Author Archives: Jake Brockhoff

About Jake Brockhoff

Writer for The Raider Ramble and ATB Newtwork.

NFL Free Agency: Three Winners and Losers From the First Wave

Photo Credit Bill Streicher/USA Today Sports

The first major part of free agency is now essentially over. At the time of this writing, it’s been nearly two weeks since free agency started, and most free agents have found their home for the next year. Of course, there are a ton of quality players who remain unsigned, but we’ve definitively passed the first checkpoint of free agency. With that complete, here are three winners and losers from the NFL free agency period up to this point.

Winner: Detroit Lions

Detroit has one of the youngest, most exciting rosters in the NFL. The Lions missed the playoffs last year by the skin of their teeth, despite an impressive 2022 campaign.

With money to spend, the Lions made a handful of moves. Detroit signed C.J. Gardner-Johnson, Emmanuel Moseley, and Cameron Sutton on the defensive side of the ball. Those three should dramatically improve a secondary that was torched for most of the 2022 season.

They lost Jonathan Williams, but replaced him with a more-than-capable David Montgomery. Losing Williams might hurt the locker room, but this young team is easily one of, if not the, biggest winners from the first wave of NFL free agency.

Loser: Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles are coming off a wildly successful year, but their roster has taken a bit of a hit during this free agency period.

The Eagles have lost a whopping seven starters to free agency this year. Javon Hargrave, T.J. Edwards, Kyzir White, C.J. Gardner Johnson, and Marcus Epps have left the defensive side of the ball. The offense has lost Miles Sanders and Isaac Seumalo. All this adds up to the Eagles being one of the big losers from the NFL free agency period thus far.

This isn’t exactly a surprise. Philadelphia had a laundry list of players hitting the market this offseason, without the funds to keep them all. Still, losing seven starters hurts, and this team will look very different come training camp.

Winner: Carolina Panthers

The Panthers have had a very interesting offseason. Carolina sent an envoy of assets to Chicago for the number one pick. They’ve recouped some of those in free agency as well.

Carolina did have to send away their star receiver, D.J. Moore, in order to get the first pick. However, they recovered some of that lost talent by signing Adam Thielen. Staying on the offense, the Panthers also picked up tight end Hayden Hurst, running back Miles Sanders, and wide receiver D.J. Chark. With these additions, whichever quarterback they take will have a lot of weapons around him.

Loser: Las Vegas Raiders

The Raiders have undergone more change than most of the NFL as a whole during this offseason. They’ve rid themselves of Derek Carr and Darren Waller, with many fans wondering who the next player to go is.

Jimmy Garoppolo will be their quarterback in 2023, but his deal makes it so he can be cut after a year without too much dead money. It seems like Josh McDaniels and Dave Ziegler are aiming for a Patriots reunion, picking up Jakobi Meyers to pair with Garoppolo. The Raiders have made every move possible on offense, while mind-numbingly ignoring a defensive unit that, on paper, is easily one of the worst in the league.

The Raiders are in NFL purgatory. They don’t know whether they want to contend or rebuild, and by not making a choice, they’ve made the worst choice possible.

Winner: Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons made a variety of key signings during this period. Atlanta is a team on the rise, and with some of their moves this offseason, they seem to be just a quarterback away from contention.

On defense, the Falcons were able to grab Jesse Bates and David Onyemata. On offense, they added Mack Hollins and Jonnu Smith. These two, with Drake London and Kyle Pitts will make for a dynamic receiving corps.

Atlanta just needs their quarterback now. Whether their franchise quarterback will come through the draft, a trade, or he’s already in house, one thing is for sure: The Falcons have set themselves up very well and are a clear winner of this year’s NFL free agency period so far.

Loser: Green Bay Packers

The Packers have found themselves in quite the pickle. Green Bay has had a bit of a stagnant free agency, but their hands are tied. The main reasons for this are a lack of cap space, and the whole Aaron Rodgers situation.

The Packers do have his predecessor in Jordan Love, but they’ve been put in a precarious situation. Until they agree with the Jets on compensation for a Rodgers trade, their lack of cap space prevents them from signing any new free agents.

After the Rodgers saga is over, the Packers might very well come out of this offseason in a better place. As of now though, their lack of ability to sign notable free agents makes them a loser up to this point in the NFL free agency period.

New pitch clock is a top storyline for the 2023 MLB season

Top Four Storylines for the 2023 MLB Season

Photo Credit: Mike Stobe/Getty Images

As the sports world continues to rotate, we find ourselves just days away from the beginning of the 2023 MLB season, with a number of compelling storylines already brewing.

The World Baseball Classic did more than enough to get fans excited, and after Japan’s victory, the focus of the baseball world transfers to Major League Baseball. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the biggest storylines heading into the new season.

Top Storylines for the 2023 MLB Season

The MLB’s New Pitch Clock Rule

This is an obvious one, and it’s one that will cause confusion as the season begins to unwind. There’s a lot of controversy regarding the MLB’s decision to implement these new rules, and both sides of the argument make a decent case.

No matter anyone’s opinion, it’s now a rule. As with any new rule, it’s going to take some getting used to. One thing you can be sure of, a lot of attention will be placed on this new rule as the season begins.

Will the Orioles Make the Playoffs?

One of the most exciting storylines of any season is the prospect of new teams rising into contention. This year, there are a couple of contenders. One of the teams with the brightest futures in the MLB is the Baltimore Orioles.

Baltimore put together a winning season last year, and saw themselves in the playoff race for much longer than most fans would have expected. The Orioles’ young core is impressive. The team should look to put it all together and make a playoff run in 2023.

Which MLB Teams Will Fail To Meet Expectations?

As is similar with every baseball season, some teams come into the new year with massive expectations. Both New York teams, the Mets and Yankees, are already being pinned as pennant contenders. Teams like the Dodgers, Padres, Phillies, and Braves all carry big expectations on their shoulders, as well.

Every year, a couple of teams fail to meet those pre-season dreams. In 2022, the Mets fell apart in the Wild Card round, and the Dodgers were victims of an early exit at the hands of the Padres. As the new year begins to develop, it will be interesting to see which of these teams are contenders and which ones are pretenders.

Which Teams Are Going the Wrong Way?

As new, young teams come into the fold, some older squads start to fall down the standings. Watching your favorite team slowly exit from its window of contention can be tough. Unfortunately, it happens to every franchise in the MLB at some point.

The Red Sox, Cubs, and Twins are three teams that might fall into this category. Each of those three teams has been a contender in recent years. Each team finished the 2022 campaign with more losses than wins. Finding out which of these teams is headed into a rebuild will be an exciting development.

NFL Free Agency: Biggest Moves From First Three Days

Photo Credit: Michael Owens/Getty Images

The NFL’s offseason period is typically a long, boring one. However, one of the most exciting days during that period is the onset of free agency, which we got to witness on Monday. Teams all around the league are making moves, and each one of these moves provides optimism and renewed hope for even the most pessimistic fanbases. A lot happened over these first couple of days. Let’s recap some of the biggest signings of the first three days of NFL free agency.

NFL Free Agency: Biggest Moves

Bears Sign TJ Edwards to 3-Year Deal

The Chicago Bears made the first big move of the NFL free agency period, signing former Eagles’ star linebacker TJ Edwards to a three-year contract worth $19.5 million. Edwards is one of the more underrated defenders in the league, and Chicago was able to grab him for a surprisingly small price.

Broncos Sign Ben Powers to 4-Year Deal

The next big name to come off the board was Ben Powers, who got a massive contract in Denver. After the debacle that was the Broncos’ 2022 season, they came into this off-season understanding the need to upgrade their offensive line. Denver had a pay a hefty price, one of $52 million, but they get some valuable help on the line.

49ers Sign Javon Hargrave to 4-Year Deal

Javon Hargrave entered NFL free agency as one of, if not the best defensive tackles available. He got paid as such, receiving $84 million over the course of this new contract. Hargrave was a staple piece on an excellent Eagles’ defense, and will make an immediate impact in Santa Clara

Raiders Sign Jimmy Garoppolo to 3-Year Deal

The Raiders made their big splash early, signing Jimmy Garoppolo. With a vacancy at the quarterback position, and the fact that their seventh-overall selection in the NFL draft is too low for a top quarterback prospect, this move makes sense. Josh McDaniels and Jimmy Garoppolo will reunite in Las Vegas, attempting to resuscitate the franchise.

Falcons Sign Jesse Bates to 4-Year Deal

The Falcons made a huge move, landing one of the best players in the entire free agent class. They’ll be paying Bates $16 million per year, but given his level of play throughout his career, his impact on the defense will be well worth it.

Giants Sign Bobby Okereke to Four-Year Deal

After a surprising and quick rise to contention last year, the Giants suddenly find themselves in win-now mode. They helped their chances out a lot with this signing. The former Colts linebacker is one of the better linebackers in all of football, and they were able to sign him for just about $10 million a year.

Vikings Sign Marcus Davenport to 1-Year Deal

Minnesota made their first big move of the period, signing star defensive lineman Marcus Davenport to a one year, $13 million deal. The Vikings get immediate pass-rush help, and they won’t be on the hook for a multiple-year commitment, either.

Raiders Trade Darren Waller to Giants

In one of the more shocking moves of the off-season, the Raiders’ traded Darren Waller to New York. Waller has missed a lot of time due to injuries recently, but he remains one of the better tight ends in the league. Now, he joins a talented, young Giants roster.

Panthers Sign Miles Sanders

On day three, the Panthers continued their string of big moves during this off-season. Carolina picked up former Eagles’ running back Miles Sanders. Sanders remains one of the premier running backs in the league, and will help whichever quarterback they draft.

Bengals Sign Orlando Brown to Four-Year Deal

The Bengals made their first splash on the market on Wednesday, signing Orlando Brown to a four year, $64 million deal. Over the past couple of years, the Bengals have made efforts to shore up the offensive line, and they got a stud in Orlando Brown.

Patriots Sign JuJu Smith-Schuster to Three-Year Deal

The Patriots made their first major investment on day three. New England signed Juju to the three-year, $33 million deal. Juju will replace Jakobi Meyers, and will be the newest weapon at the Patriots’ disposal.

Colts Trade Stephon Gilmore to Cowboys

In another big trade coming on Tuesday, the Colts sent five-time Pro Bowler Stephon Gilmore to Dallas. Gilmore is a bit past his prime, but he still has a ton of talent to bring. Indianapolis received a fifth-round pick for Gilmore.

Saints Re-sign Michael Thomas to 1-Year Deal

The Saints don’t have a lot of cap room, but they were able to retain Thomas. Thomas has struggled with injuries recently, but is one of the better receivers in the league — when healthy. He’ll be catching passes from Derek Carr in 2023.

Buccaneers Sign Baker Mayfield

As Tampa bay searches to find a replacement for Tom Brady, the first player they’ve set their eyes on is Baker Mayfield. Baker has bounced around a bit since leaving Cleveland, but will compete for the #1 spot in training camp.

The MLB’s New Pitch-Clock Rule Might Just Save Baseball

MLB umpire checks the clock for the new pitch clock rule
Photo Credit: Jasen Vinlove, USA Today Sports

For as long as most of us can remember, baseball has owned the trademark of “America’s Pastime”. Baseball is integral to America’s culture, and because of that, there are many generations of baseball fans in our country. Some of those fans prefer their beloved sport to be devoid of change, while many, typically younger fans, embrace it. With that in mind, there’s no surprise that this new pitch clock rule has angered some.

Major League Baseball Is Slowly Dying

Baseball is a unique sport, and it’s always been able to carve out its own niche. Football and basketball have been dominant sports over the last half-century, mainly because of their consistently exciting product. Baseball is unique in the way that it manages to maintain a sizeable audience, one comparable to the top action-packed sports, with a product that involves far more strategy, and less athleticism. It’s always been a game that might not seem attractive to the casual viewer.

Unfortunately, the other major sports in America are slowly chipping away at baseball’s fanbase. The MLB has seen a decline in its attendance, as well as television viewership. Last season’s total attendance of 64.5 million people sure seems like a large number. It is, but it also represents a 5.9% drop in attendance since before COVID existed. Excluding the 2020 season, the MLB has seen a drop in attendance for twelve consecutive seasons.

Now if you were to ask the common, casual sports fan why they don’t like baseball, they’ll typically give you the same answer: It’s boring.

Can you blame them? The young kids who have grown up watching Lebron James and Tom Brady take their breath away simply don’t have the attention span necessary to watch a pitcher shake off the catchers’ sign three times before the batter steps out of the box anyway.

The fan who has watched baseball for multiple decades might not like this move. And that’s okay. That fan will watch the sport no matter the rule change. What the MLB desperately needs is to get the casual fan more invested in baseball as a whole, and the pitch clock rule is a good first step.

Why the Pitch Clock Rule Will Work

Many fans might not know this, but the pitch clocks have actually been in effect in the minor leagues for quite some time now. In 2015, the MLB announced that it was going to experiment with a 20-second pitch clock in the AA and AAA levels.

This resulted in a 12-minute decrease in average game time. That doesn’t seem like much, but it makes a large difference when it comes to watching the game.

There will be some headaches, and it will take time to get used to. At some point during this season there likely will be a close game or two that ends up being influenced by this rule. When that happens, people are going to complain about it, and some might even claim it’s “ruining baseball”.

It makes sense that they would. People who love something the way it is don’t want it to change. Major League Baseball knows that, and they know this decision will irk some long-time fans; yet they also know those fans aren’t going anywhere.

If the MLB can rope in some casual, on-the-fence fans, then it will all be worth it. At the end of the day, baseball needs to grow as a sport. To do that, maintaining a higher level of viewership is a must. By implementing this pitch clock rule, the MLB is finally showing they understand.

NBA Awards: Mid-Season Frontrunners

Orlando Magic guard Paolo Banchero is the mid-season front-runner for the NBA Rookie of the Year Award
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

As January comes to a close and February begins, the NBA season starts to really come into form. The All-Star break is approaching fast, and most teams have already played about 50 games. The playoff races are beginning to figure themselves out, as well as many other aspects from around the league. With this in mind, many NBA awards races are beginning to take shape. Let’s take a look at some front-runners for these awards.

MVP: Joel Embiid

This race is very tight. Nikola Jokic won the award last year, and he has been a favorite to win it again for a large portion of this season. However, the 76ers have begun to rise up the standings, and with that, so has the play of Joel Embiid.

Embiid is averaging over 33 points per game, with 9.8 rebounds and 4.1 assists, as well. He’s scored more than eight points more per game than Jokic, is about even in rebounds, and only falls behind Jokic in assists. Jokic has the upper hand in the standings, as the Nuggets are currently first in the West. Philadelphia is third in a very competitive East though, and Embiid’s incredible performance to beat Denver just days ago has vaulted him into the lead in this race.

Rookie of the Year: Paolo Banchero

For the entire season the No. 1 pick, Paolo Banchero, has led this race. Banchero has simply been fantastic this season, and is proving himself worthy of his draft selection.

Orlando’s star is averaging over 20 points per game, along with 6.4 rebounds and 3.8 assists. Keegan Murray, Benedict Mathurin and Jalen Williams have all been impressive, but none of them can compare to Banchero, and his candidacy for this NBA awards race.

Defensive Player of the Year: Jaren Jackson Jr.

Despite a Reddit-fueled conspiracy theory regarding Jackson’s insane stat-lines at home, JJJ has largely ran away with this award. That theory claims that the Memphis Grizzlies’ scorekeeper has been inflating stats, like blocks and steals. At first glance, there may have seemed to be some merit to it. Jackson does have a significant amount more blocks or steals in home games than on the road.

Turns out, not even conspiracy theorists can explain Jackson’s incredible performance this season. The NBA has come out and stated there is no merit to these claims, so it’s time to give Jackson the respect he deserves. The 23 year-old has 4.2 combined steals and blocks per game this season, deserving of the award.

Sixth Man of the Year: Jordan Poole

Having Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Jordan Poole on the same roster should be illegal. With Curry and Klay starting in the backcourt, the only role Poole is able to have is to come off the bench. Fortunately for him, and Golden State as a whole, he’s filled this role exceptionally well.

Jordan is averaging 20.8 points, 4.3 assists, and 2.7 rebounds per game. His assists and rebounds numbers shouldn’t be expected to be too high, since he’s coming off the bench. His role is to provide scoring for the second unit, and he’s done exactly that.

Most Improved Player: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

This race is a tight one. There are a ton of good candidates for this award, but it has developed into a two-headed race. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Lauri Markkanen have turned this into a battle between themselves, and each is a worthy choice.

Gilgeous-Alexander should have the edge. Both have been stunning this season. Utah and Oklahoma City were both expected to be bottom-five teams in the league, and yet they’re currently battling it out for a play-in spot. SGA’s 30.9 points per game, 4.8 rebounds and 5.7 assists have vaulted him to an All-NBA level, which is easily deserving of this award.

Coach of the Year: Mike Brown

Finally, we have yet another NBA awards race that could go to a variety of coaches. The most note-worthy that isn’t Mike Brown would be Jacque Vaughn from Brooklyn, who has overseen an amazing turnaround.

Still, Brown deserves this award. The Kings haven’t made the playoffs in 16 years, and just last season finished 12th in the Western Conference. At the time of this writing, Sacramento is third in the west at 28-21, and has the highest scoring offense in the league. Talk about a turn-around.