Latavius Murray

Saints WR Tre’Quan Smith Returns To Practice

The Saints’ receiving corps could be at full health this weekend against the Buccaneers. The team designated wideout Tre’Quan Smith to return to practice, per the league’s transactions report.

Smith had spent the past three weeks on the injured reserve as he nursed an ankle injury. When he last appeared in Week 15, the Saints were welcoming back quarterback Drew Brees, although they were missing wideouts Michael Thomas, Marquez Callaway, and Deonte Harris. Assuming Smith is good to go for this weekend, New Orleans should have their full arsenal of wideouts (a grouping that also includes Emmanuel Sanders) on Sunday against Tampa Bay.

Smith, a former third-round pick, was having a career year before he was sidelined by his injury. In 14 games (10 starts), the 25-year-old hauled in 34 receptions for 448 yards and four scores.

While the Saints seem to be getting healthy at receiver, they may be dealing with some issues at running back. NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport tweets that running back Latavius Murray is considered day-to-day with a quad injury. While the veteran is hoping to play this weekend, Rapoport describes his status as “up in the air.” If the 30-year-old can’t go this weekend, the team will likely turn to Dwayne Washington or Ty Montgomery as Alvin Kamara‘s backups.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Minor NFL Transactions: 1/6/21

We’ll keep track of the latest minor moves here:

Carolina Panthers

Cleveland Browns

Kansas City Chiefs

Los Angeles Rams

New Orleans Saints

Philadelphia Eagles

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

Minor NFL Transactions: 1/2/21

Here are Saturday’s minor moves:

Arizona Cardinals

Atlanta Falcons

Baltimore Ravens

Buffalo Bills

Carolina Panthers

Chicago Bears

Cincinnati Bengals

Cleveland Browns

  • Signed off Jets’ practice squad: G Blake Hance
  • Activated from reserve/COVID-19 list: S Karl Joseph
  • Promoted: G Cordell Iwuagwu, LB Montrel Meander, T Alex Taylor

Dallas Cowboys

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Chargers

  • Promoted: DB John Brannon

Los Angeles Rams

Miami Dolphins

Minnesota Vikings

New England Patriots

New Orleans Saints

New York Giants

New York Jets

Philadelphia Eagles

Pittsburgh Steelers

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tennessee Titans

Washington Football Team

Contract Details: Smith, James, Wake

The latest details on deals from around the NFL:

Saints To Sign Latavius Murray

Alvin Kamara has a new understudy. The Saints have agreed to sign former Vikings running back Latavius Murray, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter links). It’s a four-year, $14.4MM deal, Schefter adds. 

Murray, 29, averaged 4.1 yards per carry last season, his best average since his rookie season with the Raiders. He no longer profiles as a top-end starter, but he could be a phenomenal fit as Kamara’s safety net and change of pace complement.

This time last year, Murray reworked his contract in order to stay with the Vikings. Initially, Murray was set to play out a three-year, $15MM deal through the 2019 season. But, in exchange for accepting a reduced base salary, the Vikings eliminated the ’19 season from his contract.

The unexpected signing likely means that Mark Ingram will not return to New Orleans. The Saints wanted to retain the veteran, but they were also unwilling to give him much more than the $4MM they paid him in 2018. Ingram became a two-time Pro Bowler and enjoyed his best season in 2017 when he amassed 1,540 yards from scrimmage and scored 12 touchdowns. Last year, he only rushed for 645 yards, but he averaged 4.7 per carry.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC Notes: Rams, D. Johnson, Vikings

The Rams hope the chemistry of their new-look defensive will be explosive in the right way, Lindsay H. Jones of USA Today writes. There’s definitely big potential in L.A., but some outsiders aren’t convinced that new additions like cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh will gel with the team.

That’s what keeps you young, coaching-wise, is new challenges, and new players, new players that you get to work with. And when you get to work with great players? That’s really fun,” defensive coordinator Wade Phillips said.

Last year, the Rams were roughly in the middle of the pack in terms of points and passing yards allowed per game while allowing the fifth-most rushing yards per contest. Talib believes that the Rams’ D will improve across the board – especially against the pass.

I’ve been in some great, great secondaries, but top to bottom, with depth, this is probably the best one I’ve played in,” Talib said. “The sky’s the limit, we just have to be on our stuff. Be in meetings on time, get sleep at night. The talent is there, you just have to do the extra stuff.”

Here’s more from the NFC:

  • David Johnson‘s decision to holdout from the Cardinals is a good call, Jason Fitzgerald of Over The Cap writes. Although new 49ers running back Jerick McKinnon proved to be an exception this offseason, RBs typically do not garner big money in free agency, so Johnson’s best bet for a big contract is to land one as soon as possible with the Cardinals. Fitzgerald expects Johnson’s camp to push for a deal similar to Devonta Freeman‘s $8.25MM/year pact with the Falcons, given that Johnson is also a former mid-round pick and had a better 2016 than Freeman. However, Freeman is the younger player and has had a more consistent career overall. Ultimately, Fitzgerald expects to see a deal that works out for both sides.
  • Running back Latavius Murray says he never gave any consideration to leaving the Vikings after they requested his salary be cut from $5.15MM to $3.65MM for 2018 (via Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press). Even though he might go back to a reserve role, he wanted to stay with a winner. “The most important thing apart from my family and those things that I believe in is winning. So, that’s how I made my decision,” Murray said. “We had been talking throughout the offseason. It didn’t get to the point (that I considered leaving Minnesota), and thankfully I didn’t have to.

Contract Details/Restructures: 3/17/18

Let’s take a look at the most recent new contracts and restructures around the NFL:

New Contracts

  • Allen Robinson, WR (Bears): Three years, $42MM. $25.2MM guaranteed. $6MM signing bonus (Twitter link via Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle).
  • Teddy Bridgewater, QB (Jets): One year, $6MM. $1MM guaranteed. $9MM available via playtime incentives (Twitter link via Tom Pelissero of NFL.com).
  • Chad Henne, QB (Chiefs): Two years, $6.7MM. $3.1MM signing bonus. Performance incentives and escalators available (Twitter link via Jason Wolf of the Tennessean).

Restructures

  • Cardinals: Created $500K in 2018 cap space by converting S Antoine Bethea‘s roster bouns into a signing bonus (Twitter link via Pelissero).
  • Vikings: Created $1.15MM in 2018 cap space by reducing RB Latavius Murray‘s base salary from $5.15MM to $3.65M; his roster bonus from $500K to $250K; and his incentives from $2.3MM to $1MM (Twitter link via Field Yates of ESPN.com).

Vikings Restructure RB Latavius Murray’s Deal

The Vikings have restructured the contract of running back Latavius Murray, according to Courtney Cronin of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Murray agreed to a reduced base salary for 2018, though his salary is guaranteed, according to Mike Florio of PFT (on Twitter). Meanwhile, the last year of his contract was wiped out. He is now due to be a free agent in 2019.

In 16 games (11 starts), the 28-year-old ultimately finished the campaign with 842 yards and eight touchdowns on 216 carries (3.9 yards per carry). Pro Football Focus ranked Murray 26th among 58 eligible running backs. The former sixth-round pick has proven to be reliable in the red zone, as he rushed for 12 touchdowns with the Raiders in 2016.

The adjustment helped Minnesota clear some cash in order to sign Sheldon Richardson.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Vikings, Giants, Norwell, Saints

Remember Zac Stacy? The former Rams and Jets running back is attempting an NFL comeback, according to Cameron Wolfe of ESPN.com (Twitter link), who spotted Stacy at Vanderbilt’s Pro Day earlier today. Stacy, who turns 27 next month, hasn’t played since 2015, and announced his retirement at this time last year following an ankle injury. The Rams’ starter as a rookie in 2013, Stacy racked up 973 yards and seven touchdowns during his only campaign as a team’s primary back. New York eventually acquired Stacy for a seventh-round pick, but he managed only 31 total rushes before hanging up his cleats.

Here’s more from around the NFL:

  • Now that Kirk Cousins is closing in on a fully guaranteed deal with the Vikings, at least one source tells Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press (Twitter link) that Minnesota could ask running back Latavius Murray or defensive end Brian Robison to accept a pay cut in 2018. Murray got into the end zone eight times in 2017, but he’s due to count more than $6MM on next year’s cap and isn’t a lock to start given that rookie sensation Dalvin Cook will return from injury. Robison, meanwhile, hasn’t even decided if he’ll play during the upcoming season. If he retires, the Vikings will pick up $3.488MM in cap space, the same total as if he retires.
  • Guard Andrew Norwell was considered the Giants‘ primary free agent target this offseason, and while he ultimately landed with the Jaguars, New York’s offer was close if not the same as Jacksonville’s, tweets Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com. Norwell is now the league’s highest-paid after receiving $13MM annually (and $30MM guaranteed) on a five-year deal. New Giants general manager Dave Gettleman originally signed Norwell as an undrafted free agent in Carolina, so the connection made plenty of sense, but Norwell simply chose the Jaguars, per Raanan.
  • New details have emerged on veteran safety Kurt Coleman‘s three-year deal with the Saints, as Josh Katzenstein of NOLA.com writes. In total, the pact is worth $16.35MM, but Coleman can earn another $2.25MM via incentives. Coleman will collect $6.2MM in full guarantees, $4.5MM of which will come in the form of a signing bonus. However, Coleman’s new contract is heavily back-loaded, as his 2018 cap charge is just $3.3MM. New Orleans will have a decision to make in 2019, as Coleman has a $500K roster bonus on the third day of the league year — he could be released with $3MM in dead money accelerating onto the club’s cap.

NFC Notes: Eagles, Mariota, Vikings

The latest on a pair of NFC franchises:

  • Philadelphia was reportedly aggressive in trying to trade up to No. 2 in the 2015 draft to land quarterback Marcus Mariota, who played under then-Eagles head coach Chip Kelly at Oregon in 2012. But Kelly shot that down in a discussion with ESPN’s Adam Schefter, revealing that talks didn’t go anywhere because Tennessee wasn’t interested in moving the pick (via Matt Lombardo of NJ.com). “That’s all speculation that’s out there, you hear stories that ‘we offered this, we offered that,” said Kelly. “We didn’t offer anything because they weren’t taking any offers for it.” Unable to move up 18 spots to land Mariota, the Eagles ultimately stayed at No. 20 and selecting wide receiver Nelson Agholor, who has disappointed in the NFL. Kelly didn’t even finish out the 2015 season with the Eagles, who fired him prior to Week 17 and then went on to select a different potential franchise signal-caller, Carson Wentz, after moving up to No. 2 overall (by way of a trade with the Browns) in 2016.
  • Just over a month after signing running back Latavius Murray in free agency, presumably to start, the Vikings selected ex-Florida State rusher Dalvin Cook in the second round of the draft. Murray addressed that Wednesday, telling NFL Network (per Kevin Patra of NFL.com): “I was home, watching the draft — I try to keep up regardless, just with the game itself. So they draft him. It wasn’t a surprise. When you see a guy, again, first-round potential sitting there in the second round, they snatch him up, you can’t be surprised. It motivates me regardless, because they’re always going to bring in somebody to take over for your position.” Even with Cook in the fold, Murray expects to rack up the lion’s share of the Vikings’ rushing attempts in 2017, and the ex-Raider plans to mentor the younger back. “As I said, MJD [Maurice Jones-Drew], Darren McFadden, Marcel Reece, those guys did everything they could to try and help me be a better player, and I’m going to do the same for Dalvin,” Murray noted. “Again, it’s going to come down to who is going to be the best player that can play. Because I give Dalvin knowledge and try to help him, doesn’t mean, OK, that I shouldn’t go out there and outperform him and outcompete.”
  • The Vikings believe they may have a steal on their hands in another newcomer, defensive tackle Will Sutton, suggests Andrew Krammer of the Star Tribune. Sutton, whom the NFC North rival Bears cut in May and who signed with the Vikings a week later, wasn’t playing in an ideal scheme in Chicago, according to Minnesota’s brass. “We felt like when [the Bears] went to a 3-4, it was probably not a real good fit for him,” said Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer. “His game is based on quickness and acceleration and penetration, so we’ve kind of had our eye on him for a while.” Pro Football Focus disagrees with Zimmer, for what it’s worth, as the outlet gave Sutton easily the best grade of his three-year career last season. He posted poor marks over the two prior seasons, though, including a rookie campaign (2014) spent in a 4-3.