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Sunday night latest reminder of how NBA- NFL free agency differs

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
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Sunday night was an absolute frenzy of free agent activity in the NBA. No matter if it was social media or ESPN or NBA TV, the contracts and the money were a blur. This, as teams attempted to either keep important players or watched them leave for another better offer somewhere else, and then, set out to sign someone to replace those leaving.

Most prominently, former League MVP and two-time champ with the Golden State Warriors, Kevin Durant, signed a massive four year $164 million deal with the Brooklyn Nets. This despite the fact that Durant ruptured his Achilles tendon in game five of the NBA Finals and likely will not be able to play most of next season. Yet, that money is fully guaranteed through 2023. More on that in a moment.

Then, other names kept scrolling on screens and Tweets, Etc. like: Kyrie Irving joining Durant in Brooklyn, Jimmy Butler headed to the Heat in South Florida, Kemba Walker headed to Boston to replace Irving, and Al Horford ending up in Philadelphia. And the names and deals went on, and on, and on.

The most prominent unsigned player, as of Monday afternoon, is Toronto free agent and new World Champ Kawhi Leonard. And it still remains to be seen, whether he will remain in Canada or head to Hollywood to play for the Lakers?

Now, couple of things are strikingly different about NBA free agency from what we see every March with the NFL.

First, and this is the most common complaint of NFL players, everyone of these NBA deals are fully guaranteed. That means if a team tires of a player and wants to get rid of them, they are still on the hook to pay them the full salaries that you’re seeing and reading about the last 24 hours. And, it’s staggering to contemplate players being given 30+ million a year and a team doesn’t want them. However, it regularly happens with NBA players/deals.

But, no NFL team, none of them, will do those type of guaranteed deals and then just outright release the player, like the NBA will do.

No instead, most NFL deals are only partially guaranteed with rare exceptions. NFL players try to get as much money as possible in the form of a signing bonus or guarantees in the first couple of years of the contract. This is because it’s well-known that pro football teams will grow tired of players, change to coaching staff who don’t want them, Etc. Then, a player will be released when his money is no longer guaranteed to him and it can save the club under the salary cap, too.

A massive recent example of this that applies to one of our state NFL teams is the Jaguars humongous deal to grab QB Nick Foles away from the Eagles. It’s for 4 years and $88 million with a huge signing bonus and $50 million guaranteed. However, most of Foles’ money is tied to the first two years of the contract and the team can lessen its financial burden, if it wants in year three and certainly by year four. They would do this, if Foles not living up to what they believe he can be in North Florida..

And, two recent examples of this with the other two Florida NFL teams have shown the dark side of what NFL teams can do two players that still have quality years left, but the team believes have too big of a price tag.

The Buccaneers did it most recently with defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, who had signed a lucrative six-year contract three seasons ago, but all of the signing bonus and guaranteed money was taken care of in the first three years the deal. This made McCoy expendable, when Bruce Arians and his new defensive coordinator Todd Bowles showed up in January and his $13 million dollars was believed to be too much money. The team released McCoy in May and he signed with the division rival Panthers a week later.

The Dolphins did the same after a lucrative deal with Ndamukong Suh in the 2018 free agency. Not wanting to pay him the  non-guaranteed $17 million dollars that he was owed for last year he was released. Suh eventually landed a one-year deal with the L.A. Rams for $3 million less, and helped them go to the Super Bowl year ago.

And now, ironically, Suh has signed another one-year deal with the Buccaneers to replace McCoy, and even take their shared number 93, with his new team in Tampa Bay.

Another obvious difference is: there are many fewer free agents in the NBA, because there are so many fewer players on rosters. So whenever the free agency gets rolling, the best players are in the most demand quickly in “bidding wars” with their old team and possible new ones.

Now, NFL and the NBA are similar in that only a few players take up much of the salary cap. In the NBA’s case it’s usually the top two or three on a 12-man roster. However, for the NFL, it’s usually about the top six or seven in a 53-man roster that are taking up the bulk of salary-cap space.

Most of the other players on NBA and NFL rosters make drastically less and close to the league minimum on deals.

One, other huge difference with they NBA is the prominent players themselves, have much more leverage on recruiting other free agents to join them and almost become “defacto GMs.” This is because of the massive guaranteed deals they have with a team, and because of there being fewer prize free agents year after year after year.

That enables someone like LeBron James to decide he’s going to pair up with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh and go win titles in Miami like he did last decade. However, he’s then free to decide who is going to roll back to the Cleveland Cavaliers with and assemble and win a championship there like they did three years ago.

And then for good measure, LeBron decided a year ago at this time that he would leave Cleveland (for a second time) and head West to the Lakers. And now, he has already orchestrated L.A. to trade for New Orleans star big man Anthony Davis and a symbol other players around him at his discretion.

It’s further believed that the reason Brooklyn was able to land both Durant and Irving is because the two of them had decided together that they wanted to play with each other in the New York Market, but, clearly not for the more prominent Knicks.

Again, players on teams in the NFL can recruit their buddies, and sometimes are successful to them to come on board. But, it is not as prevalent and impactful, as what has gone on for more than 10 years in the NBA with its free agency.

And, it was certainly in full motion on Sunday night for the NBA.

NFL

Week 3 Fantasy Football assistance for Bucs Dolphins and Jaguars

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Week three of the NFL season starts Thursday night with the Jacksonville Jaguars hosting division rival Tennessee Titans. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are at home with the New York Giants, and the Miami Dolphins will travel to Dallas to take on the Cowboys.

Here’s some advice for each of the three:

Last week the Jags offense struggled for most of the day only putting up 12 points. Leonard Fournette was held to 47 rushing yards in Gardner Minshew’s first start. This week will not be any easier against a strong Tennessee defense. The Titans have forced multiple turnovers in each of the first two games, and have racked up eight sacks so far.

The Titans will be a popular fantasy pick this weekend, but don’t forget about the Jags. Jalen Ramsey is still on the team and will be playing in his hometown, and you know he wants to show out in what could be his last game as a Jaguar.

Marcus Mariota only had 154 passing yards last week, and the Colts held Derick Henry to 81 yards. As for the offense, you could play D.J. Chark Jr, who has developed a good relationship with Minshew so far. Chark  scored for the second week in a row and looks to be the preferred target on the team.

The Bucs will be taking on the Giants and rookie Daniel Jones. That means the Bucs defense is defiantly s good streaming option this weekend and could be a good cheaper alternative for DFS players. Todd Bowles has transformed this unit in just two weeks. The Bucs have been flying to the ball and should cause Jones headaches. On offense last week we said Chris Godwin could have a monster game. Last season he had his best career game against the Panthers, and last week he set new career highs.

This week Godwin should continue his hot start, and Mike Evans should join him on that. The Giants have been getting shredded so far this season with Dak Prescott and Josh Allen cruising. Expect Evans and Godwin to have their way with Jameis Winston also holding his own.

The Dolphins will be heading to Dallas to take on an undefeated cowboys’ team. Last week the Fins were shut out at home and don’t have much going for them, right now. No one on this offense has much fantasy relevance at the moment. If we had to pick a player to focus on though you could look at DeVante Parker, he is the team’s best wideout and had seven targets last week.

He was held to zero catches though by the Pats and will draw Byron Jones of Dallas in coverage.

Obviously, QB Dak Prescott, RB Ezekiel Elliott and WR Amari Cooper are in “must play” category and all three may end up having big days against what has been an awful Miami defense, so far.

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NFL

Potential free agents still available

Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

With training camps for the Bucs, the Dolphins and the Jaguars getting underway later in the month, we will constantly take a look at the potential free agent pool still sitting out there that could help any of them, if needed.

All three teams are coming off of losing seasons, and two of them have new coaching staffs. Plus, you factor the potential ofinjury in training camp or preseason and it may make it necessary to grab one of the upcoming veterans.

With that in mind, here are the prominent remaining names that legendary NFL personnel executive and current NFL media analyst Gil Brandt has. And, Brandt even went so far, as to place them on a likely roster for this fall, too.

At running back, Brandt has former Dolphins and Eagles back, Jay Ajayi, with the following analysis,

The question of whether or not Ajayi will be ready by Week 1 after suffering an ACL tear last October could be tempering interest in a veteran back who averaged a robust 5.1 yards per carry over 11 games with the Eagles in 2017 and ’18. Presuming Ajayi is able to return to health, he would be a logical fit with the Colts, given his familiarity with head coach Frank Reich. (Reich was Ajayi’s offensive coordinator in Philadelphia, where he was traded by Miami in ’17.) Only six people in NFL history have more 200-yard rushing games than Ajayi (three), and when he’s 100 percent, he can contribute as both a runner and a receiver.

With the recent four game PED suspension of veteran DB Ryan Smith, the Bucs might be interested in a veteran corner. While Tampa Bay doesn’t have much cap room, Brandt wonders if they could still make a restructure, etc. and perhaps go for former #1 pick Morris Claiborne,

A former first-round pick, who revived his career in New York over the past two seasons after a disappointing first stint with the Cowboys, in 2018, Claiborne recorded 57 tackles, 14 passes defensed and two picks, including one touchdown — all career highs. The coaching staff has changed over, and there is reported interest in Claiborne from Tampa, where Claiborne’s old head coach, Todd Bowles, is the new defensive coordinator. But I should think Claiborne would still fit in the Gregg Williams-helmed unit in New York.

Finally, if you are looking for veteran receiver help and a big target, former Panthers first rounder Kelvin Benjamin is someone Brandt likes,

Benjamin topped 1,000 receiving yards as a rookie, but more or less disappeared over the past two seasons, scraping together just over 1,000 combined yards while changing teams twice (he was traded to Buffalo in ’17, waived by the Bills last year and spent three games in Kansas City). With Odell Beckham Jr. gone, New York needs receiver depth. Might Gettleman and Shula’s familiarity with Benjamin help him get his career back on track?

The Fins and the Jaguars might also be in the market for the former Seminoles star.

Look for all three of those names, plus former Pro Bowl DT Muhammad Wilkerson, and Safety Eric Berry, plus, LB Nick Perry could all be in play, for August signings, as well.

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