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49ers sign DT Earl Mitchell to 4-year deal

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The San Francisco 49ers agreed to a four-year contract with free-agent defensive tackle Earl Mitchell on Friday.

A person familiar with the deal confirmed that Mitchell had decided to join the Niners just over a week after being released by Miami. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the signing had not been announced by the team.

NFL.com first reported the deal, saying Mitchell would get a $16 million deal with $5.5 million paid in the first year.

The 49ers need help on the interior of the defensive line as they are expected to switch from a three-man front to a four-man front under new coordinator Robert Saleh. San Francisco allowed a league-worst 165.9 yards rushing per game last season.

Mitchell was drafted by Houston in the third round in 2010 and played four seasons for the Texans. In his final season with the Texans, Mitchell played under new 49ers defensive line coach Jeff Zgonina.

He then signed a four-year, $16 million contract with the Dolphins but got released with one year remaining on the contract. Mitchell was limited to just nine games last season because of a calf injury.

In 100 career games, Mitchell has 5 1/2 sacks and 19 tackles for loss.

Earlier in the day, the Niners signed wide receiver DeAndre Carter to a two-year contract. Carter has not played in the NFL but spent part of the 2015 season on the practice squads in Oakland and New England. Carter was cut by the Patriots last September and wasn’t on a roster at all last season.

Carter played college ball at Sacramento State. He had 207 catches for 2,760 yards and 35 TDs in 41 games. He was an Associated Press first-team All-American in 2014 when he caught 99 passes for 1,321 yards and 17 TDs.

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O’Brien will take over play-calling, but the biggest improvement the team needs to make is obvious.

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O’Brien will take over play-calling, but the biggest improvement the team needs to make is obvious. Osweiler finished the year with 15 touchdowns, 16 interceptions and a pitiful 72.2 passer rating.

While Houston ended the season No. 8 in the NFL in rushing yards, it was No. 29 in passing yards and subsequently finished No. 29 in total yards as well. But would the Texans spend an early draft selection on a quarterback with Tom Savage on the roster, and with Osweiler due to count $19 million against the salary cap in 2017?

“We’re so far from answering that question,” O’Brien said. “Right now, we sit down and evaluate our team and everything we do …it’s not even a question that I can begin to answer.”

It’s a difficult question for the Texans that comes with salary cap implications, no matter what Houston decides.

At this point, though, the player who held golf’s top ranking for a record 683 weeks but is now ranked 693rd and not healthy enough to sit in a chair for 15 minutes and answer questions from reporters at a tourney benefiting his foundation, has to be considering that the end is near. Whether he acknowledges the reality remains up in the air.

“With the way my body feels, with the way that I’m able to feel like I’m able to compete now, I don’t know that it’s good enough,” ex-tennis great Andy Roddick said after injuries forced him out of the ranks of the elite and into retirement. “I don’t know that I’ve ever seen someone who’s interested in ‘existing’ on tour.”

For sure, just being one of the guys scuffling along at the cut line has never been at the top of the bucket list of someone whose intensity to compete and win has been a driving force since he first exploded onto the golf scene.

The Bengals might consider re-signing Dre Kirkpatrick, 27, instead and moving on with 2016 first-rounder William Jackson III

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Although he has been with the Bengals since turning his career around in 2010, he’ll also be 34 next season and is scheduled to make $7.5 million in salary and bonuses. Cornerbacks rarely continue to play at a high level past their mid-30s, and Jones, who was recently arrested, has a history of off-the-field issues and could fall under the league’s personal conduct policy, potentially resulting in a suspension this season. The Bengals might consider re-signing Dre Kirkpatrick, 27, instead and moving on with 2016 first-rounder William Jackson III.
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Drew Brees is still chugging along at age 38, which allows the Saints to be flexible about drafting a quarterback this year. Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports
Current depth chart:

Womens Deacon Jones Jersey Drew Brees: Age 38, signed through 2017. 2017 salary and bonuses: $13 million. 2017 salary-cap number: $19 million (Note: Brees’ contract also includes an $18 million salary-cap hit in 2018, even though his contract will void after this season).

Luke McCown: Age 35, signed through 2017. 2017 salary and bonuses: $1.5 million. 2017 salary-cap number: $1.75 million.

Garrett Grayson: Age 25, scheduled to be exclusive rights free agent in 2019. 2017 salary and bonuses: $540,000. 2017 salary-cap number: $540,000.

Jennings was due to make $2.5 million in 2017, which was the final year of his four-year deal that he signed with the Giants back in 2014. He was going to count over $3 million against the cap. Between releasing him and Cruz today, the team has created $10 million in cap space.

Carucci thinks Owens’ reputation as a journeyman overshadows his production on the field. Carucci says, though, that the perspectives of the media should matter less than Hall of Famers’ opinions on Owens’ candidacy.

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Avalanche player lays hit of the year contender on Jets¡¯ Mark Scheifele

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Colorado Avalanche defenseman Nikita Zadorov had himself a game on Saturday against the Winnipeg Jets, but whether his biggest play crossed the line probably depends on which team you root for.

Zadorov was all over the ice in Denver, well on his way to 27 minutes and more than 24 shifts by the mid-third period. Colorado had 16 hits by that point, and it¡¯s fair to say most of them came from Zadorov. He was a tone-setter.

But Winnipeg felt he finally crossed a line when he laid a massive hit on center Mark Scheifele as he tried to exit his own zone.

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Jets defenseman Jacob Trouba immediately jumped on Zadorov and tried to deliver justice while Scheifele tried to gather himself. He kept playing, although he was seen stretching his neck on the bench.

Zadorov was assessed a two minute minor for charging, and both he and Trouba got five minutes for fighting.

Kansas City Royals Game Jersey If you¡¯re wondering why Zadorov wasn¡¯t tossed from the game, here¡¯s your answer:

Zadorov somehow managed to avoid direct contact with Scheifele¡¯s head. More specifically, Zadorov didn¡¯t aim at the head at all. You can see him squaring up to hit the body; the angle and height of both players kind of negated that, though.

So we end up with the hit of the season, unless we can¡¯t count hits that earned penalties. And if the Department of Player Safety does find reason to discipline Zadorov, or if Scheifele does miss some time, Zadorov shall be stripped of his title.

But for now, we have a hockey rarity: an excellent hit that left nobody seriously injured. For now.

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Most people didn’t know the personal pressure Tom Brady

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Galynn is quieter than her husband, but when you’re around her, the genetic lines to her son are as unmistakable as lights along a dark road. She is shy, like her son. She is unfailingly polite, like her son. She seems content residing in the background, like her son. She greets people with a hug, like her son. And she is a stone-cold killer, like her son. At that dinner, I asked her what she thought of her son’s on-field bloodthirstiness. “I love it,” she said.

Most people didn’t know the personal pressure Tom Brady, seen here playing with his sons Benjamin, left, and John, was under this season.

“He got it from his mother, obviously,” Tom Sr. added. “She and I will compete driving home. We competed last night playing cards. She wins for the first time in seven or eight years and she’s taunting me. Can you believe that, after 43 years? She’s taunting me.”

Brees returned to form in 2016 after injuries slowed his usual pace in 2015. In his 16th season, Brees took more snaps than any other quarterback in the NFL. He has missed a grand total of two starts since joining the Saints in 2006. One of Brees’ secrets: He had the NFL’s fourth-lowest contact rate in 2016, taking a hit on 5.8 percent of his dropbacks.

Between Bill Belichick’s insightful postgame interview on ESPN on Super Bowl Sunday (above), a humorous Monday night appearance by Belichick and Julian Edelman on the “Jimmy Fallon Show,” and Showtime’s “Inside the NFL” program on Tuesday night, a new level of insight and color has been learned about the New England Patriots’ victory over the Atlanta Falcons.

Limited Womens Michael Kidd-Gilchrist Jersey In addition to a brief discussion between Edelman and quarterback Tom Brady about winning for Brady’s mother, here are other things that stood out:
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Edelman’s delayed celebration. After James White’s overtime touchdown run, Edelman kept telling everyone to get off the field because the play still needed to be reviewed. It wasn’t until he met up with Bill Belichick on the field, and Belichick told him the play was confirmed, that Edelman let loose. Some great emotion there.

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This game featured the first backdoor cover in Super Bowl history

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Year after year, the Clippers have been hammered with injuries. For nine straight seasons starting in 2005-06, the team never finished among the 10 healthiest teams by games lost due to injury, according to injury-tracking site InStreetClothes.com. That streak ended in 2014-15 — hooray! — only to be undone by devastating playoff injuries in 2015 and 2016. And even today, as the team fights through injuries, Rivers still refuses to blindly chalk it up to some faceless group of vengeful basketball gods.

Instead of shirking responsibility and resigning it to bad luck, Rivers went to work this past summer to establish a sports science and performance department to complement the work of Clippers trainer Jasen Powell, who has been with the team for almost two decades. Rivers, along with Lawrence Frank, who moved from the coaching bench to the front office as executive VP of basketball operations, picked up the phone and called around the league to find the best talent and bring it to the Clippers.

They settled on Mark Simpson, who was a British performance guru in the world of cycling before the Oklahoma City Thunder made him the first full-time sports science director in the four major American sports. This summer, the Clippers hired him away from their Western Conference foe — then set to work augmenting their nutrition, sleep and recovery systems to ensure they would get the most out of their players.
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Elite Womens Larry Csonka Jersey This game featured the first backdoor cover in Super Bowl history. After Pittsburgh went up 21-10 with 3:31 left, Roger Staubach hit Percy Howard with 1:56 left to trim the Steelers’ lead to four, within the 6.5-point spread. Dallas actually had one last drive to try and win the game, but the drive stalled at the Steelers 38. The worst bad beat belonged to those who took the under. The teams combined for 17 points in the first three quarters before exploding for 21 points in the fourth, culminating in Howard’s touchdown. The Cowboys became the first team to lose the Super Bowl but cover the spread, a feat that wouldn’t be repeated until Super Bowl XXIII.

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They have several options in-house, including Shawn Kelley, Blake Treinen and Koda Glover

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If there was one subject Alex Rodriguez was always game to talk about, it was this: Who are the greatest players of all time?

He was curious about what reporters/potential Hall of Fame voters thought and, given his vanity, it was always easy to tell he wondered where he ranked among baseball’s legends.

After his yearlong PED suspension in 2014, the ongoing conversation shifted. A-Rod softened his edge, acted a little more vulnerable, and re-calibrated, wondering now if he could still make the Hall at all.

They have several options in-house, including Shawn Kelley, Blake Treinen and Koda Glover. But let’s be realistic: If the Nationals are going to earn a world championship for their 92-year-old owner, Ted Lerner, they’re going to need a better option. The best options out there for them are either free-agent Holland — if they’re convinced he’ll be close to 100 percent a year after his Tommy John surgery — or a trade with the White Sox for Robertson.

The problem in making a trade is that the Nationals already overpaid for Adam Eaton in terms of prospects. They should have expanded that deal to get Robertson, because now it’s almost impossible for them to land Robertson without including top prospect outfielder Victor Robles — which they are not going to do. Going to the Rays to ask about Colome would be a solid alternative, but the Rays’ asking price makes that deal highly unlikely.

The third freshman, Lauri Markkanen, would have started regardless. Like Ball and Leaf, Markkanen has not only met but exceeded the already-high expectations for his first (only?) collegiate season.

The second? The 2016-17 Wildcats are pretty darn good in their own right, too. More than that, they’re good for similar reasons the Bruins are eyeing a national title: the unexpected excellence of freshmen.

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NFL players at every position headed for big paydays

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Chris Paul’s frustration was evident as the LA Clippers guard walked off the court after injuring his left thumb during a win over the Oklahoma City Thunder. While Paul’s injury (a torn ligament that will require surgery and keep him out six to eight weeks, as the team announced Tuesday) wasn’t yet diagnosed, he knew that yet again he was going to be sidelined while he was playing some of his best basketball.

TNT’s broadcast crew of Kevin Harlan and Reggie Miller recognized the emotion, which included Paul kicking at a chair — they’d seen it last year, when Paul broke his right hand during Game 4 of the Clippers’ first-round series against the Portland Trail Blazers. Without Paul and fellow All-Star Blake Griffin, the Clippers lost to the Blazers in six games, bringing their postseason to an early end yet again.

Cousins is one of 27 quarterbacks with more than 16 starts over the past two seasons. Of those, only Tom Brady and Matt Ryan rank higher than Cousins in Total QBR. Of the 13 teams ranked 20th or lower in points allowed over that span, the Redskins and Oakland Raiders are the only ones with winning records. Washington still might see Cousins as a fourth-round pick who has improved but might struggle without such a strong supporting cast.
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Trending: Up because Cousins is coming off another strong season and the Redskins’ options are limited.

While four NFL teams charge forward into the playoffs’ championship round, 28 others are plowing through evaluations for free agency and hoping to make their teams better.
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The 32 players below are headed for big paydays this offseason after playing out their contracts in 2016. I’ve highlighted them on a position-by-position basis, with notes on each and explanations for which direction each player is trending.

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The Nowitzki family’s next trip to Africa might include Nowitzki playing in a basketball game

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Elite Kids Peter Forsberg Jersey “We didn’t go there originally, but they knew,” Doc says. “When you go to school, the kids tell you.”

He didn’t specifically mention Martin Luther King in trying to navigate the complicated burden of race with his young children. Maybe, he says, he should have.

“But my message came from what Dr. King stood for,” Doc says. “So much of that involved mental toughness. Austin has needed some of that. He’s been called every name in the book — black, white, Mexican — he’s heard it all.”

The father’s advice to his son had a familiar ring to it: Turn away. Don’t respond. The minute you respond, they win. Grady’s advice to Glenn, born from Dr. King’s teachings, was now being passed from Glenn to Austin.

“We don’t want them to just grow up [in Dallas]. We were gone for three months this past summer. We want to show them different cultures, different languages so they can grow up, become educated and make educated decisions when they’re older on where they want to live, what they want to do.”

The Nowitzki family’s next trip to Africa might include Nowitzki playing in a basketball game.
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The NBA and the National Basketball Players’ Association hosted the first NBA game in Johannesburg on Aug. 1, 2015. Nowitzki wanted to play, but didn’t because he was previously committed to attend a friend’s wedding as best man. Several sources expect another NBA exhibition game to take place in Africa this summer. If so, Nowitzki would like to play in it.

“I’m trying to pull it off. I heard it was a great event to go to,” Nowitzki said.

Marc J. Spears is the senior NBA writer for The Undefeated. He used to be able to dunk on you, but he hasn’t been able to in years and his knees still hurt.

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Rams CB E.J. Gaines reportedly out for season with foot injury

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St. Louis Rams cornerback E.J. Gaines will miss the entire 2015 season after undergoing foot surgery, according to Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Gaines suffered a Lisfranc injury early in training camp when a teammate stepped on his foot. He did not play in the Rams’ first preseason game against the Raiders Friday night.

Jenkins and Johnson, both entering their fourth season in the league, are solid players, but Gaines’ injury is still a big loss for the Rams.

So, that left 28 upstart breakout-type running backs vying for a place at or near the top of their roster’s depth charts in reality and on fantasy football teams. Of those 28, exactly half (14) of them got more than 50 carries during the season, with ten of them breaking the 4.0 yards per carry mark (meaning, most kept pace with their preseason performances). I don’t know if a 50% “hit” rate on my benchmarks is good or bad, but that’s about where I landed.

Of course, if we’re talking about true “breakout” players, we need to narrow this list down to the cream of the crop.

Hill came in to Cincy as a second-round pick and made a quick impression, capped by a solid outing in preseason Week 4 against the Colts where he carried the ball 20 times for 90 yards while adding six catches for 70 yards. He eventually unseated Giovanni Bernard as the starter for the Bengals, finishing the second half of the season as the NFL’s second-leading rusher in that timeframe behind only DeMarco Murray (775 yards in Weeks 9-17).

The undrafted rookie out of Buffalo had an impressive preseason for the Chargers — 64 yards on seven carries in Week 1 then 71 yards on 16 carries in Week 4. When Danny Woodhead went down for the year, Oliver got his shot. He made the most of it, showing surprising power on his way to a team-high 582 rushing yards at 3.6 YPC. His average gain per carry was a little disappointing but he made up for that with 36 catches for 271 yards and a touchdown.

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