James Hurst

AFC North Rumors: Gordon, Steelers, Ravens

Josh Gordon‘s present designation with the Browns is on the reserve/did not report list. The Browns likely could not have placed the 27-year-old pass-catcher on the non-football illness list, since he would have had to fail a physical for that to occur. While Gordon does not currently count toward Cleveland’s 90-man roster, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk cautions the wideout’s road back to the team may not be a matter of him merely returning to Berea, Ohio. Gordon may have to have Roger Goodell approve his request for Browns reinstatement, Florio reports. The reasoning behind this is Goodell OK’d a Gordon return last year under the terms of a treatment plan, with Florio adding that possible Goodell approval would center around whether or not the embattled receiver has violated the terms of that plan. Gordon’s believed to be at a Gainesville, Fla., treatment facility. He spent 90 days in a Gainesville rehab center last fall. While Florio doesn’t expect Goodell to stand in the way of a Gordon return, he would have the right to suspend Gordon for another year under the substance-abuse policy.

Jimmy Haslam did not comment when asked Saturday if the NFL needed to approve Gordon’s Browns reinstatement, and Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer notes the league has not provided clarity on this situation yet. Haslam added he does not have a timetable for Gordon’s return.

Here’s the latest from the AFC North, shifting to a potentially troublesome situation in Pittsburgh:

  • Ramon Foster has played more Steelers snaps than anyone since the 2009 season (h/t Aditi Kinkhabwala of NFL.com), but he was carted off the practice field Saturday. During a full-contact workout, Stephon Tuitt rolled into Foster’s right leg, per NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport and ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler (Twitter links). Mike Tomlin did not elaborate on the issue, only saying that the 10th-year guard is being evaluated for a “lower-body” injury, per CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora (via Twitter). A Foster loss would represent a major setback for the Steelers. Foster’s a seven-season full-time starter and is in the final year of his deal. Ben Roethlisberger consoled the 32-year-old guard as he was carted away.
  • Roethlisberger has shown up to camp in noticeably better shape, with La Canfora noting the Steelers expected their quarterback to show up prepared to earn one final blockbuster extension. Although a report surfaced about the Steelers and Roethlisberger were planning to discuss a re-up this offseason, the 15th-year quarterback said he didn’t want to do a deal before this season. But he’ll be set for a contract year in 2019.
  • While the Steelers do, however, have a Chris Boswell extension slotted as a preseason priority, JLC adds the team shouldn’t be expected to make a Joe Haden-style addition before the season. Pittsburgh added the longtime Cleveland cornerback on a $9MM-per-year deal late last summer but holds barely $5MM in cap space presently. Boswell is entering a contract year.
  • Greg Robinson resides in the Browns‘ concussion protocol, Hue Jackson said Saturday (via Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal, on Twitter). The Browns brought the former No. 2 overall pick this offseason. He has a clearer path to the 53-man roster now that Donald Stephenson has retired, but Robinson has not proven reliable during his four-year career.
  • Only Ronnie Stanley and Marshal Yanda are locks to be Ravens offensive line starters, with Jeff Zreibec of The Athletic noting (subscription required) the team used numerous O-line combinations Saturday. Expected to vie for Baltimore’s right tackle job, James Hurst is working primarily at right guard while Alex Lewis — whom Zreibec projects as the left guard starter — has worked plenty at center. The Ravens’ right guard starter, Yanda remains on the PUP list. Zreibec still contends Hurst will settle at right tackle, with rookie Orlando Brown in the mix at that spot as well.

Contract Details: Brees, Butler, T. Johnson

Let’s take a look at the details from the latest contracts signed in the NFL, with all links going to Twitter unless otherwise noted:

Ravens Re-Sign OL James Hurst

The Ravens and James Hurst have agreed to a four-year deal to keep the offensive lineman in Baltimore, according to ESPN’s Jamison Hensley. Hurst’s deal will be worth $17MM in total and he’ll receive $8MM guaranteed, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter).

Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun (on Twitter) opines that the money in Hurst’s deal signals that the Ravens plan on transitioning him into a starting role. He also speculates as to what the deal could mean for right tackle Austin Howard, who the Ravens signed to a three-year deal last offseason and started all 16 games this past year.

Hurst, 26, has served in mostly a backup role during his first four seasons with the Ravens but started all 16 games last season at left guard due to injuries on the team’s line. Zrebiec wonders whether the team will opt to keep Hurst at left tackle and shift former fourth-round pick Alex Lewis, who missed all of his sophomore season due to a shoulder injury, to right tackle rather than starting Howard.

The Ravens signed Hurst as an undrafted free agent in 2014 out of North Carolina. They’re set with Ronnie Stanley at left tackle and Marshal Yanda at right guard but have several other question marks remaining in regards to how their line will shake out.

Hurst, Lewis and Howard are all under contract but center Ryan Jensen and backup Luke Bowanko are both due to hit unrestricted free agency this offseason. The Ravens also have Nico Siragusa back at guard after taking him in the fourth round last year and missing the entire season with a torn ACL.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Top 2018 NFL Free Agents By Position: Offense

NFL free agency will get underway on Wednesday, March 14th, and while the list of free agents will change between now and then, we do have some idea of who will be available when free agency kicks off. The frenzy is right around the corner and it’s time for us to break down the outlook for each position. We’ll start today on offense, before getting to defense and special teams later this week.

Listed below are our rankings for the top 15 free agents at each offensive position. The rankings aren’t necessarily determined by the value of the contracts that each player is expected to land in free agency, they are simply the players we like the most at each position, with both short- and long-term value taken into account. Restricted and exclusive-rights free agents are not listed here since they are unlikely to actually reach the open market. The same goes for players who have been franchise tagged or transition tagged.

We’ll almost certainly be higher or lower on some guys than you are, so we encourage you to make your voice heard in our comments section to let us know which free agents we’ve got wrong.

Here’s our breakdown of the current top 15 free agents by offensive position for 2018:

Quarterback:

  1. Kirk Cousins
  2. Drew Brees
  3. Case Keenum
  4. A.J. McCarron
  5. Sam Bradford
  6. Teddy Bridgewater
  7. Colin Kaepernick
  8. Josh McCown
  9. Mike Glennon
  10. Drew Stanton
  11. Jay Cutler
  12. Chase Daniel
  13. Ryan Fitzpatrick
  14. Brock Osweiler
  15. Tom Savage

There were many difficult calls when putting this list together, but ranking Kirk Cousins as the No. 1 QB available was not among them. Cousins is the best quarterback to reach free agency in recent history and he’ll become the highest-paid player of all-time – at least, for some period of time – in mid-March. Who will make history with Cousins? That’s anyone’s guess right now. The Browns have more cap room than any other team, but a recent report from Adam Schefter of ESPN.com listed the Broncos, Cardinals, Jets, and Vikings as the final suitors for Cousins. Of those four, the Jets have the most money to work with, but they’re concerned about the Vikings winning out and Cousins’ desire to win could point him in another direction. If the Broncos and Cardinals want in on the Cousins sweepstakes, they’ll have to get creative with the books.

Drew Brees is included here, but by his own admission, he’ll be re-signing with the Saints rather than testing the open waters of free agency. Unless the Saints lowball their franchise QB, it’s hard to see him leaving New Orleans.

Case Keenum put together a tremendous season for the Vikings, but he doesn’t have a history of success beyond 2017. There will be plenty of interest in Keenum, but only after QB-needy teams strike out on Cousins. The incumbent Vikings could re-sign Keenum, but right now, it seems like they are intent on exploring the Cousins waters first.

There isn’t a ton of footage on A.J. McCarron, which made his placement on this list awfully tricky. We know this much: McCarron did well in place of Dalton in the home stretch of the 2015 season and his former offensive coordinator Hue Jackson was salivating at the chance of landing him before the Browns bungled the trade with the Bengals. McCarron’s relative youth is a plus (he won’t turn 28 until September) and his lack of experience can be looked at as a positive. Unlike some of the other names on this list, he hasn’t run up his NFL odometer.

What will NFL teams make of Teddy Bridgewater and Sam Bradford this offseason? Not long ago, both seemed like quality starting options. However, there are serious injury questions about both players and any team signing them will either look to backstop them with another decent option or ask them to come onboard as a QB2. With that in mind, one has to wonder if Bradford would consider retirement if asked to hold the clipboard for another signal caller. Bradford has earned upwards of $110MM over the years in the NFL, so it’s safe to say that he has enough money in the bank to call it quits if he wants. For now, he’s intent on playing.

Colin Kaepernick‘s placement on this list is sure to draw some strong reactions from his fans and detractors alike. Looking purely at his football ability, there’s no question that he belongs on someone’s roster. At minimum, Kaepernick profiles as a high-end backup, even after a year out of the game.

Quarterbacks coaches have long believed that Mike Glennon is capable of great things, due in part to his height. At 6’7″, he can see over any defensive line, but he hasn’t done much on the field to prove that he is a quality Week 1 starting option. Josh McCown, who is a decade his senior, edges him here for his surprisingly strong performance in 2017 at the helm of a weak Jets offense.

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Extra Points: Pats, Ravens, Lockett, Dansby

If a Malcolm Butler trade is going to occur, it will likely take place this week and come down to whether the Saints are ready to surrender their No. 32 overall pick or submit a proposal of a package involving their second-rounder (No. 42), Mike Reiss of ESPN.com notes. Butler signed his $3.91MM RFA tender earlier this week to pave the way for a trade and Saints/Patriots talks continue, but it’s uncertain if the Saints want to unload a high draft pick and pay the 27-year-old Butler like a top-tier cornerback. Reiss gets the feeling the Patriots won’t have an issue with Butler playing on the RFA tender this season, as they would be able to fetch a compensatory pick after the season if/when Butler departs as a UFA in that scenario.

Here’s the latest from New England and the rest of the league as we enter draft week.

  • Aaron Hernandez‘s death closed all cases against him and could open the door to more issues between the NFL and NFLPA regarding the former Patriots tight end’s salary. The league and NFLPA agreed to table any grievance-related discussions until all criminal prosecution of Hernandez concluded, according to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. That having happened reopens those unresolved issues. Hernandez’s side was demanding $3.25MM in unpaid money from his 2012 signing bonus, and the NFLPA filed a grievance for the former tight end’s 2013 and 2014 guaranteed salaries (in addition to a 2014 guaranteed workout bonus). The NFL and the Patriots’ grievance sought repayment of all money given to Hernandez prior to the 2012 contract extension.
  • While initial reports indicated Ravens offensive lineman James Hurst had signed his restricted free agent tender, that doesn’t appear to be the case, tweets salary cap guru Ian Whetstone. Instead, Hurst looks to have agreed to a reduced one-year contract, similar to Baltimore RFA wide receiver Michael Campanaro. Under the terms of his original-round RFA tender, Hurst would have earned $1.797MM in 2017. But he will now will presumably take in a lesser total. Hurst, 25, started three games for the Ravens last season and played on roughly a quarter of the club’s offensive snaps.
  • Tyler Lockett expects to be ready for training camp, but the rehabbing Seahawks wideout has an uncertain timetable until then, Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times reports. Lockett broke the tibia and fibula in his right leg in Week 16 of last year and had surgery on Christmas Eve. Lockett told media, including Condotta, he’s aiming to be ready by camp but is viewing any earlier participation as a bonus.
  • The Cardinals did not view Karlos Dansby as a backup plan despite his age, contacting the 14th-year linebacker in the opening minutes of free agency, Kent Somers of AZCentral.com reports. Signed to a one-year, $2MM deal, the 35-year-old Dansby is expected to take Kevin Minter‘s place alongside Deone Bucannon at inside linebacker. The Cards allowed Minter to walk, and he signed a one-year, $4MM deal with the Bengals.
  • Two personnel men surveyed by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Bob McGinn regarding the 2017 draft said Ryan Ramczyk would profile as a second-round pick if this were a more traditional year for offensive line prospects. But with the prognosis grim for this year’s class, the Wisconsin blocker likely will vault into the first round. An AFC team’s staffer said this class of linemen was the worst he’s seen in 10 years.

Dallas Robinson contributed to this report.

Minor NFL Transactions: 4/19/17

Wednesday’s minor NFL moves:

  • Restricted free agent offensive linemen James Hurst and Ryan Jensen have signed their tenders with the Ravens, as has exclusive rights free agent wide receiver Chris Matthews. The Ravens tendered both Hurst and Jensen at the lowest level last month, meaning they wouldn’t have been entitled to compensation had either headed elsewhere by way of an unmatched offer sheet. Hurst, a tackle, is the more experienced of the two, having appeared in all 48 regular-season games and totaled 16 starts during his three-year career. Jensen has also been in the NFL for three years, but the interior blocker only has 19 appearances and nine starts to his name.
  • The Raiders have announced the signing of kicker Giorgio Tavecchio, who was with the team in each of the previous three training camps. The Italy native, undrafted from Cal in 2012, has also spent time with San Francisco, Green Bay and Detroit, but he hasn’t seen any regular-season action yet.
  • The Rams have waived defensive back Kevin Short, who spent time on their practice squad last year and then signed a reserve/futures contract in January. Interestingly, Short came to the pros directly from the JUCO level, having played at Fort Scott Community College (Kansas). He went undrafted in 2015, unsurprisingly, and suited up for the Chiefs’, Seahawks’ and Jets’ practice squads prior to joining LA’s taxi squad.

RFA/ERFA Tender Decisions: 3/7/17

Unrestricted free agent news will obviously dominate the day, but several clubs also had to make decisions on whether to offer tenders to restricted and exclusive rights free agents. All RFA tenders listed are original round/right of first refusal (worth $1.797MM), and all links go to Twitter:

RFAs:

Tendered:

Non-Tendered:

ERFAs:

Tendered:

Non-Tendered:

AFC Notes: Ravens, Manning, McCown, Colts

Let’s look at some of the news coming from AFC teams’ camps as teams begin final preparations for Week 2.

  • Eugene Monroe will miss the Ravens‘ second game after sustaining a concussion in their first, Clifton Brown of CSNMidAtlantic.com reports. James Hurst will likely start at left tackle. Hurst helped DeMarcus Ware receive a J.J. Watt-esque +10.6 grade from Pro Football Focus in the Ravens’ Week 1 loss to the Broncos. Breshad Perriman will also miss Week 2.
  • John Harbaugh deemed recently signed pass-rusher Jason Babin fit to suit up for the Ravens on Sunday, with the team likely using him in pass-pursuit situations behind Elvis Dumervil and Courtney Upshaw, Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun reports.
  • Josh McCown did not believe he sustained a concussion on his end zone dive against the Jets and drove himself home from the Browns‘ facility after the game, Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com reports. Cleveland’s primary starter expected to be cleared for this week but will comply with the concussion protocol, Cabot notes. Mike Pettine seemed to acknowledge McCown endured a setback this week, according to Cabot, noting that such an occurrence resets the recovery clock in the concussion protocol.
  • Gary Kubiak‘s offense continues to be a dud with the Broncos thus far, Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post reports, with Peyton Manning‘s hot stretch coinciding with the 18-year veteran taking 31-of-37 snaps out of the shotgun following his second-quarter pick-six compared to being under center for seven of the 13 plays prior to Marcus Peters‘ interception, per Football Outsiders. “We’re trying to help him by running the football better and do some things,” Kubiak told media. “But we also know what he’s very comfortable doing, so we’re trying to somehow find a medium between the two and we think that will be good for our team.”
  • Joel Corry of CBSSports.com examines whether a potential Colts dynasty has been squandered due to the failure to form a quality roster around Andrew Luck. Corry’s chart of contenders’ quality players lists the Colts with having nine, a number well below their top-tier brethren; the Broncos have 17, the Patriots 15, the Packers 14 and the Seahawks 13 in this analysis.
  • Jonathan Cyprien (calf) is doubtful for the Jaguars‘ AFC Florida supremacy battle, while Luke Joeckel (ankle) is questionable, according to an Associated Press report.

Extra Points: Mathieu, Strozier, Ravens

Cardinals GM Steve Keim says that he has not ruled out a Week 1 return for injured defensive back Tyrann Mathieu, according to Brent Sobleski of USA Today. After having an impactful start to his rookie campaign last season, Mathieu tore both his ACL and LCL in his left knee in a Week 14 matchup against the Rams. Lets look at a few other news bits from around the league:

  • In a mailbag post, John Clayton of ESPN wrote that rookie wide receivers were impressive around the league during rookie mini-camps. He noted that Sammy Watkins of the Bills and John Brown of the Cardinals shined particularly brightly.
  • The Ravens gave UDFA Jerry Rice Jr. good feedback following his workout with the team, according to Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun (via Twitter). Although the UNLV product was not offered a deal, he is on the Ravens’ emergency list should they look further for additional receiving options.
  • The Ravens also are impressed with former North Carolina tackle James Hurst. Matt Zenitz of the Carroll County Times, points out that Hurst, who plays left tackle, would join the likes of Justin Tucker and Priest Holmes if he were to catch on as a major contributor with the Ravens as an UDFA.
  • Former BYU standout receiver Cody Hoffman is hoping to catch on with the Redskins, according to Tarik El-Bashir of CSNWashington.

Extra Points: Finley, Texans, Hurst, Falcons

A Tuesday report on ESPN.com suggested that when the NFL announces its new drug policy, it will include relaxed rules involving the use of marijuana, but a source tells Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk that’s not necessarily the case. While adjustments to the rules regarding marijuana use were discussed, a change was never formally proposed by other side and isn’t slated to be part of the tentative agreement that hinges on a solution for HGH testing.

Florio concedes that the current proposal could be modified to include an increase in the threshold required for a positive marijuana test or a decrease to the penalties for a violation, but for now, such an adjustment isn’t part of the deal.

Here’s more from around the NFL:

  • Following the draft, Packers GM Ted Thompson suggested the team hadn’t ruled out the possibility of bringing back tight end Jermichael Finley, and head coach Mike McCarthy echoed those comments yesterday in an appearance on SiriusXM NFL Radio, as Jason Wilde of ESPNWisconsin.com details. “[Finley] is going through a tough medical situation,” McCarthy said. “I think we all recognize that it was a serious injury. My understanding is he is doing everything and beyond to get himself ready. We’ll continue to watch that.”
  • In Mike Florio’s view, the Texans are more likely to trade or release disgruntled receiver Andre Johnson during the 2015 league year than to do anything with him this year. Florio cites an increasing base salary, though I believe by reaching escalators in previous seasons, Johnson’s 2014 salary is now $10MM, up from $6.5MM. In any case, I’m inclined to agree with Florio, since it would be much easier to find a potential trade partner when teams haven’t already addressed the receiver position, and Houston would be on the hook for less dead money in 2015.
  • North Carolina offensive tackle James Hurst went undrafted, but he certainly had no shortage of teams interested in him. Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun writes that Hurst chose to sign with the Ravens as a rookie free agent over 17 competing offers.
  • Catawba quarterback Danny O’Brien is among 24 players being invited to the Falcons‘ rookie minicamp to audition for a roster spot this week, the team announced today in a press release.
  • Buffalo receiver Fred Lee will participate in the Bills‘ rookie minicamp this week, tweets ESPN.com’s Mike Rodak.