Harrison Smith

NFC Injury Updates: Bucs, Packers, Smith

Tampa Bay knew it would be without two of its bigger playmakers in wide receiver Chris Godwin and defensive tackle Akiem Hicks this week. That is no surprise, as Godwin missed last week with a hamstring ailment and Hicks is predicted to miss a month with a foot injury. The Buccaneers were hoping to get back offensive tackle Donovan Smith this week, but he is doubtful to appear this Sunday against the Packers, according to Cameron Wolfe of NFL Network.

Smith suffered a hyperextended right elbow in Tampa Bay’s Week 1 victory over the Cowboys. Last week, the Buccaneers slotted Josh Wells in to start for Smith, but, after Wells suffered a calf injury that landed him on injured reserve in the team’s matchup with the Saints, they’ll likely turn to Brandon Walton who replaced Wells last Sunday.

It was also reported, by Buccaneers staff writer Brianna Dix, that wide receiver Julio Jones is expected to be a game-time decision, according to head coach Todd Bowles.

Here are a few other Sunday game statuses we heard about today, starting with two top receivers in Green Bay:

  • The Packers‘ top returning receiver from last year had to miss Week 1 while dealing with an ankle injury. While they got Allen Lazard back last week, he was seen limping at points of the game. Regardless, Lazard “is optimistic about playing” this week versus Tampa Bay, according to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler. The Packers have been cautious with him in practice this week, but it’s likely been precautionary. On the other hand, quarterback Aaron Rodgers will be without one of his top targets as Sammy Watkins has been ruled out with a hamstring injury, according to Field Yates of ESPN. Rookie wide receiver Christian Watson is also dealing with hamstring issues but is listed as questionable going into the weekend.
  • Vikings safety Harrison Smith is expected to miss his first game due to injury since 2016, according to Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Smith did sit out two games last year on the COVID-19/reserve list and took a rest day in the 2019 season finale, but a concussion suffered in Monday night’s loss to the Eagles will likely hold him out against the Lions this week.
  • Tyler Kroft has been the man for the 49ers at tight end, starting twice to begin the season in place of the injured star, George Kittle. He has never been a strong receiving threat, but his ability to run block has made him a valuable asset to the San Francisco offense. In the team’s Week 2 win over the Seahawks, though, Kroft suffered a sprained MCL. He’s expected “to miss several weeks” because of the knee injury, but, due to new injured reserve rules, the veteran will not be placed on IR, according to David Lombardi of The Athletic. The new rules this year dictate that only eight players can be designated to return from IR, so, even though Kroft will be eligible to return after several weeks, the 49ers are choosing to save their designated to return IR spots for more valuable players who may end up sustaining injuries later on in the season. The timing of Kroft’s injury is not the worst it could possibly be as Kittle is set to return this week from injury. Kittle is mostly known for his receiving ability but is a decent run blocker in his own right and will help to vacate any deficit resulting from Kroft’s absence.
  • The Lions will be down one of their rotational defensive linemen when they play the Vikings and, according to Justin Rogers of the Detroit News, a recent surgery will hold him out for a while. Defensive lineman John Cominsky is dealing with a wrist injury that required the surgery. Cominsky may not be a household name, but, when he was put on waivers after three years of playing with the Falcons, Cominsky drew the interest of one-fourth of the league, as eight teams were intrigued enough to put in claims on the former Golden Eagle out of Division II Charleston in West Virginia. The Lions were second in the waiver order and were granted the 6-foot-5 lineman, but the Commanders, Colts, Browns, Texans, Cardinals, Vikings, and Bengals all attempted to bring him in. With Cominsky out, Lions head coach Dan Campbell suggested that the starting four defensive linemen will be backed up by the likes of Austin Bryant and undrafted rookie Demetrius Taylor.

Restructured Deals: Packers, Broncos, Bills, Patriots, Giants

As free agency continues, teams will keep finding ways to open up additional cap. We’ve had a handful of reworked contracts in recent days, which we’ve compiled below:

  • The Packers opened $10.15MM in cap space by restructuring the contracts of wideout Randall Cobb (which was previously reported) and safety Adrian Amos, per ESPN’s Field Yates (on Twitter). ESPN’s Rob Demovsky tweets that Green Bay turned $5.88MM of Amos’ $7MM base salary into a signing bonus and added four void years.
  • The Broncos opened up some space via a pair of restructured deals. Wideout Tim Patrick converted $6.9MM of his roster bonus into a signing bonus, creating around $4.6MM in cap space, per Mike Klis of 9News in Denver (on Twitter). The Broncos also converted receiver Courtland Sutton‘s $10.5MM roster bonus into a signing bonus, saving $7.875MM in 2022 cap space, per Klis (on Twitter).
  • The Panthers converted $11.765MM of wideout Robby Anderson’s 2022 pay into a signing bonus, creating $5.88MM in cap space, per Yates (on Twitter). Staying in the NFC, Yates also tweets that the Eagles converted $14.88MM of cornerback Darius Slay’s salary into a signing bonus, creating $11.90MM in 2022 cap space.
  • The Giants converted $2.63MM of kicker Graham Gano’s salary into a bonus, creating $1.753MM in cap space, per ESPN’s Jordan Raanan (on Twitter). The team also added a void year to the contract, something GM Joe Schoen was trying to avoid (per Raanan).
  • After getting traded to the Bills, quarterback Case Keenum agreed to rework his contract. Per Yates (on Twitter), Keenum reduced his base salary to $3.5MM. Another AFC East team, the Patriots, also got into the game, reducing defensive end Henry Anderson‘s base salary from $2.5MM to $1.25MM (per Yates).
  • Yates passes along three more restructures (on Twitter): the Vikings opened $6MM in cap space by reworking safety Harrison Smith‘s contract, the Bills opened $5.172MM via linebacker Matt Milano‘s contract, and the Titans opened $6.45MM via linebacker Zach Cunningham‘s contract.

Bengals Use Franchise Tag On Jessie Bates

MONDAY: The team made it official, announcing a tag for Bates. The fifth-year safety will be tied to a $12.911MM salary if he plays the season on the tag. Bates said last month he would be disappointed if tagged, but he and the Bengals now have four-plus months to negotiate an extension.

SATURDAY: Despite working over the past two years towards a contract extension, it appears Bengals’ safety Jessie Bates is destined to play out the 2022 NFL season under the franchise tag. Bates and the Bengals won’t give up on attempts to reach a long-term deal, but they will do so with the tag acting as a failsafe, according to Tyler Dragon of USA Today. 

As a second-round pick out of Wake Forest in the 2018 NFL Draft, Bates has been everything the Bengals have asked for and more. He quickly earned a starting role as a rookie and recorded three interceptions in each of his first three NFL seasons, ending the 2020 season as Pro Football Focus’ top ranked safety. His play dipped a bit this past year, but, when his team needed him in the playoffs, Bates stepped up recording two interceptions, one in Super Bowl LVI.

Now Bates is set to extend his current contract, play the 2022 season under the franchise tag, or hit the open market. Franchises patiently waiting for him to become a free agent will likely be disappointed. Bates and Cincinnati both intend for the safety to stay long-term.

Bates has shown much frustration over the past two years, fearing the unpredictability that comes with a franchise tag. “Hopefully, I’m not under a franchise tag,” Bates said in an appearance on NFL Network. “That’s something that needs to be discussed as NFLPA a little bit. Some of the top guys got hurt under a franchise tag. It’s tough; you only get one shot at this.”

With three days until the franchise tag deadline, the Bengals are playing it safe and making sure that they have a bit of extra time. After the franchise tag window closes, the team will have nearly five more months to finalize a deal with Bates. The tag is expected to pay around $13.54MM for the 2022 season.

Bates has long said that he is not overly concerned with “the ego part of being the highest-paid safety.” The highest-paid safeties currently are Jamal Adams, Harrison Smith, and Justin Simmons. Adams is a strong safety that plays all over the field and gets compensated more in the realm of a well-paid linebacker, making him the top-earning safety in the league at an average of $17.5MM per year. Smith is a strong safety that plays a more traditional safety position than Adams. He signed an impressive four-year, $64MM deal averaging $16MM per year at the ripe old age of 31 years old. Simmons is the league’s top-earning free safety. After playing out two consecutive seasons under the franchise tag, Simmons signed a four-year, $61MM deal averaging $15.25MM per year at 27 years of age. Bates is likely aiming for the $15-16MM per year range or is maybe willing to take $14-15MM per year for an extra year or two under contract.

At 25, Bates is in a similar position as Simmons was when he received his first franchise tag. There’s no doubt that Bates could absolutely increase the value of his deal after playing under the franchise tag like Simmons did, but Bates’ concerns over the lack of security provided by the tag aren’t unfounded. Both sides will continue working towards an agreement that keeps the safety in Cincinnati long-term with the compensation and security he desires. Until that time, though, Bates will have the franchise tag hanging over his 2022 season.

Vikings Designate Patrick Peterson For Return, Activate Harrison Smith

The Vikings have been playing without their secondary anchors for a bit, but both Harrison Smith and Patrick Peterson are on track to suit up again soon.

Minnesota activated Smith from its reserve/COVID-19 list and designated Peterson for return Wednesday. Peterson went on IR with a hamstring injury Oct. 18. Should he return Sunday against the Packers, it will mark a minimum three-game absence for the decorated cornerback. Minnesota has 21 days to activate Peterson.

Smith missed two games after contracting the coronavirus, ending a four-season stretch without a multigame absence. But the five-time Pro Bowl safety will be back in uniform for the Vikings’ pivotal divisional matchup in Week 11. Pro Football Focus has graded Smith as a top-20 safety this season, bestowing such a distinction on offseason addition Xavier Woods as well.

After multiple down years to close his Arizona tenure, Peterson has fared better in Minnesota. The All-Decade corner has allowed a 59% completion rate in coverage, way down from the 67% figure of 2020. The veterans’ returns stand to aid a Vikings pass defense that ranks 14th through nine games.

Contract Details: Smith, Amendola, Trufant

Here are the latest details on some of the notable contracts recently signed around the NFL:

  • Harrison Smith, S (Vikings): Four years, $64MM. The deal includes $14.2MM fully guaranteed, but Courtney Cronin of ESPN.com notes $26.4MM will be guaranteed by March 22 (Twitter link). Smith’s 2021 cap hit only comes in at $6.99MM. However, the veteran safety’s salary spikes from $2.95MM in 2022 to $14.7MM in 2023. His 2024 and ’25 base salaries ($14.45MM, $17MM) are not guaranteed.
  • Danny Amendola, WR (Texans): One year, $2.5MM. Deal includes a $1.25MM base salary and a $250K signing bonus, Sports Talk 790’s Aaron Wilson tweets. Amendola’s pact features $300K in per-game roster bonuses, with an additional $700K available through incentives.
  • Desmond Trufant, CB (Saints): One year, $1.075MM, Nick Underhill of NewOrleans.football tweets. Trufant’s deal qualifies for the minimum-salary benefit, putting his cap hit at just $850K.

Vikings, Harrison Smith Agree To $64MM Deal

The Vikings and Harrison Smith have agreed to a four-year, $64MM extension (Twitter link via Mike Golic Jr. of ESPN Radio). With that, the All-Pro now stands as the second highest-paid safety in the league. 

Smith, 32, was previously set to enter the final season of his five-year, $51.25MM deal. It was a whopper of a deal at the time, but that AAV had him outside of the top ten among safeties in 2021. Smith, who has spent the last nine years in Minnesota, wondered whether he was headed for divorce with the only NFL team he’s ever known.

“I mean I don’t know what happens at the end of careers,” Smith said recently. “Sometimes things change. I don’t plan on that happening, but the NFL is the NFL. It’s always wild. But I’ll always consider myself a Viking no matter what.”

Now, after watching Anthony Harris‘ offseason departure, Smith has a brand new deal and a significant pay bump to boot. Still a high-end safety, Pro Football Focus has rated him in the top-15 for each of the last four years. That includes 2015 when he graded No. 1 at safety.

This’ll be Year 10, but there’s no reason to believe that Smith is slowing down. Last year, Smith matched his career high with five interceptions. Now, with a new deal, he’ll look to set even more watermarks in Minnesota.

S Harrison Smith Discusses Future With Vikings

Harrison Smith has spent his entire nine-year career in Minnesota, and the Pro Bowl safety naturally wants to end his career with the Vikings. However, during a recent appearance on All Things Covered, Smith admitted to the hosts, current teammate Patrick Peterson and former NFL cornerback Bryant McFadden, that anything could happen.

“Yeah,” Smith said. “I mean I don’t know what happens at the end of careers. I was listening to, it might’ve been the [episode] with Champ [Bailey], Pat Pete was saying at that ten-year mark, sometimes things change. I don’t plan on that happening, but the NFL is the NFL. It’s always wild. But I’ll always consider myself a Viking no matter what.”

These comments are relatively timely; we learned earlier this week that the Vikings were exploring an extension with the veteran defensive back. Smith signed a five-year, $51.25MM deal nearly five years ago, but his AAV is now 11th among safeties. Smith is set to hit free agency next offseason.

Given Anthony Harris‘ offseason departure, it would make sense for the Vikings to explore another deal with Smith, and it’d make sense for Smith to look for a slight pay bump. Another five-year deal is probably not in the cards, but Smith has remained a high-end safety into his 30s, with Pro Football Focus rating him as a top-15 player at the position in each year of his current contract.

The 2021 season will be Smith’s 10th, and while the 32-year-old defender saw his five-year run of Pro Bowls cease in 2020, he matched his career high with five interceptions last season. He did so for a Vikings defense that cratered after defections and numerous injuries stripped away veterans. Minnesota let Harris walk to Philadelphia — on merely a one-year, $4MM deal — but signed ex-Dallas starter Xavier Woods and drafted Camryn Bynum in Round 4 this year.

Vikings Discussing Extensions With Harrison Smith, Brian O’Neill

Harrison Smith recently expressed a desire to stay in Minnesota beyond the duration of his current contract, which expires after this season, but it did not sound at that point like notable extension talks had commenced. However, the sides may be prepared to come together on another agreement.

The Vikings have discussed another extension with Smith, according to SKOR North’s Darren Wolfson, who adds the talks have picked up “significantly” (h/t Sean Borman of VikingsTerritory.com). Given Anthony Harris‘ offseason departure, it would make sense for the Vikings to explore a second Smith extension. He has been one of the NFL’s better safeties for many years.

Smith signed a five-year, $51.25MM deal nearly five years ago today. That July 6, 2016 agreement, however, is no longer a top-market contract. Counting Marcus Maye and Marcus Williams‘ franchise tags, Smith’s AAV ranks 11th among safeties. The market has eclipsed $15MM per year, and seven safeties are now attached to $14MM-AAV accords. Jamal Adams‘ likely forthcoming Seahawks extension stands to raise it higher.

The 2021 season will be Smith’s 10th, and while the 32-year-old defender saw his five-year run of Pro Bowls cease in 2020, he matched his career high with five interceptions last season. He did so for a Vikings defense that cratered after defections and numerous injuries stripped away veterans. Minnesota let Harris walk to Philadelphia — on merely a one-year, $4MM deal — but signed ex-Dallas starter Xavier Woods and drafted Camryn Bynum in Round 4 this year.

Although another five-year deal is almost certainly not in the cards, Smith has remained a high-end safety into his 30s. Pro Football Focus has rated him as a top-15 player at the position in each year of his current contract. The former first-round pick will be expected to play a key role in elevating the 2021 Minnesota defense, which looks considerably better than last season’s iteration.

Additionally, Wolfson notes the Vikings and Brian O’Neill have begun extension talks. A 2018 second-round pick, O’Neill is going into a contract year. O’Neill has been a critical piece for Minnesota’s offensive line. He enters the 2021 season as that unit’s longest-tenured starter, having been a first-string right tackle in 42 games since his rookie year.

The Vikings seemingly have an open slot for an O’Neill extension, with none of their current starting O-linemen tied to notable veteran contracts. The bulk of Minnesota’s blockers are not yet eligible for extensions, putting O’Neill in an interesting spot. The team has some big-ticket deals for offensive standouts on its payroll, having added Dalvin Cook to this group last year, but also shed the Kyle Rudolph and Stefon Diggs contracts over the past year and change.

Vikings S Harrison Smith On Contract Situation

Vikings safety Harrison Smith is entering the final year of the five-year, $51.25MM extension he signed in July 2016. There have been no public reports of contract talks between Smith and the Vikes, and reading between the lines of recent comments Smith made to reporters, it doesn’t sound like substantive discussions have taken place.

“I don’t have a solid answer for you, but obviously I’ve been here going on 10 [seasons] and would love to be here in the future,” Smith said (via Ben Goessling of the Star Tribune). “Going to look at those things and see what we can do. That’s about it right now.”

2020 was a difficult year for the Minnesota defense. The team was among the league’s worst in terms of points allowed per game and net yards per pass attempt, and Smith frequently had to cover for his less experienced teammates in the secondary. The Vikings made a concerted effort to address their deficiencies in that regard, adding veterans Patrick Peterson, Mackensie Alexander, Bashaud Breeland, and Xavier Woods to the defensive backfield.

Despite the influx of new pieces, the hope is that the full traditional offseason program of 2021 will allow those pieces to gel in a way that just wasn’t possible last year in the COVID-marred landscape. However, all of the new free agent acquisitions are working on one-year deals, and given Smith’s current status as a free agent-to-be, the Vikings could be looking at another major secondary overhaul in 2022.

An extension for Smith would help to add some stability to that outlook, but it’s not as though stability is the only thing that Smith offers. Though he is now 32 and saw his streak of five consecutive Pro Bowl nods come to an end last year, he still managed to intercept five passes, which tied a career-high mark. His tackle numbers (89 total takedowns) were in line with what they have been throughout his career, and he continues to be an advanced metrics darling, having graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 14th-best safety out of 94 qualifiers.

The safety market dipped considerably after Smith inked his big-money deal, but it is once again on the rise. Although the Notre Dame product might not get the $15MM+ AAV that currently tops the market, another typical season should put him in line for a multi-year pact with an eight-figure annual average.

Whether such a deal comes from the Vikings or another club remains to be seen. After all, Minnesota was open to trading Smith at last year’s deadline, though rival clubs were not keen to part with draft capital to acquire his services.

Trade Rumors: Giants, Ryan, Fuller

After dealing Markus Golden to the Cardinals, it appears the 1-6 Giants have officially declared themselves sellers at this year’s trade deadline. Though GM Dave Gettleman may be reluctant to trade away veteran talent that could theoretically help Big Blue win a few games — and perhaps save Gettleman’s job in the process — players like Evan Engram, Kevin Zeitler, and Golden Tate could be available, as Ryan Dunleavy of the New York Post writes (though Ian Rapoport of NFL.com says the club is unlikely to deal Engram).

2017 second-round DT Dalvin Tomlinson could also be on the move, per Dunleavy. Tomlinson is playing out the last year of his rookie contract, and while he has expressed interest in staying with the Giants long-term, there has been little progress in contract talks.

As we creep closer to the November 3 deadline, let’s round up a few more trade rumors from around the league: