Chris Kuper

West Rumors: Fitz, Raiders, Broncos, Brown

After the Cardinals trudged through their worst season in 18 years, Larry Fitzgerald‘s latest retire-or-not decision now features another new coach and offensive system in the equation — this one with no NFL coaching experience. But the future Hall of Fame receiver has not distanced himself from the process that brought Kliff Kingsbury to Arizona. Fitz has exchanged text messages with his new coach, the 35-year-old wideout told TMZ recently (via the Arizona Republic).

Hell of a coach. … Look at his resume,” Fitzgerald said. “He’s innovative offensively. That’s the wave of the future right now, so I’m excited for the chance to meet him.”

Fitzgerald played out his contract and is a free agent. While it would seemingly be tempting for the 15-year veteran to see if he could land with a team better positioned to compete for a championship, the career-long Cardinal has said multiple times he will only play for the Cards. Fitz continues to deliberate about the possibility of retiring or coming back for a 16th season.

Here is more from the West-division teams that have been working on their offseason strategies.

  • Former Broncos offensive lineman Chris Kuper will return to Denver as the team’s assistant offensive line coach. Kuper spent the previous three seasons coaching under Adam Gase in Miami. He retired following the 2013 season with the Broncos, who deployed him as a starter for most of his career. Kuper will work under Mike Munchak.
  • The 49ers are the Las Vegas frontrunners to land Antonio Brown, and The Athletic (subscription required) agrees with that assessment. San Francisco should be viewed as the clubhouse leaders to acquire the disgruntled Steelers wideout, per The Athletic’s Matt Barrows. Kyle Shanahan balked at paying high prices for this past year’s UFA crop, and Barrows writes the 49ers will not be giving up their No. 2 overall pick for a soon-to-be 31-year-old wideout. However, he cautions a team picking in the late first round may be able to outflank a San Francisco trade offer, regardless of the 49ers’ need at this position.
  • Brentson Buckner‘s position with the Raiders will be defensive line coach, Jon Gruden said Tuesday (via ESPN.com’s Paul Gutierrez). Buckner, who coached the Buccaneers’ defensive linemen last season, will replace Mike Trgovac. The latter, however, will be promoted in some capacity, per Gruden. As for the Raiders’ quarterbacks coach position — vacated by Brian Callahan‘s move to become the Bengals’ OC Tuesday — the team might wait until the Combine to fill that position.
  • Gruden believes Daryl Worley underwent shoulder surgery recently after ending his season with a torn labrum, Michael Gehlken of the Las Vegas Review-Journal tweets. Worley, a starter this season prior to landing on IR, is expected to receive an RFA tender from the Raiders.

West Notes: Broncos, Cardinals, 49ers

Von Miller, Bradley Chubb, and the rest of the Broncos‘ pass rushers will have a new coach in 2019, as Denver has announced Brandon Staley as its new outside linebackers coach. Staley had worked in the same role with the Bears for the past two years, and he’ll follow ex-Chicago defensive coordinator Vic Fangio to the Mile High City. After leading Khalil Mack and Leonard Floyd in Chicago, Staley will now be tasked with taking over a Denver pass rush that ranked ninth in adjusted sack rate a season ago. The Packers also had interest in interviewing Staley, tweets Tom Pelissero of NFL.com, but the Bears evidently didn’t want him to remain in the NFC North, so they blocked the request.

Here’s more from the NFL’s two West divisions:

  • Staley isn’t the only coach headed to Denver, as the Broncos have also hired Wade Harman as their new tight ends coach, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. Harman was Atlanta’s offensive line coach in 2014, but switched to tight ends in 2015 and remained in that role through last season. He played a role in the development of Austin Hooper, who posted career-highs in receptions (71), yards (660), and touchdowns (four) last year. Broncos tight end Jeff Heuerman is a pending free agent, but even if he doesn’t return, Harman will work with young options such as Jake Butt and Troy Fumagalli, each of whom ended the 2018 campaign on injured reserve.
  • The Broncos are interviewing former guard Chris Kuper for their assistant offensive line coach job, per Mike Klis of 9News (Twitter link). Kuper, who spent his entire playing career (2006-13) in Denver, coached in Miami for the past three seasons. He’d be working under one of the NFL’s best offensive line coaches in Mike Munchak, who was hired earlier this week. In 2018, the Broncos ranked as a top-11 club in both adjusted line yards and adjusted sack rate, according to Football Outsiders.
  • Former Broncos safety Renaldo Hill is back with the club as secondary coach, tweets Klis. Hill’s playing career actually ended after general manager John Elway cut him following the 2010 season, but he’s gone on to an impressive coaching career since, and Klis notes Hill is considered a “rising star” in the coaching ranks. After six years in the college ranks, Hill acted as the Dolphins’ assistant defensive backs coach in 2018.
  • The Denver-to-Arizona connection is still going strong: the Cardinals have hired ex-Broncos coaches Marcus Robertson (defensive backs) and Greg Williams (assistant DBs), per Rapoport and Klis (Twitter links). Robertson and Williams will continue to work under new Arizona defensive coordinator Vance Joseph, who helmed the Broncos from 2017-18. In addition to Joseph, Robertson, and Williams, the Cards also brought former Broncos offensive line coach Sean Kugler aboard.
  • After hiring a new defensive line coach in Kris Kocurek, the 49ers will retain pass-rushing specialist Chris Kiffin, reports Matt Barrows of The Athletic. The son of Monte Kiffin and brother of Lane Kiffin, Chris Kiffin joined San Francisco in 2018 after previously serving in the college ranks.

Coaching Notes: Jags, Fins, Ravens, Broncos

In the aftermath of this offseason’s head coaching searches across the NFL, Greg A. Bedard of SI.com asked three executives from successful franchises their thoughts on this year’s hirings. One opined that the league’s owners “have absolutely no idea what they’re doing” and that “most of these places are screwed up.” He also blasted the Jaguars’ decision to elevate Doug Marrone from interim head coach to the full-time position. “Look at Jacksonville. They keep Marrone—I mean, he was an assistant head coach on that team the past two years [8–24], was he not?—and say he’s by far the best candidate,” he stated. “After speaking to (Josh) McDaniels, (Kyle) Shanahan and Mike Smith? Are you kidding?”

Marrone coached the final two games of the Jaguars’ season, during which they went 1-1, after the firing of Gus Bradley. Before joining Jacksonville’s staff in 2015, Marrone worked as the Bills’ head coach and went 15-17 in two years. The club finished 9-7 on his watch in 2014, but Marrone then elected to opt out of his contract.

Now for the latest staff changes:

  • The Dolphins have named Frank Bush their assistant head coach/linebackers coach and promoted Chris Kuper from quality control coach to offensive line assistant, per Omar Kelly of the Sun Sentinel. Additionally, the team has designated special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi an associate head coach, tweets Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald. The 54-year-old Bush will take over Miami’s linebackers from Matt Burke, who’s now the defensive coordinator. Bush spent the past four seasons coaching the Rams’ LBs.
  • The Ravens have announced the hiring of Joe D’Allessandris as their offensive line coach. He’ll replace Juan Castillo, who went to Buffalo. D’Allessandris oversaw the Chargers’ O-line from 2013-15.
  • The Broncos will name Johnnie Lynn their assistant defensive backs coach, a league source told Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post. Lynn is familiar with the Broncos’ new head coach, Vance Joseph, as the two worked together in San Francisco from 2006-10. More recently, Lynn was with the Raiders from 2012-14.

Dolphins Finalize Coaching Staff

The Dolphins have finalized Adam Gase‘s coaching staff for the 2016 season, announcing today in a press release that a number of assistants have been added or retained. The team had previously confirmed the hires of Clyde Christensen as offensive coordinator and Vance Joseph as defensive coordinator, among others, so today’s announcement doesn’t feature any major changes, but a few key roles have been filled.Lou Anarumo

[RELATED: Dolphins hire Adam Gase as head coach]

Here’s a breakdown of some of the noteworthy additions, promotions, or assignments announced today:

  • Danny Barrett, running backs coach
  • Ben Johnson, assistant wide receivers coach
  • Chris Kuper, offensive quality control
  • Lou Anarumo, defensive backs coach
  • Terrell Williams, defensive line coach
  • Charlie Bullen, assistant linebackers coach
  • Rusty McKinney, defensive quality control
  • Darren Rizzi, assistant head coach/special teams
  • Marwan Maalouf, assistant special teams
  • Dave Puloka, head strength and conditioning coach

Anarumo is perhaps the most interesting name on the list, since he finished the season as the Dolphins’ interim defensive coordinator after taking over for Kevin Coyle last October. Anarumo interviewed for the Jaguars’ defensive coordinator job earlier this month, but ultimately returned to Miami in the same role that he held for the club prior to his promotion.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Coaching Notes: Browns, 49ers, Dolphins, Singletary

Browns coach Hue Jackson was seeking a defensive coordinator who was familiar with the division, making Ray Horton the perfect fit. As Tom Withers of the Associated Press writes, the 55-year-old has spent time on the coaching staff for the Steelers and Bengals.

“He knows this division,” Jackson said. “He was raised in this division. He played in this division. He understands what needs to be done to get our defense back to where it needs to be. I wanted somebody that knew the lay of the land and understood the division, understands the culture here and understands the change that we need to make and someone who can lead our young players and develop players to get better.”

Let’s check out some more coaching notes from around the league…

  • The 49ers have hired former Buccaneers linebackers coach Hardy Nickerson for the same position, tweets Alex Marvez of Fox Sports. Bleacher Report’s Jason Cole notes that Nickerson will be coaching the inside linebackers, while Jason Tarver will handle the outside linebackers.
  • The Dolphins have hired former Broncos offensive lineman Chris Kuper as their new offensive quality control coach, tweets ESPN’s Adam Caplan.
  • Former 49ers coach Mike Singletary has interviewed for several assistant gigs, but the 57-year-old told CSNBayArea.com that he’s seeking a job with more responsibility. “I didn’t want to be a linebacker coach again,” he said. “I’ve been studying my tail off since I left San Francisco to become a coordinator at the very least, and hopefully become a head coach. When that didn’t happen, I began to work that much more, visiting coaches and learning everything I could possibly learn, primarily on offense.”

Cap Work Remaining For Broncos

Until rosters are cut down to 53 players, teams are required to be under the $133MM salary cap with their top 51 salaries. In the wake of an aggressive offseason which included signing big-ticket free agents Aqib Talib, T.J. Ward, DeMarcus Ware and Emmanuel Sanders, the Broncos’ top 51 costs $132MM, meaning John Elway and Co. have some bookkeeping to do between now and the end of training camp, explains ESPN’s Jeff Legwold.

Key points:

  • The team is trying to lock up free agents-to-be Demaryius Thomas and Julius Thomas long-term.
  • Including rollover, the team has about $4.6MM of workable cap space.
  • “Quarterback Peyton Manning has the team’s highest cap figure, at $17.5 million and the Broncos have the biggest cap gap of any position between starter and backup with No. 2 Brock Osweiler, still on his rookie deal, coming in at $959,094 against the cap.”
  • The team has seven tight ends on the roster, five of which — including Thomas, Jacob Tamme and Joel Dreessen — are scheduled to be unrestricted free agents in 2015.
  • “Dead money” hits include Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie ($2.1MM), Chris Kuper ($1.83MM) and Willis McGahee ($500k).
  • Terrance Knighton‘s representatives were seeking a renegotiation of his contract which calls for him to make $2.75MM in 2014 before the big defensive lineman hits free agency, but the team did not acquiesce.
  • Kicker Matt Prater and punter Britton Colquitt will cost a combined $7.4MM against the cap this season.

Chris Kuper To Retire

Veteran Broncos guard Chris Kuper will retire, according to Mike Klis of the Denver Post. Kuper, 31, was a fifth-round-pick in 2006, and has spent all eight of his NFL seasons in Denver. He became a full-time starter in 2007, and remained a mainstay on the offensive line until he dislocated his ankle late in 2011. He would have been entering the final season of a five-year, $25.5MM deal he signed in June 2010.

Although Louis Vasquez is now firmly entrenched at right guard, Kuper’s announcement adds more intrigue to a Broncos offseason that is already in flux. Left guard Zane Beadles is a free agent, and left tackle Ryan Clady will be returning from a torn ACL. The Broncos offense also faces a decision on running back Knowshon Moreno, and the likely defection of receiver Eric Decker.