Jim Harbaugh Leaning Toward 2024 NFL Return; Latest On HC’s Potential Destinations

The 2024 coaching cycle will involve at least two openings for full-time positions (Raiders and Panthers), but more vacancies will likely emerge in the coming months. Jim Harbaugh remains a highly talked-about candidate, and indications continue to point to an NFL return in time for the 2024 season.

Harbaugh has been embroiled in controversy this season, but his second three-game suspension served during the campaign – stemming from Michigan’s sign-stealing scandal – is not believed to be sufficient to steer away NFL interest. As a result, he is set to be a notable coaching prospect this winter. Numerous people in league circles believe 2024 will be the year Harbaugh makes his return to the pro sidelines, ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reports.

The longtime Wolverines coach has routinely been a name to watch during hiring cycles, having interviewed with the Vikings in 2022 and the Broncos last year. His latest commitment to Michigan delayed his next round of interest until at least 2024. While Harbaugh has previously closed the door to future NFL interest, he is regarded as being “less than 50-50” to once again stay in Ann Arbor, per Sportkeeda‘s Tony Pauline.

Pauline’s report details the potential connection between Harbaugh and four teams which could be on his radar. The Chargers reside on that list, which comes as no surprise given the growing belief Brandon Staley is on the hot seat. Los Angeles is one of several potential suitors for Lions OC Ben Johnson, though, and Harbaugh’s conditions for an NFL deal could turn the Chargers elsewhere. The latter is expected to seek an annual salary of $15MM, Pauline reports, a figure more than triple that of Staley’s current compensation.

Especially with interim HC Chris Tabor unlikely to land the full-time Panthers gig, Carolina could be another Harbaugh destination. Pauline adds, however, that the 59-year-old is not enamored with quarterback Bryce Young, whose struggles as a rookie contributed to Frank Reich‘s dismissal. That, coupled with the Panthers’ lack of a 2024 first-round pick and owner David Tepper‘s reputation for meddling and impatience, would make it a surprise for Harbaugh to find himself in Charlotte next season.

Pauline also names the Raiders and Bears as teams to watch on the Harbaugh front. Both Vegas and Chicago have previously been linked to him based on his playing and coaching history, but a path appears to exist for interim Raiders coach Antonio Pierce to earn the full-time position moving forward. After facing several questions about his job security, meanwhile, it remains to be seen if Matt Eberflus will be retained for 2024 and beyond by the Bears.

While Harbaugh will no doubt have numerous suitors should he decide to take an NFL position for the first time since his 49ers tenure ended in 2014, it very much remains to be seen if he elects to entertain pro offers. His attention will be on Michigan’s push for a national title, but regardless of how that plays out, speculation will continue as the coaching cycle takes shape.

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