Yes, Hayden Smith can go up top. (Getty Images)
The New York Jets made an intriguing addition to their 53-man roster on Saturday when they terminated the contract of veteran wide receiver Jason Hill and promoted tight end Hayden Smith from the practice squad.
As Rich Cimini of ESPN New York notes, the 27-year-old Smith played rugby professionally in England before deciding to give American football a try during the offseason. The 6-foot-7, 240-pound Smith worked with former University of Minnesota coach Tim Brewster before officially signing with the Jets on April 9. Brewster coached tight ends at the North Carolina and Texas, as well as with the Denver Broncos and San Diego Chargers at the NFL level, coaching former Kent State basketball star Antonio Gates when he entered the NFL in 2003.
"A lot of coaches shy away from guys who haven't played the game because it is an exhausting process. To me, that's the exciting part," Brewster told the Daily Telegraph in April. "Taking a piece of clay like that. And I am going to tell you, Hayden Smith is one beautiful piece of clay. Just mold him into what you want him to be."
The Jets clearly thought Smith was a beautiful piece of clay when pursuing him in April. According to a source with knowledge of his first NFL contract, Smith's three-year deal, negotiated by Jack Bechta, included a $112,000 guarantee comprised of a $10,000 signing bonus, $4,000 reporting bonus and $98,000 base salary guarantee, which was due regardless of whether or not Smith made the Jets' 53-man roster coming out of training camp. Smith had one pass thrown his way during the preseason and did not make the roster, but was signed to the practice squad where he had been earning a weekly salary of $6,875, a nearly 20 percent increase over the $5,700 per week minimum most practice squad players earn, prior to his promotion on Saturday.
Smith, who is active and could play against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, will earn $22,941 per week for as long as he's on the 53-man roster. The Daily Telegraph notes Smith is just the second Australian-born player to play in the NFL at a position other than punter. Colin Scotts had a pair of sacks in seven games as a defensive tackle for the 1987 St. Louis Cardinals.
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