New York Giants: Steve Smith harsh on Dave Gettleman’s free agency

New York Giants, Dave Gettleman

The New York Giants have started making moves in free agency and there will be varying takes about just how good or bad those moves are – and one of the harsher takes is coming from a veteran of the NFL, Steve Smith. Smith, of course, has a shared history with Giants GM Dave Gettleman due to their time in Carolina. And because of how Smith’s time there ended, it isn’t a friendly relationship.

Smith has some harsh words for how Gettleman has made choices so far in free agency, specifically when it comes to his own position of wide receiver. You can be the judge of whether there’s merit here or if Smith is just still worked up over a past grudge.

Steve Smith’s harsh take

“They don’t want an alpha… So what they want are robots who aren’t going to make a stink, who are gonna fall in place, which will end up stunting the growth of your franchise quarterback because you either want a robot or 6-foot-2, 215 or above wide receiver. You don’t want a playmaker. You want cheap. You want people that aren’t gonna make a stink in the locker room,” Smith said on NFL Network, where he works as an analyst now.

This comes after the Giants made the decision to bring in Bengals receiver John Ross, who was considered a draft bust by many but will have a one year deal to prove himself. Ross does have potential due to his fast physical attributes but the signing will of course leave fans wanting for more at the playmaking positions due to the sluggish offense last season.

Some might say that Smith is just continuing his grudge with Gettleman, and that might be true, but the Giants do need to continue adding to their list of playmakers if they want to step forward next season – relying on John Ross proving himself isn’t going to be enough.

And whether or not they can do that might be the defining factor in whether or not this take from a former Gettleman player about this year’s free agent class is actually correct.

New York Yankees: Kyle Higashioka dealing “side soreness”

New York Yankees, Kyle Higashioka

New York Yankees backup catcher Kyle Higashioka was scratched from Tuesday’s Spring Training game with what the team labeled “side soreness”.

“We didn’t want to mess with anything too much,” Yankees skipper Aaron Boone said.

Although this seems to be nothing serious, this could potentially be an interesting test of the Yankees catching depth. Higashioka has had some oblique issues in the past, so it’s definitely something to watch for.

Robinson Chirinos, who was expected to contend for the back-up catcher spot, is headed to the IL with a wrist injury. Chirinos fractured his wrist when he was hit by a pitch and is expected to miss 4-6 weeks.

Along with Higashioka and Chirinos, Adam Warren (shoulder), Miguel Andujar (hand/wrist), Zack Britton (elbow), and Clarke Schmidt (elbow) are all dealing with injuries.

If Higashioka were to head to the IL, it would take him out of contention for a spot on the Opening Day roster. In that case, the Yankees would likely turn to Rob Brantly, who’s put together a nice Spring Training. He’s gotten hits in three of seven at-bats; two of which were home runs. Brantley has driven in five and has an OPS of 1.786.

Right now, Higashioka doesn’t have a return timeline, but Aaron Boone said that he felt fine. If for some reason Higashioka isn’t okay by Opening Day, the Yankees have Brantly and starting catcher Gary Sanchez to fill the void. Fortunately, things don’t seem to be too serious for Higashioka, and he should be back in the Spring Training lineup soon.

 

With Drummond, Turner on Knicks’ radar, what does this mean for Robinson?

myles turner, knicks, pacers

First, it was Andre Drummond. Now it’s Myles Turner.

A day after Shams Charania of The Athletic reported the New York Knicks‘ interest in Andre Drummond, Indy Star’s J. Michael further fueled speculations that the Knicks are indeed shopping for an established big man.

Michael added the Knicks into a group that includes the two Los Angeles teams, Charlotte Hornets and the New Orleans Pelicans, which inquired on Turner’s availability.

Turner is in the second year of a four-year, $80-million deal with $70 million guaranteed money.

The Indiana Pacers, though, aren’t shopping Turner, according to Michael’s report, despite making him available in the offseason in a Gordon Hayward deal with the Boston Celtics that was stalled.

Nevertheless, the story only raised questions about Mitchell Robinson’s future with the Knicks.

It is unclear if the Knicks’ interest in Drummond and Turner began after Robinson went down with a broken hand.

Robinson has firmly established himself as a starter this season after a shaky start with Tom Thibodeau.

Before Robinson’s injury, he was the bedrock of the Knicks’ defense, which was ranked third in the league at that time. Thibodeau has been effusive in his praise for the young big man.

But Thibodeau also didn’t hide in his interviews that he’s seeking established players that can help him win in the league.

“I have a strong bias towards good players. I know they (front office) are looking at all the possibilities. If something makes sense for us, we’ll do it. If not, I love the team that we have. I love the guys that we have on the team,” Thibodeau said last week when asked about the Knicks’ plans as the March 25 trade deadline approaches.

Drummond is the league’s leading rebounder and a two-time NBA All-Star, while Turner has been leading the league in shot blocks since last season. Both are better players than Robinson at this stage of their careers. Between Drummond and Turner, the latter fits more the Knicks’ young core as he will only turn 25 this month. Drummond is three years older.

If the Knicks will be successful in bringing either of them or a player of their caliber, what will happen to Robinson?

Will he be amenable to slide back to the bench, or will the Knicks shop him?

Robinson is on a team-friendly contract with a $1.8 million team option for next season. If the Knicks exercise that option, they can have Robinson for another season backing up or competing for minutes with whoever they bring in. But they could also lose him for nothing via free agency in 2022 unless they flip him in next year’s trade deadline.

There’s also a better scenario for the Knicks, which ESPN Front Office Insider Bobby Marks suggested:

“To protect themselves long term, the smart thing is to decline the option and give Robinson a qualifying offer. That would make him a restricted free agent, and because of his low $2.1 million cap hold, New York can use cap space first and then circle back to sign him,” Marks wrote.

The Knicks will have roughly $45 million cap space this summer.

The next eight days and even this summer will be interesting for Robinson and the Knicks.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

New York Jets add CB/specialist Justin Hardee (Report)

New York Jets

Hardee worked as a special teams standout over the last four years in New Orleans before signing a three-year deal with the New York Jets.

Per Nick Underhill of NewOrleans.Football, the New York Jets are set to sign cornerback Justin Hardee to a three-year deal. Hardee, an undrafted fifth-year man out of Illinois, has developed a strong reputation as one of the better special teams defenders in the league.

Hardee, 27, is officially listed as a cornerback but has truly made a name for himself on special teams. He has earned 44 special tackles over the past four seasons, including eight in 2020. Hardee is likely best known for taking a blocked punt back for a touchdown in a 2017 win over Tampa Bay, an endeavor that earned him NFC Special Teams Player of the Week honors. Though Hardee has only 115 defensive snaps to his name in the NFL, he also earned an interception during a Monday night win over Washington in 2018.

Formerly a receiver in college (earning 841 yards and a touchdown over four seasons with the Illini), Hardee knows what it’s like to pull off some special teams trickery at MetLife Stadium. During a September 2018 win over the Giants, Hardee united with Taysom Hill to earn a fourth-down conversion through a fake punt that continued an eventual New Orleans scoring drive.

The defender partook in 10 games last season, missing six due to a groin injury that put him in injured reserve.

Hardee should help the Jets’ coverage game, one that needed punter Braden Mann to pull off touchdown-saving-tackles. The Jets were one of nine teams to allow over 10 yards on opposing punt returns, finishing sixth-worst at 11.7. In their purge of Adam Gase’s staff, the Jets retained special teams coordinator Brant Boyer, who has held the role since the Todd Bowles regime.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

UFC: Kelvin Gastelum steps in to face Robert Whittaker on April 17th

Earlier today, we learned that the UFC‘s main event on April 17th had lost one of it’s headliners. Paulo Costa (13-1) came down with the flu and as a result he couldn’t train for his upcoming main event slot against Robert Whittaker (22-5).

As a result, Costa had to pull out of the fight. The UFC was thinking about potentially moving the fight back, but with the uncertainty of Costa’s condition, they decided to move on to try and find a replacement.

Former interim title challenger, Kelvin Gastelum (16-6, 1 NC) immediately volunteered. Gastelum just defeated Ian Heinisch back at UFC 258 and after the win, he said he’d stay ready in order to step in for one of the upcoming middleweight main events.

Sure enough, Costa fell out and a replacement was needed. The UFC contacted Gastelum and the sides came to an agreement. ESPN’s Brett Okamoto was the first to report this evening that the promotion had finalized the deal for Gastelum to step in.

UFC title fight we never saw

Many will remember that this isn’t the first time the UFC has paired these two against each other. Originally, these two were supposed to fight in Australia back in 2019 with the UFC middleweight title on the line.

The day of the fight, Whittaker had to pull out of the fight. Whittaker had to have emergency surgery and was on the sidelines for a while. Gastelum ended up fighting Israel Adesanya for the interim title and came up short.

Adesanya of course would then go on to defeat Robert Whittaker for the undisputed title. We never got to see these two compete for the UFC title. However, now we are going to see them compete in a UFC main event. Whoever wins this matchup is going to put themselves in a great position to be the next challenger.

Former New York Ranger Eddie Olczyk talks hockey and cancer

Eddie Olczyk played five seasons with the New York Rangers and was part of their Stanley Cup championship team in 1994. However, his biggest battle came off the ice when On August 8, 2017, Olczyk issued a statement that he had been diagnosed with a form of colon cancer. He then underwent a surgical procedure to remove the tumor, among other treatment procedures. In March 2018, Olczyk announced he was officially “cancer-free.”

On Tuesday, Olczyk joined a group of Ranger fans on Zoom to talk about his days in hockey and experience in battling cancer. The New York Rangers Hockey Fights Cancer event was sponsored by Northwell Health and hosted by MSG’s Bill Pidto.

The NHL started the Hockey Fights Cancer initiative in 1998. Along with the NHLPA, HFC unites the hockey community in support of cancer patients and their families. The HFC will help the American Cancer Society, Canadian Cancer Society, and Movember Foundation provide a better quality of life for patients, caregivers, and their families.

The Rangers held their Hockey Fights Cancer night on Monday. Items to benefit HFC can be purchased or won on an auction at the NHL shop.

Of the HFC initiative, Olczyk described it as “The greatest initiative that the NHL has ever come up with off-ice.”

One of the more poignant moments of the Zoom chat came when Olczyk talked about how much he had to battle the horrible disease. “It tests your will to live. It breaks you down and brings you to your knees at times.” Olczyk said. “For me, I went back to my hockey playing days, my faith, and my family. The side effects of chemo broke me down. I was ready to quit. A lot of people might not want to admit it but it is true. The disease drives you to a brink.”

Everything took so much of a toll on Olczyk but gave special credit to his wife for helping him get through it all.

The New York Rangers were very supportive of Olczyk during his fight with cancer

As Ranger fans know, “once a Rangers, always a Ranger.” During his battle with cancer, many in the Ranger family reached out to give support to Olczyk.

“JD (Rangers President John Davidson) reached out, many friends there, Coach Quinn,” Olczyk stated. “Many former teammates reached out, Leetchy, RickyRob, Mike Hartman, Glen Healy, Mark Messier and you go on and on. It helped me get through. It was a long battle but I am proud to say that I have been clean and clear through the last three years.”

Olczyk scored 342 goals and recorded 794 points in 1,031 career games with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Chicago Blackhawks, Toronto Maple Leafs, Winnipeg Jets, New York Rangers, and Los Angeles Kings. The third overall selection in the 1984 Entry Draft, he was a member of the 1984 U.S. Olympic hockey team and represented the U.S. in many international competitions.

At the end of the chat, Olczyk talked fondly about his time as a Blueshirt. “I look forward to going back to MSG. I was very lucky to be in the NHL and to be a very small part of a team that brought back the Stanley Cup to New York City for the first time in 54 years. There is not a time when I go back to MSG or the city when a Ranger fan comes up and thanks me, and that means a lot.”

Olczyk provides more details about hockey and his fight with cancer in his autobiography titled “Eddie Olczyk: Beating the Odds in Hockey and in Life,” available at most retail book stores and online.

 

 

 

 

 

New York Mets Club Three Home Runs in 8-3 Win Over Astros

The New York Mets put all of their valuable assets on display against the Houston Astros. Jacob deGrom had another dominant outing, and the offense pushed across eight runs in an 8-3 victory.

deGrom pitched four innings, allowed one run, and struck out six. His fastball did not quite reach 102 again, but he sat in the 100-101 range. deGrom also showed his best slider of the spring, which resulted in plenty of swings and misses. The one run allowed came on a high home run from Jeremy Pena, which bounced off the top of the left-field fence.

Jeurys Familia struggled with his control again but worked out of a bases-loaded jam to complete a scoreless outing. Dellin Betances was the victim of an unlucky bloop double with two outs that resulted in two runs. It should have resulted in an out, but Brandon Nimmo played Taylor Jones like Hank Aaron. The weak double ballooned Betances spring ERA to 13.50.

Trevor May bounced back from a couple of rough outings to strike out three in his one inning of work. Miguel Castro and Sam McWilliams finished off the eighth and ninth to give the Mets a win.

Hit Parade

It was all hands on deck for the Mets offense as five different hitters. Dominic Smith‘s three-run home run put the Mets on the board in the third inning. The homer was another example of his unique ability to wait back on the breaking ball. In the fifth, Pete Alonso took a high fastball and drove it into the left-field picnic area.

The third Mets homer came from Francisco Lindor. His no-doubter was his first homer as a Met and second hit of the day. Brandon Nimmo’s single and Jeff McNeil‘s double drove in the other two Mets runs.

On Wednesday, Joey Lucchesi (0-0, 0.00 ERA) makes his first start of the spring against Sandy Alcantara (0-0, 0.00 ERA) and the Miami Marlins. The road game for the Mets begins at 1:05 p.m. ET from Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium.

 

New York Giants land speedy receiver John Ross on one-year deal, what to know

New York Giants, John Ross

The New York Giants signed wide receiver John Ross to a one-year, $2.5 million deal just minutes after finalizing a massive extension with interior defender Leonard Williams.

Williams and the Giants compromised on a three-year deal, $63 million and $45 million guaranteed. With the defense solidified on the interior, the Giants can finally begin spending a bit of money on the wide receiver position.

What does John Ross bring to the New York Giants?

Ross is an intriguing player, as a former first-round pick by the Cincinnati Bengals four years ago. The problem, he only played in three games last year, hauling in two catches for 17 yards. In 2019, Ross had his most productive season, recording 506 yards and three scores over eight games. There’s no doubt he can be an effective receiver at the NFL level, but he simply hasn’t been able to remain healthy.

Hopefully, with a fresh start, Ross can revitalize his career with the Giants. It is a low-risk, high reward move for Big Blue, which was likely waiting on the finalizing of Williams’ contract extension.

New York Giants and Leonard Williams agree to three-year contract extension

New York Giants, Leonard Williams

The New York Giants have finally agreed to terms with Leonard Williams on a contract extension, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Leonard Williams agreed to a three-year extension worth $63 million, including $45 million guaranteed. This deal has been a long time coming. There was a “standout” between Williams and the Giants, according to Ian Rapoport, but the two sides were able to come together and strike a deal in a matter of hours.

This move has given the Giants financial flexibility and the ability to get to work in free agency. Leonard Williams’s 2021 cap hit has been reportedly lowered to $11 million (Pat Leonard, NYDN). Williams was on the franchise tag, due to make $19.3 million fully guaranteed. This move cleared over $8 million in cap space for the Giants this offseason. His new average annual salary will come in at $21 million, but with the Giants tight on cap space this offseason, Leonard’s deal is likely backloaded.

After trading for Leonard Williams in 2019, the Giants placed the franchise tag on him in 2020. He played on the tag and had the best season of his career. In 2020, Leonard Williams posted an impressive, career-high 11.5 sacks with 42 pressures and 14 tackles for loss. He was a playmaker against the run and the pass. The Giants have now locked in their star defender long-term and he will not spend the 2021 season on the franchise tag. After losing Dalvin Tomlinson in free agency yesterday, retaining Leonard Williams will be considered a huge victory for the New York Giants this offseason.

After big knockout at UFC Vegas 21, what’s next for Ryan Spann?

This past Saturday at UFC Vegas 21, there was a big matchup in the light heavyweight division in the co-main event. Rising contender, Ryan Spann (19-6), took on veteran Misha Cirkunov (15-6).

Going into Saturday night, I really liked Cirkunov’s chances. I believed we were going to see a grappling heavy fight and I believed that Cirkunov would have the big advantage. We’ve also seen Spann gas out which worried me in terms of his chances.

On the feet, I leaned a little towards Spann, but I didn’t think he’d be able to stop Cirkunov on the feet. However, I was dead wrong about that one. When the fight started, both men started exchanging on the feet.

The way the fight started certainly favored Spann. Spann said he wanted to be patient at UFC Vegas 21 considering all of the first round finishes that Cirkunov had. Well, just over a minute into the first round, Spann landed a massive right hand that put Cirkunov down.

Cirkunov bounced up, but Spann continued to hurt him on the feet. Eventually, Cirkunov collapsed and Spann followed up with a few shots before the referee stepped in. A massive win and arguably the biggest UFC win for Ryan Spann thus far.

What’s next after UFC Vegas 21?

UFC Vegas 21 was a beautiful bounce back fight for Ryan Spann. Spann was finished in his last fight by Johnny Walker. However, prior to him getting knocked out, he had hurt Johnny Walker. It was a back and forth battle that Walker ended up getting the better of.

Spann is now 5-1 in the UFC with the lone loss coming to Walker. With this win, Spann now sits at 11th in the light heavyweight division. So what should the promotion do with Spann after this big knockout win?

I think the next logical step for Spann would be to take on Nikita Krylov (27-8). Krylov is coming off of a loss, but he’s ranked ninth and he’s been in there with some of the best including Jan Blachowicz. A fight against Krylov would be a key test to see exactly where Spann is amongst the UFC’s elite light heavyweights.