro Munhoz, he dropped a razor thin split decision to former UFC champion Frankie Edgar.

The loss was the second straight loss for Munhoz. At UFC Vegas 20, he was looking to get back on track and looking to get closer to the top five and an eventual title shot at 135.

UFC Vegas 20 Recap

Round 1

The UFC Vegas 20 bantamweight contest kicked off with a touch of the gloves. Munhoz opened with a big headkick and the two started fast. Rivera and Munhoz traded big calf kicks and then Rivera cracked Munhoz with a couple good shots.

Munhoz started looking for kicks while Rivera was content with swinging big punches. A clean combination from Rivera is countered by a big calf kick from Pedro Munhoz. These two were going for it in the first two minutes.

Munhoz is wobbled by a massive shot from Rivera. However, Munhoz quickly regained his composure. A big right hand lands for Jimmie Rivera. Both men then exchange another round of big calf kicks. A nice body shot lands for Pedro Munhoz.

Munhoz pushes forward and lands another nice body shot. The two men then sit down on their shots and exchange power punches. Another stiff calf kick lands for Munhoz and Rivera is hurt. A nice jab from Munhoz and Rivera can’t put pressure on his leg. Incredible first round, but I lean 1-0 Munhoz at UFC Vegas 20.

Round 2

The second round at UFC Vegas 20 started with more pressure from Pedro Munhoz. Munhoz went right back to looking for calf kicks. Rivera is able to land a takedown, however, Munhoz forced a scramble by going for a leglock.

Both men stood up and Munhoz landed a massive knee. Rivera then pushed forward with a couple of clean shots. Munhoz countered with another big calf kick. As Munhoz goes for a head kick, Rivera lands his own calf kick that drops Munhoz.

Munhoz gets immediately up and lands a nasty calf kick that really wobbled Rivera. Rivera immediately shot for a takedown, but he couldn’t land it. Munhoz was just plotting forward looking for his openings. Rivera was being very active with his strikes despite being hurt.

A massive calf kick and left hook lands for Pedro Munhoz. Rivera pushes forward, but Munhoz briefly drops him with another leg kick. Both men exchange big shots with thirty seconds left in the round. Good shot lands for Rivera before the final bell, however, it’s 2-0 Munhoz at UFC Vegas 20.

Round 3

Entering the final round at UFC Vegas 20, Jimmie Rivera needed a finish on my scorecard. He pushed forward to start the final round looking for that finish. He landed a few clean shots, but Munhoz took them well.

Munhoz retook the center of the octagon and he went right back to looking for calf kicks. A headkick from Munhoz just misses. Munhoz seems to be mixing up the kicks to all levels here in the final round. Rivera then pushed forward with a few big shots.

A big uppercut lands for Rivera that briefly stiffens up Munhoz. However, Munhoz went right back to pushing forward. A stiff jab lands for Pedro Munhoz. A big calf kick lands that caused Rivera to collapse. Rivera got up extremely gingerly.

Another nice jab lands for Pedro Munhoz. Rivera finally switches to southpaw and Munhoz lands a big body kick as soon as he does. Rivera moves forward and throws some major heat. A big left from Rivera hurts Pedro Munhoz.

However, Rivera couldn’t take advantage. Rivera throws a few more massive shots, but Munhoz counters with big shots of his own. Both men swing massively to end the final round and that fight was incredible. Pedro Munhoz should get the nod here at UFC Vegas 20.

Pedro Munhoz def. Jimmie Rivera by Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)

New York Liberty’s Han Xu speaks out against anti-Asian racism

Han, a New York Liberty fan favorite and native of Hebei, spoke out against attacks against Asian-Americans.

Han Xu of the New York Liberty took to Instagram to address anti-Asian racism in the wake of the ongoing health crisis.

A native of the province of Heibei, Han posted a prior statement from the Liberty that condemned an influx of attacks on Asian-Americans in New York City. Hundreds appeared in Lower Manhattan on Saturday to protest for justice when a 36-year-old Asian man was stabbed in Foley’s Square. A 23-year-old man turned himself into the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office three hours later.

“It is frightening and upsetting to see the rising hate crimes and attacks against the Asian American community and in particular in New York, a community I love,” Han wrote in her accompanying caption. “We all need to show solidarity for those being targeted and take action to stop this horrific violence. Please be kind to one another.”

The Liberty released their statement on February 19, which included contact information to both activist groups and law enforcement agencies to report and csuch xenophobic crimes.

While hate crimes and discriminatory behavior against Asian Americans have been on the rise since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, sadly, they are not new,” the Liberty statement reads. “Regardless of the cause of these heinous acts, the New York Liberty organization stands vehemently against racism, xenophobia, hatred, and violence against the Asian American and Pacific Islander community. We will not ignore this issue and will continue to use our platform in the fight for justice and equality for all people.”

Han’s statement comes in the wake of statements from former Knicks and Nets guard Jeremy Lin, an NBA veteran of Chinese descent. Lin, currently competing with the Santa Cruz Warriors of the NBA G League, recently reported that he has faced racist taunts on the court, with unnamed opponents referring to him as “coronavirus”. The NBA is investigating the situation.

Han, 21, joined the Liberty as the 14th overall pick of the 2019 draft. She and Shao Ting were the first Chinese-born players to partake in WNBA regular season action since Chen Nan in 2009. Han was also the second Chinese-born pick in draft history and the first since Zheng Haixia of Los Angeles in 1997.

In her first season, Han put up averages of 7.9 minutes and 3.0 points. She became a fan favorite during her rookie campaign, drawing loud cheers when she entered games at Westchester County Center. Han’s propensity to shoot from three-point range drew the loudest applause, as she sank

Han notably came up big during the Liberty’s first unofficial game at Barclays Center, scoring 19 points in a come-from-behind victory in an exhibition against the Chinese national team. She did not partake in the WNBA’s bubble in Bradenton but has remained active through local league and national team endeavors. Notably, she appeared alongside Ting and New York teammate Rebecca Allen on the all-tournament team at the end of the 2019 Asia Cup in Bangalore, where Han took part in a silver medal effort, China’s best finish since 2015.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Buffalo Bills offseason preview 2021: Wide receivers

The Buffalo Bills have found some reliable top receiving targets, but will need to analyze the options behind them this offseason.

The Position: Wide Receiver
On the Roster: Stefon Diggs, Gabriel Davis, John Brown, Cole Beasley, Isaiah Hodgins
Free Agents: Andre Roberts, Isaiah McKenzie
Reserve/Future: Tanner Gentry, Jake Kumerow, Duke Williams

Stefon Diggs’ first year in Western New York led to the Buffalo Bills’ single-season record book, at least the receiving chapters, to be completely rewritten.

The (Minneapolis) miracle worker made an immediate impact in his red and blue debut, earning 1,535 yards on 127 receptions…each establishing new team records and led the NFL. Buffalo had their passing weapon in Josh Allen but they now appear to have a strong tandem that can cause Kelly-to-Reed-style levels of offensive destruction. Few can question the potential future Diggs has created in Buffalo. An enduring image of the 2020-21 AFC Championship Game is Diggs watching the Kansas City Chiefs’ celebration from afar, the lone man clad in white to remain on the field.

Diggs wasn’t the only one to enjoy a breakout with the Bills. Cole Beasley likewise earned career-best numbers (967 yards on 82 receptions) while Gabriel Davis established himself a valuable day three find, as he was among four others first-years tied with seven touchdown receptions, second-best amongst rookie competitors.

Yet, the unprecedented success the Bills found last season was tough to celebrate because of the lack of Super Bowl at the end. Startling as such a leap would’ve been, Davis admitted that the semifinal heartbreak made it difficult to watch the Big Game.

“I couldn’t watch it because it made my stomach hurt. I feel like we should have been there,” the Central Florida alum told Chris Hays of the Orlando Sentinel. “That’s our standard, obviously, now. We set the standard and we’re playing to be above that standard every single year. So our guys are going to get back to work and we’re going to be ready to go, and hopefully, we get a big one next year.”

While the Bills are obviously pleased with the output from the top of their depth chart, they’ll have to analyze their alternative options this offseason. In addition to McKenzie and Roberts’ expiring contracts, the team also has a decision to make on John Brown. The former Baltimore Raven was unable to capitalize on a career-best season in 2019 as he missed several games due to injury. Buffalo would save over $6.3 million if they were to move Brown through either a release or trade.

Free Agents-to-be

Isaiah McKenzie

In a year where seemingly every Bills receiver was setting new career-bests, McKenzie was no exception, albeit on a smaller scale. He put up 282 yards and became a reliable red zone target with five scores. The man of many talents also earned a passing score through trickery and took a punt back for a score during Week 17 proceedings.

Andre Roberts

Roberts has been a consistent Pro Bowl representative for the Empire State, making the last three and the most recent two as a member of the Bills (he notably caught a touchdown pass from Lamar Jackson in the 2019-2020 game). Roberts continued to make himself a valuable special teams commodity in 2020, despite getting deeper into his 30s. Appropriately, Roberts led the league with a 30-yard average on kick returns.

Will They Draft?

If they do, likely not until the latter stages. Their top three receivers from last season are all back, and they also might try to develop Isaiah Hodgins, a sixth-round choice in 2020 who missed all of his rookie campaign with an injury. Their reserve/future signees could be diamonds in the rough as well. Kumerow and Williams have extensive professional experience (Williams being a CFL All-Star in Edmonton) and Gentry, a draftee of the XFL’s New York Guardians, was Allen’s favorite target during their shared tenures as (Wyoming) Cowboys. Late projects on day three could be Davis’ former UCF teammate Tre Nixon or Michigan’s Ronnie Bell, who could be a slot-mate for Beasley.

Veteran Possibilities

Curtis Samuel, Carolina

The idea of more offensive firepower in Buffalo is the subject of nightmares in East Rutherford, Foxboro, and Miami. But Samuel is an elite target that’s a realistic option for Buffalo (which likely would require Brown’s release). One of general manager Brandon Beane’s final moves in Charlotte was taking the Brooklyn native with the 40th pick in the 2017 draft. Samuel will likely be looking for some stability with his second contract, but he well could be the proverbial “one move away” from truly pushing the Bills into the aura of Super Bowl contention.

Breshad Perriman, NY Jets

If the Bills wind up letting both Brown and McKenzie walk, Perriman would be a solid consolation prize in terms of speed and experience. It was clear last season that Perriman isn’t the type of player who can headline your receiving corps, but there’s hope he can create a good NFL career as a solid support man.

Chad Beebe, Minnesota

In some ways, it’s almost fate for Beebe to don red, white, and blue. Born in Buffalo and the son of a Bills legend (Don), Beebe can be the veteran depth option the Bills need if they’re forced to part ways with Brown or lose McKenzie.

Outlook

Overall, the Bills are more or less set with their top-heavy receiver depth chart. It’s unfortunate that Brown’s Buffalo journey might not continue, but that cap space earned with his moving (Buffalo currently ranks 20th in available cap space going into free agency) might be too much to resist. Expect the Bills to bring in a free agent or two to compete for a roster spot, as well as someone with return skills if both Roberts and McKenzie walk.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Yankee Manager profile: Aaron Boone will his contract be extended?

New York Yankees, Aaron Boone, Brian Cashman

The New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone was a baseball player for twelve years, mostly with the Cincinnati Reds. During the last half of the 2003 season, he famously played 52 games for the Yankees. Boone became a Yankee star when the 2003 Red Sox won the sixth game of the ALCS forcing a game seven.

Tim Wakefield pitched a scoreless tenth for Boston and in the bottom of the 11th faced Aaron Boone, who had entered earlier as a pinch-runner. On Wakefield’s first pitch of the inning, Boone launched a walk-off home run into the left-field seats of Fenway Park.   ALCS MVP Rivera running to the mound and collapsing on it in joy, Boone jumping on home plate, and Rivera being carried off on his teammates’ shoulders as the Yankees won the ALCS. Boone was forever entered into Yankee’s lore.

After the 2017 season and loss to the cheating Houston Astros (not known at the time), the New York Yankees decided it was time for a managerial change. Joe Girardi, who brought the Yankees to their last World Series win, did not renew his contract. The Yankees searched for a new manager, interviewing several prospects. Considered for the job was Girardi’s 10-year veteran Rob Thompson, Eric Wedge, who worked in the front office of the Blue Jays, Hensley Meulens, a hitting coach, and Aaron Boone. The Yankees ended choosing Boone and gave him a four-year contract.

Yankees fans, upon learning of the hiring, said Aaron, who? Boone had no managerial experience and was only known for hitting the walk-off homer in 2003. Most fans thought the Yankees should have kept Joe Girardi, but the Yankees wanted a manager that could better communicate with younger players and was not as strict as Girardi.

In the eyes of New York Yankee fans, Boone had some pretty big shoes to fill. The Yankee brass claimed that one of the main factors in his removal, besides his overbearingness, was that he didn’t communicate well with the young players. This was the same manager who brought a young Miami Marlins team that nothing was expected of to fourth place in the National League and was named Manager of the Year in 2006. The first time a Manager of the Year was ever awarded to a manager of a fourth-place team.

It wouldn’t take long to gain some faith in Boone and his approach to management. Boone and the team won 100 games in 2018. At the end of the season, the Yankees won their Wild Card games against the Athletics but lost the divisional series against the Red Sox. In 2019 Boone bettered his record and won 103 games and the AL East. In the postseason, they swept the Minnesota Twins in the divisional series. They went on to the ALCS against the Houston Astros but again excited early in losing to the Astros.

Still, Boone was praised for bringing the team to the postseason with unprecedented injuries. Fast forward to the 2020 coronavirus season when injuries again plagued the Yankees. The Yankees would lose the East to the Tampa Bay Rays. But in the expanded playoffs, the Yankees got a berth in the Wild Card Series sweeping the Cleveland Indians. The Yankees would have to face their foe in the south, the Tampa Bay Rays in the ALDS. The Yankees lost again.

With their third early exit in a row from the postseason, many began to question Boone’s leadership, at least in the postseason. Boone is now in the last year of his contract, and a contract extension was in question. Maybe in the eyes of the fans, but not so with the Yankee front office. General Manager Brian Cashman made it known he wants Boone to be the manager for the next ten years.

With the New York Yankees’ full faith and a new rotation of pitchers to work with, Aaron Boone will have a chance to prove that Cashman’s faith in him was warranted. The Yankees probably have the best chance of advancing this season than they have had in several years. If Boone fails to win the division that has several weakened teams or has another early exit in the postseason, we may again be having this discussion.

 

 

 

UFC Vegas 20 loses Angela Hill – Ashley Yoder

UFC Vegas 20 has lost one of it’s main card matchups. MMA Junkie was the first outlet to report that the anticipated strawweight matchup between Angela Hill (12-9) and Ashley Yoder (8-6) has been called off.

The officially reasoning is due to a COVID test. The UFC is no stranger to fights falling through due to COVID and neither is Angela Hill. This is her second matchup that has been scrapped during fight week due to COVID.

The matchup between Angela Hill and Ashley Yoder was a rematch from 2017. That night, Angela Hill won by unanimous decision. Hill was looking like a top contender in the strawweight division in early 2020.

“Overkill” had cracked the UFC rankings and she was taking on former title challenger, Claudia Gadelha. While the fight was razor close, the judges gave a split decision to Gadelha. A frustrated Hill was anxious to get back into the cage and she did in a five round main event against Michelle Waterson.

Unfortunately for Hill, the same thing happened. The fight was razor close and a split decision went to Waterson. Since these losses were both to top competition, Hill is still a fixture in the UFC rankings coming in at 12th.

What’s the UFC’s plan?

The UFC has decided to keep this fight together. The matchup is now being pushed back two weeks to the Fight Night that is currently scheduled for March 13th. That’s when Ashley Yoder will have her chance at redemption.

It hasn’t been smooth sailing for Ashley Yoder inside the UFC. She entered the octagon at 5-1 and she looked like she could be a top contender. However, Yoder has just gone 3-5 in her eight fights inside the octagon.

If Yoder is able to defeat Hill in a couple of weeks, it will be massive for her moving forward. She needs a signature win and Angela Hill would be just that. However, if she loses, she might be on the chopping block after going 3-6 in the UFC.

Report: Mike Tauchman’s roster spot with the Yankees in jeopardy

Mike Tauchman, New York Yankees

With the signing of Brett Gardner, the New York Yankees have very good outfield depth going into the season. Clint Frazier and Gardy can play left field, Aaron Hicks is the starting center fielder, and Aaron Judge is one of the game’s premier right fielders.

In addition, designated hitter Giancarlo Stanton is more than capable of playing the field every once in a while, and Yankees’ skipper Aaron Boone recently indicated that he wants to give the slugger some time out there to keep his legs fresh and prepared.

However, if you hadn’t noticed, there is a noteworthy name missing in that outfield depth chart: Mike Tauchman. The lefty-hitting Yankees’ player is a very good fielder, but his bat just wasn’t there in 2020, and now, it appears he is in danger of not making the team.

Per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, Tauchman’s spot on the Yankees Opening Day roster could be in jeopardy.

What will the Yankees do with Tauchman?

With a triple slash of .242/.342/.305 with no homers, 14 RBI and six steals in 111 plate appearances, Tauchman has a lot to prove in spring training, especially on offense.

It was a steep downgrade from 2019, when he batted .277/.361/.504 with a 128 wRC+.

The fact that Gardner returned, plus fellow lefty Jay Bruce showcasing a power element that Tauchman simply lacks means that the latter could have a hard time proving to the Yankees that he can be included on the opening day roster.

Bruce can also provide a backup option at first base. Tauchman does have versatility, as he can cover all outfield spots well. But the offensive questions are enough to put his spot in jeopardy.

Tauchman could be traded, as he is out of minor league options. It’s unlikely that the Yankees release him, so they would probably want to test the market to see if he can fetch something.