Will Hill

Extra Points: XFL, Giants, Vikings

The AAF may have imploded in spectacular fashion, but that doesn’t mean people are done taking cracks at spring football leagues. Vince McMahon’s XFL is gearing up to start play early next year, and they’ve already made some big hires. They’re now moving on to filling out the rosters, and some recognizable names are resurfacing. We heard a couple days ago that Landry Jones, Aaron Ripkowski, and Christine Michael would be auditioning, and now we have even more names to report. Trevone Boykin, Lance Dunbar, Kony Ealy, and Ahmad Dixon were at a showcase yesterday as well as a handful of other ex-NFLers, per Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News (Twitter link).

According to a tweet from Optimum Scouting’s Erik Galko, former Seahawks receiver Kasen Williams will also be among those trying out. Finally, a tweet posted by the XFL Houston account shows that NFL veterans Will Hill and Robert Meachem also participated in a camp. Meachem is 34 and last played in the NFL with the Saints back in 2014, so this would be quite the comeback. While the XFL will still be facing an uphill battle, they do appear to be in better position than the AAF. McMahon seems fully invested in the league, and the TV deal the league has is far superior. It’ll be interesting to see how it pans out.

Here’s more from around the football universe:

  • Speaking of the XFL, one of their big hires was when they named Daryl “Moose” Johnston the director of player personnel for their Dallas franchise. Johnston was the GM of the AAF’s San Antonio Commanders, so he has experience in this type of league. Most players in the AAF and XFL were looking to get back to the NFL, and it’s no different for coaches and execs. Johnston wants to be an NFL GM one day, per Machota. Johnston spent all 11 years of his pro career with the Cowboys as a fullback, winning three Super Bowls with the team. He made the Pro Bowl twice and has done a lot of broadcasting work for FOX since retiring.
  • Evan Engram missed the Giants’ recent minicamp, which raised some eyebrows. But thankfully he’s not dealing with anything serious, as Engram said today at Landon Collins‘ charity softball game that the Giants were just being “cautious” by holding him out, per Ryan Dunleavy of NJ.com (Twitter link). He also writes there’s “nothing lingering from last season.” Engram had a breakout rookie season in 2017, but took a step back last year while dealing with injuries. Hamstring and knee injuries limited Engram to just 11 games last year, but he finished strong down the stretch. In each of his last four games he finished with at least 75 yards, so he should be poised for a bounce back 2019 campaign.
  • 2018 first round pick Mike Hughes got off to a solid start last year. The Vikings cornerback had a pick-six in the first game of his career, but his rookie season ended in devastating fashion. The UCF product had his season ended by a torn ACL after just six games, and has been rehabbing ever since. Things appear to be going well, but the team is being cautious with him. To that end, Minnesota coach Mike Zimmer recently said that he wouldn’t get any practice in until training camp at the earliest, per Andrew Kramer of the Star Tribune. We heard recently the Vikings were listening to trade offers for both Trae Waynes and Xavier Rhodes, which would seem to indicate they’re optimistic about Hughes’ recovery.

Extra Points: Bengals, Lewis, Eagles, Foles, Chiefs, AAF

The Bengals are counting on some new coaching roles making a major difference this season. Marvin Lewis survived another year on the hot seat but knew he would need to rearrange his staff after another disappointing season. Teryl Austin will succeed now-Raiders DC Paul Guenther in running Cincinnati’s defense, and Lewis made Bill Lazor the full-time OC. The team jettisoned longtime offensive line coach Paul Alexander as well, with other new staffers coming in to help a team that’s fallen in the AFC hierarchy the past two years.

I made up my mind I wanted to coach,” Lewis said, via Jonathan Jones of SI.com. “So, do I want to go start over somewhere where I don’t know the people or coach these group of guys downstairs that no one else has? That’s an easy decision. You look at what’s open and these are the best players. And that’s what you want.

I knew we were going to have a lot of change on the coaching staff. I knew I had to make changes and those are the things that (owner) Mike (Brown) and I had to discuss. I had to make changes on people that had been with me for a long time and had been friends, and it’s difficult.”

Lewis added that he didn’t want to make wholesale roster changes, pointing out the number of Pro Bowlers still on the team, but the Bengals aren’t receiving much attention as a contender this season. They’re hoping these staff moves can re-route them back to the AFC playoffs.

Here’s the latest from the football landscape:

  • The Eagles received a scare Thursday night when Super Bowl MVP and temporary starting quarterback Nick Foles went down with a shoulder injury. The shoulder sprain Foles suffered is believed to be a minor malady and not one that will require a significant rehab effort, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports. It’s looking like it will come down to the wire on whom the defending Super Bowl champions will start at quarterback on opening night, with Carson Wentz unlikely to play in the preseason. The Eagles not having Foles would throw a major wrench in their plans, despite third-stringer Nate Sudfeld having a nice offseason.
  • Steven Nelson will be a full-time outside cornerback this season, Lynn Worthy of the Kansas City Star notes. This change emerged in the offseason, one that featured breakout slot man Kendall Fuller’s arrival, but the Chiefs are evidently committed to trying Nelson – their most frequent slot corner over the past two seasons – as an outside man. The 2015 third-round pick is entering a contract year. While Kansas City has looked at other corners this month – Bashaud Breeland and Orlando Scandrick – the trio of Fuller, Nelson and David Amerson remains atop the depth chart. Nelson did leave the Chiefs’ game Friday night with a head injury, however.
  • Former Jets second-round pick Stephen Hill and ex-Titans backup quarterback Zach Mettenberger are two of the notable new names signed on to play for the Alliance of American Football. The AAF announced 100 more players will join. Ex-Rams running back Daryl Richardson, former Saints and Jets ball carrier Khiry Robinson, linebacker Deontae Skinner and running back Storm Johnson are among the new contingent. Former Giants and Ravens safety Will Hill and veteran kicker Nick Novak, who was with the Chargers last season, were among the first wave to sign.

Free Agent Safety Will Hill’s Suspension Ends

Free agent safety Will Hill‘s 10-game suspension has officially ended, as Doug Kyed of NESN tweets. Hill was suspended in March for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, and was subsequently released by the Ravens.Will Hill

Having made 14 starts in 2015 and received a contract extension from the team, Hill was Baltimore’s best safety last year according to Pro Football Focus, which ranked him 17th out of 88 qualified safeties at the position. For the season, he had 64 tackles, a sack, an interception, and six passes defended, but he saw his role reduced near the end of the season, appearing in just 49 defensive snaps in the Ravens’ final two games.

Hill has violated NFL policies in the past, resulting in multiple suspensions, so it’s unclear if another club is willing to give him another chance. Typically, however, talent wins out in the NFL, so if Hill can prove that he’s clean, he’s likely to be signed at some point.

Ravens Notes: Monroe, Gillmore, FAs, Hill

Earlier in the offseason, Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome referred to Eugene Monroe as Baltimore’s left tackle. However, there’s some uncertainty about whether Monroe, who has missed 15 of 32 games since joining the team and has an $8.7MM cap number in 2016, has much of a future with the club.

At the NFL owners’ meetings in Boca Raton, Florida today, head coach John Harbaugh perhaps contributed to that speculation, suggesting that there will be a competition for the Ravens’ left tackle spot. Per Harbaugh, right tackle Ricky Wagner may be an option on the left side and the team may still add another player to the mix. Harbaugh later promised that Monroe’s stance on the benefits of medical marijuana doesn’t reflect the organization’s views on the issue (Twitter links via Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun).

While Harbaugh’s comments don’t necessarily mean that Monroe’s days in Baltimore are numbered, it seems clear that he’s no longer viewed as the team’s long-term answer at left tackle.

Here’s more from Harbaugh:

  • Harbaugh was very positive about the outlook for tight end Crockett Gillmore. Although it initially appeared that Gillmore would require surgery on both of his shoulders, the 24-year-old will only undergo a procedure on one shoulder, and should be ready to go for OTAs (Twitter link via Zrebiec).
  • According to their head coach, the Ravens “aren’t done in free agency,” tweets Zrebiec. As the Baltimore Sun scribe notes (via Twitter), Harbaugh “casually mentioned” at one point today that Dwight Freeney remains unsigned.
  • The Ravens’ decision to release safety Will Hill last week wasn’t a football one, according to Harbaugh, who added that Hill needs to find the priorities in his life (Twitter link via Zrebiec). The talented defensive back is currently facing a 10-game suspension, his fourth ban since entering the league.
  • As we discussed earlier this morning, Harbaugh also confirmed that the Ravens have an unofficial agreement in place with free agent running back Trent Richardson.

Ravens To Cut Will Hill

4:22pm: Hill has been suspended ten games for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, league sources tell Adam Schefter and Adam Caplan of ESPN.com (on Twitter).

4:02pm: As I speculated below, the Ravens may in fact have known something that we didn’t regarding Hill’s off-field behavior. According to Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun (Twitter link), the safety is facing potential discipline from the NFL. Since Hill has already been suspended three times by the league, he could be facing a lengthy ban if he’s suspended again.

2:10pm: Following the Ravens’ signing of free agent safety Eric Weddle, the other shoe has dropped. According to Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun (via Twitter), the team is releasing safety Will Hill. The move has since been confirmed by the team.Will Hill

After acquiring Weddle, the Ravens had a glut at the safety position to address, with Hill, Lardarius Webb, Kendrick Lewis, and Matt Elam among the players on the club’s depth chart. Although Hill didn’t have as large a cap hit as Webb, and likely had a better chance of making an on-field impact in 2016 than Lewis or Elam, he’s the one who finds himself out of a job.

Having made 14 starts in 2015 and received a contract extension from the team, Hill was Baltimore’s best safety according to Pro Football Focus, which ranked him 17th out of 88 qualified safeties at the position. For the season, he had 64 tackles, a sack, an interception, and six passes defended, but he saw his role reduced near the end of the season, appearing in just 49 defensive snaps in the Ravens’ final two games.

Hill has violated NFL policies in the past, resulting in multiple suspensions, and it’s possible the Ravens know something that we don’t regarding his off-field behavior. For now though, it looks like an on-field decision, with the team prepared to pair Weddle with Webb in its starting lineup. By cutting Hill, the Ravens will create $2.84MM in cap savings for the 2016 season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Ravens Sign Will Hill To Two-Year Deal

SATURDAY, 2:03pm: The fourth-year safety’s signing bonus is worth $3.5MM, per ESPN.com’s Jamison Hensley (on Twitter). Hill’s base salary for 2015 is $660K, all of it guaranteed. $1MM of his $2.84MM 2016 salary comes with a guarantee, Hensley tweets.

FRIDAY, 10:50am: Hill’s two-year deal is worth a total of $7MM, plus another $400K in playing-time incentives, tweets Jason Cole of Bleacher Report, adding that the safety got a $2.84MM guarantee. Considering Hill had only been set to earn $1.542MM in 2015, he got a nice pay bump for allowing Baltimore to buy out his first year of unrestricted free agency.

THURSDAY, 1:21pm: The Ravens and safety Will Hill have agreed to terms on a new two-year contract, according to Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun (Twitter links). The deal, which covers the 2015 and 2016 seasons, has since been confirmed by the team (Twitter link). Hill had already been under contract with Baltimore, but his previous deal was set to expire after the 2015 season.

Hill, who turned 25 earlier this year, served a six-game suspension to start the 2014 season, but was his usual effective self when he returned, recording 47 tackles and returning an interception for a touchdown. The Ravens safety also ranked 14th out of 87 qualified players at the position last year, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required) — his 584 defensive snaps were the fewest of any safety with a top-20 grade.

While his play on the field was solid, Hill still has some red flags off the field, having served multiple suspensions for violating league policies. That may explain why he didn’t appear to draw a ton of interest as a restricted free agent this offseason. Baltimore gave Hill an original-round tender, which means that, as a former UDFA, he had no draft pick compensation attached to him. However, the former Florida Gator didn’t sign an offer sheet with another club, re-signing his tender to return to the Ravens on a $1.542MM salary.

The financial terms of Hill’s new contract aren’t yet known.

Ravens Re-Sign Will Hill

Shortly after reporting that Justin Tucker has signed his restricted free agent tender to return to the Ravens, Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun tweets that another Baltimore RFA has signed his own tender. According to Wilson, safety Will Hill has inked a one-year contract and will be back with the Ravens.

Whereas the team tendered Tucker at the second-round level, Hill was given an original-pick tender, meaning he’ll be in line for a 2015 salary of $1.542MM. It also means that if Hill had signed an offer sheet with another team and the Ravens elected not to match it, Baltimore wouldn’t have received any draft compensation, since the Florida product came into the league as an undrafted free agent.

It’s perhaps a little surprising that Hill didn’t generate much interest or sign an offer sheet elsewhere, since he was one of the more talented RFAs available. Still, his off-field history, which includes multiple suspensions for violating league policies, may have scared off potential suitors.

Hill, who turned 25 last month, served a six-game suspension to start the 2014 season, but was his usual effective self when he returned, recording 47 tackles and returning an interception for a touchdown. The Ravens safety also ranked 14th out of 87 qualified players at the position last year, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required) — his 584 defensive snaps were the fewest of any safety with a top-20 grade.

Minor Moves: Monday Evening

Our first round-up of today’s minor transactions around the NFL was starting to get a little unwieldy, so we’ll recap the rest of the afternoon and evening minor moves right here. Here’s the latest:

  • The Titans won’t tender either receiver Kris Durham or linebacker Kaelin Burnett, making both free agents, tweets Jim Wyatt of the Tennessean.
  • The Ravens have tendered ERFA cornerback Rashaan Melvin at $585K, per Wilson (Twitter link). Melvin started two games for Baltimore near the end of the season.
  • The Ravens also have extended an exclusive rights tender worth $435K to long snapper Patrick Scales, per Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun (Twitter link). Scales was originally signed in December, becoming Baltimore’s third snapper of the season. The man he replaced, Kevin McDermott, didn’t get an RFA tender, tweets Wilson.

Earlier updates:

  • Rather than tendering restricted free agent linebacker Mike Morgan, the Seahawks have simply signed him to a one-year contract, per Condotta (via Twitter).
  • Updating a previous note, the Seahawks actually have tendered receiver Ricardo Lockette, and have offered a contract to ERFA defensive back DeShawn Shead, as well, per Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times (Twitter links).
  • The Jets have tendered offers to two RFAs — defensive tackle Damon Harrison received a second-round tender worth $2.356MM, while safety Jaiquawn Jarrett received the lowest tender.
  • With Ryan Mallett returning to the fold and a deal with Brian Hoyer moving closer to completion, the Texans started clearing out a crowded quarterback position today by cutting Thad Lewis, tweets Field Yates of ESPN.com. Somewhat ironically, Lewis was initially added to Houston’s roster back in November to replace Mallett, who landed on injured reserve with a pectoral injury.
  • The Ravens extended an RFA tender to safety Will Hill at the low-end level, reports Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun (Twitter links). The $1.542MM offer ensures that Baltimore maintains the right of first refusal if Hill signs an offer sheet with another club. The Ravens also tendered ERFA defensive end Steven Means, locking him up for 2015, tweets Wilson.
  • The Seahawks have elected not to tender contracts to wide receiver Bryan Walters and offensive lineman Stephen Schilling, says Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times (Twitter links). All three players could still re-sign with Seattle, but they’ll be unrestricted free agents and can negotiate with other teams too.
  • Punter Marquette King, safety Brandian Ross, and safety Larry Asante all received low-end RFA tenders from the Raiders, writes Scott Bair of CSNBayArea.com. Defensive back Chimdi Chekwa and running back Kory Sheets weren’t tendered, and will become UFAs tomorrow.

AFC North Links: Steelers, Bengals, Ravens

The NFL has announced the introduction of a new veteran combine this year, set for March 22 in Phoenix. The event, scheduled for nearly two weeks after the start of 2015’s free agent period, will allow about 100 veteran free agents to audition for interested teams. However, Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert doesn’t have much interest in the combine as an evaluation tool, as Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review details.

“Most of these guys that go to the veteran combine have been in at camp,” Colbert said. “They’ve been veterans. They’ve been practice squad players or they’ve been active players. So what they do in a workout I’m not really interested in. I just want to see what they did when they did have their chance to be NFL players.”

As we wait to see whether the event will pique the interest of other GMs and teams around the NFL, let’s check in on a few notes from around the AFC North….

  • The Bengals may have a fairly uneventful offseason ahead of them, according to Jason Fitzgerald of OverTheCap.com, who notes that this should be a good time for the team to try to work out a contract with star receiver A.J. Green.
  • One reason we shouldn’t expect much action from the Bengals this offseason is that the club typically doesn’t pursue free agents at the top of the market, and Paul Dehner Jr. of the Cincinnati Enquirer explains why.
  • While the cornerback position could be a priority for the Ravens this offseason, the club should also make sure to address the safety spot, since only Matt Elam and 2014 third-rounder Terrence Brooks have contracts for next season at the moment, says Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun.
  • Restricted free-agent-to-be Will Hill will likely return to the Ravens, and he’s out there recruiting for other potential free agent safeties to join him in Baltimore. As Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com writes, Hill is campaigning for his former Giants teammate Antrel Rolle to sign with the Ravens.

Hensley On Ravens: Thomas, Torrey Smith, Hill

ESPN.com’s Jamison Hensley’s latest mailbag includes his take on a number of issues facing the Ravens this offseason. Let’s dive in:

  • Hensley was asked what the most surprising development of the Ravens’ offseason would be, and he responded with his prediction that Baltimore will pursue a bona fide No. 1 wide receiver in free agency. Such a move would represent a significant departure from the Ravens’ typically low-key approach to free agency, and the team currently does not have enough cap room to make such a splash, but Baltimore needs a big-bodied, athletic receiver to continue the offensive momentum it established under Gary Kubiak in 2014. Quarterback Joe Flacco has never had such a weapon at his disposal, and Hensley believes the time is right to bring in a player like Demaryius Thomas.
  • Of course, if the Ravens do make such a move, they may part ways with Torrey Smith and Marlon Brown may see a much-deserved increased role in the offense.
  • Hensley believes the Ravens should give extensions to starting guards Kelechi Osemele and Marshal Yanda, and that John Urschel will probably take Jeremy Zuttah‘s job as the starting center in 2016.
  • Echoing Conor Orr of NFL.com, Hensley writes that the Ravens are factoring restricted free agent Will Hill into their 2015 plans, and they hope he will win the starting free safety job. However,given the mediocre play of Matt Elam and Darian Stewart, strong safety is still a big question mark.
  • Even if Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb can remain healthy in 2015–a very big “if” considering their injury histories–Hensley believes the team’s biggest weakness is at cornerback, and he believes the Ravens should draft a corner in the first three rounds of this year’s draft.
  • Hensley does not see the team using the franchise tag this year.