This. Is. March.
Which also means, that for at least a couple of weeks, the daily focus isn’t so much on football, but rather on whose bracket has already busted and which team plagued by NCAA and FBI investigations is proving their haters wrong. (Hint: it’s not Arizona.) But, just because we aren’t focused on football, doesn’t mean that everything has been at a stand still.
From former Ohio State football players whose rookie seasons were derailed by injury to Buckeye veterans who are navigating free agency, there is still plenty to keep an eye on at the next level.
Here’s a little update about players getting new contracts, signing with new teams, and some looking to finally get a chance to make an impact.
What’s happening with Buckeyes in free agency?
Several former Ohio State players in the NFL were free agents heading into the offseason, and while some are still looking for a new deal, some others already found a new home — or new contract.
One of the top running back prospects available this spring was Buckeye Carlos Hyde. El Guapo had been with the San Francisco 49ers since being drafted in 2014, but will now head back to Ohio to play for the Cleveland Browns on a three-year deal.
Another top target, and Buckeye heading to a new team this offseason, was offensive guard Andrew Norwell. Playing on the final year of his UDFA deal with the Carolina Panthers, the OG will be one of the top paid players at his position thanks to a five-year deal worth $66.5 million with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Two other Buckeyes have signed new deals, but won’t have to make a move to a new city. Special teams guru Nate Ebner signed a two-year extension with the New England Patriots, and Pro Bowl long snapper Jake McQuaide inked a three-year extension with the Los Angeles Rams.
Available free agents out of Ohio State include WR Terrelle Pryor Sr., OL Jack Mewhort, and OL Alex Boone.
Were any Buckeyes traded or signed ahead of free agency?
Actually, yes. Thanks for asking.
Just after the final snap of the NFL regular season, a familiar name popped back into the news cycle: WR DeVier Posey was signed by the Baltimore Ravens. After a hiatus from the NFL, the Buckeye had found success in the CFL, and helped lead his Toronto team to a Grey Cup Championship win in 2017 — Posey earned Grey Cup MVP honors for his performance, which included a 100-yard touchdown. That record-setting play went viral and shortly thereafter, the Ravens came calling, giving the Buckeye a second chance at NFL success.
Another Buckeye also signed with a new team before the start of free agency, safety Kurt Coleman. After a two-year stint with the Carolina Panthers, the former Ohio State standout was cut in late-February. He wasn’t available long, and signed a three-year deal worth $18 million with the New Orleans Saints just over a week later.
Some teams re-sign players before they even let them hit the free agency market, like the Green Bay Packers did with center Corey Linsley. The Buckeye signed a three-year extension worth $25.5 million to stay as the front man to QB Aaron Rodgers.
Who is coming off IR in 2018?
This was a tough year for injuries to Buckeyes in the NFL. Aside from Ryan Shazier and his back injury, which shook the entire NFL, there were a host of not-so-small issues plaguing former Ohio State stars. (Shazier recently posted an upper-body workout video, proving he’s not giving up on an NFL come back, even if it won’t be in 2018.)
Some of the free agents looking for new deals will need to prove that they are healed after the 2017 season, with player like Jack Mewhort (knee) and Terrelle Pryor (ankle) finishing the year on IR -- Nate Ebner also missed the end of the season due to a knee injury, but he’s already locked in until 2020. Other Buckeyes who wound up on IR included Michael Bennett (undisclosed), Curtis Grant (knee), John Simon (shoulder), and Devin Smith (knee).
The rookies from last season had a particularly bad spell of injuries, beginning with Raekwon McMillan tearing his ACL during the preseason. Following him to IR would eventually be Gareon Conley (shin), Malik Hooker (torn ACL and MCL), and Curtis Samuel (ankle). Second-year phenom Taylor Decker also missed part of the 2017 season, but was able to come off IR and return to action during the second-half of the season.