Tuesday, April 23, 2024
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Titans swoop in to sign Calvin Ridley; Kansas suffers another bad loss

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🏈 Good morning to everyone but especially to …

CALVIN RIDLEY

On the first official day of NFL free agency, only the Patriots and Jaguars were rumored to be in on the Calvin Ridley sweepstakes. Then, the Titans came busting through the wall like the Kool-Aid Man with a $92 million contract in their hands. Ridley’s four-year deal with Tennessee includes $50 million in guaranteed money, and the most highly-coveted free agent wide receiver is off the market.

After spending one season on the field with the Jaguars, Ridley joins a Titans offense with a new head coach and some intriguing pieces. DeAndre Hopkins signed with the team last year, 2023 second-round pick Will Levis has emerged as the quarterback of the future, and Tony Pollard has also signed with Tennessee as a member of this free agent class. They may not be Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase, but first-year head coach Brian Callahan has some weapons at his disposal in Nashville.

Ridley, the No. 26 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, flashed an extremely high ceiling in his four seasons with the Falcons. He looked poised to become one of the NFL’s elite wide receivers from 2018 to 2020.

  • 2018: 64 receptions, 821 yards, 10 touchdowns
  • 2019: 63 receptions, 866 yards, eight touchdowns
  • 2020: 90 receptions, 1,374 yards, nine touchdowns

In 2021, Ridley stepped away from football to focus on his mental health. And then in 2022, Ridley served a year-long suspension for violating the NFL’s gambling policy. Last season, Ridley hoped to reassert himself as a true offensive threat, and he did just that.

In 17 games, Ridley caught 76 passes for 1,016 yards, and eight touchdowns. In his two games against the Titans, Ridley exploded for a combined 13 receptions, 209 yards and three scores. Tennessee might have signed Ridley just so it won’t have to guard him in 2024.

There was more action in NFL free agency on Wednesday, and here are the most notable signings:

Keep up with every move throughout the NFL’s free agent frenzy with our live tracker at CBS Sports.

👍 Honorable mentions

🏀 And not such a good morning for …

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THE KANSAS JAYHAWKS

Hopefully no one rock chalked up No. 16 Kansas‘ second-round matchup against Cincinnati as a win. The Jayhawks entered the Big 12 Tournament without stars Kevin McCullar Jr. and Hunter Dickinson, but a quarterfinal matchup against Baylor on Friday still appeared to be in the cards. That is, until Wednesday night when Kansas laid an egg in a 72-52 loss to Cincinnati.

The Jayhawks got off to a slow start against the Bearcats and were never able to flip the switch. In fact, the game got away from them in the second half. It was a gross loss for a Kansas team stumbling toward the finish line.

  • As a team, the Jayhawks shot 33.9% from the field and 15.0% from beyond the arc.
  • Johnny Furphy, Elmarko Jackson and Nicolas Timberlake combined to shoot 1-for-12 from 3-point range.
  • Kansas got out-rebounded 49-38 and had half as many offensive rebounds (8) as Cincinnati (16).

If the goal is to play your best basketball at this time of year, Kansas has a lot of work to do before the NCAA Tournament starts. After this loss, the Jayhawks have now lost four of their last five games. Their last two losses, which includes a 76-46 dismantling at the hands of Houston, have come by a combined 50 points.

Going into Wednesday, CBS Sports bracketologist Jerry Palm had Kansas as a No. 3 seed in the East Region. Last night’s results certainly won’t help that seeding, and this recent stretch could mean a less favorable feed for the Jayhawks when March Madness tips off next week.

If there is a silver lining for Kansas in all of this, it’s that it now has plenty of time to rest and regroup. McCullar and Dickinson are expected to be back for the NCAA Tournament, so those two could provide a much-needed spark for the Jayhawks.

👎 Not so honorable mentions

⚾️ Padres land Dylan Cease in deal with White Sox

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Our own Matt Snyder looked borderline prophetic Wednesday when the Padres acquired starting pitcher Dylan Cease in a trade with the White Sox. Snyder had the Padres listed as a top-three potential suitor for Cease, and that’s exactly where he wound up going.

In exchange for Cease, San Diego sent pitching prospects Drew Thorpe and Jairo Iriarte, outfield prospect Samuel Zavala and reliever Steven Wilson back to Chicago. This is a key pickup for a Padres team that looks like it will lose defending Cy Young winner Blake Snell to free agency, and Cease will help them reload on the mound. He’s already proven he can be a high-end pitcher.

  • In 2022, Cease finished second to Justin Verlander in AL Cy Young voting when he posted a 2.20 ERA and 227 strikeouts.
  • Cease, 28, is one of only five pitchers to record at least 200 strikeouts in each of the last three seasons.

While Cease did take somewhat of a step back in 2023, CBS Sports’ own R.J. Anderson believes Cease can bounce back and provide San Diego with quality starting pitching. Anderson handed the Padres an “A” for this trade because of Cease’s nasty slider and the chances he improves in a more pitcher-friendly environment.

  • Anderson: “Cease’s sweeping slider, his primary pitch last season, has generated 40% or more whiffs in each of the last three years. In 2023, his slider allowed opponents to hit .216 — and that represented the worst mark of his career. Get Cease away from the White Sox and into a more friendly pitching environment — in terms of the ballpark, the defense, and the infrastructure — and you might see him quickly improve upon his career 113 ERA+.”

Along with Joe Musgrove and Mike King, Cease should give the Padres a trio of starting pitchers. Will that get San Diego, a team that finished 82-80 in the 2023 season, into the playoffs this year? That remains to be seen, but the doubts about he Padres’ rotation might cease after this deal.

As for other teams that might have been in the mix for Cease, they will have to pivot to other options. The one team that immediately comes to mind is the Yankees, who could be without ace Gerrit Cole for the foreseeable future. Our Mike Axisa laid out some options for the Yanks, which include making a run at Snell.

🏈 NFL mock draft: Our QB plan for the Vikings

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USATSI

Kirk Cousins is now a Falcon, and that left the Vikings in the market for a new starting quarterback. Their solution in free agency was … Sam Darnold. Yeah, he probably isn’t the long-term answer at that position. Nor is he the guy who is going to keep star wide receiver Justin Jefferson happy as he approaches a new contract.

Fear not, Vikings fans, CBS Sports draft analyst Chris Trapasso has a plan for you. In his latest NFL mock draft, Trapasso has Minnesota trading with the 49ers to get the No. 31 pick, where it takes Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr.

  • Trapasso: “They added Sam Darnold but are presumably still interested in a quarterback in the draft. The only problem is that they have the No. 11 overall pick, and there’s at least four clubs in front of them who clearly want a quarterback, too. And then there’s the Broncos immediately behind them at No. 12. It might take some draft maneuvering for the Vikings to get what they want in the first round.”

Anyone who watched college football the last couple of years knows exactly how electric Penix can be when he’s on his game. In 2022, Penix led the Huskies to the College Football Playoff title game and he finished second in Heisman voting. Penix completed 65.4% of his passes for 4,903 yards and 36 touchdowns against 11 interceptions.

Penix would give the fan base a lot more optimism than Darnold, and he already has plenty of purple in his wardrobe.

The top five picks in Trapasso’s latest mock are as follows:

  • 1. Bears | Caleb Williams | QB | USC
  • 2. Commanders | Jayden Daniels | QB | LSU
  • 3. Patriots | Drake Maye | QB | UNC
  • 4. Cardinals | Marvin Harrison Jr. | WR | Ohio State
  • 5. Chargers | Taliese Fuaga | OT | Oregon State

🏀 DeMar DeRozan’s 46 points push Bulls past Pacers — and three legends on NBA’s all-time scoring list

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The Bulls are fighting for playoff position down the home stretch of the NBA regular season, and DeMar DeRozan put them on his back Wednesday. DeRozan posted a season-high 46 points in a key game against the Pacers, and the Bulls needed every single one of them in a 132-129 overtime win.

This clash between Eastern Conference foes was a back-and-forth affair, and DeRozan really put on his cape at the end of regulation. With just 0.1 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, DeRozan knocked down a jump shot to tie the game at 117-117. In overtime, DeRozan scored nine of Chicago’s 15 points, capping off a truly sensational performance.

  • DeRozan got to 46 points while going just 1 for 6 from 3-point range by shooting 14 for 18 on two-point shots and 15 for 17 from the charity stripe.
  • In this one game, DeRozan passed Elgin Baylor, Dwyane Wade and Adrian Dantley on the NBA’s all-time scoring list.
  • DeRozan now sits in 37th place all time, right behind Warriors superstar Stephen Curry.

DeRozan’s effort helped the Bulls maintain their grip on ninth place in the East. Chicago is now 3.5 games back of the Heat in the battle for eighth place.

📺 What we’re watching Thursday

🏀 Big 12 Tournament: No. 20 BYU vs. No. 25 Texas Tech (M), 11:30 a.m. on ESPN2
🏀 Big Ten Tournament: Ohio State vs. Iowa (M), 6:30 p.m. on Big Ten Network
🏀 SEC Tournament: Ole Miss vs. Texas A&M (M), 7 p.m. on SEC Network
🏒 Panthers at Hurricanes, 7 p.m. on ESPN+
🏀 Suns at Celtics, 7:30 p.m. on TNT
🏒 Maple Leafs at Flyers, 7:30 p.m. on ESPN+
🏀 Mavericks at Thunder, 9 p.m. on TNT

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