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Bills sign RG Urbik to 4-year contract extension

Bills sign RG Urbik to 4-year contract extension

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) The Buffalo Bills took the first step in securing their offensive line's long-term future by signing starting right guard Kraig Urbik to a four-year contract extension on Tuesday.

The deal locks up Urbik through 2016 and is worth $13.3 million, including a $3.5 million signing bonus for this season, a person familiar with the contract told The Associated Press. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the team did not reveal the length or monetary terms of the contract.

It's a significant raise for a fourth-year player, who had signed a $1.26 million contract tender in April. Urbik is set to make a base salary of $2.05 million next year and $2.9 million in 2016, the person said. He's also eligible to make additional money through roster and workout bonuses, and playing-time incentives.

Urbik is completing his third year with the Bills, who claimed him off waivers in September 2010 after he was released by Pittsburgh. The Steelers had selected Urbik in the third round out of Wisconsin in the 2009 draft.

Listed at 6-foot-5 and 324 pounds, Urbik has provided a steadying and versatile presence since moving into a starting role last season. He's played both guard and center, and has 26 starts - including 11 this season - in 34 games with Buffalo.

The signing came with Buffalo (5-9) set to close out its season with two meaningless games after being eliminated from playoff contention for a 13th straight year. The Bills play at Miami (6-8) on Sunday, and then host New York Jets (6-8) on Dec. 30.

Later in the day, the Bills made a number of roster moves, including placing starting receiver Donald Jones on the reserve/non-football illness list. The Bills did not reveal the nature of the illness.

Jones' agent, Cliff LaBoy, said the illness is not serious, and is related to a calf injury that forced his client to miss two of the past three games. Jones first began experiencing tightness in his calf last month, and was held out of a 34-18 win over Jacksonville on Dec. 2.

Jones is third on the team with 41 catches for 443 yards and four touchdowns.

His injury further depletes the Bills at receiver. Coach Chan Gailey has already ruled out reserve Marcus Easley from playing this weekend after he hurt a hamstring in a 50-17 loss to Seattle on Sunday.

The Bills also placed reserve linebacker Arthur Moats on season-ending injured reserve after he hurt his ankle last weekend.

Buffalo filled the two open roster spots by promoting receiver Chris Hogan and linebacker Greg Lloyd from its practice squad.

With Urbik locked up, the Bills can now turn their attention on securing two more starting linemen.

Left guard Andy Levitre, who has been the line's most consistent player, is completing the final year of his contract. Center Eric Wood has one year left on his deal.

Though open to re-signing with the Bills, Levitre said last week that he was unaware of any contract talks taking place.

The Bills have spent the past three seasons revamping their line, which also includes left tackle, Cordy Glenn, a rookie second-round pick.

The line allowed an AFC-low 23 sacks last season and helped the Bills finish with 1,921 yards rushing - the team's highest total since 2000. This season, the Bills are tied for seventh in the AFC with 28 sacks, and feature the NFL's sixth best rushing attack.

The Bills have also been in negotiations to re-sign starting safety Jairus Byrd, who is in the final year of his contract. With five interceptions, Byrd is tied for the AFC lead and is tied for seventh in the NFL. He's also forced three fumbles and recovered two.

Buffalo filled its two practice squad openings by signing receiver Kevin Elliott and linebacker Brian Smith. Elliott had 10 catches for 108 yards in 13 games with Jacksonville before being released last weekend. Smith played two games with Cleveland last season.

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Rui Hachimura's learning curve can be seen on offense late in games

Rui Hachimura's learning curve can be seen on offense late in games

WASHINGTON -- Wizards forward Rui Hachimura has translated so smoothly to the NBA level that it is easy to forget he is still just a rookie with only 31 games under his belt. For a reminder of his inexperience, just look at the fourth quarter.

Hachimura tends to start games hot on the offensive end, like he did on Friday in the Wizards' loss to the Cavaliers when he had eight points by the end of the first quarter. But he scored only nine points after that and went scoreless through seven minutes in the fourth.

That has been a consistent theme for him this season. He averages 4.8 points in the first quarter shooting 48.4 percent from the field, 4.0 points in the second shooting 57 percent and then 4.3 points on 47.9 percent in the third. In the fourth quarter those numbers plummet to 1.9 points on average and 33.3 percent shooting.

Basically, Hachimura often comes out on fire but then slows down considerably once opponents make midgame changes. Against the Cavs, Hachimura said it was because they disrupted passing lanes.

"They are an NBA team. They just adjusted. They didn't want me to catch the ball. They didn't let me just catch the ball. I think that's why," he said.

The Wizards have seen teams switch defensive match-ups midgame to counter Hachimura. Sometimes taking away his midrange jumper will be prioritized. The Cavs seemed to find success playing Hachimura more physically in the second half, bumping him away from his comfort zones.

Over time, Hachimura can improve his ability to sustain scoring throughout games simply by becoming more versatile. The more consistent he becomes at making three-point shots and creating off the dribble, the more difficult it will be for teams to stop him. As long as he keeps improving, he will reach a point where he can stay ahead of the defense with a multitude of counters.

Developing a more reliable outside game and more dribble combinations will take some time. For now, Hachimura believes the key to him keeping up his scoring pace involves working with his teammates, particularly star shooting guard Bradley Beal.

"I just gotta connect more with Brad. Brad is the one everybody is trying to guard. Screens and pick-and-rolls with him, that kind of stuff will help me," Hachimura said.

Hachimura's game against the Cavaliers reflected how the team played overall. After scoring 41 points in the first quarter, they managed only 42 in the second half. They blew a 16-point lead and lost, 113-108.

So, he wasn't alone. And those rooting for Hachimura to round out his game should feel good about his odds. He has a relentless work ethic and is often staying after practice to go over film with player development coach Dave Adkins.

Hachimura is perceptive and driven to improve. In order to take the next step as a scorer, he will have to get better at closing games.

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Want to witness history? Why Saturday's game is a good bet for Alex Ovechkin to score 700

Want to witness history? Why Saturday's game is a good bet for Alex Ovechkin to score 700

Alex Ovechkin is capable of scoring any time against any team, but if you're trying to pinpoint when history could happen and see goal No. 700, there are plenty of reasons to be watching Saturday's marquee matchup against the New Jersey Devils (1 p.m., NBC Sports Washington).

In three games this season, Ovechkin has scored four times against New Jersey. On Jan. 16, he was bloodied by a high stick from Miles Wood and left for the locker room returning before the first period was up and scored twice. He did not just get mad, he got even and completed the hat trick in the third period.

Head coach Alain Nasreddine did not reveal who his starter would be in net on Friday, but it will be either MacKenzie Blackwood or Cory Schneider. Keep your fingers crossed for Schneider.

Schneider has not played an NHL game since Jan. 18 and was recalled from the AHL on Thursday most likely because Louis Domingue is headed out of town in a trade and the team wanted to protect the asset. Schneider has a 4.65 GAA and .852 save percentage in nine games. Ovechkin has also had plenty of success against him in the past, scoring eight times against the Devils netminder. He has only managed one goal on Blackwood, but it came this season on Dec. 12, 2019.

Ovechkin has a history of success against the Devils. In 56 games against New Jersey, Ovechkin scored in 22 of them. He has 29 total goals including two of his 28 career hat tricks against the Devils.

New Jersey ranks 30th in the NHL in goals against and, although they have improved in that area since Jan. 1, they still rank 21st in that time keeping the puck out of the net.

Add in the fact that the trade deadline firesale has already begun with the Devils shipping out Blake Coleman and captain Andy Greene in the past week, as well as Taylor Hall back in December, and this may be a team not ready to stop Ovechkin's march to history.

With Ovechkin on the verge of 700, there's no doubt that Saturday's marquee matchup (1 p.m., NBC Sports Washington) is one you won't want to miss.

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