Zach Orr

AFC Coaching Notes: Bieniemy, Raiders, Broncos, Jaguars, Bills, Ravens

Another coaching cycle has come and gone without Eric Bieniemy getting a head coaching job, but that doesn’t mean the Chiefs offensive coordinator will automatically return to Kansas City. According to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero (via Twitter), Bieniemy‘s contract is expiring.

While the accomplished offensive coordinator could (and probably will) ink a new contract with the Chiefs, Pelissero warns that he would be a “hot free-agent OC target elsewhere.” You could make an argument that Bieniemy could improve his chances for a HC gig if he succeeds out of Andy Reid’s and Patrick Mahomes‘ shadows. Of course, if Bieniemy struggles without his elite offense, that would surely compromise any lingering chances he has of securing that elusive promotion.

Following a five-year stint as the Chiefs RBs coach, he earned a promotion to OC in 2018. Considering the Chiefs’ success, Bieniemy was a popular name in the coaching circuit in both 2019 and 2020. However, the 52-year-old didn’t generate as much interest during this year’s coaching cycle, as he was connected to only a pair of jobs (Saints, Broncos).

More coaching notes out of the AFC…

  • Broncos special teams coordinator Tom McMahon will join the Raiders in the same role, reports Mike Klis of 9News in Denver (via Twitter). The 52-year-old has been a ST coordinator in the NFL since he was hired by the Rams in 2009, and he worked alongside Josh McDaniels during his final season with the organization. McMahon has since served as the ST coordinator for the Chiefs, Colts, and Broncos.
  • The Broncos natural replacement for McMahon, special teams assistant Chris Gould, was let go by the organization, reports Klis (on Twitter). The older brother of kicker Robbie Gould, Chris Gould had spent seven years with the Broncos organization. The 36-year-old had a brief career in the AFL before transitioning to coaching.
  • More Broncos coaching notes: Broncos DL coach Bill Kollar is moving to a consultant-type role (via Klis on Twitter), while WR coach Zach Azzanni and offensive assistant Justin Rascati are sticking around (via Ryan O’Halloran of The Denver Post on Twitter). Azzanni actually had a second interview with the Falcons today, but Nathaniel Hackett “stepped up” to retain his WR coach (via Klis on Twitter).
  • The Jaguars are hiring Mike McCoy as their QB coach, reports Pelissero (via Twitter). The former Chargers head coach was the Broncos OC in 2017 and Cardinals OC in 2018, but he’s been out of the NFL since that time.
  • The Bills announced that they have hired Aaron Kromer as their new offensive line coach. This is Kromer’s second stint as the Bills OL coach, having served in the role in 2015 and 2016. The veteran coach was with the Rams between 2017 and 2020, but he wasn’t retained for 2021. Previously, Kromer was the Saints’ interim head coach in 2012 and the Bears offensive coordinator from 2013 to 2014.
  • Zach Orr is joining the Ravens as their new linebackers coach, tweets Clarence Hill Jr. of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Orr played for Baltimore for three years, including a 2016 campaign where he earned a second-team All-Pro nod. He also got his first coaching gig with the Ravens. After serving as a defensive analyst from 2017 to 2020, Orr joined the Jaguars to be their outside linebackers coach in 2021.

Ravens Notes: Lamar Jackson, Marquise Brown, Coaching Staff Changes

Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta held an end-of-season press conference on Friday. In it, he provided updates on a number of key points in the team’s upcoming offseason, including the current status of contract negotiations with quarterback Lamar Jackson

DeCosta made it clear that he is personally handling talks with Jackson, and has been from the beginning of the negotiation process. He added that the two of them have spoken “five or six times over the past year” (Twitter link via Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic). According to ESPN’s Jamison Hensley, DeCosta added “I’m proud of the relationship that we have” (Twitter link).

Jackson certainly didn’t have the season he or the Ravens were expecting. In 12 games, he recorded 2,882 passing yards and a near-even (16:13) touchdown-to-interception ratio. While he added another 767 yards and two touchdowns on the ground, he also had six fumbles. Between those numbers, and a season-ending ankle injury, 2021 was a far cry from Jackson’s 2019 MVP campaign. If anything, that could further complicate his contract talks, which were reportedly not proceeding as hoped earlier in the season. DeCosta stated: “We’re working at Lamar’s pace… We will operate based on his urgency” (Twitter link), suggesting the team is willing to let the 25-year-old play on his fifth year option.

Here are some other important notes from the presser, along with some updates to the team’s coaching staff:

  • DeCosta said he expects to pick up the fifth year option on wide receiver Marquise Brown (Twitter link via Hensley). A close friend of Jackson’s, Brown had his most productive season in 2021 (91 catches, 1,008 yards, six touchdowns), though he tailed off considerably late in the campaign.
  • The offensive line will be a priority in the offseason. As Zrebiec tweets, DeCosta stated a desire to strengthen the unit overall, though he is “optimistic” left tackle Ronnie Stanley will be able to return to full health after a second major ankle surgery.
  • Zreibec adds that the team is planning on getting younger along the defensive front. With that said, DeCosta has already been in communication with veteran Calais Campbell, who was thought to be contemplating retirement throughout the year.
  • Hensley tweets that cornerback Marcus Peters is expected to be back. He missed the entire season and his release would create $10MM in cap space, but the former All-Pro would provide a playmaking element to the secondary if healthy.
  • As for the coaching staff, CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora tweets that inside linebackers coach Rob Ryan will not return. Hensley adds that outside LBs coach Drew Wilkins has also been let go, to pursue new opportunities alongside former DC Don Martindale.
  • According to Zrebiec, former Raven Zach Orr is a candidate to replace Ryan. After his promising career was abruptly ended due to a rare neck ailment, he’s taken to coaching. He spent 2021 on the Jaguars’ staff.

 

Coaching Notes: Texans, Jaguars, Jets, Colts

The Texans were the last team to hire their head coach, so David Culley got a bit of a late start in building his staff. Now he’s wasting no time, making a couple of hires this week. Most importantly he’s settled on a special teams coordinator, hiring Colts assistant Frank Ross to fill that position, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle tweets. Ross is a former Patriots scout who went to small school John Carroll University, which has become a feeder school for NFL coaches. Houston also hired Dino Vasso to be their new secondary coach, Wilson tweets. Vasso spent the past eight seasons as an assistant with the Eagles.

Here are some more coaching updates from around the league:

  • Zach Orr is going to be back on an NFL sideline. An UDFA linebacker in 2014, he became a full-time starter with the Ravens and was a second-team All-Pro in 2016. Unfortunately that would be his final season, as a spinal condition cut his career short prematurely. Orr stayed with Baltimore in a front office role, and now he’s getting into coaching as Urban Meyer’s new linebackers coach with the Jaguars, Dan Graziano of ESPN.com tweets. Still only 28, it’ll be great to see Orr back on the field in some capacity.
  • Robert Saleh continues to build his inaugural Jets staff, and he has now hired Mike Rutenberg to be his linebackers coach, Ian Rapoport of NFL Neetwork tweets. Rutenberg was a passing game specialist under Saleh in San Francisco this past season, and before that had been an assistant with the Jaguars.
  • Orr isn’t the only notable former player getting back with an NFL team. Pro Football Hall of Famer Kevin Mawae will be joining the NFL coaching ranks as well. Mawae has been hired to be an assistant offensive line coach on Frank Reich’s Colts staff, Stephen Holder of The Athletic tweets. Mawae had been an analyst under Herm Edwards at Arizona State, and he told Rich Cimini of ESPN.com (Twitter link) that he had been hoping to land an NFL opportunity. The legendary former center spent 16 years in the league with the Seahawks, Jets, and Titans. He made eight Pro Bowls and was a first-team All-Pro seven times during his playing days.

Extra Points: Bills, Dareus, Ravens, Orr

Mike Rodak of ESPN.com wonders when the Bills get out from defensive tackle Marcell Dareus‘ contract. Signed to a six-year extension with $60MM guaranteed by Doug Whaley’s front office, Dareus has become a major headache for Buffalo due to discipline and legal issues. New GM Brandon Beane won’t say whether he’s looking to dump Dareus, but he did indicate that he’s on a short leash.

Everybody’s got to be on board right now, so hopefully this is something he’ll learn from, and everybody will understand the message that Sean and I are [sending],” Beane said. “We have expectations, we have standards that everybody has to live by, and if you’re not [going to], then you’re not going to be here.”

If the Bills were to cut him this offseason, his entire $16.1MM cap number would remain on the books, plus $7.35MM of his ’18 pay. Trading him before Week 1, meanwhile, would give them cap savings of $9.75MM for this year, but would still leave them with the same $14.2MM dead money charge in 2018.

If the Bills wait until next offseason to cut Dareus, they’ll still be facing unpalatable cap charges. Their best option would be to find a trade partner willing to take on the fully guaranteed portions of his salary. Dareus is undeniably talented, but it’s hard to see a team rolling the dice on him with this price tag. The Bills might just have to keep Dareus for the coming season and hope that he performs up to par.

Here’s more from around the NFL:

  • Zach Orr is rejoining the Ravens, this time as a coach. He’ll be “interning” with the Ravens’ coaching and personnel staffs, according to a team announcement. “It’s a great opportunity,” Orr said. “I’m thankful because, like I always said, I love football. I still want to be around the game. Even though I can’t play anymore, I still love everything about it.”
  • Due to the massive flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey, the Texans‘ final preseason game against the Cowboys has been canceled. It’s small potatoes compared to the real-life implications of the storm, but players on the 53-man roster bubble will no longer have one final opportunity to showcase their skills for Houston or Dallas.
  • On Wednesday, the Packers signed linebacker Ahmad Brooks to a one-year deal.

AFC Notes: Broncos, Douglas, Osweiler

Broncos QB Paxton Lynch did not play particularly well in last night’s preseason contest against the 49ers. He completed 9-of-13 passes for just 39 yards, no touchdowns, and no interceptions, which culminated in a 72.3 quarterback rating. He also rushed three times for 27 yards. While he showed some promise, he also displayed difficulties reading and reacting to defenses, and he was thoroughly outplayed by Trevor Siemian, leading Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post to believe that Denver’s quarterback competition may be over and that Siemian may have won it for the second straight year. Head coach Vance Joseph said it would be ideal to name a winner prior to next week’s third preseason game, but he added, “The timeframe is not important. What’s important is we get it right, so it could be this week, it could be next week. But we’re going to go back and watch the tape and see where we are.” 

Now let’s take a look at a few more notes from the AFC:

  • Chiefs running back Charcandrick West is one of the most popular players in the Kansas City clubhouse, but thanks to the emergence of rookie Kareem Hunt and the revival of C.J. Spiller, his roster spot is in jeopardy, as Terez A. Paylor of the Kansas City Star writes. The Chiefs could keep four running backs, but Paylor suggests that is somewhat unlikely unless the team is confident West or Spiller could also line up as a slot receiver if necessary.
  • Titans wideout Harry Douglas managed just 15 catches for 210 yards and no touchdowns last year, and he accepted a $2MM paycut this offseason, which, combined with Tennessee’s revitalization of its WR corps, suggests that Douglas’ days in Nashville could be numbered. But as Jason Wolf of the Tennessean writes, head coach Mike Mularkey considers Douglas “invaluable,” and the coaching staff prizes his vocal and veteran presence, consistent route-running, and capable blocking. As such, Wolf believes Douglas may actually be a lock to make the roster, though his playing time will again be limited.
  • Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer says the game still looks a little too fast for DeShone Kizer, so she believes Brock Osweiler has the inside track to open the season as the Browns‘ starting quarterback, which is consistent with reports we have been hearing over the past several weeks.
  • In a piece discussing Maxx Williams‘ promising performance during the Ravens‘ preseason victory over the Dolphins Thursday night, Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun wrote that Williams is competing with Larry Donnell and Vince Mayle for Baltimore’s No. 3 TE job (behind Ben Watson and Nick Boyle). Williams, a 2015 second-round selection, underwent unique and serious knee surgery last year, but he easily has the most promise of any tight end on the roster. Even if he is technically competing for the No. 3 job at the moment, more performances like the one he had on Thursday could catapult him up the depth chart.
  • Former Ravens LB Zach Orr, who recently announced he was hanging up his cleats for good, could be rejoining Baltimore in another capacity. Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com says head coach John Harbaugh is interested in bringing Orr back as a scout or coach.

Former Ravens LB Zach Orr Retires

Zach Orr is retiring for a second time. The linebacker will not be making a return to football as teams feel his medical condition puts him at too great of a risk. Zach Orr (vertical)

Today, I’m officially retiring from professional football … again,” Orr wrote in a piece for The Players’ Tribune. “And I’m even more at peace this time around because the teams have spoken. If there was any way I could come back, I would. Now, I know that’s not possible.”

Orr first announced his retirement in the winter due to his congenital neck condition. Months later, Orr said that he wanted to return to football after new doctors told him he could play again. The Ravens did not apply the restricted free agent tender to Orr after his retirement announcement, so he became a hot name in the late stages of free agency this summer.

Orr was told that he was only at risk to play football again if he played with herniated discs and was under the belief that those herniated discs had corrected themselves. However, he spoke with roughly a dozen teams and visited six of them and none of those clubs were willing to take the gamble.

Orr, signed by Baltimore as an undrafted free agent in 2014, climbed the ranks to become a starter for the first time in 2016. In that season, Orr appeared in 15 games and played the most defensive snaps of any Baltimore linebacker. All in all, Orr recorded 89 tackles, three interceptions, and five passes defensed.

At the age of 25, Orr will have to transition to a new career.

NFC Notes: T. Johnson, Elliott, Martin

Rams cornerback Trumaine Johnson is clearly disappointed that he did not receive a long-term deal and that he will be play out the season under his second consecutive franchise tag, as Alden Gonzalez of ESPN.com writes. Johnson said his focus is now on the field, but he added, “I wanted [a multi-year deal]; I wanted it big time. I believe the Rams are going in a different direction at the end of the season. It’s out of my control.” 

While it is impossible to say for certain whether the Rams will move on from Johnson at the end of the year, it does seem as if that will be the case. Indeed, as Charles Robinson of Yahoo! Sports tweets, Los Angeles put the tag on Johnson because it wanted to see what new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips could do with him. If Phillips had not joined the club, Johnson would already be elsewhere, per Robinson, and even with Phillips on the sidelines, it is difficult to see Johnson elevating his play enough to convince the Rams to give him elite CB money on a long-term basis.

Let’s take a look at a few more rumors from the NFC:

  • Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said embattled running back Ezekiel Elliott met with NFL officials in New York last month to discuss the domestic violence allegations levied against him. While Jones does not have a timeframe for the league’s much-anticipated decision, he did say “everything is in place” for that decision, as Todd Archer of ESPN.com writes.
  • We heard earlier this month that the Buccaneers are well-stocked at running back even without Doug Martin, who will miss the first three games of the 2017 season due to suspension. And, as Dan Graziano of ESPN.com writes, GM Jason Licht is so pleased with his stable of RBs that he says Martin may not be the starter when he returns in Week 4. That may just be GM-speak to give Martin a little extra motivation, but it underscores how comfortable Tampa Bay is with its backs, who do offer a nice variety of skill-sets.
  • New Saints offensive lineman Orlando Franklin started all 16 games for the Chargers last year after an injury-plagued 2015, but he graded out as one of the seven worst qualified guards in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus. However, Joel Erickson of the New Orleans Advocate writes that Franklin had knee surgery in January, and Franklin says he was never fully healthy during his time in San Diego. This year, he expects to return to the form he displayed during his best seasons in Denver.
  • The Lions were the first team to reach out to LB Zach Orr when he announced his intention to come out of retirement, but Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press says Detroit is unlikely to sign Orr, which is consistent with a report we heard yesterday afternoon.
  • Eagles rookie CB Randall Goforth has suffered a season-ending ACL tear, per Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer (via Twitter). Goforth, a UDFA from UCLA, had a real chance for playing time given Philadelphia’s shaky cornerback situation.
  • Giants rookie safety Jadar Johnson, whom the team signed as a UDFA this year, has decided to retire from football, as Mike Garafolo of the NFL Network tweets.
  • Redskins RB Keith Marshall tore his right patella tendon and will miss the 2017 season, per John Keim of ESPN.com. Washington selected Marshall in the seventh round of the 2016 draft, but he missed the entire 2016 season with an elbow injury. He now will have to wait until 2018 to get his NFL career on track.

Extra Points: Jones, Lions, Bengals

The Chargers acquired quarterback Cardale Jones from the Bills earlier this week, giving them another signal-caller to backup Philip Rivers. However, if the organization had had their way, they would have had Jones on their squad last season.

General manager Tom Telesco admitted this week that the Chargers had been eyeing Jones since the 2016 draft, when they had the prospect in for a private workout. The organization was seemingly infatuated with the quarterback, but he was ultimately selected by the Bills in the fourth round.

“Obviously we’re looking for competition at that spot,” Telesco told ESPN.com’s Eric D. Williams. “And with Cardale, he’s a quarterback with some developmental traits that are hard to find.

“Our scouts had really high grades on him when he came out in the draft. And then the fact that Anthony had him in Buffalo for a year — that way he knew him — so it was a good blend for us and a good combination for that. Since Brad Sorensen, we haven’t had a young quarterback in our system that we could work with, so he’s going to be one of those guys.”

Let’s take a look at some other notes from around the NFL…

  • About a month ago, the Lions had free agent Zach Orr in for a workout, but the linebacker ultimately left the audition without a contract. Today, coach Jim Caldwell told reporters to “never say never” when asked if Orr could still join the team, but Justin Rogers of the Detroit News notes (via Twitter) that the sentiment “isn’t the most optimistic take.” Orr met with the Texans earlier this week, and he’s also worked out with the Jets and Colts.
  • The Bengals worked out safety DeJuan Rogers today, according to ESPN’s Katherine Terrell (via Twitter). The undrafted rookie out of Toledo finished his senior season with 87 tackles, one interception, and six passes defended. Behind their starters, the Bengals are currently only rostering a pair of safeties in Clayton Fejedelem and Derron Smith.
  • Alabama defensive lineman Da’Shawn Hand, a projected top prospect in next year’s draft, was charged with DUI earlier this morning, according to Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com. In 24 games over three seasons with the Crimson Tide, Hand has compiled six sacks and 11 tackles for loss. “This type of behavior is not acceptable and we are disappointed in Da’Shawn’s actions,” said coach Nick Saban. “We are still gathering information and will evaluate what we need to do in terms of appropriate discipline as we move forward, so better choices and decisions can be made in the future.”

Texans Meeting With LB Zach Orr

The Zach Orr free agency tour continues. The free agent linebacker is spending Monday afternoon with the Texans, according to NFL sources who spoke with Aaron Wilson of The Houston Chronicle (on Twitter).

"<strong

Already, Orr has visited the Lions, Colts, and Jets since announcing his intent to return to football. Reportedly, the Colts were uncomfortable with Orr’s medical status, and that could have also been a sticking point for the Lions and Jets.

The Texans signed Sio Moore in June as a low-cost depth option and Orr could be another late offseason addition to the linebacker group. After John Simon left in free agency to join the rival Colts, the Texans would like to sure up the unit as much as possible with the resources that are left.

Orr retired from football earlier this year, citing a congenital spinal condition. After gathering additional medical opinions, however, the 25-year-old changed course and decided that he wanted to play in 2017. Orr was initially a restricted free agent under the Ravens’ control, but he is now an UFA since the Ravens did not tender him an offer after he announced his retirement.

Orr had 130 tackles for the Ravens in 2016 – leading the Ravens by a wide margin – and earned second-team All-Pro honors. From a talent perspective, he’d be a huge addition to the Texans or any defense that would have him. However, teams will have to weigh out the upside against the potential risk associated with Orr taking the field.

AFC Notes: A. Smith, Orr, Watson, Landry

It was former Chiefs GM John Dorsey who ultimately pulled the trigger on the team’s draft-day trade that allowed Kansas City to climb all the way up to the No. 10 overall spot and draft quarterback Patrick Mahomes. But now that Dorsey is out and Brett Veach is in, Matt Miller of Bleacher Report says it is fair to question what the new hire means for incumbent signal-caller Alex Smith.

But according to Miller, not much will change with respect to the team’s approach to Smith. After all, Veach has been with the Chiefs for the past four years, so it’s not as if he’s coming to Kansas City with a fresh take on the situation. Plus, Miller’s league sources all said effectively the same thing: “nothing changes in Kansas City while Andy Reid is the head coach.” As such, you can still expect the team to move on from Smith after the 2017 season — and save $17MM in the process — as long as Mahomes appears ready to assume control.

Now for more from the AFC:

  • Kevin Bowen of Colts.com says all is quiet on the Colts/Zach Orr front, and at this point, the team has had plenty of time to sift through Orr’s medicals. Therefore, Bowen does not believe Indianapolis will pursue Orr in an attempt to bolster its linebacker corps.
  • Although Texans GM Rick Smith was not as definitive as head coach Bill O’Brien in declaring Tom Savage the team’s Week 1 starter, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle confirms that Savage will be under center when the regular season gets underway. Rookie signal-caller Deshaun Watson, meanwhile, is content to remain patient and wait for his opportunity. Watson said, “It’s best for the team. Coach [O’Brien] knows a lot of football. He’s been with … one of the best in NFL history in Tom Brady. He knows how everything is operated. He knows when the perfect timing will be.”
  • Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant recently said he took issue with the way Ben Roethlisberger spoke about him to the media earlier this summer, when Big Ben said Bryant would need to “win back everybody’s trust.” That might sound pretty rich for a player who managed to get himself suspended for the entire 2016 campaign, but Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com nonetheless believes that it is important for Bryant and Roethlisberger to have the sit-down that Bryant proposed. Although such meetings are often unbeneficial formalities, Fowler says Bryant, whose position in the league is fairly tenuous at this point, needs to feel like the catalyst he can be and not become a source of criticism.
  • The Dolphins‘ best bet may be to simply let Jarvis Landry play out the 2017 season, his contract year, and put the franchise tag on him in 2018, as Roy Cummings of Florida Football Insiders opines. After all, Landry is set to make less than $1MM this year, so even the projected $17MM tag in 2018 would allow Miami to keep Landry for at least two more seasons at about $8.5MM per year, which is well below the $14MM per year he would likely get with a new contract. Although that approach could create some discord between player and team, it does make short-term financial sense.
  • Darryl Slater of NJ.com makes a series of predictions for the Jets, with the most interesting being that he expects Christian Hackenberg to become the team’s starting quarterback no later than Week 12 (New York has a Week 11 bye), and that he expects Todd Bowles to be retained for 2018.