Nyheim Hines

Colts, RB Nyheim Hines Agree On Extension

The Colts continue to lock up cogs from their standout 2018 draft class. They added Nyheim Hines to the list Friday, signing the situational running back to an extension Friday, Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets.

Hines agreed to a three-year, $18.6MM deal with $12MM guaranteed, per Yates. A big chunk of that total — $10.3MM — is guaranteed at signing, USA Today’s Josina Anderson tweets. In a backfield with Jonathan Taylor and Marlon Mack, Hines is now the Colts’ highest-paid ball-carrier — by a significant margin. A former fourth-round pick, Hines was going into a contract year. The Colts now have the Taylor-Hines tandem locked up for at least three more seasons.

This deal comes after the Colts locked down 2018 second-rounders Darius Leonard and Braden Smith earlier this summer. The big fish from that draft haul (Quenton Nelson) remains unsigned, but given the work Indianapolis has done to retain the supporting-casters from that group, a monster Nelson extension in 2022 appears likely.

Indianapolis slotted Hines as a passing-down back during his rookie year and added return duties to his plate in 2019. The team has kept Hines in these roles since, and the elusive North Carolina State alum has become one of the league’s best off-the-bench backs. He caught 63 passes as a rookie and added a second 63-catch season in 2020, amassing a career-high 862 yards from scrimmage last year.

At $6.2MM per year, Hines checks in among the top 12 highest-paid backs. A sizable gulf between the eight-man group earning north of $12MM annually and the field has emerged. Among backs on veteran contracts, only Melvin Gordon makes between $6.5MM and $12MM per year. But Hines did quite well for himself, with his new deal surpassing Chargers starter Austin Ekeler‘s AAV, and is set to aid Carson Wentz‘s transition this season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

RB Nyheim Hines Discusses Future With Colts

Nyheim Hines may be hitting free agency following the 2021 season, but the running back is making it clear that he wants to stay in Indy. Hines told Joel A. Erickson of the Indy Star that he wants to play with the Colts for his entire career.

“I hope to play there my entire career, and I hope to establish a legacy where Indianapolis is always going to have that slasher, scat-back, that little fast guy who’s so versatile,” Hines said.

“Contract talks will come when they come. Whatever happens with that happens. My goal is to be the best leader for this team, to be the best player for this team that I can be. I feel like last year I established myself as a leader. Maybe not as much of a vocal leader, but I’m definitely a leader on that team.”

The 2018 fourth-round pick seemed to take a step back in 2019 following a solid rookie campaign. The running back bounced back in 2020, finishing with career-highs across the board, including 862 yards from scrimmage, seven touchdowns, and a team-leading 63 receptions.

The Colts are absolutely loaded at running back, with Hines joining 2020 second-rounder Jonathan Taylor, former 1,000-yard rusher Marlon Mack, and fourth-year pro Jordan Wilkins. While Hines will probably never lead the team in carries, he now understands his role, and that explains his career season in 2020.

“I think I’ve grown the most, just by my mindset,” Hines said. “Going out there, knowing that we have a lot of good players, not knowing when I’m going to touch the ball but just knowing I’m going to be ready. That’s really why I played a lot better last year, I think.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Colts Notes: Tevi, Hines, Eason

One of the biggest winners of this year’s draft was Colts LT Sam Tevi. Signed to a modest one-year pact in March, Tevi has been atop Indy’s left tackle depth chart in the wake of Anthony Castonzo‘s retirement, but it was widely expected that the team would draft a potential Castonzo replacement.

Even though Virginia Tech’s Christian Darrisaw was available for the Colts with the No. 21 overall pick, GM Chris Ballard elected to further bolster his defense by selecting Michigan DE Kwity Paye. And while this year’s draft was said to be deep in tackle talent, Ballard did not use a Day 2 or Day 3 choice on a tackle either.

It doesn’t sound like Colts brass was particularly high on the top-shelf LT prospects. “It just didn’t match up,” Ballard said (Twitter link via Stephen Holder of The Athletic). “How many true left tackles were in the draft? We’ll see. … If you’re gonna draft a guy that high, and you’re drafting him to be a left tackle, you’d like to know that he’s going to be that his whole career.”

Now for more out of Indianapolis, starting with additional notes on the team’s LT situation:

  • Even though the Colts valued Paye and second-round choice Dayo Odeyingbo over any LTs that were available at the time, owner Jim Irsay did concede that there were several tackles in the fourth and fifth rounds that they would have drafted but missed out on (Twitter links via Joel A. Erickson of the Indianapolis Star).
  • Irsay suggested that the team is comfortable with Tevi as the starting LT, though he left the door open for another acquisition. “We feel that Tevi can do a solid job there next to that line that he is joining,” he said. “There are other options that can come down the line” (Twitter link via Holder).
  • Irsay has previously indicated that the team would prefer to keep Quenton Nelson at left guard instead of moving him to LT, and perhaps one of the “options that can come down the line” that he referred to is former Chiefs LT Eric Fisher, who is still on the market.
  • We recently heard that the Colts are hoping to extend LB Darius Leonard and OT Braden Smith, and you can add RB Nyheim Hines to that mix. As Mike Chappell of Fox 59 writes, Irsay said he wants his team to explore a re-up with the NC State product, who is eligible for free agency next year. Hines is a terrific receiver out of the backfield and has developed into a quality punt returner, but the team does have second-year pro Jonathan Taylor as its RB1, and Marlon Mack is back in the fold as well. As Irsay observed, “it just depends on what the numbers are.”
  • The Colts just drafted Texas signal-caller Sam Ehlinger, adding him to a quarterback room that also includes 2020 UDFA Jalen Morton and 2020 fourth-round pick Jacob Eason. All three players will be vying to serve as Carson Wentz‘s top backup, though head coach Frank Reich said Eason will be penciled in as the QB2 for now (Twitter link via Erickson). Reich was clear that Morton and Ehlinger will get a fair shake, however.

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.

South Notes: Saints, Texans, Colts

Taysom Hill is expected to be “the guy” at quarterback for the Saints whenever Drew Brees decides to retire, as Jay Glazer of The Athletic writes. Brees has already signed a post-career deal with NBC Sports, and the 2020 season may or may not be his final year in the NFL, so Hill could be in line to become New Orleans’ starter as soon as next year. The drawbacks on Hill are apparent: he’ll be 31 years old when the 2021 campaign gets underway, and he’s only attempted 13 passes over the course of his career. But the Saints have nothing but shower with him praise in addition to extending him on a two-year pact that includes nearly $17.5MM in guaranteed money and a $16.1MM cap charge in 2021. Per Glazer, New Orleans isn’t attempting a “smokescreen” — the club is comfortable will Hill under center if Brees hangs up his cleats.

Here’s more from the NFL’s two South divisions:

Spring Practice Notes: Jets, Darby, Ebron

Now that mandatory minicamps have wrapped up around the league and players have returned home for a few weeks, the NFL will experience something of a lull until we get closer to the start of training camp in July. In the past couple of days, however, beat writers have shared some lessons learned during spring practices, offered some insight as to what OTAs and minicamp revealed about the upcoming season, and discussed some questions that remain unanswered. So let’s dive right in:

  • Terrelle Pryor‘s injury concerns have been well-documented, but as Darryl Slater of NJ.com observes, the Jets are also dealing with injuries to CB Morris Claiborne and OLB Jordan Jenkins. Both Claiborne and Jenkins are expected to be ready for the start of training camp, while the status of Pryor and starting free safety Marcus Maye is still up in the air. Slater also wonders who will start at OLB alongside Jenkins. David Bass and Josh Martin are candidates, as is Lorenzo Mauldin, though Slater suggests Mauldin is on the roster bubble.
  • Slater also indicates that Henry Anderson may have the leg up in the battle for the Jets‘ starting defensive end position opposite Leonard Williams — New York desperately needs someone to take double teams away from Williams — and that Andre Roberts appears to be leading the competition for Gang Green’s punt returner job. He adds that wideout Chad Hansen has impressed this spring after being a non-factor in his rookie campaign last year.
  • Rich Cimini of ESPN.com also likes what he sees from Hansen, and he says TE Neal Sterling and RB Elijah McGuire are other under-the-radar players to impress for the Jets this spring. Sam Darnold, meanwhile, is very much on the radar, and Cimini says Darnold has done nothing to suggest he cannot be a quality starter in the NFL.
  • The most important lesson learned during the Eagles‘ spring practices, per Zach Berman of the Philadelphia Inquirer, is that Carson Wentz is progressing in his recovery from an ACL tear and could be ready to go in Week 1. However, as Berman points out, the defending champs have plenty of injury concerns outside of Wentz, though no key players appear at risk of missing any regular season time at this point.
  • Berman also writes that Jay Ajayi is the Eagles’ unquestioned No. 1 running back — in stark contrast to the summer of 2017, when the team was emphasizing a committee approach to the offensive backfield — and he names De’vante Bausby, Nate Gerry, and Dallas Goedert as young talents who have stood out in the spring. Gerry, a 2017 fifth-rounder who converted from collegiate safety to professional linebacker, could compete for a starting LB job this year, Berman says.
  • Speaking of Bausby, Eliot Shorr-Parks of NJ.com is also impressed with the 25-year-old’s work this spring, which may be enough to allow the Eagles to trade Ronald Darby.
  • Seahawks‘ 2018 seventh-round pick Alex McGough stood out this spring and has a legitimate chance to be Russell Wilson‘s backup this year, per Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times. Condotta also notes that Seattle’s first-round choice, Rashaad Penny, has looked the part and has also shown improvement in his pass-blocking technique, which will help him see more of the field this year.
  • TE Eric Ebron has been perhaps the most impressive newcomer for the Colts this spring, per Stephen Holder of the Indianapolis Star, who also says 2018 fourth-rounder Nyheim Hines was the most exciting rookie to watch. Hines, a running back from NC State, has the explosiveness and versatility to thrive in new head coach Frank Reich‘s scheme.
  • Jim Wyatt of TitansOnline.com says Harold Landry, the Titans‘ second-round draft choice this year, is living up to his draft pedigree and that, while he may have a hard time unseating veterans Derrick Morgan and Brian Orakpo as a starting OLB, he should see plenty of action as a situational pass rusher to begin his career. Wyatt also says Tennessee’s cornerbacks have been the most impressive position group of the spring.

Colts Sign First-Round Pick Quenton Nelson

The Colts have officially signed the bulk of their draft class. On Friday, the team announced deals with the following picks: 

The Colts wound up with an oversized draft class of eleven players, but they have only two rookies left to sign. Once second round linebacker Darius Leonard and second round guard Braden Smith put pen to paper, they’ll be done.

Nelson was widely regarded as one of the best overall talents in this year’s draft, but the early run on quarterbacks helped guide him to the Colts at No. 6. Frankly, that worked out great for the Colts as they desperately need to protect quarterback Andrew Luck this season. The QB fever allowed Chris Ballard to land this year’s top rated offensive lineman in the draft while adding two 2018 second-round picks and a 2019 second-round choice from the Jets as he moved down from No. 3 to No. 6. It’s too early to grade any team’s draft, but everyone can agree that the Colts did well for themselves in terms of value.

Nelson, a 6’5″, 235-pound lineman, boasts tremendous power and the ability to act as a double team blocker. Many feel that Nelson is one of the best bets to succeed out of this year’s top 10.

He’s so unique because he’s big, but he’s not fat. He’s one of the best run blockers I’ve ever evaluated, but he’s not a liability in pass protection like Mike Iupati is,” one NFC team personnel executive told NFL.com before the draft. “He’s also an alpha who can bring and ass-kicking mindset into your position room.”

Draft Notes: Panthers, Penny, Impact Rooks

With their first-round pick, the Panthers ended up selecting Maryland wideout D.J. Moore. However, General Manager Marty Hurney told SiriusXM’s Bruce Murray and Brady Quinn that his team was considering several players with the pick, including Alabama receiver Calvin Ridley.

“Basically what we did, coming into the draft, we had a group of about five guys that we would be very happy with at 24 and we got our pick and three of those guys were there and it was a hard decision between Calvin Ridley and D.J. Moore,” Hurney said. “I think that the difference to us is, and we think they’re both excellent wide receivers, is just D.J. Moore gives us a little different skill set than we had.”

Let’s check out some more draft notes from around the league…

  • Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller touched on a number of topics during his post-draft review. Notably, the reporter noted that the most surprising first-round selection was San Diego State running back Rashaad Penny, who was taken by the Seahawks with the 27th pick. Miller notes that opposing teams didn’t value Penny as highly, and the reporter said the highest team grade (outside of Seattle) rated the running back as a second-rounder.
  • Miller reports that several players failed drug tests, causing them to fall in the draft or go undrafted. This grouping included cornerback Holton Hill, offensive tackle Desmond Harrison, and wideout Antonio Callaway.
  • ESPN’s Mel Kiper looked at several late-round rookies who could immediately make an impact with their new squad. Offensively, Kiper pointed to Patriots wideout Braxton Berrios, Colts running backs Jordan Wilkins and Nyheim Hines, and Steelers “Swiss Army knife” Jaylen Samuels. Defensively, Raiders defensive tackle Maurice Hurst, Eagles pass rusher Josh Sweat, Rams linebacker Ogbonnia Okoronkwo led Kiper’s list.