James Hurst

NFC South Rumors: Saints, Jones, Panthers

Trevor Penning is slotted to be the Saints‘ long-term Terron Armstead replacement, but a stopgap may be required ahead of that succession. The Northern Iowa alum is not a lock to open the season as New Orleans’ left tackle, Mike Triplett of ESPN.com notes. The Saints expected the Division I-FCS product to be raw coming in, and it does not appear he has seized the job for which he’s ultimately ticketed just yet. If Penning is on the bench to start the season, swingman James Hurst would be in line to get the call. The former Ravens starter was a 15-game first-stringer with the Saints last season.

Here is the latest from the NFC South:

  • Departure rumors have encircled Deion Jones for a stretch now, but the well-paid Falcons linebacker is on the shelf after undergoing shoulder surgery. Jones is set to count $20MM toward the Falcons’ cap this year — the highest figure on the rebuilding team. The Falcons should be considered unlikely to cut Jones, Michael Rothstein of ESPN.com writes. They would be slammed with $18MM-plus in dead money, saving barely $1MM, by releasing the seventh-year veteran. Jones could potentially be an in-season trade chip, once the Falcons pay out part of his $9.6MM base salary. At just 27, the off-ball linebacker would be an upgrade for many teams. Atlanta signed ex-Dean Pees charge Rashaan Evans, has Mykal Walker returning, and the team drafted Troy Andersen in Round 2. The Arthur SmithTerry Fontenot regime appears to have a post-Jones plan in place.
  • New Panthers secondary coach Steve Wilks, returning to Charlotte after a few notable stops, is not planning to have Jeremy Chinn play much linebacker, per David Newton of ESPN.com. Despite the team signing free agent safety Xavier Woods, the plan is for Chinn to stick at his listed position. The third-year defender saw extensive run on Carolina’s defensive second level as a rookie, and while Newton notes Chinn will still move around, the Woods addition will not lead to extensive Chinn linebacker burn. Having already totaled 224 tackles in two seasons, the former second-round pick has a big year in front of him. Chinn will become extension-eligible in 2023.
  • The Panthers are on the lookout for a veteran edge rusher, but the team has plans for the recently extended Frankie Luvu. The fifth-year linebacker is on a new Carolina deal because the coaching staff believes he can contribute on the edge, according to Newton. In his first Panthers season, Luvu started four games but worked mostly as a backup. Among players who saw the bulk of their snaps as off-ball linebackers, Luvu graded as Pro Football Focus’ No. 2-ranked pass rusher — behind only Micah Parsons — last season. Granted, this came on just 249 snaps and produced just 1.5 sacks, but the American Samoa native earned a two-year, $9MM deal to stay.
  • Panthers defensive lineman Daviyon Nixon is not expected to be full-go when training camp starts, Joe Person of The Athletic notes (subscription required). The former Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year-turned-Carolina fifth-rounder is still recovering from the knee injury that ended his rookie season. With Matt Ioannidis in the fold alongside Derrick Brown, Nixon is in line to be a rotational presence in his second season.

Restructured Contracts: Saints, Floyd, Hyde, Barrett

While teams are currently focused on adding free agents, some front offices are looking to carve out some extra cap space. We’ve collected some of today’s restructured deals below:

  • The Saints opened up some extra cap space earlier today. According to ESPN’s Field Yates (on Twitter), the team restructured the contracts of defensive tackle David Onyemata and offensive tackle James Hurst. The moves saved the team an extra $7.015MM. Onyemata inked a three-year, $27MM deal with the Saints in 2020, and he already reworked his contract last offseason. A year ago yesterday, Hurst inked a three-year, $9MM extension with New Orleans.
  • The Rams opened up $12MM in cap space by reworking Leonard Floyd‘s contract, according to Yates (on Twitter). Floyd signed a four-year, $64MM extension with the organization last year. In two years with the Rams, the edge rusher has collected 20 sacks, and he’s added another four in six playoff games.
  • The Bills converted $5.68MM of safety Micah Hyde’s contract into a signing bonus, opening $4.54MM in cap space, per Yates (on Twitter). The veteran signed a two-year, $19.25MM extension with Buffalo last offseason. Hyde has spent the past five seasons in Buffalo, earning a pair of Pro Bowl nods while only missing a pair of regular season games.
  • The Buccaneers restructured Shaq Barrett’s contract, per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport (on Twitter). The move should open up just under $10MM in cap space, according to Greg Auman of The Athletic (on Twitter). After playing the 2020 season under the franchise tag, Barrett inked a four-year, $72MM deal ($36MM guaranteed) with the Buccaneers last offseason.

Saints Re-Sign OL James Hurst

Following a spree of cost-cutting or cost-reorganizing moves to get under the cap, the Saints made a depth signing Monday.

They will retain offensive lineman James Hurst, the team announced. Hurst will make $9MM over three years on his latest Saints accord, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com tweets.

The Saints initially added Hurst last year and used him as a swing backup and spot starter. The veteran offensive lineman has the ability to contribute at tackle and guard. This represents nice money for a second-string-type option.

A longtime Ravens blocker, Hurst started five games for the Saints last season. While it is unknown if he will block for Taysom Hill or Jameis Winston in 2021 (perhaps both?), he will be back with the Saints.

Saints Cut Margus Hunt, Drop Roster To 53

Here is how the Saints moved their roster down to 53 players Saturday:

Waived:

Released:

Waived/injured:

  • RB Saquan Hamilton

Placed on reserve/PUP:

Placed on IR:

Placed on reserve/suspended list:

The Saints made some notable cuts on their defensive line, dropping Edwards and Hunt. The former played with New Orleans last season, while the latter was an offseason addition. The Colts cut Hunt earlier this year, doing so after previously extending him. However, New Orleans does have Malcom Brown back and re-signed David Onyemata in March. The Saints are pursuing Jadeveon Clowney as well.
Alonso suffered a torn ACL in the playoffs last year. He will miss at least six games. The Saints signed Fowler over the summer. The former Broncos auxiliary receiver worked out with Drew Brees and Emmanuel Sanders during the pandemic-induced NFL hiatus.
Stevens, like most of the players cut Saturday, profiles as a practice squad candidate. The Saints became involved in a strange controversy over the seventh-round pick, whom the Panthers coveted. It will be interesting to see if Carolina submits a waiver claim on Stevens.

Saints To Sign James Hurst

The Saints have agreed to sign James Hurst, according agent Jack Bechta (on Twitter). The former Ravens offensive lineman will head to New Orleans on a one-year deal. 

[RELATED: Saints DE Noah Spence Tears ACL]

The Ravens released Hurst in March, wiping his $5.25MM cap hit off of the books for 2020. In February, Hurst was hit with a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances. Before the ban, Hurst was already on the roster bubble. After the suspension came down from the league office, his fate was pretty much sealed.

The suspension means that Hurst won’t be available for his new team in September. But, come October, Hurst could be a worthwhile reserve, one that offers starting experience at both tackle and guard. In six seasons with the Ravens, Hurst was first-string for 44 of his 90 games. He was mostly a reserve last year, but he started in all of his games between 2017 and 2018.

In New Orleans, Hurst will have the opportunity to learn from one of the league’s best O-Lines, a unit that allowed only 24 sacks in 2019. On the outside, they’ll start Terron Armstead and Ryan Ramczyk. In the middle, they’ll deploy Andrus Peat, Erik McCoy, and rookie Cesar Ruiz, now that veteran Larry Warford is out of the picture.

Ravens Cut OT James Hurst

The Ravens have released offensive tackle James Hurst, as ESPN.com’s Jamison Hensley tweets. Hurst was suspended for the first four games of the 2020 season. Now, he’ll try to hook on elsewhere.

Hurst appeared in all 16 games for the Ravens in 2019 and made a pair of starts. In February, he went from on-the-bubble to a likely goner when the league handed him a one-month ban for performance-enhancing substances.

Hurst was set to count for a $5.25MM cap hit in 2020. Instead, the Ravens will shed his deal to save $2.75MM against $2.5MM in dead money.

The 28-year-old former UDFA has been with the Ravens since 2014. He appeared in 90 games over that span and started all of his games in 2017 and 2018.

NFL Suspends Ravens’ James Hurst

Ravens offensive tackle James Hurst has been suspended by the NFL, as Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. He’ll miss the first four games of the 2020 season after violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances. 

Hurst appeared in all 16 games for the Ravens last year and started twice. But, even before the ban, he was on shaky ground. He’s slated to carry a $5.25MM cap figure this year; the Ravens could save $2.75MM by cutting him, leaving $2.5MM in dead money.

With cheaper backups coming available in free agency, and much cheaper offensive line to be had in the late stages of the draft, it seems likely that this will seal Hurst’s fate. The 28-year-old former UDFA has been with the Ravens since 2014 with 90 appearances in that span. Hurst started in 44 of those contests and was first-string for all of his games in 2017 and 2018.

In other Ravens news, the club cut ties with Tony Jefferson on Friday afternoon. The move will save the club roughly $7MM against the cap as they shift safety responsibilities to Chuck Clark.

AFC North Notes: Burrow, Stefanski, Ravens

The Bengals are widely expected to take LSU QB Joe Burrow with the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft, but there may be a bit of intrigue in that regard, per Albert Breer of SI.com. Burrow will work with former Bengal Jordan Palmer, the little brother of franchise icon Carson Palmer, for his pre-draft training. And the elder Palmer recently had some critical comments for Cincinnati, saying that the club was never really dedicated to chasing a Super Bowl.

Burrow subsequently said the following: “[y]ou want to go No. 1. But you also want to go to a great organization that is committed to winning. Committed to winning Super Bowls.” That may just be a coincidence, and Burrow’s father recently downplayed any notion that Burrow doesn’t want to be picked by the Bengals (Twitter link via Jeremy Rauch of FOX 19), but Breer believes Bengals Director of Player Personnel Duke Tobin may need to sell Burrow on the team just a bit.

Now for more from the AFC North:

  • As expected, the Bengals have promoted Dan Pitcher to quarterbacks coach after Alex Van Pelt left for Cleveland’s OC job, the team announced. Pitcher will have a significant role in Burrow’s development, assuming Cincy selects the LSU signal-caller.
  • We passed along some remarks from new Browns GM Andrew Berry earlier today, and new Cleveland HC Kevin Stefanski also took to the podium. Scott Patsko of Cleveland.com passes along the entire transcript, which is worth a read for Browns fans, but much of it was fairly non-committal coach-speak, which Stefanski has already mastered. Stefanski, though, made it a point to note that he will be heavily involved in making personnel decisions with Berry, and he said he does not know who will be calling offensive plays this year.
  • Though the Ravens have more cap flexibility this year than in past seasons, Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic does not expect a spending spree. He predicts perhaps one big-ticket item and a few modest signings, and much will depend on what the club decides to do with pass rusher Matt Judon — a situation that is still fluid — and whether RG Marshal Yanda retires. He also names OL James Hurst as a potential release candidate.
  • Steelers president Art Rooney II indicated his club may target a RB and/or WR in free agency, per Teresa Varley of Steelers.com, though Rooney said Pittsburgh is content with the quarterback situation as it is. Behind Ben Roethlisberger, the club will roll with some combination of Mason Rudolph, Duck Hodges, and Paxton Lynch.

North Rumors: Bears, Nagy, Ravens, Vikings

It’s still unclear if Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky will be available to face the Giants on Sunday, but Chicago is confident Trubisky’s shoulder injury won’t turn into a long-term issue, as Jeff Dickerson of ESPN.com tweets. Trubisky missed the Bears’ Thanksgiving Day matchup against the Lions, but Chicago was still able to manage a victory with backup Chase Daniel under center. The Bears have a 98% chance of earning a postseason berth and an 83% chance to win the NFC North, so they may not want to risk Trubisky’s health in what could be another easy win against New York. Trubisky did practice on Wednesday, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link), although it was in a limited fashion.

Here’s more from the NFL’s two North divisions:

  • While Trubisky might be healthy enough to play on Sunday, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco almost certainly won’t be ready for Week 13. Flacco, who is still dealing with a hip issue that has cost him two games, didn’t practice on Wednesday and appears likely to sit out Sunday, per Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com (Twitter link). First-round rookie Lamar Jackson, who has led Baltimore to two victories in his first two starts, figures to be under center again when the Ravens take on the Falcons. Meanwhile, offensive lineman James Hurst returned to practice on Wednesday after being sidelined since mid-October, reports Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic (Twitter link).
  • Matt Nagy will lead the Bears against the Giants on Sunday, but New York never showed any interest in hiring him as a head coach during the offseason, as he told reporters — including Ryan Dunleavy of NJ.com (Twitter link) — on Wednesday. That’s in line with PFR’s 2018 Head Coaching Search Tracker, which shows Nagy only interviewed with the Colts and Bears. The Giants, meanwhile, met with Josh McDaniels, Matt Patricia, Steve Wilks, Eric Studesville, and Steve Spagnuolo before hiring Pat Shurmur. Nagy, for his part, could take home Coach of the Year depending on how Chicago’s season ends.
  • Speaking of current Bears coaches, Chicago is worried it could lose defensive coordinator Vic Fangio this offseason, as Jay Glazer of The Athletic writes. Fangio has interviewed for two head positions in the past, but both have been with clubs that already employed him (Bears in 2018, 49ers in 2015). While he didn’t land either of those gigs, Fangio could be in line to move into a head coaching role after that’s currently ranked first in DVOA by a relatively wide margin. As Glazer writes, however, Fangio’s age (60) could work against him as many clubs are searching for younger coaches.
  • By going over the 100-catch mark on Sunday, Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen triggered an escalator in his contract, tweets Ben Goessling of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Thielen, who inked an incredibly team-friendly extension last spring, will now see his 2019 base salary increase from $3.85MM to $5.85MM. If he tops 90 receptions in 2019, Thielen will boost his 2020 salary from $5.35MM to $7.35MM.

AFC North Rumors: Gordon, Steelers, Ravens

Josh Gordon‘s present designation with the Browns is on the reserve/did not report list. The Browns likely could not have placed the 27-year-old pass-catcher on the non-football illness list, since he would have had to fail a physical for that to occur. While Gordon does not currently count toward Cleveland’s 90-man roster, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk cautions the wideout’s road back to the team may not be a matter of him merely returning to Berea, Ohio. Gordon may have to have Roger Goodell approve his request for Browns reinstatement, Florio reports. The reasoning behind this is Goodell OK’d a Gordon return last year under the terms of a treatment plan, with Florio adding that possible Goodell approval would center around whether or not the embattled receiver has violated the terms of that plan. Gordon’s believed to be at a Gainesville, Fla., treatment facility. He spent 90 days in a Gainesville rehab center last fall. While Florio doesn’t expect Goodell to stand in the way of a Gordon return, he would have the right to suspend Gordon for another year under the substance-abuse policy.

Jimmy Haslam did not comment when asked Saturday if the NFL needed to approve Gordon’s Browns reinstatement, and Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer notes the league has not provided clarity on this situation yet. Haslam added he does not have a timetable for Gordon’s return.

Here’s the latest from the AFC North, shifting to a potentially troublesome situation in Pittsburgh:

  • Ramon Foster has played more Steelers snaps than anyone since the 2009 season (h/t Aditi Kinkhabwala of NFL.com), but he was carted off the practice field Saturday. During a full-contact workout, Stephon Tuitt rolled into Foster’s right leg, per NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport and ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler (Twitter links). Mike Tomlin did not elaborate on the issue, only saying that the 10th-year guard is being evaluated for a “lower-body” injury, per CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora (via Twitter). A Foster loss would represent a major setback for the Steelers. Foster’s a seven-season full-time starter and is in the final year of his deal. Ben Roethlisberger consoled the 32-year-old guard as he was carted away.
  • Roethlisberger has shown up to camp in noticeably better shape, with La Canfora noting the Steelers expected their quarterback to show up prepared to earn one final blockbuster extension. Although a report surfaced about the Steelers and Roethlisberger were planning to discuss a re-up this offseason, the 15th-year quarterback said he didn’t want to do a deal before this season. But he’ll be set for a contract year in 2019.
  • While the Steelers do, however, have a Chris Boswell extension slotted as a preseason priority, JLC adds the team shouldn’t be expected to make a Joe Haden-style addition before the season. Pittsburgh added the longtime Cleveland cornerback on a $9MM-per-year deal late last summer but holds barely $5MM in cap space presently. Boswell is entering a contract year.
  • Greg Robinson resides in the Browns‘ concussion protocol, Hue Jackson said Saturday (via Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal, on Twitter). The Browns brought the former No. 2 overall pick this offseason. He has a clearer path to the 53-man roster now that Donald Stephenson has retired, but Robinson has not proven reliable during his four-year career.
  • Only Ronnie Stanley and Marshal Yanda are locks to be Ravens offensive line starters, with Jeff Zreibec of The Athletic noting (subscription required) the team used numerous O-line combinations Saturday. Expected to vie for Baltimore’s right tackle job, James Hurst is working primarily at right guard while Alex Lewis — whom Zreibec projects as the left guard starter — has worked plenty at center. The Ravens’ right guard starter, Yanda remains on the PUP list. Zreibec still contends Hurst will settle at right tackle, with rookie Orlando Brown in the mix at that spot as well.