Eliot Wolf

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Latest On Browns’ Coaching & GM Search

The Browns have their new head coach in Kevin Stefanski, but they still need a new GM after firing John Dorsey. They recently requested an interview with Eagles exec Andrew Berry, and Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports tweets that he’s “at the front of the GM candidates.”

Robinson notes that Browns owner Jimmy Haslam once said he considered Berry a future GM, and that he has a relationship with chief strategist Paul DePodesta. In a separate tweet, Robinson explains that it may come down to whether or not Berry wants to take the job. He notes that Berry, who used to work in Cleveland under former GM Sashi Brown, is only 32 and in a good situation in Philly. He also writes that Berry will likely get other calls if he passes on the job.

As for the search that ultimately ended in Stefanski, Robinson has some interesting new nuggets. He tweets that Josh McDanielswanted a specific structure with the Browns” and that he “wasn’t going to an org where DePodesta or anyone else was a ‘side jury’ reporting to Haslam.” If that’s the case, then it sounds like McDaniels never got too close to landing in Cleveland despite his lengthy visit. The Browns and Haslam have caught plenty of flak for their odd reporting structures, and it sounds like that was an issue once again this time around. 

Robinson also tweets that both Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll and 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh “had very good interviews” and that he thinks they were the finalists along with Stefanski. Both should be hot names during next cycle. As for Stefanski’s staff, Robinson tweets that the rookie head coach will likely target either Gary or Klint Kubiak. The Kubiaks were on staff with Stefanski in Minnesota, although Robinson thinks the Vikings will try to retain both. Either could be a candidate to be Cleveland’s new OC assuming Stefanski hires one.

Finally, Robinson tweeted about the future prospects for assistant GM Eliot Wolf and VP of Player Personnel Alonzo Highsmith. He thinks the Haslams are open to both staying, and that Wolf will have a conversation with whoever the new GM is about a role.

Browns’ Next GM Will Come From Outside Organization

The Browns are planning to retain chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta, and Eliot Wolf remains in place as assistant GM. But the franchise plans to look outside its current power structure to find its next GM.

Jimmy Haslam indicated Thursday that John Dorsey‘s replacement will be an outside hire, per Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer (on Twitter). The Browns plan to first hire their head coach, which will determine where they go with the GM role, Haslam added (via ESPN.com’s Jake Trotter). However, the Browns’ new head coach will not have final say over which GM candidate is hired, Cabot notes.

Cleveland’s new HC and GM will each report to Haslam, which was the setup when Hue Jackson and Sashi Brown were in power. Haslam added that the GM will oversee the 53-man roster, which flies in the face of rumors that the new Browns HC would obtain more power. The Browns’ new HC must be more analytically inclined, with Haslam indicating (via Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal) a “tremendous opportunity” exists for the Browns to be better than they were in this area under Dorsey and Freddie Kitchens.

Wolf will remain in his assistant GM role, per Haslam. This poses an interesting setup, given a new regime’s imminent arrival. The longtime Packers exec joined former Green Bay coworker Dorsey last year and has been a GM candidate in the past. DePodesta will run the coaching search, but the former MLB GM-turned-fifth-year Browns exec will not rise in the team’s front office hierarchy.

Paul’s’ job will stay exactly the same as it is now,” Haslam said, via Ulrich. “He is in charge of strategy. He reports to ownership. Nothing will change. … We think Paul is really good at this type of position [in the searches]. If you think about it, all he has done his whole adult life is gather data to help make good decisions, so we think he is ideally suited to lead this process.”

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Browns Considering Mike McCarthy-Eliot Wolf Pairing

Despite John Dorsey and the Browns parting ways, assistant GM Eliot Wolf remains in his position. And the Browns are considering pairing him with another former Packers coworker.

Mike McCarthy will be the Browns’ first HC interview, with Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer noting the longtime Green Bay coach will meet with the Browns on Thursday. The Browns, who have gone through numerous front office structures under Jimmy Haslam, are considering a McCarthy-Wolf power structure, Cabot adds.

Wolf was in Green Bay for each of McCarthy’s nine playoff appearances as Packers coach, working with the Packers from 2004-17. The final four of those years featured Wolf as either the Packers’ director of player personnel or director of football operations. The second-generation NFL executive left for Cleveland in 2018, when former Packers exec Dorsey joined as Browns GM. The Browns appear to be considering a promotion for the son of Hall of Fame exec Ron Wolf. Eliot Wolf has interviewed for GM jobs in the past, and he may be back on the radar — despite the latest upheaval at Browns headquarters.

McCarthy, 56, has already interviewed with the Panthers and will meet with the Giants this weekend. He was on the Browns’ radar during the 2019 hiring period but did not meet with team brass. The Browns ended the 2010s with seven head coaches and are obviously hoping for some semblance of stability entering the next decade.

Several other candidates are on the Browns’ HC radar. Josh McDaniels, Eric Bieniemy, Greg Roman, Kevin Stefanski and 49ers assistants Robert Saleh, Mike McDaniel and Matt LaFleur. Baylor head coach Matt Rhule turned down the opportunity to interview with the Browns.

Cleveland’s next head coach may need to make a greater commitment to analytics, with Cabot adding that Browns chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta is planning to incorporate more analytical concepts into the team’s game plans. This blueprint did not appear to be a hit with Dorsey or Freddie Kitchens, with a source informing Cabot it only complicated matters further for an “in over his head” Kitchens.

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Latest On Browns’ Front Office

The Browns’ disappointing season produced the firing of Freddie Kitchens and prompted Jimmy Haslam to approach John Dorsey about stripping his power. That led to the constantly retooling franchise having another GM vacancy. The Haslams confirmed the 2019 Browns’ underachievement helped lead to Dorsey departing.

While John helped greatly improve our team’s talent and we are excited about the core players on our roster, we fully recognized that our team did not meet its potential on or off the field and additional changes in leadership give us the best opportunity for success in the future,” Jimmy and Dee Haslam said in a statement. “As the role of the general manager continues to evolve in this league we felt there were areas that needed to be reassessed. Over the last 48 hours, we’ve had discussion with John about his role but could not come to an agreement on a position that would enable him to remain with the organization.”

The Browns have now gone through five GMs or de facto GMs during Haslam’s seven-plus-year tenure. They will be looking for No. 6, along with a seventh head coach under current ownership.

Here is the latest on the state of the Browns’ front office:

  • It is not certain Browns chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta will survive a second regime change during his tenure, but that looks to be the case. Former football operations boss Sashi Brown‘s right-hand man, DePodesta stayed on during Dorsey’s run and is now playing a key role helping Jimmy Haslam find the Browns’ next head coach. The former MLB GM is taking a “very heavy hand” in Cleveland’s latest coaching search, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com notes (video link).
  • DePodesta, however, is not necessarily in charge. The fourth-year executive is not currently running the football operation, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets. This does beg the question as to who exactly is running things at this point.
  • Top responsibility may now fall on assistant GM Eliot Wolf. Although Wolf came aboard shortly after Dorsey did and worked with Dorsey in Green Bay as well, the second-generation NFL exec is still a part of Cleveland’s front office, Mike Garafolo of NFL.com tweets. That could certainly change soon, once a new GM or head coach with GM powers arrives in Berea.
  • Dorsey received a nice exit package from the Browns. The two-time NFL GM will walk away with two years’ severance, according to Pelissero (on Twitter). This marks the second time in three years Dorsey will be on the market, with the Chiefs having fired him during the summer of 2017.

Browns Rumors: Mayfield, Haley, Ward

While the Baker Mayfield/Browns noise didn’t intensify until draft week, the newly assembled front office viewed the Oklahoma product well independently before arriving in Cleveland. John Dorsey, Eliot Wolf and consultant Scot McCloughan all had Mayfield atop the quarterback class, Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com notes, with Alonzo Highsmith subsequently joining them. Using the Packers’ grading system the Browns do now, Dorsey, Wolf and McCloughan — who has long praised the 2017 Heisman Trophy recipient — each put Mayfield atop their respective lists prior to coming to Cleveland. While a report emerged earlier this week indicating Sam Darnold may well have been more teams’ top-rated QB in this class, Cabot reports four teams — three AFC squads and one in the NFC — had Mayfield as this class’ No. 1 quarterback. Two other teams, per Cabot, provided strong indications he was their top QB choice.

Here’s the latest from Cleveland, including more about the Browns’ signal-caller situation.

  • While the Browns are certainly higher on Mayfield than they were on DeShone Kizer or Cody Kessler, the memories of neither rookie winning a game are still fresh with Hue Jackson. And he reiterated this weekend he’s not going to deviate from Tyrod Taylor atop the QB depth chart. “I’m not going to back off of this,” Jackson said, via Cabot. “We can keep writing this narrative, Tyrod Taylor’s the starting quarterback of this football team, and that won’t change. … Tyrod has demonstrated every day what it’s like to be a starting quarterback in the National Football League. I want some of that to rub off on (Mayfield) so he can see firsthand what it means to play quarterback in the National Football League. Baker doesn’t know.”
  • The Browns had close to the same grade on Mayfield and Saquon Barkley, Pat McManamon of ESPN.com notes. While this could mean the Browns placed a slightly higher grade on the Penn State-produced running back, Dorsey felt the need at quarterback and the fact he could land a promising running back prospect in the second round (Nick Chubb went to Cleveland at No. 35) tipped the scales for Mayfield. Cleveland was long connected to a quarterback at No. 1, and Barkley was not believed to be a serious consideration.
  • Todd Haley‘s arrival in northeast Ohio will mean full autonomy of the Browns’ offense, Dan Graziano of ESPN.com notes. Both Jackson and Mayfield will spend time this summer learning Haley’s playbook. Jackson will be taking a CEO-style approach this year instead of calling plays, as he has the past two seasons. But it still sounds like some of the third-year HC’s concepts will be included in Haley’s offense.
  • The Browns had Denzel Ward and Bradley Chubb ranked equally on their board, and need won out, Dorsey said during a radio interview on 92.3 The Fan (via Cabot). Ward’s ability to play press coverage well made him DC Gregg Williams‘ preference, too.