Browns Rumors

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.

Ravens Request OC Interview With Chad O’Shea

The Ravens’ search for a new offensive coordinator has led them to a division foe. According to Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com (via Twitter), the Ravens have requested permission to interview Browns wide receivers coach Chad O’Shea for their OC vacancy.

[RELATED: Ravens, OC Greg Roman To Part Ways]

O’Shea spent time with the Chiefs and Vikings before a long stint with the Patriots. During his decade as New England’s wide receivers coach, the Patriots won three rings. He joined Brian Flores in Miami as the Dolphins’ offensive coordinator in 2019, but he only lasted a year before earning his walking papers. The 50-year-old has spent the past three years as the Browns wide receivers coach.

The Ravens parted ways with Greg Roman earlier this week, opening up a major hole on the coaching staff. We’ve since learned that Rams passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach Zac Robinson is a candidate for the position, and more names will surely join the fray in the coming days. We also heard the other day that quarterback Lamar Jackson would play a role in the hiring of a new offensive coordinator.

While speaking to reporters earlier this week, Ravens coach John Harbaugh expressed his belief that Baltimore’s OC gig will be a highly sought-after job.

“This is going to be a highly sought-after job; this is one of the top football coaching jobs in the world,” Harbaugh said (via Cabot). “Everybody’s going to want this job. So, I’m looking forward to getting started, and it won’t just be me; it’ll be other coaches and scouts involved in it. We’re going to cast a wide net, and we’re going to look far and wide and close. We’ll get the best fit for what we’re trying to accomplish, and it’s going to be a highly-qualified candidate.”

Jets Interview Chad O’Shea For OC; Frank Reich On Radar?

The Jets continued their search for Mike LaFleur‘s replacement on Friday. The team completed an interview with Browns wide receivers coach Chad O’Shea for their vacant offensive coordinator position, reports Tom Pelissero of NFL Network (Twitter link).

[RELATED: Browns’ Bill Callahan No Longer A Jets OC Candidate]

O’Shea, 50, has nearly 20 years of experience as an NFL staffer. Most of that has come working with wideouts as a positional coach, including a 10-year stint spent in New England in that capacity. That tenure was immediately followed by a single season in Miami as their offensive coordinator in 2019.

Under O’Shea that year, the Dolphins failed to put up impressive numbers on offense. The team ranked 27th in the league in yards and 25th in scoring, and finished with the worst rushing attack in the NFL. While a distinct lack of talent played a significant role in those struggles, it nevertheless came as little surprise when he was fired by then-head coach (and fellow Patriots alum) Brian Flores at the end of the campaign.

O’Shea has spent the past three years coaching the Browns’ wideouts while also holding the title of passing game coordinator. The position has not seen much in the way of production over that span, as Cleveland ranked 27th in 2020 and 2021 in terms of passing yards, improving only to 23rd this past season. A number of factors have limited the team’s efficiency through the air, from quarterback play to a lack of consistent pass-catchers aside from Amari Cooper. Still, O’Shea is a candidate for a second OC gig with what would be a third AFC East employer.

Meanwhile, ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler notes (on Twitter) that Frank Reich could garner interest from New York depending on the status of his head coaching interviews. The former Colts bench boss has been connected to the HC vacancies in Arizona, Carolina and Denver – though he is not currently expected to be a contender for the latter job. Should he strike out on those fronts however, he would be a highly sought-after OC candidate, and one who would understandably find himself on New York’s radar.

Bill Callahan Signs Browns Extension, Nixing Jets OC Interview

With Brian Callahan on the HC radar for a second straight year, his father re-emerged in the OC mix. The Jets requested an interview with Bill Callahan, Mike Garafolo of NFL.com tweets, but the elder Callahan made other plans.

The Browns’ offensive line coach for the past three seasons, Bill Callahan will stay on the position coach level. The 66-year-old assistant signed an extension to stay in Cleveland, Garafolo notes.

Callahan, a former Raiders head coach who was last an OC in 2014 (with the Cowboys), has a history with the Jets. After his four-season run as Nebraska’s HC, the Jets brought him in for a four-year stint as their offensive line coach during Rex Ryan‘s stay. The team ventured to back-to-back AFC championship games during Callahan’s time in New York, which included work with Pro Bowlers Nick Mangold and D’Brickashaw Ferguson. Each of the latter’s three Pro Bowls came during Callahan’s New York tenure.

Cleveland’s offensive line has been one of the NFL’s best throughout Callahan’s tenure. The Browns have invested significantly in the unit, doling out second or third contracts to four of their Callahan-era cogs — Joel Bitonio, Wyatt Teller, Jack Conklin, J.C. Tretter. The group has seen a host of accolades come in during this period. Bitonio has been to the past five Pro Bowls, earning All-Pro recognition during his age-30 and age-31 campaigns over the past two years, while Conklin earned first-team All-Pro honors in 2020. A former Bills draftee acquired in a low-profile 2019 trade, Teller was a Pro Bowler last season. Cleveland’s O-line has helped drive Nick Chubb to the past four Pro Bowls.

The Jets saw one of the frontrunners for their OC post — Darrell Bevelldecline an interview, doing so with the Commanders as well. With Bevell out of the picture, the Jets have gone through a few interviews. Patriots tight ends coach Nick Caley, former Broncos HC Nathaniel Hackett and three Eagles staffers — Marcus Brady, Brian Johnson, Kevin Patullohave interviewed for the position. But the Bevell and Callahan decisions have affected the team’s search.

Ravens Expect Lamar Jackson To Stay In 2023; QB To Have Input In OC Search

While this offseason presents the third round of Ravens-Lamar Jackson negotiations, key variables are part of the 2023 equation. Jackson is due for free agency (well, the franchise tag) in March, and the Ravens now have an offensive coordinator vacancy.

Greg Roman‘s departure will lead to Jackson, his status as a free agent-to-be notwithstanding, having input on the team’s next play-caller, GM Eric DeCosta said Thursday. Jackson endorsed a tweet indicating his Louisville years involved a pro-style offense, and while this could complicate the Ravens’ OC search — as Roman ran a run-heavy offense that capitalized on Jackson’s historic ground-game impact — the team has some major issues to sort through.

As could be expected, both Ravens power brokers expect Jackson back in 2023. DeCosta said (via ESPN.com’s Jamison Hensley) he does not see any reason why the former MVP would not be back, while John Harbaugh offered a stronger stance.

I want him here; Eric DeCosta wants him here; [owner] Steve Bisciotti wants him here, and Lamar wants to be here,” Harbaugh said. “One hundred percent, you know, 200%. Lamar Jackson is our quarterback. He’s been our quarterback.”

The Ravens have long been expected to apply the franchise tag to Jackson, who has been extension-eligible since January 2021 but just played out his fifth-year option season. DeCosta has not committed to using the exclusive franchise tag or the nonexclusive tag, indicating (via Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio) he thinks about that decision “every day.”

An exclusive tag is expected to come in at $45MM, which would place a historic cap figure atop the Ravens’ payroll ahead of free agency. A nonexclusive tag would cost the Ravens approximately $32MM. That gap will be notable for when the Ravens plot out their free agency course, though the lower amount would allow other teams to sign Jackson to an offer sheet. The Ravens would collect two first-round picks in the event they do not match an offer sheet.

Considering recent events — Jackson’s injury, team frustration about his inability to return, Jackson’s comments on the injury and his thinly veiled Instagram shot at the team’s attitude toward him — the Ravens’ full-fledged commitment is logical. They have maintained they have wanted to extend Jackson since 2021. DeCosta and Harbaugh met with Jackson on Thursday, but progress in these negotiations still appears elusive. DeCosta said (via NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero) he is excited to resume extension talks but noted it “takes two to tango.” The GM said this last year as well.

The Ravens are believed to have offered Jackson a six-year extension worth $133MM fully guaranteed. That figure would place Jackson in second place but second place by a gargantuan margin. Deshaun Watson‘s $230MM full guarantee is believed to be Jackson’s target, but the Ravens — and other teams — are attempting to treat the Browns quarterback’s contract as an outlier. While Jackson has outpaced Watson in accomplishments thus far and has not run into any off-field trouble like the Cleveland QB has, the latter’s contract did come via a rare trade derby that involved a four-team bidding war.

As for the speculation Jackson did not return to action this season because of his contract, DeCosta denied this (via BaltimorePositive.com’s Luke Jones). Harbaugh added the three-time Pro Bowler was close to returning to action. Jackson said last week he had a grade 2 PCL sprain that bordered on a grade 3 sprain, which is essentially a tear.

The recent Jackson developments have led some around the league to believe the Ravens will entertain trade offers — likely in a tag-and-trade scenario. DeCosta said (via Hensley) the team will not discuss anything involving a Jackson trade but believes the 25-year-old standout wants to stay in Baltimore for the duration of his career. Jackson has said the same in the past, but recent events and the team’s upcoming negotiations with the still-agent-less player may test that commitment.

Harbaugh said (via The Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec) the team will consider internal candidates to replace Roman. The team operated this way in 2016 (Marty Mornhinweg) and 2019 (Roman). The most recent external hire for the job was Marc Trestman, who held the role from 2015-16. The Ravens will look outside the organization this time; the team must interview at least one external minority candidate to comply with the Rooney Rule.

The team’s passing-game struggles may well be attributed to Jackson, Jackson’s backups and Roman, but its issues at wide receiver have been a consistent concern. Harbaugh pointed to the team needing more receiving help this offseason, Zrebiec tweets. The team will have its top two wideouts — Rashod Bateman and Devin Duvernay — coming off major foot injuries, and it looks like more help will be sought. Procuring said aid on the market has not been the easiest thing for the run-heavy team to do, but receiver will be again be a focus for the Ravens this offseason.

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

Browns To Hire Jim Schwartz As DC

The Browns have made the first hire in this season’s coordinator cycle. Cleveland is set to add Jim Schwartz as their new defensive coordinator, reports ESPN’s Dianna Russini (Twitter link).

Schwartz, 56, was quickly named as a candidate for the position. The veteran coach brings significant experience to the role, having spent a total of 14 years as a defensive coordinator in the NFL. His most recent tenure under that title came with the Eagles from 2016-20. Given his time there, he brings Super Bowl pedigree to a Browns team searching for consistency on their coaching staff.

Joe Woods was thought to be on the hot seat as Cleveland’s DC during the season, after his unit failed to live up to expectations. Performances improved later in the campaign, but it still came as little surprise when he was fired last week. That kicked off the team’s search for his successor, which included Sean Desai, Dennard Wilson, and Brian Flores being considered in addition to Schwartz. Patriots LBs coach Jerod Mayo declined to meet with the Browns for the position, but Cleveland will still land a highly-regarded staffer as a result of this hire.

Prior to his time with the Eagles, Schwartz had a five-year tenure as head coach of the Lions. Aside from a 10-6 campaign in 2011, Detroit posted a losing record in each of his seasons at the helm. That obviously hurt his chances of landing another HC post in the future, but his Philadelphia success (which began after a single season in Buffalo) rebuilt his stock with respect to his abilities as a coordinator. Schwartz also had an eight-year stint as the Titans’ DC from 2001-08.

It was with the Browns that Schwartz began his time in the NFL. In 1993, Cleveland hired him as a personnel scout, a role he remained in for three seasons. He stayed with the franchise for another three years after it moved to Baltimore, though his time with the Ravens consisted of work as a defensive assistant. That launched his career as a staffer on that side of the ball, and has led to plenty of success which his original employer will now hope he can replicate.

The Browns put up underwhelming numbers in most defensive categories in 2022, with their secondary standing out as a notable exception. The team’s front seven is likely to be a focal point in the offseason, after surrendering an average of 135 yards per game on the ground and recording only 34 sacks. A plethora of injuries at the middle linebacker position in particular contributed in part to those figures, but a new voice on the sidelines will likely be a welcomed sight.

With such an experienced DC coming onboard, head coach Kevin Stefanski will have a veteran staffer to lean on as the team looks to clean up issues such as discipline which were a talking point in the season. This hire could further point to Stefanski retaining offensive play-calling duties, something which has been called into question with calls for him to take on a more general role overseeing team as a whole. His staff now has a veteran voice on hand to steer the team towards a rebound in 2023.

Browns Notes: Clowney, Stefanski, Watson, Johnson

Jadeveon Clowney made plenty of headlines recently with his remarks suggesting the Browns made a concerted effort on multiple occasions to give fellow edge rusher Myles Garrett favorable one-on-one matchups this season. The incident led to the 29-year-old being sent home for the season finale, and provided a further sign that he will be playing elsewhere in 2023.

Earlier this week, however, Clowney apologized to Garrett, who himself had a noteworthy public response to Clowney’s accusations. A statement from the latter said in part, “As a man I have reached out to Myles specifically to apologize. I will continue to learn and grow as a I move forward” (Twitter link via ESPN’s Adam Schefter). Clowney also claimed that his initial remarks were “completely misrepresented” and “taken out of context.”

On that point, Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com has since responded that Clowney was quoted verbatim in their interview which included his statement that he had a “5%” chance of re-signing with the Browns this offseason. It remains to be seen if Clowney’s apology will increase the likelihood of another free agent deal being signed between the two parties, or if the former No. 1 pick will depart in a change-of-scenery move.

Here are some other Browns-related notes:

  • In light of issues such as defensive performance (which led to DC Joe Woods being fired) and discipline surrounding the team in 2022, questions have been raised regarding whether or not head coach Kevin Stefanski will delegate offensive play-calling duties. Cabot writes that he will likely retain his current role in 2023, however, citing his relationship with quarterback Deshaun Watson and their need to rebuild the playbook together as a main reason (subscription required). The Browns struggled to move the ball through the air this season, one in which Watson was suspended for the first 11 games, but they ranked sixth in the league with an average of 147 yards per game on the ground.
  • Watson’s suspension is now over, of course, but his legal battle is not. The embattled signal-caller will be forced to sit for a deposition pertaining to the 26th civil lawsuit filed against him, as detailed by USA Today’s Brent Schrotenboer. After settling most of the claims made against him this summer, Watson, 27, currently faces two outstanding suits alleging sexual misconduct during massage sessions dating back to his time with the Texans.
  • Cleveland had one of the most highly-touted backfields this season, led by Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. Their third-stringer, D’Ernest Johnson, also flashed plenty of potential in 2021 when called upon as a spot-starter, though, leading to expectations that he could replicate his success during this campaign. He received only 11 touches all year, however, something which he explained, via Chris Easterling of the Akron Beacon Journal, was a major source of frustration. The 26-year-old added that he has not yet head from the Browns regarding a new deal, signalling that he will head elsewhere in search of a larger workload in free agency.

Browns To Interview Eagles’ Dennard Wilson For DC Job

We can add another name to the list of Browns defensive coordinator candidates. The Browns are planning on interviewing Eagles defensive pass game coordinator Dennard Wilson for the job, according to Jonathan Jones of CBS Sports (on Twitter). The interview is expected to take place today, according to Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com (on Twitter).

[RELATED: Browns Request DC Interviews With Brian Flores, Jim Schwartz]

Wilson joined the Eagles in 2021 as a defensive backs coach before earning the title of defensive passing game coordinator for the 2022 campaign. Philly’s defense ended up allowing the fewest passing yards in the NFL while finishing top-five in interceptions, with C.J. Gardner‑Johnson finishing in a tie for the league-lead with six.

Pro Football Focus was especially fond of the team’s secondary in 2022. The site ranked three Eagles (James Bradberry, Darius Slay, Avonte Maddox) among their top-35 cornerbacks (122 qualifiers). Safety Reed Blankenship also earned a top-15 ranking at safety among 89 qualifying players. Thanks to a strong performance from the Eagles defense as a whole, Wilson will now have an opportunity for a promotion.

Shortly after firing three-year defensive play-caller Joe Woods, the Browns compiled a list of defensive coordinator candidates. The targets include Steelers linebackers coach Brian Flores, Seahawks associate HC Sean Desai, and former HC Jim Schwartz. Cleveland also reached out to Patriots linebackers coach Jerod Mayo, but he declined the interview and continues to negotiate a new deal with New England. Flores and Schwartz have already interview for the job; it’s uncertain when (or if) Desai will speak with the organization.

LB Sione Takitaki Wants To Re-Sign With Browns

The Browns’ linebacking corps was ravaged by injuries this season, and the position is very much in flux heading into the offseason. One member of the unit who is eyeing a return is Sione Takitaki.

The 27-year-old is heading into free agency for the first time in his career, having spent his first four seasons in Cleveland. The former third-rounder primarily played on special teams as a rookie, but he took on a much larger role in 2020, starting 12 of 15 contests that season. He flashed potential that year with 67 tackles and one interception, but took a step back in playing time in 2021.

Takitaki was once again counted on as a key member of the Browns’ defense this season, however. He logged a career-high snap share of 65%, setting a new personal mark with 71 tackles along the way. He started eight of 12 games, and was poised to continue playing a significant role for the final month of the campaign until he suffered a torn ACL in December. That injury added further to Cleveland’s availability issues at the position, with Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Anthony Walker, Jacob Phillips and Jordan Kunaszyk each finishing the campaign on IR.

Takitaki’s recovery complicates his market, as he is on track to return to full health around October. While the injury no doubt hurt the value of his next contract, the BYU product is optimistic both that he can actually recover in time to be available for Week 1 and, partially as a result, land a new deal allowing him to remain in Cleveland for at least the short-term future.

“I feel like I have enough tape to end up landing on my feet eventually, so I’m not really worried,” he said, via Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal“Obviously, [the injury] sucks… I could have definitely got hooked up in the next contract, but I’m excited. I still got a lot of tape, and I bring a lot to the table.”

The Browns are currently projected to be in worse financial shape than most other teams as free agency approaches, and a rebuild of the front seven would come as little surprise given the team’s defensive performance against the run in 2022. Cleveland’s decision with Takitaki and Walker, a fellow pending UFA, will thus be a situation worth watching, though the pair both made their feelings about the organization clear.

“Yeah, I’ve already voiced my opinion,” Takitaki said, echoing Walker’s sentiments. “I love Cleveland. I told them I want to be back, so we’ll see what the future holds.”