Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFC Notes: Newton, Lynch, Bucs, 49ers, Cards

Because the Panthers already exercised his fifth-year option, Cam Newton will be Carolina’s quarterback in 2015 — technically, the option doesn’t become guaranteed until the start of the league year, but it’s highly unlikely that the club will rescind the $14.666MM offer before then. The Panthers still need to decide if the former No. 1 overall pick will be their signal-caller for the long-term, however, leading Joseph Person and Scott Fowler of the Charlotte Observer to examine Newton’s current level of play and the prospect of signing him to an extension.

While Person allows that Newton has regressed during the second half of the season, he points to the Panthers losing key pieces from both their offensive line and their receiving corps as reasons why Newton’s production has waned. Fowler, meanwhile, argues that due to the fragility of running quarterbacks, Carolina should take a “wait and see” approach” — let the 2015 season play out, and then determine if Newton is worth the franchise tag tender or a long-term deal. Back in August, PFR’s Luke Adams looked at the the possibility of the Newton and the Panthers agreeing to a multi-year pact.

More from the NFC:

  • Appearing on the NFL Network, Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch spoke about the possibility of remaining in Seattle past 2014. “I’m still under contract (for 2015),” Lynch said (link via Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times). “I haven’t even made it through this year. I’m chasing after another one of these [Super Bowl rings].” Lynch is due a $5MM base salary and a $2MM roster bonus next season, but the Seahawks can save $7MM by cutting the veteran RB.
  • In a piece scrutinizing the current head-coaching and front office landscape, Ben Volin of the Boston Globe writes that Lovie Smith is a candidate to be fired after the season. “It’s one thing to lose games,” a source said regarding Smith and the Buccaneers, “but to give up 35 points in a quarter?” A league insider also tells Volin that the 49ers will contemplate promoting defensive coordiantor Vic Fangio if Jim Harbaugh exits. “They just want someone with less noise,” said the source.
  • We passed along Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.com’s Cardinals-centric mailbag yesterday, but there is one additional item of note within, as Weinfuss points out that Arizona’s 2015 quarterback situation is extremely muddled. Coming off an ACL tear, Carson Palmer probably won’t be ready for OTAs, and while Drew Stanton is the Cards’ short-term remedy at the position, Logan Thomas figures to be the long-term answer. Therefore, the club will have to determine how to manage offseason reps, both in order to ready Stanton to be the starter, and to develop Thomas.

Rory Parks contributed to this post.

Bucs Part Ways With OC Jeff Tedford

The Buccaneers have officially released offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford from his contract, allowing him to pursue other opportunities, the team announced today in a press release. Ian Rapoport of NFL.com first reported (via Twitter) that the team would be parting ways with its offensive coordinator. Tedford had been absent from the team for the majority of the 2014 season due to health issues.

“Throughout these difficult circumstances, our primary concern was for Jeff’s health and well-being,” said head coach Lovie Smith in a statement. “After speaking with Jeff in recent days, it became obvious that a mutual decision to release him from his contract was the best way forward. We wish Jeff continued success in the next phase of his career.”

Tedford, a longtime coach at Cal, is expected to explore job opportunities in the college ranks, either as a head coach or an offensive coordinator, according to Roy Cummings of the Tampa Tribune and Mike Garafolo of FOX Sports (Twitter links). As for the Bucs, quarterbacks coach Marcus Arroyo will likely continue to call plays for the rest of the 2014 season, with the team then hiring a new offensive coordinator for 2015.

NFC Notes: Suh, Peterson, RGIII, Hardy

Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy signed the richest contract ever for a player at his position two months ago and he’s rooting for Lions pending free agent Ndamukong Suh to shatter that figure, writes Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. “I hope he breaks the bank,” McCoy said. “He’s an awesome player, an all-pro, Pro Bowl player. Was Rookie of the Year. Just a dominating force since he’s been in the league. Everything that’s coming to him, he deserves it.” More from the NFC..

  • There has been no settlement reached in the Adrian Peterson appeal yet, so the hearing went on as planned today, a source tells Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk (via Twitter). The hearing for the Vikings running back wrapped up around 3:20 CT (link).
  • There’s a “real chance” Robert Griffin III will be Washington‘s starting QB before this season is over, a source tells Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (via Twitter). A report earlier today indicated that coach Jay Gruden wants the team to get rid of RGIII in the offseason.
  • Rams coach Jeff Fisher is most certainly telling the truth when he says that he doesn’t regret the 2012 blockbuster deal that sent the draft rights to RGIII to Washington, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t missed opportunities in that draft. As Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk notes, of the 74 picks used before the Seahawks took quarterback Russell Wilson, the Rams had five of them. Instead, the Rams selected Michael Brockers, Brian Quick, Janoris Jenkins, Isaiah Pead, and Trumaine Johnson with those picks.
  • Panthers coach Ron Rivera had positive things to say after pending free agent Greg Hardy visited with some of his teammates on Saturday. “He looks good. He looks like he’s fit and in shape,” Rivera said, according to Bill Voth of Black And Blue Review. “I had a chance to say hello, talk a little bit. Between he and I, it was a nice conversation. He’s trying to keep himself busy, and he’s just waiting to find out what his situation and circumstances are going to be.” Still, given Hardy’s baggage, it’s unclear if there’s a future for him in Carolina.

Buccaneers Sign Solomon Patton

TUESDAY, 11:38am: The Bucs have officially signed Patton, waiving tight end D.J. Williams to accommodate the move, per Scott Smith of Buccaneers.com.

MONDAY, 2:54pm: The Buccaneers will sign punt returner/kick returner Solomon Patton off of the Cardinals’ practice squad, his agent tells Roy Cummings of the Tampa Tribune (via Twitter).

Patton, 24, has appeared in six games each for the Cardinals and Bucs this season. The wide receiver has mainly seen work as a kick returner in the NFL as he has just one reception to his credit this year. Patton has returned ten punts for 112 yards and 17 kicks for 393 yards. Pro Football Focus (sub. req’d) isn’t kind to Patton’s work as a kick returner, ranking him 160th out of 172 players.

Sunday Roundup: Brees, Bucs, Revis

Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets that he expects the Saints to draft a quarterback in the early rounds of the 2015 draft as they begin to prepare for life after Drew Brees. On top of Brees’ struggles this season, Rapoport adds (via Twitter) that the Saints have watched the 35-year-old’s arm strength wane and therefore must be “prepared for the end.” Former agent Joel Corry, perhaps wondering if New Orleans would go so far as to release Brees after this season, tweets that the All-Pro carries a $26.4MM cap number for 2015 and the Saints have a league-high $161MM in 2015 cap commitments.

However, Rapoport notes (via Twitter) that releasing Brees after 2014 would create $15MM of dead money, a figure that becomes much more palatable if he were to be released following the 2015 season. As such, Rapoport believes it would be better for the Saints to simply draft Brees’ heir apparent and allow him to learn from Brees for at least one season.

Others, though, are more skeptical of Brees’ demise and of the Saints’ ability to draft a suitable replacement in short order. In a pair of tweets, Mike Triplett of ESPN.com writes that the Saints may well draft a quarterback this season, but the team does not feel as though Brees is in a steep decline, that a rookie would have to wait at least two years to be ready to lead the New Orleans offense, and that Brees has never relied on a big arm to be successful, so reports of diminished arm strength are not especially relevant. Former NFL scout Daniel Jeremiah, meanwhile, tweets that the Saints will be hard-pressed to find their future quarterback in this year’s draft.

Now for a few more links from around the league:

  • Roy Cummings of the Tampa Tribune says it is not too soon to accept that the Buccaneers made a mistake with their offseason signings of Anthony Collins and Michael Johnson, whose futures in Tampa Bay are now very much in doubt. Although the Bucs have a little more flexibility with Collins than with Johnson, who would be owed a $4MM roster bonus on March 1 in addition to a $5MM base salary in 2015 (of which $3MM is guaranteed), Tampa Bay could realistically cut both players outright. Regardless of what the Bucs do, they will likely seek upgrades at offensive tackle and defensive end via the draft rather than dive once more into the free agency pool.
  • Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald believes the Patriots should retain star cornerback Darrelle Revis, who has been a central figure of the team’s successful 2014 campaign, at all costs.
  • Tony Boselli, the former Jaguars great who was drafted by current Giants head coach Tom Coughlin when Coughlin was with Jacksonville, says that the Jaguars’ firing of Coughlin was a “huge mistake,” writes Conor Orr of NFL.com. Boselli believes the Giants would be similarly misguided if they were to fire Coughlin without allowing him to coach through the end of his contract, which expires after the 2015 season.
  • Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets that Washington has not spoken with Robert Griffin III regarding his fifth-year option. Although a decision does not have to be made on that option until May, it does not appear as though the team will exercise it at this point.
  • Rand Getlin of Yahoo! Sports tweets that 49ers DB Perrish Cox, who is in a contract year, has signed with agent David Mulugheta.
  • Though we heard earlier today from ESPN’s Adam Schefter that the Jets and Raiders were interested in pursuing 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh via trade after the season, Schefter does note that some in the organization believe the team could still work out an extension with Harbaugh.
  • Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes that the Rams have improved under Jeff Fisher and appear to be on the cusp of being a competitive club, but the histories of Fisher and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer suggest that St. Louis, which has primarily utilized a conservative ball control offense, will not take the next step unless it somehow lands an elite quarterback.

Poll: Which Team Will Draft First In 2015?

This afternoon, our Rob DiRe took an early look at some of the teams that will have picks near the top of the 2015 draft, noting which of those clubs may be interested in snagging a quarterback. Before we can comfortably project where top college signal-callers like Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston might land though, we’ll need to figure out exactly how the 2015 draft order will look.

The 2014 season still features a number of teams in the hunt for division titles or Wild Card spots, with a chance that a club in each conference could win 10 games and still not make the postseason. Conversely, with plenty of teams piling up wins, there are several cellar-dwellers racking up loss after loss this year. Of course, by NFL rules, the teams with the worst records pick first in the following year’s draft, with strength of schedule breaking ties — the team that faced the easier schedule receives the higher pick.

After knocking off the Chiefs earlier this month, the Raiders head into Week 13 with a 1-10 record, matching the 1-10 Jaguars for the league’s worst mark. As Jason Fitzgerald of Over the Cap lays out, Oakland has faced a much trickier schedule than Jacksonville, meaning the Jags currently project to land the first overall pick.

Still, the Jags have a handful of winnable games left on their schedule, including two contests against Houston and home games against the Giants and Titans. The Raiders face a tougher slate, but have been playing better ball recently, and should be competitive in games against the Rams and Bills — Week 17’s contest in Denver could also get a lot easier if the Broncos aren’t playing for postseason seeding at that point.

Of course, the race for the first overall pick includes more teams than just Oakland and Jacksonville. The Buccaneers, Jets, and Titans are all 2-9, and with games still remaining against the Jets and Jags, the Titans’ performance down the stretch could go a long way to determining the draft’s top five. The Buccaneers, with a .469 overall strength of schedule (per OTC), are also in position to sneak into that No. 1 overall spot if they struggle down the stretch — of Tampa Bay’s five remaining games, three are against legit playoff contenders (Bengals, Lions, Packers), while two are against clubs still hoping to win the NFC South (Panthers, Saints). If the Bucs don’t win another game, and the Raiders and Jags do, it would almost certainly give Tampa Bay the first overall pick next spring.

So what do you think? Which of these also-rans will finish in the NFL’s basement and get the first shot at top college talent in the 2015 draft? Which team will land the No. 1 overall pick?

Minor Moves: Saturday

Here are today’s minor moves, with the most recent transactions added to the top of the list:

Earlier updates:

  • The Patriots have promoted linebacker Darius Fleming off their practice squad, reports Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston (via Twitter).
  • The Bears signed veteran safety Anthony Walters to the active roster, reports Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune (via Twitter). The team also brought defensive end Jamil Merrell onto its practice squad (via Twitter).
  • The Chargers have promoted offensive lineman Jeremiah Sirles to their active roster, reports Michael Gehlken of the U-T San Diego. Sirles has spent most of the season on the team’s practice squad. The Chargers have announced that safety Adrian Phillips was released in a corresponding move that would open up space on the roster for the utility lineman.
  • For the second time this month, the Panthers have waived running back Chris Ogbonnaya, the team announced (via Twitter). Defensive tackle Micanor Regis has been promoted from the practice squad to take the open roster spot. Ogbonnaya was waived in early November, but he rejoined the squad only two days later. The 28-year-old has compiled 50 yards on 14 carries this season, but he hasn’t played since the team’s loss to the Saints in late October.

Jets Among Teams Interested In Drafting A QB

Most teams have five games left on their schedule (unless they are one of the six that played on Thanksgiving), and as teams are jockeying for playoff position, fan bases of those already out of contention cannot help but look ahead to the 2015 NFL draft.

The best way to find a franchise quarterback is by drafting as high as possible, and the best way to ensure a high draft pick is with poor quarterback play. For that reason, one win can be the difference between having a chance to draft an elite prospective signal-caller or missing out on a passer entirely.

Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk put together a prospective list of the teams likely to be drafting in the top 10 and their quarterback needs. The draft order he uses is comprised of all the teams 4-7 or worse, except for the Falcons and Saints, who are still embarrassingly battling it out for the NFC South division crown.

The Raiders and Jaguars, the two clubs with only one win, look like good bets to be drafting right at the top of the first round. Of course, both teams took quarterbacks in the first two rounds of last year’s draft, and shouldn’t be in the market for replacing them this offseason. The next group is far more interesting, with the Jets, Buccaneers, and Titans all sitting on two wins and tremendous need at the position.

Unfortunately for one of those teams, there may only be two quarterbacks worth such a valuable draft selection. Marcus Mariota of Oregon and Jameis Winston of Florida State are both vying to be the first quarterback taken. With no third option, one of those three teams will come up empty in terms of fixing their quarterback situations.

The New York media is already calling for the Jets to chase one of these college stars, with Kevin Kernan of the New York Post openly calling for the team to draft Winston.

Of course, a lot can happen in the last five games, and wins and losses still to come can shake up the order, as can an offseason trade or signing that suddenly changes the need at the position. If any of the three teams do manage to win a game or two down the stretch, Washington and St. Louis could crawl up to a higher selection, and each could consider a quarterback according to Smith.

An even more volatile situation is among the college quarterbacks. Both Mariota and Winston still have time to fall out of favor with NFL teams, and both could decide to remain in college another year, pushing back the draft process one more year. Or maybe one of the two impresses so much it convinces another team to trade its future to move up into the top two to take their coveted quarterback.

Lance Briggs Will Test Free Agency

Lance Briggs‘ season is over after the Bears placed him on injured reserve with a groin injury yesterday. With his contract up in March, many pundits have suggested that this will call to a close his career in Chicago, where he spent 12 years with the team.

Although it seems like a foregone conclusion that he will not be returning to the Bears in 2015, that does not mean the end of the road for Briggs altogether. Briggs has no plans to retire, and will test free agency this offseason, reports Dan Wiederer of the Chicago Tribune (via Twitter).

Briggs’ 12 seasons with the Bears have placed him among the franchises all-time great defensive players. He missed only four games in his first ten years with the team, earning seven trips to the Pro Bowl during that time. He was also named All-Pro three times, in 2005, 2006, and 2009.

His 170 starts as a Bear puts him among the top five in franchise history, alongside such names as Walter Payton, Mike Singletary, Olin Kreutz, and Brian Urlacher. He and Urlacher anchored a defense that was frequently among the best in the NFL.

Still, his play declined in his final years with the team, struggling with performance and with injuries after head coach Lovie Smith left town. He played in only eight games in 2013 and will finish 2014 only appearing in nine games.

Additionally, Briggs will turn 35 in 2015, and given his recent injury history, he may not be a hot commodity as a free agent. He also plays a non-premium position as a 4-3 outside linebacker, and those spots are often filled with younger talents and mid-round draft picks.

One obvious fit would be a reunion with his old coach Smith in Tampa Bay, where he could join a young defense headlined by stars Lavonte David and Gerald McCoy. Under Smith, there has been upheaval on the defense as the coach attempts to bring in his own talent, and it can be seen most notably as the secondary has roster turnover. Briggs could be a key in Smith implementing his scheme to the younger players.

Outside of the Buccaneers though, desire for the former Pro Bowl linebacker will most likely be limited, and he may be forced to sign for the veteran’s minimum if he is intent on continuing his NFL career.

Bears To Place Lance Briggs On IR

The Bears are placing long-time linebacker Lance Briggs on injured reserve with a groin injury, ending his season, reports Rich Campbell of the Chicago Tribune (via Twitter).

Briggs has spent 12 seasons in Chicago, making the Pro Bowl seven times in his career with the team. He is one of five Bears to start 170 games for the team, along with Walter Payton, Olin Kreutz, Brian Urlacher, and Mike Singletary, according to Brad Biggs (via Twitter).

Briggs was one of former coach Lovie Smith’s favorites, making a career as a weakside linebacker on some great 4-3 cover-two defenses. His performance since Smith was fired had declined precipitously, and the new regime had made an effort to move on from the team’s defensive stalwarts.

If Briggs decides to continue his career, he will likely have to find somewhere else to play other than Chicago. The Bears are unlikely to bring Briggs back next season, reports David Haugh (via Twitter).

One likely landing spot for Briggs if he pursues another team would be the Buccaneers, where he and Smith could reunite, writes Vaughn McClure of ESPN (via Twitter). If his level of play returns to what it was under Smith, he will add to a run defense highlighted by Gerald McCoy and Lavonte David.