Colts Rumors

 Colts Place T.Y. Hilton On NFI List; Release 7 Players

The Colts announced a slew of roster moves on Sunday. The most notable of the bunch: Wide receiver T.Y. Hilton has been moved to the active/non-football injury list. . 

[RELATED: Former Colts RB Matt Jones Drawing NFL Interest]

Hilton suffered a mild hamstring injury while working out on his own earlier this summer, as Mike Wells of ESPN.com tweets. Per the rules of the Active/NFI list, Hilton can return to the roster at any point. The real decision for these players comes at the final roster cutdown date. A player on the NFI list does not count towards the 53-man roster max, but he also cannot play in the first eight games of the season. Given that this is a mild hamstring pull, Hilton probably will not be on the NFI list to start the season.

Meanwhile, the Colts have released running back Darius Jackson. Wide receiver Rodney Adams, defensive end Jegs Jegede, tackle Cedrick Lang, cornerback Picasso Nelson., tackle Travis Vornkahl, and linebacker Brandon Wellington were waived. Because Jackson was released outright, he’ll be free to hook on with any club immediately. The other six players will be subject to the waiver wire – if they are not claimed within the 24-hour window, they will be full-fledged free agents.

There’s one year left on Hilton’s deal, set to count for $14.5MM against the salary cap. Colts GM Chris Ballard, ideally, would like to nudge that number down with a reworked deal. We haven’t heard much on that front lately, but an extension still seems possible. That deal, Hilton says, will be his last in the NFL, regardless of length.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Matt Jones Drawing NFL Interest

It’s been a few years since we’ve seen Matt Jones in the NFL, but he hasn’t given up hope of a return. He also has some reason to believe – the running back has chatted with multiple teams as the season draws near, according to Mike Garafolo of NFL.com (on Twitter).

As Garafolo points out, Jones’ odds could be helped by the growing list of players opting out of the 2020 season. Every team that loses a running back, in theory, is a potential landing spot for the former Colts and [Washington Football Team] rusher.

Jones played for the St. Louis Battlehawks of the XFL, up until the league’s midseason cancellation. He was named to the all-league team at the halfway point, behind a decent 3.9 yards per carry average. Of course, it all came on a minimal sample size – 80 carries for 314 yards, plus a 25-yard touchdown catch.

Jones, 27, came into the league as a third round pick with Washington. For a time, he was their top rusher, and he showed promise in short bursts. Eventually, he slipped down the depth chart and he was jettisoned from the roster in 2017. He then moved on to the Colts, swaying between the practice squad and active roster. In his limited time with the Colts’ varsity squad, he averaged less than three yards per carry.

Jones’ last NFL deal came with the Eagles in 2018, but he did not make their final cut.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Minor NFL Transactions: 7/28/20

Here are Tuesday’s minor moves, with the list being updated throughout the afternoon. With teams having until August 16 to cut their rosters from 90 to 80 players, many are doing so before on-field camp work begins.

Carolina Panthers

  • Claimed off waivers (from Patriots): LB Kyahva Tezino
  • Waived: OL Juwann Bushell-Beatty

Dallas Cowboys

Denver Broncos

  • Waived/NFI: WR Zimari Manning

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Las Vegas Raiders

New York Giants

San Francisco 49ers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Washington Football Team

This Date In Transactions History: Colts’ Andrew Luck Becomes NFL’s Highest-Paid Player

Four years ago today, the Colts made Andrew Luck the highest-paid player in NFL history. The deal was supposed to tie Luck to Indy through the 2021 season, but it didn’t pan out that way.

[RELATED: Colts Sign Michael Pittman Jr.]

Luck agreed to a five-year extension worth $122MM, with $87MM in overall guarantees and $47MM fully guaranteed at signing. Without the deal, Luck would have been eligible for free agency following the ’16 season. From there, the Colts could have retained Luck for an additional two seasons via the franchise tag at estimated values of $25MM and $35MM, but it would have put them in a difficult position down the road. Instead, both sides used Luck’s expected franchise tags amounts as a framework for talks and hammered out a deal.

With the contract, Luck leapfrogged Joe Flacco, Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning, and Philip Rivers in average annual value. The deal made sense, but it did not come without risk. Luck was coming off of an injury-riddled, seven-game season in which he completed just 55.3% of his passes and logged 15 touchdowns against 12 interceptions.

Luck’s shoulder was largely a non-issue in 2016 as he threw for 4,240 yards and 31 touchdowns with a career-high 63.5 completion percentage. After the season, he went under the knife to fix his shoulder, and that’s where things started to get messy. First, Luck was held out of training camp and 2017 preseason. Then, he was ruled out for week after week in the regular season. Finally, in November, the Colts were forced to place Luck on season-ending IR.

Luck had to claw his way back into things – when he was finally able to throw a regulation-sized football, it was a noteworthy event. In 2018, things seemed to be trending up. The former No. 1 overall pick led the Colts to a 9-1 record to close the season, allowing them to squeak into the playoffs. The Colts even downed the Texans in the first round, before falling to the Chiefs. With a seemingly healthy Luck and lots of young talent, the Colts were moving in the right direction.

Then, just before the start of the 2019 season, Luck shocked the world. At the age of 29, Luck retired from football, largely due to the mental grind of the sport. With that, Luck’s five-year extension turned into a two-year add-on. The Colts, meanwhile, turned to Jacoby Brissett as their new starter, with little time to get him comfortable in his new role.

The Colts did not seek repayment on the deal – they could have recovered $12.8MM of the $32MM signing bonus he was entitled to under his current contract, plus two $6MM roster bonuses, totaling ~$25MM.

Luck is done with football, but speculation about his potential return persists. Earlier this year, before the Colts landed Philip Rivers, GM Chris Ballard did his best to quell the talk:

Andrew’s retired,” Ballard said. “Do I talk to Andrew? Yes, I do. Haven’t talked to him in a few weeks, I’m sure he’s been busy being a father. But Andrew’s retired, and I think we all need to accept that. That’s where he’s at. He’s retired.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Colts Sign Round 2 WR Michael Pittman Jr.

The Colts have made more headway in signing their draft picks than most teams, and they agreed to terms with their top 2020 choice Monday.

Michael Pittman Jr. signed his four-year rookie contract this afternoon. The slot deal for No. 34 overall will be worth $8.6MM. The USC product moves the Colts closer to having their full draft class signed. Only third-round pick Julian Blackmon is unsigned, and due to vaguer contract language, third-rounders’ deals often cause holdups.

A second-generation NFLer, Pittman will be expected to play an integral role from the outset. The Colts were in need of more help at wideout beyond T.Y. Hilton. The team has now used second-round picks on receivers in back-to-back years, with the Pittman selection following Parris Campbell‘s 2019 arrival. Campbell missed much of his rookie season because of injuries.

Pittman broke through as a senior in 2019, hauling in 101 passes for 1,275 yards and 11 touchdowns. Frank Reich was a key part of the effort to land Pittman, who was the eighth receiver off the board in a loaded draft at the position. With Hilton entering a contract year and set to turn 31 in November, the Colts are better set up long-term with Pittman in the fold.

Here is how the Colts’ signing efforts look as of June 15:

2-34: Michael Pittman, WR (USC): Signed
2-41: Jonathan Taylor, RB (Wisconsin): Signed
3-85: Julian Blackmon, S (Utah)
4-122: Jacob Eason, QB (Washington): Signed
5-149: Danny Pinter, G (Ball State): Signed
6-193: Robert Windsor, DT (Penn State): Signed
6-211: Isaiah Rodgers, CB (UMass): Signed
6-212: Dezmon Patmon, WR (Washington State): Signed
6-213: Jordan Glasgow, S (Michigan): Signed

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Colts Notes: Hines, Rivers, Buckner, DL

Even after drafting Jonathan Taylor in the second round to pair with Marlon Mack, the Colts say Nyheim Hines will continue to enjoy a meaningful role in the offense. Ideally, Hines says he’d also like to make a dent in the return game.

I’d love to do punt and kick returns again,” Hines said (via Joel A. Erickson of the Indy Star). “But I’ve got to go out there and earn both of the jobs. That’s what I plan on doing. I’d like to start at both of them.”

Hines made a strong case for the job last year, tallying the third-highest punt-return yardage total in the league in just nine attempts. Still, he’ll have to vie with fellow speedsters Parris Campbell and Isaiah Rodgers for the gig this summer.

More from Indy:

  • Philip Rivers has arrived in Indianapolis and has taken the lead role in organizing players-only workouts in the area, Stephen Holder of The Athletic notes (subscription required). These workouts are expected to take place next week. Players are not expected to be back at their teams’ facilities until training camp, though some momentum may be building to an earlier arrival.
  • Speaking of Rivers, his transition to the Colts will be easier than other relocating quarterbacks’ adjustments to their respective teams. While Tom Brady is learning a system that differs considerably from his Patriots setup, the Colts will use use essentially “the exact same system” as the one the Chargers used when Frank Reich and OC Nick Sirianni coached Rivers out west, Colts quarterbacks coach Marcus Brady said (via Colts.com’s Andrew Walker). They have installed roughly 90% of their offense already.
  • The biggest name on Indianapolis’ defense, however, profiled as a fairly unknown commodity to the team’s defensive line coach. New Colts D-line coach Brian Baker spent the past four years as a college coach, working with Mississippi State and Alabama, but will now coach Pro Bowler DeForest Buckner. Baker evidently did not catch many 49ers games during that time. “I’ve been away from it for a while, and I didn’t really know who DeForest was,” Baker said, via Walker. “My energy was focusing on college players and recruiting. So I didn’t know who he was, and I’m like, ‘Who’s the big ‘ol 99? This dude can play. And I’m like, ‘Man, it’d be great …’ and you end up looking, ‘OK, DeForest Buckner,‘ like, ‘Man, it’d be good to get this guy.'”
  • Buckner and Justin Houston will start for the Colts up front. But after that, competitions will commence to see who joins them, Baker added. Third-year defensive end Kemoko Turay appears to be the leading candidate to work opposite Houston. A starter at defensive tackle the past two years, Denico Autry will face off against ex-49ers starter Sheldon Day and third-year player Tyquan Lewis for the job alongside Buckner.

AFC North Notes: Colts, Mack, Ravens, Stanley, Humphrey

After his first season with more than 1,000 yards rushing, Marlon Mack isn’t assured the starting role in the Colts‘ backfield. Head coach Frank Reich says he’ll have a leg up on second-round pick Jonathan Taylor, but he also says that fans shouldn’t get too hung up on the RB1 designation.

There’s definitely inherent respect for the starter returning,” Reich said (via Kevin Bowen of 105.7 The Fan). “I see it as a 1-1 (punch). The way the league has gone and the way role playing has been elevated in our league, it’s made it prominent. We used to say in San Diego that when we had Danny Woodhead. He was not our starter, he was our ‘role playing’ starter. He played such a significant role. He had 80 catches in a year. You look at a guy like Nyehim Hines. We talk about Marlon and Jonathan, but what about Nyheim? He’s such a good third-down back that he’ll play a prominent (role). In some ways, (Hines) is a starter. He’s a role-playing starter.”

Right now, it seems like Mack will have to prove himself all over in camp as he gets set for his final year under contract. As it stands, he’s set to make $2.13MM in base salary before reaching the open market in March of 2021.

Here’s more from the AFC North:

  • After turning in a stellar season, Ravens left tackle Ronnie Stanley could become the league’s highest-paid non-quarterback, ESPN.com’s Jamison Hensley writes. Currently, Bears edge rusher Khalil Mack ($23.5MM per year) leads the way, followed by Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald ($22.5MM). This year, fellow left tackle Laremy Tunsil ($22MM/year) put himself in that neighborhood, but Stanley is likely to leapfrog him. In 2019, Stanley allowed Lamar Jackson to be pressured just six times, the lowest total of any offensive tackle in 14 years.
  • The Ravens have other deals on their agenda, of course, including a new contract for Marlon Humphrey. With all due respect for Stanley, Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic argues that the cornerback should actually be priority No. 1. When it comes to Stanley, his comp has already been set, thanks to the Tunsil deal. Meanwhile, time is of the essence with Humphrey – the top of the CB market will be reset soon with Jalen Ramsey, Marshon Lattimore, and Tre’Davious White all due for new deals.
  • The Browns went ahead with their gradual re-opening plan with Phase 1 beginning on Monday (Twitter link). Meanwhile, other clubs are still working on alternative plans. The Raiders, who were set to hold camp in Napa, California, may shift to their new headquarters in Henderson, Nevada.

Latest On Nyheim Hines' Role

  • After drafting Jonathan Taylor in Round 2, the Colts now have a pair of starting-caliber in running backs in the Wisconsin product and incumbent Marlon Mack. So where does that leave passing-game back Nyheim Hines“I wouldn’t anticipate [Hines] is going to play as many snaps as Marlon and Jonathan, but there are still enough snaps for him to be very, very productive this year,” Colts head coach Frank Reich told Joel Erickson of the Indianapolis Star. Indy is hoping Hines becomes its version of Danny Woodhead, who caught 80 passes in for the Chargers in 2015 with Reich as offensive coordinator.

Colts, Ryan Kelly Discussing Extension

Ryan Kelly‘s camp is discussing an extension with Colts GM Chris Ballard, according to the center (Twitter link via Zak Keefer of The Athletic). As it stands, Kelly has one year left on his rookie deal, via the fifth-year option.

[RELATED: Colts Want To Bring Back Philip Rivers In 2021]

Kelly says that he wants to spend his “entire career in Indianapolis” and Ballard is likely on board with that plan. Last year, Kelly started in all 16 of the Colts’ regular season games and anchored one of the league’s best offensive lines. He earned his first ever Pro Bowl nod for that campaign and he’ll likely score a major contract to match.

For now, Kelly is slated to earn $10.35MM in 2020, up from about $3.3MM last year. A new pact would likely put him in the range of $10MM-$12MM, positioning him as one of the NFL’s highest-paid centers.

Connor McGovern scored the largest deal of any free agent center this year when he joined the Jets on a three-year, $27MM deal. Kelly will aim higher. Recent extensions for Bucs centers Ryan Jensen (four years, $42MM) and Bills center Mitch Morse (four years, $44.5MM) figure to be his comps. With a $10MM+ AAV, Kelly would join Jensen, Morse, Rodney Hudson, Maurkice Pouncey, Nick Martin, J.C. Tretter, Brandon Linder, and Cody Whitehair in the eight-figure centers club.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Longest-Tenured GMs In The NFL

When we ran down the longest-tenured head coaches in the NFL, we found that less than half of the league’s current coaches have been in their positions for more than three years. That’s not quite the case with general managers, but there have been plenty of changes in recent years.

A handful of general managers have gotten to take their coats off and stay for a long while. Among coaches, Bill Belichick had joined his team prior to 2003. Here, you’ll see that five GMs have been with their teams since before ’03 (Belichick, of course, is also on this list). Two of those five – Jerry Jones and Mike Brown – are outliers, since they’re team owners and serve as de facto GMs. But the Patriots, Steelers, and Saints, have all had the same general managers making their roster decisions for well over a decade.

Here’s the complete list of the NFL’s longest-tenured GMs, along with the date they took over the job:

  1. Jerry Jones (Dallas Cowboys): April 18, 1989[1]
  2. Mike Brown (Cincinnati Bengals): August 5, 1991[2]
  3. Bill Belichick (New England Patriots): January 27, 2000[3]
  4. Kevin Colbert (Pittsburgh Steelers): February 18, 2000[4]
  5. Mickey Loomis (New Orleans Saints): May 14, 2002
  6. Rick Spielman (Minnesota Vikings): May 30, 2006[5]
  7. Thomas Dimitroff (Atlanta Falcons): January 13, 2008
  8. John Schneider (Seattle Seahawks): January 19, 2010[6]
  9. Howie Roseman (Philadelphia Eagles): January 29, 2010
  10. John Elway (Denver Broncos): January 5, 2011[7]
  11. Les Snead (St. Louis Rams): February 10, 2012
  12. David Caldwell (Jacksonville Jaguars): January 8, 2013
  13. Steve Keim (Arizona Cardinals): January 8, 2013
  14. Tom Telesco (San Diego Chargers): January 9, 2013
  15. Jason Licht (Tampa Bay Buccaneers): January 21, 2014
  16. Ryan Pace (Chicago Bears): January 8, 2015
  17. Chris Grier (Miami Dolphins): January 4, 2016
  18. Bob Quinn (Detroit Lions): January 8, 2016
  19. Jon Robinson (Tennessee Titans): January 14, 2016
  20. John Lynch (San Francisco 49ers): January 29, 2017
  21. Chris Ballard (Indianapolis Colts): January 30, 2017
  22. Brandon Beane (Buffalo Bills): May 9, 2017
  23. Brett Veach (Kansas City Chiefs): July 11, 2017
  24. Marty Hurney (Carolina Panthers): July 19, 2017
  25. Dave Gettleman (New York Giants): December 28, 2017
  26. Brian Gutekunst (Green Bay Packers): January 7, 2018
  27. Mike Mayock (Oakland Raiders): December 31, 2018
  28. Joe Douglas (New York Jets): June 7, 2019
  29. Eric DeCosta (Baltimore Ravens): January 7, 2019[8]
  30. Ron Rivera (Washington Redskins): January 1, 2020[9]
  31. Andrew Berry (Cleveland Browns): January 27, 2020
  32. Bill O’Brien (Houston Texans): January 28, 2020

Footnotes:

  1. Jones has been the Cowboys’ de facto general manager since former GM Tex Schramm resigned in April 1989.
  2. Brown has been the Bengals’ de facto GM since taking over as the team’s owner in August 1991.
  3. Belichick has been the Patriots’ de facto GM since shortly after being hired as the team’s head coach in January 2000.
  4. Colbert was initially hired as the team’s director of football operations and received the newly-created general manager title in 2011.
  5. Spielman was initially hired as the team’s VP of player personnel and received the GM title in 2012.
  6. While Schneider holds the title of GM, head coach Pete Carroll has the final say on roster moves for the Seahawks.
  7. Elway was initially hired as the team’s executive VP of football operations and received the GM title in 2014.
  8. In 2018, the Ravens announced that DeCosta would replace Ozzie Newsome as GM for Ozzie Newsome after the conclusion of the season. The Ravens’ ’18 season ended with their Wild Card loss to the Chargers on 1/6/19.
  9. Technically, the Redskins do not have a GM, as of this writing. Rivera is, effectively, their GM, working in tandem with Vice President of Player Personnel Kyle Smith. Smith may receive the GM title in the near future.