NFL team to play 4 home games in London

NFL team to play 4 home games in London

From Comcast SportsNet
JACKSONVILLE, Florida (AP) -- The NFL and the Jacksonville Jaguars announced Tuesday that the small-market franchise will play one home game in London for four consecutive seasons beginning in 2013 -- a step the team believes will broaden its fan base and take some pressure off locals who have mostly failed to fill the stands in recent years. "I passionately believe the big growth now is going to come from overseas," owner Shad Khan said. "We've got to go where we can leverage and take advantage of some of those things. You've got to fish in ponds where you've got fish in there. We're going to a pond where there are no fishermen." The Jaguars will play at Wembley Stadium, which has hosted one NFL game annually since 2007. "We want to create an identity, a bold, ambitious franchise that is aggressive and forward-thinking on the field and away from the field," Khan said. "We want to be the kind of franchise players want to belong to, sponsors want to be part of, and Jacksonville is proud of. ... The key point is to sell Jacksonville to the world. We are a well-kept secret, but after today, that's not going to be the case." By all accounts, the Jaguars are the NFL's least popular team. They rank at or near the bottom of the league in website hits as well as Twitter and Facebook interactions. Although Jacksonville is the largest city in the continental United States in terms of land mass, it is home to just 1.3 million people -- and that includes several surrounding areas; London alone has 8 million people. Missing the playoffs in 10 of 12 seasons has made attracting fans a problem in Jacksonville. The team used to pack the stands regularly, even though it plays in a stadium built to house large crowds for the annual Florida-Georgia college football game. But in 2005, the Jaguars decided to cover up nearly 10,000 seats with tarps to reduce capacity and limit television blackouts. Even though the Jaguars haven't blacked out a home game since 2009, they still have struggled to fill EverBank Field. Playing an annual game in London will reduce season-ticket prices by 10 percent, possibly making the remaining package a more affordable and enticing option. Reaction, though, was mixed among the fan base. Some supported the decision and others questioned the team's motives. After all, if the Jaguars become England's team and continue to have issues back home, what's to stop the NFL from moving them across the pond for good? "You can't fault them if anyone is mad about this," kicker Josh Scobee said. "We can only ask for their support in going over there and ask them to watch it on TV." The St. Louis Rams had been scheduled to play in London in 2013 and 2014, but they pulled out last week, citing a need to focus on lease negotiations and ease fan discontent. The Jaguars scooped up the available games -- plus some. "It's just good for the Jaguar brand," tight end Marcedes Lewis said. "It's exciting to go over there and put ourselves on the map worldwide. When I got drafted in 2006, there were some of my family members who didn't even know who the Jaguars were." Players recognized the major pitfalls -- traveling overseas and giving up home games -- but no one knocked the decision publicly. "We know football is the greatest sport in the states, so for fans in other areas who don't get to watch it first hand, it's good for them to experience and see what we all brag about," cornerback Rashean Mathis said. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell joined Khan for the announcement, which fittingly came on a gray, rain-soaked day in Jacksonville -- typical London weather. Goodell reaffirmed his commitment to expanding to multiple games in England and eventually establishing a franchise there. "The big issue for us was finding a community that understood that this could be great for the community, wrap their arms around it and say this is a win-win situation," Goodell said. Khan said the Jaguars are committed to playing all four years at Wembley, even if the team becomes a Super Bowl contender and a hot ticket in Jacksonville. "I think if you make a commitment, you stick with it," said Khan, who bought the team in November for 770 million. "To me, we're all in." Khan added that he would consider playing more games overseas after the deal expires in 2016. He also acknowledged that the payoff probably won't be seen immediately. He suggested that Londoners could fall in love with the Jaguars and decide to visit Jacksonville regularly. The ultimate goal, though, would be to have European companies spend millions in Jacksonville. "If somebody builds a container port, if somebody makes an investment out of Germany or England or Netherlands and they chose Jacksonville, that would be a huge return from my viewpoint," Khan said. "You could have people come here -- we've got beautiful golf, weather -- instead of vacationing in Miami or some place and they come up here and watch a game or two. That would be a huge return for me." Coach Mike Mularkey and cornerback Aaron Ross have made the trip before -- Ross with the New York Giants in 2007, and Mularkey with the Dolphins that year -- and both praised the fans and the experience they gained from making the trip. "I know Shad's been trying to have people recognize what's going on here in this town," Mularkey said. "I think this is a great opportunity to get it. Obviously going overseas, that's making a statement."

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It doesn't sound like the Mavs will let Nerlens Noel hit NBA free agency

It doesn't sound like the Mavs will let Nerlens Noel hit NBA free agency

NBA teams hoping to acquire a power forward in next month's free agency may be left with one less option, as the Dallas Mavericks appear determined to re-sign Nerlens Noel, a restricted free agent.

That's according to Marc Stein of ESPN:

Noel, 23, was traded to Dallas from the Sixers back in February for Justin Anderson, Andrew Bogut and two second round picks. He played 22 games for the Mavs, who did not qualify for the playoffs.

Trading for Noel represented a risk, given he does not have a contract for next season. But Dallas should have the opportunity to match whatever offer he gets in free agency if he indeed makes it that far.

Noel, though, could be expensive. He's very young and holds averages of 10 points, 7.5 rebounds, 1.6 steals and 1.5 blocks per game through three NBA seasons. Durability is a concern, as he only played in 51 games last season due to a surgery he had in October. But he played in 67 games the season before and 71 the year before that.

Noel was the sixth overall pick in 2013, the same year the Wizards took Otto Porter third overall.

[RELATED: Winners, losers, sleepers from 2017 NBA draft]

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Capitals lineup projection: How do the Caps replace Nate Schmidt?

Capitals lineup projection: How do the Caps replace Nate Schmidt?

Both the expansion draft and the entry draft have come and gone as have the flurry of trades that come with them. Through it all, the Caps find themselves short a top-four defenseman with the loss of Nate Schmidt to Vegas. Schmidt’s departure obviously changes the team’s plans for next season.

In May, I gave a projection of what the Caps’ opening night roster may look like next season. Obviously, things have changed, but just how much?

Here's an updated post drafts lineup projection.

Forward lines

Andre Burakovsky – Nicklas Backstrom – T.J. Oshie
Alex Ovechkin – Evgeny Kuznetsov – Marcus Johansson
Jakub Vrana – Lars Eller – Tom Wilson
Riley Barber – Jay Beagle – Brett Connolly
Extra: Chandler Stephenson

RELATED: Caps continue to strengthen defense in draft

Nothing new here. Whether Oshie would return next season was the biggest question mark. The team answered that question with his new contract that will keep him in Washington for the next eight years.

The question now is how to best organize that lineup?

Connolly’s skillset does not suit the fourth line very well, but Wilson’s strong postseason clearly made an impression. The Caps traded for Tyler Graovac in order to protect an extra forward from the expansion draft because they did not want to leave either Wilson or Eller exposed. That likely means they envision a larger role for Wilson going forward.

The big takeaway from this is that the team has more skilled players than spots in the top nine. Someone is going to get pushed down to the fourth line or perhaps be offered as part of a trade to another team.

Defensive pairs

Dmitry Orlov – Matt Niskanen
(Philipp Grubauer trade) – John Carlson
Brooks Orpik – Madison Bowey
Extra: Taylor Chorney

The loss of Schmidt is a significant one as there is no clear replacement for him on the roster. Prospects Bowey and Christian Djoos will get their shots at training camp, but they are both rookies with no NHL experience. To put both in the lineup and one in the top-four would not be an ideal situation for a team still looking to make the playoffs. The team’s cap constraints, as well as a weak free agent market in terms of defensemen, makes it unlikely the team will sign someone this summer. That makes the most likely scenario a trade.

The expansion draft forced teams to evaluate who on their roster was expendable. Grubauer is the current backup and is not considered to be the team's future starter because of prospect Ilya Samsonov. Grubauer is a trade asset the team could afford to trade away for a top-four blue liner.

But this is a deal that the team needs to pull off sooner rather than later as the number of teams in the market for a goalie is quickly dwindling.

Goalies

Braden Holtby
Pheonix Copley

If Grubauer is gone, that would put Copley in line to take over the backup role next season. The clock is ticking for the Caps, however, given that he will soon be an unrestricted free agent and could sign with another team.

MORE CAPITALS: Re-signing Oshie was 'the highest priority' for Caps