NFL runners sign big-money deals

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NFL runners sign big-money deals

From Comcast SportsNet
OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) -- Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice happily shed his franchise tag Monday after reaching agreement with the Baltimore Ravens on a new five-year contract worth roughly 40 million. The Ravens and Rice, their most versatile offensive weapon, went down to the 4 p.m. deadline before hammering out the deal. Had Rice not signed, he would have played the 2012 season under the 7.7 million franchise tag tender. Instead, he will get 17 million this year and 8 million in 2013. Baltimore has made the playoffs in each of Rice's four seasons, twice advancing to the AFC title game. He earned his second Pro Bowl invite last year after leading the NFL with 2,068 yards from scrimmage, including a career-high 1,364 yards rushing. He also scored a career-best 15 touchdowns. Since being drafted out of Rutgers in the second round of the 2008 draft, Rice leads the NFL in receptions and yards receiving by a running back. He's had 250 catches for 2,235 yards during that span. Off the field, he's been associated with several charitable organizations. Quite simply, the Ravens weren't about to let him get away "This is another example of (owner) Steve Bisciotti's commitment to the team and to our fans to retain our core players," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "Ray has been an integral part of us earning the playoffs in each of his four seasons. His production on the field speaks for itself, and his leadership in the locker room is outstanding. "I should say something about his community efforts; I think they are almost unmatched by any player in the NFL," Newsome said. "You'd have a hard time finding a player who does more or is as serious about helping others as Ray is. He is one of those players you can proudly say, He's on our team.' " As Baltimore's franchise player, Rice would not have been required to report at the start of training camp. The Ravens will hold their first full squad workout July 26, and Rice is expected to attend. In 61 career games, he ranks second in franchise history in yards rushing (4,377) and yards from scrimmage (6,612). Veteran running back Ricky Williams, who played behind Rice in 2011 and retired during the offseason, was impressed with Rice's talent and passion for the game. "He's got all the God-given ability, but he also works hard," Williams said late last year. "It's rare to find that combination. In my mind, there's only one way to have success, and that's to work hard and have a little bit of talent. He's got both."

Forte signs four-year deal
CHICAGO (AP) -- Pro Bowl running back Matt Forte and the Chicago Bears have agreed to a four-year contract, settling the biggest issue hanging over the team. The Bears confirmed the deal before Monday's deadline. Had the sides not reached an agreement, Forte would have had to play next season for 7.74 million after being hit with the franchise player tag. Or he could have held out. The Bears did not release terms and agent Adisa Bakari did not return calls seeking comment. The Chicago Sun-Times, citing an unidentified source, reported the deal is worth 32 million with more than 18 million guaranteed. With Forte signed, the Bears will have all their key pieces in place when training camp starts next week. "I'm proud to be a Chicago Bear and excited to be here for another four years," Forte said in a statement released by the Bears. "I'd like to thank my family, my agent and the Chicago Bears. I've been working hard this offseason and am looking forward to joining my teammates at training camp next week. I'm glad the business part is done and we can all turn our attention to football and our goal of winning a championship." Forte expressed optimism that a deal would get done in an interview with ESPN last week, and it happened just in time. It ended a long process that began last year when he sought a multiyear extension. Negotiations with then-general manager Jerry Angelo went nowhere, but Forte decided not to hold out. He wound up having his best season. Forte made the Pro Bowl for the first time, finishing with 1,487 yards from scrimmage and 997 rushing. He missed the last four games after spraining the medial collateral ligament in his right knee early in a loss to Kansas City on Dec. 4. By then, the Bears were in the middle of a free fall after losing quarterback Jay Cutler to a broken right thumb. They wound up finishing 8-8 after a 7-3 start and missed the playoffs for the fourth time in five years after reaching the NFC title game the previous year. The late plunge cost Angelo his job, setting in motion an active offseason. Phil Emery was hired as GM and quickly went to work reshaping the roster. He acquired Pro Bowl receiver Brandon Marshall from Miami, giving Cutler a go-to target for the first time since he arrived from Denver. Even better, it's someone he knows well. Cutler and Marshall put up big numbers when they teamed with the Broncos, particularly in 2008. The Bears also filled a need at backup quarterback by bringing in Jason Campbell and signing running back Michael Bush, giving them depth at the position and insurance. That didn't sit well with Forte, who vented on Twitter that management was "undervaluing" him and that he was "disrespected." Getting him locked in is an important step for a team that's eyeing a big run. Forte was leading the league in yards from scrimmage before he was injured last season, and he ranks sixth in the league in that category since the Bears drafted him in 2008. He is the only player in NFL history with at least 900 yards rushing and 400 receiving in each of his first four seasons. "We're very pleased that we were able to come to terms on a four-year extension with Matt," Emery said. "We're excited to get him on the field and continue working toward our goal of winning a championship." The Bears believe they have the talent to compete with Green Bay and Detroit in the NFC North and make a playoff run. Even so, there are some lingering questions. It remains to be seen if the blockers can hold their ground, although the Bears believe the offensive line will be put in more of a position to succeed with Mike Tice replacing the departed Mike Martz as coordinator. The defensive line also is a question mark. The Bears drafted Shea McClellin with the 19th pick, hoping he can help take some of the load off Julius Peppers after Chicago tied for 19th in the league with 33 sacks. Age could also be an issue on defense, with Briggs, Peppers, Brian Urlacher and Charles Tillman all in their 30s. Then again, Briggs just made his seventh straight Pro Bowl. Urlacher got picked for the eighth time last season, and Tillman made it for the first time.

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Former Wizards player Paul Pierce retires from NBA after legendary career

Former Wizards player Paul Pierce retires from NBA after legendary career

A legendary NBA career came to a close on Sunday afternoon, as Paul Pierce retired following his Clippers's elimination from the NBA Playoffs when they lost Game 7 to the Utah Jazz.

Pierce, 39, calls it a career after 18 NBA seasons. He was a 10-time All-Star, made four All-NBA teams and won a championship in 2008. The future Hall of Famer made his name with the Boston Celtics where he played 15 seasons. Pierce went on to play for the Nets, Wizards and Clippers.

Pierce's last good season was in Washington when he averaged 11.9 points and 4.0 rebounds in 73 games. It was just one year, but Pierce provided many lasting memories, most notably his buzzer-beater in Game 3 of their second round series against the Hawks. Pierce hit the game-winner, then proclaimed during a walkoff interview with ESPN: "I called game."

[RELATED: Horford has checkered playoff history vs. Wizards with taking out shooters]

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For the Baltimore Ravens it was all about defense in the 2017 draft

For the Baltimore Ravens it was all about defense in the 2017 draft

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The Baltimore Ravens returned to their roots in the 2017 NFL draft.

Baltimore took a defensive player with each of its first four picks, shoring up the backfield with first-round selection Marlon Humphrey before adding two linebackers and an end on Day 2.

Big plays, long passes and flashy fantasy football running backs draw most of the headlines these days in the NFL, but for Baltimore it's all about defense.

Humphrey was a starting cornerback for the second-ranked defense in the country.

The three players selected on Friday -- Tyus Bowser of Houston, Michigan's Chris Wormley and Tim Williams of Alabama -- combined for 45 sacks over the past two seasons.

"We have always been a defensive team," Ravens assistant general manager Eric DeCosta said. "We think there's exceptional value with all four picks. They're guys that really fit who we are, with their skillset, their personality and the way they play."

Bowser, Wormley and Williams should benefit from the tutelage of 34-year-old Terrell Suggs, Baltimore's career sack leader.

"I think he is planning on showing them how to do it, not telling them how to do it," coach John Harbaugh said. "It is going to be fun to watch."

If Suggs and his new friends do their job, then the revamped defensive backfield will have an easier time of it.

After signing free agent cornerback Brandon Carr and safety Tony Jefferson, general manager Ozzie Newsome drafted Humphrey and capped the draft Saturday by selecting Virginia Tech safety Chuck Clark in the sixth round.

"One of our main focuses this offseason was to really work to improve the secondary and also the pass rush," DeCosta said. "I think we were able to do that."

Here's where the Ravens stand after the draft:

FINALLY, SOME OFFENSE: The Ravens looked to the other side of the ball Saturday, selecting guard Nico Siragusa (San Diego State) in the fourth round and guard/tackle Jermaine Eluemunor of Texas A&M in the fifth.

Maybe Siragusa was attractive to Baltimore because Tony Siragusa (no relation) starred as a defensive tackle for the Ravens in the 2001 Super Bowl.

The Ravens are in need of a center to replace the traded Jeremy Zuttah, and Nico is willing to try.

"Man, I'm in the NFL," he said. "I'll play whatever."

Eluemunor will likely be given a look at right tackle in place of departed free agent Rick Wagner.

STILL NEED HELP: After going through free agency and the draft, the Ravens still don't have a deep threat besides Mike Wallace.

There's also a void at center and running back, and the team lacks depth on the offensive line and at tight end.

"There are going to be players that are going to be released after the draft. There are going to be players that are going to be released in training camp," Newsome said. "We are not done with the 53-man squad that we are going to play with when we open up against Cincinnati."

INSIDE INFO: Harbaugh's brother Jim is a coach at Michigan, so John received a first-hand scouting report on Wormley.

"I heard great things about him. He is one of the guys that Jim felt very strongly about," John said.

Newsome, meanwhile, has deep ties to Alabama, his alma mater. The addition of Humphrey and Williams brings to nine the number of Alabama players he has drafted.

TWO-SPORT STARS: Bowser suited up for the Houston basketball team for two seasons and Eluemunor played rugby in England, then wrestled and played football in high school.

Because Eluemunor got a late start on his football career, the 6-foot-4, 330-pounder should be considered a work in progress.

FINAL WORD: Newsome beamed after he was done with the draft, even though he didn't get everything he was looking for.

"The Baltimore Ravens are a better football team right now," Newsome declared. "And we will continue to work to get better."

Newsome can't say for sure if he drafted an immediate starter, but he's certain he got some contributors.

"With the attrition that happens in training camp and the season, you have to have depth," he said.