Michael Wilhoite

Latest On Broncos’ Coaching Staff; Matt Patricia Still On Radar For Assistant Job?

1:13pm: If Patricia is part of Payton’s plans, it will not be as linebackers coach. The Broncos are hiring Michael Wilhoite for that position, Mike Klis of 9News tweets. Recently dismissed by the Chargers, Wilhoite worked with the Saints from 2019-20. The former NFL linebacker was on Payton’s staffs then as a lower-level assistant; this job represents a title bump.

12:20pm: The Broncos’ Vance Joseph defensive coordinator hire removes some of their candidates from the equation, but it might not scrap partnerships will all of them. Matt Patricia may still be on the radar for a role in Denver.

The former Lions HC and longtime Bill Belichick assistant has been connected to joining the Broncos as linebackers coach, Troy Renck of Denver7 notes. Sean Payton responded to a tweet questioning his methodical pace at filling out Denver’s staff, indicating he had 16 coaches in place. It would appear more names will surface soon. The team is still looking for an offensive coordinator.

Patricia, 48, interviewed Wednesday for the job Joseph just accepted. Although he worked with the Patriots’ offensive line last season — one that became a controversial campaign due to the longtime defensive staffer being the team’s de facto OC — the former head coach and longtime defensive coordinator has not held a position coach title since 2011, when he was the Pats’ safeties coach. Patricia has only worked for the Patriots and Lions during his lengthy NFL stay; the Pats brought him back shortly after his Lions firing.

Patricia is no longer under contract with the Patriots, and while it is believed he should still have a job under Belichick, the Lions no longer paying him a head coach salary would require the Pats to handle the entire compensation going forward. That should not be a major issue, given assistants’ salaries, but it certainly would be interesting if Patricia left New England for a non-coordinator job. His contract expiring would mean the Pats cannot block such a move, however.

The Broncos are also retaining two of their holdover defensive assistants. They will keep both defensive line coach Marcus Dixon and defensive backs coach Christian Parker, James Palmer of NFL.com tweets. Parker, 31, interviewed for the DC job, providing an illustration of the team’s view of the young staffer, and will enter his third season with the team. He joined the Broncos during Vic Fangio‘s tenure; Dixon, 38, signed on under Ejiro Evero last year. This is Parker’s first job coaching a position, while Dixon — a former NFL D-lineman — coached on the Rams’ staff in 2021.

Although Mike Zimmer also interviewed for a separate staff position and would make sense in a senior defensive assistant-type role alongside Payton, his Cowboys coworker in the 2000s, the linebackers position is the top box for the Broncos now to check on defense. On offense, the team is replacing five-year wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni with ex-NFLer Keary Colbert, Matt Zenitz of On3Sports.com tweets. Colbert, who played an auxiliary role for the Broncos’ receiving corps from 2008-09, spent last season as Florida’s receivers coach. He also mentored Drake London at USC. Colbert, 40, began coaching immediately after his playing career wrapped. Azzanni joined the Jets as their receivers coach recently.

Chargers GM Expresses Support For Brandon Staley, Decision To Play Starters In Week 18

Speculation swirled about Brandon Staley‘s employment status ahead of the Chargers-Jaguars wild-card game and following his team’s 27-point collapse, but the Bolts will keep their head coach for a third season.

Eleventh-year GM Tom Telesco said Staley was never on shaky ground. Rumors connected the Chargers to Sean Payton, who has been connected to this job for a while. The Los Angeles-stationed FOX analyst will need to accept another position or wait until 2024 for the AFC’s Los Angeles gig to potentially open up, however.

That was probably more [media] discussion than ours,” Telesco said of Staley’s hot-seat status, via ESPN.com’s Lindsey Thiry. “The front office’s belief in Brandon hasn’t changed. He’s got our belief. Our players believe in him. He’s a tremendous leader.”

The Payton matter has lingered for a while, but the Chargers’ past two games accelerated rumblings of a firing. The Chargers’ decision to play their starters in Week 18 ended up being costly, with Mike Williams suffering a transverse process fracture — an injury discovered late last week — that prevented him from making the trip to Jacksonville.

Los Angeles totaled three second-half points in the third-biggest collapse in playoff history, and the team lost wideout DeAndre Carter during the Jaguars matchup. Staley’s decision to play starters against the Broncos in their regular-season finale was believed to be an organizational decision. Many Chargers staffers knew this was the plan, per NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport, who indicated everyone was onboard with Staley’s call (video link). Telesco confirmed as much Thursday. “Brandon kind of mapped out what his plan was and yeah, I’m going to support that,” Telesco said.

Staley, 40, is 19-15 with the Chargers, who have continued to battle injuries under his watch. Several big-ticket players missed extended stretches for the team this season, extending a trend that persisted during multiple previous Bolts regimes. Staley’s seat stands to be hot in 2023, as the Chargers have not ranked inside the top 20 on defense — the third-year HC’s side of the ball. But the Chargers gave both Mike McCoy and Anthony Lynn four seasons apiece.

The Chargers have made some changes in the wake of that loss. They fired offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi and quarterbacks coach Shane Day. Staley cited the offense needing to reach a new gear, and Telesco said (via Thiry) Justin Herbert will have input as to who the team hires as its next play-caller. While the team is not planning any contract talks with Herbert until after Super Bowl LVII, at least, it will entrust Herbert with contributing to this big-picture decision. Herbert became extension-eligible this month but can be controlled through the 2024 season, via the fifth-year option the Bolts will exercise in May.

As for the Chargers’ OC plans, ESPN’s Chris Mortensen notes Frank Reich makes sense as a candidate (Twitter link). Reich was with the Chargers for three seasons under McCoy, and he served as their OC from 2014-15. Reich has booked HC interviews with the Cardinals and Panthers; the former Colts HC has ties to each of those teams as well. The Rams have been connected to Reich as a potential OC, making it fairly clear the respected coach will have options in the event he is unable to snag one of the available HC jobs.

One candidate the Bolts wanted to meet with has cut off a potential partnership. Vikings OC Wes Phillips rejected a Bolts interview request, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com tweets. Phillips, who just finished his first year as Minnesota’s OC, holds a non-play-calling role with the team. While calling Herbert-run plays will be a draw for OC candidates, Fowler notes Phillips will stay with the Vikings.

Lastly, the Chargers fired linebackers coach Michael Wilhoite, Daniel Popper of The Athletic tweets. A former NFL linebacker, Wilhoite had been with the Bolts for two seasons. This marked the 36-year-old staffer’s first gig coaching a position; he worked as a lower-level Saints assistant before heading to L.A.

Saints Interview Michael Wilhoite For DC

The search for a new defensive coordinator continues in New Orleans. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Saints have interviewed Michael Wilhoite for the vacancy (Twitter link). 

[Related: Saints Hire Dennis Allen As Head Coach]

Wilhoite, 35, had a seven-year NFL career, including six with the 49ers. That stretch included an appearance in Super Bowl XLVII, and set up his coaching career, which began two years after his retirement. He served as a special teams assistant with the Saints in 2019; the following year, he assisted the defensive staff, so there is a degree of familiarity between him and the team. Wilhoite spent the 2021 campaign as the linebackers coach for the Chargers.

The news comes one week after longtime DC Dennis Allen was, as expected, chosen as the successor to Sean Payton. While the team has already made some additions to the offensive staff, the OC role is seen as being more of a priority, given Allen’s background. Still, the team is working to fill the position, having also met with Lions defensive backs coach/passing game coordinator Aubrey Pleasant last week. The former Rams assistant has been generating DC interest with his work dating back to 2017 in particular.

While Allen will surely be heavily involved in the Saints’ defense, the team is getting closer to hiring his replacement.

South Notes: Brissett, Colts, Falcons, Saints, Bucs

When Andrew Luck missed the entire 2017 season, Jacoby Brissett ended up becoming the Colts’ starter after they acquired him from New England, and he filled in admirably. He’s remained in Indianapolis since then, despite trade rumors swirling ever since. Colts GM Chris Ballard said in January that the team viewed Brissett as a starter in the league, and that they’d have to be blown away to trade him.

We now have more details on their thinking, as sources at the combine told Tony Pauline of Draftanalyst.com that the Colts “would demand a second-round choice ” for Brissett. Pauline further explained their process, writing that if Brissett walks in free agency after this season the Colts think “they would likely receive a compensatory third-round pick based on the contract he’s likely to sign; hence the second-round price tag.” This could all just be posturing to elicit better offers for Brissett, but it definitely seems like the team is high on him.

Here’s more from the league’s southern divisions:

  • The Falcons have repeatedly expressed confidence that they’d be able to get a new deal done with Julio Jones, but there’s “not much going on” between the two sides, a source told Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Jones is locked into a contract that is one of the best bargains in the NFL, and isn’t happy about it. He briefly held out last offseason before the team sweetened his deal with some incentives to draw him back. As McClure points out, GM Thomas Dimitroff has said the team is optimistic against getting a deal done, but there’s apparently been no progress. Jones could hold out again this summer, and it’ll be something to keep an eye on.
  • There were some rumors online that the Buccaneers could be shopping linebacker Lavonte David at the combine, but those apparently are false. Multiple sources told Jenna Laine of ESPN.com that David “is going nowhere.” David is still only 29 and received very good marks from Pro Football Focus last year, so it makes sense that the Bucs would want to keep him in the fold as they rebuild their porous defense.
  • The Saints are hiring former NFL linebacker Michael Wilhoite to their coaching staff, according to Josh Katzenstein of NOLA.com. Wilhoite will be a special teams assistant in New Orleans. Wilhoite played six seasons in the NFL from ’12-17, spending time with the 49ers and Seahawks.

NFL Workout Updates: 11/27/18

Here’s the latest from the workout circuit, all links going to veteran NFL reporter Howard Balzer, unless otherwise specified.

Arizona Cardinals

Baltimore Ravens

Buffalo Bills

Carolina Panthers

Green Bay Packers

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Oakland Raiders

San Francisco 49ers

Seahawks To Sign Michael Wilhoite

The Seahawks and free agent linebacker Michael Wilhoite have agreed to a contract, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link).

Michael Wilhoite

Seattle had been on the lookout for linebacker depth before its deal with Wilhoite, having met with him, ex-49ers teammate Gerald Hodges and former Redskin and Steeler Terence Garvin in recent days. The Seahawks were already familiar with Wilhoite prior to free agency, as he spent the first five years of his career with NFC West rival San Francisco. Thus far, the 30-year-old Wilhoite has amassed 65 appearances and 36 starts.

After starting in all 28 of his appearances from 2014-15, Wilhoite took on a lesser role last year. While he did log the third 16-game season of his career and play 58.3 of the 49ers’ special teams snaps, he only started in six contents and saw action in 44.3 percent of defensive snaps. As a defender, Wilhoite picked up 46 tackles, a forced fumble and a half-sack, and ranked as one of Pro Football Focus’ five worst qualified linebackers in overall performance (though he did earn a respectable grade against the pass).

When the Seahawks’ agreement with Wilhoite becomes official, they’ll have added two linebackers this offseason (the special teams-only Arthur Brown was the first). The team has also lost one, as Brock Coyle signed with the 49ers, while longtime Seahawks reserve Mike Morgan remains without a deal. Regardless, with Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright in place, Seattle possesses an elite linebacker corps.

FA Rumors: Poe, Seahawks, Steelers, Jaguars

Now that free agent defensive tackle Dontari Poe has concluded his visits with the Dolphins, he’ll head home to consider offers, tweets Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com. Poe has met with the Colts, Falcons, and Jaguars in addition to Miami, and will presumably sign with one of the clubs. Poe is PFR’s No. 2 free agent interior defender on the market, just behind Johnathan Hankins.

Here’s more from the free agent period:

  • Although Adrian Peterson visited the Seahawks earlier this week, he never entered into negotiations with the club, reports Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com. Seattle was eyeing a younger back, and it found one in former Packer Eddie Lacy, whom the team signed to a one-year deal on Tuesday. Through six days of free agency, the key story around Peterson has been the number of clubs who aren’t interested in the ex-Vikings RB, who turns 32 next week. The Texans, Patriots, Raiders have all indicated they they’re not in contact with future Hall of Famer.
  • The Seahawks may have not been all that interested in Peterson, but the club might have a different opinion on free agent linebacker Michael Wilhoite, whom they will host on a visit, tweets NFL reporter Howard Balzer. Wilhoite, 30, was a full-time starter for the 49ers from 2014-15, but only started six games last year (despite appearing in all 16 contests). In that time, Wilhoite put up 46 tackles, a half-sack, and a forced fumble.
  • While the Steelers has “mild interest” in re-signing linebacker Jarvis Jones, the club never made a real effort to retain the former first-round pick before he inked a one-year deal with the Cardinals on Monday, per Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com. Jones, 27, never lived up to his draft billing, but did provide solid run defense over 35 starts in Pittsburgh. The Steelers will now roll with Arthur Moats and Anthony Chickillo behind James Harrison and Bud Dupree on the edge.
  • Tight end Chris Gragg visited the Jaguars but did not agree to a contract, as Gragg himself announced (Twitter link). Jacksonville head coach Doug Marrone was in Buffalo when Gragg was made a seventh-round pick in 2013, so he should have some level of familiarity with the 26-year-old. Gragg missed the entire 2016 campaign with a torn ACL.

Reactions To NaVorro Bowman Extension

NaVorro Bowman is staying in San Francisco for the foreseeable future. The talented linebacker signed an extension earlier this week that will last through the 2022 season. The four-year extension is worth a reported $44MM (with $20MM guaranteed).

Bowman still had three years left on his contract, but the 28-year-old told Cam Inman of The Mercury News that he was intent on inking a long-term extension as soon as possible. Furthermore, the linebacker understood his standing in the organization, and he didn’t want his contract to trump that of former 49ers greats (including Patrick Willis).

“Out of respect for Pat, I took a little less and understood this was his team at the time,” Bowman said. “I’ve accomplished a lot since that time and made huge accolades.

“For me asking (now) for the deal, they understood why,” said Bowman, noting he never considered holding out of camp. “I knew it wasn’t a popular thing to do so with three years left. It’s basically about being fair. It shows how good of an organization they are to the players and fair for all the work I’ve put in.”
Let’s take a look at some more reactions to Bowman’s new contract…
  • The Bowman extension sent the right message to the linebacker’s teammates, writes Cam Inman. The players have learned that hard work can translate into a lucrative extension, and general manager Trent Baalke has already said that he plans on using the team’s remaining cap space to ink additional players to new contracts. Quarterback Blaine Gabbert, defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey, wide receiver Quinton Patton and linebacker Michael Wilhoite are among the 49ers who are in the final year of their contracts, Inman notes
  • “I’ve had several guys walk up to me and say this is motivation for them,” Bowman told Inman. “It’s win-win situations for all us, to show guys it’s possible, but you have to put your work in and do your job.” 
  • “It just shows they truly believe in the guys they drafted to get the job done,” said defensive tackle Quinton Dial, who also received an extension. “It’s something we take a lot of pride in.”
  • “I want to thank Jed, the York family and Trent for giving me the opportunity to continue my career where my heart is,” Bowman said after inking the extension (via CSNBayArea.com). “I appreciate the hard work that Drew and Paraag put in to getting this deal done. My teammates and coaches have meant so much to me throughout my career and I thank them for helping me become the player I am today. The support I’ve received from my family and friends throughout my life, especially through the adversity of the past few years, has meant so much to me. I can’t wait for the season to start and play in front of the best fans in the NFL.”
  • Jason Fitzgerald of OverTheCap.com was surprised at the timing of the Bowman extension, although he notes that it isn’t the first time the team has extended a player with multiple years left on a contract. Furthermore, Fitzgerald believes the organization was simply taking advantage of their abundance of cap room.

49ers’ Michael Wilhoite Signs RFA Tender

49ers linebacker Michael Wilhoite has become the latest restricted free agent to sign his contract tender from his team, according to a team release from the Niners. The one-year deal will set Wilhoite up to earn a non-guaranteed base salary of $1.671MM for the 2016 season.Michael Wilhoite

Wilhoite, 27, started all 16 games for the 49ers back in 2014, but had been expected to transition back into a reserve role in 2015. However, after Patrick Willis and Chris Borland announced their respective retirements, Wilhoite was thrust back into the starting lineup at one of the Niners’ inside linebacker spots.

The former undrafted free agent, who made 12 starts last season before injuries cut his year short, was graded as the league’s worst linebacker out of 97 qualified players by Pro Football Focus. Based on his shaky performance and the presence of Gerald Hodges, who started down the stretch, Wilhoite won’t be assured of a spot in the lineup in 2016.

Wilhoite becomes the second-last restricted free agents to officially sign a contract this offseason, leaving only Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall unsigned. I examined the status of this year’s group of RFAs a couple weeks ago.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

RFA Tender Decisions: 3/4/16

When teams assign first- or second-round tenders to their restricted free agents, like the Raiders did today with quarterback Matt McGloin, we’ll devote full news stories to those moves. But for the most part, RFAs around the league can expect to be either non-tendered or given a low-end tender worth $1.671MM. We’ll round up the players that fall into that group on Friday in the space below, with the latest updates added to the top of the list throughout the day….

  • The 49ers have offered linebacker Michael Wilhoite the low-end tender, reports Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee. The 29-year-old has started in all 28 of his appearances over the last two seasons. Despite missing four games in 2015, Wilhoite was second on the Niners in tackles (85), though he graded dead last in overall performance out of Pro Football Focus’ 97 qualifying linebackers (subscription required).

Earlier updates:

  • The Saints aren’t expected to submit an RFA tender to running back Khiry Robinson, according to Mike Triplett of ESPN.com. Katherine Terrell of NOLA.com confirms as much (via Twitter). Robinson, 26, saw his 2015 campaign come to an early end when he suffered a broken leg in November, but he has been a steady contributor in New Orleans’ backfield since 2013, averaging 4.1 yards per carry on 186 total attempts. He’s now on track to reach the open market as an unrestricted free agent.
  • The Eagles have given RFA offensive lineman Matt Tobin the low-end tender, according to Tom Pelissero of USA Today (Twitter link). Philadelphia now holds the right of first refusal on the 25-year-old lineman, who made 13 starts for the Eagles in 2015. Depending on the moves the team makes in free agency and the draft, Tobin could return to a reserve role in 2016.
  • One restricted free agent who won’t get a tender offer from the Eagles is offensive lineman David Molk, who has decided to retire rather than continuing his career, according to the team (Twitter link). Molk, who started four games at center for Philadelphia in 2014, is widely believed to be the anonymous author of a book called NFL Confidential: True Confessions from the Gutter of Football, which provides a behind-the-scenes look at life in the NFL.
  • The Packers have a pair of players eligible for restricted free agency, and according to Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (via Twitter), the team won’t be tendering one of them, linebacker Andy Mulumba. Silverstein adds that guard Lane Taylor probably won’t get a tender offer either, which would make both players unrestricted free agents next week.