The Rams are bringing back corner Troy Hill, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. They’re reacquiring him from the Browns. Los Angeles will give up a fifth-round pick in 2023, the Rams announced.
The 30-year-old Hill started his career as a Bengal in 2015, but he then spent six seasons as a Ram before signing a four-year, $24MM contract with the Browns entering last season. Hill ended up appearing in 12 games and making four starts as a Brown in 2021, but he didn’t record an interception after picking off a career-high three passes the previous year.
Hill had his greatest success as a Ram to this point, and he’ll reunite with the reigning Super Bowl champions. He’ll join Jalen Ramsey and Jordan Fuller near the top of their CB depth chart in 2022.
December 15th, 2021 at 8:45am CST by Zachary Links
Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield has tested positive for COVID-19 (Twitter link via Adam Schefter and Kimberley A. Martin of ESPN.com). This means that Mayfield will be held out of this week’s game against the Raiders, unless he tests negative twice between now and Saturday. The same goes for cornerback Troy Hill, safety John Johnson III, defensive tackle Malik McDowell, and Ifeadi Odenigbo, all of whom were also placed on the reserve list today (Twitter link).
Mayfield is just the latest in a slew of positive tests for the Browns. On Tuesday, the Browns were forced to place eight players on the reserve list, including wide receiver Jarvis Landry, right guard Wyatt Teller, tight end Austin Hooper, left tackle Jedrick Wills, and defensive end Takkarist McKinley. As of this writing, roughly 16% of the Browns’ active roster could be shelved for their pivotal Week 15 game.
Mayfield is asymptomatic, or feeling “completely normal,” as one source tells Schefter (Twitter link). Still, the same COVID-19 protocols apply for the Browns’ star quarterback. If he’s unable to play, backup Case Keenum will be in line to start with Nick Mullens serving as the QB2.
It sounds like the Browns will have to play without two key players on Saturday against the Raiders. Browns coach Kevin Stefanski told reporters that running back Kareem Hunt and cornerback Troy Hill are considered week-to-week and aren’t expected to play this weekend.
This is unfortunate timing for Hunt, who just returned from a calf injury that he suffered in Week 6. Hunt was limited to a season-low 20 offensive snaps on Sunday after suffering an ankle injury, an ailment that will likely knock him out for additional contests. The running back had 1,145 yards from scrimmage and 11 touchdowns during the 2020 campaign, but he’s been limited to only 560 yards and five scores this season.
“That is the nature of the beast,” Stefanski said (via Andrew Gribble of the team’s website). “Obviously, you hate injuries, and the competitor that Kareem is, you hate that he is going through this, but he has to rehab and get back as soon as he can.”
Hill has gotten plenty of run in Cleveland’s secondary this season, but his injury couldn’t come at a worse time. Cornerback Greg Newsome II is currently in concussion protocol, while safety Ronnie Harrison is dealing with an ankle injury. The Browns will presumably add another defensive back to their roster prior to Saturday night.
The Browns have now received multiple commitments from ex-Rams secondary starters this week. Following their agreement with safety John Johnson, the Browns are signing cornerback Troy Hill, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets.
A multiyear starter in Los Angeles, Hill will come to Cleveland on a four-year, $24MM contract. Hill will join Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams as the Browns’ top corners. Assuming the Browns pick up Ward’s fifth-year option, all three will be signed through at least 2022.
Hill, 29, has experience as a boundary and slot corner, giving the Browns options. He also stands to provide insurance after Williams missed all of last season with an injury.
The Browns brought in Kevin Johnson on a one-year deal in 2020, but the former first-round pick has not been re-signed. Born in northeast Ohio but having gone to high school in southern California, Hill will return to his home state after multiple productive seasons with the Rams.
Last season, the Rams used Hill on 95% of their defensive snaps — well up from his 2019 usage — and he graded as a top-30 corner, per Pro Football Focus. Hill intercepted three passes last season and returned two of those picks for touchdowns. In 2019, Hill allowed opposing QBs to collectively amass a 61.3 passer rating and complete just 45% of their passes when targeting him. He stands to help a Browns defense that rated 25th in DVOA last season.
The Rams turned to Hill as a key cog, with the team having traded Marcus Peters to the Ravens during the 2019 season. Hill, however, played five seasons with Los Angeles and started 39 games. He and Johnson will arrive on long-term contracts, which run counter to GM Andrew Berry‘s strategy a year ago. In 2020, Berry supplemented his rookie-deal troops with the likes of Johnson, Andrew Sendejo and Karl Joseph in the secondary. The second-year GM opted to devote more significant resources to the secondary this year.
Andy Reid has worked with an MVP before (Brett Favre) and coached Pro Bowlers in Donovan McNabb, Michael Vick and Alex Smith. But Chiefs GM Brett Veach makes the case the seventh-year Kansas City HC has never had the kind possibilities for creativity, without limitations, that Patrick Mahomes provides.
“I think Andy understands that the talent he has in this kid is like nothing he’s ever had before,” Veach said, via Brooke Pryor of the Kansas City Star. “Not to say he didn’t have good quarterbacks before, not to say he didn’t have a great rapport or relationship with them, but I think Andy’s creativity is not restricted now in any way, not by mental, not by arm strength, not by mobility. Because sometimes you get super-smart guys, and maybe they don’t have this … or you get guys that don’t have this, but they have that.”
Over the course of Reid’s Chiefs tenure, he has steadily incorporated college concepts into his offense. He helped coax the best season of Smith’s career in 2017, but Mahomes’ runaway MVP season obviously established a new bar for the Reid offense’s modern capabilities. In Pryor’s expansive article detailing the relationship between Reid and Mahomes, Veach adds the 21st-year HC not having to scrap any of his play designs separates his partnership with Mahomes.
Here is the latest out of the West divisions, continuing first with (a given) the Antonio Brown saga:
Brown is about out of options, and Tom Pelissero of NFL.com notes (on Twitter) Mike Mayock‘s comments Sunday set the stage for potential Raiders discipline if the mercurial receiver does not practice soon. Another Brown option: a lawsuit that would allow him an injunction, thus enabling him for a time to wear his old helmet while the case plays out. That would be a rather extreme response, especially coming after a report indicating Brown was unlikely to appeal the arbitrator’s decision. But that was before NFL- and NFLPA-backed testing struck down Brown’s 2011 Schutt AiR Advantage helmet solution bid failed. Brown could still appeal, but it does not seem probable he would prevail. The Raiders’ dress-rehearsal game is Thursday; it is quite possible, if not likely, Brown will not play in the preseason.
Derwin James‘ absence will test the Chargers, but it makes their March re-signing of Adrian Phillips all the more important. The sixth-year safety/All-Pro special-teamer made a big difference playing as a hybrid linebacker in the Chargers’ Round 1 win over the Ravens, and Eric Williams of ESPN.com notes he will receive first crack at replacing James. Phillips (94 tackles in 2018 before a two-turnover wild-card performance) started Sunday’s preseason game against the Saints.
The contract-year statuses of Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters may force the Rams to consider the big picture when finalizing their roster. Les Snead could well keep an extra corner this season because of the potential 2020 departures of the team’s starting corners, Vincent Bonsignore of The Athletic writes (subscription required). In addition to Talib and Peters, slot starter Nickell Robey-Coleman, Troy Hill and third-round pick David Long will be roster locks. That leaves one or two spots left for a host of players who have shown well in camp, with Bonsignore singling out 2018 waiver claim Darious Williams and 2017 UDFA Kevin Petersonas the leaders to round out the corner corps. The latter missed all of 2018 due to injury, but both players have had standout camps. In addition to the Colts, Patriots and Saints, the Rams may begin receiving trade calls on some corners.
Previously given an original-round tender, Troy Hill agreed to a Rams extension. The Rams and the veteran cornerback agreed to terms on a two-year deal with a base value of $5.25MM, Mike Garafolo of NFL.com tweets.
This deal could be worth as much as $8.25MM, with the additional $3MM available through playing-time incentives. Should Hill play in 52.5% of the Rams’ defensive snaps, he will collect this additional $3MM, Garafolo adds.
Hill had not signed his RFA tender, worth just more than $2MM, but is now under Rams control through 2020. A former UDFA, Hill started seven games for the Rams last season. Aqib Talib‘s injury opened the door for extended Hill playing time.
The 27-year-old defender played 450 snaps last season, intercepted two passes and graded out as Pro Football Focus’ No. 66 corner (among the 112 that qualified for full-time status). The Oregon product produced a higher grade in 2017. He has started 14 games during his three-year Los Angeles tenure.
While Talib, Marcus Peters and Nickell Robey-Coleman still comprise the Rams’ top cornerback trio, both Talib and Peters are in the final years of their respective contracts. Robey-Coleman is signed through 2020.
Cory Littleton established himself as a surefire Rams starter last season. He figures to be a key component of Los Angeles’ 2019 defense.
The Rams placed a second-round tender on Littleton. That will come out to a $3.1MM salary for 2019, should no extension be reached before June’s RFA signing deadline.
A fourth-year UDFA, Littleton broke out for a 125-tackle, four-sack season in 2018 — his first as a full-time starter. With so many big contracts on the Rams’ roster, it helps they can get quality production from players with rookie-deal salaries. While the $3.1MM will take Littleton to a slightly higher tax bracket, that is a manageable figure for the Rams.
In addition to Littleton, the Rams made the following moves with other restricted and exclusive-rights free agents: