The Ravens announced the release of veteran offensive lineman James Hurst on Monday, a move that saves $2.75 million on this year’s salary cap.
The 28-year-old was suspended for the first four games of the 2020 season for violating the NFL’s performance-enhancing drug policy last month, a development that had jeopardized his future in Baltimore. Hurst was entering the third season of a four-year, $17.5 million contract, but he played a career-low 195 offensive snaps and made only two starts last season, making his 2020 base salary of $4 million rather steep for a reserve.
Regarded by most as a below-average starting option, Hurst did bring game-day value as a versatile backup able to play multiple spots along the offensive line. The 2014 undrafted free agent from North Carolina made multiple starts at both tackle spots and at left guard over his six seasons with the Ravens.
The move comes less than a week after the retirement of eight-time Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda, making it even more obvious that general manager Eric DeCosta will need to strengthen his depth along the offensive line.
In other offensive line news, the Ravens placed the right-of-first-refusal tender on restricted free-agent center Matt Skura, who continues to work his way back from a major knee injury suffered in late November. The tender is worth a projected $2.1 million and gives Baltimore the right to match any offer sheet executed by another team.
Speaking to media after Yanda’s retirement press conference last week, Skura reiterated his hope that he’d be ready to return to action during training camp. However, his uncertain health as well as the solid play of undrafted rookie Patrick Mekari down the stretch last season likely prompted the Ravens to give Skura the low tender rather than the more expensive second-round amount.
Skura has started 39 games over the last three seasons and established himself as Baltimore’s starting center in 2018.
The Ravens also tendered exclusive-rights free-agent running back Gus Edwards, a move that was only a formality after the primary backup to Mark Ingram averaged 5.3 yards per carry last season.