What's the Deal With Curtis Marsh?

What's the Deal With Curtis Marsh?

As we mentioned in our earlier "Scenes From Training Camp," second-year cornerback Curtis Marsh reportedly has been seeing action with the ones up at Lehigh, apparently in preperation for his new role as the immediate backup behind Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie on the outside. Some followers might describe this as a surprising development given the fact that Marsh only dressed in seven games last season, and was used very sparingly on defense at that -- just 13 snaps according to Pro Football Focus.

For the Eagles, it was all part of the plan.

Marsh was the club's third-round pick in 2011, so it was only natural to be somewhat disappointed when he amounted to a total non-factor in his rookie season. In Marsh's case however, his inability to get on the field was not a sign that he was a bust believe it or not.

For starters, it wasn't that long ago the Eagles were trying to find a way to get along with three Pro-Bowl corners who were all best suited on the outside. If it wasn't working out with Asomugha, Rodgers-Cromartie, and Asante Samuel in the same secondary, adding the untested Marsh into the mix certainly wasn't going to be the solution. Heck, who would you dare have him replace? He was blocked, it's as simple as that.

At 6'1", 197, Marsh projects as another press corner in the mold of an Asomugha or DRC, only he happens to be a bit of a project, which also hurt his chances of making an impact from day one. Taken out of Utah State, Marsh actually began his collegiate career as a running back before switching over to defense as a junior. To make that leap and go on to be drafted in the third round, Marsh obviously demonstrated an instinct for the position, but there is just no way anybody could expect him to be as polished -- especially after a lockout-condensed offseason.

Not that it necessarily would have mattered either way. The whole situation is reminiscent of when the Birds took Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown in rounds one and two of the '02 Draft. With Troy Vincent and Bobby Taylor still under contract and doing their jobs at a high level, Sheppard and Brown only started 12 games combined during their first two seasons in Philly. Clearly it's not uncommon for the team to groom cornerbacks in this manner.

For Marsh's part, he was impressive during the preseason last year, albeit against second-rate talent. He showed a willingness to get physical with receivers though, and the size and athleticism to cover them. The coaches obviously liked what they saw too, as once they were able to work him in on special teams, Marsh even became the focal point of a of trick punt return. The fact that it failed is beside the point -- they trusted him enough to try.

It only makes sense to increase his role now that Samuel is out of the picture. Joselio Hanson is a pure slot corner, and 2012 fourth-round pick Brandon Boykin is likely to battle for that spot as well. That leaves a relatively thin crop of players behind Asomugha and DRC, and none with Marsh's pedigree or natural ability.

The fact that they aren't simply utilizing him as a second stringer, instead putting him on the field at the same time as Asomugha and Rodgers-Cromartie, suggests his role may be even greater than imagined. Defensive coordinator Juan Castillo and Asomugha aren't backing down from the challenge of turning 24 into a do-it-all defensive back. If Nnamdi is going to line up anywhere other than at right corner on a regular basis, Marsh figures to be the man on the outside on gameday.

Whether Marsh is ready for that or not, obviously no one knows. It may be easy to explain why he wasn't on the field last year, but until he performs, he's still just another kid who has to prove he belongs. However, the Eagles must like what he brings to the table, because they don't seem to be afraid to keep putting more on his plate. Marsh is definitely a player to watch going forward.

MLB Notes: Aroldis Chapman rejoins Yankees on 5-year, $86 million deal

MLB Notes: Aroldis Chapman rejoins Yankees on 5-year, $86 million deal

OXON HILL, Md. -- Aroldis Chapman found a spot in a most familiar bullpen -- a very rich spot, too.

The hard-throwing closer reached agreement to return to the New York Yankees on Wednesday night with the highest-priced contract ever for a relief pitcher, an $86 million deal for five years.

A person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press that the contract was pending a physical. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal was not yet complete.

Once it's done, the 28-year-old lefty whose fastballs routinely top 100 mph would shatter the previous richest contract for a reliever -- that was the $62 million, four-year deal Mark Melancon signed with San Francisco just a couple days ago during the winter meetings.

Chapman was acquired by New York from the Cincinnati Reds last offseason, then missed the first 29 games of the season due to a domestic violence suspension from Major League Baseball. The Cuban was traded to the Chicago Cubs in late July and helped them win the World Series, becoming a free agent when it was over.

Chapman went 4-1 with 36 saves and a 1.55 ERA in a combined 59 games for the Yankees and Cubs. He struggled some in the postseason as the Cubs beat Cleveland for their first championship since 1908.

With the Yankees this season, Chapman teamed with Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances in one of the most dominant bullpens in baseball history. Miller was later traded to Cleveland, but Betances is still with New York.

Earlier this week, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said the team was interested in both Chapman and fellow free agent closer Kenley Jansen. The Yankees had already made one deal at these meetings, signing slugger Matt Holliday, before paying a lot more to bring Chapman back to the Bronx.

Fox Sports first reported the agreement.

Rangers: Gomez reaches deal to stay with team
OXON HILL, Md. -- Carlos Gomez is staying with the Texas Rangers.

The outfielder agreed to an $11.5 million, one-year contract, a deal subject to a successful physical.

"Many of the objectives of the Rangers for Carlos go beyond one year," his agent, Scott Boras, said Wednesday. "Certainly Carlos really enjoyed the team and the environment and feels he's got a great chance to win. So I think both parties' objectives were met by that deal."

Gomez, who turned 31 last weekend, figures to play center as general manager Jon Daniels structured an outfield that includes Shin-Soo Choo in right and Nomar Mazara in left. Ian Desmond left Wednesday for a $70 million, five-year deal with Colorado.

Gomez batted just .210 with five homers in 85 games this year for Houston and was released by the Astros in August. He signed with Texas and hit .284 with eight homers and 24 RBIs in 33 games. An All-Star in 2013 and '14 with Milwaukee, Gomez has a .257 average and 116 home runs in 10 big league seasons.

"J.D. was very clear from the onset about them wanting Carlos back, and we've had communication since the season's end to pursue that," Boras said. "So it was something in our minds and in their minds. It was just a constant dialogue."

AP Sports Writer Howard Fendrich contributed to this report.

Red Sox: Sale not worried about being ace
BOSTON -- New Red Sox pitcher Chris Sale says he isn't worried that he might not be the ace of the pitching staff after being traded from the White Sox to Boston.

The 27-year-old lefty told reporters on Wednesday, "We play for a trophy, not a tag."

Sale was traded to the Red Sox on Tuesday at the baseball winter meetings. He was the top starting pitcher on the market, and the Red Sox gave up touted prospect Yoan Moncada as part of a package to land him.

Sale has been an All-Star for five straight seasons and finished in the top six of the Cy Young Award voting each time. He joins a staff that already includes 2016 Cy Young winner Rick Porcello and '12 winner David Price (see full story).

Best of NBA: Cavs ride Big 3 to huge win over Knicks at MSG

Best of NBA: Cavs ride Big 3 to huge win over Knicks at MSG

NEW YORK -- LeBron James scored 25 points, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love also surpassed 20, and the Cleveland Cavaliers crushed the New York Knicks 126-94 on Wednesday night.

James had nothing to say Wednesday morning about Knicks President Phil Jackson and not much more about his decision to not stay with the team in a Donald Trump-branded hotel, but he and the Cavs made a loud statement at Madison Square Garden.

It was their second straight win after a three-game skid, and they did it easily in handing the Knicks their worst loss of the season. Irving led Cleveland with 28 points and Love scored 21, 16 in the first quarter.

Brandon Jennings scored 16 points for the Knicks, who had their four-game winning streak snapped and lost for the just the third time in 10 games. He started for Derrick Rose, who missed his first game of the season with lower back pain.

Tristan Thompson grabbed 20 rebounds for the Cavs. They played without guard J.R. Smith, who returned to Cleveland for additional testing after hyperextending his left knee Monday in Toronto (see full recap).

Antetokounmpo drops triple-double in Bucks’ win
MILWAUKEE -- Giannis Antetokounmpo got his second triple-double of the season to lead the Milwaukee Bucks over the Portland Trail Blazers 115-107 on Wednesday night.

Antetokounmpo had 15 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists for his seventh career triple-double -- second-most in franchise history -- and is the only NBA player averaging at least 20 points, eight rebounds, five assists, two blocks and two steals this season.

Jabari Parker added 27 points for Milwaukee, which rebounded from a one-point home loss to San Antonio on Monday to win for the fifth time in six games.

The Bucks entered holding opponents to a NBA-best .311 shooting percentage from 3-point range, but Portland drill a season-high 17 of them.

Damian Lillard made five of them and scored a team-high 30 points to go with seven rebounds and six assists.

C.J. McCollum added 23 points, including four 3-pointers, as the Blazers continued a nine-game stretch of playing eight times on the road (see full recap).

Streaking Rockets roll over Lakers
HOUSTON -- Eric Gordon made a career-high eight 3-points and scored 26 points to help the Houston Rockets cruise to a 134-95 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday night.

James Harden added 25 points in three quarters for the Rockets. They scored a season high and extended their winning streak to a season-best four games.

The Rockets were up by 12 in the third quarter, then had a 22-6 run to make it 96-68 and put the game out of reach with about 3 minutes left in the quarter. Houston made four 3-pointers and got a nifty one-handed dunk from Clint Capela in that run to pad the lead.

Gordon already had four 3-pointers seven minutes into the first quarter after making each of his first four attempts. It was his seventh straight game with at least four 3-pointers, which is a franchise record.

Houston's winning streak is its longest since taking five straight in January.

Lou Williams led the Lakers with 24 points. They have lost four in a row, their longest skid of the season (see full recap).