After the Portland Trail Blazers overcame Russell Westbrook’s third straight triple-double, Damian Lillard sensed his team was recapturing its form of earlier this season. Oklahoma City can only hope it didn’t lose Westbrook along with the game. Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge each scored 29 points and Portland rallied to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 115-112 Friday night. Westbrook, who fell and was hit in the face by the knee of onrushing teammate Andre Roberson in the final seconds, had 40 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists.
The Browns have agreed to terms with veteran quarterback Josh McCown on a contract. McCown, who went 1-10 as Tampa Bay’s starter last season, reached agreement with Cleveland on Friday. The 35-year-old had also been in contract talks with the Buffalo Bills. McCown’s signing likely means the Browns will not re-sign Brian Hoyer, who won 10 games for them the past two seasons and is poised to become a free agent next month.
The Cleveland Browns have a new quarterback. Yet another one. Josh McCown, who was released by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after a lost 2014 season, has opted to sign with the Browns over other teams he met with, including the Buffalo Bills, New York Jets and Chicago Bears. NEWS: Browns agree to terms with QB Josh McCown http://ift.tt/1AjpcQm — Cleveland Browns (@Browns) February 27, 2015 ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported the deal was for three years. McCown, who turns 36 on July 4, struggled badly in his one season with the Bucs, going 1-10 as a starter and throwing for 2,206 yards with 11 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. He had signed a two-year, $10 million deal before the season, coming off a terrific 2013 campaign with the Chicago Bears with a 13-1 touchdown-interception ratio. The market was surprisingly strong for McCown after his release, likely indicating a few things: • Other teams view McCown’s bad season as an aberration. • The free-agent market at the position looks mostly terrible. • The draft, after Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota, doesn’t hold much promise either. • There is widespread desperation for any kind of quality play at the position. The Browns are McCown’s seventh NFL team since he entered the league in 2002. He has a career TD-INT mark of 61-59 in 49 career starts, plus a slew of relief appearances in an NFL life spent as much as a backup as a starter. His 11 starts last season were his most in a year since 2004, when he started 13 games for the Arizona Cardinals, his first club in the league. With Johnny Manziel in rehab, Brian Hoyer set for free agency and Connor Shaw an undrafted rookie, the Browns needed something — anything — to steady the ship at quarterback. New offensive coordinator John DiFilippo and quarterbacks coach Kevin O’Connell will be given a veteran who is smart and savvy but who has only been prolific in recent years during that one hot stretch in Chicago when Jay Cutler was hurt. It’s likely that McCown will be the Browns’ Opening Day starter the way things look now, and so yet again this snakebit franchise is seeking stability at quarterback. They hope McCown at least is temporary relief for their decades-long issues at the position. – – – – – – – Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm
It’s time to revive the need-vs.-BPA (best player available) debate, with an eye on this year’s draft. I was stunned at how many comments, Twitter remarks and emails I got after my post-combine mock draft that were something along the lines of “[insert their favorite team] won’t do that … they have bigger needs.” Knowing that my mock will be torn to shreds after the first round of free agency, I won’t defend the picks — but rather my method. Think of it this way: If you were to go back and do a redraft from three, four, seven, heck, 10 years ago, what are you going to do? You’re going to look at the best players and not even think about need. It’s not the most scientific way to approach it, but the point is this: Talent trumps all, and need should only be a tiebreaker. [All Draft News, All The Time: Follow Shutdown Draft 365 on Tumblr ] So let’s take a look at the first-round draft order and examine some teams’ big, pressing needs — and implore them to wait on filling them if the right player isn’t available. 1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: What don’t they need? Well, certainly most of the free world believes that Jameis Winston will be their choice at No. 1 overall, so we’ll assume that the Bucs go that direction and know that they can come back and address their needs for a pass rusher or an offensive lineman (or two) later on, starting with the second pick of the second round. 2. Tennessee Titans: Here’s the big debate. Do they draft Marcus Mariota? I had the Titans taking him second, but I am starting to get the idea that they’re willing to listen to offers from desperate teams such as the Cleveland Browns or Philadelphia Eagles, if for no other reason than to see what they might be willing to fork over. That makes this tough to project, but we can say this: There is no offensive lineman — and they still need some — or defensive back worth taking at 2. 3. Jacksonville Jaguars: The Jags are in a great spot here, able to let the top two picks play out and still likely get either Leonard Williams or a pass rusher. The need they can wait on is an offensive tackle, which could come later on. 4. Oakland Raiders: It’s looking like it is coming down to a receiver or a pass rusher, depending on what happens in free agency; Williams wouldn’t be bad, either. But as badly as they need another cornerback or an offensive lineman, this too can wait. 5. Washington Redskins: A bulldog guard with some size and grit would really help spur this run game a little bit. But you’re not drafting guards with the fifth pick too often and hitting home runs. This year is no exception. They can get their guy in Round 2 and still find a starter. 6. New York Jets: Broken record here. Cornerback and offensive tackle are two spots they’d love to fill in the draft. But taking D’Brickashaw Ferguson’s eventual replacement shouldn’t come with the sixth pick, no matter what happens in the top 5. 7. Chicago Bears: For all of their defensive needs (and they have plenty), the Bears also have a sneaky shortcoming at wide receiver — especially if Brandon Marshall doesn’t figure into their plans. But with this draft class, some good receivers will be pushed down, maybe even into Rounds 3 and 4. 8. Atlanta Falcons: With the way the Falcons are cutting veterans left and right, their needs grow — proportionally to the speculation that they might be players in free agency. So it’s tricky to say which needs will be filled be late April and which won’t. But based on our best speculation, it would be unlikely for the Falcons to go the veteran free-agent route to add a running back, which they need, and more likely they’ll mine one from the draft. And we know it won’t be at 8. Could they steal Melvin Gordon at No. 41 overall? Get lucky to land Jay Ajayi near the top of Round 3? They might. 9. New York Giants: Is this too high to take an offensive tackle? We would understand the thinking if they went that route. A pass rusher? That we certainly can get on board with, assuming there’s still one worth taking (Vic Beasley? Bud Dupree?) still on the board. But we would implore the Giants to resist their defensive back need here, even if you’re talking Landon Collins or Trae Waynes or whomever. It just feels a bit too high for that position. 10. St. Louis Rams: Tricky spot to forecast here. They might need a receiver, and what if, say, either Kevin White or Amari Cooper slip? They might have to pounce. Offensive line looms as a sore spot still, and it wouldn’t be offensive to start (or continue) the run at that position for the right player. But a tight end? A cornerback? A quarterback? We say pass here. 11. Minnesota Vikings: This all changes if Adrian Peterson isn’t back, but we’re still not on board — yet — with Todd Gurley going at this point, even though, boy, what a potential replacement he might be. The beautiful thing seems to be that most of the team’s main needs (offensive line, cornerback, receiver) have players who could fit into this range. But linebacker, especially the kind they need, shouldn’t be the choice here. They can find one or two later on. 12. Cleveland Browns: Predicting Browns behavior is risky business, and we don’t recommend it for the faint of heart. But one thing is for certain: Taking a quarterback — assuming Marcus Mariota doesn’t embark on an Aaron Rodgers-esque slide — doesn’t feel wise. We’ll stop there for now, with the Browns back on the clock seven picks down the chain. 13. New Orleans Saints: You might be surprised to read how much we think the Saints need to consider a quarterback, and perhaps relatively high, too. But not here. No way. They can land a good pass rusher or cornerback at this spot and wait on QB. Maybe Garrett Grayson in the third? 14. Miami Dolphins: Our thinking here is that they could address the receiver position if someone like DeVante Parker remains undrafted, or perhaps nabbing a cornerback, although we’re a bit bearish on the top-end talent. Same with linebacker. And they drafted an offensive lineman in Round 1 a year ago — would they go back and take another one this high? 15. San Francisco 49ers: I believe they’ll draft a quarterback. Boy, they’d rock the boat with a Brett Hundley pick, wouldn’t they? It’s not likely, but it’s fun to ponder. They also need receivers, offensive and defensive linemen, cornerbacks and a tight end. That last position can be filled down the line. 16. Houston Texans: Yes, we’d love to see long-term clarity at the QB spot, but Hundley and Bryce Petty are no-nos here. Solve the cornerback/wide receiver/offensive line issue instead. A sleeper first-round position could be nose tackle, unless they suddenly feel better about Louis Nix III. 17. San Diego Chargers: If a pass rusher fell here, they could grab him and help fill the veteran voids of Dwight Freeney and/or Jarrett Johnson, even with Jeremiah Attaochu in the wings. An offensive or defensive lineman could work here, too. But a running back — even if Ryan Mathews leaves — can wait. This draft is loaded at the position. http://ift.tt/1vvp2d3 18. Kansas City Chiefs: No, we’re not going to further alienate our Chiefs readers by suggesting they pass on a wide receiver here (as we did in our most recent mock draft). An offensive lineman makes perfect sense as well. A corner would be OK if the right-sized and skilled player is here. But a linebacker can wait for later on in the draft. 19. Browns (from the Buffalo Bills): It all depends on what happens at 12. Heck, they could trade these two picks for Mariota for all we know. The only positions we’d urge them to wait on would be a linebacker or a tight end (if Jordan Cameron is gone). 20. Philadelphia Eagles: Like the Browns, we’re not super keen on them going quarterback here, short of finding a way to get up for Mariota. Corner and offensive line, if they stay here, would be two areas to consider. But safety would be a reach, even with Landon Collins fitting the Brian Dawkins-like physical mold. This Eagles defense relies on range, which might not be Collins’ forte. 21. Cincinnati Bengals: No kickers here, please! We’re only half kidding. Same with quarterback, even though we’d love to provide some Andy Dalton alternatives for the future. We feel confident they can find a linebacker, pass rusher, defensive back or receiver here whose value makes more sense. 22. Pittsburgh Steelers: Will there be a pass rusher worth taking at 22? Too early to tell. We think there will be a corner or a defensive lineman they like in this spot if not. Certainly, there’s zero need to add a running back now, even with Le’Veon Bell’s looming two-game suspension and zero reliable depth behind him. That can wait — perhaps even until Day 3 of the draft. 23. Detroit Lions: Releasing Reggie Bush means they could use another running back. But please, for all that is right, don’t start projecting them to take Gurley or Gordon. It’s not happening here. We’d love them to help out the offensive line, or the defensive line if they can’t keep Ndamukong Suh and/or Nick Fairley. 24. Arizona Cardinals: Funny to say for an offensively limited team by season’s end, but there might actually be more tangible needs on the defensive side of the ball — perhaps with all three levels needing some help. The inside linebacker can wait. We actually would be on board with taking Gurley here, too; that might be a fantastic move. 25. Carolina Panthers: Doesn’t this have to be an offensive tackle here? If not, maybe a receiver, but they did take Kelvin Benjamin in Round 1 last year, making it less likely in our minds. A cornerback would be better addressed later, we think, but the top ones will go quickly in this range. 26. Baltimore Ravens: This is a team that stands to lose some players for monetary reasons, and of their clear needs right now, we think they might be forced to wait on an outside rusher until later in the draft. It’s unlikely the right fit will be here at this spot, and there are plenty of other spots they can address nicely with the talent expected to be available here. 27. Dallas Cowboys: They could use another tight end to replace Jason Witten one day, and as much as Maxx Williams reminds us of Witten, we say pass here. There are a surprising number of areas that could improve on this 12-4 squad. 28. Denver Broncos: Like we’ve said above, the linebacker crop is not chock full of top-end talent, so this is a position they might be able to hit the snooze bar on for a round unless a top talent such as Shaq Thompson slides unexpectedly. 29. Indianapolis Colts: They need a safety, but if Collins is gone … we say wait. There might only be another one or two worth taking in the first 75 picks of the draft or so. We also think drafting a running back this high might not be the wisest move. Get another offensive lineman or a pass rusher instead. 30. Green Bay Packers: Why is everyone panicking about inside linebacker? Yes, Brad Jones and A.J. Hawk are gone, but that’s not a first-round position in this defense, we don’t believe. Ted Thompson is among the strictest best-player-available drafters in the game. We think he’ll look elsewhere. 31. Seattle Seahawks: Wide receiver is tempting, but the depth of this class suggests they might be able to be patient and wait; besides, they traded down and made Paul Richardson their top pick a year ago, even if he is coming off a torn ACL. 32. New England Patriots: Why does everyone want them to draft a receiver so high? They never have used a first-rounder on one under Bill Belichick, and they likely won’t start now. The offensive and defensive lines make more sense to address. The receiver can wait. – – – – – – – Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm
The Buffalo Bills are negotiating to sign veteran free agent Josh McCown to address their long-standing needs at quarterback. The negotiations began after the 35-year-old spent the previous two days visiting the Cleveland Browns. Two weeks ago, McCown spent two days meeting with Bills officials and touring Buffalo. He has also visited Chicago and the New York Jets.