Lance Newmark

Staff Notes: Johnson, Lions, Ravens, Browns

Jets owner Woody Johnson is back running his team, after his United Kingdom ambassadorship under President Donald Trump ended. Johnson now oversees a staff hired while his brother — Christopher Johnson — was operating as owner. Woody Johnson is behind the Jets’ current Joe DouglasRobert Saleh power structure, despite not being involved in their respective hirings.

They’ve got a tremendous amount of leeway,” Johnson said of Douglas and Saleh, via Rich Cimini of ESPN.com. “I’m totally in sync with these guys. Chris [Johnson] made some unbelievable choices, and we’re lucky to get both of those gentlemen. I couldn’t be more excited,” he continued. “I’m very optimistic, generally, but I’m particularly optimistic now when I see what happens on the field [in practice].”

It will be interesting to follow Johnson’s relationship with Douglas and Saleh, given the unique circumstances behind this power trio. The returning owner does not plan to interfere with the Douglas regarding personnel, Cimini adds. The Douglas-Saleh partnership follows two unsteady pairings formed during Christopher Johnson’s interim ownership tenure, with the Adam GaseMike Maccagnan tandem lasting less than six months together and Douglas firing Gase — who helped him land the GM gig — after the 2020 season.

Here is the latest from the front office and coaching ranks:

  • Although the Lions hired a new GM (Brad Holmes), several Bob Quinn-era staffers will remain going forward. Holmes will keep Lance Newmark (player personnel director), Dave Sears (college scouting director) and Rob Lohman (pro scouting director) on staff, with select other scouts from Quinn’s regime remaining in place, Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press notes. Newmark turned down an offer to join Scott Fitterer‘s Panthers front office, per Birkett. Both Newmark, who has been with the Lions for nearly 25 years, and Lohman, who joined the Lions in 2007, interviewed for the Lions’ GM job that went to Holmes.
  • Holmes did hire some new personnel. Former Panthers and Texans exec Mike Martin will join the Lions as director of scouting advancement, while ex-Miami Hurricanes football ops director Don Corzine is now in Detroit as a senior advisor. These two join John Dorsey and assistant GM Ray Agnew as key new arrivals under Holmes.
  • Going into his third season with the Ravens, Nick Matteo will rise to the position of director of football administration. Matteo, who worked in the league office for 10 years, will be involved with the Ravens’ salary cap. Additionally, Andrew Raphael will rise from an area scout to a national scouting role.
  • Browns assistant coach Callie Brownson was arrested for operating a vehicle while intoxicated last month, 92.3 The Fan’s Daryl Ruiter tweets. Brownson pleaded guilty to the charge, and the Browns suspended her. However, Kevin Stefanski said Brownson will be back for training camp. Currently working as the team’s chief of staff, Brownson became the first woman to coach a position group during a regular-season NFL game — when the team’s COVID-19 outbreak led to her coaching wide receivers and tight ends in separate games last season.

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

Lions Interview 3 Internal GM Candidates

The Lions have begun interviewing candidates for their general manager post. Three current Lions front office staffers interviewed for the job, including two who have been with the team for more than 15 years.

Player personnel director Lance Newmark, player personnel VP Kyle O’Brien and pro scouting director Rob Lohman completed their interviews, the Lions announced Friday. A member of this trio moving up to Detroit’s top personnel job would qualify as less likely than a splashier outside hire, but two of these staffers joined the organization before since-fired GM Bob Quinn‘s tenure began.

Newmark has been with the Lions since they employed Barry Sanders; he is wrapping up his 23rd season with the organization. Quinn promoted Newmark to his current role in 2017. Lohman arrived during Matt Millen‘s GM tenure, coming to Detroit in 2007. Previously, he was with the Texans when they became an NFL franchise. Quinn hired O’Brien in 2017, but the veteran exec has been an NFL staffer since 2002. O’Brien has spent the bulk of his career as a Patriots scout.

The Lions are not using a search firm, but they have been connected to bigger names. Former Giants GM Jerry Reese is an expected candidate. The Lions are also now open to hiring Matt Patricia‘s successor first and letting him help select the team’s next GM.

Latest On Jets’ GM Search Process

The Jets’ search for a new general manager will likely ramp up after the upcoming holiday weekend, as Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports indicates in a series of tweets. As the process unfolds, key questions could involve the potential return of Jets owner Woody Johnson (currently serving as a U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom) and the willingness of head coach Adam Gase to surrender control of the 53-man roster, per Robinson.

Johnson’s brother Christopher is currently running the Jets and made the decision to fire ex-GM Mike Maccagnan and install Gase in an acting personnel capacity. But prospective GM candidates are, perhaps rightly, concerned at the prospect of Woody Johnson returning to helm the franchise in the near future.

Eagles executive Joe Douglas is still Gase’s top choice for general manager, according to Robinson, but he’d probably be the No. 1 option for any number of GM openings. Douglas is expected to be choosy when it comes to his next opportunity, and Robinson invokes Colts GM Chris Ballard — who was picky before ending up in Indianapolis — as a comparison.

There are reportedly a number of candidates whom Gase would accept as GM, per Robinson, including the 49ers’ Adam Peters, the Bears’ Champ Kelly, and the Lions’ Lance Newmark. Additionally, Jets ownership is believed to “think highly” of Vikings exec George Paton. None of those names have been officially linked to the New York job as of yet.

Latest On Jets’ GM Search

The Jets have their eyes on Eagles executive Joe Douglas for their GM vacancy, and head coach/interim GM Adam Gase is reportedly staring in his direction as well. But, the Jets will also consider other candidates, including Bears assistant director of personnel Champ Kelly and Lions director of player personnel Lance Newmark (Twitter link via Rich Cimini of ESPN.com).

Whoever the new GM is, he’ll report directly to owner/CEO Christopher Johnson. Meanwhile, Gase will maintain control over the 53-man roster, which could prove to be a sticking point for top candidates. The Jets are loaded with young talent thanks to multiple losing seasons, but any exec that takes the job will have to wrestle with Gase when it comes to player acquisitions. After Gase toppled Maccagnan and ran him out of New York, it’s hard to see an established front office man jumping at Gang Green’s vacancy.

Meanwhile, Gase wasted little time in starting his GM duties. On Wednesday night, he shipped linebacker Darron Lee – a former first-round pick – to the Chiefs for a sixth-round choice.

Extra Points: Beane, Lions, Eagles, Saints

As reports indicated earlier this week, new Bills GM Brandon Beane will indeed have control over the 53-man roster. Terry Pegula confirmed as much Friday. “Brandon’s gonna have the 53,” the owner said, via Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk. “Him and Sean (McDermott) will obviously collaborate on any decisions.” The 39-year-old first-time GM, though, plans to work extensively alongside McDermott, with whom he obviously functioned alongside with the Panthers.

It’s going to be similar to what Sean and I had in Carolina. There’s no czar here, every decision is going to be collaborative,” Beane said, via WGRZ.com. “The unique thing Sean and I had was a respect, I knew his roots and how he worked his way up.”

Beane and McDermott have worked together since 2011, save for a near-four-month period when McDermott took the Bills job and Beane stayed in Charlotte. The former Panthers assistant GM will still have the final say, even though the new Bills HC arrived in Buffalo first.

Here’s more from Buffalo and the latest from around the league.

  • A slew of Bills free agency moves shouldn’t be expected, Beane said today, per Joe Buscaglia of WKBW (on Twitter). In a statement not exactly contrary to most new GMs’ philosophies, Beane plans to build the Bills through the draft (Twitter link, via Buscaglia).
  • The Lions announced a handful of new titles in their front office following Brian Xanders‘ departure. Among them: Kyle O’Brien now has the title of Vice President of Player Personnel and Lance Newmark is now Director of Player Personnel (Twitter link via Michael Rothstein of ESPN.com).
  • Doug Pederson isn’t worried about a potential holdout from Brandon Graham, the Eagles coach said today, per Eliot Shorr-Parks of NJ.com (on Twitter). A report earlier this week linked the burgeoning-star edge defender to a holdout. Graham is signed to a four-year deal worth $26.5MM. He’s set to carry cap numbers of $7.5MM apiece in 2017 and ’18. The 29-year-old ranked as the No. 2 overall edge defender in the opinion of Pro Football Focus last season. Among 4-3 defensive ends, Graham’s deal places him just 16th in terms of average annual value. Less accomplished teammate Vinny Curry is making nearly $3MM per year more than Graham due to his 2016 extension.
  • The Saints invited some familiar names to their rookie minicamp/tryout venue today. Former Jets, Bills and Falcons passer Matt Simms received an invite, as did former Raiders and Buccaneers wideout Louis Murphy and veteran tight end Clay Harbor (all Twitter links via Nick Underhill of The Advocate). Murphy spent the past two seasons with the Bucs but saw injuries limit him to just six games.

Zach Links contributed to this report.