NFC East Rumors: Manning, Redskins, Eagles

Eli Manning‘s future with the Giants remains uncertain, and Manning’s agent has yet to hear from the team about his status. While Tom Condon said (via Paul Schwartz of the New York Post) he believes Manning will be back with the Giants for his age-38 season, he has not spoken with team brass about this yet. Both parties are in Mobile, Ala., this week for the Senior Bowl, so a conversation could transpire regarding a Manning 16th season with New York. The Giants have also not expressed any public desire to ask for a Manning pay cut, per Schwartz. The two-time Super Bowl MVP has one more season, at a $23.2MM cap number, remaining on his Giants deal. When asked earlier this month about Manning’s future with the Giants, Dave Gettleman did not commit to the popular quarterback coming back. Manning has not previously played into a contract year.

Here is the latest from the NFC East:

  • A series of leg surgeries have Alex Smith‘s career in doubt, but the Redskins quarterback made his first public appearance since the injury Monday at the Wizards-Pistons game (via NBC Sports Washington, on Twitter). The 34-year-old passer’s injured right leg was heavily supported by an apparatus, with the quarterback also using crutches at the game. Smith underwent nearly six operations because of his severe leg injuries and a subsequent infection.
  • Former Redskins secondary coach will Torrian Gray resurface at Florida, where he will become the Gators’ DBs coach, John Keim of tweets. Washington wants its new hire to become the passing-game coordinator, Keim adds (via Twitter). The Redskins also let linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti leave for the Packers, so Greg Manusky‘s new staff will look a bit different next season.
  • Jason Peters has one more season and a $10.66MM cap number left on his Eagles deal. The reigning Super Bowl champions are navigating the NFL’s worst cap situation, being one of two teams projected to be over the cap (at $14MM-plus over). Despite the team being able to save $8MM by releasing Peters, Reuben Frank of NBC Sports Philadelphia expects the Eagles’ longtime left tackle starter to be back for one more season. Noting seventh-round project Jordan Mailata being too raw to deploy in Peters’ place, Frank sees the Eagles cutting costs elsewhere and bringing back Peters for his age-37 season. While Andrew Whitworth turned 37 last month, no other NFL tackle has played past his 37th birthday since Ray Brown — a full-time guard starter until age 42, when he shifted to tackle, who retired at 43 with the 2005 Redskins.

Packers To Hire Luke Getsy As QBs Coach

Luke Getsy‘s stay as Mississippi State’s offensive coordinator will be limited to one year. The former Packers wide receivers coach will return to Green Bay as quarterbacks coach, Rob Demovsky of reports.

The Packers interviewed Getsy last week, and the former Mike McCarthy assistant will be back under a new regime. He stands to become the third key new voice in the quarterbacks room, following Matt LaFleur and new OC Nathaniel Hackett to Wisconsin. All of these coaches have yet to turn 40, with Getsy, 34, being younger than Aaron Rodgers.

Rodgers voiced concern about the Packers letting previous quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt go last year. In Getsy, the Packers will be bringing back a familiar voice. Prior to moving to Starkville, Miss., Getsy spent four seasons in Green Bay — the first two (2014-15) as an offensive quality control coach before rising to leading the wideouts the following two seasons.

This represents the latest step in a notable rise for the former Akron quarterback, who enjoyed a brief NFL stay as a 2007 49ers UDFA signing. Mississippi State went 8-5 this season and boasted the No. 68-ranked scoring offense in Division I-FBS (28.5 points per game).

AFC Notes: Burnett, Colts, Ware, Patriots

A year after leaving Iowa State to join Frank Reich‘s Colts staff, Tom Manning is heading back to the college ranks. Indianapolis’ tight ends coach will depart and rejoin Matt Campbell‘s Cyclones staff, according to Zak Keefer of the Indianapolis Star. Manning was Iowa State’s offensive coordinator from 2016-17 and will once again serve in that role, Keefer notes, adding the Colts hoped he would stay. The Cyclones did not have an OC this past season. One of Manning’s charges had one of the most surprising showings of 2018, with Eric Ebron‘s 13 touchdown receptions breaking Dallas Clark‘s Colts record for tight ends. Ebron’s 14 total touchdowns were the third-most in a season in NFL history. The Colts are looking to replace offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo and assistant O-line coach Bobby Johnson. The tight ends job joins the vacancy list.

Here is the latest from the AFC:

  • Morgan Burnett seeks a Steelers release, in hopes of landing with a team that will use him as a pure safety. The Steelers often deployed Burnett as a dime linebacker, but younger safeties Terrell Edmunds and Sean Davis saw far more playing time. Pittsburgh coaches knew Burnett did not like his role, Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette notes, adding the longtime Packers starter was moved off full-time safety duties because of recurring injuries. Burnett played in only 11 games this season. Despite signing for three years and more than $14MM, Burnett will not be getting his safety job back over Davis or Edmunds, per Dulac.
  • DeMarcus Ware served as a pass-rushing consultant for the Broncos this season, but the future Hall of Famer’s role with the Vic Fangio-led staff is not certain. Fangio will spend time coaching Denver’s outside linebackers and hired Brandon Staley to oversee that position, leaving Ware with potentially less to do. However, the former Broncos starter wants to return and would like to do more if asked to come back, Nicki Jhabvala of The Athletic writes (subscription required). A key Ware 2018 task was mentoring Bradley Chubb, who promptly broke Von Miller‘s record for sacks by a Broncos rookie with 12. Regardless of Ware’s Broncos employment, Jhabvala notes he plans on working with some of Denver’s players in the offseason.
  • While the Patriots are likely going to have to pay a premium to retain Trey Flowers, another key contributor has enhanced his profile during the latest New England Super Bowl run. Trent Brown will be a top-tier free agent, per’s Kevin Seifert, who rates the Patriots left tackle as the No. 7 UFA-to-be in the 2019 class (ESPN+ link). With most of the players listed above Brown unlikely to hit the market, the massive blocker may be in line for a top-level contract. Seifert lists Flowers as the No. 9 free agent.

Poll: Which Team Made Best HC Hire?

With the NFL now in the two-week waiting period until its final meaningful game, 30 of the 32 teams are going through offseason motions. And some of those teams are still deciding on coordinators.

Unless another Patriots assistant reneges on an agreement post-Super Bowl, or Zac Taylor makes an 11th-hour decision to remain in Los Angeles rather than taking over in Cincinnati, the eight NFL teams in need of head coaches made their choices.

So, which franchise best positioned itself for long-term success?

The trend being offensive innovation to keep up with some of the ahead-of-the-curve offenses, six of the eight teams hired offensively oriented coaches.

By a substantial margin, the Cardinals won the outside-the-box trophy. After washing out as an NFL quarterback in the mid-2000s, Kliff Kingsbury spent more than a decade as a college coach. The 39-year-old groomed some sought-after NFL talent in Patrick Mahomes, Case Keenum and Davis Webb, while also bringing Baker Mayfield to Texas Tech for a short stay. But he finished his stay in Lubbock, Texas, with a sub-.500 record. The Cards added Vance Joseph and Tom Clements to be his top assistants. Because of their unconventional hire, the Cardinals will be one of the most interesting teams in 2019.

Bruce Arians‘ CBS stay lasting one year will bring one of the more interesting coaches in modern NFL history back to the sideline. Tampa Bay’s new coach is the oldest ever hired, at 66 years old. Arians will be tethered to Jameis Winston, and it does not sound like he has issues with that. Arians hired several former Cardinals assistants to help him attempt to snap the NFC’s longest active playoff drought. Arians led the Cardinals to their best season, record-wise (13-3 in 2015), since the franchise has been in Arizona but is also barely a year removed from retiring.

The Packers and Browns opted for OCs, the former seeing a major difference in Matt LaFleur‘s vision than those of the other coaches that interviewed. Cleveland made the biggest continuity move of this year’s HC-seeking octet,promoting Freddie Kitchens over candidates with more experience.

LaFleur’s Titans offense regressed from Mike Mularkey‘s final unit, with Tennessee ranking 27th in points scored last season. But the 39-year-old coach, who will be working with ex-Jaguars assistant Nathaniel Hackett in overseeing the back end of Aaron Rodgers‘ prime, trained under Sean McVay and Kyle Shanahan. Kitchens rose from position coach to head coach in less than three months, but Mayfield’s performance in the second half of the season was obviously different from his play under Hue Jackson and Todd Haley.

Taylor and Adam Gase round out the offensively geared hires, the former being perhaps the highest-variance candidate among the non-Kingsbury wing.

Although Taylor was the Dolphins’ interim OC in 2015 and McVay’s quarterbacks coach this season, he spent 2016 running a Cincinnati Bearcats offense that ranked 123rd (out of 128 Division I-FBS teams) with 19.3 points per game for a 4-8 team and was the Rams’ assistant wideouts coach as recently as 2017. Gase led the Dolphins to the playoffs in 2016, but Ryan Tannehill‘s issues staying healthy and living up to his draft slot limited the former Broncos and Bears OC. The Jets saw enough to add the formerly in-demand assistant, who may be ready to bring longtime coworker Dowell Loggains with him to the Big Apple.

Denver and Miami went with defense, with the Broncos having no competition for 2018’s assistant coach of the year and, arguably, this decade’s top DC.

The Dolphins cancelled their Vic Fangio summit, and he will be in charge of elevating a Broncos team that finished with back-to-back losing seasons for the first time since the early 1970s. John Elway‘s plan to reinstall Gary Kubiak as OC also hit a snag, with the longtime friends’ disagreement on staffing leading to the Broncos hiring 49ers QBs coach Rich Scangarello. The Dolphins will become the fifth franchise to hire a Bill Belichick-era Patriots defensive coordinator (or de facto DC, in Brian Flores‘ case), following the Browns (Romeo Crennel and Eric Mangini), Jets (Mangini), Chiefs (Crennel) and Lions (Matt Patricia). Flores helped the Patriots to yet another top-10 ranking in points allowed — their 15th in the past 18 seasons — and another Super Bowl berth.

Vote in PFR’s latest poll and weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section!

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Chiefs Weighing Defensive Staff Changes

The Chiefs scored 24 points in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s AFC championship game but still could not beat a Patriots team that had dropped five road contests this season. A day later, they are discussing potential staff changes.

The team is weighing whether or not to shake up its defensive staff, Mike Garafolo of notes (video link), adding these conversations include defensive coordinator Bob Sutton‘s position.

Kansas City tied for the NFL lead with 52 sacks but was unable to pressure Tom Brady, and Monday’s discussions involve possible issues making proper adjustments. Andy Reid said Monday the Chiefs are evaluating all aspects of their team, but Garafolo stresses the most scrutinized facet in these evaluations is the defensive staff.

Production getting to the quarterback notwithstanding, the Chiefs ranked 31st in pass defense this season. On Sunday, they allowed the Patriots to convert 13 of 19 third downs in a game that featured 524 New England yards. The Chiefs, who featured one of the most explosive offenses in NFL history (No. 3 all time in points with 565), gave up more than 500 yards on four occasions this season.

Sutton has been Kansas City’s DC since Reid arrived in 2013; his past three units have ranked in the bottom third in total defense. Though, the Sutton-era Chiefs have bent more than they’ve broken in that span, with the team being better at deterring points than yardage. This season ended with 37 points allowed — the fifth time this defense yielded at least 37 points — and the Patriots’ final drive prevented Patrick Mahomes from seeing the field after the overtime coin toss. This came after Dee Ford‘s neutral-zone infraction nullified a likely game-clinching interception.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Saints Sign Six Players To Futures Deals

The Saints’ season is officially in the books, which means that it’s on to the offseason for New Orleans. To kick things off, the Saints signed the following six practice squad players to reserve/futures deals:

Barrett has been jockeyed on and off of the Saints’ practice squad all year. Over the weekend, Barrett was signed to the Saints’ taxi squad for the 13th time this season. In total, he was involved in a whopping 25 transactions during the 2018 campaign and was released 12 times. Barrett frequently switched placed with wide receiver Paul Turner, but there’s no word yet on whether Turner will be retained via a futures contract.

Sankey, 25 in October, appeared in six games for the Colts last season. This year, he did not see live action for the Saints, but he was on the scout team for most of the year.

Wozniak, a tight end at the University of Minnesota, was signed as a UDFA last year. The Saints moved the 6’10” prospect over to offensive tackle and they’re hoping he’ll be able to use his size and length to his advantage.

Titans Hire Arthur Smith As OC

The Titans hired Arthur Smith as their new offensive coordinator, the team announced on Monday. Smith previously served as the team’s tight ends coach, but he’s getting a title and pay bump to run the team’s offensive attack.

I am excited for Arthur and for our team to be able to elevate a deserving coach,” head coach Mike Vrabel said in a statement. “I was impressed throughout the season in game plan meetings with his ideas, in-game with his understanding of situations and the ability to get the most out of his position group. We spent a good bit of time last week talking about this opportunity. He has a great deal of familiarity with our players and the continuity of the offense will allow our players to continue to develop and improve.”

The Titans are certainly hoping that Smith can get the most out of their group – Smith will serve as the team’s fifth OC since Marcus Mariota was drafted in 2015. With that in mind, Smith’s promotion is a sign that they will give Mariota every chance to succeed as he goes into the final year of his rookie deal.

Matt LaFleur ran the Titans’ offense in 2018, but he left to become the new head coach of the Packers. LaFleur brought youth and energy to the role, but Smith offers more in the way of NFL experience. Before working under Vrabel, Smith served on staffs under Mike Mularkey, Ken Whisenhunt, and Mike Munchak.

Saints’ Drew Brees Plans On Playing In 2019

Things didn’t go the Saints’ way on Sunday and Drew Brees is determined to go out on a higher note. After the loss to the Rams, Brees told reporters that he plans on sticking around for at least one more season.

[RELATED: Saints TE Josh Hill Sustains Concussion]

I plan on being here next year and making another run at it,” Brees said (via Luke Johnson of the Times-Picayune).

Brees, who recently celebrated his 40th birthday, turned in one of his very best seasons to date. Brees completed an NFL record 74.4% of his throws and also had a career high in passer rating at 115.7. In the regular season, he threw for 32 touchdowns against just five interceptions and, if not for a controversial no-call on Sunday, he would be gearing up for an attempt at a second career Super Bowl ring.

Thanks to the two-year deal he signed with the Saints in March of last year, Brees is under contract for 2019 at a $33.5MM cap number. The Saints could seek an extension to smooth out the cap hit (and overhaul the voidable year in 2020), but New Orleans will be glad to have Brees back in any scenario.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Dolphins To Hire Patrick Graham As DC

The Dolphins plan to hire Packers’ run game coordinator/inside linebackers coach Patrick Graham as their defensive coordinator, a source tells Adam Schefter of (on Twitter). Of course, Patriots linebackers coach Brian Flores is slated to be the head coach of the team’s new look staff, but the Dolphins cannot formally hire him until Super Bowl LIII is in the books. 

Graham has a lengthy history with the Patriots and he served in a variety of roles in New England from 2009-15. The 39-year-old (40 on Thursday) coached the Giants’ linebackers from 2016-17 before joining Green Bay last season.

Before hiring Graham, the Dolphins were said to also be considering Bret Bielema, a former collegiate head coach at Wisconsin and Arkansas who currently serves as a consultant to Bill Belichick. Clearly, Flores was focused on familiar DC candidates who already know how he likes things done.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC Notes: Patriots, Gronk, Colts

The Patriots are heading to the Super Bowl, and Super Bowl LIII might be the final game for Rob Gronkowski. We’ve heard for a while now that Gronkowski is considering retirement even more seriously than he did last season, and we got even more confirmation of that today. There is a “strong possibility” that Gronkowski retires this offseason in order to pursue an acting career, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (Twitter video). He’s flirted with retirement in the past, but given his declining on field production this year for the Patriots, it feels more real. If it really is the end for Gronk, he’ll go down as one of, if not the, best tight end in NFL history.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • It’s been reported that GM Chris Ballard would like the Colts to add another talented wide receiver to pair with T.Y. Hilton, but don’t expect them to be in on the Antonio Brown sweepstakes this offseason, writes Stephen Holder of The Athletic. It’s unclear if the Steelers would even want to deal Brown to Indianapolis, as they’d likely prefer to trade him out of conference to the NFC.
  • Adam Gase has already hired Gregg Williams to be his defensive coordinator with the Jets, but the team still has a vacancy at offensive coordinator. “All signs point to” Gase bringing in Dowell Loggains to be his new OC, according to Daryl Slater of Loggains has worked under Gase both in Chicago and Miami, so it’s not surprising he’s tagging along to the Big Apple. Either way, Gase will likely be the offensive play-caller in New York.
  • Speaking of the Jets, Slater writes separately in the same post that Josh McCown is “definitely not coming back” next year. McCown became a fan favorite during the 2017 season when he helped the team beat expectations as the starter, and got a lot of praise for his work mentoring Sam Darnold this past year. But his ties were to Todd Bowles and the previous coaching staff, and with Gase now in charge, he’s apparently unlikely to spend a second straight year mentoring.

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