Blake Williams

AFC East Notes: Brady, Dolphins, Jets

Following the Patriots‘ third Super Bowl title of the decade, they again have their legendary quarterback going into a contract year. Robert Kraft is on board with another Tom Brady extension, but no talks have commenced yet, Albert Breer of SI.com notes. Brady has never played into a contract year. While some uncertainty existed around Brady’s place with the Patriots last offseason, Breer adds the key parties are on good terms this year. The 41-year-old quarterback said before Super Bowl LIII he was not going to retire, and an extension would bring down his $27MM cap number. Brady signed team-friendly deals in 2013 and ’16 around the Combine those years.

With the quarterback market finally making big strides over the past year and change, Brady’s demands could justifiably increase. Brady’s historic contributions to the franchise notwithstanding, Bill Belichick may not be wild about a possible $30MM-AAV contract for Brady that runs into future Hall of Famer’s mid-40s, NBC Sports Boston’s Tom Curran offered during an appearance on the Rich Eisen Show (video link). Of course, with the Patriots an annual title contender and no heir apparent in place, it would seem unthinkable a Brady pact does not get done this offseason.

Here is the latest from the AFC East:

  • Although Ryan Tannehill is not expected to return to the Dolphins, GM Chris Grier said no decision has been made on that front. The Dolphins are expected to trade or release Tannehill, and the Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson tweets a photo of the seven-year Dolphin quarterback has been removed from their press room. Grier wants input from Brian Flores and his new staff on the 30-year-old quarterback, but the Dolphins are expected to move on from their six-season starter. With an eye on the 2020 quarterback class, they are not believed to be targeting a high-priced free agent to replace Tannehill, either.
  • Armed with nearly $100MM in cap space and a GM potentially on the hot seat, the Jets make sense as Le’Veon Bell‘s buyer. While one report indicated New York won’t use a bank-breaking approach to land the All-Pro running back, SNY’s Ralph Vacchiano notes the Jets are still zeroed in on Bell. The soon-to-be 27-year-old back is still believed to prefer the Colts, per Vacchiano, but Indianapolis may not view him in the same light.
  • Some turmoil has already hit Gregg Williams‘ new team. Mike Maccagnan and Adam Gase initially did not view Blake Williams as a hiring priority for the Jets’ defensive staff, and this irked Blake’s father, according to ESPN.com’s Rich Cimini. Gregg Williams was frustrated with Maccagnan and Gase, but the new Gang Green DC won out, with Blake Williams signed on as linebackers coach. Blake upset some Rams staffers during his time as St. Louis assistant, before being fired after the 2013 season, Cimini notes, adding the young coach has developed somewhat of a polarizing reputation.
  • The Jets may have an issue trading Leonard Williams, with a $14.2MM salary due, but Vacchiano points out the general consensus around the NFL is the 2015 top-10 pick has been misused in New York. With the Jets moving to a 4-3 look under Gregg Williams, Leonard Williams is not a lock to be back. Of course, Gregg Williams may view the former 3-4 defensive end as a weapon in his scheme. The Jets are light on surefire front-seven talent, so their new DC might want some capable veterans to stay.

Coaching Rumors: Browns, Eagles, Jets, Bucs

Former Packers defensive passing game coordinator Joe Whitt will join the Browns‘ staff, according to Zac Jackson of The Athletic (Twitter link). Whitt, who had offers from other clubs, will take the same title in Cleveland, tweets Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.The Browns haven’t been shy about adding ex-Packers to their staff, as they already have John Dorsey, Eliot Wolf, and Alonzo Highsmith in their front office. Whitt, 40, interviewed for Green Bay’s defensive coordinator job in January 2018, and was at one point considered the favorite to land the role. But Whitt, who was the Packers’ cornerbacks coach at the time, lost out to external candidate Mike Pettine, and was subsequently given an elevated title. Whitt will now reunite with Browns safety Damarious Randall, who was a Packers second-round pick in 2015.

Here’s more from the coaching carousel:

  • After losing to the Saints in the Divisional Round, the Eagles have begun to experience staff turnover. The contracts of defensive line coach Chris Wilson and assistant offensive line coach Eugene Chung have expired, while wide receivers coach Gunter Brewer has been told he can leave for other NFL opportunities, report Geoff Mosher and Adam Caplan of SiriusXM NFL Radio (Twitter links). None of three coaches will return to Philadelphia in 2019. Wilson and Chung had been with the Eagles since 2016, while Brewer just joined the club this past offseason.
  • Now that Gregg Williams has officially been hired as the Jets‘ defensive coordinator, he’s expected to bring his son Blake aboard as linebackers coach, tweets Rich Cimini of ESPN.com. Blake has followed his father to nearly every one of his NFL stops. Meanwhile, New York is expected to retain at least a few members of its previous defensive staff even now that its hired Williams. Former Dolphins defensive line coach Kris Kocurek was a candidate for the same job with the Jets, but he was quickly scooped up by the 49ers.
  • Freddie Kitchens has added another coach to his Browns staff, hiring Tennessee assistant to the head coach John Lilly as the club’s new tight ends coach, according to Alex Marvez of SiriusXM NFL Radio (Twitter link). He’ll work with former first-round pick David Njoku, plus other Cleveland tight ends such as Seth Devalve and Darren Fells. Lilly served as the Rams’ tight ends coach in 2016.
  • The Ravens are searching for a new running backs coach after Thomas Hammock was hired as Northern Illinois’ new head coach, tweets Brett McMurphy of Stadium Network. The 37-year-old Hammock — a NIU alum — joined Baltimore in 2014, and last season led a backfield with options like Gus Edwards, Alex Collins, Kenneth Dixon, and Javorius Allen. The Ravens also announced that they’ve shifted Bobby Engram from receivers coach to tight ends coach.
  • The Buccaneers convinced Bruce Arians to come out of retirement and become their head coach earlier this month, but Tampa Bay’s interest in Arians actually dates back far further. Arians was a Bucs target for offensive coordinator in 2012 after he was fired by the Steelers, as Adam Schefter of ESPN.com indicated on his podcast (Twitter link via Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times).

Browns To Part Ways With Several Coaches

Although the Browns kept a key part of their 2018 late-season setup in place, promoting Freddie Kitchens to head coach, they are going to be looking for a largely new staff.

In addition to letting interim HC Gregg Williams go, the Browns are ending the Cleveland tenures of several coaches, Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports.

Among them are quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese, special teams coordinator Amos Jones, offensive line coach Bob Wylie, tight ends coach Greg Seamon and special teams assistant Josh Cribbs. The Browns, as could be expected, will ax linebackers coach (and late-season play-caller) Blake Williams, Cabot notes.

Expected to stay are wideouts coach Adam Henry and DBs coach DeWayne Walker, Cabot adds, with running backs coach Ryan Lindley — a Cardinals quarterback during Kitchens’ time as Arizona’s QBs coach — could remain as well.

This Browns team lost fewer games than the franchise had since its 2007 season, but the Kitchens regime will involve many new faces at the Berea, Ohio, facility. This should not be incredibly surprising, considering these assistants arrived during Hue Jackson‘s tenure.

Jones finished his first season as ST coordinator, while Zampese took the QBs job last year as well. He’d previously served as the Bengals’ OC before being fired early in the 2017 season. Seamon served on all three Jackson staffs, finishing his tenure under Gregg Williams. Wylie, of Hard Knocks fame, came to Cleveland in 2017 after a CFL stint. Known obviously for his special teams brilliance in Cleveland, Cribbs broke into coaching this season.

Also let go: assistant DBs coach Jerod Kruse, offensive assistant Bob Saunders, assistant offensive line coach Mark Hutson and quality control coaches Brian Braswell and Eric Sanders.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Browns Fallout: Jackson, Staff, Mayfield

In firing Hue Jackson and Todd Haley, the Browns axed the top two voices behind their offense on Monday. This came after reports of friction between the two, accounts that turned out to be very real and ones that could’ve been envisioned for anyone who saw Hard Knocks.

The message today is we’re not going to put up with internal discord,” owner Jimmy Haslam said, via Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com. “… We had some concerns going into the game, obviously (Sunday’s) performance was disappointing. We had several of our key people involved in this conversations last night and this morning and did what we think’s best for the organization.”

Haslam said he met with John Dorsey on Sunday night, and actions came down Monday morning. Although Jackson went 1-31 in his first two seasons with the team, Haslam opted to give him a third year because the aggressive rebuild — put forth by former GM Sashi Brown — put Jackson in a “difficult spot” (Twitter link via Cabot). Gregg Williams was the only person the Browns considered to be the interim HC, Haslam said (per Nate Ulrich of ohio.com, on Twitter).

Some Browns began to question Jackson’s credibility, as a result of the third-year HC following through on his intent to give Haley autonomy to run the offense, Albert Breer of SI.com notes. After running the offense in 2016 and ’17, Jackson wasn’t nearly as involved this season. Jackson, in turn, was frustrated Haley would “do his own thing,” Breer adds. Jackson’s message grew stale as the losses mounted, per Yahoo’s Terez Paylor. This is obviously not uncommon for teams in losing situations, and that descriptor might not be strong enough to describe the state of the Browns under Haslam. The seventh-year owner’s now fired four head coaches, and the Browns have won more than five games just once under his watch.

Baker Mayfield‘s development shifts to front and center, and Breer notes the Jackson firing probably won’t bother the rookie quarterback much. They didn’t exactly see eye to eye, per Breer. Though, the No. 1 overall pick now has to finish a season without a proven offensive voice in the building and will have to learn a new offense in 2019.

Williams is technically still defensive coordinator, in addition to becoming a first-time head coach at age 60. But some around the league believe he will promote his son, Blake Williams, to that post, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. Blake Williams has been Cleveland’s linebackers coach for two seasons.

As far as a possible Jackson/Williams successor, Breer points out Dorsey has “the highest respect” for what Iowa State coach Matt Campbell‘s done. Campbell, 38, is from the Cleveland area (Massillon, Ohio) as well. While Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley may well get a look, since he’d be a natural fit given his mentoring of Mayfield with the Sooners, he doesn’t envision leaving Oklahoma (video link). Gregg Williams will also be a candidate for the full-time job, Haslam said (via Cabot, on Twitter). But such a scenario would be hard to envision.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Coaching Notes: Bradley, Kelly, Bears, Titans

The Chargers and new head coach Anthony Lynn want Gus Bradley to be their defensive coordinator, reports Michael Silver of Sports Illustrated (via Twitter). It was reported last week that the new Los Angeles franchise was looking at Bradley for the gig, and that interest made more sense following reports that former defensive coordinator John Pagano wouldn’t be returning.

However, Bradley isn’t in a rush to sign a deal. The former Jaguars coach is waiting to see whether the 49ers will hire Seahawks offensive line/assistant head coach Tom Cable as their head coach. The duo coached together in Seattle from 2011 through 2012, and we can assume that Bradley would be interested in joining Cable’s 49ers staff. Alex Marvez of the Sporting News reports (via Twitter) that Bradley is a “top choice” for Cable’s hypothetical staff.

Let’s take a look at some more coaching notes from around the NFL…

  • Chip Kelly headed into his interview with the Jaguars believing he’d get offered the offensive coordinator position, reports Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (via Twitter). In fact, the former Eagles and 49ers head coach already has some “assistant hires” ready to go. Rapoport notes that there’s a good chance Kelly gets the gig.
  • The Bears have hired Jeremiah Washburn to be their offensive line coach, reports Marvez (via Twitter). Washburn spent last season as the Dolphins assistant offensive line coach, and he also spent time coaching with the Lions and Ravens.
  • The Titans have added a pair of coaches to their staff. Jim Wyatt of TitansOnline.com reports that the team has added former Temple passing game coordinator Frisman Jackson as their new wide receivers coach. The team has also hired Craig Aukerman to be an assistant special teams coach. Aukerman served as the Chargers special teams coordinator last season.
  • The Browns hired Blake Williams as their linebackers coach and Jerod Kruse as an assistant defensive backs coach, reports Nate Ulrich of Ohio.com (via Twitter). Williams, the son of defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, spent last season working under his dad in Los Angeles.
  • The Broncos have added John Benton to their coaching staff as an assistant offensive line coach, reports Cameron Wolfe of The Denver Post. Benton has coached in the NFL for 13 years, and he spent last season working for the Jaguars.