Mejia won’t turn 23 until nearly the end of the 2018 season, so there’s plenty of time for him to develop.

The 11th-ranked prospect on MLB’s list and the top-ranked catching prospect in baseball, Mejia jumped from Double-A Akron to the majors last season. In September, he got the call, but with Yan Gomes and Roberto Perez in front of him Mejia didn’t get much opportunity to showcase his skills with the bat. He had only two hits, both singles. However, Mejia is unquestionably the real deal, and his minor league track record speaks for itself.

And with the aforementioned logjam at catcher, he might start at Triple-A this year, but there’s a hint of a possibility that Mejia might find a way to force himself into the lineup at another position.

He carries a $24 million cap hit in 2018, which leaves Minnesota with just over $26 million for the rest of its free-agency needs and to structure contract extensions this offseason.

Cousins earned $44 million playing under the franchise tag in each of his past two seasons in Washington and was a rare commodity as a proven, sub-30-year-old quarterback with very little injury history when he hit the open market.

I asked Laird whether the hype level for Kiyomiya is similar to what he saw with Ohtani the past couple of years. He laughed.

“Oh, yeah. Definitely. I mean, you go out to the back fields and you know where he is. The media’s all over there,” Laird said. “You’ll hear all the pictures getting taken. I mean, he’s supposedly the real deal. To hit 111 home runs in high school over the three years, that’s unheard of.”

This is the third year in a row the Fighters have held a spring camp in Arizona, but their first at Salt River Fields. I was there for an intrasquad game Monday, but didn’t get to see this legendary slugger swing the bat. He’s working his way back from an injured right thumb (he’s close to being back at full strength), so for now it’s just defensive work and soft toss in a cage. He looked fluid and natural with the glove at first base.

Crabtree would fill the possession receiver role that the Ravens had envisioned for Grant.

Johnny Manziel Married Bre Tiesi In Private Wedding Ceremony

Johnny Manziel is officially a MARRIED MAN — tying the knot with Bre Tiesi in a very quiet private ceremony, TMZ Sports has learned.

Manziel had popped the question to Tiesi in March 2017. The 25-year-old has credited Bre with turning his life around and getting him cleaned up after years of craziness.

This is a full-circle move for Robinson, who was a first-round pick of the Saints in 2010. Re-emerging as one of the NFL’s best slot cornerbacks, Robinson now gives New Orleans a stellar option with Marshon Lattimore and Ken Crawley manning the outside spots. Philadelphia, meanwhile, has other options waiting in the wings with second-year cornerbacks Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas. 

Julius Peppers will return for a 17th NFL season and re-sign with the Panthers, per The Charlotte Observer.

Peppers just turned 38 but is coming off yet another strong season (11 sacks) and is certainly still a force as a pass-rushing specialist. With six more sacks he will pass Hall of Famer Kevin Greene, who has 160, for third place in NFL history. 

Hideki Kuriyama, who was Ohtani’s manager with the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters in Japan, watched from near the backstop (his Fighters are finishing up a spring training trip of their own, up the road in Scottsdale). The list of important, happy people went on and on.

That unpredictable weather Wednesday seems like a fitting beginning to a season that figures to be full of unpredictability for Ohtani and the Angels. It’s not that anyone doubts Ohtani’s baseball talents. His right arm is a thunderbolt on the mound. The baseball jumps off his bat at the plate. These things are undeniable.

Only two other times have proven veteran quarterbacks become free agents in the salary-cap era: in 2006, when Drew Brees transitioned from the Chargers to the Saints, and again in 2012, when Peyton Manning signed with the Denver Broncos.

Brees became a free agent months after he suffered a serious shoulder injury.

We have a lot of respect for C.J. and we support his decision to retire, coach Bill O’Brien said in a statement released by the team.

I know this was a difficult decision for him. C.J. has been a great teammate and we appreciate his efforts over the past four years. We wish him success in the next phase of his life.

It’s a noticeable step down from the $34 million the Saints gave to Larry Warford on a four-year deal last year, and while Warford’s the better player, it wouldn’t have been stunning to see his deal held up as a baseline for non-star interior linemen hitting free agency in a market bereft of useful players this offseason.

OT Nate Solder, Giants Grade: C+ Unlike most teams, the Patriots are comfortable letting their impending free agents hit the market, trusting that they’ll bring an offer back that the Patriots can come close to matching.

In recent years, both Dont’a Hightower and Devin McCourty were able to solicit offers before coming back to New England.

The solution, then, is for a team to offer so much money that the Patriots simply have to pass.

That appears to be what happened with Solder, who just pushed the left tackle market forward by a significant degree.

Trent Williams held the previous tackle record with an annual average salary of $13.8 million, but after signing a four-year, $62 million deal with $35 million in guarantees, Solder’s kicked the can forward to $15 million per season.

Solder has been an above-average left tackle for the vast majority of his career, with a few blips here and there, and he has stayed relatively healthy outside of the 2015 season.

He was responsible for a career-high nine penalties in 2017, but it’s also fair to note that Solder missed training camp and spent the year helping his son fight cancer, a disease the Colorado product defeated himself before the 2014 campaign.

The Giants would probably admit that they overpaid for Solder, but they needed offensive line help more than anyone else in the league.

Solder will immediately slot in on Eli Manning’s blind side, which allows the Giants to move Ereck Flowers to a position for which he might be more suited, like right tackle or insurance salesman.

Tyrann Mathieu wanted to stay with the Cardinals. Why they released him anyway.

It’s been just two short years since the Arizona Cardinals gave Tyrann Mathieu an extension that made him the highest-paid safety in the NFL. On Wednesday, the Cardinals changed their mind about paying Mathieu big money and decided to move on from the defensive back, the team announced.

“I’ve never made a secret that Tyrann has always had a special place in my heart and always will,” Cardinals general manager Steve Keim said in a statement. “While we all understand this a part of the business, that certainly doesn’t make it any easier. We all wish Tyrann nothing but continued success in his career and beyond.”

The deal Mathieu signed before the 2016 season spanned five years and was worth $62.5 million with $40 million guaranteed. Now he’ll see what he can get on the open market.

The Cardinals will miss Mathieu’s production on the field. But they couldn’t absorb a $14.1 million cap hit for Mathieu this year, either. Here’s why Mathieu’s looking for a new NFL home this offseason.

The following season marked a decline for Mathieu. A shoulder injury plagued him for the last six games of the season, and he landed on injured reserve. He bounced back in 2017, with two picks, seven pass breakups, and a sack. But he’s yet to get back to those pre-extension levels.

The Cardinals were expected to try to negotiate a restructured deal with Mathieu. But he didn’t accept one.

“I think there are different ways you can go about restructuring you contract,” Mathieu said during an appearance on NFL Network. “Some guys like their money up front, some guys put it on the back end. The tough part is when someone asks you to take a pay cut. I don’t think that makes sense for a lot of players.”

Mathieu spent a whole lot of time on the field for the Cardinals last season: 1,261 plays, to be exact. That’s more than any other player in the league. He beat Titans cornerback Adoree’ Jackson, who played a little offense, too, by one snap.

Mathieu was second on the team in 2017 with 70 solo tackles. He added eight assists, a sack, a forced fumble, and two picks. That’s production that will be difficult to replace.

But the Cardinals aren’t exactly swimming in cap space. They’re projected to have just under $22.5 million available, and they’ve got a desperate need at quarterback with Carson Palmer retired and no other options on the roster for 2018.

Arizona will still have to eat $9.3 million in dead money. But, despite how important Mathieu has been to the defense, they simply couldn’t afford to let him eat up $14.1 million in cap space for the 2018 season.

Dion Lewis’ proven history of winning led him to a 4-year deal with the Titans

It took three seasons for Dion Lewis to develop from Bill Belichick’s latest redemption project and into the Patriots’ most important running back. That hard work — and New England’s 32-4 record with him in the lineup — paid off in the form of a four-year deal with the Tennessee Titans, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.

The deal is an affirmation of Lewis’ talent and newfound resilience. The 5’8 tailback was part of a solid lineage of NFL-bound running backs at the University of Pittsburgh, but struggled to make an impact after being selected in the fifth round of the 2011 NFL Draft. He failed to crack the Eagles’ starting lineup in his first two seasons as a pro before being traded to the Browns in 2013. A broken leg kept him from the field that season, and he’d be cut by both Cleveland and Indianapolis before signing a future/reserve contract with the Patriots.

A 2018 call-up is less likely for Cease, who pitched all of last season at Single-A. But he has a blazing fastball and healthy strikeout rate to rival Kopech’s, so he is not far away.

Juggling so much young talent and managing the task of continuing their development as they get the call to the majors requires just the right person, and Abreu was clear about his feelings on White Sox manager Rick Renteria.

Or maybe Glennon or a rookie will become the answer if Bradford gets hurt again.

For me, that’s too many maybes.

In all likelihood, the Bradford acquisition will move the Cardinals closer to where the Rams once were the season they drafted him in 2010: possessor of the top overall pick after finishing with the NFL’s worst record the previous year.

Sam Bradford, QB* Headed to: Arizona Cardinals | Age: 30 News: Bradford to sign with the Cardinals Weinfuss: A healthy Bradford is what Cardinals are counting on Bradford demonstrated in Week 1 what he can do when healthy, carving up the Saints for 346 yards and three touchdowns.

But after a long history of knee injuries caught up to him, forcing surgery and limiting him to two starts this season, it’s fair to wonder how a team could commit to him for anything more than an incentive-laden flier.

Jon Gruden last coached in the NFL in 2008, and hasn’t been on the Raiders ‘ sideline since 2001.

A lot has changed in the decade since Gruden was a coach; offenses are more pass-happy and as a consequence, defenses are more reliant on subpackages. And perhaps one of the biggest differences between now and then is the advancement in analytics. But Gruden made it clear when speaking with reporters at the NFL combine last week that he isn’t a big fan of statistical analysis.

“I’m trying to throw the game back to 1998,” Gruden told reporters бн “I’m not going to rely on modern technology. I will certainly have some people that are professional that can help me from that regard.

“There is some truth to what [Gruden’s] saying,” Pro Football Focus’ Steve Palazzo told ” Good Morning Football ” on Thursday. “There’s a lot of data some teams aren’t necessarily tapping into but PFF works with 30 out of 32 teams — I think it’s soon to be 32 — there are varying levels of using all that information [but] they’re all using it at a point where it’s going to help them in their game-planning, it’s going to help them in specific areas…. The biggest takeaway — and I was at the combine last week and I’ve worked with all 32 teams — they’re all at different levels. So they’re all using it to a point, maybe even including Jon.”

DeVante Parker and Kenny Stills figure to see an uptick in targets, but it may not be overly significant when you consider that both were already full-time players last season. The Dolphins had a third wideout on the field for 87 percent of their pass plays, which trailed only the Rams (92 percent) for highest in the league. Of course, a slight to moderate boost of targets, coupled with the return of Ryan Tannehill, is enough to get Parker and Stills into the WR3 discussion. Both can safely be considered flex plays, but there’s room for more.

Jakeem Grant, meanwhile, currently sits third on the WR depth chart and would slide into Landry’s slot gig, at least as the roster stands. It’s reasonable to expect an addition — and potentially a significant one — over the next two months. Leonte Carroo, Isaiah Ford and Rashawn Scott are also in the mix, but are no more than deep dynasty sleepers.

The list of players the Colts are eyeing likely includes running back Saquon Barkley and defensive end Bradley Chubb.

Let’s say the Giants, who are sitting at No. 2 with Eli Manning set to return for the 2018 season, decide to take Chubb. The Colts could decide that taking a running back at No. 3 isn’t good value. They could then trade back a few spots, watch teams draft quarterbacks they’re not even interested in, and then get a guy like Barkley or maybe guard Quinton Nelson or any other “difference maker” who can help Luck.

Peterson was released Monday by Arizona Cardinals, as their back field that no longer needs him. David Johnson will return to the team next season from a wrist injury, and with a new coach coming and a new scheme likely following, the team did not want to pay almost $3 million for an aging backup with the mindset of a superstar. The Cardinals will likely find a more versatile backup, as I-formation running backs are not exactly in vogue in today’s pass-happy NFL. But that is exactly the sort of traditional system that the Cowboys operate.

Free agent tight end Jimmy Graham might be on his way to starting a bidding war. Not only do the New Orleans Saints have interest in a reunion with him, the Green Bay Packers are reportedly reaching out to him as well. Things are going to heat up fast here in Graham’s camp. The 31-year-old tight is among the best at his position as a free agent. Not only can we imagine him back catching passes from Drew Brees, we now have Aaron Rodgers in the mix.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have agreed to a six-year extension with tight end Cameron Brate, a source told ESPN’s Jenna Laine. The deal is worth $41 million, with $18 million guaranteed. The four-year veteran was a restricted free agent. He caught 48 of 77 targets last season for 591 yards and six touchdowns in 2017.

We’re also including potential fallback plans, draft needs and prospect fits (with some help from ESPN NFL draft experts Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay) for each team, including the Browns and Bills, who are out of the Cousins sweepstakes but are still likely to draft a quarterback on Day 1.

ESPN NFL Insider Mike Sando is back to take on the role of Cousins’ agent and pick the best offer for his client — he picked the Jaguars’ offer last time, but Jacksonville is now out of the race. Go here to see which offer he picked this time.

How will this affect the Browns’ free agency plans?

Altogether, that’s two mid-round picks this year, a late-round pick next year, and a pair of discarded players for three new contributors who will all likely start in 2018. Not bad at all for a team coming off an 0-16 season.

Cleveland entered the offseason with the most salary cap space in the league and will cut into that a bit by taking on the contracts of their new acquisitions. Landry is likely to get a long-term deal from the team soon and Taylor brings a $16 million cap hit if he doesn’t receive a new contract soon.

Well, I’ve only covered baseball for three years (I was on the news side of journalism before that), so my experience is limited to stuff since 2015. And in terms of “covering” things in the traditional sense — i.e. reacting to the news or attending a live event — nothing really jumps out as a favorite, per se. But I do have individual feature stories that I’d consider favorites. Here are the top three:

The untold story of “It’s a Long Way to October”: It’s the story of a documentary from 1983 that was well ahead of its time. Basically, a film crew got full access to the Braves for a whole season and ended up with an unexpectedly compelling project that earned an Emmy Award. I tracked down the producers and some former players and talked to them about the experience.

“I wouldn’t say I’m in midseason form yet,” Syndergaard told reporters after the game. “But it’s nice to go out there and have some command issues, and be able to bounce back and finish up strong.”

His catcher echoed that statement.

“I honestly don’t think he had his best stuff today,” Kevin Plawecki told reporters. “But he made the most of what he had.”

The 25-year-old is coming off a season in which he made just seven starts and pitched 30 1/3 innings due to a torn lat suffered in April. He is working his way back slowly and has shown very good things this spring.

Syndergaard has now made three starts in spring training, striking out 13 batters in 8 1/3 innings. He sat in the upper 90s Thursday, but more impressively, he threw 11 pitches over 100 mph in his spring training debut.

Ichiro Suzuki, Mariners finalize ‘homecoming’ deal

Ichiro Suzuki is heading back to Seattle, the Mariners confirmed Wednesday.

The problem for the 23-year-old player lies in faulty mechanics and a lack of exposure to good MLB curveballs. Not breaking pitches, but curveballs specifically. The weapon of choice in Japan is the split-fingered fastball which is essentially a change-up, albeit one with much sharper movement.

“He’s basically like a high school hitter because he’s never seen a good curveball,” one scout told Yahoo. “He’s seen fastballs and changeups. And you’re asking a high school hitter to jump to the major leagues?”

What exacerbates the problem for Ohtani, though, is he has to cheat on inside fastballs. He has to get started early to turn on the pitch, and the issue with that is it leaves him susceptible to curveballs, especially from left-handers as was shown in his strikeout against Clayton Kershaw earlier this week.

The video , which was shared on Snapchat by French model Laura Cuenca, shows Beckham in a hotel room bed with a box of pizza and what appears to be a brown cigarette in his hand. In the video, which is seven seconds long, Cuenca is shown briefly with a credit card in her hand and lines of a powdery white substance in front of her.

Beckham is currently in Europe for a Nike-sponsored trip. He tweeted something after the video went viral that appears to address it.

Another candidate has emerged to buy the Panthers.

Michael Rubin, the owner of Fanatics apparel, is “a serious bidder” to become the new owner of the NFL franchise, ESPN reported .

Rubin did not comment on the situation when asked by ESPN.

NBA trade rumors: Knicks shopping disgruntled Joakim Noah

The Knicks are “exploring avenues” to trade center Joakim Noah, Yahoo reported Monday.

Sources: After heated verbal exchange in practice between Joakim Noah and coach Jeff Hornacek last week, the Knicks are exploring avenues to part with Noah. He has two years remaining on the four-year, $72M deal he signed in 2016.

Draft settings: When choosing a draft date and time, it’s extremely important to make sure all of your managers are able to attend the draft in person or online so that you can avoid autodrafting. Our system will make autodraft picks for any managers not in attendance for a live online draft, which helps fill the void, but the human element is part of drafting, and absentee managers can have a negative effect on the fairness of the league. In other words: Don’t be that guy/gal who forgets your draft is going on.

Griffin, 28, is averaging 22.6 points and 7.9 rebounds per game this season. Griffin had signed a five-year, 171 million deal this offseason, and is set to make over $31 million a year from 2018-19 to 2021-22.

The trade could also mean more minutes for rookie Luke Kennard. The Pistons selected the former Duke star in the first round of last year’s NBA Draft, but he has found playing time hard to come by this season.

Her life is now an escalating series of surreal moments.

Less that two weeks ago, Maddie Rooney won a gold medal. “Lately I’ve been wearing it 24/7 during this media tour, but I don’t know why any of us would want to take them off. It’s the best feeling,” she says.