The700Level’s update on NFL free agency: overrated so far

The700Level’s update on NFL free agency: overrated so far

Free agency is set to open in the NFL at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, but already we’ve been inundated by reports that the Philadelphia Eagles are interested in this free agent and talking to that free agent. Thanks to the so-called “legal tampering” period the league instituted last year, teams were allowed to begin negotiating with impending free agents on Saturday, three days before they can sign on the dotted line.

There is little doubt the Eagles have shown interest in most, if not all of the players that popped up in reports over the weekend. Carolina Panthers safety Mike Mitchell, Denver Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey and Cincinnati Bengals defensive end/outside linebacker Michael Johnson were among the more prominent names the club was said to have contacted already.

As league insiders have pointed out though, gauging the actual level of interest any team has in a player can be an entirely different story.

Philadelphia’s own Andrew Brandt provided some insight into where many of these reports materialize.

Greg Gabriel for the National Football Post spent 30 seasons working in NFL scouting departments, including the Eagles. He was a lot more shall we say direct about his opinion of many of the rumors circulating.

I believe the local writers breaking these stories have done well to choose their words carefully and not make anything out to be more than it is. Using Mitchell as an example though, who was first reported to be a potential target by Eliot Shorr-Parks for, why wouldn’t the Eagles show some level of interest? The Birds need at least one, perhaps two starters at safety. They should be shopping around, comparing prices on literally all of the practical options.

It’s also important to note the fact that the Eagles have talked to Mitchell doesn’t mean they haven’t or won’t speak to numerous others. With all of the help that’s on the market at this position, it’s hard to believe Mitchell would be any team’s No. 1 target. Frankly, I’m not certain he’s even an upgrade over Nate Allen.

Likewise, it’s entirely possible the Eagles haven’t reached out to certain potential targets yet because they’re waiting for a market to develop. Think Buffalo Bills safety Jairus Byrd based on Geoff Mosher's report for We know the Birds don’t want to pay him the $9 million per year he’s said to be seeking, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have interest. Letting him field offers and swooping in late with a competitive number could prove to be part of a strategy.

What’s been happening so far feels a lot more like a feeling-out process than an actual event. I have to think for every free agent who’s been known to have contact with Philadelphia, there’s 10 others the organization has inquired about or at least considered internally.

We’ll see what happens when the curtain rises on Tuesday. As of right now though, I’m selling a lot more of these stories than I’m buying.

No. 16 Villanova vs. No. 23 Albany: With or without Bednarczyk, can Wildcats rebound?


No. 16 Villanova vs. No. 23 Albany: With or without Bednarczyk, can Wildcats rebound?

No. 16 Villanova (5-2, 3-1) vs. No. 23 Albany (4-2, 1-2)
Villanova Stadium, Villanova, Pa.
Saturday, 3:30 p.m.

Fresh off a rare loss, Villanova looks to get back on track during its homecoming game against another nationally ranked foe. Here’s a look at the matchup:

Scouting Villanova
The Wildcats saw their five-game winning streak snapped in resounding fashion as they were shut out for the first time since 2004 in a 23-0 loss to Richmond. Sophomore quarterback Zach Bednarczyk left the game in the second quarter with an injury, a big reason why the Wildcats finished with just 222 yards of total offense. But despite the final score, Villanova’s defense played well again with Austin Calitro and Rob Rolle each hitting double digits in tackles. The unit is ranked fifth in the FCS in scoring defense (16.3 points per game) and sixth in total defense (237.9 yards per game) and has scored four defensive touchdowns.

Scouting Albany
After winning their first four games, the Great Danes lost their next two, a 36-30 triple-overtime heartbreaker to Richmond followed by a 20-16 setback to Maine. Sophomore quarterback Neven Sussman led Albany with 187 passing yards and 75 rushing yards. But for the season, their offensive strength has been with sophomore running back Elijah Ibitokun-Hanks, who’s second in the CAA in rushing, averaging 105 yards per game. Albany’s defense is only behind Villanova in points allowed per game (19.3) in the CAA, but interestingly enough is last in total defense (420.2 yards per game). The Great Danes lead the league in turnover margin (plus-15), led by linebacker Michael Nicastro and safety Mason Gray with three interceptions apiece.

Series history
Villanova has only played Albany twice, beating the Great Danes, 48-31, in 2014 and steamrolling it, 37-0, last season. 

Storyline to watch
The big question going in is whether Bednarczyk will play with Villanova saying it will be a game-time decision after the QB suffered a concussion last week. If he can’t go, Adeyemi DaSilva will get the start in his place after replacing him in the second quarter vs. Richmond. DaSilva is a promising player but Bednarczyk was coming into his own this season and his absence would naturally be a difficult one. Of course, the Wildcats have been through this before with Bednarczyk taking over as the starter last season when star John Robertson went down with an injury of his own.

What’s at stake?
Villanova still has a chance to win the CAA but probably can’t afford a second loss in the league. And of course, there’s nothing better than winning in front of a homecoming crowd.

A lot depends on whether Bednarczyk can play … but even if he doesn’t, the Wildcats’ dominant defense may be enough to get the job done. 

Villanova 20, Albany 17

Anthem singer at Sixers-Heat game kneels during performance

Anthem singer at Sixers-Heat game kneels during performance

MIAMI — A woman performing the national anthem before an NBA preseason game in Miami on Friday night did so while kneeling at midcourt, and opening her jacket to show a shirt with the phrase "Black Lives Matter."

The singer was identified by the Heat as Denasia Lawrence. It was unclear if she remained in the arena after the performance, and messages left for her were not immediately returned.

Heat players and coaches stood side-by-side for the anthem, all with their arms linked as has been their custom during the preseason. Many had their heads down as Lawrence sang, and the team released a statement saying it had no advance knowledge that she planned to kneel.

"We felt as a basketball team that we would do something united, so that was our focus," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "Throughout all of this, I think the most important thing that has come out is the very poignant, thoughtful dialogue. We've had great dialogue within our walls here and hopefully this will lead to action."

The anthem issue has been a major topic in the sports world in recent months, starting with the decision by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick to not stand for its playing. Kaepernick cited racial injustice and police brutality among the reasons for his protest, and athletes from many sports -- and many levels, from youth all the way to professional -- have followed his lead in various ways.

"All I can say is what we've seen in multiple preseason games so far is our players standing for the national anthem," NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in New York earlier Friday, at a news conference following the league's board of governors meetings. "It would be my hope that they would continue to stand for the national anthem. I think that is the appropriate thing to do."

The NBA has a rule calling for players and coaches to stand during the anthem.

Heat guard Wayne Ellington often speaks about the need to curb gun violence, after his father was shot and killed two years ago. He had his eyes closed for most of the anthem Friday, as per his own custom, though was aware of Lawrence's actions.

"At the end of the day, to each his own," Ellington said. "If she feels like that's the way she wants to stand for it, then more power to her."

Making a statement in the manner that Lawrence did Friday is rare, but not unheard of in recent weeks.

When the Sacramento Kings played their first home preseason game earlier this month, anthem singer Leah Tysse dropped to one knee as she finished singing the song.

Tysse is white. Lawrence is black.

"I love and honor my country as deeply as anyone yet it is my responsibility as an American to speak up against injustice as it affects my fellow Americans," Tysse wrote on Facebook. "I have sung the anthem before but this time taking a knee felt like the most patriotic thing I could do. I cannot idly stand by as black people are unlawfully profiled, harassed and killed by our law enforcement over and over and without a drop of accountability."