Transactions

Minor NFL Transactions: 1/15/21

Here are the latest NFL minor moves:

Baltimore Ravens

Buffalo Bills

Green Bay Packers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Falcons Hire Arthur Smith As Head Coach

Arthur Smith accepted the Falcons’ offer to become their head coach. The Falcons announced Friday afternoon they have hired the Titans offensive coordinator.

After two years as Tennessee’s OC, Smith received widespread interest. Every team with a head coaching vacancy reached out to the young coach for an interview. The Falcons landed him and will move forward with the breakout play-caller in charge.

Tennessee’s tight ends coach prior to being promoted in 2019, Smith will become the second straight Titans OC to make the leap to a head coaching job. The Packers hired Matt LaFleur in 2019, but Smith’s Titans work exceeded his predecessor’s. Ryan Tannehill revived his career under Smith, posting a historic 9.6 yards-per-attempt figure in 2019 and finishing with a 33-7 TD-INT ratio this season. Both years ended with Titans playoff berths, and each involved Derrick Henry rushing championships.

Riding their retooled offense, the Titans made a run to the 2019 AFC championship game. Henry became the first player to win back-to-back rushing titles since LaDainian Tomlinson in the 2000s, and the 2020 rushing champ’s 2,027-yard performance ranks fifth all time. After making just one playoff berth between 2009-18, the Titans went 2-for-2 in postseason qualification during Smith’s two seasons as their OC. Smith, 38, began his NFL coaching career as a low-level assistant in Washington in 2007 but was with the Titans since 2011.

This will mark a change for the Falcons, who have used defensive-oriented head coaches throughout Matt Ryan‘s career. Atlanta hired Mike Smith in 2008 and Dan Quinn in 2015. Smith will now oversee the final chapter of Ryan’s Falcons career. After an MVP season under Kyle Shanahan in Atlanta’s 2016 NFC championship season, Ryan has not made a Pro Bowl since.

The Falcons remain in search of a GM, though former GM Rich McKay played a key role in hiring Smith. Both Atlanta power brokers will now turn their attention to bringing in Thomas Dimitroff‘s successor. The Falcons are believed to be favoring Saints GM Terry Fontenot for that job. This new regime will be tasked with restoring the Falcons to contender status. They fell well off the pace late in Quinn’s tenure, starting 1-7 in 2019 and 0-5 this year.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFL Reserve/Futures Contracts: 1/15/21

Here are the latest reserve/futures contracts given out:

Baltimore Ravens

Chicago Bears

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Las Vegas Raiders

  • QB Kyle Sloter

Pittsburgh Steelers

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

Tennessee Titans

Washington Football Team

Bucs Sign Earl Watford

The Buccaneers have signed offensive lineman Earl Watford. He’ll take the roster spot of guard Alex Cappa, who has been placed on injured reserve with a season-ending ankle fracture. 

Watford was with the Bucs throughout 2019 season, starting in four of his 15 appearances. He’s a favorite of Bruce Arians, having played in 43 games (21 starts) for him in Arizona from 2014-2017 .

The Bucs beat the Washington Football Team on Saturday, but they lose their a starting lineman when Cappa was forced out. Between the regular season and the Wild Card game, Cappa logged 17 starts for Tampa Bay this season. Cappa, in his second year as a first-stringer, helped the unit place second in sacks while aiding the offense to 30.8 points per game, good for third in the NFL.

Watford, in his eighth year, will be eligible to play against the Saints on Sunday.

He can walk in any play four positions for us,” said Arians of Watford. “[We’ll] just get him back in a little bit of football shape; he stayed in pretty good condition. Just like [with] Ted Larsen – guys that have been in this system for a while, veteran players – when you lose a guy, you try to look for veteran players rather than young guys who might not be ready.”

Aaron Stinnie will start in Cappa’s place, but Watford will be on call if needed.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Jaguars Hire Urban Meyer As Head Coach

After a several-day waiting period, the Jaguars-Urban Meyer deal is finalized. The former national championship-winning Florida and Ohio State coach agreed to terms with Jacksonville.

Long the frontrunner for this position, Meyer spent the past few days closely connected to his first-ever NFL foray. He ultimately decided to accept the Jaguars’ offer. The team has announced the hire.

I’m ready to coach the Jacksonville Jaguars,” Meyer said. “Jacksonville has an enthusiastic fanbase, and the fans deserve a winning team. With upcoming opportunities in the NFL Draft, and strong support from ownership, the Jaguars are well-positioned to become competitive.

“I’ve analyzed this decision from every angle — the time is right in Jacksonville, and the time is right for me to return to coaching. I’m excited about the future of this organization and our long term prospect for success.”

Meyer, 56, won three national championships while in Gainesville and Columbus — in 2006, 2008 and 2014 — and helped develop Alex Smith into a No. 1 overall pick while at Utah. Meyer was a college coach from 1986-2018, coaching briefly at the high school level in the mid-’80s. This will be a new challenge for the well-regarded coach, who has appeared on the NFL radar during past hiring periods.

Factoring in his previous stops at Utah and Bowling Green, Meyer has a lifetime 187-32 record in the college ranks. With Ohio State alone, he went 83-9 across seven seasons. He will almost certainly have the chance to coach Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence to start his NFL run. Working as a Fox analyst since stepping down as Ohio State’s HC, Meyer rated Lawrence as his No. 1 quarterback — over Buckeye passer Justin Fields — entering this season (video link). Lawrence has been expected to go No. 1 overall for a long time now, and the Jaguars’ 1-15 season locked them into the 2021 top slot.

Conflicting reports emerged about Meyer’s salary demands, with one putting them in the $12MM range. Given the Jags’ interest in Meyer, it is likely he will be one of the NFL’s highest-paid head coaches. The lengthy delay between the Jaguars’ interview with their preferred candidate and his acceptance, however, did reportedly frustrate the team. Meyer has stepped away from coaching on multiple occasions, doing so more than once at Florida, so it will be interesting to see how long he will stick around in Jacksonville.

It will also be interesting to see how Meyer and owner Shad Khan coexist. Khan took on a greater say in personnel matters last year and confirmed he will remain heavily involved in roster decisions going forward. Considering the franchise’s strong interest in Meyer, he will almost certainly have a significant say in personnel matters as well. The Jaguars have yet to hire a GM, but the to-be-determined executive will now walk into a situation featuring two high-profile power brokers.

Meyer has been linked to multiple assistants already, including former Texas HC Charlie Strong and Texans DC Anthony Weaver, according to NFL.com’s Mike Garafolo and Fox 26’s Mark Berman (Twitter links).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Panthers To Hire Scott Fitterer As GM

Scott Fitterer surfaced late in Carolina’s GM search, but he is now expected to be the team’s new GM. The Panthers intend to hire the Seahawks executive to succeed Marty Hurney, according to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero (on Twitter).

Fitterer, whom the Seahawks promoted in September, interviewed twice for the Panthers position this week. He joined a host of candidates in a wide-ranging search but is in line to team with Matt Rhule to oversee Carolina’s rebuild effort.

The Panthers brought in Fitterer, Titans exec Monti Ossenfort, Chiefs staffer Ryan Poles and 49ers VP of player personnel Adam Peters for second interviews this week. Fitterer has hovered on the GM radar a bit longer than the rest of this contingent, and the Seahawks’ VP of player personnel will receive a chance to lead another NFC franchise’s front office.

Fitterer has been with the Seahawks for nearly 20 years, predating John Schenider and Pete Carroll‘s arrivals in beginning his run with the franchise in 2001. The Seahawks promoted him to co-player personnel director in 2015 and gave him a new title last year. Fitterer was involved in the Jets’ GM search in 2019, along with the Chiefs’ and Colts’ search processes in 2017. That year, Fitterer also interviewed for the 49ers’ GM job that went to John Lynch.

Alongside fellow Schneider lieutenant Trent Kirchner, Fitterer helped the Seahawks become Super Bowl champions and two-time NFC champs during the 2010s. Rhule is locked down via seven-year contract, so it would not surprise to see Fitterer receive a six-year deal — which would match Rhule’s through-2026 accord — as Carolina continues a rebuild that began last year.

Minor NFL Transactions: 1/13/21

Today’s minor transactions:

Arizona Cardinals

Atlanta Falcons

  • Activated off reserve/COVID-19 list: C Alex Mack

Cleveland Browns

Houston Texans

Browns Activate Denzel Ward, Kevin Johnson From Reserve/COVID-19 List

The Browns will have more of their regulars in uniform Sunday in Kansas City than they did in Pittsburgh last week. They activated cornerbacks Denzel Ward and Kevin Johnson off their reserve/COVID-19 list Wednesday.

Both players missed the past two games after testing positive for the coronavirus. NFL protocols would have permitted Ward to return last week, but he did not clear the necessary hurdles to return. The Browns beat the Steelers anyway, though Pittsburgh’s wide receivers enjoyed big days in Week 17 and in the teams’ opening-round matchup. The Chiefs are quite talented at this position as well.

An offseason addition, Johnson has operated as a part-time starter for the Browns. Ward has been the team’s No. 1 corner essentially since arriving in Cleveland in 2018. The Browns hope to have Joel Bitonio and wideout KhaDarel Hodge against the Chiefs as well.

Browns offensive line coach Bill Callahan also returned to practice Wednesday. The veteran NFL staffer experienced COVID symptoms, according to Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com, who adds Kevin Stefanski has encountered symptoms as well. However, Stefanski is expected to coach against the Chiefs. Wideouts coach Chad O’Shea was also symptomatic, per Cabot, but he is also back at practice. Assistant O-line coach Scott Peters, tight ends coach Drew Petzing and DBs coach Jeff Howard remain out due to COVID.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFL Practice Squad Updates: 1/13/21

Here are the latest practice squad moves from around the league:

Baltimore Ravens

Cleveland Browns

Kansas City Chiefs

New Orleans Saints

Seahawks Fire OC Brian Schottenheimer

A day after Pete Carroll said Brian Schottenheimer would stay on as offensive coordinator, the Seahawks have reversed course. Schottenheimer is out after three seasons as Seattle’s OC, according to the team, which cited “philosophical differences.”

Carroll said Monday during an interview with 710 ESPN Seattle that Schottenheimer would be back next season (Twitter link via the Seattle Times’ Bob Condotta), but the franchise will instead look for his replacement.

Often criticized for overusing the run game, Schottenheimer nevertheless oversaw a season that saw Russell Wilson break the team’s single-season touchdown pass record (40) and D.K. Metcalf break Steve Largent‘s 35-year-old single-season receiving yardage record (1,303). The traditionally conservative Carroll attributed the Seahawks’ return to a run-oriented offense down the stretch as an effort to prevent turnovers. This came after Wilson struggled with interceptions during a midseason swoon. The Seahawks ranked 17th in total offense but eighth in points this season; they ranked top 10 in scoring during each of Schottenheimer’s three seasons calling plays.

Seattle was on a historic offensive pace (and a historically bad defensive pace) to start the season, turning Wilson loose in September and October. But he committed seven turnovers in losses to the Bills and Rams. After five 300-yard passing performances from Weeks 1-9, the ninth-year quarterback did not eclipse 270 yards in any game in the season’s second half. Schottenheimer’s firing comes after Wilson’s woeful 11-for-27 playoff outing, which included a pick-six on a wide receiver screen pass.

Schottenheimer, 47, has been an NFL OC for three teams — the Jets, Rams and Seahawks — and began that run in 2006. He stayed on during multiple Jets coaching regimes but was let go after the 2011 season. During his 12 seasons in charge of offenses, only one of them — the 2019 Seahawks — ranked in the top 10 in total yardage.

As for the next Seahawks OC, NFL.com’s Mike Garafolo throws out former Chargers play-caller Shane Steichen as a name under consideration (Twitter links). Despite the Chargers going through a coaching change, Steichen’s work with Justin Herbert should ensure he will see another play-calling opportunity soon.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.