Monti Ossenfort

Extra Points: Patriots, Texans, Caserio, Panthers, Holcomb, Broncos, Chubb, Steelers, Dupree

The Patriots have a big offseason ahead of them. Obviously there’s still the Tom Brady situation to work out, but there are some important behind the scenes decisions that need to be made as well. The front office is in a bit of limbo, as two prominent execs in Nick Caserio and Monti Ossenfort are both on expiring contracts that run out in May. The Texans originally tried to hire Caserio as their GM last year, which resulted in tampering charges. There’s now a good chance that both Caserio and Ossenfort move on from the Pats before the 2020 season, per Albert Breer of SI.com.

Even though we just heard recently that the Texans weren’t going to hire a GM and would continue with Bill O’Brien running the show, Breer writes that the “Texans would find a way to hire him as GM” if Caserio wanted to work in Houston. If Caserio and Ossenfort both leave, Breer writes that the Patriots would likely promote Dave Ziegler. It was rumored that Josh McDaniels might’ve wanted to take Ziegler with him had he landed the head coaching job in Cleveland.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • Al Holcomb is back in Carolina. The Panthers have hired Holcomb to be their run game coordinator, per Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (Twitter link). Holcomb was linebackers coach under Ron Rivera in Carolina for five years from 2013-17, so this is a homecoming for him. He spent last year as the Browns’ run game coordinator, and found himself in need of a new job after Freddie Kitchens got bounced from Cleveland. He had previously served as defensive coordinator with the Cardinals under Steve Wilks in 2018. He was a grad assistant at Temple back in the day, which could explain his connection to new Panthers coach Matt Rhule, who was previously the head coach at Temple.
  • Broncos pass-rusher Bradley Chubb showed a lot of promise as a rookie, racking up 12 sacks in 2018. Unfortunately his sophomore campaign was cut short, as he tore an ACL in Denver’s fourth game. On the bright side his recovery seems to be going well, and GM John Elway recently said that he should be ready for OTAs in a few months, per Ryan O’Halloran of the Denver Post. Chubb was the fifth overall pick out of N.C. State two years ago.
  • The Steelers are likely to place the franchise tag on impending free agent outside linebacker Bud Dupree, according to Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. While Pittsburgh very much wants to retain him for 2020, Dulac writes that the team is unlikely to pursue a longterm extension with Dupree because the “money is being earmarked for a big contract” for fellow outside linebacker T.J. Watt in the near future. Dupree was drafted in the first round back in 2015, and his career got off to a rocky start. He’s since become more reliable though, starting at least 15 games in each of the past three years. He had his best year as a pro this past season, when he started all 16 games and racked up 11.5 sacks. Amusingly, Steelers president Art Rooney II said the Le’Veon Bell debacle isn’t going to impact how they use the tag moving forward. “I don’t think that affects the way we think about franchise tags or anything at this point,” Rooney said. “We had one, I’ll call it unusual experience, and I think it was that — an unusual experience.

Latest On Browns, George Paton

4:20pm: Paton may not be as interested in the position as Berry or Ossenfort. The experienced exec does not, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune’s Ben Goessling, have an interview scheduled with the Browns (Twitter link). Paton has been especially selective over the years, so further deliberation would not exactly be a surprise.

2:26pm: The Browns’ GM search will include an interview will include a meeting with George Paton. The Vikings’ assistant GM will meet with the Browns this weekend, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets.

Paton joins Eagles executive Andrew Berry and Patriots front office staffer Monti Ossenfort as candidates. A few more names have been mentioned in this search, but the Browns’ interview itinerary has formed.

In the GM mix for years, Paton would seemingly be a natural fit for a team that just hired longtime Vikings assistant Kevin Stefanski. A career-long Vikings coach, Stefanski has worked with Paton for 13 years. Paton has been with the Vikings since 2007 and previously worked with current boss Rick Spielman in Miami and Chicago.

Paton was in the mix for the 49ers job that went to John Lynch three years ago but turned down an opportunity to interview with the Jets last year. He did the same when John Dorsey‘s ouster created a Chiefs GM vacancy in 2017. The Browns prioritized hiring their head coach first this time around, with chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta overseeing the coaching search that produced Stefanski after Dorsey ran last year’s process.

Browns To Interview Monti Ossenfort

The Browns will interview Patriots college scouting director Monti Ossenfort for their GM job on Friday, sources tell Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (on Twitter). This marks Ossenfort’s first his first GM interview, even though he’s been a popular name for previous vacancies.

Two years ago, Ossenfort was blocked from pursuing the Texans job. Then, after the surprising dismissal of Brian Gaine, he was connected to the club yet again. That didn’t materialize, either, because the Texans zeroed in on fellow Pats employee Nick Caserio, only to be shot down by Bill Belichick & Co.

Ossenfort‘s contract is believed to be up after this year, so he should be free to join up with the Browns if there’s a fit. The Browns also have Vikings assistant GM George Paton and Eagles vice president of football operations Andrew Berry on their radar.

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Texans Rumors: Clowney, O’Brien, Ossenfort

Here’s the latest on the Texans:

  • The Texans do not expect Jadeveon Clowney to report to camp, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com reports (video link). Still, there is reason to believe that he will not miss any regular season games. Pelissero hears that Clowney is studying his playbook and is still in regular contact with teammates, which isn’t the behavior of someone planning an extended holdout. One source close to Clowney even said he’d be “shocked” if the edge rusher was not on the field for Week 1.
  • The Texans’ reconfigured front office has head coach Bill O’Brien on top, Albert Breer of The MMQB writes. For now, everything will run through him in an operation that is likely to mirror New England’s. The rest of the plan goes like this: chief negotiator Chris Olsen will oversee the cap, director of player personnel Matt Bazirgan will handle pro scouting, college scouting director James Liipfert will do exactly what his title states, and EVP Jack Easterby will continue to have a jack-of-all-trades role.
  • On a related note, Breer hears that O’Brien liked New England college scouting director Monti Ossenfort as a GM candidate. Still, it sounds like the Texans are still waiting things out until they can land Nick Caserio.

Caserio Fallout: Pats, Texans, Kraft, Staff

The complex process that has taken shape since the Texans fired Brian Gaine still leaves the franchise without a GM, and, as of now at least, it looks like the Patriots will need to prepare for a front office shakeup in 2020.

Although the Texans are no longer pursuing top GM target Nick Caserio, and the Patriots have since dropped the tampering charges, the longtime Pats player personnel director is reportedly prepared to leave New England after his contract expires in 2020. The Texans are considering going without a GM this year, likely in hopes of landing Caserio next year, but they obviously run the risk of another potentially GM-needy team swooping in for the long-coveted executive.

Caserio may not be the only Pats exec on the market. Patriots college scouting director Monti Ossenfort‘s contract is believed to be up after this year as well, Albert Breer of SI.com notes. The Patriots made the unusual move to block Ossenfort from what would have been a major promotion last year, when the Texans requested to meet with both he and Caserio for the GM job that went to Gaine. Ossenfort has been with the Patriots for 15 years, having served in his current position for five.

The report about Caserio’s Patriots contract containing language that forbids him from meeting with another team, due to a raise the team gave him at some point, appears to be accurate. Not only does Caserio’s contract have this clause, but the Patriots offered a similar deal to members of their scouting department to try to keep the group intact, Breer adds. The Texans opted not to challenge this clause and thus take on Robert Kraft.

Another possible reason for the Patriots blocking Caserio from becoming the Texans’ GM: executive VP Jack Easterby‘s situation. Easterby left the Patriots to take a job with the Texans earlier this year and did so in part because Kraft was charged in the Florida prostitution sting, Breer reports. The ex-pastor and former Patriots character coach has become a key organizational voice early in his Houston tenure. Both he and Bill O’Brien have extensive Caserio ties.

The Texans have not conducted any GM interviews since the Caserio mess began, and Breer expects O’Brien to spend a year essentially running the team. Player personnel director Matt Bazirgan and college scouting director James Liipfert join Easterby as key Texans executives whose roles would stand to grow in a GM-less year.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Texans’ GM Search

The Texans have requested permission to interview Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio for their vacant GM job, but as Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reports, the team has not requested an interview with New England director of college scouting Monti Ossenfort. Houston was interested in speaking with Caserio and Ossenfort in connection with its GM job last year, but as of right now, the club seems to be focusing its efforts on Caserio.

As we learned yesterday, the Patriots can deny the Texans’ request to interview Caserio (or any other exec) if the Houston job does not entail sufficient decision-making authority. And assuming Caserio is interested enough in the Texans’ gig to have an interview, and assuming New England is intent on keeping its present front office intact, the Patriots could argue that the position would not offer such authority. If there is a disagreement between the two clubs, it would be up to commissioner Roger Goodell or his designee to resolve the matter.

The league could either allow Caserio to leave New England if he so chooses, require him to stay, or compel the Texans to compensate the Patriots in some fashion if they elect to hire Caserio. Presumably, we will have word on the Pats’ decision soon, which will add a great deal of clarity to this situation.

The Texans have already interviewed Ray Farmer and plan to interview Martin Mayhew for the GM position. It is unclear who their fallback plan is if they cannot land Caserio.

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Texans Notes: Gaine, Caserio, Clowney, Mathieu

Former Texans general manager Brian Gaine‘s firing shouldn’t be attributed to his inability to sign Jadeveon Clowney, writes Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer. We heard last week that the former executive had made “zero” progress on an extension for the former number-one pick, and a lack of development may have played a role in his firing.

However, Breer said there wasn’t any organizational disagreement over the handling of Clowney. The team was interested in signing the linebacker on their terms, and they were content opting for the franchise tag. For what it’s worth, we learned earlier today that Clowney is not expected to attend the team’s mandatory minicamp. The three-time Pro Bowler has yet to sign the franchise tender as he continues to push for a multiyear pact.

So what was the main reason for Gaine’s firing? Breer points to a lack of “fit” and “alignment,” as the former general manager didn’t share the same vision as head coach Bill O’Brien. Furthermore, the reporter believes the team’s current pursuit of Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio also played a role in the decision.

Let’s check out some more notes out of Houston, all via Breer…

  • Speaking of Caserio, his relationship with O’Brien and executive vice president of team development Jack Easterby could play a role in him leaving New England. There’s been a perception that Caserio wouldn’t leave the Patriots, but the reporter points out that the executive had been closing to leaving before (he considered taking the Dolphins’ gig in 2014). Breer wonders if the Texans could also look to Patriots college scouting director Monti Ossenfort or former Patriots executive (and current Falcons assistant GM) Scott Pioli for the role.
  • There also wasn’t an organizational disagreement over the handling of Tyrann Mathieu. The team recognized that the Pro Bowl safety had lofty monetary demands, and they never intended to go as far as the three-year, $42MM deal he received from the Chiefs this offseason. Meanwhile, the coaching staff has been happy with Gaine’s replacement for Mathieu, Tashaun Gipson.
  • Following Gaine’s signing of a five-year extension in 2018, the majority of his moves have actually been lauded by the front office and coaching staff. Breer points to the one-year deal for Mathieu, and he also notes the general manager’s ability to add productive rookies (receiver Keke Coutee and safety Justin Reid) in the 2018 draft despite not having a first- or second-rounder. While his inability to add a competent offensive line in front of Deshaun Watson certainly played a role in his firing, Breer opines that the forced trade of Duane Brown wasn’t the GM’s decision.
  • The Texans coaching staff has been happy with second-round offensive tackle Max Scharping and third-round tight end Kahale Warring. They’re also a “big fan” of first-rounder Tytus Howard. However, many pundits believe the Howard selection was a bit of a reach, and Breer wonders if O’Brien and Easterby’s Patriots’ philosophy clashed with Gaine’s eventual decision (as the two would have preferred trading back).

Latest On Texans’ GM Search, Nick Caserio The Favorite?

The Texans’ GM search is starting to heat up. John McClain of the Houston Chronicle brings us a lengthy list of possible candidates that includes Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio, Patriots director of college scouting Monti Ossenfort, former Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie, and former Chiefs GM Scott Pioli.

That’s in addition to former Browns GM Ray Farmer, who will apparently be the first to interview with the team. But just because Farmer is up first doesn’t mean he’s the top option. Caserio is “believed to be the leading candidate” for the job, according to Mark Berman of FOX 26 (Twitter link).

As soon as the Texans fired Brian Gaine, we heard rumblings that they would again pursue Caserio in their search. When the Texans were looking to fill their GM vacancy last offseason they requested to interview both Caserio and Ossenfort, but were denied by the Patriots. It’s unclear what would’ve changed, but people seem to think they’d have a good shot at them this time around.

Further, Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com examines what the situation will look like after a GM is hired. As he points out, this will go one of two ways. Either the Texans will hire another Bill O’Brien guy like they did last time, or they’ll hire an outside candidate with no connection to O’Brien, which means they could be looking for a new head coach after the season as well.

We heard on Friday that Texans exec Jack Easterby, who was recently appointed to a prominent position, will be playing a large role in the search. It was reported that Easterby is close friends with Caserio, so this latest development makes a lot of sense. The other names we’ve already seen mentioned, but this is the first we’ve heard of McKenzie as a potential candidate. After losing a power struggle with Jon Gruden in Oakland, McKenzie recently signed on with the Dolphins’ front office.

It’ll be interesting to see whether they let O’Brien run the hiring process, and that will go a long way toward showing us whether O’Brien is on the hot seat entering 2019. Caserio is apparently close with Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, and his presence is what has convinced McDaniels to stay in New England in the past, so many have speculated they’ll be paired together as an eventual coach/GM combo if Caserio ever leaves the Pats.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Patriots Deny Texans’ Request To Interview Nick Caserio, Monti Ossenfort

In their efforts to fill their GM vacancy, the Texans asked to interview top Patriots executives Nick Caserio (director of player personnel) and Monti Ossenfort (director of college scouting). However, as Adam Schefter of ESPN.com reports, New England denied that request.

Nick Caserio (vertical)

But, Schefter goes on to say that the Patriots’ refusal does not necessarily bring the matter to a close. The ESPN scribe writes that Caserio and Ossenfort still might be able to interview for the Texans job after the Patriots’ season ends, thanks to the league’s newly-relaxed rules that govern hiring executives from other clubs. In past years, teams could block their executives from interviewing elsewhere by saying that the individual had final say on the 53-man roster. Now, the league’s anti-tampering policy provides that final authority regarding the composition of the 53-man roster will not prevent someone from accepting a position with another team.

Interestingly, the Patriots did permit Caserio to interview with the 49ers for their GM job last offseason, and as Ben Volin of the Boston Globe observes (Twitter link), they allowed him to interview with the division-rival Dolphins two seasons ago, so their refusal represents a notable change in procedure. But given that New England is about to lose defensive coordinator Matt Patricia and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels to head coaching positions with other teams, perhaps the Pats are simply trying to maintain some degree of continuity.

If Houston is willing to wait, they could still get a crack at Caserio and Ossenfort. In the meantime, the Texans are looking at Packers director of player personnel Brian Gutekunst and Bills vice president of player personnel Brian Gaine.

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Latest On Texans’ GM Search

The Texans’ GM search is just getting underway, but we’re already getting an idea of the names that could be in play for the job. External candidates expected to receive interest include Nick Caserio and Monti Ossenfort of the Patriots, Brian Gaine of the Bills, and Brian Gutekunst of the Packers (Twitter link via Ian Rapoport of NFL.com). Nick Caserio (vertical)

[RELATED: Browns Ask To Talk With Texans’ Sean Ryan]

Caserio is among this year’s top candidates for a GM position. While he rejected overtures from other teams before, a prime opportunity like the one in Houston could be the one to get him to leave New England. Some have speculated that he could wind up as a package deal with Josh McDaniels as head coach, but it sounds like Bill O’Brien will be retained by the Texans.

The Texans are on the hunt for a new GM after Rick Smith announced he would be taking a leave of absence to care for his wife, who was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. When Smith does return to the team, he’ll retain his Executive Vice President title, but he indicated that he will not be in charge of football decisions.

In whatever role that is, I am going to maintain Executive Vice President title. If we hire a GM and have a guy to run the personnel, then we’ll do that,” Smith said. “So, again, it’s a fluid process, but I am absolutely intend on coming back, I will maintain that at least the Executive Vice President title and if Mr. McNair feels like he wants to hire a general manager, then he will hire a general manager and that will be just fine.

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