Three former Cal football players — Hardy Nickerson Jr., Maurice Harris and James Looney — were involved in NFL transactions in August, but those moves did not make headlines, so we will keep you up to date.
—The one positive transaction involved Nickerson, a linebacker who spent his first three college seasons at Cal before finishing up at Illinois. Nickerson played the past three NFL seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals, but on August 18, he was signed as a free agent by the Minnesota Vikings.
Sports Illustrated’s Inside The Vikings site reported that the move made sense because health issues have made depth at the linebacker position a concern.
Nickerson was one of three players the Vikings brought in for workouts the previous day, along with safety Jahleel Addae and linebacker Derrick Moncrief. Nickerson was the one the Vikings signed.
Inside The Vikings explained the move this way:
This move was necessitated by a wave of injuries to Vikings linebackers. Cameron Smith is on IR due to upcoming open-heart surgery that will cause him to miss the entire season. Ben Gedeon remains on the Physically Unable to Perform list and hasn’t been able to participate in training camp. The Vikings signed journeyman LB Quentin Poling, but then he got hurt in one of his first practices with the team. They also waived DeMarquis Gates.
That left the Vikings with three rookie backup linebackers behind Eric Kendricks, Anthony Barr, and Eric Wilson. Fourth-round rookie Troy Dye is No. 4 on the depth chart right now, and the other two are UDFAs Jordan Fehr and Blake Lynch.
Nickerson has made nine starts in the NFL after being signed as an undrafted free agent by the Bengals. He made seven starts in his second season with the Bengals in 2018, but played in just seven games with no starts in 2019.
He spent his first four college years at Cal, and played three football seasons for the Bears (2013, 2014, 2015) after redshirting his freshman year. In 2015 he ranked third in the Pac-12 in tackles with 112.
For his final college season he transferred to Illinois to be with his father, Hardy Nickerson Sr., a standout linebacker at Cal who became a two-time first-team All-Pro selection and was the Illini’s defensive coordinator in 2016.
—Harris, a wide receiver, was hoping to catch on with the New Orleans Saints, but the Saints released him on August 2. Harris has some NFL experience as a starter, so he might be able to catch on elsewhere.
Harris saw action in all four of his seasons at Cal (2012, 2013, 2014, 2015), and his best season was his senior year when he had 40 receptions for 553 yards and six touchdowns.
He was signed as a free agent by the Washington Redskins, and made seven starts in his third pro season (2018). He had 28 catches for 304 yards that season, including 10 receptions for 124 yards in a loss to the Falcons.
Harris finished that season on injured reserve after being on the concussion protocol.
He signed with the Patriots for 2019, but was released before the season with an injury settlement. He signed a reserve/future contract with the Saints in January 2020.
—The Green Bay Packers had moved Looney moved from defensive end to tight end late in the 2019 season, and he was excited about the move. But apparently it did not work out, because the Packers released Looney on August 15.
Looney began his college career at Wake Forest before transferring to Cal. In three seasons with the Bears (2015, 2016, 2017) Looney amassed 20.5 sacks as a defensive end. That included 9.5 sacks as a senior, and he was a seventh-round pick of the Packers in the 2018 draft.
Looney played in three games during his rookie season, and spent the 2019 season on the Packers’ practice squad. After being switched to tight end in December, he signed a reserve/future contract with the Packers in January 2020.
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