Seeking out the silver linings in the first half of the Red Sox season

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — John Farrell gathered his team together in the Tropicana Field visitors’ clubhouse late Monday night because he saw what anybody watching can see — a reeling Wholesale Boston Red Sox Jerseys and this team not playing up to its capabilities. A win and a loss in the two days following left the Red Sox 5 1/2 games out of first place, only a half-game ahead in the wild-card standings.

Farrell also gathered his team, however, because he wanted to emphasize that he still was seeing effort and performance he appreciated. Just that night, for example, a worn-down Xander Bogaerts sprinted down the first-base line to beat out an infield single on a ground ball to second with the Red Sox down seven runs in the ninth inning, a display of effort Dustin Pedroia later lauded.

Along with focusing on areas in need of significant improvement, Farrell said afterward, “it was also a time to acknowledge some of the positive things that continue.”

There have been positives, the widespread consternation of the fan base notwithstanding. A Red Sox team that has finished last in back-to-back seasons remains in playoff position, six games over .500, even after a June that saw them go 10-16.

Among those positives:

* Bogaerts, Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr.: At long last, a class of prospects has lived up to the hype for the Red Sox. All three homegrown youngsters could start the All-Star Game for the American League, and at least two of the three would receive American League MVP votes if the season ended today. Betts at times has felt like he’s had trouble putting it all together, but he still has hit 16 home runs and is slugging .501 — and he has stolen 12 bases while being caught just once. Bogaerts has shown signs that his long-awaited power has blossomed, hitting nine home runs while, until recently, leading the American League in hits. Bradley put to rest the idea that last August’s outburst was a fluke, slugging cheap mlb jerseys.558 while dramatically improving his walk-to-strikeout ratio and continuing to play terrific defense in center field. So far this season, he’s probably been the best of the bunch.

* David Ortiz: What Ortiz has given during his retirement tour has been so much better than what he’s received. He’s getting on base at a remarkable .431 clip and slugging .672, and he’s still on pace to make a run at the all-time single-season doubles record. He’s hitting so many doubles, in fact, that John Farrell has to be careful about how often he lets Ortiz play, lest the iconic designated hitter see his retirement tour end before October.

* Steven Wright: At a time when the Red Sox seem unable to develop starting pitching themselves, the wholesale jerseys 2012 acquisition of Wright in exchange for Lars Anderson now stands as a remarkable coup. Wright endured his worst start of the season on Saturday at Texas, yielding eight runs (three earned) in 4 2/3 innings pitched, but he still has a 2.18 ERA in more than 100 innings and could be headed for the All-Star Game.

Walker tames Orioles in Mariners 5-3 victory

SEATTLE — Taijuan Walker held the powerful Orioles to just four hits over 6 1/3 innings, Seth Smith hit a two-run home run and the Seattle Mariners beat Baltimore 5-3 on Thursday night.

Walker (4-6) gave up a solo home run to Hyun Soo Kim in the seventh but otherwise did not allow a runner past first base. He struck out five and walked no one.

With Kim’s homer, the Orioles set the major league record for most home runs in June with 56. The 1996 Oakland A’s had held the record of 55.

Chris Tillman (10-2) took the loss, ending his nine-game winning streak. He pitched 4 2/3 innings, his second shortest outing in 17 starts this season, and gave up four runs on six hits, walking three and striking out three.

Steve Cishek got four outs for his 19th save.

He is got a game to match his mouth

cheap-ncaa-basketball-jerseys-300x191Former NBA player Gary Payton was minding his own business, watching his son play a high school basketball game earlier this year, until the owner of one of the most renowned mouths in NBA history took the bait and erupted. No, Payton hadn’t bumped into basketball greats Michael Jordan or Reggie Miller at the concession stand. Amazingly, one of the high school players had successfully poked the old bear.

His name is Josh Jackson, and he possesses both a standout game that could make him the No. 1 pick in the 2017 NBA draft and trash-talking skills that already compete with the likes of all-star yappers Payton and Draymond Green of the Golden State Warriors.

“He blocked Gary Payton’s son’s shot and then Josh looked at him. That’s what set Gary off. That’s just Josh. Dude is having fun,” said Hillcrest Hoops Prep Academy rising senior center DeAndre Ayton, who plays with Payton’s son, Julian.

Jackson, 19, said: “It was crazy. It was real funny. In my years I never thought I would be in a gym talking smack to Gary Payton.”

Jackson’s elite game means he can walk the walk with all that talk.

The Southfield, Michigan, native was co-MVP of the 2016 McDonald’s All-American Game. Bill Self, the coach at Kansas, where Jackson will play this fall, has compared him to Minnesota Timberwolves guard and former Jayhawk star Andrew Wiggins, the No. 1 pick in the 2013 NBA draft. With all due respect to Wiggins, Jackson’s motor and competitive fire is viewed as much higher than Wiggins had at the same stage.

“He could have been a Top 3 pick if he was in the NBA draft this year,” said one longtime Western Conference NBA scout who asked to remain anonymous.

At 6-foot-8 and 202 pounds, Jackson catches baseline two-handed alley-oops with ease, owns point guard dribbling skills, rebounds like a power forward and is comfortable playing point forward due to his outstanding passing skills. One wholesale jerseys of the few knocks on his game is his work-in-progress jumper, which has a hitch on the release. Good luck, however, finding a kid more driven to win.

ESPN basketball analyst Fran Fraschilla compared Jackson’s competitive drive to that of Minnesota Timberwolves power forward Kevin Garnett.

“Every drill, he wants to be first,” Fraschilla said of Jackson. “Every scrimmage, he wants to be the best. He just has an alpha dog mentality. He still has things he has to work on to improve. But in this class going into college next year, he’s as intense a player as there is in terms of his attitude as I’ve seen in the last five to 10 years.”

Oklahoma City Thunder cheap All-Star Jerseys “Kevin Durant took my breath away with his talent. But this kid, he wants to win every single drill,” Fraschilla said. “Whoever is on the court who is considered at his level, he wants to guard them and dominate them.”

As a junior with Napa Prolific Prep, Jackson once yelled at a player he was guarding on the perimeter, “Pass the ball!” over and over. Eventually, the Division 1 prospect got intimidated and passed the ball. Jackson briefly smiled at the mini victory. He also is known to push his teammates to their limits with his tough love in games and trash-talking in practice.

“I want to win. I feel like any player, if you play the sport of basketball, on the court you have to be a tough guy no matter what. I don’t care who you are. Off the court, I don’t necessarily need to be that guy. But you do on the court,” Jackson said.

Ayton, considered by many to be the top prep player in the class of 2017, said Jackson is the “most competitive player I’ve ever played against.”

“He knows how to get in your head,” Ayton said. “I don’t know what type of energy he runs off of. He’s fast. He’s very unpredictable. He can shoot. Guard the post. Strong. The dude is just a freak of nature.”

Perhaps the only time Jackson has met his match in mouthiness on the court was when he went up against Green, the vocal All-Star forward, in a pickup game in Detroit two years go. Green chose to guard Jackson and made a point to trash-talk to him and stop him from scoring. While Green accomplished his defensive goal, he respected Jackson for never backing down. They’ve been close ever since.

“He wanted to test me,” Jackson said. “He wanted to see how tough I was. We played. He wanted to toughen me up a little bit. I wasn’t scoring. He was getting in my face saying, ‘You’re not scoring. You’re not scoring.’

“But I didn’t back down from him. We kept playing. And that is where our relationship started to grow. Now I look at him like a big brother.”

Said Green: “He just got that dog in him. I wouldn’t be surprised if he were the No. 1 pick next year.”

Surprisingly, off the floor Jackson Jersey is quiet and even something of a nerd.

While he played for Prolific Prep, Jackson attended Justin-Sienna High School in Napa, a Catholic school with a tuition of nearly $19,000 and a 13-1 student-teacher ratio. He started a chess club at the school and is a National Honor Society member. Most of his high school buddies were members of the Justin-Sienna lacrosse team.

“Off the court, he is really very quiet, passive,” Prolific Prep director of operations Phillippe Doherty said. “He is very good with adults. He’s very good with kids. He’s been raised really well. If you see him deal with media, he’s mature. The other kids aren’t a mature as he is. You can have a 30-minute conversation with him and he’s totally in tune …

“Other teenagers yearn for attention. He doesn’t need it.”

Jackson’s mother, Apple Jones, said she wanted her son to move to Napa before his junior year for a stronger education.

“The way people embraced him in Napa was great,” Jones said. “A lot of them are not even basketball fans. What we gathered from the school and the community was living around successful people who work hard, learning how you do it and how you carry yourself.”

Jackson said he has enjoyed his relative anonymity in wine country after moving from the Detroit area, where he was a well-known prep star.

He said he built connections in Napa that can benefit him long-term. For example, Jackson lived with the family of Shimmick Construction Co. executive vice president Chris Fassari, who treated him like a son and taught him about the business world. Napa Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Travis Stanley, who used to work for the Warriors, also mentored Jackson.

“It’s a little different at home, especially around Detroit,” Jackson said. “There is a lot of crime. It’s kind of hard to always surround yourself with a lot of good people there because you don’t really know who is really genuine, if you can trust people. But I feel like in Napa you can trust people a lot more.”

You can also trust the NBA has a strong interest in Jackson. The feeling appears mutual as Jackson acknowledged a jump to the Cheap NBA Jerseys is likely after a year at Kansas.

“I definitely can see myself being a one-and-done. If at the end of my freshman year if I feel like I’m ready to enter the draft, then I will do it,” he said.

Will Jackson also be ready for big-league trash-talking? Considering his verbal battles with Payton and Green, he believes so.

“I have been through the best of the best already,” he said.

Fans celebrate life of Pat Summitt at candlelight vigil

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — About 100 people gathered on Tennessee’s campus Wednesday night and told their favorite personal anecdotes about former Lady Volunteers basketball coach Pat Summitt at a candlelight vigil.

The vigil took place at Pat Summitt Plaza, which includes a bronze statue of Summitt and has served as a meeting place for mourners since she died Tuesday morning at age 64.

Fans took turns describing their personal connections to Summitt that showed examples of her determination, her empathy and her sense of humor. They sang “Rocky Top” near the end of the vigil.

“I have a feeling that right now she’s making angels do laps, and with my wholesale jerseys for my teamates.” said Nora Lou Wilson of Knoxville.

The dozens of floral arrangements that were at the foot of Summitt’s statue Tuesday night had doubled in size by the start of Wednesday’s vigil.

An orange scarf had been placed around her neck. Signs on the concrete wall behind the statue featured hundreds of signatures. A wood carving of the state of Tennessee stood behind the statue and included the message, “Now go lead your team in heaven.”

Alicia Manning, who played for the Tennessee women’s basketball team from 2008 to ’12 and was part of Summitt’s last team, said she expected the floral arrangements to continue increasing up until the July 14 ceremony at Thompson-Boling Arena celebrating Summitt’s life.

“From now until then it’s going to keep getting bigger,” Manning in cheap Manning jerseys said. “Obviously by then it’s going to be insane, which it should be. She deserves that.”

The most emotional story at the vigil came from Becky Evans of Knoxville, who described an encounter her family had with Summitt while her father in cheap basketball jerseys– an avid Tennessee fan — was undergoing quadruple-bypass surgery. Summitt, who was at the hospital because of an injured player, overheard Evans and her mom talking about how much their father would love to meet the coach.

Evans said Summitt stayed with her and her mom for three hours. When Evans’ father was out of surgery, Summitt went into his hospital room, spent half an hour visiting him and later thanked him for being a Tennessee fan.

“I just came tonight to honor a great lady of character,” Evans said as she looked back at the statue. “[I was] 17 years old and scared that your dad was going to die and not knowing, and all alone.

“This lady took it upon herself to care for two East Tennessee girls and share her love. I just wanted to honor her tonight and tell her, ‘Thank you, Pat. Thank you for caring about us, and thank you for caring about my dad.'”

Some fans used the vigil as an opportunity to promote bringing back the Lady Volunteers nickname for all Tennessee sports and collect signatures to petition that cause. Some speakers campaigned for that while giving their testimonials.

In a move that took effect in July 2015, all Tennessee women’s sports teams other than the basketball squad started being called the Volunteers rather than the Lady Vols.

School officials said the basketball team Jerseys could continue calling itself the Lady Vols because of the championship legacy established by Summitt.

School officials announced in February that the other women’s sports teams would wear a commemorative patch on their uniform in 2016-17 to honor the Lady Vols legacy, a move that came after legislators introduced a bill that would have required Tennessee to call all its women’s sports teams the Lady Vols. The legislative measure was then withdrawn from consideration.

Why can’t college football have a Chanticleer of its own?


With only two years of data, it’s way too early to declare the College Football Playoff an unqualified success. But let us stipulate that the good news is plentiful: Interest is up, and the selection committee has established its credibility, wholesale jerseys never easy in the modern-day world of snark and cynicism.

So allow me this brief moment of jealousy. Allow my inner five-year-old to stamp his feet and whine.

Can’t we have a Chanticleer? Please?

What’s been going on in Omaha at the College World Series the last two weeks has revealed a bug in the Playoff’s coding, a flaw in the new postseason tapestry. College football excludes one of the best storylines in sport — the triumph of the underdog. The new Saturday’s America has left no room for the Butler Bulldogs, no room for Leicester City, none for Buster Douglas or Coastal Carolina, the upstart that plays Wednesday night with a chance to win a national title.

Just to be clear, Wholesale College Football Jerseys and Coastal Carolina does play college football. They spent eight weeks last season ranked No. 1 in the FCS. On Friday, the Chanticleers — that’s how you pronounce “Gamecock’ in Myrtle Beach — officially transition to the FBS as a member of the Sun Belt Conference. In 2018, the football team will begin competition in that league.

Therein lies the dilemma. Does anyone really believe a Group of Five team is going to qualify for the four-team playoff, that a 13-0 team from the Sun Belt that would be voted in ahead of a 12-1 team from the Power Five? If you believe that, then you really do believe in Cinderella.

Joe Moglia knows something about fairy tales. He increased the size of TD Ameritrade 12-fold before resigning as CEO in 2008 to return to coaching football. Moglia, 67, is about to begin his fifth season as the head coach at Coastal Carolina. His record is 41-13 (.759) and the Chanticleers have made the FCS playoffs every season he’s been at the helm.

Moglia is reveling in Coastal Carolina’s run in Omaha, the home of the business he still serves as chairman of the board. The College World Series is played at TD Ameritrade Park.

“We are the Cinderella team now in baseball,” Moglia said Monday. And football?

“I totally believe that we are going to be able to compete at the Sun Belt level,” Moglia said. “I totally believe that we are going to be in contention every year, and I would expect us to go to a bowl game every year. But it’s going to be very difficult for us to get to the Playoffs. That would be difficult for us in football. I acknowledge that.”

Moglia pointed at the rise last season of the Houston Cougars, who earned a New Year’s Six bowl berth and then upset Florida State in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. He pointed out Boise State’s success over the last decade, when the Broncos won three Fiesta Bowls and finished in the top 10 four times. Is that enough?

“It’s still very difficult for a school like that to be competing for the national championship,” Moglia said.

Iceland, which upset England on Monday in the round of 16, still is given no chance to win the Euro Cup, just as Leicester City was given no chance to win the Premier League. But the Foxes won their first title since they began play 132 years ago.

The impossible doesn’t get a chance to happen in college football. If it does, it’s sure taking its time. Who was the last champion to come out of nowhere? Auburn in 2010? Oklahoma in 2000? Both teams began the season ranked, and, really, Oklahoma will never be a longshot in this sport. The last wholesale team jerseys to finish No. 1 after starting the season unranked was Georgia Tech in 1990.

We can’t buy a lottery ticket as a lark and find out it won. College football has shown no sign that it’s built that way. And it may not be the structure of the Playoff. It may be the structure of the sport. The NBA has no room for Cinderellas, and, really, neither does the NFL.

College Football Playoff executive director Bill Hancock used to run the Final Four. He has seen George Mason, Virginia Commonwealth and Wichita State win their way into the national men’s basketball semifinals in recent years. He became as enthralled as the rest of us when Butler came within a halfcourt shot of beating Duke for the 2010 championship.

“The sports are different,” Hancock said. “They’re just different. I can’t say one is better than the other one. They’re just different. We’re proud of what we’ve set up here. While there’s no Leicester, people sure do enjoy what we have.”

The arguments against increasing the size of the field in the College Football Playoff are sound. No one wants to tamper with the importance of the regular season, especially when it pays the bills for the rest of the athletic department. Over the last two seasons, the pressure necessary to squeeze the Power Five champions into four playoff berths has created compelling football.

But admit it: it would be nice to see the Little Chanticleer That Could wear a helmet instead of a ballcap. It doesn’t seem like it’s too much to ask.

England’s Tour of Australia – The Awards

With England flying home from Australia with a 3-0 series win to their name and the dust settling on an eventful three weeks of rugby, it’s time for ESPN Scrum’s end-of-tour awards.

Best Australia player: Dane Haylett-Petty made great strides on his first appearances in the green and gold while Matt Toomua’s performance in the third Test was superb. But two players stood above the rest: Israel Folau and Michael Hooper. Folau’s ability to carve open defences with such subtleness is rivalled only by Ben Smith in world rugby while Hooper was a constant nuisance for England wholesale jerseys. Hooper just edges Folau.

Best England player: Any one of 15 could scoop this but Owen Farrell, James Haskell, Chris Robshaw, Dan Cole, Maro Itoje and the Vunipola brothers are just ahead of the rest. Farrell’s kicking was remarkable while his performances in open play complemented his relentless accuracy off the tee. Robshaw was sensational in the second Test while Haskell is now indispensable in the openside role as showcased in the first two matches. Cole and Mako Vunipola have locked down both sides of the front-row while Itoje and Billy Vunipola continued to develop their unique skillsets. But on points importance alone, Farrell just pips Haskell.

Best kick: Jamie George’s grubber for Farrell’s series-clinching try in Melbourne was a wonderful piece of rugby initiative. His shin over the try line in the third Test was also impressive.

Best match: All three were pulsating Tests but the first Test just edges the other two for sheer ferociousness.

Best defensive stand: England managed to hold out Australia for 20 phases at the end of the first half in Melbourne and it laid the foundations for their win. It was a remarkable effort.

Most unwelcome interference: The ‘Spider-Cam’ which got in the way during the third Test.

Best poem: Paul Gustard’s decision to use ‘The Guy in the Glass’ as inspiration before the second Test was brilliant.

Best decisions: Eddie Jones’ two calls in the first and third Test to haul players off before half time. In Brisbane it was Luther Burrell who got the hook after 29 minutes while Teimana Harrison had the same treatment after 31 in Sydney. Both were proven correct.

Best tackle: Haskell’s hit on David Pocock inside the opening exchanges in Brisbane set England’s stall out for the whole tour.

Best try: Haylett-Petty’s against England in the third Test was a wonderful sweeping move and showed Australia at their best.

Best atmosphere: Though the pitch was terrible, the confines of Melbourne’s AAMI Park delivered a remarkable, vibrant occasion.

Worst blunder: Underestimating this England side. With Jones at the helm, they mean business.

Biggest Bodyline warrior: Haskell. Tackled and ran himself into the ground.

Best ferry experience: The ferry from Circular Quay to Manly is one of life’s great experiences. The one to Watson’s Bay isn’t bad either.

Biggest fright: The sighting of a red-bellied black snake at The Coast Golf Club in Sydney.

Biggest foregone conclusion: Dylan Hartley Jerseys as British & Irish Lions captain for next June’s tour of New Zealand.

Best media shindig: The gathering put on by the Australian media in Sydney’s Cricket Ground was a superb affair.

Euro quarterfinals: Germany, France favourites as we hit the business end

It doesn’t matter if, like Germany or France, you expected to reach the Euro quarterfinals. Or if, like Portugal, with zero wins in 90 minutes, you’re not quite sure how you got here except sheer bloody-mindedness. Or if, like Belgium, you lost your footing early and then recovered. Or if, like Iceland, Hollywood scriptwriters are knocking on your door wanting to chronicle the greatest upset since … well, since Leicester City won the Premier League this season.

Three games separate these eight teams from being crowned champions of Europe. Here’s how the matchups break down.

Poland vs. Portugal, Marseille

The subtext is Robert Lewandowski vs. Cristiano Ronaldo, though, in fact, neither has had the happiest of tournaments. Ronaldo missed a penalty against Austria and has flashed only intermittently; Lewandowski has sacrificed himself doing grunt work and hasn’t looked like the scoring machine we see at Bayern.

Poland has reaped huge dividends from a well-marshaled back four and a stubborn midfield led by Grzegorz Krychowiak. With Portugal, it’s more a case of the front three needing to finish, rather than produce. Take the wild 3-3 draw with Hungary out of the mix and you have a team that failed to score in 90 minutes on three separate occasions.

Both these teams can go to the next level — it’s just that Portugal’s ceiling is higher. The question is to what degree they can break down the Polish defense and whether Lewandowski suddenly comes alive as an attacking threat. Then, get wholesale jerseys for champion team.

Wales vs. Belgium, Lille

Were it not for Iceland, Wales would be the Cinderella story here. There’s more to the Welsh than Gareth Bale, of course, but he has shown a knack for making those around him better. Belgium recovered from the shock opening day defeat to Italy to win the next three games, including a 4-0 pounding of Hungary, but they still feel less than the sum of their parts.

That’s fine, though, because their individual parts already add up to quite a bit. They can beat you many different ways and have a shutdown goalkeeper in Thibaut Courtois. That said, Belgium can suffer against tactically sophisticated sides and the quality, versatility and unpredictability of Bale can create serious problems. Equally, Wales play a back three and Belgium boss Marc Wilmots really struggled to wrap his head around Italy’s three-man defence.

Belgium are favorites simply because they have, top to bottom, better players and the Kevin De Bruyne-Eden Hazard combination seems to be hitting form. But the Bale factor, both in what he can do personally and what he can make his teammates do, is not to be underestimated.

Can Wales continue their improbably Euro 2016 run?

Germany vs. Italy, Bordeaux

Germany have been getting stronger as the tournament progresses, which is bad news for everybody else. Manager Joachim Low has an array of options in his front six and he has shown he’s not afraid to tweak when required. Meanwhile, keeper Manuel Neuer and his defence have yet to concede a goal.

Italy are all about system over individuals, mainly because, as coach Antonio Conte himself said, “we don’t have great individual players [in midfield and attack].” That system was devastating against Belgium and Spain, but Low, simply put, is a far tougher tactical nut to crack. Italy create plenty, but that’s also because they need multiple chances to score.

That said, Gigi Buffon also has yet to concede in goal (and he has faced tougher strikers than Neuer has). Plus, if you’re superstitious, Germany have never actually beaten Italy in a competitive match. Though, as they’ll tell you — very rationally — records exist to be broken.

France vs. Iceland, Saint-Denis

Polar opposites here. The uber-talented host nation against the guys many expected to be nothing more than the answer to a trivia question. Iceland’s performances have been otherworldly thus far. If you don’t believe they’re channeling some kind mystic Viking spirit, you’d have to assume that all that running and exertion will catch up with them sooner rather than later. (Then again, that may be what England thought as well and we saw how that turned out.)

Les Bleus will be without the suspended Adil Rami Jerseys, which might not seem like a huge loss until you realize Eliaquim Mangala could be the man to replace him. Defence is not the French strong suit, though it has arguably performed better than their attack, where Olivier Giroud has fired too many blanks, and midfield, where Didier Deschamps’ incessant tinkering is doing him no favors.

Could the host nation stumble against Iceland? Probably not. There are too many weapons in the French arsenal, from Dimitri Payet to Antoine Griezmann to Paul Pogba, and, as they showed against Ireland, they’re resilient too.

Stamkos, Weber arrivals tip power for the Easta

So, where to begin with one of the most dramatic half hours in NHL transaction history?

A head-swirling span that saw a swap of two premier defensemen in Shea Weber of the Nashville Predators and P.K. Subban of the Montreal Canadiens, and included the trade of a No. 1 overall draft pick in Taylor Hall to the New Jersey Devils that was followed by the news that Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos re-signed with the team for the next eight years.

Let’s just say the collective hockey heart rate is still beating in the red line, even as we begin to consider all that transpired in that magical 30 minutes.


Subban, 27, won the Norris Trophy in 2013, while Weber, 30, has scored more than 50 points in two of the past three seasons. Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Let’s dive in with a swap of Norris Trophy-worthy defenders and marquee players in Weber and Subban, whose names were not once connected in the ever-swirling trade rumor mill leading up to Wednesday’s blockbuster but whose swapping of teams will have repercussions in both cities for years to come.

Subban is 27 and under contract through 2021-22 with a $9 million cap hit. So much for Nashville being a small-market team.

Weber is about to turn 31 and is under contract through 2025-26 with an annual cap hit of $7.86 million, although his 14-year deal was heavily front-loaded and finishes with a real dollar payout of just $5 million over the last four years of the deal.

The two defensemen, teammates on Canada’s gold medal-winning team in Sochi at the 2014 Olympics, are as similar in stature and profile as they are dissimilar in style and personality.

Over the past three seasons, Weber has 58 goals and 152 points and led to the Predators to Game 7 of the second round of the playoffs, their deepest playoff run ever.


Larsson, left, was selected No. 4 overall by the Devils in 2011 and has 69 career points (nine goals, 60 assists) while Hall led the Oilers in scoring in three of the past four seasons and was the No. 1 overall selection by the team in the 2010 draft. Getty Images

Meanwhile Subban, coming off a disappointing season in Montreal that saw the Habs miss the playoffs, has 31 goals and 164 points over that same three-year period.

If you’re Predators GM David Poile, you don’t trade your captain and the face of the franchise if you don’t think Subban doesn’t just fill the void but brings something else to the table, something that carries the team even further than their second-round excursion this spring — and not just for next year but for years to come.

If the NHL is about speed everywhere on the lineup, including the back end, then Subban will be a nice fit for coach Peter Laviolette’s lineup, which continues to boast one of the nicest collection of blue-liners in the league, even with last season’s trade of Seth Jones to the Columbus Blue Jackets and this deal.

Are the Predators better poised for the future than they were earlier in the day? Yes.

If you’re Montreal GM Marc Bergevin and you decided for whatever reason you needed to make a decision on Subban before his no-trade clause kicked in July 1, you needed to not just get fair value in return but get something different too, something that helps redefine the Canadiens’ identity.

Weber brings a granite-hard edge to his game and a booming shot that will help a Montreal team that finished 16th in goals per game and a miserable 25th on the power play.

If Subban was loquacious and effervescent and definitely unafraid of being his own man, a distinct personality, Weber is quite the opposite. If Subban is new school, Weber is definitely old school and it’s clear Bergevin felt Subban wasn’t going to be a fit long-term in the locker room and made the move to replace him when he still had the chance.

Given the personality of the Predators and the city, it’s hard not imagining Subban being an instant fit in the Music City and that the love affair will be a strong two-way street.

If there is concern from the Montreal side, it’s in whether Weber will hit a wall in terms of his productivity, based on the ruggedness of his game. Short term, assuming goalie Carey Price returns to health next season, Weber gives the Habs a presence on the blue line they haven’t had. How long that presence becomes a factor in the team’s success, well, that’s an entirely different proposition.


Steven Stamkos is sticking with the Lightning after signing an eight-year deal. Scott Audette/NHL/Getty Images

As for the deal that saw Hall moved to New Jersey for defenseman Adam Larsson Jerseys, kudos to Devils GM Ray Shero for leveraging last season’s turnaround in Larsson’s game into a game-breaking player, no small feat considering that the Devils continue to be a team in need of offense and a place that isn’t exactly high on the list for dynamic offensive free agents.

The Devils will need to find a way to plug the hole left by Larsson’s departure but no doubt the more impactful hockey player at least in the short term is coming east in this deal.

Everyone knew that Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli needed to get better, a lot better, on the blue line and that he had oodles of offensive assets to put into play to get that done. Chiarelli gambled that Larsson, the No. 4 overall pick in the 2011 draft, will be a part of that process.

At 6-foot-3 and just 23, this is the kind of deal that might well be heralded as a stepping stone to greatness in Edmonton in years to come. But in many ways Larsson is still an unknown, like so many of the top-rated young defensemen already part of the Edmonton equation. Maybe Larsson and Darnell Nurse and Oscar Klefbom will all grow up together to represent something magical and lasting in a town starved for anything magical when it comes to its hockey team.

Maybe. But Edmonton fans have had a long fill of maybes over the past decade and were hoping for more certainty when it came to sending out a talent like Hall.


Stamkos sticking with Lightning on 8-year deal
Steven Stamkos isn’t going anywhere, as the Lightning have agreed to lock up their 26-year-old captain two days before free agency is set to begin.

Canadiens trade Subban to Preds for Weber
The Canadiens traded P.K. Subban to the Predators for Shea Weber in a blockbuster exchange of two of the NHL’s top defensemen.

Devils acquire ‘slighted’ Hall in trade with Oilers
Former No. 1 overall pick Taylor Hall admitted he was caught off guard by Wednesday’s trade, in which the Oilers sent him to New Jersey for defenseman Adam Larsson.
Now, if Chiarelli can land a free-agent defender such as Jason Demers and maybe another veteran piece on the blue line, then maybe this deal feels a little differently in Edmonton.
Certainly the expectation is that by shedding Hall’s salary (he signed a $42 million, seven-year deal back in the summer of 2012), the Oilers will sign free agent Milan Lucic to provide more veteran leadership up front and the entire Oiler picture starts to come into focus.

And finally it seems a bit anticlimactic that we save the most-talked about player over the past month or so for last. But maybe that’s OK for Stamkos and the Lightning, who late Wednesday ended months of speculation by agreeing to an eight-year deal that will pay Stamkos an average of $8.5 million annually to remain a Lightning. His new deal has a full no-movement clause.

Did he leave money on the table by not becoming an unrestricted free agent on July 1? Sure. Millions, possibly. Is Tampa the best place for Stamkos to win a Stanley Cup, to ensure his legacy as one of the game’s greats and a critical figure in the Lightning’s history? No question. None.

There are still challenges ahead for GM Steve Yzerman in keeping this talented nucleus together, for wholesale jerseys, but it’s hard not to consider the Lightning the early odds-on favorites to lead the Eastern Conference next season, and the return of the captain is no small factor in that belief.

The question is now whether this signing puts in motion a series of dominoes that seem destined to fall fast and furious the moment the free agent market opens at noon ET on Friday.

A big win — or a big tease? — for the New York Yankees

NEW YORK — OK, so we’ve all seen this movie before — several times this season alone, in fact. You know, the one in which the New York Yankees Jerseys, a team everyone has counted out many times over its first three months, comes back to do something completely unexpected, igniting the hope that this time, they really, truly mean to make something of a generally miserable season.

They did it in the first series of the season, get wholesale jerseys, when they took two of three from the Houston Astros Jerseys, the team that ended their 2015 postseason in slightly over three hours. They did it again in mid-May, when they strung together six consecutive victories, their longest winning streak of the season, and again about three weeks ago, when they swept a four-game series from the Angels.

Each time, it has turned out to be a snare and a delusion, and the transitory pleasure of becoming a .500 team — a modest goal at best — soon melted away in the despair of yet another losing streak.

And so things seemed to be headed south Wednesday night at Yankee Stadium, where the Yankees found themselves three outs away from a third straight loss to the mighty Texas Rangers — the fourth consecutive game in which they had allowed at least seven runs, a dubious distinction they hadn’t achieved in nearly six years. A defeat would have dropped them a whopping 10 games behind the American League East-leading Baltimore Orioles Jerseys, and that would have been their biggest deficit since Sept. 7, 2014.

But then strange things began to happen. Sam Dyson Jerseys — the Rangers’ closer who had blown just one save all season, had allowed just four earned runs in his previous 26 appearances and had every reason to believe he would not be used on this night with his team leading 7-3 — was pressed into service when the first two Yankees reached base in the ninth inning.

The wheels immediately began to come off for Dyson and the Rangers.Brett Gardner Jerseys singled and center fielder Ian Desmond Jerseys fumbled the ball, allowing a run to score. Alex Rodriguez Jerseys lined hard to second, but what looked like a potential double-play ball, or maybe even a game-ending triple play, went for just one out as the Yankees baserunners fortuitously held their positions.

And then Brian McCann Jerseys, brought here on a four-year deal specifically to exploit the stadium’s short right-field wall, powered one over that wall — his second of the game and in fact second in the final two innings — to tie the game at 7. Dyson, rattled, walked Starlin Castro and then hung a changeup to Didi Gregorius Jerseys, who lined it into the right-field seats.

Just like that, the Yankees had a 9-7 win, and not just any win, but an improbable, rousing, tantalizing and quite possibly horribly misleading win.

“Probably the biggest win of the year for us,” Rodriguez said.

“A win we really had to fight for. They should be excited in there,” said Yankees manager Joe Girardi, adding he hoped the quick turnaround before Thursday’s 1:05 p.m. ET start would help the feeling carry over.

“This one can be huge,” said McCann, a man not given to overstatement, or, to be honest, much statement of any kind.

And it might well be. But as noted earlier, we’ve seen this movie before, and it has yet to have a happy ending. And for eight innings, even this one was a bit of a horror show. Masahiro Tanaka once again was ineffective working on “regular” four days’ rest, allowing six earned runs in six innings, four of them in a third inning in which the Rangers were playing pinball with his splitter. Aside from Chase Headley’s second-inning home run, the offense wasn’t doing much, managing only three hits off Texas starter Nick Martinez Jerseys, who came in with a 5.54 ERA. They scraped across a second run in the sixth and a third on McCann’s first home run of the night, but this one had all the makings of another dispiriting loss and a looming Rangers sweep in Thursday afternoon’s series finale.

But sometimes movies take unexpected plot twists, and this one took a doozy. Credit not only goes to Gregorius and McCann, but to Jacoby Ellsbury Jerseys, who easily could have been doubled off on A-Rod’s lineout, which might well have been a backbreaker. And believe it or not — and considering the way the Yankees have played for much of this season, it’s probably easy to believe — but this was the first time all season the Yankees had come back to win a game they were trailing after eight innings; previously, they had been 0-36. It was also the first time they scored six runs in the ninth inning of a game since May 12, 2010.

Add it all up and it comes out to a win that could be a season-changer.

Or it could be just another cruel tease, that moment of false hope just before the hero falls down an open elevator shaft.

“Well, it feels better [than just another win], and you hope it gives you some momentum,” said Girardi, who has been let down too many times already this season to react with unbridled enthusiasm.

Not so for Gregorius, for whom this was the first walk-off home run in the major leagues, and indeed his only walk-off, with the exception of one for the Dutch national team in 2010, one of the pre-MLB exploits that earned him the soubriquet “Sir Didi.”

Sir Didi refused to anoint this the biggest Yankees win of the season for a most optimistic reason. Having been a member of the cast that has let its fan base down more often than not over the first 77 games, Gregorius believes that this time the ending will be different.

“I’ll say the biggest is yet to come,” he said. “I think we’re a team trying to play better, so a lot of stuff is going to happen. We’re going to play better baseball from now on, so a lot more to come.”

  • McCann briefly grabbed his knee rounding first after hitting his eighth-inning home run. He said he has been suffering from patella tendinitis and that the injury “grabbed” on him running the bases. But after testing it with some squats in the dugout between innings, the 32-year-old determined it was well enough to play on, and he went out to hit the game-tying home run. “It’s fine,” he said. “It’s nothing unusual for a catcher to have.”

Funny money? FAs about to get paid in NBA

Welcome to one of the great accidents in sports history — a one-time mega-leap in the salary cap that will unleash an orgy of confused spending. This is Year 2 of a three-year earthquake during which the NBA’s salary cap will nearly double from $63 million to around $110 million, with almost half of that bump coming in this single outlier free-agency period.

Teams still aren’t quite sure what will happen or how they might exploit the chaos. A year ago, with most of the jump still looming, they could at least be sure almost every long-term contract would soon look like a bargain. That might no longer be the case; the league projects a smaller increase next summer (from $94 million to $107 million, though most expect it to go higher) before the cap flattens in 2018 and beyond — pending a potential lockout in 2017, that could upend parts of the collective bargaining agreement..

A bad long-term deal signed this summer could still look bad two years from now. Teams have to be more choosy even as conditions require they spend boatloads to reach the minimum payroll of $85 million for wholesale NBA Jerseys.

The boom will have some predictable consequences, but the tremors will shake the NBA landscape in ways we can’t anticipate. Here are five things to watch as we enter the free-agency Thunderdome.

1. Timing, and the Marvin Williams/Dwight Howard conundrum

In the past three years, the Pistons and Blazers have beaten the market with aggressive deals for Jodie Meeks and Al-Farouq Aminu right after the midnight opening bells. Given the glut of cap space, team executives expect more insta-deals for second- and third-tier free agents.

Every capable rotation player will choose among rich offers. If you like, say, Solomon Hill or Mirza Teletovic, you might as well unload a dump truck of cash on them right out of the gate while a half-dozen teams are waiting on Kevin Durant Jerseys.

The length of deals might end up being more interesting than the money. The stars are going to get whatever they want — at least four years for Nicolas Batum, Al Horford and Mike Conley, plus whichever path Durant chooses between long-term security and the one-year option that would maximize his salary.

For the middle class, we might have reached a point at which factors push both teams and some players toward shorter-term deals. Beyond 2017, teams see a flattening cap, glitzy free-agent classes and a potential work stoppage — though I’d still consider it unlikely that a lockout costs any part of the 2017-18 season. They have incentive to keep their powder dry.

At the same time, they have tens of millions to burn before even reaching the salary floor. They might approach an intriguing player with some gargantuan one- or two-year deal and hope the money is so eye-popping that the player takes it.

Normally teams don’t get much upside from one-year deals; the Kings purchased six months of stat-hoggery from Rajon Rondo, and can now either let him walk or overpay him based on inflated numbers. It’s like choosing wholesale jerseys between cauliflower and lima beans. You don’t even get a player’s Bird rights, meaning that once he hits free agency again, you don’t have the right to go over the cap in re-signing him; you have to use precious cap room instead.

But teams can make one- and two-year deals work for them. If the salary is hefty enough, the limited version of Bird rights you do get is usually enough to cover whatever raise the player might seek the following season — meaning the team can fill its cap space on other dudes, and then re-sign its guy.

For players, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. A lot was made last summer of how most players opted for long-term security over one- and two-year deals. But a bunch of guys chose the short-term route: Greg Monroe, Jeremy Lin, Amir Johnson, Jonas Jerebko, Paul Millsap, Arron Afflalo, Derrick Williams, Bismack Biyombo, Teletovic, Rondo and a couple of others all bet on themselves to varying degrees.

Boston’s deal for Johnson still generates lots of chatter: The Celtics paid Johnson an annual salary — $12 million — well above what he would have received on average over a longer contract, and in exchange, he signed a one-year deal with a fully non-guaranteed second season. Johnson is now a trade asset with a relatively low cap number, and he’ll get to test the market again during another cap spike.

Teams could offer these sorts of deals both at tipoff, as well as when free agency dies down in mid-July, when GMs with leftover cash are looking for that last-call hookup. The players’ union is even encouraging guys to sign contracts that decline over time so they get as much cash up front as possible, sources say.

But older players are risk-averse, and if they are staring at rival one- or two-year deals, a lot of them will leverage the bidding into an extra year. That third season could become the breaking point.

Take Marvin Williams Jerseys: He’s 30, coming off a career year, and he brings a positional versatility that could help any team. It would not be preposterous for someone to offer him a two-year, $38 million deal. (Seriously, get ready, everyone.) But if Williams hungers for more guaranteed cash, which team will bend and offer something like (gulp) three years and $50 million?

The answer should be: a good team that views Williams as the player who takes it into the 55-win range. The third (or fourth) year might hurt, but it’s the cost you pay to enter the contender’s circle. A middling team or a bad one should pass, and sift for gems on shorter contracts.

Dwight Howard might be the thorniest test of willpower. Teams are turning up their noses at even a two-year guaranteed deal for Howard anywhere near his max. But progress, real and imagined, can make teams do funny things. The Blazers have a gazillion in cap room, and they want to hold the line in a Western Conference that will be better almost across the board. They could use a defensive anchor at center, and they will absolutely look at Howard, per several league sources.

Boston has a Dwight meeting on the books already — stock up on candy, guys! — and could use a rim protector.

Will these teams have the discipline to fold when the bidding gets heated? Signing Howard introduces a wild card into a team’s culture, and for the Blazers, it would change the way they play. Howard isn’t as nimble as Mason Plumlee, and not nearly as comfortable a passer in space; could he punish teams that trap Damian Lillard the way Plumlee does with artful drive-and-kick plays?

Someone is going to cave on these guys.

2. Who slides back?

After years of Tankapalooza, the NBA has reached a point at which almost every team — and maybe literally every team — wants to win more basketball games. What a concept!

The NBA is a zero-sum game. A team that wants to win will fail, and by failing, net a prize in a loaded draft lottery. The path from the playoffs to the top half of the lottery is clear.

Some swing teams to monitor:

The Hawks are reluctant to offer Horford the fifth year only they can dangle, and if they hold firm, they are at grave risk of losing him for nothing, per league sources. (Watch out for the Pistons on Horford; with Wednesday’s trade of Meeks, they are one tiny move away from being able to fit his max. They are working to schedule a meeting with Horford over the first 48 hours of free agency, sources say. Horford’s fit alongside Andre Drummond is another question entirely.)

Atlanta already traded Jeff Teague for a rookie. Kent Bazemore will have suitors everywhere, including in Milwaukee, Memphis and Brooklyn, sources say. If Bazemore and Horford walk, the Hawks will be at a fork in the road: rush to fill the gaps with high-priced talent or trade Millsap and race to the bottom?

Seriously: How many teams are worse than a Hawks team without Horford, Bazemore and Millsap? Three or four, if that? Mike Budenholzer’s role as as both coach and GM is the wild card; coaches vomit at rebuilds, but his title also provides the job security to survive one.

Dallas dreams of luring both Mike Conley and Hassan Whiteside on max deals, per ESPN BlackBerry maven Marc Stein, but absent a series of salary-sloughing trades, the Mavericks can’t open up the requisite $49 million in room with Chandler Parsons’ cap hold sitting on the books. Rumors have already burbled that the Mavs don’t want to offer Parsons a max after his knee issues, and that Parsons could seek his payday elsewhere.

The Mavs have whiffed on every big-name free agent since they let Tyson Chandler walk, and they will have a ton of competition for Whiteside and Conley; the Grizzlies are almost as confident about re-signing Conley as they were with Marc Gasol last offseason.

The Mavericks can keep Parsons’ Bird rights as they negotiate with bigger fish to hedge against the nightmare scenario of losing out on everyone, though Parsons can torpedo that by signing someplace else right away. Teams are terrified about Parsons’ knees and crow they will hold firm at a number below his max. But Parsons is eligible only for the lowest-tier max deal, starting at about $22 million, and a GM on thin ice with chambered cash might bite that bullet — especially if he can persuade Parsons to take a shorter deal.

Parsons might want to lock in as much moola as possible now; he knows his knees better than anyone, and the uncertainty of a revised collective bargaining deal looms.

Regardless: Dallas again faces serious downside on the treadmill of mediocrity. Dirk Nowitzki doesn’t want to leave, but he’s also tired of losing in the first round.

Houston should have no trouble hanging in the 40-plus-win range as long as it surrounds James Harden with a few guys who fit, but ownership has championship expectations. It’s unclear how the Rockets approach that level again.

They are not getting a meeting with Kevin Durant. They offered both Trevor Ariza and Patrick Beverley before the draft in hopes of snagging one or two first-round picks, though sources insist they also wanted a veteran back in any such deal. Those two are snug fits next to Harden. If you’re dealing them and missing on Durant, what exactly is the path back into the West’s upper echelon next season?

Knowing Houston, it will involve pitching every big-time free agent who might listen; Stein reported on my podcast the Rockets have some interest in Conley, continuing their quixotic quest to flank Harden with a ball-on-a-string point guard, and Daryl Morey, the team’s GM, has always erred on the side of chasing top talent and figuring the rest out later.

What happens if Houston misses on Horford, Conley, Batum, Whiteside and others? Remember: Morey let Parsons walk two years ago because he didn’t want to tie up max money on a third option. Given the pressure to win, will he pass on someone like Ryan Anderson for the same reason? Power forward is a giant question mark given Houston’s free agents there spent last season either pooping the bed (Terrence Jones) or in street clothes (Donatas Motiejunas).

Philadelphia and Brooklyn will be bad, but early indications are that both will go hard after young-ish free agents with untapped upside. They have enough cap space to make it rain with offer sheets, and at worst, they will drive up both prices and the pace of business in restricted free agency — bad news for a team like the Warriors, who might need to wait out Durant before making a choice on Harrison Barnes.

(This might not matter; teams can’t lavish offer sheets until the moratorium ends July 7, and incumbent teams have three more days to match. Durant will likely have made up his mind by then). Brooklyn has strong interest in adding some character veterans, including Jared Dudley, sources say.

Philly might kick the tires on glossier moves, including Barnes and the East Coast relocation of Waiters Island — though reports of the Sixers’ interest in Dion Waiters during former GM Sam Hinkie’s administration were always bogus, per several league sources.

Teams are worried Brooklyn will jump the market on unrestricted free agents with ties to new coach Kenny Atkinson (Lin, Bazemore), and some under-the-radar young guys.

3. Will we get any big trades?

A few months ago, it seemed as though the cap-space flood might grease the wheels for starry trades involving Kevin Love, Blake Griffin, DeMarcus Cousins, Jimmy Butler and a few others. That market has cooled. The Cavs are content, and Chicago has swatted away Butler inquiries since the draft (though Minnesota and especially Boston will still try).

Clippers coach Doc Rivers has talked publicly about keeping the gang together in Los Angeles, and even the much-discussed Griffin-Durant sign-and-trade is unwieldy; any player acquired in a sign-and-trade must sign for at least three seasons, meaning Durant would forfeit the one-year-deal route in agreeing to that arrangement.

The Kings are capable of untold horrors. Monroe is available, but Milwaukee can’t wring anything good for a guy who could bolt in a year — in part because this free-agency class market is packed with centers. The Pelicans have explored a Monroe-Anthony Davis partnership before, but they are hopeful Omer Asik will rebound after a dreadful season; they are in no rush to waive him via the stretch provision, allowing them to spread his remaining guaranteed money, sources say. Still: they will watch the market for centers, including Monroe.

The Wolves will likely waive Nikola Pekovic at some point, but they don’t appear to be a Monroe destination. Portland, Atlanta and Washington have all shown interest in Monroe before, but none is eager to surrender a real asset — not even a protected first-round pick.

One type of deal that could happen: teams getting off long-term contracts signed over the past two years. We’ve already seen that sort of deal with Tobias Harris, Robin Lopez and Thaddeus Young. In theory, teams shouldn’t be eager to trade guys locked into affordable deals signed under the old cap regime, but someone will need to shed money in a roster pinch. Across the table, suitors should be willing to give up real stuff for guys on affordable long-term deals.

The Raptors will need to move at least one big deal to have any hope of retaining both DeMar DeRozan and Biyombo, and teams will call about DeMarre Carroll. Toronto has already approached Philly about a deal sending out a rotation player — perhaps Terrence Ross, and other goodies — in exchange for Nerlens Noel, who could then assume Biyombo’s backup center role, according to league sources. The talks haven’t gained much traction yet.

Phoenix seems ripe for a deal, though Chandler’s contract is a bit of an albatross. The Pacers would probably like to dump Monta Ellis. Alec Burks will be expendable at some point soon for Utah. John Henson signed a four-year, $45 million extension last fall and barely played; if you’re Boston, would you rather sign Howard to some monster one-year deal or flip a pick and a prospect for Henson?

4. How will restricted free agency go?

Good restricted free agents almost never change teams. Teams wield matching rights as a deterrent against suitors and can sometimes leverage a lack of interest into a bit of savings.

Perhaps not this season. There are a ton of teams with oodles of cap room and very little to lose. Tying up space for three days as the incumbent waits to match might cost you a player, but some teams have so much space that they could extend a max-level offer sheet and still chase targets.

Reaching for Barnes, Evan Fournier or Allen Crabbe isn’t a disaster; they’re young, you get them through their primes, and if they just follow an average development curve, they’ll be movable down the line. In the worst case, you make their incumbent teams pay the full boat. Sometimes you just have to be mean. By the way: Orlando’s acquisition of Meeks should have no bearing on its approach with Fournier. No one knows whether Meeks is healthy; the Magic need Fournier, badly.

Hell, even after a wasted season, someone should still throw eight figures at Jones just to see if he can sustain the flashes of canny all-around play he showed in Houston. The market will be chillier on most midtier guys, which increases the likelihood their teams will match; Meyers Leonard stands as perhaps the only realistic candidate to sign the one-year qualifying offer and enter unrestricted free agency next season.
Watch out for the so-called “Gilbert Arenas” restricted free agents with only one or two years spent in the league, especially Langston Galloway, Tyler Johnson and Jordan Clarkson. Rival teams can offer them only the midlevel exception (about $5.6 million) in the first year and a small raise in Year 2, but they can leap all the way up to the player’s max salary in Years 3 and 4. (These are the trickster offers Houston used to pry away Lin and Asik four years ago.)

The bigger numbers should come into play only for Clarkson, though a team might offer a backloaded three-year deal to Galloway or Johnson.

5. Will we see more creative contract extensions?

Yes! Here’s the deal: If teams have cap room, they can use it on raises for guys who signed their current contracts at least three years ago — and tack more years onto the end of those deals. Denver did this last season with Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler, and both the Jazz and Pacers seem like good candidates to try with George Hill and Teague — provided they have the requisite space leftover.

If they play their cards right, the Pacers and Kings could start this process with Paul George and Cousins, respectively, in September. Derrick Favors becomes eligible a month later. The Wizards could engage with John Wall on the last day of July — the third anniversary of the day he signed his extension.

Some of these talks won’t materialize; teams will use most or all of their cap space to sign new players. But teams have spent the past few years lamenting the death of extensions for stars. The cap boom has resurrected them. Any time you get a shot to lock up a cornerstone for more years, you have to at least think about it.

Why Andrew Luck’s mega deal is a letdown for future QBs

The numbers are eye-popping at first, sure. But within the context of the NFL quarterback market, Andrew Luck’s Jerseys wholesale new deal is a pretty big letdown.

This is a deal that has been anticipated for more than a year now by people around the NFL. Agents have been drooling in anticipation of a contract they believed would set new benchmarks and really drive the top of the quarterback market upward for the first time in years. Team executives have been watching to see how much of his considerable leverage Luck would wield against the Colts.

The answer? Not that much.

Look, there’s no crying for Luck here. The numbers set several records. The $87 million in injury guarantees ($47 million of which is guaranteed at signing) far surpasses the $65 million that Eli Manning Jerseys got last year. The $23.3 million a year surpasses Aaron Rodgers’ Jerseys $22 million and Joe Flacco’s Jerseys $22.133 million. The $140 million total surpasses Jay Cutler’s Jerseys $126.7 million.

But it’s not as great as it was supposed to be. The average salary is less than the $25 million many were predicting. The $47 million at signing is $13 million less than Ndamukong Suh got. Pushing off $27 million of the guarantee into the third and fourth years is seen by people around the league as too risky to the player. It’s a nice deal, not a great one.

In fact, it helps keep a surprisingly stagnant portion of the NFL marketplace stagnant.

The quarterback position really hasn’t kept pace with recent salary-cap growth. Since Rodgers signed his contract in 2013, the NFL’s salary cap has risen from $123 million to $155.27 million — an increase of 26.2 percent. Even counting Luck’s new deal, over that same time period, the top quarterback salary has risen 5.9 percent.

Why? Well, I’ve been asking agents and executives that question over the past few weeks in anticipation of a Luck deal, and they all say the same thing. Quarterback is the ultimate leadership position. How does it look in the locker room if you insist on setting records and eating up all the cap space? Remember last year, when Manning got so upset about a report that he wanted to make more than Rodgers made? He didn’t, a source said, and he hated that someone would suggest he did. This is the way these guys think — especially those like Manning and Ben Roethlisberger Jerseys, who have won their Super Bowls and made their big second-contract money already.

But Luck should have been different. Luck should have raked the Colts over the coals. If ever a player were going to take a stand and demand the league’s first fully guaranteed veteran deal, this was the guy to do it. He didn’t even come close.

No time soon will any player wield the kind of leverage Luck had over the Colts. He’s universally recognized as a unique all-around talent — a respected leader with a brilliant brain, a huge arm and swift feet. He’s exactly the humble, half-goofy, badly bearded face of the franchise that the Colts want him to be. They’d be toast without him, and while yes, they could have franchised him next year for something in the low $20 million range, at some point he would have been able to threaten to leave.

Instead, like so many of his quarterback brethren before him, Luck chose to take the very pretty bird in the hand over the potentially historic bonanza in the bush. Tough to blame him, but if you’re a quarterback looking for a big deal in the coming years, he did kind of let you down.

Drew Brees Jerseys has one year left on his Saints deal. He could conceivably ask for more than Luck, but it would have been far sweeter for him if Luck were sitting at $25 million a year than $23.3 million. Kirk Cousins Jerseys could be in for a big payday if he plays out 2016 on his franchise tag number and has a big season. But how will he be able to argue for more than Luck next March? He was looking forward to drafting and slotting in behind Luck’s number the way guys like Manning, Roethlisberger and Russell Wilson Jerseys were slotting in behind Rodgers not long ago. That slot was supposed to be more stratospheric than this.

We don’t know who from the group of very young, promising quarterbacks on their first contracts will end up looking for cheap nfl jerseys top-of-the-market deals. Jameis Winston Jerseys? Blake Bortles Jerseys? Derek Carr Jerseys? Marcus Mariota Jerseys? Jared Goff Jerseys? One of them, maybe a few of them. But whoever they are, when their time comes, it appears they’ll be stuck in a quarterback market that doesn’t seem to want to skyrocket. And if Luck plays the way the Colts and the rest of the world think he can, then those players’ teams can hold Luck out as an outlier to whom they don’t have the right to compare themselves.

If anybody was going to blast through the ceiling of the NFL quarterback jerseys market, it was going to be Andrew Luck. Instead, he settled for just nudging it upward a bit.

The Colts announced Wednesday that Luck has signed an extension through the 2021 season that will make him the highest-paid player in the NFL, based on guaranteed salary.

Sources told ESPN that Luck is guaranteed $87 million with this extension. The previous most-guaranteed money for any NFL player was $65 million for both Eli Manning Jerseys of the New York Giants Jerseys and Philip Rivers Jerseys of the San Diego Chargers Jerseys.

“I am thrilled and excited to continue with this great organization,” Luck said in a statement. “I am thankful to the Irsay family and Mr. Irsay for providing me with this great opportunity and the trust that they’ve shown in me. I can’t wait for this season to start.”

The No. 1 pick in 2012 out of Stanford, Luck took the NFL by storm the moment he stepped onto the field. He made the franchise’s transition from Peyton Manning Jerseys a smooth one by leading the Colts to the playoffs in each of his first three seasons, including the AFC Championship Game in 2014 and back-to-back AFC South titles.

Luck has the fourth-most passing yards (14,838) by any quarterback in his first four seasons in NFL history. He also is the fourth quarterback with at least 100 touchdown passes through four years, including an NFL-leading 40 in 2014.

But Luck isn’t immune to struggles.

The 26-year-old is coming off the worst season of his four-year NFL career, completing just 55.3 percent of his pass attempts and committing 13 turnovers in 2015. He also showed he’s not invincible. He missed two games early in the year due to a rib injury, and then he missed the final seven when he suffered a lacerated kidney early in the fourth quarter against the Denver Broncos Jerseys in Week 9. He also dealt with shoulder and abdominal injuries.

For months, Irsay had said he hoped and expected this agreement would be done around the Fourth of July holiday, if not before training camp. His goal now has been achieved.

“The organization is excited about getting this deal done and getting it done before the 4th of July,” Irsay said. “It’s a big number. It was a deal that was fair deal for both sides taking into account being cap friendly, being reasonable in the last year in 2021.”

Luck was scheduled to make $16.155 million this season, the fifth-year option on his rookie contract.

The Colts report to training camp July 26 at Anderson (Indiana) University.