Eliot Wolf

2022 NFL General Manager Search Tracker

Along with the head coaches being fired, a few NFL teams are looking for new general managers. The Bears, Giants and Vikings are in the market for new GMs, while the Steelers are soon to follow. Listed below are the GM candidates that have been linked to each of the teams with vacancies, along with their current status.

If and when other teams decide to make GM changes, they’ll be added to this list. Here is the current breakdown:

Updated 1-16-22 (10:30pm CT)

Chicago Bears

Minnesota Vikings

New York Giants

Bears Request To Interview Chargers’ Wooden

Do not be surprised if you start getting calls from Chicago because the Bears are searching far and wide to fill their vacant general manager position and they are interviewing EVERYBODY! The newest candidate to add to the list is Chargers’ director of player personnel, JoJo Wooden, according to a tweet from NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.

Wooden has been with the Chargers since 2013 overseeing the pro and college scouting department for the Chargers. He got his start with the Jets in 1997 and spent 10 seasons working his way up from pro personnel assistant to the assistant director, player personnel, a position he held for six more years.

What makes Wooden an interesting candidate for the Bears’ job is the connections he has to the search committee. Bears Senior Writer Larry Mayer reported a couple days ago that Bill Polian, who has spent time as a general manager for the Bills, Panthers, and, most notably, the Colts, will be a resource to the Bears as they go through the process of hiring a new head coach and general manager. Wooden is known as a key lieutenant for the Chargers’ current general manager Tom Telesco, and Telesco worked under Polian during Polian’s entire tenure in Indianapolis.

To date, the Bears have already interviewed the Browns’ Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Glenn Cook and their own assistant director of player personnel, Champ Kelly. They’ve also requested interviews with the Colts’ Morocco Brown and Ed Dodds, the 49ers’ Ran Carthon, the Saints’ Jeff Ireland, the Steelers’ Omar Khan, the Giants’ Joe Schoen, and the Patriots’ Eliot Wolf. Texans’ former general manager Rick Smith has also been identified as a candidate.

Vikings Begin GM Interview Requests

Likely set to hire an outside GM for the first time in over a decade, the Vikings have taken a bit more time to send out their interview requests. But they sent out their first summons Wednesday night.

Browns vice president of player personnel Glenn Cook received a Vikes interview request, Jonathan Jones of CBS Sports tweets. Cook has landed on the radar of both the NFC North’s GM-seeking franchises, having interviewed for the Bears’ GM gig Wednesday.

In addition to Cook, the Vikings sent out requests to speak with Patriots senior consultant Eliot Wolf and fellow Browns staffer Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets. Those two are also on Chicago’s interview list.

Previously in the Packers organization, Cook joined the Browns in 2016. Cook started in the scouting department and rose to the level of assistant pro scouting director, before climbing to his current post in 2020. The Browns were not exactly a sought-after organization for executive talent when Cook arrived, but they have seen multiple execs receive interview requests during this cycle. Both Minnesota’s other two early interview hopefuls worked in Cleveland, where longtime Vikings assistant Kevin Stefanski landed.

Prior to stays in Cleveland and New England, Wolf enjoyed a lengthy Green Bay tenure. The son of Hall of Fame GM Ron Wolf, Eliot has been in the GM mix for a few years now. Yet to rise to a GM role, Wolf interviewed for the Packer job that went to Brian Gutekunst. He also was in the mix for the Colts’ GM post in 2017. The Browns’ vice president of football operations, Adofo-Mensah spent time with the 49ers before joining the Browns in 2020. He interviewed for the Panthers’ GM position last year.

The Vikings are seeking to replace Rick Spielman, who had been with the organization since 2006. In addition to the three requests sent out, Colts VP of player personnel Ed Dodds and Chiefs director of football administration Brandt Tillis are potential candidates, ESPN.com’s Courtney Cronin tweets.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bears Request To Interview Pats’ Eliot Wolf

The Chicago Bears have added another candidate to their list of potential replacements for former-general manager Ryan Pace. According to a tweet from ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Bears have requested to interview Patriots’ senior consultant Eliot Wolf for their open general manager position. 

Wolf started off as a pro personnel assistant in 2004 with the Packers, where his father, Ron Wolf, served as general manager from 1991 to 2000. In eight years with the team, Eliot worked his way into the director of pro personnel role, which he held for three years. In his last two seasons in Green Bay, he spent time in the roles of director of player personnel and director of football operations.

He left Wisconsin for the assistant general manager position in Cleveland before taking his current position as a senior consultant in New England.

Wolf has heard his name make the rounds for open general manager positions before. He first interviewed in San Francisco, after the 49ers fired Trent Baalke following the 2016 NFL season. He was also considered to follow in his father’s footsteps in Green Bay and succeed the late-Ted Thompson when he stepped down from the position following the 2017 season.

Wolf is likely hoping that he will finally get his chance to take the next step up for the bitter rivals of the team that gave him his start.

Latest On Joe Judge, Giants’ GM Position

The latest reporting on the matter suggests that Joe Judge will be back as the Giants’ head coach in 2022, though Judge will be required to make some changes to his offensive staff, including offensive coordinator. However, Judge may not be out of the woods just yet.

Last month, Paul Schwartz of the New York Post wrote that Judge would be back unless someone the team interviews for the soon-to-be-vacant GM post offers both a compelling reason to let Judge go and a compelling replacement for him. Even SNY.tv’s Ralph Vacchiano’s more recent report (cited in our piece linked above) mentioned that the new GM may be given the chance to “weigh in” on Judge’s status.

In that same vein, sources from other ownership groups tell Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports that they would not be surprised if Giants co-owner John Mara decides to move on from Judge, and minority owner Steve Tisch is said to be willing to consider an organizational overhaul that includes the head coaching position. However, Mara himself has thus far remained resolute in his desire to keep Judge aboard.

When GM Dave Gettleman‘s imminent ouster was first reported back in November, it was said that his replacement would ideally have a background in the Patriots’ scouting system and would have philosophies more in line with those of Judge, an ex-New England staffer. Just a month later, though, ownership’s thinking apparently changed a bit, as Schwartz wrote that a prospective GM’s preexisting ties to Judge could actually be a detriment to that person’s candidacy. Indeed, Mara reportedly wants to know what the new GM truly thinks of Judge and does not want that opinion to be influenced by prior relationships.

As for who the new GM will be, we have heard that assistant GM Kevin Abrams is a “strong contender.” That does not come as a surprise given the Giants’ penchant to hire those with connections to the franchise, though sticking with the status quo in this instance would likely incense the Big Blue fanbase. However, Vacchiano does not see Abrams as a mere extension of Gettleman despite the many years the two execs have spent together in the New York front office, and he believes Abrams would be a worthy hire despite what fans might think.

Other candidates include Titans director of player personnel Monti Ossenfort and Patriots director of player personnel Dave Ziegler, both of whom were with New England when Judge was there. Again, those Foxborough ties may or may not hurt Ossenfort’s and Ziegler’s case to become Giants GM, but there will be no shortage of other potential targets.

Vacchiano names former Chiefs and Browns GM John Dorsey as another candidate, and if the Giants want to go with a more experienced hand, they would be hard-pressed to do better. Fans who pay attention to front office maneuvers and the annual GM cycle will also recognize Eliot Wolf, Louis Riddick, Dave Caldwell, and Scott Pioli, who all appear on Vacchiano’s list.

Jay Glazer of FOX Sports (via Ryan Dunleavy of the New York Post on Twitter) says Judge himself is pushing for Abrams to be promoted. As Schwartz pointed out, though, Judge might not have much say in the decision, and Dunleavy posits that Judge’s advocacy for Abrams means that old friends Ossenfort and Ziegler are not interested in the post.

Dunleavy also mentions Dawn Aponte as someone who might get an interview (Twitter link). Aponte’s name has not appeared on PFR pages since 2018, but she has served in high-ranking executive positions for the Jets, Browns, and Dolphins, and she currently works in the league office as the NFL’s chief administrator of football operations.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Matt Patricia’s Role With Patriots

After his disastrous tenure as the head coach of the Lions, Matt Patricia rejoined the Patriots in January. Of course, it was his time as New England’s defensive coordinator that led to Patricia’s rise to the head coaching ranks, and his disappointing two-plus years in Detroit did not shake Bill Belichick‘s confidence in his long-time lieutenant.

As Ben Volin of the Boston Globe writes, Patricia looks like he is being groomed for a major role with the Patriots, either on the coaching staff or in the front office. After former exec Nick Caserio became the Texans’ general manager earlier this year, there is a void in the New England front office, and Volin reports that Patricia is taking on some of Caserio’s responsibilities.

Perhaps most notable is the fact that Patricia has replaced Caserio as the “closer,” the man whose name is at the bottom of every free agent contract the Patriots signed this offseason. A former high-level NFL executive told Volin, “[t]he fact that [Patricia] is the one signing all of them, it certainly says that he’s intimately involved, and probably leading the internal organization around cap management and contract negotiations.”

Like Caserio and his predecessors, Scott Pioli and Floyd Reese, Patricia’s background is in the football side of things, not the financial/legal side. Belichick apparently believes that such an arrangement, which is fairly unique — most teams have their GM or salary cap administrator sign contracts — helps to expedite the process, since the “football guy” knows exactly who a player’s comparables are and how he fits into the team’s scheme.

Patricia, who was manning the phones during this year’s draft and who served as Belichick’s “sounding board” before the Pats selected Alabama QB Mac Jones, is not just being utilized in a front office capacity. Volin and Mike Reiss of ESPN.com noted that Patricia was standing alongside Belichick at practice this past week, and he worked with defensive linemen and observed defensive drills. Caserio also coached drills during his time in Foxborough.

To be clear, Eliot Wolf — who was hired last March — and assistant director of player personnel Dave Ziegler were also heavily involved in free agency and the contract process, so it’s not as if Patricia is a one-man show. Still, the 46-year-old has long been one of Belichicks most-trusted confidants, and he is presently looking like a real candidate to emerge as the team’s future GM or even head coach. As Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk recalls, the Rams came away from their 2017 HC interview with Patricia thinking that he might make a great GM down the road.

Because Patricia will be paid by the Lions through 2022, Volin suggests he could be with the Pats for at least the next two seasons.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Patriots Hire Exec Eliot Wolf

The Patriots have hired longtime exec Eliot Wolf as a consultant, per Albert Breer of SI.com (via Twitter). Wolf most recently worked with the Seahawks, whom he assisted in the run-up to the scouting combine.

Of course, it wasn’t that long ago that Wolf, son of Hall of Fame GM Ron Wolf, was viewed as one of the most viable candidates on the GM market. The younger Wolf began his front office career as a pro personnel assistant with the Packers in 2004, and while being Ron Wolf’s son may have helped him get his foot in the door, Eliot quickly began to forge his own path. By 2012, he became Green Bay’s director of pro personnel, and two years later he was the team’s director of pro football operations.

During the latter stages of his Green Bay tenure, he began to be linked to various GM jobs, and he took several GM interviews, including one with the Packers. But the Packers chose to promote Brian Gutekunst to their general manager post instead of Wolf in January 2018, and Wolf elected to sign on with the Browns as assistant GM under John Dorsey.

Dorsey’s run in Cleveland came to an unceremonious end after the 2019 season, and the Browns reportedly considered elevating Wolf to the top job, but the two sides ultimately elected to part ways. Now, Wolf will team up with Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio and de facto GM Bill Belichick to try and get the Pats back to the Super Bowl. New England is at an organizational crossroads due to the uncertain status of QB Tom Brady, so this year’s free agency period and draft will be especially critical.

Still only 37 (38 on March 21), Wolf could position himself well for another crack at a GM post should he have success with the Patriots.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Seahawks To Hire Alonzo Highsmith, Eliot Wolf As Consultants

Recently let go following the Browns’ latest GM change, Alonzo Highsmith and Eliot Wolf have secured pre-draft roles elsewhere. The Seahawks will bring the execs in as consultants during the lead-up to the draft, Mike Garafolo of NFL.com tweets.

Both staffers have lengthy histories in Green Bay, just as Seattle GM John Schneider does. Schneider and Wolf worked together with the Packers, while Highsmith began a six-year Green Bay tenure shortly after Schneider left for the Seattle job. Each left the Packers to work as John Dorsey‘s right-hand men with the Browns, but with Dorsey’s Cleveland tenure stopping after two years, his lieutenants are now on the market.

Wolf has interviewed for multiple GM jobs in the recent past, venturing to Cleveland after the Packers promoted Brian Gutekunst to that role in early 2018. The son of Hall of Fame GM Ron Wolf, Eliot worked with Schneider in Green Bay from 2004-09 and was a 15-year Packers staffer. Wolf worked as Dorsey’s assistant GM; Highsmith served as the Browns’ VP of player personnel.

Both Wolf and Highsmith figure to have options. For now, they will help a Seahawks team that’s become known for draft-weekend moves.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Browns, Alonzo Highsmith Part Ways

The Browns and VP of player personnel Alonzo Highsmith have mutually agreed to part ways, per a club announcement. Highsmith previously worked alongside new GM Andrew Berry, but he won’t have a role in Berry’s own front office. Ditto for assistant GM Eliot Wolf, according to ESPN.com’s Chris Mortensen (on Twitter). 

[RELATED: Browns Hire Andrew Berry As GM]

Highsmith’s contract was set to run through the 2021 NFL Draft. Instead, he leaves just before the heat of the 2020 offseason. Wolf, meanwhile, was contracted through the 2022 draft.

Highsmith and Wolf joined the Browns in January of 2018. Over the last two years, they’ve been connected to a few other notable front office jobs around the league, so they probably won’t be out of work for long. Before that, Highsmith and Wolf served under John Dorsey in Green Bay, which is what led them to Cleveland in the first place.

Berry won the Browns’ GM job after fellow top candidate George Paton withdrew his name from consideration. Reportedly, Paton had serious reservations about the power structure in Cleveland, where the GM and new head coach Kevin Stefanski would be reporting directly to owner Jimmy Haslam. Berry, apparently, is comfortable with the structure, and he’s been given the OK to shape his own team as he sees fit.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC Notes: Browns, Titans, Texans

Once thought to be the Browns‘ top choice for their latest GM vacancy, George Paton backed out of the race. However, a deal may not have been imminent. The Browns had yet to make Paton an offer, according to Albert Breer of SI.com. Paton’s reasons for backing out of the Cleveland search are not totally clear, but Breer confirms an issue with Jimmy Haslam‘s organizational hierarchy was one of them. Most of the Browns’ GM candidates had an issue with Haslam’s setup — in which the GM, Kevin Stefanski and chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta report directly to the owner — and Paton was not an exception, Breer adds. With the Browns since bringing Andrew Berry back to Cleveland as the NFL’s youngest GM (at 32), Haslam has now worked with six GMs or front office heads since buying the team in 2012. While Breer notes Paton was seriously considering taking the job after the first interview went well, the frequently hesitant Vikings exec will stay in his assistant GM post in Minnesota.

Here is the latest from the AFC:

  • Although the Browns are set up on an analytics front, their scouting experience in the front office is less certain. John Dorsey hired both assistant GM Eliot Wolf and VP of player personnel Alonzo Highsmith, but each longtime exec worked with Berry when he was still with the team in 2018. Highsmith’s contract runs through the 2021 draft, and Wolf’s goes through the ’22 draft, Breer adds.
  • An intra-AFC South coaching move occurred Tuesday. The Titans poached Texans defensive backs coach Anthony Midget, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle tweets. Midget, who’d been with Houston throughout Bill O’Brien‘s six-season tenure, received the head coach-GM’s permission to interview with Tennessee, per Paul Kuharsky of Paul Kuharsky.com (Twitter link). He will hold the same job with the Titans next season, replacing Kerry Coombs.
  • The Texans will replace Midget in-house, promoting assistant secondary coach D’Anton Lynn to the top DBs role, Wilson adds. Lynn, 30, is the son of Chargers HC Anthony Lynn and has been with the Texans since 2018.
  • Texans backup center Greg Mancz underwent ankle surgery, according to Wilson. A five-year veteran and 28-game starter in his time with the Texans, Mancz underwent an arthroscopic procedure and is expected to be ready for Texans OTAs. The former UDFA originally injured the ankle during the preseason.