Terry Fontenot

The NFL’s Longest-Tenured GMs

Wednesday, we took a look at how the 2022 offseason changed the HC landscape. While 10 new sideline leaders are in place for 2022, not quite as much turnover transpired on the general manager front. Five new decision-makers, however, have moved to the top of teams’ front office hierarchies over the past six months.

The Bears, Giants, Raiders and Vikings rebooted their entire operations, hiring new HC-GM combos. The Minnesota move bumped out one of the previous top-10 longest-tenured GMs, with 16-year Vikings exec Rick Spielman no longer in power in the Twin Cities. The Steelers’ shakeup took the NFL’s longest-tenured pure GM out of the mix. Kevin Colbert was with the Steelers since 2000, and although he is still expected to remain with the team in a reduced capacity, the 22-year decision-maker stepped down shortly after Ben Roethlisberger wrapped his career.

Twelve teams have now hired a new GM in the past two offseasons, though a bit more staying power exists here compared to the HC ranks. Two GMs (the Cardinals’ Steve Keim and Chargers’ Tom Telesco) have begun their 10th years at the helms of their respective front offices. They have hired three HCs apiece. The Buccaneers’ Jason Licht is closing in on a decade in power in Tampa Bay; Licht will now work with his fourth HC in Todd Bowles. Beyond that, a bit of a gap exists. But a handful of other executives have been in power for at least five seasons.

Here is how long every GM or de facto GM has been in place with his respective franchise:

  1. Jerry Jones (Dallas Cowboys): April 18, 1989[1]
  2. Mike Brown (Cincinnati Bengals): August 5, 1991[2]
  3. Bill Belichick (New England Patriots): January 27, 2000[3]
  4. Mickey Loomis (New Orleans Saints): May 14, 2002
  5. John Schneider (Seattle Seahawks): January 19, 2010; signed extension in 2021
  6. Howie Roseman (Philadelphia Eagles): January 29, 2010; signed extension in 2022
  7. Les Snead (Los Angeles Rams): February 10, 2012; signed extension in 2019
  8. Steve Keim (Arizona Cardinals): January 8, 2013; signed extension in 2022
  9. Tom Telesco (Los Angeles Chargers): January 9, 2013; signed extension in 2018
  10. Jason Licht (Tampa Bay Buccaneers): January 21, 2014; signed extension in 2021
  11. Chris Grier (Miami Dolphins): January 4, 2016[4]
  12. Jon Robinson (Tennessee Titans): January 14, 2016; signed extension in 2022
  13. John Lynch (San Francisco 49ers): January 29, 2017; signed extension in 2020
  14. Chris Ballard (Indianapolis Colts): January 30, 2017; signed extension in 2021
  15. Brandon Beane (Buffalo Bills): May 9, 2017; signed extension in 2020
  16. Brett Veach (Kansas City Chiefs): July 11, 2017; signed extension in 2020
  17. Brian Gutekunst (Green Bay Packers): January 7, 2018
  18. Eric DeCosta (Baltimore Ravens): January 7, 2019
  19. Joe Douglas (New York Jets): June 7, 2019
  20. Andrew Berry (Cleveland Browns): January 27, 2020
  21. Nick Caserio (Houston Texans): January 5, 2021
  22. George Paton (Denver Broncos): January 13, 2021
  23. Scott Fitterer (Carolina Panthers): January 14, 2021
  24. Brad Holmes (Detroit Lions): January 14, 2021
  25. Terry Fontenot (Atlanta Falcons): January 19, 2021
  26. Trent Baalke (Jacksonville Jaguars): January 21, 2021
  27. Martin Mayhew (Washington Commanders): January 22, 2021
  28. Joe Schoen (New York Giants): January 21, 2022
  29. Ryan Poles (Chicago Bears): January 25, 2022
  30. Kwesi Adofo-Mensah (Minnesota Vikings): January 26, 2022
  31. Dave Ziegler (Las Vegas Raiders): January 30, 2022
  32. Omar Khan (Pittsburgh Steelers): May 24, 2022

Footnotes:

  1. Jones has been the Cowboys’ de facto general manager since former GM Tex Schramm resigned in April 1989.
  2. Brown has been the Bengals’ de facto GM since taking over as the team’s owner in August 1991.
  3. Belichick has been the Patriots’ de facto GM since shortly after being hired as the team’s head coach in January 2000.
  4. Although Grier was hired in 2016, he became the Dolphins’ top football exec on Dec. 31, 2018

Falcons Add Ryan Pace To Front Office

Ryan Pace wasn’t out of work for long. The former general manager of the Bears has been hired by the Falcons under the title of senior personnel executive, per NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero (Twitter link). 

At 37, Pace was the youngest GM in the NFL when he was hired in 2015, taking over for Phil Emery. His first major move was hiring John Fox as the team’s new head coach, beginning a three-year stretch that saw the team finish in the basement of the NFC North each campaign and produced the second-lowest winning percentage (.292) in franchise history. Fox was fired, but Pace received a two-year extension.

The 2018 season was a different story, as new HC Matt Nagy led the team to a 12-4 record and a division title, helped in large part by 2017 draftee quarterback Mitch Trubisky and offseason trade acquisition Khalil Mack. Pace was named Executive of the Year as a result of the team’s success. Things started to go south from that point on, though, as another playoff appearance in 2020 couldn’t outweigh Trubisky’s shortcomings. Speculation steadily increased that he and Nagy were on the hot seat heading into 2021.

As deep into this past season as November, it was believed that Pace’s job in Chicago could be safe. However, Pace was indeed fired, along with Nagy, after the regular season ended with the team going 6-11, albeit with promise in the form of rookie QB Justin Fields. The pair have been supplanted by highly-regarded replacements in GM Ryan Poles and HC Matt Eberflus.

By joining the Falcons, Pace will reunite with GM Terry Fontenot. The two worked together in New Orleans, the only franchise either had worked for prior to their respective GM hires. That familiarity will help them re-shape a roster facing numerous cap troubles and, sometime as early as this offseason, the need for a new QB. Pace could play a significant role in helping Atlanta get back in contention in what could be a wide-open NFC South.

Falcons GM Was Against Matt Ryan Restructuring

Back in March, the Falcons managed to carve out some cap space by restructuring the contract of Matt Ryan. However, it sounds like at least one member of the front office wasn’t a proponent of the move. According to Tori McElhaney of The Athletic, Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot “didn’t really want to make” the move.

Fontenot was brought in as GM in January, and the organization needed some immediate breathing room to participate in the early parts of the offseason. While the Ryan restructuring reduced the quarterback’s cap number to $14MM, it also converted $21MM of Ryan’s $23MM upcoming base salary into future signing bonuses (spread out over the duration of his contract). The means Fontenot will have to once again deal with a muddled cap sheet next offseason, which was something he was presumably looking to avoid.

According to the writer, the recently hired GM ultimately “thought his hands were tied,” and he believed the team’s only solution to opening some necessary cap space was to either restructure Ryan or cut Deion Jones. Ultimately, the organization decided to rework Ryan’s contract, the fourth time the quarterback has restructured his mega-deal. Ryan will now have cap hits north of $40MM in 2022 and 2023.

The team (temporarily) committed to Ryan when they decided to not select a quarterback during this past year’s draft. Considering the money that’s owed to Ryan over the next few years, the team will likely be stuck with the veteran. Ryan hasn’t made a Pro Bowl since 2018, but he’s still completed 65.6-percent of his passes while averaging 26 touchdowns vs. 12.5 sacks over the past two years. Ryan won’t have one of his favorite targets with Julio Jones out of the picture, but the team still added tight end Kyle Pitts with the No. 4 pick to pair with 2020 second-team All-Pro Calvin Ridley.

Falcons GM: “We Have To Listen” To Julio Jones Offers

Earlier this week, we learned that the Falcons have been receiving trade inquiries on Julio Jones. When asked about the possibility of trading the star wide receiver, Falcons GM Terry Fontenot didn’t rule it out.

[RELATED: Jones Drawing Trade Interest]

That’s one of those things when you’re doing things the right way as an organization, you have to listen if people call on any player,” Fontenot told Justin Felder of FOX 5 (Twitter link). “We are in a difficult cap situation. That’s just the circumstance…Our administration has done an excellent job up to this point getting us in position to be able to manage the cap. Yet, we still have more work to do.”

So, when teams call about any players, we have to listen, and we have to weigh it and we have to determine what’s best for the organization, and we have to handle everything with class. Obviously, that particular player [Jones] — we hold him in high regard. He’s special…but we have to consider [listening on] any player if it’s right for the team, because we have to do what’s right for the team.”

Jones, 32, is still a difference maker when he’s healthy and on the field, though he missed roughly half of the 2020 season due to hamstring issues. Now, the Falcons have an opportunity to give themselves some breathing room on the cap by trading Jones sometime after June 1. It’s not clear which teams have called on Jones, though Peter King of NBC Sports speculated that the Patriots, Titans, Ravens, and Raiders could be among the suitors.

Falcons HC, GM Aligned On No. 4 Pick?

It’s no longer a house divided. Falcons GM Terry Fontenot and head coach Arthur Smith are now “aligned” on what to do with the No. 4 overall pick in the draft, according to D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Earlier this week, we heard that Fontenot was pushing for a quarterback. Meanwhile, Smith wanted to stay the course with Matt Ryan. Ryan is on the verge of his 36th birthday, but he’s been durable and fairly steady.

Of course, we don’t know where the Falcons ultimately landed, and we probably won’t know for sure until the draft kicks off on April 29th in Cleveland. The Falcons are in an enviable position — the Jaguars, Jets, and 49ers are all expected to tap quarterbacks with the first three picks, which would allow them to take the best non-quarterback in this year’s class. They could also trade down and parlay that pick into a wealth of ammo for 2022 and beyond.

If they resist the urge to take a QB, the Falcons could select Florida tight end Kyle Pitts, Oregon offensive tackle Penei Sewell, LSU wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase, or Alabama cornerback Patrick Surtain II. Or, if they stand pat to grab Matt Ryan’s successor, they could come away with Trey Lance — the North Dakota State product who could have more upside than Zach Wilson and Mac Jones (basically, a higher ceiling than any passer not named Trevor Lawrence).

Falcons GM, HC Split On Drafting QB?

Earlier this morning, we heard that the Falcons were open to moving down from the fourth overall pick. Now, we have some more details on what’s happening inside the building.

Atlanta’s new GM Terry Fontenot apparently favors drafting a quarterback, while new head coach Arthur Smith does not, Chris Mortensen of ESPN reported recently, via Evan Birchfield of The Falcoholic. “What I’m hearing is that [Terry] Fontenot is more focused on quarterback, and Arthur Smith believes that Matt Ryan does have two or more years left,” Mortensen said.

While that big split between a GM and head coach in their first year together might not be ideal, it doesn’t sound like the situation has turned toxic or anything. The fact that Atlanta is open to moving the pick would seem to indicate that Smith’s view might be winning out.

He has no real medical history, he hasn’t missed many games in his career and there hasn’t been a big drop off in his play,” Mortensen said of Smith’s view of Ryan. Interestingly, Mortensen also had some info on who the Falcons might pick if Fontenot gets his way.

One thing I do hear though is that if they do go quarterback at No. 4, then Trey Lance is probably the guy,” he said. It sounds like there’s a real possibility that Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Mac Jones, and Lance go 1-4. Ryan, 36 next month, is signed through the 2023 season.

 Running it back for at least one more cycle with Ryan and Julio Jones, now 32, still seems like the most likely scenario. This will be one of the most interesting dynamics to watch in the lead up to the draft.

Falcons Hire Terry Fontenot As GM

It’s official. On Tuesday morning, the Falcons announced that they have hired Terry Fontenot as their new GM.

[RELATED: Falcons Hire Arthur Smith]

The Saints’ assistant GM of pro personnel reportedly shook hands (or, elbow-bumped) on a deal last week. However, he was barred from taking the job while the Saints were in the midst of the playoffs. Then, the Buccaneers eliminated the Saints on Sunday, clearing the way for Fontenot to move on to his new NFC South home.

To date, Fontenot has spent his entire 18-year career with the Saints. After seven seasons as a pro scout, seven seasons as director of pro scouting, and four years in his current role, the Falcons believe that he’s ready to lead his own front office.

When we started this process we were focused on finding someone that not only has a track record of identifying key building blocks that result in successful teams, but also someone who focuses on cohesive relationships within the building. We feel very strongly that we’ve found that individual in Terry Fontenot,” said owner Arthur Blank. “In his past positions, he has shown the ability to make strong decisions and judgments that result in championship-caliber teams, while also understanding a variety of viewpoints and respecting a collaborative process throughout.

“Landing a leader of Terry’s stature, I believe our organization, players, fans and community will have confidence in our approach throughout this process as I am certain Terry will represent them and the expectations they have to a high level.”

With Fontenot and Arthur Smith in place, the Falcons will now focus on rounding out their coaching staff.

Broncos Notes: Miller, Paton, Lock

Broncos LB Von Miller is the subject of a criminal investigation in Parker, CO, as Mike Klis of 9News.com was among those to report (via Twitter). Parker police would not comment on the nature of the investigation, though a report from FOX 31 suggests that it pertains to domestic abuse allegations levied against Miller by his ex-fiancée. The Broncos issued a statement indicating they are aware of the situation and are in the process of gathering more info.

According to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com, a decision on whether charges will be filed will not be made for several weeks. Obviously, any allegations of domestic violence are serious and outweigh any on-field concerns, but Miller’s future with the Broncos was already in doubt. He missed the entire 2020 campaign due to an ankle injury, and though he earned Pro Bowl honors in 2019, his eight sacks that year marked a career low (aside from a five-sack effort in 2013, when he played in just nine games).

Klis reports in a full-length piece that the Broncos will ask Miller to take a pay cut. The soon-to-be 32-year-old is due a $17.5MM base salary in 2021 — the last year of his current contract — but carries a $22.225MM cap charge due to an earlier restructure. Denver could release him and create $18MM in cap space, and given that Miller is unlikely to earn $17.5MM on the open market, he may be amenable to a reduction in pay. If the domestic allegations are substantiated, he can definitely bank on a suspension.

Now for more from the Mile High City:

  • In the same piece linked above, Klis examines the most pressing questions for new GM George Paton. Paton and HC Vic Fangio will report to John Elway in the team’s revamped power structure, but Paton will have control over personnel matters. One of his first orders of business — aside from the Miller issue — will be to sort out the Broncos’ QB situation. Veteran signal-callers like Matthew Stafford and Deshaun Watson may or may not be available on the trade market, and even if a blockbuster trade doesn’t happen, Klis expects Paton to bring in legitimate competition for incumbent passer Drew Lock. Paton will also have the No. 9 overall pick at his disposal.
  • The contract situation of safety Justin Simmons will need to be addressed as well. Simmons and the Broncos were unable to come to terms on a multi-year contract last offseason, so the newly-minted Pro Bowler played out the 2020 season under a $11.4MM franchise tag. Klis suggests that Simmons could adjust his asking price on a long-term deal given the expected decrease in the 2021 salary cap, and he also says a second tag — worth about $13.7MM — could be in play.
  • Saints vice president of pro personnel Terry Fontenot was the runner-up to Paton in the Broncos’ GM hunt, as Klis tweets. Denver was able to convince Paton — who had been a hot GM candidate for years — to finally leave Minnesota, but the club was certainly impressed by Fontenot, who is now said to be the Falcons’ top choice for their GM vacancy.

Falcons To Hire Terry Fontenot?

The Falcons have identified Terry Fontenot as their top choice to be their next GM, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). New Orleans’ assistant GM for pro personnel could be anointed as soon as the Saints’ season ends. For Fontenot, that could be as soon as Monday, though he’ll be rooting for a February signing.

[RELATED: Falcons Have Second Interview With Arthur Smith]

Fontenot was said to be a finalist for the job, along with Rams college scouting director Brad Holmes. Colts college scouting director Morocco Brown, Bills exec Joe Schoen, and former Texans GM Rick Smith were considered, along with internal candidate Anthony Robinson.

To date, Fontenot has spent his entire 18-year career with the Saints. After seven seasons as a pro scout, seven seasons as director of pro scouting, and four years in his current role, he’ll run his own front office in the same division.

2021 NFL General Manager Search Tracker

This year’s NFL GM carousel figures to be more active than usual. The Falcons, Lions, Panthers, Texans, and Jaguars are all on the hunt for a new front office leader. And that’s only the official list. The real tally shows six clubs looking for a GM, since the Washington Football Team is expected to install a GM to work alongside head coach Ron Rivera. By mid-January, we could easily see a couple more jobs opening up — that’d put ~25% of the NFL on the market.

We’ll keep track of the GM candidates for each club here, along with their current status. If and when other teams decide to make general manager changes, they’ll be added to this list. Here’s the current breakdown:

Updated 1-19-21 (7:02pm CT)

Atlanta Falcons

Carolina Panthers 

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Houston Texans

Jacksonville Jaguars

Washington Football Team