Month: January 2017

Top 3 Offseason Needs: Washington Redskins

In advance of March 9, the start of free agency in the NFL, Pro Football Rumors will detail each team’s three most glaring roster issues. We’ll continue this year’s series with the Washington Redskins, who narrowly missed a Wild Card berth after finishing with a 8-7-1 record.

Depth Chart (via Roster Resource)

Pending Free Agents:

Top 10 Cap Hits for 2017:

  1. Josh Norman, CB: $20,000,000
  2. Trent Williams, T: $15,200,000
  3. Ryan Kerrigan, LB: $11,700,000
  4. Jordan Reed, TE: $5,800,000
  5. Brandon Scherff, G: $5,786,083
  6. DeAngelo Hall, S: $5,062,500
  7. Shawn Lauvao, G: $5,000,000
  8. Kory Lichtensteiger, C: $4,050,000
  9. Ricky Jean-Francois, DL: $4,000,000
  10. Colt McCoy, QB: $3,600,000

Other:

Three Needs:

1) Commit to Kirk Cousins: The Redskins are reportedly willing to use the franchise tag on quarterback Kirk Cousins for a second consecutive year, a move that would guarantee the sixth-year signal-caller nearly $24MM for the 2017 campaign. Cousins would likely sign the tender immediately (as he did last offseason), as the two one-year pacts would net him ~$44MM over a two-year period. From Washington’s perspective, however, continuing to employ the franchise tag doesn’t make much sense.Kirk Cousins (Vertical)

Had the Redskins worked out a long-term extension with Cousins last offseason, the club would have likely been forced to guarantee something in the neighborhood of $45MM — roughly the same total he’ll earn from 2016-17 if franchised again — over the life of the contract. Cam Newton received $41MM in guarantees under the terms of his extension signed in June 2015, while Andrew Luck got $47MM fully guaranteed one year later (Aaron Rodgers still ranks first among quarterbacks with $54MM guaranteed). Because Washington is clearly willing to hand Cousins a significant amount of guaranteed cash, an extension is the best outcome for both parties.

Clearly, however, hindsight is 20/20, and there were legitimate reasons not to extend Cousins at this time last year. Cousins was coming off an excellent season, to be sure, but it was his first year as a full-time NFL starter, and there was some concern that he was simply a product of an effectively-schemed Redskins offense. Had Washington locked up Cousins for the long haul, only to see him turn back into a pumpkin this season, management would have been the subject much scorn. But the 28-year-old Cousins largely backed up his results this year, completing 67% of his passes for nearly 5,000 yards, 25 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions, while ranking third in DYAR and fifth in DVOA.Jay Gruden (Vertical)

Head coach Jay Gruden has found his franchise quarterback, and while Cousins may not a be a top-five signal-caller, he’s certainly among the league’s top-12 QBs, making him an extremely valuable asset. The Redskins aren’t going to start over the position — as usual, there is no quarterback talent available on the free agent market, and a win-now club like Washington isn’t going to turn over its fortunes over to a rookie passer. Getting Cousins, who places first on PFR’s 2017 Free Agent Power Rankings, under contract for the foreseeable future is the logical next step.

Cousins is reportedly targeting $23.94MM — the same total he’d garner under the franchise tag — annually, a figure that would make him the third-highest paid quarterback in the league on a per-year basis. Over the course of a five-year contract, Washington would be paying Cousins nearly $120MM, and given that recent quarterback contracts have included 35-40% fully guaranteed, Cousins would be looking at $45MM in guarantees. It’s a huge total, but contract negotiations are based as much on timing as they are on talent. Cousins has played the free agency game correctly by betting on himself, and he’s now poised to cash in.

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Trent Baalke Could Join Packers Front Office

Former 49ers general manager Trent Baalke could land with the Packers in a front office role, according to Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, who adds that “speculation” has tied Baalke to Green Bay given his friendship with Packers GM Ted Thompson.Trent Baalke (vertical)

[RELATED: 2017 NFL GM Search Tracker]

Green Bay’s front office could soon be the site of upheaval, as Brian Gutekunst, the club’s director of college scouting, will take a second interview for the 49ers GM job (ironically, to replace Baalke), and is thought to be the leading contender for the position. Thomspon has also been rumored to be nearing retirement, and Chiefs general manager John Dorsey and Packers director of football operations Eliot Wolf have each been mentioned as candidates to replace him. Earlier today, Wolf signed a new contract to remain in Green Bay, removing himself from San Francisco’s search.

Baalke, meanwhile, has been linked to another club this winter, as a December report indicated that he could join the Broncos in some capacity after departing the Niners. Having enjoyed a working relationship with Denver GM John Elway as the Broncos and 49ers conducted recent joint practices, Baalke could make for a natural fit in the Denver front office.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFL Reserve/Futures Contracts: 1/19/17

Here are the latest reserve/futures contract signings from around the NFL. These deals will go into effect on the first day of the 2017 league year, with players joining their respective clubs’ offseason 90-man rosters:

New England Patriots

New York Giants

  • K Aldrick Rosas

San Diego Chargers

  • WR Da’Ron Brown
  • WR Jamaal Jones

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

Browns, LB Jamie Collins Close To Extension

The Browns are nearing an extension with linebacker Jamie Collins and should have an agreement in place by the weekend, tweets Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com.Jamie Collins

[RELATED: Top 3 Offseason Needs — Cleveland Browns]

Cleveland, of course, acquired Collins from the Patriots in the fall, sacrificing a conditional third- or fourth-round pick (depending on the circumstances) to do so. New England presumably traded Collins, in part, due to his contractual demands, as he was due to hit unrestricted free agency this March. Collins reportedly turned down an $11MM per/year extension offer from the Patriots, and was intent on topping fellow linebacker Luke Kuechly‘s $12.36MM yearly average.

While those figures may have presented a problem for New England, the Browns are in prime position to meet Collins’ requests, as they’re projected to head into the offseason with a league-high $110MM in cap space. As such, Cleveland has more than enough financial wiggle room to extend Collins, re-sign fellow pending free agent Terrelle Pryor, and explore the open market for upgrades. Of course, by extending Collins, the Browns have afforded themselves the opportunity to use the franchise tag on Pryor if extension talks fail.

Ranking seventh on PFR’s 2017 Free Agents Power Rankings, Collins had expressed an interest in re-signing with Cleveland before hitting free agency this spring. “(Losing is a deterrent) but at the same time, money comes into play around that time,” Collins said last month. “If the money is right then I could stay here. Obviously I’m not going to turn it down.”

Collins, 27, started eight games for the Browns after being shipped to Cleveland, posting 48 tackles, two sacks, and a forced fumble during that time. All told, Collins graded as just the 44th-best edge defender in the league, per Pro Football Focus, a far lower rating that he’d attained in years past. Reports indicated that Collins had begun “freelancing” in New England’s defense, but clearly the Browns were impressed enough by his half-season stint to retain him for the long haul.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

49ers Had Interest In Bears DC Vic Fangio

The 49ers expressed interest in forging a reunion with former defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, but the Bears — Fangio’s current employer — blocked the potential move, according to Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee (Twitter link). Discussions never reached the point where the 49ers formally requested permission to interview Fangio, per Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com (Twitter link).Vic Fangio (Vertical)

[RELATED: 2017 Offensive/Defensive Coordinator Search Tracker]

San Francisco hasn’t officially begun its search for a new defensive coordinator because it hasn’t officially hired a head coach, and although the club is fully expected to bring in Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan as soon as he’s allowed to be hired, the 49ers are on hold until that time. However, the mere fact the San Francisco expressed interest in Fangio could mean that Shanahan has already — covertly, of course — begun reaching out to possible staff members in an effort to gauge interest.

Fangio, 58, served as the 49ers’ defensive coordinator from 2011-14 under former head coach Jim Harbaugh, delivering three top-five DVOA finishes during that time. After Harbaugh was fired, Fangio interviewed for San Francisco’s top job, but when the vacancy was filled by defensive line coach Jim Tomsula — a former subordinate — Fangio departed for Chicago, where he’s steadily improved the Bears’ defense during his two-year stay.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Redskins Interview John Pagano For DC

The Redskins today interviewed incumbent Chargers defensive coordinator John Pagano for the same role on their staff, according to John Keim of ESPN.com. Pagano hasn’t officially been released from his contract in San Diego, but given that the Chargers are not only conducting interviews to replace him, but allowed him to meet with Washington, it’s fair to assume Pagano won’t be coaching in San Diego next season.John Pagano

[RELATED: 2017 Offensive/Defensive Coordinator Search Tracker]

Pagano, 49, has spent his entire NFL coaching career with the Chargers, working his way up from defensive quality control to defensive coordinator, assuming the latter position in 2012. In his first four years on the job, the Chargers didn’t post a better defensive DVOA ranking than 18th, and finished last in the NFL in 2013. The defense turned in its best Pagano-led showing in 2016 (eighth), but that wasn’t enough to persuade new San Diego head coach Anthony Lynn to retain Pagano.

The Redskins’ search for a new defensive coordinator has become the most exhaustive hunt for a play-caller in the league, on either side of the ball. Counting Pagano, Washington has now been linked to 10 candidates as it looks for former DC Joe Barry‘s replacement. While former Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley was at one time viewed as the leading candidate, the Redskins have also expressed interest in three former Rob Ryan disciples (Rex Ryan, Dennis Thurman, and Mike Pettine), 49ers linebackers coach Jason Tarver, and will meet with their own LBs coach, Greg Manusky.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bills Hire Rick Dennison As OC

The Bills announced that they’ve hired longtime NFL coach Rick Dennison as their new offensive coordinator.Rick Dennison (Vertical)

[RELATED: 2017 Offensive/Defensive Coordinator Search Tracker]

Dennison, 58, boasts an expansive offensive coaching career, and most recently served as Denver’s play-caller under former head coach Gary Kubiak. New Denver head coach Vance Joseph opted to overhaul the majority of the Broncos’ offensive staff, meaning Dennison and most of his assistants became coaching free agents. Dennison, who also coached alongside Kubiak in both Houston and Baltimore, will presumably bring his zone-blocking scheme to Buffalo, a dramatic shift from the Bills’ recent man-blocking run game.

In Dennison, first-time head coach Sean McDermott adds a veteran offensive mind after striking out during the early part of his search for a new coordinator. Former Jaguars OC Greg Olson was viewed as a favorite for the job, but ultimately spurned Buffalo in order to accept the Rams’ quarterbacks coach gig. Former Chargers head coach Mike McCoy and Chiefs co-offensive coordinator Brad Childress were also viewed as candidates, while the Bills last night interviewed Panthers QBs coach Ken Dorsey for the role.

What exactly Dennison is inheriting in Buffalo is unclear, especially at the quarterback position, where the Bills are fully expected to move on from incumbent quarterback Tyrod Taylor. Buffalo does feature one of the more impressive run units in the league (1st in rushing DVOA in 2016), but without knowing who will be under center Week 1, it’s difficult to evaluate how Dennison will approach his new job. Dennison does have a connection to Taylor, as he served as Baltimore’s QBs coach while Taylor acted as Joe Flacco‘s backup in 2014.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Coaching Notes: Jags, Fins, Ravens, Broncos

In the aftermath of this offseason’s head coaching searches across the NFL, Greg A. Bedard of SI.com asked three executives from successful franchises their thoughts on this year’s hirings. One opined that the league’s owners “have absolutely no idea what they’re doing” and that “most of these places are screwed up.” He also blasted the Jaguars’ decision to elevate Doug Marrone from interim head coach to the full-time position. “Look at Jacksonville. They keep Marrone—I mean, he was an assistant head coach on that team the past two years [8–24], was he not?—and say he’s by far the best candidate,” he stated. “After speaking to (Josh) McDaniels, (Kyle) Shanahan and Mike Smith? Are you kidding?”

Marrone coached the final two games of the Jaguars’ season, during which they went 1-1, after the firing of Gus Bradley. Before joining Jacksonville’s staff in 2015, Marrone worked as the Bills’ head coach and went 15-17 in two years. The club finished 9-7 on his watch in 2014, but Marrone then elected to opt out of his contract.

Now for the latest staff changes:

  • The Dolphins have named Frank Bush their assistant head coach/linebackers coach and promoted Chris Kuper from quality control coach to offensive line assistant, per Omar Kelly of the Sun Sentinel. Additionally, the team has designated special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi an associate head coach, tweets Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald. The 54-year-old Bush will take over Miami’s linebackers from Matt Burke, who’s now the defensive coordinator. Bush spent the past four seasons coaching the Rams’ LBs.
  • The Ravens have announced the hiring of Joe D’Allessandris as their offensive line coach. He’ll replace Juan Castillo, who went to Buffalo. D’Allessandris oversaw the Chargers’ O-line from 2013-15.
  • The Broncos will name Johnnie Lynn their assistant defensive backs coach, a league source told Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post. Lynn is familiar with the Broncos’ new head coach, Vance Joseph, as the two worked together in San Francisco from 2006-10. More recently, Lynn was with the Raiders from 2012-14.

Latest On Jets Ownership

A notable shakeup is on the way atop the Jets organization: Owner Woody Johnson will serve as the United States ambassador to the United Kingdom under President-elect Donald Trump. Johnson’s appointment has looked like a strong possibility for weeks, though he downplayed it as speculation earlier this month.

Woody Johnson

While Johnson will remain the Jets’ owner while he serves in his new post over the next three yeas, he’ll have to cede day-to-day control of the franchise for the first time since he purchased it in 2000. He’ll also likely have to resign from the NFL’s Finance Committee, Business Ventures Committee and Media Committee, according to the New York Daily News’ Manish Mehta

Johnson’s position is unlikely to have a significant effect on the Jets organization, writes Mehta, who notes that Steelers chairman Dan Rooney previously gave up control of the Pittsburgh organization to his son, Art Rooney II, while serving as the U.S. ambassador to Ireland under President Barack Obama from 2009-12. In Johnson’s case, his brother – Christopher Wold Johnson – is reportedly in line to grab the Jets’ reins. Johnson confidant Ira Akselrad could have involvement as an advisor, adds Mehta.

Woody Johnson decided at the end of a disappointing regular season to retain general manager Mike Maccagnan and head coach Todd Bowles for 2017, but the owner’s role as an ambassador doesn’t guarantee either job security beyond then.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Raiders File Relocation Papers

As Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reported over the weekend, the Raiders have filed relocation papers to move from Oakland to Las Vegas. The Mark Davis-led Raiders will now need to receive approval from 24 NFL owners to relocate, and that vote will likely take place in March.

Raiders Fan/VegasThe city of Oakland made “no progress” in retaining the team, Rapoport noted, and few believe that their proposal for a new stadium is “credible.” The Raiders have been looking to move out of Oakland Alameda Coliseum, their home from 1966-1981 and again since 1995, but they’ll spend the next two seasons there even if the league approves their move, according to Paul Gutierrez of ESPN.com.

As the Raiders continue in Oakland for a couple more years, construction will preumsably get underway on a Las Vegas stadium sometime soon. The Raiders have a $1.9 billion proposed facility in the works, but $650MM of that is supposed to come from casino magnate Sheldon Adelson. There have been bumps in the road in negotiations between him and the Raiders, so it’s unclear whether Adelson will be part of the plan. The rest of the money will come from the the Raiders ($500MM) and a record in public money ($750MM) via hotel room tax revenue. The Raiders have also suggested a plan that would allow the team to finance a new stadium via Goldman Sachs advisors.

For what it’s worth, Rapoport noted previously that the league’s owners aren’t as opposed to the idea of the Raiders going from Oakland to Vegas as originally anticipated. The plan is “making progress and gathering momentum,” which should be good news to Davis.

The Chargers announced their move from San Diego to Los Angeles last week, which came a year after the Rams relocated from St. Louis to LA. The Raiders departing their longstanding home would further shake up the league.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.