DeMarcus Ware

AFC West Notes: Raiders, Carr, Broncos

As the Raiders transition further into the second Jon Gruden era, more staff turnover can be expected. Mike Mayock has replaced Reggie McKenzie as GM, and another of McKenzie’s lieutenants is no longer with the team. Director of pro personnel Dane Vandernat recently left the Raiders, according to Sirius XM’s Adam Caplan (via Twitter). Vandernat’s contract was to expire after the draft, per Caplan, who adds Dave Razzano will take over some of Vandernat’s pre-draft workload. This comes after player personnel director Joey Clinkscales received his walking papers. Teams that make front office changes often wait until after the draft to revamp scouting departments, and Mayock recently said he is scouting the in-house scouts. Vandernat’s Raiders arrival predated McKenzie’s. He had been with the team since 2008. Reggie McKenzie’s twin brother, Raleigh McKenzie, is still working for the Raiders as a scout.

Here is the latest from the AFC West, shifting to the Raiders’ quarterback situation.

  • Rumors are circulating about Gruden and Mayock bringing in their own quarterback, with Peter King of NBC Sports writing “lots” of suspicion has arisen about the Raiders drafting a passer in the first round. This prospective move would not be accompanied by a Derek Carr trade, per King, who adds an NFL exec said the team may be tempted by the Chiefs’ draft-and-wait model they used with Patrick Mahomes. Of course, Alex Smith was 33 during Mahomes’ rookie season; Carr will turn 28 this year. That would not make for a smooth setup. Additionally, the Raiders’ first-round picks acquired via trade sit at Nos. 24 and 27. Several potential quarterback-seeking teams pick ahead of them, with the Giants (No. 6), Jaguars (7), Broncos (10), Dolphins (13, though they are eyeing the 2020 QB class) and Redskins (15) stationed in the first round’s top half. It would be a bit odd if the Raiders gave up assets to replace Carr, and King is hearing buzz about it even taking a top-10 pick to select Kyler Murray (if he ends up in the draft).
  • The Broncos‘ $41MM-plus in cap space places them in the upper middle class this offseason, but they have a few possible cuts they can make to increase that figure. Coming off back-to-back losing seasons for the first time in 46 years, the Broncos are expected to be active in free agency, ESPN.com’s Jeff Legwold notes (on Twitter). Denver needs help at cornerback, on the offensive line and at tight end, to name three spots. The Broncos have several notable UFAs, but so far, Matt Paradis has been the only higher-end UFA mentioned as a player the franchise would like to retain. Bradley Roby, Shane Ray and Shaquil Barrett, the latter eyeing a starting role he cannot obtain in Denver, are expected to depart.
  • DeMarcus Ware worked as a pass-rush consultant in Denver last season, but he might not be back in 2019. Vic Fangio has not spoken with Ware about returning, Troy Renck of Denver7 tweets. Fangio said he will spend time with Denver’s outside linebackers, and he brought Brandon Staley over from Chicago to directly oversee this spot.
  • The Broncos hired the grandson of former Colorado coach Bill McCartney to be their quarterbacks coach, and they are adding former Stanford, Notre Dame and Washington HC Tyrone Willingham‘s son, Nathaniel Willingham, to serve as their defensive quality control coach, Mike Klis of 9News notes. The younger Willingham spent the past four seasons as a Stanford coach.
  • Melvin Gordon will see how Le’Veon Bell‘s deal affects the market before discussing a Chargers extension.

AFC Notes: Burnett, Colts, Ware, Patriots

A year after leaving Iowa State to join Frank Reich‘s Colts staff, Tom Manning is heading back to the college ranks. Indianapolis’ tight ends coach will depart and rejoin Matt Campbell‘s Cyclones staff, according to Zak Keefer of the Indianapolis Star. Manning was Iowa State’s offensive coordinator from 2016-17 and will once again serve in that role, Keefer notes, adding the Colts hoped he would stay. The Cyclones did not have an OC this past season. One of Manning’s charges had one of the most surprising showings of 2018, with Eric Ebron‘s 13 touchdown receptions breaking Dallas Clark‘s Colts record for tight ends. Ebron’s 14 total touchdowns were the third-most in a season in NFL history. The Colts are looking to replace offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo and assistant O-line coach Bobby Johnson. The tight ends job joins the vacancy list.

Here is the latest from the AFC:

  • Morgan Burnett seeks a Steelers release, in hopes of landing with a team that will use him as a pure safety. The Steelers often deployed Burnett as a dime linebacker, but younger safeties Terrell Edmunds and Sean Davis saw far more playing time. Pittsburgh coaches knew Burnett did not like his role, Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette notes, adding the longtime Packers starter was moved off full-time safety duties because of recurring injuries. Burnett played in only 11 games this season. Despite signing for three years and more than $14MM, Burnett will not be getting his safety job back over Davis or Edmunds, per Dulac.
  • DeMarcus Ware served as a pass-rushing consultant for the Broncos this season, but the future Hall of Famer’s role with the Vic Fangio-led staff is not certain. Fangio will spend time coaching Denver’s outside linebackers and hired Brandon Staley to oversee that position, leaving Ware with potentially less to do. However, the former Broncos starter wants to return and would like to do more if asked to come back, Nicki Jhabvala of The Athletic writes (subscription required). A key Ware 2018 task was mentoring Bradley Chubb, who promptly broke Von Miller‘s record for sacks by a Broncos rookie with 12. Regardless of Ware’s Broncos employment, Jhabvala notes he plans on working with some of Denver’s players in the offseason.
  • While the Patriots are likely going to have to pay a premium to retain Trey Flowers, another key contributor has enhanced his profile during the latest New England Super Bowl run. Trent Brown will be a top-tier free agent, per ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert, who rates the Patriots left tackle as the No. 7 UFA-to-be in the 2019 class (ESPN+ link). With most of the players listed above Brown unlikely to hit the market, the massive blocker may be in line for a top-level contract. Seifert lists Flowers as the No. 9 free agent.

Broncos Notes: Ware, Ray, Lynch

DeMarcus Ware will return to Denver and work with some of his former teammates. After months of trying, the Broncos hired the future Hall of Famer as a part-time coach, Nicki Jhabvala of The Athletic reports (subscription required). Ware will work with the Broncos around 40 or 50 days this year, Mike Klis of 9News reports (Twitter link). Klis adds that Ware will work with the defensive assistants, some of whom were around during his final Broncos seasons. Ware received interest from the Cowboys for a similar consulting-type role but opted for the Denver job.

I wish I could help out both teams, but with the league, you can’t do that,” Ware said, via Klis (on Twitter). “You’ve just got to choose your battles and this right here was my choice.”

Jhabvala notes Ware will work with Broncos outside linebackers and defensive ends, with Bradley Chubb likely his chief assignment, and will be at various practices and spend time in meetings with coaches.

It’s great for Von (Miller),” Vance Joseph said, via Jhabvala. “D-Ware is the guy that Von followed. He became a great player under D-Ware’s watch, along with the coaches also obviously. But it’s great to have him here for all of our guys — for (Derek) Wolfe, for (Domata) Peko, for Von, for all of those guys. Rushing the passer in this league is a premium. You have to rush the passer, and our scheme is built around rushing the passer.”

Here’s the latest out of Denver, moving to one of Ware’s charges.

  • Shane Ray‘s wrist surgery will involve bone fusion, Ryan O’Halloran of the Denver Post tweets. Ray said Wednesday he’s still hoping to be on the field for Week 1. The former first-round pick began last season on IR because of a wrist injury, and after extensive medical counsel, he will undergo another wrist procedure. Ray was available during the Broncos’ 2017 offseason before suffering an injury during training camp. But he wasn’t the same upon return, failing to live up to his 2016 standards. The Broncos are better equipped to handle a Ray absence this year, with Chubb in the fold alongside Shaquil Barrett.
  • Ray’s surgery might open the door for UDFA Jeff Holland. The Auburn product left school early only to go undrafted, but DC Joe Woods lavished high praise upon the rookie Wednesday. “We record all of the positive that guys make, and right now he’s blowing people away,” Woods said, via O’Halloran (Twitter link). Holland could be in line to make the Broncos as a backup outside linebacker. During their return to a 3-4 look, the Broncos have usually kept four outside linebackers — peaking with a Miller/Ware/Barrett/Ray setup in 2015-16. But with Ray sidelined, it’s possible Holland could forge a path to the 53-man roster — possibly as a fifth outside ‘backer due to the unique circumstances Denver’s dealing with at this spot.
  • Paxton Lynch has looked like a more dedicated player this offseason, Arnie Stapleton of the Associated Press writes. However, the third-year quarterback has yet to consistently wow observers on the practice field. Joseph attempted to shed additional light on why the franchise stuck with Lynch rather than using a draft pick on competition. “I think Paxton is really motivated to show everyone that he can be a No. 1 quarterback in this league, and watching him work this entire offseason he is different because I’ve seen him a lot more up in the halls here,” Joseph said, adding the Broncos having three offensive coordinators in three years has stunted the young passer’s progress. “And that takes time to find your comfort zone with coaches, with your organization.”

Coaching/FO Notes: Jets, Texans, Ware

A week after the Texans made the move to bring Jets executive Matt Bazirgan into the fold as their director of player personnel, the Jets will hire one of the staffers the Texans axed after the draft. Former Houston college scouting director Jon Carr will assume the same position in New York, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle reports. Carr spent over a decade with the Texans, rising from the scouting level to his most recent post with the AFC South franchise. Carr has a history with Jets GM Mike Maccagnan, with the two working together with the Texans for several years. Carr ended up replacing Maccagnan as the Texans’ director of college scouting in 2015 when the Jets named Maccagnan their GM.

Here’s the latest from the managerial side of the game, shifting back to Houston’s revamped scouting department.

  • The Texans hired Saints scout C.J. Leak to be their assistant director of pro scouting, per John McClain of the Houston Chronicle. Leak spent two years as the Saints’ Combine scout and prior to that spent eight years with the Bills, working in their pro personnel department.
  • The NFL closed an investigation into former Bills president Russ Brandon, who resigned from his post recently, and the longtime executive can move forward without any punishment. Brandon was accused of having inappropriate relationships with female employees. “We are satisfied the club addressed the matter in a timely, thorough and appropriate manner,” the league’s statement read, via NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport (on Twitter). “There will be no further action by the league office.” Brandon worked for the Bills for more than 20 years.
  • After drafting Bradley Chubb to fill the void DeMarcus Ware‘s retirement created, the Broncos reached out to Ware in hopes of the future Hall of Famer helping out on a part-time basis this summer, Mike Klis of 9News reports. Denver also contacted other former NFLers, but Ware is the only known name the to whom the team has reached out. The Broncos’ goal appears to be for these retired players to work as consultants during some OTA sessions and a few additional training camp dates. Ware played the final three seasons of his career with the Broncos, his tenure obviously peaking with a 3.5-sack postseason en route to Denver’s Super Bowl 50 title. Klis writes that it can be safely assumed Chubb would be Ware’s primary project if he accepts.
  • Kris Richard oversaw the final years of the Seahawks‘ full defensive core, but the team fired him after last season. Now working as the Cowboys’ defensive backs coach, the 38-year-old assistant is grateful for the opportunity, even if it is not a coordinator role. “I love (Cowboys DC Rod) Marinelli. It will work because I think we’re cut from the same cloth,” Richard said, via Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News (on Twitter). “I’m truly grateful to be here. I’m truly grateful for him.” Richard’s spent his only seasons as an NFL staffer with the Seahawks, with the former NFL player entering his ninth season as a coach. Richard interviewed for the Colts’ HC job before signing on to work under Marinelli in Dallas.

NFL Team Hoping To Sign DeMarcus Ware

DeMarcus Ware says he’s done with football, but football won’t stop trying to pull him back in. The former defensive end tells Rich Eisen of FOX Sports Radio (Twitter link) that he received a text from a team on Tuesday morning asking him to join the squad and suit up on Sunday. Ware did not reveal that team’s identity, but he might be giving some thought to a return. DeMarcus Ware (vertical)

Should I do it?,” Ware wondered aloud in a Twitter reply.

It’s not immediately clear if Ware is open to playing again or if he is just having some fun with the idea of a comeback. At the age of 35, Ware has lots of mileage on him and little to prove. Over the course of his career, Ware earned an eye-popping nine Pro Bowl nods plus four First Team All-Pro selections. While with the Cowboys from 2005-13, he amassed a franchise-record 117 sacks. He was injured for his final two years in Denver, but he still managed 11.5 sacks in those campaigns and 21.5 overall in his three seasons with the club.

Ware is eighth on the NFL’s all-time sack list (138.5) and he could conceivably climb higher if he makes a return. In September, he teased that he would listen if the Cowboys came calling, but we don’t know how serious he was about that sentiment or whether he would also consider opportunities from one of the league’s 31 other teams.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

DeMarcus Ware Nearly Rejoined Cowboys

9:02pm: It appears Ware really is done for good. He wouldn’t seriously consider coming out of retirement, according to Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News.

5:13pm: Pass rusher DeMarcus Ware revealed in April that the Cowboys were among those who tried to sign him before he retired in March, but it was unclear whether he came close to inking a deal with anyone. It turns out the nine-time Pro Bowler very nearly returned to Dallas, where he played from 2005-13 and amassed a franchise-record 117 sacks.

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“I was one day away from coming back and signing with the Dallas Cowboys,” Ware told Todd Archer of ESPN.com. “But my body just told me it’s time. It’s time to stop playing. Still have the drive to get out there and the want to play, but you’ve got to think about family, think about what’s important and I just decided it’s time to hang up the cleats and put on a suit.”

Only one regular-season game into his retirement, the 35-year-old Ware suggested that he’d at least listen if Dallas were to make him another offer.

“If Jerry calls me, I’ll answer the phone,” he said. “I will answer the phone.”

While the Cowboys’ defense was a major question mark entering the season, the unit was outstanding during a 19-3 win over the Odell Beckham-less Giants in Week 1. Regardless of whether that was a sign of what’s to come from Dallas’ defense, it’s possible the team has enough pass rushers with Demarcus Lawrence, Benson Mayowa, Taco Charlton, Tyrone Crawford, David Irving (who’s serving a four-game suspension), Charles Tapper and Damontre Moore (one game left on a two-game ban) on hand. Still, only two of those players (Mayowa and Crawford) had more sacks last year than Ware, who picked up four during a 10-game slate with the Broncos.

Injuries dogged Ware over his final two years in Denver, limiting him to 21 of a possible 32 games, but he still managed 11.5 sacks during that span and 21.5 in his three seasons with the club. He’s now eighth all-time in sacks (138.5) and would likely climb at least a couple more spots on the list with a 2017 return. It’s unclear, however, whether the Dallas icon would actually come back if the potential Super Bowl contenders were to court him again. For now, he and former teammate and fellow retiree Tony Romo may be potential emergency options for the Cowboys.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Broncos, Cowboys, Rams Extended Offers To DeMarcus Ware

Less than a month after his retirement, DeMarcus Ware shed some light about what could have been had he sought to return for a 13th NFL season. The future Hall of Fame edge defender told Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post he received three offers this offseason as a UFA — from the Broncos, Cowboys and Rams.

Ware told the Denver-based reporter something changed between early February and mid-March, leading him to retire. The 34-year-old posted on social media on New Year’s Eve of last year he planned to play in 2017, but he reversed course. However, Ware told Jhabvala had he been under contract with the Broncos for another year he would be suiting up for them this coming season.

Denver’s right outside linebacker said retirement didn’t cross his mind during last season, but he did reveal that he played around three games with a herniated disc in his back. He underwent back surgery following the Broncos’ Week 16 game in Kansas City.

I’d sit down in meetings not knowing if I’d be able to get up,” Ware said, via Jhabvala, about going through weeks with the herniated disc. “This is stuff people don’t know you go through because I love playing football. … That [Chiefs] game, I was hurting so bad. I told myself, ‘You need to just get yourself fixed.”

It wasn’t known until today how serious a possible reunion with Wade Phillips in Los Angeles was. Ware visited the L.A. in March, with the Rams joining the Broncos and Cowboys in the pursuit. Jane Slater of NFL.com reported multiple teams offered Ware at least $7MM per year. He finished out a three-year, $30MM contract with the Broncos last season. 

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC West Rumors: Lang, Ware, 49ers, Rams

T.J. Lang saw the Lions change his mind at the last minute and possibly changing the fortunes of the team that beat Detroit in the wild-card round. The ninth-year guard was “99 percent” sure he was going to sign with the Seahawks after the sides’ Saturday summit. But the Lions improved their offer and ended up signing the Michigan native to a three-year, $28.5MM deal.

I didn’t know Detroit was coming back with a counter-offer,” Lang said in an interview with 97.1-FM (via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press). “When I left Seattle I was about 99 percent sure I was flying back there to sign a contract and Detroit stepped up and things changed pretty quick.”

Lang’s former team did not offer him as much as the Lions did. The Packers proposed a three-year deal worth $21.5MM. While the Lions pact includes $19MM in guarantees, the Packers’ offer housed just $6.5MM guaranteed. Opining on the Packers’ usual free agency-phobic tendencies, Lang said Green Bay’s offer made this decision easier.

I think just throughout the years they were able to get some guys back in town because they used the whole, we’re good, we’re competitive, we compete for championships every year. Do you want to play with the best quarterback in the NFL-type thing, you’re going to have to take a little less money, and I think it just kind of wore some guys out the last couple years and watching guys leave,” Lang said during the radio interview.

Here’s more from the NFC West.

  • DeMarcus Ware‘s Rams visit did include discussions with Wade Phillips and new HC Sean McVay, Alden Gonzalez of ESPN.com reports. But he adds the sides did not get into serious talks about the now-retired pass-rusher joining the Rams.
  • UFA tackle Byron Bell visited the 49ers this weekend, ESPN.com’s Field Yates tweets. He did not play during the 2016 after dislocating his ankle on the first day of Titans OTAs last summer. Bell proved versatile for the 2015 Titans, however, starting 16 games but at three different spots — eight at right tackle, seven at left guard and one at left tackle. The 28-year-old Bell has been a career-long starter, serving as the Panthers’ primary left tackle from 2011-14.
  • Kyle Juszczyk received an even better offer than the fullback-record deal (four years, $21MM) he signed with the 49ers, Peter King of TheMMQB.com reports. The fifth-year fullback’s agent told King one team would have paid Juszczyk more than what the 49ers offered. The Bills, Browns, Eagles and Jets were also in on this competition.
  • The SeahawksJared Cook visit will create questions regarding Jimmy Graham‘s long-term spot with the team, Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times notes. Graham is already 30, having turned 25 during his rookie year. However, Cook is less than six months younger. Graham will be a UFA in 2018, and the Seahawks have potential third contracts for Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor to consider. Both have observed other safeties surpass their second Seattle contracts in terms of value in recent years. Pete Carroll said at the Combine there is no reason to doubt Graham’s status on the 2017 Seahawks. He will count $10MM against Seattle’s cap this year.
  • Jarvis JonesRams visit will occur Tuesday, per Gonzalez. The Rams signed their most recent visitor, cornerback Kayvon Webster, on Monday night.

DeMarcus Ware Visited Rams

DeMarcus Ware‘s retirement after 12 NFL seasons came despite multiple teams offering the revered pass-rusher more than $7MM per year. NFL.com’s Jane Slater reported the Broncos and Cowboys didn’t reach the numbers stage in their respective talks with Ware, and Tom Pelissero of USA Today (via Twitter) shed some light on another team that’s looking for pass-rushing help.

The Rams hosted Ware on a visit, per Pelissero. Other than the Broncos and Cowboys, a Ware-to-Los Angeles scenario made the most sense due to Wade Phillips‘ presence with the team. Phillips coached in Dallas and Denver, overseeing the edge defender’s work for six seasons. Three of Ware’s four first-team All-Pro appearances came under Phillips’ guidance.

Ware also delivered as a member of the Broncos, and Phillips joined up during Ware’s second Denver season. He registered 45 sacks during his three-season All-Pro run under Phillips in Dallas and added 11.5 in his final two Broncos seasons. Ware, though, came up big in both the 2015 AFC title game and Super Bowl 50 despite missing five games due to a back injury that season. Denver’s then-right outside linebacker hit Tom Brady seven times in the Broncos’ narrow AFC title conquest and sacked Cam Newton twice two weeks later.

The Rams are converting to a base 3-4 defense under Phillips and recently traded William Hayes to the Dolphins. The team doesn’t house a slew of edge-rushing depth behind Robert Quinn, though, despite employing interior-defending dynamo Aaron Donald and quality complement Michael Brockers.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

DeMarcus Ware Retires From NFL

DeMarcus Ware is done playing football. The free agent linebacker announced his retirement via Twitter on Monday afternoon. DeMarcus Ware (vertical)

I’m hanging up my cleats and beginning the journey to my next destination,” Ware wrote as a part of his statement.

Ware, 35 in July, piled up 21.5 sacks in three years as a member of the Broncos, giving him 138.5 for his career. Just over a week ago, there was word that he wanted to end his career as a member of the Cowboys. Broncos GM John Elway also wanted to re-sign the veteran. Despite the options that were out there, Ware has decided to focus on other ventures and spend more time with his family. He leaves the sport eighth on the all-time sack list.

A 2017 return would have represented Ware’s 13th NFL season, and there were offers for the pass-rusher to suit up again. Ware turned down proposals in the $7-$8MM-per-year range, per Jane Slater of NFL.com (on Twitter). “A few” teams made these kind of offers, per Slater, potentially meaning Ware drew serious interest from beyond the Broncos or Cowboys. Slater adds to the notion that other teams were pursuing Ware, noting the Cowboys and Broncos didn’t reach the offers stage of this pursuit (Twitter link). Those talks didn’t expand beyond the formative stage, per Slater.

Ware said in December he intended to play next season but ultimately decided to move on to other things.

The future Hall of Famer enjoyed some of his best seasons with Dallas, a run that included four first-team All-Pro selections and seven consecutive Pro Bowl nods. He continued to be productive in Denver, even though he wasn’t fully healthy in the last two seasons.

We here at PFR wish Ware the best in retirement.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.