On Wednesday, Bears assistant director of player personnel Champ Kelly announced that he’ll be staying in Chicago. Kelly previously interviewed for the Jets’ GM job that ultimately went to Joe Douglas and there was talk that he still might join Gang Green’s front office.
“I’m blessed and grateful to continue the pursuit of the Super Bowl trophy with the most storied franchise in NFL history,” Kelly tweeted.
Kelly joined the Bears in 2015 after spending eight years with the Broncos. He’ll return for a fifth season in Chicago while the Jets will move ahead with Phil Savage, Rex Hogan, and Chad Alexander as the new lieutenants under Douglas.
Given several chances at left tackle with the Giants, Ereck Flowers may be set to receive another NFC East starting opportunity. This one will come with the Redskins, who as of now plan to use the former top-10 pick as a starter. Offensive line coach Bill Callahan said, via Les Carpenter of the Washington Post, Flowers is pegged to start opposite Brandon Scherff at left guard. Flowers, who started 48 games at tackle with the Giants and seven with the Jaguars from 2015-18 before moving to guard in Washington, lined up back at tackle during parts of Redskins minicamp because of Trent Williams‘ absence. While the first-round bust did not fare well in the public portion of the workouts, Washington remains optimistic. The Redskins drafted fourth-round guard Wes Martin (Indiana) but appear to have him set to develop behind Scherff and Flowers.
“I see a lot of potential when we’ve moved tackles inside,” Callahan said, via Carpenter. “I think it gives us size, it gives us power. He’s long; he’s square. Obviously, he can play in the short area, so those are things we kind of identified during free agency that we liked, and we are trying to fit him into that mode. So it’s been a work in progress, we got a long ways to go yet, but he’s made a nice transition.”
Shifting first to the AFC, here is the latest from some of the NFL’s Eastern Time Zone-stationed franchises:
Colts VP of player personnelRex Hogan becoming the Jets’ assistant GM may nix the franchise pairing two of its GM candidates in the front office. Bears exec Champ Kelly was linked to the Jets, but Rich Cimini of ESPN.com notes (Twitter link) the recent New York GM interviewee was the favorite for the job Hogan received. With Chad Alexander coming aboard as the Jets’ player personnel director and Phil Savage having also accepted a Jets job, the Jets are running out of prominent titles. This could keep Kelly in Chicago.
Hogan was still under contract with the Colts, Albert Breer of SI.com tweets, but Chris Ballard gave permission to allow for one of his top lieutenants to leave. Although Hogan and Ed Dodds were hired together, Cimini notes (on Twitter) Hogan served as the Colts’ No. 3 man in their decision-making hierarchy and will move to No. 2 with the Jets. This could put Hogan, who obviously helped the Colts in their rapid rebuild, on the GM radar in the near future.
Moving to a far more contentious process, Nick Caserio remains with the Patriots as their player personnel director. But with Caserio preparing to leave in 2020 — perhaps to become the Texans’ GM — Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk wonders how much input Bill Belichick‘s right-hand man will have over the next several months. Caserio’s contract runs through the 2020 draft, per Florio, but will Belichick clue in a potentially departing exec on the inner workings of his plans? In a draft when the Patriots could be (again) targeting a Tom Brady successor, the uncertainty around Caserio may force the Pats to turn to other execs during that research process.
Todd McShay will remain in his role as an ESPN draft analyst rather than continue to pursue a front office position with the Jets, according to Chris Mortensen of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Meanwhile, Bears assistant director of player personnel Champ Kelly — who interviewed for the Jets’ GM position before it went to Joe Douglas — is a candidate to join Gang Green in a different capacity and indeed is likely to be hired, per Rich Cimini of ESPN.com and Adam Caplan of SiriusXM NFL Radio (Twitter links).
McShay, who first joined ESPN in 2006, interviewed for a job with the Jets last week. While he’s never worked in an NFL front office, McShay was a college teammate of Douglas. McShay was the scout team quarterback at the University of Richmond where Douglas was an offensive lineman. Given his high on-air profile, McShay was likely searching for a either a large salary or a critical title with New York.
Kelly also enjoys a prior relationship with Douglas, having worked with both him and new Jets head coach Adam Gase with the Bears. A Kentucky alum, Kelly has also spent time with the Broncos during his front office career. He was one of four candidates to interview for the Jets’ GM job, joining Douglas, the Saints’ Terry Fontenot, and the Seahawks’ Scott Fitterer.
While it is not known when the Jets will make their GM decision, they do appear to be done interviewing candidates. The four executives the Jets spoke to — Joe Douglas (Eagles), Scott Fitterer (Seahawks), Champ Kelly (Bears) and Terry Fontenot (Saints) — remain in contention, and Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets (video link) the team has since discussed salary expectations with the candidates. These follow-up talks occurred Tuesday night, per ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter (on Twitter). The favorite since this process started, Douglas has not done anything to remove himself from that perch, but Fitterer has gained steam after a strong interview, Rapoport adds.
These meetings may have also been for the benefit of the candidates, with Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News tweeting multiple interviewees are concerned about the Jets’ atypical ownership situation. CEO Christopher Johnson is working in brother Woody Johnson‘s place, with the latter having accepted an ambassador position with the Trump administration. Woody Johnson will sign off on this GM pick, Mehta adds.
Here is the latest from the AFC East:
A Patriots contingency plan for if presumptive left tackle Isaiah Wynn is not ready: perhaps Joe Thuney sliding over one spot. The Patriots’ fourth-year left guard worked with their first-string offense at left tackle Wednesday, according to The Athletic’s Jeff Howe (subscription required). Brian Schwenke and Ted Karras have been rotating at left guard during Pats minicamp. A 2016 third-round pick, Thuney has started every game at left guard since entering the league. Wynn, a 2018 first-rounder who tore his Achilles’ tendon during camp last year, is not yet ready for team drills.
Bill Belichick is expected to call Patriots defensive plays this season, but the team is using minicamp to try out some other possibilities. First-year full-time assistant Jerod Mayo was calling Pats plays for a second straight day at minicamp, according to Howe. The Patriots hired their former linebacker as assistant inside ‘backers coach this offseason, and Howe adds the 33-year-old calling plays during the season is now a “serious possibility.”
Quinnen Williams sustained a calf injury recently and will be limited for the rest of Jets minicamp, Adam Gase said (via Mehta), calling it a scare. However, the No. 3 overall pick is expected to resume full work when the team, interestingly, holds another OTA session next week.
Former Buccaneers seventh-round pick Stevie Tu’ikolovatu worked out for the Bills on Wednesday, Mike Rodak of ESPN.com tweets. The former USC defensive tackle has not played since being drafted, with injuries keeping him off the field.
After two offseasons featuring extensive injury rehab, Malik Hooker has been a full-fledged participant in the Colts‘ latest program. Surgeries to repair hernia and hip issues delayed Hooker’s Colts work after the franchise used a first-round pick on him in 2017, and rehab from the ACL and MCL tears Hooker suffered that season sidetracked him last year. Nothing is impeding the third-year safety at the moment.
“This is probably the best I’ve felt since I left college,” Hooker said, via Joel Erickson of the Indianapolis Star. “Probably even better than that. For me to finally be able to have a whole offseason to work my body, it’s been great.”
Hooker dealt with nagging hip and foot injuries, the former sidelining him for two regular-season games and the latter keeping him off the field for Indianapolis’ divisional-round loss in Kansas City. Hooker graded as Pro Football Focus’ No. 14 overall safety last season, a marketed improvement from his seven-game rookie slate. A full offseason of work figures to benefit the ascending talent.
Here is the latest from the AFC, shifting first to the other Colts safety starter:
While Hooker is having a rare stretch free of injury talk, Clayton Geathers is resting after an offseason knee surgery. The fifth-year safety, who recently re-signed with the Colts, said (via Erickson) he underwent a “cleanup” procedure this year. Knee trouble plagued Geathers for much of last season, the defender categorizing it as “a battle” to make it to game days weekly. This marks the second straight offseason Geathers underwent knee surgery. Foot and neck problems have severely constrained the former second-round pick as well during his career. Geathers has not played more than 12 games in a season since 2015, but he said he is feeling better after this latest surgery.
The Jets wrapped up their Joe Douglas interview Sunday and, despite the Eagles executive being the favorite to land the vacant GM job, the team will follow through with its Champ Kelly meeting. The Bears’ assistant director of player personnel began his interview process by dining with Jets brass Sunday night, Albert Breer of SI.com tweets, before interviewing Monday. Kelly marks the last of the scheduled interviews, following Douglas, Seahawks co-player personnel director Scott Fitterer and Saints director of pro scouting Terry Fontenot in doing so.
If the Browns do end up trading Duke Johnson, they appear to have found a successor in second-year UDFA Dontrell Hilliard. Browns running backs coach Stump Mitchell praised Hilliard’s ability as a passing-down back and potential slot receiver — essentially Johnson’s role — and Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com believes the Browns are confident Hilliard could replace the veteran incumbent. She suggests the team could fetch a fifth-round pick for Johnson, long the subject of trade rumors, but notes Browns brass likely deems that too low a return. Hilliard played in 11 games last season, catching nine passes for 105 yards.
The left side of the Titans‘ offensive line appears set, with Rodger Saffold set to play in between Taylor Lewan and Ben Jones. As for the guard who lines up next to right tackle Jack Conklin, Jim Wyatt of TitansOnline.com tabs Kevin Pamphile as the favorite at this point. Pamphile started 35 Buccaneers games from 2014-17 and was a full-time first-stringer in ’16 and ’17. The former fifth-round pick started two Titans games last year. The Titans did use a Day 2 pick on a guard, No. 82 overall choice Nate Davis out of Charlotte.
Fears of a potential future lockout picked up again earlier this week, when we learned the NFLPA was telling agents to advise their clients to save money in the event of a work stoppage in 2021, when the current CBA expired. Turns out, things might not be so dire after all. Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports wrote about that leak, as well as the recent rumors the league would push for an 18-game regular season, and he thinks it’s all performative. La Canfora writes that both sides have to publicly posture, and that “no one wants to give off the air they are rolling over too much.”
La Canfora hears that preliminary negotiations are actually going very well, noting that the NFL and NFLPA “seem more aligned than anytime in recent memory.” In regards to an 18-game schedule or work stoppage, he says he’s “yet to speak to anyone on either side who envisioned either of these scenarios actually playing out.” One source told La Canfora that “everyone involved in this process feels really good about the negotiations.” Interestingly, La Canfora predicts that an “extra playoff game will be added to each conference,” and roster sizes will be expanded when it’s all said and done.
Here’s more from around the league:
The Jets’ general manager search continues to barrel on, but a resolution seems increasingly near. Eagles exec Joe Douglas has been viewed as the favorite for a while now, and La Canfora goes even further. In the same piece, La Canfora writes that “sources said there was already some contact between those parties prior to Douglas’ scheduled formal interview, and people in other front offices would be shocked if he does not take this job.” He adds that Douglas “will be the team’s next general manager barring some unforeseen breakdown between the sides.” La Canfora also scoops that if things do unexpectedly go sideways in the negotiations, “then Chicago exec Champ Kelly, who also has a prior relationship with Adam Gase, is viewed as the next in line.”
We found out earlier tonight that free agent Muhammad Wilkerson had been arrested and charged with DWI, and now we have more details. Wilkerson admitted to drinking, telling officers he “had one shot and two beers,” per Rebecca Rosenberg and Larry Celona of the New York Post. Wilkerson had some tough luck, as he was just barely over the legal limit. Wilkerson apparently had a BAC of .09, only slightly above the legal limit of .08. It’s unclear if that will help with his potential discipline from the league, but it could potentially earn him some leniency.
We have an update on the Ravens’ two rookie wide receivers, courtesy of Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic (Twitter link). First round pick Marquise Brown is still recovering from his Lisfranc foot surgery, and “training camp remains the hope for his return.” Initially the hope was minicamp back in March, but that turned out not to be the case. Meanwhile the Ravens’ third round pick, Miles Boykin, is dealing with a hamstring strain, and Zrebiec writes he “should be getting closer to return.” Boykin and Brown are the only two of the Ravens’ draft picks not to sign yet, although that’s likely not related to their respective injuries. Still, it’s not great that they’re having to miss significant portions of their first offseason.
Multiple GMs believe the Jets already decided on hiring Eagles exec Joe Douglas when they fired Mike Maccagnan after the draft, Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com hears. Meanwhile, there’s skepticism about whether Vikings assistant GM George Paton will give serious consideration to the job after turning the Jets down twice before. “Why would George even take the interview?” said a high-ranking NFL official. “I wouldn’t take it. He doesn’t need to do that now.”
Interesting note from Mike Florio of PFT: The Jets do not have to cede control of the 53-man roster in order to hire an executive who is under contract with another team. Rules dictate that the Jets offer “the primary authority over all personnel decisions related to the signing of free agents, the selection of players in the College Draft, trades, and related decisions; and…the primary responsibility for coordinating other football activities with the head coach.” However, the rules explicitly state: “Final authority regarding the composition of the 53-player roster is not a requirement.” Head coach Adam Gase currently has 53-man roster control and it has been said that the Jets are unwilling to tweak that arrangement.
Breer was told that “it remains unclear if Minnesota exec George Paton will accept” his interview request. Paton has been a hot GM candidate in the past, though he has pulled his name from consideration multiple times, so it’s not too surprising he’s being selective here. Paton is clearly comfortably with the Vikings, and will only leave for the perfect opportunity.
While they might not end up interviewing Paton, Chicago’s Champ Kelly and Seattle’s Scott Fitterer are both going to meet with Jets brass. Breer reports that Fitterer’s interview is scheduled for Thursday and Friday. Breer reiterates that Eagles exec Joe Douglas “remains the favorite,” and he writes that he’s “the one hire the Jets can make that could mitigate the public relations mess of the last few weeks,” citing his “sterling reputation as an evaluator” and “ability to assemble a loaded scouting staff.”
If the Jets do end up hiring Douglas, who has a longstanding relationship with Jets coach and interim GM Adam Gase, that doesn’t mean none of the other candidates will be joining the new front office. Breer notes that “there’s a belief in scouting circles that if Kelly doesn’t get the GM job, he could still land in Jersey working under Douglas.”
As of now, Douglas seems like a strong favorite. Gase has insisted that Jets owner/CEO Christopher Johnson will have final say, but everybody seems to believe Gase is calling the shots. Douglas was the Bears’ director of college scouting when Gase was the offensive coordinator in Chicago in 2015.
It’s been 10 days since the Jets suddenly fired general manager MikeMaccagnan, leaving a major hole atop their front office. Yesterday, we finally got some clarity on definitive candidates, as the organization requested interviews with Eagles executive Joe Douglas and Bears assistant director of player personnel Champ Kelly.
Following reports of tension between Maccagnan and head coach AdamGase, Kelly would seemingly be a good choice. The two have a history that dates back to their tenures with the Broncos, with Denver earning four division titles during Kelly’s five seasons as Assistant Director of Pro Personnel. Kelly also played a role in signing eight veteran free agents who would go on to earn Pro Bowl nods with the Broncos.
The executive has spent the past four years with the Bears, including the last two as the team’s Assistant Director of Player Personnel. In this role, Kelly has directed both Chicago’s pro personnel and college scouting departments. Kelly was one of the Fritz Pollard Alliance’s recommended GM candidates this offseason, but he didn’t get an interview in the thick of the cycle.
Despite Gase’s connection to Kelly, Douglas is reportedly his top choice for the position. Douglas spent the past three seasons as the Eagles’ vice president of player personnel, and he played a major role in constructing the Super Bowl LII-winning roster. Douglas had a brief stint with the Bears in 2015 after having spent the previous 16 years with the Ravens. Douglas is expected to be choosy when it comes to his next opportunity. Many pundits are questioning the Jets’ power structure given the timing and nature of Maccagnan’s firing, so it’s uncertain if Douglas would be willing to take on the challenge.
Besides Kelly and Douglas, the Jets have also been connected to PeytonManning. Following Maccagnan’s firing, there were rumblings that the Jets were eyeing the future Hall of Fame quarterback for the open GM gig. However, subsequent reports have indicated that the notion of Manning becoming the Jets’ GM is “unrealistic,” with a source stating that being an NFL GM is “not a job he seems to want.”
Of course, there’s also Gase, who earned the interim GM tag following Maccagnan’s ouster. The head coach has been relatively busy since taking on the job; he’s moved on from a pair of former draft picks (tight end JordanLeggett and linebacker DarronLee), and he’s added wideout Deonte Thompson. There were reports that Gase was opposed to Le’Veon Bell‘s lucrative contract, and the organization’s apparent trust in their head coach indicates that he’ll surely have a say in future transactions (assuming he doesn’t maintain the GM role).
There are a number of additional candidates who could emerge in the coming days. We learned earlier this week that Gase would be receptive to a number of GM hires, including the 49ers’ Adam Peters and the Lions’ Lance Newmark. Additionally, Jets ownership is believed to “think highly” of Vikings exec George Paton.
So that brings us to today’s question: who should ChristoperJohnson hire as the team’s next GM? Should they bring on Douglas, Kelly, or another executive from outside the organization? Should they take a flyer on Manning, who has no front office experience? Should they allow Gase to maintain control over the 53-man roster?
Vote in PFR’s latest poll and weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section.
The Jets have requested interviews with Eagles executive Joe Douglas and Bears assistant director of player personnel Champ Kelly for their GM vacancy, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). Douglas was immediately connected to the Jets job after Maccagnan’s firing and Kelly name emerged hours later.
Kelly has history with head coach Adam Gase dating back to their time with Denver. For the last two seasons, he’s served as a top official with the Bears. Kelly was one of the Fritz Pollard Alliance’s recommended GM candidates this offseason, but did not get an interview in the thick of the cycle.