Robert Saleh

NFC West Notes: 49ers, Willis, Rams, Johnson

At the age of 32, Patrick Willis is in great shape and looks like he could still play football. Is the former 49ers linebacker thinking about making a comeback?

That inclination (to play) only comes for a split second,” he said (via Daniel Brown of the Bay Area News Group). “And then it’s, ‘Nope, nope, I’m cool.”’

Prior to his injury-shortened 2014 season, Willis made the Pro Bowl in seven consecutive seasons. As great as he was, he’s happy in retirement and unwilling to jeopardize his health by playing football.

Here’s more from the NFC West:

  • In a vacuum, Rams cornerback Trumaine Johnson isn’t necessarily worth the franchise tag, but the team can’t afford to lose him either, Alden Gonzalez of ESPN.com writes. After tagging Johnson last year, a repeat tag would cost L.A. roughly $16.75MM. That’s a hefty price to pay, but the Rams don’t have any other standout outside corners and they can’t afford to lose him. Within the article, Gonzalez also raises an interesting idea: the Rams could instead use the franchise tag on strong safety T.J. McDonald, which would cost nearly $11.7MM. Though, as the ESPN scribe notes, that would be quite a surprise. On Wednesday, I examined Johnson and other star players that could be candidates for the franchise tag this offseason.
  • Although they’ve primarily run a 3-4 front in years past, the 49ers are expected to deploy a 4-3 scheme under new defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, reports Adam Caplan of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Given that Saleh had worked under Gus Bradley for the past six seasons, it’s unsurprising that he wants to use a 4-3 look, but the shift could potentially affect what players San Francisco targets in free agency and the draft. The 49ers’ personnel searches have been geared towards a 3-4 scheme for more than a decade.
  • This week, the Cardinals once again made it clear they will not allow Chandler Jones to get near free agency.

Dallas Robinson contributed to this post.

49ers To Hire Robert Saleh As DC

Former Jaguars linebackers coach Robert Saleh is expected to join the 49ers as defensive coordinator, a source tells Adam Caplan of ESPN.com (on Twitter). It was previously reported that Saleh was being considered for a “co-defensive coordinator” role with Falcons defensive passing game coordinator Jerome Henderson, but this job will be Saleh’s alone.

Many thought Saleh would follow former Jacksonville head coach Gus Bradley and join the Chargers’ staff, but the 49ers came through with a better offer and title. Saleh, 38, has been in the NFL coaching world since 2006. In addition to his time with the Jaguars, he also has experience with the Titans and Seahawks.

San Francisco previously targeted Bradley for this job and also tried to interview Bears DC Vic Fangio, but they were denied permission by Chicago. Patriots linebackers coach Brian Flores was also mentioned as a candidate. Ultimately, Saleh has the gig and he’ll be tasked with turning around the league’s worst defense.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

49ers Interviewing Jerome Henderson & Robert Saleh For DC

The 49ers are interviewing Falcons defensive passing game coordinator Jerome Henderson and former Jaguars linebackers coach Robert Saleh for their defensive coordinator vacancy today, according to Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com and Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). Alex Marvez of the Sporting News reported earlier this week that Henderson and Saleh were in consideration to serve as co-defensive coordinators in San Francisco.Jerome Henderson

[RELATED: Colin Kaepernick Undecided On Opt-Out]

Henderson, 47, was hired by the Falcons last offseason after previously serving as the Cowboys’ defensive backs coach. Working with the rather unique title of defensive passing game coordinator (a role that Raheem Morris held in Atlanta before Henderson’s arrival), Henderson instructed the Falcons’ defensive backs alongside secondary coach Marquand Manuel, who was named as Atlanta’s defensive coordinator — a job to which Henderson was also linked — earlier today.

An extremely popular candidate during the 2016 hiring cycle, Henderson interviewed for the Browns’ head coaching vacancy last offseason, met with the Jaguars regarding their defensive coordinator position, and was linked to gigs on the Dolphins’ staff. Ultimately, however, Henderson landed with Atlanta, despite previously vowing he wouldn’t leave Dallas unless he were offered a DC title.

If Henderson is hired, he’ll be the latest coach to follow former Falcons offensive coordinator and new 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan across the country to San Francisco. Thus far, Shanahan has lured Bobby Turner (running backs), Mike LaFleur (wide receivers), and Mike McDaniel (run game coordinator) to the Bay Area, and is also expected to name former Atlanta staffer Rich Scangarello as the club’s new quarterbacks coach.

Saleh, meanwhile, may follow former Jacksonville head coach Gus Bradley and join the Chargers’ staff, but the role of co-defensive coordinator in San Francisco is presumably more enticing. Jay Glazer of FOX Sports was the first to link Saleh to the 49ers, reporting earlier this week that the 38-year-old was a candidate to work under Shanahan. An NFL coach since 2006, Saleh previously worked for the Titans and Seahawks before joining the Jaguars.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

49ers To Hire Co-Defensive Coordinators?

Soon-to-be 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan‘s staff appears to be taking shape, as Sporting News’ Alex Marvez details (Twitter links here). Among the offensive-minded Shanahan’s most important calls will be deciding who will run the 49ers’ woeful defense, and he’s actually targeting two assistants – Falcons defensive backs coach Jerome Henderson and ex-Jaguars linebackers coach Robert Saleh – to work as co-coordinators in San Francisco.

Kyle Shanahan (vertical)

Saleh’s candidacy is no surprise, as FOX Sports’ Jay Glazer reported Sunday that he could land with the 49ers, but Henderson’s emergence is a new development. Henderson is fresh off his first season in Atlanta – where he worked with Shanahan, of course – and is only a year removed from interviewing for the Browns’ then-vacant head coaching job.

Along with potentially taking Henderson from Atlanta, Shanahan is likely to tab Falcons offensive assistant Mike McDaniel as his wide receivers coach in San Francisco. Falcons offensive assistant Mike LaFleur will also go with Shanahan, reports Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com (Twitter link).

Another NFC South assistant, Buccaneers tight ends coach Jon Embree, is poised to oversee the 49ers’ TEs and serve as an assistant head coach, per Marvez. And a pair of current 49ers assistants, linebackers coach Jason Tarver and defensive backs coach Jeff Hafley, are good bets to stay on under Shanahan. Tarver nearly headed elsewhere last month, when he met with the Redskins about becoming their defensive coordinator (a job that ultimately went to onetime 49ers DC Greg Manusky) and discussed a role with the Saints.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On 49ers’ DC Search

Now that the 49ers have settled, or are about to settle, their vacancies at GM and head coach, the team will move on to filling its coordinator positions. Two names have surfaced to potentially head up Kyle Shanahan‘s first San Francisco defense, Patriots linebackers coach Brian Flores and likely Chargers hire Robert Saleh, according to Jay Glazer of Fox Sports (Twitter link, via Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com) and NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport (on Twitter).

Glazer reports Shanahan “will want” to talk to Flores about the DC vacancy. The two will coach against each other today, with Shanahan leading the Falcons’ offense for the final time. Rapoport notes Saleh is a candidate as well despite serving in a lower-profile capacity with the Jaguars the past three seasons.

[RELATED: 2017 Offensive/Defensive Coordinator Tracker]

Flores has not surfaced for any previous coordinator jobs this offseason and has spent one season as the Patriots’ linebackers instructor. However, the 35-year-old Flores has worked with the organization for 12 years — the past six as a defensive assistant. Previously, Flores coached New England’s safeties for four seasons before Steve Belichick took over that job, with Bill Belichick relocating Flores to the linebackers’ meetings. He does not have a connection to Shanahan since he’s spent his entire coaching career with the Patriots, but Saleh does.

The 38-year-old Saleh would make for an interesting candidate since he’s the likely choice to become the Chargers’ linebackers coach and follow Gus Bradley for a third time. He accompanied Bradley from Jacksonville to Los Angeles. The Bolts remain likely to hire Saleh as their linebackers coach, but he may have another higher-profile option. Saleh followed Bradley from Seattle to Jacksonville as well, but the duo initially worked together with the Texans during Shanahan’s time in Houston.

San Francisco previously targeted Bradley for this job, only he joined up with Anthony Lynn in Los Angeles after much consideration. The duo is vying to replace Jim O’Neil, who oversaw the league’s worst defense in 2016.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Chiefs, Colts, Garoppolo, Manziel

Derrick Johnson is optimistic he’ll be ready to suit up for Chiefs training camp in July, Terez Paylor of the Kansas City Star reports. The former All-Pro is coming off his second torn Achilles’ tendon in three years and will turn 35 this year. Still, the inside linebacker’s return revitalized the 2015 Kansas City defense, and the Chiefs missed his presence against the Steelers after he went down in December. Johnson plans to play out the final two years of the three-year, $21MM deal he signed last year.

I’m trying to win the Super Bowl, so my obligation is two more years and I want to do everything I can to make an impact to help [Chiefs chairman] Clark Hunt and the people that brought me here to win a Super Bowl,” Johnson said, via Paylor. “I’m not that guy trying to hold on. I really want to make an impact. If I see I’m hurting the team, that’s when I’ll have to think like ‘OK, that’s it.”

The Chiefs held out several starters in their previous training camp, so Johnson surmounting a second Achilles malady to suit up by July could be pushing it.

Let’s take a look at the latest from around the league on Super Bowl eve.

  • Pat McAfee‘s early retirement leaves the Colts without the NFL’s yards-per-punt leader in 2016. But the team could ask for $400K of the retired punter’s $1MM signing bonus he received as part of a five-year, $14.5MM contract, Mike Wells of ESPN.com notes. This would be somewhat interesting if they did go after that rather modest sum, considering, as Wells notes, the Seahawks didn’t pursue Marshawn Lynch‘s $5MM bonus when he retired last year. The Colts clear $2.8MM in cap space in 2017 and $2.7MM in ’18 because of McAfee’s retirement. The Colts haven’t placed McAfee on the reserve/retired list because the 29-year-old specialist hasn’t submitted retirement papers yet.
  • A Jimmy Garoppolo trade would involve the passer agreeing to a new contract, CBSSports.com’s Jason La Canfora tweets in an effort to remind that the backup has some leverage here. The Browns and Bears have been pondering Garoppolo pursuits. The Patriots‘ backup quarterback has one season remaining on his deal.
  • Johnny Manziel‘s comeback has elicited disparate responses from NFL personnel men. “I don’t think anyone will touch him,” one personnel man told Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com. An anonymous GM believes one team will give the embattled quarterback a chance. Another GM added the return bid would be “unlikely, but you never know. It would be tough as a starter. Quality backup level.” Manziel plans to submit to drug testing before re-entering the league.
  • Former Jaguars linebackers coach Robert Saleh could land with the 49ers or Chargers, a source tells Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union. Saleh worked under Gus Bradley dating back to the pair’s years with the Texans, who also employed Kyle Shanahan during Saleh’s stay in Houston.
  • The Chiefs are looking to upgrade at quarterback after a loss in the divisional round for a second straight season.

Reactions to Jaguars’ Hirings

The Jaguars have officially announced the hiring of head coach Doug Marrone and Executive Vice President of Football Operations Tom Coughlin. The organization also announced the two-year extension for general manager Dave Caldwell. Owner Shad Khan released a statement regarding the moves (via NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport on Twitter):

“I have confidence that one day soon we’ll look back on today’s news as the moment that inspired and ultimately established the Jacksonville Jaguars as a football team that wins, week to week and season to season.

“I am honored to welcome Tom Coughlin back to Jacksonville, where winning was customary under his leadership. I know he expects the same in his return to head our football operations, and that’s good news for us and Jaguars fans everywhere. The extension of Dave Caldwell’s contract speaks to his excellent work thus far and the continued importance of complementing our talented and promising roster. 

“I am particularly enthused to introduce Doug Marrone as our new head coach. Doug is a strong football man in every respect and offers us qualities that will serve us well in all facets of the team, from the meeting rooms to game day and much more. The results will speak for themselves in time, but with Tom coming in to join Dave and Doug, there is no question the Jacksonville Jaguars are a stronger football team today.”

Let’s take a look at some reactions out of Jacksonville following the organization’s busy day…

  • Caldwell will report to Coughlin, reports ESPN.com’s Mike DiRocco. The writer assumes that Coughlin “will have final say over personnel issues as well as the draft,” although the organization hasn’t confirmed whether this will be the case. A source told Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union (via Twitter) that Coughlin presumably “has the final say on everything.”
  • Marrone believes Blake Bortles can be a franchise quarterback, and this mindset played a significant role in the hiring, reports Rapoport (via NFL.com’s Gregg Rosenthal). The organization clearly valued continuity, but Rosenthal notes that there will be “pressure on Marrone and Caldwell to turn Jacksonville’s fortunes around quickly.”
  • Bortles certainly sounded optimistic about the hiring. “I think Doug has earned the respect of the offensive players and I’m excited for him to get this opportunity and the direction of this team,” Bortles told DiRocco.
  • Rosenthal notes that offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett will presumably keep his role. Hackett worked under Marrone with Syracuse and the Bills.
  • Meanwhile, Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com tweets that the Jaguars’ defensive coaches were told they’d be retained if Marrone got the job. Alex Marvez of The Sporting News provides even more clarity (on Twitter), noting that the team will at least be keeping defensive coordinator Todd Wash and linebackers coach Robert Saleh.
  • Mike Smith was thought to be a close second for the Jaguars job, Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports tweets. The former Falcons head coach served as the Buccaneers defensive coordinator this past season. In seven seasons in Atlanta, Smith led his squad to a 66-46 record and four playoff births. Roy Cummings of FloridaFootballInsiders.com writes that Smith is still in the running for the Chargers‘ head coaching gig.

Zach Links contributed to this report.