David Hawthorne

Bills Cut 9, Down To 75

The Bills released nine players on their way to the 75-man limit. Here’s the full rundown.





  • WR Kolby Listenbee


  • LB Reggie Ragland

Bills Sign David Hawthorne

Shortly after agreeing to terms with Brandon Spikes, the Bills have signed another linebacker, as they’ve reached a deal with David Hawthorne, the club announced.David Hawthorne (Vertical)

[RELATED: Bills, Tyrod Taylor discussing two-year deal]

As noted when Buffalo inked Spikes, the Bills are clearly concerned about the status of rookie linebacker Reggie Ragland, who suffered a knee injury last week. The club is reportedly hopeful that Ragland avoided any ligament damage, but Buffalo had planned to press forward and work out veteran linebackers. And while Joe Buscaglia of WKBW (Twitter link) says that the dual signings don’t necessarily mean that Ragland will be shelved for a significant amount of time, Garafolo (Twitter link) reports that the Bills are worried enough about Ragland to secure several contingency plans.

Hawthorne, 31, is just that (a contingency option), as the Bills are likely hoping that they won’t have to count on the former Saint/Seahawk during the regular season. But if they do, they’ll turn to a veteran who has a hefty amount of experience, as Hawthorne has appeared in 111 games (83 starts) during his 11-year career. In 2015, however, Hawthorne was shifted to the weak side in favor of rookie Stephone Anthony, but was then benched, declared inactive, and ultimately released after an unproductive season.

Hawthorne played under Rob Ryan — who is now an assistant head coach with the Bills — during the past three seasons in New Orleans. Rob and Rex Ryan don’t play the exact same scheme, but the fronts are similar enough that Hawthorne should feel comfortable adapting in his new role.

Mike Garafolo of NFL.com (Twitter link) first reported the signing. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

How The Cowboys Could Replace Rolando McClain

For the second consecutive season, Cowboys linebacker Rolando McClain will serve a suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on substance abuse. In 2015, Dallas only had to survive without McClain for a quarter of the season, but given that McClain is facing a 10-game ban for 2016, the Cowboys will need to more seriously consider how they’re going to make up for the loss of their middle linebacker.

We’ve examined how Dallas might go about finding a replacement for McClain, looking at players already on the Cowboys’ roster, free agents sitting on the open market, and veterans who could be on the roster bubble with their respective clubs. Let’s dive in…

Internal options:

The primary name being floated to replace McClain in the middle is third-year linebacker Anthony Hitchens, whom the Cowboys selected in the fourth round of the 2014 draft. Thing is, Hitchens was already a starter — he played on the inside in Anthony Hitchens (Vertical)McClain’s absence last year, and then moved to the outside, ultimately seeing action on about half of Dallas’ defensive snaps. So if Hitchens is being counted on to man the middle full-time, including in sub packages, the Cowboys would need to find a replacement at strong-side linebacker, meaning Kyle Wilber and/or Andrew Gachkar could see meaningful snaps after spending most of their respective careers as special teams players.

[RELATED: Updated Dallas Cowboys depth chart]

Gachkar, meanwhile, is another option to fill in at middle linebacker, and he has experience at the position. If chosen, Gachkar would likely be a two-down player, as Pro Football Focus’ grades have shown him to be effective against the run but a liability in pass coverage. The 27-year-old has never been a major defensive contributor — he was forced to step into the starting lineup when the Chargers suffered a variety of injuries at the linebacker position in 2014, but even then, he only played on 36.5% of San Diego’s defensive snaps.

The “wild card” in this race is second-year player Mark Nzeocha, according to Bryan Broaddus of the Cowboys’ website. A seventh-round pick in last year’s draft, Nzeocha only appeared in two games during his rookie season, managing 14 snaps, all of which came on special teams. Extremely athletic, Nzeocha was all over the field at Wyoming, playing safety and all three linebacker positions. His learning curve might be steep, but he clearly has all the physical tools to play the position.

A source tells PFR that the Cowboys are, for the most part, satisfied with the current state of their linebacker room, and are looking forward to have their young players compete for playing time while McClain is suspended. Dallas, says the source, hasn’t shown a lot of interest in scouring the free agent market for substitutes, so one of Hitchens, Gachkar, or Nzeocha might be the favorite to earn significant snaps this fall.

Free agents:

Donald Butler — After selecting Denzel Perryman in 2015 and Joshua Perry in this year’s draft, the Chargers parted ways with Butler, who had spent the past five seasons with the club. At age-27, Butler is the youngest free agent option on this list, but he’s coming off the worst season of his career, having posted just 40 tackles during the 2016 campaign. Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune accused Butler of “losing interest” after receiving a massive extension prior to the 2014 season, so perhaps some other clubs have made that same assessment.Justin Durant (vertical)

Justin Durant — Durant started 12 games for the Falcons last year, but prior to his time in Atlanta he spent two seasons with the Cowboys, so at the very least he’d offer some familiarity with Dallas defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli‘s playbook. Versatility is another point in Durant’s favor, as he played mostly inside linebacker with Atlanta and Detroit, roamed the middle during his Jacksonville tenure, and moved between both positions with the Cowboys.

A.J. Hawk — The Bengals signed Hawk to a two-year deal before the 2015 campaign, but despite injuries limiting fellow linebacker Vontaze Burfict to just 10 games, Hawk rarely saw the field, playing on roughly a quarter of Cincinnati’s defensive snaps. Hawk recently told Jim Owczarski of the Cincinnati Enquirer that although he’s aware a club might not express interest until late in camp (or perhaps after the season begins), he’s staying in shape in the hopes of receiving a phone call.

David Hawthorne — Like Durant, Hawthorne offers positional versatility, having seen action at both inside and outside linebacker. In 2015, Hawthorne was shifted to the weak side in favor of rookie Stephone Anthony, but was then benched, declared inactive, and ultimately released after an unproductive season. Still, he’s got 83 career starts under his belt, and would presumably feel comfortable in the middle of the Dallas defense.

Keep reading for more external options that could be on the Cowboys’ radar…

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Saints Cut Jahri Evans, David Hawthorne

The Saints cut three players Monday, including All-Pro guard Jahri Evans and longtime linebacker David Hawthorne, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle tweets.

New Orleans also waived veteran linebacker Ramon Humber.

Evans started 153 games for the Saints since 2006 and was a four-time first-team All-Pro. Hawthorne started the majority of the past four seasons after signing with New Orleans in 2012. Humber, a linebacker, had been with the team for six seasons and started 18 games with
the Saints since 2011.

The Saints entered the day with the worst salary cap situation in the NFL, being more than $9MM over the projected cap for 2016.

Evans had been set to carry an $8.2MM cap figure this season, the fourth-highest on the team, and was signed through the 2017 campaign. Per NOLA.com’s Katherine Terrell (on Twitter), Evans spoke with Sean Payton in December and was not expecting a release then.

The 32-year-old guard will still carry $5.1MM in dead money, saving the Saints $3.1MM on their 2016 cap sheet. Evans previously took a pay cut to remain with the team last year and made six straight Pro Bowls from 2009-14.

Reports from last April indicated that part of Evans’ 2016 salary was guaranteed, but Nick Underhill of The Advocate says (on Twitter) that guarantee wasn’t set to kick in until the third day of the new league year, which begins March 9.

Evans underwent arthroscopic knee surgery last season, limiting him to a career-low 11 games. The veteran lineman has started 16 games in eight of his 10 seasons and never operated in a reserve capacity since the Saints drafted him in the fourth round in 2006.

Signed through the 2016 season, Hawthorne will carry $2.26MM in dead money and bring $2.25MM in cap savings, according to Over The Cap. Hawthorne, 30, was set to occupy a $4.5MM cap number for the Saints this coming season.

The Saints’ longest-tenured defensive player, Humber served as a key special teams cog for the Saints after the team signed him during the 2010 season.

Photo courtesy USA Today Sports Images

NFC Notes: OBJ, Brees, Hawthorne, Megatron

The NFL has found no evidence that Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. was on the receiving end of homophobic slurs and insults from Panthers players prior to last Sunday’s game, a league source tells Mark Maske of the Washington Post.

Reports earlier this week suggested Panthers players directed homophobic slurs at Beckham, but punter Brad Wing – who described Marcus Ball‘s pre-game actions – said that he didn’t hear any slurs, and they weren’t brought up during Beckham’s appeal hearing. As such, no Carolina players will be disciplined, assuming no new information surfaces.

Here’s more from around the NFC:

  • Despite battling what he describes as a “Grade 2” tear of the plantar fascia tendon in his right heel, Saints quarterback Drew Brees is adamant that he’ll play this weekend, per Evan Woodbery of the New Orleans Times-Picayune. Asked why he’s so intent on not sitting with the Saints out of playoff contention, Brees replied, “One reason only: I want to play for my guys. Bottom line.”
  • Saints linebacker David Hawthorne has been inactive for the team’s last three games, and may be nearing the end of his time in New Orleans, Woodbery writes in a separate Times-Picayune article. Hawthorne, who has spent his last four years with the Saints, took a pay cut back in March, but given his decreased role, that may not be enough to save his roster spot this time around.
  • Speaking of pay cuts, it’s possible that Calvin Johnson will have to take one to remain with the Lions. Kyle Meinke of MLive.com examines that possibility, including Megatron’s comments – or lack thereof – on the situation

NFC Mailbags: Hawthorne, Collins, Bridgewater

Here are some notes from some of the most recent NFC mailbags coming out of New Orleans and Minneapolis.

  • The Raiders pried Curtis Lofton, the Saints‘ best second-level player in recent seasons, away from New Orleans. As a result, the Saints are planning to use veteran David Hawthorne in his place in the middle and as the defensive signal-caller, ESPN’s Mike Triplett said in the second part of his Saints mailbag. Entering his age-30 season, Hawthorne started weakside backer in the Saints’ 4-3 last year and while he’s a mid-tier performer at best at this point in his career, Hawthorne is incredibly versatile. He’s played four different positions the past four seasons, lining up as the Seahawks’ starting middle linebacker in 2011, before backing up on the strong side in New Orleans in ’12, then moving to an inside spot in a 3-4 look a year later before moving back outside last season.
  • While expecting Hawthorne to start regardless of who the Saints draft, Triplett notes the team hasn’t used a first- or second-round pick on a linebacker since Sean Payton arrived in 2006. While they’ve acquired Jonathan Vilma, Lofton and most recently Dannell Ellerbe and Anthony Spencer through trades or free agency, Triplett lists inside backer as possibly the Saints’ No. 1 need. He doesn’t expect the Saints to use their No. 13 pick on such a player but sees that as a key option at Nos. 31 or 44, possibly both, with Shaq Thompson (Washington), Eric Kendricks (UCLA) and Stephone Anthony (Clemson) among the options in that case.
  • Landon Collins may be too much of a run-stopping safety to mesh well in the Vikings‘ defense, writes ESPN’s Ben Goessling in his mailbag. Since upper-echelon safety Harrison Smith ventures around the formation with blitzing tendencies, Goessling notes the Vikings probably need a player who can cover ground deep.
  • Vikings quarterbacks coach Scott Turner recently traveled to Montana to observe ways to incorporate more quick passes into the Vikings’ offense. A Division II coach for many years, Bob Stitt‘s now at Montana, and Turner was intrigued by the way his offenses can find myriad methods of putting the ball in receivers’ hands via screen passes. With Teddy Bridgewater already having success in the screen game with Jarius Wright and, at times Cordarrelle Patterson, he now has speedster Mike Wallace, which would make acquiring additional intel in this area relevant, Goessling said.

Saints’ Colston, Hawthorne Take Pay Cuts

Saints veterans Marques Colston and David Hawthorne accepted pay cuts today in order to remain with the team. Colston’s base salary will drop from $6.9MM to $1.445MM in 2015 and from $7.7MM to $2.65MM in 2016, according to Larry Holder of The Times-Picayune (via Twitter). Hawthorne base salary was cut from $2MM to $1.19MM in 2015 and from $4MM to $1.75MM in 2016, according to Evan Woodbery of The Times-Picayune.

Colston’s new deal with the Saints will save the team $3.2MM this year, Mike Triplett of ESPN.com tweets. Meanwhile, he’ll receive $3.8MM in salary and bonuses this year. Word of Colston restructuring his deal first came in last week. Colston caught just 59 balls for 902 yards in 2014, the lowest totals of his career if you throw out an injury-plagued 2008 campaign.

Hawthorne was widely viewed as a possible cap casualty, but today’s news means he’ll stay in the fold for 2015 and possibly beyond.


NFC Rumors: Iupati, Weatherspoon, Hill, Blalock

Mike Iupati has been a staple of the 49ers’ offensive line for his entire career, imposing his will on defensive linemen and linebackers in the running game, but his time with the team is likely coming to an end, writes Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports (via Twitter). The Raiders, Jets, and Bills seem to be the front runners for Iupati if he does not return to San Francisco.

Here are some more rumors from some NFC teams:

  • The Falcons are preparing to lose linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, as the Cardinals are expected to offer him a two-year contract somewhere between $3MM and $4MM annually, writes Vaughn McClure of ESPN. He writes that the Falcons were close to a deal on Friday but talks fell apart.
  • The Vikings and quarterback Shaun Hill have mutual interest, according to Ben Goessling of ESPN (via Twitter). There are other teams in the mix as well, but Hill is believed to have serious interest in joining the Vikings.
  • Two of the other teams that have expressed interest in Hill are the Rams and Buccaneers, according to Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (via Twitter).
  • The Rams have also shown interest in guard Justin Blalock, writes Thomas (via Twitter).
  • Linebacker David Hawthorne could be a possible cap casualty for the Saints, writes Jason Cole of Bleacher Report (via Twitter).

La Canfora On Manning, Suh, McCown, Saints

Weighing in on two of the biggest offseason stories, Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com leads off his latest piece by looking at the Peyton Manning and Ndamukong Suh situations. In La Canfora’s view, Manning will ultimately return to the Broncos after the two sides tweak his contract a little. As for Suh, the CBSSports.com scribe doesn’t have any updates on the Lions‘ talks with the defensive star, but says he thinks the Jaguars and Raiders will be major players. For those teams to be involved in the Suh derby, he’d have to reach the open market, which would mean no long-term deal or franchise tag from Detroit.

La Canfora also passes along plenty more tidbits related to free agency, so let’s dive in and round up the highlights….

  • When it comes to the market’s top pass rushers, La Canfora thinks Pernell McPhee can reach $10MM per year, with Jerry Hughes in the $9MM range, and Brandon Graham and Jason Worilds around $7.5MM. La Canfora also believes that all four of those players will join new teams next month.
  • Free agent quarterback Josh McCown is expected to decide on his new team later this week or early next week, and could land another deal worth $5MM annually. The Bills and Browns look like the best bets for McCown, according to La Canfora.
  • The Saints are working through contract issues with about a half-dozen players on their roster, sources tell La Canfora. If things work out the way the team hopes, Marques Colston, Jahri Evans, and Curtis Lofton would likely stick around on reduced salaries, while Ben Grubbs, Brodrick Bunkley, and David Hawthorne could be let go. As for Junior Galette, La Canfora is hearing that head coach Sean Payton has “expressed a desire” to part ways with him, following his January arrest. However, Galette’s contract still contains a sizeable chunk of guaranteed money, and the team likely can’t void those guarantees.
  • Percy Harvin probably won’t accept a pay cut from the Jets, which means the team will likely cut him. La Canfora expects the wideout to gamble himself in free agency, signing a one-year deal with a team that has a good quarterback in place.
  • The Jaguars will be seeking a top pass catcher, and La Canfora wouldn’t be surprised if the team lands a player like Randall Cobb or Julius Thomas. Per La Canfora, the Packers recognize Cobb’s market could get out of hand, and may focus on re-signing other key free agents, like Bryan Bulaga and Letroy Guion.
  • Chiefs center Rodney Hudson came very close to signing a four-year extension worth $6MM per year during the season. He’s a good bet to exceed that amount in free agency, and the Raiders are one viable suitor.
  • La Canfora anticipates the Ravens will work out a restructured deal with Lardarius Webb, but isn’t as certain about Haloti Ngata, who may play for a new team in 2015.
  • The Jets would have interest in Ryan Mallett if he reaches the open market. However, the Texans have made their interest in the quarterback clear, and Mallett himself said today that he’d like to return to Houston (Twitter link via John McClain of the Houston Chronicle).

NFC Mailbags: Panthers, Saints, Bears, Vikings

It’s Saturday, and that means ESPN.com’s NFL writers are opening their mailbags and answering questions from readers. Let’s start off the morning by checking out some notes from the NFC…