Green Bay Packers Rumors & News

NFC North Notes: Megatron, Bears, Packers

Ron Rivera‘s path to the Panthers emerged when he and Lovie Smith ended a contentious relationship in three seasons working together in Chicago. The former Bears coach didn’t renew the former Bears defensive coordinator’s contract after the duo helped the Bears to Super Bowl XLI during the 2006 season, largely due to philosophical and personal differences, Austin Murphy of SI.com reports.

Smith preferred then-Buccaneers assistant head coach Rod Marinelli for the job upon being hired as Bears coach in 2004, but, per Murphy, Rivera was mandated by then-Chicago GM Jerry Angelo.

The former Bears player under blitz-happy Buddy Ryan, Rivera wanted a blitz-heavy scheme, whereas Smith was a Tampa-2 proponent. Murphy also asserts Rivera’s eight interviews for head-coaching positions while employed as Bears DC were potentially seen as disloyal by Smith.

When Rivera became the Chargers’ linebackers coach in 2007 after Smith denied him a fourth season running the Bears’ defense, he and Smith were on bad terms, a Bears source told Murphy. The 54-year-old Rivera served three years as San Diego’s DC before accepting Carolina’s top coaching job.

Here are some more items from the NFC North on the eve of Super Bowl 50.

  • The Bears should let Matt Forte walk while re-signing Alshon Jeffery and Zach Miller, Jason Fitzgerald of OverTheCap notes in his analysis of the Bears’ cap situation. Also advising the Bears to orchestrate an extension with Kyle Long after they pick up the tackle’s fifth-year option, Fitzgerald recommends the Bears cut Martellus Bennett and gauge Lamarr Houston‘s trade value. Bennett would save Chicago $5.2MM, and Houston, entering his seventh season, will net the Bears $4MM in cap savings if released. Brought in to play in a 4-3 scheme, Houston graded as Pro Football Focus’ No. 62-ranked edge defender as an outside linebacker in Vic Fangio‘s 3-4.
  • Calvin Johnson‘s impromptu retirement could be a negotiating ploy a la Adrian Peterson‘s trade request last year, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk writes. The Lions will need to know Johnson’s official intentions on his future by March 9, when his $16MM base salary and $24MM cap number are configured into Detroit’s 2016 salary cap. Florio speculates Johnson could have threatened to retire to force the Lions to appreciate his presence rather than insist he renegotiate that massive cap figure. Peterson ended up receiving additional guaranteed money, instead of the Vikings potentially attempting at reducing his salary, Florio offers.
  • Randall Cobb‘s punctured lung sustained against the Cardinals could have been an effect of him being mic’d up by NFL Films, the slot receiver and the Packers medical staff theorize (via Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel). “I punctured a lung. I didn’t break a rib and I didn’t fracture a rib. It’s really abnormal for that to happen,” Cobb told radio host Bill Michaels in San Francisco. “But I was mic’d up for the game. I landed flush on my back. The battery pack was on my shoulder pads and I landed flush on my back and we think that possibly could be it but there’s no way of proving it.” Cobb, who left the divisional playoff game after injuring himself on a spectacular catch that ended up being nullified by penalty, will enter the season season of the four-year deal he signed last March.
  • Casey Hayward hired the same agent, David Mulugheta, used by fellow Packers DBs Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Quinten Rollins, Rand Getlin of ESPN.com reports (Twitter links). Hayward is one of Green Bay’s top free agents.

Extra Points: Benjamin, Steelers, Lang

Asked during an appearance on SiriusXM NFL Radio (SoundCloud link) about his pending free agency, Browns wide receiver Travis Benjamin replied that “the ball is in my court,” suggesting that he hasn’t yet decided whether he’ll sign an extension with Cleveland or explore the open market. However, Benjamin said he’d like to return to the Browns, and his agent tells Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com (Twitter link) that he’s optimistic a deal can be completed soon.

Here’s more from around the NFL:

  • The Steelers used a nickel package for about 75% of their defensive snaps in 2015, which is one reason why the team figures to focus on improving its secondary again this offseason. Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette discusses the Steelers’ need to target cornerbacks and safeties in the draft, and perhaps in free agency.
  • After playing the 2015 season with two bad shoulders, Packers guard T.J. Lang will have one of those shoulders repaired this week. Lang told Rob Demovksy of ESPN.com that he’s scheduled to undergo surgery on his right shoulder on Wednesday. It’s not clear yet whether Lang, who is entering a contract year in 2016, will also have surgery on his left shoulder.
  • There’s no doubt that adding Peyton Manning to their roster would give the Rams “plenty of sizzle” as they head back to Los Angeles, but the idea doesn’t make a lot of sense beyond that for Manning or the Rams, opines Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com. A report earlier today indicated that the Rams have internally discussed the possibility of pursuing the Broncos quarterback, assuming he doesn’t retire.

Extra Points: Rodgers, Jets, Jaguars, 49ers

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers underwent arthroscopic knee surgery in the days following the team’s Jan. 16 playoff loss to Arizona, Jason Wilde and Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com report. A source indicated that the procedure was a “clean-up of an old injury.” Rodgers should be ready for the Packers’ offseason program in April, according to Wilde and Demovsky. Rodgers told Wilde that he’s “doing well” and “recovering on schedule” (Twitter link via Demovsky).

More from around the NFL:

  • The Jets still have faith in quarterback Geno Smith, according to owner Woody Johnson. “Geno, I think, had a pretty good year,” Johnson said Friday, per Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.com. “We will see in the summer how he (does) but I think the coaches are pretty optimistic about what he has learned and maturity. We know he can throw a ball. I think he has taken it to a new level and we will see how it plays out.” Smith, whom the Jets chose in the second round of the 2013 draft, appeared in 31 games in his first three seasons and put up poor numbers. The 25-year-old has one more season left on his contract, and he’s likely to back up Ryan Fitzpatrick again. Of course, the club first has to re-sign Fitzpatrick, a pending free agent, which it’s expected to do.
  • The Jaguars made a significant splash last offseason when they signed free agent tight end Julius Thomas, formerly of Denver. This offseason, the Jags could target another Broncos free agent – defensive lineman Malik Jacksonwrites Gene Frenette of Jacksonville.com. Jackson, 26, finished the regular season 17th out of 123 qualifying interior D-linemen by Pro Football Focus’ standards (subscription required).
  • 49ers linebacker NaVorro Bowman isn’t worried that new head coach Chip Kelly‘s fast-paced offense will keep the team’s defense on the field too much, writes Conor Orr of NFL.com. “Nah, I think people are blowing it out of proportion,” Bowman told Around the NFL on Friday. “I think any defense you play in, if your offense is getting off the field quicker than you gotta get off the field quicker. You gotta hold yourself to that standard.” Bowman’s words aside, it’s worth noting that the Kelly-led Eagles finished the 2015-16 regular season with 1,148 defensive plays, the most in the league.

Draft Notes: Packers, B. Miller, Saints, Giants

While inside linebacker is an area of need for the Packers, the team is unlikely to use its first-round pick on a player at that position, since they view it as a spot that can be addressed in the middle rounds, similar to running back, says Matt Miller of Bleacher Report (video link). According to Miller, Green Bay is more likely to use that 27th overall pick on an outside linebacker, a cornerback, or an offensive lineman.

Here are several more draft items from around the NFL:

  • The Steelers, Patriots, and Chiefs all like Ohio State wide receiver Braxton Miller as a potential second-round target, according to Tony Pauline of DraftInsider.net (Twitter link).
  • Pauline also reports (via Twitter) that Indiana tackle Jason Spriggs has been impressive in Mobile, Alabama this week and appears to be cementing himself as a late first-round pick.
  • The Saints appear to have their eye on defensive players like Eastern Kentucky pass rusher Noah Spence and Southeastern Louisiana cornerback Harlan Miller at the Senior Bowl. Mike Triplett of ESPN.com reports that New Orleans had an “extensive” lunch meeting with Spence this week, while Pauline tweets that Miller has had four separate meetings with Saints coaches and/or scouts.
  • The Giants have been keeping a close eye on linebackers at this week’s Senior Bowl practices, according to James Kratch of NJ Advance Media, who identifies a few players who have impressed scouts and coaches so far.
  • Defensive tackle is a position of need for the Lions, and it appears they’ll have plenty of options available for them on the first couple days of this year’s draft. As Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press details, Mike Mayock of NFL Network says this year’s Senior Bowl features the “best group of defensive tackles I’ve seen at this game in 10 years.”

North Notes: Bakhtiari, Browns, Lions

It’s not too early for Ted Thompson and the Packers to start thinking about extending David Bakhtiari‘s contract, according to Ryan Wood of USA Today-Wisconsin. Green Bay’s starting left tackle is entering the final year of his rookie contract, and is interested in remaining with the team beyond 2016, as he tells Wood.

“I think it’s mutual,” Bakhtiari said of his interest in sticking with the Packers. “I like it here, and they like me. I have another year. So I think if they want to do it early, awesome. If not, then we have one more year to work together. So we can talk about it then. I do think it’s too early though.”

The Packers don’t foray into free agency much, but do typically lock up their own players, so it could be a matter of when, not if, the team gets something done with Bakhtiari. We saw Green Bay lock up Mike Daniels months before he was eligible for free agency, but the club sometimes lets talks go down to the wire — Randall Cobb and Bryan Bulaga signed extensions a year ago just before hitting the open market.

As we wait to see if Bakhtiari and the Packers can get anything done this offseason, let’s round up some more items from out of the NFL’s North divisions….

  • Browns executive VP of football operations Sashi Brown would be shocked if the team traded up to No. 1 in the draft, telling Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com that the club is more likely to trade down, if it moves off the No. 2 pick. The Titans have the first overall pick, so if the Browns intend to select a quarterback second overall, the only way they won’t get their man is if another team trades for Tennessee’s pick.
  • New Lions general manager Bob Quinn said today that he hasn’t talked to Calvin Johnson yet about whether or not the wide receiver wants to continue playing, per Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. Although Quinn doesn’t want to rush Johnson into a decision, the GM admits he “absolutely” hopes to have resolution on the issue before free agency begins in March.
  • Although there’s no question that Lions players wanted Jim Caldwell back as the team’s head coach, Quinn didn’t consult with any players before making a decision on Caldwell, as Tim Twentyman of DetroitLions.com details.
  • Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle passes (Twitter links) along a couple workout updates, reporting that the Browns recently tried out kicker Kyle Brindza, while the Vikings auditioned running back Isaiah Pead.

North Notes: Megatron, Packers, Haslam

There’s no decision yet, and no exact timetable, for Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson as he considers whether or not to continue his playing career, agent Bus Cook tells Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. Shortly after the regular season ended, Megatron issued a statement indicating he was considering retirement, but Lions fans will have to wait at least a little longer before finding out what the wideout’s future plans are.

“Nothing to report,” said Cook, who is currently in Mobile, Alabam for the Senior Bowl. “Have to wait and see. He has to think about what he’s going to do and then go from there.”

As we wait to find out what Johnson decides, let’s check out a few more items from out of the NFL’s North divisions….

  • After a weekend report suggested that Packers head coach Mike McCarthy was frustrated by the team’s lack of free agent spending, general manager Ted Thompson said on Monday that there’s no problem between him and McCarthy, according to Jason Cole of Bleacher Report (video link). However, Cole suggests there may be “growing tension” in Green Bay after McCarthy’s latest postseason loss.
  • Cole also has an update on the Browns (video link), reporting that team owner Jimmy Haslam is in Mobile for Senior Bowl practices, in an effort to take on a more “hands-on approach” as the head of the franchise. Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com (Twitter link) confirms Haslam’s attendance, but says the Browns owner plans to leave today after having dinner with scouts on Monday night.
  • The Browns have added Ken Delgado to their coaching staff as an assistant defensive line coach and former Titans assistant Cannon Matthews as an assistant defensive backs coach, reports Adam Caplan of ESPN.com (Twitter links).
  • The Bears announced today (via Twitter) that they’ve named Richard Hightower their new assistant special teams coach. Hightower replaces Derius Swinton, who joined the 49ers last week.
  • Justin Tucker‘s impressive track record when it comes to clutch kicks should give him some leverage when he and the Ravens discuss a new contract this winter, writes Clifton Brown of CSNMidAtlantic.com.

Extra Points: Alonso, LA, Draft Prospects, Pats

Linebacker Kiko Alonso is coming off his first season with the Eagles, one in which the 2013 PFWA Defensive Rookie of the Year was a non-factor. Alonso expects better things in 2016 with recently hired defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz at the helm, writes Paul Domowitch of Philly.com.

Alonso’s agent, Steve Karic, says the 25-year-old is “very excited” to play for Schwartz, who coordinated Buffalo’s defense to a fourth-place ranking in 2014. Alonso was also a Bill then, but he missed the season because of a torn ACL and didn’t play a down under Schwartz. Still, he’s familiar with Schwartz’s defense.

“He spent the offseason in Buffalo that year playing in this defense. He went through OTAs and minicamp in this defense. He was in the meeting rooms all season long,” Karic stated.

Karic then added that Alonso “definitely can play” the Mike (middle) or Will (weakside) LB role in Schwartz’s scheme. Prior to Alonso’s injury in 2014, Schwartz planned to use him as a Will ‘backer in Buffalo. Alonso played on the inside under former Eagles D-coordinator Billy Davis in 2015-16 and totaled just 43 tackles in 11 games, rating an ugly 92nd of 97 qualifying LBs by Pro Football Focus’ standards (subscription required).

Elsewhere around the NFL. . .

  • Vincent Bonsignore of the Los Angeles Daily News believes the Chargers will end up in LA next season (Twitter link). He also shot down the notion (via Twitter) that talks between the Chargers and Rams have stalled. This comes on the heels of a Monday night report from CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora that the two sides are “making progress.”
  • North Dakota State quarterback Carson Wentz – who’s gaining steam as a possible first-round pick in the 2016 draft – has already met with nearly half of the league’s 32 teams at the Senior Bowl, tweets Charles Robinson of Yahoo! Sports. Two of those clubs are the Dolphins and Texans, Wentz told Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald and Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle, respectively (Twitter links: 1, 2). With Ryan Tannehill in the fold, Beasley doesn’t expect the Dolphins to use the eighth overall pick on Wentz. However, if available, he could be a fit for QB-needy Houston at No. 22.
  • Alabama MLB Reggie Ragland, one of Wentz’s fellow Senior Bowl participants, has spoken to the Ravens, Chiefs and Raiders so far, and he’ll also meet with the Packers (Twitter links via Wilson and Chase Goodbread of NFL.com). The probable first-rounder will play some OLB this week as a way to show off his versatility to prospective employers, reports Wilson (on Twitter).
  • Foxborough, Mass., police arrested Patriots practice squad receiver J.J. Worton on Saturday and charged him with two counts of indecent assault and battery on a person aged 14 and over and one count of assault and battery, per ESPN.com. The Patriots didn’t comment on Worton’s arrest, tweets the Boston Globe’s Ben Volin, who adds that the 24-year-old is unlikely to remain with the team. Worton, who signed with the Pats earlier this month, has an expiring contract.

North Notes: Packers, Steelers, Allen, Browns

Let’s take a quick spin around the NFL’s two North divisions:

  • Packers head coach Mike McCarthy is “fed up” with general manager Ted Thompson‘s refusal to use free agency to bring in veteran reinforcements, sources tell Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Thompson and the rest of the Green Bay front office are famously loath to enter the free agent period, instead opting to rely on draft picks only to bolster the roster. But that approach seems to be taking its toll on McCarthy, on whom McGinn also places plenty of blame for the Packers’ disappointing 2015 campaign.
  • Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette doesn’t believe cornerback Cortez Allen will remain on the Steelers‘ roster in 2016, calling Allen’s 2014 extension “one of the worst big-money contracts” in club history. Head coach Mike Tomlin admitted on Friday that he’s not convinced Allen can be an impact player, and given that Pittsburgh could save $1.7MM against the cap by releasing Allen, it’s fair to speculate that he won’t return.
  • In her latest mailbag for Cleveland.com, Mary Kay Cabot answers questions about the Browns‘ chances of landing Cal quarterback Jared Goff, whether Josh McCown will be retained, and the latest on receiver Josh Gordon.

NFC Notes: Eagles, Packers, Cowboys, Lions

The Eagles were prepared to offer new Giants head coach Ben McAdoo their top coaching job had he come in for the second interview he scheduled, Zach Berman of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

The Giants moved up their interview with their then-offensive coordinator to expedite their process and retain him, but multiple sources told the Inquirer he would’ve gotten the Eagles’ job had he interviewed again.

Philadelphia also did not offer new coach Doug Pederson final say on the 53-man roster like Adam Gase, the Eagles’ initial coaching interview as part of their 10 “Tier 1” candidates, received upon accepting the Dolphins’ job.

Linebackers coach Ken Flajole turned down the UTEP DC job to land in Philadelphia. UTEP had to amend a Jan. 14 press conference to inform that Flajole, the Rams’ DC from 2009-11, would be returning to the NFL instead of guiding the Miners’ defense.

Jeffery Lurie told Berman the regular season’s final week, after he fired Chip Kelly, proved beneficial in terms of communicating with the players on what exactly went wrong under Kelly and how best to re-route the team.

Here are some more notes on the Eagles, along with the latest from other NFC locales.

  • With Pederson saying Sam Bradford “fit perfectly” into the offense he plans to run with the Eagles, Daniel Zangaro of CSNPhilly.com notes in his Eagles mailbag the best course of action for the franchise going forward would be to sign the former No. 1 pick to a long-term deal. Despite an unremarkable season, Bradford will still figure to have his share of suitors if he reaches the market, with the Texans and Browns also in dire need of a quarterback. Bradford threw 19 TDs, 14 INTs and completed 65.3% of his passes in 14 games — the most he’d played in since 2012.
  • Tony Romo will undergo a CT scan this week to determine if he’ll require any surgery to repair his troublesome collarbone, according to a report on the Cowboys‘ website. “We have a pretty good idea, but we’re going to get a CT scan here this coming week and then make all the choices from there,” Romo said. “I think we know which way we’re siding and some of the things. We’ve had exhaustive discussions about it.” In December, Romo discussed attaching a plate to his collarbone to reduce the reinjury risk. Romo said he’ll be “ready to rock” by the time OTAs begin.
  • Lance Dunbar, Rolando McClain and Morris Claiborne should be available to the Cowboys on cheaper, one-year deals, and Jason Fitzgerald of OverTheCap lists them as free agents the team should consider bringing back. Fitzgerald suggests the team move on from Greg Hardy and consider bringing back DeMarcus Ware on a one-year deal in the event the Broncos release him to clear cap space.
  • The Packers hired Rams running back coach Ben Sirmans for the same position, Alex Marvez of Fox Sports reports (on Twitter). Sirmans will now be traveling from the league’s second-largest market to its smallest. He coached running backs in St. Louis for four years after spending the previous 16 coaching in college.
  • Lions defensive tackle Caraun Reid underwent ankle surgery this week but is expected to return sometime during the offseason, Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press reports. Reid started 12 of the 14 games in which he played, but was hampered throughout the season by the high-ankle sprain he suffered in training camp. The team regularly held its 2014 fifth-round pick out of practice down the stretch as a result. Reid is the only interior defensive lineman guaranteed to return to Detroit, with Haloti Ngata, Jason Jones and Tyrunn Walker‘s contracts having expired.

Coach Updates: Henderson, Falcons, Browns

Cowboys secondary coach Jerome Henderson is interviewing for a position on the Falcons‘ coaching staff, but not for the defensive coordinator job — Richard Smith is staying in that role, Atlanta confirmed today (via Twitter).

Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, who first reported that Henderson was interviewing for the DC role in Atlanta, tweets that his Cowboys contacts believed that was the case. Henderson has suggested he wouldn’t leave Dallas for a job that wasn’t a promotion, so there’s some confusion about what exactly his role with the Falcons would be.

According to Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com, the Falcons may view Henderson as a potential defensive pass-game coordinator, a position currently held by Raheem Morris. Morris also has an assistant head coach title, which could give Atlanta the flexibility to bring Henderson aboard and move Morris to another role without technically demoting him.

As we wait to see whether Henderson decides to leave Dallas for the Falcons, here are some other coaching updates from around the NFL:

  • Former Giants defensive line coach Robert Nunn, who recently interviewed with the Titans, is being hired by the Browns as their defensive line coach, reports Alex Marvez of FOX Sports (Twitter link).
  • Marvez passes along another Browns-related coaching update, tweeting that the Packers have hired tight ends coach Brian Angelichio away from Cleveland for the same position on Green Bay’s staff.
  • The Giants are expected to hire Packers assistant offensive line coach Mike Solari as their new offensive line coach, a source tells Newsday’s Tom Rock. We learned on Thursday that Solari was a “strong candidate” to join Ben McAdoo‘s staff.
  • The 49ers are looking at Titans offensive line coach Bob Bostad for the same job in San Francisco, tweets Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee. As we heard on Wednesday, the Niners are also considering Pat Flaherty for that position.
  • The Saints have hired former Giants defensive backs coach and Rams defensive coordinator Peter Guinta as a senior defensive assistant, according to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. Guinta has been out of the NFL since being let go by the Giants last January.