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.
Who is headed to Miami and Super Bowl XLIV after Sunday?
Two games remain to determine whom will tee it up at Super Bowl XLIV in Miami. Will the upstart Titans pull off a third straight upset in Kansas City? Can the Packers get revenge over a San Francisco team that humbled them in late November?
We know this: the unexpected has already happened several times in these playoffs and don’t rule out the upsets Sunday.
First, the Baltimore Ravens had been favorites to win Super Bowl LIV for some time now. Pretty much since they destroyed the Pats in the middle of the season. They had already beaten the K.C Chiefs and a handful of other solid teams. And, once they defeated the the 49ers in December, it looked like the Ravens were the best team in the NFL .
Then, last Saturday night, this happened:
The Ravens appeared to be the most complete team in the NFL, but that’s the thing about the playoffs, all it takes is one bad game and you’re out.
The Tennesse Titans went into M&T Bank Stadium and surprised them last Saturday night. Jim Harbaugh got outcoached and the Ravens hit a brick wall of a Mike Vrabel defense. So, now they are gone.
But who fills the void, now that the supposed “best team in football” got eliminated, and whom is the favorite to win it all now headed in to Championship Sunday?
The Titans and veteran QB Ryan Tannehill are on an epic run. They are the beast slayers, so to speak. But it isn’t them. Aaron Rodgers is arguably the best QB in the NFL, and the Packers have won six games straight games after last week’s close one at Lambeau over Seattle.
However, it’s not them either. The 49ers are in a position to win it all for the first time since 1994 and they have the best pass defense in the league. But again, it’s not them.
That leaves just one team: Andy Reid and his “Kool-Aide-Colored” Chiefs.
Kansas City leads the Super Bowl Futures odds charge at +135. The SF 49ers can be found around +165 and both the Packers are Titans are sitting at +650. So, Las Vegas has the Chiefs to win, with the 49ers close at second.
But does this mean the Chiefs and their perennial runner-up coach, will win out?
Many smart sports handicappers have their picks with the Titans to at least keep the game close enough to cover the point spread Sunday. More like the rolling Titans to win outright.
The same goes for the San Francisco 49ers and Green Bay Packers game. The Niners are big favorites, but we are dealing with a team whose recent situation performance shows, they would actually win –but maybe not cover.
So, we have two conference championship games with clear, heavy favorites … that could both lose.
The Chiefs showed us a few things in their incredible Division-Round win over the Houston Texans. The first thing they showed us is that their defense and special teams units are vulnerable. This was made apparent when the Texans went up 24-0 and looked to be dominating the game.
Next, the Chiefs showed us that they can adjust better than anyone. They shook it off and put up 28 points in the second quarter to retake the lead. Then they poured it on in the 3rd and 4th, adding 23 more to the board, showing us that they are still the best second-half team in football.
That said, the Texans are not the Titans. They showed us this season that they really only get consistent wins against sub-500 teams. Houston ranked way back at No. 23 in the league for scoring defense (and way worse in their last 3 games allowing 35 per affair) and 26.7 overall while playing on the road.
The Titans on the other hand, only allow 16.6 points per game on the road. They have a top-ten defense overall and have been absolutely stellar in recent games. In their last 3, they’ve only allowed 13 points per game. KC has allowed 18.3 per game in their most recent three.
On the flip side, the Super Bowl favorite has scored 29 points per game at home and averages the same overall. But, the Titans have upped their average to 25 points per game both overall and on the road. So, we should see a very close game, indeed.
Can the SB LIV favs beat the Titans and go on to win it all in South Florida? Perhaps, but it won’t be easy.
Titans QB Tannehill on Wednesday- “I wanna win”
The Tennessee Titans are readying to play in the AFC Championship game against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday. And on Wednesday, former Dolphins quarterback now turned Tennessee starting QB, Ryan Tannehill, met with the media about the opportunity for he and his teammates to play their way into Super Bowl 54.
And, Tannehill made something abundantly clear again, it doesn’t matter about his own personal pass attempts or stats, he’s mainly concerned with getting another victory:
— Tennessee Titans (@Titans) January 15, 2020
“We’ve put in a lot of work to win multiple ways this season. You don’t forget how to throw and catch…. Being a quarterback, I love throwing the ball, but I just wanna win.”
Tannehill has only thrown the ball a total of 29 times with 15 completions in the Titans two playoff wins over the Patriots and the Ravens. So, it’s obvious the Tennessee’s game plan of grinding teams with the run and Derrick Henry bruising them, and, then, playing sound, physical and opportunistic defense has worked thus far.
However, Tannehill also acknowledged Wednesday that it might be different against the Chiefs, who certainly are more explosive then either New England or Baltimore on offense. The Texans found that out firsthand at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday, when their 24 – 0 lead evaporated in the second quarter and Patrick Mahomes and Co. proceeded to put 41 unanswered points on them.
Now, Tennessee’s defense is better than Houston’s overall and it’s one of the big reasons why they’re still alive at this stage of the postseason. Still, Tannehill may be called upon to make a bunch of big throws and plays in this game if the Titans are going to have any chance.
His first start was at home against the Chargers and threw for 312 yards and two touchdowns in a win. Tannehill then led them on a run of winning six of seven starts total. And, in every one of those games, Tannehill threw for either at least 300 yards or for at least two touchdowns or a combo of both.
His play has been consistent, and at times, very good for Tenneessee.
Further, when you total up his 11 games started, Tannehill now has an 8 – 3 record (including these two playoff wins), and he has only one game, a 30 – 20 loss at Carolina in early November, where he had two interceptions.
One, essentially “bad game” in 11 starts.
And, since that November Carolina game, Tannehill has thrown only 3 picks total, while throwing 19 TDs. Oh, and Tennessee is now 7 – 2 over those next nine games.
And, one of those games is the previous win over Kansas City in Nashville on November 10th, when Tannehill threw for 181 yards and two scores and no picks.
Now, they will head to frigid K.C. to play the biggest game of Tanehill’s and several of the young stars on offense’s biggest professional game ever. And, you get the sense that the veteran signal caller whom the Dolphins gave up on this off-season, is ready to throw it 10 times or 40 times to try to get it done.