Cobi Hamilton

Texans Work Out 8, Sign Cobi Hamilton

Fresh off their first win of the season, the Texans worked out a variety of offensive players on Friday, including the previously reported Gary Barnidge, according to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle (Twitter links). Fellow tight ends Larry Donnell, Gavin Escobar, David Johnson and MyCole Pruitt joined Barnidge in auditioning, while wide receivers Cobi Hamilton and Jordan, offensive lineman Jah Reid and quarterback Garrett Grayson were also on hand. The Texans saw enough from Hamilton to sign him to their practice squad, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets.

Houston has an obvious need at tight end, with C.J. Fiedorowicz, Ryan Griffin and Stephen Anderson dealing with the aftereffects of concussions. Fiedorowicz is on injured reserve, meaning he’ll miss a significant chunk of time, while neither Griffin nor Anderson dressed for the Texans’ 13-9 win over the Bengals on Thursday. As you’d expect, the tight end position was a non-factor for Houston against Cincinnati, as all 15 of quarterback Deshaun Watson‘s completions went to wide receivers and running backs.

Larry Donnell (vertical)

All of the tight ends the Texans looked at Friday come with NFL experience, though only Donnell and Escobar have extensive pro track records. Donnell had a 63-catch, six-touchdown season with the Giants in 2014, but his production has gone downhill since, thanks in part to injuries, and he hasn’t stuck anywhere since becoming a free agent in the offseason. The 28-year-old’s only employment since last season ended came in the form of a short stint in Baltimore, which signed him July 30 and released him Sept. 1.

Escobar, meanwhile, was a high pick in 2013, when Dallas took him in the second round, but he didn’t make much of a mark there behind all-time great Jason Witten. The 26-year-old, who caught 30 passes and eight TDs during his four-year Cowboys run, signed with the Chiefs as a free agent in March but didn’t crack their Week 1 roster.

Reid was a teammate of Escobar’s for a brief period in Kansas City, which released the tackle/guard on the final day of August. A veteran of 61 appearances and 18 starts, he’d provide depth along a Houston line that’s without its left tackle, holdout Duane Brown, and has already yielded 13 sacks in two weeks.

The other fairly notable player on this list is the Texans’ newest addition, Hamilton, who had been looking for work since the Steelers cut him Sept. 1. The Texans are already the sixth organization for the 26-year-old Hamilton, who’s coming off a career season (albeit a modest one) in Pittsburgh. Hamilton started in eight of 11 appearances and caught 17 passes for 234 yards and two touchdowns. He added another four receptions and a TD in three playoff games last January.

As is the case at tight end, Houston’s receivers aren’t the picture of health. Both Bruce Ellington and Will Fuller missed Thursday’s game with injuries (the latter will be out until the fall), leaving the Texans wanting at wideout. Believe it or not, DeAndre Hopkins and Braxton Miller are their only receivers who have caught passes this season. Hamilton could be a factor sometime this year, then.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Steelers, Tuitt, Saints

Here’s a look around the NFL:

  • Steelers defensive end Stephon Tuitt has a chance to play this week against Minnesota, coach Mike Tomlin told reporters on Tuesday (Twitter link via Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com). Tuitt has been classified as week-to-week with his bicep injury.
  • In light of the Zach Strief injury news, Nick Underhill of The Advocate (on Twitter) notes that likely replacement Senio Kelemete can earn $200K by playing in 50% of the team’s snaps and up to $600K at 70%. The Saints will be without the tackle for at least a few weeks.
  • Texans guard Jeff Allen is expected to miss at least one game with an ankle injury, Mark Berman of FOX 26 tweets. Allen, one of Houston’s starting guards, is in year two of a four-year, $28MM pact. He appeared in 14 games last season, all starts.
  • Wide receiver Cobi Hamilton is working out for the Texans this week, a source tells ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler (on Twitter). The former Pittsburgh receiver could round out a banged up unit that is missing both Bruce Ellington (concussion) and Will Fuller (collarbone).
  • The Chiefs gave running back Akeem Hunt an upgraded practice squad contract, Aaron Wilson of The Houston Chronicle tweets. He’ll now make $36K per week, which comes out to $615K for the year. Hunt signed on with KC’s taxi squad on Sept. 5 and it sounds like the Chiefs weren’t the only team interested in his services.

Workout Notes: Patriots, Jets, Bills

The Patriots auditioned some players of note this week, including linebacker Akeem Ayers, quarterback Thad Lewis, and wide receiver Jeremy Ross (Twitter link via Mike Reiss of ESPN.com).

Ayers has some history with New England after playing on their 2014 Super Bowl championship team. Last year, Ayers appeared in all 16 games for Indianapolis and recorded two sacks.

Linebackers Nicholas Grigsby and Antwione Williams also showed their stuff for the Pats.

Here’s a look at Wednesday’s other workouts from around the NFL:

Steelers Release Cobi Hamilton

Cobi Hamilton was a fixture in the Steelers’ receiving corps in 2016, but he won’t be a member of the group this year. The team has released the wideout, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN reports.

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Thanks largely to superstar Antonio Brown, the just-reinstated Martavis Bryant, second-round pick JuJu Smith-Schuster and Eli Rogers, the Steelers are deep at receiver. With those four serving as locks to make the team, Hamilton joined a few other familiar Steelers receivers who vied to stay on their roster during the preseason. It wasn’t to be for the 26-year-old Hamilton, a sixth-round pick of the AFC North rival Bengals in 2013 who didn’t catch a pass in Cincinnati but made somewhat of an impact in Pittsburgh.

In 2016, his lone season with the Steelers, Hamilton started in eight of 11 appearances and caught 17 passes for 234 yards and two touchdowns. He added another four receptions and a TD in three playoff games last January.

Also a former Eagle, Dolphin and Panther, the well-traveled Hamilton’s next NFL organization will be his sixth.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

North Notes: Bridgewater, Steelers, Ravens

Mike Zimmer shed some light on Teddy Bridgewater‘s progress recently, revealing (via Jay Glazer of Fox Sports; Twitter link) there is a “possibility” the fourth-year quarterback returns for the Vikings this season. Zimmer reiterates Bridgewater has not been able to practice yet, further pointing to an uncertain future for the former starting quarterback.

CBA language is murky regarding what could happen if Bridgewater begins the season the Reserve/PUP list, with Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk noting this, as written, would cause the passer’s contract to toll and keep him on the Vikings in 2018 as part of his rookie deal. While this subject has been broached a few times this offseason, Florio adds that this contract rule as applied would suggest Bridgewater would need to miss the entire season for his deal to be carried over onto Minnesota’s 2018 books. So, the former Louisville star returning from the PUP list this season could be pivotal for his career, even if Sam Bradford has a firm grip on the starting job.

This could be a drawn-out process for Bridgewater and the Vikings without a near-future resolution, but it’s definitely a worthwhile subplot to their season. Here’s the latest in relevant North-divisions subplots.

  • Several backups complemented Antonio Brown for the Steelers in the AFC championship game last season as injuries and unavailability mounted, and they’re almost all on the roster bubble now. Sammie Coates and Darrius Heyward-Bey are not locks to make the Steelers’ 53-man roster, Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette notes. Coates, Heyward-Bey, Justin Hunter, Cobi Hamilton and Demarcus Ayers are fighting for the final two spots — behind Brown, Martavis Bryant, Eli Rogers and JuJu Smith-Schuster, per Fittipaldo. The Steelers started Ayers, Hamilton and Heyward-Bey at least once apiece in their three-game playoff sojourn last season, but now that they are deeper, won’t need some of these players to return. Coates not being given a third year would be notable for the 2015 third-round pick, who’s been inconsistent, but the remainder of these players mostly saw action due to higher-level performers’ unavailability in 2016.
  • The Ravens aren’t as deep as their rivals at wideout, and injuries have limited the competition behind locks Jeremy Maclin, Mike Wallace and Breshad Perriman, Jeff Zreibec of the Baltimore Sun writes. Michael Campanaro, Chris Moore and Chris Matthews and rookie UDFA Quincy Adeboyejo lead the competition for the final spots, per Zreibec. This would stand to put Griff Whalen and Keenan Reynolds on the outside looking in. Zreibec calls the recently re-signed Campanaro close to a roster lock but assigns slipping stock to Moore. Adeboyejo may see a knee injury dash his hopes at making the team.
  • Bengals DC Paul Guenther discussed the prospect of acquiring defensive end Chris Smith with player personnel director Duke Tobin, expressing support for a move that eventually came April 11 via trade from the Jaguars, Paul Dehner Jr. of cincinnati.com reports. Smith participated in only 311 defensive plays in three Jacksonville seasons, and did not suit up in 10 games last season, but looks to have made a good case for more playing time in Cincinnati, Dehner Jr. writes.
  • Kyle Long not set to play in the Bears‘ third preseason game — and likely not Chicago’s fourth exhibition tilt — makes the guard’s Week 1 status uncertain, Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune tweets. The Bears are being cautious with their top guard after he suffered a season-ending ankle injury in November 2016.

Steelers To Re-Sign Cobi Hamilton

As injuries and suspensions affected the Steelers’ pass-catching contingent this season, they became more reliant on lesser-known commodities. They will bring back one of them after agreeing to a one-year deal with wide receiver Cobi Hamilton, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com tweets. The sides came to an agreement earlier this week.

Hamilton resided as an exclusive rights free agent entering the Steelers’ offseason, and this deal is the second Pittsburgh signing today. The team signed ERFA Roosevelt Nix as well.

A former sixth-round Bengals pick in 2013, Hamilton did not record a reception from 2013-15 and spent the first half of this season on the Steelers’ practice squad. But the team promoted him and saw the 26-year-old target start eight games, catch 17 passes for 234 yards and score two touchdowns during the regular season. He and UDFA Eli Rogers became the Steelers’ top auxiliary receivers after the suspension of Martavis Bryant and injuries to Markus Wheaton and Sammie Coates. Hamilton caught Ben Roethlisberger‘s only touchdown pass in the AFC championship game on what became a rough day for Pittsburgh’s passing attack.

Wheaton is a UFA and Bryant has an uncertain road back to reinstatement, so Hamilton could again compete for a spot as a relevant cog in Todd Haley‘s offense.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Steelers Promote Cobi Hamilton

The Steelers have promoted WR Cobi Hamilton from their practice squad, according to Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (via Twitter). To make room for Hamilton, Pittsburgh has cut CB Al-Hajj Shabazz.

Sep 1, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Cobi Hamilton (83) during the second quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Prior to promoting Hamilton, the Steelers had only three healthy receivers: Antonio Brown, Darrius Heyward-Bey, and Eli Rogers (who himself missed the last two games with turf toe). Markus Wheaton has already been ruled out of today’s game against Miami with a shoulder injury, and as Bouchette tweets, Sammie Coates is dealing with a broken left index finger in addition to a laceration above his left palm. Sources have told ESPN’s Adam Schefter that Coates will be a game-time decision today, and even if he is active, one has to wonder how effective he will be.

Hamilton, whom the Bengals selected in the sixth round of the 2013 draft, has only appeared in one game in his NFL career (in 2014 with Cincinnati). He has also been with the Panthers, Dolphins, and Eagles. Pittsburgh signed him in August of this year, and he was part of the club’s final roster cuts before joining the practice squad on September 4.

Shabazz, a rookie from D-II West Chester, also joined the Steelers’ practice squad on September 4. He had his shot on the active roster last week, when he played six snaps on defense and 12 on special teams. Per Joe Rutter of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, the Steelers will try to re-sign Shabazz to the practice squad next week if he clears waivers.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Sunday NFL Transactions: AFC North

Listed below are the Sunday roster moves for the four AFC North teams. Following the 53-man roster cutdown deadline yesterday, many teams will make slight tweaks to their rosters, claiming players off waivers or signing guys who clear waivers. Those transactions for the Ravens, Bengals, Browns, and Steelers are noted below.

Additionally, as of 12:00pm CT today, teams can begin constructing their 10-man practice squads. You can check out our glossary entry on practice squads to brush up on those changes, as well as all the other guidelines that govern the 10-man units, whose players practice with the team but aren’t eligible to suit up on Sundays.

Here are Sunday’s AFC North transactions, which will continue to be updated throughout the day. All links go to Twitter unless otherwise noted:

Baltimore Ravens

Cincinnati Bengals

Cleveland Browns

Pittsburgh Steelers

Steelers Trim Roster To 53

The Steelers have reduced their roster to the league-mandated 53 players.

The following players have been cut:

As Fowler observes, the Steelers’ recent wave of offensive lineman cuts could be good news for B.J. Finney, who came into today firmly on the roster bubble. Feiler, like Feeney, is a practice squad candidate.

Hooks, an Ole Miss product, was signed by the Packers as a UDFA following the 2015 draft, but Green Bay cut him last August as part of the 75-man cutdown. He caught on with the Steelers in February, and at least made it to the final cutdown day, so that qualifies as progress.

Ahmed was part of the Falcons’ crop of UDFAs this year but was waived by Atlanta last month. The Temple product made the switch from defensive lineman to offensive lineman during his junior year, and he started 12 of 13 games at left guard for the feel-good Owls last year.

Rory Parks contributed to this post

Extra Points: Cowboys, McCown, Titans, Pats

The latest from a few NFL cities as Hall of Fame weekend begins…

  • As was reported Thursday, the backup quarterback-needy Cowboys are reluctant to meet the Browns’ relatively lofty asking price for Josh McCown. It’s possible the two will eventually agree to a deal, though, and with that in mind, the Browns have talked to McCown about a possible trade, per Ed Werder of ESPN.com. Cleveland would prefer to keep McCown, but it hasn’t made the 37-year-old any promises (Twitter link).
  • The Cowboys’ lack of cap space might preclude them from acquiring McCown, notes David Moore of the Dallas Morning News. Giving up a draft pick for McCown, who has a $5MM-plus cap hit each of the next two seasons, would knock the Cowboys’ spending space down to $500K. To soften the financial blow, Dallas could include a member of its roster in a McCown trade, release one or two players it would like to keep, or restructure the quarterback’s deal. None of those are ideal options, as Moore points out, which is why the team is biding its time as it scans for depth under center in the wake of Kellen Moore‘s broken ankle.
  • Wide receiver Andre Johnson‘s two-year deal with the Titans is easy for the team to escape after 2016, reports Terry McCormick of TitanInsider.com. The contract includes base salaries of $985K and $2MM, and it features a $500K roster bonus due on the third day of the 2017 league year. Johnson will also have a chance to earn $250K in per-game active bonuses (Twitter links), though his pact with Tennessee doesn’t contain any guaranteed money, according to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle (via Twitter).
  • The league has suspended Titans safety Marqueston Huff for Week 1 because of a substance abuse violation, Zac Jackson of Pro Football Talk writes. Huff has appeared in 30 of 32 regular-season games and made one start since the Titans selected him in the fourth round of the 2014 draft. Most of Huff’s impact has come on special teams, where he participated in 80.8 percent of the Titans’ snaps in 2015.
  • The Patriots worked out receiver Cobi Hamilton on Thursday, Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald tweets. Hamilton ended up signing with Pittsburgh on Friday.
  • In case you missed it, the Cardinals awarded extensions to franchise linchpins Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald on Friday. The Saints agreed to a deal with four-time Pro Bowl fullback John Kuhn.

Zach Links contributed to this post.