Bengals Rumors

2023 NFL Head Coaching Search Tracker

Last year, 10 NFL teams hired new head coaches. Following the Panthers’ hire, this year’s vacancy count sits at four. Last year’s Saints and Buccaneers moves, however, showed these job openings can emerge at unexpected points.

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

Updated 1-26-23 (4:36pm CT)

Arizona Cardinals

Carolina Panthers

Denver Broncos

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Minor NFL Transactions: 1/24/23

Today’s minor transactions:

Cincinnati Bengals

Lammons was a special teams ace for the Chiefs, leading the team in ST snaps and finishing the regular season with seven tackles. He earned his walking papers the other day with the Chiefs preparing to activate at least one of running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire or tight end Jody Fortson. The Bengals swooped in with the claim, but the team won’t get any immediate intel on their AFC Championship opponent. The claim is deferred until February 13, which means the only competitive advantage Cincy got was preventing Lammons from rejoining Kansas City’s practice squad.

Injured Reserve Return Tracker

After two years of giving teams free rein on injured reserve transactions, the NFL reinstated limitations this offseason. Teams can now activate up to eight players from injured reserve. That has reintroduced some strategy into how franchises are proceeding with their activations.

Players who were carried over to 53-man rosters after cutdown day must reside on their respective injured list for at least four weeks. Once a team designates a player for return, meaning the player returns to practice, the activation clock starts. Teams have 21 days from those return-to-practice points to activate that player. If no activation commences in that window, the player reverts to season-ending IR.

Here is how the eight remaining teams’ IR situations stack up for the championship round:

Cincinnati Bengals

Eligible for activation:

Activations remaining: 4

Kansas City Chiefs

Designated for return:

Activations remaining: 5

Philadelphia Eagles

Designated for return:

Eligible for activation:

Activations remaining: 1

San Francisco 49ers

Activations remaining: 0

QB Rumors: Packers, Carr, Burrow, Colts

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers is expected to play in 2023, per ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler (video link). Fowler cites the ~$60MM balloon payment that Rodgers is due between March and the start of the 2023 regular season as a motivating factor for the four-time MVP, and assuming he does want to suit up, Green Bay will have to decide if it wants him back or wants to seek a trade.

The club’s top power brokers, GM Brian Gutekunst and HC Matt LaFleur, have publicly indicated they want Rodgers back in Wisconsin, which could — in Fowler’s estimation — force Jordan Love to request a trade. The 2020 first-rounder believes he is ready to become a QB1, and as he is entering the final year of his rookie deal, now would be a good time for him to get that chance.

Here are more QB rumors from around the league:

  • In the same piece linked above, Fowler says that the Derek Carr sweepstakes will start to heat up as we get closer to the Super Bowl. Carr, whose contract with the Raiders includes a no-trade clause, is beginning to do his homework on possible landing spots, and Fowler hears (unsurprisingly) that the Jets, Saints, and Commanders are expected to have interest. Several clubs have already reached out to Las Vegas to lay the groundwork for trade talks.
  • Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow will be eligible for an extension when Cincinnati’s season comes to an end, and Ian Rapoport of reports that the club wants to get a new deal done this offseason. A Burrow extension will be hugely expensive, and owner Mike Brown and Burrow himself acknowledged the challenges that such a deal creates for roster construction (via Ben Baby of Of course, the Bengals will have to operate within the same salary cap confines as every other team in the league, but as Rapoport observes, the small-market franchise does have more cash on hand these days thanks in large part to the success that the team has enjoyed with Burrow under center.
  • In a comprehensive piece that is well-worth a read for Colts fans, a piece that details owner Jim Irsay‘s increasingly impulsive decision-making and the ensuing fallout, Zak Keefer of The Athletic (subscription required) says that Irsay wanted to draft and develop a rookie QB in the 2021 draft. However, then-head coach Frank Reich convinced Irsay that he could resuscitate Carson Wentz‘s career. When that experiment went awry, Irsay began to lose faith in Reich, who apologized to his boss for his misstep. The team again opted for an established passer last offseason when it engineered the Matt Ryan trade, and in light of that failure, Adam Jahns of The Athletic (subscription required) believes Indianapolis is finally going to eschew the veteran QB route. The Colts, armed with the No. 4 overall pick in the 2023 draft, are in prime position to select a top collegiate signal-caller and could trade up to land the player of their choice.
  • Dolphins GM Chris Grier recently confirmed reports that Tua Tagovailoa will be the team’s starting quarterback in 2023, as Daniel Oyefusi of the Miami Herald writes. Grier says the medical professionals he has consulted have told him that the concussions Tagovailoa suffered this season will not make him more prone to concussions going forward. He also said “everything’s on the table for us” when asked if the team would exercise Tagovailoa’s fifth-year option for 2024 and/or engage in extension talks.
  • The Jets may keep 2021 first-rounder Zach Wilson on the roster in 2023, but the team is widely expected to pursue a veteran like Carr or Rodgers to upgrade the quarterback position. Apparently, that will be a welcome development for some of Wilson’s teammates and coaches, who “rejoiced” when Wilson was benched in favor of Mike White in November and who were disappointed when Wilson was reinserted into the lineup following White’s rib injuries (via Zack Rosenblatt of The Athletic (subscription required)). Regardless of whether Wilson’s apologies to his teammates in the wake of his failure to accept much blame for his poor performance in New York’s Week 11 loss to the Patriots helped him regain the respect of the locker room, the consensus seems to be that he is not the passer who will guide the Jets back to the playoffs.

Minor NFL Transactions: 1/21/23

Minor moves and standard gameday elevations for the final two games of the divisional round:

Buffalo Bills

Cincinnati Bengals

Dallas Cowboys

San Francisco 49ers

Latest On Bengals’ Offensive Line Situation

JANUARY 20: Neither Cappa nor Williams will play against the Bills. Taylor ruled out the starting right guard and left tackle for Sunday’s divisional-round game. With Collins done for the season, this will push three Cincinnati second-string blockers into the lineup against Buffalo.

JANUARY 16: When the Bengals reconvene with the Bills, their offensive line could be in much worse shape compared to when the teams began their Week 17 game that ultimately ended up cancelled. Jonah Williams suffered a dislocated kneecap during Sunday night’s win over the Ravens, Ian Rapoport of tweets.

Zac Taylor called Williams “week to week,” though this injury can sideline players for an extended time period. Neither Williams nor right guard Alex Cappa could walk without assistance Sunday, Kelsey Conway of the Cincinnati Enquirer notes, providing a grim glimpse of the Bengals’ O-line situation for their divisional-round game. Injured during Cincy’s Week 18 game against Baltimore, Cappa is battling an ankle malady and is also on a week-to-week timetable.

For what it’s worth, Williams has a recent history of playing through this injury. The former first-round pick sustained a dislocated kneecap in the Bengals’ first matchup with the Ravens and did not miss any time. He returned the following week and did not miss a snap for the rest of the regular season. The 2019 first-rounder has rebounded from his lost rookie season — nullified because of a shoulder injury — and has been a vital part of Cincinnati’s O-line over the past three years. The Alabama product will be going into a contract year in 2023.

The Bengals already have La’el Collins out for the season due to a Week 16 ACL tear. Cappa and Williams’ absences in the Ravens rubber match helped lead to four Joe Burrow sacks, with former second-round pick Jackson Carman struggling. Carman replaced Williams at left tackle, playing the blindside post for the first time as a pro. The Bengals benched Carman during his 2021 rookie season, and despite the Clemson product being favored to win the left guard competition this year, he did not do so and only played four regular-season snaps.

A line featuring Carman, Max Scharping and Hakeem Adeniji will be quite different from the one housing Williams and offseason additions Cappa and Collins. Scharping was unable to catch on as a regular Texans starter, bouncing in and out of Houston’s lineup despite a second-round pedigree, and did not make the rebuilding team’s 53-man roster this year. A former sixth-round Bengals draftee, Adeniji has started 15 career regular-season games and five postseason contests — including all four last season. The Bengals attempted to upgrade by adding Collins, but Adeniji will be back in place next week in Buffalo. It remains to be seen whether Williams or Cappa will be able to join him.

NFL Discussed Bengals-Bills Neutral Site; Latest On AFC’s Atlanta Scenario

Had the Bengals beaten the Bills in Week 17, the four-loss team would have been on track to secure the AFC’s No. 2 seed. The results of Week 18 — Chiefs, Bengals and Bills wins — would have finalized that scenario. But only the Buffalo side of the “what if?” equation ended up factoring into the NFL’s neutral-site proposal.

The Bills controlled their own destiny for the AFC’s top seed, which would have been the franchise’s first since 1993, but the frightening Damar Hamlin scene leading to a cancelled game ended up nixing that path. While the Chiefs have drawn the 9-8 Jaguars in Round 2, despite losing to both the Bills and Bengals in the regular season, the latter two teams will face off Sunday. A third straight year featuring a Bills-Chiefs playoff matchup would take that game to Atlanta, and while the NFL discussed a second neutral site for a Bengals-Bills tilt, that game will be played in Buffalo.

There was some discussion,” NFL executive VP Troy Vincent said (via the Buffalo News’ Clevis Murray) of Bengals-Bills being played in a neutral location, “but membership thought it was best for [only] the championship game to be at a neutral site.”

The Bengals’ main objection amid a swift push to shoot down the NFL’s compromise came as a result of the coin-toss scenario involving the Ravens, but they would have been part of the neutral-site scenario had the Chiefs lost to the Raiders in Week 18 and a rematch of last year’s AFC championship game ended up occurring. The team obviously voted against the proposal, with the Chiefs abstaining and the Bills being one of the 25 teams to submit a “yes” vote, Jonathan Jones of CBS Sports notes. Barring a Jaguars upset of the Chiefs on Saturday, the Bengals will need their road whites for the remainder of the AFC playoffs.

Should the Chiefs hold seed and the favored Bills prevail in the teams’ first playoff matchup since the 1988 AFC championship game, the teams will head to Georgia for a game that has already seen 50,000 tickets sold — per’s Adam Schefter (on Twitter) — to Bills and Chiefs season-ticket holders. One (or two) team’s fans would collect some sobering refunds depending on this weekend’s results, but should the league’s Atlanta contingency come into play, Bills and Chiefs fans would be seated on opposite sides at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

The Chiefs wanted an outdoor venue on grass, Jones adds, while it is not clear what the Bills preferred. Although both the Colts and Lions’ venues were floated as options, neither Lucas Oil Stadium nor Ford Field ended up being in play. The NFL selected Atlanta because of its fairly equal distance (893 miles from Buffalo, 801 from Kansas City) between the two cities, per Jones, while the NFC South stadium has been an in-case-of-emergency site for a bit now.

Speculation about the NFL using a Bills-Chiefs matchup as a test run for conference championship games to be played at neutral sites has emerged, and sources outside the league office floated to Jones that theory. Despite the draft and combine now rotating venues, the conference championships — played at the site of the team with the better record since 1975 — being held at neutral locations would mean the No. 1 seed would only come with a bye and one home game. The No. 2 seed having a path to host two games might be a nonstarter for the league. But the NFL has moved a wild-card game to Monday, despite the Monday game’s winner guaranteed a short week. The Atlanta scenario being a prelude to a drastic format change should not be entirely dismissed, though we are not there yet.

Colts Request To Interview Bengals OC Brian Callahan For HC

Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan could see his second head coaching interview take place after being requested for one as the Colts seek to replace Frank Reich this offseason. Callahan and the Bengals are still alive in the playoffs after surviving a matchup with the division rival Ravens last weekend, so the timing of the interview is still up in the air.

Callahan has had a slow and steady rise in the NFL’s coaching ranks to this point, starting out as an assistant for Denver back in 2010. He followed that up with two seasons as an offensive quality control coach before being promoted to an offensive assistant role which he held until 2015. He got his first role as a position coach the following year in Detroit as the Lions quarterbacks coach. Despite getting offensive coordinator interest, Callahan was not retained by the Lions and he found his way to the same role in Oakland, where his father, Bill Callahan, once reigned as head coach.

The younger Callahan got his first offensive coordinator opportunity when Zac Taylor took over as head coach in Cincinnati. The offense struggled in Andy Dalton‘s final year with the team, finishing 30th in the league in points scored and 26th in yards gained. The team didn’t fare much better in Callahan’s second season, finishing 29th in both points scored and yards gained, but the addition of rookie quarterback Joe Burrow showed lots of promise for the young offense.

That promise paid off in 2021, when the Bengals finished seventh in scoring and 13th in yardage enroute to a Super Bowl berth. This year, Cincinnati performed similarly, ranking eighth and 15th in those respective categories. The team also won its second-consecutive AFC North title after a previous five-year playoff drought.

Callahan earned some head coaching interest after last year’s breakout performance, interviewing to replace Vic Fangio in Denver. He was one of 10 interviewees but failed to qualify as one of the three finalists before the Broncos hired Nathaniel Hackett.

He now joins a much more crowded field in Indianapolis as the 14th name linked to the team’s search for a new head coach. The Colts have already interviewed eight candidates, moved on from one (as Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh chose to remain in the college ranks), plan to interview three others, and have requested an interview with one more.

As long as the Bengals continue to see success on the offensive side of the ball, Callahan will likely continue to field calls for head coaching opportunities. To see where he and other candidates stand in the hiring process, follow our 2023 NFL Head Coaching Search Tracker.

Minor NFL Transactions: 1/14/23

Today’s minor moves in advance of the second day of Super Wild-Card Weekend:

Baltimore Ravens

Buffalo Bills

Cincinnati Bengals

Miami Dolphins

Minnesota Vikings

New York Giants

AFC Injury Rumors: Bengals, Dolphins, Leonard

Cincinnati will host the Ravens in the Wild Card round of the playoffs this weekend, but they will have to do it without two of their starters on the offensive line, according to Mitch Stacy of The Associated Press. Head coach Zac Taylor confirmed that right guard Alex Cappa will join right tackle La’el Collins on the sideline this Sunday night.

Cappa had his ankle rolled over late in the third quarter last week while blocking in the pocket. Initial fears were that the injury would end his season, keeping him out for the entirety of the playoffs, and while Taylor is holding out hope for future games this January, we know that Cappa will not play this weekend.

Cappa joins Collins, who saw his season come to an end after suffering a knee injury in a Week 16 win over the Patriots. Collins has been replaced by Hakeem Adeniji who played in a backup role this season after starting 13 games last year. Adeniji drew criticism for his pass protection in the playoffs last season, when the offensive line drew most of the blame for the team’s loss in Super Bowl LVI.

Cappa will be replaced by backup Max Scharping. After starting 33 games in his first three seasons with the Texans, Scharping was picked up by the Bengals after being waived just prior to the season. The offensive line was a huge weakness last year for a Bengals team that still made it to the Super Bowl. They may have to struggle over that hurdle once again if they want to win it all in February.

Here are a couple other injury rumors from around the AFC, starting with another playoff squad:

  • If the Bengals’ offensive line situation is considered bad, the Dolphins‘ has to be considered downright tragic as the team practiced today without three starters and three backups on the offensive line alone, according to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. Starting left guard Liam Eichenberg missed today as he deals with a hand injury. After that, the remaining five linemen who missed practice are the team’s top five tackles. First, tackles Austin Jackson and Eric Fisher remain on injured reserve with an ankle and calf injury, respectively. Jackson is eligible to return from IR but isn’t quite ready to, while Fisher is not yet eligible to return. Right tackle Brandon Shell is dealing with a high ankle sprain and mild knee sprain and is likely going to be out this weekend in Buffalo. Kendall Lamm has been dealing with an ankle issue and is questionable to play on Sunday. Lastly, left tackle Terron Armstead missed practice as he deals with multiple ailments including injuries to his hip, foot, knee, and pectoral muscle, according to Jackson. Not one to be subdued by pain, Armstead told Jackson that as long as his muscles function, he’ll be playing against the Bills. Potential backup options include Greg Little and starting right guard Robert Hunt, with Robert Jones filling in the guard spot. Geron Christian, Michael Dieter, and practice squad linemen should all be ready to hear their names called, as well.
  • Colts star linebacker Shaquille Leonard missed most of the season this year as he dealt with a nerve issue that has limited the use of his left calf. Leonard had back surgery to the address the issue in June but never saw the results he’d hoped for. Leonard and Indianapolis staff found it necessary to undergo a second surgery and, according to Joel A. Erickson of the Indy Star, it seems to have been much more effective. Leonard told Erickson that, after the second surgery, “the nerves are re-firing in his leg…in a way that didn’t happen after the first surgery.” Leonard is one of the premier players at his position, so signs that he is starting to progress back to his old self are welcome signs, for sure.