Bears Rumors

NFL Reserve/Futures Deals: 1/26/23

Today’s reserve/futures deals:

Chicago Bears

Dallas Cowboys

Houston Texans

New Orleans Saints

New York Giants

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.

Coaching Notes: Colts, Rams, Patriots

The Colts are moving on to second interviews with some head coaching candidates, but they’re still hoping to get one individual in the building for a first interview. According to Rob Maaddi of the Associated Press, the Colts still want to speak with 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans.

The Colts have been trying to nail down an interview with Ryans for a few weeks. The organization was expected to finally speak with him on Sunday, but with the 49ers advancing to the NFC Championship Game, the coach once again put his interview on hold.

The coordinator already spoke with the Texans and Broncos about their HC jobs, and he also postponed an interview with the Cardinals. As Maaddi details, NFL rules allow Ryans to have second interviews with the Texans and Broncos next week, regardless of the outcome of this weekend’s game. However, the NFL’s “window for first interviews” has close, so he’ll have to wait until the end of the 49ers’ season to speak with the Colts and Cardinals.

We heard earlier today that Ejiro Evero will be getting a second interview with the Colts, and per Maaddi, the organization is expected to advance “six or seven other candidates” to the second round. Another name that should get a second meeting with the organization is interim head coach Jeff Saturday, according to Maaddi.

More coaching notes from around the NFL…

  • Sean McVay continues to shake up his coaching staff, and that’s led him to an assistant coach in Chicago. According to NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo (on Twitter), the Rams have requested permission to interview Bears assistant offensive line coach Austin King. The former NFL player would presumably be eyeing a promotion in Los Angeles, and he could fill multiple roles considering his experience coaching tight ends with the Raiders.
  • Former Patriots lineman Adrian Klemm previously interviewed for New England’s offensive coordinator job, a position that ultimately went to Bill O’Brien. However, it sounds like the Patriots are still considering recruiting Klemm to their staff. According to TheMMQB’s Albert Breer (on Twitter), another meeting is anticipated between the coach and the Patriots. Klemm spent the 2022 season as Oregon’s associate head coach, run game coordinator, and offensive line coach. He previously spent time on the Steelers staff, serving as assistant OL coach before earning a promotion to OL coach in 2021.
  • With O’Brien back in New England, focus turns to the status of Matt Patricia and Joe Judge after the duo led the Patriots‘ offense in 2022. ESPN’s Mike Reiss writes that Patricia should be able to carve out a role on New England’s staff in 2023 considering his familiarity with the organization and his relationship with Bill Belichick. However, since the Lions are no longer picking up the tab, it remains to be seen if the Patriots will be willing to compensate the coach accordingly. Meanwhile, Reiss could see see Judge sticking around New England, but the writer is skeptical about the coach returning to his natural ST role. Judge officially spent last season as the Patriots quarterbacks coach, a designation that “surprised people both inside and outside the organization,” according to Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com.
  • There’s still no clarity on what Jerod Mayo‘s new role will be in New England, but he could be facing a significant promotion. Some pundits have suggested that Belichick could be preparing the former linebacker to eventually take over as head coach, and Breer tweets that Mayo was alongside his boss for all of the organization’s offensive coordinator interviews last week.

Bears Request Interviews With Commanders’ Chris Harris, Packers’ Jerry Gray

The Bears requested interviews yesterday with two names that have been brought up in defensive coordinator searches recently. They requested permission to interview Washington defensive backs coach Chris Harris for an unspecified position on the defensive staff, according to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler. Jonathan Jones of NFL on CBS similarly reported that Chicago requested permission to interview Packers defensive pass game coordinator and defensive backs coach Jerry Gray for an “as-yet-undefined” role on the defensive staff.

Harris is a former All-Pro safety who began his NFL coaching career immediately after retiring as a player. He started off as a defensive quality control coach for the team that drafted him in Chicago. Harris was not retained after the firing of then-head coach Marc Trestman, and he joined the Chargers as the assistant defensive backs coach, moving with the team from San Diego to Los Angeles. When Ron Rivera was hired as head coach in Washington, Harris was granted a promotion to defensive backs coach, a position he’s held for the past three seasons with the Commanders.

The past couple of years have seen Harris participate in a few interviews for defensive coordinator positions. He was reportedly a finalist for the Packers coordinator job two years ago and interviewed with the Colts last year. Harris’s name came up today when Tennessee also requested to interview him. If he were to join the Titans, it’s presumed that he would come into the role of passing game coordinator, in addition to his usual position coaching gig.

Gray has actual coordinator experience from his time with the Bills and Titans. The 60-year-old coach was also requested to interview for the defensive coordinator position in Atlanta a week ago. After the Falcons’ former defensive coordinator, Dean Pees, announced his retirement, Gray’s name quickly came up as a replacement candidate. Gray’s defensive units have put up middling results over the years, but his experience calling plays makes him an attractive candidate to replace Pees, who has been doing so since 2012.

With defensive coordinator Alan Williams still in the position for the Bears, neither Harris nor Gray are likely being interviewed for his role. More likely, they are being considered for the role of passing game coordinator. Harris makes the most sense, considering his history with the franchise, but Gray has more experience in larger roles. The Bears should get to talk with both in the days to come.

2023 NFL General Manager Search Tracker

So far this offseason, only two NFL presented general manager vacancies. The Cardinals and Titans have now each made their choices. If other teams decide to make GM changes, they’ll be added to this list. Here is the current breakdown:

Updated 1-17-23 (4:27pm CT)

Arizona Cardinals

Tennessee Titans

Titans Planning Second GM Interviews With Ran Carthon, Ryan Cowden, Ian Cunningham

After Monti Ossenfort landed the Cardinals’ general manager gig, the other top Jon Robinson lieutenant remains in the race for the Titans’ top front office post. Ryan Cowden is one of three confirmed finalists for the job.

Tennessee is planning second interviews with Cowden, 49ers exec Ran Carthon and Bears assistant GM Ian Cunningham, Mike Garafolo of NFL.com tweets. The Titans have gone through six GM interviews thus far. Cutting the field in half could well mean this is the finalist contingent to succeed Robinson. Cunningham has already gone through his second interview, per SI.com’s Albert Breer, who notes the meeting occurred Monday (Twitter link).

His ties to Robinson notwithstanding, Cowden’s inclusion as a finalist is unsurprising. The Titans named Cowden as interim GM upon firing Robinson, and he shared personnel responsibilities with Mike Vrabel to close out the season. Cowden has been with the Titans since 2016, coming over from the Panthers shortly after the team hired Robinson, and has received two title bumps during his time with the team.

Cunningham advanced to the finals of the Cardinals’ GM search as well. The Bears exec is believed to have finished second for that position, according to veteran NFL reporter Mike Jurecki (on Twitter). Even that illustrates the progress Cunningham has made over the past year. He was one of four Eagles execs who rose to assistant GM positions in 2022, being the first to see one of those promotions. The Bears hired Cunningham to work as Ryan Poles‘ top lieutenant, and he is currently playing a lead role in the team’s rebuild.

The Titans requested GM interviews with both Carthon and fellow 49ers exec Adam Peters, but the latter declined a meeting. With Peters being viewed as the likelier John Lynch successor among the two, Carthon’s best path toward a GM job likely will be with another organization. Carthon, 41, has been the 49ers’ pro personnel director since Lynch’s 2017 arrival but has held high-ranking roles with two teams. Prior to coming to San Francisco, Carthon served as Rams director of player personnel under Les Snead from 2012-16. The son of former Giants fullback Maurice Carthon, Ran has been an NFL staffer since 2008.

Poll: What Will Bears Do With No. 1 Pick?

The Bears enter the offseason with a plethora of needs to fill out their roster, but an intriguing array of means with respect to augmenting it in the months ahead. One of those, of course, is the first overall pick in this spring’s draft.

For much of the campaign, it appeared the top slot would ultimately go to the Texans. However, a last-minute, come-from-behind victory during Lovie Smith’s final game with Houston helped his former team secure the No. 1 selection. Chicago only remained in the running to ‘win’ the race to the bottom of the standings, though, due to a franchise-worst 10-game losing streak to close out the season.

The Bears’ 3-14 record came as little surprise, given the team’s clear intentions of pursuing a multi-year rebuild under new general manager Ryan Poles. That included several veteran defenders heading elsewhere via trades or releases before and/or during the season as a means of clearing up cap space. That strategy has left the team with by far the most spending power in the league ahead of free agency.

After a number of high-end additions are presumably made in March, Poles and his staff will be tasked with determining their course of action with the No. 1 pick. Retaining the selection would enable them to bolster their defense with, for instance, Alabama edge rusher Will Anderson Jr. Long considered a candidate for the top spot in this class’ rankings, he could provide a considerable boost to a pass rush which finished last in the NFL in sacks with only 20.

Alternatively, the Bears could turn to Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter at the top of the board. Chicago surrendered an average of 157 rushing yards per game in 2022, the second-worst mark in the league. Carter would help improve the team’s front seven both in that department, and as an interior pass-rusher as they look to rebuild their front seven. Opinion is split on which out of Anderson or Carter grades out as the best prospect, but either one would be considered a foundational piece for the Bears for years to come.

The situation is complicated, however, by the presence of Bryce Young. The 2021 Heisman winner had another productive season with the Crimson Tide this year, putting him squarely in contention to hear his name called first on draft night – particularly if the QB-needy Texans had finished the year with the No. 1 pick. Chicago having that luxury adds to their possible moves to build for the future.

Drafting Young could give the franchise a long-term answer at the position, though Justin Fields showed signs of being able to do just that in his second NFL season. The 2021 first-rounder – whom Chicago’s previous regime traded up to draft – produced the second-most single-season rushing yards by a signal-caller in league history. At age 23 and with at least two more years of team control on his rookie contract (with the potential of another, via the fifth-year option), the Ohio State product would represent a logical candidate to be retained for the foreseeable future.

On the other hand, Fields took a league-leading 55 sacks despite not playing a full campaign. He also led the NFL’s lowest-ranked passing attack, though the Bears’ weaknesses along the offensive line and distinct lack of proven pass-catchers certainly contributed to that as well. Questions regarding Fields’ upside as a passer could be made irrelevant from Chicago’s perspective if they become convinced Young (or another QB prospect) is worth taking first overall, an outcome which Poles recently downplayed the likelihood of.

“We’re going to do the same as we’ve always done – we’re going to evaluate the draft class,” he said last week“and I would say this: I would have to be absolutely blown away to make that type of decision.”

The other option the Bears have, of course, is trading out of the top slot to add more draft capital now and (potentially) next year as well. Such a move has not been seen since 2016, but if it were to happen, it would once again take place to pave the way for a team to guarantee they landed their desired quarterback. The Texans, armed with a second first-round pick, could be a candidate to move up one spot, but the Colts could be another after they made clear their willingness to be aggressive in adding at the position.

A move down the board would extend the Bears’ streak to 77 years without making the draft’s first selection, but it would allow them to increase their draft capital considerably. Chicago currently only owns three picks in the top 100 – a smaller figure than one may expect given their rebuilding status, but also one owing in part to the team’s trade deadline acquisition of wideout Chase Claypool. A trade keeping them in the top 10 of the first round order would take them out of contention for Anderson or Carter, but place them in good position to add another high-end talent, particularly one of the class’ top offensive tackles.

Which path do you see the Bears taking with the No. 1 pick? Have your say by voting in the poll below and weighing in via the comments section:

Bears GM Ryan Poles Wants RB David Montgomery To Return

We tackled the stock Bears running back David Montgomery holds as he heads into free agency about a month ago. A key concern in his situation focused on whether or not Chicago would want to bring Montgomery back. Earlier this week, Bears general manager Ryan Poles gave us the answer, according to Patrick Finley of the Chicago Sun Times.

Poles made it clear in a public forum that he has a desire to keep Montgomery in the Windy City. “I’ve always wanted to keep David,” Poles told reporters. “I love his mentality, how he plays the game. I told him that to his face. He’s part of the identity that we had this year that kept us competitive.”

That PDA is endearing and likely sits well with the fourth-year running back out of Iowa State, but it doesn’t put food on his table. Compliments alone are not going to convince Montgomery to keep the “C” on his helmet, and Poles is aware of that.

“The second part of that is just the contract situation,” the rookie GM continued. “That’s something that we’ll see how that goes and if we can find common ground. Obviously, I’ve learned that you can want a player, and the value’s got to come together for it to happen.”

The value is going to be crucial, and there are two factors to take into account when trying to determine where Montgomery’s value falls. The first is current roster. Behind only quarterback Justin Herbert, Montgomery was second on the team in rushing yards, leading all running backs in Chicago. While that seems like a plus for Montgomery, it’s likely only the result of second-year running back Khalil Herbert missing three more games than Montgomery. Despite Montgomery outgaining Herbert 801 rushing yards to 731, Herbert averaged a higher rushing yards per game with 56.2 YPG compared to Montgomery’s 50.1. The benefit in performance comparison is that Montgomery is clearly the team’s preferred receiving back after hauling in 34 passes for 316 yards compared to Herbert, who was next closest for running backs with nine catches for 57 yards.

The second factor is going to be competition. This offseason’s free agent running back class is going to be stacked with talent. Montgomery will be competing for a new contract with the likes of Josh Jacobs, Saquon Barkley, Miles Sanders, Tony Pollard, Kareem Hunt, Jamaal Williams, and others. The plethora of options has the potential to saturate the market for running backs, leading to smaller contracts. If Montgomery wants to return to Chicago, though, he’ll hold the advantage over the others due to his familiarity with the franchise.

Statistically compared to recent contracts, Montgomery matches up closest with a player like Buccaneers running back Leonard Fournette. Fournette recently signed a three-year, $21MM deal after a contract year that looks vaguely similar to what Montgomery did this season. There are two factors in Montgomery’s favor, though. Montgomery doesn’t have the significant injury history that Fournette does, and Montgomery has been far more consistent with his production year in, year out. This could point to either a three-year deal with a slightly larger average annual value or a similar annual amount with another year tacked on. If Montgomery were in a vacuum, he would likely demand something like a three-year, $24MM contract or a four-year, $28MM deal.

If Montgomery finds his way back to Chicago, it will probably not be that steep of a payday. He may find that he can earn more money by taking a team-friendly deal with the only team he’s known so far, but with the emergence of Herbert, Montgomery won’t be able to demand top dollar value. It will be up to Poles and Montgomery to reach an agreement on value. If it helps, I hear Poles is “a big David Montgomery fan.”

Bears Hire Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren As President

Kevin Warren surfaced as a candidate for the Bears’ president and CEO role recently, and the Big Ten commissioner is expected to make the jump back to the NFL.

The Bears plan to hire Warren, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports (on Twitter). The Bears have since announced the hire. Warren will succeed longtime Bears president Ted Phillips, who announced intentions to retire before this past season. Warren has an extensive history in the NFL, including with two NFC North franchises (the Lions and Vikings), but has been the Big Ten commissioner since 2019. The new hire will start work April 17, Pete Thamel of ESPN.com tweets.

This will be the first Bears change in this position in the 21st century. Phillips had served in this role since 1999 but indicated in September he was leaving the team after 40 years in various roles. Warren will come in from the college ranks, but he has more than 20 years of experience in the NFL.

Warren, 59, became the first Black commissioner of the Big Ten and helmed the conference during the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to numerous schedule and format adjustments for all sports over multiple years. The conference waffled on its 2020 football schedule, initially postponing the season to the spring. Warren then backtracked, leading to the league starting its season Oct. 24 — well after the southern power conferences began their respective campaigns. The Pac-12 joined the Big Ten in beginning its season late that fall. The Big Ten during this period also reached agreements on additions of USC and UCLA, which represent two of the most shocking realignment dominoes to fall in history.

Prior to accepting the Bears position, Warren remained on his original contract as Big Ten commish. He will join a Bears team that recently clinched the No. 1 overall pick for the first time since 1947. The Bears launched a rebuild effort last year, hiring Ryan Poles and Matt Eberflus to lead that effort. Poles gutted Chicago’s veteran-laden defense, with trades involving Khalil Mack, Roquan Smith and Robert Quinn playing a role in the team finishing 3-14 and securing the top pick.

Warren has been mentioned as a possible Roger Goodell successor down the road, per Mark Maske of the Washington Post, with Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio indicating the same while including Broncos co-owner and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as another rumored option (Twitter links). Having Warren, who in Minnesota became the first Black COO in NFL history, back in the NFL could allow for an easier commissioner transition at some point.

Ahead of his Big Ten commitment, Warren spent nearly 15 years with the Vikings. He finished his Minnesota run working as the team’s COO. He spent three years with the Lions in the early 2000s and began his NFL career with the Rams in the late ’90s.