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Thursday, February 23, 2017

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NFL scout believes DeSean Jackson will end up with Patriots

DeSean Jackson is set to become a free agent next month, and there has been little indication that Washington plans on keeping him. Could the New England Patriots quietly emerge as a suitor for the veteran wide receiver?

One scout told Bleacher Report’s Mike Freeman that he believes Jackson will end up with either the Patriots or Dallas Cowboys this offseason, with New England being the “more likely choice.”

The Cowboys already have one of the best perimeter receivers in the game in Dez Bryant, so it’s unclear how Jackson would fit in there. Though, Jackson’s best quality is his ability to break the big play, as he averages 17.7 yards per reception throughout his career and has hauled in a touchdown catch of 60 yards or more in each of his nine NFL seasons.

Bill Belichick has a long history with taking on troubled playmakers who are past their prime, and the 30-year-old Jackson meets those criteria. If Jackson is willing to sign a reasonable contract, Belichick might consider giving him a shot like he did with Randy Moss and Chad Ochocinco.

That said, Tom Brady showed great chemistry with his top outside receiver, Chris Hogan, down the stretch last season. Having an extra deep threat wouldn’t hurt, but throwing the deep ball isn’t a huge part of New England’s offense. It’s unlikely that it will become one as Brady enters his age 40 season.

If the recent stink he raised on social media is any indication, Jackson will be looking for a new team outside of Washington. Linking him to the Patriots is exciting, but we can’t see it happening.

Report: Bears likely to cut Jay Cutler, focus on trading for Jimmy Garoppolo

Jay Cutler

The Chicago Bears would love to trade quarterback Jay Cutler this offseason, and I would like to make $1 million by the end of the week. According to one report, the former is about as likely as the latter.

While the Bears have all but committed to getting rid of Cutler, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports said this week that is is a “virtual certainty” that they will not be able to trade him. Cutler, who will turn 34 in April, is coming off a season in which he appeared in just five games due to injury. He threw just four touchdown passes compared to five interceptions during those games, and at one point he was set to lose his starting job to Brian Hoyer if Hoyer did not get hurt himself.

The Bears have already paid Cutler the $54 million he was guaranteed as part of the seven-year, $126.7 million deal he signed back in 2014. He is scheduled to make roughly $18 million per season through 2020, when he will be 36. Why would any team take on that contract?

If and when Cutler is released, La Canfora speculates he will have to settle for a contract similar to the one-year, $12 million deal Ryan Fitzpatrick signed with the New York Jets last offseason. Teams aren’t exactly going to be breaking down the door to sign Cutler as a starting quarterback.

Consider Chicago’s situation with Cutler basic housekeeping. Once that is completed, they are reportedly planning to turn their focus toward Jimmy Garoppolo, though the price for the New England Patriots backup is said to be quite high. Are the Bears willing to trade the No. 3 overall pick in the draft for him? It may not be as crazy as you think.

Tyrod Taylor reportedly cleared by doctors after groin surgery

Tyrod Taylor

If the Buffalo Bills end up paying Tyrod Taylor the remaining guaranteed money he would be owed by being on the roster after March 11, it will be because the team chose to keep him around.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports that Taylor has been medically cleared after he underwent groin surgery last month.

As Schefter notes, the Bills now have to decide if they want to guarantee Taylor nearly $30 million by exercising his option. Had Taylor not been cleared medically, the contract would have become guaranteed anyway.

While there have been rumblings that the Bills would have interest in one big-name quarterback if he became available, sticking with Taylor may be their best option. The former Virginia Tech star is likely better than anything Buffalo would find on the free agent market, and paying him an average of around $18 million per season is right in line with what other starting quarterbacks are making.

James Harden rumored to be dating Ashanti

James Harden has compiled a dating roster over the years that is very Hollywood, and there are rumors swirling that the Houston Rockets star has added a well-known R&B singer to the list.

Her name is Ashanti.

Those who follow Ashanti on Instagram may have noticed that the singer-songwriter has been spending a lot of time in Houston and has attended a Rockets game or two. Ashanti grew up in New York, so it’s not as if she is repping one of her home teams.

When you play the game right… @moschino

A post shared by Ashanti (@ashanti) on

A post shared by Ashanti (@ashanti) on

If Harden and Ashanti are dating, it’s possible the relationship began several months ago.

For what it’s worth, MediaTakeOut.com claims to have confirmed that Harden and Ashanti have been quietly seeing each other since last year — shortly after she broke things off with former NFL defensive tackle Darnell Dockett. Ashanti was also linked to DeSean Jackson a few years back.

Harden, 27, is nearly 10 years younger than Ashanti, but he has never shied away from dating older women in the past. In fact, his most notable significant other was a few years older.

H/T Black Sports Online

Jeanie Buss apologizes to Lakers fans for not firing brother sooner

Jeanie Buss

Jeanie Buss is making some serious boss moves with the Lakers.

After hiring Magic Johnson and then ousting her brother Jim as the VP of Basketball Operations and GM Mitch Kupchak, there is no doubt who is calling the shots for the Lakers now — Jeanie and her other siblings.

Jeanie and Jim began having friction a few years ago when the Lakers botched the hiring of Phil Jackson as head coach to bring in Mike D’Antoni, who was stupidly jettisoned for Byron Scott. As the Lakers continually sunk into embarrassment, Jeanie put the pressure on her brother to turn things around or step down. Now he is out of his position, and Jeanie says her only mistake was not pulling the trigger sooner.

“This was a very difficult decision,” Buss said on Spectrum Sportsnet Tuesday, via Pro Basketball Talk. “It was probably so hard for me to make that I probably waited too long. And for that, I apologize to Lakers fans. But now with clarity and direction, and talking to with Ervin, really knowing a change was needed, and that’s why we’re here today.”

She also talked about the timing of the decision to change things up just two days before the trade deadline.

“It’s something I thought about for a long time, and once the decision became clear in my mind there was really no reason to wait,” Buss said. “In today’s NBA there is no offseason. You’re constantly preparing for the draft, for the season, for Summer League, so there was no time like the present.”

This is the ultimate humiliation for Jim. But he did say he would step down if the Lakers hadn’t returned to success by now, and so far the results are not pretty. Magic has his work cut out for him, that’s for sure.

10 most intriguing players to watch at the NFL Combine

Myles Garrett

The NFL Combine will be held from February 28 through March 6 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, giving NFL teams a close look at many of the league’s most promising prospects.

Players will not only have an opportunity to meet with NFL scouts and executives, but also to improve their potential NFL Draft stock with impressive performances on the field.

Whether it’s a debate about skill level, or players being over-hyped/underrated, there are many athletes who will be at Indianapolis with stories that are slightly more interesting than others.

With that in mind, here’s a look at 10 of the most intriguing players who will be at the NFL Combine.

10. Cooper Kupp (wide receiver, Eastern Washington)

There are 19 FCS players who will take part in the 2017 NFL Combine, and coming from small schools makes them all interesting. But of those who are slated to attend, perhaps none bring about as much intrigue as Eastern Washington wide receiver Cooper Kupp.

Kupp will enter the combine and subsequently the NFL Draft having amassed more college receiving yards than the legendary Jerry Rice. As a freshman, he set FCS records with 93 receptions and 21 touchdowns, but that was only the tip of the iceberg. Kupp eventually closed out his career with 428 receptions for 6,464 yards and 73 touchdown.

Oh, and did we mention he’s a solid return man, can run the football, play gunner and if the situation calls for it, he can also throw the ball on some trick plays?

He has all the tools that make an interesting prospect, and he’s quite intelligent, having scored a 37 on his Wonderlic test while posting a 3.6 GPA. He’s also married and has not shown any off-field issues.

Needless to say, Kupp will be a name worth keeping an eye on. He’s drawn high praise from NFL scouts early on, his college resume speaks for itself, and he expects to put up some pretty impressive numbers to help improve his draft stock.

9. DeMarcus Walker (defensive end, Florida State)

(more…)

Andre Drummond addresses trade rumors, Twitter profile (Video)

Ahead of the NBA’s trade deadline on Thursday, Andre Drummond addressed the speculation that he could be on the move.

Around this time of year, countless players are brought up as potential trade candidates. Some get traded, others don’t. This year, Drummond is among those rumored to be dealt prior to Thursday’s deadline. On Tuesday, the Pistons big man added a little fuel to the fire with this tweet. Drummond also has a profile picture, one of him walking off the court with his hand raised in the air, as if to say goodbye.

It could be Drummond just having a little fun. Or, it might not be. Whatever the case, Drummond was asked about the rumors and his new photo. You can hear his responses in the video below.

It’s obvious Drummond is not here for your speculation and questions. Unfortunately, those things are part of being a professional athlete.

Not too long ago, it seemed Drummond was going to be the cornerstone of the Pistons franchise for years to come. That doesn’t appear to be quite the certainty anymore, especially if you believe this report.

Robert Kraft has message for Patriots’ haters

Robert Kraft

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft has a strong message for the team’s haters.

Kraft was interviewed by Andrea Kremer for HBO’s “Real Sports” in a feature that aired on Tuesday. Kraft and his son Jonathan, a VP with the Pats, offered several strong quotes.

The best was this one that came when Robert Kraft was asked by Kremer how he responds to those who call his team “cheaters.”

“Envy and jealousy are incurable diseases. The haters still hate. And I understand it, and we’ll do our best to keep them in that position,” Kraft says.

They also talked about drafting Tom Brady, who won his fifth Super Bowl just over two weeks ago.

“I always remember him coming down the stairs at the old stadium. He said to me, ‘Hi, I’m Tom Brady.’ And he looked me in the eye and he said, ‘And I’m the best decision this organization has ever made,'” Robert Kraft recalled.

Jonathan Kraft added this: “I said, ‘God, really?’ I’m like, ‘Was he cocky?’ And my father said to me, ‘I’m telling you. There’s something about the way he said it that I believe him.’”

Winning the latest Super Bowl wasn’t easy, as the Pats came back from down 28-3 to win in overtime. But Robert Kraft didn’t doubt whether Brady believed he could lead a comeback. This is Jonathan recalling his father’s feelings on the team trailing.

“He looked over to me on that first touchdown drive we had. So it was probably about three minutes to go in the third. And he said, ‘Do you think Tommy still believes that we can win the game?’ And I said, ‘Tommy believes.’ And my father looked at me and said, ‘I know he does. I know he does.’”

Winning as much as the Patriots have — thanks in large part to Brady — is going to lead to many haters, especially when you’ve been involved in as many scandals as they have. But the latest one coming after Brady’s Deflategate suspension had extra meaning for Kraft.

Jim Boeheim rips article questioning his retirement plan

Jim Boeheim

Jim Boeheim had a harsh reaction to an article questioning whether he will stick to his announced retirement plan.

Syracuse announced in March, 2015 that Boeheim would coach for three more seasons before turning the program over to assistant Mike Hopkins. That move was announced seemingly as a way to please the NCAA as the school was being penalized for violations.

In an article published by SI Tuesday, Pete Thamel speculated about the future of Boeheim, Coach K, Roy Williams and Rick Pitino. In his section on Boeheim, Thamel said the longtime coach wants to stop coaching on his terms — not when Syracuse announced in 2015 that he would — which might complicate his exit.

Boeheim ripped the article in a response provided to Syracuse.com’s Bud Poliquin.

“The only thing he got right in that story is the spelling of my name,” Boeheim told Syracuse.com in response. “It’s all speculation. Pure speculation. There’s nothing in that story that is remotely, in any way, true.”

That sure is a way to shoot down some speculation.

Boeheim has previously said that his philosophy is you stop coaching when you stop winning. That would lend to the theory that he’s not planning to adhere to the Mike Hopkins 2018 takeover, despite his denial.

H/T The Spun

Report: Jazz interested in bringing Deron Williams back

The Utah Jazz are trying to party like it’s 2008 all over again.

According to a report by ESPN’s Tim MacMahon and Marc Stein on Tuesday, the Jazz have expressed interest in re-acquiring Dallas Mavericks point guard Deron Williams via trade.

Williams, 32, played his first six NBA seasons in Utah and enjoyed the best years of his career there, averaging 17.3 points and 9.1 assists per game in a Jazz uniform. His time with the team ended in 2011 when he was traded to the then-New Jersey Nets for a package that included current Jazz big Derrick Favors. Williams was also teammates on the Nets for several seasons with another current Utah player, Joe Johnson.

The Jazz could use some added backcourt depth with George Hill’s durability issues, Alec Burks still shaking the rust off after his own injuries, and Dante Exum having another disappointing season. The Mavericks still want to compete for the eighth seed in the West and don’t appear inclined to sell off their veterans in bulk. But Williams has become a bit unnecessary for them with Yogi Ferrell’s emergence and J.J. Barea’s impending return, so perhaps the Jazz could make the reunion a reality by offering the Mavs a decent enough return for the three-time All-Star.

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