Dave Canales Drawing Strong Interest For Panthers’ HC Job; Bucs To Consider Promoting Thad Lewis

The Panthers and Commanders have each been linked to placing Ben Johnson as their top HC candidate. Considering Carolina’s situation and David Tepper‘s recent actions, the team would seemingly need to extend a big payout to win a tiebreaker. In the event Johnson again spurns Carolina, the team looks to have another offensive staffer in mind.

Long connected to once again seeking an offense-oriented head coach, the Panthers have been impressed with Buccaneers OC Dave Canales, per KPRC2’s Aaron Wilson, who indicates he is a serious contender to become the next Panthers HC. Canales is set for a second interview for the Carolina job.

The NFC’s second divisional-round matchup pitted two ascending OCs against one another, and while Johnson’s Lions won, Baker Mayfield‘s bounce-back season undeniably helped Canales’ stock. Canales was the Seahawks’ quarterbacks coach in 2022, overseeing Geno Smith‘s shocking resurgence that secured him Comeback Player of the Year honors. Mayfield subsequently completed a turnaround season in Tampa, rising from last in QBR in 2022 to moving the Bucs — their substantial 2023 dead money notwithstanding — to the divisional round.

Mayfield shredded a reeling Eagles defense in the Bucs’ wild-card rout and is now firmly on the radar for an extension. It would be a blow for the Bucs to lose Canales; the rookie OC, though, is only in contention for one of the HC positions. The Seahawks, Chargers and Commanders have not met with the 42-year-old staffer. Neither did the Raiders, Patriots or Titans. It seems some level of doubt exists on Canales, with Johnson being a more popular candidate after two years as Lions OC.

The Panthers have DC Ejiro Evero and Rams DC Raheem Morris joining Canales in being set for second interviews. Johnson interviewed with the team over the weekend; as of now, no second interview is scheduled. The Commanders, who are scheduling a second Johnson meeting, boast a superior outlook compared to the Panthers presently. They are free of Dan Snyder and hold the No. 2 overall pick (whereas the Panthers traded the No. 1 choice to the Bears) to go with the NFL’s most cap space. But Tepper is the NFL’s second-richest owner, giving Carolina an advantage on that front.

If Canales lands the Carolina job, Tampa Bay may look in-house to replace him. QBs coach Thad Lewis will be considered for the post in that event, ProFootballNetwork.com’s Adam Caplan notes. A Bruce Arians hire, Lewis just finished his first season as the Bucs’ QBs coach. He spent the 2021 and ’22 seasons as the team’s assistant wide receivers coach, but the ex-NFL QB’s work with Mayfield does not look to have gone unnoticed. Though, no team has yet reached out about an OC interview.

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