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Friday, December 13, 2019

Stories by Grey Papke:

Adam Thielen expected to return for Vikings in Week 15

Adam Thielen

After a troublesome hamstring injury cost him the last four games, Adam Thielen appears ready to return for the Minnesota Vikings this weekend.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Wednesday that Thielen will play against the Los Angeles Chargers unless there is some sort of setback in practice.

Thielen has not played since Nov. 3, but the injury had been lingering before that, and he hasn’t played in a game with double-digit snaps since Oct. 13. The fact that the Vikings have managed to win without him is a testament to good depth and gameplanning, but they’ve definitely missed him and will be pleased to welcome him back.

Thielen has six touchdown catches this season, all of which came in the first seven games of the year. That, coming on the heels of nine last year, certify his status as Kirk Cousins’ favorite red zone target.

Competition committee chair Rich McKay admits to ‘angst’ from pass interference review

The NFL has a problem with its pass interference challenge system, and the chairman of the league’s competition committee seems to know it.

Rich McKay, the chair of the Competition Committee and president of the Atlanta Falcons, admitted that the current challenge system has caused “angst” and will be re-evaluated after the season.

The league has no choice to evaluate whether the system is even worth it. Few pass interference calls are ever changed, and few non-calls are ever called on replay. It’s also inconsistent and hard to tell why certain calls are changed and certain ones stand. The frustration from within the league is obvious, and the system needs a long look before 2020.

5 best college football coaching hires of the offseason

Lane Kiffin FAU

The college coaching carousel is still moving, but many of the bigger hires have already been sorted out. The likes of Florida State and Ole Miss have new coaches, and they’re going to have to hit the ground running to assemble recruiting classes, put together a staff, and start implementing their vision.

So which of the coaching hires so far look to be the best on paper? Here are five big standouts now that the hires have started.

5. Jeff Scott, USF

The best hire of an assistant coach so far this offseason, Scott is more than ready to be a college head coach. A long-time Clemson assistant, he’s served as co-offensive coordinator on Dabo Swinney’s staff. Importantly, he has been a key recruiter for Clemson and has ties to the state of Florida, which should help him immediately. That experience and background in recruiting is massive for a first-time coach, and it should allow him to attract good talent early on to USF. That could lead to a very quick turnaround.

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NFL salary cap expected to jump to $200 million range for 2020

Roger Goodell

The NFL salary cap is going up again, and for the first time, it could eclipse $200 million.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reported Tuesday that the NFL told teams that the cap is expected to rise somewhere between $196.8 million and $201.2 million.

The 2019 cap stood at $188.2 million, so a jump of around $10 million appears likely. Per Rapoport, it would be the seventh consecutive year that the cap rises by $10 million or more.

Even if it doesn’t happen in 2020, a $200 million salary cap is inevitable at this point. It’s also excellent news for players, who will be entitled to a larger slice of the pie. It’s helpful to teams, too, as it means they can commit a bit more money to players who will definitely be looking to sign extensions once the season is over.

Report: Gerrit Cole deal likely to exceed $300 million

Stephen Strasburg’s decision to sign a seven-year, $245 million contract with the Washington Nationals appears to have significantly impacted the market for fellow free agent Gerrit Cole.

Cole, the best pitcher on the market, is now expected to fetch over $300 million, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post.

The key here is the length of the deal. Strasburg’s $35 million AAV is a new record for a pitcher, but Cole is likely to beat that figure. He also stands a decent chance of getting a longer deal than Strasburg, as Cole is still only 29 and doesn’t have much of an injury history. Even at the same AAV as Strasburg got, an eighth year would take the financial value of the deal to $280 million, and Cole is likely to get a good deal more than that. A ninth year would probably take the deal closer to $350 million, though there’s no indication that’s on the table at this point in time.

Reports indicate that Cole is likely to sign this week, with the Yankees, Dodgers, and Angels cited as being involved in the sweepstakes. One thing is clear: the rumored offer the Yankees were going to put on the table is not going to be nearly enough to get their man anymore.

Report: Patriots’ documentary videographer recorded Bengals sideline for entire quarter

New England Patriots

While details are still murky regarding the strangeness surrounding a New England Patriots video crew and the Cincinnati Bengals, new reporting suggests that something fishy may have been going on.

According to ESPN’s Dianna Russini, a Bengals employee observing the Patriots videographer noted that the cameraman recorded the Cincinnati sideline for the entire first quarter during Sunday’s game.

At that point, the Bengals alerted security, who interviewed the cameraman. He asked if he could simply delete the footage.

It has been reported that the Patriots’ crew was simply doing work for an episode of the team’s in-house “Do Your Job” series that was profiling one of their pro scouts. That doesn’t really explain why they’d need a camera fixated on the Cincinnati sideline, especially with their upcoming game against the Bengals. The most cynical explanation would be that the Patriots exploited the credential process to spy on the Bengals, but it seems hard to believe they would be that brazen.

The reality? Rival teams do not trust the Patriots. Something like this is fertile ground for conspiracy theories, and those are going to continue until we get a bit more clarity about what happened here.

NBA denies Rockets’ protest of James Harden dunk error

James Harden dunk

The NBA has denied the Houston Rockets’ bid to protest their Dec. 3 loss to the San Antonio Spurs despite agreeing that the referees misapplied the rule on a James Harden dunk that was not counted.

With 7:50 left in the game, Harden dunked the basketball, only to have it go in and come back out of the net. The basket was incorrectly waved off, and the Rockets ended up losing the game by two, prompting the protest.

In a statement, NBA commissioner Adam Silver admitted that the call was wrong, and Houston was incorrectly denied the opportunity to challenge the error. However, he added that, due to the fact that there were nearly eight minutes left in regulation, Silver decided that the Rockets “had sufficient time to overcome the error,” and thus the game would not be replayed from that point.

The Rockets had genuinely believed the NBA would take action in light of how egregious the error was, so they’ll come away disappointed here. It’s clear that the referees failed them, but they did have a 13-point lead at the time that they failed to hold down the stretch. In the NBA’s view, that failure is on them, not the officials.

Report: Cubs, Phillies have discussed Kris Bryant trade

Kris Bryant

Could Kris Bryant be on the move this winter? A new rumor indicates that the Chicago Cubs have, at the very least, not slammed the door shut on the possibility.

According to Bruce Levine of 670 The Score, the Cubs and Philadelphia Phillies have had discussions about a Bryant trade, though discussions have not progressed significantly and nothing appears imminent.

A Bryant trade would be a surprise, but not a total shock. It was rumored that the door might be open on such a deal late in the season, with the Cubs feeling the need to shake things up after a couple years of perceived underachievement and a desire to replenish the team’s farm system. There is also some worry about agent Scott Boras taking Bryant to free agency instead of a potential contract extension.

The Cubs probably aren’t eager to move Bryant, who hit .282 with 31 home runs in 2019. However, this is definitely something worth watching for the remainder of the season.