Ravens want Joe Flacco, new wideouts to “work beyond practice”

Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco missed all of training camp and the preseason last year due to a back injury and got off to a rough start in the regular season with six interceptions in his first four games of the year.

Saquon Barkley will be tempting, but with Carlos Hyde and Duke Johnson Jr. in the fold, the Browns should think more about continuing their overhaul of the defensive backfield, instead. Jamar Taylor is a rising young corner, but free-agent addition T.J. Carrie is better suited for the slot, Damarious Randall is tabbed for safety and Terrance Mitchell is a depth player. Fitzpatrick can start anywhere in the secondary and make plays from Day 1.

The Broncos will think about quarterback, for sure, but Barkley would fill their more pressing offensive skill need and would be the best player available. Should a team such the Bills or Cardinals trade up ahead of them to draft Josh Allen, the Broncos won’t force the issue with Baker Mayfield. Allen’s availability would make things more tempting, but Barkley is the more logical choice as a player can help John Elway’s team win now with Case Keenum getting a lot of money to start at QB the next two years.

“He wasn’t in my doghouse. I don’t have a doghouse,” Lewis said. “I think he’s all the ability we wanted. That’s why we drafted him. He had to get fixed. We knew he was injured going in and he got nicked up a couple of times in his lower legs and the other shoulder was bothering him. He’s all fixed now.”

It’s true that Ross was dealing with injuries, but even when he was healthy the Bengals sometimes made him inactive simply because they didn’t think he was one of their 46 best players. That’s not what you want from a Top 10 pick.

Ross set the record for the fastest 40-yard dash in the history of the Scouting Combine, so there’s no doubt about his athletic talent. But it’s time for him to be known for something other than running fast in shorts and a t-shirt. This year, the Bengals need Ross to do something on the field.

Kyle Rudolph continues to produce and has two years left on his contract, but he also is coming off ankle surgery and turns 29 in November. Minnesota lacks another athletic pass-catching option behind him, and new offensive coordinator John DeFilippo saw what the Zach Ertz-Trey Burton combination did for Philadelphia last season. Kirk Cousins already is loaded with targets on his new team, but in Washington, he thrived most when two tight ends (Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis) were key threats.

Rams G.M. tried to offer big deal to Saints a year ago

The Rams tried to trade for wide receiver Brandin Cooks long before yesterday.

The Rams sent the 23rd overall pick and a sixth-rounder to New England for Cooks this year, and got a fourth-rounder in return. Johnson walked away in free agency this offseason, signing with the Jets.

Of course, Cooks is an expensive rental at the moment, but the fact they’ve been working on acquiring him for more than a year suggests they’re more amenable to extending him now.

Quin Snyder has even braved resting Ricky Rubio (what a happy story Rubio is right now, by the way) and Mitchell together, and letting some of his secondary ball-handlers — including Exum — run the show. Snyder should and probably will mothball those groups during the playoffs, but they have managed well in limited time.

Exum raises Utah’s defensive ceiling even higher — into historic territory. He is the rare guard who provides legitimate rim protection. If he can hit corner 3-pointers consistently, Utah has a dangerous new postseason ingredient.

According to Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated, the Broncos are visiting with Sam Darnold, Josh Allen and Josh Rosen over the next week. Rosen is visiting the team on Wednesday, Darnold will work out for the Broncos in Los Angeles on Friday and Allen will visit Denver next Monday. Darnold, Allen and Rosen are widely considered the top three prospects in the draft, with Baker Mayfield and Lamar Jackson in the discussion as well.

The Broncos are searching for a long-term solution to the quarterback spot as Trevor Siemian, Paxton Lynch and Brock Osweiler failed to provide the consistency the team was searching for last season. While Siemian flashed at times, the team has still yet to find a true replacement following the retirement of Peyton Manning after Super Bowl 50.

Lynch was a first-round pick just two years ago, but has been limited in his opportunities in part due to injuries. He’s made just four starts in two seasons.

He can credibly defend four positions, even if he’s not quite as airtight on that end as he looks like he should be.

Former LSU basketball player Brian Bridgewater surprises NFL scouts

Brian Bridgewater last played organized football in 2013, his senior year of high school at Scotlandville.

“Still got my hands though,” Bridgewater said with a laugh Wednesday (April 4) at LSU Pro Day.

It’s difficult to wager against the best team in the NHL advancing to the conference final in light of what the Predators have accomplished all season long. In fact, matching up against a Avalanche club that they’ve bested in all four earlier meetings, the Preds actually lose some fantasy shine as a threat to beat Colorado in four straight.

Still, it’s difficult to argue against investing in Nashville’s top one-two forward punch of Forsberg and Ryan Johansen, particularly in light of their recent combination for 19 points in nine recent games, capped off by Forsberg’s hat trick in the season closer against Columbus. With four goals and three assists in six games, forward Craig Smith sports sleeper appeal, while P.K. Subban, Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis all merit some degree of fantasy consideration on the club’s stacked defense. And after coming oh-so-close with his dominant play last spring, goalie Rinne presents as the West’s top fantasy netminder with a real shot at hoisting Lord Stanley’s Cup this June.

Given that an NFL contract likely won’t be coming based on Saturday night’s game, the next question becomes whether Johnny Manziel will play at all on Thursday, in the second of the league’s two games. If Manziel plays, he may want to insist on playing all four quarters, both to show that he can do it physically and to hopefully develop the kind of rhythm and groove that will result in a better overall performance.

In the immediate aftermath of Saturday’s game, Manziel said nothing to suggest that he won’t show up in four days for the second and final game of The Spring League season. (Also, despite characterizations appearing elsewhere suggesting that he complained about the quality of play in The Spring League, his post-game scrum included no general or specific criticism of the players around him.)

Smith has missed six total starts the past two seasons.

“I’m feeling great now,” Smith said. “Actually, I feel like I’m in the best shape I’ve been in a while. I’ve taken this offseason to get back into it a little early and try to take care of my body a little more. I’m just doing the little small [rehab] things and I just feel awesome right now.”

Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott and Dez Bryant tend to grab the headlines when the Cowboys win and lose, but it’s their star left tackle who’s quietly the key cog in determining Dallas’ success. The Cowboys are 3-3 in those contests. In his 26 starts, the Cowboys are 19-7.

In talking with the team’s website at teammate Tyrone Crawford’s annual football camp in Windsor, Ontario, Smith said his problematic back, and the other injuries that caused him to miss three games and portions of two others this past season, are feeling better than ever.

In 2013, Adam Scott made a 25 footer on No. 18 as the 72nd hole of the tournament, then made a 15-foot putt on No. 18 in a playoff to beat Angel Cabrera:

In 2012, Bubba Watson and Louis Oosthuizen parred the first playoff hole at No. 18, before Watson hit his tee shot into the trees on No. 10. Watson hooked his second shot onto the green, setting up the first of his two Masters victories.

“There’s no reason to make a bunch of crazy speeches in April,” Gruden told the Bay Area News Group on Sunday. “We’re going to try and get ’em organized and start to build some relationships with each other and start to teach.”

The former Super Bowl Champion coach has lamented the current offseason schedule, which changed under the collective bargaining agreement since he last patrolled the sideline, but is ready to ease his new players into the routine.

Broncos expected to select quarterback Baker Mayfield at No. 5

In the weeks leading up to the 2018 NFL Draft, there has been growing speculation that the Denver Broncos are leaning toward the possibility of taking a quarterback with the fifth overall pick. General manager John Elway has been open to the idea despite already having a starter in place with Case Keenum on a two-year, $36 million deal via free agency last month.

Landry, Sweat, and Avery all fall into this category, making them players to watch. Another option, a bit closer to home, nearly hit that mark. Central Michigan’s Joe Ostman (8.11 RAS) posted a 7.02 time in the cone drill. He met with Lions linebacker coach Al Golden at CMU’s pro day.

Unlike previous years, there aren’t any pass rushers with below-average athleticism still being talked about as possible early-round picks. The closest, LSU’s Arden Key, currently has an unofficial RAS of 6.70. That’s not elite, but is still acceptable.

The Lions have a lot of needs, but it would be troubling to see them miss out on a pass rusher who can provide an early impact. With options in each of the first four rounds, who meet or exceed athletic benchmarks, it’s up to the team to weigh that potential with the countless hours of film study both general manager Bob Quinn and coach Matt Patricia have built their reputations. Nothing is ever certain, but you have to like the Lions’ odds of coming out of this draft with a playmaker on the edge.

He thinks he’s going to a star.

You’ll believe it when you see it?

Here’s Bird’s message to people who think he’ll never pan out because he can’t stay healthy.

“I’m sure there are people that have doubts, but that doesn’t matter,” Bird said. “I don’t.”

Bird has hit like a rising star when he’s been healthy… during his short rookie season in 2015, again last spring and late last season. And when he’s struggled, he’s usually been hurting… early last season when he started 6-for-60 before going on the DL and this spring when he hit.163 in 18 games before alerting the Yankees that he’d secretly been hurting for weeks.

Free agency roundup: Jets sign WR Charles Johnson

The Jets are aiming for depth with their wide receiving corps, adding another journeyman with potential on Monday.

New York signed former Vikings receiver Charles Johnson on Monday, the team announced.

Johnson signed with Carolina a year ago, but was waived/injured three months later after undergoing knee surgery. Prior to his brief pairing with the Panthers , Johnson found his greatest success in Minnesota, catching 60 passes over three seasons for 834 yards and two touchdowns. His best season came in 2014, when he logged 31 receptions for 475 yards and those two scores.

4. The Pittsburgh Steelers signed tackles Joseph Cheek and Larson Graham , and center Parker Collins to one-year contracts, the team announced.

5. Though not a free agent, Giants tackle Ereck Flowers was not present at the team’s voluntary offseason program. New York signed tackle Nate Solder last month, who will presumably fill the left tackle role once owned by Flowers.

6. The Washington Redskins , who recently acquired former Browns and Chiefs backup quarterback Kevin Hogan via trade, waived QB Stephen Morris. The team announced the move Monday.

7. The Oakland Raiders re-signed five exclusive-rights free agents: linebacker Shilique Calhoun , linebacker/defensive end James Cowser , safety Erik Harris , offensive lineman Denver Kirkland and kicker Giorgio Tavecchio , the team announced. Oakland also released long snapper Andrew East.

The safety market has been stunningly slow in free agency this offseason. In Reid’s case, there also was concern that his decision to not stand during the national anthem before games might have affected his market.

The 26-year-old remains one of the top free agents left on the market, with the versatility to play deep or near the line of scrimmage. Last season, the 49ers experimented with Reid in a hybrid linebacker role, but he’s meeting with Cincinnati as a safety. If he lands with Marvin Lewis, the veteran would offer flexibility on the back end of the defense.

Yes, we believe the Kings have a decent shot at beating the Vegas Golden Knights, despite the latter squad’s dreamy season and higher position in the standings. Fantasy managers who agree should be all over L.A.’s forward duo of Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown — who hasn’t shown any sign of letting up in his impressive Renaissance campaign — along with red-hot center Jeff Carter, 60-point defenseman Drew Doughty and Stanley Cup-winning netminder Jonathan Quick.

Top stars and bargains for Monday’s NBA DFS slate

Each day, we provide you with the best players to use in your daily fantasy hoops leagues, from high-priced stars to solid midrange values to cheaper, riskier players who carry upside.

In general, you want to use safer options in your cash games and rely on some riskier, high-upside options in your bigger tournaments. If you can average at least five points per $1,000 of salary, you’ll typically end up with at least some cash in your pocket.

Yankees: After a day off, New York opens a three-game series at Boston. RHP Luis Severino (2-0, 1.38) faces LHP Chris Sale (0-0, 0.82). Boone faces the Red Sox for the first time with the Yankees since hitting an 11th-inning home run to win Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS at Yankee Stadium. “I hear about it all the time. I heard about it on the ride into the park today from our Uber driver. He had a story involved,” Boone said. The man remembered getting so excited, he jumped over something and cut his arm, Boone relayed.

“Every time it’s a little different but generally it’s the same thing,” Rizzo said Sunday of his occasional back ailments. “This is something that just grabbed. It’s usually upper [back]; this is lower.”

“I don’t think I have been more proud of a group, maybe ever, than I have been of this group,” said Clippers coach Doc Rivers, who has been forced by injuries to field 35 starting lineups. “We have asked a lot of guys to do a lot of stuff they should not have had to do and yet they did it.”

On Saturday, the Clippers simply could not keep up with the Nuggets as they had 36 assists on 53 field goals.

“The stat that jumps out at me was the fact that we had 36 assists, and eight turnovers,” Malone said. “We actually had more assists than rebounds. I’ve never seen that before.”

Fox wants to put Joe Buck, Troy Aikman on Thursday NFL games, report says

Now that Peyton Manning is out of the broadcast booth, Joe Buck and Troy Aikman are in.

According to the New York Post, which cited unidentified sources, Fox has begun negotiations to use Buck and Aikman for “Thursday Night Football” in 2018 with the goal of reaching an agreement by May.

The report noted that Buck and Aikman will still work their usual Sunday games and have “no desire to split up” after working together for 17 years.

The undermanned Mavs were no match for the Sixers, who won their sixth in a row without injured All-Star Joel Embiid, who is out until at least the start of the playoffs with an eye injury. They moved a game ahead of idle Cleveland for the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference with two games left.

Two days after an emotional win over the Cavaliers, the Sixers missed five of their first six shots. But Simmons keyed a 17-3 second-quarter run by assisting on Covington’s consecutive 3-pointers before his twisting layup in traffic that made it 50-34.

The Sixers led by 19 before Smith helped get the Mavs within four points late in the third quarter. But the Sixers quickly got the lead back to double figures.

He signed a four-year, $72 million deal in 2016 to be the Texans’ starter but was traded to the Browns after only one season in a salary dump. Unable to win the starting job in Cleveland, he wound up back with the Broncos in 2017.

He has completed 584 of 987 passes (59 percent) for 6,171 yards and 31 touchdowns with 27 interceptions.

Osweiler will likely serve as Ryan Tannehill’s primary backup in Miami.

Bucks: G Malcolm Brogdon (left quad) returned following a 30-game absence. The 2016-17 NBA Rookie of the Year scored two and played 13 minutes, all in the first half.

A game that had the feel of a Milwaukee blowout turned tight after a cold-shooting second quarter for the Bucks. They missed their first 12 shots in the period, with a Bledsoe-to-Middleton layup finally ending the scoreless streak with 5:07 left.

Bundle up! Indians playing coldest game in ballpark history

The temperature was 32 degrees, the lowest for the start of a game in the 25-year history of Progressive Field, when Indians starter Mike Clevinger threw the first pitch to Kansas City’s Jon Jay on Sunday.

Indians outfielder Lonnie Chisenhall was placed on the disabled list Sunday with a right calf strain. Outfielder Tyler Naquin was recalled from Triple-A to fill his roster spot.

The previous record was 33 degrees for games against the Toronto Blue Jays on April 5 and April 7, 1996.

White Sox: Manager Rick Renteria said reliever Nate Jones has experienced “no issues so far” after having season-ending surgery on his pitching arm last July. The right-hander has made three appearances. “We’re going to continue to monitor him and listen to him,” Renteria said. “His body tells him what he’s capable of doing. We’re going to continue to ask plenty of questions and make sure he’s OK.”

Tigers: Fiers makes his Tigers debut after going 8-10 with a 5.22 ERA for Houston last season.

White Sox: RHP Reynaldo Lopez (0-0, 1.50 ERA) looks to build on a strong first start. He went six innings, allowing one run and two hits, in a 4-2 loss at Toronto on Monday.

It became clear to Scandrick toward the end of last season that his value to the team was marginal, hence his request to be let go. As he dealt with a back and hand injuries, rookies Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis occupied the outside cornerback positions, and safety Xavier Woods moved to the slot. Also, for the 2018 season, the team plans to move Byron Jones from safety back to his natural position of cornerback.

As for a logical landing spot for the 31-year-old Scandrick, ESPN notes the Saints, who were in discussions with the Cowboys at last year’s draft about a potential trade for him, still have a need at cornerback.

Warriors: Iguodala, who had been uncertain to play with a sore left knee, received a second-quarter technical. … Golden State will go with a center by committee for now, with Kevon Looney earning the start Saturday. … Shaun Livingston was out to rest his sore right knee. The Warriors had won their previous five regular-season home finales. … Golden State dropped to 10-4 in the first game of back-to-backs. … Warriors President and COO Rick Welts was honored for his induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

Lions’ Quinn: Ebron’s release was only about money

The decision to release Eric Ebron was strictly a financial decision, according to Detroit Lions general manager Bob Quinn.

The Lions let Ebron go earlier this month, hours before the start of the new league year, when the tight end’s $8.25 million contract would become guaranteed.

You know, the salary that came along with the fifth-year option was something that we weighed, you know, really up until the last minute, Quinn said. It was just one of those things that we knew was coming down the pike. We obviously had some trade conversations with a few teams that didn’t work out, and so it came down to about the last hour or so before that 4 o’clock deadline.

Luke’s a guy that we did a lot of work on, Quinn said. Think he’s got versatility to catch the ball, I think he has versatility to block on the line of scrimmage, off the line of scrimmage as a move blocker.

In Seattle, he’s had a bunch of tight ends kind of above him on the totem pole out there, including Jimmy Graham this year, so he’s a guy that we went back and watched film a couple years ago when he had more production, Quinn said. I think he’s more than capable of catching the ball, I think that’s one of his strengths, and he can run. So we’ll add him to the mix and kind of see how that goes.

Willson has caught 15 passes each of the past two seasons. His best year as a receiver was 2014, when he hauled in 22 balls for 362 yards and three scores.

Another guy in the mix will be Michael Roberts, who returns for his second season. A prolific scoring option at the University of Toledo, he was primarily used as a blocker in Detroit last season. The team is expecting more in 2019.

Mike’s a very unique talent in terms of his size, Quinn said. He’s got versatility to contribute in the passing game as a receiver, in protection, as well as his role last year was really probably one of our better blockers on the line of scrimmage.

Mike has a lot of work to do in the offseason, Quinn continued. We talked when the season was over. He knows kind of the things that he needed to work on. So, we’re excited about his future, but I think it’s really up to him to kind of take the next step because the talent’s there. He’s just going to kind of work to kind of take that next step.

On Wednesday, 49ers owner Jed York made it clear that Foster’s position with the club is tenuous, at best.

Odell Beckham has managed to steal the spotlight at an Annual League Meeting which features a long-awaited change to the NFL’s vexing catch rule.

The Giants aren’t shopping their superstar receiver, but they are keeping the phone lines open.

What would it take to land one of the sport’s most dynamic talents when the general manager in question doesn’t believe in quitting on such obvious talent