Norwell will slot right in for free agent Patrick Omameh at left guard and should be a considerable upgrade.

Kirk Cousins proved himself as a bonafide starter in three seasons as Washington’s full-time quarterback, but his franchise’s proficiency in failure always meant he was graded on a curve. Cousins was able to put up big numbers between the 20-yard lines, but he was saddled with a 24-23-1 record as his club rose up to the standard of mediocrity set by owner Dan Snyder.

Getting to nine wins in Washington was an accomplishment. Now, after agreeing to a deal with the Minnesota Vikings for three fully guaranteed years and $84 million, a similar performance would be a disappointment.

Minneapolis has been a boomtown for quarterbacks in recent years, pushing Teddy Bridgewater, Sam Bradford, and Case Keenum to the best seasons of their respective careers while bolstering them with one of the league’s top defenses. Keenum’s ascendance was particularly impressive; last year he boasted career highs in passing yards per game, passing efficiency, touchdown rate, and the league’s seventh-ranked passer rating five spots ahead of Cousins.

His five-year, $66.5 million pact reportedly fully guarantees $30 million, which would be a hefty increase on the record set last offseason, when Kevin Zeitler got a five-year, $60 million deal with $23 million guaranteed from the Browns.

It’s a reflection on how good Norwell’s 2017 campaign was, given that the Panthers tendered him at a second-round level last season as a restricted free agent and no team made a run at him.

It’s interesting and probably fair to think about this as another move by the Jaguars to shift toward a run-first attack, given that Norwell is an absolute mauler on the ground.

“There wasn’t like an underlying consistent theme that everybody talked about for the reason they didn’t win more,” he said. “I think it was just overall, it’s so hard to get there, and once you’re there it’s a small sample size, you’re playing the best teams, and they just fell short a few times.”

Though the players don’t offer any significant theories, one broad theme does present itself when reviewing the various’90s postseason exits: an inability to put teams away.ravens_151

Eric Reid: No offers due to past protests, coming from ownership level

Two days into free agency, many players have signed with new teams or re-signed with their current ones. Safety Eric Reid isn’t one of them.

Reid, who was the first player to kneel alongside Colin Kaepernick during the national anthem in protest of racial inequality and systemic oppression, took to Twitter on Thursday afternoon to state his feelings on how his protests might be affecting his job search.

(Juszczyk subsequently made the Pro Bowl, but that’s because he’s the most famous fullback; he was mostly an anonymous receiver, didn’t contribute as a runner, and the 49ers averaged both more yards per carry, expected points per run, and a higher first down rate when Juszczyk wasn’t on the field.) Kyle Shanahan watched his dad Mike’s offenses produce 1,000-yard backs seemingly out of thin air.

His most successful backs in the pros have been exclusively midround picks on rookie deals in Steve Slaton, Alfred Morris, Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman, none of whom was drafted before the third round.

McKinnon should do better under Shanahan’s tutelage.

“The notion that I can be a great signing for your team for cheap, not because of my skill set but because I’ve protested systemic oppression, is ludicrous,” Reid tweeted Thursday. “If you think is, then your mindset is part of the problem too.” He went on to clarify that general managers aren’t the ones alleged blackballing him — team owners are. “GMs aren’t the holdup broski. It’s ownership,” Reid tweeted.

The sanctions were the first such actions taken under legislation passed nearly unanimously last year by Congress and follow months of criticism that the White House has been slow to counter Russian aggression. But the steps taken Thursday fell well short of the full penalties Congress authorized and focused on a narrow list of targets rather than the broader range of individuals and entities believed to have played a role in Russia’s efforts to interfere in the election.

In both cases, pressure from Congress and allies helped nudge the White House toward a stronger response. Republicans have joined Democrats in urging the administration to penalize Russia more strongly, while suggesting that President Trump set aside concerns about examining the election interference that he initially dismissed as a “hoax.”ravens_020

Eric Reid says owners won’t sign him because of protests

Since teams have been able to negotiate with players, Eric Reid has yet to reportedly receive a contract offer or arrange a free-agent visit. He isn’t overly curious as to why. The former San Francisco 49ers safety believes he hasn’t received interest because of his involvement in player protests, he tweeted Thursday. He was the first player to join Colin Kaepernick in kneeling during the national anthem in 2016.

Other teams say there’s some immaturity there. He’s a polarizing figure. You either really, really like him, or your really don’t.

Mayfield said the best thing he heard during his Pro Day came in a private conversation with an evaluator he won’t name.

He told me to keep being myself, Mayfield says.

All the other stuff, outside of football, they don’t question it as much as they did before. I think I’ve done a good job of showing people who I am. And that’s comforting to hear, to be able to put that all behind me and just go to work.

While the Panthers are likely counting on Poe’s size (6-3, 346 pounds) to help maintain a run defense that finished third in the NFL last season, he also has the ability to provide some interior pass rush. He had a career-high six sacks for the Kansas City Chiefs in 2014 but just 2? for the Falcons last season

Separately on Thursday, the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI issued a report describing sophisticated Russian government attempts to target American and European power plants, nuclear facilities, airports and other critical infrastructure for cyberattacks.

It characterized the activity as “a multi-stage intrusion campaign by Russian government cyber actors,” while describing in minute detail how the digital assailants “staged malware, conducted spear phishing, and gained remote access into energy sector networks.”

The report indicated that the attackers appear to have penetrated the networks of key industrial sites in the United States and Europe, suggesting they could shut down or disrupt those systems with relative ease.canucks_014

Vikings will sign the QB to a fully guaranteed 3-year deal

Adam Schefter reported the Cardinals were one of four finalists for Cousins.

The Cardinals might want Cousins, but they probably can’t afford him, per Mike Jurecki of Arizona Sports 98.7. They could try to grab a quality starter with the No. 15 pick in the draft or bring in a veteran like Josh McCown as an inexpensive stopgap.

Larry Fitzgerald deserves to have a good quarterback for what’s probably his final season in the NFL, and he said on the Dan Patrick Show that he’s willing to use his golf connections in Phoenix to make it worth Cousins’ while.

The Vikings made the NFC Championship last year, which is a solid selling point. They’ve also got $53.2 million to play with this offseason and they let all three quarterbacks hit free agency.

New offensive coordinator John DiFilippo, who faced Cousins twice in each of his two seasons as the Eagles’ quarterbacks coach, sounded pretty enamored with Cousins in a recent appearance on KFAN in Minneapolis.

Houston is 29 and coming off an injury-riddled season. Yet he still played 15 games in 2017 and produced 9.5 sacks, his highest total since his 22-sack, monster 2014 season. The Chiefs want him on that defense. They need him on that defense. He’s not going anywhere.

Forte had some decent production when healthy last season, but he was further hampered by knee injuries and turned 32 in December. He’s too expensive for the Jets to retain with limited return on investment.

Quinn is still relatively young, turning 28 in May. After an incredibly slow first half of the 2017 season, he reeled off six sacks in the Rams’ final six regular-season games. The only way Quinn stays in LA is if he agrees to a pay cut.

Jones has endured eight long seasons in Cincinnati, but the 34-year-old is coming off a season-ending groin injury that required postseason sports hernia surgery. Given the declining quality of his play, the Bengals should cut him, but chances are just as good they won’t because of their lean toward status quo.packers_101

Union chief Tony Clark chides MLB teams’ ‘race to the bottom’

MLB Players Association executive director Tony Clark on Tuesday issued a statement, reiterating that there will be no union boycott of spring training but taking a swipe at teams for the lack of free-agent signings with pitchers and catchers slated to report next Tuesday.

Clark described a game that is enjoying record-high revenues and franchise values, yet in which “a significant number of teams are engaged in a race to the bottom.”

“Pitchers and catchers will report to camps in Florida and Arizona in one week. A record number of talented free agents remain unemployed in an industry where revenues and franchise values are at record highs.

The dueling statements come after top baseball agent Brodie Van Wagenen’s inflammatory comments about increasing player frustration at the slow free-agent market in which he hinted at a boycott this spring.

On the heels of Van Wagenen’s remarks, Clark over the weekend released a statement saying that players would not boycott camps. League officials said a boycott would violate MLB’s collective bargaining agreement.

Another earlier report said one unidentified free agent was prepared to hold out until midseason because of what he perceived as a lowball offer for his services.

ESPN noted that circumstances entering camps “are unusual enough that the MLBPA and its membership have discussed the possibility of a separate free agent camp for unaffiliated players this spring.”

Commissioner Rob Manfred last week cited several factors that have contributed to this winter’s slow market.

Still, many quality players who are too expensive for their teams’ salary caps or have rising/declining value will hit the market.

These players not under contract for next season and are free so sign with anybody without tender restrictions come March 14. Here is our ranking and analyses of the best unrestricted free agents.

This list will be updated as players come off the open marking via tagging, re-signing or agreeing to contracts with new teams.

Brees isn’t leaving New Orleans, as he’s still playing at a high level, and his team is back in Super Bowl contention. The only question: For how long he will sign?

Plenty of talented veterans will be available in the current 2018 NFL free agency pool. But those players will soon get some big-time company on the open market from notable names cut by their teams to help save money under the salary cap.

For some teams, cutting a former Pro Bowler or two make sense; other such moves do not.packers_002

Taylor joins a Browns team that lacked a veteran and turned to Kizer for 15 starts as a rookie last season.

Kizer was the Browns’ second-round pick in the 2017 draft and won the starting job in a training camp competition with Brock Osweiler and Cody Kessler. Coach Hue Jackson spoke glowingly of Kizer when he named him the starter and stood by his talent throughout the season.

But Kizer struggled with accuracy and interceptions. His 6.1 percent interception rate through the first five games was far and away the highest in the league and led to his being pulled from two games and benched for another. He finished the season with a league-high 22 interceptions.

Kizer’s completion percentage of 53.6 percent was well short of the 60 percent target he had said he needed. But he finished the season finale with 314 yards passing and 61 yards rushing against the Pittsburgh Steelers as he made a frantic attempt to get the Browns their first win.

Buffalo and Miami had little leverage in making these deals, given that the Bills had no realistic intentions of paying Taylor the $6 million roster bonus he was due on March 16. Buffalo might have publicly suggested it was willing to pay Taylor to keep its options open, but outside of Nick Foles with the Rams in 2016, there’s virtually no track record of a team paying this sort of optional roster bonus for a player it didn’t plan to keep in a meaningful role.

The NFL Network first reported the agreement and its terms.

Ellis was slated to become an unrestricted free agent next week before the Raiders decided to keep the stout run-stopping defensive tackle.

The 6-foot-2, 335-pound Ellis is more gap-filling run-stopper than interior pass-rushing menace, as his career-high 48 tackles attest, though he did also get his first half-sack, when he teamed with Mario Edwards Jr. to take down Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota in the season opener.

Ellis, a fourth-round pick of the Raiders out of Louisiana Tech who does not turn 28 until Dec. 27, is known as “Jelly” and can also play nose tackle in a 3-4 scheme. He played all 16 games for the third time in his four-year career and started a career best-tying 14 times.

He had a season-high six tackles at Washington in Week 3.buccaneers_088

Could Jake Arrieta, Mike Moustakas join these post-Opening Day signees?

Spring training games started today, yet another milestone in an exceptionally odd offseason. We’ve seen more activity in the Hot Stove season — can we actually call it that anymore? — lately, with free agents like J.D. Martinez, Yu Darvish and Eric Hosmer finally signing contracts with new teams, while a couple of trades came to fruition.

Translation: “This is a team of professional baseball players and I can’t really say anything bad about them.”

Explained: Until sabermetricians quickly develop an equation on how to actually quantify talent, there’s no real way to determine how much talent is on a team.

It’s a sexy thing to say that’ll get fans hyped, but talent doesn’t necessarily equate to wins.

The team later announced Hernandez was hit in the upper right forearm and was returning to the Mariners’ complex in Peoria, Ariz., for further examination.

However, the X-rays on Hernandez’s arm came out negative, which moves Hernandez’s status as “day-to-day.”

The 2010 Cy Young Award winner has been hampered by injuries the past couple of seasons. A six-time All-Star, “King Felix” slumped to a 4.36 ERA last season.

According to MLB.com, Hernandez has made nine straight opening-day starts, the longest active streak among pitchers.

I wanted to ask you about the special adviser role. What does that entail and what have you learned from it being on the front-office side of things?

My focus has been Double-A and Triple-A. So I go to the games, I work with the coaches, I observe the players and offer whatever feedback I can provide with hopes of helping the players.buccaneers_021

Twins’ Miguel Sano reportedly spoke to MLB investigators regarding alleged assault

An MLB investigation into an alleged assault involving Twins slugger Miguel Sano and a female photographer could be nearing a resolution.

According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Sano met with Major League Baseball Tuesday. The dialogue is likely the last major step before a decision on discipline is announced by commissioner Rob Manfred, the report says.

Sano, who signed with the Twins in 2009 and made his MLB debut in 2015, vehemently denied the allegations in December.

“I unequivocally deny the allegation made against me today — it never happened,” Sano said in a statement. “I have the utmost respect for women, especially those working in professional sports, and I deeply sympathize with anyone who has experienced sexual harassment. There is no place for it in our society.”

Sano is expected to make his spring debut Wednesday after recovering from a leg injury.

The office of the commissioner announced the suspension Wednesday.

“I made a mistake and take full responsibility for my actions,” Whitley said in a statement issued through agent Matt Laird, via Fox 26 in Houston. “I want to apologize to the Astros organization, my family and those closest to me. I will learn from this mistake and continue striving to be the best baseball player that I can be.”

Whitley’s suspension will begin on the first day of the Texas League season.

“It’s disappointing,” Astros general manager told reporters Wednesday, via MLB.com. “But we move on and hopefully it’s a good learning experience for him and for us as an organization.”

Luhnow would not address specifics of the violation.seahawks_118_ac6e06be82b83229-180x180

Not to mention, the signing of Jason Vargas adds some depth to an oft-injured rotation.

What’s their current CB situation? Kansas City is in the market for a true No. 1 corner after trading Marcus Peters to the Rams, and Sherman would fit that bill while playing mentor to younger defensive backs like Kendall Fuller , Eric Murray , and Steven Nelson in the process. The Chiefs could also potentially lose Terrance Mitchell , who started nine games last season, to free agency, which heightens the team’s need for experience in the defensive backfield.

Why Sherman would make sense: A combination of Sherman and a returning Eric Berry would give Andy Reid two of the league’s most productive defenders patrolling the skies at Arrowhead Stadium.

Bruce signing a three-year, $39 million deal is something of a win, too: He posted 2.7 WAR with the Mets in 2017 before being traded to the Indians (in a salary dump, somewhat ironically). He’s a solid defender and a generally productive player, despite what his career WAR says.

Vargas posted a 4.16 ERA last season (4.67 FIP), but started 32 games and amassed 179 innings. Anthony Swarzak adds a quality bullpen arm. Sure, not all these names are sexy, but they’re effective moves that help put a more major-league ready product on the field in 2018.

That ends Talib’s tenure in the AFC West. That’s good news for Crabtree — his showdowns against the standout corner repeatedly ended in chain-snatching skirmishes . Now Crabtree won’t face Talib twice a season … though the Rams do play the Raiders in 2018.

Talib had a penchant for getting inside opponent’s heads on the field and finding himself in trouble off it. His tenure with Tampa Bay, the franchise that drafted him with the 20th overall pick in 2008, ended after testing positive for Adderall. That issue helped facilitate between the Buccaneers and Patriots , where Talib immediately became one of the team’s best defensive playmakers.

He’d make his first Pro Bowl the following season, then depart in free agency to sign a six-year, $57 million deal with the Broncos. He’d been just as good in Denver, earning Pro Bowl honors each year with the team, returning six interceptions for touchdowns, and making five tackles in his team’s 24-10 Super Bowl 50 victory over the Panthers . Despite a down year in interceptions and tackle, Talib was rarely targeted by opposing quarterbacks last season. When he was, he was still quite efficient in coverage . seahawks_103_789f0d40f15a84d5-180x180

Bucks rookie Sterling Brown arrested, tased in parking lot incident

Bucks rookie guard Sterling Brown was arrested Friday morning and charged with a tentative misdemeanor of resisting or obstructing an officer, according to multiple reports. Officers tased Brown during the arrest.

Adebayo hasn’t been flawless on defense, but he’s made about as much of an impact on that end of the floor as one could expect from a 20-year-old rookie center selected in the middle of the draft.

He’s already had success switching onto some of the best perimeter players in the league, and he’s protected the rim well enough to have confidence in his ability to log more minutes at center moving forward. The list of players who can do both of those things at a high level isn’t very long, and it’s headlined by Draymond Green and Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Will Abebayo ever be the type of All-NBA defenders they are? Maybe not. But they are the sort of players he should be modeling his game after on defense.

Defense is always going to be Adebayo’s calling card, so how he develops on that end of the floor is going to be incredibly important for him. His ability to switch onto smaller players gives him the tools to be an impact defender in today’s NBA.

The Orlando Magic waived two-way player Adreian Payne, league sources tell ESPN. He was playing with G-League Lakeland Magic. Payne, a former first-round pick, has surfaced in the Michigan State scandal.

Ben Arledge: I touched on this about a month ago. Grubauer and San Jose Sharks No. 2 Aaron Dell strike me as the most likely starters next season. Dell’s numbers have sunk a little of late, but the UFA-to-be was near the top of the NHL in save percentage at points over the past two seasons. In fact, there was a time this season when he looked like he was taking the No. 1 gig from Martin Jones. Grubauer, meanwhile, has quietly posted excellent numbers in Braden Holtby’s stead for a few years now. He’ll be an restricted free agent this summer, and I think the Caps will look to deal his rights to a team in need, similar to what the Chicago Blackhawks did with Scott Darling at the end of April.

Allen: Does Carter Hutton count? If not, Grubauer has shown enough chops to get a gig with one of the teams struggling with goaltending. Saros looks ready in the limited action we’ve seen, but he’s only 22 and it has been just that, limited action.lions_035