Panthers Rumors

Panthers Offered Contract To Dwayne Haskins

Former Washington Football Team signal-caller Dwayne Haskins signed with the Steelers yesterday, but he did have another offer on the table. According to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com, Haskins could have signed with the Panthers, whom he visited earlier this month (Twitter link).

Most likely, both offers were one-year, minimum-salary proposals, so Haskins probably chose the Steelers over the Panthers based on learning opportunity and the incumbent starters for both clubs. Haskins’ game is more similar to Ben Roethlisberger‘s — at least when Big Ben was in his prime — than to Teddy Bridgewater‘s, and 2021 will likely be Roethlisberger’s final season. The Steelers’ backup signal-caller, Mason Rudolph, will also be a free agent after the 2021 campaign, so if Haskins impresses, he could put himself in the conversation for the team’s long-term answer at quarterback.

He may have had a similar opportunity in Carolina, because while Bridgewater is under club control through 2022, he did not play well in his first season with the Panthers and does not currently seem like a good bet to see the end of his deal. But the Panthers have the No. 8 overall pick in this year’s draft, which could theoretically be used on a top college passer, and the team has also been speculatively connected to Deshaun Watson, so Haskins might have been looking at longer odds in Charlotte.

Still, the 2019 first-rounder will need to demonstrate a great deal of improvement both on and off the field to make the Steelers consider extending their relationship beyond the 2021 campaign (if he even lasts the whole season with the team). But he will be teamed up with Matt Canada, Pep Hamilton, or Hue Jackson, who are all in the running for Pittsburgh’s OC gig and who all have considerable experience coaching young signal-callers.

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Panthers To Hire Tony Sparano Jr.

  • The Panthers will turn to a legacy name to help out their offensive line. Carolina intends to hire Tony Sparano Jr. as assistant O-line coach, according to Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports (on Twitter). The son of the late Tony Sparano, Sparano Jr. worked as the Jaguars’ assistant O-line coach for the past four seasons. Despite being 34, the second-generation coach has worked in the NFL since 2011.

Teams Inquiring On Deshaun Watson, Texans Not Budging Yet

As the Deshaun Watson drama with the Texans continues to unfold, the league’s other 31 teams are surely paying close attention. There have been increasing reports that the two sides could be headed for divorce, as we heard over the weekend that many in Houston’s building believe Watson has played his last snap for the team. 

We’re still in the very early stages, but it sounds like teams are beginning to circle in anticipation of a potential frenzy. Teams have already begun calling the Texans and inquiring about Watson, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports (Twitter video link). As Rapoport cautions, the Texans still haven’t budged or shown a willingness to engage in talks yet, and he also notes that Watson still hasn’t formally requested a trade.

Interestingly, Rapoport says to “keep an eye on” the Panthers in the event that Watson becomes available. He highlights new owner David Tepper’s bold approach, as well as the failure of Teddy Bridgewater to establish himself as the franchise guy this season. That would be a huge splash from Matt Rhule, and Rapsheet says if it reaches the point where the Texans shop Watson then Carolina should not be discounted.

It’s not surprising that teams are already making exploratory calls, and if Houston really does decide to trade Watson it could take a while for things to get sorted out because of the size of the package that would need to be coming back.

If Watson were to be dealt, it would take multiple first-round picks and likely solid players as well, at a minimum. We’ll keep you posted as we hear more on this ever-evolving situation.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Updated 2021 NFL Draft Order

With the Divisional Round in the books, the 2021 NFL Draft order is mostly complete. The Rams, Browns, Ravens, and Saints now have their draft spots locked in, though the Rams’ first-round pick belongs to Urban Meyer and the Jaguars. The Rams traded those rights to Jacksonville as a part of the Jalen Ramsey blockbuster.

Here’s the updated draft order, through the top 28:

1. Jacksonville Jaguars
2. New York Jets
3. Miami Dolphins (via Texans)
4. Atlanta Falcons
5. Cincinnati Bengals
6. Philadelphia Eagles
7. Detroit Lions
8. Carolina Panthers
9. Denver Broncos
10. Dallas Cowboys
11. New York Giants
12. San Francisco 49ers
13. Los Angeles Chargers
14. Minnesota Vikings
15. New England Patriots
16. Arizona Cardinals
17. Las Vegas Raiders
18. Miami Dolphins
19. Washington Football Team
20. Chicago Bears
21. Indianapolis Colts
22. Tennessee Titans
23. New York Jets (via Seahawks)
24. Pittsburgh Steelers
25. Jacksonville Jaguars (via Rams)
26. Cleveland Browns
27. Baltimore Ravens
28. New Orleans Saints

2021 NFL Head Coaching Search Tracker

Exiting the regular season, six teams are searching for new head coaches. That number is up from last season but not quite as high as 2019, though there may well be more vacancies that emerge during the playoffs.

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

Updated 1-22-21 (3:30pm CT)

Atlanta Falcons

Detroit Lions

Houston Texans

Jacksonville Jaguars

Los Angeles Chargers

New York Jets

Philadelphia Eagles

Panthers To Hire Scott Fitterer As GM

Scott Fitterer surfaced late in Carolina’s GM search, but he is now expected to be the team’s new GM. The Panthers intend to hire the Seahawks executive to succeed Marty Hurney, according to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero (on Twitter).

Fitterer, whom the Seahawks promoted in September, interviewed twice for the Panthers position this week. He joined a host of candidates in a wide-ranging search but is in line to team with Matt Rhule to oversee Carolina’s rebuild effort.

The Panthers brought in Fitterer, Titans exec Monti Ossenfort, Chiefs staffer Ryan Poles and 49ers VP of player personnel Adam Peters for second interviews this week. Fitterer has hovered on the GM radar a bit longer than the rest of this contingent, and the Seahawks’ VP of player personnel will receive a chance to lead another NFC franchise’s front office.

Fitterer has been with the Seahawks for nearly 20 years, predating John Schenider and Pete Carroll‘s arrivals in beginning his run with the franchise in 2001. The Seahawks promoted him to co-player personnel director in 2015 and gave him a new title last year. Fitterer was involved in the Jets’ GM search in 2019, along with the Chiefs’ and Colts’ search processes in 2017. That year, Fitterer also interviewed for the 49ers’ GM job that went to John Lynch.

Alongside fellow Schneider lieutenant Trent Kirchner, Fitterer helped the Seahawks become Super Bowl champions and two-time NFC champs during the 2010s. Rhule is locked down via seven-year contract, so it would not surprise to see Fitterer receive a six-year deal — which would match Rhule’s through-2026 accord — as Carolina continues a rebuild that began last year.

GM/HC Notes: Colbert, Panthers, Jets, Smith

Here is the latest from the GM/head coach carousels. Five GM vacancies and seven HC openings remain as of Wednesday afternoon.

  • Before making his way to Pittsburgh, Kevin Colbert spent many seasons in Detroit. The Lions have been connected to making a push for a Colbert Motor City return, but they have not asked the Steelers for permission to interview him, Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette tweets. The Steelers gave Colbert an extension last year. After working with the Lions throughout the 1990s as their pro scouting director, Colbert has been with his hometown Steelers since 2000.
  • The Panthers continue to go through second interviews. After meeting with 49ers exec Adam Peters and Titans staffer Monti Ossenfort again this week, Carolina brought back Chiefs assistant player personnel director Ryan Poles and met again with Seahawks VP of football operations Scott Fitterer. Poles is one of a few Chiefs execs to receive interest this offseason, while Fitterer has been on the GM interview circuit for a few years. The Seahawks promoted him in September.
  • The Jets finished up Robert Saleh‘s second interview Wednesday but appear set to identify more finalists soon. They want to speak with Titans OC Arthur Smith again, according to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports (on Twitter). The Jets are not alone in pursuing Smith, who has interviewed for six HC jobs thus far. The Falcons are also high on the second-year OC.
  • Although Brian Daboll has not completed quite as extensive an itinerary as Smith has, he has impressed the Jets. Gang Green is high on the third-year Bills OC, according to Ralph Vacchiano of SNY. Daboll met with the Jets on Sunday. He cannot meet with the team in person until the Bills’ season concludes.

Eagles Interview Joe Brady

The Eagles have interviewed Panthers offensive coordinator Joe Brady for their head coaching job, as Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. Brady has interviewed for nearly every opening this circuit and could be on the verge of his first HC gig.

[RELATED: 2021 NFL Head Coaching Search Tracker]

The Falcons, Texans, Chargers, and Jets have also chatted with the 31-year-old rising star. Brady made a name for himself in 2019 when he served as LSU’s passing game coordinator and wide receivers coach, guiding Joe Burrows and Justin Jefferson to a record-breaking offensive campaign. In January of 2020, the Panthers called him up to the pros.

Brady’s Panthers offense did not impress, but that was largely due to injuries. Despite Teddy Bridgewater’s struggles and Christian McCaffrey’s injuries, the Panthers still got 1,000+ yards out of D.J. Moore, Robby Anderson, Curtis Samuel, and Mike Davis. The Birds, who are revamping their offense around Jalen Hurts, could ask Brady to lead the way.

Here’s a look at the Eagles’ other candidates, via PFR’s tracker:

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

2021 NFL General Manager Search Tracker

This year’s NFL GM carousel figures to be more active than usual. The Falcons, Lions, Panthers, Texans, and Jaguars are all on the hunt for a new front office leader. And that’s only the official list. The real tally shows six clubs looking for a GM, since the Washington Football Team is expected to install a GM to work alongside head coach Ron Rivera. By mid-January, we could easily see a couple more jobs opening up — that’d put ~25% of the NFL on the market.

We’ll keep track of the GM candidates for each club here, along with their current status. If and when other teams decide to make general manager changes, they’ll be added to this list. Here’s the current breakdown:

Updated 1-19-21 (7:02pm CT)

Atlanta Falcons

Carolina Panthers 

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Houston Texans

Jacksonville Jaguars

Washington Football Team

Panthers Plan Second Interviews With Monti Ossenfort, Adam Peters

The Panthers continue to conduct an expansive general manager search. They are conducting second interviews with multiple candidates while also still meeting with execs for the first time.

On the second-interview front, Titans player personnel director Monti Ossenfort and 49ers VP of player personnel Adam Peters are the first two candidates set to meet with the Panthers again. Each is meeting with the Panthers for a second time, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, who notes the team may opt to conduct more second interviews (Twitter link).

A former Broncos exec, Peters has been with the 49ers since 2017. Ossenfort was on GM radars previously as a Patriots staffer. He relocated to Tennessee just last year. Neither Ossenfort nor Peters has met with another team during this GM interview cycle. The Panthers expect to have a new GM this week.

Seemingly nearing the end of their first stage of interviews, the Panthers brought in Seahawks VP of football operations Scott Fitterer and Steelers VP of football and business administration Omar Khan this week. While Fitterer has been on the GM carousel for a few years now, joining fellow Seahawks exec Trent Kirchner in that regard, this marks his first interview in this cycle. The Seahawks promoted both in September.

Khan has not received as many interview summons in the past but was believed to be close to landing the Texans’ GM job. The search firm the Texans used recommended Khan, but owner Cal McNair — after some last-minute input from executive VP Jack Easterby — made longtime GM target Nick Caserio a big offer to leave New England. Caserio also interviewed with the Panthers.

Khan was believed to be negotiating a contract with the Texans when the Caserio news emerged. Khan has overseen Steelers contracts for years now, frequently creating cap space for a perennially cap-strapped franchise. David Tepper is familiar with Khan from his days as a part owner of the Steelers.

The Panthers have now interviewed a whopping 15 candidates, with two of those thus far receiving second summits. Caserio, Vikings GM George Paton and Colts assistant GM Ed Dodds are out of the mix. But many remain involved in Carolina’s latest GM search.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.