NFL Free Agency Extras: Kolb, McNabb, Mikell

NFL Free Agency Extras: Kolb, McNabb, Mikell

The negotiating period got off to a slow start yesterday, but as afternoon flowed into evening, reports of free agents and free agents-to-be choosing their homes came rushing in. That leads us to believe day two could get much crazier, but here's a roundup of some of the relevant action from day one, plus an update on a possible Kevin Kolb trade.

Kolb to Seattle Reportedly Dead
Cue the "Kolb to Arizona was never a foregone conclusion" comments. While much of the talk during this extra long off-season centered on the Cardinals trading for the Eagles' backup quarterback, it was thought the Seattle Seahawks could still be in the mix for the young signal caller.

The NFL Network's Jason La Canfora put that theory to bed on Tuesday, reporting Seattle will pass on doing a deal with Philly for Kolb. Instead, they expect to sign Tarvaris Jackson, and are in talks with Matt Leinart as well, to join Charlie Whitehurst when free agency officially opens on Friday.

As Reuben Frank indicates, this could come as bad news for the Birds, who could have used Seattle's potential involvement as leverage against the division rival Cardinals. Meanwhile, it's said Arizona is exploring other options themselves, including trading for Denver's Kyle Orton, or signing free agent Matt Hasselbeck, who will not re-sign with the Seahawks. (Update: Hasselbeck agreed to terms with the Titans.)

Arizona also added Marc Bulger yesterday, as many outlets predicted months ago.

That being said, the Eagles are still in a decent position to negotiate. If Arizona intends to get its quarterback of the future, and not just a placeholder for another couple of years, Kolb is the answer. Orton has turned out to be a capable starter, but has likely reached his ceiling, while Hasselbeck and Bulger are veterans whose careers are heading toward the light.

For Seattle's part, the decision to go with a collection of Charlie Whitehurst, Tarvaris Jackson, and Matt Leinart is questionable at best. It's fair to wonder what the Seahawks ever saw in Whitehurst, and Jackson could never quite put it together in five years with Minnesota. Head coach Pete Carroll might try to rekindle his winning ways with Leinart, as the duo dominated the college ranks at USC, but so far the lefty quarterback has been a complete bust in the NFL.

Of course, there are no guarantees Kolb ever develops into a championship caliber quarterback either, so by abstaining the Seahawks could become the ultimate winners in these sweepstakes. One thing that seems clear right now though is, barring some unforeseen developments under center, they won't be winners on the football field in 2011.

And as for the Cardinals, we certainly wouldn't rule out a deal yet. They can use this to their advantage to knock the Eagles' asking price down, but that will only work to an extent. Still, we might have to temper our excitement on the return for Kolb now.

Q to St. Louis
It did not take long for Quintin Mikell to find a new home. The Eagle of eight years was scooped of off the market quickly, as expected, with the St. Louis Rams offering an outrageous four-year deal worth $28 million, and $14 in guaranteed dollars.

It's an obvious fit, so much so that it's hard to believe we never saw it before. Free safety O.J. Atogwe departed St. Louis and signed with Washington before the lockout got underway, so there is certainly a hole in their defensive backfield. Mikell should be comfortable filling it in head coach Steve Spagnulo's scheme, a disciple of Jim Johnson.

As for what the Birds are losing, Mikell filled the void at strong safety nicely after neither Michael Lewis or Sean Considine panned out. In four seasons as the starter, '08 was clearly his best, earning a second team All-Pro nod. Since the departure of Brian Dawkins however, Mikell's play has been solid, but at 31-years-old this September coupled with his likely commanding top dollar as a free agent, he was not special enough to warrant an extension.

Of course, how "special" Mikell was is irrelevant now if Jaiquwan Jarrett or Kurt Coleman aren't ready to take over.

After spending the last four months in limbo, knowing he would not be wearing midnight green, but unsure of what the future held, it's nice to see Q will land somewhere decent. The Rams are a team to keep an eye on over the next year or two, especially considering the state of the rest of the NFC West.

Mikell won't have to wait long before he gets a crack at his old team either. The Eagles will head to St. Louis to kick off the 2011 season on September 11.

Charles Johnson to Stay in Carolina
Defensive end is on many fans' wishlists—and certainly the organization's as well—but one of the premier free agents is already off the market. Johnson has reportedly agreed to a six-year contract worth $76 million to remain with the Carolina Panthers. The deal includes $32 mil in guaranteed money.

Johnson had a breakout season in 2010, which put him on the radar for the pass rush-needy Eagles. The 25 year old out of Georgia tallied 11.5 sacks in his first year as a starter, cementing a big money contract from somewhere this off-season. In the previous two seasons, Johnson came up with 10 sacks despite starting in only two games.

We're not convinced the Birds were ever willing to invest that kind of combination of money and years on a defensive end anyway, considering they already have Trent Cole, and just one season after trading up to draft Brandon Graham. We still think they will look to add a pass rusher though, only somebody who is either cheaper (Mathias Kiwanuka?) or will be forced to take fewer years (Jason Babin?).

Thoughts on McNabb to Minny
Believe it or not, Minnesota might be exactly the right place for Five to rejuvenate his career.

Any way you look at it, McNabb didn't get a fair shake in Washington. Their offense was pitiful, with problems that went beyond the passer. The offensive line was feeble, and his weapons seriously lacking. The coaches were just as hard-headed as their quarterback, and it simply was not the right fit for anybody involved.

Things would be different with the Vikings. The line is better, and they have an all-world running back in Adrian Peterson who can carry the load. Meanwhile, the receiving corps includes some talented players, especially if they can prevent another club from wrestling away Sidney Rice.

Yup, I think if you put McNabb on the Vikings, they actually are probably pretty good—in fact, potentially much better than last season under Brett Favre/Joe Webb.

Jeremy Hellickson enjoyed his time with Phillies, now he'll look for free-agent riches

Jeremy Hellickson enjoyed his time with Phillies, now he'll look for free-agent riches

BOX SCORE

ATLANTA — Jeremy Hellickson made his final start of the season for the Phillies on Thursday night.

Now he becomes the team’s first big offseason decision.

Hellickson had long left the game with a sore right knee by the time struggling reliever Jeanmar Gomez was tagged for four runs in the bottom of the eighth inning in what ended up as a 5-2 loss to the Atlanta Braves (see Instant Replay). The Phillies were swept in their final trip to Turner Field — the Braves will move into a new ballpark in April — and have lost six of their last seven games heading into the final weekend of the season and a three-game series against the New York Mets at Citizens Bank Park.

“It’s a bad time to be in a rut and we’re in a rut,” manager Pete Mackanin said. “We’ve got to go home and snap out of it.”

Besides supporting his rotation mates, Hellickson won’t make any contributions this weekend. The 29-year-old right-hander, acquired in a November trade with Arizona, finished his season 12-10 in a career-high 32 starts. He tied a career high with 189 innings. His final ERA of 3.71 was his best since he recorded a 3.10 ERA in 31 starts for Tampa Bay in 2012.

Though he left the game in the fourth inning after tweaking his knee while running the bases (see story), Hellickson achieved his season goal.

“This isn’t anything that’s going to linger,” he said, looking down at his knee. “So I came out healthy. That was my main thing, try to throw 200 innings — I fell just short of that — and stay healthy. So as far as those two goals go, it was good.”

By staying healthy and pitching well, Hellickson built himself a nice free-agent platform. But before Hellickson heads out on the open market, the Phillies must make a decision: Do they offer him $17 million to retain him in 2017 or simply let him go. As a rebuilding team, the Phils would love to get a draft pick as compensation for Hellickson’s leaving. But to get that pick, they must make Hellickson that one-year qualifying offer and he must reject it and sign elsewhere. 

It seems likely that the Phils will make the offer to Hellickson. If he takes it, he will return in 2017 and fill the same veteran stabilizer role he did this season. If he rejects, the team will get a pick between the first and second rounds of next year’s draft. The value of that draft pick is significant and was seen as a reason the Phillies did not trade Hellickson in July.

Qualifying offers go out in early November, but general manager Matt Klentak isn’t ready to tip his hand on what he’ll do.

“Both are valuable,” he said, weighing Hellickson's returning on a one-year deal versus picking up a draft selection between the first and second rounds. “For the same reason Jeremy Hellickson was valuable to us this year, Jeremy Hellickson or a player like that could be valuable to us again next year. The draft pick at the end of the first round has a real, measurable, tangible value.”

After Thursday night’s game, Hellickson was asked if he believed he’d made his final start with the Phillies.

“I hope not,” he said. “But I don’t really know how to answer that. I would love to be back here next year. I think everyone knows how much I’ve enjoyed my time here and I think we’re moving in the right direction.”

The pitcher was pressed as to whether he could envision himself accepting the qualifying offer if the Phillies made one.

“Yeah, I mean I definitely could see it,” he said. “But …"

Hellickson paused. Then a reporter broke the silence by suggesting the pitcher would rather get a multi-year deal on the open market.

“Yeah, I would love that actually a little bit more,” he said.

The Phillies could look to strike a multi-year deal with Hellickson before he hits the open market five days after the World Series, but that does not appear to be in the club’s plans. The Phils seem to be interested mostly in short-term deals for veterans as they let their kids develop.

In time, this thing will play out.

But for now, the Phillies head home looking to stop a losing streak and scuttle the Mets’ postseason hopes.

Best of MLB: Cardinals top Reds on Molina's disputed double in 9th

Best of MLB: Cardinals top Reds on Molina's disputed double in 9th

ST. LOUIS -- Yadier Molina hit a disputed double that drove in the winning run with two outs in the ninth inning Thursday night, sending the St. Louis Cardinals over the Cincinnati Reds 4-3.

The Cardinals began the day one game behind San Francisco for the second NL wild-card spot.

Matt Carpenter drew a one-out walk from Blake Wood (6-5). With two outs, Molina's one-hop hit appeared to bounce off a sign above the left-field wall and carom back into play.

Carpenter kept running and scored from first. Reds manager Bryan Price ran after the umpires, who left the field as soon as Carpenter touched the plate.

Price later said umpire crew chief Bill Miller told him that teams have 10 seconds to appeal on a game-ending play, and that the complaint wasn't made in time.

"I'm not blaming the umpires. I'm blaming the system," Price said.

Molina and Jedd Gyorko hit solo homers for the Cardinals.

Seung Hwan Oh (6-3) wound up with the win (see full recap).

Jimenez delivers strong start, Orioles blank Blue Jays 4-0
TORONTO -- Ubaldo Jimenez and two relievers combined on a three-hitter and the Baltimore Orioles beat the Blue Jays 4-0 on Thursday night, moving into a tie with Toronto in the AL wild card race with three games remaining.

When he started at Toronto on June 12, Jimenez allowed five runs and six hits in 1/3 of an inning, the shortest start of his career.

The right-hander returned Thursday and carved up the Blue Jays. The only hit he allowed was Ezequiel Carrera's single to begin the first. Josh Donaldson followed with a walk but Jimenez retired the next six batters in order.

Devon Travis walked to open the third and advanced on Carrera's sacrifice, but that was the first of 11 consecutive outs for Jimenez, a streak that ended with Edwin Encarnacion's two-out walk in the sixth. Jose Bautista flied out to end the inning.

Jimenez (8-12) allowed one hit in 6 2/3 innings, improving to 3-1 with a 2.31 ERA in five September starts. He walked three and struck out five (see full recap).

Cubs, Pirates play to rare MLB tie
PITTSBURGH -- The Chicago Cubs and Pittsburgh Pirates played a rare major league tie on Thursday night when their game was called off due to rain with scores level at 1-all in the sixth inning.

With the Cubs and Pirates not scheduled to play again this season, officials decided the game would not be made up, since its outcome will not affect postseason positioning. Chicago long ago clinched the National League Central, while Pittsburgh is out of playoff reckoning, sitting third in that division.

So instead of becoming a suspended game, the match was declared a tie -- the first since Houston and Cincinnati went seven innings on June 30, 2005, before rain halted them.

Willson Contreras had two hits and scored for the NL Central champion Cubs, who have already clinched the best record in the majors. Josh Bell hit a sacrifice fly for the Pirates.

The game was called in the top of the sixth after a delay of 1 hour, 23 minutes.

Tim Federowicz hit a sacrifice fly in the Cubs second. Pittsburgh tied it in the third.

Cubs rookie Rob Zastryzny gave up one unearned run in 3 2/3 innings in his first major league start after beginning his career with seven relief appearances (see full recap).

Buxton doubles, triples in Twins' 7-6 victory over Royals
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Byron Buxton tripled, doubled, drove in two runs and scored twice as the Minnesota Twins defeated the Kansas City Royals 7-6 on Thursday night.

After Salvador Perez's pinch-hit RBI single with two outs in the ninth pulled the Royals within a run, Terrance Gore ran for him. With Paulo Orlando, who had four hits to match his career high, hitting, Brandon Kintzler picked Gore off first base.

Gore was initially called safe, but after a 1 minute, 15 second review, the call was reversed to end the game.

Buxton's one-out double triggered a three-run ninth off Kelvin Herrera (2-6). Robbie Grossman, Miguel Sano and Max Kepler contributed run-scoring singles in the ninth.

The Twins won for the first time in 10 games this season at Kauffman Stadium (see full recap).