Do the Celtics Have Too Much Talent? How Boston Can Trade Depth for Star Power

BOSTON, MA - DECEMBER 25:  Kyrie Irving #11 of the Boston Celtics drives to the basket Bradley Beal #3 of the Washington Wizards during the game at TD Garden on December 25, 2017 in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Omar Rawlings/Getty Images)

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You’ve heard about too many chefs in the kitchen or too many hands in the pot, but too many talented players on the same NBA roster—is that even possible?

Pose that question to the overloaded Golden State Warriors, and you might get laughed out of the room. Approach the 2018-19 Boston Celtics with it, though, and there’s at least some consideration.

Last year’s group followed a 55-win regular season with back-to-back playoff series triumphs. It then built leads of 2-0 and 3-2 before falling to LeBron James in the Eastern Conference Finals—the same fate all other challengers endured for nearly a decade straight.

This season’s roster includes all the principle players from that one, plus healthy versions of Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving, and bouncy rookie big man Robert Williams.

You’d think the Shamrocks would be running away with the LeBron-less East, then, and preparing for this core’s first crack at the championship round. And yet, they’re seeded fifth, stuck in between the Philadelphia 76ers and Brooklyn Nets. They have the worst road record among the top seven seeds (11-13) and the same offensive efficiency as Doc Rivers’ star-free Los Angeles Clippers (110.8).

The Celtics (29-18) have zipped past the halfway point without establishing an identity or enjoying any semblance of consistency. Before their current four-game winning streak, they’d won at least four straight three different times. The first was followed by back-to-back losses, and the others were both trailed by three consecutive defeats.

“It’s tough to win four straight and lose three straight,” Marcus Morris told reporters. “I would be lying if I said we knew our identity because the identity of a good team don’t do that.”

The Celtics, of course, are objectively a good team. Their plus-6.0 net efficiency rating is third-best in the entire Association.

But something is holding them back. Oddsmakers saw 57.5-win potential in this team. Right now, it’s on pace to just barely clear 50.

So, what’s the problem?

“I don’t think we’ve all been on a team like this,” Terry Rozier told Yahoo Sports’ Vincent Goodwill. “Young guys who can play, guys who did things in their career, the group that was together last year, then you bring Kyrie and Hayward back, it’s a lot with it.”

Rozier offered a more succinct diagnosis next: “Too talented.” 

MIAMI, FL - JANUARY 10:  Kyrie Irving #11, Terry Rozier #12 and Jayson Tatum #0 of the Boston Celtics prior to the game against the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena on January 10, 2019 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and

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It probably isn’t that simple.

Gordon Hayward has been slower to recover than expected, and Jaylen Brown has taken a surprising step backward. The offense gets almost nothing at the foul line (28th in free-throw attempts). The defense is statistically strong, but it’s been skewered by scoring guards like Jamal Murray (48 points), James Harden (45), Kemba Walker (43) and Devin Booker (38). This still isn’t a good rebounding team (16th in percentage).

Frustration has also played a supporting role this season. Irving has called out his supporting cast’s lack of experience and urgency. Al Horford has criticized the effort. Head coach Brad Stevens has questioned the club’s toughness, which is usually one of its primary strengths. There have been blow-ups on the bench and air-clearing team meetings.

This doesn’t mean the roster is inherently flawed or that these issues can’t be corrected with time. But considering how close the Celtics might be to contending, who would blame them for attempting to address these issues in trades that also raise the collective ceiling?

Bleacher Report’s Ken Berger lists Boston “among the most motivated teams” to make a play for All-Star scoring guard Bradley Beal. One executive opined that a package of Jaylen Brown, a first-round pick and either Marcus Morris or Aron Baynes might get something done.

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 12: Bradley Beal #3 of the Washington Wizards plays defense against the Boston Celtics on December 12, 2018 at Capital One Arena in Washington, DC. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or

Ned Dishman/Getty Images

That would give the Celtics another high-level scorer and experienced closer. Beal would instantly be among Boston’s best spot-up and off-the-dribble shooters, and his assertiveness might help fine-tune an offensive hierarchy—especially if an additional rotation player must be added to the outgoing package.

The Celtics could also try building a package around Rozier for Orlando Magic center Nikola Vucevic, who’s playing the best ball of his career and shouldn’t be too costly as a short-term rental.

While Vooch wouldn’t be expected to maintain his marks, his current numbers would make him Boston’s best rebounder (12.0 per game), second-best scorer (20.5 points) and third-best distributor (3.8). The Celtics are always looking for glass-cleaning help, and they could use another oversized shooter (38.2 percent on three-pointers) behind Al Horford.

Or maybe Rozier could be routed to the Utah Jazz, who could stand to upgrade at point guard and just so happen to have a spare interior anchor on hand. Derrick Favors, whose 2019-20 salary is not guaranteed, is basically the best version of what Williams might become. Favors would be a low-maintenance addition to the offense and an above-the-rim asset to the defense.

Orchestrate one or more of these moves, and you’re left with a rotation that’s shallower and heavier at the top. That could be a good thing, considering the way rotations shrink in the playoffs and the fact that Boston’s abundance of quantity might be spoiling its quality.

“The Celtics lack nothing; with Irving, Horford and Hayward healthy, they have everything they need to be exactly who we all expected to them to be,” Dan Devine wrote for The Ringer. “At the moment, though, that kind of seems like the problem. When can a team be less than the sum of its parts? Maybe when it has too much of a good thing.”

While narrowing the offensive focus might help, it’s hard to say if it’d be more beneficial than just practicing patience.

Expectations were sky-high because this roster is stacked. Slicing it now—when the trade values of Brown, Hayward and Rozier might be at their lowest—would be risky, especially without knowing just how good this nucleus can be.

MIAMI, FL - JANUARY 10:  Gordon Hayward #20 and Jaylen Brown #7 of the Boston Celtics react against the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena on January 10, 2019 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading

Michael Reaves/Getty Images

“We’re always looking to upgrade our team if those opportunities present themselves. But I think that’s going to be tough,” Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said on 98.5 The Sports Hub’s “Toucher & Rich” (h/t NBC Sports Boston’s Darren Hartwell). “As far as trading players, I don’t really see much out there. We have a lot of good ones. It’s hard to get better players than we have.”

Could Ainge be posturing? Sure. We’re in peak smokescreen season, after all.

But he knows as well as anyone how much talent is based in Boston right now. He’s also acutely aware of the fact that any trade chip that’s cashed in now is one that couldn’t be used in a future Anthony Davis pursuit.

Maybe Ainge throws caution to the wind and makes a blockbuster move for Beal or Vucevic anyhow. Maybe the executive sits the swap season out and hopes the chemistry clicks. Maybe he splits the difference and makes marginal moves, adding an outside specialist like Wayne Ellington or a complementary rebounder like Robin Lopez or Enes Kanter.

The Celtics aren’t quite what they could be. But it’s on Ainge to decide whether standing pat or trading is the best possible solution.

               

Statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference and NBA.com and accurate through games played Monday. Salary information via Basketball Insiders.

Zach Buckley covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @ZachBuckleyNBA.

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Apple AirPods 2 could be coming very soon

We’ve been expecting the Apple AirPods 2 to come out sometime in 2019 for a while now, thanks to analyst reports, patent filings – and our gut feeling. 

It looks like we’re not the only ones either; a recent report from Digitimes says that the Apple AirPods 2 will come out in the first six months of 2019.

It’s important to note that the claims have not been backed up by an official Apple source at this moment in time, so this is far from a firm release date. 

The report from Digitimes also reiterates the rumors that the Apple AirPods 2 will also contain biometric sensors, making them a fitness tracker as well as a pair of true wireless earphones.

Back in July Apple filed a patent for biometric sensors which would allow the AirPods 2 to take on fitness tracking capabilities like those seen in the Jabra Elite Wireless. This followed another patent filed in March

Perhaps more interestingly than heart rate sensing, the sensors would also allow the AirPods 2 to measure stroke volume, which combined with heart rate would allow it to calculate your cardiac output. 

This means the AirPods 2 could, in theory, be much better at establishing how fit you are overall rather than just measuring your heart rate.

The original Apple AirPods. Credit: Apple

The original Apple AirPods. Credit: Apple

Rumor has it

According to a report by Bloomberg in June 2018, the new Apple AirPod 2s could have waterproofing, as well as better Bluetooth connectivity than their predecessors, thanks to the inclusion of the W2 chip used in the Apple Watch 3

There are also rumors that the new buds will feature better ambient sound handling, after a patent from July suggested that Apple is working on some pretty nifty tech for how the earbuds handle outside noise, as well as dissipating pressure from inside the ear canal. 

Of course, this is all speculation. There has so far been no official comment from Apple on the Apple AirPods 2, let alone a confirmation of a released date. Still, everything is pointing to a 2019 release – when exactly, remains to be seen. 

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Ocasio-Cortez and Freedom Caucus ready for battle

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

The new class of liberal House Democrats, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, has frequently been compared to the conservative Freedom Caucus, with each more than happy to challenge party leaders. | Angela Weiss/AFP/Getty Images

Jim Jordan, meet Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

The powerful House Oversight Committee was already stacked with hard-line Republicans ready to serve as President Donald Trump’s first line of defense in a new Democratic House. Now they’ll be going up against Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and other progressive stars eager to investigate the president and his administration.

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“I’m hoping that will rebalance the committee a little bit. We could use a little bit of heft from the left,” said Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.), a member of the Oversight Committee.

The new class of liberal House Democrats has frequently been compared to the conservative Freedom Caucus, with each more than happy to challenge party leaders. But on the Oversight Committee, they are typically aligned with leadership, which frequently places its most vocal partisans on the panel.

When Republicans controlled the committee during the Obama administration, Jordan, the top Republican on the panel, and Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) investigated the Benghazi attack and Eric Holder’s Justice Department.

Some of the new Democratic additions to the committee are already becoming lightning rods. Tlaib made headlines on her first day in office when she pledged to “impeach the motherf—er,” while Ocasio-Cortez has come under fire for her liberal views and her use of social media to push back on the GOP.

Their Democratic colleagues dismissed concerns of the potential for a circus-like atmosphere when the freshman lawmakers face off against Jordan, Meadows and other Trump loyalists in such a high-profile setting.

“Some people feel like it’s only Republicans who have the right to get passionate about politics. It’s not just Republicans. It’s Democrats, too,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), a liberal member of the Oversight Committee. “Progressives are fighting mad about what the Trump administration has done with America. So if they don’t like it, they’re just going to have to learn to live with it.”

Republicans, too, are keenly aware of what the new additions mean for the committee, which will soon begin investigating a wide array of Trump administration scandals and controversies.

“I don’t know that any of them will be timid about expressing their opinions,” Meadows, the chairman of the Freedom Caucus, said with a smile.

The hard-liners in each party don’t necessarily dislike each other.

Meadows and Rep. Ro Khanna of California, a new Democratic member of the committee, were talking about each other in separate conversations with reporters on Wednesday when they walked past each other.

“Speaking of Ro Khanna — there he is,” said Meadows. “I’m saying nice things!” he quipped to Khanna.

The rare moment of levity even amid the doom and gloom of a government shutdown wasn’t surprising for two lawmakers who attend plays together with their wives and have worked closely on foreign policy initiatives. But they acknowledge that they’ll soon be butting heads on the Oversight Committee.

“I think there will be fireworks, just because of the political nature of the first hearing that we are having,” Meadows added, referring to ex-Trump attorney Michael Cohen’s appearance originally planned for next month. A spokesman for Cohen announced on Wednesday that he was postponing his testimony because of “ongoing threats against his family” from Trump and his lawyer Rudy Giuliani, though some Democratic lawmakers are discussing whether to compel Cohen to testify with a subpoena.

While Meadows has earned a reputation as a conservative bomb-thrower on Capitol Hill, he pointed out that he has close relationships with lawmakers across the aisle. In addition to Khanna, Meadows enjoys a good relationship with Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.).

Meadows said he hopes that things don’t get heated on a personal level in the committee. But Meadows, one of Trump’s designated “warriors,” also warned that he is not afraid to stick up for his beliefs.

“I’m not shy about calling that out,” Meadows said.

There was a high level of interest in joining the Oversight panel, according to Democratic sources. The Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over everything from impeachment to gun policy, is typically seen as a bigger prize for lawmakers. But with Democrats promising to launch a slew of new investigations, a spot on the Oversight Committee suddenly became even more coveted.

Democrats say they aren’t interested in simply scoring political points, but that the GOP-controlled House neglected to probe myriad issues of impropriety under Trump, focusing instead on trying to find evidence of anti-Trump bias within the FBI and Justice Department.

“[The new members] will be able to model some behavior for our Republican colleagues, who have utterly failed to conduct oversight over the last two years,” said Rep. David Cicilline of Rhode Island, a member of Democratic leadership.

Ocasio-Cortez won a spot on Oversight even though she was already named to the Financial Services Committee, an exclusive panel. But after she told leaders that she was interested in a spot on Oversight, she was granted a waiver that allows her to serve on both.

Ocasio-Cortez said in an interview that she talked with Cummings about “some of the most pressing and concerning issues in the administration,” adding, “That’s really what we were focusing on and less the political dynamic.”

Heather Caygle contributed to this report.

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M&S Is Selling A Lemon, Gin And Tonic Sauce For Pancake Day

M&S usually pull it out of the bag when it comes to the things we love. There’s been Jaffa Cake flavoured cocktails, foot-long pigs in blankets and even a washable duvet meaning you don’t need to change your bed sheets…

Now, it’s now selling an indulgent lemon, gin and tonic sauce to smother over your pancakes at breakfast time – we’re all for this shiz.

The boozy sauce is here just in time for Pancake Day (5 March this year), and the tempting topping is priced at just £2 ($2.60) per squeezy bottle.

Here it is in all its glory. Credit: M&S
Here it is in all its glory. Credit: M&S

Putting a tipsy twist on the classic lemon and sugar topping, the sauce is described as both tart and tangy with a punch, emulating the ‘classic flavours’ of a G&T.

Who wouldn’t want that drizzled all over their fluffy pancakes?

It is not just G&T-flavoured either, as the lemon curd actually contains the juniper-based spirit as well as Indian tonic water. However, there will be no hangovers as it’s just 0.5% ABV.

The sauce is currently sold out online but you should still be able to get your hands on some in-store in M&S’ food hall. You’ll just have to elbow everyone out of the way once the doors open in the morning.

Now, for those who aren’t that blessed with culinary skills or skills in the kitchen then fear not because M&S has got everyone covered: they’re selling pre-made ones for ease.

You can choose from blueberry, buttermilk, as well as chocolate chip versions of the classic, smaller Scotch pancakes, all £1.60 per pack of four which you can drizzle with the lemon curd sauce.

Or if you want to make your own, combine milk, eggs and flour into a patter and fry.

A number of supermarkets also sell pre-made batter so you don’t have to mess around mixing up your own and you can spend more time flipping pancakes with the pan. See, you have no excuses now.

M&S's blueberry pancakes. Credit: M&S
M&S’s blueberry pancakes. Credit: M&S

This lemon, gin and tonic sauce isn’t the only indulgent topping M&S has to offer this Pancake Day either.

You will be able to find a boozy Scottish Heather Honey with Single Malt Whiskey in the food hall, which infuses honey with the smoky peat of a single malt. *heavy breathing*

This new honey is slightly more expensive than the lemony sauce as it is £5 ($6.50) a bottle.

Pancake Day can’t come soon enough.

Featured Image Credit: M&S

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Don’t expect the Honor 20 to have a notch

Honor just announced its first phone with a punch hole front-facing camera – that’s the Honor View 20 – and it looks like we can expect that to takeover from the notch in future handsets from the company.

That means the upcoming Honor 20 (or maybe called Honor 11) will skip the notch look and instead opt for the punch hole design to feature a selfie camera.

President of Honor, George Zhao, exclusively told TechRadar at the View 20 launch, “In the future for Honor, there will be [fewer] notches on the smartphone. We will be going with the better solution.”

Dodge the notch

That better solution Zhao was speaking about is the pinhole design. He also confirmed the reason the company wanted to move away from the larger cutout at the top of the display is because Honor believes “notches are too big”.

Honor has been one of the many phone brands to fully adopt the notch to achieve a full display on the front of its phones. Both the Honor 10 and cheaper Honor 8X feature a notch.

Announced in November last year, the Honor 10 Lite also features a notch but it’s a teardrop design at the top of the display rather than a thicker bar showing the company was already moving away from larger cutouts at the top of its devices.

Zhao didn’t confirm this would be the exact case for the next flagship Honor phone, but his certainty the company would keep embracing the pinhole design suggests we may see it appear on the Honor 20 when it appears later in the year.

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Hoaxer Who Called 999 Over 200 Times Said She Was ‘Bored’

This is the moment a nuisance 999 caller who phoned 200 times in just over two weeks said she was ringing ‘because I’m bored and I don’t give a shit about anyone else’:

Victoria Cross, 22, made the fake calls between Christmas and New Year, and patient call handlers were forced to take her seriously.

One of Cross’s false calls led to a one minute eight second delay for a child in cardiac arrest.

When she realised her number had been blocked by the emergency services, she bought different sim cards for her mobile phone so that she could continue to make 999 calls.

Credit: PA
Credit: PA

In a shocking audio clip from one of her calls, she can be heard saying: “I’m ringing because I’m bored and I don’t give a shit about anyone else. I just care about myself.”

Cross – who even laughs on the call at one stage – admitted that she didn’t need an ambulance, and said: “I’m ringing because I’m bored, okay.”

Cross was sentenced at Leicester Magistrates’ Court earlier last week and was ordered to pay £165 ($215) in fines and she was given a conditional discharge for 18 months.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn during a visit to a training facility at East Midlands Ambulance Service HQ. Credit: PA
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn during a visit to a training facility at East Midlands Ambulance Service HQ. Credit: PA

Her calls were dealt with by East Midlands Ambulance Service, who also took action against another hoaxer.

Thomas Exhall, from Mansfield Woodhouse, Nottinghamshire, rang for an ambulance 344 times between 1 December 2017 and 29 April 2018.

His actions cost the NHS a total of £24,883 ($32,500) and staff said he was often verbally abusive.

Exhall denied both making the calls and his abusive behaviour at Mansfield Magistrates’ Court on January 14, but was found guilty and given a six-month conditional discharge and ordered to pay £400 in compensation.

Deborah Powell, frequent caller lead for East Midlands Ambulance Service, said: “We are pleased that we have had two successful prosecutions after a lot of hard work.

“We would urge people again to make the right 999 call and only phone us in a life-threatening emergency.

“Our staff come to work to save lives and help people, not to be abused. We will continue to work with police to prosecute those who misuse our service to ensure that the support is there for those who need it in a real medical emergency.”

Featured Image Credit: PA/SWNS

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Predicting Boldest Roster Moves for the 2019 NFL Offseason

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    Joe Sargent/Getty Images

    Every year, unforeseen roster moves shake up the NFL. So whether viewed as hot takes or bold predictions, outside-the-box thoughts have plenty of relevance in offseason forecasts. 

    At this time last year, more mock drafts listed Sam Darnold than Baker Mayfield as the No. 1 overall pick. The Oakland Raiders devastated their fanbase by sending edge-rusher Khalil Mack to the Chicago Bears in September. The Los Angeles Rams acquired starting cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters via separate trades.

    Often, we know little about discussions behind closed doors among team executives—then bam! We’re hit with surprise trades, intriguing free-agent signings and shocking landing spots for high-profile draft prospects. We’ll probably have a few wow moments in the coming months. 

    In the spirit of putting together sizzling hot takes, we’ll look at eight bold but believable roster acquisitions. Who could be on the move? How will the quarterback dominoes fall? Is there a legitimate alternative to Ohio State’s Nick Bosa for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 draft?

          

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    Bryan Woolston/Associated Press

    We’re three months away from the April 25-27 draft, but top analysts have Bosa projected as the No. 1 overall pick for the Arizona Cardinals—that includes Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller, ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. and NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah. Each has Kentucky’s Josh Allen at No. 2 or 3.

    What if Cardinals general manager Steve Keim tossed a curveball? After all, Allen played more college games than Bosa (42-29) and finished with an eye-popping 17 sacks last season. Kentucky doesn’t have Ohio State’s pipeline to the pros, but we shouldn’t overlook the former Wildcat. 

    Allen has a high ceiling, and he projects as a great fit on the edge of the Cardinals’ 3-4 defense under new coordinator Vance Joseph. It’s not that Bosa’s skills wouldn’t translate, but the decision between the two should cause some pause. 

    The Ohio State product suffered a core muscle injury that sidelined him since September. Meanwhile, Allen wreaked havoc on offensive lines through the Jan. 1 Citrus Bowl. He racked up three sacks against Penn State in his final collegiate contest. 

    Before penciling in Bosa as the No. 1 overall pick, take a look at Allen’s production over the last three years. It’s bold to go against the consensus, but it’s not implausible to think the Kentucky product could become the top pick.

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    Todd Olszewski/Getty Images

    It’s no secret the Baltimore Ravens will move on from quarterback Joe Flacco after rookie signal-caller Lamar Jackson helped lead the team to an AFC North title.

    Head coach John Harbaugh confirmed as much when he spoke about the 34-year-old as an available talent, per NFL Network’s Aditi Kinkhabwala. “Joe can still play,” he said. “… Joe’s going to have a market, a lot of teams are going to want Joe… Joe Flacco is a great talent, he’s a better person, he’s the best QB in the history of the Ravens… he’s going to be just fine.” 

    According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the Ravens will attempt to accommodate Flacco with his preferred destination. “While there’s a chance they could let him walk into free agency, there’s also a very good chance they could try to orchestrate a trade to a team of Flacco’s choice,” he reported (via colleague Kevin Patra).

    Flacco likely wants to start. Front office executives should also think about an immediate push to contend—with the veteran quarterback as the missing piece.

    The Denver Broncos missed the playoffs for the third consecutive year. On a positive note, the offense features budding talents at wide receiver in Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton along with an upstart backfield. Rookie ball-carriers Royce Freeman and Phillip Lindsay combined for 1,558 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns on the ground. This club could make significant strides with an upgrade at quarterback.

    The draft could take care of holes on the interior of the offensive line and at cornerback. Head coach Vic Fangio had a close look at Flacco as a defensive coach in Baltimore in 2008 and 2009.

    Denver could release Keenum, who put together a lukewarm 2018 campaign with 18 touchdown passes and 15 interceptions, and save $11 million in cap space, per Over the Cap. Flacco would provide a strong arm and championship experience with three years left on his deal.

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    Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

    There’s tension between Antonio Brown and the Pittsburgh Steelers following a disappointing 9-6-1 finish outside the playoffs.

    Pittsburgh benched the 30-year-old wide receiver for its final game after he had a disagreement with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and then missed team meetings and practices leading up to Week 17’s contest. Brown has removed any trace of the team name from his Twitter account. Steelers president Art Rooney II said it’s “hard to envision” Brown on the club for training camp, per Pittsburgh Post-Gazette‘s Gerry Dulac.

    In all likelihood, we’ll see the wideout in a new uniform in 2019. While the San Francisco 49ers seem like a trendy choice for a landing spot, the Green Bay Packers will have a projected $33 million in cap space, per Spotrac; they could opt to add a significant boost to the aerial attack.

    Rookie fifth-rounder Marquez Valdes-Scantling tied for third on the team with Randall Cobb, who’s set to become a free agent, in receptions (38) and finished third in yards (581).

    The Packers can put their hopes in Valdes-Scantling’s development, but they can also pair arguably the NFL’s best wide receiver with its most talented quarterback. Brown would post huge receiving numbers while catching passes from Aaron Rodgers.

    Wide receiver isn’t a strong need in Green Bay, but a Rodgers-Brown connection could tear through pass defenses for years.

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    Don Wright/Associated Press

    Houston Texans running back Lamar Miller had a solid year, accumulating 973 yards and five touchdowns on 210 carries, but he faded down the stretch.

    Miller battled an ankle injury late in the season, and the Texans offensive line isn’t a top-notch group. Nonetheless, the 27-year-old has been a run-of-the-mill asset since he signed with the team in 2016. He’s averaged 4.1 yards per carry over the last three years and provided minimal impact in the passing game. 

    If the Texans release Miller, they would save $6.2 million in cap space, per Over the Cap. The front office could toss some money at running back Le’Veon Bell to take over as the lead ball-carrier; D’Onta Foreman would serve as the change-of-pace back.

    Bell can fill the pass-catching void out of the backfield and help a shaky offensive line in pass protection. Quarterback Deshaun Watson took the most sacks (62) in 2018.

    After taking a year off from football amid a contract dispute with the Steelers, the two-time All-Pro would go to Houston on fresh legs as an immediate upgrade and dynamic asset.

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    Michael Reaves/Getty Images

    Quarterback Kyler Murray declared for the 2019 draft, but he can still play for the Oakland Athletics if he chooses to. The baseball club drafted him No. 9 overall last June.

    According to Rapoport, scouts project Murray as a second- or third-round pick. Of course, these assessments come before the NFL Scouting Combine and pro days. There’s room for a rise or fall. If the Oklahoma product impresses at his workouts, the Jacksonville Jaguars, desperate for a new signal-caller, may be the team to take the 2018 Heisman Trophy winner in the first round. 

    For scouts, Murray’s height (5’10”) could raise concerns. He must be able to see the field over massive offensive linemen, move outside the pocket or have a heightened trajectory on his release to avoid batted passes at the line of scrimmage.

    The ability to play quarterback at a height under 6’0″ isn’t impossible—just look at Russell Wilson (5’11”) now and Doug Flutie (5’10”) in his prime nearly 20 years ago, but they’re outliers. 

    On the other hand, Murray has shown accuracy (69 percent completion rate) and mobility (1,001 rushing yards), which may intrigue teams. A dual-threat quarterback paired with a power ground attack could be the recipe for success or a failed experiment that costs Jacksonville head coach Doug Marrone his job.

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    Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

    The Seattle Seahawks stood their financial ground and didn’t offer safety Earl Thomas a new deal during his offseason holdout. He played four games and broke his leg, and if the sides couldn’t agree on a deal beforehand, it probably won’t happen in March when the three-time All-Pro becomes an unrestricted free agent. 

    Before Thomas’ injury, he provided quality coverage, snagging three interceptions and breaking up five passes. The 29-year-old can still be a solid piece on a contending team. 

    Last year, Los Angeles took an aggressive approach in acquiring talent, landing cornerbacks Peters and Talib as well as wide receiver Brandin Cooks in trades. General manager Les Snead also signed Ndamukong Suh to a one-year, $14 million deal. Thanks in part to their win-now offseason moves, the Rams advanced to Super Bowl LIII. And they’ll have a projected $36.3 million to spend in the offseason, per Spotrac. 

    Last year, the Rams franchise-tagged safety Lamarcus Joyner on a deal worth $11.3 million. He’s coming off an underwhelming season, logging three pass breakups and an interception. Los Angeles allowed 31 touchdowns through the air. Thomas’ ability to take the ball away could appeal to the front office in March. There’s also the revenge factor in NFC West matchups for the ninth-year veteran.

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    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    According to Miami Herald‘s Barry Jackson, it’s possible the Miami Dolphins will part ways with quarterback Ryan Tannehill: “The Miami Herald reported Sunday that the Dolphins are prepared to move on from Tannehill after seven seasons instead of paying him the $19 million he’s owed each of the next two seasons and carrying a $26.6 million cap hit next season. None of that money is guaranteed.”

    Keep in mind the Dolphins haven’t announced their new hire at head coach. It’s expected New England Patriots linebackers coach Brian Flores will accept the position once his team’s playoff run ends. 

    Until there’s a press conference with questions about and answers regarding Tannehill’s future, this is only speculation. However, Jackson’s report offers the possibility we could see a new face behind center in Miami for the 2019 campaign. 

    If quarterback Teddy Bridgewater tests the market and looks for a starting job, Miami may garner his attention. He’s a native of the city, and Tannehill’s exit would likely ensure the 26-year-old will be the starter for at least one full year. 

    Since suffering a torn ACL and dislocated kneecap in August 2016, Bridgewater appeared in one contest for the Minnesota Vikings in 2017, spent the 2018 offseason with the New York Jets and started one game for the New Orleans Saints in the regular-season finale. The Dolphins could offer him a shot to show he’s a starter.

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    Michael Ainsworth/Associated Press

    Why would the Oakland Raiders trade for a 30-year-old defensive end during a rebuild? First, the defense desperately needs pass-rushers. The Silver and Black recorded just 13 sacks in 2018.

    The Raiders hired assistant coach Brentson Buckner, who served as the defensive line instructor for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2018. Under his tutelage, Jason Pierre-Paul led the team in sacks (12.5) and posted his second-highest total in the category.

    The Buccaneers hired head coach Bruce Arians to replace Dirk Koetter; he then added defensive coordinator Todd Bowles. 

    With the Jets, Bowles utilized a 3-4 base scheme, though he’s comfortable with both three- and four-man fronts, per Scott Smith of the team’s official website. “I’ve coached half of my career in a 4-3, the other half in a 3-4,” Bowles said. “I think you coach according to what kind of players you have and what kind of guys you can put where. We’re going to be versatile, regardless.” 

    During his eight-year tenure with the New York Giants, Pierre-Paul has lined up in four-man fronts. In fact, Big Blue traded him before defensive coordinator James Bettcher installed a 3-4 base scheme last year.

    Bowles may be truthful in his desire to fit the defense to his players’ strengths, but new coaching staffs usually don’t mind turning over the roster with a new vision. Pierre-Paul will carry a $14.7 million cap hit going into his age-30 campaign and won’t have dead money owed in the last two years of his contract, per Spotrac. 

    As opposed to engaging in a bidding contest with other clubs, the Raiders could offer a middle-round pick for Pierre-Paul, who’s coming off one of his best seasons. Buckner could vouch for and guide the veteran in Oakland.

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