Fire

Tebow traded to the Big Apple

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Tebow traded to the Big Apple

From Comcast SportsNet
NEW YORK (AP) -- Tebowmania's headed to New York, and the drama has already started for Jets fans. It began the moment the Jets pulled off the deal for the Broncos quarterback. Or thought they did. Eight hours and one huge snag later, the trade was on again. But not before the Jets added to the franchise's already lengthy list of embarrassing moments. Sure, Tebowmania is coming to New York, but it certainly wasn't a smooth deal. And it didn't come without some controversy -- something this Jets season could be filled with the moment Mark Sanchez struggles and restless fans call for Tebow to replace him. "Mark Sanchez is, has been and will be our starting quarterback," general manager Mike Tannenbaum said on conference call late Wednesday night. But the Jets have opened themselves -- and Sanchez -- to added pressure by bringing in Tebow. New York recently signed Sanchez to a three-year contract extension after falling out of the hunt for Peyton Manning, a vote of confidence for a quarterback whose pride took a serious shot at the end of last season as the Jets finished 8-8 and out of the playoffs. Some players questioned his leadership abilities, but Sanchez recently vowed to be the guy the franchise can lean on. Turns out, Rex Ryan's Jets now have two of those guys, including one in Tebow who might automatically be the biggest star in New York right now. Not Sanchez. Not Derek Jeter. Not even Jeremy Lin. "I'm just excited for him and to see what he does," Lin said in Philadelphia, where the Knicks beat the 76ers. "We'll see what happens next year." Just a few weeks after "Linsanity" swept New York and the rest of the NBA, "Timsanity" now will take over New York after the Jets acquired the polarizing quarterback and a seventh-round draft pick from the Denver Broncos for fourth- and sixth-round picks. Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Namath, who led the Jets to their only Super Bowl title in 1969, was among many who were unhappy about the deal. "I'm just sorry that I can't agree with this situation. I think it's just a publicity stunt. I can't go with it. I think it's wrong," Namath told 1050 ESPN Radio on Wednesday. "I don't think they know what they're doing over there." The trade was completed hours after the sides initially agreed to a deal, which was hung up when the Jets balked at repaying Denver more than 5 million for a salary advance due Tebow. The two sides agreed to split that cost, and Tannenbaum said the team was "comfortable with the compensation." He said there was a disagreement about how to handle the salary advance after Denver received the papers. "We knew what the contract was," he said. "We had read it. ... We felt it was one way; they felt it was another. Based on that, they were well within their rights to assess their different possibilities of what to do and their alternatives. And they did so throughout the day." So the Jets waited and waited -- and looked as if they had botched the big deal. Despite ultimately pulling off the trade, it's just another bizarre moment for the Jets, conjuring memories of Bill Belichick's hiring as coach and his resignation one day later. "I'm thankful they stuck with me through this whole crazy process," Tebow said, repeating several times that he was "excited" to be a member of the Jets. But the deal also raised questions about the Jets' commitment to Sanchez, who received a 40.5 million contract extension, with 20.5 million guaranteed, earlier this month. During a call late Wednesday night, Tannenbaum repeatedly referred to Sanchez as "our guy" and the team's unquestioned starting quarterback. "We obviously know that Tim has a magnetic following," Tannenbaum said. "We understand the popularity of the backup quarterback, and this one is more unique than others." Tebow said he had a "great conversation" on Wednesday with Sanchez, adding that they've been friends for several years. He said he's not here to take Sanchez's job, but to help him as a unique addition to the offense, someone who could run Tony Sparano's wildcat package -- and anything else they ask him to do. "My goal is to push (Sanchez) to get better, and to push myself to get better every day," Tebow said. "But I think we'll have a great working relationship. We'll have a great relationship off the field, and we've had that the last few years. He's such a classy guy and handles himself so well, and I'll be very honored to call him my teammate." Defensive end Mike DeVito is excited about the intangible qualities Tebow will offer. "You've got a tough player on the field, a leader in the locker room and a guy who shares the faith that I share," DeVito said. "So, I'm very grateful to have him on our team, and I feel it's going to really benefit us as a whole." But, like Namath, not everyone's a fan. Cornerback Antonio Cromartie, took to Twitter on Wednesday to express his confidence in Sanchez and the offense as structured before the deal was finalized. "Y bring Tebow in when we need to bring in more Weapons for (at)Mark--Sanchez," Cromartie tweeted. "Let's build the team around him. We already signed to 3 year ext." The Jets signed Drew Stanton last week to be their No. 2 quarterback, ahead of Greg McElroy, the team's seventh-round draft pick last year. Tannenbaum said Tuesday that he was confident in the trio, but on Wednesday acknowledged that the team would assess that situation and that Tebow was Sanchez's clear backup. Regardless, the Jets sure got the headlines and were the talk of sports radio -- even on a day when the New Orleans Saints received unprecedented punishment from the NFL for a bounty system that rocked the football world. Head coach Sean Payton was suspended without pay for next season, and former defensive coordinator Greg Williams, now with St. Louis, was banned indefinitely. But even all that couldn't overshadow another embarrassing episode for a franchise that has had to explain away several missteps in recent years. The Jets are hoping Tebow can help change all that. He led the Broncos to the playoffs last season -- along the way beating Sanchez and the Jets, who missed the postseason. But Denver executive John Elway believed Manning gave the team a better chance at winning a championship now. For the Jets, Tebow adds a unique dimension to the offense. "It is very clear: They want me to come in and compete and get better, and get better as a quarterback and to help the team any way possible," Tebow said. "Whatever that role is, I will do my best." Tebow also provides a solid presence in a locker room that was rife with infighting last season -- particularly between Sanchez and wide receiver Santonio Holmes. He also brings with him a flock of fervent fans for reasons that have to do as much with his faith as his football skills. A devout Christian, he's been a role model since his days at Florida, when he led the Gators to two national titles and captured the Heisman Trophy. Denver started shopping Tebow after signing Manning, and the Jets were considered a long shot as late as Tuesday night. But New York went hard after Tebow. As part of Tebow's 11.25 million, five-year contract he signed as a rookie in 2010, he had a 6.277 million advance due 29 days after the start of the 2011 league year. That money was paid to him in August after the NFL lockout ended. The trade stalled over the payment the Jets would owe the Broncos from that advance. That allowed Jacksonville to get back into the hunt, and it came down to the Jaguars and Jets. "I think we have a duty to consider all avenues of improving the Jaguars on and off the field, especially given the unique circumstances involving the player," Jaguars owner Shahid Khan said in a statement. "I am very satisfied with the outcome." Tebow said, contrary to some reports, he didn't have final say in where he was going. "Ultimately, I really didn't have any because the Broncos had all that power," Tebow said, adding that Denver was "gracious" in the way it handled the process. "I was just kind of watching and waiting -- kind of like everybody else. "It was an interesting day."

As Fire's offseason activity picks up, GM Nelson Rodriguez says more improvement is needed

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USA TODAY

As Fire's offseason activity picks up, GM Nelson Rodriguez says more improvement is needed

General manager Nelson Rodriguez has taken his time this offseason, but things have been picked up in the past week and will continue to do so with the draft taking place on Friday.

Rodriguez spoke with reporters on a conference call a day after Bastian Schweinsteiger’s return became official and just hours after Jorge Bava’s exit and the Cam Lindley trade were announced as expected. Those topics and plenty more were discussed serving as a state of the team with offseason activity ramping up.

First off, the big news remains Schweinsteiger’s return. Rodriguez would not disclose the German’s salary, but did say that there is no option for a second year on the contract. The two sides would have to renegotiate just like they did this winter for him to return in 2019.

“Both parties were keenly interested in continuing the relationship so I think that made things a lot easier,” Rodriguez said. “There are always some little details that need to be worked out and I think that’s what prolonged the discussions, but I believe both parties felt reasonably confident that we would continue together.”

Elsewhere, the finalization of the Lindley trade allowed Rodriguez to discuss some of the details of the breakdown in negotiations with the homegrown prospect. The Fire sent the rights to Lindley to Orlando for Rafa Ramos and $100,000 in Targeted Allocation Money (broken down as $50,000 in both 2018 and 2019). Lindley signed a four-year contract with Orlando.

The Fire approached Lindley last winter, but he returned to North Carolina for his sophomore season.

“When we spoke this year, Cameron indicated that he would prefer to start his career outside of Chicago and so we were able to fulfill that wish for him, but in the process we thought we did very well for ourselves in acquiring a very talented, young player with professional experience and then on top of that getting allocation money, which can serve us,” Rodriguez said. “I think it’s an instance where it’s a win-win for Orlando and for us.”

Ramos, 23, will likely be the backup to both Matt Polster and Brandon Vincent. Lindley is a 20-year-old central midfielder who could have provided depth behind Schweinsteiger and Dax McCarty this year.

When asked why Lindley didn’t want to sign with the Fire, Rodriguez said he didn’t ask Lindley.

“I’m only concerned with players who are in our locker room and want to play for us,” Rodriguez said.

Bava’s exit was under different circumstances. The 36-year-old goalkeeper expressed a desire to return to his home country of Uruguay, which he was able to do by landing with Liverpool FC Montevideo. The Fire and Bava mutually agreed to terminate his contract.

“He came to us and let us know that he had a playing opportunity,” Rodriguez said. “I think the second part of it is that we indicated to Jorge that we were very comfortable with Matt (Lampson) and Richard (Sanchez) and that it was going to be difficult for him to unseat one or both of those guys.”

Those moves put the Fire’s roster at 21 heading into Friday’s draft. The first two rounds will take place in Philadelphia starting at 10 a.m. The Fire have the 15th and 38th picks.

Rodriguez said the Fire’s draft is very different this year after having the top pick in 2016 and the third pick in 2017. The Fire traded both of those picks.

“With the first pick and the third pick, teams generally come to you,” Rodriguez said. “My experience is that there are several teams going for the clubs that hold those top three spots now so it’s almost flipped in that if we want to be active, no one is looking to move up to 15.

“I wouldn’t discount our making a trade because we have had conversations, admittedly all with teams ahead of us in the draft, no one below us in the draft. But some of that may be dependant upon how the draft actually goes. Usually you lock in on one or two players, you don’t want to necessarily trade up without knowing either or both of those players might be available. It might be a situation that occurs during the draft as opposed to prior to the draft.”

As for other potential additions, Rodriguez didn’t say much. He wouldn’t comment on the continuing Juan Quintero rumors and reports. The news is seemingly going in both directions on that front.

Rodriguez did comment on a potential return for Juninho, the Brazilian midfielder who was on loan with the Fire last season. Mexican club Tijuana holds his rights after the loan expired.

“We told Juni and his agent that we were not going to offer a transfer to acquire his services, but if he could extricate himself from that contract, we would be interested in having him return to the club,” Rodriguez said.

When asked what he believes the roster still needs, Rodriguez said “across all our lines,” even mentioning goalkeeper as part of that. At this point most additions will be for depth, but Rodriguez mentioned the need to replace midfielder Djordje Mihailovic and forward Michael de Leeuw, both of which suffered torn ACLs last in the 2017 season. Rodriguez said they are hoping for those players to return from injury in July or August, but obviously things can change as they continue to rehab.

Meet the Prospects: Zack Collins

Meet the Prospects: Zack Collins

The White Sox rebuild is in full swing. While it might still be a year or two before the big league team is expected to start competing for championships, the minor leagues are stocked with highly touted talent fans will be eagerly following in 2018. With that in mind, it's time to Meet the Prospects and get to know the future of the South Side.

Zack Collins

Collins, the 22-year-old catcher, has been projected as the White Sox catcher of the future since he was selected with the 10th overall pick in the 2016 draft.

A Florida native and University of Miami product, Collins initially was celebrated for his batting prowess and faced questions about his defensive abilities, only to improve with the glove in 2017 while he watched some offensive numbers slip a bit.

After joining the White Sox organization in 2016, Collins slashed .258/.418/.467 with six homers and 18 RBIs in 36 games at Class A Winston-Salem. In 2017, he played 101 more games at Winston-Salem, slashing .223/.365/.443 with 17 homers and 48 RBIs. He also played a dozen games at Double-A Birmingham, where he added a couple more homers and five more RBIs.

This offseason's signing of Welington Castillo installs a veteran backstop for two or three seasons at the big league level, meaning there's no rush for Collins to get to the majors.

As of their most recent rankings, MLB Pipeline had Collins rated as the No. 7 prospect in the White Sox organization.

Get to know Collins in the video above.