The franchise tag for tight ends in 2018 was $9.846 million, so the Bengals saved some money in the deal.

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The media folks — nearly 70 of them, nearly all from Japan — in attendance Monday at Salt River Fields already knew the drill. The television contingent congregated along the baseline of the U-shaped formation, with the reporters and camera operators crowded next to their cameras and tripods, and the boom mics laid out in front, in aesthetically pleasing parallel lines.

The writers stood bunched together on either side of the horseshoe formation, leaving a comfortable gap in the middle for a certain star baseball player to answer questions without being too crowded.

The Bengals got just four receptions out of Eifert last season before back and knee problems ended the tight end’s season.

It’s nothing new for the 27-year-old, who has played 39 games in his NFL career and missed 41.

It also treats “knowing the system” like it’s the most valuable skill imaginable, as if the offensive mind the Bears are trusting to mold their franchise quarterback couldn’t possibly teach another veteran passer the complexities and mysteries of Andy Reid’s offense.

It’s easier to have Daniel around, of course, but this deal has $7 million in guarantees.

If Daniel collects the $10 million on this contract, it will take him to $34.3 million in earnings as an NFL quarterback.

To this point, he has thrown all of 78 regular-season passes, which have produced a combined passer rating of 81.1.

Of Sporting News’ top 101 free agents, seven of the 10 highest ranked players on the list are still available as we hit Valentine’s Day, and The Athletic is making more moves than most teams right now.

Arizona won 93 games last year, reaching the division series after beating Colorado in the wild-card game, but we can’t possibly know how its offseason went until J.D. Martinez picks a team. If Martinez goes to Boston, that immediately validates the Red Sox’s quiet offseason while leaving the Snakes without a player who bashed an absurd 29 home runs in 62 regular season games last season after being acquired in July from Detroit. Martinez’s decision also impacts N.L West rivals Colorado and San Francisco, after both teams made key veteran acquisitions to try competing with Arizona and Los Angeles in the division.

Benson’s succession plan had been to hand control of the Saints and Pelicans to his granddaughter, Rita Benson LeBlanc.

He suddenly reversed that plan, changing his will to transfer control over the teams to his wife, Gayle, instead.

Jaguars sign Austin Seferian-Jenkins

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Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New York Jets tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins will sign with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Seferian-Jenkins had visited with the Seahawks on Wednesday but left Seattle without a deal.

Menendez also said the Obama administration had already sanctioned many of those on the Trump administration’s list. The White House also faced criticism that it muddied its response to the election interference by saying the penalties were also in response to Russia’s cyberattack last year against Ukraine and other countries, which officials have characterized as “the most destructive and costly” in history.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders would not say Thursday whether the administration considers Russia a friend or foe, instead turning the onus on Moscow.

“Russia’s going to have to make that determination. They’re going to have to decide whether or not they want to be a good actor or a bad actor,” Sanders said. “I think you can see from the actions that we’ve taken up until this point, we’re going to be tough on Russia until they decide to change their behavior.”

Entering his seventh season, Cousins has ranked as one of the NFL’s top 10 quarterbacks since 2015, measuring third in completion percentage and game-winning drives. This and more played a big role in pushing him to the very top of NFL.com’s Top 101 Free Agents of 2018.

The documents they cited also contain communications between administration officials and Trump supporters outside the White House, such as former House speaker Newt Gingrich. In one email Gingrich forwarded to Trump-appointed State Department officials, another booster, David Wurmser, suggested “cleaning house” at the State Department.

On Thursday, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert denied that any career officials had been targeted for their views.

“Those on staff who have been here for many years, I have found them almost blind to politics,” Nauert said. “They may not always like the policy that they are asked to advance on behalf of this administration and the American people, but my personal experience has been that people have done that and handled it in a very professional manner.”

The Jaguars are fulfilling their plan to upgrade the talent surrounding quarterback Blake Bortles.

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Jacksonville has agreed to terms with former Jets tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins on a two-year, $10 million contract, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported, via a source informed of the situation.

Johnson didn’t end up with a fully guaranteed contract, but his path is going to be a more realistic outcome for non-quarterbacks.

After being franchised twice by the Rams, Johnson hit free agency and came away with a massive contract — a five-year, $72.5 million deal with $34 million in guarantees — that should make him the second-highest-paid cornerback in the league after Washington’s Josh Norman.

The Jets pretty clearly want to rebuild their defense through their secondary, which is unsurprising given how coach Todd Bowles loves to throw defensive backs on the field and blitz.

Benson died at Ochsner Medical Center?in Jefferson, La., with his wife, Gayle, at his side, the Saints said in a news release.?Benson was first?hospitalized on Feb. 16.?

Benson, who parlayed his beginnings as a car salesman into an auto dealership empire, purchased the Saints in 1985 for $70 million?and the franchise made the playoffs for the first time two years later.

The Saints won?the their only NFL championship, a victory against the Indianapolis Colts? and New Orleans native Peyton Manning, at Super Bowl XLIV in February 2010. The franchise made?two NFC title game appearances?and 11 playoff berths under the billionaire’s tenure as owner. ?

“Tom Benson’s contributions to New Orleans and the National Football League were legendary,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement.?”He purchased a team that had never had a winning season; by the third year of his ownership, the Saints were in the playoffs. Tom kept the Saints together through the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina, and his decision to bring the team back to New Orleans gave the entire region hope and confidence that they would recover. The Saints rewarded their fans with tremendous football and a Super Bowl championship.

After throwing 16 touchdowns and 14 interceptions as a rookie, Wentz launched his passer rating from 79.3 to 101.9 with 33 touchdowns and seven interceptions.

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Much of that jump had to do with personal progress made by Wentz, but it helped that the Eagles spent big to acquire receivers Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith in free agency. They also added LeGarrette Blount to take some of the pressure off Wentz with the ground game.

Los Angeles got an even bigger turnaround out of their second-year quarterback. Goff threw five touchdowns and seven interceptions as a rookie, then 28 touchdowns and seven interceptions in 2017.

Nick Foles is the only player in NFL history who had a bigger passer rating jump from year one to year two than Goff’s climb from 63.6 to 100.5.

And like the Eagles, the Rams helped him get there by investing in the offense. The team signed left tackle Andrew Whitworth and receiver Robert Woods in free agency, drafted Cooper Kupp and Gerald Everett, and traded for Sammy Watkins. The Rams went 11-5 and made it to the playoffs for the first time since 2004.

He had become a forgotten man the last two weeks of the season, with a combined five targets after getting 30 total targets in Weeks 14 and 15.

He joined the team in 2015, and ranks in the top five in receiving touchdowns over the past three seasons.

He had three straight seasons with at least eight touchdown receptions in Oakland, and led the team in receptions and touchdowns last season.

But his production was down — he collected only 618 yards in 2017.

He also served a one-game suspension following a scuffle with cornerback Aqib Talib, then with the Denver Broncos, and his career in Oakland ended with talk of locker-room dissension.

Crabtree had 579 catches for 6,870 yards (11.9 yards per catch) and 51 TDs in 125 games over nine seasons.

But he is third in the league in drops since 2015, with 19 over that time.

One of the drops was at the goal line at Philadelphia on Christmas night, with his new coach in ESPN’s Monday Night Football booth.

ESPN’s Jenna Laine and Rob Demovsky contributed to this report.

NFL free agency tracker: Team-by-team signings, trades, cuts

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NFL free agency in 2018 begins Wednesday, March 14, with the league’s legal tampering period having began Monday and running though the start of the league year. It’s a chance for teams to negotiate with agents of the top unrestricted free agents for 2018 before they can officially sign Wednesday at 4 p.m. ET.

But multiple contract and trades already have been agreed upon. Further, many notable NFL veterans have been released and allowed to test the open market come free agency.

Great run-blocking guards ready for big raises are hard to keep, as the Bengals experienced last year when they lost Kevin Zeitler. Norwell, an undrafted gem, is stepping into a market short on worthy offensive linemen, setting him up for a big payday elsewhere.

He’s close to being fully recovered from the torn ACL he suffered in Jacksonville’s first game last season. He had a monster 2015 campaign as a big-play and red-zone threat before cooling off in 2016. He is the only true No. 1 outside wideout available, but the Jaguars have the cap room to bring him back post-injury.

By now, based on Butler’s Super Bowl 52 benching, everybody knows how much he fell out of favor in New England as the No. 2 corner. That’s the way he needs to be viewed as a free agent: not on the same level as his one-year teammate, Stephon Gilmore, from a year ago.

New general manager Chris Ballard has to address holes along all three levels of the team’s defense, along his offensive line, and at running back. The cheapest way to do that is through the draft, where plug-and-play starters will be abundant at Buffalo’s picks.

Indianapolis ranked 29th in the league in sack percentage, 30th in total defense, 30th in scoring offense, 30th in scoring defense, and 31st in total offense. It’s going to take a lot to fix those problems, and locking down effective young players with inexpensive rookie contracts is the strongest way to rebuild the Colts into a contender.

Swapping the No. 3 pick for two first-rounders and two third-rounders would give the team multiple shots at finding those players.

Since 1997, the team’s only Pro Bowl players have been castoffs from other franchises: Flutie, Bledsoe, and Taylor. Only Taylor and Flutie were able to lead the Bills to the postseason, where they won zero playoff games. Since picking Kelly in 1983, quarterbacks drafted by the Bills have a combined 48-80 record as starters.

Mike Silver reports that the Buccaneers have re-signed veteran CB Brent Grimes to a one-year contract worth up to $10 million.

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Grimes, 34, signed on with the Falcons as an undrafted free agent out of Shippensburg back in 2006. He spent six years in Atlanta before signing on with the Dolphins in 2013.

So what are the odds of each team winning the next Super Bowl? And which massive long shot can go all the way? Visit SportsLine now to see R.J. White’s NFL futures bets and analysis for Super Bowl LIII, all from the expert who keeps crushing the world’s most prestigious handicapping tournament, the Las Vegas SuperContest.

With $54 million in cap space in 2018 and that number expected to climb if they can restructure deals for Latavius Murray, Brian Robison and Jarius Wright, the Vikings can still keep Cousins at around 10 to 11 percent of the total cap in those early years. An important caveat would be extending the contracts of Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks this offseason, taking care of Danielle Hunter and Stefon Diggs, and picking up Trae Waynes’ fifth-year option ahead of free agency next year.

Taylor completed 17 of 37 passes for 134 yards, one interception and a 44.2 passer rating before leaving with a concussion in the fourth quarter of the Bills’ wild-card playoff loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Seattle’s run as one of the best defenses in NFL history is over after it parted ways with Richard Sherman and Michael Bennett, among other moves. Injuries are only part of the explanation why.

The Browns should be more aggressive about pursuing an extension for Landry, although it will be difficult to find middle ground on a deal with the former Dolphins wideout given his present cap hit. As Jason Fitzgerald wrote before the trade, the $16 million franchise tag places the expected value of an extension for Landry somewhere in the ballpark of DeAndre Hopkins’ deal, which almost surely wouldn’t have been the case if Landry had just hit free agency without the tag.

Catchers Martin Maldonado, Willson Contreras ‘don’t care’ about mound visits rule

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Major League Baseball is trying to shorten games. One of the new rules announced this week to quicken pace of play is a limit on visits to the pitching mound.

Should a team exceed six trips to the mound during the first nine innings of a game, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred and chief baseball officer Joe Torre said umpires will tell the coach, manager, catcher or any other player to return to the dugout or their position. Violating that order could result in an ejection from the game and/or fine from MLB.

Certainly, arguments can be made for the Giants, Yankees, Cubs and Rockies as the “winners” of the offseason. But when it comes to waiting out the market, getting good value signings and plugging some holes, the Mets handled it masterfully.

Don’t get used to it.

The Rays received pitcher Daniel Hudson, minor league infielder Tristan Gray and cash considerations from the Pirates.

Tampa Bay recently traded for Angels first baseman C.J. Cron, while shipping starting pitcher Jake Odorizzi to the Twins. All eyes are now on Chris Archer as the Rays enter full rebuild mode.

Meh. This is a group that can really catch the ball, and it’s got a chance to pitch pretty darn well too. The offense just isn’t up to snuff, though. Even if Brinson totally breaks out, he may not be the sort of player who can carry an offense. He’s got a chance to be an exceptional player, but a lot his value is going to come from his defense. Bour, Realmuto, Castro and Kiermaier simply can’t be a team’s best hitters if the team plans on being anything more than a spoiler.

Texas college coach fired for rebuffing recruit over Colorado’s marijuana law

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Texas Wesleyan baseball coach and former major-leaguer Mike Jeffcoat has been fired for telling a potential recruit that the team was not interested in players from Colorado because of the state’s marijuana laws, CBS’s Dallas-Fort Worth affiliate is reporting.

Bell told Denver’s NBC affiliate (via NBC’s DFW affil), “I just felt bad for myself because I felt like it was my fault that this all happened and I couldn’t do anything about it because I didn’t really know anything about it in the first place. I’m a good student-athlete. I’m just sad that he couldn’t take a chance on me, because of what is going on in the state of Colorado. Not even having a background check on me.”

In a statement that preceded Jeffcoat’s firing, Texas Wesleyan said the “political legislation of one’s home state” indeed falls into the university’s anti-discrimination policy, along with “race, color, origin, ethnicity, gender, age, religion, disability (and) sexuality. …

“This email does not reflect our values and we do not condone discrimination,” the statement continued. “… We are committed to providing an inclusive campus for all of our students, faculty, staff, visitors, potential students and their families.”

In 1995, the Simpson was infamously?found not guilty in the murders of his ex-wife and Goldman. Two years later, Simpson was found liable?for their deaths in a civil trial and was ordered to pay over $33 million to the families of the victims.?

The Giants had?suspended Rodgers-Cromartie?indefinitely last season?after a string of incidents, including walking out of the team’s facility, but he was later?reinstated.

Rodgers-Cromartie, 31, has 439 combined tackles and 30 interceptions throughout his 11-season career.

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is done in New York.

The Giants have informed the veteran cornerback that he?is being released Sunday.

It’s no secret Landry didn’t like his situation with the Dolphins .

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The wide receiver told the South Florida Sun Sentinel on Friday night that he’s excited to be joining the Browns for the 2018 season, and he isn’t preoccupied with how his four-year stint ended in Miami.

“The four years that I did have to have the opportunity to play for the Miami Dolphins , I left it all there,” Landry said. “I don’t have any regrets about that.”

After being franchise tagged he made it clear he believed he was worth more than the one-year, $15.9 million tender would pay. With the Browns expected to make an effort to sign him to a long-term contract, Landry is feeling better about his situation even though he’s going to a team that has only one win over the last two seasons.

The last first baseman to steal more than 30 bags was Paul Goldschmidt, who swiped 32 in 2016. He was 28 years old when he did it, and he’s the only first baseman to accomplish the feat since the turn of the century. All in all, there have been 43 player seasons in which a first baseman has stolen 30 bases. The oldest player do it was 34-year-old Dan McGann in 1906, when the game was markedly different than it is now.

First basemen simply don’t steal this much. They’re usually bigger guys who are there to mash, not to run. Ramirez wouldn’t just have to buck the trend, he’d essentially have to become one of the best players in baseball. It would be a remarkable turnaround, and it would make the Red Sox even more dangerous than they already are. Ramirez would almost surely garner some MVP votes.

“I think the one thing I’ve noticed in the NFL this year or in the past years I should say is free agency moves very quickly. If you have guys targeted and you have your range how you value them, we’ll be very active. We may sign a big-ticket guy. We may sign a small-ticket guy. It will be very interesting to see how it plays out. I think we’re going to be very active in free agency.”

The Jets don’t just have a hole at quarterback. New York has needs, well, everywhere . The organization will also want to keep certain positions in tact; returning veteran free agents cornerback Morris Claiborne , tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins and linebacker Demario Davis will be chief among the Jets ‘ re-signing priorities.

NBA All-Star lineups announced as LeBron James, Steph Curry pick their teams

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LeBron James and Stephen Curry have made their picks for the 2018 NBA All-Star game.

Curry and James earned the right to pick their teams by being the top vote-getters in each of their respective conferences.

At shortstop, Cozart was conditioned to think aggressively. At third, his first step is neutral or even back, and he’s getting used to the idea that he can knock the ball down and have time to recover and record an out. He’s sticking with his old shortstop setup, as opposed to getting low and wide in the manner of his former Reds teammate, Scott Rolen. Beyond that, he’ll figure out the niceties of positioning as he goes. Angels special assistant Eric Chavez, a six-time Gold Glove Award winner, is helping with the transition, and he looks out from the dugout and sees Cozart’s mind spinning in a thousand directions.

Boston started well Wednesday with a 25-22 lead after the first quarter and came out strong in the second half with a 29-22 third quarter, and they played more than well enough to close it out. Boston assisted on 25 of 39 made field goals and shot 95.5 percent from the free-throw line.

The Pistons fell to the Jazz 98-95 in overtime Wednesday but it wasn’t Andre Drummond’s fault. The 24-year-old center scored 30 points, added 24 rebounds and tallied six blocks, four assists and three steals.

Ben Simmons led the 76ers to a 115-101 win over the Bulls with the fifth triple-double of his young career. The rookie scored 19 points while grabbing 17 rebounds and dishing out 14 assists.

Damian Lillard insists he earned his All-Star spot and it’s hard to argue with him after his performance Wednesday. The Trail Blazers guard scored a game-high 31 points in Portland’s 123-114 win over the Jimmy Butler-less Timberwolves.