Bruce Arians

Reactions To Antonio Brown Signing With Buccaneers

Antonio Brown is officially a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reports (via Twitter) that the two sides have finalized a one-year contract. NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo tweets that the deal is worth slightly more than a minimum salary, although there are per-game roster bonuses, individual incentives, and team incentives.

Besides Brown’s continued antics over the past year-plus, it’s not overly surprising that he had to settle for this kind of incentive-laden deal. Bruce Arians had previously dealt with Brown when he was the wide receivers coach in Pittsburgh, and the Buccaneers head coach had consistently stated that the Bucs wouldn’t be signing the wideout. Perhaps the low-risk contract has partly swayed Arians’ opinion.

One individual who was clamoring for Brown was Tom Brady. The quarterback is signed through the 2021 season, so if the wide receiver is a productive member of the offense, there’s a chance he could stick around beyond the 2020 campaign.

Here’s some more news and notes pertaining to the AB signing:

  • ESPN’s Jenna Laine writes that Brown’s signing is all about maximizing Brady’s window. While Arians may have previously been against adding the wideout, Laine believes Tampa Bay’s continued offensive injuries (a list that includes Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Scott Miller, and O.J. Howard) may have changed his mind. Plus, Laine writes that the “feeling inside the organization” is that Arians has a strong personality that can keep Brown in line, and there’s also Brady’s positive influence. The writer also points out that Brown was teammates with three members of the coaching staff: offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich, offensive assistant Antwaan Randle El, and outside linebackers coach Larry Foote.
  • Sheil Kapadia of The Athletic wonders why the Buccaneers are taking the unnecessary risk of signing Brown. Tampa Bay is leading the NFC in point differential, and while that has mostly been thanks to the defense, the offense has been plenty competent. Brown’s talent means he could naturally provide the passing game with a significant boost, but Kapadia thinks it’s more likely that “he’ll be a problem.”
  • Here’s a fun one for fans of conspiracies. Following public reports of the Seahawks interest in Brown, Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com wonders why Seattle let that information leak in the first place. One argument could be made that the Seahawks “recklessly invited a competitor to swoop in” and sign the wideout, while another argument could be made that the Seahawks deliberately leaked the news. Why would they do that? Florio writes that the Seahawks may have been doing the modern-day version of the Trojan Horse, hoping that Brown’s signing would derail his suitor’s season. In another piece, Florio notes that those “within league circles” wonder if Pete Carroll “repeatedly confirmed interest in Brown in the hopes that someone else would sign” the receiver.
  • Greg Auman of The Athletic explores the 22-month span that saw Brown going from a star wideout with the Steelers to a low-salary, midseason signing with the Buccaneers. The story starts in December of 2018, when Brown was benched for Pittsburgh’s season finale and subsequently missed his exit meeting with Mike Tomlin.

NFC South Rumors: Arians, Saints, Okung

Having battled three different types of cancer and being set to turn 68 in October, Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians falls into the higher-risk category for potential coronavirus complications. But Arians will coach this season, and he is not planning to do so from the press box. The second-year Bucs HC will coach from the sideline while wearing a mask and a face shield, he said recently.

As far as on the field, I’ll maintain a mask and probably a shield just for personal use and coach like I’ve always coached,” Arians said. “I’m very confident. Like I said, the protocols that are in place are extremely safe.”

Arians has had cancerous tumors to be removed from his prostate, skin and kidney. He enters the season as NFL’s third-oldest head coach, behind Pete Carroll, who are both 68. Two head coaches — Sean Payton and Doug Pederson — have tested positive for COVID-19 thus far. The Eagles HC tested positive earlier this week. Players and coaches are currently being tested daily. This arrangement will continue for two weeks before the league reassesses.

Here is the latest from the NFC South:

  • Russell Okung dealt with a health scare last year but did not opt out of the 2020 season. However, the Panthers‘ recently acquired left tackle is considering retirement. But Okung will wait on a decision for now. The 11th-year veteran will keep his options open as he goes further into camp, advisor J.I. Halsell told NFL reporter Josina Anderson (Twitter link). It’s possible the 31-year-old blocker wants to learn more about what this season’s COVID-19-defined environment will bring. Okung has a $13MM salary awaiting him this season but has already made a considerable amount of money in his career.
  • Emmanuel Sanders made the initial contact between he and the Saints in free agency, the 11th-year wide receiver said, per The Athletic’s Katherine Terrell (on Twitter). The former Steelers, Broncos and 49ers wideout wanted to play with Drew Brees in New Orleans, and that helped lead to the two-year, $16MM deal he signed in March. Sanders also assisted the Saints with another free agent receiver, with a Brees-Sanders-Bennie Fowler workout in Denver leading to the latter’s signing this week (Twitter link via Terrell).
  • The Falcons plan to use recently signed cornerback Darqueze Dennard as a slot and boundary cornerback in training camp, D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution notes. Dennard mostly worked as a slot defender in Cincinnati. Atlanta signed Dennard earlier last week. He will join a cornerback crew that features third-year player Isaiah Oliver and first-round rookie A.J. Terrell.
  • Given Brees’ year-to-year status, the Saints are obviously not eyeing a contract-year trade of Alvin Kamara. But no known extension talks have taken place between the Saints and their standout back. However, a deal that pays the three-down back just less than what Christian McCaffrey and Ezekiel Elliott make ($16MM and $15MM AAV, respectively) is a solution The Athletic’s Larry Holder envisions (subscription required). Kamara, one of several running back starters in contract years, has said he wants to stay in New Orleans.

Longest-Tenured Head Coaches In The NFL

Things move fast in today’s NFL and the old adage of “coaches are hired to be fired” has seemingly never been more true. For the most part, teams change their coaches like they change their underwear. 

A head coach can take his team to the Super Bowl, or win the Super Bowl, or win multiple Super Bowls, but they’re never immune to scrutiny. Just ask Tom Coughlin, who captured his second ring with the Giants after the 2011 season, only to receive his pink slip after the 2015 campaign.

There are also exceptions. Just look at Bill Belichick, who just wrapped up his 20th season at the helm in New England. You’ll also see a few others on this list, but, for the most part, most of today’s NFL head coaches are relatively new to their respective clubs. And, history dictates that many of them will be elsewhere when we check in on this list in 2022.

Over one-third (12) of the NFL’s head coaches have coached no more than one season with their respective teams. Meanwhile, less than half (15) have been with their current clubs for more than three years. It seems like just yesterday that the Cardinals hired Kliff Kingsbury, right? It sort of was – Kingsbury signed on with the Cardinals in January of 2019. Today, he’s practically a veteran.

Here’s the list of the current head coaches in the NFL, ordered by tenure, along with their respective start dates:

  1. Bill Belichick (New England Patriots): January 27, 2000
  2. Sean Payton (New Orleans Saints): January 18, 2006
  3. Mike Tomlin (Pittsburgh Steelers): January 27, 2007
  4. John Harbaugh (Baltimore Ravens): January 19, 2008
  5. Pete Carroll (Seattle Seahawks): January 9, 2010
  6. Andy Reid (Kansas City Chiefs): January 4, 2013
  7. Bill O’Brien (Houston Texans): January 2, 2014
  8. Mike Zimmer (Minnesota Vikings): January 15, 2014
  9. Dan Quinn (Atlanta Falcons): February 2, 2015
  10. Doug Pederson (Philadelphia Eagles): January 18, 2016
  11. Sean McDermott (Buffalo Bills): January 11, 2017
  12. Doug Marrone (Jacksonville Jaguars): December 19, 2016 (interim; permanent since 2017)
  13. Anthony Lynn (Los Angeles Chargers): January 12, 2017
  14. Sean McVay (Los Angeles Rams): January 12, 2017
  15. Kyle Shanahan (San Francisco 49ers): February 6, 2017
  16. Matt Nagy (Chicago Bears): January 7, 2018
  17. Matt Patricia (Detroit Lions): February 5, 2018
  18. Frank Reich (Indianapolis Colts): February 11, 2018
  19. Jon Gruden (Las Vegas Raiders): January 6, 2018
  20. Mike Vrabel (Tennessee Titans): January 20, 2018
  21. Kliff Kingsbury (Arizona Cardinals): January 8, 2019
  22. Zac Taylor (Cincinnati Bengals): February 4, 2019
  23. Vic Fangio (Denver Broncos): January 10, 2019
  24. Matt LaFleur (Green Bay Packers): January 8, 2019
  25. Brian Flores (Miami Dolphins): February 4, 2019
  26. Adam Gase (New York Jets): January 11, 2019
  27. Bruce Arians (Tampa Bay Buccaneers): January 8, 2019
  28. Ron Rivera (Washington Redskins): January 1, 2020
  29. Matt Rhule (Carolina Panthers): January 7, 2020
  30. Mike McCarthy (Dallas Cowboys): January 7, 2020
  31. Joe Judge (New York Giants): January 8, 2020
  32. Kevin Stefanski (Cleveland Browns): January 13, 2020

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Brady Fallout: Bucs, Belichick, Colts, Hoyer

The Buccaneers‘ signing of the most accomplished free agent in NFL history triggered a ripple effect in several cities. That started in Charlotte. Although neither Bruce Arians nor Jason Licht spoke to Tom Brady until Wednesday of last week, the Bucs believed they had a “shell of a deal” with Brady by Tuesday, Peter King of NBC Sports reports. This was hours before the future Hall of Fame quarterback announced he would no longer return to the Patriots. The Bucs’ discussions with Brady’s agent, Don Yee, Tuesday prompted them to bow out of the Teddy Bridgewater pursuit, King adds. Bridgewater’s Panthers offer prompted the Bucs to give him an answer, and they chose to stay in the Brady pursuit without a full commitment. The Bucs had been linked to Bridgewater for weeks.

At February’s end, the Bucs’ quarterback hierarchy went Brady-Bridgewater-Jameis Winston, King notes. Tampa Bay had also been linked to Philip Rivers in February, but it became clear the Colts were his top option.

Here is the latest fallout from the Bucs’ Brady signing:

  • Brady’s camp expressed interest in the Colts, but King notes the interest was not mutual. The prospect of a Rivers-Colts partnership surfaced shortly after the Chargers revealed they would not re-sign him, and while the notion of Rivers-over-Brady sounds interesting based on the veterans’ accolades, Stephen Holder of The Athletic tweets the Colts’ preference of going with a one-year quarterback arrangement probably did not align with Brady’s hopes of a multiyear commitment. Rivers signed a one-year, $25MM deal; Brady became a Buccaneer for two years and $50MM fully guaranteed. Brady also expressed interest in the 49ers, and the Titans were a long-rumored suitor. These franchises joined the Colts and Raiders in leaving the Brady race early.
  • Early this offseason, Brady’s camp put out feelers to other teams, and ESPN.com’s Seth Wickersham notes many executives around the league viewed the quarterback as being driven by ill will toward Bill Belichick that they could not tell if he wanted out of New England or merely wanted Robert Kraft to step in and broker a new Pats deal. Belichick refused to give Brady the extension he sought last summer, and Wickersham adds that a Brady-Belichick conversation in late 2017 about the quarterback’s future with the Patriots ended with a “blowup.” This meeting appears to have happened just before Wickersham’s “tension in New England”-centered report that indicated Kraft’s intervention helped drive the Jimmy Garoppolo-to-San Francisco deal. The Patriots gave Brady an incentive package in 2018, leading to his extension-in-name-only 2019 contract.
  • As for the Patriots‘ plans, they may actually be planning a Brian HoyerJarrett Stidham quarterback battle. Hoyer could have earned more money elsewhere but wanted to return to New England because he was told he will have a chance to vie for the starting job, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com adds (video link). The Patriots, as of now, do not have Andy Dalton on their radar and are viewed as being high on Stidham, who has attempted four NFL passes.

Bucs Unlikely To Consider Antonio Brown

Tom Brady and Antonio Brown played one game together, but the future Hall of Fame quarterback and a wideout who was on course for Canton have been linked to a reunion on multiple occasions this offseason. Don’t count on it coming to pass, however.

The Buccaneers are unlikely to consider a deal for Brown, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports (video link). Brady is set to sign with the Bucs, who already have Mike Evans and Chris Godwin in the fold. Although Bruce Arians worked with Brown in 2010-11 — when he was the Steelers’ OC — it does not sound like he on board with bringing in the mercurial superstar, Rapoport adds.

Set to turn 32 this summer, Brown has not played since the Patriots released him after his Week 2 cameo last season. Brady was not believed to support that decision, and the Pats struggled to assemble a reliable receiver depth chart for last season’s remainder.

Brown spent 2019 as a content-creating maven, going from the Steelers to the Raiders to the Pats. But multiple legal issues cropped up, including a short stay in jail, and the NFL is still investigating him because of the off-field trouble.

Although the Bucs figure to do plenty to attempt to make their prized free agent acquisition comfortable, Brown may be a bridge too far. The former sixth-round pick became a four-time first-team All-Pro and appears a lock for the 2010s’ All-Decade team, but he has become a notoriously unreliable asset. Brown filed a grievance against Brady’s former employer; that matter has yet to be resolved.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bruce Arians Talks Buccaneers’ Offseason Priorities

While impending free agent quarterback Jameis Winston may be stealing headlines, Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians is more focused on retaining his team’s top defenders.

“Oh, yeah. To me, it’s the whole defense,” Arians told ESPN’s Jenna Laine. “You can’t get ’em all, but … those young guys grew. We can’t let that go. I don’t care who’s my quarterback. We’ve gotta have a defense.”

Outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett is the most notable defender hitting free agency, and he should be in line for a lucrative payday after compiling an NFL-high 19.5 sacks last season. Many of Barrett’s defensive teammates are also set to hit the open market, including players Jason Pierre-PaulCarl NassibNdamukong SuhBeau Allen and Rakeem Nunez-Roches.

On the offensive side of the ball, it doesn’t sound like Arians is all that concerned about who’s under center. The head coach did admit that it’s tough to have any clarity on the quarterbacks position considering the uncertainty of free agency.

“You don’t know who’s available,” Arians said. “You just sit there and wait to see, is there someone available. If not, is this a better option. That’s the problem. You get about two days to decide in the legal tampering period.”

One of the team’s options will naturally be Winston, who spent the first five seasons of his career in Tampa Bay. Winston set career-highs in passing yards (5,109) and touchdowns (33) in 2019, but he also set a career-high (and led the NFL) with 30 interceptions.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC South Injury Notes: Cappa, Little, Lindstrom, Logan

The Buccaneers will be without starting right guard Alex Cappa this week, according to Jenna Laine of ESPN. Cappa sustained an elbow injury in Tampa Bay’s game against the Jaguars this past Sunday. Head coach Bruce Arians removed Cappa from the game in hopes that the precaution could allow Cappa to play this week, but unfortunately the injury is just too severe.

Veteran offensive lineman Earl Watford is behind Cappa on the depth chart and is expected to start in his place against the Colts. A six-year veteran, Watford has played all across the line, but is primarily an interior lineman. An injury earlier in the year forced Watford to start in place of Cappa for two games, so this will not be entirely unfamiliar territory for Tampa’s o-line.

Here’s some more injury notes from the NFC South:

  • Panthers tackle Greg Little was ruled out for Sunday’s game against the Falcons with an ankle injury, per Jourdan Rodrigue of The Athletic. While Little was selected with the 37th pick in this year’s draft by Carolina to immediately jump into their rotation along the line, injuries have limited him to only four appearances on the season. Little can play either tackle spot, but was listed as the team’s top left tackle on the depth chart. Fellow rookie Dennis Daley will likely return to the starting lineup in his place.
  • Rookie offensive guard Chris Lindstrom will return to the field for the first time since Week 1 for the Falcons. According to D. Orlando Ledbetter of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Atlanta is activating Lindstrom from the injured reserve to start this week against the Panthers. The Falcons focused on solidifying their offensive line through the draft last offseason, selecting Lindstrom with the 14th overall pick and tackle Kaleb McGary later in the first round. Lindstrom, however, has been out since injuring his foot in the season opener and the offensive line has struggled mightily, allowing 38 sacks on the season.
  • Buccaneers running back T.J. Logan broke his thumb during practice and will be out for the remainder of the season, according to Rick Stroud of The Tampa Bay Times. Logan has played a couple dozen offensive snaps on the season, accruing 23 yards from scrimmage. His primary role though, is as the team’s punt and kickoff returner. This season, Logan averaged 9.5 yards per return on 13 punt returns and 20.8 yards per return on 13 kick returns. Jenna Laine of ESPN reports that Justin Watson and Sean Murphy-Bunting will share punt return duties while Dare Ogunbowale handles kick returns in Logan’s absence.

South Notes: Fuller, Quinn, Leftwich

The Texans are hopeful that wide receiver Will Fuller will be able to retake the field next week in Baltimore against the Ravens, according to Aaron Wilson of The Houston Chronicle. Fuller has missed the team’s previous two games after suffering a hamstring injury against the Colts.

Fuller is one of the best deep threats in football, especially when he takes the field opposite of all-pro DeAndre Hopkins. Prior to his injury, Fuller was on pace to eclipse 70 receptions and 1,000 receiving yards for the first time in his career. Those marks may be unattainable now, but at 6-3, the Texans are in the thick of the AFC playoff picture coming out of their bye. Fuller would surely aid them in their pursuit of a Super Bowl title.

Here’s more from the NFC and AFC South:

  • Falcons head coach Dan Quinn has been firmly on the hot-seat for many weeks. However, after a dominating victory over the Saints on Sunday, Quinn has bought himself at least a temporary reprieve, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. Just a few seasons away from a Super Bowl appearance, this year has fallen far short of expectations, especially on defense. However, New Orleans potent offense looked overwhelmed for much of the game.
  • After a 30-27 victory in a shootout against the Cardinals, the Buccaneers offense continues to produce in spit of Jameis Winston‘s propensity for turnovers. Offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich deserves a large amount of credit as the playcaller, however, he almost never got the responsibilities in the first place. In the offseason, head coach Bruce Arians had to convince ownership that someone other than him should call plays, according to Rick Stroud of The Tampa Bay Times.

Extra Points: Coaches, Falk, Bibbs, Tevi

The 2019 NFL season is about halfway over (sorry for reminding you), and it won’t be long before everyone’s attention turns to the coaching carousel. It should be a busy cycle, with at least a handful of jobs opening up. The Redskins have already fired their head coach and several other teams, most obviously the Falcons, could do the same at any moment. But with several first-year head coaches disappointing, there’s also the chance we see some more ‘one and dones’ across the league. Steve Wilks, of course, was fired by the Cardinals after just one season this past cycle. With that in mind, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports took a look at all eight new head coaches, and which might be on the chopping block.

Despite the Bengals being 0-8 and the only winless team in the league, La Canfora doesn’t think Cincy owner Mike Brown would pull the plug on Zac Taylor given his penchant for loyalty. Brown gave Marvin Lewis nearly two decades, so that isn’t too surprising. Interestingly, La Canfora seems to float the possibility of a second Bruce Arians retirement after just one year in Tampa Bay. If the Buccaneers don’t show improvement and are forced to tear it all down, JLC wonders whether Arians would “want to endure a rebuild in 2020.” He adds that “this situation is being watched closely around the league.” La Canfora also seems to think there’s a real possibility the Jets and Browns move on from Adam Gase and Freddie Kitchens respectively, which isn’t all that shocking.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • Just when you thought the Jets couldn’t get more dysfunctional, quarterback Luke Falk is filing an injury grievance against the team, sources told Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News. New York cut Falk prior to Week 6 after he started two games for the team. Falk, who had a disastrous couple of outings under center, has a hip injury that requires surgery, sources told Mehta. Apparently Falk feels that the Jets released him outright instead of placing him on injured reserve to avoid paying him. Of course, the franchise is already dealing with an ongoing injury grievance filed by offensive lineman Kelechi Osemele.
  • Free agent running back Kapri Bibbs has been suspended for one game, according to Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com. It’s unclear exactly what he was suspended for, but obviously it’s pretty minor for it to only be one game. After spending the first three years of his career with the Broncos, Bibbs has bounced around a bit. He finished last season with the Packers, and was cut by Green Bay back in June. He worked out for the Redskins last month, who he was with earlier last season. The pass-catching back received some decent run in a few random weeks with Washington in 2018, totaling 33 touches in ten games.
  • The Chargers are going to be without starting right tackle Sam Tevi for a bit, as he underwent surgery on his knee to scope his meniscus, according to Eric D. Williams of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn said the injury isn’t season-ending, and that he’ll be back sooner rather than later. Trent Scott, a second-year UDFA, has been filling in. Scott has been dreadful in his place so Los Angeles could really use Tevi back, even though he has never been too solid either.

Buccaneers Reach 53-Man Max

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.

The rest of the breakdown is below.

WAIVED:

· S John Battle

· DL Terry Beckner

· T Cole Boozer

· S Kentrell Brice

· WR Emanuel Hall

· S Isaiah Johnson

· TE Jordan Leggett

· OLB Noah Spence

· C Nate Trewyn

· CB Mazzi Wilkins

WAIVED/INJURED:

· DL Jeremiah Ledbetter

WAIVED/NON-FOOTBALL INJURY:

· QB Nick Fitzgerald

RELEASED:

· K Cairo Santos