The Saints will be down a running back for the new few weeks, so the team is bringing in reinforcement. New Orleans has signed running back Devine Ozigbo off the Jaguars’ practice squad, reports Aaron Wilson (via Twitter).
This is a bit of a homecoming for Ozigbo, as the Nebraska product joined the Saints as an undrafted free agent in 2019. He eventually moved on to Jacksonville, and he spent the next two-plus seasons with the Jaguars organization. He ultimately saw time in 18 games for the team, collecting 93 yards from scrimmage on 22 touches. The 25-year-old has also spent a significant amount of time on special teams.
The Saints needed some running back depth following news that Tony Jones Jr. would miss the next three to four weeks (per ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Twitter). The 23-year-old has seen time in all four games this season, collecting 87 yards from scrimmage on 23 carries. Other than Ozigbo and starter Alvin Kamara, the team’s only other healthy RB is Dwayne Washington (plus versatile wideout Ty Montgomery).
Smith has the most experience among the four, seeing time in 35 games in three seasons with the Falcons. This included a 2020 campaign where he finished with 343 yards from scrimmage and one touchdown. The 26-year-old caught on with the Vikings this offseason but was let go before the regular season.
Armstead got into 16 games as a rookie with the Jaguars in 2019, finishing with 252 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns. He sat out the 2020 season while dealing with issues from COVID-19, and after getting claimed by the Giants in May, he was waived by his new team in June. Pierce, a 2020 undrafted free agent out of Oregon State, saw time in five games with the Bears last season, rushing for 34 yards and one touchdown on six carries. Hilliard, 26, saw time in 30 games for the Browns in two-plus seasons with the organization.
September 24th, 2021 at 3:45pm CST by Sam Robinson
Duke Johnson is wrapping a two-visit work week. The former Browns and Texans passing-down back worked out for the Panthers on Friday, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. Johnson visited the 49ers on Monday.
While widespread uncertainty has gripped San Francisco’s backfield, the 49ers went in another direction. Carolina, however, will be without Christian McCaffreyfor weeks due to the hamstring injury the All-Pro suffered Thursday night. Johnson could seemingly have an opportunity for a 3-0 team that now lacks a proven receiving back.
The Panthers have rookie Chuba Hubbard and former Broncos contributor Royce Freeman. The former did catch 20-plus passes in his first two seasons at Oklahoma State, but the Canadian back did drop a pass at the goal line Thursday. Freeman did not factor into the Broncos’ passing game much during his three Denver seasons.
Johnson has excelled in this role, eclipsing 400 receiving yards in his first five NFL seasons. The Jaguars cut the former third-round pick from their practice squad last week, and while the veteran resided in free agency for months after his February Texans release, multiple teams have kicked the tires on him recently.
The 28-year-old back signed a Browns extension in 2018 but saw the team’s subsequent Kareem Hunt addition lead him out of Cleveland. Johnson missed five games last season but was productive for the Texans in 2019, averaging 4.9 yards per carry and totaling 820 scrimmage yards.
Additionally, Carolina auditioned running backs Ito Smith, Dontrell Hilliard and B.J. Emmons, Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets. Hilliard, also primarily a passing-game option, joined Johnson on the 2018 Browns. Hilliard also played in two games for the Texans last season. Three teams — the Falcons, Cardinals and Vikings — cut Smith this offseason. Smith played three seasons with the Falcons, primarily functioning as a backup.
Ito Smith‘s Vikings stay will end up being short. Five days after signing the young running back, the Vikings waived him. They also waived offensive lineman Cohl Cabral and defensive tackle Zeandae Johnson.
This marks the third time a team has cut Smith this year. The Falcons waived him in April, and the Cardinals moved on from the fourth-year back earlier this month. Smith spent barely a week in Arizona. These quick exits do not bode well for the former Atlanta rotational back to land out a meaningful role in 2021. Though, teams’ backfields often change due to injury, opening the door to street free agent ball carriers.
A fourth-round pick in 2018, Smith has averaged north of 4.3 yards per carry in each of the past two seasons. He totaled 268 rushing yards on 63 attempts last year, splitting time with Todd Gurley and Brian Hill. Of the Falcons’ top three 2020 backs, only Hill has a gig (with the Titans) presently.
Teams have until 3pm Tuesday to cut their rosters from 80 to 53 players. Many of the players waived next week will be candidates to land practice squad jobs, with the NFL greenlighting a second season of 16-man P-squads. Players waived early, however, obviously stand to have less of a chance to stick around in that regard.
August 23rd, 2021 at 2:28pm CST by Andrew Ortenberg
Teams continue to make flurries of roster moves on Monday, and we’ve got another couple of notable ones to pass along. The Vikings announced that they’ve signed free agent running back Ito Smith and placed rookie defensive end Janarius Robinson on injured reserve.
Smith wasn’t out of a job too long, as he was just released by the Cardinals last week. He spent the first three seasons of his pro career with the Falcons, and was Atlanta’s lead back for stretches in both 2018 and 2020. As a rookie he got his most extensive run, carrying the ball 90 times for 315 yards and four touchdowns, adding 27 receptions for another 152 yards. This past season he rushed 63 times for 268 yards and one touchdown, with 17 catches for 75 yards.
It’s a disappointing end to his first campaign. The pass-rusher was just drafted by the Vikings in the fourth-round out of Florida State. Minnesota re-signed Everson Griffen earlier this morning, perhaps partially due to this injury.
August 16th, 2021 at 1:35pm CST by Andrew Ortenberg
As teams are required to cut their rosters down to 85 players by tomorrow, more guys are getting shown the door. Veteran running back Ito Smith was one of the latest casualties as the Cardinals announced his release on Monday.
Arizona also cut receivers Aleva Hifo and JoJo Ward, and defensive tackle Darius Kilgo. Smith was released by the Falcons back in April, and only latched on with the Cardinals last week. He had previously worked out for the Giants. The 2018 fourth-round pick spent his first four professional seasons in Atlanta, and operated as their lead back for stretches during the 2018 and 2020 seasons.
As a rookie he got his most extensive run, carrying the ball 90 times for 315 yards and four touchdowns, adding 27 receptions for another 152 yards. This past season he rushed 63 times for 268 yards and one touchdown, with 17 catches for 75 yards. Hifo and Ward are both 2020 UDFAs, from BYU and Hawaii respectively.
Kilgo is a 2015 sixth-round pick of the Broncos who is notable for winning back to back rings in Super Bowl 50 and then LI with the Broncos and Patriots. He also just signed in the desert last week.