Bobby Hart

Bengals To Spend Big On O-Line?

The Bengals’ offensive line was a major question mark going into the 2020 season, and the fear was that poor blocking would jeopardize the health of rookie quarterback Joe Burrow. And then that fear became reality, as Burrow suffered a torn ACL and MCL in Week 11 and the silver lining of another lost season in Cincinnati was quickly tarnished. So, a year after Cincinnati committed significant free agent dollars to the defensive side of the ball while relying on its existing offensive linemen to develop, Paul Dehner Jr. of The Athletic says the team appears poised to reverse a long-standing trend and to spend big on the O-line.

Jonah Williams will remain the starting left tackle, but the other four spots are up for grabs. There is some hope that the return of O-line coach Frank Pollack will help left guard Michael Jordan, but after Jordan’s poor performance in 2020, it would not be at all surprising to see the Bengals pursue an upgrade (though the team has been historically reluctant to make major investments at guard).

The ACL injury that center Trey Hopkins sustained in the team’s regular season finale could mean that former first-rounder Billy Price will get one more chance to prove himself as a starting pivot, but again, after seeing Burrow writhing on the ground in pain, Cincy could seek reinforcements on the open market.

If the team does make a major free agent splash, it would likely come at right tackle, where Taylor Moton may be available. The Panthers might put the franchise tag on Moton, but if that doesn’t happen, expect the Bengals to be an active bidder for his services. Dehner also suggests that, if the team finally opens up its wallet for a guard, Joe Thuney would appear to be a perfect fit.

Whether it’s through free agency, the draft, or some combination thereof, Cincinnati has to do something. The club does want to re-sign Quinton Spain, who helped provide some stability at guard after he signed with the Bengals in October, and right tackle Bobby Hart is expected to be released, which will open up $6MM in cap space and a spot for a quality free agent. B.J. Finney, who came over from Seattle in the Carlos Dunlap trade, is also unlikely to return.

There is plenty of young skill position talent in the Queen City. With a couple of additions to the O-line, the Bengals’ offense could well be a serious threat in 2021 and beyond.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Injury Updates: McCaffrey, Fulton, Carson, Drake

Panthers superstar Christian McCaffrey returned to practice Monday, which is certainly a welcome sign considering he hasn’t been out there since Week 2. While it’s a step in the right direction, it doesn’t mean McCaffrey will be suiting up for Carolina on Thursday Night Football this week. In fact, CMAC is a “long-shot” to play in their division game against the Falcons, a source told Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (Twitter link).

Mike Davis took over as the Panthers’ running back and got off to a hot start, but he’s since cooled off significantly and only had 12 rushing yards yesterday. As such, McCaffrey’s return can’t come quick enough. The Panthers are now 3-4 and desperately need a win over Atlanta if they want to stay in the NFC playoff picture. McCaffrey went down with a high ankle sprain in their Week 2 game against the Bucs and has been sidelined ever since.

Here’s more health updates from around the league:

  • The Titans lost their first game of the season on Sunday, and they also lost a key piece of their defense for a while. Rookie cornerback Kristian Fulton will miss a “few weeks” with a knee injury, according to veteran beat writer Paul Kuharsky (Twitter link). Kuharsky writes that it’s unclear if he’ll go on injured reserve, which would require him to miss at least three games. A second-round pick in April’s draft, Fulton has started the Titans’ last two games after missing one on the COVID-19 list. Tennessee’s secondary has already struggled mightily, so this is an unwelcome development for Mike Vrabel’s unit.
  • The Bengals have already had a tough time blocking for Joe Burrow, and Cincy fans everywhere were holding their breath when starting left tackle Jonah Williams went down with a neck injury yesterday. Fortunately, the “early indications” are that the injury is not “overly serious,” a source told Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (Twitter link). Rapsheet says Williams may miss this week, but there is some optimism he could return after their Week 9 bye. The 11th overall pick of the 2019 draft, Williams missed his entire rookie season with a shoulder injury but had played every snap this year before going down.
  • Williams isn’t the only member of the Bengals’ offensive line banged up, as starting right tackle Bobby Hart also got hurt against Cleveland. Hart will miss this weekend’s game against Tennessee, head coach Zac Taylor announced Monday. Hart had also started all seven games this season, and now it looks like Burrow might be without each of his starting tackles this season. Given that he’s already been running for his life in most weeks, this could be a recipe for disaster.
  • The Seahawks also lost their first game of the season Sunday, and now it looks like they’ll be without starting running back Chris Carson for a while. Carson suffered a mid-foot sprain that will leave him week to week, Rapoport tweets. While Carson will apparently miss some time it doesn’t sound like anything too serious, and he shouldn’t be on the shelf too long. Fellow running back Travis Homer also got hurt on Sunday night, and we’re still waiting on an update on him.
  • The Cardinals beat Seattle on Sunday night, but unfortunately the recently signed linebacker Isaiah Irving suffered a serious injury and had to be carted off. Irving suffered a back injury that will likely sideline him for the rest of the season, a source told Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Signed off Denver’s practice squad a couple of weeks ago, Irving was in his first game with the Cards and was only playing on special teams, so this won’t have too much impact on Arizona’s defense. Hopefully Irving is able to make a swift and full recovery.
  • Irving wasn’t the only Cardinal to go down. Starting running back Kenyan Drake hurt his ankle, and he’s going to miss some time. Drake will miss a few weeks with a slight ligament tear in his ankle, a source told Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Chase Edmonds, the highly talented change of pace back, will now get a chance to shine in Drake’s absence. Fortunately Arizona has a bye in Week 8, which will reduce the number of games Drake has to miss. Schefter adds that the team is treating the ligament issue essentially like a high ankle sprain.
  • Chargers tight end Virgil Green came down with a crucial touchdown in Los Angeles’ win over the Jaguars, but unfortunately he hurt himself on the play. Green will miss several weeks with a lateral ankle sprain, Rapoport tweets, and he’s a candidate for injured reserve. The Chargers still have Hunter Henry of course, but this is a significant blow as they like to run multiple tight end sets. Second-year UDFA from Stetson Donald Parham also caught a touchdown from Justin Herbert on Sunday, and should be in line for more playing time moving forward. Green, in his third season with the Chargers, has always been more of a blocker than receiver during his ten-year career.

Contract Details: Joyner, Titans, Rams, Hart

Let’s take a look at the details of a few recently-signed contracts from around the NFL. Twitter links courtesy of Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network, unless otherwise noted.

Bengals To Re-Sign T Bobby Hart

Bobby Hart‘s second NFL team plans to reward him after his 16-start season. The Bengals are re-signing the fifth-year offensive lineman, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets.

Cincinnati’s full-time starter at right tackle last season, Hart will sign for $21MM over three years, Schefter adds. This marks a major step for Hart, whom the Giants cut on Day 1 of Dave Gettleman‘s GM tenure.

Hart did not fare well in New York, and Gettleman waived him in December 2017. A former seventh-round pick during the Jerry Reese era, Hart caught on with the Bengals and started every game last season. While Pro Football Focus graded him as the No. 69 tackle last season, this is starter-level money. It appears the Bengals are showing faith in Hart continuing to man the right edge of their front.

The Bengals now have three veteran contracts along their O-line, with Hart’s deal joining the pacts on which Cordy Glenn and Clint Boling are attached. Despite his Giants performance, Hart is now tied to a deal that places him seventh among right tackles, in terms of per-year earnings.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC Notes: Dolphins, Bortles, Ravens, Chiefs

The Dolphins are “strongly” considering releasing offensive tackle Ja’Wuan James instead of paying his $9.341MM base salary in 2018, according to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. James, a former first-round pick, is under contract next season thanks to his fifth-year option, but given that his salary is non-guaranteed, Miami can get out of the deal with no penalty. While the Dolphins could speculatively be interested in retaining James at a reduced price, the 25-year-old has little incentive to accept a pay cut, as he’d immediately become one of the best tackles on the open market if he were to be released. Indeed, the top end of an extremely weak free agent tackle class includes Nate Solder, Justin Pugh, Cameron Fleming, and Chris Hubbard, so James would surely draw interest.

Here’s more from the AFC:

  • Blake Bortles‘ new three-year deal with the Jaguars contains offset language, tweets Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com (Twitter link). Jacksonville inked Bortles to a $54MM extension over the weekend that includes a partially guaranteed ($6.5MM of $16MM) base salary in 2019. If the former first-round pick flops during the upcoming campaign, the Jaguars could release him next spring and still create $4.5MM worth of cap space. That figure could be even greater thanks to offset language, however, as the Jaguars would be off the hook for whatever salary Bortles hypothetically earns with his next club.
  • The Ravens and tight end-turned-offensive lineman Crockett Gillmore have mutual interest in new contract, reports Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun. Reports last week indicated Gillmore would transition to offensive line, and he’s apparently begun the change by packing on “considerable bulk” to aid the move. Baltimore, understandably, wants a “better gauge” of Gillmore’s physical condition, not solely due to his upcoming position switch, but because he missed the entire 2017 with a knee injury. Gillmore, 26, was always considered an outstanding blocking tight end while playing in the 250-pound range.
  • Cornerback David Amerson inked a one-year deal with the Chiefs earlier this month, and while Terez A. Paylor of the Kansas City Star previously reported the pact has a base value of $2.25MM, Adam Caplan of SiriusXM (Twitter link) has now provided the contract’s specifics. Amerson, 26, receives a $500K signing bonus, a $1MM base salary, $625K in per-game roster bonuses, and a $125K workout bonus. The deal also contains unknown incentives which, as Paylor indicated, could bring the total value of the agreement to $6MM.
  • In desperate need of offensive line depth, the Bengals recently signed ex-Giants tackle Bobby Hart, but his contract details show that he’s not a lock for Cincinnati’s roster, as Jim Owczarski of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports (Facebook link). Hart got a $50K signing bonus and will collect another $200K bonus if he’s on the Bengals’ Week 1 roster. All told, Hart will be an easy cut for Cincinnati if he doesn’t prove his worth during the summer.

Bengals Sign OT Bobby Hart

The Bengals have signed free agent offensive tackle Bobby Hart to a one-year deal, the club announced today.Bobby Hart

Hart, 23, had been a part-time starter for the Giants since entering the league as a seventh-round pick in 2015. Last season, Hart played roughly half of New York’s offensive snaps, but graded as a bottom-five tackle per Pro Football Focus. After Hart reportedly refused to practice late last year, new Giants general manager Dave Gettleman placed him on injured reserve, and subsequently waived him from IR last week.

The Bengals, however, are forced to overlook some of Hart’s negative traits due to their extremely weak offensive line. Cincinnati finished among the bottom half of the NFL in both adjusted line yards and adjusted sack rate, and front five upgrades were at the top of the club’s offseason to-do list. Hart clearly won’t solve all of the Bengals’ offensive line problems, but he’ll add depth and experience to a unit that needs both.

At present, Cincinnati is projected to start 2015 draft selections Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher at the tackle spots, though neither is assured of playing time. Veteran Andre Smith could potentially re-sign for a third stint in the Queen City, while the Bengals may consider further free agent additions or draft picks.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Giants Cut Bobby Hart From IR

Bobby Hart‘s time in Giants limbo came to an end on Friday. The team jettisoned its former right tackle starter from injured reserve, Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets.

The Giants waived Hart back in December, within hours of Dave Gettleman beginning his GM run, but the team waiving him with an injury designation on December 30 meant he couldn’t clear waivers until after Super Bowl LII. Once he did so, he landed on the Giants’ IR list. He is now off that list and no longer part of the Giants’ future.

Gettleman made that clear by cutting him on his first day as GM. A former seventh-round pick out of Florida State, Hart factored in prominent to recent Giants offensive lines. He started 21 games, 20 over the past two seasons, but was obviously not a Gettleman favorite. He and Ereck Flowers caused pre-Week 17 disruptions centered around refusal to play through injuries, and the latter’s future with the Giants could be in jeopardy as well.

Gettleman has made offensive line repair a key part of his offseason mission, and it’s likely Eli Manning will have a host of new blockers in front of him in 2018. Hart will have a head start on his past line mates in terms of finding a new team.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Giants Place OT Bobby Hart On IR

Bobby Hart‘s longterm outlook with the Giants may not be promising, but he’s sticking around the organization for now. ESPN’s Field Yates reports (via Twitter) that the team has placed the lineman on the injured reserve. The Giants had waived Hart in late December.

Bobby HartThe 2015 seventh-round pick out of Florida State has spent his entire career with the Giants, starting 21 of his 33 career games (including seven starts this season). Pro Football Focus wasn’t particularly thrilled with his performance in 2017, ranking him 82nd among 86 eligible offensive tackle candidates. In fact, the lineman’s PFF rating has consistently dropped in each of his three seasons in the NFL.

The 23-year-old does still have a year remaining on his contract, but it doesn’t sound like he’ll be sticking around for very long. Geoff Schwartz of SBNation previously tweeted that the new regime may be looking to clear out “locker room cancers.” Towards this end of this past campaign, Hart randomly informed Giants staff that he wasn’t playing in the team’s Week 17 matchup against the Redskins.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Giants Souring On Ereck Flowers?

Ereck Flowers has started all 15 Giants games this season and has missed just one game in his career. The third-year left tackle looks set to miss Week 17.

Flowers told coaches he would not play against the Redskins, Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com reports. Although he’s questionable with a groin injury, Flowers has “checked out” and is ready for Big Blue’s season to end, per ESPN.

If Flowers does suit up, he will be benched. Ralph Vacchiano of SNY.tv reports Dave Gettleman approved the benching of the former first-round pick, doing so along with making the call to waive Bobby Hart — who had started intermittently over the past two years. Both Flowers and Hart refused to practice on Friday, Vacchiano reports, adding the Giants are “fed up” with the duo’s attitudes. That resulted in Hart’s exit, but the team has more money tied up in Flowers.

Flowers is listed as questionable to play in Sunday’s meaningless game, but he practiced on a limited basis Wednesday and Thursday prior to sitting out Friday. A source told Vacchiano that Flowers would probably not be active Sunday.

The University of Miami product has disappointed since the Giants made him the No. 9 overall pick in 2015, and it seems unlikely the team will exercise his fifth-year option at this point. Although, Flowers has been incredibly durable and these options are guaranteed against injury only, in the event the sides mend fences in the near future. As for Flowers’ 2018 status, his $2.4MM base salary is fully guaranteed; he’ll count $4.5MM against the Giants’ cap whether he’s on the team or not.

The Giants have discussed moving Flowers to right tackle or to guard in the past, per Vacchiano, who adds the team is not expected to bring him back as the starting left tackle next season. Flowers has been Big Blue’s left tackle starter since his first offseason, when a Will Beatty injury moved him from right to left tackle.

Gettleman said Friday the offensive line needed fixing. Both Justin Pugh and Weston Richburg are free agents. With Flowers’ status less certain after recent events, the Giants are close to starting from scratch up front.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Giants To Waive OL Bobby Hart

Dave Gettleman isn’t wasting any time in his new gig as Giants general manager. USA Today’s Art Stapleton reports (via Twitter) that the team is planning on waiving offensive lineman Bobby Hart.

Bobby HartThe 2015 seventh-round pick out of Florida State has spent his entire career with the Giants, starting 21 of his 33 career games (including seven starts this season). Pro Football Focus hasn’t been particularly thrilled with his performance in 2017, ranking him 82nd among 86 eligible offensive tackle candidates. In fact, the lineman’s PFF rating has consistently dropped in each of his three seasons in the NFL.

The 23-year-old still had a year remaining on his contract, but it doesn’t sound like the move was money- or performance-based. Rather, Geoff Schwartz of SBNation tweets that the new regime may be looking to clear out “locker room cancers,” and the reporter notes that Hart randomly informed Giants staff that he wasn’t planning on playing this weekend.

With Hart out of the picture, the Giants could turn to Chad Wheeler, John Greco, or Damien Mama to slide into the starting lineup for this weekend’s season finale.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.