Erik McCoy

Saints Place C Erik McCoy On IR

After leaving Monday night’s loss to the Ravens with a calf injury, Saints starting center Erik McCoy was placed on injured reserve yesterday. Since they were able to make the move prior to today’s game against Pittsburgh, this gives McCoy five weeks for a potential return from IR after the Saints late Week 14 bye week. If they waited until after today’s game, the 25-year-old wouldn’t be eligible to return until Week 16.

McCoy is currently in his fourth year out of Texas A&M, serving as the team’s starting center since being drafted in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft. This is McCoy’s second encounter with a calf injury after missing five games last year due to calf issues. Before that, McCoy played every game possible in his first two years.

When McCoy left last week’s game, the Saints moved right guard Cesar Ruiz, who had plenty of experience at center from his time in Ann Arbor, to cover for McCoy and brought in Calvin Throckmorton to fill in for Ruiz. Today, though, the Saints started Josh Andrews, whom they had just signed to the active roster from the practice squad yesterday, at center, allowing Ruiz to return to right guard. Throckmorton and undrafted rookie Lewis Kidd split time filling in for an injured Andrus Peat at left guard and, after starting left tackle James Hurst, already filling in for first-round rookie Trevor Penning, left the game with an injury, Landon Young was called into action. The offensive line is currently in tatters with three starters out by the end of today’s game.

If Hurst or Peat are forced to miss any more time, expect more practice squad call ups in the coming weeks. The Saints currently roster Drew Desjarlais, Yasir Durant, and Derrick Kelly on the practice squad and may have to call on one or all of them to cover their battered offensive line in case of any further injuries.

Saints, C Erik McCoy Agree To Extension

The Saints have taken care of an important piece of business just before the beginning of the season. New Orleans has reached agreement with center Erik McCoy on a five-year extension worth up to $63.75MM (Twitter link via Mike Garafolo of NFL Network). 

Garafolo adds that the deal – which was confirmed by McCoy’s agents – also includes over $40MM in guaranteed money. The 2019 second-rounder had one season remaining on his rookie contract, so this new deal will keep him in New Orleans through 2028. His level of play since his arrival in the league made an extension such as this one a distinct possibility.

McCoy, 25, has been a full-time starter since his rookie season, when he earned a PFF grade of 78. He played a full schedule once again the following season, though his rating fell that year to 69.4. In 2021, the Texas A&M product took another step back in PFF’s eyes, ranking 23rd in the league amongst centers. McCoy also missed the first action of his career, being sidelined for five games due to a calf strain.

As Garafolo notes, this new deal will make McCoy the highest-earning center who has yet to be named a Pro Bowler. Overall, the $12.75MM yearly average of the contract will rank him fourth in the league amongst centers in terms of compensation, only slightly behind Jason Kelce, Frank Ragnow and Ryan Jensen.

McCoy has been able to maintain his spot in the middle of the Saints’ o-line despite the team drafting Cesar Ruiz in the first round of the 2020 draft. New Orleans’ investment in him points to McCoy remaining at the pivot, as the team begins life without Pro Bowl left tackle Terron Armstead. Even without the latter, the Saints should still have a strong unit up front on the right side in particular with McCoy, Ruiz and Ryan Ramczyk

It remains to be seen if this new deal will affect McCoy’s 2022 cap hit, which currently sits at $3.4MM. The Saints made a slew of moves this spring to reach cap compliance, but they entered today with less than $3MM to work with. Over the life of the contract, though, McCoy could prove to be worth the commitment as the Saints look to keep as many of their top young players on the books for the long term as possible.

More Details On Deshaun Watson Sweepstakes; Latest On Baker Mayfield

Though there were four finalists for QB Deshaun Watson before the Browns and Texans completed the blockbuster trade that sent Watson to Cleveland, as many as 10 teams were reportedly interested in Watson’s services. In remarks he made following the trade, Houston GM Nick Caserio would not say exactly how many teams made inquiries, but he did note that the interest went beyond the Browns, Saints, Panthers, and Falcons.

“I would say there was a fair amount of teams, but what we tried to do was bring the teams that had a legitimate interest, and that was based off the compensation that was presented,” Caserio said (via Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk). “I don’t want to get into the exact number, but there was a few more, however many teams than what everybody was reporting towards the end.”

Caserio’s comments confirm what had been reported all along: only clubs that were willing to meet the Texans’ steep asking price (three first-rounders and more) were granted permission to have an in-person meeting with Watson. While that seems like the only logical move in hindsight, it was quite a masterstroke by Caserio. Had he allowed Watson to meet with all interested clubs, regardless of proposed compensation, Watson may have decided to waive his no-trade clause for only one team, thereby undermining Caserio’s leverage. But as Florio observes, by having a “pre-qualifying” process, Caserio guaranteed that he would get what he wanted before Watson truly got a say in his next destination.

Per Florio, the Colts put feelers out to the Texans, but Caserio was not willing to deal Watson within his division. Aaron Wilson of Pro Football Network reports that the Eagles remained interested throughout the process, but Watson was unwilling to waive his no-trade clause for Philadelphia, largely because he is friends with Eagles QB Jalen Hurts and did not want to take away Hurts’ starting job. Wilson adds that the 49ers also placed a call to the Texans last year.

Caserio suggested that reports on the Texans’ being interested in players as well as picks in a Watson swap were at least somewhat overstated, saying, “I would say other than three first-round picks, I would say probably the rest of it was a little bit of speculation.” Still, Wilson reports that if Houston swung a deal with the Falcons, Atlanta CB AJ Terrell would have been intriguing to Caserio, and if the Saints had been able to acquire Watson, New Orleans OLs Erik McCoy and/or Cesar Ruiz might have been a part of the package heading back to the Texans.

In the end, the Browns, who were initially believed to be out of the running for Watson, were able to acquire the three-time Pro Bowler because they were willing to give him a contract — five years for a fully-guaranteed $230MM, which Wilson reports includes a $45MM signing bonus — that other teams were not comfortable matching. We heard at the time the Cleveland-Houston deal was consummated that the financial side of the equation became untenable for the Falcons and Panthers, and Wilson confirmed in a separate piece that Carolina was resistant to a fully-guaranteed pact.

Cleveland may have felt compelled to make such a bold strike because of an unsalvageable situation with Baker Mayfield. Mayfield requested a trade while the Browns’ courtship of Watson was ongoing, and when it appeared that Watson would not waive his no-trade clause to facilitate a move to northeast Ohio, the Browns indicated they would not accommodate the request. However, as Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com writes, Mayfield had no intentions of playing for the Browns in 2022 even if the club had not acquired Watson, and that reality could have forced Cleveland’s hand.

According to Cabot, the Browns had made it clear to Mayfield’s camp that they would pursue a top-flight QB this offseason, but that they were content to run it back with the No. 1 overall pick of the 2018 draft if such a pursuit were unsuccessful. Because it had been upfront with him about its intentions, the organization believed it could eventually smooth things over with Mayfield. As we heard last week, though, Mayfield declined owner Jimmy Haslam‘s offer to fly out to Mayfield’s home to discuss the situation, which was a clear indication that there was trouble in paradise.

Cabot further reports that the Watson situation and the team’s comments that it was looking for an “adult” at the quarterback position — thus implying that Mayfield is not, in fact, an adult — merely represented the final straw. Mayfield was said to have issues with HC Kevin Stefanski‘s play-calling and scheme, and as Stefanski will retain play-calling duties in 2022, Mayfield was prepared to skip the Browns’ offseason program and minicamp in an effort to force a trade to a team that has an offense more conducive to his skill-set. As Mayfield is eligible for free agency in 2023, the upcoming season is obviously critical for him, both from a financial and on-field perspective.

We recently learned that Mayfield would prefer to be traded to the Colts. Cabot suggests that, if Indianapolis GM Chris Ballard is interested, he may require the Browns to pay at least some of Mayfield’s $18.9MM salary, and since Cleveland has no choice but to deal Mayfield at this point, the team’s leverage in that regard and in terms of trade compensation is fairly limited.

Both Cabot and Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times confirm that the Seahawks may be interested in Mayfield but are genuinely excited by Drew Lock, who recently came to Seattle in the trade that sent Russell Wilson to the Broncos. As for the Texans, Caserio was non-committal when asked if Davis Mills, who started 11 games as a rookie in 2021 and who showed marked improvement down the stretch, would remain Houston’s QB1. Nonetheless, Mills is expected to open the 2022 campaign as the starting signal-caller, despite Caserio’s comments that the team is “starting from scratch” at the most important position in sports.

NFL COVID-19 List Updates: 1/1/22

Here are the New Year’s Day activations from and placements on the reserve/COVID-19 lists:

Atlanta Falcons

Baltimore Ravens

Carolina Panthers

Cincinnati Bengals

Dallas Cowboys

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Chargers

Miami Dolphins

Minnesota Vikings

  • Activated from reserve/COVID-19 list: G Oli Udoh

New England Patriots

New Orleans Saints

New York Giants

New York Jets

  • Activated from reserve/COVID-19 list: CB Bryce Hall

Philadelphia Eagles

Pittsburgh Steelers

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tennessee Titans

NFL COVID-19 List Updates: 12/30/21

Here are Thursday’s reserve/COVID-19 list updates:

Arizona Cardinals

Atlanta Falcons

Baltimore Ravens

Buffalo Bills

  • Activated from virus list: OL Cody Ford, CB Cam Lewis
  • Activated from practice squad virus list: TE Quintin Morris

Carolina Panthers

Cincinnati Bengals

Cleveland Browns

Dallas Cowboys

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Chargers

Los Angeles Rams

Minnesota Vikings

New England Patriots

New Orleans Saints

New York Giants

  • Placed on practice squad virus list: LB Omari Cobb

New York Jets

Philadelphia Eagles

Pittsburgh Steelers

Seattle Seahawks

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tennessee Titans

Washington Football Team

Saints Elevate WR Kenny Stills

Thin at wide receiver, the Saints are promoting a familiar player to help fill the void. The team elevated Kenny Stills from its practice squad Saturday.

Should the Saints dress Stills for their Week 3 game against the Patriots, it will mark his first game with the team since 2014. Like former teammate Brandin Cooks, Stills has been involved in multiple trades since his most recent game as a Saint. New Orleans traded Stills to Miami in 2015; the Dolphins sent him to the Texans in 2019.

Stills’ most recent Saints slate remains his best yardage total to date, with the former fifth-round pick accumulating 931 in his second season. The veteran deep threat has 37 touchdown catches and 4,843 receiving yards as a pro. Much has changed since Stills’ last stint on New Orleans’ active roster. Only Cameron Jordan and Terron Armstead remain from that period.

The 29-year-old target has, however, hit a bit of a rough patch since the Texans acquired Cooks and reconfigured their receiving corps last year. Stills has not played in a game since the Texans faced the Patriots in Week 10 of last season. Houston released Stills last November. While the Bills signed him to their practice squad late last season, Stills did not suit up for Buffalo.

The Saints reacquired Stills on a practice squad deal last week. He will join a receiving corps in need. The Saints are down Michael Thomas until at least Week 7, due to his belated ankle surgery, and also have Tre’Quan Smith stashed on IR. New Orleans also elevated center Austin Reiter for Sunday’s game. Starter Erik McCoy remains out with a calf injury.

Saints’ Erik McCoy To Miss Time

Saints center Erik McCoy will miss time due to a calf strain (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero). While the team awaits word on his timetable, they’ll work out former Chiefs center Austin Reiter, per Pelissero. 

The Saints drafted McCoy in Round 2 of the 2019 Draft and immediately installed him as the starting center. They flirted with moving him to right guard at one point in time to make room for Cesar Ruiz, but his leadership in the middle was too valuable to lose.

Including Sunday’s blowout win over the Packers, Ruiz has started in all 33 of his games for the Saints. Now, he’ll be shelved for the first time in his young pro career.

Reiter, a Washington seventh-round pick in 2016, could offer some interim support. He spent the last couple of seasons as Patrick Mahomes‘ snapper, but Kansas City let him hit the open market. Reiter met with multiple teams, including the Bengals, Giants, and Texans, but went unsigned all offseason.

NFC Notes: Goodwin, Hunter, Murphy, Saints

Marquise Goodwin‘s bid to make a second U.S. Olympic team failed Friday. The Bears wide receiver was unable to qualify for Sunday’s finals in the long jump, placing 19th out of 24 jumpers in the prelims at the U.S. Olympic trials. An Olympian in 2012, Goodwin has now fallen short of returning to the U.S. team in back-to-back trials. He placed seventh at the 2016 Rio-qualifying event. The 30-year-old’s best jump a 24-foot, 10-inch leap, was nearly three feet shy of his career-best mark — set at the 2012 trials. Goodwin falling short should not exactly surprise, given his focus on an NFL career in the years since the London Games. Although the veteran wideout met the Olympic standard at a March meet, he has been far from an active jumper during his NFL career. He can now transition to full-time football prep. Goodwin, who signed with the Bears in April, will now be on track to join his team on time for training camp.

Here is the latest from the NFC:

  • Danielle Hunter‘s reworked contract ended up creating nearly $4MM in cap space for the Vikings. The Pro Bowl defensive end’s adjusted deal dropped his 2021 cap number from $17.25MM to $13.37MM, per Sports Talk 790’s Aaron Wilson (Twitter link). This pact added $9.45MM in total guarantees to Hunter’s contract, Wilson tweets. In 2022, Hunter’s base salary will drop to $1.4MM, per Wilson (on Twitter), with the $18MM roster bonus comprising most of his $26.1MM cap figure. The Vikings also included a $1MM sack-based incentive for their top pass rusher.
  • The Cardinals lost All-Decade cornerback Patrick Peterson, a 10-year starter, in free agency. Fellow 2020 Arizona boundary starter Dre Kirkpatrick is gone as well. However, the Cards want to keep top holdover Byron Murphy primarily in the slot, Kyle Odegard of AZCardinals.com notes. GM Steve Keim called Murphy one of the league’s top inside defenders earlier this year, and the former second-round pick fared much better in 2020 than he did as a rookie in ’19. Murphy’s snap rate, however, dropped from 98% in 2019 to 72% last season. The Cards also signed Darqueze Dennard this offseason; Dennard mostly played in the slot with the Bengals. It will be interesting to see how DC Vance Joseph deploys Murphy, whom he called his top corner, in the Washington product’s third season.
  • The Saints‘ starting lineup received some shakeups this offseason, most notably at quarterback. But Taysom Hill and/or Jameis Winston are still set to play behind one of the NFL’s top offensive lines. However, the Saints may be considering a change up front. Upon selecting Cesar Ruiz in last year’s first round, the Saints originally planned to play him at center and move incumbent Erik McCoy to right guard, per Larry Holder of The Athletic. But McCoy’s play at center through two seasons prompted New Orleans to leave him there. While a switch may still be a consideration, Holder expects the two blockers to stay put for now (subscription required). McCoy has been a quality center, but Pro Football Focus ranked Ruiz 64th among guards last season.

Saints Sign Entire Draft Class

That’s a wrap! On Friday, the Saints announced that they have signed their entire draft class:

All players will receive four-year deals. But, naturally, McCoy gets the biggest payout of the bunch. His draft slot at No. 48 overall gives him almost $6.1MM in total, with a signing bonus of nearly $2.5MM.

McCoy spent three years as the Aggies’ starting center, but he also made a pair of starts at guard in 2017. With the Saints, McCoy is expected to compete for the starting center job, though he could theoretically see time at left or right guard.

The Saints had a condensed draft class this year, due in part to the two trades they made to land McCoy and Gardner-Johnson. Last year, Gardner-Johnson made 71 tackles, nine tackles for loss, three sacks, and came away with a team-high four interceptions. He already has a relationship with secondary coach Aaron Glenn and couldn’t be happier to be in New Orleans.

It’s the best all around team from top to bottom, offense and defense,”Gardner-Johnson said recently. “I’m just coming into a system where everything has a standard. I’m just going to come in and live up to that standard so everyone on the team and in the front office upstairs can be proud of me and say these guys are set.”

 

 

Dolphins Ship No. 48 Pick To Saints

The Dolphins will acquire more draft capital, dealing the No. 48 overall pick to the Saints. This will involve three picks coming back to Miami.

Involved in dealing high draft choices in recent years, the Saints will send picks 62 and 200 in this draft to the Dolphins. New Orleans will also part with a 2020 second-rounder to move up 14 spots in this year’s second round. The Saints will also collect a Dolphins 2019 fourth-rounder (No. 116).

And the Saints will use this selection to add center Erik McCoy. Max Unger‘s retirement has now preceded New Orleans signing Nick Easton and using its only pick in the first four rounds to add one of this draft’s top interior linemen.

For the Dolphins, this may keep their Josh Rosen talks alive. They were reluctant to part with the No. 48 pick for Rosen, but with the team dropping in this year’s second round and adding a 2020 Round 2 pick, perhaps the Fins and Cardinals can come to an agreement.