Bill Belichick

Mayo Taking Leadership Role On Pats Staff

Entering his first year as an assistant coach with the Patriots, former linebacker Jerod Mayo is emerging as a leader in the team’s rebuilt defensive staff, ESPN’s Mike Reiss writes

Mayo, who spent all eight of his seasons in New England, was brought in to coach inside linebackers for the 2019 campaign after spending the last three seasons away from the game. The former star linebacker has quickly made his presence felt.

“He was obviously a tremendous player, but he’s a tremendous leader as well. I can honestly say I’ve never seen a player lead a team like the way Mayo led us [when he played in 2008-15]. He did things where he could bring players along and help raise their level of play. As an older guy now, you can only imagine what he could do for that locker room based on his leadership,” safety Duron Harmon said.

It’s been a tumultuous few months for the Patriots defense, as the team said goodbye to defensive coordinator Brian Flores and a handful of assistants after the team won Super Bowl LII. Then came the arrival and quick departure of Greg Schiano, who was tasked to take over for Flores, who took the head coaching gig in Miami. Since then, the team has settled on head coach Bill Belichick serving as defensive coordinator, with Belichick also, at this moment, expected to call plays.

A first-year assistant coach isn’t likely to take those reins, but the Patriots always manage to find and develop coaches on the defensive side of the ball. Players already noticing Mayo’s emergence is a good sign the two-time Pro Bowl selection could be the next hot name to come out of Foxborough.

 

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bill Belichick Expected To Call Patriots’ Defensive Plays?

Nearly two months after Greg Schiano backtracked on his commitment to become the Patriots’ defensive coordinator, the job remains unfilled. Should it stay vacant, the Pats would have a fairly reliable contingency plan.

With Bill Belichick towering over his defensive staff in terms of NFL experience, the current expectation is he will call defensive plays for the Patriots this season, Ben Volin of the Boston Globe notes.

Ceding that responsibility to Matt Patricia and Brian Flores for the past several years, Belichick obviously played a key role in the Pats’ defense. Belichick would often determine when Patricia or Flores would call blitzes, Volin adds. The eight-time Super Bowl champion, counting his two as Giants DC, is coming off perhaps the Super Bowl’s defensive masterpiece — the Rams’ three-point night — and his teams have fielded a top-10 scoring defense 15 times in his 19-year New England tenure.

However, Belichick in a dual role is not the Pats’ official plan just yet. They will use the OTAs and minicamp period to determine their strategy here, Mike Garafolo of NFL.com notes (video link). Flores’ exit leaves the Patriots light on experience among their defensive staff, with former Wisconsin and Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema — previously viewed as a DC option — bringing the most seasoning. And most of that came in college.

After a year of consulting with the team, Bielema is slated to coach New England’s defensive line. Jerod Mayo, whom Garafolo adds is viewed as a possible future defensive coordinator, will split linebackers coaching duties with DeMarcus Covington — with Mayo working with the inside ‘backers and Covington assigned to help the outside players. Mike Pellegrino will oversee the cornerbacks, the team announced. Mayo, Covington and Pellegrino will be first-year position coaches.

Barring an outside hire, or the Patriots handing the reins to Bielema, Belichick would seem the logical choice to play the lead role on defense.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bill Belichick Could Become Patriots DC

Thursday began with the news that Patriots defensive coordinator Greg Schiano would be stepping down from the post. Later in the day, news trickled out that head coach Bill Belichick could assume a larger role with the defense or even take over the role of defensive coordinator, ESPN’s Mike Reiss writes

Following their victory in Super Bowl LIII, the Patriots saw a mass exodus from their defensive coaching staff, which included former defensive coordinator Brian Flores take the head-coaching gig in Miami and a number of assistants leaving. Schiano, highly trusted by Belichick, was expected to help the transition, but his abrupt departure puts the Pats in a tough situation.

Reiss notes Belichick assuming defensive coordinator duties is the most likely of scenarios but is not the only one. Another possibility is a “Hail Mary” call to former defensive line coach Brendan Daly, who left to become the Chiefs run-game coordinator. Considering his family’s roots in K.C. area, however, it could be a tough sell.

Another potential candidate would be Bret Bielema, the Boston Globe’s Ben Volin tweets. Volin mentions that Bielema, the former University of Wisconsin and Arkansas head coach and current defensive consultant with the Pats, thought he was getting the job earlier this year.

Belichick, of course, is no slouch as a defensive coordinator. With the Giants, he won a pair of Super Bowls under head coach Bill Parcells while running the defense. As the head coach of the Patriots, Belichick has always played a large role on the defensive side of the ball, except in 2009 when he contributed largely to the offense following Josh McDaniels‘ departure to Denver.

 

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

East Rumors: Foles, Kitna, Belichick

It is all but certain that the Eagles will part ways with Nick Foles this offseason, and there has been plenty of speculation as to how that might happen given Foles’ present contract situation. The most-discussed scenarios involve the team basically forcing Foles to buy his way into free agency for $2MM, and even then, the Eagles could put the franchise tag on Foles and trade him, thus eliminating any voice that Foles might have in the matter.

But as Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports writes, Foles and the Eagles have an excellent relationship, as evidenced by the team’s most recent gesture of goodwill. As such, JLC suggests that Philadelphia could pick up Foles’ 2019 option, thereby triggering a $20MM salary, and then orchestrate a trade to a team of Foles’ liking. Realistically, there are only a handful of teams that will be in the market for Foles, so by going that route, Foles could keep the above-referenced $2MM and still end up with a team that he would have signed with anyway (and he and his new team would likely enter into a long-term pact whether he is traded or signs as a free agent). As La Canfora observes, the Dolphins and Jaguars are the two clubs who have been linked to Foles thus far.

Now for a quick roundup of a few more east-related items:

  • We learned earlier today that the Cowboys could hire Jon Kitna as their QB coach and name Kellen Moore as their new OC. Per ESPN’s Adam Schefter (via Twitter), Kitna will indeed become Dallas’ QB coach, which means that Moore — who served as the team’s QB coach in 2018 — may very well take the OC reins. Schefter’s ESPN colleague, Chris Mortensen, reports that head coach Jason Garrett is “in line” to serve as the team’s offensive play-caller in 2019 regardless of who the OC is (Twitter link).
  • In the past couple of years, we have heard a lot about the tension among the three pillars of the Patriots‘ franchise: owner Robert Kraft, head coach Bill Belichick, and quarterback Tom Brady. But as Mike Reiss of ESPN.com observes, when Belichick recently commented on the upcoming 25th anniversary of Kraft’s ownership, he said, “[h]ope we can continue it for a long time.” That brief but telling statement is in keeping with what Reiss has been sensing of late, which is that Belichick, 66, will be coaching New England for the foreseeable future.
  • Alex Marvez of SiriusXM NFL Radio tweets that the Bills could promote offensive assistant Chad Hall to wide receivers coach to replace Terry Robiskie, who recently joined the Jaguars’ coaching staff.

Patriots Notes: Kraft, McClellin, Rowe

Back in January, an explosive piece from ESPN.com detailed a major rift within the Patriots organization. Since that time, there have been continued whispers about the tension in Foxborough, particularly between head coach Bill Belichick and franchise quarterback Tom Brady. Owner Robert Kraft has continually denied those rumors, and he did that once again on Friday. Appearing on CNBC, Kraft attributed the reports to “envy and jealousy.”

“We’ve been together 19 years, which is unheard of for a head coach, a quarterback and an ownership group,” Kraft said (via Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com). “Thankfully, we have had a lot of success and whenever that happens you become a target. We understand that and there is always tensions and issues and different things you’ve got to deal with. That is part of the privilege of owning a team and being successful. I have a little saying that envy and jealously are incurable diseases. You’d rather be a recipient than a donor. That is what is going on now.”

A new book by ESPN’s Ian O’Connor has renewed interest in the dynamic between Belichick and Brady. In “Belichick: The Making of the Greatest Football Coach of All Time,”O’Connor reports that Brady would “divorce” Belichick if he could, but feared alienating New England fans after the Patriots traded backup (and possible successor) Jimmy Garoppolo to the 49ers last season.

Let’s take a look at some more notes out of New England…

  • Ben Volin of the Boston Globe tweets that retired Patriots linebacker Shea McClellin filed for Injury Protection last night, which entitles him “to 50 percent of the base salary he was supposed to make this year.” Therefore, the team ended up losing another $1.075MM worth of cap space, dropping them down to $1.17MM of room. As Volin observes, it’s an interesting predicament for the Patriots, who haven’t been so close to the cap in at least a half decade. The team doesn’t have a whole lot of high-priced players, leading the reporter to wonder whether the issue is by design or due to “poor cap management.”
  • Eric Rowe returned to practice yesterday, but Mark Daniels of the Providence Journal points out that the cornerback was limited after having missed the past two sessions. It’s still no guarantee that the 25-year-old will end up playing this weekend, and he’s currently listed as questionable (along with 10 other teammates, including tight end Rob Gronkowski, offensive lineman Marcus Cannon, safety Patrick Chung, and defensive end Trey Flowers).
  • Despite adding Josh Gordon to the mix, the Patriots are still eyeing some reinforcement as wide receiver. Over the past week, the team has auditioned three wideouts: Breshad Perriman, Jeremy Kerley, and Dontrelle Inman.

East Rumors: Patriots, Cowboys, Bills

Reports of discord within the Patriots‘ organization are nothing new, but a new book by ESPN’s Ian O’Connor has shed even more light on the dynamic between head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady. In “Belichick: The Making of the Greatest Football Coach of All Time,” O’Connor reports that Brady would “divorce” Belichick if he could, but feared alienating New England fans after the Patriots traded backup (and possible successor) Jimmy Garoppolo to the 49ers last season. “If you’re married 18 years to a grouchy person who gets under your skin and never compliments you, after a while you want to divorce him,” a source told O’Connor. Brady will return for yet another season with the Belichick and the Patriots after agreeing to a revised contract that includes multiple performance-based incentives.

Here’s more from the NFL’s two East divisions:

  • The Cowboys, perhaps unsurprisingly, don’t have any interest in re-signing veteran wide receiver Dez Bryant, as executive Stephen Jones said on 105.3 The Fan (Twitter link via Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News). “Don’t necessarily see that at this moment, but we’re always looking for ways to improve,” Jones said. “Obviously we’re focused on the guys that are on our team at the moment.” Dallas is currently fielding arguably the league’s worst receiving corps, as complementary options such as Cole Beasley, Tavon Austin, Deonte Thompson, and Allen Hurns top the club’s depth chart. Bryant, though, wouldn’t be a clear improvement after a disappointing 2017 campaign. Now 29 years old, Bryant has been linked to multiple clubs this offseason, but only came close to a contact with the Browns, who could still opt to sign him.
  • Speaking of Bryant, the veteran receiver was a factor in Brice Butler re-signing with the Cowboys this week, per Clarence Hill of the Star-Telegram, who notes Bryant told Butler to head back to Dallas if the opportunity presented itself. As Hill tweets, the Cowboys called Butler after a Week 1 loss to the Panthers, so his addition was in the works for awhile. Butler, who had spent his entire career in Dallas before signing with the Cardinals this spring, signed a two-year deal, per Calvin Watkins of The Athletic (Twitter link). He’ll earn the veteran minimum of $790K in 2018.
  • Before signing with the Vikings earlier this week, defensive tackle Tom Johnson drew interest from the Bills and Browns, according to Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press. Johnson, whose release from the Seahawks precipitated his free agency, was in fact close to signing with Buffalo before Vikings defensive line coach Andre Patterson — who led Johnson in Minnesota from 2014-17 — reached out. Seattle also expressed interest in re-signing Johnson, but his number of suitors allowed to him to a land a one-year, $1MM deal from the Vikings, one that includes $500K in incentives.

49ers Inquired About Tom Brady Trade

Before being given the green light on a seminal Jimmy Garoppolo trade, John Lynch discussed the Patriots’ other prominent quarterback with Bill Belichick. It was not a long conversation.

The then-first-year 49ers GM did not receive the answer he wanted regarding a Garoppolo deal when he spoke will Belichick early in the 2017 offseason, and he said he then asked if the Patriots would trade Tom Brady.

Yeah, we were calling about Jimmy and we did have that conversation and got quickly rebuffed,” Lynch said of the Brady trade inquiry during an appearance on Barstool Sports’ Pardon My Take podcast (via the San Francisco Chronicle). “I figured what the heck, you gotta take your shot right? You can’t score if you don’t shoot, so I had to summon up the courage. Bill laughed at me and basically hung up on me. But hey, I took my shot.”

Kyle Shanahan was told at the 2017 Combine Garoppolo wasn’t available, but at the trade deadline, he received a phone call from Belichick and quickly agreed to send the Patriots a second-rounder for the player who is now entrenched as the 49ers’ quarterback of the future. Shanahan had Kirk Cousins on his radar prior to that move.

Brady enters his 19th season with the Patriots and is set to start Week 1 for a 17th straight season. This figures to be an amusing footnote associated with Lynch’s GM legacy.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC East Notes: Darnold, Patriots, Allen

Two rookies remain unsigned: Sam Darnold and Roquan Smith. The Jets are working on a deal with a quarterback they’ve been thrilled about throughout the offseason, one who was supposed to have a legitimate chance at a Week 1 starting job, but Darnold’s camp absence isn’t doing him any favors. Offset language was thought to be a sticking point here, but NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport notes (video link) that isn’t the case (or isn’t any longer). Instead, the quarterback’s guarantees — and how and when they would void — represent why the former USC standout hasn’t signed. Void issues have also come up in the Bears’ discussions with Smith. CAA represents both Darnold and Smith. The Jets began their first practice this afternoon.

Here’s the latest from the AFC East:

  • A former AFC East quarterback was not planning to leave during what turned out to be his final offseason in the division. Jimmy Garoppolo was searching for Boston-area real estate last summer, Joon Lee of Bleacher Report notes. Ben Volin of the Boston Globe adds this should help put an end to speculation the Patriots were planning all along to unload their former backup quarterback. Volin writes Bill Belichick was indeed overruled about a plan to keep Garoppolo as the heir apparent — which would have induced complex math because of the current 49ers quarterback’s rookie contract expiring and Tom Brady not yet retired — before an 11th-hour trade to San Francisco.
  • Brady did not deny that he communicated with Josh McDaniels during the period after the Super Bowl when he backtracked on accepting the Colts’ HC job, the longtime Patriots quarterback said Saturday (via James Palmer of NFL.com, on Twitter). When asked if he spoke with his then-outgoing OC about potentially staying in New England instead, Brady said he “always” talks to McDaniels, who is now back for a seventh season in his second stint as Pats OC.
  • Julian Edelman addressed his suspension Saturday and said this second straight September off will allow him to get his knee fully ready to go. “It’s disappointing with the penalty and the findings,” Edelman said, via Doug Kyed of NESN.com. “And I’m definitely accountable for that. I have to follow the protocols a little better and make sure this never happens again.” Edelman contested the suspension but saw his appeal fail. The 10th-year slot receiver tore an ACL during the 2017 preseason but is expected to be ready to go upon his now-October debut date.
  • Josh Allen‘s been the best Bills quarterback in camp thus far, Joe Buscaglia of WKBW observes. The raw Wyoming-honed talent outshined A.J. McCarron and Nathan Peterman on Saturday, per Buscaglia. Both of the older QBs are believed to be competing for Buffalo’s Week 1 job, with Allen believed to be set to watch as his career begins.

AFC Notes: Bridgewater, Pats, Dareus

Teddy Bridgewater has looked very good in OTAs, per Rich Cimini of ESPN.com, and if his strong performance continues, the Jets could be faced with a difficult decision. They could trade Bridgewater — which was the plan when they signed him — or they could name him their starting QB for at least the beginning of 2018 while they continue to groom Sam Darnold. Starting Bridgewater would likely mean keeping three quarterbacks on the roster, as the nearly 39-year-old Josh McCown doesn’t really have any trade value. But head coach Todd Bowles, who is coaching for his job this year, will want to start the best quarterback he has, and he is a big believer in Bridgewater.

Let’s take a look at a few more rumors and notes from the AFC:

  • Cimini also details Christian Hackenberg‘s last few months with the Jets before he was shipped to the Raiders. We already knew that Bowles was not aware Hackenberg changed his throwing motion until after the fact, but Hackenberg first approached Jets QB coach Jeremy Bates about making the change, and Bates was skeptical. That caused some friction between the two men, and it forced Hackneberg to go outside the organization to seek help with his mechanics.
  • Ben Volin of the Boston Globe points out how Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady continue to (needlessly) fan the flames of controversy that owner Robert Kraft keeps trying to extinguish, and that the apparent tension between Belichick and Brady may be one of the reasons why Brady has not attended spring practices. However, Mike Reiss of ESPN.com says Brady’s absence has not created as big of a leadership void as one might expect, as younger players are taking a more active role in that regard and veteran players like Julian Edelman and Dont’a Hightower are back after their 2017 season was marred by injury.
  • The Broncos released C.J. Anderson last month, leaving Devontae Booker and De’Angelo Henderson as the top candidates to become the team’s next No. 1 RB. However, Ryan O’Halloran of the Denver Post says Royce Freeman, whom the team selected in the third round of last month’s draft, has the durability and history of production to suggest he can be an every-down back at the next level, and he will get a chance to make a major impact right away. His heavy collegiate workload could have contributed to his falling to the third round.
  • Marcell Dareus more than wore out his welcome in Buffalo, leading the Bills to ship him to the Jaguars before last year’s trade deadline. Dareus, though, found new life in Jacksonville, and per Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk (citing Mike Kaye of First Coast News), Dareus continues to be a good soldier for the Jags. Head coach Doug Marrone said, “I’m very happy with the way he’s worked, the way he has come into camp. I think those are things he has done a much better job of than what maybe he had done in the past. I can appreciate that and see that in him.” That is not an insignificant statement, as Dareus’ effort in Buffalo seemed to evaporate after he signed his big-money extension, so perhaps he has matured and will continue to be a solid contributor to Jacksonville’s talented defensive front. Marrone, of course, was also Dareus’ coach in Buffalo during Dareus’ best two seasons to date (2013-14), so he has a pretty good reference point.

East Rumors: Kendricks, Jets, Patriots

The long-rumored Mychal Kendricks/Eagles divorce will officially be classified as a post-June 1 cut, Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets. The defending Super Bowl champions will see a $6MM cap spike on June 2 instead of seeing $4.4MM in savings by eschewing the post-June 1 cut category. That will help a franchise that, as of Tuesday night, holds barely $300K in cap space. As for why Kendricks was finally axed after years of being the subject of trade rumors, the defender’s standing as the No. 3 linebacker on a team that spends most of its time in sub-packages was not a status he preferred, per Zach Berman of Philly.com (on Twitter). Former Eagles teammate Emmanuel Acho, indicating he spoke with Kendricks on Tuesday, confirmed as much (via Twitter).

During Chip Kelly‘s year running football operations, the Eagles signed Kendricks to a four-year, $29MM extension that ran through the 2019 season. But Jordan Hicks and Nigel Bradham, the latter being recently re-signed for $40MM over five years, reside as Philly’s top-two linebackers under optimal circumstances. Kendricks played a key role in the Eagles’ first Super Bowl title, stepping in alongside Bradham after Hicks went down, but the previous status quo is now back in place. And Kendricks should be a coveted commodity on the market.

Here’s the latest on Tuesday’s other big transaction, as well as more from some eastern-based franchises.

  • The Jets tried to trade Christian Hackenberg during the draft, Rich Cimini of ESPN.com reports. This began after Sam Darnold went to the Jets at No. 3, per Cimini, but judging by the terms of Tuesday’s trade, no strong interest came New York’s way for its 2016 second-round pick. “We had one too many (quarterbacks) to get all of them reps,” Todd Bowles said Tuesday. “We just want to go with the three quarterbacks we have and let these guys battle it out. … I like the talent (Hackenberg) had. Obviously, it didn’t cultivate here. Sometimes it takes a team or two or three to find your spot.” After cutting Bryce Petty and trading Hackenberg, Gang Green’s quarterback setup is clear now. Darnold, Josh McCown and Teddy Bridgewater will likely be the team’s three passers heading into training camp. However, as Calvin Watkins of Newsday notes (on Twitter), Bowles aid the Jets are open to adding another quarterback. This could be contingent on Bridgewater’s health.
  • Despite these circumstances centering around one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history, Bill Belichick still opted for a time-honored cliche. Asked if he’s spoken to Tom Brady, the 19th-year Patriots coach said via Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (on Twitter), “I’m not going to talk about the people that aren’t hereThe guys who are here are improving, they’re working hard. Those are the guys we’re going to focus on.” Brady remains absent from OTAs, and the 19th-year quarterback is rumored to want a revised contract. With Josh McDaniels spurning the Colts and remaining in place as OC, New England’s system likely will not change much, lessening the impact of Brady missing these voluntary workouts.
  • Recent Hall of Fame inductee Brian Dawkins will step down from his role in the Eagles front office, James Palmer of NFL.com tweets. The former Eagles safety will stay on as a part-time consultant.