James Hurst

NFC Contract Details: Saints, Sewell, Elliott

The Saints made a couple of roster moves in recent weeks that we’re finally getting to some details on. These include the deals to sign guard Shane Lemieux, offensive lineman Justin Herron, and defensive back Will Harris and the retirement of offensive lineman James Hurst.

Lemieux and Herron were both signed shortly after the NFL Draft. According to Katherine Terrell of ESPN, Lemieux signed a one-year deal at the veteran minimum of $1.06MM, all of which will count against the salary cap. Herron’s deal is also for one year at the league minimum of $1.13MM. Due to the veteran salary benefit, his contract will only count $985K against the cap.

Harris signed at the turn of the month earlier this week. After five years with the Lions, Terrell tells us that Harris is joining the Saints on a one-year deal worth $1.29MM with a base salary of $1.13MM and a signing bonus of $167.5K. The guaranteed amount of his deal will include the signing bonus and $324K of his base salary. Harris’ contract will count for $1.15MM against the salary cap.

Lastly, Terrell tells us that Hurst, who announced his retirement back in April, will still count against the salary cap. He will count as $2.28MM in dead money, including a $1.5MM roster bonus.

Here are details on a couple other deals reached around the NFC in recent weeks:

  • We already knew some details on Penei Sewell‘s extension with the Lions, but thanks to Mike Florio of NBC Sports, we now have a bit more detail. The deal includes a fully guaranteed amount of $42.99MM consisting of a $15MM signing bonus, a $25MM option bonus in 2025, full base salaries from 2024 to 2026 of $1.45MM, $1.54MM, and $19.9MM, and $12.11MM of the 2027 base salary (worth $23.9MM total). He’ll receive $100K workout bonuses in each offseason after 2025 and a potential $2.5MM roster bonus in 2029.
  • We had some details on Ezekiel Elliott‘s reunion with the Cowboys, but ESPN’s Todd Archer provided some additional detail. We now know that the deal includes a fully guaranteed base salary of $1.25MM and signing bonus of $375K. Elliott can earn an active roster bonus of $375K and will count for $2MM against the cap. He can earn an additional $1MM in incentives, all of which require a playoff berth ($250K for 1,100 scrimmage yards, $250K for 10 touchdowns, and $500K for over 50 percent of the team’s offensive snaps).

Saints OL James Hurst Retires

A valuable player on the Saints’ offensive front for the past four seasons, James Hurst will not factor into the team’s plans any longer in 2024. The veteran offensive lineman announced his retirement Wednesday.

Further complicating matters for a Saints team that has seen its O-line plan endure multiple setbacks, Hurst’s retirement strips away a key option for the team. Hurst has seen extensive time at tackle and guard in New Orleans, but the former Ravens blocker will call it quits after 10 seasons.

Hurst started all 15 games he played last season and has been a first-stringer 46 times for the Saints over the past three seasons. Last year, Hurst saw most of his snaps at left guard. But the versatile blocker played mostly left tackle in 2021 and ’22; he operated as the Saints’ regular starter on the blind side during that span. With Ryan Ramczyk‘s career in jeopardy and 2022 first-rounder Trevor Penning having not yet panned out, the Saints enter the draft with major questions up front.

The Saints gave Hurst a $1.5MM roster bonus on March 17, and he restructured his contract last month as well. The team reduced Hurst’s cap number from $6.5MM to $2.9MM, adding void years. This retirement will only leave a small amount of dead money on New Orleans’ 2024 cap sheet, as Hurst was set to be a free agent in 2025. But it could leave a bigger hole on the team’s O-line.

After splitting time between left tackle (in relief of Terron Armstead) and left guard in 2021, Hurst worked as the Saints’ Penning bridge for most of the ’22 season. Hurst logged 913 LT snaps that year, and Penning did not boot him out of the lineup upon returning to full strength in 2023. The Northern Iowa alum wound up benched, but Andrus Peat slid from guard to tackle to replace him. Hurst ended up at left guard primarily, starting 15 games last season. Pro Football Focus viewed Hurst as a better tackle than guard, rating him as a plus pass blocker from 2021-22. Even upon being shifted to a different position, Hurst graded as PFF’s No. 41 overall guard last season.

Peat is unsigned, and Ramczyk — after knee trouble in 2023 — is uncertain to suit up at all this year. After five years featuring the Armstead-Ramczyk tandem, with regulars like Peat and Erik McCoy inside, the Saints are backed into a corner presently. This is a good time to need a tackle, and the Saints are being linked to capitalizing on this deep draft class and bringing one in at No. 14. That path would mean two first-round tackle picks in three years, but the team would be taking a considerable risk by not going this route given what has happened at the position.

A UDFA out of North Carolina, Hurst did well for himself as a pro. He made 95 career starts with the Ravens and Saints. The Ravens used him as a frequent spot starter — at both right and left tackle — and plugged him in as a full-time guard in 2017. Hurst earned a four-year, $17.5MM deal to stay in Baltimore in 2018 but only played two years on that accord; Baltimore cut him following a 2020 PED suspension. Hurst landed in New Orleans on a low-cost deal but scored a three-year, $9MM deal to stay with the team.

NFC South Notes: Cousins, Falcons, Ramczyk, Saints, Davis, Evans, Panthers

The Falcons are under investigation for tampering during their Kirk Cousins pursuit. Cousins said during his Falcons intro presser he spoke with the team’s trainer ahead of his official signing, which would be a violation. Cousins may well have revealed another tampering violation, indicating (via Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio) he offered to call Darnell Mooney to help close the Falcons’ pitch to the former Bears wide receiver. Mooney committed to the Falcons on Day 2 of the tampering period. With Cousins’ deal not yet official at that point, such recruitment on behalf of the team would be a violation as well.

None of this will result in the Falcons losing Cousins, but a fine and/or a draft choice being stripped would be in play if the team is found to have violated the tampering policy (albeit during a stretch referred to as the legal tampering period). Given the multiple issues here, the Falcons certainly run the risk of being punished.

Here is the latest from the NFC South:

  • In a division with two of the league’s restructure mavens, the Panthers are hoping to avoid such moves under new GM Dan Morgan. The former Carolina assistant GM said (via The Athletic’s Joe Person) he will aim to avoid kicking the can down the road in the form of restructures. Teams have turned to restructures more in the 2020s, as the larger cap spikes have helped clubs manage the bigger cap hits down the road, but both the Buccaneers and Saints have needed to take some medicine at points this decade due to restructures.
  • Having said that, the Panthers did reach a restructure agreement with Shaq Thompson to both create cap space and retain their longest-tenured player. This will reduce the 10th-year linebacker’s base salary to $3.1MM and clear around $3MM in cap space, NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero tweets. Headed into his age-30 season, Thompson is coming off a two-game campaign halted by a fractured fibula. He is now on the Panthers’ cap sheet at $3.19MM.
  • Ryan Ramczyk finished last season on IR due to a knee injury that he admitted bothered him for nearly the entire season. A cartilage defect in his knee also brought some ominous comments from the standout right tackle, but he is on track to play an eighth season with the Saints. Ramczyk underwent what Dennis Allen (via NOLA.com’s Matthew Paras) labeled a minor knee procedure; he is expected to be ready for training camp. Additionally, Ramczyk agreed to a reworked contract that guarantees him $6.5MM this season, ESPN’s Field Yates tweets. Ramcyzk’s 2021 extension previously had no guarantees left, but it called for a $27MM 2024 cap number. This reworking brought that down to $12.9MM, and NewOrleans.football’s Mike Triplett refers to it as a significant pay cut. Ramczyk is signed through 2026, but no guarantees are due beyond 2024.
  • The Saints also brought James Hurst‘s cap number down from $6.5MM to $2.9MM, NewOrleans.football’s Nick Underhill tweets. Two void years are present in Hurst’s deal, but the veteran O-lineman, who has been needed to start over the past three seasons, is due for free agency in 2025.
  • New Orleans’ latest Demario Davis contract (two years, $17.25MM) will bring $13.25MM in guarantees, ESPN.com’s Katherine Terrell tweets. The team is guaranteeing $2.5MM of Davis’ $6.5MM 2025 base salary, with Terrell adding a $1.75MM roster bonus will be due next year. That roster bonus will be key in determining if Davis plays the 2025 season in New Orleans; the new deal dropped Davis’ 2024 cap hit from $18.1MM to $6.2MM.
  • Not quite as prolific as the Saints on the restructure front, the Buccaneers have been aggressive here since the Tom Brady signing. Tampa Bay has already restructured Mike Evans‘ deal, per MLFootball, with his $21.8MM roster bonus into a signing bonus. This freed up $17.4MM in cap space, which the Bucs put to good use as they re-signed Baker Mayfield and Lavonte David following the application of Antoine Winfield Jr.‘s franchise tag.
  • The PanthersDane Jackson contract is for two years and worth $8.5MM in base value, KPRC2’s Aaron Wilson tweets. While this NFL period has featured Carolina-to-Buffalo moves, the veteran cornerback will make the reverse trip and do so for $5.12MM guaranteed. The guarantees cover $1MM of Jackson’s 2025 base salary ($3.74MM).

Saints Bench LT Trevor Penning

After starting the first five games of the 2023 season, Saints LT Trevor Penning has been benched, as Jeff Duncan of NOLA.com writes. Veteran James Hurst will man the blindside in New Orleans’ game against the Texans today.

Penning, the No. 19 overall pick of the 2022 draft, had his NFL debut delayed by nearly three months by a torn foot ligament, and he sustained a Lisfranc injury in Week 18 of the 2022 season that required multiple surgeries. All in all, Penning played in his just six games (one start) in his rookie campaign and saw a mere 58 snaps at left tackle.

To his credit, the Northern Iowa product has played every snap this season, but his performance has been a mixed bag at best. Out of the 62 offensive tackles who have played at least half of their team’s snaps in 2023, Penning ranks 47th, according to Pro Football Focus’ metrics. And while the offensive line as a whole had a good day in the Saints’ 34-0 victory over the Patriots last week, Penning earned a subpar 54.7 grade, the lowest mark among the club’s front five.

After allowing two sacks and six pressures in New Orleans’ Week 1 contest against Tennessee, Penning has allowed just one sack and eight pressures over the past four games. That improvement, however, was not enough for the coaching staff as it seeks to coax more out of an offense that presently ranks 25th in the league in yardage and 22nd in scoring.

Hurst started 16 games at LT in Penning’s absence in 2022 and has started each of the Saints’ first five games of the current season, including four at left guard and one at right guard. If Andrus Peat — who is dealing with a groin injury and who missed the New England game due to a concussion — is unable to suit up, offseason acquisition Max Garcia would fill in at LG.

Duncan characterizes Penning’s demotion as a surprise, and it is currently unclear when he will be reinserted into the lineup.

Saints LG Andrus Peat In Danger Of Losing Starting Job?

Saints left guard Andrus Peat has dealt with a litany of injuries in his career, and he has averaged just ten games per season over the last four years. The 29-year-old has already suffered a quadriceps injury in this year’s training camp that has caused him to miss time, and Rod Walker of NOLA.com believes Peat may no longer be in line for a starting role.

James Hurst, who is capable of playing both guard and tackle, received first-team reps at left guard in Peat’s absence, and Walker says it would not surprise if Hurst gets the nod at LG when the regular season begins. Hurst operated as New Orleans’ primary left tackle in 2022, but with Trevor Penning set to take over that post after an injury-riddled rookie campaign, Hurst will move to a reserve role or to a different position on the O-line.

Peat, whom the Saints selected in the first round of the 2015 draft, also saw action at multiple positions in the early stages of his career, including run as the club’s starting LT in 2016 and 2017. Since 2018, he has settled in at left guard, and while Pro Football Focus’ metrics have never rated him as an above-average player at that position, he earned three consecutive Pro Bowl nods from 2018-20.

In March 2020, he inked a five-year, $57.5MM contract with the Saints, and thanks to mutliple restructures, his spot on this year’s roster is secure. But the most recent restructure wiped out the final year of the deal and turned it into a void year, so he will be eligible for free agency at season’s end. If he were to turn in a healthy, quality performance in 2023, he could land another lucrative pact next offseason, but his pursuit of such an accord has not gotten off to a great start.

Hurst, meanwhile, signed a one-year deal with the Saints in 2020 and showed enough during his first year in the Big Easy to land a three-year, $9MM contract in March 2021. He worked at both tackle spots and at left guard in 2021 before his extended look on the blind side last year. In each of the last two seasons, he has earned strong pass-blocking grades of 76.9 and 76.6 from Pro Football Focus, though his less stellar run-blocking grades have pulled down his overall marks.

NFC South Notes: White, Falcons, Saints

Weeks after making a trade request, Devin White showed for Buccaneers minicamp this week. This was the expected outcome, but the talented linebacker did not participate. Still, Todd Bowles did not refer to this as a hold-in measure. The second-year Tampa Bay HC said (via ESPN’s Jenna Laine) the team wanted to gauge White’s readiness, though it is unclear if the former top-five pick is dealing with a specific injury. Bowles said he expects White to be ready to go for training camp. Though, that could be when a hold-in effort takes place in earnest. White, who avoided nearly $100K in fines by reporting to minicamp, is tied to an $11.7MM fifth-year option salary. Although White wants top-five ILB money and has not yet seen the Bucs show interest in signing off on such an extension, team brass said multiple times this offseason no trade desire exists on the organization’s part.

Here is the latest from the NFC South:

  • It appears the Falcons‘ big-ticket Jessie Bates acquisition will displace Jaylinn Hawkins. After the former fourth-round pick started 16 games last season, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s D. Orlando Ledbetter notes it will likely be Bates teaming with Richie Grant — a 17-game starter in 2022 — this year. Pro Football Focus’ No. 66 safety last season, Hawkins may factor in when the team uses three-safety looks. But a contract-year demotion looks set to commence.
  • Falcons defensive tackle Ta’Quon Graham missed last season’s final seven games due a full MCL tear, Michael Rothstein of ESPN.com tweets. After not participating in OTAs, the third-year defender was back on the field at minicamp. Like Hawkins, Graham might see the Falcons’ free agency moves affect his role. The team signed David Onyemata and Calais Campbell, and Eddie Goldman is attempting to return after a 2022 retirement call. Goldman, however, did not work with the team during minicamp.
  • Trevor Penning already underwent surgery to repair a Lisfranc injury sustained in Week 18. While the Saints tackle is expected to be ready for training camp, NOLA.com’s Jeff Duncan notes he is undergoing a second procedure Friday to remove hardware from the repaired foot. Penning started just one game as a rookie, seeing another injury — a torn foot ligament — delay his NFL debut by nearly three months. But the 2022 first-round pick is on track to be New Orleans’ Week 1 left tackle starter this year. James Hurst, the team’s primary blind-sider last season, shared first-team duties with third-year blocker Landon Young at minicamp.
  • After spending the past two seasons as a Saints staffer, Sterling Moore will not be with the team going forward. The Saints dismissed the former cornerback from their staff, NewOrleans.football’s Nick Underhill tweets. Moore worked as New Orleans’ assistant DBs coach last season. Moore, 33, started 12 games for the Saints in 2016 and played two seasons with the team. The Saints hired a new defensive coordinator this offseason — Joe Woods — but it is unclear if that move will directly lead to Moore’s summer exit.
  • The Saints made an addition to their scouting department recently, with InsidetheLeague.com’s Neil Stratton relaying (via Twitter) the team hired former Louisiana Tech staffer Ziad Qubti as their college scouting coordinator. This will be Qubti’s first NFL gig.

Saints OT Trevor Penning Tears Ligament In Foot

2:35pm: More testing revealed bad news for the rookie. Penning suffered a ligament tear in his injured foot, and Rapoport adds surgery will be necessary (Twitter link). The player the Saints eyed as a long-term left tackle will not be beginning his season on time and will be out indefinitely.

9:28am: It sounds like Saints first-round pick Trevor Penning is going to miss some time. The offensive lineman suffered a “bad case of turf toe” during last night’s preseason finale, according to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport (on Twitter).

Penning is set to undergo an MRI to determine the severity of the injury. Rapoport hints that the offensive tackle will miss at least a game or two to start the season. We’ll likely get more clarity on his roster status (and whether he’ll land on injured reserve) once the Saints cut down their roster to 53 players.

The offensive tackle got into 10 snaps last night before suffering the injury. According to Charean Williams of ProFootballTalk.com, Penning suffered the injury when tight end Juwan Johnson accidentally hit the back of his leg during Mark Ingram‘s one-year touchdown run. Penning walked to the sidelined before getting carted to the locker room.

The Northern Iowa product was selected by the Saints with the 19th-overall pick in this year’s draft, and he was expected to replace the departed Terron Armstead in the starting lineup. The rookie made headlines during training camp when he got into fights with teammates for three consecutive days. Pro Football Focus showed him taking a major step in New Orleans’ second preseason game, but the latest injury may have cost him his early-season opportunity to snag the starting gig. James Hurst has been listed atop the Saints depth chart at LT throughout the preseason, and while the veteran is dealing with his own foot injury, he’s a good bet to earn the starting nod with Penning temporarily out of the picture.

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.