3 free agent tight ends the Giants could target to replace Evan Engram

mo alie cox, giants, colts

The New York Giants have not yet closed the door on bringing tight end Evan Engram back for the 2022 season. However, after four disappointing seasons, it would not be surprising to see the Giants move on from the 2017 first-round pick and look for a replacement. Free agency starts up next week, and there are a few tight ends that New York could potentially target to replace Evan Engram.

Three tight ends the New York Giants could target in free agency:

High-end option: Zach Ertz

Giants fans should be familiar with tight end Zach Ertz. Ertz spent the 2021 season in the desert with the Arizona Cardinals, but he spent the first eight seasons of his career with the Philadelphia Eagles. The Giants fell victim to many Zach Ertz touchdowns in big division-rivalry games over the years. Now they could attempt to turn Ertz to the light side.

Zach Ertz was a three-time consecutive Pro Bowl selection during the prime of his career in Philadelphia. He might not be that same high-caliber player, but Ertz is still bound to earn a pretty penny in this free agency period. In 2021, Zach Ertz played in 17 games with two teams, totaling 763 yards on 74 receptions with five touchdowns. This was a real bounce-back after an injury-plagued 2020 season that saw Ertz post career-lows in nearly every statistic.

Zach Ertz is 31-years-old, but he’s still got it. Ertz is a quality starter at the tight end position that would serve as an instant upgrade in the New York Giants’ offense. However, Ertz should have a decent market of teams interested in his services, pushing his potential price tag over the $10 million yearly average and potentially out of New York’s budget.

Mid-end option: Mo Alie-Cox

Considering their current salary cap situation, Mo Alie-Cox might still be out of the Giants’ price range. But if New York is going to pay up for a tight end during this free agency period, Alie-Cox might be the perfect target. Mo Alie-Cox is a veteran tight end with a well-rounded skill set that could make him a perfect fit in Brian Daboll’s new offensive scheme.

The Indianapolis Colts utilized Mo Alie-Cox in a 12-personnel heavy offense that featured him alongside Jack Doyle. With Doyle’s retirement announced this week, Mo Alie-Cox could be a priority re-signing for the Colts. But if he manages to hit free agency, the Giants should consider making Alie-Cox their top priority.

Mo Alie-Cox has the ability to impact the game as both a receiver and a blocker. This falls right in line with the Giants’ plans, according to Ryan Dunleavy of the NY Post. Dunleavy explains that the Giants are planning on moving on from both of their 2021 fullbacks where the thought is “to acquire a tight end who offers H-back flexibility.” Alie-Cox’s blocking abilities give him that flexibility.

In 2021, Mo Alie-Cox recorded 24 receptions for 316 yards and 4 touchdowns in a two-tight end system. He is a solid receiver with YAC ability. A player with talents like these will not be cheap, but given his lack of statistical productivity, Mo Alie-Cox could potentially be signed for a contract around $6-7M per year – a price that the Giants could reach if they deem a versatile tight end necessary.

Low-end option: OJ Howard

In 2017, three tight ends were drafted in the first round. Evan Engram, who seems bound to move on from the Giants, is a coveted free agent this year. David Njoku received the franchise tag from the Browns this week after a successful start to his career. But OJ Howard has struggled to get his footing at the professional level and is now looked at as a low-budget free agent this offseason.

OJ Howard is one of those potential low-risk, high-reward free agents. Howard did not reach his full potential with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but is the potential to become a quality starter still there?

Signing OJ Howard would likely be an inexpensive proposition. A one-year deal worth under $5M is a probable projection for Howard. The 2017 first-round pick totaled only 14 receptions for 119 yards and 1 touchdown as Rob Gronkowski’s backup in 2021. Howard has flashed talent and potential in the past, though, as he racked up 565 yards and 5 touchdowns in 2018. The Giants could bank on brian Daboll unlocking OJ Howard’s hidden talent with an inexpensive “prove-it” deal this offseason.

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Do the Yankees have the next DJ LeMahieu climbing their Minor League system?

trey sweeney, dj lemahieu, yankees

Which Major League baseball still stalled due to the lockout, the New York Yankees have only been able to get their minor leaguers some legitimate action. The minors will operate normally as the players union and MLB owners fight about the new CBA amid economic differences.

However, the Yankees are still excited about their youth prospects climbing the system, specifically Anthony Volpe and Oswald Peraza. Although, I would be remiss not to mention Tre Sweeney, who was drafted out of Eastern Illinois last year at 21 years old.

Sweeney currently plays shortstop but could end up changing positions down the line and becoming a utility man with multiple values. Some have compared him to current big leaguer and starting Yankees infielder DJ LeMahieu, who recently signed a massive six-year, $90 million extension with the Bombers.

Despite a potential position change with significant competition ahead of him, Sweeney is still committed to building a career at shortstop.

“Obviously, I would like to stay at short and be there as long as possible,’’ Sweeney said recently, per Pete Caldera of NJ.com.

Regarding a potential position change, Sweeney wasn’t deterred by the idea, staying “it wouldn’t bother me.” “I’m here to help my team win and try to make an impact in the lineup.”

Getting back into the groove of things has been great for the young prospects looking to continue their development.

“I think it’s been great, mainly to get back into the groove of things, take live ABs and get to see the rest of my teammates, creating that bond with the guys,’’ said Sweeney. “It’s been fun.’’

Last season with Tampa in Low-A ball, Sweeney hit .246 with six homers and 13 RBIs over 110 at-bats. He also registered a. 927 fielding percentage over 206.1 innings, allowing six errors. Obviously, he will have to improve his defensive efficiency, but he has plenty of time to do so.

Nonetheless, if Sweeney can develop his abilities at multiple positions, he could be LeMahieu’s replacement down the line.

Half-Glass Full: Knicks stay in the play-in hunt behind Randle’s career night

Julius Randle atoned for his ejection in Phoenix and backed up his half-glass full mindset with a career-high 46 points to fuel New York Knicks’ first win streak in two months.

Randle rediscovered the shooting form that propelled him to a career year last season and earned him a lucrative four-year extension. He hit a career-high eight three-pointers as the Knicks rallied from a 20-point deficit to beat the Sacramento Kings, 131-115, Monday at Golden 1 Center.

After blowing several huge leads in the previous weeks, the Knicks flipped the script behind Randle’s hot shooting night. The reigning Most Improved Player of the Year waxed hot in the second half with 33 points, including 17 during their furious third-quarter run.

The Kings jumped to a 20-point lead late in the second quarter as the Knicks fell off to a slow start in the second night of a back-to-back schedule. It didn’t help that Mitchell Robinson and Jericho Sims got into foul trouble early, and Robinson didn’t return with an illness.

After the break, the Knicks went berserk. They outscored the Kings, 44-24, in the third quarter. Their 83 second-half points were the most they scored after halftime since Dec. 28, 1969 at Phoenix.

“Julius was has a lot to do with that. But then all of us, we just had a crazy rhythm. It was really fun basketball,” RJ Barrett said.

Randle was red-hot in the second half, sinking 12 of 17 shots and 7 of 11 three-pointers. With his shots falling, he was also engaged defensively and hustling for loose balls.

“And so we got in that hole early, but we never quit, and that was the best thing which is kept fighting, fighting, fighting, and then we got a little bit of rhythm,” New York coach Tom Thibodeau said. “And then Julius kept going. He was pretty terrific at what he did. An all-around game for him.”

Randle shot 18 of 31 from the field and had a complete line for the night with 10 rebounds, two assists, one steal, and one blocked shot. He dominated Kings’ All-Star forward Domantas Sabonis, who only had 19 points before getting ejected in the second half.

“No second-guessing. I just trust the work that I put in,” Randle said.

But it wasn’t only Randle’s show.

RJ Barrett continued his 2022 surge with 29 points, eight rebounds, and six assists. It was Barrett’s sixth straight game with at least 20 points. Immanuel Quickley has also put his sophomore slump behind him with another strong effort. Quickley scored a season-high 27 points and added six rebounds and four assists. The backup guard has now scored 20-plus points in two nights in a row.

But they did not come out unscathed.

Cam Reddish, who was starting to feel comfortable with the Knicks, fell hard in the second half and did not return. The team has yet to give an update on his status.

But the good news is the Knicks pulled back 4.5 games from the Atlanta Hawks for the final play-in spot with 17 games left.

Next on deck for Randle and the suddenly resurgent Knicks are his hometown team, Dallas Mavericks, on Wednesday. The Knicks have won four straight games in Dallas. But the Mavericks have been hot lately, winning five straight, including Monday night’s 111-103 over Utah Jazz.

The Knicks are unfazed, especially when Randle’s shots are falling.

“Glass half full,” Randle said.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Kayla Harrison signs multi-year deal with the PFL

MMA, PFL

The hottest free agent on the MMA market has signed a new deal and she is staying with the PFL. The promotion announced today that Kayla Harrison (12-0) has signed a new multi-year deal that is expected to make her one of the highest paid fighters in the world.

For months, we’ve all wondered where Kayla Harrison would end up. After capturing her second PFL season championship, Harrison announced that she would be testing the open market. Both the UFC and Bellator were interested in bringing her in.

We saw her get the camera treatment with both promotions. The UFC was interested in bringing her in to fight Amanda Nunes, however, Nunes losing to Julianna Pena cooled off the talks. From there, it became a race between the PFL and Bellator.

PFL Deal Done

At one point a few weeks ago, it was thought that Harrison resigning with the PFL was a done deal. PFL was trying to secure a new network deal and they needed to get Harrison back in the fold. However, once they signed their ESPN deal without Harrison, they took their foot off the gas.

That is when Bellator really started to ramp things up. Bellator was interested in bringing in Harrison to have a super-fight with Cris Cyborg. They started to seem like the favorite until last week. Last week, the PFL decided to really up their offer and surpass what Bellator was offering.

Harrison appeared on the MMA Hour yesterday with Ariel Helwani and teased that an announcement would be coming soon. She also expressed her frustrations that her window of fighting the best in the world is coming to a close. When she said that, it really felt like the writing was on the wall.

To be considered the best, Harrison needs to fight Amanda Nunes and Cris Cyborg. With signing this extension with PFL, she’s not going to get to fight either. However, she is getting a huge bag and security for her and her kids. Ultimately, that’s the most important thing and Harrison made the right call.

Giants looking to retain Blake Martinez, but what could a contract restructure look like?

New York Giants, Blake Martinez

With the New York Giants trying to improve their team cap space in the coming weeks, they will have to make a few big decisions regarding prominent players on the roster who are set to earn significant money this upcoming season.

The team currently has -$7.6 million available in funds, so restructuring contracts, trading players, or simply cutting them are all options on the table.

Aside from James Bradberry, Sterling Shepherd, and even Logan Ryan, linebacker Blake Martinez holds a massive cap hit for the 2022 season. The team is preparing to pay $14 million to Martinez, but if they cut him, they would save $8.5 million and accrue a $5.5 million dead money hit.

Given Martinez is coming off a torn ACL, paying that type of money is unrealistic at this point. If the Giants don’t cut him, restructuring his contract and reducing his cap hit makes logical sense.

The break-even point for the Giants is an $8.5 million reduction in his salary, which is how much they would save if they cut him alternatively. That reduces his cap hit to $6 million for the 2022 season, a far more appropriate number given the injury he sustained.

However, let’s take a look at another linebacker who suffered a similar fate after the 2020 season. Minnesota Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr sustained a torn pectoral muscle in a Week 2 against the Colts two years ago, missing the majority of 2020.

Barr was in the middle of a five-year, $67.5 million deal, paying him $13.5 million per year on average. Instead, Minnesota tore up his contract after the injury and signed him to a one-year, $8.6 million contract, allowing him to stay with the team but not destroy their salary space in the process.

Barr was earning a bit more than Martinez per season by about $3 million, so tearing up the current Giants linebacker’s contract and offering him a one-year, $6-7 million deal makes sense, given the example.

As one of the league’s most productive tacklers and easily the best linebacker on the roster, losing him would be a significant blow. Just two years ago, during his first season with Big Blue, Martinez recorded 151 tackles, nine tackles for loss, 3.0 sacks, and tallied five passes defended. He was on pace for another solid season before going down against Atlanta Falcons in Week 3.

The Giants would be hard-pressed to find a better replacement than Martinez on the free agency market given their salary situation, so keeping him on a reasonable contract after the injury is the most efficient move.

MLB reportedly tells union they can still play 162 games if there is a deal today

Tuesday could be a very important day for baseball fans, or just another disappointment, depending on the final outcome: MLB could potentially be back, and with a 162-game calendar, if the league and the union come to terms on a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) today, according to MLB Network’s Jon Heyman.

“Huge day in baseball. Deadline No. 3. MLB told the players union if they can do deal today they can still play 162 games; if not, a 2nd week may be lost. MLB suggested a rise in luxury tax threshold to $228M, But details haven’t surfaced and players say there’s still work to do,” Heyman tweeted.

Of course, we, as fans and media, can get the best possible outcome, which is having the assurance there will be a full season starting soon, or we can see yet another week chopped off the calendar. At this point, there is no gray: it’s either black or white.

The two sides are not particularly close to a deal, mainly because the most important item in the agenda, the competitive balance tax (CBT, or luxury tax), still represents a hurdle.

The CBT is MLB’s biggest hurdle towards a deal

MLB currently wants it to start at $220 million and end in $230 million in 2026, but the Players Association is currently at $238 million to begin 2022 and $263 million in 2026, the final year of the CBA agreement.

The league is willing to go up to $228 million, hoping that the MLBPA comes down a little. The incremental gains, however, could be hard to iron out.

Other issues remain the minimum salary, as MLB wants it to start at $700,000 with $10,000 annual increases, but the union wants at least $775,000. The bonus pool for outstanding pre-arbitration players is another problem, as owners are offering $30 million and players want $80 million as a minimum.

At the end of the day, we will probably know if we get to see spring training in a matter of days, or if baseball will continue suffering until there is a deal. Stay tuned, Mets and Yankees‘ fans.

Three Yankees pitchers have stood out in minor league camp

Obviously, Jasson Dominguez and Anthony Volpe are the talk of the New York Yankees’ minor league camp. However, a couple of arms are already turning heads with their talent, and are looking even better than last year.

According to the Yankees’ farm director Kevin Reese, they are keeping a close eye on the development of their arms as a whole. “I think that we always look for those top picks that show up and look like top picks,” he said. “But I think probably more so on the pitching side, we’ve had a lot of guys that were low level Draft picks or lower money signs internationally that have been able to make some big jumps and had some success.”

Reese noted, however, thay Ken Waldichuk and Hayden Wesneski stand out above the rest, at least in the early days of minor league camp. Both are 2019 draftees that had very good seasons in 2021, and both have heavy, mid-90s fastballs.

The Yankees definitely have some fireballers

“I think most people that saw Waldichuk last year would say, ‘Hey, he’s got a big fastball, the breaking ball is decent, he may need to develop a third pitch in order to be a starter,’” Reese said. “He showed one of the best changeups out here competing against our own hitters. But that was, for me, a wow moment. That’s what he needs to make that next step and he’s working on it and it looked like a really good pitch and a pitch that can help him attack right-handed hitters in the future.

About Wesneski, Reese stated that he “is a really good competitor whose velocity continues to trend up. He’s got like a five-pitch mix and I think that’s going to bode well.”

There is another surprise arm that the Yankees are closely monitoring: his name is Will Warren.

“Will Warren had some velo in college, but it continues to trend up, and he’s working on some secondary stuff,” Reese said. “We get the opportunity in these situations to talk to the hitters, ‘Hey, who’s the toughest guy you’ve faced so far?’ And that’s a name that continues to jump out.”

Giants News: Andrew Thomas injury update, one cost-efficient guard the team can pick up in free agency

new york giants, daniel jones, andrew thomas

The New York Giants may need significant support in their offensive line, but they do have one established player in Andrew Thomas at left tackle.

Thomas is coming off his best season as a professional in 2021, allowing just two sacks, three QB hits, and 13 hurries. He posted a 78.9 overall offensive grade and 82.1 pass-blocking grade, according to PFF. While he did miss a few games with an ankle injury, Thomas once again pushed through the issue and played the majority of the season despite serious pain.

Thomas undoubtedly fits the mold of new general manager Joe Schoen and what he prefers in his players, toughness and consistent growth. Despite the Giants struggling to build around him, Thomas has excelled, doing a lot of good work on his own with the offensive line coach position turning over multiple times since is drafting back in 2020.

However, Thomas underwent surgery at the end of the 2021 season to clean out his ankle, but things are progressing well as he begins to resume practicing with some of his fellow teammates down in Atlanta.

Per Dan Duggan of The Athletic, Andrew Thomas is well on his way to being 100% healthy for the 2022 season:

Left tackle Andrew Thomas is making steady progress from the surgery he underwent on his left ankle in late January. Thomas is already out of his walking boot and has resumed training alongside fellow Georgia alums and Giants linebackers Azeez Ojulari and Tae Crowder at an Atlanta area facility.

As aforementioned, the Giants still need to plug spots in the trenches this off-season. Unfortunately, with -$7 million in salary space at the moment, they will likely be shopping in the clearance bin, if not drafting mid-round players to help fill some big roles.

Duggan also theorizes that the Giants could have interest in likely Bills cap-casualty Jon Feliciano, who has experience with the team’s new offensive line coach, Bobby Johnson.

Feliciano played in eight games last season, allowing four QB hits, 12 hurries, and zero sacks. He accrued three penalties over 422 snaps, with his best game coming against the Miami Dolphins at left guard.

Feliciano brings plenty of experience at many different positions, including left and right guard and center. He has 689 total snaps on the left side, 312 snaps in the middle, and 1519 snaps at right guard. His most successful season came in 2019, given the sample size. He started for Buffalo, playing in 947 total snaps, allowing four sacks, four QB hits, and 12 hurries.

Feliciano signed a three-year, $14.4 million contract with the Bills in 2021, meaning he has two years left on the contract. However, the Bills would save $3.37 million if they release him this off-season, counting a $1.5 million dead money hit against the salary cap. It seems likely they will move on, which could drop him right into the Giants’ lap, who are already familiar with his services given Schoen, head coach Brian Daboll, and Bobby Johnson, who coached him back with the Las Vegas Raiders.

Unfortunately, Big Blue will have to be cost-efficient with their spending this off-season, and Feliciano does seem to be a perfect fit given his experience with management.

Yankees president Randy Levine ‘afraid’ what lockout could do to the fans

New York Yankees, Randy Levine

New York Yankees management and ownership have been rather quiet regarding the lockout and negotiations ongoing with the players union. The two sides have been meeting frequently to find a compromise, despite minimal progress toward a solution.

With the first two series of the 2022 regular season already canceled, there is a legitimate fear that more games could be on the guillotine, which would significantly impact the future of the game and experience for younger fans. Baseball is already losing favoritism among sports in the USA, and with younger fans’ attention spans reducing significantly, the game has to keep up with changing times. Commissioner Rob Manfred has done very little to help the game spur growth with the younger generations, and this will only set them back even further after Covid destroyed the 2020 season.

Yankees president Randy Levine expressed serious concern over the lockout, specifically with the retention of younger fans.

“Very afraid,’’ Levine said on “The Michael Kay Show.” “I hope not, but if we continue with where we are, it could. That’s what scares me. It keeps me up at night.”

Levine even went as far as to call the situation “embarrassing,” which is exactly true given both sides refused to give up any leg in the process.

“It’s embarrassing to be where we are,’’ Levine said.

While the players union needs to compromise a bit more, the owners refuse to make any significant jumps in the luxury tax threshold. They are slowly agreeing to increase the threshold little by little, but they are still far off from what the players union needs it to be.

Levine offered his perspective on giving more money to the younger players and the impact that will have on older veterans.

“If you give money from the pot to the younger players, there may be less money for older players,’’ Levine said. “From the union side, they have to measure all of the various constituencies and do what is practical.”

Levine has a point, but considering the owners are willing to cancel games and impact the 2022 season without blinking an eye proves that money is not an issue. With inflation becoming a prevalent topic in modern economics, the league must consider that fact and build a system that also benefits the players, as the owners continue to rake in the cash.