The Bucs are in the books with their 53-man roster. To get there, they’ve (naturally) dropped a boatload of players.
Among those released is running back Andre Ellington, who was out of football in 2018 but was thought to have a good shot at the roster thanks to his history with Bruce Arians in Arizona. UDFA tailback Bruce Anderson is also out, despite his pass-catching prowess.
Kicker Cairo Santos has also been shown the door after re-signing with the team in March. With that, Matt Gay has won the job.
Buccaneers GM Jason Licht isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. According to Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times, the executive inked a five-year contract extension with the franchise this offseason.
The deal, which wasn’t reported until now, was signed in January just days after the team made Bruce Arians its head coach. Arians and Licht have been good friends for quite some time and Arians likely wouldn’t have joined Tampa Bay if not for their relationship. Arians’ deal is also for five seasons, so the Bucs have tethered the pair’s future together.
Tampa Bay hasn’t been great since Licht took over back in 2014. The team is 27-53 in the five seasons since he took the GM gig with poor defense and inconsistent quarterback play plaguing the team.
Arians is expected to help with the quarterback issues. He’s helped get the best out of a number of quarterbacks, including Andrew Luck and Carson Palmer. The defense is another story, as the Bucs finished dead last in defensive DVOA last year and didn’t make any major moves this offseason to improve their putrid pass rush.
Not long after the Buccaneers hired Bruce Arians as their head coach in January, we learned that Arians’ new OC, Byron Leftwich, would be calling the team’s offensive plays and that Arians considered Leftwich a rising star in the coaching ranks. And as Jenna Laine of ESPN.com reports, Arians’ confidence in Leftwich is such that Arians himself is not even in Jameis Winston‘s quarterbacks meeting rooms — despite Arians’ reputation as a quarterback whisperer — and Leftwich is running those meetings. This is a critical campaign for Winston, who is playing under his fifth-year option, and therefore something of a crossroads for the franchise itself. Leftwich has a lot on his plate for a young coach, but Arians clearly believes he is up to the task.
Now for more from the NFC:
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic believes that the Cardinals will cut Robert Nkemdichebefore he plays another snap for the club. The former first-round pick was recently arrested for driving on a suspended license, and police found a credit card case that had a white powdery residue consistent with cocaine inside. Somers says that police decided not to test the case and elected to simply destroy it instead, but it’s still not a good look for Nkemdiche. The fact that the defensive lineman is still recovering from a knee injury and is due a $400K roster bonus if he is still on the club on the fifth day of training camp could complicate matters, but Somers still expects Nkemdiche to be gone sooner rather than later.
Seahawks OT Jamarco Jones, a fifth-round draft choice in 2018, did not see any regular season action during his rookie campaign, as he suffered an ankle injury in the preseason opener that put him on the shelf for the whole year. Still, he flashed potential last training camp, and Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times expects him to make the club as a backup tackle. And, with George Fant and Germain Ifedi eligible for free agency in 2020, Jones could position himself nicely for a starting role next year.
Condotta also expects the Seahawks to continue exploring pass rush options and secondary help.
With the NFL now in the two-week waiting period until its final meaningful game, 30 of the 32 teams are going through offseason motions. And some of those teams are still deciding on coordinators.
Unless another Patriots assistant reneges on an agreement post-Super Bowl, or Zac Taylor makes an 11th-hour decision to remain in Los Angeles rather than taking over in Cincinnati, the eight NFL teams in need of head coaches made their choices.
So, which franchise best positioned itself for long-term success?
The trend being offensive innovation to keep up with some of the ahead-of-the-curve offenses, six of the eight teams hired offensively oriented coaches.
By a substantial margin, the Cardinals won the outside-the-box trophy. After washing out as an NFL quarterback in the mid-2000s, Kliff Kingsbury spent more than a decade as a college coach. The 39-year-old groomed some sought-after NFL talent in Patrick Mahomes, Case Keenum and Davis Webb, while also bringing Baker Mayfield to Texas Tech for a short stay. But he finished his stay in Lubbock, Texas, with a sub-.500 record. The Cards addedVance Josephand Tom Clements to be his top assistants. Because of their unconventional hire, the Cardinals will be one of the most interesting teams in 2019.
Bruce Arians‘ CBS stay lasting one year will bring one of the more interesting coaches in modern NFL history back to the sideline. Tampa Bay’s new coach is the oldest ever hired, at 66 years old. Arians will be tethered toJameis Winston, and it does not sound like he has issues with that. Arians hired several former Cardinals assistants to help him attempt to snap the NFC’s longest active playoff drought. Arians led the Cardinals to their best season, record-wise (13-3 in 2015), since the franchise has been in Arizona but is also barely a year removed from retiring.
The Packers and Browns opted for OCs, the former seeing a major difference inMatt LaFleur‘s vision than those of the other coaches that interviewed. Cleveland made the biggest continuity move of this year’s HC-seeking octet,promoting Freddie Kitchens over candidates with more experience.
LaFleur’s Titans offense regressed from Mike Mularkey‘s final unit, with Tennessee ranking 27th in points scored last season. But the 39-year-old coach, who will be working with ex-Jaguars assistant Nathaniel Hackett in overseeing the back end of Aaron Rodgers‘ prime, trained under Sean McVay and Kyle Shanahan. Kitchens rose from position coach to head coach in less than three months, but Mayfield’s performance in the second half of the season was obviously different from his play under Hue Jackson and Todd Haley.
Taylor and Adam Gase round out the offensively geared hires, the former being perhaps the highest-variance candidate among the non-Kingsbury wing.
Although Taylor was the Dolphins’ interim OC in 2015 and McVay’s quarterbacks coach this season, he spent 2016 running a Cincinnati Bearcats offense that ranked 123rd (out of 128 Division I-FBS teams) with 19.3 points per game for a 4-8 team and was the Rams’ assistant wideouts coach as recently as 2017. Gase led the Dolphins to the playoffs in 2016, but Ryan Tannehill‘s issues staying healthy and living up to his draft slot limited the former Broncos and Bears OC. The Jets saw enough to add the formerly in-demand assistant, who may be ready to bring longtime coworker Dowell Loggainswith him to the Big Apple.
Denver and Miami went with defense, with the Broncos having no competition for 2018’s assistant coach of the year and, arguably, this decade’s top DC.
The Dolphins cancelled their Vic Fangio summit, and he will be in charge of elevating a Broncos team that finished with back-to-back losing seasons for the first time since the early 1970s. John Elway‘s plan to reinstall Gary Kubiak as OCalso hit a snag, with the longtime friends’ disagreement on staffing leading to the Broncos hiring 49ers QBs coach Rich Scangarello. The Dolphins will become the fifth franchise to hire a Bill Belichick-era Patriotsdefensive coordinator (or de facto DC, in Brian Flores‘ case), following the Browns (Romeo Crennel and Eric Mangini), Jets (Mangini), Chiefs (Crennel) and Lions (Matt Patricia). Flores helped the Patriots to yet another top-10 ranking in points allowed — their 15th in the past 18 seasons — and another Super Bowl berth.
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DeSean Jackson‘s two Buccaneers seasons did not go as well as the parties involved hoped, but Bruce Arians entering the equation provides a previously unforeseen path for a third Jackson year in Tampa.
One of Arians’ first acts as Buccaneers coach was to acquire Jackson’s contact information, though no such call has been placed yet, per Rapoport. But Arians wants to “re-recruit” Jackson. While he is under contract for a third season — $10MM — Jackson was previously expected to be a cap casualty. No guaranteed money remains on the 32-year-old wideout’s contract.
This was expected to be a way the Bucs could gain $10MM in cap space. As it stands now, they stand to hold just $16MM-plus. They also want to re-sign Adam Humphries. If Jackson stays, Tampa Bay would have to readjust its roster elsewhere if cap space is to be created.
Jackson asked for a trade midseason and has struggled to stay on the same page as Jameis Winston. Although his 774 receiving yards this season represented an uptick from a disappointing 2017 showing, his best games came when Ryan Fitzpatrick was throwing. The Bucs are committed to Winston for 2019, which will be Jackson’s 12th NFL season.
The Buccaneers-Bruce Arians noise produced the conclusion many expected. The two-time coach of the year is heading to Tampa Bay, as first reported by Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (on Twitter). The Bucs have since confirmed the hire via press release.
“Bruce Arians is one of the NFL’s most well-respected coaches over the past two decades and we are excited to have him leading our team,” Buccaneers owner Bryan Glazer said in a statement. “Throughout this process, we focused on finding the right coach with a proven ability to elevate our players and lead our team forward. Bruce has played a large role in the development and career success of some of our league’s best players and we look forward to seeing him continue that work here with our franchise.”
This will be a four-year deal with a team option for a fifth season, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. And Arians wants to bring some of his former Cardinals assistants with him. Byron Leftwich, Harold Goodwin and Clyde Christensen — an Arians coworker with the Colts — will be brought on board and Todd Bowles has already agreed to become the team’s defensive coordinator. Bowles was Arians’ DC for two seasons with the Cardinals.
Arians-to-Tampa gained steam over the past few days, and it turns out the former Cardinals coach’s retirement was brief. Arians is now going to rejoin former Cards personnel exec Jason Licht with the Bucs and be in charge of determining what can be coaxed from Jameis Winston, whom he’s known since the passer’s high school days.
The Bucs had initial concerns about the 66-year-old Arians’ health, per Jeff Darlington of ESPN.com (Twitter link). This required a physical. But they are satisfied with the results. That, and language in Arians’ Arizona contract — which contained a 2019 option — represent cleared hurdles now, Darlington notes. Of note: Arians is the oldest HC hire in NFL history, surpassing a 64-year-old Dick Vermeil.
Arians interviewed for the Tampa Bay job on Saturday morning and outflanked everyone else on the meeting list in terms of experience. The 2012 and ’14 coach of the year, the first coming when he was the Colts’ OC who took over for a cancer-stricken Chuck Pagano, Arians has guided three teams to the playoffs — that Colts team and two Cardinals squads. Armed with the NFL’s No. 1 offense, Arizona advanced to the 2015 NFC championship game under Arians. They produced a top-10 attack in 2016 as well. After Arians’ retirement, the Cardinals fell off quickly. They hired Kliff Kingsbury today to replace Steve Wilks, who oversaw the team’s descent from 8-8 to 3-13.
Spending the 2018 season as a CBS analyst, Arians initially said the only job he would come out of retirement to take was the Browns’ position. But Cleveland did not reciprocate the interest. Tampa Bay did and was the only team to interview Arians. The sides were believed to have only begun negotiations Tuesday, and they progressed quickly.
Arians will now be tasked with ending the NFC’s longest playoff drought. The Bucs have not qualified for a bracket since 2007, in Jon Gruden‘s penultimate season, and have fired five coaches since that happened.
Licht announced last week that the candidate who won the race to replace Dirk Koetter was going to work with Winston. Despite the quarterback’s off-field issues and interception troubles, he figures to have his best chance at showing he’s a capable starter under Arians. In Arizona, Arians resurrected Carson Palmer‘s career and pushed him to a near-MVP performance in 2015. Arians received his 2014 coach of the year honor for steering the Cards to 11-5 after losing Palmer and Drew Stanton to injuries.
When the Buccaneers agreed to hire Bruce Arians, the NFL informed them that they would not need to send compensation to the Cardinals. Later, the Cardinals told the league office that they believed they still had a claim to his rights. In order to avoid a protracted argument, the Bucs have agreed to trade a sixth-round pick to the Cardinals in exchange for Arians’ rights and a seventh-round pick.
Ultimately, the Bucs probably could have avoided giving up compensation, particularly since they previously got the green light from the league office. However, they want to hit the ground running with Arians, so they made a small concession enabling them to keep things simple.
The Buccaneers are focusing on hiring Bruce Arians as their new coach and there is strong mutual interest, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter) hears. Rapoport adds that negotiations between the two sides are likely to begin soon.
In recent days, talk of Arians coaching the Bucs has picked up serious steam. However, the club did ask Arians to take a physical as a part of their evaluation process, a step to ensure that the cancer survivor has the ability to take on the role and the stress that comes with it. Fortunately, it appears that Arians has the medical green light, which should allow him to accept the job if the two sides can reach agreement on terms.
The 66-year-old was relatively successful during his tenure in Arizona, leading the Cardinals to 49-30-1 record and a pair of playoff appearances, including an appearance in the 2015 NFC Championship Game. Off the field, he has managed to overcome a number of challenging obstacles. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2007, had cancerous cells removed from his nose in 2013, dealt with renal cell carcinoma in 2016, and had part of his kidney removed in 2017.
Arians retired from coaching in January of last year, saying that he “wasn’t enjoying the game as much” as he had in the past.
The Buccaneers will interview Cowboys defensive backs coach Kris Richard for their head coaching vacancy today, per Albert Breer of SI.com. We already heard that Richard would also be interviewing with the Dolphins and Jets today, so his Sunday will be pretty full.
But if Richard is going to land a head coaching gig in 2019, it does not appear that it will be with Tampa Bay. Just yesterday, the team interviewed former Colts and Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians, and reports suggested that momentum was building towards a Arians-Bucs union.
Today, Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network (video link) reports that Arians’ summit with the Buccaneers went very well, and that the 66-year-old could be announced as the team’s next head coach within the next few days. Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times posits that no candidate for the Bucs’ job checks as many boxes as Arians, who has something of a reputation as a quarterback whisperer and who may be able to get the most out of JameisWinston.
Arians stepped down from his Cardinals post after last season, having guided the club to two playoff berths and three 10-win campaigns. He spent the 2018 season working as a broadcaster with CBS.
January 5th, 2019 at 6:54pm CST by Andrew Ortenberg
Ever since Bruce Arians stepped away from his job with the Cardinals, his name has been buzzed about as a potential head coaching candidate. He sat out the 2018 season while calling games for CBS, but appears set to return to the sidelines. He’s been publicly lobbying for the Browns’ job for a while now, but has seemingly now set his sights on the Buccaneers’ job. Because Arians retired with time still left on his contract with Arizona, the consensus was that whatever team would want to hire Arians would need to give some compensation to the Cardinals, but that’s apparently not the case, according to Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com.
Florio notes in a tweet that the Cardinals would’ve needed to exercise their option on Arians in order to have a claim on him, which they didn’t do. As such, Florio writes in his article that the Buccaneers didn’t even bother to notify the Cardinals they were interviewing him. As of now, Arians seems like a strong favorite to be Jameis Winston‘s next coach.
Here’s more from the coaching carousel:
We’ve heard that former Jets coach Todd Bowles will be in high demand as a defensive coordinator and possibly even head coach, and he might be even more sought after than anyone realized. Multiple head coaching candidates in this cycle are telling people they’ll try to get Bowles to be their defensive coordinator, according to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports (Twitter link). It’s unclear exactly what teams might be in the mix, although there have been rumors he could reunite with Arians wherever he lands. Bowles was Arians’ defensive coordinator in Arizona for two seasons before being hired by the Jets.
We heard on Black Monday that the Browns were hoping to interview Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus for their vacancy, and now the interview has been scheduled. Eberflus will meet with Cleveland’s team tomorrow, the day after his team’s playoff win over the Texans, according to Dan Graziano of ESPN (Twitter link). Eberflus has done a great job running Indy’s young defense this year, and has been a hot name in this cycle.
Steelers offensive line coach Mike Munchak has “strong interest” in the Broncos’ opening, sources told Adam Schefter of ESPN. Schefter notes that Munchak has “professional and personal ties to Denver” and that he shares an agent with Broncos GM John Elway. Munchak, who turned down a head coaching job last year according to Schefter, was the Titans’ head coach for three years before being fired and landing in Pittsburgh. Schefter writes that Munchak has been very reluctant to leave “because of his feelings for the Steelers”, but it sounds like the Broncos will be able to pull him away if they want to.