Adrian Wilson

Cardinals Hire Lions’ Dave Sears As Assistant GM

The Cardinals decided to go outside the building when choosing new general manager Monti Ossenfort‘s assistant general manager, hiring Lions director of college scouting Dave Sears, as reported by Ian Rapoport of NFL Network this morning. The move will be a reunion for Ossenfort and Sears who worked together for the Texans as college scouts.

Sears left Houston for Detroit in 2007 and has been with the Lions ever since working his way up from regional scout to his current role, which he’s held since 2019. Sears has been integral in the team’s draft process, serving as the intermediary between area scouts and the decision-makers of the draft.

Sears will become the No. 2 behind Ossenfort, who was hired as the Cardinals’ general manager earlier this week. The move to bring Ossenfort and Sears in from outside the building is an interesting one considering the Cardinals had two capable candidates for both positions in vice president of pro personnel Adrian Wilson and vice president of player personnel Quentin Harris, who served together filling the interim duties of general manager during Steve Keim‘s leave of absence.

Both Wilson and Harris interviewed for the open general manager position, and both are more than qualified for the assistant role. If the franchise is adamant on bring in new blood to the front office, it may be spelling the end for Wilson and Harris’s time in Arizona. The team had also interviewed Bears assistant general manager Ian Cunningham, who reportedly turned down the job after receiving an offer, according to Jay Glazer of FOX Sports. Jonathan Jones of CBS Sports echoes Glazer’s report, saying that Cunningham was Arizona’s first choice and that Cunningham declined the position because the “fit” was not right.

The Cardinals are now set moving forward with Ossenfort and Sears leading in the front office. They currently also still have Wilson and Harris in their current positions creating a strong group of top executives in the player personnel office.

2023 NFL General Manager Search Tracker

So far this offseason, only two NFL presented general manager vacancies. The Cardinals and Titans have now each made their choices. If other teams decide to make GM changes, they’ll be added to this list. Here is the current breakdown:

Updated 1-17-23 (4:27pm CT)

Arizona Cardinals

Tennessee Titans

Cardinals Request HC Interview With Steelers’ Brian Flores

After interviewing for the Browns’ defensive coordinator job, Brian Flores received his first head coaching interview request in this year’s cycle. The Cardinals want to interview the former Dolphins HC, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets.

Although the Cards are aiming to hire their general manager first, coaching candidates are beginning to emerge in Arizona. Flores joins Sean Payton and Vance Joseph in the mix for this job.

Just more than a year ago, Flores appeared in the clear to prepare for a fourth season as Miami’s HC. But the Dolphins fired the longtime Bill Belichick lieutenant, just after he had defeated the then-playoff-bound Patriots to close a season with a winning record. That set off a seminal chain of events, which changed Flores’ reputation and the Dolphins’ plans.

The racial discrimination lawsuit Flores filed against the NFL and some of its teams is ongoing, and while several teams (the Bears, Giants, Saints and Texans) still proceeded with HC interviews during last year’s busier HC carousel, Flores ended up taking a gig as Pittsburgh’s linebackers coach. Flores’ lawsuit also was believed to scuttle the Dolphins’ plans at bringing in Payton and Tom Brady, and Ross drew a tampering suspension. While the NFL did not punish Ross as a result of Flores’ tanking allegations, his Miami exit created quite the controversy and stripped the team of first- and third-round draft picks.

Handed one of the worst rosters in recent NFL history, Flores went 5-11 with the 2019 Dolphins and led them to winning seasons in 2020 and ’21. While Flores continued to make changes at offensive coordinator and ruffled some feathers among the organization, his Miami record (24-25) stands out among Belichick assistants. Flores took the Miami job after being Belichick’s de facto DC in 2018, a season that finished with the Patriots becoming the second team in Super Bowl history to hold an opponent (the Rams) without a touchdown. During Flores’ time in New England, he coached Cardinals GM candidate Adrian Wilson. An Achilles injury prevented Wilson from playing for the Pats in 2013, but veteran Cardinals reporter Mike Jurecki notes the former safety was impressed with the then-safeties coach (Twitter link).

Considering the Dolphins’ pursuit of Payton, it is interesting both he and Flores are on the radar for the Cardinals position. Flores, 41, never figured to stay long as a Steelers position coach. While no other teams during this year’s cycle have requested a head coaching interview with him this year, more DC interest probably figures to come his way soon.

Cardinals Request GM Interviews With Ian Cunningham, Ran Carthon, Adam Peters, Monti Ossenfort

It was announced not long after the Kliff Kingsbury firing that the Cardinals would also be in need of a new general manager. Steve Keim has permanently stepped away from the team due to health-related reasons, meaning Arizona joins Tennessee as the only NFL clubs currently in need of a new leader in their front office.

Keim took an indefinite leave of absence in December, and it was reported days later that he and the team were expected to part ways. With that move now having been made official, the franchise is currently operating with vice president of player personnel Quentin Harris and vice president of pro personnel Adrian Wilson filing in on an interim basis.

Each of them has already been interviewed for the full-time position, though, owner Michael Bidwill said on Monday. He added that his preference would be to have a new GM in place prior to the team’s next head coaching hire, but that the opposite order would also not be an issue (Twitter link via team reporter Darren Urban). External candidates have begun to emerge alongside Harris and Wilson.

One of those is Bears assistant GM Ian Cunningham, who has had received a formal interview request from the Cardinals, per CBS Sports’ Jonathan Jones (on Twitter). He has also drawn the attention of the Titans in the early goings of their GM search, a testament to his continued rise through the ranks of various NFL front office positions during his career.

Cunningham began with the Ravens in 2013 as a scout, translating his time there into a move to Philadelphia in 2017. Over the course of his time with the Eagles, he worked his way up to the title of player personnel director. Most recently, he was hired by the Bears last January in another promotion, this time to assistant general manager.

In addition to Cunningham, the Cardinals wish to meet with Ran Carthon and Adam Peters, ESPN’s Adam Schefter tweets. Those two hold the titles of director of pro personnel and AGM, respectively, with the 49ers. Like Cunningham, they too have caught the eye of the Titans for their general manager vacancy. Carthon, 41, has served in his current role since 2017 after spending time in the front office with the Falcons and Rams.

Monti Ossenfort is also on the Cardinals’ radar, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets. Ossenfort, a longtime Patriots exec who has been with the Titans since 2020, saw the team elevate Ryan Cowden to its interim GM post in the wake of Jon Robinson‘s firing. Interviewing for GM roles in the past, Ossenfort serves as Tennessee’s director of player personnel. Given the Cowden development and the Titans’ changing of the guard, it will be interesting to see if Ossenfort remains on staff ahead of the 2023 season.

Peters, meanwhile, has been an NFL executive for two decades, beginning with the Patriots and later, the Broncos. He joined the 49ers in 2017, working his way up from VP of player personnel to the assistant GM title last year. He was a finalist for the Giants’ GM job last winter, which ultimately went to Joe Schoen.

Seeking their first GM in a decade, the Cardinals will have plenty of options to consider before making a hire. On the head coach side of the situation, quarterback Kyler Murray will be involved in the search for Kingsbury’s successor (Twitter link via Johnny Venerable of the PHNX Cardinals Podcast). That could add a interesting element to Arizona’s offseason, one which will be busy in light of today’s events.

NFC West Notes: Cards, Lance, Hawks, Akers

While nothing is certain yet, the Cardinals may be on the lookout for a new GM for the first time in 10 years. Steve Keim took a leave of absence earlier this month and, as of now, is not expected to be back. The Cardinals may be considering keeping their current setup — a dual-GM partnership between Adrian Wilson and Quentin Harris — on a permanent basis, Albert Breer of SI.com notes. Arizona has promoted from within to fill its GM post the past two times it opened, elevating Rod Graves in 2003 and then Keim in 2013. Bob Ferguson (1996) represents the franchise’s past outside hire for this post.

Wilson and Harris each played safety with the Cardinals, being teammates from 2002-05, and have worked in the front office for several years. Harris, the team’s VP of player personnel, has been on staff longer — since 2008, when he became a scout — while Wilson, the VP of pro personnel, enjoyed a much longer playing career. Wilson has been a Cards staffer since 2015. Harris interviewed for the Giants’ GM gig this year; Wilson interviewed with the Jaguars. Whomever lands the Arizona GM job will have some pieces to pick up after a turbulent year, and a coaching search could commence.

Here is the latest from the NFC West:

  • When the Seahawks acquired Drew Lock from the Broncos, the front office viewed him as the likely starter, Brady Henderson of ESPN.com notes. Believing they knew what they had in Geno Smith, Russell Wilson‘s backup for three seasons, the Seahawks were planning on Lock taking over. Smith’s contract — one year, $3.5MM — reflects this plan, but Pete Carroll consistently kept the former Jets second-rounder in front of Lock. While the Seahawks have faded since a surprising start, Smith made one the more unlikely Pro Bowl runs in recent QB history. The Seahawks want to re-sign him to a long-term deal.
  • Kliff Kingsbury said the Cardinals did not know about J.J. Watt‘s retirement decision beforehand. The Cardinals signed the three-time Defensive Player of the Year to a two-year, $28MM deal in 2021. Despite Watt suffering another significant injury last season, he rebounded to re-emerge as one of the league’s top D-linemen this year. Watt will pass on a chance to join a contender in free agency next year, and it appears a near-lock he will be inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2028.
  • Colt McCoy cleared concussion protocol and will start for the Cardinals in Week 17, Darren Urban of AZCardinals.com tweets. Arizona faces Atlanta and San Francisco to close out its season. McCoy is signed to a two-year, $7.5MM deal.
  • Brock Purdy has stepped in and kept the 49ers on course. Prior to Jimmy Garoppolo‘s injury, the team was open to re-signing him. Now, the prospect of Purdy keeping the gig over Trey Lance in 2023 is starting to surface. An anonymous exec told the Washington Post’s Jason La Canfora he is growing more convinced the 49ers will trade Lance and stick with this year’s Mr. Irrelevant. With Lance on a rookie contract through 2024, that would be a wild call — even given Purdy’s early form. But teams would figure to be interested in the former No. 3 overall pick — even if he has only played one full season in his five since high school.
  • Although the Rams tried to trade Cam Akers, they have turned back to him as their top running back. They should be expected to retain him in 2023, Jourdan Rodrigue of The Athletic notes (subscription required). Akers’ career path changed when he tore an Achilles’ tendon in July 2021, but he totaled 147 scrimmage yards and three touchdowns Sunday. Next season will be a contract year for the former second-round pick.
  • Weeks after the Cardinals fired their offensive line coach, Sean Kugler, the dismissed assistant said he did not grope a female security guard in Mexico. Kugler is taking legal action against the Cardinals, whom he contends did not conduct a thorough investigation. The team released a statement (via NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport, on Twitter) conveying confidence the firing was for cause. Kugler worked for the Cardinals from 2019 until his November firing.

Cardinals Likely To Part Ways With GM Steve Keim

The Cardinals are expected to part ways with longtime GM Steve Keim this offseason, as Jonathan Jones of CBS Sports reports. Keim recently took an indefinite leave of absence from the team due to an undisclosed health-related matter.

Vice president of player personnel Quentin Harris and vice president of pro personnel Adrian Wilson are presently sharing Keim’s duties on an interim basis, and Jones says both men are legitimate candidates to be promoted to general manager this offseason. Harris enjoyed a six-year playing career that began in Arizona before becoming a Cardinals scout in 2008, and he has been working his way up the personnel ladder ever since. Wilson left more of an on-field legacy, as he played in the NFL for 13 seasons — 12 as a member of the Cardinals — and earned five Pro Bowl nods during that time.

Wilson, 43, was inducted into Arizona’s Ring of Honor in 2015, the same year he began working for the team as a regional scout. His ascent has been more rapid than that of the 45-year-old Harris, though it appears both execs will have a chance to lead a club’s front office sooner rather than later. The Giants interviewed Wilson and Harris during their GM search earlier this year, and it was reported that the Jaguars nearly hired Wilson as general manager.

While Wilson and Harris are well-respected around the league, Jones’ sources wonder if Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill will choose to look outside the organization to replace Keim. Since Buddy Ryan left his post as Arizona’s head coach/general manager in 1995, the club’s next three GMs — Bob Ferguson, Rod Graves, and Keim — have all been promoted from within.

Of course, Bidwill could also be looking for a new head coach this offseason. Kliff Kingsbury, who was hired in 2019, has compiled a 28-33-1 record to date, and a report detailing his uncertain job security surfaced last month. While some of the factors that have played a role in the Cardinals’ 2022 struggles are beyond Kingsbury’s control — WR DeAndre Hopkins‘ six-game PED ban, QB Kyler Murray‘s ACL tear, etc. — his play-calling and game-planning have been frequently criticized. Bidwill would have to eat a great deal of money by cutting ties with Keim and Kingsbury, as he elected to hand both men thru-2027 extensions back in March, but he may feel he has no other choice.

Some good news for Cardinals fans is that Murray’s ACL tear is a clean one, as Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports. Murray is expected to begin training camp on the PUP list and will have a realistic chance of taking the field for the 2023 regular season opener.

Cardinals GM Steve Keim Taking Indefinite Leave Of Absence

A season of tumult and adversity continues for the Cardinals this year as the team announced that general manager Steve Keim would be taking an indefinite leave of absence. Arizona’s announcement detailed that the absence is health-related, but due to legally required privacy, the team “will refrain from commenting further.”

After a short career as an offensive lineman in the NFL and CFL, Keim quickly found his course in personnel. Keim joined the Cardinals’ scouting department as a regional scout in 1999 and has worked his way up the ladder, remaining with Arizona for 23 years, serving the last 10 of which as general manager.

During Keim’s tenure with the franchise, the Cardinals have booked a Super Bowl appearance, played in two NFC championship games, and secured five postseason berths. Keim took over a 5-11 Cardinals team in 2012 as GM, quickly helping to turn the team around to a 10-6 record in his first season at the helm, just missing the playoffs in a competitive NFC. They would make the playoffs the following year and lose to the Panthers in the NFC championship the year after that.

The hurdle of Keim’s absence adds to a season that started with a suspension for star wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and has weathered the slump of quarterback Kyler Murray‘s fourth year that ended with a season-ending ACL tear. The team’s staff has experienced its own setbacks, as well. Formerly the Cardinals co-pass game coordinator with Cam Turner, Spencer Whipple has been serving as the team’s third running backs coach of the season following the administrative leave of James Saxon to deal with personal legal matters and the departure of his replacement, Don Shumpert, who left to pursue other opportunities. Former offensive assistant Mike Bercovici was promoted weeks ago to tight ends coach when Steve Heiden, the team’s longest-tenured assistant coach, was asked to coach the offensive line following the dismissal of Sean Kugler for a sexual harassment incident that occurred during the Cardinals’ trip to Mexico City.

This is not even Keim’s first leave of absence from the team. Keim received a five-game suspension back in 2018 after pleading guilty to extreme DUI charges. This is his first reported absence since that incident, though.

In Keim’s absence, the team will turn to vice president of player personnel Quentin Harris and vice president of pro personnel Adrian Wilson to fill his role on an interim basis. Harris was a defensive back for the team back in the early 2000s and has been a member of Arizona’s scouting/personnel staff since 2008. This is his second year in his current position. Wilson was a long-time star safety for the Cardinals from 2001-12, earning multiple Pro Bowl appearances and a first-team All-Pro selection. Like Harris, Wilson joined the Cardinals as a regional scout shortly after his retirement as a player and quickly rose through the ranks. He is also in the second year in his current position.

The two will take over a 4-9 Cardinals team on the brink of postseason elimination. With no word on how long Keim will be away from the team, Harris and Wilson will not only be focused on maintaining the roster for the rest of the year but also preparing for the personnel-related tasks that will immediately follow the season like the draft and free agency.

2022 NFL General Manager Search Tracker

Along with the head coaches being fired, a few NFL teams are looking for new general managers. Listed below are the GM candidates that have been linked to each of the teams with vacancies, along with their current status.

If and when other teams decide to make GM changes, they’ll be added to this list. Here is the current breakdown:

Updated 5-24-22 (9:03pm CT)

Chicago Bears

Las Vegas Raiders

Minnesota Vikings

New York Giants

Pittsburgh Steelers

Bucs To Start Post-Brady Rebuild?

With three-time MVP quarterback Tom Brady announcing his retirement earlier today, speculation has already started on the future of the Buccaneers’ franchise. Brady’s retirement has experts wondering about the futures of tight end Rob Gronkowki and head coach Bruce Arians. Both have flirted with retirement before. 

Contributing to the postulation on Arians’ situation is head coaching interest in the Buccaneers’ coordinators on both sides of the ball. Offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich recently had his second interview for the Jaguars open coaching position. Reportedly, talks have stalled as Leftwich has expressed issues with current general manager Trent Baalke continuing in that position, with Leftwich preferring Cardinals’ vice president of pro scouting Adrian Wilson to replace the polarizing GM. The Saints have requested an interview with Leftwich, who previously received interest from the Bears before they hired Matt Eberflus. Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles has interviewed with the Bears, Jaguars, Raiders, and Vikings. With the Bears’ job taken, Patriots’ offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels being the presumed frontrunner in Las Vegas, and Jacksonville having conducted multiple second interviews Bowles’ opportunities for a head coaching job are starting to dwindle, as well.

More cause for speculation has risen from an article from Aaron Wilson of Pro Football Network. In the article Wilson reports that Arians has informed the entire coaching staff that they have permission to seek jobs around the league regardless of whether or not the new position would be a promotion. With the potential exit of the two New England-legends and the impactful group of Buccaneers heading into free agency, this permission could potentially be an opportunity to abandon ship before the start of a Tampa Bay rebuild.

In terms of those free agents, joining free-agent-to-be Gronkowski are three other significant role players: wide receiver Chris Godwin, center Ryan Jensen, and cornerback Carlton Davis. Godwin is expected to be the top free agent priority in Tampa Bay after he received the franchise tag for this past season. Jensen came over three years ago from the Ravens on what then made him the highest paid center in the NFL. Davis was a key contributor due for a big contract year on defense before being placed on IR after Week 4 of the season and missing eight weeks during a crucial year.

The domino-effect of Brady’s retirement is already looming large over the Buccaneers’ prospects for the 2022 NFL season. Tampa Bay has the entire offseason to navigate these obstacles and mitigate the potential fallout. After winning a Super Bowl just last year, the departure of Brady could be as game-changing to the Buccaneers as his arrival was nearly two years ago.

Jaguars “Close” To Hiring Adrian Wilson For GM, Byron Leftwich For HC

As news keeps coming on the head coaching front, the lone remaining finalist for the Jags’ HC role looks to be coming to Jacksonville. That doesn’t appear to be the only major hire the team is set to make, however. Mike Jurecki of AZCardinals.com reports (via Twitter) that the team is “close” to not only hiring Bucs OC Bryon Leftwich as its new head coach, but also Cardinals vice president of pro scouting Adrian Wilson as its new general manager. 

[Related: Jaguars Interview Vic Fangio For Head Coach]

Leftwich’s status as the favorite for the HC position has only grown in the past few days. The belief that he would be the Jags’ top choice has been strengthened by the hiring of Nathaniel Hackett in Denver and Matt Eberflus in Chicago earlier today. However, Adam Schefter tweeted not long after Jurecki’s initial report that the Saints have requested an interview with Leftwich. That would certainly suggest, among other things, that it is not quite a done deal yet for the 42-year-old.

As for Baalke, it has been believed by many around the league that his grip on the GM position was loosening. Earlier in the month, CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora reported that his presence would deter certain HC candidates from interviewing for the position. In a follow-up to Jurecki’s report, JLC adds that there was a good chance Baalke “would be gone by the draft”. Given his support for Bill O’Brien, and later, Eberflus, as HC candidates earlier on in the hiring process, his departure might happen “sooner”.

Wilson, meanwhile, was one of nine candidates to interview with the Giants for their GM opening, so his hiring wouldn’t come as a complete surprise. The 42-year-old has been an executive with the Cardinals since 2015, which immediately followed his retirement as a player. He has held his current job title for only one year, so a jump to GM would be a rather large one, irrespective of the fact that it would also, surely, mean an end to Baalke’s time in the role.