Dawn Aponte

2024 NFL General Manager Search Tracker

With the Patriots hiring Eliot Wolf as their de facto GM after having moved on from Bill Belichick, all five teams in need of a GM have filled their post this offseason. If other teams decide to make GM changes, they’ll be added to this list.

Updated 5-11-24 (4:35pm CT)

Carolina Panthers

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Chargers

New England Patriots

Washington Commanders

Chargers Interview Dawn Aponte For GM Job

While teams generally look at rival front offices for their GM candidates, the Chargers are currently considering someone from the league office. According to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, the Chargers interviewed NFL chief football administrative officer Dawn Aponte for their general manager job.

Of course, Aponte does have plenty of experience in team front offices. She had a long stint with the Jets organization to begin her executive career, working her way up to senior director of football administration. After a subsequent three-year stint in the league office, she became the Browns vice president of football administration in 2009.

Following two years in Cleveland, Aponte was named the Dolphins senior vice president of football operations in 2010. She spent seven years in Miami, eventually earning a promotion to executive vice president of football administration. She was hired into her current role with the NFL in 2017, making her the highest-ranking woman in NFL football operations.

While this is Aponte’s first known interview for a GM job, this isn’t the first time she’s been connected to this type of gig. Earlier this offseason, she was mentioned as a potential candidate for the Commanders job, and she was also connected to the Giants job in 2022.

With Aponte earning an interview, the Chargers have now interviewed nine candidates for the job previously held by Tom Telesco:

Exec Rumors: Caserio, Peters, Aponte

With Bill Belichick perhaps coaching his last game for the Patriots today, the club could have head coach and general manager vacancies in relatively short order (Belichick, of course, has operated as New England’s de facto GM throughout his tenure). Jason La Canfora of the Washington Post hears that Texans GM Nick Caserio, whose 20-year stint in the Pats’ personnel department earned him the Houston gig, would be open to a return to Foxborough, but Dianna Russini of The Athletic (subscription required) says Caserio does not want to leave the Texans.

Russini points out that Caserio, who squeezed an excellent return from the Browns in the 2022 Deshaun Watson trade and who appears to have hit a home run in drafting quarterback C.J. Stroud and hiring head coach DeMeco Ryans last year, has laid the groundwork for sustained success in Houston and wants to see it through. Indeed, it is difficult to imagine Caserio leaving a young and talented HC-QB pairing for the uncertainty that would await him in New England.

Here are a few more rumors relating to league executives:

  • 49ers assistant GM Adam Peters is once again expected to be a hot name in the upcoming hiring cycle, as Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com writes in a subscribers-only piece. Peters turned down GM interview requests from the Cardinals and Titans last year, and it has been rumored for some time that he is the heir apparent to current San Francisco GM John Lynch. Per Fowler, it remains possible that the Niners will simply promote Peters to general manager now that Lynch has been given the additional title of president of football operations.
  • Like Peters, Falcons assistant GM Kyle Smith has been viewed as a future general manager, and as Albert Breer of SI.com notes, Atlanta GM Terry Fontenot promoted Smith to his current role this year partly to dissuade rival clubs from trying to poach him (a team can block an assistant GM from interviewing for anything other than a GM job). While the Falcons have yet to find a long-term answer at quarterback since Fontenot and Smith joined the team, they have injected a great deal of talent into the rest of the roster, and Smith appears poised to generate serious GM interest.
  • We recently heard that the Commanders may wish to add a president of football operations to oversee both their head coach and general manager, and Nicki Jhabvala of the Washington Post reports that Dawn Aponte‘s name has come up in connection with that role. Aponte, who presently works as the league’s chief administrator of football operations, was mentioned as a potential candidate for the Giants’ GM job in 2022, though she was not interviewed for that post. Aponte has, however, served in high-ranking executive positions for the Jets, Browns, and Dolphins.
  • In another subscribers-only piece, Fowler and Dan Graziano of ESPN.com compiled a list of other top candidates for GM jobs, a list that includes Bears assistant GM Ian Cunningham, Ravens director of player personnel Joe Hortiz, and Browns assistant GM Catherine Raiche. Cunningham was offered the Cardinals’ GM job last year but turned it down, while Hortiz and Raiche have both taken GM interviews in recent years.

Latest On Joe Judge, Giants’ GM Position

The latest reporting on the matter suggests that Joe Judge will be back as the Giants’ head coach in 2022, though Judge will be required to make some changes to his offensive staff, including offensive coordinator. However, Judge may not be out of the woods just yet.

Last month, Paul Schwartz of the New York Post wrote that Judge would be back unless someone the team interviews for the soon-to-be-vacant GM post offers both a compelling reason to let Judge go and a compelling replacement for him. Even SNY.tv’s Ralph Vacchiano’s more recent report (cited in our piece linked above) mentioned that the new GM may be given the chance to “weigh in” on Judge’s status.

In that same vein, sources from other ownership groups tell Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports that they would not be surprised if Giants co-owner John Mara decides to move on from Judge, and minority owner Steve Tisch is said to be willing to consider an organizational overhaul that includes the head coaching position. However, Mara himself has thus far remained resolute in his desire to keep Judge aboard.

When GM Dave Gettleman‘s imminent ouster was first reported back in November, it was said that his replacement would ideally have a background in the Patriots’ scouting system and would have philosophies more in line with those of Judge, an ex-New England staffer. Just a month later, though, ownership’s thinking apparently changed a bit, as Schwartz wrote that a prospective GM’s preexisting ties to Judge could actually be a detriment to that person’s candidacy. Indeed, Mara reportedly wants to know what the new GM truly thinks of Judge and does not want that opinion to be influenced by prior relationships.

As for who the new GM will be, we have heard that assistant GM Kevin Abrams is a “strong contender.” That does not come as a surprise given the Giants’ penchant to hire those with connections to the franchise, though sticking with the status quo in this instance would likely incense the Big Blue fanbase. However, Vacchiano does not see Abrams as a mere extension of Gettleman despite the many years the two execs have spent together in the New York front office, and he believes Abrams would be a worthy hire despite what fans might think.

Other candidates include Titans director of player personnel Monti Ossenfort and Patriots director of player personnel Dave Ziegler, both of whom were with New England when Judge was there. Again, those Foxborough ties may or may not hurt Ossenfort’s and Ziegler’s case to become Giants GM, but there will be no shortage of other potential targets.

Vacchiano names former Chiefs and Browns GM John Dorsey as another candidate, and if the Giants want to go with a more experienced hand, they would be hard-pressed to do better. Fans who pay attention to front office maneuvers and the annual GM cycle will also recognize Eliot Wolf, Louis Riddick, Dave Caldwell, and Scott Pioli, who all appear on Vacchiano’s list.

Jay Glazer of FOX Sports (via Ryan Dunleavy of the New York Post on Twitter) says Judge himself is pushing for Abrams to be promoted. As Schwartz pointed out, though, Judge might not have much say in the decision, and Dunleavy posits that Judge’s advocacy for Abrams means that old friends Ossenfort and Ziegler are not interested in the post.

Dunleavy also mentions Dawn Aponte as someone who might get an interview (Twitter link). Aponte’s name has not appeared on PFR pages since 2018, but she has served in high-ranking executive positions for the Jets, Browns, and Dolphins, and she currently works in the league office as the NFL’s chief administrator of football operations.

East Notes: Eagles, Sproles, Dolphins, Redskins

The Eagles will have plenty of roster decisions to make heading into the 2019 season. Two of the names at the top of the list include veteran running Darren Sproles and oft-injured linebacker Jordan Hicks, Zack Rosenblatt of NJ.com writes.

After originally declaring this as his final season, Sproles has looked like a vintage version of himself, leading many to wonder if he would come back for his 15th NFL season. One person who would love to have the pass-catching back return is Eagles head coach Doug Pederson.

“I think Darren Sproles would be a great addition” for 2019, Pederson said. “He’s a great leader. he works hard, he’s a great mentor to a lot of young players. I think anybody would love to have a Darren Sproles. I mean, I would.”

He didn’t offer the same ringing endorsement for Hicks. Despite being a noted playmaker who ranks third on the team in tackles in 2018, the Texas Longhorns product has missed 21 games in his first four seasons, including four this season.

“I’ll worry about the roster in the spring when I get to the spring,” Pederson said. “Jordan’s been a big part of our success here and he helped us win the game last week and he’ll help us win another on Sunday.”

Here’s more from around the East:

  • Sticking with the Eagles, thanks once again to Nick Foles, the team is currently in the fight for the last playoff spot in the NFC. Should they make it, there will undoubtedly be a contingent of fans hoping Philly will bring back the veteran in 2019. However, that is unlikely to happen, writes Sports Illustrated’s Andrew Brandt. With Foles on the books for $20MM next year, it is much more likely the Eagles do not exercise his option and make him a free agent. If he goes on another magical run in January, however, every option has to be on the table.
  • Dolphins vice president of football operations Mike Tannenbaum is not expected back with the team in 2019, Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald writes. The move would end his four-year run with the team. Head coach Adam Gase is expected to be retained. Salguero also has heard a few of the names as possible replacements include Dan Marino and Dawn Aponte.
  • Following the release of D.J. Swearinger, one of the Redskins’ top needs this season has quickly become safety, Ben Standig of NBC Sports writes. Coupled with the potential departure of Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, the Redskins would be down both of their safeties heading into 2019. Should they address the issue in the draft, the team could target Alabama’s Deionte Thompson or Virginia’s Juan Thornhill, two of the top-ranked prospects at free and strong safety, respectively.

AFC East Notes: Bills, Dolphins, Patriots

With free agent signee T.J. Yates the favorite to act as the Bills‘ backup quarterback behind Tyrod Taylor, and fifth-round pick Nathan Peterman now in tow, Cardale Jones — a fourth-round selection just a year ago — is not a lock to make the Buffalo roster, as Mike Rodak of ESPN.com writes. The Bills are unlikely to keep four signal-callers in 2017, meaning Jones could be the odd man out. “You kind of sit around all day, try to go in there. You wait on your opportunity all day,” Jones said. “Your number is called, and you kind of didn’t take advantage of it.” Jones, 24, appeared in only one game in 2016 (the season finale), during which he completed six of 11 attempts for 96 yards and one interception. For what it’s worth, Buffalo head coach Sean McDermott said Thursday that Jones is “absolutely in the mix” for a roster spot, tweets Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News.

Here’s more from the AFC East:

  • Searching for versatility in their defensive backfield, the Dolphins haven’t yet decided whether Walt Aikens will play cornerback or safety, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald details. “[Aikens] is a big athlete,” said defensive coordinator Matt Burke. “He’s obviously a huge asset to us on (special) teams. We like having a versatile player in that role on the roster, so Walt has done a good job. Again, we’re trying to put him maybe in a spot that he’s not as comfortable and see how he responds, and he’s done a good job working for us so far.” No matter where the 25-year-old Aikens lands position-wise, he’s likely to act as a reserve, as he saw only 15 defensive snaps in 2016. But as Burke suggested, Aikens is a key special teams player, as he played on nearly 80% of the Dolphins’ ST snaps last year.
  • The Patriots auditioned a number of special teams players last week, according to Mike Reiss of ESPN.com, who reports punters Spencer Lanning and Drew Butler, kicker Adam Griffith, and long snapper Cole Mazza recently worked out for New England. Lanning hasn’t seen an NFL field since 2015, but does offer experience, as he was the Browns’ regular punter from 2013-14. He worked out for the Saints last summer. Butler, meanwhile, appeared in 54 games over four seasons with the Cardinals, but was waived on two separate occasions last year.
  • Former Dolphins executive Dawn Aponte has been hired as the NFL’s chief administrator of football operations, reports Daniel Kaplan of SportsBusiness Journal (Twitter link). Aponte, who had also spent time with the Browns and Jets, left Miami’s front office in September to work for Dolphins owner Stephen Ross‘ Drone Racing League. Per Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk, Aponte will now report to vice president of football operations Troy Vincent in the league office.

AFC East Notes: Aponte, Dolphins, Pats, Lewis

Although there were some rumblings that longtime Dolphins executive Dawn Aponte would be heading to Detroit to help Lions GM Bob Quinn deal with contracts and the salary cap, Aponte will be staying in Miami, according to Andrew Abramson of the Palm Beach Post and Alex Marvez of FOX Sports (Twitter links).

Let’s check in on some more items from out of the AFC East…

  • The fact that Adam Gase retained nine coaches from the Dolphins‘ old coaching staff doesn’t mean that he had trouble finding better candidates, writes Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald. As Salguero explains, many of those coaches drew interest from other teams around the league, so it’s not as if they aren’t highly regarded — special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi, for instance, had four interview requests, all of which the Dolphins turned down, says Salguero.
  • While the Patriots will have some potential free agents to deal with this offseason, the team’s priority may be to lock up the “big four” defenders who could reach the open market after the 2016 season, says Mike Reiss of ESPN.com. New England has a little over a calendar year to explore extension for cornerback Malcolm Butler, defensive end Chandler Jones, and linebackers Jamie Collins and Dont’a Hightower. In Reiss’ view, the latter three players could all be in line for deals that exceed $8MM annually — Butler will be a restricted free agent, so he should be relatively affordable for at least one more year beyond 2016.
  • Running back Dion Lewis, who signed a contract extension with the Patriots in the fall, is currently on track to be recovered from his torn ACL in time to participate in training camp, writes Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald.

Latest On Dolphins’ Front Office

Former general manager Dennis Hickey, whom the Dolphins parted with Saturday, had his role diminished in 2015 to that of a scouting director, according to Albert Breer of NFL.com (Twitter link). With Hickey gone, there are sure to be more changes forthcoming to Miami’s front office, Jeff Darlington of NFL.com reports.

Those changes could involve executive vice president of football administration Dawn Aponte, though she has a fan in owner Stephen Ross. However, her specialties (namely the CBA and salary cap) might soon fall under the purview of executive vice president of football operations Mike Tannenbaum, who is in position to become the franchise’s football czar. Despite that, Ross won’t let her go easily, Darlington writes.

Regardless of what happens with Aponte, the organization wants its all-time best player, Dan Marino, to take on a larger role. For his part, Marino – currently a special consultant to president and CEO Tom Garfinkel – is reluctant because of the commitment that would come with a higher ranking within the franchise. Nevertheless, the Dolphins do highly value the opinions of both Marino and vice chairman of the board Matt Higgins.

On the subject of the team’s coaching search, Breer tweets that Miami would be willing to let its next coach bring a personnel man with him. That goes hand in hand with Darlington’s notion that Tannenbaum would be open to decreasing some of his own power over the roster if it means hiring the right GM. If the Dolphins stay in house to hire their next GM, it’s likely to be director of college scouting Chris Grier. That would benefit Tannenbaum, who does not diligently scout players. Whether Grier or someone else becomes the GM, the Dolphins are cognizant that they need to put greater emphasis on scouting.

Of course, it remains to be seen whom the Dolphins will choose as their next GM and head coach. Two things are certain: Interim coach Dan Campbell won’t get promoted to the full-time role, per Darlington, and the team will enter its respective searches with Tannenbaum fully in control, tweets Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald.

Dolphins’ Internal Strife Continues

Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin was at the source of some mild team controversy earlier this week, when he was asked about the job security of starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill but gave an ambivalent response. Philbin later expressed regret that his noncommittal approach to the question created a distraction for the club, which has fallen to 1-2 after a promising opening week win against the Patriots.

According to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports, however, a deeper and more troubling internal struggle may be brewing in Miami. La Canfora writes that Dolphins players have expressed concerns with Philbin and his coordinators, and the relationship between Philbin and team executive Dawn Aponte has become frayed. Aponte hired former Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum as a team consultant, but since Tannenbaum’s primary job is as an agent representing coaches–like Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, who will likely be on the list of top head coaching candidates after the season–it is fair to wonder how much longer Philbin will be roaming the Dolphins’ sidelines.

La Canfora adds that owner Stephen Ross has not, as he promised after the Richie Incognito/Jonathan Martin debacle, taken a more active role in the guidance of his team, but he is said to be covertly trying to lay the foundation to trade for current 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh. Between those rumors and Philbin’s apparent wish to play backup signal-caller Matt Moore–which has displeased the front office, who have committed to Tannehill–the Dolphins may soon be in for a second front office overhaul in as many years.

More On Dolphins’ GM Saga

New Dolphins general manager Dennis Hickey will have complete control over roster decisions, a team source tells Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald. This news comes amid reports that several Miami GM candidates opted against taking the position due to lack of clarity regarding personnel management.

Salguero also reports that Titans VP of Football Operations Lake Dawson and Patriots VP of Player Personnel Nick Caserio turned down the job due to potential conflicts with Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin. Dawson reportedly would have been agreeable to keeping Philbin on for one season before wanting to clean house and hire a new coach. Caserio, however, wanted to install a new regime immediately upon his arrival. Neither approach was acceptable to Dolphins ownership, as they wanted a GM who would continue to work with Philbin as the head coach.

Hickey presumably agreed to keeping Philbin on staff, and will likely have no say in coaching matters. Hickey will report directly to Dolphins owner Stephen Ross. Vice president of football operations Dawn Aponte, rumored to be gaining power behind the scenes, will report to Hickey on all matters, not just the salary cap, tweets Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald.