Jeff Ireland

2021 NFL General Manager Search Tracker

This year’s NFL GM carousel figures to be more active than usual. The Falcons, Lions, Panthers, Texans, and Jaguars are all on the hunt for a new front office leader. And that’s only the official list. The real tally shows six clubs looking for a GM, since the Washington Football Team is expected to install a GM to work alongside head coach Ron Rivera. By mid-January, we could easily see a couple more jobs opening up — that’d put ~25% of the NFL on the market.

We’ll keep track of the GM candidates for each club here, along with their current status. If and when other teams decide to make general manager changes, they’ll be added to this list. Here’s the current breakdown:

Updated 1-19-21 (7:02pm CT)

Atlanta Falcons

Carolina Panthers 

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Houston Texans

Jacksonville Jaguars

Washington Football Team

Latest On Lions GM Search

Rams college scouting director Brad Holmes is in Detroit for a second interview, which will occur Tuesday. He is the first such GM candidate to meet with the Lions a second time during this cycle. He may not be the only exec the Lions meet with twice.

The Lions want to bring Vikings assistant GM George Paton and Saints execs Jeff Ireland and Terry Fontenot back for second meetings, according to Albert Breer of SI.com (on Twitter). Detroit also added Indianapolis assistant GM Ed Dodds to its interview list, meeting with him Tuesday. The Lions were evidently impressed, with Breer noting they would like to speak with Dodds again.

Dodds recently bowed out of the wide-ranging Panthers GM search, leaving only the Lions pursuing him. The former Seahawks exec may be connected to another ex-Seattle staffer. The Lions have been connected to 49ers DC Robert Saleh about their HC vacancy for weeks, and the Detroit News’ Justin Rogers notes some believe Dodds would want to bring Saleh with him to Detroit (Twitter link). Saleh and Dodds were both with the Seahawks from 2011-13, though Saleh was only a defensive quality control coach at that point.

A Michigan native, Saleh interviewed for the Lions job last week but remains in the mix for other gigs — a list that now includes Philadelphia. Saleh has also been connected to an Adam Peters HC-GM pairing, but Peters is not a Lions GM candidate.

Paton and Fontenot remain in the mix for the Broncos GM post, having booked second interviews with Denver. While the longtime Vikings exec has been quite particular in past GM searches, he has remained a sought-after candidate. Fontenot, who interviewed for the Jets’ GM job in 2019, and Ireland — the former Dolphins GM — each went through virtual interviews for the Detroit job last week. Holmes is a Falcons finalist as well.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Lions Interview Jeff Ireland For GM Job

Jeff Ireland has now booked two interviews during this extensive GM hiring period. Following his Panthers meeting, the Saints executive met with the Lions on Friday.

Best known for his time as Dolphins GM (2008-13), Ireland resurfaced with the Saints and helped the Mickey LoomisSean Payton regime reposition the team as the NFC South’s best after some mid-2010s defensive struggles. The Saints have won four straight division titles, doing so despite losing Drew Brees for extensive stretches in each of the past two years, and have some recent draft classes to thank for their consistency.

Ireland, 50, works as the Saints’ assistant GM and college scouting director. During his stay, the Saints drafted perennial Pro Bowlers Michael Thomas, Alvin Kamara and Marshon Lattimore and several other impact starters. This has undoubtedly helped Ireland resurface on the GM interview circuit after his Dolphins teams slunk out of the playoff picture following a 2008 AFC East title. These Carolina and Detroit meetings are Ireland’s first known GM interviews since his Dolphins tenure ended.

The Lions have conducted a thorough GM search thus far. They have targeted a few former GMs — from Thomas Dimitroff (Falcons), Scott Pioli (Chiefs) and Rick Smith (Texans) — and expressed interest in poaching longtime Seahawks GM John Schneider. Here is how Detroit’s candidate list looks as of Friday afternoon:

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Panthers Interview Jeff Ireland, Joe Schoen, Monti Ossenfort

The Panthers have been busy with GM interviews Tuesday. Their meeting with Patriots player personnel director Nick Caserio occurred today, but the franchise also met with three other candidates.

Carolina interviewed Saints assistant GM Jeff Ireland, Bills assistant GM Joe Schoen and Titans player personnel director Monti Ossenfort, the team announced. These meetings followed Monday interviews with ex-Giants GM Jerry Reese and Browns exec Kwesi Adofo-Mensah. The Panthers requested an interview with Colts exec Ed Dodds and are also interested in 49ers staffer Adam Peters.

While Ireland is best known for his GM run with the Dolphins (2008-13), he has been with the Saints since 2015. Also serving as New Orleans’ college scouting director, he has teamed with Sean Payton and Mickey Loomis to help restore the Saints to a perennial playoff entrant with successful drafts in the late 2010s. The Panthers are the only team to interview Ireland in this year’s extensive GM hiring period.

Ossenfort moved from New England to Nashville this year, leaving his longtime Patriots post for a central role with the Titans. He interviewed for the Browns GM opening earlier this year. Schoen has been a right-hand man for Brandon Beane and has played a key role in elevating the Bills from a team with a 17-year playoff drought to one that just secured the AFC’s No. 2 seed.

The Panthers are also interested in Vikings assistant GM George Paton and Chiefs director of player personnel Mike Borgonzi, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports notes. Paton has long been a target of GM-seeking teams. His most recent connection came when he backed out of the Browns’ 2020 GM search, one in which he was viewed as the favorite. The Chiefs have seen multiple Andy Reid-era staffers — Chris Ballard, Brett Veach — become GMs. Borgonzi predates Reid’s Kansas City arrival, having joined the Chiefs in 2009. He has risen from a scouting post to director of football operations over the past 10-plus years.

GM Interviews: Lions, Falcons, Panthers

It’s been a very busy Monday after Week 17 so far, and it’s not slowing down anytime soon. There are a number of GM openings around the league, and interview requests for execs are flying in. Let’s get you caught up on all the latest:

  • Saints VP/assistant GM for pro personnel Terry Fontenot is scheduled to interview for the Lions GM job on Tuesday and the Falcons GM job on Wednesday, Albert Breer of The MMQB tweets. The Falcons have also requested a GM interview with Rams college scouting director Brad Holmes (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero). Along with Rick Smith, these were the top names expected to be in the mix in Atlanta. Fontenot isn’t the only Saints exec in the mix, as New Orleans assistant GM Jeff Ireland has been requested by the Panthers and Lions, Pelissero tweets.
  • Finally (for now), the Lions are also going to interview Vikings assistant GM George Paton, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network tweets. Rapsheet says both Paton and Fontenot are “very strong candidates” for the Detroit job. Paton has drawn interest before, and has been in Minnesota’s front office since the 2007 season.
  • The Panthers are casting a wide net, and they’re also requesting to interview Chiefs assistant director of player personnel Ryan Poles for the vacancy created by Marty Hurney’s firing, Rapoport tweets. One more, as Carolina has officially requested to interview 49ers VP of Player Personnel Adam Peters, Rapoport tweets. We had heard they might have some interest in Peters, and Rapoport notes that he spent time with head coach Matt Rhule at UCLA and is “one to watch” here.
  • The Falcons have requested Colts college scouting director Morocco Brown, Pelissero tweets. Indy’s GM Chris Ballard is very highly regarded, so it’s not surprising that teams are digging into some of his deputies. Brown previously had personnel roles with Cleveland (2014-15) and Washington (2008-13).

Saints Notes: Fairley, Kelemete, Kuhn, Line

After missing the entire 2017 season as a result of a heart ailment, free agent defensive tackle Nick Fairley wants to play during the upcoming campaign, tweets Nick Underhill of the Advocate. The Saints, who inked Fairley to a four-year deal last offseason but released him last month, are not expected to be involved in a potential Fairley pursuit, per Underhill. Fairley was an excellent interior defender at full strength, but it’s unclear if any NFL club would be willing to bet on his health. Indeed, Fairley hasn’t been medically cleared to play, as Underhill tweets, so a return to the league seems unlikely.

Here’s more from New Orleans:

  • Free agent offensive lineman Senio Kelemete is experiencing a “healthy market,” according to Josh Katzenstein of the Advocate, and while the Saints will likely be interested in retaining him, any reunion will be based on cost. New Orleans isn’t likely to offer Kelemete a chance to start, as the club is set with Terron Armstead, Andrus Peat, Max Unger, Larry Warford, and Ryan Ramczyk from left to right. Kelemete’s versatility and ability to play nearly every position on the line is his key asset, but he’d surely prefer a starting job to a reserve role.
  • The Saints and free agent fullback John Kuhn have mutual interest in a return, sources tell Herbie Teope of NOLA.com. Kuhn, who was sidelined for the majority of the 2017 campaign after suffering a biceps injury, is currently considering whether he’ll continue his playing career or enter the coaching ranks, per Teope. Fellow Saints fullback Zach Line, who appeared in 12 games for New Orleans following Kuhn’s injury, is drawing interest around the league, reports Katzenstein, but the Saints have interest in retaining him, as well.
  • Saints assistant general manager Jeff Ireland orchestrated arguably the NFL’s best draft class last spring, and he’d like to become a primary decision-maker again in the future, as Underhill writes. “Absolutely, why wouldn’t it be?” Ireland said when asked if getting a second GM job is his goal. “I’m not in a hurry. I told myself when I got to New Orleans I was going to help this team build. I’d really have to think twice about leaving the New Orleans Saints before we won a Super Bowl.” Ireland previously served as the Dolphins’ general manager from 2008-13, and the club posted a 46-50 record under his lead.
  • Although he hasn’t expressed a willingness to accept a full-time position, the Saints would like to have special teams consultant Mike Westhoff return next season, according to Katzenstein. Westhoff is currently recovering a surgical operation which could limit his availability, but New Orleans is willing to allow the 70-year-old a varied schedule. He wouldn’t be accepting the lead special teams coach role, as the Saints intend to retain Bradford Banta (primary ST coach) and Kevin O’Dea (assistant).

Saints Extend Assistant GM Jeff Ireland

The Saints have reached a contract extension with assistant general manager/director of college scouting Jeff Ireland, sources tell Nick Underhill of the Advocate.Jeff Ireland (Vertical)

Ireland, who has worked in NFL personnel offices since 1994, previously served as the Dolphins’ general manager from 2008-13. New Orleans hired him in January 2015, and Ireland began fully contributing to the club’s draft preparations in 2016, per Underhill. The Saints have nailed a number of draft picks over the past two years, adding talented player such as Michael Thomas, Vonn Bell, Marshon Lattimore, Ryan Ramczyk, and Alvin Kamara since 2016.

Ireland’s previous contract was set to expire after the 2017 campaign, per Underhill. While his new deal won’t prevent other NFL teams from contacting Ireland about general manager vacancies, it will ensure that he remains with the Saints if a GM offer doesn’t come.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Colts Tried To Trade For Saints’ Sean Payton?

The Colts expressed interest in acquiring Saints head coach Sean Payton this offseason, and though New Orleans was willing to consider a deal, the two clubs couldn’t agree on the final terms of a trade, reports Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com. However, Indianapolis COO Pete Ward, whom La Canfora identifies as the point man in talks, denies the report, per Mike Chappell of FOX59. Ward says an “associate” of Payton contacted the Colts to gauge the club’s interest in the Saints head coach, but Indy quickly conveyed that they did not want to deal for Payton.Sean Payton (vertical)

[RELATED: 2017 Head Coaching Search Tracker]

Indianapolis has since announced one change to its decision-making structure — the firing of general manager Ryan Grigson — but head coach Chuck Pagano is still in place and is likely to remain the Colts’ head coach for the 2017 season. But Indianapolis and owner Jim Irsay are clearly fans of Payton, as the team reportedly targeted Payton during the 2016 offseason, as well. While Payton’s contract demands scuttled talks last year, this season’s negotiations ended because of New Orleans’ compensation requirements, which La Canfora reports were at least one draft choice in the top two rounds.

Had Payton been traded to the Colts, he likely would have brought Saints executive Jeff Ireland along as his general manager, per La Canfora. Ireland offers former GM experience, as he led the Dolphins front office 2008-13. Instead, Indianapolis has named VP of football operations Jimmy Raye III its interim GM, and Raye is the favorite to keep the job for the 2017 campaign. By installing Raye, the Colts are keeping their options open, and could potentially completely clean house — and bring in an all-new front office and coaching staff — for the 2018 season, writes La Canfora.

Payton had garnered interest from other clubs this offseason, and the Rams were perhaps the most serious suitors, as reports indicated that Los Angeles would pursue a trade for Payton. Other potential landing spots for Payton, who prefers a West Coast home, included the Chargers and 49ers. However, Payton, who is signed with New Orleans through 2020, will stay with the Saints for at least one more season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Breer’s Latest: GM Candidates, Dolphins, Cutler

Albert Breer’s usual Friday column at NFL.com has arrived one day early this week, in advance of Christmas Day. Breer’s Week 16 notebook focuses on general manager candidates around the league, with one current GM suggesting that the most important thing for a team is for its GM and coach to be on the same page.

“That is the most important thing,” the veteran GM said. “And it is for multiple reasons. The coach and GM have to share a vision. And once you start that relationship, you have to have clearly defined roles. If it’s that [the coach] is coaching and I’m bringing [players] in, once I start to veer and step over that line, everything becomes blurred and dysfunction follows.”

After detailing the importance of the rapport between a coach and GM, Breer identifies a number of potential candidates for jobs that will open up this offseason, examining front office executives who are on the rise and on the cusp of getting their first big shot (such as Chris Ballard of the Chiefs, Nick Caserio of the Patriots, and Brian Gaine of the Texans), as well as those that deserve a second chance at a GM position (like Mark Dominik, Jeff Ireland, and Scott Pioli).

Here are a few more highlights from Breer’s piece:

  • The Dolphins have begun to vet possible candidates for their head coaching job, and the team is taking a closer look at the 2006 and 2009 coaching cycles to help identify important characteristics for those candidates. Those were the two years that former Jets executive Mike Tannenbaum hired new coaches – Eric Mangini and Rex Ryan – so the current Dolphins exec is very familiar with what he and his former team looked for at the time, and what they may have missed in other candidates. The overarching idea for Miami is to break away from the group-think mentality that may keep the club from considering a strong option.
  • While it may have seemed unlikely a year ago, it now looks like a lock that the Bears will keep Jay Cutler on their roster for 2016, whether or not offensive coordinator Adam Gase remains in Chicago. Cutler’s partially guaranteed salary for next season will become fully guaranteed on St. Patrick’s Day, so the club figures to finalize its decision by then.
  • A source tells Breer that the NFL expects to decide before the Super Bowl whether or not a 2016 regular season game will take place in Mexico. The league’s charge to make it happen has “slowed a bit,” according to Breer, who notes that there are several issues still to overcome to make Azteca Stadium game-ready.
  • In Breer’s view, the Packers did well to lock up Mike Daniels to a four-year extension rather than having to consider using the franchise tag on him. As a defensive end in a 3-4 system, Daniels isn’t quite as valuable as elite 4-3 DE pass rushers, but his franchise salary would be the same as those players. Teams like the Jets (this year) and Eagles (next year) will face similar dilemmas for Muhammad Wilkerson and Fletcher Cox, respectively.

Extra Points: Brees, Saints, Bucs, Collins

Saints GM Mickey Loomis says he may take a quarterback in this year’s draft, but he doesn’t see the end of the line for Drew Brees anytime soon either, ESPN.com’s Mike Triplett writes. “That’s a good question,” Loomis said. “I think you’re always looking to get a young quarterback in the program. We’ve got one in Ryan Griffin that we like. And if an opportunity presents itself, hey, we may take another one here. But I don’t see the end for Drew Brees on the short-term horizon. At least I certainly hope not. But it does take time for these quarterbacks to develop. And we’re conscious of that. We evaluate the quarterbacks. And obviously if an opportunity presents itself to take one at the right time, we’re not afraid to do that.” More on that and other news from the NFL..

  • If the Saints draft Bryce Petty, it’ll be a clear indication that Jeff Ireland is already calling the shots there, Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports tweets.
  • Ed Werder of ESPN (via Rob Demovsky on Twitter) says the Buccaneers may be looking to move up into the bottom of the first round. The Bucs currently pick at No. 34 and Demovsky wonders if the Packers at No. 30 could be a match.
  • Multiple teams have removed LSU offensive lineman La’el Collins from their draft boards, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets.
  • Bills GM Doug Whaley called Kentucky defensive end Za’Darius Smith a “perfect fit” for the type of scheme they run, Joe Buscaglia of WKBW tweets.
  • Army running back Raymond Maples has been granted administrative leave to attend team activities if he’s drafted or signed, Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun tweets.
  • With so few quality safeties available, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets that James Sample (Louisville) and Damarious Randall (ASU) will go higher than most people think.