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.

Instant Replay: Celtics 107, Sixers 106

Instant Replay: Celtics 107, Sixers 106

BOX SCORE

Rewind 24 hours.

The Sixers were walking off the court Friday night after a dismal blowout loss to the Magic that left Brett Brown reflecting on Saturday, “Here in Philadelphia, at home, that’s not good enough.”

The Sixers had lacked fire and grit, especially with Joel Embiid on the floor against a sub-.500 Magic team that had played the night before in Memphis. 

They had a day to turn it around. A playoff contending Celtics squad was coming to town and Embiid wasn’t available because of his back-to-back limitations. The shorthanded Sixers (see below) had a tall task ahead of them. 

The Sixers reacted by jumping out early and kept the Celtics at bay in the first half. Even when the Celtics cut their lead to three midway through the second quarter, the Sixers responded with an 8-0 burst to go up by a game-high 11 points. 

The Celtics exposed the Sixers' defensive void in the paint without Embiid in the third. With the Sixers up 65-58, Isaiah Thomas drew a foul against Jahlil Okafor. That play sparked a 9-0 Celtics run over the next two minutes, in which Thomas scored six of those points (including four at the line). The Celtics took back the lead during that stretch and forced the Sixers to play catchup.

The Sixers cut the Celtics lead to one in the fourth with a three from Dario Saric, who played one of his most aggressive games of his short NBA career. After the Celtics jumped back up by seven, the Sixers kept fighting and tied the game 100 apiece. The Celtics were able to pull away and finished with a one-point win, 107-106, after Ersan Ilyasova drained a three at the buzzer. 

Inside the stats
Thomas exploded for 37 points (11 for 19 from the field, 2 for 3 from three, 13 for 15 from the line), four rebounds, and seven assists.

Saric recorded a double-double with 21 points and 12 rebounds off the bench, both tying career-highs. 

Ersan Ilyasova dropped 18 points, including three treys, and six rebounds.

Okafor and Sergio Rodriguez scored 15 apiece, with Rodriguez adding eight assists. 

Avery Bradley dropped 20 points and nine rebounds. 

Stauskas starts in place of Covington
Brown turned to shooting guard Nik Stauskas to slide over to the three spot in place of the injured Robert Covington (see below). 

“Boston’s perimeter defense is as good as it is in the NBA,” Brown explained. “I think you need to have more ball handlers, people who can make a play, on the perimeter … I feel that Nik has that ability to put it to the floor and disrupt that aggressive pressure that the Celtics backcourt can put on you.”

Broken ankles
Saric came up with the Sixers' highlight play of the game when he did this to Jonas Jerebko in the third quarter for an instant highlight reel moment. 

Always a student
Not playing, still learning. Embiid has been praised for being an eager student of the game. During warmups he sat courtside to watch film on a laptop even though he wasn’t suiting up. 

Injury updates
Joel Embiid is not playing in back-to-back games and sat out the back end of this home-home series for rest … Robert Covington sat out with a sprained left knee he suffered on Friday after colliding with T.J. McConnell chasing a ball out of bounds … Jerryd Bayless missed his fourth straight game with left wrist soreness. 

Up next
The Sixers host the Nuggets on Monday night.

Eric Semborski, from Temple club hockey to NHL goalie for a day against Flyers

Eric Semborski, from Temple club hockey to NHL goalie for a day against Flyers

Eric Semborski woke up Saturday and drove to work in Voorhees, New Jersey.

It was just an ordinary morning for the 23-year-old, a Temple graduate with a bachelor’s degree in sports management.

Little did he know, in a couple of hours his world would turn upside down.

Semborski, who works for Snider Hockey and at Flyers Skate Zone running goalie clinics and roller leagues, hadn’t played competitively since suiting up for the Owls’ club team in the spring of 2015.

That was until Saturday at the Wells Fargo Center, where, someway, somehow he was draped in a Chicago Blackhawks jersey and squaring up blazing shots off the sticks of Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa and Duncan Keith, just to name a few.

Quite the promotion, huh?

“It’s surreal, really,” he said. “I can’t explain it.”

Could anyone?

“I couldn’t imagine the rush,” Blackhawks goalie Scott Darling said.

Incredibly and astonishingly, Semborski turned into an NHL goaltender for a day as Chicago’s second string to Darling, who suffered a 3-1 loss to the Flyers.

How Semborski was found and summoned by the Blackhawks is still somewhat of a mystery, even to the Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, native himself. Once Chicago received word that regular starter Corey Crawford had to suddenly undergo an appendectomy at a Philadelphia hospital, the Blackhawks started scrambling for an emergency backup to Darling.

“I was at work, at the rink in Voorhees just coaching,” Semborski said. “My boss called me and I missed it. I walked off the ice and started talking with someone from the Flyers, he started asking me, ‘Where’d you play hockey, what’s your playing history?’” 

Semborski was confounded.

“I didn’t even know what he was getting at,” he said. “I asked, ‘Why are you asking me this?’ And he said, ‘Oh, Chicago needs a goalie.’ I just lost it. He said, ‘Go home, get your stuff and if they’re going to use you, they’ll call you.’ I left right away.

“I was like, OK, this probably isn’t going to happen, there’s no way.”

Ten minutes later …

“I’m in the truck and I got a call from Chicago,” Semborski said.

Who was it?

“I just know his name’s Tony,” Semborski said. “That’s all I know.”

How the heck did the Chicago Blackhawks, winners of three Stanley Cups since 2010, find a regular, hard-working guy living in Manayunk to be their reserve netminder?

“No idea,” Semborski said, still in awe talking after the game outside the locker rooms. “I think it had something to do with me working with Snider Hockey, working at Voorhees. They asked around and people just threw my name out I guess. I really don’t know how it happened. I’ll have to get to the bottom of that and thank some people. I have no idea who gave them my info, but whoever did, thank you, because it was awesome.”

So Semborski hustled from Voorhees to Manayunk, packed up his gear — including his old Temple mask, sporting the words “Philly Proud” and “Temple Tuff” — and quickly made his way to the Wells Fargo Center. He arrived around 12:30 p.m. before puck drop at 1.

“I hit some traffic on 76 (Schuylkill Expressway), of course,” Semborski said. “I got here as fast as I could in my street clothes. No time to put on a tie.”

Once Semborski signed his amateur tryout, it became real. He walked into the visiting locker room and there were the Blackhawks and his NHL jersey, a makeshift uniform with Crawford’s No. 50.

“It was hanging up when I got in there,” he said. “I guess they took Crawford’s and threw a name on it and made it work.”

Prior to hitting the ice for warmups, Semborski got acquainted with his teammates.

“Dream come true,” he said. “That was so cool, just hanging out with those guys. They made me feel welcomed right away, started joking around.

“When I got there, they put my number on the board and said I’m throwing in $200 for the holiday party. That was pretty good. I told them, ‘You better take credit because that’s all I got.’”

What about his big-money contract?

“No, I should be paying them for this,” Semborski said. “That was awesome.

“I signed some stuff when I came in, I don’t know what it was. I’m happy with a hat and the memories.”

Especially taking the net in warmups.

“I was a bit rusty, but no matter how much I play, I’m not going to be ready for them,” he said. “It was fast and I couldn’t even catch my breath because I was trying to take it all in. That was the best 20 minutes of my life out there skating with them.

“You’re playing against the best guys in the world. I knew I wasn’t going to stop most of them. I was lucky if it hit me.”

As for the game, Semborski didn’t play.

“Well you almost saw it,” Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville said, referring to his frustration with a three-goal second period by the Flyers.

“That probably would have been a big mistake,” Semborski said with a laugh.

“That would have been so cool, but I wouldn’t change a thing. The experience was awesome.”

What did Quenneville think?

"That’s part of the process with all of the teams, they have the local amateur guys or sometimes guys who have played pro before," he said. "But with our cap situation, we needed an amateur, so he fit all the criteria and it was a good opportunity for him. ... It’s kind of a cool experience for the kid."

So Semborski sat on the bench, padded and ready. He smiled and watched, supporting his new team.

He, of course, is a Flyers fan, but …

“Not today,” he said with a smile. “Every other day, yeah, but not today.

“When I first got out there, I was like, ‘All right, if [the Flyers] score, don’t stand up. Just relax.’”

Semborski admitted to Chicago breaking his heart in 2010 when it beat the Flyers in the Stanley Cup Final.

“That was one of the hardest things I ever watched,” he said. “But today, that’s all forgotten. I’m a ‘Hawks fan today.”

Afterward, Semborski said his phone was flooded with 70-something text messages and 20-plus phone calls.

“I’m going to have to start calling some people,” he said.

His first will probably be to a special loved one.

“It’s my dad’s birthday,” Semborski said. “So, happy birthday, Dad. Best present ever for you.”