Harrison Smith

NFC Restructures: 49ers, Smith, Eskridge

The 49ers recently restructured the contracts of two offensive mainstays that cleared up a heap of cap space. According to ESPN’s Field Yates and Adam Schefter, both tight end George Kittle and fullback Kyle Juszczyk agreed to restructured contracts to help lessen their impact on the salary cap.

Charean Williams of NBC Sports provided us with some details on Kittle’s newly redone deal. The veteran tight end was set to have a base salary of $13.4MM with a cap hit of $21.96MM in 2024. Instead, the team converted $12.19MM of his base salary for 2024 into a signing bonus while adding one voidable year to the existing two already at the tail end of his contract. The move cleared up $9.75MM of space in the team’s salary cap.

While Schefter’s initial report claimed that the restructure for Juszczyk would free up approximately $1.75MM of cap space, a later report from Tom Pelissero of NFL Network laid out some details that would clear almost $4MM of cap space. The restructured deal will reportedly reduce his base salary in both 2024 and 2025, forming what is essentially now a two-year, $9.1MM contract. In exchange for the reduced pay, San Francisco gave Juszczyk $4MM of new guarantees.

Here are some details on other recent restructures from around the conference:

  • We reported a restructured deal for Vikings safety Harrison Smith about a week and a half ago, and thanks to Ben Goessling of the Star Tribune, we have some details on the new contract. The restructure addressed the final two years of Smith’s contract, essentially giving him a two-year, $10.25MM deal with three void years at the end of the contract. Smith received $7MM of guaranteed money in the form of a signing bonus and will receive a per game active bonus of $30K for a potential season-total of $510K. The new contract reduces Smith’s cap number in 2024 by $11.9MM and reduces his 2025 cap impact by $15.5MM.
  • The Seahawks cleared up some cap space by restructuring the contract of wide receiver D’Wayne Eskridge, according to Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times. It’s just a slight tweak for a player who was only slotted to make $1.47MM in the final year of his rookie deal. The restructure will open up about $500K of cap space for Seattle.

Vikings, S Harrison Smith Agree To Restructure

A number of veteran safeties have seen their tenures with their respective teams come to an end this offseason, but Harrison Smith will not be one of them. The Vikings All-Pro will remain with Minnesota for 2024 on a restructured contract, NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reports.

Smith has spent his entire 12-year career with the Vikings, and his continued presence will be welcomed given his high-end play over the course of his decorated tenure. A report from last month indicated he would likely be required to take a pay cut to remain with the team, though, so today’s news comes as little surprise. Smith’s agency has announced (via Pelissero) the new agreement is worth $9MM, and it will lower his 2024 cap figure.

The 35-year-old had two years remaining on his deal entering Wednesday. His scheduled cap hits over that span were set to reach $19.22MM and $22.02MM, so Minnesota was unsurprisingly looking to lower those figures. Smith accepted a pay cut last year, and he has remained willing to re-negotiate his existing deal to continue his career.

The six-time Pro Bowler has been one of the league’s top ballhawks at the safety spot, racking up 34 interceptions. Smith was held without one in 2023, however, marking just the second time in his career in which that was the case. He recorded 93 tackles, three sacks and a trio of forced fumbles during the campaign, showcasing a continued ability to produce in other areas.

In an offseason in which both edge rusher Danielle Hunter and linebacker Jordan Hicks have agreed to deals with outside teams, Smith’s continued presence will also be helpful from a leadership standpoint. The latter will be counted on as one of the veterans of Brian Flores‘ unit for at least one more campaign as he looks to add further to his legacy.

Vikings S Harrison Smith Likely Facing Pay Cut In 2024

Harrison Smith has played his entire 12-year career with the Vikings, and he remains under contract with the team. If he elects to continue his career, though, he will likely need to do so at a reduced rate.

Smith was in a similar situation last offseason. He ultimately agreed to a restructure which resulted in a pay cut while guaranteeing much of his base salary. Two more years remain on the 35-year-old’s contract, and he is set to carry cap hits of $19.22MM and $22.02MM, respectively, if no further alterations are made.

As Ben Goessling of the Minneapolis Star Tribune notes, Smith declined to offer a firm stance with respect to his playing future once the Vikings’ season came to an end. The six-time Pro Bowler racked up 93 tackles, three sacks and a trio of forced fumbles in 2023. He did not allow a touchdown in coverage, and he is one year removed from a five-interception campaign. While he would remain a productive player if he elected to play in 2024, Goessling writes that Smith would likely be required to agree to another pay cut to remain in Minnesota.

The former All-Pro is due $15.3MM next year, but the Vikings would see considerable cap savings via a trade or release (particularly if they were to designate Smith a post-June 1 cut). A restructure, by contrast, would allow Minnesota to retain him while creating $6.67MM in cap space. Given the major financial decisions the team has to make in the near future, any added flexibility would be welcomed.

The Vikings need to work out a new deal with Kirk Cousins or find a replacement starting quarterback. The team is also set to resume negotiations on a mega-extension with wideout Justin Jefferson. The latter does not appear poised to offer a hometown discount, although he is already on the books for 2024 via his fifth-year option. Clarity on the Cousins and Jefferson fronts will inform moves with other key veterans, such as pending free agent edge rusher Danielle Hunter.

Goessling notes that both head coach Kevin O’Connell and defensive coordinator Brian Flores want to have Smith back for next season. His desire to continue playing remains the key question in this situation; if he elects against hanging up his cleats, however, it will be interesting to see if he is willing to take a pay cut for the second year in a row.

Vikings S Harrison Smith Accepts Pay Cut

MARCH 24: Although Smith accepted a pay cut to stay, Goessling notes he received $6.25MM of his 2023 base salary guaranteed. That is up $1.25MM from his previous arrangement (Twitter link). Overall, Smith’s 2023 base checks in at $7.5MM; $500K in incentives are available as well.

MARCH 16: Harrison Smith will be back for a 12th season with the Vikings. The sides agreed to a reworked contract Thursday, Ben Goessling of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports (on Twitter).

The Pro Bowl safety was set to count $19.1MM against Minnesota’s cap in 2023. Smith signed a four-year, $64MM extension before the 2021 season; that deal runs through 2025. Thursday’s new agreement looks to be a pay cut. Smith was set to earn $14.7MM in base salary, and NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport notes he will now make $8MM and have the opportunity to collect an additional $2MM via incentives (Twitter link). The restructure will save the Vikings $6.7MM, Goessling tweets.

Rather than testing the market in his mid-30s, Smith agreed to a salary trim will keep him in Minneapolis for his age-34 season. Strong interest did come from elsewhere, per Rapoport, but Smith prefers to stay in Minnesota (Twitter link). A 2012 first-round pick, Smith has only played for the Vikings.

Drafted during Leslie Frazier‘s HC stay, Smith is among the last of the team’s Mike Zimmer-era defensive cornerstones. The Vikings have moved on from almost everyone else from their late-2010s defensive units, including a recent release of Eric Kendricks. Only Smith and Danielle Hunter remain in place from those defenses that helped the Vikes to three playoff berths — with three different starting QBs — from 2015-19.

The Vikings are transitioning to Brian Flores‘ defensive scheme, moving on after Ed Donatell struggled in his lone season in the position, and they want Smith a part of it. It can be assumed Smith will be on a year-to-year relationship with the Vikings going forward, given his extension’s terms for 2024 and ’25. He is set to make $14.5MM in 2024 and $17MM in 2025. It is unlikely the six-time Pro Bowler will be attached to either base salary, but after letting Patrick Peterson defect to the Steelers, the Vikings are hanging onto their other veteran piece in the secondary.

Helping a struggling Vikes defense hang on for the NFC’s No. 3 seed, Smith intercepted five passes last season to move his career total to 34. Pro Football Focus slotted Smith just inside the top 40 at safety last season. Given the way the market has developed for non-Jessie Bates safeties this offseason, the Vikings asking Smith for a pay reduction makes sense.

Barring injury, Smith will still move into rare territory among Vikings defenders this season. Smith (158 career starts) will have a chance to pass Kevin Williams (170) for the third-most starts by a Minnesota defender. Catching Purple People Eaters Jim Marshall (270) or Carl Eller (201) appears unrealistic (definitely in Marshall’s case), but Smith has a chance to be the longest-tenured Vikings defensive piece in nearly 45 years.

Vikings Expect TE Irv Smith Jr. To Return During Regular Season

The Vikings expect to have TE Irv Smith Jr. back on the field before the end of the regular season, as head coach Kevin O’Connell recently told reporters, including Kevin Seifert of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Smith suffered an ankle injury in Minnesota’s Week 8 victory over the Cardinals and was placed on injured reserve shortly thereafter.

The injury to Smith prompted the Vikes to swing an intra-divisional trade for former Lions TE T.J. Hockenson. Since the trade, Hockenson is averaging six catches and 45 yards per game as part of an offense that also includes wideouts Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen. Smith, who missed all of the 2021 season due to a meniscus tear, would represent an intriguing, high-upside complement to that group of pass-catchers. The team ranks in the top-10 in both passing yards per game and points per game, and adding Smith back into the mix could make its aerial attack even more formidable.

A 2019 second-round draft choice, Smith will be eligible for free agency at season’s end. Obviously, this year’s ankle injury coupled with his 2021 absence have not allowed him to generate much momentum towards a lucrative, multi-year pact, so he will likely be looking at one-year offers this offseason. Minnesota could be interested in a reunion, as Hockenson’s fifth-year option salary and cap charge of $9.4MM is manageable — his cap number could be further reduced with an extension — and there are no other particularly appealing tight ends on the roster.

In related news, the Vikings are without left tackle Christian Darrisaw for the third consecutive game on Sunday. However, Darrisaw has reportedly cleared the concussion protocol and should therefore have a good chance to suit up for the team’s Week 15 matchup with the Colts (Twitter link via Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press). Safety Harrison Smith, meanwhile, will miss Sunday’s game against the Lions as well due to a neck injury.

The 10-2 Vikings have a five-game advantage in the NFC North and are just one game back of the 11-1 Eagles for the top seed in the NFC (though Philadelphia enjoys the tiebreaker by virtue of its Week 2 victory over Minnesota). Their divisional cushion is allowing them to be cautious with some of their top players.

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.