Ozzie Newsome

North Notes: Packers, LaFleur, Ravens, Brown

It’s a four-year deal with a fifth-year option for the Packers and Matt LaFleur, a source tells Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (on Twitter). LaFleur is a fast riser who is becoming a head coach for the very first time, but he appears to have solid job security in Green Bay. The financial terms of the deal are not yet known, but it would not be a surprise if he was on the lower end of the scale given his age and lack of experience at this level.

Here’s more from the North divisions:

  • Ravens wide receiver John Brown says he’d love to return in 2019, but he’s unlikely to accept a one-year deal this offseason (Twitter link via Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic). Brown, 29 in April, had a bit of a resurgence in Baltimore with 42 catches for 715 yards and five touchdowns in 2018.
  • Ozzie Newsome is transitioning out of his role as the Ravens‘ GM, but he isn’t retiring, Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic hears. Newsome will remain under contract with the Ravens for the next couple of years, though his title and duties are not yet known. Per the succession plan, longtime assistant Eric DeCosta will take over as GM from here.
  • The Lions parted ways with VP of football operations Matt Harriss, who was touted as a salary cap expert. To take his place, the Ravens have hired Mike Disner. Disner spent the last six seasons with the Cardinals and was directly involved in their cap planning, so he appears to be a natural replacement.

AFC Notes: Browns, Allen, Ravens, Broncos

Quarterbacks have justifiably dominated draft-centric Browns conversations this offseason, but Joe Thomas‘ retirement has left a hole the franchise hasn’t had to worry about since the Romeo Crennel regime. And as of now, the Browns have shifted Shon Coleman from right to left tackle, Terry Pluto of cleveland.com notes. With Chris Hubbard having been signed to play right tackle, the 6-foot-6 Coleman — a 2016 third-round pick who started all 16 games at right tackle last season — Coleman finds himself with either an opportunity to replace a legend or on the verge of being demoted. An anonymous NFL exec, per Pluto, does not believe John Dorsey will go into training camp with Coleman stationed atop the Browns’ depth chart at left tackle. Pro Football Focus preferred Coleman’s pass-blocking work to his ability to open running lanes, bestowing a middling overall grade upon the young blocker, but Coleman’s 14 penalties were the most among tackles last year.

Thomas replacement Spencer Drango, a 2016 fifth-rounder, gave up 11 sacks — most in the league in 2017. The exec floated the idea of the Browns trading down from No. 4 and selecting a tackle, but the team holds the Nos. 33 and 35 overall picks that could be used on a tackle without sacrificing prime first-round real estate.

Here’s the latest from the AFC:

  • Contrary to a previous report, the Jets do not have a Josh Allen visit scheduled, Rich Cimini of ESPN.com tweets. However, Gang Green brass did trek to Wyoming this week to observe a private workout. The Jets have been linked to Allen for months, and several team officials “love” the 6-foot-5 quarterback’s skill set. Allen has also been connected to the Browns and is among the four passers visiting the Giants next week.
  • As he did for Texans owner Bob McNair‘s deposition in his collusion lawsuit, Colin Kaepernick attended those of Ozzie Newsome and John Harbaugh, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports tweets. The Ravens duo’s depositions have been completed. The team was linked to Kaepernick in 2017 but did not end up signing him. Conflicting reports came out over the past several months regarding Harbaugh’s interest in Kaepernick, who led two of Jim Harbaugh‘s best 49ers teams. The Ravens signed Robert Griffin III, who also did not play football in 2017, this week.
  • The Broncos cut ties with Britton Colquitt before the 2016 season because his salary was escalating out of the franchise’s comfort zone, but now they’ve landed Marquette King. He will make $2MM per year on average. King also confirmed there was a bit of a revenge measure associated with his signing with perhaps the Raiders’ biggest rivals. “I just wanted to find the best place that I thought I would fit,” King said, via Mike Klis of 9News. “I think there is somewhat of a revenge factor in there, too.” King punted for Dennis Allen– and Jack Del Rio-coached teams from 2012-17, but unlike the former Denver defensive coordinators, new Oakland HC Jon Gruden wasn’t a fan of the punter’s personality. King said the Broncos did not ask him to tame down his antics.
  • Expect the Broncos to try and get what they can for incumbent punter Riley Dixon, Klis notes. The Syracuse product selected in the seventh round in 2016 has two years remaining on his rookie deal, but being a punter coming off a down season, it’s possible the Broncos may simply have to waive Dixon. Klis observes a trend in Denver ditching or demoting core members of its 2017 special teams units, which struggled. ST coordinator Brock Olivo was fired after one season, Dixon has now been replaced and ex-UDFAs have been brought in to compete with Brandon McManus and long snapper Casey Kreiter.

Ravens Notes: Crabtree, Ryan Grant, Free Agency

Baltimore made a big splash in free agency on Friday, signing veteran receiver Michael Crabtree a day after his release from the Raiders. The move potentially gives the team a go-to, possession receiver that it hasn’t had in a number of years.

Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said as much after the completion of the three-year deal worth up to $21MM. According to the Baltimore Sun’s Jeff Zrebiec (Twitter link): “Michael has played very well against the Ravens, so we know firsthand the attributes he brings to the game. He is a smart, tough, physical receiver who battles for the ball.”

Newsome remembers well, as Crabtree has topped 80 yards in three out of four regular-season meetings with the Ravens and has posted five touchdowns. That included a three-score outing vs. the typically stingy defense in 2016.

Known for utilizing his big arm early in his career, quarterback Joe Flacco has worked closer to the line of scrimmage in recent years and has posted at least a 64% completion rate in each season in 2015. That is likely to continue with a reliable option like Crabtree joining the hold.

Here’s more from Baltimore:

  • Despite signing both John Brown and Crabtree, Newsome hasn’t ruled out a return to the fold for Mike Wallace and Michael Campanaro, ESPN’s Jamison Hensley tweets. According to Hensley, the team has been in contact with both receivers.
  • Newsome said the team would have pursued Crabtree regardless if the team signed Ryan Grant or not,” Zrebiec tweets. The team voided a contract with the former Redskins wideout after he failed a physical.
  • Sticking with Grant, Newsome said via Zrebiec on Twitter: “I did not get the results of Ryan’s physical until about 4 o’clock yesterday.” He said the team consulted with many doctors around the country. “It’s not a football decision. It’s a medical decision that I had no control over.”
  • Before news of the Crabtree signing hit, Newsome said the team could add two or three more quality football players, Zrebiec tweets. Recently, Pro Football Rumors listed Baltimore’s top three offseason needs and named adding receiver help, beefing up the pass rush and fortifying the secondary as the team’s top goals. It checked No. 1 off the board with the Crabtree move.

Ravens Did Not Violate Rooney Rule

Last week, the Ravens announced that general manager Ozzie Newsome will step down in 2019, allowing longtime assistant GM Eric DeCosta to take over. Although the position has been filled without first interviewing a minority candidate, the Fritz Pollard Alliance has confirmed that the team is not in violation of the Rooney Rule. Eric DeCosta (vertical)

Under Rooney Rule protocol, when a club has established a firm succession plan that involves an internal coach or executive replacing a departing head coach or general manager, no external search is required,” the Fritz Pollard Alliance said in a statement (via Jeff Zrebiec of The Baltimore Sun). “Examples of such circumstances include Jim Caldwell‘s succession of Tony Dungy as head coach of the Indianapolis Colts and Jim Mora‘s succession of Mike Holmgren as head coach of the Seattle Seahawks. DeCosta’s pending succession of Newsome does not violate the Rooney Rule. The FPA salutes Ozzie Newsome for his groundbreaking tenure with the Ravens and congratulates DeCosta on his pending promotion.”

The succession plan has been in the works “over the last five years,” according to Newsome. Michael David Smith of PFT first reported that the move was not in violation of the Rooney Rule.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Front Office Notes: Ravens, Panthers, Broncos

We heard yesterday that longtime Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome will step down from his role following the 2018 season. Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun passed along a quote from the executive regarding the move (via Twitter):

“I will remain as the Ravens’ GM through the 2018 season and continue my role directing free agency and the draft,” he said. “After that, Eric (DeCosta) will take over as our GM and assume all the duties that come with that, including heading our personnel department and directing free agency and the draft. I plan to remain with the Ravens in a significant position in personnel and help us win more Super Bowls. We have planned this succession over the last five years.”

Let’s take a look at some more front office notes from around the NFL…

  • The Panthers‘ interview with general manager candidate Martin Mayhew took place on Friday, the club announced today. Mayhew, the Lions’ GM from 2008-15, has spent time with the Giants and — currently — the 49ers since being fired in Detroit. Meanwhile, reports had indicated Titans executive Ryan Cowden may be a candidate for the Panthers’ general manager vacancy, but no interview has been scheduled to this point, tweets Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer. In sum, Carolina’s contenders include Lake Dawson (Bills), Jimmy Raye III (Texans), Mayhew, and incumbent interim GM Marty Hurney, who is viewed as the frontrunner for the position.
  • The Panthers are seemingly on the market, and commissioner Roger Goodell told reporters (including NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport) that the NFL believes Carolina is a great market. Ultimately, the commissioner believes the organization’s current ownership is looking for a buyer that will keep the team in Charlotte.
  • Goodell confirmed that the Broncos have been operating “in full compliance with league guidelines” in regards to the Broncos’ ownership structure through the Pat Bowlen Trust. “They are in compliance with our rules. They have been very thoughtful. They have done a terrific job of leading that franchise over the last several years as Pat’s focused on his health issues,” Goodell said (via Andrew Mason of DenverBroncos.com). Bowlen stepped away from his role back in 2014 so he could focus on his fight against Alzheimer’s disease. The trust was established to ensure that franchise would continue to run smoothly in his absence. Goodell did point out the the trustees will ultimately have to decide who the primary owner will be.

Dallas Robinson contributed to this post.

Ravens’ Ozzie Newsome To Step Down In 2019, Eric DeCosta To Take Over

The Ravens’ front office will have a new chief in 2019. Next year, longtime GM Ozzie Newsome will step down, allowing assistant GM Eric DeCosta to take over, owner Steve Bisciotti announced (via Jeff Zrebiec of The Baltimore Sun on Twitter). Joe Hortiz/Jon Harbaugh/Matt Elam/Ozzie Newsome/Eric DeCosta (Featured)

DeCosta has been chased by rival teams for years now, but he has rebuffed many of those advances. Recently, DeCosta rejected an opportunity to interview for the Packers’ GM vacancy, yet another indication that a promotion was in his future. In building this succession plan, the Ravens have found a way to retain one of the league’s most sought-after executives while doing right by Newsome.

I get a chance to work with my friends,” DeCosta said in 2015 when asked why he has stayed with the Ravens despite overtures from other teams (via Zrebiec). “Every day, I come in and work with my friends. I think it’s a relationship business. In the end, personal ambitions aside, all you have is really your reputation and your friends and your enjoyment in life. And I love Baltimore, the community…My wife is from Baltimore. I’ve been here 20 years, my kids go to school here. It’s great. I sit with these guys every day and give everybody a hard time, get a chance to play jokes on everybody every day, and it’s just fun. I enjoy work. I enjoy coming in here. We have a great owner, awesome stadium and best fan base in the country. So, what more do you want?

Finally, DeCosta will have the chance to run his own show. Meanwhile, Bisciotti says Newsome – who constructed two Super Bowl winning teams in Baltimore – will remain with the team as a consultant.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Ravens Coach, GM Pushing For Kaepernick?

Both Ravens head coach John Harbaugh and GM Ozzie Newsome support the idea of signing quarterback Colin Kaepernick, sources tell Dianna Marie Russini of ESPN.com (on Twitter). Russini hears they have met resistance from owner Steve Bisciotti, but Newsome issued a statement on Wednesday to try and counter those claims:Colin Kaepernick (vertical)

We are going through a process, and we have not made a decision. Steve Bisciotti has not told us we cannot sign Colin Kaepernick, nor has he blocked the move. Whoever is making those claims is wrong,” the unusual statement read.

Recently, Bisciotti and team president Dick Cass publicly acknowledged their trepidation in signing Kaepernick, with Bisciotti adding that he wasn’t sure the QB would help the team “win games.” The team’s coach and GM apparently feel that Kaepernick can be a difference maker.

Recently, some of the team’s locker room leaders also voiced their support for adding Kaepernick.

Hell yeah, if he’s going to help us win,” linebacker Terrell Suggs said. “We have no issues. Not in the locker room. Hell yeah, we want him.”

The Ravens are taking a hard look at their backup quarterback situation as Joe Flacco deals with a back injury and Ryan Mallett struggles in practice. There is some good news on that front, however. A source with knowledge of the situation tells Mike Florio of PFT that he is feeling better, with the “arrow [pointing] up.”

Photo via Pro Football Rumors on Instagram.

AFC Mailbags: Jets, Patriots, Ravens

It’s Saturday morning, and that means ESPN.com’s NFL writers are opening their mailbags and answering questions from readers. We’ve compiled some of the more notable answers below…

Ravens Rumors: Eagles, Harbaugh, Flacco

Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome and head coach John Harbaugh addressed reporters minutes ago in Baltimore. Here’s a look at the highlights:

  • The Eagles have not called the Ravens about Harbaugh, owner Steve Bisciotti said, according to Jeff Zrebiec of The Baltimore Sun (on Twitter). The Baltimore head coach was viewed as a long shot target for Philadelphia, but it appears the Eagles recognize Harbaugh isn’t leaving the Ravens.
  • Newsome is hopeful that team can reduce Joe Flacco‘s cap number in 2016 but he said the team has to have a plan of putting together a roster if Flacco’s cap number remains at $28.55MM, Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com writes.
  • Linebacker Terrell Suggs is coming back in 2016, Newsome says (via Hensley). Suggs told him that he doesn’t want to leave game like he left Denver with Achilles injury. The former first-round pick has played his entire career in Baltimore, making six Pro Bowls and winning the defensive player of the year award. Prior to his 2015 injury, the 33-year-old missed only 11 games during his career, including eight in 2012 when he tore his right Achilles.
  • When discussing the cap situation further, Newsome explained that the team had dead money with Ray Rice last year and he indicated that tight end Dennis Pitta could call for more dead money in 2016, as Zrebiec tweets. Pitta is dead set on returning to the field next year, despite his constant hip problems. “I’m a football player and that’s what I’ve always wanted to do,” said Pitta back in November. “I have a sense of duty to my teammates, the team and to this organization. This organization has given me a lot over the last few years.” The tight end has played in only three games since receiving a five-year deal with $16MM guaranteed in February 2014. One has to wonder if he might be forced to retire at this point.
  • Newsome said trying to extend Justin Tucker is a priority and if it gets to the point where they have to, they will use franchise tag on him, Zrebiec tweets. Tucker, 26, has been a little shakier during the last two seasons than he was in his first two years, missing five field goal attempts in 2014 and seven in 2015. However, all but one of those misses came from 50+ yards, and he converted all 29 of his extra-point tries in 2015, so he’ll be in line for a nice raise from Baltimore.
  • Owner Steve Bisciotti said that team exec Eric DeCosta is still committed to the organization, Zrebiec tweets. “He’s got too much at stake here in his relationship with Ozzie [Newsome],” Bisciotti said. The owner added that DeCosta probably could have had 10 different GM jobs by now if he wanted them. Bisciotti said that he doesn’t see either exec going anywhere for “many years” (link).
  • Harbaugh said that the team is definitely looking to add a pass rusher, Zrebiec tweets.
  • When asked about his free agency approach, Newsome said, “I don’t think we’ll be as busy as some teams are in March. We never have” (Twitter link via Jeff Zrebiec of The Baltimore Sun). Newsome said that the Ravens will have money available if a free agent they like is out there (link).
  • Newsome said that he feels the team needs to add one more, if not two more, wide receivers early on in the draft or in free agency (Twitter link via Zrebiec).

Harbaugh, Newsome On Ravens’ Offseason

In a conference call with personal seat license ticket holders, Ravens coach John Harbaugh said that GM Ozzie Newsome is still looking to add players to the secondary, Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com tweets. When asked if Kyle Arrington could be a player of interest, however, Newsome kept things vague. Here’s more from this afternoon’s conference call..

  • Harbaugh said that tight end Dennis Pitta has a chance to play this season, though it’ll depend on how his hip is holding up, Aaron Wilson of The Baltimore Sun tweets.
  • Newsome said Marshal Yanda and Justin Tucker are still targets for extensions, Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com tweets. “If we don’t get it done, we’ll move on to the next.”
  • Newsome was complimentary of undrafted safety Nick Perry, saying, “He’ll be able to come in and compete with the guys that we have,” Wilson tweets. Meanwhile, Harbaugh predicted one undrafted rookie and “maybe more” will make the 53-man roster, Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com tweets.
  • The Ravens thought about taking cornerback Tray Walker in the third round, Harbaugh said, according to Hensley (on Twitter). The Ravens eventually took him in the fourth round.