Zach Strief

Saints Place Zach Strief On IR

The Saints have placed offensive tackle Zach Strief on injured reserve, a source tells ESPN.com’s Field Yates (on Twitter). Strief suffered an MCL sprain earlier this year but the team was hoping to avoid IR. Zach Strief (vertical)

By placing Strief on IR, the Saints will have to keep him out of action for a minimum of eight weeks. The good news is that offensive line coach Dan Roushar says Strief may be a candidate to return later in the season (Twitter link via Joel A. Erickson of The Advocate).

Strief suffered his injury during the team’s season opener and that was a bad blow considering that fellow starting tackle Terron Armstead was also injured to start the year. The Saints have managed to go 2-2 even with their banged up offensive line, but it remains to be seen if they can keep things afloat going forward.

In 2016, the 34-year-old played more than 97% of the Saints’ offensive snaps and posted perhaps the best campaign of his career. He graded as the No. 12 overall tackle in the NFL, per Pro Football Focus, which gave him excellent marks in the run and pass game.

The Saints are on bye in Week 5 before facing the Lions in Week 6.

Extra Points: Steelers, Tuitt, Saints

Here’s a look around the NFL:

  • Steelers defensive end Stephon Tuitt has a chance to play this week against Minnesota, coach Mike Tomlin told reporters on Tuesday (Twitter link via Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com). Tuitt has been classified as week-to-week with his bicep injury.
  • In light of the Zach Strief injury news, Nick Underhill of The Advocate (on Twitter) notes that likely replacement Senio Kelemete can earn $200K by playing in 50% of the team’s snaps and up to $600K at 70%. The Saints will be without the tackle for at least a few weeks.
  • Texans guard Jeff Allen is expected to miss at least one game with an ankle injury, Mark Berman of FOX 26 tweets. Allen, one of Houston’s starting guards, is in year two of a four-year, $28MM pact. He appeared in 14 games last season, all starts.
  • Wide receiver Cobi Hamilton is working out for the Texans this week, a source tells ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler (on Twitter). The former Pittsburgh receiver could round out a banged up unit that is missing both Bruce Ellington (concussion) and Will Fuller (collarbone).
  • The Chiefs gave running back Akeem Hunt an upgraded practice squad contract, Aaron Wilson of The Houston Chronicle tweets. He’ll now make $36K per week, which comes out to $615K for the year. Hunt signed on with KC’s taxi squad on Sept. 5 and it sounds like the Chiefs weren’t the only team interested in his services.

Saints RT Zach Strief Suffers MCL Sprain

Saints tackle Zach Strief suffered an MCL sprain during Monday night’s game against the Vikings and is expected to miss a few weeks, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. It’s a bad break for the 0-1 Saints who are already without left tackle Terron ArmsteadZach Strief (Vertical)

[RELATED: Saints Release Jon Dorenbos]

When Strief exited the game, he was replaced by reserve Senio Kelemete. Unless the Saints add a tackle in the coming days, they’ll probably head into their Week 2 contest with Kelemete and rookie Ryan Ramczyk starting at left tackle. That’s not the O-Line you want against the Patriots, even though their pass rush is shaky.

Last year, the 33-year-old Strief played more than 97% of the Saints’ offensive snaps and posted perhaps the best campaign of his career. He graded as the No. 12 overall tackle in the NFL, per Pro Football Focus, which gave him excellent marks in the run and pass game.

Strief, a 12-year veteran, has not missed significant time since the 2012 season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Saints OT Zach Strief Restructures Contract

The Saints have restructured the contract of offensive tackle Zach Strief, according to Nick Underhill of the Advocate (all Twitter links).Zach Strief (Vertical)

Originally scheduled to earn a base salary of $1MM in 2017, Strief will now bring in a $1.7MM base salary next season, per Underhill. Meanwhile, Strief’s per-game active roster bonuses will increase from $1.4 to $1.7MM. While none of those figures are guaranteed, the moves do lift Strief’s cap charge by $1MM to $6.1MM.

The Saints appear to be simply rewarding Strief for a solid 2016 season, as the reworking of his contract doesn’t contain any financial incentives for the club. Last year, the 33-year-old Strief played more than 97% of the Saints’ offensive snaps and posted perhaps the best campaign of his career. Strief graded as the No. 12 overall tackle in the NFL, per Pro Football Focus, which gave him excellent marks in the run and pass game.

Currently, Strief is signed through the 2018 season. The Saints, for their part, seem to have found a ready-made long-term replacement for Strief by selecting Wisconsin tackle Ryan Ramczyk with the final pick of the first round in last month’s draft.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC Notes: Vikings, Rhodes, Saints, 49ers

Free agent cornerback K’Waun Williams will take his visit with the Vikings next Tuesday, tweets Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN. Williams, 25, had meetings with the Lions and Jets earlier this week, and is expected to convene with the Dolphins and 49ers at some point, as well. After starting 10 total games during his first two years in the NFL, Williams was sidelined for all of 2016 thanks to an ankle injury.

Here’s more from Minnesota and the rest of the NFC:

  • The Vikings have are expected to hire former Purdue and Kent State head coach Darrell Hazell as their new wide receivers coach, according to Alex Marvez of the Sporting News (Twitter link). Hazell, who was fired only six games into the Boilermakers’ 2016 campaign, has a career NCAA record of 25-43. Internal offensive assistant Drew Petzing was also thought to be a candidate for the position, but instead it’s Hazell who will replace George Stewart, who left for Los Angeles.
  • While they’ll face decisions on unrestricted free agents Matt Kalil, Captain Munnerlyn, and Cordarrelle Patterson, the Vikings are also expected to begin negotiating a contract extension with cornerback Xavier Rhodes, according to Matt Vensel of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Thanks to his fifth-year option, Rhodes is signed through the 2017 season, during which he’ll earn $8.026MM. A long-term deal could nearly double his salary, as Josh Norman currently leads all cornerbacks with a $15MM annual figure.
  • The Saints are likely to select an offensive tackle early in the draft, perhaps as early as Round 1, writes Mike Triplett of ESPN.com. Although Drew Brees‘ blindside is locked down by Terron Armstead, right tackle Zach Strief is now 33 years old and entering the twilight of his career. Strief is due a $1.5MM roster bonus later this spring, and New Orleans is expected to pay that figure if Strief definitely decides to continue his career, per Triplett. As such, the Saints likely won’t target a tackle in the free agent market, and the draft looks like a better avenue to find a new lineman.
  • The 49ers are hiring Daniel Bullocks as their assistant secondary coach, per Marvez (Twitter link). Bullocks worked in the same role for Jacksonville last season, and previously coached in the collegiate ranks.

Saints Restructure Dannell Ellerbe’s Contract

8:36am: According to Field Yates of ESPN.com (via Twitter), the Saints have made the following adjustments to Ellerbe’s contract for 2016:

  • Reduced base salary from $4.1MM to $1.7MM (fully guaranteed, per Aaron Wilson)
  • Reduced roster bonus from $1MM to $750K (guaranteed for skill and injury, per Wilson)
  • Reduced workout bonus from $100K to $50K
  • Added $700K in playing-time incentives

Taking into account Ellerbe’s $700K in prorated bonus money, it looks like New Orleans trimmed the linebacker’s cap hit for 2016 from $5.9MM to $3.2MM, as Wilson tweets. That number would increase if Ellerbe earns some of his incentives, but for now, it looks like those won’t count against the cap.

Ellerbe’s 2017 year will now feature the same contract terms as 2016, but that year could be voided if he plays 80% of the Saints’ defensive snaps this year, says Yates.

11:32am: The Saints won’t release linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, but have restructured his contract to reduce his 2016 cap hit, reports Mike Triplett of ESPN.com. The details of Ellerbe’s reworked deal aren’t yet known, but the veteran linebacker almost certainly agreed to a pay cut as part of the move.Dannell Ellerbe

[RELATED: Saints cut Jahri Evans, David Hawthorne, Ramon Humber]

Ellerbe, who was acquired by New Orleans last March in the trade that sent Kenny Stills to the Dolphins, was limited to six games in his first season as a Saint due to nagging toe and hip injuries. The team apparently saw enough in those games to want him back for 2016, however, so Ellerbe didn’t meet the same fate as fellow linebackers David Hawthorne and Ramon Humber, who became cap casualties earlier this week.

Ellerbe had been set to count for $5.9MM against the cap in 2016, including a $4.1MM base salary. As Joel Corry of CBSSports.com details, that salary was initially guaranteed for injury only, but would have become fully guaranteed today if the Saints had kept the 30-year-old on their roster without adjusting his contract.

Here are a few more Saints-related notes for Wednesday:

  • Referring to the last time the Saints and Drew Brees negotiated a contract as a point of reference, Evan Woodbery of the New Orleans Times-Picayune says the quarterback will be a tough adversary this offseason, if and when the club enters contract talks with him.
  • In a separate Times-Picayune piece, Woodbery explores what a new (and potentially final) contract for Brees might look like, writing that it’s “hard to imagine Brees’ camp seeking anything lower than $20MM a year.” The fact that the veteran QB currently counts for $30MM against the 2016 cap gives him leverage, since a 2017 franchise tag would be unpalatable for the Saints.
  • In a piece focusing on the three NFL teams with the worst salary cap situations, Joel Corry of CBSSports.com discusses the Saints, referring to Brees’ $30MM cap charge as “the elephant in the room.” Corry suggests New Orleans ought to restructure Cameron Jordan‘s contract, and adds that it may be time for the club to part ways with longtime Saints Marques Colston and Zach Strief.

Extra Points: Colts, Browns, B. Kelly, Bears

We learned earlier today that the Colts are not expected to retain head coach Chuck Pagano, and Bob Kravitz of WTHR provides details on at least one reason why — the contentious relationship between Pagano and general manager Ryan Grigson. The entire article is well worth a read, as sources tell Kravitz that Grigson has repeatedly overstepped his responsibilities as GM and interfered with the coaching staff, whether by forcing Pagano to play Trent Richardson and Josh Cribbs, or forcing the hire of ex-offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton.

Here’s more from around the league…

  • Browns safety Tashaun Gipson hasn’t had any talks with the club since Week 1, he tells Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com (Twitter link), and though he’s open to returning, he’s also interested in reaching the open market. Meanwhile, fellow free-agent-to-be Mitchell Schwartz also says he’d like to re-sign with Cleveland, but allowed that business is business (Twitter link via Nate Ullrich of the Akron Beacon Journal).
  • Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly has long been rumored as a future NFL coach, but he doesn’t sound all that eager to make the leap, writes James Kratch of NJ.com. As Kelly expresses, he has full autonomy at Notre Dame, where he essentially acts as owner, general manager, and coach. Unless a club was willing to hand him full roster and personnel control, Kelly doesn’t seem to have an incentive to jump to the professional ranks.
  • If Adam Gase is able to land a head coaching opportunity, the Bears will be in need of a new offensive coordinator, and Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune believes John Fox will have plenty of options. Ken Whisenhunt, whom Fox nearly hired in Denver, Pat Shurmur, and Mike McCoy (if fired by the Chargers) could all be on the table for Chicago.
  • Offensive tackle Zach Strief wants to retire a Saint, and he doesn’t plan on moving to another team if New Orleans lets him go. “I will come back here until they tell me to stop coming,” Strief told Katherine Terrell of NOLA.com. Strief is set count $4.6MM against the club’s cap next season, and Terrell believes New Orleans would ask the veteran to restructure his deal to stick around.

NFC Notes: Saints, McCoy, Ryan, Shanahan

As teams prepare for a December playoff push, a few of the more important NFC teams are dealing with disappointing seasons that have gone off the rails. The Saints and Falcons have both fallen squarely out of the postseason picture, while the Eagles are hanging on due to a terrible NFC East division.

Here are some notes from the Saints, Falcons, and Eagles:

  • Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan is playing for pride down the stretch in 2015, but most of his teammates are playing for something more important–their jobs, writes Larry Holder of NOLA.com. Holder notes that the team will have to make major decisions on some key players this offseason, including Drew Brees, Marques Colston, Zach Strief, Jahri Evans, and even Sean Payton.
  • During the Falcons hot start, both Matt Ryan and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan looked like absolute superstars in Atlanta. Since then, both have really struggled to produce anything significant offensively. Despite those struggles and who is to blame, Jeff Schultz of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes that neither is on the chopping block this season.
  • Much has been made of the feud between LeSean McCoy and Chip Kelly, especially since part of the reason for trading McCoy to the Bills was because of “fit” and “culture.” DeMarco Murray is averaging 3.5 yards per carry and has a reduced role in the Eagles’ offense, and has become a distraction, while McCoy is thriving in Buffalo, contradicting both reasons for the trade, writes Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer. It’s worth the read if only for the small note about McCoy getting a call from an unknown number this past Tuesday, and hanging up once he realized it was Kelly calling.

South Notes: Mettenberger, Luck, Newton

Shortly after the Titans used the second overall pick in this year’s draft on quarterback Marcus Mariota, a report surfaced suggesting that incumbent signal-caller Zach Mettenberger wanted to be traded out of Tennessee. Mettenberger and the Titans quickly denied that claim, and now the second-year QB has taken a more significant step to show that he’s happy in Tennessee.

According to Terry McCormick of TitanInsider.com (Twitter links), Mettenberger has changed agents, going from Joe Linta to CAA’s Tom Condon and Jimmy Sexton. Although Mettenberger hasn’t explicitly stated his motivation for the change, McCormick notes that the post-draft trade talk was pinned on Linta, while Sexton also represents Titans head coach Ken Whisenhunt.

Here’s more from around the NFL’s two South divisions:

  • Ryan Tannehill belongs to the same draft class as Andrew Luck, but yesterday’s contract extension for the Dolphins quarterback means nothing for the former No. 1 pick, writes Mike Wells of ESPN.com. As Wells observes, Luck is in a “different bracket” than Tannehill, meaning their contracts almost certainly look all that similar when all is said and done.
  • Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer believes the Tannehill extension doesn’t mean much for Cam Newton‘s next contract either, though Person notes that it increases the floor for QBs around the league.
  • Zach Strief doesn’t have any misconceptions about Andrus Peat‘s future role with the Saints, telling Mike Triplett of ESPN.com that the 13th overall pick is going to be “taking my job eventually.” With Peat preparing to play right tackle, Strief also shot down the idea that he could transition to left guard. “[Tim Lelito and Senio Kelemete] are two excellent football players, and two guys I’m never gonna beat out as a guard,” Strief said. “So it’ll be one of those two.”
  • The Titans are looking for their rookie running backs to lose some weight and get in better shape, writes Paul Kuharsky of ESPN.com.

NFC Notes: Saints, Carr, Barr, Hyde

Writing about the Saints, OverTheCap.com’s Jason Fitzgerald says, “On one end of the spectrum they do a pretty poor job with planning for tomorrow due to restructures, void years, etc… but on the other end of the spectrum they also find these really good bargains on players.” Fitzgerald references Marques Colston, Zach Strief and Junior Galette chief among those bargains, deeming Galette the team’s best contract. On the flip side of the coin, however, is Curtis Lofton. Fitzgerald says the veteran linebacker’s guaranteed money is out of whack, and his deal is “littered” with prohibitive roster bonuses and a potentially costly voidable year.

Read on for several more NFC news and notes:

  • Cowboys cornerback Brandon Carr hasn’t joined the Cowboys for training camp yet because he’s been with his cancer-stricken mother, who passed away on Wednesday.
  • Another player who has been sidelined for training camp is 49ers tight end Garrett Celek. He missed four games last season because of a hamstring injury, and is dealing with a back injury right now. Division III product Derek Carrier stands to benefit, writes SFGate.com’s Eric Branch, as Carrier and Celek are the contenders for the third tight end job behind Vernon Davis and Vance McDonald. Offensive coordinator Greg Roman believes in Carrier’s ability: “He’s got a chance to be a productive player in this league. There’s no doubt. Derek’s got a nice feel for the passing game, he’s got good hands, and he can cover some ground now – he can really run. I don’t like to put timetables on people, but this a big year for him. He’s got a hell of an opportunity this year to really take a big step.”
  • Meanwhile, 49ers coaches are raving about the mental prowess of rookie runner Carlos Hyde, going so far as to call him savant-like, writes Matt Barrows in the Sacramento Bee.
  • Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer says there is a “strong” chance first-rounder Anthony Barr could start the season opener, reports Matt Vensel of the Star Tribune.
  • Bears rookie linebacker Christian Jones was one of the highest-profile undrafted free agents because he was key member of the national champion Florida State Seminoles, because he’s an impressive athlete who garnered second-round grades from draft evaluators and because he failed a drug test at the Combine. Not surprisingly, he’s made early waves in training camp for the linebacker-needy Bears, writes ESPN’s Michael C. Wright, who says it would be a surprise if Jones didn’t make the team: “The question now is whether Jones can maintain the momentum. Through the first seven practices, Jones appears to be one of the most athletic linebackers on the team, and probably the only true strongside linebacker at the position.”
  • ESPN’s Pat Yasinkas checks in on a handful of Buccaneers position battles, including the worrisome guard spots: “This one remains wide open. Jamon Meredith, Oniel Cousins, Patrick Omameh and Kadeem Edwards have been taking turns working with the first team and it doesn’t look like anyone has pulled ahead of the pack yet.”