Chiefs Rumors

2024 NFL Franchise Tag Candidates

A valuable tool for teams to keep top free agents off the market, the franchise tag has been in existence since 1993. This week brought the opening of the 2024 tag window. Clubs have until 3pm CT on March 5 to apply tags. As the Giants’ situation showed last year, most of the tag-related business comes near the close of this window. Teams will continue to work toward re-signing their respective tag candidates, thus preventing a lofty franchise tender from hitting their cap sheet.

The legal tampering period opens March 11, with the new league year (and official free agency) starting March 13. Once a player is tagged, he has until July 15 to sign an extension with his respective team. Absent an extension agreement by that date, the player must play the 2023 season on the tag (or go the Le’Veon Bell/Dan Williams/Sean Gilbert route, passing on guaranteed money and skipping the season).

High-profile free agents remain weeks away from hitting the market. As PFR’s tag recipients list shows, a handful of players are prevented from taking their services to free agency each year. This year looks to present a few more tag candidates compared to 2023. With a handful of teams determining if they will need to use the tag to prevent a free agency path, here are the players who figure to be tagged or at least generate conversations about being franchised ahead of the March 5 deadline:

Locks

Josh Allen, OLB (Jaguars)
Projected tag cost: $22.75MM

GM Trent Baalke did not leave much suspense when he addressed Allen’s future last month. The veteran exec said the 2019 first-round pick will be a Jaguar in 2024, indicating the team would use its franchise tag if necessary. The Jaguars do have Calvin Ridley as a free agent, but the team would owe the Falcons a 2024 second-round pick if it extended the wide receiver’s contract before the start of the league year. The second pick sent to Atlanta will only be a third-rounder if Jacksonville lets Ridley hit free agency. It makes more sense for Jacksonville to circle back to Ridley after allowing him to test the market. An Allen tag effectively ensures that will happen.

Timing his sack breakthrough well, Allen registered a Jags-record 17.5 during his contract year. The five-year Jaguar has combined for 55 QB hits over the past two seasons and ranks top 10 in pressures over the past three. The tag regularly keeps top edge rushers from hitting free agency, and the 26-year-old pass rusher — while obviously wanting to be paid what he’s worth — expressed a desire to stay in Jacksonville long term.

The Jags have regularly unholstered their tag during the 2020s, cuffing Yannick Ngakoue in 2020 and then keeping Cam Robinson off the 2021 and ’22 markets. The team kept Evan Engram out of free agency last year. Robinson signed an extension in 2022, and the Jags re-upped Engram last July. The Ngakoue situation could be notable, as the edge rusher became disgruntled with the Jags and was eventually traded to the Vikings that summer. No signs of that level of trouble are brewing with Allen yet.

Jaylon Johnson, CB (Bears)
Projected tag cost: $18.76MM

Johnson is likely to become the first franchise-tagged cornerback since the Rams kept Trumaine Johnson off the 2017 market. The Bears are the most recent team to tag a corner, using the transition tag to cuff Kyle Fuller in 2018. They will almost definitely follow suit with Johnson, who has been rumored to be tagged for several weeks. A Ryan Pace-era draftee, Johnson expressed his desire to stay with the Bears ahead of his contract year. With that platform campaign producing some twists and turns, that price has gone up significantly.

After unsuccessful in-season extension talks, the Bears gave Johnson an 11th-hour opportunity to gauge his trade value. The Bears did not alert teams Johnson, 24, was available until the night before the Oct. 31 deadline. Although the Bills and 49ers engaged in talks about a trade, the Bears held out for a first- or second-round pick. Nothing materialized, which will likely come up during the team’s talks with Johnson. The Bears then extended trade pickup Montez Sweat, leaving Johnson in limbo. But the former second-round pick stuck the landing on an impact season. He is firmly in the Bears’ plans, and the team holds more than $66MM in cap space — plenty to squeeze in a tag onto the payroll.

Pro Football Focus’ top-graded corner in 2023, Johnson displayed a new gear that has made him worthy of a tag. Finishing with four interceptions and allowing just a 50.9 passer rating as the closest defender, the Utah alum soared to second-team All-Pro status. The Bears, who last used the tag on Allen Robinson in 2021, made no secret of their interest in retaining Johnson and will have a few more months to negotiate with him as a result of the tag.

Likely tag recipients

Brian Burns, OLB (Panthers)
Projected tag cost: $22.75MM

The Panthers hiring a new GM and head coach classifies this as just short of a lock, but familiar faces remain. Carolina promoted assistant general manager Dan Morgan to GM and blocked DC Ejiro Evero from departing. Burns has been viewed as a likely tag recipient since last season, after negotiations broke down. The Panthers have not offered a negotiating masterclass here, as Burns has been extension-eligible since the 2022 offseason. Since-fired GM Scott Fitterer had viewed Burns as a re-up candidate for two offseasons, but multiple rounds of trade talks boosted the 2019 first-rounder’s leverage.

In what looks like a mistake, the Panthers passed on a Rams offer that included two first-rounders and a third for Burns at the 2022 trade deadline. Carolina then kept Burns out of 2023 trade talks with Chicago about the No. 1 pick, ultimately sending D.J. Moore to the Windy City for the Bryce Young draft slot. Carolina also kept Burns at the 2023 deadline, as teams looked into the top pass rusher on the NFL’s worst team. Burns also saw his position’s market change via Nick Bosa‘s record-setting extension ($34MM per year). The 49ers’ landmark accord came to pass after Burns had set a $30MM-AAV price point, complicating Morgan’s upcoming assignment.

Burns, 25, has registered at least 7.5 sacks in each of his five seasons. While he has only topped nine in a season once (2022), the two-time Pro Bowler is one of the league’s better edge rushers. Given the Panthers’ history with Burns, it would be borderline shocking to see the team allow the Florida State alum to leave in exchange for merely a third-round compensatory pick.

Burns has said he wants to stay with the Panthers; he is unlikely to have a choice this year. The Panthers last used the tag to keep right tackle Taylor Moton off the market in 2021; the sides agreed to an extension that offseason.

Tee Higgins, WR (Bengals)
Projected tag cost: $20.67MM

Seeing their hopes of capitalizing on the final year of Higgins’ rookie contract dashed due to Joe Burrow‘s season-ending injury, the Bengals look to be giving strong consideration to keeping the Burrow-Higgins-Ja’Marr Chase trio together for one last ride of sorts. The Bengals hold $59.4MM in cap space — fifth-most currently — and structured Burrow’s extension in a way that makes a Higgins tag palatable. Burrow’s deal does not spike into historic cap territory until 2025.

While a future in which Chase and Higgins are signed long term is more difficult to foresee, the Bengals still carry one of the AFC’s best rosters. It is likely Burrow’s top two weapons remain in the fold for at least one more year. Higgins, 25, did not come close to posting a third straight 1,000-yard season. Burrow’s injury had plenty to do with that, though the former second-round pick started slowly. A Bengals 2023 extension offer underwhelmed Higgins, but the Bengals kept him out of trades. A tag will give Cincinnati the option to rent him for 2024. A tag-and-trade transaction is viewed as unlikely, as the Bengals load up again.

How the organization proceeds beyond 2024 will be a key storyline, but the Bengals — who kept Jessie Bates in similar fashion in 2022 — are positioned well to run back perhaps the NFL’s best receiving tandem. While director of player personnel Duke Tobin stopped short of guaranteeing Higgins will be a Bengal in 2024, signs point to it.

Justin Madubuike, DL (Ravens)
Projected tag cost: $20.94MM

Seeing their defensive coordinator depart and once again facing questions at outside linebacker, the Ravens have the option of keeping their top 2023 pass rusher off the market. They are probably going to take that route. Madubuike raised his price considerably during an impact contract year, leading the Ravens with 13 sacks. While Mike Macdonald was able to coax surprising seasons from late additions Jadeveon Clowney and Kyle Van Noy, Madubuike drove Baltimore’s defensive engine and will likely be guaranteed a high salary by signing his franchise tender.

Perennially interested in hoarding compensatory picks, the Ravens have regularly let breakthrough pass rushers walk in free agency. This dates back to the likes of Paul Kruger and Pernell McPhee and subsequently included Za’Darius Smith and Matt Judon. The Ravens have only been able to replace Judon with stopgap options — from Clowney to Van Noy to Justin Houston — and again must figure out a solution alongside Odafe Oweh on the edge. Madubuike, 26, proved too good to let walk; the former third-round pick will once again be expected to anchor Baltimore’s pass rush in 2024.

Antoine Winfield Jr., S (Buccaneers)
Projected tag cost: $16.22MM

We mentioned Winfield as the Bucs’ most likely tag recipient around the midseason point, and signs now point to that reality coming to pass. The Bucs want to re-sign Baker Mayfield and Mike Evans. The bounce-back quarterback’s tender price would check in at nearly $36MM, and because Evans was attached to a veteran contract, his tag number would come in well north of Higgins’ — at beyond $28MM. As such, the Bucs cuffing Winfield has always made the most sense, and after the second-generation NFL DB’s dominant contract year, it would be stunning to see the team let him walk.

The Bucs have let their recent top free agents test free agency, only to re-sign Shaquil Barrett (2021), Carlton Davis (2022) and Jamel Dean (2023). Winfield may be on a higher plane, having secured first-team All-Pro acclaim last season. Davis and Dean have never made a Pro Bowl; Winfield’s productive and well-regarded 2023 stands to separate him. Winfield, 25, tallied six sacks and three interceptions while forcing an NFL-leading six fumbles. This included a pivotal strip of DJ Chark in the Bucs’ Week 18 win over the Panthers, which clinched them the NFC South title.

Winfield will undoubtedly be eyeing a top-market safety extension. Derwin James established the current standard, $19MM per year, just before the 2022 season. Last year’s safety market did not feature big-ticket prices, for the most part, but the Falcons made Jessie Bates (four years, $64MM) an exception. If Winfield were to reach free agency, he would be expected to eclipse that.

The Bucs, who have used the tag three times in the 2020s, should not be considered likely to let Winfield follow Davis and Dean’s path by speaking with other teams. Tampa Bay has used the tag three times in the 2020s, cuffing Barrett in 2020 and tagging Chris Godwin twice. The team eventually re-signed both, and while the statuses of Mayfield and Evans (and All-Pro tackle Tristan Wirfs) create a crowded contract queue, the Bucs will certainly be interested in re-upping Winfield.

On tag radar

Saquon Barkley, RB (Giants)
Tag price: $12MM

Barkley has said he wants to finish his career with the Giants, and the team will meet with the Pro Bowl running back’s camp at the Combine. But a recent report indicated the team is highly unlikely to tag the six-year veteran a second time. The Giants should not be ruled out from reversing course and keeping Barkley, given his importance to an otherwise low-octane offense, but it appears they are prepared to move on if the talented RB does not accept their extension offer this time around. A host of talented backs await in free agency, though Barkley would likely be the top prize were he to reach the market.

Read more

Chiefs DC Steve Spagnuolo Remains Interested In HC Opportunity

Steve Spagnuolo is a four-time Super Bowl winner as a defensive coordinator, with three of his titles coming during his run with the Chiefs. He will remain in Kansas City moving forward, but he still has head coaching aspirations.

Spagnuolo spent the 2023 campaign in a contract year, but his unit delivered the best performance of his tenure en route to a second straight title. Kansas City allowed under 25 points in 20 of the team’s 21 games this year, marking a new all-time record in that regard. To no surprise, Spagnuolo was rewarded with an extension shortly after the Super Bowl. When asked about a hypothetical return to a head coaching position, though, he confirmed it is still on his radar.

“I’ve been asked this question a lot, I’ll answer it the same way,” Spagnuolo said during an appearance on Mad Dog Sports Radio“Absolutely would want to. We’re prideful guys in this business. It wasn’t a success when I was in St. Louis, although I think what gets lost in this is… in that second year in 2010, had we won the last game of the season we’re in the playoffs and hosting a playoff game against the New Orleans Saints. It didn’t happen, then we hit the lockout and things didn’t go well and we were gone.

“The answer to the question is yes, but I always follow up with this. If it never happens and it’s God’s will that I continue to do what I’m doing, I’m a blessed man.”

Spagnuolo went 10-38 with the Rams, and his only other NFL head coaching position came on an interim basis with the Giants after Ben McAdoo was fired in 2017. The 64-year-old has said in the past that he would welcome another HC opportunity, but his latest Chiefs contract will delay his chance to take charge of a roster at a minimum. Chiefs head coach Andy Reid‘s future has been a matter of speculation for multiple years, but he will remain in place for at least one more season.

Being promoted as Reid’s replacement could provide Spagnuolo with a path to another head coaching gig, but no firm timeline exists on when that could take place. For now, he and the Chiefs will set out on an offseason aimed at keeping the franchise poised for another title run.

L’Jarius Sneed Wants To Stay With Chiefs

Chris Jones emphatically stated he is not eager to leave Kansas City. Though, the Chiefs may need to wade into uncharted waters if they want to keep their star defensive tackle off the market. Thanks to Jones being tagged in 2020, the price of a second tag would come in north of $32MM. In the franchise tag’s 31-year history, only the Ravens (Lamar Jackson, $32.4MM) have tagged a player in that neighborhood.

The tag would be a more logical option for the defending champions when it comes to L’Jarius Sneed. The cornerback tender price is expected to come in just above $18MM. But the Chiefs have been rigid at corner for most of Andy Reid‘s tenure. Sneed said during an appearance on Up & Adams he wants the Chiefs to be the team that pays him, but when pressed by host Kay Adams, the four-year veteran doubted the team had the resources to re-sign both he and Jones (video link).

[RELATED: Chiefs Engaged In Early Sneed Extension Talks]

Sneed delivered a borderline-dominant contract year for the Chiefs, regularly covering No. 1 wide receivers and allowing just a 56.2 passer rating as the closest defender. This did not garner the former fourth-round pick an All-Pro nod or a Pro Bowl honor, to the surprise of many, but he has now started for two Super Bowl-winning teams and been a regular defender in three Super Bowls.

Sneed, 27, has also shown the ability to play in the slot. Although the slot corner market remains in a strange place, Sneed has proven himself on the perimeter and will be one of the top UFAs this year — if the Chiefs let him hit the market. Kansas City holds barely $15MM in cap space, before restructures and other maneuvers inflate that total. With cornerback being one of the game’s most valuable positions, the Louisiana Tech find is close to scoring a payday that tops what his former CB teammates received in free agency.

The Chiefs have methodically kept costs low at corner since Sean Smith‘s contract came off the books nearly 10 years ago. Kansas City traded Marcus Peters in 2018. Since then, starters Steven Nelson, Kendall Fuller and Charvarius Ward have scored their paydays with other teams. Ward, who earned an All-Pro honor in his second 49ers season, signed a three-year deal worth $40.5MM. Spotrac expects Sneed to better that, projecting his second-contract AAV to come in beyond $16MM. That is top-10 cornerback money. The Chiefs going from a rookie-deal-only protocol at corner to authorizing such a pact will be asking a lot, given the success they have had with this formula.

Jones has been far more critical for Kansas City’s Steve Spagnuolo-orchestrated defensive resurgence compared to Sneed, but a reality exists in which the back-to-back champions lose both defenders. Seventh-year GM Brett Veach will aim to avoid this, but the Chiefs have younger corners who can be kept on rookie deals through at least 2025. All-Pro Trent McDuffie would anchor a post-Sneed group, and and part-time contributors Joshua Williams and Jaylen Watson— respectively obtained in the 2022 fourth and seventh rounds — have supplied competent work thus far. Pro Football Focus ranked all four of Kansas City’s regular corners in the top 45 this season.

While the prospect of a Sneed tag has been floated, the Bears being set to cuff Jaylon Johnson would only benefit the impact Chiefs defender. If/when Johnson is tagged, Sneed will likely be the top CB available. The Chiefs have until March 5 to decide on unholstering their tag.

Chris Jones Wants To Remain With Chiefs

FEBRUARY 16: The Chiefs have officially “picked up the option on” Jones’ contract, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network. As mentioned below, the move was expected, as it allows Kansas City the option to franchise tag Jones moving forward. The move also pays out $4.25MM of incentives that Jones earned over the 2023 NFL season.

Tagging Jones still doesn’t appear to be the preferred route after he was previously tagged in 2020, and should the team choose not to exercise that option, Jones will be set to test free agency.

FEBRUARY 15: Chris Jones is currently slated to be one of the top defenders in the 2024 free agent class. Kansas City is aiming to retain him, however, and the desire for a new deal appears to be mutual.

When speaking at the team’s Super Bowl parade, Jones made it clear he intends to remain with the Chiefs for the foreseeable future (video link). His remarks carry less weight than tangible progress in contract talks, of course, but they point to a continued path existing for a new deal to be worked out. Finalizing an agreement is among the team’s top priorities, something head coach Andy Reid has confirmed.

“Yeah, listen, I think [general manager Brett] Veach has said it before — we’d love to have him back,” Reid said on Wednesday (video link). “They’ve just got to work all that out. But I think the effort will be there probably on both parts to try to get something done.”

Jones’ contract holdout left him out of the lineup for Week 1 of the 2023 season as he attempted to land a long-term deal at or near the level of Aaron Donald in terms of compensation. The Chiefs aimed for a lower AAV, and the parties ultimately reached a one-year agreement which left a franchise tag as an option for 2024. Such a move would come as a surprise, though, since it would cost more than $32MM due to Jones previously being tagged in 2020.

Talks with Jones on a deal which would provide multi-year clarity will, of course, be complicated by the fact L’Jarius Sneed is also set to reach the open market. The latter has proven himself to be a key member of one of the league’s best cornerback tandems while playing alongside 2022 first-rounder Trent McDuffie. Sneed could command a lucrative long-term pact with the Chiefs or another team if he were to reach free agency, but Tony Pauline of Sportskeeda notes the franchise tag could be in play in his case. The CB tag is slated to cost roughly $18.4MM in 2024, but Pauline writes there was chatter at the Senior Bowl Kansas City could use it to at least buy time to continue contract talks.

The Chiefs are currently mid-pack in terms of projected cap space, though new much of the team’s available resources will be needed to re-sign Jones and/or Sneed. Cost-shedding moves will take place in Kansas City in the near future, but the offseason will be defined in large part by the progress of talks with the two defensive stalwarts.

Chiefs Extend ST Coordinator Dave Toub

The Chiefs employ three coordinators who were once on the head coaching radar only to have settled in as veteran assistants. After extending Steve Spagnuolo earlier this week, the two-time reigning champions have locked down their special teams coordinator.

Dave Toub has signed a new deal with the Chiefs, the team announced. This will allow the longtime Andy Reid assistant to coach a 12th season with the team. Reid brought Toub to Missouri upon taking the job in 2013. His new deal will cover three years, ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter tweets.

Special teams coaches rarely find their way into HC consideration, John Harbaugh‘s 15-plus-year Ravens stay notwithstanding, but Toub was on that radar several years ago. The Broncos and Chargers met with him in 2017, and after the Colts’ Josh McDaniels choice fizzled a year later, Toub emerged on Indianapolis’ radar. None of those connections produced a hire, keeping one of the league’s top ST coaches in Kansas City.

The Chiefs checked in at 14th on Rick Gosselin’s annual special teams rankings in 2023. After being ranked last in that cumulative score in 2022, Kansas City came through with two special teams plays to make its Super Bowl LVII win possible. Skyy Moore‘s punt return late in the fourth quarter against the Bengals helped a gimpy Patrick Mahomes — with a notable assist from Joseph Ossai‘s ensuing late hit — do enough to move the Chiefs into field goal range in the 2022 AFC championship game. Kadarius Toney then set a Super Bowl record with a 65-yard punt return, setting up a walk-in Moore score in the fourth quarter against the Eagles.

Toub, 61, initially coached with Reid on the Eagles from 2001-03. He spent the following nine season as the Bears’ STC. The Chiefs now have Spagnuolo going into his sixth season as DC and Matt Nagy — who joined Spagnuolo in not being tied to any HC jobs this year — set for his fourth year (over two stints) as OC. With the Chiefs set to eye the first threepeat in the Super Bowl era, Reid and his top lieutenants will all be back for that push.

Assessing NFL’s OC Landscape

This offseason showed the turnover that can take place at the offensive coordinator position. As a result of several decisions in January and February, the NFL no longer has an OC who has been in his current role for more than two seasons. Various firings and defections now have the 2022 batch of hires stationed as the longest-tenured OCs.

One of the longest-tenured coordinators in NFL history, Pete Carmichael is no longer with the Saints. The team moved on after 15 seasons, a stay that featured part-time play-calling duties. The Browns canned their four-year non-play-calling OC, Alex Van Pelt, while three-year play-callers Arthur Smith and Shane Waldron are relocating this winter. Brian Callahan‘s five-year gig as the Bengals’ non-play-calling OC booked him a top job.

The recent lean toward offense-oriented HCs took a bit of a hit of a hit this offseason, with five of the eight jobs going to defense-oriented leaders. Callahan, Dave Canales and Jim Harbaugh were the only offense-geared candidates hired during this cycle. But half the NFL will go into this season with a new OC. Following the Seahawks’ decision to hire ex-Washington (and, briefly, Alabama) staffer Ryan Grubb, here is how the NFL’s OC landscape looks:

2022 OC hires

  • Ben Johnson, Detroit Lions*
  • Mike Kafka, New York Giants*
  • Wes Phillips, Minnesota Vikings
  • Frank Smith, Miami Dolphins
  • Adam Stenavich, Green Bay Packers
  • Press Taylor, Jacksonville Jaguars*

Although this sextet now comprises the senior wing of offensive coordinators, this still marks each’s first gig as an NFL OC. Three of the six received HC interest this offseason.

Johnson’s status back in Detroit has been one of the offseason’s top storylines and a development the Commanders have not taken especially well. The two-year Lions OC was viewed as the frontrunner for the Washington job for weeks this offseason, and when team brass did not receive word about Johnson’s intent to stay in Detroit (thus, waiting until at least 2025 to make his long-expected HC move) until a Commanders contingent was en route to Detroit for a second interview, a back-and-forth about what exactly broke down took place. Johnson should be expected to remain a high-end HC candidate next year, but Dan Campbell will still have his services for 2024.

Kafka interviewed for the Seahawks’ HC job, and the Giants then blocked him from meeting with the NFC West team about its OC position. Rumblings about Kafka and Brian Daboll no longer being on great terms surfaced this year, with the latter yanking away play-calling duties — given to Kafka ahead of the 2022 season — at points in 2023. Taylor may also be on the hot seat with his team. Doug Pederson gave Taylor the call sheet last season, and Trevor Lawrence did not make the leap many expected. After a collapse left the Jaguars out of the playoffs, the team had begun to look into its offensive situation.

2023 OC hires

  • Jim Bob Cooter, Indianapolis Colts
  • Nathaniel Hackett, New York Jets*
  • Mike LaFleur, Los Angeles Rams
  • Joe Lombardi, Denver Broncos
  • Todd Monken, Baltimore Ravens*
  • Matt Nagy, Kansas City Chiefs
  • Drew Petzing, Arizona Cardinals*
  • Brian Schottenheimer, Dallas Cowboys
  • Bobby Slowik, Houston Texans*

Only nine of the 15 OCs hired in 2023 are still with their teams. One (Canales) moved up the ladder, while others were shown the door following that organization canning its head coach. The Eagles were the only team who hired an offensive coordinator last year to fire that staffer (Brian Johnson) after one season. Nick Sirianni fired both his coordinators following a wildly disappointing conclusion.

Hackett may also be drifting into deep water, given what transpired last year in New York. Rumblings of Robert Saleh — who is on the hottest seat among HCs — stripping some of his offensive play-caller’s responsibilities surfaced recently. This marks Hackett’s fourth chance to call plays in the NFL; the second-generation staffer did so for the Bills, Jaguars and Broncos prior to coming to New York. After the 2022 Broncos ranked last in scoring, the ’23 Jets ranked 31st in total offense. Hackett’s relationship with Aaron Rodgers has largely kept him in place, but 2024 may represent a last chance for the embattled coach.

Of this crop, Monken and Slowik were the only ones to receive HC interest. Neither emerged as a frontrunner for a position, though Slowik met with the Commanders twice. The Texans then gave their first-time play-caller a raise to stick around for C.J. Stroud‘s second season. Stroud’s remarkable progress figures to keep Slowik on the HC radar. Monken, who is in his third try as an NFL OC (after gigs in Tampa and Cleveland), just helped Lamar Jackson to his second MVP award. The former national championship-winning OC did not stick the landing — as Jackson struggled against the Chiefs — but he fared well on the whole last season.

Schottenheimer is on his fourth go-round as an OC, while Lombardi is on team No. 3. The latter’s job figures to be more secure, being tied to Sean Payton, compared to what is transpiring in Dallas. With the Cowboys having Mike McCarthy as the rare lame-duck HC, his coordinators probably should not get too comfortable.

2024 OC hires

  • Joe Brady, Buffalo Bills*
  • Liam Coen, Tampa Bay Buccaneers*
  • Ken Dorsey, Cleveland Browns
  • Luke Getsy, Las Vegas Raiders*
  • Ryan Grubb, Seattle Seahawks*
  • Nick Holz, Tennessee Titans
  • Kliff Kingsbury, Washington Commanders*
  • Klint Kubiak, New Orleans Saints*
  • Brad Idzik, Carolina Panthers
  • Kellen Moore, Philadelphia Eagles*
  • Dan Pitcher, Cincinnati Bengals
  • Zac Robinson, Atlanta Falcons*
  • Greg Roman, Los Angeles Chargers*
  • Arthur Smith, Pittsburgh Steelers*
  • Alex Van Pelt, New England Patriots*
  • Shane Waldron, Chicago Bears*

The 49ers do not employ a traditional OC; 16 of the 31 teams that do recently made a change. Most of the teams to add OCs this year, however, did so without employing play-calling coaches. This naturally raises the stakes for this year’s batch of hires.

Retreads became rather popular. Dorsey, Getsy, Moore, Van Pelt and Waldron were all OCs elsewhere (Buffalo, Chicago, Los Angeles, Cleveland, Seattle) last season. Smith will shift from calling the Falcons’ plays to running the show for the Steelers. Dorsey, Getsy and Van Pelt were fired; Moore and Waldron moved on after the Chargers and Seahawks respectively changed HCs. Moore and Smith will be calling plays for a third team; for Moore, this is three OC jobs in three years.

Coen, Kingsbury and Roman are back after a year away. Kingsbury became a popular name on the OC carousel, having coached Caleb Williams last season. This will be his second crack at an NFL play-calling gig, having been the Cardinals’ conductor throughout his HC tenure. This will be Coen’s first shot at calling plays in the pros; he was Sean McVay‘s non-play-calling assistant in 2022. Likely to become the Chargers’ play-caller, Roman will have a rare fourth chance to call plays in the NFL. He held that responsibility under Jim Harbaugh in San Francisco; following Harbaugh’s explosive 2015 49ers split, Roman moved to Buffalo and Baltimore to work under non-offense-oriented leaders.

Grubb, Holz, Idzik, Pitcher and Robinson represent this year’s first-timer contingent. Grubb has, however, called plays at the college level. Robinson is the latest McVay staffer to move into a play-calling post; he was a Rams assistant for five years. A host of teams had Robinson on their OC radar, but Raheem Morris brought his former L.A. coworker to Atlanta. Pitcher appeared in a few searches as well, but the Bengals made the expected move — after extending him last year — to give him Callahan’s old job.

* = denotes play-calling coordinator

Chiefs To Extend DC Steve Spagnuolo

Steve Spagnuolo has established himself as one of the best defensive coordinators in NFL history, picking up a fourth Super Bowl championship as an assistant Sunday night. Still off the HC radar, the Chiefs will take advantage.

The two-time reigning champions are giving Spagnuolo an extension, NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reports. Spagnuolo’s defense played a bigger role in helping the Chiefs rally to another championship. With Kansas City’s offense experiencing several speedbumps this season, the team depended on its defense. Spagnuolo will continue to lead that unit for the foreseeable future.

Spagnuolo, 64, coached in Super Bowl LVIII on an expiring contract, according to Rapoport. The former Rams HC has been in place under Andy Reid since 2019. That tenure resulted in the Chiefs elevating their defensive profile. Kansas City giving Patrick Mahomes a sturdy defensive safety net has allowed for the game’s premier active player to lead the team to three titles and four Super Bowl appearances. After a woeful tenure as a head coach in St. Louis, Spags’ tenure in western Missouri has bolstered his reputation as well.

Reid brought in Spagnuolo following the Chiefs’ shootout loss in the 2018 AFC championship game. Mahomes’ best statistical season ended with the quarterback on the sideline as the Patriots marched down for a game-winning touchdown in overtime. The Chiefs then fired six-year DC Bob Sutton and brought in Spagnuolo, who has regularly had his defense in top form late in the season.

This year brought Spagnuolo’s best work with the Chiefs. Although this success did not result in Tony Romo learning the correct pronunciation of the veteran assistant’s name, Spagnuolo’s defense ranked second in scoring and total yardage this season. An inconsistent Chiefs offense benefited from the team’s best defensive effort since perhaps the Derrick Thomas era.

While Spagnuolo has said on a few occasions he would pursue another HC job, that has not been in the cards. No team has requested an interview during Spagnuolo’s Chiefs years. The Rams hired the Super Bowl-winning Giants DC in 2009, but their modern-era nadir occurred soon after. In place as Rams HC for three seasons, Spagnuolo submitted 1-15 and 2-14 seasons in that span. A 7-9 slate ensued in between, but the Rams had seen enough by the end of the 2011 slate. Spagnuolo, who won his first ring as part of the 2007 Giants, returned to the DC level soon after. Finishing the 2017 season as the Giants’ interim HC, Spags landed the Chiefs gig. But HC interest has eluded the accomplished defensive play-caller.

The Chiefs held the 49ers to three field goals in their latest Super Bowl win. While Kansas City’s offense was far from dominant, its defense had done enough to keep the deficit at one score late in the fourth quarter. The Chiefs have questions regarding top defensive pieces Chris Jones and L’Jarius Sneed. Although the team wants to retain both, each sits weeks away from free agency. The Chiefs having Spagnuolo locked in will stand to help if they lose top personnel soon.

NFL Reserve/Futures Contracts: 2/14/24

Here are Wednesday’s reserve/futures deals:

Kansas City Chiefs

San Francisco 49ers

NFL Reserve/Futures Contracts: 2/13/24

Today’s reserve/futures deals:

Jacksonville Jaguars

Kansas City Chiefs

San Francisco 49ers

Oruwariye spent much of the 2023 season on the Jaguars practice squad, with the defensive back getting into just one game. The former fifth-round pick has more experience than your standard reserve/futures contract, as Oruwariye started 29 games for the Lions between 2020 and 2021. That latter season was one of his strongest, as he finished with 57 tackles, 11 passes defended, and six interceptions.