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NFL Offseason Report: Brees, Saints remain far apart in contract talks

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees talks to teammates on the bench as the Saints play the Carolina Panthers in an NFL football game in Charlotte, North Carolina on October 9, 2011. New Orleans won 30-27. UPI/Nell Redmond .

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the New Orleans Saints and free agent Drew Brees remain “well apart” in contract talks, which presents a problem with Monday’s franchise tag deadline approaching fast.

As of right now, the issue isn’t whether or not the Saints will be able to re-sign Brees. The issue is whether or not they’ll be able to re-sign him by Monday and therefore avoid having to tag him so he doesn’t hit the open market come mid March. Brees hasn’t given any indication that he wants to leave New Orleans but the Saints can’t risk losing their most valuable player.

If the two sides don’t come to an agreement by Monday and the Saints do use their franchise tag on Brees, then they’ll risk losing fellow free agents Marques Colston and Carl Nicks. Colston is the team’s No. 1 receiver while Nicks is one of the best guards in the league. Both players have stated that they want to return to New Orleans but they’re also due pay raises.

Per Schefter’s report, Brees told the New Orleans Times-Picayune last week that he was confident he would reach a deal with the Saints. But he appears to be targeting a contract that will make him the highest-paid quarterback in the NFL and when you’re dealing with that kind of money, a deal takes time to structure.

But time isn’t on the Saints’ side. Again, the Saints aren’t in immediate danger of losing Brees but if they would be in much better shape if they can get a deal done this weekend and then at least have the option to tag either Colston or Nicks.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @TheScoresReport. You can also follow TSR editor Gerardo Orlando @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom, and you can follow TSR editor Anthony Stalter @AnthonyStalter.

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2012 NFL Draft Report: Rams have decided to trade the No. 2 overall pick

Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III of Baylor University walks off the field after their NCAA football game against the Washington Huskies at the Valero Alamo Bowl in San Antonio, Texas, December 29, 2011. REUTERS/Joe Mitchell (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

ESPN’s Adam Schefter is reporting that the Rams have already had discussions with multiple teams about the No. 2 overall pick, which they’ve decided to trade.

According to sources, the Rams already have had trade discussions with the Cleveland Browns (No. 4), Washington Redskins (No. 6) and Miami Dolphins (No. 8), each of whom is scheduled to pick in the top eight in April’s draft.

The Rams, who already have quarterback and 2010 top pick Sam Bradford, also have discussed a potential trade with teams outside the top 10, according to a source, but it will be challenging for one to surrender enough compensation to vault to the second overall pick.

Schefter says the Rams are seeking a deal similar to what the Chargers got in exchange for Eli Manning in 2004. San Diego selected Manning with the top overall pick and in exchange received two first-round picks, a third-round pick and a fifth-round choice.

Considering the team that would be trading with the Rams would likely take either Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III, it’s entirely realistic that St. Louis could land a haul like the one the Chargers did back in ’04. It just depends on which team they decide to trade with.

According to the 2012 NFL Draft trade value chart, the No. 2 overall pick is worth 2,600 points. So in theory, the Browns could trade the No. 4 overall pick (1,800), the No. 37th overall pick (530), and the No. 68th overall pick (250) and get pretty close to that 2,600. (Although again, I’m just saying this in theory. Cleveland could trade away its first and third this year, plus a second and sixth next year if it didn’t want to part with most of its 2012 draft.)

The Rams-Browns trade connection makes the most sense in my eyes. The Browns could acquire their quarterback in the future by moving up to the No. 2 spot and they would still have the first-round pick that they acquired from Atlanta last year. Thus, even though they could potentially part with two middle-round picks this year, they still have a chance to land to two impact players in the first round. Or, they could always parlay that second first-round pick (No. 22 overall) into a couple of mid-round selections if they wanted to trade down in efforts to recoup the picks they gave to the Rams.

The Rams, meanwhile, could move down two spots and still have an opportunity to select wide receiver Justin Blackmon with the No. 4 overall pick. Assuming St. Louis wants Blackmon and Minnesota doesn’t take him at No. 3, by trading the No. 2 overall pick the Rams could essentially still land the player they want and acquire more picks in the process. It’s a win-win situation for Jeff Fisher and Co, who have a golden opportunity to re-stock a St. Louis roster that is severely devoid of talent.

2012 NFL Free Agency: Breaking down the Wide Receivers

Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson celebrates a touchdown against the Buffalo Bills in the fourth quarter of their NFL football game in Orchard Park, New York October 9, 2011. REUTERS/Doug Benz (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

Free agency in the NFL begins on March 13 and leading up to that date I’ll go position by position while highlighting the best players, best bargains, as well as the riskiest investments.

Best in Class: Take your pick.
This is the deepest pool of free agent receivers that I’ve seen in a long time. Wes Welker, Mike Wallace, Vincent Jackson, Dwayne Bowe, Marques Colston, Brandon Lloyd, Stevie Johnson, DeSean Jackson, Reggie Wayne and Robert Meachem comprise the top 10 free agents, but Mario Manningham, Laurent Robinson and Harry Douglas could also be available next month. Welker seems like a perfect fit for the Patriots’ offense and will likely stay in New England, but Wallace could be available if the Steelers can’t figure out a way to fit him under their cap. When healthy and not in the midst of a contract holdout, V-Jax is one of the more versatile receivers in the league in that he’s a vertical threat with soft hands who can also block in the running game. Bowe, Colston, Lloyd, Johnson, Jackson and Wayne have been, or still are No. 1 options in the passing game and Meachem certainly has the talent to be a No. 1 given his skill set. Teams needing a receiver have no excuse not to address that hole this offseason.

The Biggest Risk: DeSean Jackson
Jackson is only 25 and is drenched in big play ability. But he has 35 drops over the last four seasons, was a ghost at times last year because he was seemingly worried about his contract situation, and sometimes costs his team on the field with his immaturity. Because of his big play ability and success as a punt returner, plenty of teams will be interested in Jackson’s services next month. But with so many other free agent receivers available, teams weary of his inconsistency and maturity issues can cross his name off the list if they want to. His agent must pull his hair out thinking about how much money Jackson has cost himself over the past year.

The Best Value: Brandon Lloyd
Lloyd is still going to be paid like a low-end No. 1 but at 31 he’ll be cheaper than guys like Welker, Jackson, Bowe, Wallace and Colston. He didn’t post the same numbers in 2011 as he did in 2010 but don’t forget that the quarterback situation in Denver was brutal and Sam Bradford couldn’t stay healthy in St. Louis (the team Lloyd was traded to midseason). Even at 31, Lloyd is an explosive downfield threat who also has a large catch radius. The Rams would be wise to keep him in St. Louis but if he were to hit the open market, he could turn out to be a real value for his eventual production.

Best Cost-Effective Bargain: Robert Meachem
Meachem doesn’t have the numbers or name power as other receivers that could become available next month but at 27 his ceiling is still somewhat high. He’s consistent, as he’s averaged a touchdown every 10 receptions in the regular season and has just 11 drops over the last four years. He may never develop into a No. 1 but he’s worth a shot for a team like Jacksonville that is thin at receiver and has other holes to address this offseason (and thus, might not want to spend big at one position). Meachem could wind up being a cost-effective alternative to Jackson, Bowe, Colston and the other big-name receivers in this free agent pool.

Ohio State stumbling into the NCAA Tournament

Ohio State forward William Buford. REUTERS/Matt Sullivan (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

With March Madness around the corner, everyone is getting pumped up for the NCAA Tournament and starting to pay attention to NCAA basketball betting lines. Ohio State has been one of the better teams all season long, but recent stumbles are making many question whether this team has what it takes to go far in the tournament.

The Buckeyes dropped their home finale against Wisconsin, and “concerns” are growing.

Ohio State’s loss to Wisconsin on Sunday started on Saturday, when coach Thad Matta had to throw his team out of practice because the Buckeyes weren’t ready to go.

All season, especially after their six losses, the No. 8 Buckeyes have said they’ve played like they’ve practiced, for good and for bad. So to lose to the No. 16 Badgers, 63-60, with now just two games remaining in the regular season, was yet another exasperating result that yielded another round of the players talking about not playing together.

“It’s real concerning,” said William Buford, who has his Senior Day marred by the loss. “We should be together by now.”

It led Matta, typically protective of his players, to call out his team maybe as much as he ever has in his eight years in Columbus. He volunteered the info about booting them from practice after the players failed to mention it.

“I think at times they don’t understand what I see in our approach,” Matta said. “As we said, guys have got to look themselves in the mirror and come back and be ready to go.”

Adversity at this time of year is not necessarily a fatal problem, as we’ve seen many talented teams struggle at times only to get hot and then surprise the field during the tournament. Last year the Buckeyes were one of the big favorites, but Thad Matta was outcoached and the Buckeyes played too conservative in a loss to Kentucky. Perhaps if everyone is questioning them, then perhaps this team can rally with lower expectations.

Putting all that aside, Matta needs to figure out the problem. One issue is that Matta never goes too deep on his bench, which is the one aspect of his coaching style that drives fans crazy. It’s impossible to find solutions to rotation issues when you only play 7 or 8 guys regularly.

UFC 144 Results & Recap: Henderson wins Lightweight Title

nullUFC 144 marked the organization’s long-awaited return to Japan, and it didn’t disappoint.

The main event featured a very competitive bout for the lightweight championship where Ben Henderson defeated Frankie Edgar by unanimous decision to claim the 155-pound strap.

Henderson, who looked noticeably bigger than Edgar, was able to dictate the fight with his leg and body kicks while also using his size and strength to stay off his back for frequent periods of time.

While each of the five rounds was razor thin, the overall impact of the fight clearly took more of a toll on Edgar, who was battered an bruised, than Henderson, who looked fresh throughout.

In the co-main event, Ryan Bader earned the biggest win of his career, picking up a hard-fought decision win over Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. Bader showed some good striking and head movement to earn the nod on the feet and then managed to score three takedowns against Jackson, who has been notoriously hard to take down. Jackson, who missed weight by six pounds, looked sluggish as the fight prolonged. Bader had clearly won the fight when the final horn sounded.

The main card started off with a bang as lightweight Anthony Pettis knocked out Joe Lauzon with a vicious head kick. Pettis dominated the fight, taking little to no damage while working nice jab combinations and kicks. Pettis ended the fight with a head kick to Lauzon and then a few punches on the ground for good measure. The KO was much-needed for Pettis, who failed to have a signature win since joining the UFC. He is now right up there as a top-5 contender in the 155-pound division.

Another big highlight on the card was an incredible comeback TKO win for middleweight Tim Boetsch, who stopped Yushin Okami in the third round. Okami dominated the first two rounds with sharp striking and nearly finished Boetsch on two occasions. However, in the third round, Boetsch had the mindset of kill or be killed, and he was the one that did the killing. He attacked from the opening second of the round and used a series of uppetcuts in the clinch to fold Okami up like an accordion and earn the win, by far the biggest of his career.

For complete UFC 144 results, check out the jump.

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