Browns To Hire Joe Woods?

49ers defensive backs coach Joe Woods is on track to become the Browns’ next defensive coordinator, sources tell ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter (on Twitter). All that remains, Schefter hears, is figuring out a contract. 

The Browns, reportedly, were down to Woods and incumbent Steve Wilks as of last week. Today, the Browns told Wilks that he’s out, as Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com tweets. Barring something unexpected, Woods will get the job.

Woods, 49, has history with new Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski  – Woods was a Vikes assistant between 2006-2013. All in all, Woods comes with 16 years of NFL coaching experience for five different teams. Before he hooked on as the Niners’ LBs coach, he spent four years with the Broncos, including two as their DC.

While Woods’ two Broncos defenses were solid, the 49ers’ rise from 23rd to second in pass-defense DVOA has obviously been key to the NFC No. 1 seed’s success. The 49ers’ Richard Sherman-led secondary has become a much better unit compared to last season, when Sherman did not play at a Pro Bowl level. Woods also oversaw the Broncos’ dominant No-Fly Zone secondary that helped the team to a championship in 2015, working under Wade Phillips.

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Jason Witten Could Join Giants?

The Giants recently hired former Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett as their new offensive coordinator, and another longtime Cowboy could be joining Garrett in the Meadowlands. Per ESPN’s Chris Mortensen, the Giants could look to sign tight end Jason Witten when free agency opens in March (Twitter link).

Witten has spent his entire career in Dallas, and after a one-year stint in the Monday Night Football broadcast booth in 2018, he rejoined the club in 2019. The 37-year-old showed he still has something left in the tank, posting 63 catches for 529 yards and four touchdowns.

Witten recently indicated that he is open to continuing his playing career in 2020, and the Giants could certainly use him. Although Big Blue will have Evan Engram at the top of its depth chart, it couldn’t hurt to have a reliable security blanket like Witten for second-year QB Daniel Jones.

Engram missed the second half of the 2019 season due to injury, and the Giants turned to sixth-round rookie Kaden Smith in his stead. Smith posted 31 catches for 268 yards and three scores, not bad for a rookie TE who was claimed off waivers in September, but perhaps not enough to preclude a one-year deal with Witten.

Garrett joined the Cowboys in 2007, so Witten played under him for 12 years. Dallas will almost certainly offer Witten a better chance than New York to capture a Super Bowl ring in 2020, so that consideration may trump his familiarity with, and respect for, Garrett. Indeed, Mortensen says there is no real clarity on Witten’s future at this point (Twitter link).

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Titans Willing To Tag Derrick Henry

Spoiler alert: the Titans want to keep Derrick Henry. The 2019 rushing champion has carried the Titans to this afternoon’s AFC Championship Game, and if Tennessee should win and advance to the Super Bowl, Henry will be a big reason why.

But the Alabama product is eligible for free agency in March, and we heard last month that the Titans had not had any internal discussions about a new deal for Henry. Since then, Henry has continued to dominate, and he piled up nearly 400 rushing yards in the team’s two playoff wins over New England and Baltimore.

Per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, the Titans want to keep Henry, and they are willing to use the franchise tag if necessary. Of course, the club also wants to retain Ryan Tannhill, so there are some major negotiations looming whenever Tennessee’s season is over.

If the Titans cannot work out a long-term deal with either player by the time they are permitted to use the franchise or transition tag on February 25, they can use one tag on Henry and the other on Tannehill to buy themselves more time (provided that there is not a new labor agreement in place by that point). As Rapoport notes in a separate piece, Tannehill has cashed in on a number of his incentives this year and will pocket $10.25MM for his 2019 performance, though he will get a huge raise in 2020.

Given his ability to take over a game and his fairly light usage over his first two years in the league, Henry will doubtlessly be aiming for the top of the RB market. Tennessee — which entertained trade talks for Henry prior to the 2018 trade deadline — is open to a multi-year pact, but it may have to dole out at least $15MM per year and around $50MM or so in guarantees to get that done.

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Bengals Will Not Trade No. 1 Overall Pick

The Bengals are armed with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 draft, and as it turns out, it was a good year to be the worst team in the league. Cincinnati can select Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow with the top selection, and the club is not hiding its affinity for the LSU signal-caller.

And the Bengals’ public comments about Burrow are not a ploy to heighten the trade value of the No. 1 pick. Per Adam Schefter of ESPN.com, Cincinnati has no intention of trading away the selection, regardless of how tempting an offer might be.

Schefter says there has been mounting speculation that the Panthers, whose QB situation is also uncertain, may be gearing up to trade for the top pick. That speculation has grown since Carolina recently named LSU passing game coordinator, Joe Brady, as its new OC. And the Dolphins, another QB-needy club, have three first-round picks in the 2020 draft, so they have the capital to move up if they want.

But the Bengals are not interested, as they are locked in on Burrow. The Ohio native just completed one of the finest seasons in college football history, leading his Tigers to a national championship while completing 76.3% of his passes for an incredible 60 touchdowns against just six interceptions.

Burrow will not participate in the Senior Bowl, but even if he does not do anything until the draft, his spot as the No. 1 overall pick seems secure.

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Eli Manning Leaning Towards Retirement?

As recently as December, we heard that Eli Manning wanted to continue his playing career in 2020. We knew that opportunities may be limited, given that he does not want to serve as a backup/mentor, but it seemed that the longtime Giants signal-caller would at least take a look to see what might be out there.

Now, that may no longer be the case. Paul Schwartz of the New York Post says all signs indicate that Manning, 39, is headed for retirement.

Recent reports have suggested that the Giants would welcome Manning back as the backup to Daniel Jones, but not only does Manning not want that, the team itself does not really believe that’s a great idea either, per Schwartz. The team’s new head coach, Joe Judge, is nearly a full year younger than Manning, and Big Blue wants to usher in a new era.

Manning is not hindering the Giants by continuing to take his time with his decision, as he is not under contract and New York is not carving out any salary cap space for him. He is expected to be in Miami, the site of this year’s Super Bowl, for some promotional appearances, and he is unlikely to make any announcement prior to the big game.

Schwartz said those close to Manning believed that, as the 2019 season drew to a close, he realized it would be his last. And if so, it makes plenty of sense. He is remarkably healthy, he has earned $252.3MM in his career — the most ever for an NFL player — and he has captured two Super Bowls. He has often expressed a desire to spend his entire career with the Giants, a franchise he truly loves, and he has never been interested in suiting up for another club.

He has also indicated that he is not interested in becoming a coach, so if he does hang up the cleats in the next few weeks, we may not hear much from him until he is being fitted for a gold jacket.

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Cowboys Were Close To Extension With Dak Prescott

Back in September, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones called an extension with quarterback Dak Prescott “imminent.” Months later, Prescott and the Cowboys still do not have a new contract in place, which means that the club may have to put the franchise tag on their signal-caller, who is eligible for unrestricted free agency in March.

However, Jones wasn’t being hyperbolic in his September comments regarding a new deal. Sources tell Clarence E. Hill Jr. of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that the two sides were indeed close to an agreement that would have paid Prescott $33MM per year, but those talks broke down when Prescott got off to a hot start.

Prescott may have been eyeing Russell Wilson‘s $35MM AAV after his great start to the 2019 campaign, but after a less impressive second half of the season, his value may have returned to that $33MM/year range. Of course, the real question will be what type of guaranteed money the Cowboys will be required to pony up, and it seems unlikely they will be able to avoid giving Prescott at least $100MM in full guarantees.

Hill says the Cowboys’ biggest focus is getting a deal with Prescott done, which is especially important given that new head coach Mike McCarthy will be installing a new offense. McCarthy believes Prescott is an elite QB, and the team wants to keep him around for the long haul.

“We’ve got to land the plane and get his deal done,” vice president Stephen Jones recently said. “We got real, real, real close there to start the season and just didn’t get it finished up. He’s so laser-focused on wanting to win football games and compete that he really didn’t want the distraction once we didn’t get it done in that first week of going back and forth with the contract. We just got to move forward. He’s our quarterback of the future. I’ll take him any time when you go to war against these guys. We’re fortunate to have him.”

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Eagles Expected To Request OC Interview With Mike Kafka

The Eagles are still on the lookout for a new offensive coordinator after firing Mike Groh earlier this month, and their search could lead them to a familiar face. Per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, Philadelphia is expected to request an interview with Chiefs QB coach Mike Kafka.

The Eagles drafted Kafka in the fourth round of the 2010 draft, and the Northwestern product spent his first two seasons in the league as Philly’s backup/third-string signal-caller. He got looks with a number of clubs after he was cut by the Eagles in the summer of 2012, but he chose to end his playing career and try his hand at coaching in 2016, returning to his alma mater as an offensive graduate assistant.

His football IQ was always considered perhaps his best trait, and he has risen quickly through the coaching ranks. After serving as the Chiefs’ offensive quality control coach in 2017, he was elevated to QB coach in 2018, the same year Patrick Mahomes took the league by storm. We heard back in October that Kafka was considered a future NFL head coach, and he may have been promoted to Kansas City OC if Eric Bieniemy had gotten a head coaching job this year.

But because Eagles head coach Doug Pederson calls offensive plays, Rapoport says Chiefs head coach Andy Reid may block the interview request and give Kafka a promotion on KC’s staff.

The Eagles are also reportedly interested in Ravens QB coach James Urban and USC offensive coordinator Graham Harrell.

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Browns Hire Chad O’Shea As WR Coach; Latest On OC/DC Search

The Browns have hired former Dolphins OC Chad O’Shea as their new WR coach and passing game coordinator, as Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports. O’Shea lasted one year in Miami and drew some criticism for installing an overly complex offense, and he was recently fired in favor of spread offense guru Chan Gailey.

But despite the talent limitations on Miami’s offense, the team did perform reasonably well down the stretch and actually ranked in the top-10 in passing offense and top-15 in scoring offense after Ryan Fitzpatrick reentered the starting lineup in Week 7. As such, O’Shea’s dismissal came as something of a surprise, though recent reports indicated that, while he is an excellent receivers coach, he is not a great coordinator.

O’Shea spent 10 years as the Patriots’ WR coach, so he comes to Cleveland with plenty of experience. He will also have a great deal of talent to work with, and he will be tasked with continuing to get the most out of Jarvis Landry while also helping Odell Beckham Jr. return to prominence. As passing game coordinator, he will also help develop game plans for Baker Mayfield, who struggled in his sophomore campaign but who still has plenty of potential.

As for the Browns’ vacant offensive coordinator post, Rapoport says the team has interest in 49ers passing game coordinator Mike LaFleur and run game coordinator Mike McDaniel. Cleveland had some interest in both men for their head coaching post but never requested interviews with them. The Browns may not request OC interviews either, because San Francisco is unlikely to grant such requests. The Browns may also go without an official OC given new head coach Kevin Stefanski‘s offensive prowess.

Unlike LaFleur and McDaniel, 49ers passing game coordinator/defensive backs coach Joe Woods is not under contract through 2020, so he can join the Browns if he so chooses. We recently heard that Cleveland had narrowed its defensive coordinator search to Woods and incumbent Steve Wilks, though Rapoport says Wade Phillips remains a possibility as well.

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Tom Brady Unlikely To Re-Sign With Pats Before Free Agency

If the Patriots are going to re-sign Tom Brady, they would like to do it before March 17. As Ben Volin of the Boston Globe reminds us, Brady’s present contract voids on that day, meaning that his $6.75MM cap hits for 2020 and 2021 will accelerate onto New England’s 2020 cap. The same will be true even if the Pats and Brady re-up for one season, but if they agree to a two-year pact, the team could at least spread the dead money hit of $13.5MM over the next two seasons.

However, sources tell Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports that it would be “extremely surprising” if Brady were to agree to a new deal with the Pats before March 17, and Brady is preparing to discuss a future with other teams. A reunion with New England is not out of the question, but it is far from a certainty at this point.

La Canfora says Brady, who will turn 43 prior to the start of next season, will “do his due diligence to assess all realistic possibilities,” and he is anxious to embrace free agency for the first time in his career.

Neither Volin nor La Canfora offered any speculation as to which teams could be interested in Brady, but the Chargers have frequently been mentioned as a possibility, and the Colts and Raiders also make sense to some degree. One way or another, the Pats legend wants to serve as a mentor to a young QB and leave whatever franchise he ends up with in good shape when he does decide to retire.

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Jaguars To Interview Jay Gruden For OC

The Jaguars are being thorough in their search for a new offensive coordinator. In addition to Ben McAdoo and Scott Linehan, Jacksonville will interview former Redskins head coach Jay Gruden for its OC vacancy, as Mike Garafolo of the NFL Network tweets.

Gruden, of course, was the first head coach fired this season, with Washington handing him his walking papers in early October. In 5+ seasons with the Redskins, Gruden compiled a 35-50-1 record and led the club to just one playoff appearance, but it was his prior work as the Bengals’ OC that got him the Washington gig in the first place.

Gruden, who was a successful quarterback in Louisville and in the Arena Football League, served as Cincinnati’s offensive coordinator from 2011-13. Although his offenses were in the middle of the pack in terms of overall efficiency during that time, the Bengals did improve in points-per-game over each of those three season, and in 2013, the team was in the top-10 in points scored and yards-per-game. Quarterback Andy Dalton also set career-highs in passing TDs and passing yards that season, which ended with an AFC North title.

The Jags recently fired John DeFilippo after one season as OC, and his replacement will be tasked with improving an offense that ranked 26th in points scored in 2019. The new OC will also be a major factor in developing quarterback Gardner Minshew.

There were rumors that Gruden may be headed to Las Vegas to join his brother Jon on the Raiders’ staff, and that may still be in play. But one away or another, he wants to be back in the NFL in 2020, as he told Garafolo’s NFL Network colleague, Ian Rapoport, that he is “itching to do something” and would “like to have an office to go to.”

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