Nyheim Hines

Latest On Bills’ RB Situation

The season-ending injury suffered by Nyheim Hines last month left the Bills shorthanded in the backfield. His absence has led to increased clarity with respect to who should make the team’s 53-man roster, though, along with the pecking order at the position.

James Cook was already in line to handle starting duties with Devin Singletary having departed in free agency, but Hines’ ACL tear should leave further pass-catching opportunities available this season. Cook, 23, is well-positioned to build on his production as a rookie this year. He sits comfortably atop the depth chart heading into the campaign, as noted by Joe Buscaglia of The Athletic (subscription required).

Cook posted 507 rushing yards on an impressive average of 5.7 per carry last season. Much of that efficiency owes to his limited workload (89 carries), however. The former second-rounder added 180 yards and one of his three total touchdowns in the passing game, showcasing his abilities on the ground and through the air. With veterans Damien Harris and Latavius Murray (the latter of whom was on the roster bubble before the Hines injury) in place as complimentary options, Cook should see a sharp uptick from his 25% snap share as a rookie.

With Hines having suffered his injury in a jet ski accident, the Bills placed him on the NFI list. That opens the door to a conflict over the matter of compensation, something Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio reports is underway. Hines’ adjusted contract includes a $1MM signing bonus, $600K of which has already been paid. The Bills are considering withholding the remaining $400K, and paying Hines the equivalent of a practice squad players’ maximum earnings for a season. A formal grievance is an option depending on how the ex-Colt responds to Buffalo’s handling of his case.

Meanwhile, Hines recently underwent surgery on his injured knee (Twitter link via NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero). That began the recovery process ahead of next season, something which will be the focus of his personal attention moving forward. For the Bills, plenty will depend on the play of their remaining backs, especially Cook, given the responsibility he is expected to shoulder in 2023.

Damar Hamlin Full Go For Training Camp

Damar Hamlin is close to completing his long-anticipated recovery from the chest injury that induced cardiac arrest. Nearly seven months after that scary scene, the Bills announced the inspirational safety will be 100% as the team starts training camp.

This has been the expectation for a while now. Hamlin did not begin OTAs on time but participated in Buffalo’s minicamp. Sean McDermott said the team will “go at his cadence” regarding the final steps on this journey back to full health. Hamlin began camp work with his teammates Wednesday.

Hamlin, 25, initially received full clearance back in April, making a major stride in his recovery from a hospitalization and breathing through a ventilator in Cincinnati to being back with his teammates in uniform. The collision with Tee Higgins induced commotio cordis, an extremely rare condition that emerges after chest trauma produces waves of electricity that can alter heart rhythm. He has made remarkable strides in the months since.

Training camp will mark another key hurdle for the third-year safety, with the Bills not ticketed to don shoulder pads until August. How Hamlin fares in contact work will be a storyline to follow during Bills camp, but considering how the Pittsburgh alum has responded thus far on his comeback trail, the expectation will be a spot on the team’s 53-man roster and a role in Week 1.

The Bills needed Hamlin to replace Micah Hyde for much of last season, but with Hyde back and Jordan Poyer re-signing in March, Hamlin returning to a backup role appears likely. The Bills also re-signed Dean Marlowe and added ex-Rams starter Taylor Rapp, giving the team one of the better safety depth charts any NFL team has featured in recent memory.

Hamlin practicing in training camp will prevent the Bills from stashing him on the reserve/PUP list to start the season. Two years remain on Hamlin’s rookie contract.

Additionally, the injury Nyheim Hines suffered this week is an ACL tear, Albert Breer of SI.com notes. The Bills placed Hines on their non-football injury list Tuesday. The 2022 trade acquisition was sitting stationary on a jet ski when another rider crashed into him. The NFI placement puts Hines’ $4.1MM base salary up in the air, since the Bills are not obligated to pay the veteran back due to the injury being sustained away from team grounds. Hines’ agent sent out a message calling for the Bills to pay his client (Twitter link).

Minor NFL Transactions: 7/25/23

With a number of teams preparing for the start of training camp, a long list of players were placed on inactive lists today. We’ve compiled all of those and today’s other minor moves below:

Atlanta Falcons

Baltimore Ravens

Buffalo Bills

Chicago Bears

Cincinnati Bengals

Dallas Cowboys

Denver Broncos

Green Bay Packers

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Las Vegas Raiders

Miami Dolphins

Minnesota Vikings

New England Patriots

New Orleans Saints

New York Giants

Philadelphia Eagles

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

Washington Commanders

Free Agents

Isaiah Wilson hasn’t had an NFL gig since he was released by the Giants in January of 2022. NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero tweets that the free agent lineman was slapped with a three-game suspension, but it’s uncertain what led to the temporary ban. Wilson was a first-round pick by the Titans in 2020 but got into only one game with Tennessee before getting shipped off to Miami. He was waived by Miami after showing up late to his team physical, and his practice squad stint with New York only lasted one season.

Max Garcia is an experienced addition to the Saints OL room, with the veteran having most recently started seven of his 12 appearances with the Cardinals in 2022. The 31-year-old has 59 games of starting experience, although Pro Football Focus was iffy on his production last year (63rd among 77 qualifying offensive guards).

Following a three-year stint in Cleveland, Terrance Mitchell has spent the past two seasons bouncing around the NFL. He got into 14 games (13 starts) for the Texans in 2021, finishing with 60 tackles and 10 passes defended. He spent the 2022 season with the Titans, finishing with 39 tackles in 11 games (five starts). 49ers fifth-round pick Darrell Luter Jr. is set to miss some time with a knee injury, providing Mitchell with an opportunity during training camp.

Bills RB Nyheim Hines Suffers Season-Ending ACL Injury

1:00pm: Hines suffered an injury to the ACL in his left knee, and he is expected to undergo surgery later this week (Twitter link via Pelissero). Given the non-football related nature of the injury, it will be interesting to see how much of his $2.56MM base salary the Bills will end up paying him, as both player and team look to the future.

Buffalo has moved quickly in their search for Hines’ replacement. Aaron Wilson of KPRC2 tweets that Darrynton Evans, Kylin Hill and Abram Smith worked out with the Bills today. Evans, a 2020 Titans third-rounder, had a brief spell in Tennessee before spending time on and off the Bears’ practice squad last season. He was signed and waived by the Colts earlier this offseason. Hill was released by the Packers midway through the 2022 campaign, his second year in Green Bay, while Smith has yet to see any NFL game action.

9:53am: The Bills’ backfield has taken a notable hit well before the start of the season. Nyheim Hines suffered an off-site knee injury which is expected to sideline him for the 2023 campaign, per Tom Pelissero of NFL Network (Twitter link).

Adding further clarity to the situation, Pelissero tweets that Hines suffered the injury during a jet ski accident and is dealing with “serious but non-life threatening injuries” as a result. The news marks an obviously disappointing blow for the 26-year-old as he was poised to begin his first full season in Buffalo, a team which is expected to rely more on its running backs than previous seasons.

The Bills acquired Hines from the Colts at the trade deadline as backfield insurance and a returner for the stretch run. He saw just 66 offensive snaps upon arrival, but demonstrated his special teams value with a pair of kick return touchdowns in Week 18. Hines agreed to a restructured contract in the offseason to remain in Buffalo, though his role and even spot on the team’s 53-man roster faced questions entering training camp.

The Bills have 2022 second-rounder James Cook and free agent addition Damien Harris in place atop the RB depth chart. That left Hines and veteran signing Latavius Murray set for a training camp competition to potentially decide one roster spot. Hines’ special teams contributions likely would have given him the edge, but Murray should be able to provide effective depth in the running game.

Buffalo also has a few options to replace Hines as a returner. Deonte Harty signed a two-year deal in March to provide depth at the receiver position, but also a proven producer in both the kick and punt return games. Harty (or other returners who stand out in camp) will now see an uptick in third phase usage with Hines sidelined for the foreseeable future.

The former fourth-rounder is under contract through 2024, but no guaranteed money exists on his deal for that season. Today’s news thus puts Hines’ future very much in doubt, while the Bills will move forward with their current stable of backs and the opportunity to add another pass-catching specialist in free agency if they desire.

Bills RBs Nyheim Hines, Latavius Murray Battling For Roster Spot?

The Bills rushing attack will look a bit different in 2023. Devin Singletary is gone, having left via free agency to the Texans. The front office added former Patriots starter Damien Harris to the mix, although he profiles as more of an RB2 since the organization is ready to go all-in on 2022 second-round pick James Cook.

Cook and Harris appear to be locked in atop the depth chart, leading to an apparent competition between Nyheim Hines and Latavius Murray for the RB3 spot. As Ryan O’Halloran of the Buffalo News noted today, the two veterans may actually be fighting for a roster spot, not just a spot on the depth chart. The Bills intend to give a roster spot to fullback Reggie Gilliam, perhaps leaving only one space for Hines or Murray

Hines would be the more natural fit if the organization is looking for a fill-in for Singletary. The former Bills RB averaged 39 receptions per season over his final three seasons in Buffalo. Harris had 40 total receptions during his four seasons in New England, and the former third-round pick seems primed to be a true backup. Cook provides some pass-catching prowess (21 catches as a rookie), but it seems unlikely that the second-year pro will be a true three-down back.

Hines could provide Josh Allen with another worthy target out of the backfield on third downs. The former Colts fourth-round pick averaged more than 56 catches per season though his first three years in the NFL, and while he saw a reduced role in 2021 and 2022, he still hauled in 70 total catches between the two campaigns.

While Hines has shown an ability to catch the ball, his roster spot could ultimately come down to special teams. The 26-year-old served as the Bills’ primary returner after joining the organization last season, returning a pair of kickoffs for touchdowns. As O’Halloran notes, new wideout Deonte Harty previously was an All-Pro punt returner, and his spot on the roster could make Hines expendable.

Murray would be the odd man out if Hines ultimately makes the team, but the veteran has a good case for making the roster. The 33-year-old would naturally bring some experience to a relatively young running back corps, and he’s also shown to be a worthy replacement starter in a pinch (he’s started at least three games in each of his nine NFL seasons). While Hines is the superior pass-catcher, Murray can also contribute in the passing game, with the veteran hauling in 35 catches just last season.

As O’Halloran writes, Murray is still a valuable player, with the RB most recently collecting close to 900 yards from scrimmage in 13 games with the Broncos and Saints in 2022. If Murray does end up missing the cut in Buffalo, O’Halloran believes the Bills front office should be able to get something for him via trade.

Hines and Murray will likely get an extended look during the preseason, but it seems likely that one of the two will be looking for a new job by the end of the preseason.

RB Notes: Hines, Rodriguez, Cook

Here are a few RB-related items from around the league:

  • The Bills have invested heavily at the running back position in recent years, and at present, the club has 2022 second-round pick James Cook and 2023 free agent signee Damien Harris at the top of its depth chart, with newcomer Latavius Murray also in the mix. As quarterback Josh Allen is a significant part of Buffalo’s ground attack, and since the Bills also offer a bevy of quality receiving options, Ryan O’Halloran of the Buffalo News wonders how 2022 trade acquisition Nyheim Hines fits into the equation. As a member of the Colts, Hines proved that he can be a dynamic weapon, but he saw just 66 offensive snaps in nine games with the Bills last year. While O’Halloran expects Hines to continue making an impact as a return specialist, he finds it difficult to envision anything more than a gadget role for the NC State product on offense. On the other hand, RB coach Kelly Skipper suggested that Hines’ limited usage in 2022 was largely due to the complexity of the Bills’ playbook, and that Hines will see meaningful action both as a receiver and rusher this season.
  • In a feature on Commanders rookie running back Chris Rodriguez Jr., which will be of particular interest to fans of the team and which details the devastating loss of Rodriguez’s mother in January, Nicki Jhabvala of the Washington Post notes that the Commanders had a third-round grade on the Kentucky product. Washington was able to land Rodriguez in the sixth round, and he is currently penciled in as the third RB on the depth chart, behind Brian Robinson and Antonio Gibson. As a sixth-rounder, though, he is not guaranteed a spot on the roster, especially if the team’s interest in Kareem Hunt should evolve into something more. As new OC Eric Bieniemy noted, Rodriguez will need to impress on special teams, but if he can do so, he could be well-positioned for a productive tenure in the nation’s capital. Gibson is a free agent at season’s end, and while neither Robinson nor Rodriguez offer Gibson’s upside as a receiver, both players have the type of downhill, between-the-tackles power that the team values, and the duo could form a potent 1-2 punch down the line.
  • Free agent RB Dalvin Cook recently suggested that he declined a visit with an unnamed club, and according to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, that club was not the Dolphins (Twitter link). As of the time of this writing, the ‘Fins are the only named team that has definite interest in Cook’s services, though the latest reporting suggested that about six teams are in the market and that Cook has received multiple offers. Jackson says that Cook — who has previously expressed enthusiasm for joining his hometown Dolphins — remains interested in playing his home games in South Beach.

NFL Restructures: Smith, Mahomes, Fitzpatrick, Peat, Thomas, Hines, Waller

We had news recently that Cowboys offensive tackle Tyron Smith had agreed to restructure his contract with the team, reducing his massive $17.6MM cap hit. Thanks to Todd Archer of ESPN, we now have some details on the deal. Smith was headed into the last year of an eight-year agreement, so his restructure essentially functions as a one-year contract.

The newly restructured contract will be a one-year, $6MM deal with a potential maximum value of $17MM. He received a $3MM signing bonus for the changes and has his $3MM base salary guaranteed. The deal rapidly escalates from there with several playing time incentives. Smith will receive an additional $1MM bonus for each of these snap share thresholds: 50%, 55%, 60%, 65%, 70%, 75%, 80%, 85%, and 90%. This means that if he plays over 90% of the Cowboys’ offensive snaps, he will receive $9MM, one for each of the nine levels.

He can also receive playoff incentives, 75% of which are paid off of wins alone. The remaining 25% is paid if he plays over half of the team’s offensive snaps in those wins. He would receive $500,000 for each playoff win in which he plays the majority of the snaps. With four possible playoff wins, that’s a total of $2MM in playoff bonuses. Those plus the $9MM from the playing time incentives and the $6MM guaranteed at signing push the contract to it’s maximum value of $17MM.

Here is some other news on restructures from around the league:

  • The Chiefs created some financial breathing room by restructuring star quarterback Patrick Mahomes‘s massive contract, according to ESPN’s Field Yates. The team converted $12MM of his 2023 roster bonus into a signing bonus, creating $9.6MM in cap space for the season.
  • Yates also reports that the Steelers found some cap space by restructuring the contract of a star. Safety Minkah Fitzpatrick agreed to a restructured deal that would reward the Steelers with $10.07MM of additional cap space in 2023 by converting $13.42MM of his 2023 salary into a signing bonus.
  • The Saints were able to gain some cap room by restructuring the deal of guard Andrus Peat, according to Nick Underhill of NewOrleans.Football. The team converted $4MM of his 2023 salary into a signing bonus, reducing his salary from $11.83MM to $7.83MM. He then took an additional pay cut to reduce his 2023 base salary to $1.5MM as the team voided out his 2024 salary, adding three more voidable years to the deal. The moves resulted in an additional $9.53MM in cap space for New Orleans.
  • Another NFC South player reportedly took a pay cut as Panthers tight end Ian Thomas agreed to a restructured deal, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network. In his new deal, Thomas will earn $3MM in 2023 and $3.65MM in 2024. The deal creates an additional $2.88MM in cap space.
  • Another report from Yates tells us that the Bills have agreed to a renegotiated contract with running back Nyheim Hines. While the details are not yet available, it entails a $1MM signing bonus and the opportunity to earn $4.79MM in bonuses, clearing out some cap space for Buffalo while providing some incentives for Hines next season.
  • Lastly, following the tight end’s trade to the Giants, Darren Waller has agreed to a renegotiated deal with his new team, according to Yates. New York has converted $9.84MM of his 2023 base salary into a signing bonus. The move creates $7.87MM in additional cap space for the Giants.

NFL Restructures: Watson, Gage, Edwards, Hines

As expected, the Browns have restructured the contract of quarterback Deshaun Watson, per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport (Twitter link). The move saves Cleveland just under $36MM in cap space, and avoids Watson breaking the NFL record for the highest cap hit in a single season (he was due to count for $54.9MM in 2023).

As was recently noted, the Browns did not require Watson’s permission to convert base salary into signing bonus, though he was reportedly open to the idea. His historic, fully-guaranteed pact signed last offseason upon his acquisition from the Texans was always seen as a financial burden beginning in 2023 due to its structure. While this move thus comes as no surprise (and will, of course, affect his cap hits in future years), it will give Cleveland the spending power needed to make at least one or two notable additions in free agency this week.

Here are some other recent contract restructures, as teams look to carve out much-needed cap space for the coming free agent frenzy:

  • Buccaneers receiver Russell Gage took a slight pay cut for this year to remain in Tampa Bay. Per Rapoport (on Twitter), the 27-year-old agreed to lower his salary from $10MM to $7MM – the latter figure now being fully guaranteed – with incentives in place to earn it back. After a slew of recent cost-cutting moves and financial maneuvering, Tampa Bay is now slightly under the cap ceiling in time for the start of the new league year.
  • Backup Ravens running back Gus Edwards has been seen by many as a potential cut or trade candidate, as the team looks to add financial wiggle room. He will remain in the fold for the coming season, however. ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reports that the 27-year-old has agreed to drop his base salary (set to be $4.4MM) by roughly $1MM (Twitter link). He, too will have the chance to make back that amount and more if he hits the new incentives in place in his deal. Edwards is entering the final year of his contract.
  • The Bills will have Nyheim Hines in the backfield at a different cap number than he was originally scheduled for. Rapoport’s colleague Mike Garafolo tweets that Hines is re-working his contract to move part of his base salary into a signing bonus. The midseason trade acquisition was due a base salary of $4.45MM in 2023, and set to carry a cap hit of $4.79MM. Garafolo notes that Hines will have the chance, via incentives, to earn more than the latter figure this season. He is on the books through 2024.

AFC East Notes: Becton, Jets, Tua, Bills

The 2023 fifth-year option numbers dropped this week, and a near-$6MM gap exists between the first and fourth tiers of offensive line option numbers. That is unlikely to matter regarding the Jets‘ plans with Mekhi Becton. There is “virtually no chance” the Jets pick up Becton’s 2024 option, Rich Cimini of ESPN.com notes. Tier 4 in the 2023 option structure checks in at $12.57MM for offensive linemen, but with that number being fully guaranteed, the Jets were not exactly expected to consider it for Becton given his past two seasons.

With 2023 almost definitely set to be a contract year for the once-entrenched Jets tackle, Cimini adds Becton changed representation. He signed with the New York-based Sportstars agency. Becton, who had been represented by Klutch Sports, returning to form would represent quite the contract-year success story. He has played in one game since his rookie season ended. An avulsion fracture of the right kneecap felled Becton in 2022; a dislocated kneecap and MCL damage sidelined Becton for 16 games in 2021. The Louisville product showed considerable promise as a rookie, and he will attempt to revive his career in 2023. Becton is expected to be ready for OTAs in April.

The talented blocker’s weight has been a recurring issue during his Jets career. It plagued him during each of his first three years; most recently, the Jets were concerned with Becton’s weight during minicamp last year. Weighing 363 pounds at the 2020 Combine, Becton has weighed as much as 400 during his Jets tenure. After Becton said recently he had lost “a lot” of weight, Cimini confirms he is down to around 370 and plans to lose more this offseason.

An opportunity could await Becton, with George Fant five weeks from free agency and Duane Brown going into an age-38 season. But the Jets cannot count on the 2020 first-rounder at this point. Here is the latest from the AFC East:

  • Elijah Moore returned to the Jets after a brief hiatus and trade request. Some among the Jets believed Zach Wilson‘s struggles contributed to Moore’s departure request, Cimini adds, with Mike LaFleur‘s play-calling contributing as well. Moore and LaFleur engaged in a heated argument in October, and teams called the Jets on the second-year receiver. But Gang Green brought the second-round pick back into the fold. Moore’s production declined from his rookie year, dropping from 48.9 yards per game to 27.9 per contest. The Jets have made no secret of their pursuit of a quarterback upgrade this offseason.
  • LaFleur and assistant GM Rex Hogan pushed hardest for Wilson in 2021, per Cimini, who offers that some in the organization viewed the BYU arm as a developmental prospect unworthy of the No. 2 overall pick. Both Wilson and Trey Lance leapfrogged Justin Fields that offseason; each’s career is at a crossroads entering 2023. Wilson is not a lock to return to the Jets, though team brass has consistently stumped for the struggling passer. The Jets and LaFleur parted ways last month; he is now the Rams’ OC.
  • Tua Tagovailoa‘s fifth-year option would cost the Dolphins $23.17MM. That number is down more than $6MM from what Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert‘s 2024 options will cost, but the Dolphins have not indicated they are certain to pick it up. As Tagovailoa prepares for his fourth season, he has joined Becton in changing agents. Tua signed with Ryan Williams and Austin Lyman of Athletes First, Liz Mullen of the Sports Business Journal writes. Tagovailoa recently cleared concussion protocol and showed remarkable improvement in 2022, but the former No. 5 overall pick will have health- and performance-related questions to answer in 2023.
  • The conditional pick the Bills sent the Colts for Nyheim Hines at the deadline will be a fifth-round choice, Sal Capaccio of WGR 550 tweets. Thanks to the Cody Ford trade, the Bills held two fifth-round picks prior to the Hines deal. It will be the Bills’ own fifth-rounder that will go to the Colts.

AFC East Notes: Jets, Chubb, Hines

The Jets pulled off an upset win over the Bills today, despite the absence of wideout Corey Davis. The 2021 free agent signing ranks second on the team with 351 receiving yards, but has been unavailable since suffering a knee injury in Week 7.

That has allowed Denzel Mims to occupy a roster spot on gamedays, something which had yet to take place prior to the injury. The 2020 second-rounder saw a drastic drop in his playing time last year compared to his rookie campaign, which fueled a summer trade request. In the build-up to this year’s deadline, the possibility of a deal sending him out of New York remained, but nothing took place, perhaps as a reflection of his situation beginning to change.

Head coach Robert Saleh indicated that “something switched” recently with respect to Mims’ attitude and approach (Twitter link via SNY’s Connor Hughes). As a result, Saleh added that there is a strong possibility the Baylor alum will remain active for games even after Davis returns.

Here are some other notes from around the AFC East:

  • While the Jets were without Davis on offense, a notable member of their defense was back in action this afternoon. Edge rusher Jermaine Johnson returned after a three-game absence, something which was expected to take place today, per Mark Cannizzaro of the New York Post. Part of New York’s vaunted 2022 rookie class, the first-rounder recorded a sack in the win over the Bills, bringing his total to 2.5 on the year. The Jets’ decision to trade away Jacob Martin will likely open the door to a larger role for Johnson moving forward.
  • More details have emerged regarding the Bradley Chubb extension he signed upon being acquired by the Dolphins. As detailed by Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, the new pact includes a fully guaranteed salary of $19.4MM next season. In March of 2023, his 2024 compensation will also become fully guaranteed. Overall, the Pro Bowler is in line for a steady base salary throughout the life of the deal; likewise, his cap hit is scheduled to remain very consistent, ranging from $22.2MM next year to $23.2MM in 2027, the final year of the deal.
  • The Bills were among the teams making notable additions on Tuesday, trading for running back Nyheim Hines. The veteran is known as an effective pass-catcher out of the backfield, but also for his special teams contributions. To no surprise, then, PFT’s Michael David Smith noted before today’s game that the ex-Colt was expected to serve as Buffalo’s punt returner. Indeed, Hines accounted for his new team’s only punt return, taking over that role from rookie Khalil Shakir.