Jeff Ireland

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.

NFC Notes: Vikings, Mays, Ireland, Saints

In addition to stressing once again that the Vikings want Adrian Peterson back for the 2015 season, GM Rick Spielman addressed the Mike Wallace trade in a conversation with Sid Hartman of the Star Tribune, calling it “a great deal for both teams.”

“We had to take on the contract, which plays a part in it,” Spielman said. “But we felt, from a draft compensation standpoint, we didn’t lose any picks. We had two fifth-round picks because of the move we made with Buffalo [the Matt Cassel trade], so that’s why you have to keep as many draft picks as possible, and even on draft day, because that gives you the ability to move around on draft day. It gives you the ability to do the move we were able to get accomplished.”

Here are a few more end-of-week items from around the NFC:

  • Free agent safety Taylor Mays left Winter Park without a deal with the Vikings, as Matt Vensel of the Star Tribune writes. Mays, who played for coach Mike Zimmer with the Bengals, arrived in town on Wednesday and checked out the team’s facility on Thursday. In five NFL seasons with two teams, the 27-year-old made 98 tackles, recorded one sack and forced one fumble.
  • It was initially believed that former Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland was hired to be the head of college scouting for the Saints, but it turns out that he’s actually serving as the team’s assistant GM, according to Alex Marvez of FOX Sports (via Twitter).
  • While Sam Bradford said earlier this month that he suspected for a few weeks that he might be traded, Nick Foles tells Jenny Vrentas of TheMMQB.com that he didn’t have an inkling he wouldn’t be with the Eagles until the second he got the phone call from Chip Kelly informing him of the deal with the Rams.
  • The Buccaneers worked out long snapper Avery Rigg on Thursday but did not sign him, according to Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times (on Twitter). Rigg could join the team after the draft and rookie minicamp, however.

Zach Links contributed to this post.

Extra Points: Luck, Wilson, Ireland, Chudzinski

With Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson now eligible for extensions, there’s speculation that new high watermarks could be set for quarterback salaries and guarantees, but there’s also “major concern” among rival agents about negotiations for the two star signal-callers, says Jason Cole of Bleacher Report (video link). As Cole explains, both players are represented by fairly inexperienced agents — Wilson is repped by Mark Rodgers, primarily a baseball agent, while Luck’s uncle William Wilson reps the Indianapolis star.

These two deals are expected to have a significant trickle-down effect on future contracts for players at every position, not just for other quarterbacks. Wilson and Luck already have such impressive resumés that they should be in line for guarantees in excess of $50MM+ on their next contracts, rather than anything close to the limited guaranteed money that players like Colin Kaepernick and Andy Dalton accepted in their recent extensions, so fellow agents are hoping that neither Luck’s camp nor Wilson’s camp settles for a modest deal, lowering the bar for future extensions.

Here’s more from around the NFL:

  • After Alex Marvez of Fox Sports reported overnight (via Twitter) that former Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland was expected to become the Saints’ college scouting director, general Mickey Loomis confirmed today to reporters that Ireland had indeed been hired to oversee the team’s college scouting process (Twitter links).
  • Having reported earlier that the Colts were denying Rob Chudzinski permission to speak to teams about offensive coordinator jobs, Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch adds an important piece of clarification (via Twitter): Chudzinski’s contract is set to expire in a week, at which point he’s free to interview anywhere, meaning he could still be in play for a team like the Bears, 49ers, or Rams.
  • In addition to having their attempt to talk to Chudzinski rebuffed, the 49ers were denied permission to speak to Bengals secondary coach Vance Joseph about their defensive coordinator opening, per Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee. Cincinnati also blocked the Broncos’ efforts to pursue Joseph for a DC job.
  • According to Jason Fitzgerald’s projections at Over the Cap, the Patriots, Chiefs, and Bengals appear likely to land third-round compensatory picks in this year’s draft for losing Aqib Talib, Branden Albert, and Michael Johnson – respectively – in free agency a year ago. Fitzgerald also forecasts rookie pool amounts by team for 2015, with the Buccaneers’ rookie cap projected to exceed $8MM.
  • While the Rams are often said to be “only” a quarterback away from contention, finding that QB isn’t exactly an easy task, writes Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com. Wagoner passes along a number of quotes from Rams general manager Les Snead about the team’s quest to identify a long-term answer at the position.
  • Former agent Joel Corry of CBSSports.com takes a look at the upcoming offseasons for the league’s championship weekend losers, the Packers and Colts.

Saints To Hire Dennis Allen, Jeff Ireland

8:40am: In addition to hiring Allen, the Saints are also bringing aboard former Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland to do college scouting, a source tells Schefter (Twitter link).

8:16am: When we learned two weeks ago that the Saints intended to retain defensive coordinator Rob Ryan for the 2015 season, one report suggested that Sean Payton wanted to provide Ryan with “better pieces for success” to support him. It’s not clear yet what that means in terms of personnel, but the team has made a notable addition to its defensive coaching staff, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com, who reports (via Twitter) that the Saints are hiring Dennis Allen in a senior defensive role.

Allen, who started the 2014 season as the Raiders’ head coach before being replaced by Tony Sparano, served as the Broncos’ defensive coordinator during the 2011 season, and worked for the Saints for several years before that. Beginning in 2006, Allen acted as New Orleans’ assistant defensive line coach before shifting into a secondary coach position in 2008.

Recent reports had linked Allen to the defensive coordinator opening in Chicago, indicating that he was perhaps the frontrunner for the position. If Allen had joined the Bears, he would’ve been reuniting with head coach John Fox, who was coaching the Broncos during Allen’s brief DC stint in Denver, and GM Ryan Pace, who worked in New Orleans’ front office while Allen was with the Saints.

Instead, Allen will be tasked with helping to turn around a defensive unit that ranked fourth overall in Ryan’s first season with the team in 2013, but plummeted to 31st in 2014, both in terms of yards allowed and DVOA (per Football Outsiders).

Volin’s Latest: McDaniels, 49ers, Reich, Jets

As reports continue to trickle in on the NFL’s five head coaching openings, as well as the GM vacancies in Chicago and New York, Ben Volin of the Boston Globe explores the rumor mill and passes along a handful of interesting tidbits in his latest column. Here are the highlights:

  • One league source tells Volin that without Jon Gruden or Jim Harbaugh in the mix for any of the current openings, there’s a “dearth of superstar candidates.” The source expects most teams to hire candidates with previous head coaching experience.
  • Volin hears from one source the Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels will be “very careful” about which opportunities he pursues. The source predicts that the Falcons will be the only club McDaniels seriously considers, given his relationship with general manager Thomas Dimitroff and the presence of a solid, risk-free quarterback in Matt Ryan.
  • An internal promotion remains a strong possibility for the 49ers, despite the fact that the team is reaching out to several outside candidates. Volin hears that defensive coordinator Vic Fangio is a likelier candidate than defensive line coach Jim Tomsula.
  • According to Volin, Chargers offensive coordinator Frank Reich is the “most serious” candidate for the Jets‘ head coaching vacancy in the early stages of that search. Reich is also expected to be a top candidate for the Bills if Doug Marrone decides to opt out of his contract, though Marrone is considered likely to stay in Buffalo.
  • One source predicts to Volin that Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin isn’t yet completely safe, in spite of owner Stephen Rosscomments earlier this month.
  • Former Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland could get a few interviews this offseason, but he has nothing lined up at the moment, says Volin.

Rookie Notes: 49ers, Bills, Steelers

While it could just be pure coincidence, former Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland had a handful of successful seventh-round draft selections. As ESPN.com’s James Walker explores on Twitter, linebacker Austin Spitler, wide receiver Rishard Matthews and defensive backs Don Jones and Jimmy Wilson were all solid finds. 

For all the criticism that Ireland has received, as least he can claim that he has a keen eye for under-the-radar talent.

Here are some more notes regarding some of the league’s youngest players…

  • The 49ers have filled their open roster spot by adding guard Al Netter, tweets Bill Williamson of ESPN.com. The team waived Netter about a month ago to clear room for Blake Costanzo. The team had an extra roster spot following Eric Wright‘s retirement.
  • Bills rookie linebacker Randell Johnson has signed with agents Drew Rosenhaus and Michael Katz of Rosenhaus Sports, tweets Liz Mullen of the Sports Business Journal.
  • Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review focuses on the young Steelers who could be “training camp phenoms” (via Twitter): Justin Brown, Dri Archer, Mike Mitchell, Brian Arnfelt, Tauren Poole.