Good morning, Tuesday! Hope all this sunlight later in the day is helping shift your mood out of seasonal depression. Before you know it we're going to have meaningful twilight baseball with warm summer air creeping in.
Yesterday was a busy day ... NFL free agency showed up and kicked the door down while we were still busy processing our college hoops brackets. We'll get into some of the winners and losers from a rather chaotic opening day of NFL free agency, then we'll dive deeper into March Madness and examine some picks and predictions for each region.
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Here's a reminder that you and your friends can have all the fun by playing our CBS Sports bracket games this year. And another reminder that, since it's Tuesday, my mailbox is open for your questions about sports, The Grammys, movies, video games and whatever else you might want to pick my brain about. Shoot me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I'll pick some of the best and most creative Q's for inclusion in tomorrow's mailbag.
Party time. Let's go.
📰 What you need to know
1. The Buccaneers are keeping the band together 🏆
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers want to keep this party going, and can you blame them? Fresh off the team's Super Bowl win in February, the Bucs are retaining a majority of their key free agents heading into next season. Bruce Arians said this would happen during the team's championship celebration and yesterday it proved to be true.
- Shaq Barrett agreed to a four-year, $72 million deal to stay in Tampa just as the legal tampering period opened on Monday
- Rob Gronkowski will also be returning to the Bucs -- on a one-year deal
- This comes after Tampa Bay already retained Lavonte David (two-year extension) and Chris Godwin (franchise tag) earlier in the offseason
Not to make everything about Tom Brady, but our Will Brinson and Jonathan Jones raised a good point yesterday: Brady's value to a franchise is "borderline incalculable." It's something that I talked about here last Friday: Of course Brady provided the Bucs with an upgrade at QB when he signed there, but he also turned Tampa into a model franchise and made it a premiere destination in the process. Not only did players rush to sign there, now they're leaving money on the table to stay there. Brady's value is far, far greater than the number next to the dollar signs on his contract.
But the Bucs weren't the only team to have a strong opening to free agency. In fact, Brady's former team also had themselves quite a day...
2. Winners and losers from Day 1 of free agency 🏈
Oh, you thought that NFL teams might be hesitant to spend money after a pandemic season, or at least head into free agency with a tentative approach? Ha, think again.
Day 1 of free agency -- or at least the legal tampering period (deals can't become official until the new league year starts on Wednesday) -- began with a bang. Lots of free agents came flying off the board and there was plenty of money thrown around, and a lot of that money was handed out (rather uncharacteristically) by Bill Belichick and the Patriots. As our Tyler Sullivan wrote: "Belichick rolled into free agency like his stimulus check just cleared."
Spending money doesn't always make you a winner, but it certainly helped the Pats. Let's get to the winners and losers:
- Winner: Patriots -- New England had plenty of cap space heading into yesterday and they weren't afraid to use it. They signed top TE Jonnu Smith (four years, $50 million) to fill a major position of need, then brought in receivers Nelson Agholor (two years, $26 million) and Kendrick Bourne (three years, $22.5 million). They also made significant additions on the defensive end, signing LB Matt Judon (four years, $56 million), Jalen Mills, Henry Anderson and Davon Godchaux. It was an extremely busy day for Belichick & Co.
- Loser: Ravens' pass rush -- Baltimore took a big hit defensively on Monday when they lost Yannick Ngakoue to the Raiders and Matt Judon to the Patriots. That's arguably their two top pass rushers that they'll have to replace
- Winner: Patrick Mahomes - The Chiefs cut both of their starting tackles ahead of free agency last week, but they did agree to a five-year deal with left guard Joe Thuney on Monday. That's good news for Mahomes, who recently restructured his contract to give the team more cap space
- Loser: Seahawks -- Amid all the speculation, they didn't do much to show Russell Wilson that they're committed to protecting him and helping him thrive in Seattle. Had they inked an offensive lineman like Thuney, Kevin Zeitler or Corey Linsley (all of whom signed elsewhere on Monday), that could have helped mend some of the tensions between the 'Hawks and their star QB
As a Patriots fan myself, it feels weird seeing Belichick come out of the gate so hot with the free agency commitments. Going on a wild spending spree in March isn't typically how the Pats conduct business, but they also don't typically have a ton of money after a 7-9 season, either. You do have to wonder whether Belichick (or the powers that be) felt a little extra motivation to acquire talent after watching Brady win a Super Bowl in Tampa Bay this year.
3. Region-by-region March Madness breakdowns 🏀
I told you we'd have lots more March Madness coverage this week, didn't I? When have I ever let you down? (Please don't answer that.)
Our college basketball staff has come through big time, as this morning I bring to you deep dives into each region of the bracket. Our experts have provided analysis, predictions, picks and players to watch for each of the four regions in the tournament this year. I'm just gonna drop those links right here so you can dive in:
As the ultimate fan of chaos, I'm most interested in the inevitable upsets. Let's take a look at the upset lock of each region:
- East: Michigan bounced too early -- The Wolverines' ceiling is championship level, but the team entering the tournament isn't the same one that earned a No. 1 seed. Our Chip Paterson believes the status of Isaiah Livers is enough to fear that Michigan has already played its best basketball this season
- South: (12) Winthrop over (5) Villanova -- Winthrop went 23-1 and hit its stride in the Southern Conference Tournament. Villanova is 0-2 without Collin Gillespie after the star guard tore his MCL, and our David Cobb believes there's little sign the Wildcats have the depth to make a serious run without him
- Midwest: (12) Oregon State over (5) Tennessee -- It doesn't sound like Kyle Boone believes in Tennessee at all, but he also enjoys the team basketball that Oregon State plays
- West: (12) UCSB over (5) Creighton -- UCSB has won 18 of their past 19 games, with 10 wins coming by double digits. Creighton scored just 48 points in an embarrassing Big East title game loss to Georgetown, so this one could be a popular upset pick
As you might've guessed, we're gonna have plenty more coverage this week. Only two more days until this thing actually gets started and I can't wait.
4. Firings hit college basketball 🏀
It's an exciting week in college basketball ... for some. However, as 68 teams get ready for the NCAA Tourney, many more are coming to terms with the disappointment of not hearing their name called on Selection Sunday. And sometimes when you ain't dancing, you ain't working.
A pair of notable firings in college basketball went down on Monday:
- Indiana fired head coach Archie Miller. He spent four seasons in Bloomington, going 67-58 overall (33-44 in the Big Ten) with zero NCAA Tournament appearances
- Nate Oats and Chris Beard are considered among the top candidates to replace Miller at Indiana
- Minnesota fired Richard Pitino (son of Rick Pitino) after eight seasons. Pitino went 141-123 overall and took the program to two NCAA Tournament appearances. He finished with a losing record in four of eight seasons
- Pitino is considered a finalist for the vacant New Mexico job
Sometimes the fun is over before it really even starts.
📝 Odds & Ends
- Julius Randle wasn't happy with the controversial call at the end of the Knicks vs. Nets game last night
- Sister Jean wants to attend Loyola Chicago's NCAA tournament games
- Six referees have been removed from March Madness duty due to COVID-19 protocols
- The Athletics are selling luxury box suites for one bitcoin
📺 What to watch today
🏒 Bruins vs. Penguins, 7 p.m. | PIT -118 | TV: NBCSN
🏀 Jazz vs. Celtics, 8 p.m. | BOS +4.5 | TV: TNT
🏀 Pelicans vs. Trail Blazers, 10 p.m. | POR -1.5 | TV: TNT
🥇 The best thing I saw yesterday
The Buffalo Sabres are playing some of the worst hockey I've ever seen in my life right now. This defensive sequence from last night's 6-0 loss to the Capitals was just downright laughably putrid. And for those keeping track at home, the Sabres have now lost 11 straight games while being outscored 47-7 in that span.