Johnny Hekker

Rams, Johnny Hekker Shorten Deal

Last week, punter Johnny Hekker agreed to rework his contract in order to stay with the Rams. As a part of the agreement, Hekker has the option to cancel his 2023 season in order to reach free agency one year earlier, according to ESPN.com’s Field Yates (Twitter link). 

Hekker’s revised deal will allow him to earn up to $2.75M in 2021 and 2022. Then, in 2023, he can make as much as $3MM via incentives. The Rams, meanwhile, get approximately $1MM in additional cap space for this year.

The Rams had another option in Corey Bojorquez but they traded him to the Packers before final cuts. That paved the way for Hekker to stay put and keep his mantle as the Rams’ longest-tenured player.

The four-time first-team All-Pro has spent his entire career with the Rams, starting in St. Louis before moving on to Los Angeles. He’ll add another game to his perfect attendance streak on Sunday when the Rams open the season against the Bears.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Minor NFL Transactions: 9/2/21

Here are Thursday’s minor moves, with the list being updated throughout the day:

Arizona Cardinals

Atlanta Falcons

Carolina Panthers

  • Placed on IR: WR Aaron Parker

Cincinnati Bengals

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Las Vegas Raiders

  • Released from IR with injury settlement: LB Asmar Bial

Los Angeles Chargers

  • Released from IR with injury settlement: DT Chris Okoye, OL Tyree St. Louis

Los Angeles Rams

New England Patriots

New York Giants

Philadelphia Eagles

San Francisco 49ers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tennessee Titans

  • Released from IR with injury settlement: RB Brian Hill

Washington Football Team

  • Released from IR with injury settlement: OT Rick Leonard

Rams, Johnny Hekker Rework Deal

Johnny Hekker is staying put. This week, the punter agreed to rework his contract in order to remain with the Rams in 2021 (via Gary Klein of the Los Angeles Times). 

[RELATED: Rams Trade Bojorquez To Packers]

The Rams had another option in Corey Bojorquez, who spent the previous three seasons with the Bills. However, on Tuesday, they shipped him to the Packers, paving the way for Hekker to stick for a tenth season. The Rams also sent the Packers a 2023 seventh-round draft pick in the deal and received a 2023 sixth-rounder in return.

This isn’t the first time that the four-time first-team All-Pro had to rework his contract. Ultimately, he was willing to sacrifice a little bit in order to stay with the only team he’s ever known.

What Johnny’s done here…long before I got here, is something that doesn’t go lost on me, doesn’t go lost on us,” head coach Sean McVay said recently. “And I am confident that he’s going to be the productive player he’s been throughout the course of his career.”

Hekker, 31, still stands as the Rams’ longest-tenured player.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC West Notes: 49ers, Alford, Hekker

The 49ers have drawn the ire of the league office. The NFL docked San Francisco the “last week of their rookie development program for a violation of offseason work rules,” sources told Tom Pelissero of NFL Network (Twitter link). Pelissero reports that the team’s infraction took place during their rookie minicamp. As for what that infraction was, Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports tweets the punishment stems “from minimal contact that appeared on a social media video when contact was prohibited during rookie camp.”

Sounds pretty minor. Maiocco adds that the now-scrapped last week of their rookie development program “was to consist of non-football and life skills,” so it’s doubtful that 49ers brass is going to lose too much sleep over it.

Here are a couple other nuggets from around the NFC West on a quiet Sunday night:

  • Cornerback Robert Alford has dealt with a lot of adversity the past couple seasons. Alford signed a three-year, $22.5MM deal with the Cardinals in 2019, but has yet to play a down for the team. He missed all of 2019 with a broken leg, and all of 2020 with a torn pec. He was unsurprisingly released this offseason, but quickly re-signed on a one-year deal. As it turns out that new deal is for the veteran’s minimum, as Darren Urban of the team’s official site writes. It also turns out Alford never had any intention of leaving. “He basically told us ‘Hey I want to come back, I owe you guys, so I’ll come back for whatever deal because I owe the organization, I owe the Cardinals and want to prove y’all were right about me,” head coach Kliff Kingsbury said, who added “we respect that a ton.” It sounds like Alford is going to be playing with a chip on his shoulder, and here’s to hoping he can stay healthy in 2021. The 32-year-old was a quality starter in Atlanta before the injuries derailed his career in the desert.
  • Punter Johnny Hekker is the longest-tenured member of the Rams. He’s a fan-favorite, leader in the locker room, and four-time first-team All-Pro. And even his job isn’t safe. In a testament to the ‘easy come easy go’ nature of the NFL, Hekker now has some real competition in Rams camp. The Oregon State product is coming off a season where he had a career-low yards per punt average and is the highest-paid punter in the league with a cap number of $4.9MM this year, as Gary Klein of the Los Angeles Times writes. Speaking to the media recently, Hekker was frank about his status. “I definitely did not perform to the best of my abilities,” last season, he stated plainly. Although Sean McVay has denied the team is looking to move on from Hekker, the veteran said he’s treating recently-signed Corey Bojorquez as serious competition and operating as if he’s fighting for his job. He also added that “there’s no running around the financial aspect of it.” This will be a situation to keep an eye on this summer.

Rams To Extend P Johnny Hekker

This has now become a two-transaction day for Rams punter Johnny Hekker. After restructuring his previous deal, the four-time All-Pro agreed to an extension, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets.

Hekker agreed to a one-year, $4.25MM re-up, which increases the Rams’ commitment to their top-flight specialist to five seasons. The 29-year-old punter is now signed through the 2023 season. This deal comes with $3MM in additional guarantees, Schefter adds. Hekker now has $18.75MM remaining on his Rams contract.

Earlier Saturday, Hekker converted $2.25MM in base salary to a signing bonus. The Rams, who also extended both Jared Goff and Tyler Higbee earlier this week, moved to reward him.

Having teamed with Greg Zuerlein since the 2012 season, Hekker now joins Goff, Aaron Donald, Todd Gurley and Brandin Cooks in Rams being signed through 2023. Given punters’ career spans, and Hekker’s performance through seven seasons, it’s a good bet he will be with the Rams through the ’23 season.

Hekker already has more first-team All-Pro seasons than Hall of Famer Ray Guy. Among pure punters, he trails only Shane Lechler (six) in NFL history. Hekker’s 2018 season was his first not to include a Pro Bowl invite since 2014, but in a defense-powered Super Bowl, the veteran punter did his part to keep the Rams in that game. His nine-punt performance ended with three dropping inside the Pats’ 20-yard line.

The Rams have Zuerlein signed through only 2019, so extension talks on that front should probably be expected. Both were All-Pros in 2017, that marking the third straight season Hekker cleared 47 yards per punt. He averaged 46.3 yards per boot in 2018 — seventh in the NFL.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Restructured Contract Details: Flacco, Solder, Panthers

With the majority of the NFL beginning their 2019 campaigns tomorrow, a number of teams have slightly tweaked contracts in an effort to open some extra cap space. We’ve compiled some of the notable restructured contracts from this morning, along with some details on some recently-completed deals.

  •  The Broncos converted $17MM of Joe Flacco‘s base salary into a signing bonus, reports NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero (via Twitter). The front office also added a pair of voidable years to the contract, thus opening around $13.6MM in 2019 cap space. The veteran quarterback is still on the books for $20.25MM in 2020 and $24.25MM in 2021.
  • The Giants made a similar move with offensive tackle Nate Solder, according to Pelissero (on Twitter). The front office converted $7.5MM of the veteran’s base salary to a fully-guaranteed roster bonus, opening up $5MM in cap space. Solder will still earn the same amount of money over the next two years ($13MM in 2019, $14MM in 2020).
  • One more from Pelissero (via Twitter): the Panthers restructured the contracts of defensive tackle Kawann Short and offensive lineman Trai Turner, opening $13MM in cap space. While the team could use that open money for extensions, Joe Person of The Athletic tweets that the transaction is “more about taking cap space into next year.” Linebacker Shaq Thompson and cornerback James Bradberry are impending free agents, while running back Christian McCaffrey and quarterback Cam Newton could be eyeing lucrative extensions.
  • The Rams converted $2.25MM of punter Johnny Hekker‘s base salary into a bonus, reports ESPN’s Field Yates (via Twitter). The move opens up around $1.69MM in cap space, allowing the team is better accommodate the recent extensions for quarterback Jared Goff and tight end Tyler Higbee.
  • Center Mike Pouncey‘s one-year, $9MM extension with the Chargers will guarantee him $5MM in new money, tweets ESPN’s Dan Graziano (via Twitter). The guarantees include a $2.5MM signing bonus and $2.5MM guaranteed salary in 2020 (the full base salary is $6MM). The veteran’s cap number is now $10MM in 2019 and $7.75MM in 2020.
  • Jacoby Brissett‘s two-year, $30MM extension with the Colts includes an $11MM signing bonus, reports Ben Volin of the Boston Globe (on Twitter). The quarterback has a $2MM salary for 2019, $2MM in per-game roster bonuses (for both years), and a $7MM roster bonus that’s guaranteed in March. As Volin notes, the 26-year-old will likely earn around $13MM to $15MM this season before renegotiating next offseason.
  • Josh Doctson‘s deal with the Vikings is for one year at the league minimum of $720K, reports Ben Goessling of the Star Tribune (via Twitter). The deal includes no guaranteed money. Following the signing of the wideout and punter Britton Colquitt, Minnesota is now sitting with around $1.17MM in cap space.

Rams Rework Johnny Hekker’s Contract

The Rams have restructured the contract of punter Johnny Hekker, as Field Yates of ESPN.com reports (Twitter link).

Los Angeles had been the most cap-strapped team in the league, and remain so even after reworking Hekker’s contract. By converting $1.21MM of Hekker’s 2018 base salary into a signing bonus, the Rams created $968K in cap space. However, the move only barely brings Los Angeles into cap compliance, as the club now has just ~$337K worth of cap room, per Joel Corry of CBSSports.com (Twitter link).

In order to reduce Hekker’s 2018 cap charge, the Rams used a simple restructure. Hekker will now earn the veteran’s minimum base salary during the upcoming campaign, and his cap number will increase by $242K from 2019-22. It’s a negligible sum for most teams, but the Rams don’t have any room to spare after making expensive additions such as defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and wide receiver Brandin Cooks over the past month.

Hekker, 28, is considered the best punter in the NFL, as he’s been named first-team All-Pro in four of the past five seasons. In 2018, Hekker ranked second with a net punting average of 44.3 yards, while Los Angeles finished third in points created via its punt team, per Football Outsiders.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Rams Extend Johnny Hekker

The Rams have signed punter Johnny Hekker to a record extension that will tie him to the team for the next six seasons, Adam Schefter of ESPN reports (on Twitter). It’s a two-year deal featuring $10MM in guarantees, the most ever for a punter.

Johnny Hekker

Hekker was already under Rams control through 2020 on the six-year, $18MM extension he inked in 2014. That deal still stands as a record pact for a punter and included $7.38MM in guarantees. Combining that accord and his new contract, Hekker stands to rake in $21MM through 2022, according to Schefter (Twitter link).

The 27-year-old Hekker has been resoundingly successful since the Rams pulled him off the scrapheap as an undrafted free agent from Oregon State in 2012. The seventh-year man has racked up three Pro Bowl bids and first-team All-Pro nods apiece, including in each of the previous two seasons, and was a second-team All-Pro in 2014. Hekker led the NFL in average yards per punt (47.9) two years ago and paced the league in net yardage per attempt (46.0) last season, when Football Outsiders ranked him as the game’s premier punter.

While the Rams cruised to a 46-9 rout over the Colts on Sunday, they still had to deploy Hekker five times in their season opener. He averaged 43.6 yards per boot on those kicks.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Rams Sign Johnny Hekker To Extension

The Rams have locked up All-Pro punter Johnny Hekker for the next several seasons, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com, who reports (via Twitter) that the two sides have agreed to a new six-year, $18MM extension. The deal, which includes $9MM in guaranteed money, keeps Hekker under team control through the 2020 season.

Hekker, who had been in the final year of his rookie contract, would’ve been eligible for restricted free agency this offseason. Since he went undrafted out of Oregon State, the 24-year-old only has three years of experience under his belt, rather than four. Through his first three seasons, Hekker earned minimum base salaries and a signing bonus of just $10K, so the new contract represents a significant raise.

Hekker earns that raise after ranking second overall among punters last season, according to Pro Football Focus’ advanced grades (subscription required), and leading the league with 44.3 net yards per punt. A year later, that net average has dipped slightly to 42.1 yards, but that still puts the Rams punter among the top five in the NFL, and PFF ranks him third overall.

Although there are plenty of punters and kickers whose contracts exceed the $18MM total and $3MM annual average value on Hekker’s new deal, the $9MM guarantee is a league-high for either position. Previously, the largest guarantees on current pacts belonged to Sebastian Janikowski ($8MM) and Dustin Colquitt ($7.9MM).

NFC West Notes: 49ers, Finley, Rams

The 49ers have had some wildly successful draft classes in recent years, and Sports On Earth’s Dan Pompei has a fascinating, behind-the-scenes look at the team’s 2014 draft. The author explains the strategy and thinking that went into each selection.

The team’s first-round pick, safety Jimmie Ward, wasn’t necessarily expected to be an early pick. While some teams focused on his injury and size, the 49ers focused on a strategy used by former Jets’ duo Bill Parcels and Dick Haley. General manager Trent Baalke said he learned that there are “few players who can perform at a high level regardless of system.” As a result, a coach should draft a player who fits nicely into their scheme.

I learned that a long time ago,” said Baalke. “Coach Parcells was the guy I looked at and learned the most from, he and Dick Haley. That was always the question with them, how do they fit what we are going to ask him to do? For us, it’s critical.

The author has other interesting insight, including the team’s selection of basketball player Bruce Ellington and trade for Steve Johnson.

Let’s take a look at some more notes from the NFC West…