Brentson Buckner

West Rumors: Fitz, Raiders, Broncos, Brown

After the Cardinals trudged through their worst season in 18 years, Larry Fitzgerald‘s latest retire-or-not decision now features another new coach and offensive system in the equation — this one with no NFL coaching experience. But the future Hall of Fame receiver has not distanced himself from the process that brought Kliff Kingsbury to Arizona. Fitz has exchanged text messages with his new coach, the 35-year-old wideout told TMZ recently (via the Arizona Republic).

Hell of a coach. … Look at his resume,” Fitzgerald said. “He’s innovative offensively. That’s the wave of the future right now, so I’m excited for the chance to meet him.”

Fitzgerald played out his contract and is a free agent. While it would seemingly be tempting for the 15-year veteran to see if he could land with a team better positioned to compete for a championship, the career-long Cardinal has said multiple times he will only play for the Cards. Fitz continues to deliberate about the possibility of retiring or coming back for a 16th season.

Here is more from the West-division teams that have been working on their offseason strategies.

  • Former Broncos offensive lineman Chris Kuper will return to Denver as the team’s assistant offensive line coach. Kuper spent the previous three seasons coaching under Adam Gase in Miami. He retired following the 2013 season with the Broncos, who deployed him as a starter for most of his career. Kuper will work under Mike Munchak.
  • The 49ers are the Las Vegas frontrunners to land Antonio Brown, and The Athletic (subscription required) agrees with that assessment. San Francisco should be viewed as the clubhouse leaders to acquire the disgruntled Steelers wideout, per The Athletic’s Matt Barrows. Kyle Shanahan balked at paying high prices for this past year’s UFA crop, and Barrows writes the 49ers will not be giving up their No. 2 overall pick for a soon-to-be 31-year-old wideout. However, he cautions a team picking in the late first round may be able to outflank a San Francisco trade offer, regardless of the 49ers’ need at this position.
  • Brentson Buckner‘s position with the Raiders will be defensive line coach, Jon Gruden said Tuesday (via ESPN.com’s Paul Gutierrez). Buckner, who coached the Buccaneers’ defensive linemen last season, will replace Mike Trgovac. The latter, however, will be promoted in some capacity, per Gruden. As for the Raiders’ quarterbacks coach position — vacated by Brian Callahan‘s move to become the Bengals’ OC Tuesday — the team might wait until the Combine to fill that position.
  • Gruden believes Daryl Worley underwent shoulder surgery recently after ending his season with a torn labrum, Michael Gehlken of the Las Vegas Review-Journal tweets. Worley, a starter this season prior to landing on IR, is expected to receive an RFA tender from the Raiders.

West Notes: Fitz, Wilson, Henry

Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald did not announce that he would return for the 2018 season until mid-February of 2018, and it appears that we could have a similar wait in 2019. Fitz told ESPN’s Adam Schefter earlier this week that he would take some time to collect his thoughts after a difficult 3-13 season, but that the team’s recent hiring of new head coach Kliff Kingsbury would not sway him one way or another. If Fitz does decide to play, he would technically be eligible for free agency, but it is impossible to imagine him playing for a team other than Arizona.

Now for more from the league’s west divisions:

  • This probably doesn’t mean much, especially in light of last week’s reports on the matter, but Kingsbury has said that he would consider drafting Oklahoma QB Kyler Murray with the Cardinals‘ No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 draft, per ESPN’s Sam Ponder (via Twitter).
  • The Seahawks are set to begin contract negotiations with quarterback Russell Wilson, and in a piece that is well-worth a full read, Joel Corry of CBS Sports says that Wilson’s new deal will pay him at least $35MM per year.
  • After being activated on Monday, Chargers TE Hunter Henry is expected to play in the team’s divisional round showdown in Foxborough this afternoon, per Albert Breer of SI.com.
  • We heard yesterday that Bears defensive backs coach Ed Donatell will be a top target of new Broncos coach Vic Fangio, and Mike Klis of 9News tweets that Donatell is currently deciding between staying in Chicago or following Fangio to Denver.
  • Former Buccaneers defensive line coach Brentson Buckner will join the Raiders in the same capacity, per Greg Auman of The Athletic (Twitter link).
  • 49ers defensive line coach Jeff Zgonina will not be returning to the team, per Alex Marvez of SiriusXM NFL Radio (via Twitter).

NFC Notes: Buccaneers, Smith, Vea, Cowboys, Receivers, Rams, Okoronkwo

The Buccaneers made a major change this week, firing much-maligned defensive coordinator Mike Smith and replacing him with Mark Duffner. The Bucs’ defense had picked up right where they left off in 2017, and had been an absolute sieve, leading for calls to fire Smith for weeks now. While Bucs fans will be happy that anyone other than Smith is calling the defense, some in Tampa Bay’s locker room apparently were hoping the team would go in a different direction for their interim coordinator.

There “was strong support by the players for Bucs DL Coach Brentson Buckner to take over the defense”, according to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports (Twitter link). It’s notable that the team apparently didn’t go with the players’ first choice, and it will be interesting to watch how things play out with Duffner. His first test will be stopping Baker Mayfield and the Browns this Sunday.

Here’s more from the NFC:

  • Speaking of the Buccaneers, rookie first round pick Vita Vea will make his first ever start this Sunday, according to Greg Auman of The Athletic (Twitter link). Vea, the talented young defensive tackle from Washington, will start because Gerald McCoy is missing the game due to injury.
  • While Dallas’ lack of pass-catchers has been one of the biggest storylines in the NFL this year, it doesn’t sound like the Cowboys will be adding outside receiving help anytime soon. Owner Jerry Jones downplayed speculation they’d go after a veteran receiver, saying it’s “hard to do at this juncture, to bring in a position that needs the coordination that you have to have with the quarterback” and adding that “the farther you go into the year, then the harder it is to think about bringing a player in”, per Jon Machota of Dallas News. While Jones insisted the organization is “confident in the personnel that we have here”, it still wouldn’t be surprising if they were ultimately aggressive in the trade market.
  • Rams rookie fifth round pick outside linebacker Ogbonnia Okoronkwo hasn’t been able to see the field this year as he’s been sidelined with a foot injury, but could be making his return soon. Okoronkwo has been practicing with the team, and the Rams will decide soon when to bring him back according to Lindsey Thiry of ESPN. The Rams’ pass-rush has been lacking this year, and Okoronkwo could potentially provide a big boost. Thiry reports that Rams coach Sean McVay is high on the young edge player.

NFC Notes: Seahawks, Richardson, Redskins, Bucs, Lions

With teams officially able to place the franchise tag on players beginning tomorrow, there is growing speculation that the Seahawks will use the option on defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, writes Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times.

Condotta cited a number of league insiders who believe the team is likely to use the tag due to the Seahawks paying a steep price to acquire him leading up to the 2017 season. Shortly before the 2017 campaign kicked off, Seattle sent wide receiver Jermaine Kearse and a second-round pick to the Jets in exchange for the fifth-year lineman.

With the Seahawks likely to have about $14 MM in cap space this offseason, they would likely need to rework some deals or extensions in order to afford the $14.5 MM tag the defensive tackle would command. In the piece, Eric Edholm of Pro Football Weekly said Richardson could be a transition-tag candidate, which would cost the Seahawks roughly $11.7 MM.

If the team doesn’t use the tag, it is likely to lose out on the impact defensive tackle. In January, it was reported the Richardson has a soft spot for the Jets and could land back with his former team.

Here’s more from around the NFC:

  • The Redskins are interested in re-signing receiver Ryan Grant, according to ESPN’s John Keim. In 2017, Grant posted career highs with 45 receptions for 573 yards and four touchdowns. Keim notes the team is expected to look for a speed wideout to pair with Josh Doctson on the outside. If the team brought back Grant, that would essentially relegate him to fourth-wideout duties.
  • The Lions plan to bring back tight end Eric Ebron, and unrestricted free agent Darren Fells and the team are not close to a contract extension, the Detroit Free Press’ Dave Birkett writes. Should Fells leave, which seems likely, Birkett says Michael Roberts is planning on playing a starter’s role in 2018. Ebron’s $8.25 MM deal becomes guaranteed on the first day of the new league year.
  • The Buccaneers are hiring Brentson Buckner as their new defensive lineman coach, NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo reports (Twitter link). Buckner spent the last five seasons working with the Cardinals in the same position.

Extra Points: Bell, Seahawks, Buccaneers

Some assorted notes from around the NFL…

  • The Buccaneers are interviewing former Arizona Cardinals defensive line coach Brentson Buckner for the same position on their staff, reports Scott Reynolds of PewterReports.com (and since confirmed by other sources). Buckner and general manager Jason Licht have a relationship from their time in Arizona, perhaps giving him an advantage during the process. The Bucs are also interviewing assistant defensive line coach Paul Spicer and former Colts defensive coordinator Ted Monachino.
  • With three days remaining until Le’Veon Bell‘s artificial deadline to sign a new deal with the Steelers, Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com wonders whether the two sides will come to an agreement. The reporter notes that there’s been no progress between the two sides in recent weeks, and he adds that it makes plenty of sense for Bell to wait for a deal. Ultimately, if the Steelers are claiming their offer will continue to drop as time goes on, Florio believes the running back should call their bluff and explore his value on the open market.
  • Following the massive deals signed by Jimmy Garoppolo and Alex Smith, ESPN.com’s Brady Henderson believes Russell Wilson could be in line for a contract that pays him $30MM per season. When the Seahawks quarterback signed an extension three years ago, he was second in average annual salary (behind Aaron Rodgers). However, following the latest deals and projected contracts for Kirk Cousins and Drew Brees, Wilson could now fall all the way to 10th. Ultimately, the writer believes the organization could pursue a new deal with Wilson before next offseason.

NFC Notes: Eagles, Giants, Fleener

In an excellent piece for CBS Sports, former NFL agent Joel Corry sets forth how the Eagles might approach this offseason, and he offers his take on the team’s prospects in the short- and long-term. The roster, of course, is loaded, thanks to quality drafting, savvy trades, and an MVP-caliber QB playing on a rookie contract. But cap space is at a premium and will continue to be in the near future.

Luckily for Philadelphia, 19 of its 22 starters are under contract for the 2018 season, but the team will still need to create cap space. The Eagles could ask LT Jason Peters, who is expected to return next year, to take a pay cut, and they could create $5MM of space by declining Torrey Smith‘s 2018 option and another $5MM by releasing or trading Vinny Curry, all of which look like real possibilities. The expected extension of Brandon Graham would also free up some room.

Corry also believes that the team should not trade Nick Foles unless someone makes an offer that Philadelphia cannot refuse, which sounds like at least a second-round pick.

Now for more from the NFC:

  • Eagles OC Frank Reich has emerged as the favorite for the Colts’ HC job, and assuming the two sides can strike a deal, Philadelphia will almost certainly not let RBs coach Duce Staley interview for the Giants’ OC vacancy, as Ralph Vacchiano of SNY.tv tweets (indeed, Staley could become the Eagles’ next OC if Reich departs). Yesterday, Vacchiano and Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com broke down where Big Blue’s OC search currently stands, and it’s not exactly good news for new head coach Pat Shurmur.
  • As we learned this morning, the Buccaneers fired defensive line coach Jay Hayes, and Roy Cummings of Florida Football Insiders suggests that more pink slips could be coming for Tampa Bay’s coaching assistants, as the team has still not formally announced its 2018 coaching staff.
  • Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times believes the Buccaneers could turn to Brentson Buckner as a potential replacement for Hayes (Twitter link). Buckner served as the Cardinals’ defensive line coach from 2013-17, and Arizona’s DL was generally quite successful under Buckner’s watch. Tampa Bay GM Jason Licht was the Cardinals’ VP of player personnel in 2013, so he has some personal familiarity with Buckner.
  • Last Wednesday, $3.4MM of Coby Fleener‘s 2018 base salary became guaranteed, as Nick Underhill of the Advocate points out (via Twitter). The Saints‘ tight end is under contract through 2020, but he has not become the top target for Drew Brees that many expected when he signed with New Orleans several years ago. The Saints could have saved $3.2MM against the cap by releasing him prior to Wednesday, but there is no obvious replacement on the roster, and if he has not been medically cleared following his season-ending concussion, that could have further complicated matters. It therefore looks like Fleener will be back in New Orleans in 2018.
  • The 49ers recently signed QB Jimmy Garoppolo and DE Cassius Marsh to contract extensions before they could hit the open market, and Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee looks at the rest of San Francisco’s free agent class to determine who might be next in line for a new contract. Some of the more prominent names on the list include center Daniel Kilgore, with whom the team has had contract discussions, Carlos Hyde, who may be on his way to a team that features more of a power-running approach, and DE Tank Carradine, whose talents may also be better-suited to a different scheme.

Jets Notes: Pryor, Draft, Coaching Staff

Darryl Slater and Connor Hughes of NJ.com wonder if the Jets could decide to trade former first-round pick Calvin Pryor this offseason. The 24-year-old just completed his third NFL season, but the safety has yet to establish himself as a “huge difference maker.” The Jets will eventually have to decide whether they want to pick up the player’s fifth-year option, and the organization could ultimately decide to put that responsibility on another team.

The two writers suggest a trade with the Seahawks that would send Pryor to Seattle and offensive lineman Germain Ifedi to New York. The 2016 first-round pick played in six games (six starts) for the Seahawks this past season.

Slater and Hughes touch on a number of additional topics in their latest column. We’ve compiled some of the notable tidbits below…

  • The Jets “love” Alabama linebacker Ryan Anderson. The 6-2, 253-pound defender had a monster season in 2016, compiling 61 tackles and 8.5 sacks. If Anderson drops to the second round, Slater and Hughes believe the Jets could zero in on him. The organization is also “doing their homework” on the tight end class.
  • The duo notes that the Jets’ two biggest needs are at quarterback and the offensive line. Unfortunately, the organization isn’t going to find elite talent from those positions in this year’s draft. While North Carolina quarterback Mitch Trubisky would be an intriguing option, Slater and Hughes are doubtful that the player will fall to the Jets’ sixth-overall pick.
  • Todd Bowles has started to fill out his staff, but he still has a vacancy at defensive line coach. Slater and Hughes suggest that Cardinals defensive line coach Brentson Buckner could be an option, especially since the two coaches worked together in Arizona for two years. While Bowles is a big fan of Buckner, it’s unlikely that Cardinals coach Bruce Arians would just let him go.
  • The Jets were originally hoping to promote quarterbacks coach Kevin Patullo to offensive coordinator following Chan Gailey‘s inevitable retirement. However, the Jets offense struggled mightily this past season, and the organization decided to look elsewhere to fill the vacancy. Slater and Hughes note that the Jets are still fans of Patullo, but they didn’t feel comfortable making him their offensive coordinator.