Dante Scarnecchia

AFC Rumors: Ross, Patriots, Broncos, Bolts

John Ross endured a disastrous rookie season after seeing his stock rise during 2017 Combine weekend. The Bengals‘ 2017 first-round pick did not catch a pass and ended the season on IR after suffering multiple injuries last year. Ross, though, is expected to be ready to run routes come spring despite undergoing shoulder surgery in December. He had both shoulders operated on last year and couldn’t get on the field until the second week of training camp following a spring shoulder surgery.

That was the problem,” Ross said, via Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com. “My body didn’t respond the way I wanted it to. Coming in late, I didn’t get to train. I was out of shape. That was pretty tough on my body. Rushing into it. Being out of shape. My body couldn’t take the physical aspects of the game we do every day. I thought I could. I think it kind of wore me out faster than I thought.

I really didn’t catch up until the end of the year when I started to have better practices. It all started to click together. It was already kind of too late. It was best to rest, get my body right.”

Ross has nowhere to go but up and figures to be a bigger part of the 2018 Cincinnati offense than he was last year.

Here’s the latest out of the AFC as new wideouts and cornerbacks aim to break Ross’ 4.22-second 40-yard dash record at the Combine.

  • Rumored to be a retirement candidate again, Dante Scarnecchia is back to work with the Patriots, Mike Reiss of ESPN.com reports. The longtime Pats offensive line coach, who retired after the 2013 season only to return in 2016, looks to be part of New England’s 2018 coaching staff. Now 70, Scarnecchia has been with the Patriots (aside from the 2014-15 seasons) since 1992. Excepting those two years after his initial retirement, Scarnecchia has been the Pats’ O-line coach since 1999.
  • The Broncos have two players who could warrant non-original-round tenders on the RFA market in Matt Paradis and Shaquil Barrett. Pro Football Focus’ top two RFAs, the starting center and part-time starting outside linebacker figure to receive second-round tenders, Mike Klis of 9News writes. Worth $2.9MM apiece, two second-round tenders would cost the Broncos nearly $6MM. That would further eat into Denver’s budget in an offseason in which the team is expected to pursue Kirk Cousins. The Broncos gave Brandon Marshall a second-round tender in 2016 and signed him to a long-term deal that summer and did the same with Brandon McManus. They could take the same route with Paradis, one of the league’s top centers.
  • Denver would like to have auxiliary wideout Bennie Fowler back next season, but Klis notes the team is expected to search for an upgrade at No. 3 receiver. The Broncos have struggled to replace the spot Wes Welker vacated three years ago, with now-UFA Cody Latimer failing to fill that role. Denver drafted Carlos Henderson in the third round of last year’s draft only to see him miss the whole season. The Broncos giving Fowler an original-round tender ($1.9MM) is in play, per Klis. Fowler (29 catches, 350 yards, three TDs) made just $615K last season. The Broncos would prefer to keep starting WRs Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders in the fold rather than jettison them to create cap space.
  • The Chargers are seeking a complementary back to go with Melvin Gordon, Eric Williams of ESPN.com writes. But with Austin Ekeler working as a pass-catching back, Williams notes the team would want said supporting-caster to be more of a between-the-tackles bruiser who would spell Gordon.

AFC Rumors: M. Peters, Harrison, Pryor

Now that the Chiefs have acquired David Amerson and are on the verge of adding Kendall Fuller — once the Alex Smith trade is finalized — Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk wonders if Kansas City could trade Marcus Peters. Peters, whom the Chiefs selected in the first round of the 2015 draft, has quickly established himself as one of the better corners in the league, but as Florio notes, he has been a “handful” for Kansas City, and the incident that got Peters suspended for a game in December may have been the last straw for the team. Florio says “some in league circles” believe Peters could be on the trade block, and Alex Marvez of SiriusXM appears to think it’s a possibility as well (Twitter link).

Let’s take a look at more notes from around the AFC:

  • There is a “reasonable chance” that James Harrison returns to the Patriots in 2018, as Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk (citing Christopher Price of the Boston Sports Journal) writes. New England successfully deployed Harrison as a three-down player after acquiring him late last season, and as Harrison recently indicated he wants to play at least one more year, it may make sense for both parties to continue their relationship.
  • Mike Reiss of ESPN.com says it does appear as if well-respected offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia will be back with the Patriots in 2018, a prospect that was very much in doubt just a few weeks ago.
  • The Browns will pursue a reunion with free agent wideout Terrelle Pryor this offseason, per Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. Cabot says Pryor never really wanted to leave Cleveland last year, but when the Browns signed Kenny Britt to the same contract they had on the table for Pryor, he didn’t have a choice.
  • The devastating injury to Ryan Shazier will not impact the way the Steelers approach their decision-making with respect to fifth-year options, as Florio writes.
  • Now that A.J. McCarron is set to leave the Bengals, Jim Owczarski of the Cincinnati Enquirer wonders what his departure will mean for Cincinnati. He says Andy Dalton is not going anywhere — which was at least a remote possibility before Marvin Lewis decided to return — and he believes the Bengals could look to address other, more pressing needs in the early rounds of the 2018 draft and select a polished collegiate signal-caller in the middle rounds (just as they did with McCarron). Owczarski also suggests that Cincinnati could add a veteran on a one-year deal to back up Dalton.

East Notes: Wentz, Beckham, Patriots

The Eagles are gearing up for Super Bowl LII tonight, but their prospects for next season got a nice boost this morning. Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports that, this Wednesday, Carson Wentz will begin weight-bearing exercises with his brace unlocked for the first time since being placed on injured reserve. That marks a big milestone in Wentz’s recovery, because when he is able to begin weight-bearing exercises, his recovery can proceed as if he had torn only his ACL instead of his ACL and LCL.

When it was revealed that Wentz tore both his ACL and LCL, concern as to whether he would be ready for next season’s opener increased, and it is still far from a given that he will be on the field for Week 1 of the 2018 campaign. But Dr. James Bradley, who performed Wentz’s surgery, said that barring a setback, Wentz should be ready to do some work in training camp and be ready to play in Week 1.

Now for more notes from the league’s east divisions:

  • Mercurial Giants wideout Odell Beckham, Jr. is under club control for one more season — the last year of his rookie deal — and it was not too long ago that he was looking for a new contract worth at least $100MM. But a season-ending ankle fracture in October has thrown a wrench into those plans, and we recently learned that team owner John Mara would not engage in contract talks with Beckham until he discussed the matter with new head coach Pat Shurmur. As Anthony Barstow of the New York Post writes, though, Shurmur is seemingly in Beckham’s corner, and Beckham himself is anxious to put the matter to bed. He said during last night’s NFL Honors show, “Hopefully we get it done, just to get it over with. I really want to do it so I can move past it. It’s too much to be sitting around, thinking where I’m going to be.” 
  • We heard several days ago that the Patriots are likely to lose special teams coach Joe Judge and offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia this offseason — Judge to another team and Scarnecchia to retirement — but Mike Reiss of ESPN.com does not believe either departure is a foregone conclusion. Given that New England will lose top coordinators Josh McDaniels and Matt Patricia, Reiss can envision a scenario in which owner Robert Kraft gives Judge a raise to convince him to stay and head coach Bill Belichick “leans on” Scarnecchia to come back for at least one more season.
  • This year’s QB market is uniquely loaded with talent, both in free agency and the draft, and if Jets GM Mike Maccagnan cannot find a permanent solution this offseason, Rich Cimini of ESPN.com says he should be run out of town. The Jets will certainly be a competitor for Kirk Cousins services, but a Cousins splurge would significantly hamper the team’s ability to improve the rest of its roster. Cimini believes Gang Green should pass on Cousins if the bidding gets out of hand, as he views the longtime Redskin as a complementary piece rather than a savior. Of course, what the Jets do vis-a-vis Cousins depends on how Maccagnan & Co. view the 2018 rookie class.
  • Speaking of Cousins, we heard this morning that the Redskins may put the franchise tag on him in the coming weeks with the hopes of trading him.

AFC East Notes: Jets, Mangold, Patriots

Former Jets center Nick Mangold was out of football in 2017, but he hasn’t ruled out a return to the field next season, as Bob Glauber of Newsday writes.

I’m kind of not closing the door, but I’m not actively searching for anything right now,” said Mangold on Radio Row in advance of the Super Bowl.

Mangold, 34, stayed at home as he dealt with a foot injury suffered during the 2016 season. He told ESPN Radio (Twitter link) that he was never healthy last season, but during his Radio Row trip, he indicated that he could have played at some point in the late fall.

Maybe midseason, but by that point, it’s the middle of the season, you’ve missed the whole offseason when you get to know people,” he said. “[The foot] still wasn’t right. It was one of those things where I probably could have gone out there and played, but I wouldn’t be playing up to my standards. I wouldn’t want to go out there stealing checks, so that’s why I didn’t go for it, because I wouldn’t have been playing at my level.

Here’s more from the AFC East:

  • The Jay Ajayi trade looks a loss for the Dolphins right now, but the team can learn some valuable lessons from the way things played out, Armando Salguero of The Miami Herald writes. The Dolphins are a passing-centric team, which didn’t sit right with Ajayi and meant that a divorce was probably inevitable. However, the Dolphins would have been better served by waiting until the season was over to trade Ajayi, giving them a wider range of suitors to work with, Salguero opines. The Eagles are certainly happy with Miami’s decision to deal the running back for a late fourth-round pick – Ajayi averaged 5.8 yards per carry for Philadelphia in his seven regular season games with the team.
  • Super Bowl LII doesn’t feel like the end of the Tom Brady and Bill Belichick era of the Patriots, but they are likely to lose well-respected offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia to retirement, Peter King of The MMQB (video link, on Twitter) says. It sounds like the Patriots will have to recast four of the main players on the coaching staff this season – offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, special teams coach Joe Judge, and Scarnecchia.
  • On Thursday, Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell indicated that he is not interested in joining the Jets in free agency. Of course, it’s unlikely that Bell reaches unrestricted free agency anyway.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC East Notes: Patriots, Jets, Kaepernick

Patriots cornerback Eric Rowe says he still doesn’t know why the Eagles traded him, Matt Lombardo of NJ.com writes.

I don’t know what happened,” Rowe said. “Obviously you want to get better at your position. I didn’t think I did that bad of a job to slide down the depth chart. I wasn’t getting get beat deep. I was getting a lot of pass breakups on deep balls and I know I probably needed to start pulling some of them down for interceptions but I don’t think that was the reason. I don’t want to say I took it personally or as a personal shot. This is a business at the end of the day. I felt like when I got traded that it was just another opportunity to keep getting better. Just to stay in the NFL is tough. Just to get another shot is a blessing.”

Rowe’s 26 tackles and one interception on the year aren’t that impressive, but he has been a major contributor as of late and he looks like he’ll be worth the conditional 2018 fourth-round draft choice for New England.

Here’s more out of the AFC East:

  • In his latest mailbag, one reader asks Darryl Slater of NJ.com whether the Jets should take advantage of the draft’s strong defensive back crop and find a left tackle in free agency instead. Slater agrees with the assessment, noting that the Jets could select Ryan Ramczyk at No. 6, a player who is viewed as a safer choice than Cam Robinson. Meanwhile, the Jets could go for someone like Andrew Whitworth or Matt Kalil on the open market. Whitworth, 35, has more mileage between the two but the 27-year-old Kalil played in just two games last year thanks to injury.
  • More from Slater, who wonders if new offensive coordinator John Morton will push the Jets to acquire quarterback Colin Kaepernick from the 49ers. Morton was with SF from 2011-2014 and was in the building while Kaepernick shined from 2012-2014. After that point, of course, No. 7 fell off and he hasn’t looked the same ever since. If the 49ers cut or trade Kaepernick, they’d save $16.9MM in cap space.
  • Patriots assistant head coach/offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia says he plans to coach at least through next season. “That’s the plan,” he told reporters this week (including Bleacher Report’s Doug Farrar on Twitter). Scarnecchia turns 69 in mid-February.

AFC East Notes: Dolphins, Bills, Pats

Dolphins owner Stephen Ross created a bit of a stir on Monday when he said, per Jeff Ostrowski of the Palm Beach Post, “After three years, if we haven’t made the playoffs, we’re looking for a new coach. That’s just the way it is. The fans want it.” However, Ross associates tell Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald that the owner was referring to general NFL trends, not specifically addressing Adam Gase’s situation in Miami.

Here’s more out of the AFC East:

  • The Bills could use their franchise tag on left tackle Cordy Glenn at some point during the next two weeks, but if they do, it will essentially cancel out the cap space they’d save by releasing Mario Williams, as Mike Rodak of ESPN.com details. Buffalo could make that swap work, but the team would need to make additional moves to clear cap room for other offseason business.
  • The Patriots re-hired Dante Scarnecchia as offensive line coach, a source confirmed to Adam Caplan of ESPN.com tweets. Scarnecchia retired after the 2013 season but he has remained around the Pats, particularly to help with evaluating offensive line prospects in the draft. Scarnecchia had retired after 32 seasons in the NFL, 30 of which came in New England.
  • Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo does not currently have plans to coach, Albert Breer of NFL.com tweets. Instead, Mayo will focus on some business interests. On Tuesday, Mayo announced his retirement from the NFL.

Luke Adams contributed to this post.

East Rumors: Tannehill, Patriots, Kap

Ryan Tannehill asked former Dolphins offensive coordinator Bill Lazor for more audible latitude last season prior to Lazor’s dismissal, but the then-OC dismissed the notion, according to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald.

In Adam Gase, Tannehill will find a more innovative offensive coach, at least judging by his 2010s work in Denver and Chicago, but may not enjoy the kind of freedom he covets, Jackson notes. Gase’s work with Peyton Manning in 2013-14 notwithstanding, the Bears, per CSNChicago.com, were not an audible-heavy team under his direction last season, even as Jay Cutler progressed.

I’m going to speak for Ryan right now, which I typically don’t do,” Greg Jennings told Finsiders.com. “He wants some more freedom. … He’s been hand-held his entire career.”

Here’s the latest from the NFL’s Eastern divisions on Day 1 of the offseason.

  • Jennings is no lock to be employed by the Dolphins next season after he caught just 19 passes for 208 yards — both well below his previous career-low marks. The 32-year-old wideout’s entering the second season of a two-year, $8MM contract, and the Dolphins, per Pro Football Talk (via Jackson), haven’t told him he’ll be back. Jennings is due to occupy a $5.5MM cap number for the currently over-the-cap Fins, who can save $4MM by cutting the backup target. Jennings is currently Miami’s highest-paid receiver.
  • The Patriots are in discussions with retired coach Dante Scarnecchia about a return to the coaching staff to fix their ailing offensive line, Mike Reiss of ESPN.com writes. Scarnecchia retired after the 2013 season but he has remained around the Pats, particularly to help with evaluating offensive line prospects in the draft. One source told Reiss that it would be a surprise if the coach wasn’t back on the sidelines for the Pats in 2016. Scarnecchia had retired after 32 seasons in the NFL, 30 of which came in New England.
  • There has been a lot of debate as to whether the Jets should pursue 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and, over the weekend, Hall of Famer Joe Namath weighed in. “I think he should consider that a little more,” Namath told ESPN radio (via Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News) when asked about Brandon Marshall‘s opposition to the idea. “I know that [Ryan] Fitzpatrick did a wonderful job this year. Whenever I’m asked to critique what I’ve seen and what I feel, I know that he would like to throw the ball more accurately given the chance. You need more than one quarterback on a team. If Kaepernick were available, I’d certainly consider bringing him in, yes.
  • During an appearance on the Fox News show Fox & Friends, Tom Coughlin reiterated he has no plans to retire, via Tom Rock of Newsday. “I’m not. … I don’t like that word, you know, the retired word,” Coughlin said. “I’m way too young for that, you know what I mean?” Coughlin will also discuss a potential advisory role with the Giants with John Mara soon, Rock reports. Coughlin’s coached in the NFL for 20 of the past 21 seasons, eight with the Jaguars before sitting out 2003.

Zach Links contributed to this report