Month: November 2020

Extra Points: Dolphins, Tua, 49ers, Vikings

There’s been a lot of buzz about former Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa going to the Dolphins in the draft. We heard recently that the southpaw’s family wanted Miami to nab him, and there’s been a connection there for a while. Tagovailoa is obviously dealing with a serious hip injury, and it’s clearly a concern for the Dolphins. Miami’s owner Stephen Ross spoke to reporters earlier today and said “he’s a great player. I just worry about his health,” per Cameron Wolfe of ESPN.com (Twitter link). That would seem to indicate Tagovailoa to the ‘Phins is far from a done deal. We heard a couple of weeks ago that Miami wanted Joe Burrow, and that they were willing trade up to go get him. Of course, this all could be some gamesmanship from Ross to throw other teams off the scent. Despite the injury, Tagovailoa will reportedly throw for scouts in a private workout at some point before the draft. That workout will go a long way toward determining where he goes in the draft.

Here’s more from the football world as the Super Bowl approaches:

  • We heard earlier today that the 49ers were considering former Seahawks defensive coordinator Kris Richard to fill the secondary coach role that is about to become vacant when Joe Woods officially becomes Cleveland’s next defensive coordinator. Richard apparently isn’t the only candidate though, and San Francisco is also considering former Miami secondary coach Tony Oden for the position, per Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (Twitter link). Oden has also coached DBs for the Saints, Jaguars, Buccaneers, and Lions in recent years.
  • Vikings guard Pat Elflein is getting a big raise. His base salary for 2020 was set to be $960K, but that will be bumped all the way up to $2.147MM now due to the NFL’s proven performance escalator, per Andrew Krammer of the Star Tribune (Twitter link). The program is for players drafted in the 3rd-7th round that are headed into the final year of their rookie contracts, who have received a lot of playing time during their first three years. That certainly is the case for Elflein, who has started at least 13 games in each of his first three seasons. A third-round pick from Ohio State, he was Minnesota’s starting center in 2017-18 before kicking over to left guard last year after the team drafted Garrett Bradbury.
  • In case you missed it, Sammy Watkins isn’t ruling out taking a pay-cut.

Latest On Browns, Odell Beckham Jr.

To say there’s been some drama with Odell Beckham Jr. since he joined the Browns might be an understatement. There were reports toward the end of the season that he wanted out of Cleveland and was asking rival teams to come get him, although he emphatically denied those

The Browns gave up a lot to acquire him from the Giants, so it was unlikely they would’ve been too receptive to a trade demand. Now the old regime of Freddie Kitchens and John Dorsey are out, and Kevin Stefanski and new GM Andrew Berry are in. Although neither of them were involved in acquiring Beckham, it sounds like they very much want him around. The new duo in charge “don’t want to trade him” and “don’t plan to trade him,” according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (Twitter video link).

That being said, Rapoport made it seem during his NFL Network hit that the plan isn’t necessarily set in stone, and could change depending on Beckham’s decisions this offseason. In his tweet, Rapoport says the team wants to keep him in the fold, but “how present he is this offseason and for OTAs may go a long way in determining that.” Interestingly, Rapoport says Stefanski recently met with the star receiver to “lay out some expectations” moving forward.

The Browns apparently want to see “some level of engagement” from Beckham as Stefanski installs his offense, which includes an “increased presence at OTAs” and an “increased presence at offseason conditioning.” Last year, Beckham skipped almost all of OTAs and didn’t report until the team’s mandatory minicamp. It’ll be interesting to see if that changes this time around, and it could be an indicator of whether guys on the team are buying into what Stefanski is selling. It still seems like it’s not quite guaranteed Beckham is a Brown in 2020.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Tom Brady, Dolphins

Tom Brady sparked a frenzy earlier this week when he posted a cryptic photo of himself to Twitter. Although Adam Schefter of ESPN soon clarified in a tweet that it wasn’t a statement on his impending free agency, that didn’t stop the rumor mill from churning. 

The potential new team for Brady “that continues to get the most buzz” is the Dolphins, according to Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com. While Brady going to a team that was in a full-blown rebuild this past season wasn’t something anybody has expected, there are at least some connections. Dolphins head coach Brian Flores spent 15 seasons with Brady in New England, and there are other ex-Patriots on staff.

Florio also highlights the presence of Dolphins owner Stephen Ross’ business partner Bruce Beal. Florio writes that there has been talk of “Beal buying the team and selling a sliver of it to Brady.” One league source told Florio “that a sale to Beal is possible not long after” Miami finishes hosting the Super Bowl. All that being said, Ross himself quickly threw some cold water on all the speculation.

Responding to the report he might sell the team, Ross said “I have no interest in selling the team. Zero. Got it? People can write what they want to write. I’m going to own it until I die,” per David Wilson of The Miami Herald (Twitter link). Beal still appears to be Ross’ successor as owner, but it doesn’t sound like he’s selling anytime soon. Ross, 79, also didn’t sound overly enthused about the possibility of adding Brady.

Ross said “we’re building” and that “people are writing about it. People need something to write about,” when asked about the Brady rumors, via Armando Salguero of The Miami Herald (Twitter link). It would’ve been very entertaining to see Brady stay in the AFC East and play the Pats twice a year, but it doesn’t seem too likely as of right now.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Eagles Interview Press Taylor For OC

The Eagles fired Mike Groh shortly after their first-round playoff loss but have taken their time in an effort to replace him. After three weeks, the position remains unfilled.

An internal candidate received a look for the job, however. Quarterbacks coach Press Taylor interviewed to replace Groh as OC, Tim McManus of ESPN.com reports.

Taylor is just 32 and has only been a position coach for two seasons, moving to the QBs coach role after John DeFilippo defected to the Vikings after the 2017 season. Taylor, though, has been on Philadelphia’s staff since 2013. He is credited with unearthing the “Philly Special” play that became a storied Eagles moment.

Philly’s offensive coordinator role is not as important as the position is elsewhere, with ex-Kansas City OC Doug Pederson calling the Eagles’ plays. But the team has met with USC OC Graham Harrell and had the likes of Jim Caldwell, Kevin O’Connell, Chiefs QBs coach Mike Kafka and Ravens QBs coach James Urban on their radar. Only Caldwell remains unattached. Harrell is staying at USC; the Rams hired O’Connell as their OC. Neither the Chiefs nor Ravens will allow their assistants to interview, with the position not expected to come with play-calling responsibilities.

Panthers Add Several To Coaching Staff

As could be expected given Matt Rhule‘s hiring, the 2020 Panthers will feature a heavy Baylor feel on their coaching staff. In addition to Rhule and defensive coordinator Phil Snow, several more Baylor assistants will make the jump to the pros.

The Panthers announced additional hires to their staff Friday. Among them are assistant head coach Jeff Nixon, wide receivers coach Frisman Jackson, tight ends coach Brian Angelichio, assistant offensive line coach Marcus Satterfield, assistant D-line coach Frank Okam, cornerbacks coach Evan Cooper and assistant special teams coach Ed Foley.

Nixon and Jackson played key roles under Rhule at Baylor, but both are ex-NFL assistants. Nixon, who will coach Carolina’s running backs, led the Dolphins’ running backs for five years before working on Chip Kelly‘s 49ers staff in 2016. He was Rhule’s co-offensive coordinator at Baylor from 2017-19. Most of Jackson’s work has come at the college level, but he spent 2017 as the Titans’ wideouts coach.

Angelichio has more experience at the NFL level, coaching tight ends previously for the Redskins in 2019. Instead of working for former Panthers coach Ron Rivera, he will trek to Charlotte for a role with Rivera’s old team. Previously, Angelichio was tight ends coach with the Buccaneers, Browns and Packers since 2012.

Rhule’s former Temple OC, Satterfield was Baylor’s tight ends coach last season. He is an NFL first-timer. A former NFL lineman, Okam is as well. He spent the past two seasons as Baylor’s assistant D-line coach. Also set to become an NFL rookie staffer, Cooper will move from Baylor’s assistant cornerbacks coach to running that position in Carolina. On Rhule’s Temple and Baylor staffs, Foley headed up the Owls’ special teams and was their interim HC after Rhule took the Baylor job. He is also set for his first NFL coaching gig.

The Panthers also hired E.J. Barthel, Grant Udinksi and Cedric Whitaker as coaching assistants. Barthel and Whitaker will make major jumps to the NFL after respectively spending 2019 at Houston Baptist and William & Mary, respectively. Udinski will make the Baylor-to-Carolina transition.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

49ers Considering Kris Richard For Staff

A previous candidate for HC jobs, Kris Richard is unattached presently after the Cowboys revamped their coaching staff. However, the former Seahawks defensive coordinator looks to be on the 49ers’ radar.

The 49ers are expected to lose secondary coach Joe Woods to the Browns, with whom he’s agreed to become DC. But they are on track to consider Richard for that position, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (h/t 49ersWebZone.com).

Mike McCarthy hired Mike Nolan to replace Rod Marinelli as Dallas’ DC and did not retain Richard, who spent two seasons with the Cowboys. A 49ers landing would make sense for the 40-year-old assistant, however. San Francisco uses a version of the Seattle defense, and Richard spent eight seasons with the Seahawks. His final three Seattle slates came as their defensive coordinator.

Richard, 40, coached Richard Sherman in each of the All-Pro cornerback’s seven Seahawks seasons. Under Richard in Dallas, Byron Jones became one of the NFL’s better cornerbacks and is on track for a lucrative free agency payday. Richard interviewed for three jobs in 2019 — with the Buccaneers, Dolphins and Jets — and met with the Colts about their HC job in 2018. He interviewed for the Bills job in 2017.

Richard and 49ers DC Robert Saleh coached on Pete Carroll‘s staff for three seasons together, 2011-13, with the former being slightly higher on the totem pole at the time. Saleh served as a defensive quality control coach from 2011-13, when Richard was spending time as a position coach. A reunion in San Francisco would almost certainly mean Richard serving as one of Saleh’s defensive assistants.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Greg Olsen To Consider Redskins?

If longtime Panthers star Greg Olsen continues his playing career, he could wind up with an old friend. The tight end would consider reuniting with Ron Rivera by signing with the Redskins, a person familiar with the situation tells Mark Maske of the Washington Post

[RELATED: Panthers, Greg Olsen Part Ways]

Olsen, 35 in March, will also have is broadcasting opportunities to consider. In the past, Olsen has rejected overtures from ESPN and FOX to consider his pursuit of a Super Bowl ring. The Redskins would not represent his best chance at a championship, but Olsen is at least open to the idea of teaming up with his longtime coach.

Rivera has a good deal of authority in Washington and has already shown a predilection for getting the band back together via his coaching hires. Olsen would be a logical fit for the Redskins, who could use his veteran leadership and help at the tight end position. Thanks to his latest concussion, Jordan Reed missed all of last season.

During his nine season with the Panthers, Olsen enjoyed a streak of three straight 1,000-yard seasons. He was still reasonably productive in 2019, notching 52 catches for 597 yards and two touchdowns in 14 games.

Before that, Olsen spent four seasons with the Bears. All in all, he has 718 catches for 8,444 yards and 59 touchdowns across 13 seasons. Currently, he ranks fifth all-time in catches and receiving yards by a tight end in the NFL.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Shelby Harris Wants To Stay With Broncos

On the cusp of free agency, Broncos defensive lineman Shelby Harris says he would like to stay put (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport). However, he still sounds intent on exploring his options. 

We LOVE Denver,” Harris said. “But I’m 28. We got one shot at this. This is for my kids, and my kids’ kids.” 

Harris might not be a household name, but GMs around the league are well aware of what he brings to the table. Harris, 29 in August, is coming off of a perfectly-timed career year – he notched 49 tackles and six sacks in 16 games (all starts) and showed that he’s worthy of a top-flight deal.

The former seventh-round pick of the Raiders has been an advanced metrics darling since joining the Broncos in 2017. In 2018, the nose tackle graded out as one of the most effective defensive tackles in the game on a per-play basis as he came off of the bench. After finishing out as Pro Football Focus’ No. 9 interior defender, the Broncos re-upped him on the second-round tender for 2019, worth $3.095MM. He continued to deliver in a larger sample – this year, he finished as the No. 17 ranked interior defender in the NFL, per PFF.

Harris is looking better than ever, but the Broncos won’t be able to keep him on a below-market deal this time around. Meanwhile, Harris knows that this is his best opportunity to score security and multi-generational wealth. The Broncos have upwards of $60MM to work with this offseason and they’ll have to dedicate a decent chunk of that to Harris, if they hope to keep him for 2020 and beyond.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Colts Reinstate Rodney Adams

This week, the Colts reinstated wide receiver Rodney Adams from the reserve/retired list. It’s likely an indication that the former fifth-round pick is planning to play in 2020.

[RELATED: Latest On Andrew Luck]

Adams was parked on the reserve/retired list in April of 2018, months after signing a futures deal with the Colts. He’s yet to see live action, despite spending some time on the Vikings’ active roster and practice squad as a rookie in 2017.

Adams, 26 in September, put himself on the NFL radar after transferring from Toledo to South Florida. As a junior, he caught 44 passes for 816 yards and nine scores. Then, he wrapped his collegiate career with a 67/822/5 stat line. His speed and proficiency in the run game put him on the radar for several teams on Day 3 of the ’17 draft and the Vikings pulled the trigger. Even though he didn’t stick in Minnesota, the Colts were curious enough to give him a spot on their 90-man roster.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

No Post June-1 Cuts In 2020

The post-June 1 designation is a key tool for NFL teams in the offseason. In short: it enables teams to spread out the dead money cap hit that comes with releasing a player and divvies it up across two years, instead of one.

[RELATED: NFL, NFLPA Discussing 17-Game Season With One Bye Week]

As Joel Corry of CBSSports.com notes, that option won’t be available for teams this offseason, because that provision is not included in this tenth and final year of the current collective bargaining agreement. So, unless the NFL and NFLPA quickly agree to a new CBA, teams won’t be able to kick the can down the road when they release veterans.

The lack of a post-June 1 cut will be felt by every team in the league and could impact the futures of many notable players. Corry points to Eagles wide receiver Alshon Jeffery as a prime example – under the post-June 1 rules, the $26.1MM in dead money that would result from a Jeffery release could be split between the 2020 and 2021 cap. Without that luxury, the Eagles would have to eat all of that dead money this year. So, unless the Eagles are extraordinarily desperate to get rid of Jeffery, they’re unlikely to cut him.

At this time, it sounds like the two sides have a long way to go before they can hash out a new CBA. Currently, they’re discussing an expanded 17-game season that would still only include one bye week. That probably won’t sit well with many of the players, even if the owners agree to give a larger share of revenue.