Deshea Townsend

East Rumors: Patriots, Cousins, Giants, Foles

Will Rob Gronkowski retire this offseason? The tight end hinted at the possibility following the Patriots‘ Super Bowl loss, but head coach Bill Belichick isn’t panicking.

At the end of every season, every person goes through somewhat of a process at the end of the season and then the following season,” Belichick said (via Ryan Hannable of WEEI.com). “I think everyone that is involved in a NFL season, you get pretty drained especially after a season like this. [You] go through the end of the year process. The following year is the following year. It’s the same for everybody. I certainly can’t speak for anybody else.

You’d have to ask any individual for every situation, but I would say five minutes after the game, or the day after the game is not really the time to make those decisions.

Gronkowski maxed out his incentive-laden 2017 contract by returning to first-team All-Pro status, the fourth time he’s done so in his eight-year career. Only Tony Gonzalez (six) earned more first-team All-Pro distinctions. Gronk will turn 29 in May and still has two seasons remaining on his extension signed back in 2012. He’s set to earn $8MM in base salary in 2018 and take up $10.91MM of the Patriots’ cap.

Here’s more from the AFC champions and the latest from the NFC East.

  • Take this with a grain of salt, but Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels told reporters that he will not address whether he’s going to join the Colts as their new head coach or stay in New England as their offensive coordinator (Twitter link via Doug Kyed of NESN). A report emerged during Super Bowl LII that McDaniels was considering backing out of his unofficial Indianapolis agreement.
  • Redskins president Bruce Allen has been speaking to rival executives about possibly tagging Kirk Cousins, but they don’t see the logic in doing that, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports tweets. The feeling around the league, La Canfora says, is that consideration of the tag feels overly personal. As PFR’s Rory Parks explained over the weekend, tagging and trading Cousins could wind up backfiring hard on the team.
  • The Giants are planning to hire two more assistants for Pat Shurmur‘s first staff. Deshea Townsend and Ben Wilkerson will be joining the staff as assistant defensive backs coach and assistant offensive line coach, respectively, Alex Marvez of the Sporting News reports. A 13-year NFL veteran corner, Townsend served as the Titans’ DBs coach during Mike Mularkey‘s two-year run. Wilkerson spent the past three seasons on John Fox‘s Bears staff.
  • Carson Wentz‘s severe knee injuries would make the Eagles “fools” to trade Nick Foles now, especially considering what Jimmy Garoppolo fetched in a trade in October, Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News writes. Signed to just a two-year, $11MM deal, Foles could serve as an elite insurance policy while Wentz recovers. While the Super Bowl champions’ franchise quarterback is hopeful to return in time for the start of the 2018 season, the December setback could leave him on the shelf going into training camp.
  • Conversely, the Eagles’ lack of a second- or third-round pick in next year’s draft could make acquiring a second-rounder more important than keeping Foles while Wentz recovers, Les Bowen of Philly.com writes. Foles’ previous shortcomings as a starter should give teams pause, but his 72 percent playoff completion rate this year was third in NFL history — behind only Joe Montana (1989) and Troy Aikman (1993) — for a player with at least 75 throws. And his stock will probably never be higher. The 29-year-old passer would be an interesting name on an already complex QB market.

Zach Links contributed to this report.

Coaching Rumors: Giants, Texans, Chiefs

New Giants head coach Pat Shurmur will call his own offensive plays in New York but still plans to hire an offensive coordinator, and Vikings quarterbacks coach Kevin Stefanski is a “strong candidate” for the position, sources tell Ralph Vacchiano of SNY. Stefanski, of course, worked under Shurmur in Minnesota, and is now a candidate to take over Shurmur’s old role with the Vikings (where he’d presumably get the opportunity to call games). Minnesota, however, is also considering former Seahawks OC Darrell Bevell and Texans quarterbacks coach Sean Ryan for its coordinator job, so if Stefanski isn’t promoted, he could conceivably bolt for New York. Meanwhile, Eagles running backs coach Duce Staley is a “name to watch” for the Giants’ OC position, while ex-Cardinals offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin could also “be in the mix,” per Vacchiano.

Here’s more on the 2018 coaching carousel:

  • Former Raiders and Chargers defensive coordinator John Pagano will join the Texans as a linebackers coach, reports Alex Marvez of the Sporting News. Specifically, Pagano is now a senior defensive assistant who will coach outside linebackers, while Bobby King — already on Houston’s staff — will coach inside ‘backers, per Mark Berman of FOX 26 (Twitter link). Pagano, the brother of former Colts head coach Chuck Pagano, spent five years as the Chargers’ DC before landing with the Raiders in 2017. When Oakland fired Ken Norton Jr. midway through last season, Pagano stepped in as the club’s defensive coordinator.
  • The Chiefs will promote offensive quality coach Mike Kafka to quarterbacks coach, according to Terez A. Paylor of the Kansas City Star. Kafka, 30, originally entered the league as a 2010 fourth-round of Andy Reid‘s Eagles and went to play for six other clubs before hanging up his cleats. He coached at Northwestern (his alma mater) before joining Kansas City’s staff in 2017. Reid’s coaching tree is obviously impressive, and the past two men to serve as quarterbacks coach under his employ — Doug Pederson and Matt Nagy — are now head coaches with the Eagles and Bears, respectively.
  • The Titans also have a new quarterbacks coach: former Texans offensive assistant Pat O’Hara, tweets John McClain of the Houston Chronicle, who adds ex-Texans defensive assistant Shane Bowen is now Tennessee’s outside linebackers coach. O’Hara interviewed for the Bears’ quarterbacks coach job earlier this year, but Chicago ended up retaining Dave Ragone for the role. Meanwhile, new Titans assistant coach Kerry Coombs will indeed lead defensive backs in Tennessee, meaning he’ll coach the same position group that he did at Ohio State, tweets Paul Kuharsky of PaulKuharsky.com. Titans head coach Mike Vrabel offered incumbent secondary coach Deshea Townsend a job as Coombs’ assistant (read: a demotion), but Townsend will instead leave the club.
  • The Panthers have hired Air Force defensive coordinator Steve Russ as their new linebackers coach, per Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer. Russ will replace Al Holcomb, who followed Steve Wilks to Arizona earlier this week to become the Cardinals’ new defensive coordinator. Although he enjoyed a four-year pro career, the 45-year-old Russ has never coached at the NFL level. He’s been at Air Force since 2012, and previously spent time at Syracuse, Wake Forest, and Ohio. Carolina has also added former Seahawks assistant special teams coach Heath Farwell for the same role, reports Omar Ruiz of NFL.com (Twitter link).

Titans Fire OC Terry Robiskie

In a move that should come as no surprise, the Titans have parted ways with offensive coordinator Terry Robiskie, according to Paul Kuharsky of PaulKuharsky.com (Twitter link).Terry Robiskie (Vertical)

New Titans head coach Mike Vrabel is currently formulating a staff, and there was never any expectation that Robiskie would be retained for the 2018 campaign. Indeed, Tennessee has already been linked to potential OC candidates — including Ohio State’s Ryan Day (who will not accept the position) and ex-Lions quarterbacks coach Brian Callahan — so Robiskie’s dismissal was a mere formality.

Under Robiskie, the 2017 Titans offense ranked 13th in yards, 17th in points, and 18th in DVOA. But the club’s play-calling and handling of mobile quarterback Marcus Mariota was often questioned, as Robiskie & Co. seemingly failed to put the former No. 2 overall pick in the best situations. Tennessee finished just 28th in situation neutral offensive pace, a notably slow speed given Mariota’s collegiate success in Chip Kelly’s quick-game offense.

Tennessee has also fired special teams coordinator Steve Hoffman and linebackers coach Lou Spanos, per Kuharsky, and in fact plans to part ways with nearly every one of former head coach Mike Mularkey‘s assistants, reports Cameron Wolfe of ESPN.com (Twitter link). The only coach who might stick around is defensive backs coach Deshea Townsend, who played with Vrabel in Pittsburgh. Vrabel will interview Townsend for the role at the Senior Bowl, per Wolfe.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC South Notes: Colts, Jaguars, Titans

On the heels of a disastrous 2015 season, Mike Wells of ESPN.com isn’t so sure that Colts general manager Ryan Grigson will be his usual aggressive self when it comes to signing veteran free agents this winter. As Wells observes, Andre Johnson, Trent Cole, and Todd Herremans were among last year’s additions who didn’t live up to expectations for Indianapolis in ’15.

Let’s round up a few more items from out of the AFC South…

  • Based on a comment made today by Falcons head coach Dan Quinn, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets that it sounds like Atlanta kept defensive backs coach Marquand Manuel from the Jaguars. Jacksonville interviewed Manuel for their defensive coordinator position and if the team had been prepared to offer him that job, I find it hard to believe the Falcons would have stood in his way — if the Jags wanted to hire him in a lesser role though, it makes sense that Atlanta would have pushed to hang onto him.
  • Armed with a ton of cap space this winter, the Jaguars should enter the free agent period ready to spend on players to complement their young core, with the goal of competing right away, writes Jason Fitzgerald of Over the Cap. Fitzgerald points to the offensive line and the secondary as a couple key areas for Jacksonville to focus on as the team considers possible upgrades.
  • The Titans formally announced their latest coaching staff hires today, confirming the previously-reported addition of Russ Grimm as the club’s new offensive line coach. In addition to Grimm, Tennessee hired Deshea Townsend as its secondary coach and Steve Jackson as an assistant secondary coach.
  • After spending the 2015 campaign on the Colts‘ practice squad, wide receiver Duron Carter is officially headed back to the CFL for 2016, the Montreal Alouettes announced today in a press release.