Malcolm Butler is getting a huge paycheck from the Titans despite his Super Bowl benching

Signing with the Titans will free him from Belichick’s whims and give him a longer leash as he works to justify his first big-money contract. While Butler doesn’t have the elite size that’s been valued more and more in recent seasons (he’s 5’11), his fluid hip movement makes him an able man-to-man coverage corner who can follow everyone from slot receivers to deep threats. He’s been even better in the playoffs; in seven postseason starts he’s knocked down eight passes and made 33 tackles.

It’s also not exactly a complete change of pace for Butler. In Tennessee he’ll join former Patriots linebacker Mike Vrabel, who is the Titans’ new head coach, and general manager Jon Robinson, who cut his teeth as a Patriots scout.

At 28 years old, Butler’s best seasons may still be in front of him. He’ll join a Titans secondary that can use the help after finishing No. 25 in the NFL in passing yards allowed. But with Butler, Logan Ryan, Adoree Jackson, and Kevin Byard in the secondary, good times could be ahead for the Tennessee defense.

Richburg’s deal, perhaps not coincidentally, resembles Mack’s.

The former Giants center reportedly gets a five-year, $47.5 million contract from the 49ers, just a tad more than the five years and $45 million Mack got in his deal with the Falcons.

Mack’s contract included $28.5 million in guarantees, identical to the mark Richburg hit in his deal.

Richburg doesn’t have the pedigree Mack had when he made the move, but the 26-year-old is also hitting free agency four years younger than Mack was when he signed with Atlanta.

In all, this is a very reasonable move to make a massive upgrade on the interior for San Francisco.

Jeremy Maclin didn’t really impress after making that move last year, but Baltimore got plenty out of Steve Smith several years back, and they’re making a significant bet on Grant given the contract terms.

I’m more inclined to like the one-year, $5 million deal they gave former Cardinals standout John Brown.

QB Chase Daniel, Bears Grade: D+ Daniel signed a two-year, $10 million deal to back up Mitchell Trubisky in Chicago, which makes sense given that he knows the system new coach Matt Nagy will be running after spending time in Kansas City. packers_097

Meet 18-year-old Kotaro Kiyomiya, Japan’s next superstar slugger

It’s not uncommon for high school baseball hitters in Japan to be asked to change their swings or their approach at the plate when they become professionals. Even someone with as well-honed of a swing as Ichiro Suzuki had to deal with that issue when he first joined the Orix Blue Wave in 1992. His manager, Shozo Doi, wanted hitting coach Kenichiro Kawamura to “fix” Ichiro’s swing. Thankfully, Kawamura resisted, and the rest is history.

On Monday after the scrimmage, a reporter asked Fighters manager Hideki Kuriyama whether there was anything about Kiyomiya’s swing that needs to be fixed.

“He does not need to fix his hitting approach. It is not only for Kiyomiya, but also for everyone (all the rookies),” Kuriyama said. “I have seen a lot of players. Everyone who comes into professional baseball has a very good strength. Everyone has to compete with his own weapon, otherwise he can not survive. If he gets into trouble, that is the time to change. I think it is not a good way to change something when somebody is just starting his professional career.”

Haffey/Getty Images Watkins was an absolute terror in the red zone and little more during his lone season in Los Angeles.

He was thrown the ball nine times in the red zone and came away with seven touchdowns, which was second among wideouts behind Jarvis Landry.

Nobody else came close to that touchdown rate, and while Watkins has the size and talent to excel in the red zone, he needed 19 targets to score five red zone touchdowns during his time in Buffalo.

Otherwise, he may struggle to find suitors on the open market. The 2018 free agent class is talented but flawed at wideout with risky signings like Sammy Watkins, Terrelle Pryor, and Josh Gordon falling in behind top option Jarvis Landry in the desirability rankings. Nelson would be a heady addition if healthy, but also a risky one. Though he was able to overcome a torn ACL and operate at an All-Pro level, outmaneuvering the slow march of time will be even tougher.

The Bills just guaranteed Ivory $3.3 million, which seems inexplicable for a team which already has the league’s most expensive running back in LeSean McCoy.

Bill Barnwell, ESPN Staff Writer Friday, March 3 Trade: Rams deal DE Robert Quinn to Dolphins Grade for Rams: C+

Grade for Dolphins: C+ The Rams decision to trade Robert Quinn is a reflection on what the 27-year-old has looked like since undergoing back surgery in January of 2016.

Quinn has just 12.5 sacks and 18 knockdowns over the past two years. packers_007

The 49ers made the signing official on Sunday.

“Richard is one of the premier competitors Kyle and I have ever encountered,” general manager John Lynch said in a statement. “We look forward to him sharing his wealth of experience and his passion for the game of football with our team. Richard has long been looked at as the prototypical corner in our scheme, and the opportunity to have him mentor our players was one we needed to attack. Most importantly, we are excited to have a championship-caliber corner on the field for the 49ers.”

Keenum is also a player the Broncos felt they knew well given the team’s senior personnel adviser and former coach Gary Kubiak coached Keenum for two seasons when Kubiak was the Texans’ head coach.

Kubiak has an increased role in the Broncos’ personnel evaluations this year and has been a major voice as Denver prepares for free agency and the draft.

Cousins was named the starter in the summer of 2015, after Griffin suffered a head injury. He started every game over the next three seasons, helping the Redskins win the NFC East in 2015. In those three seasons, Cousins threw for a combined 13,176 yards and 81 touchdowns and 36 interceptions.

The Redskins used the franchise tag on him each of the last two seasons after no long-term deals could be reached.

“It was a great experience for me because I got to share a lot of things that a lot of fans never get a chance to see,” Brady said of the series. “I think there’s always a balance between a private life and a public life, and I think I chose a very public profession. With the amount of fans that have really enjoyed the show, when I reflect back on the decision to do it, I think, ‘What a great decision’ because so many people have come up to me and said, ‘Thanks for doing that, it was really cool to see.’

In lieu of possibly netting a compensatory pick for Smith, the Eagles instead take home another cheap cornerback in Worley, who started 25 games over his two seasons in Carolina. Worley hasn’t developed as much as fellow 2016 draftee James Bradberry and fell into a rotation at times with Kevon Seymour, who should now have a clear path to a starting role.buccaneers_094

MLB Draft 2018: Dates, draft order, top prospects, how to watch

The 2018 MLB Draft takes place from June 4-6 in Secaucus, N.J. The Detroit Tigers, who finished 2017 with a record of 64-98, will make the first selection in this year’s draft.

Braves: The Braves are in a situation similar to the one in Philadelphia. They’re going through a rebuilding process, and they’re likely (hopefully?) entering the upswing portion of that process and heading toward legitimate contention by next year at the latest. And they, too, have a lot of solid, high-upside young pitchers who could become rotation-impact guys. But Archer offers a lot more certainty, and he’s the type of star a team can build a playoff contender around. Plus, having Archer in their rotation would be the kind of drawing card a team playing in a still-new stadium would crave.

Brewers: Milwaukee is a better team now than it was at the start of the offseason, no doubt. But that rotation still needs work. The Brewers reportedly made an offer to Yu Darvish, which shows they’re serious about improving the pitching staff. At this point, after sending a nice prospect package to Miami in the trade for Christian Yelich, it seems more likely that they’d spend money on a free agent (Arrieta, Lance Lynn or Alex Cobb) than spend more prospect capital on Archer. But don’t count them out.

Asked if the dugouts got on her at any point, she replied with a laugh, “Not that I could hear.”

It marked the first time Pawol, 41, had worked a game involving a major-league team. “Discovered” at a baseball clinic in 2015 after more than a decade of umpiring NCAA Division I baseball and softball, she worked last season in the Single-A New York-Penn League. (According to CBS Sports, Emma Charlesworth-Seiler, who spent last summer calling rookie-level Gulf Coast League games, is the other female umpire in organized ball.)

“Unbelievable,” Pawol said afterward. “Just really excited now that I got through it. It took like three years’ worth of professional work to get here. I went out there pretty confident and I feel pretty good how the day went. … I just told the guys (on the umpiring crew) to go have fun today and we will be there for each other, and that’s what happened.”buccaneers_029

MLBPA union head Tony Clark sounds off on tanking, pace of play

Tony Clark is apparently unhappy with both MLB and its commissioner.

Rob Manfred instituted new rules for pace of play in recent weeks and ruled the Marlins and Pirates were in compliance with the collective bargaining agreement’s revenue sharing provisions despite the Major League Baseball Players’ Association’s concerns over the club’s offseason moves and their motivation to win.

“The thing I got from it the most was that the commissioner can do whatever he wants, essentially, whether we agree to it or not,” Jameson Taillon, who is the Pirates’ new union representative, said. “As players we’re really concerned about changing the fabric of the game.”

Neither the union, nor the players are happy with what is going on in the current age of baseball which could have some serious ramifications on the 2018 season. It remains to be seen just how it will have an effect, but there could be some momentum building for heated arguments in the next CBA which is scheduled to be negotiated in 2021.

While Hal Steinbrenner doesn’t necessarily like being the bad guy, he is fine with his team being viewed that way.

After the Yankees acquired former Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton, New York is once again being called “The Evil Empire” and Steinbrenner doesn’t hate it.

Still, the Yankees did what any team would do in the situation they were put in. The Marlins wanted to get rid of Stanton and his contract and the Yankees had the means to get it done. It may not smell great, but it was perfectly legal and put the Yankees in a great position with their lineup this season.

“There are at least ten guys out there who can help you win a championship, and they’re not in the game,” Jansen said. “Obviously, something’s going on. We all know what’s going on in baseball. Every year there’s tanking. It’s obvious. They just made it more obvious this year.

“Teams need to say, ‘let’s put together something that’s competitive.’ And that doesn’t mean making a run for two or three years, then trading everyone when you’re making a lot of money.”seahawks_124_c1cf13ba9242858b-180x180

The Miami Dolphins were quick to apply the franchise tag to Jarvis Landry in February, but the wide receiver won’t be playing in South Beach in 2018.

Instead, he was traded to the Cleveland Browns for two draft picks Friday:

A messy divorce was likely inevitable. By trading him away, the Dolphins get some immediate compensation for the receiver and can move on with an offense that needed a ton of rebuilding anyway.

With a long list of draft picks in 2018 — including the No. 1 and No. 4 selections, and three second-round picks — the Browns need to start turning those chips into talent that will win football games.

Hurst had to miss?Combine workouts because of concerns about a heart condition , but there is?optimism he will?be cleared to show off his wares?at Michigan’s Pro Day on March 23. When 4-3 teams have that workout to go with the tape, they’ll see why he’s such a high-upside inside pass-rusher. Coach Dan Quinn would love to add another attacker like Hurst, ideal for the three technique.

There’s a growing feeling the Saints will bring back Jimmy Graham as a free agent, so that decision will have an impact on how early they address this position of need. Regardless, Goedert might?be the best player available, and Graham will turn 32 in November. On the surface, Goedert is built like Rob Gronkowski with the skill set of Zach Ertz.

Lawrence, 25, had nine sacks in the first three seasons of his NFL career before breaking out with 14.5 sacks during a Pro Bowl year in 2017. Only Arizona Cardinals pass rusher Chandler Jones finished with more sacks by racking up 17.

It was the first double-digit sack season for the Cowboys in four years and the fourth-best total in franchise history behind 20-, 19.5-, and 15.5-sack seasons put up by DeMarcus Ware .

Lawrence will earn more than $17 million in 2018 if he plays under the tag. But the Cowboys will have a little more than four months to agree to a multi-year deal with the defensive end.

Ramirez put up a .361 OBP in 2015, his best campaign with the Red Sox. He stole nine bases and was caught three times. That’s a 75 percent success rate, just below the 80 percent that standard sabermetric reasoning states is needed for going for steals to be worth it (and that number may be low). At a 75 percent rate, Ramirez would need to run 40 times to snag 30 bags.seahawks_120_bf61fe15fd391e59-180x180

NBA community mourns death of player agent Henry Thomas

Henry “Hank” Thomas, an influential agent for many NBA players, died Saturday. He was 64.

Among the players represented by Thomas included Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Michael Finley, Shaun Livingston, Tim Hardaway and Udonis Haslem.

The NBA issued a statement, calling Thomas a “dear friend to so many around the league.”

“The NBA family mourns the passing of Henry Thomas. He was an important influence in the lives of countless players and a dear friend to so many around the league. Our thoughts and sympathies are with Henry’s family, friends and colleagues.”

The NBA family mourns the passing of Henry Thomas. He was an important influence in the lives of countless players and a dear friend to so many around the league. Our thoughts and sympathies are with Henry’s family, friends and colleagues.

Isaiah Thomas said Saturday he did ask Kevin Love why he didn’t come back to support his teammates after leaving with an injury during the Cavaliers’ loss to the Thunder last Saturday, but he vehemently denied calling out his teammate.

“Whoever reported that it was, and we was bashing Kevin Love, there was nothing to bash him about,” Thomas told reporters after practice Saturday, via ESPN. “We just wanted to know where he was and why he didn’t play.”

It’s a fact the Cavaliers have been one of the worse defenses in the league all season. Cleveland is allowing 109.6 points through 47 games this season which is 25th in the NBA. However, since Thomas has been back, Cleveland is allowing 117 points per game. Thomas has actually missed two of those outings. In the nine games Thomas has been on the court the Cavaliers are allowing 121.8 points per game.lions_026

Rays’ Kevin Cash ‘not going to five’ pitchers for 2018 season

While other teams are pondering using six-man pitching rotations this season, Tampa Bay Rays manager Kevin Cash is going with the opposite mindset and is planning to use a four-man rotation throughout the 2018 season.

Under Cash’s plan, four pitchers will still work on regular rest, but instead of going with a regular starter on every fifth day, Cash said it will be a bullpen day and he’ll have three or four relief pitchers go through the batting order once.

“It’s not part of baseball,” Hamels said March 3. “I know that’s the new analytical side of trying to reinvent the wheel, but I was brought up in the minor leagues on the five-man [rotation], and that’s what I’m designed and conditioned for.

The Los Angeles Angels also have discussed using a six-man rotation, while the San Francisco Giants and Chicago Cubs tried it in 2017.

“We don’t discuss family politics or family issues, but he’s part of this family,” general manager Mike Rizzo said Tuesday. “Actions beget consequences. No player is bigger than the organization.”

Romero, a left-handed pitcher out of the University of Houston, was a first-round pick last summer. Although some considered him a top-10 talent, he was selected 25th overall after a tumultuous junior year with the Cougars.

Romero, 21, was suspended for the first two weeks of the 2017 season for conduct detrimental to the team. He was later suspended again, with the Houston Chronicle reporting the suspension stemmed from a failed drug test. A third incident in May 2017 led to his dismissal from the Houston program.

Romero, who was recently ranked as Washington’s fourth-best prospect by ESPN’s Keith Law, pitched to a 5.40 ERA in six appearances with the Nationals’ low-A affiliate last season, tallying 32 strikeouts in 20 innings.

“Hopefully when he gets back here he’ll be better for it,” Rizzo said.

Create ESPN Custom: ESPN Custom leagues allow you to create a league, customize your rosters, scoring and other league settings, then make it accessible from our League Directory for others to join. Unlike League Manager (LM) leagues, once your ESPN Custom league is created, you will NOT have access to LM Tools, and your league settings are locked for the season. Note that ESPN Custom Leagues are not eligible for the ESPN Fantasy Baseball Leaderboard, even ones that use standard ESPN settings, and they are limited to one season of play (e.g., no keepers or league history available).lions_086

Robinson will be fully healthy from the torn ACL he suffered in September just in time for free agency in March.

The New Jersey Devils will raise No. 26 to the rafters on Saturday night before their game against the New York Islanders, retiring the number of winger Patrik Elias. He’s the all-time franchise leader in goals (408) and points (1,025), having won Stanley Cups with the Devils in 2000 and 2003.

We caught up with Elias recently in Newark to talk about his career, the NHL and that time the career Devil nearly bolted for the rival Rangers.

Elias: I didn’t. It was given to me. We really didn’t have a choice of numbers. I had a couple of numbers before that, and every time someone was traded here that wore the number that I had, I had to give it up. I was a rookie, obviously. I would have worn No. 24. I had that as a kid, a little bit in the minors. But No. 26 is me. No. 24 is no more. It went out of the window pretty quickly.

It will take more work to overhaul an overtaxed secondary. The 49ers will have to hope safeties Jimmie Ward and Jaquiski Tartt are ready to be the foundation of the franchise’s last line of defense, as Eric Reid seems destined to depart as a free agent. Those two combined for only 16 games in 2017, so some of the team’s defensive deficiencies can be explained by their frequent absences.

The Lions also retained Jim Bob Cooter as their offensive coordinator, which is good news because 1) he’s good and 2) he’s got the best name in the NFL. Patricia can take his lessons learned from the almighty Belichick, and perhaps help the Lions end their 26-year playoff win drought.

Everyone knows he can be a big-play and red-zone beast if right, as evidenced by his 1,400-yard, 14-TD season in 2015. The question is whether he will round back into his best form, given his numbers dipped with a shakier Blake Bortles in 2016. Jacksonville has a ton of money and is a good bet to franchise tag (at worst) such a young, talented, all-around wideout.

Landry looks like he’s about to walk away from Miami. He remains a high-volume slot machine after leading the league in catches last season. He’ll get the massive deal he wants elsewhere, and a lot of teams will line up with Robinson likely off the market.patriots_032