Buccaneers Rumors

Former Bucs DC Mike Smith Retires

Former Buccaneers head coach Mike Smith says that he will no longer pursue coaching opportunities (Twitter link via SiriusXM’s Alex Marvez). The 59-year-old says it’s time “to do something different” in his life after 36 years in the profession. 

Smith’s last stop came with the Bucs, but that ended when they made a change at DC just weeks into the season. At the time, Tampa Bay had one of the league’s worst defenses with 34.6 points allowed per contest and 82 points allowed over its past two games under Smith. The Bucs’ matador D was on pace to allow the most points in NFL history, so Smith’s October dismissal did not come out of the blue.

Smith began his career as a graduate assistant at San Diego State in 1982. In 1999, he crossed over to the professional ranks as an assistant with the Ravens. His first big break came as the Jaguars’ defensive coordinator in 2003, and he parlayed that into a long run as the Falcons’ head coach beginning in 2008.

We here at PFR wish Smith the best in retirement.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

2019 Offensive/Defensive Coordinator Tracker

While eight NFL teams are making a head coaching change this offseason, the number of clubs replacing offensive and/or defensive coordinators figures to be much higher than that. In addition to all those teams hiring new head coaches, who may want to bring in their own assistants, several clubs also figure to make changes on one side of the ball or the other after getting disappointing results in 2018. And, of course, the teams whose coordinators landed head coaching jobs will need to replace them.

With reports circulating on potential candidates, interview requests, and actual meetings, we’ll use the space below to keep tabs on all the latest updates on teams hiring new offensive and/or defensive coordinators. This post, which will be updated daily, can be found under the “PFR Features” menu on the right-hand side of the site.

[Updated: 1/16/19, 12:27pm CT]

Offensive Coordinators

Arizona Cardinals (Out: Byron Leftwich)

Atlanta Falcons (Out: Steve Sarkisian)

Baltimore Ravens (Out: Marty Mornhinweg)

  • Greg Roman, assistant head coach/tight ends (Ravens): Promoted

Cincinnati Bengals (Out: Bill Lazor)

Cleveland Browns (Out: Freddie Kitchens)

  • Todd Monken, former offensive coordinator (Buccaneers): Hired
    • Head coach Freddie Kitchens will call plays.
  • Jim Bob Cooter, former offensive coordinator (Lions): Interviewed

Denver Broncos (Out: Bill Musgrave)

Detroit Lions (Out: Jim Bob Cooter)

  • Nathaniel Hackett, former offensive coordinator (Jaguars): Interviewed
  • Todd Monken, former offensive coordinator (Buccaneers): Interviewed
  • Steve Sarkisian, former offensive coordinator (Falcons): Mentioned as candidate

Green Bay Packers (Out: Joe Philbin)

  • Nathaniel Hackett, former offensive coordinator (Jaguars): Hired
    • Head coach Matt LaFleur will call plays.
  • Mike McDaniel, run game coordinator (49ers): Mentioned as candidate
  • Todd Monken, former offensive coordinator (Buccaneers): Interviewed

Jacksonville Jaguars (Out: Scott Milanovich)

Miami Dolphins (Out: Dowell Loggains)

Minnesota Vikings

New York Jets (Out: Jeremy Bates)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Out: Todd Monken)

Tennessee Titans (Out: Matt LaFleur)

Defensive Coordinators

Arizona Cardinals (Out: Al Holcomb)

Atlanta Falcons (Out: Marquand Manuel)

Chicago Bears (Out: Vic Fangio)

Cincinnati Bengals (Out: Marvin Lewis)

Cleveland Browns (Out: Gregg Williams)

Denver Broncos (Out: Joe Woods)

  • Ed Donatell, secondary coach (Bears): Hired

Miami Dolphins (Out: Matt Burke)

New York Jets (Out: Kacy Rodgers)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Out: Mark Duffner)

  • Todd Bowles, former head coach (Jets): Hired

Bucs Make Staff Additions

  • The Buccaneers have hired Todd McNair as their new running backs coach, reports Nathan Fenno of the Los Angeles Times. McNair hadn’t coached since 2010, when USC opted not to renew his contract, perhaps due to his involvement in the Reggie Bush scandal. He nearly became the Cardinals’ RBs coach under Bruce Arians in 2013, and he’ll now have the chance to work under Arians in Tampa Bay. Meanwhile, the Bucs named ex-Cardinals linebackers coach Larry Foote to the same position, per Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times (Twitter link).
  • Former Broncos offensive line coach Sean Kugler drew plenty of interest around the NFL after being released from his contract, but the Cardinals were able to lock him down. Arizona announced that’s it hired Kugler as OL coach, Brian Natkin as his assistant, David Raih as receivers coach, and retained Steve Heiden as tight ends coach. Kugler received an early look from the Buccaneers (and early reports even indicated he joined Tampa’s staff), while the Bills, Vikings, Browns, and Jets also checked in, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com.
  • The Buccaneers have hired Todd McNair as their new running backs coach, reports Nathan Fenno of the Los Angeles Times. McNair hadn’t coached since 2010, when USC opted not to renew his contract, perhaps due to his involvement in the Reggie Bush scandal. He nearly became the Cardinals’ RBs coach under Bruce Arians in 2013, and he’ll now have the chance to work under Arians in Tampa Bay. Meanwhile, the Bucs named ex-Cardinals linebackers coach Larry Foote to the same position, per Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times (Twitter link).

2019 Proven Performance Escalators

According to the NFL’s contractual bargaining agreement, players drafted in rounds three though seven are entitled to raises during the fourth year of their respective rookie contracts. The pay bumps are tied to playing time — a player must have played in 35% of his team’s offensive or defensive snaps in two of his first three seasons, or averaged 35% playing time cumulatively during that period.

If one of these thresholds is met, the player’s salary is elevated to the level of that year’s lowest restricted free agent tender — that figure should be around $2MM in 2019. Players selected in the first or second round, undrafted free agents, and kickers/punters are ineligible for the proven performance escalator.

Here are the players who will see their salary rise in 2019 courtesy of the proven performance escalator:

Bears: RB Jordan Howard, LB Nick Kwiatkoski

Bengals: LB Nick Vigil

Broncos: G Connor McGovern, S Will Parks, S Justin Simmons

Browns: S Derrick Kindred, LB Joe Schobert

Buccaneers: G Caleb Benenoch, DE Carl Nassib, CB Ryan Smith

Chargers: LB Jatavis Brown

Chiefs: CB Kendall Fuller, WR Tyreek Hill, S Eric Murray, WR Demarcus Robinson

Colts: QB Jacoby Brissett, T Joe Haeg

Cowboys: CB Anthony Brown, DT Maliek Collins, QB Dak Prescott

Dolphins: RB Kenyan Drake

Eagles: CB Jalen Mills, T Halapoulivaati Vaitai

Falcons: LB De’Vondre Campbell, TE Austin Hooper, G Wes Schweitzer

Jaguars: DE Yannick Ngakoue

Jets: LB Jordan Jenkins, CB Rashard Robinson, T Brandon Shell

Lions: C Graham Glasgow

Packers: LB Kyler Fackrell, DE Dean Lowry, LB Blake Martinez, LB Antonio Morrison

Patriots: G Joe Thuney, LB Elandon Roberts

Rams: G Austin Blythe, TE Tyler Higbee

Ravens: DE Matt Judon, OL Alex Lewis, CB Tavon Young

Saints: DT David Onyemata

Steelers: DT Javon Hargrave

Texans: DT D.J. Reader

Titans: S Kevin Byard, WR Tajae Sharpe

OverTheCap.com was essential in the creation of this post. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images. 

Arians Heaps Praise On Leftwich

  • Byron Leftwich wasn’t able to do much after taking over as the Cardinals’ offensive coordinator this season, but Bruce Arians has a ton of confidence in his new offensive coordinator with the Buccaneers. Arians called Leftwich a “rising star” and said Arizona’s offensive struggles were because they weren’t running Leftwich’s offense, per Nick Shook of NFL.com. It’s been rumored that Arians views Leftwich as his eventual successor when he retires from coaching for good.

Buccaneers Hoping To Keep DeSean Jackson

DeSean Jackson‘s two Buccaneers seasons did not go as well as the parties involved hoped, but Bruce Arians entering the equation provides a previously unforeseen path for a third Jackson year in Tampa.

The new Bucs head coach (and known deep-ball enthusiast) wants to keep Jackson in the fold, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets (video link). A report in December pointed to Jackson wanting to leave Tampa Bay.

One of Arians’ first acts as Buccaneers coach was to acquire Jackson’s contact information, though no such call has been placed yet, per Rapoport. But Arians wants to “re-recruit” Jackson. While he is under contract for a third season — $10MM — Jackson was previously expected to be a cap casualty. No guaranteed money remains on the 32-year-old wideout’s contract.

This was expected to be a way the Bucs could gain $10MM in cap space. As it stands now, they stand to hold just $16MM-plus. They also want to re-sign Adam Humphries. If Jackson stays, Tampa Bay would have to readjust its roster elsewhere if cap space is to be created.

Jackson asked for a trade midseason and has struggled to stay on the same page as Jameis Winston. Although his 774 receiving yards this season represented an uptick from a disappointing 2017 showing, his best games came when Ryan Fitzpatrick was throwing. The Bucs are committed to Winston for 2019, which will be Jackson’s 12th NFL season.

Coaching Notes: Gilbert

  • Some assorted coaching hirings and firings: running backs coach Stump Mitchell is returning to the Cardinals (via Alex Marvez of SiriusXM on Twitter), the Packers have fired passing game coordinator Joe Whitt Jr. (via Schefter on Twitter), and the Buccaneers have hired University of Arizona offensive line coach Joe Gilbert for the same position (via TampaBay.com’s Rick Stroud on Twitter).

    [SOURCE LINK]

Bucs Notes: Rodgers, Christensen, Staff

  • Rodgers’ status with the Buccaneers is still up in the air, but Tampa Bay and new head coach Bruce Arians are well on their way to formulating a staff. In addition to a few hires which were reported yesterday, the Bucs will hire former NFL offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen as quarterbacks coach, reports Greg Auman of The Athletic (Twitter link). Additionally, former Cardinals defensive backs coaches Kevin Ross and Nick Rapone will join Arians in Tampa Bay. Wide receivers coach Kevin Garver is also making the Arizona-to-Tampa trek, tweets Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.com.
  • Former Jets defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers was thought to be following Todd Bowles to the Buccaneers, and while that union may still occur, Rodgers today interviewed for a senior defensive position with the Giants, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. If Rodgers does end up in Tampa Bay, he’ll be the club’s new defensive line coach, but it’s unclear what exactly his role would be with New York. Per RapSheet, the Giants would actually create a new position for Rodgers if he were to come on board.
  • Rodgers’ status with the Buccaneers is still up in the air, but Tampa Bay and new head coach Bruce Arians are well on their way to formulating a staff. In addition to a few hires which were reported yesterday, the Bucs will hire former NFL offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen as quarterbacks coach, reports Greg Auman of The Athletic (Twitter link). Additionally, former Cardinals defensive backs coaches Kevin Ross and Nick Rapone will join Arians in Tampa Bay. Wide receivers coach Kevin Garver is also making the Arizona-to-Tampa trek, tweets Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.com.

Bucs Notes: Leftwich, Armstrong, Kugler

New Buccaneers offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich will call plays in Tampa Bay, head coach Bruce Arians told The Rich Eisen Show (Twitter link via Thomas Bassinger of the Tampa Bay Times). That’s something of a surprise, as Arians led the offense when he was the Cardinals’ head coach. Leftwich took over as Arizona’s OC after Mike McCoy was fired four games into the 2018 campaign, but he couldn’t get the Cardinals out of the NFL rankings cellar in terms of points and yards. Arians will still have a heavy hand in Tampa Bay’s offense, while new run game coordinator Harold Goodwin will also have input.

  • Armstrong, meanwhile, will take over as the Buccaneers‘ new special teams coach, tweets Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times. He’d been linked to Tampa Bay ever since Arians was rumored to be taking the head coaching position, and for good reason: as Auman notes, Armstrong played for Arians at Temple 35 years ago. Armstrong, who was a candidate for the Cardinals’ head coaching job in 2018, was fired by the Falcons last week, but quickly interviewed for a gig with the Bills before landing with the Buccaneers.
  • The Buccaneers have hired former Broncos offensive line coach Sean Kugler for the same position, reports Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times (Twitter link). The Bills also had interest in interviewing Kugler before he signed on with Tampa Bay, according to Ryan Talbot of New York Upstate. Kugler, previously the head coach at UTEP, joined Denver in 2018 and guided a Broncos front five which ranked as a top-12 unit in both adjusted line yards and adjusted sack rate. Other Tampa Bay hires include former Jets coach Mike Caldwell (linebackers) and ex-Cardinals coach Rick Christophel (tight ends), per Auman (Twitter links).

Todd Bowles To Choose Buccaneers

The Buccaneers will have a key component of Cardinals Southeast in the fold. Todd Bowles will, in fact, choose Tampa Bay over Chicago.

Bowles and the Bucs worked out offset language in his contract, Chris Mortensen of ESPN.com reports (Twitter link), adding the recently fired Jets coach will become the Bucs’ defensive coordinator.

A possible Bruce Arians-Bowles reunion had been planned for around six weeks, assuming the Jets did follow through on firing the latter and that the former received a head coaching job, Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News tweets.

Arians will be taking Bowles, Byron Leftwich and Harold Goodwin with him to Tampa Bay. More former Arizona assistants may well be en route. But when the Broncos hired Vic Fangio to be their head coach, Bowles — who has known Matt Nagy for decades — the Bears entered the equation. However, Bowles will be following Arians, leaving the Bears with a DC vacancy.

One of those assistants will be former Jets DC Kacy Rodgers, per Mehta (on Twitter). Rodgers will coach the Bucs’ defensive line. Bowles tabbed Rodgers to follow him for more than a month, Mehta notes. Rodgers dealt with health concerns this year but returned to the Jets’ sideline shortly after taking a leave of absence. He does not have a history with Arians, coming to the Jets from Miami when Bowles was hired.

Bowles will replace Mike Smith as Tampa Bay’s full-time DC. He oversaw two top-10 defenses in Arizona before taking the New York HC job. After a brief period of uncertainty, the 55-year-old coach can again go light on winter-gear packing.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.