Bills Rumors

Coaching Rumors: Payton, Flores, Evero

By far the biggest name on this year’s coaching carousel, Sean Payton looks to have seen his momentum stall a bit. While Payton is interviewing with the Cardinals today, his candidacy has not produced a second interview anywhere yet. The Panthers met with Payton this week but just hired Frank Reich. While the Texans remain on the radar for the longtime Saints HC, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com does not get the sense much momentum is present for such a partnership. The Broncos have been connected to other names recently as well, but that path may be dwindling as well. There might not be a place for Payton — as odd as that sounds, given his track record — on this year’s market, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com offers (video link)

Trade compensation being required to land the Super Bowl XLIV-winning HC, with the price varying from a first-rounder and other early picks to two first-rounders, has affected teams’ plans here. Payton, 59, has also been mentioned as waffling on this year’s lot of jobs. Returning to FOX for another year and surveying the 2024 market, when two jobs he has long been connected to (Chargers, Cowboys), could be available might be what comes out of this run of interviews. Payton remains in this year’s mix, but buzz has died down.

Here is the latest from the coaching landscape:

  • Regarding the Cardinals‘ search, Brian Flores remains firmly in the mix. GM candidates received the impression Arizona is high on the three-year Miami HC-turned-Pittsburgh linebackers coach, Fowler notes. Previously mentioned as a frontrunner — due partially to the Cards hiring ex-Patriots exec Monti Ossenfort as GM — Flores may have a right-hand man on defense lined up. Some around the league expect the ex-Dolphins HC to bring Gerald Alexander, Miami’s defensive backs coach for the past three years, with him to Arizona, per Fowler. With the Dolphins looking for a new DC, Alexander may be on the move anyway. While ESPN colleague Dan Graziano points to Vance Joseph and Aaron Glenn remaining strong candidates, Flores has generated the most buzz to this point. Flores has also interviewed for the Falcons and Vikings’ DC posts.
  • Raheem Morris booked a second HC interview with the Colts and also met with the Broncos and Texans. Should the Rams‘ DC land a second HC opportunity, Albert Breer of SI.com notes Ejiro Evero is the team’s top candidate to replace him. The Denver DC is no lock to be available. He is under contract with the Broncos, who blocked a Falcons DC interview, and has gone through second HC interviews with the Colts and Texans. Denver could pass on retaining Evero by hiring a defensive-minded coach, of course. Evero came to Denver from Los Angeles; he spent five years on Sean McVay‘s staff.
  • The Browns considered bringing in Vic Fangio for a DC interview, Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com notes, but they stood down and ended up hiring Jim Schwartz. Cleveland having run a 4-3 defense in recent years may have been a reason for passing on a Fangio meeting, Cabot offers. Fangio has remained quite popular still, having interviewed for three DC jobs — the Dolphins, Falcons and Panthers — already.
  • The Bills are making a change to their defensive staff. They fired safeties coach Jim Salgado, Alaina Getzenberg of ESPN.com tweets. Salgado had been on McDermott’s staff throughout the head coach’s six-season tenure.
  • Giants DC Don Martindale is attached to a three-year contract, Dan Duggan of The Athletic notes (subscription required). The Giants thought enough of the veteran coordinator, whom the Ravens did not bring back last year, they gave him the three-year deal as opposed to the more common two-year pact. Giants ST coordinator Thomas McGaughey also received extensive interest from other teams, with Duggan adding the Chargers joined the Panthers in offering him their ST coordinator jobs. McGaughey, who has been with the Giants since 2018, turned down a Bears interview and opted to stay and work for Brian Daboll.

2023 NFL Head Coaching Search Tracker

Last year, 10 NFL teams hired new head coaches. Following the Panthers’ hire, this year’s vacancy count sits at four. Last year’s Saints and Buccaneers moves, however, showed these job openings can emerge at unexpected points.

Listed below are the head coaching candidates that have been linked to each of the teams with vacancies, along with their current status. If other teams decide to make head coaching changes, they’ll be added to this list. Here is the current breakdown:

Updated 1-26-23 (4:36pm CT)

Arizona Cardinals

Carolina Panthers

Denver Broncos

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

2023 Offensive/Defensive Coordinator Search Tracker

As the head coaching carousel spins, many of the league’s offensive and defensive coordinator positions are open as well. Teams seeking new head coaches will soon begin OC and DC searches — some have already started those processes — but a handful of other teams that did not make HC changes are also searching for top assistants.

The Browns and Patriots have begun 2023’s coordinator hires. Here are the rest of the teams searching for new OCs and DCs. As new searches emerge, they will be added to the list.

Updated 1-26-23 (10:06pm CT)

Offensive Coordinators

Baltimore Ravens (Out: Greg Roman)

Los Angeles Chargers (Out: Joe Lombardi)

Los Angeles Rams (Out: Liam Coen)

New York Jets (Out: Mike LaFleur)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Out: Byron Leftwich)

Tennessee Titans (Out: Todd Downing)

Washington Commanders (Out: Scott Turner)

Defensive Coordinators

Atlanta Falcons (Out: Dean Pees)

Carolina Panthers 

Miami Dolphins (Out: Josh Boyer)

Minnesota Vikings (Out: Ed Donatell)

Chargers Request OC Interview With Bills’ Joe Brady

Joe Brady is emerging as a popular name for offensive coordinator jobs, but it’s uncertain which organizations he’ll speak with. The Chargers are one of the teams that’s requested permission to speak with the Bills QBs coach about their OC vacancy, per NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo (via Twitter).

[RELATED: 2023 Offensive/Defensive Coordinator Search Tracker]

Garafolo adds that Brady has “multiple requests” from teams, and considering his current title, we can assume these mystery suitors are eyeing the coach for OC opportunities. It’s uncertain which (if any) interviews Brady will consider taking, according to Garafolo.

Following a successful stint as LSU, Brady was named the Panthers offensive coordinator for the 2020 campaign. Carolina’s offense was unremarkable during Brady’s tenure, including a 2021 campaign that ultimately led to the coach’s firing (30th in yards and 29th in points). He was hired by the Bills last offseason to be their new QBs coach after Ken Dorsey earned a promotion to OC. Brady managed to rehabilitate his image thanks to Josh Allen‘s MVP-like season, and now he’s firmly back on the OC radar.

Joe Lombardi was canned following a disappointing end to the Chargers’ season. Since his firing, five candidates have emerged:

NFL Reserve/Futures Deals: 1/23/23

Today’s reserve/futures deals, mostly featuring teams recently eliminated from the postseason:

Buffalo Bills

Dallas Cowboys

Jacksonville Jaguars

New York Giants

Pittsburgh Steelers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tennessee Titans

Injured Reserve Return Tracker

After two years of giving teams free rein on injured reserve transactions, the NFL reinstated limitations this offseason. Teams can now activate up to eight players from injured reserve. That has reintroduced some strategy into how franchises are proceeding with their activations.

Players who were carried over to 53-man rosters after cutdown day must reside on their respective injured list for at least four weeks. Once a team designates a player for return, meaning the player returns to practice, the activation clock starts. Teams have 21 days from those return-to-practice points to activate that player. If no activation commences in that window, the player reverts to season-ending IR.

Here is how the eight remaining teams’ IR situations stack up for the championship round:

Cincinnati Bengals

Eligible for activation:

Activations remaining: 4

Kansas City Chiefs

Designated for return:

Activations remaining: 5

Philadelphia Eagles

Designated for return:

Eligible for activation:

Activations remaining: 1

San Francisco 49ers

Activations remaining: 0

Minor NFL Transactions: 1/21/23

Minor moves and standard gameday elevations for the final two games of the divisional round:

Buffalo Bills

Cincinnati Bengals

Dallas Cowboys

San Francisco 49ers

NFL Discussed Bengals-Bills Neutral Site; Latest On AFC’s Atlanta Scenario

Had the Bengals beaten the Bills in Week 17, the four-loss team would have been on track to secure the AFC’s No. 2 seed. The results of Week 18 — Chiefs, Bengals and Bills wins — would have finalized that scenario. But only the Buffalo side of the “what if?” equation ended up factoring into the NFL’s neutral-site proposal.

The Bills controlled their own destiny for the AFC’s top seed, which would have been the franchise’s first since 1993, but the frightening Damar Hamlin scene leading to a cancelled game ended up nixing that path. While the Chiefs have drawn the 9-8 Jaguars in Round 2, despite losing to both the Bills and Bengals in the regular season, the latter two teams will face off Sunday. A third straight year featuring a Bills-Chiefs playoff matchup would take that game to Atlanta, and while the NFL discussed a second neutral site for a Bengals-Bills tilt, that game will be played in Buffalo.

There was some discussion,” NFL executive VP Troy Vincent said (via the Buffalo News’ Clevis Murray) of Bengals-Bills being played in a neutral location, “but membership thought it was best for [only] the championship game to be at a neutral site.”

The Bengals’ main objection amid a swift push to shoot down the NFL’s compromise came as a result of the coin-toss scenario involving the Ravens, but they would have been part of the neutral-site scenario had the Chiefs lost to the Raiders in Week 18 and a rematch of last year’s AFC championship game ended up occurring. The team obviously voted against the proposal, with the Chiefs abstaining and the Bills being one of the 25 teams to submit a “yes” vote, Jonathan Jones of CBS Sports notes. Barring a Jaguars upset of the Chiefs on Saturday, the Bengals will need their road whites for the remainder of the AFC playoffs.

Should the Chiefs hold seed and the favored Bills prevail in the teams’ first playoff matchup since the 1988 AFC championship game, the teams will head to Georgia for a game that has already seen 50,000 tickets sold — per ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter (on Twitter) — to Bills and Chiefs season-ticket holders. One (or two) team’s fans would collect some sobering refunds depending on this weekend’s results, but should the league’s Atlanta contingency come into play, Bills and Chiefs fans would be seated on opposite sides at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

The Chiefs wanted an outdoor venue on grass, Jones adds, while it is not clear what the Bills preferred. Although both the Colts and Lions’ venues were floated as options, neither Lucas Oil Stadium nor Ford Field ended up being in play. The NFL selected Atlanta because of its fairly equal distance (893 miles from Buffalo, 801 from Kansas City) between the two cities, per Jones, while the NFC South stadium has been an in-case-of-emergency site for a bit now.

Speculation about the NFL using a Bills-Chiefs matchup as a test run for conference championship games to be played at neutral sites has emerged, and sources outside the league office floated to Jones that theory. Despite the draft and combine now rotating venues, the conference championships — played at the site of the team with the better record since 1975 — being held at neutral locations would mean the No. 1 seed would only come with a bye and one home game. The No. 2 seed having a path to host two games might be a nonstarter for the league. But the NFL has moved a wild-card game to Monday, despite the Monday game’s winner guaranteed a short week. The Atlanta scenario being a prelude to a drastic format change should not be entirely dismissed, though we are not there yet.

Injury Rumors: Hyde, Gage

Bills safety Micah Hyde was initially thought to be out for the year after suffering a neck injury in only the second week of this season. A glimmer of hope appeared in late November when a neck surgery allowed Hyde the relief needed to return to active participation with the team. The good news came to a head when Buffalo designated their veteran safety to return from injured reserve a little over a week ago.

Not taking anything away from what the good news means for Hyde and his eventual return to the field, the Bills are remaining cautious and patient with Hyde this season. He was ruled out before last week’s matchup against the division rival Dolphins and ruled out for the divisional round a week in advance, according to ESPN’s Alaina Getzenberg.

Head coach Sean McDermott spoke on Hyde’s situation, saying, “After (the divisional round), I don’t know. It’s kind of one of those things like, wake me up when…tap me on the shoulder when he’s ready.”

Here’s another rumor, this one concerning an injury that occurred on Monday:

  • Buccaneers wide receiver Russell Gage encountered a scare when he exited Monday night’s loss to the Cowboys on a stretcher after taking a scary hit to the head and neck area. Tampa Bay’s official Twitter account released a statement explaining that Gage suffered a neck injury and a concussion and was taken to a hospital for an overnight stay where he received additional testing and observation. Head coach Todd Bowles told the media that Gage was released from the hospital the next day, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network. Bowles divulged that Gage avoided serious injury in his neck and that “he has all his extremities moving.”