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Packers Sign Rookie Vernon Scott

On Monday, the club announced the signing of seventh-round safety Vernon Scott. With that, the Packers now have two of their draft picks officially in the fold.

Scott, a safety out of TCU, was selected in the seventh-round as the No. 236 overall pick. Per the terms of his slot, he’ll receive a four-year, $3.378MM deal with a signing bonus of about $84K. Of course, it’s not a given that he’ll earn that full ~$3.4MM – as a late draft choice, he’ll first have to earn his spot on the 53-man roster, and that’s far from a sure thing. Still, he’ll have an opportunity to make the cut as a supporting safety behind starters Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage.

The Packers are high on Scott’s natural ability. He was a three-sport athlete in high school and, while on campus, he ran a 4.4 second 40-yard-dash and posted a 35-inch vertical leap. The raw talent is undeniably there, but he’ll have to impress this summer in order to find his place on the team.

Scott and fellow seventh-round choice Jonathan Garvin are accounted for, but the Packers still have seven draft picks to go, as shown in PFR’s tracker.

Texans, G Zach Fulton Rework Contract

The Texans and starting right guard Zach Fulton have agreed to a reworked contract, per ESPN’s Field Yates (via Twitter). Pursuant to the terms of the four-year pact Fulton signed in March 2018, the 28-year-old was due to earn $6.5MM in base salary in each of the next two seasons, along with $500K roster bonuses.

However, none of those amounts were guaranteed, which means that Fulton may have been a potential cap casualty. In order to guard against that, he agreed to a pretty sizable paycut. He will earn a fully-guaranteed $5MM in 2020 and is now due to receive $3MM in 2021, but that sum is non-guaranteed.

Houston was not exactly strapped for cap space, with about $17MM or so of wiggle room. However, the club is gearing up for a massive extension for quarterback Deshaun Watson, and LT Laremy Tunsil‘s cap number will approach $20MM next season, so the Texans need all the help they can get.

Fulton, a former sixth-round pick of the Chiefs, has started all 28 games in which he has appeared for Houston. His run-blocking has always been suspect, but his pass-blocking is what allows him to be a starter in the NFL. In 2019, Pro Football Focus ranked him as one of the best pass-blocking guards in the league, though his weak run-blocking marks brought down his overall score.

The reworked deal will allow him to continue his quest to keep Watson upright in 2020. It also gives the Texans a rare chance at continuity, as the club will return all five of its 2019 O-line starters this season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Panthers Sign CB Eli Apple

Several weeks after his Raiders deal fell through, Eli Apple secured another free agency agreement. The Panthers announced Thursday they signed the veteran cornerback.

Apple and the Panthers agreed to a one-year deal, according to Joe Person of The Athletic (on Twitter). This will help fill the void James Bradberry created when he defected to the Giants in March. A former Giants first-round pick, Apple will have a clear track to a starting job with the Panthers.

During one of the most defense-heavy drafts in NFL history, Carolina did select two corners. But the team did not address this position until the fourth round. Prior to Apple, the Panthers had not made a notable free agent investment at corner this offseason, either. Pro Football Focus graded none of Carolina’s incumbent corners higher than 89th at the position last season. Donte Jackson, a 2018 second-rounder, resides as the Panthers’ top cornerback holdover. Bradberry had served as Carolina’s No. 1 corner throughout his career.

Apple, 24, agreed to a one-year, $6MM Raiders pact in March. But on April 2, the former Ohio State standout returned to free agency. This takes one of free agency’s top corners off the market, though the likes of Logan Ryan and Darqueze Dennard remain unsigned.

The Giants traded Apple to the Saints during the 2018 season, and he delivered more stable work in New Orleans after a rocky tenure in New York. Apple started 25 games for the Saints. He will follow Teddy Bridgewater east to be part of Matt Rhule‘s rebuild effort.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Raiders TE Nick O’Leary Retires From NFL

About two months ago, Nick O’Leary signed on with the Raiders. Today, the team announced that the tight end has been placed on the reserve/retired list. 

O’Leary, 28 in August, split his 2019 season between the Jaguars and Dolphins. After entering the league as a fifth-round pick of the Bills in 2015, he enjoyed a five-year career as a reliable role player and a pass-blocker. Now, he’s moving on to something new.

To replace O’Leary on the roster, the Raiders re-signed free agent Paul Butler. The tight end spend time with the Raiders over the last two years and he’ll return in 2020 to join them in Las Vegas. He also spent time with the Lions as a reserve/future signing, but he has yet to see live regular season action in the NFL.

Butler will fight for his spot on the 53-man roster, competing in camp alongside tight ends Darren Waller, Jason Witten, Foster Moreau, Derek Carrier, and UDFA Nick Bowers.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Seahawks Sign RB Carlos Hyde

The Seahawks are moving fast. Shortly after a report surfaced of a final offer going out to Devonta Freeman, the Seahawks will pivot to Carlos Hyde. The six-year veteran agreed to terms with the team on Friday, and the deal became official on Thursday afternoon, per a club announcement.

With Rashaad Penny‘s status uncertain, the Seahawks moved aggressively to bring in a veteran this week. They offered Freeman a deal that would have paid him $3MM in base value, with another $1MM available via incentives, but the longtime Falcons starter didn’t bite. Instead, Hyde will soon head west on a deal that will pay him up to $4MM, per Rapoport (on Twitter). It is not yet certain if the base value for Hyde — who also surfaced as a Seahawks target this week — will equal what Seattle offered Freeman.

Hyde is coming off his first 1,000-yard season. Since his 49ers exit, though, the former second-round pick has not enjoyed much stability. Hyde signed with the Browns in free agency in 2018, but the team traded him to the Jaguars. Jacksonville cut bait after the ’18 season, leading Hyde to the Chiefs. Kansas City then traded him to Houston, where he became the Texans’ primary ground-game option.

Despite a low-end contract, Hyde reeled off 1,070 yards (4.4 per carry) and six touchdowns. While Hyde has just one 1,000-yard season, he compiled back-to-back 900-plus-yard campaigns with the 2016 and ’17 49ers. Hyde turned down a Texans offer earlier this year.

The Seahawks still appear intent on keeping Chris Carson as their primary back, despite the fumbling troubles that plagued him last season, and invested a first-round pick in Penny two years ago. But they now have some insurance in Hyde, who will turn 30 in September. Such insurance may be necessary. Penny starting the season on the PUP list is a concern, Brady Henderson of ESPN.com tweets.

Hyde’s decision may drive the Eagles — who were also interested in Hyde — to ramp up talks with Freeman. Both the Jets and Eagles are believed to be in the mix for Freeman.

Another piece of fallout from this deal could mean Marshawn Lynch returns to retirement. Earlier this month, Seahawks GM John Schneider said another deal with Lynch remained possible. Seattle re-signed Lynch after both Carson and Penny went down late last season. The popular Seahawk played in the team’s regular-season finale and both playoff games.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFL Draft Pick Signings: 5/27/20

Here are today’s mid- to late-round draft pick signings:

  • The Titans have signed seventh-round DB Chris Jackson, per Jim Wyatt of TennesseeTitans.com (Wyatt also reported the signing of fifth-round DL Larrell Murchison, but that contract had already been announced). Jackson, a Marshall product, will fight for a spot in Tennessee’s outside corner rotation, but he could also play in the slot and at safety. He ranks No. 1 in Thundering Herd history with 45 pass breakups and No. 2 in program history with 52 passes defensed.

Saints To Sign James Hurst

The Saints have agreed to sign James Hurst, according agent Jack Bechta (on Twitter). The former Ravens offensive lineman will head to New Orleans on a one-year deal. 

[RELATED: Saints DE Noah Spence Tears ACL]

The Ravens released Hurst in March, wiping his $5.25MM cap hit off of the books for 2020. In February, Hurst was hit with a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances. Before the ban, Hurst was already on the roster bubble. After the suspension came down from the league office, his fate was pretty much sealed.

The suspension means that Hurst won’t be available for his new team in September. But, come October, Hurst could be a worthwhile reserve, one that offers starting experience at both tackle and guard. In six seasons with the Ravens, Hurst was first-string for 44 of his 90 games. He was mostly a reserve last year, but he started in all of his games between 2017 and 2018.

In New Orleans, Hurst will have the opportunity to learn from one of the league’s best O-Lines, a unit that allowed only 24 sacks in 2019. On the outside, they’ll start Terron Armstead and Ryan Ramczyk. In the middle, they’ll deploy Andrus Peat, Erik McCoy, and rookie Cesar Ruiz, now that veteran Larry Warford is out of the picture.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.