Nyheim Hines

AFC North Rumors: Ravens, Steelers, Hines

After losing both of 2023’s starting guards, Kevin Zeitler and John Simpson, to free agency, the Ravens have been tasked with replacing both starters on either side of center Tyler Linderbaum. Though Baltimore had thoughts to address those holes in the 2024 NFL Draft, The Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec reports that a third-round run on guards led the team’s draft room to shy away from the position.

Starting with the seventh pick of the third round, the Ravens watched Isaiah Adams, Cooper Beebe, Christian Haynes, Zak Zinter, and Dominick Puni all come off the board. Similarly, in the fourth round, a run that included running backs Jaylen Wright, Bucky Irving, Will Shipley, Ray Davis, and Isaac Guerendo (the last four making up four of the five picks before Baltimore’s) led the team to go in another direction (though Wisconsin’s Braelon Allen was available and selected four picks later).

These runs, especially the four running backs selected in the five picks before the Ravens’ selection, seemed strategic, given the team’s obvious desire to add to both positions in the draft. Faced with this challenge general manager Eric DeCosta pivoted, and instead of drafting a player at those positions far above their distinguished value, Baltimore addressed other needs, selecting Penn State pass rusher Adisa Isaac and Iowa State cornerback T.J. Tampa.

Unrelated, rookie safety Beau Brade, one of the Ravens’ top undrafted free agent signings out of Maryland, is set to be sidelined for a few weeks after injuring his ankle in the team’s rookie minicamp. Considered one of the most likely undrafted players to make a roster spot (the Ravens historically have at least one per year), Brade is expected to be back before the team adjourns for the final break before training camp.

Here are a few other rumors coming out of the NFL’s toughest division:

  • The Steelers utilized three of their seven draft picks in an attempt to make improvements to their offensive line, including taking Washington offensive lineman Troy Fautanu 20th overall. While the team was happy to see Fautanu fall to them, considering they predicted he could go as high as No. 10, the team also had their eye on Georgia offensive tackle Amarius Mims. With all the recon the team dedicated to offensive linemen, Pittsburgh likely figured out that Mims was headed to Cincinnati two picks before them, so it speaks to the team’s feelings on Fautanu that they opted not to make a trade up. As soon as they put in the pick in the first round, they went back to work, targeting West Virginia center Zach Frazier to determine whether or not he would still be around at No. 51 (he was).
  • New Browns running back Nyheim Hines missed the entire 2023 season on injured reserve after tearing his ACL in a freak jet skiing accident last summer. Known for his abilities receiving out of the backfield and returning kicks, Hines lines up as a perfect complement to recovering lead back Nick Chubb on paper. In order to do that, though, Hines has to come all the way back from the season-ending injury. On the Up & Adams show on FanDuel TV, Hines explained that he’s made progress on his rehabilitation and is on schedule for his recovery.

Browns To Sign RB Nyheim Hines

Running back moves continue around the NFL as the negotiating window enters its third day. Nyheim Hines has agreed to a one-year deal with the Browns worth up to $3.5MM, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports.

The former fourth-round pick emerged as a dependable pass-catching back in Indianapolis, where he had 235 receptions in four-plus seasons with the organization. He was traded to the Bills during the 2022 campaign, and he appeared in nine games for his new squad down the stretch.

He didn’t have the same offensive role in Buffalo, collecting only 11 touches. However, he did have a significant role on special teams, returning 19 kickoffs and 16 punts. He returned a pair of kickoffs for touchdowns during the team’s regular season finale against the Patriots.

He missed the entire 2023 campaign while recovering from a leg injury stemming from an offseason watercraft accident. He was cut by the Bills earlier this month.

The Browns had to dip into their RB depth in 2023 following Nick Chubb‘s season-ending injury. The team will return that same depth in 2024, with backups Jerome Ford and Pierre Strong expected to stick around. The team may be looking for some additional bodies at the position as Chubb gets back to full health, although Hines’ pass-catching ability will likely earn him some snaps either way.

Bills Release RB Nyheim Hines

Nyheim Hines was forced to miss the 2023 campaign, and his preparation for the coming season will now come with uncertainty. Buffalo plans to release the veteran running back this week, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports. A team announcement has since confirmed the move, which comes with a non-football injury designation.

Schefter adds that Hines – who suffered a torn ACL during a jet ski incident in July – is expected to be healthy in time for training camp this summer. That positive health note could help his market to a degree, but the missed campaign will still no doubt hinder his ability to land a lucrative agreement with a new team.

This move will create $4.66MM in cap savings while incurring only $500K in dead money. It will therefore help the cap-strapped Bills in their effort to achieve compliance. Buffalo entered today in the worst financial shape in the league, on track to check in roughly $41MM over the cap ceiling. One year remained on Hines’ contract, but he will now hit the open market early.

The 27-year-old was traded from the Colts to the Bills at the deadline in 2022, and he was used sparingly on offense while serving as the team’s primary kick returner. Hines scored a pair of touchdowns in the latter respect, providing relatively high expectations for the 2023 season. His roster spot appeared to be in doubt to an extent even before suffering the injury, however.

As a result, it comes as no surprise Buffalo will move on. The team has James Cook safely atop the depth chart after he delivered a Pro Bowl season in his first opportunity as a starter. Latavius Murray, Ty Johnson and Damien Harris filled out the RB room during the season, each seeing limited opportunities. A number of players handled return duties, meanwhile, with Johnson running back the most kicks and Deonte Harty serving as the primary punt returner. A similar setup will likely be employed moving forward.

As his recovery continues, Hines will now turn his attention to free agency. A plethora of high-profile backs are set to reach the market, and it would come as a surprise if the position’s market saw a rebound from the past few years. Given his return experience and ability as a pass-catcher, though, Hines will likely have the opportunity to latch onto a roster in the hopes of carving out a role for himself. Further cost-shedding moves on Buffalo’s part will be needed as the new league year (March 13) draws nearer.

AFC East Rumors: Eichenberg, Hines, Pats

With a little more time and a lot more publicity, Dolphins offensive lineman Liam Eichenberg could have a case for Comeback Player of the Year. Not really, but Eichenberg has done an impressive job of turning around his career, which was trending downwards through his first two years in the league.

An offensive tackle at Notre Dame, Eichenberg struggled as a rookie full-time starter at left tackle in Miami. In 2022, Eichenberg slid inside to the left guard spot and delivered a more admirable performance before having his season derailed by injuries.

Eichenberg opened this year as a sixth-man for the Dolphins’ offensive line, specializing on interior play. When injuries held out starting center Connor Williams, Eichenberg stepped in to complete his trifecta of starting at every position on the left side of the line. Later on, he filled in with starts at right and left guard, as well. He’s reportedly more comfortable at right guard, but the Dolphins opted to start him at left guard last week ahead of Lester Cotton, who had started there the past two weeks.

In fact, according to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, Miami’s staff has been so impressed with Eichenberg that, barring a miraculous return by Isaiah Wynn from a significant quadriceps injury, Eichenberg could have won the starting left guard job for the remainder of the season.

Here are a few other rumors from around the AFC East:

  • Patriots star pass rusher Matt Judon has now missed the team’s last nine games on injured reserve. Judon has certainly missed enough time to come off of IR, but there’s been no word of that possibility yet. According to Doug Kyed of the Boston Herald, when head coach Bill Belichick was asked about the possibility of Judon returning this year, the long-time skipper replied“We’ll see. That’s a good question.” He continued, “I know he’s working hard. Matt’s been in here, works hard on a daily basis, but again, that’s a medical question that I wouldn’t be able to answer.”
  • When Bills running back Nyheim Hines suffered an off-site jet ski injury that would end his 2023 season before it even began, that put the veteran rusher in an uncomfortable position concerning his contract. Since the injury occurred away from play, Hines was placed on the non-football injury list, “which technically doesn’t require the team to pay him anything,” per Zak Keefer of The Athletic. Hines was out millions in incentives and bonuses. It took the two sides a few months to hammer out the details, but eventually, they “agreed on a smaller sum” than the $9MM over two years that they had originally agreed to. This allows the Bills to stay on good terms with Hines when he’s able to return to the team next year while saving them from having to pay his full contract for a year in which he won’t see the field.
  • When it was reported that Patriots offensive tackle Trent Brown failed to make the trip to Frankfurt with the team for personal reasons, Brown took exception to the speculation that followed. Per ESPN’s Mike Reiss, Brown felt the need to clarify that the reason he was unable to make the trip was because of the second opinion he sought on his ankle sprain. While he did attend a funeral during the team’s visit to Germany, he was not able to spend much personal time with his family as he was due back in New England for rehab.

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.