NFL BEGINS NEW YEAR TODAY
For most folks today is March 14 and just another day—one day before the Ides of March and three days before St. Patrick’s Day.
But at 3 p.m. today, the National Football League officially begins the 2018 season, which means teams can immediately begin to sign free agents from other teams.
Two days ago–on Monday–all teams compiled the needy positions on their shopping lists and began negotiations with agents who represent players who’ll become unrestricted but were not allowed to reach agreements.
That should legally begin today at 3 p.m. as team executives determine how much cap space they have on this year’s upcoming rosters.
One of the most serious “customers” in the free-agent marketplace is our own Houston Texans, who have created $65.783 million in salary cap space under the projected salary cap limit of $177.2 million, which ranks sixth in the NFL in salary cap space.
Only the Cleveland Browns ($113.842 million), New York Jets ($92.083 million), Indianapolis Colts ($73.878 million), Tampa Bay Buccaneers ($73.095 million) and San Francisco 49ers ($70.06 million) have more cap room than the Texans.
Houston’s primary need is a reliable “blind side” left tackle. But the big problem is that there is only one true left tackle available—New England Patriots’ offensive tackle Nate Solder, according to Sunday’s edition of the Houston Chronicle.
“Carolina Panthers offensive guard Andrew Norwell is expected to become the highest paid interior offensive lineman in the game and could wind up being too expensive for the Texans’ budget,” the article points out.
The Texans don’t have a viable left tackle since trading Pro Bowl left tackle Duane Brown to the Seattle Seahawks following his long contract holdout last season.
Other needs facing the Texans according to new general manager Brian Gaine besides fixing the offensive line is the secondary, specifically at cornerback.
The Texans also need a tight end, safety, guard, speed rusher, third-down running back, a wide receiver who can stay healthy, a backup quarterback and depth in the defensive line and at linebacker, according to the article.
Free agent tight ends include Jimmy Graham (Seattle), Martellus Bennett (New England), Tyler Elfert (Cincinnati) and Trey Burton (Philadelphia). Eric Reid (San Francisco), Morgan Burnett (L.A. Chargers) and Kenny Vacaro New Orleans) are the top safeties available.
Closer to home but not a free agent is Seattle Seahawks’ All-Pro free safety Earl Thomas of Orange, who begins the final year of his four-year, $40 million contract. Most star players are offered contract extensions during the off-season before their last year begins.
Earl is not too keen about being a “lame duck” this season and at one point after the end of the regular season threatened to sit out this season if the Seahawks’ brass doesn’t talk to him about a new contract.
He claims to want to play for and retire from Seattle but realizes that the NFL is a booming business and things happen some time that disrupts long-range plans.
Seattle has been doing some strange things this winter like releasing four-time All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman and defensive tackle Michael Bennett. These moves were done to free up cap space but replacing two prominent All Pros will be no easy chore.
Sherman didn’t waste any time finding a new place to play and signed a three-year contract with the Seahawks’ hated rival San Francisco 49ers that is reportedly worth up to $39.15 million. The big question is whether Sherman is 100 per cent healed from his two 2017 surgeries.
KWICKIES…Southeast Texas high school basketball fans were treated to two state championships Saturday as the Port Arthur Memorial Titans rallied from an early deficit to defeat Northwest 75-69 to win the Class 5A title. Silsbee got into a scoring contest with Dallas Carter and came out on top 104-101 to win their second Class 4A state title in as many years. Both championship teams were honored by their respective hometown fans when then returned home from the Alamodome in San Antonio.
And while on the topic of basketball tournaments, the field was set Sunday night for the annual NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament which goes into full swing tomorrow. Top-seeded teams include Virginia (31-2) in the South Regional, Xavier (18-5) in the West Regional, Villanova (30-4) in the East Regional and Kansas (27-7) in the Midwest Regional. Seven teams from then Lone Star State were selected to the 68-team field—Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, TCU, Houston, Stephen F. Austin and Texas Southern.
It appears that veteran Tony Sipp made the Houston Astros’ 25-man roster because he’s the only lefthander reliever still at training camp.
And speaking of the Astros, Luke Gregerson (Cardinals) and Joe Musgrove (Pirates) were among the 2017 Astros playing for other clubs who made the trip to the White House with the team Monday to receive congratulations from President Donald Trump for winning the 2017 World Series.
JUST BETWEEN US…PGA fans are hopeful that Tiger Woods is back to the prominent position he held in the pro golf world a decade ago. If last weekend’s tie for second place, one stroke behind winner Paul Casey, is any indication of a great Tiger comeback, it will give a big boost to the pro golf tour. Tiger has logged $110 million in career earnings plus many more times that figure in endorsements. Casey, who fired a final round 65 Sunday, had to wait nearly 90 minutes to verify he was the winner of the Valspar Championship. This was the first Top Five finishes for Woods since August 2013. When it became apparent that Tiger was for real in this event, the estimated 140,000 spectators ballooned to more than 150,000 and the television ratings for Sunday soared to their highest mark since 2013.