Chris Grier

AFC East Notes: Gronkowski, Darnold, Folk, Dolphins

It’s no secret that the Patriots have been searching for a weapon to replace the production they received from now retired tight end Rob Gronkowski. Wide receivers Josh Gordon and Antonio Brown both looked like solutions at various points earlier in the season, but neither remain on New England’s roster. However, it appears the team’s owner Robert Kraft still hopes to get Gronkowski back on the field.

When Gronkowski was cleaning out his locker after announcing his retirement in March, Kraft told him the team would remain hopeful that he would return late in the season for another playoff run, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. While it has been known that the organization hoped Gronkowski would change his mind, no one had reported Kraft’s involvement.

Rapoport notes in his story that, according to sources, Gronkowski remains content with his decision, but if he wants to return this season he has to decide soon. The deadline for retired players to return during the season and play is November 30. New England will obviously plan ahead without him, but they surely will be hoping for a change of heart.

Here more from around the AFC East:

  • Kicker Nick Folk has meshed into the Patriots locker room well, according to Mike Reiss of ESPN.com. Folk already knew the man he replaced, Stephen Gostkowski, and offensive lineman Joe Thuney and Ted Karras. All four had been enrolled in some of the same classes as they worked toward master’s degrees in past offseasons. Folk was signed after Gostkowski suffered a torn labrum in his left hip. Reiss also notes that Folk suffered the same injury in 2009 and could offer Gostkowski valuable insight during his recovery.
  • Jets quarterback Sam Darnold is “taking charge” in the locker room, according to Rich Cimini of ESPN.com. After Darnold’s poor performances against both the Jaguars and Patriots, he has become more assertive in meetings with the coaching staff. Cimini reports that Darnold had previously been very deferential to head coach Adam Gase, but now offers feedback and his own opinion more readily.
  • NFL draft experts and scouts were watching this weeks game between LSU and Alabama closely. The Dolphins sent an especially large contingent, which included two scouts and general manager Chris Grier, according to ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter. Miami has long been tied to Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa through the #Tank4Tua trend. However, even if Miami does have the top pick in the draft, some experts are beginning to place LSU’s quarterback Joe Burrow above Tagovailoa. It appears Miami’s top brass got an up-close look at both players on Saturday.

Latest On Dolphins’ Trades, Strategy

In addition to moving on from numerous veterans this offseason, the Dolphins have now traded two players who were seemingly building blocks in Laremy Tunsil and Minkah Fitzpatrick. These moves appear to have tripped the NFL’s alarm.

The Tunsil trade involved numerous Texans offers, with Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald reporting the steps the AFC teams took to finalizing the trade that sent the left tackle to Houston. The Texans’ offers went from Jadeveon Clowney-for-Tunsil, straight up, to Clowney and a first-rounder for Tunsil to first- and second-rounders for Tunsil. The Dolphins managed to drive the price to two first-rounders and a second-round selection and requested tackle Julie’n Davenport in return, Salguero notes.

Upon seeing the Texans’ deal-closing offer on a board in Chris Grier‘s office, Tunsil told the Dolphins GM, “I would trade me for that too,” Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald adds (via Twitter).

In reshuffling their power structure after last season, the Dolphins were not planning to jettison Tunsil, Fitzpatrick, Kiko Alonso or T.J. McDonald. (The Dolphins dealt Alonso to the Saints and released McDonald.) Brian Flores‘ coaching staff clashed with Alonso, Salguero adds, and asked him to play multiple roles — including edge defender. The Dolphins demoted the highly paid linebacker before trading him.

Fitzpatrick is a Steeler, being dealt after a trade request. The second-year defensive back was not on board with the versatile role the Dolphins asked him to play, and Salguero adds the team never found a sufficient comfort level that would allow Fitzpatrick to settle in at one spot. Both Grier and owner Stephen Ross attempted to help Fitzpatrick and Miami’s coaching staff find common ground.

Myself, Brian, and Steve (Ross) — we had multiple conversations with him, saying we wanted him here and viewed him as a core piece and wanted him here,” Grier said. “The kid just felt it was time for him to move, and we told him what the value was. We told teams we had multiple offers, and we felt that the Pittsburgh one was the one best for the organization.”

Fitzpatrick’s rookie deal was worth $16.447MM over four years. Similar to the deal in which the Dolphins acquired Josh Rosen, the Steelers are only on the hook for Fitzpatrick’s base salaries. Pittsburgh has the 2018 No. 11 overall pick under contract through 2021 for $5.48MM, Field Yates of ESPN.com notes (on Twitter).
The Dolphins now hold three 2020 first-round picks. A building suspicion in NFL circles centers on the prospect this Dolphins rebuild may be a stealth effort for Trevor Lawrence in 2021, per Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. But Salguero adds one of Miami’s three 2020 first-rounders will be used to draft a quarterback — regardless of how Rosen performs in what now may be an extended audition. The Cardinals in 2018-19 and Baltimore Colts in 1982-83 were the most recent franchises to draft first-round passers in consecutive years, so as of now it looks like this oft-labeled tanking strategy is built around Justin Herbert or Tua Tagovailoa (should he enter the 2020 draft).

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AFC East Notes: Rosen, Patriots, Darron Lee, Bills

The Dolphins weren’t the only team interested in trading for Josh Rosen, the Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson writes. Jackson sites an NFL official who was in contact with the Cardinals after the trade was announced, and mention the Patriots as another team that was attempting to acquire the 2018 first-rounder.

Rosen, of course, ended up in Miami, and New England took its own quarterback when it tabbed Auburn’s Jarrett Stidham in the fourth round. In the weeks leading up to the draft, New England was mentioned, along with several other teams, as a potential landing spot for the quarterback.

With other teams being interested, it helps explain why the Dolphins were willing to part with a 2019 second-rounder, and a fifth-round pick in 2020.

Here’s more from around the AFC East:

  • Teddy Bruschi thinks the Patriots might have been led to draft N’Keal Harry in the first round because of the physical presence Josh Gordon brought to the team last year, ESPN’s Mike Reiss writes. “They get him last year, put a 6-3, 225-pound target out there and see what a great piece it was for them, how great it was for Tom Brady,” Bruschi theorized. “Maybe that changed the perception of what they might need.” Of course, the Patriots haven’t picked a receiver in the first round in the Bill Belichick era, so the theory could be accurate.
  • Sticking in New England, the video that led to the arrest of team owner Robert Kraft will eventually be released to the public, Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio writes. The judge ruled the tape can be released in a way that won’t taint the jury pool.
  • The Jets have been shopping linebacker Darron Lee throughout the offseason, and that isn’t expected to stop now that the 2019 draft has concluded, Pro Football Talk’s Darin Gantt writes. Lee became expendable once the team brought in C.J. Mosley.
  • Also in New York, team general manager Mike Maccagnan has reportedly been on the hot seat. If the team does make a change, one exec to keep an eye on is Joe Douglas with the Eagles, CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora tweets. La Canfora mentions the Eagles exec has ties to Jets first-year head coach Adam Gase.
  • The Bills made a splash in the undrafted free agent pool, signing local product Tyree Jackson. Buffalo reportedly couldn’t believe the Buffalo quarterback wasn’t drafted, Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio writes“He was on our draft board to be drafted. I’m surprised. You saw his name still sitting there late in the seventh, and you start going, ‘Man, if this kid doesn’t get drafted, we’re going to have to go after him.’ And we did,” Bills general manager Brandon Beane said. Jackson is expected to compete for the team’s backup spot to Josh Allen.
  • The Dolphins already boast 12 picks in the 2020 draft. General manager Chris Grier says that is to be the rule going forward, the Miami Herald’s Adam Beasley tweets. Beasley predicts the team is expected to use its cap space next offseason to buy even more draft picks rather than signing top free agents.

 

AFC East Notes: Brady, Dolphins, Jets

Following the Patriots‘ third Super Bowl title of the decade, they again have their legendary quarterback going into a contract year. Robert Kraft is on board with another Tom Brady extension, but no talks have commenced yet, Albert Breer of SI.com notes. Brady has never played into a contract year. While some uncertainty existed around Brady’s place with the Patriots last offseason, Breer adds the key parties are on good terms this year. The 41-year-old quarterback said before Super Bowl LIII he was not going to retire, and an extension would bring down his $27MM cap number. Brady signed team-friendly deals in 2013 and ’16 around the Combine those years.

With the quarterback market finally making big strides over the past year and change, Brady’s demands could justifiably increase. Brady’s historic contributions to the franchise notwithstanding, Bill Belichick may not be wild about a possible $30MM-AAV contract for Brady that runs into future Hall of Famer’s mid-40s, NBC Sports Boston’s Tom Curran offered during an appearance on the Rich Eisen Show (video link). Of course, with the Patriots an annual title contender and no heir apparent in place, it would seem unthinkable a Brady pact does not get done this offseason.

Here is the latest from the AFC East:

  • Although Ryan Tannehill is not expected to return to the Dolphins, GM Chris Grier said no decision has been made on that front. The Dolphins are expected to trade or release Tannehill, and the Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson tweets a photo of the seven-year Dolphin quarterback has been removed from their press room. Grier wants input from Brian Flores and his new staff on the 30-year-old quarterback, but the Dolphins are expected to move on from their six-season starter. With an eye on the 2020 quarterback class, they are not believed to be targeting a high-priced free agent to replace Tannehill, either.
  • Armed with nearly $100MM in cap space and a GM potentially on the hot seat, the Jets make sense as Le’Veon Bell‘s buyer. While one report indicated New York won’t use a bank-breaking approach to land the All-Pro running back, SNY’s Ralph Vacchiano notes the Jets are still zeroed in on Bell. The soon-to-be 27-year-old back is still believed to prefer the Colts, per Vacchiano, but Indianapolis may not view him in the same light.
  • Some turmoil has already hit Gregg Williams‘ new team. Mike Maccagnan and Adam Gase initially did not view Blake Williams as a hiring priority for the Jets’ defensive staff, and this irked Blake’s father, according to ESPN.com’s Rich Cimini. Gregg Williams was frustrated with Maccagnan and Gase, but the new Gang Green DC won out, with Blake Williams signed on as linebackers coach. Blake upset some Rams staffers during his time as St. Louis assistant, before being fired after the 2013 season, Cimini notes, adding the young coach has developed somewhat of a polarizing reputation.
  • The Jets may have an issue trading Leonard Williams, with a $14.2MM salary due, but Vacchiano points out the general consensus around the NFL is the 2015 top-10 pick has been misused in New York. With the Jets moving to a 4-3 look under Gregg Williams, Leonard Williams is not a lock to be back. Of course, Gregg Williams may view the former 3-4 defensive end as a weapon in his scheme. The Jets are light on surefire front-seven talent, so their new DC might want some capable veterans to stay.

Extra Points: Dolphins, Flores, Grier, Ross, WR’s, Josh Gordon

While Dolphins owner Stephen Ross has played a large role in hiring Miami’s coaches in the past, that wasn’t the case this time around. Ross identified and hired Adam Gase on his own, but had nothing to do with bringing in new coach-in-waiting Brian Flores, sources told Armando Salguero of The Miami Herald. Instead, it was new GM Chris Grier who is solely responsible for hiring Flores, Salguero writes.

Salguero writes that Grier and Flores are longtime friends, and that now ex-Dolphins coaches told him it was “no secret within the organization that Grier was focused on Flores as the favorite to be Miami’s new coach even before interviews began.” Flores, the current Patriots’ defensive play-caller, and Grier both started as scouts in their respective organizations and Salguero writes that their paths crossed frequently, sparking a friendship. Miami is reportedly all-in on tanking in the 2019 season, and it’ll be very interesting to see how Flores fares.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • While the contract Odell Beckham Jr. signed this offseason “became the new financial benchmark for wide receivers”, it “didn’t dramatically reset the market as some, including myself, anticipated”, opines former NFL agent and current CBS Sports analyst Joel Corry. In his piece, which is worth a read, Corry breaks down this offseason’s wide receiver market, and he thinks 2019 will be the year the market is truly reset. Corry writes that Julio Jones, Tyreek Hill, and Amari Cooper will likely all land new deals this offseason.
  • Speaking of wide receivers, commissioner Roger Goodell was asked about Josh Gordon during his annual Super Bowl press conference. Goodell said ““right now the focus is what can we do to help Josh (Gordon) to get to that place (where he can play football)”, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (Twitter link). Goodell’s comments suggest that Gordon, who stepped away from the Patriots earlier this season, could eventually play in the league again even though Goodell slapped him with an indefinite ban. It won’t come easily, but it appears Gordon’s NFL career isn’t dead yet, just on life support.
  • In case you missed it, Goodell also had updates on two more embattled players, Kareem Hunt and Reuben Foster.

Dolphins Promote Chris Grier, Demote Mike Tannenbaum

Firing Adam Gase wasn’t the only major change the Dolphins made today. The team also announced they were promoting Chris Grier to oversee football operations while demoting Mike Tannebaum from that post, per Cameron Wolfe of ESPN (Twitter link).

Grier had been the GM but didn’t have decision making power and reported to Tannebaum, but those roles will now be reversed. Gase had contractual control over the 53-man roster during his tenure, but the new coach will have far less power. Whoever the new coach is will report to Grier and not to owner Stephen Ross like Gase did, according to Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald (Twitter link).

While the Dolphins building was filled with internal drama and infighting, Albert Breer of SI.com tweets that Grier was the “one who remained above the fray, and could work with anyone”, which in part led to his promotion. Grier came up as a scout in the Patriots’ organization before he was hired by the Dolphins in 2000. He was promoted to the role of director of college scouting in 2007, and then to general manager in 2016.

It was reported last week that Tannebaum was on the way out, so his demotion isn’t a surprise. He’ll remain with the team for now in a lesser role, but it wouldn’t be surprising if he exited soon. With the team set to move on from Ryan Tannehill, Grier will have his hands full with finding a new head coach as well as a new franchise quarterback. It looks like a full-blown rebuild is in store for Miami.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Adam Gase, Dolphins

We have heard some conflicting reports about Dolphins head coach Adam Gase‘s future with the club over the course of the last week or so. On December 26, we heard that Gase is expected to remain in Miami in 2019, but just yesterday, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reported that owner Stephen Ross is definitely considering moving on from Gase.

Today, Rapoport reiterated that Gase could indeed be coaching his last game with the Dolphins this afternoon (video link). But Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports writes that both Gase and GM Chris Grier are likely to be retained. And, while it has been expected that the club would at least move on from vice president of football operations Mike Tannenbaum, JLC suggests that Tannenbaum could simply be given another role within the organization.

Grier has been with the Dolphins since 2000, and while he holds the GM title, he does not have final authority over football decisions. La Canfora indicates that Grier’s voice could be afforded greater weight in 2019, as owner Stephen Ross has long been fond of him, and if Tannenbaum is fired or moved, Grier may not have a personnel executive above him. After all, since Gase is the one who has final say over the 53-man roster, it seems unlikely that the Dolphins could keep Gase and attract a high-level executive from another club (like Vikings assistant GM George Paton), so Gase and Grier could be calling the shots next season. The two men reportedly work well together.

The lack of top-tier coaching talent in this year’s cycle is one reason why Gase could stay, along with the fact that Gase has done a reasonably good job considering what he’s had to work with. La Canfora writes that Ross remains high on University of Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh — despite Ross’ public remarks that he would not pursue Harbaugh — and while Harbaugh is expected to stay in Ann Arbor next year, sources close to him believe he will return to the NFL at some point. If that happens, Ross will be interested.

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Dolphins Will Not Pursue Jim Harbaugh

A report linking another AFC East team to a Jim Harbaugh pursuit emerged, and a second NFL owner is denying that is the case.

Like Jets chairman Christopher Johnson, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross publicly shot down Harbaugh rumors. Ross told the Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson he will not make a push for Harbaugh to replace Adam Gase, who is not a certainty to be fired after this season. Ross is a Michigan alum and would prefer Harbaugh stay in Ann Arbor, per Jackson (Twitter link).

This does not, however, mean Gase is safe. The Dolphins are exploring big-picture changes, with those in power attempting to solidify their positions in the event Ross restructures the franchise’s decision-making hierarchy. Another season featuring Gase and executive VP Mike Tannenbaum working together would surprise SI.com’s Albert Breer, who adds Miami is likely to make a change “at some level.”

While it’s not certain which way Ross is leaning here, Breer adds that GM Chris Grier would have a better chance of staying if Gase is retained. Grier has been with the Dolphins since 2000.

As for Gase, the third-year HC said he will not lobby to keep his job. Gase and Ross have not discussed his future, per Jackson. Las Vegas had the Dolphins pegged as a frontrunner for the 2019 No. 1 pick at this season’s outset, but Gase has the team at 7-8. He ended the Dolphins’ lengthy playoff drought in 2016 but has a sub-.500 record since, though many of those games did not feature Ryan Tannehill.

AFC East Notes: Pats, Grier, Gore, Jets

The rumors of the Patriots‘ demise in recent years have been greatly exaggerated, but even though the club is still heading to the playoffs and remains in the hunt for a first-round bye, it doesn’t appear that this is the same New England team that we have become accustomed to. The Pats’ aging stars are beginning to play like aging stars, head coach Bill Belichick‘s future is uncertain, and Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports says there is some concern about how the team will function when owner Robert Kraft fully transfers control of day-to-day operations to his son.

As such, La Canfora believes the club could see a mass exodus of coaching and front-office talent this offseason, with OC Josh McDaniels, DC Brian Flores, and director of player personnel Nick Caserio all potentially on the move. Of course, New England could turn it on and roll to another Super Bowl title, but even if that does happen, this could be a very tumultuous winter in Foxborough.

Now for more from the AFC East:

  • Mike Reiss of ESPN.com observes that Josh Gordon‘s indefinite suspension marked the Patriots‘ 26th transaction involving a wide receiver this year, which is unusually high. It reinforces how difficult it has been for New England to decisively address its WR needs — and it also calls into question the team’s decision to part with Brandin Cooks and Danny Amendola — and Reiss believes the Pats will make receiving talent a top priority this offseason. We learned more troubling details about Gordon’s suspension this morning.
  • We have heard that the Dolphins could be in for a major overhaul this offseason, and like his colleagues, La Canfora believes that owner Stephen Ross could part ways with vice president of football operations Mike Tannenbaum and head coach Adam Gase. However, La Canfora reports that Ross thinks highly of general manager Chris Grier — who holds the GM title but who does not have final authority over football decisions — and that Grier is likely to remain with Miami. If the Dolphins do go searching for a new executive this offseason to replace Tannenbaum, Vikings assistant GM George Paton would be near the top of the list, as we heard earlier this month.
  • Dolphins running back Frank Gore, whose season came to a premature end due to a mid-foot sprain, has already indicated he wants to play in 2019. And, as Safid Deen of the South Florida Sun Sentinel writes, Gore wants to return to Miami. Given the surprising success that he had with his hometown Dolphins this year, Gore may get his wish.
  • Ralph Vacchiano of SNY.tv lays out the Jets‘ biggest offseason needs — pass rusher, wide receiver, running back, and offensive line — and offers his take as to how to best address those needs.
  • Darryl Slater of NJ.com looks at how head coaching candidates might view the Jets‘ soon-to-be vacant HC position, and he concludes that, although it has some drawbacks, it is still an attractive opening that will tempt some of the team’s top targets.

Dolphins Eyeing Major Changes?

While the Dolphins still have a chance at making the postseason, there are whispers that some major members of the organization could still lose their jobs. Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald writes that coaches and front office staff are quietly trying to “solidify their power” in case owner Stephen Ross decides to make major changes this offseason. Sources tell Salguero that vice president of football operations Mike Tannenbaum and head coach Adam Gase are among those on the hot seat.

Among Ross’s top trio of football executives, Salguero says Tannenbaum is the most likely to get fired. The 49-year-old joined the organization back in 2015, and he’s been a major “facilitator of what the Dolphins have decided their philosophy will be,” which includes fielding a competitive team while building for the future. General manager Chris Grier reports to Tannenbaum, and the executive “oversees and coordinates the effort of football operations and administration.”

Working against Tannenbaum has been the team’s middling record since he joined the organization; the team is 23-23 since he took on a major role, and the team’s future outlook isn’t all that encouraging. Working in his favor is his relationship with Dolphins vice chairman Matt Higgins, who has the ear of Ross. The two have a relationship dating back to their tenure with the Jets, and Higgins has been Tannenbaum’s “most powerful ally and advocate” in Miami.

Meanwhile, Gase has refused to publicly blame injuries or talent for the team’s 7-7 record. However, sources tell Salguero that the head coach is quietly attributing his team’s performance to injuries, and that has been one of Gase’s main reasons for why he should ultimately keep his job. Gase has the support of both Grier and team vice chairman, president and CEO Tom Garfinkel, and he also has a good relationship with Tannenbaum.

Unfortunately for Gase, he doesn’t have a similar relationship with Higgins, who some believe may be pushing for a replacement. Salguero also points out that Ross wouldn’t be afraid to replace the head coach, even though Gase is still owed millions of dollars.

The Dolphins, who currently sit as the AFC’s ninth seed, will face off against the Jaguars and Bills in their final two regular season contests.

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