Ito Smith

Saints Sign RB Devine Ozigbo Off Jaguars’ Practice Squad

The Saints will be down a running back for the new few weeks, so the team is bringing in reinforcement. New Orleans has signed running back Devine Ozigbo off the Jaguars’ practice squad, reports Aaron Wilson (via Twitter).

This is a bit of a homecoming for Ozigbo, as the Nebraska product joined the Saints as an undrafted free agent in 2019. He eventually moved on to Jacksonville, and he spent the next two-plus seasons with the Jaguars organization. He ultimately saw time in 18 games for the team, collecting 93 yards from scrimmage on 22 touches. The 25-year-old has also spent a significant amount of time on special teams.

The Saints needed some running back depth following news that Tony Jones Jr. would miss the next three to four weeks (per ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Twitter). The 23-year-old has seen time in all four games this season, collecting 87 yards from scrimmage on 23 carries. Other than Ozigbo and starter Alvin Kamara, the team’s only other healthy RB is Dwayne Washington (plus versatile wideout Ty Montgomery).

New Orleans might not be done adding to the position. Schefter reports that the team also auditioned a number of veteran RBs today, including Lamar Miller, Duke Johnson, Brian Hill, Ito Smith, and Ryquell Armstead.

Patriots Work Out Four Running Backs

With James White sidelined indefinitely, the Patriots are eyeing some free agent running backs. The team worked out Ito Smith, Ryquell Armstead, Dontrell Hilliard, and Artavis Pierce today, per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport (on Twitter).

[RELATED: Patriots’ James White Out Indefinitely]

Smith has the most experience among the four, seeing time in 35 games in three seasons with the Falcons. This included a 2020 campaign where he finished with 343 yards from scrimmage and one touchdown. The 26-year-old caught on with the Vikings this offseason but was let go before the regular season.

Armstead got into 16 games as a rookie with the Jaguars in 2019, finishing with 252 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns. He sat out the 2020 season while dealing with issues from COVID-19, and after getting claimed by the Giants in May, he was waived by his new team in June. Pierce, a 2020 undrafted free agent out of Oregon State, saw time in five games with the Bears last season, rushing for 34 yards and one touchdown on six carries. Hilliard, 26, saw time in 30 games for the Browns in two-plus seasons with the organization.

White suffered a hip injury during Sunday’s loss to the Saints, and the veteran will be sidelined for the foreseeable future. The team is already rostering four other RBs in Damien Harris, J.J. Taylor, rookie Rhamondre Stevenson, and special teamer Brandon Bolden.

The Patriots didn’t only audition running backs today. The team also took a look at defensive backs D.J. Daniel and Stephen Denmark and wideout Anthony Johnson.

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Panthers Work Out RB Duke Johnson

Duke Johnson is wrapping a two-visit work week. The former Browns and Texans passing-down back worked out for the Panthers on Friday, Adam Schefter of tweets. Johnson visited the 49ers on Monday.

While widespread uncertainty has gripped San Francisco’s backfield, the 49ers went in another direction. Carolina, however, will be without Christian McCaffrey for weeks due to the hamstring injury the All-Pro suffered Thursday night. Johnson could seemingly have an opportunity for a 3-0 team that now lacks a proven receiving back.

The Panthers have rookie Chuba Hubbard and former Broncos contributor Royce Freeman. The former did catch 20-plus passes in his first two seasons at Oklahoma State, but the Canadian back did drop a pass at the goal line Thursday. Freeman did not factor into the Broncos’ passing game much during his three Denver seasons.

Johnson has excelled in this role, eclipsing 400 receiving yards in his first five NFL seasons. The Jaguars cut the former third-round pick from their practice squad last week, and while the veteran resided in free agency for months after his February Texans release, multiple teams have kicked the tires on him recently.

The 28-year-old back signed a Browns extension in 2018 but saw the team’s subsequent Kareem Hunt addition lead him out of Cleveland. Johnson missed five games last season but was productive for the Texans in 2019, averaging 4.9 yards per carry and totaling 820 scrimmage yards.

Additionally, Carolina auditioned running backs Ito Smith, Dontrell Hilliard and B.J. Emmons, Field Yates of tweets. Hilliard, also primarily a passing-game option, joined Johnson on the 2018 Browns. Hilliard also played in two games for the Texans last season. Three teams — the Falcons, Cardinals and Vikings — cut Smith this offseason. Smith played three seasons with the Falcons, primarily functioning as a backup.

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Vikings Waive RB Ito Smith, 2 Others

Ito Smith‘s Vikings stay will end up being short. Five days after signing the young running back, the Vikings waived him. They also waived offensive lineman Cohl Cabral and defensive tackle Zeandae Johnson.

This marks the third time a team has cut Smith this year. The Falcons waived him in April, and the Cardinals moved on from the fourth-year back earlier this month. Smith spent barely a week in Arizona. These quick exits do not bode well for the former Atlanta rotational back to land out a meaningful role in 2021. Though, teams’ backfields often change due to injury, opening the door to street free agent ball carriers.

A fourth-round pick in 2018, Smith has averaged north of 4.3 yards per carry in each of the past two seasons. He totaled 268 rushing yards on 63 attempts last year, splitting time with Todd Gurley and Brian Hill. Of the Falcons’ top three 2020 backs, only Hill has a gig (with the Titans) presently.

Teams have until 3pm Tuesday to cut their rosters from 80 to 53 players. Many of the players waived next week will be candidates to land practice squad jobs, with the NFL greenlighting a second season of 16-man P-squads. Players waived early, however, obviously stand to have less of a chance to stick around in that regard.

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Vikings Sign Ito Smith, Place Janarius Robinson On IR

Teams continue to make flurries of roster moves on Monday, and we’ve got another couple of notable ones to pass along. The Vikings announced that they’ve signed free agent running back Ito Smith and placed rookie defensive end Janarius Robinson on injured reserve.

Smith wasn’t out of a job too long, as he was just released by the Cardinals last week. He spent the first three seasons of his pro career with the Falcons, and was Atlanta’s lead back for stretches in both 2018 and 2020. As a rookie he got his most extensive run, carrying the ball 90 times for 315 yards and four touchdowns, adding 27 receptions for another 152 yards. This past season he rushed 63 times for 268 yards and one touchdown, with 17 catches for 75 yards.

Smith will now compete with Ameer Abdullah and Kene Nwangwu for spots in Minnesota’s backfield behind Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison. Since Robinson is being placed on IR before the cutdown to 53 players, that means he’ll have to miss the entire season.

It’s a disappointing end to his first campaign. The pass-rusher was just drafted by the Vikings in the fourth-round out of Florida State. Minnesota re-signed Everson Griffen earlier this morning, perhaps partially due to this injury.

Cardinals Cut RB Ito Smith, 3 Others

As teams are required to cut their rosters down to 85 players by tomorrow, more guys are getting shown the door. Veteran running back Ito Smith was one of the latest casualties as the Cardinals announced his release on Monday.

Arizona also cut receivers Aleva Hifo and JoJo Ward, and defensive tackle Darius Kilgo. Smith was released by the Falcons back in April, and only latched on with the Cardinals last week. He had previously worked out for the Giants. The 2018 fourth-round pick spent his first four professional seasons in Atlanta, and operated as their lead back for stretches during the 2018 and 2020 seasons.

As a rookie he got his most extensive run, carrying the ball 90 times for 315 yards and four touchdowns, adding 27 receptions for another 152 yards. This past season he rushed 63 times for 268 yards and one touchdown, with 17 catches for 75 yards. Hifo and Ward are both 2020 UDFAs, from BYU and Hawaii respectively.

Kilgo is a 2015 sixth-round pick of the Broncos who is notable for winning back to back rings in Super Bowl 50 and then LI with the Broncos and Patriots. He also just signed in the desert last week.

Cardinals Sign RB Ito Smith

A second member of the Falcons’ 2020 running back trio has found a home. The Cardinals agreed to a deal with Ito Smith, whom the Falcons waived in April.

Smith joins Brian Hill in securing a landing spot, with Hill catching on with the Titans in May. Todd Gurley remains a free agent. Smith will join a team transitioning in the backfield. A year after trading David Johnson to the Texans, the Cardinals allowed Kenyan Drake to defect to the Raiders in free agency.

Arizona has Chase Edmonds and James Conner in place as its top running backs. The team appears set to give each considerable work this year. With Conner having struggled with injuries throughout his career, Smith profiles as veteran insurance.

A 2018 fourth-round pick out of Southern Miss, Smith has accumulated just 175 career carries. Sixty-three of those came in 2020, when the Falcons diminished Gurley’s workload down the stretch. Smith averaged 4.3 yards per carry last season, totaling 268 rushing yards and a touchdown. He has six career TDs, with four of those coming as a rookie — a season that featured Devonta Freeman barely see the field due to injury. Smith finished his college career with back-to-back 1,400-yard rushing seasons.

Arizona waived running back Khalfani Muhammad and safety Lorenzo Burns as well. Burns spent most of the past two weeks on the team’s reserve/COVID-19 list.

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Giants To Sign RB Corey Clement

The Giants are set to sign running back Corey Clement, as Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News writes. Clement auditioned on Friday and Saturday, impressing coaches and beating out a handful other vets vying for a spot on the team’s offseason roster. That group included fellow RB Ito Smith, per Leonard. 

Clement is best known his Super Bowl LII touchdown and taking the Eagles’ “Philly Special” snap. He spent the last four years with the Birds, though his usage has fluctuated over time. In 2019, he did not see a carry in four games. Last year, after Jordan Howard left, he still only saw 21 carries in 15 games, spending most of his time on special teams.

All in all, Clement has logged 655 yards and seven touchdowns off of 163 carries, plus 37 catches for 340 yards and two touchdowns. Now, he’ll look to solidify his place behind Saquon Barkley and Devontae Booker.

Smith, meanwhile, will look for work elsewhere. The 2018 fourth-round pick cut by the Falcons in April, even though he’s shown a penchant for game-changing plays in the past. As a rookie, Smith made noise with 6.4 yards per carry in an admittedly small sample. He hasn’t looked quite as sharp lately, but he still managed to take 63 carries for 268 yards (4.3 ypc).

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Falcons Release Ito Smith

The Falcons have released running back Ito Smith, per a club announcement. It’s a surprising move, given the Falcons’ so-so collection of RBs. 

[RELATED: Falcons To Sign Cordarrelle Patterson]

Smith, a 2018 fourth-round pick, has spent all three of his NFL seasons to date with the Falcons. In total, he’s logged 175 carries for 689 yards and 55 catches for 314 yards with six all-purpose touchdowns. His penchant for game-changing plays put him on the radar as a rookie and he had considerable buzz after averaging 6.4 yards per tote on a limited sample. Then, an early-season injury slowed his momentum in 2019. He returned last year to take 63 carries for 268 yards (4.3 ypc) and one rushing TD, plus 17 grabs for 75 yards and three receiving TDs.

Despite his solid work as a reserve, new head coach Arthur Smith has other plans in mind. Recent signee Mike Davis figures to take on a leading role in the backfield with support from Qadree OllisonTony Brooks-James, and fullback Keith Smith. There’s still work to be done in that area, so the Falcons will likely target zone scheme-friendly running backs early in the draft.

Releasing Smith will save the Falcons $920K against the cap with $155K in dead money.

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Falcons Place RB Ito Smith On IR

For the second straight season, Ito Smith will land on the injured reserve. The Falcons announced today that they’ve placed the running back on the injured reserve (via the team’s website). Atlanta promoted offensive lineman Sean Harlow from the practice squad to take the open roster spot.

Smith, a 2018 fourth-round pick, was expected to play a bigger role in the Falcons’ backfield following Tevin Coleman‘s move to the 49ers. However, he’s seen even less work during his sophomore campaign; after rushing for 315 yards and four touchdowns on 90 carries last season (14 games), he’s only compiled 106 yards and one touchdown on 22 carries this year (seven games). He’s also hauled in 11 receptions for 87 yards this season, which is about on pace with his rookie numbers.

With Smith sidelined, the Falcons will likely turn to former fifth-rounder Brian Hill. The 24-year-old has appeared in four games this season, rushing eight times for 40 yards and one touchdown. The Falcons are also rostering Kenjon Barner and Qadree Ollison.

Harlow was a fourth-round pick by the Falcons back in 2017, but he hasn’t seen the field during two stints with the organization. Offensive lineman Wes Schweitzer was ruled out of Sunday’s game with a concussion, and coach Dan Quinn told Will McFadden of that Harlow could somewhat replace his injured teammate’s versatility.

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