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LOCK ‘EM UP

By Marc Lawrence — Another NFL season has come and gone, and it’s once again time to turn the page to free agency and the draft as teams prepare to retool their rosters for next season. This includes the 14 playoff teams. Despite their 2020 success, they will still have personnel challenges to work through, such as determining which players to retain and which to let walk once the new league year starts. It’s nearly impossible, if not impractical, to re-sign every single player on the roster year over year, especially with the 2021 salary cap projected to decrease. After examining pending free agents from all 14 postseason teams, NFL.com selected one offensive player due to hit the open market from each playoff team who must be kept. Starting in the AFC, one of those players includes Rashard Higgins, Cleveland Browns: Odell Beckham’s future in Cleveland is anything but certain, with the receiver owed zero guaranteed money in 2021 and still working his way back from a torn ACL. To be honest, Kevin Stefanski’s offense played well without the star receiver. Higgins earned a lot of playing time in OBJ’s absence and recorded career-high marks in receiving yards (599) and yards per reception (16.2), while tying his personal best in TD receptions with four. Cleveland’s unsung hero, Higgins proved to be an extremely reliable target for the improved Baker Mayfield, who had a 126.1 passer rating when targeting Higgins. The pending free agent is also a solid blocker in the run game, making him a great fit in Cleveland’s run-first scheme. To read other key players that need to be signed in the AFC, click here.

Trending Today

Michigan hadn’t played since a 70-53 victory at Purdue on Jan. 22 and it looked like it when they trailed by 12 points at the half at Wisconsin yesterday. The Wolverines showed their toughness and dominated the game’s final minutes, outscoring the Badgers 11-2 down the stretch en route to a 67-59 win. Wisconsin shot 7-of-28 in the second half and missed their last 11 3-point attempts. Michigan beat Wisconsin 77-54 on Jan. 12 and became the first team to sweep a regular-season series from the Badgers since 2017-18. Juan Howard’s team looks to be the team to beat in the Big Ten.

Grinding Out The Profits

From the Playbook Basketball Newsletter: At long last it appears as if Erik Spoelstra and the Heat are getting their BTU’s back, and it couldn’t come at a better time. With Jimmy Butler finally entrenched back in the lineup, and others following suit, Miami tonight more resembles the team that made it to NBA Finals last season than the one who opened the 2020 campaign on a dismal 8-18 run. The buy sign came when Butler keyed a 3-0 SUATS spurt upon re-entering the lineup on February 5. And then there is Tyronn Lue, hired to mentor the Clippers after Doc Rivers headed to Philadelphia. We’ve often regarded Lue as a million-dollar male cheerleader, hired at the insistence of LeBron James back in his days with Cleveland. Lue’s 43-69-4 ATS career record in home games, including 12-26-1 ATS against sub .450 foes, says it all. In a classic coaching mismatch, with a big revenge contest here Wednesday evening against the Jazz, it’s time turn up the Heat.

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