PFR Originals

2019’s Major NFL Coaching Changes

Because most NFL coaching changes happen in January, those moves can often be overshadowed by the postseason and – subsequently – the major moves that teams makes in free agency. However, those coaching changes shouldn’t be overlooked.

A year ago, 24 of the league’s 32 teams made changes to at least one of their head coach, offensive coordinator, or defensive coordinator spots, and many of those hirings turned into major stories throughout the 2018 season. New head coaches Matt Nagy and Frank Reich led the Bears and Colts, respectively, to the postseason during their first go-rounds in charge, while new Titans offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur leveraged his one-year stint as a play-caller to become the next Packers head coach.

Which new coaches could make a similar impact this year? We may have to wait to find out, but there are certainly plenty of candidates. The full breakdown of 2019’s major coaching changes from around the league is below:

Head coaches:

Offensive coordinators:

Defensive coordinators:

Special teams coordinators:

Other 2018 OCs, DCs with new jobs:

  • Atlanta Falcons: Hired former Chiefs DC Bob Sutton as a senior assistant.
  • Cleveland Browns: Hired former Cardinals DC Al Holcomb as run game coordinator/linebackers coach.
  • New York Jets: Hired former Lions OC Jim Bob Cooter as running backs coach.
  • Philadelphia Eagles: Hired former Dolphins DC Matt Burke as a defensive assistant.
  • Pittsburgh Steelers: Hired former Bengals DC Teryl Austin as a senior defensive assistant/secondary.
  • San Francisco 49ers: Hired former Broncos DC Joe Woods as passing game coordinator/defensive backs coach.
  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Hired former Jets DC Kacy Rodgers as defensive line coach.
  • Washington Redskins: Re-assigned former OC Matt Cavanaugh as a senior offensive assistant.

PFR Originals: 2/10/19 – 2/17/19

The original content and analysis produced by the PFR staff during the past week:

This Date In NFL Transactions History: Mario Williams, Arian Foster

Two years ago today, the Dolphins let go of a pair of former Pro Bowlers. The Dolphins terminated the contracts of defensive end Mario Williams and running back Arian Foster, two players who were expected to play bigger roles during their tenures in Miami.

Williams, a former first-overall pick, joined the Dolphins during the 2016 offseason after having been released by the Bills. Miami inked the lineman to a two-year, $17MM deal that included $11.98MM in guaranteed money, an indication that the organization was expecting at least starter-quality production from the four-time Pro Bowler.

Unfortunately, Williams’ lone season with the Dolphins proved to be a dud. Williams appeared in 13 games with the Dolphins, finishing the campaign with only 13 tackles, 1.5 sacks, and one pass defended. Miami released the defensive end on this date in 2017, marking the last time he’s been on an NFL roster. Considering he’s 34 years old and hasn’t played in the NFL in two seasons, his NFL career is presumably over.

The Foster move wasn’t as unexpected nor disappointing as the Williams transaction. Following a standout (albeit injury-riddled) tenure with the Texans, Foster joined the Dolphins to be a backup to Jay Ajayi. The veteran struggled in four games, compiling 55 yards on 22 carries (good for a 2.5-yard average) before being supplanted by rookie Kenyan Drake on the depth chart. Foster ended up announcing his retirement in mid-October, making his subsequent release predictable.

These weren’t the only two moves the Dolphins made two years ago today. The team also let go of defensive tackle Earl Mitchell, who has proceeded to play in 30 games for the 49ers over the past two seasons. The team also waived cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, who hasn’t earned an NFL gig since that day.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Poll: Will Case Keenum Be A Starter In 2019?

Case Keenum inked a two-year, $36MM deal with the Broncos just this past offseason, but he’s already been made redundant in Denver after general manager John Elway & Co. sent a fourth-round pick to the Ravens in exchange for quarterback Joe Flacco. Denver will now attempt to trade Keenum, but if the club can’t find a willing partner, it will either ask Keenum to accept a hefty pay cut or release him outright.

The Broncos will likely struggle to find a rival team willing to trade for Keenum, not only because of his lackluster 2018 campaign, but because of his contract. Keenum is due an $18MM base salary in 2019, and $7MM of that total is fully guaranteed. It seems incredibly unlikely that another club would be willing to lock itself into those figures, so unless Denver first restructures Keenum’s contact (potentially by converting some of his base salary guarantees into a bonus that the Broncos would pay), he’s likely to hit the free agent market.

If he does end up leaving the Broncos, would Keenum offer appeal as a starter? He’s only one season removed from leading the Vikings to the NFC Championship Game during a 2017 season in which he ranked second in Total QBR, seventh in adjusted net yards per attempt (the passing metric most correlated with winning), fifth in interception percentage, and seventh in sack percentage.

But Keenum’s 2018 ranks in those same statistics tell a different story. Among 33 qualifying quarterbacks, Keenum finished 30th in Total QBR, 28th in ANY/A, 21st in interception percentage, and 11th in sack percentage. A year after ranking first in Football Outsiders‘ DVOA (meaning he was extremely effective on a per-play basis), Keenum fell all the way to 29th in 2018.

So, do you think Keenum will open the season as a starter next season? Vote below (link for app users), and then keep reading — and voting — as we examine a few potential destinations for the 30-year-old signal-caller:

For the sake of argument, let’s assume that Keenum will be a starting quarterback in 2019 — nearly every club would be interested in signing Keeum as a backup passer, so let’s only look at landing spots where Keenum could become a starter. Where are his most likely havens?

Jacksonville Jaguars: Although the Jaguars have Blake Bortles under contract for the next two seasons and will incur a massive dead money hit if they release him, it’s almost unfathomable to imagine Jacksonville entering the 2019 campaign with Bortles still on its roster (let alone as the team’s starting quarterback). Nick Foles could be the Jags’ preferred choice under center, especially now that they’ve hired former Eagles QBs coach John DeFilippo as offensive coordinator, but Keenum would present a cheaper option.

Miami Dolphins: Miami isn’t expected to retain Ryan Tannehill, and — like Denver with Keenum — will explore a trade of Tannehill before cutting him. Under new head coach Brian Flores, the Dolphins aren’t expecting to be competitive any time soon, and are loosely embracing a “tanking” strategy, at least in 2019. Still, Miami needs to put someone under center, and Keenum could offer the club competency at a reasonable rate.

New York Giants: Giants general manager Dave Gettleman earlier this year refused to commit to Eli Manning as his team’s 2019 starter, so there’s no guarantee the franchise icon will return next season. New York is expected to draft a signal-caller within the first two rounds of the upcoming draft, and Keenum could represent a reasonable solution as a bridge quarterback. And perhaps most notably, Keenum experienced his 2017 success under then-Vikings OC Pat Shurmur, who has since taken over the Giants’ head coach.

Washington Redskins: If, as recent reports have indicated, Alex Smith is going to miss the entire 2019 season while recovering from a gruesome leg injury, Washington will need a new quarterback. The only problem? Smith will count for $20.4MM on the Redskins’ salary cap next year, and there’s no way for the club to reduce that figure save for a restructure that would only tie Smith to Washington’s roster for a longer period. Therefore, Keenum might be enticing given that he is only likely to command a modest salary on a short-term contract.

What do you think? Does one of these destinations make sense? Or could an unlisted team have interest in Keenum? Vote below (link for app users), and your thoughts in the comment section:

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

2019 NFL Free Agents

Pro Football Rumors’ up-to-date list of 2019 NFL free agents is below. These are players who are eligible for restricted or unrestricted free agency after the 2018 season. The player’s 2019 age is in parentheses. Players are generally sorted by the position at which they played most in ’18, or the position at which their most recent team listed them.

Players who are currently on an NFL roster but don’t have a contract for 2019 are listed below, along with a few other notable free agents who aren’t on a roster at the moment.

Players eligible for restricted free agency are marked with (R), while franchise and transition players will be marked with (F) and (T) respectively. Exclusive rights free agents are not included. All other free agents are assumed to be unrestricted.

If you have any corrections or omissions, please contact us. For instant free agent updates, be sure to follow us on Twitter @pfrumors.

Updated 2-20-19 (8:32am CT)

Quarterbacks

Teddy Bridgewater (26)
Matt Cassel (37)
Austin Davis (30)
David Fales (28)
Ryan Fitzpatrick (36)
Nick Foles (30)
Robert Griffin III (29)
Ryan Griffin (29)
Kevin Hogan (27) (R)
Brett Hundley (26)
Landry Jones (30)
Sean Mannion (27)
Josh McCown (40)
Colt McCoy (32)
Brock Osweiler (28)
Tom Savage (29)
Matt Schaub (38)
Trevor Siemian (27)
Geno Smith (28)
Nate Sudfeld (25) (R)
Alex Tanney (30) (R)
Tyrod Taylor (30)
Joe Webb (32)
Brandon Weeden (35)

Running Backs

Ameer Abdullah (26)
C.J. Anderson (28)
Jay Ajayi (26)
Javorius Allen (28)
Cameron Artis-Payne (29)
Peyton Barber (25) (R)
Kenjon Barner (29)
Le’Veon Bell (27)
LeGarrette Blount (32)
Alfred Blue (28)
Brandon Bolden (29)
Malcolm Brown (26) (R)
Tevin Coleman (26)
Alex Collins (25) (R)
Benny Cunningham (29)
Mike Davis (26)
D.J. Foster (25) (R)
Frank Gore (36)
Corey Grant (27)
Jeremy Hill (26)
Mark Ingram (29)
Taiwan Jones (31)
Robert Kelley (26) (R)
Daniel Lasco (26) (R)
Marshawn Lynch (33)
Byron Marshall (25) (R)
Doug Martin (30)
J.D. McKissic (26)
Ty Montgomery (26)
Alfred Morris (30)
Raheem Mostert (27) (R)
Latavius Murray (29)
Senorise Perry (27)
Adrian Peterson (34)
Bilal Powell (30)
Jalen Richard (25) (R)
Stevan Ridley (30)
Jacquizz Rodgers (29)
Rod Smith (27)
Darren Sproles (36)
Jonathan Stewart (32)
Robert Turbin (29)
Spencer Ware (27)
Fozzy Whittaker (30)
T.J. Yeldon (25)

Fullbacks

Nick Bellore (30)
Tommy Bohanon (28)
Michael Burton (27)
Derrick Coleman (28)
Alan Cross (26) (R)
Jalston Fowler (29) (R)
Ryan Hewitt (28)
Tre Madden (26) (R)
Jamize Olawale (30)
Anthony Sherman (30)

Wide Receivers

Geronimo Allison (25) (R)
Robby Anderson (26) (R)
Tavon Austin (29)
Cole Beasley (30)
Josh Bellamy (30)
Kelvin Benjamin (28)
John Brown (29)
Dez Bryant (30)
Martavis Bryant (27)
Damiere Byrd (26) (R)
Leonte Carroo (25) (R)
Sammie Coates (26)
Randall Cobb (28)
Corey Coleman (25) (R)
Chris Conley (26)
Jamison Crowder (26)
Geremy Davis (27)
Phillip Dorsett (26)
Bruce Ellington (28)
Michael Floyd (29)
Bennie Fowler (28)
Devin Funchess (25)
Pierre Garcon (33)
Josh Gordon (28) (R)
Ryan Grant (28)
Rashad Greene (26)
Justin Hardy (27)
Dwayne Harris (31)
Maurice Harris (25) (R)
Darrius Heyward-Bey (32)
Rashard Higgins (24) (R)
Chris Hogan (30)
Andre Holmes (31)
Adam Humphries (26)
Justin Hunter (28)
Dontrelle Inman (30)
T.J. Jones (27)
Jermaine Kearse (29)
Brandon LaFell (31)
Cody Latimer (26)
Tommylee Lewis (26) (R)
Brandon Marshall (35)
Jordan Matthews (27)
Donte Moncrief (26)
J.J. Nelson (27)
Cordarrelle Patterson (28)
Breshad Perriman (25)
Brian Quick (30)
Andre Roberts (31)
Aldrick Robinson (30)
Chester Rogers (25) (R)
Eli Rogers (26)
Russell Shepard (28)
Rod Streater (31)
Golden Tate (31)
Jordan Taylor (27) (R)
De’Anthony Thomas (26)
Demaryius Thomas (31)
Deonte Thompson (30)
Mike Wallace (33)
Kevin White (27)
Nick Williams (28)
Terrance Williams (30)
Tyrell Williams (27)Read more

PFR Originals: 2/3/19 – 2/10/19

The original content and analysis produced by the PFR staff during the past week:

Poll: Will You Watch The Alliance Of American Football?

Back in December, a slight majority of our readership voted that the newly-formed Alliance of American Football (AAF) would be the most successful of the new spring football leagues. Its primary competitor, the XFL, is not scheduled to kick off until 2020, so by getting underway last night, the AAF got a sizable head start.

And the early returns were promising. Although neither of the league’s first two games were particularly competitive — the Orlando Apollos defeated the Atlanta Legends 40-6 and the San Antonio Commanders defeated the San Diego Fleet 15-6 — most observers agree that the contests were largely entertaining and that the quality of play was good enough to be watchable.

That alone is a win for the fledgling league, as most other challengers to the mighty NFL proved pretty quickly that they would not be able to sustain success. But the AAF, which was founded by Charlie Ebersol and long-time NFL executive Bill Polian, and whose leadership board features well-respected former NFL stars, never seemed like a fly-by-night operation. Several head coaches of the league’s eight teams are also quite recognizable to even casual fans — Mike Singletary and Steve Spurrier, for example — and as Matt Miller of Bleacher Report tweets, almost all of the AAF’s players were good enough to be considered by NFL clubs at some point or another, even if they never suited up at the game’s highest level. And the fact that many such players see the AAF as a springboard to the NFL means that the games should be intensely-contested affairs.

In that vein, last night’s opening matchups featured a few hard (but clean) hits that were not flagged, although similar plays in the NFL generate plenty of penalties these days. That will certainly make purists happy, and even though observers like Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk likened the overall quality of play to the second half of a preseason NFL game, that might be good enough for fans who just enjoy watching competitive football at a reasonably high level.

The very nature of the league means that there will be plenty of intriguing storylines to follow, and Michael Rothstein of ESPN.com details a few of the early ones. And the fact that every AAF player is on a non-guaranteed three-year contract worth $250K lends credence to the league’s belief that it represents football in its purest form.

Still, a common refrain in recent years is that there is simply too much football and that interest in the game has waned because the NFL has created a year-round news cycle and has otherwise oversaturated its fans. But if last night’s ratings are any indication, there are plenty of people willing to give the AAF a chance. The first game of the AAF on CBS beat the NBA on ABC in overnight ratings, and the generally positive reviews suggest that those who missed last night’s contests will want to see what they missed. Two more games will be televised today, one on the CBS Sports Network at 4pm ET and one on the NFL Network at 8pm ET, and the CBS Sports Network will televise one AAF game each week going forward (the season is 10 weeks long).

So, what do you think? Will you give the AAF a shot, or are you planning to taking a break from football games for a little while? Let us know in the poll and in the comments section.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Poll: Will Rob Gronkowski Return In 2019?

Rob Gronkowski‘s decision on playing a 10th season is expected to come as soon as this week. On the heels of his third Super Bowl ring, Gronk exited the Patriots’ victory healthy after another injury-plagued season.

A report linked Gronkowski to having a better outlook on playing in 2019 if he was healthy at season’s end and if Tom Brady was committed to another season. Both of these came to fruition, adding intrigue to this decision. In January, Gronk was leaning toward retiring. Is he now?

The best tight end of his generation and perhaps the most dominant tight end in NFL history, Gronk has yet to turn 30. But his body has betrayed him many times over. Ankle and back injuries limited him to 13 games this season, and he missed a game because of injury in 2017. Gronkowski missed major chunks of the 2012, ’13 and ’16 slates as well. He has not played a 16-game season since 2011, and it would be unreasonable to expect 16 Gronk games again.

While Gronk and Bill Belichick were understandably giddy after the Patriots’ Super Bowl LIII conquest, the former has long been unhappy about his contract.

Agreed to in 2012, Gronk’s deal paid him well below market value for a player with his gifts. At his best, no tight end was on the same level. Yet some out-earned him. Elite wide receivers were earning millions more than Gronk, who arguably impacted games more than any skill-position player for a while. This led to frequent acrimony, two incentive packages — one of which he attained — along with 2018 retirement talk and a general disenchantment toward the Patriot Way.

Will the Patriots want Gronk back? Although he has been underpaid, his contract jumps to a career-high $11.859MM cap figure in 2019. His 2018 numbers — 52.5 receiving yards per game, three touchdowns — were well south of almost anything he posted in his previous eight seasons. Considering Gronkowski’s attitude about his deal in the past, it would be incredibly unlikely he would take a pay cut to stay with the Patriots. The Pats nearly traded him to the Lions last year, prompting a retirement threat.

With Gronk having slowed down, it is fair to wonder if the Patriots ($16.1MM in projected cap space, prior to an expected Brady extension) would want to carry his contract-year cap number on their payroll. That said, Gronkowski remains one of the league’s best tight ends. He came through with big playoff catches en route to the franchise’s latest championship. Brady’s late-career renaissance can be closely tied to Gronkowski’s incomparable presence, and although the four-time first-team All-Pro was out during the bulk of the Pats’ 2016 title run, Martellus Bennett was there to help. The Patriots do not have a comparable alternative on their current roster.

So, will the future Hall of Fame tight end call it quits? Or were these productive playoff games a springboard to at least one more season? Vote in PFR’s latest poll and weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Poll: Will Antonio Brown Stay With Steelers?

The Antonio Brown seems to get messier by the week. Throughout the year, Brown squabbled with coach Mike Tomlin and franchise quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, resulting in a Week 17 meltdown and a trade demand

Obviously, from a talent perspective, there are 31 teams that would love to deal for Brown. However, his hefty contract complicates matters and the Steelers are not eager to trade one of the best wide receivers of all-time while taking on an astronomical cap hit. If the Steelers cut or trade Brown before June 1, the Steelers will incur more than $21MM in dead money on their salary cap and gain just over $1MM in new space. If he’s designated as a post-June 1 cut or traded after that date, Pittsburgh will take on roughly $7MM in dead money in 2019 and ~$14MM in 2020, which isn’t very palatable either.

Other teams may have reservations about Brown’s character as well. His well-publicized friction with Pittsburgh may be a red flag and, earlier this week, we learned that Brown was involved in a domestic dispute in January. The league is planning to investigate the incident and a suspension seems possible – that event will likely be taken into account along with other allegations, including an incident in Florida in which Brown was accused of throwing furniture off of a balcony.

Brown due a $2.5MM roster bonus on March 17, so the Steelers could look to deal him before that date. However, there are serious complications all around and the Steelers’ best bet may be to mend fences with the perennial Pro Bowler.

How do you see things playing out? Will Brown be a member of the Steelers in Week 1 of the 2019 season? Click below to cast your vote and let us know your thoughts in the comment section (link for app users):

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

PFR Originals: 1/27/19 – 2/3/19

The original content and analysis produced by the PFR staff during the past week: