Capitals

Ex-Saint Nicks relishes new opportunity in Tampa

Ex-Saint Nicks relishes new opportunity in Tampa

METAIRIE, La. (AP) Carl Nicks figured he was on his way out of New Orleans before last season even ended, which only added to the All-Pro left guard's motivation.

``I figured if you didn't want to talk to me then, in my fourth and final year, it wasn't going to happen in the offseason,'' Nicks said, referring to a lack of contract talks with New Orleans during the 2011 season, his last before free agency. ``So, I figured I better ball out, because I have to put my resume out there.''

Nicks said he misses his former Saints teammates, who he'll face on Sunday in Tampa Bay. Still, he is happier with the Buccaneers, even joking in his typically goofy, free-speaking manner that his new workplace is all ``lollipops and rainbows.''

One big reason is because the Buccaneers gave him a five-year, $47 million free-agent contract, he acknowledged this week.

``Honestly I've always grown up and been in the college and NFL and know the good players get paid accordingly,'' he said. ``I felt like I was a good player and it happened accordingly.''

But there was more to it than that, he insisted.

``Everybody thinks it was the money,'' Nicks said Wednesday. ``But it really wasn't. The challenge here is to be something that the Saints didn't look at me as - a premier player that could be a leader.''

Nicks did not necessarily see it as a sign of disrespect that the Saints did not see him in such a role. New Orleans already had players like fellow All-Pro Jahri Evans on the offensive line, and quarterback Drew Brees' contract holdout only complicated matters

``I knew Drew had to get his money first and that's how it should have been,'' Nicks said. ``He's a franchise quarterback and he's much more in the community. He needed to get dealt with first and I totally understand that.''

Saints interim head coach Aaron Kromer, also the offensive line coach, said in losing the 6-foot-5, 349-pound Nicks, the Saints lost a blocker is simply ``overpowering.''

``He is a matchup win on almost everyone,'' Kromer said. ``That's what makes him different.''

Kromer said the Saints did as well as they could filling the void with Ben Grubbs, a former Pro Bowl guard at Baltimore. Kromer said Grubbs continues to be an elite NFL guard, and yet something has been amiss in the Saints' running game early this season. New Orleans is averaging 75.2 yards on the ground, which ranks 30th.

The Saints made Nicks their fifth-round draft choice in 2008, taking a calculated risk on a player whose draft status dropped because of off-the-field disciplinary problems. The move paid huge dividends as Nicks became a starter during his rookie season and held the spot full-time going into 2009, when New Orleans won its only Super Bowl.

Nicks also was part of last season's Saints offense that broke a slew of records, and memorable lifted Brees on his shoulder when the Saints quarterback broke Dan Marino's 1984 single-season record of 5,084 yards passing in a season.

``He picked me up pretty easily, I'll say that, too,'' Brees said.

Nicks said the Saints finally made him a competitive offer during free agency. He did not remember it precisely but said the annual average pay was more than Evans' seven-year, $56.7 million deal. By then, however, it was too late, Nicks said.

``Who knows what would have happened if they had offered me that deal ... before free agency started?'' Nicks said.

Instead, he's protecting Tampa Bay's Josh Freeman this season, and run-blocking for LaGarrette Blount and Doug Martin.

``Carl has been a great addition. He is a physically dominating player,'' first-year Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano said. ``He has been a great guy to have in the organization. He has been a leader on the offensive line. He has really been a positive addition.''

Notes: Saints TE Jimmy Graham (right ankle) returned to practice on a limited basis. ``You always want to have your best players so we hope we're going to have him,'' Kromer said. ``If we don't, then we just have to adjust accordingly. ... ``Jimmy is mentally ready and he is a very tough guy. Pain doesn't affect him.'' ... LB David Hawthorne (right hamstring) and LB Scott Shanle (illness) did not practice.

---

Online:http://pro32.ap.org/poll andhttp://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Quick Links

What's next for Barry Trotz?

What's next for Barry Trotz?

Barry Trotz is no longer the head coach of the Washington Capitals and, after resigning Monday afternoon, he is officially free to pursue other opportunities.

So what's next for the now former Capitals head coach?

For those who believe Trotz will simply retire, that seems unlikely. Trotz is only 55 years old.

General manager Brian MacLellan indicated the main issue in the contract negotiations between him and Trotz was term. If Trotz was, in fact, seeking a five-year contract, that doesn't sound like someone who is ready to walk away from the game.

There is only one head coaching vacancy left in the NHL, that of the New York Islanders. New President of Hockey Operations Lou Lamoriello cleaned house after getting hired and fired both general manager Garth Snow and head coach Doug Weight earlier in June.

Now, suddenly, there is a Stanley Cup-winning coach on the market.

While it certainly makes sense for the Islanders to pursue Trotz, there's one big reason why Trotz, or anyone, would likely be hesitant to accept the job on Long Island and that is John Tavares.

New York's franchise player is a pending free agent and, until his contract situation is resolved, convincing anyone to take the head coaching job with the Islanders is a tough sell. If the Islanders re-sign Tavares, improve the defense and bring in a dependable starting goalie, then there is no reason to think they cannot be a playoff team.

But those are a lot of "ifs" and Tavares is a big one. If he goes, suddenly the situation on Long Island is much different. Tavares' decision could be the difference between the Islanders being a playoff team or getting a high lottery pick.

For Trotz to walk away from a team that just won the Stanley Cup to go to a New York team that may or may not have its best player back next season does not make a lot of sense.

But just because there may be only one head coaching vacancy open doesn't mean Trotz does not have any options.

The 2017-18 season saw no head coaching changes made during the season for the first time since the league expanded in 1967. Chances are jobs will begin to open up during the season especially if those teams believe they can land a Cup-winning coach as a replacement.

If you're Trotz, you just won a Stanley Cup. There is no reason to rush into another opportunity. Trotz will instantly be near or at the top of every wish list for teams in need of a head coach.

Don't just assume that Trotz will be on Long Island to start the 2018-19 season just because it is the only opportunity currently available. He can wait for the perfect opportunity to come to him.

MORE CAPITALS COVERAGE:

Quick Links

Cavaliers are gunning for Kawhi Leonard, though it's doubtful they have enough to interest Spurs

usatsi_9975642.jpg
USA TODAY Sports

Cavaliers are gunning for Kawhi Leonard, though it's doubtful they have enough to interest Spurs

With word out that Kawhi Leonard wants a trade from the Spurs, teams are lining up with offers to San Antonio and one of the NBA’s best teams has reportedly already made a call.

The Cleveland Cavaliers have contacted the Spurs about a potential Leonard trade, according to Cleveland.com. Terry Pluto wrote on Sunday that multiple teams have done the same. That is to expected, of course, as Leonard is one of the best players in the NBA. He's a two-time defensive player of the year and he's only 26.

Let's look at Cleveland as a potential destination. It should first be noted that it's questionable whether they have enough to land a player of Leonard's caliber. They have the eighth overall pick in Thursday's draft, but it may take a lot more than that to get Leonard.

They also have Kevin Love, who is an All-Star still in his prime. But if they gave him up, they would then need to seek more help to surround Leonard and LeBron James, if James decides to stay. Though James and Leonard are both top-five players in the NBA, they still likely wouldn't be able to beat the Warriors unless they had another running mate. Those two plus Love and then you're talking.

Whether the Cavs have the goods to land Leonard or not, it's no wonder why they are trying for him. Getting Leonard, a two-time All-NBA selection, would likely be enough to retain James, the best player in the game. If James were to look around the league for a top-shelf running mate, he would be hard-pressed to find one better than Leonard.

That is assuming Leonard is healthy, of course. He did miss all but nine games this past season with a quadriceps injury. That injury was central in a saga of discord between him and the team. Until he hits the court again, Leonard offers no guarantees. Still, he may be worth the risk for Cleveland, as the alternative is potentially seeing James walk. 

If the Cavs got Leonard, that would probably solidify their standing as the best team in the Eastern Conference, even if they lost Love in the process. Leonard is better than Love and they would arguably have the two best players in the East. They may not have enough to beat the Warriors, but that would likely give them the edge over the young teams like Boston and Philly that have been nipping at their heels.

Sending Leonard to the Cavs would get him out of the Western Conference and that might be enticing to the Spurs. If they send him to the Lakers, his reported preferred destination, that could come back to bite them much more often than it would if he was traded to the East. Though putting him in Cleveland would form another very good team, they wouldn't affect the Spurs directly but for two regular season games, unless they were to meet in the NBA Finals.

The Spurs haven't indicated they will actually trade Leonard, but it does seem to be heading in that direction. It sounds like Cleveland will at the very least give it a shot. 

NBC Sports Washington is on Apple News. Favorite us!