Commanders Rumors

NFL Staff Updates: Commanders, 49ers, Slater, Colts, Panthers

The Commanders announced three updates to their front office staff this week. With new leadership in general manager Adam Peters and head coach Dan Quinn, the team sees two staffers depart and one scout join his former boss.

Firstly, senior director of player development Malcolm Blacken will not be retained in 2024, per Ben Standig of The Athletic. Serving multiple stints with the team since 1999, Blacken had risen to his role from years as a strength and conditioning coach.

Joining Blacken in departure will be college scout Harrison Ritcher. According to Neil Stratton of SucceedinFootball.com, Ritcher is headed to Atlanta to serve as a national scout for the Falcons, reuniting with former Washington staffer, and current assistant general manager in Atlanta, Kyle Smith. Ritcher had been with the team since 2017.

Lastly, the Commanders will be adding Jack Quagliarello to the scouting staff as a pro scout, per Stratton. Quagliarello follows Peters from San Francisco after spending last season as a scouting assistant with the 49ers.

Here are a few other staff updates from around the NFL:

  • The 49ers also made some announcements, all to their scouting staff. San Francisco has promoted Josh Williams from national scout to director of scouting & football operations, per Stratton. Williams started with the team in 2011 as a scouting assistant and has quickly risen through the ranks. As a part of the NFL’s accelerator program, Williams is widely considered a future general manager candidate. He’ll work closely with general manager John Lynch and executive vice president of football operations Paraag Marathe in 2024. In addition, Stratton notes that Ryan Schutta has been hired as a scouting assistant, filling the role vacated by Quagliarello’s departure mentioned above.
  • Following his retirement, we learned that former Patriots special teams ace Matthew Slater would join the Patriots staff in a full-time role. Now, Doug Kyed of the Boston Herald tells us a bit more about Slater’s new role. Kyed says that, while Slater “hasn’t advanced into a coaching role” just yet, he will serve an advisory role on the staff in 2024.
  • The Colts had reportedly finalized their 2024 coaching staff back in March, but we did note that they planned to announce two Tony Dungy Diversity Fellowship hires at the time. The team has officially made such announcements, per team writer JJ Stankevitz, naming Kalon Humphries and Diego Ortiz as the two fellows. Indianapolis also announced a title change for Joe Hastings, who will now serve as senior assistant special teams coach, and the hiring of Brent Stockstill as a defensive assistant. Stockstill makes his NFL coaching debut after five years coaching at the collegiate level with a focus on offense.
  • Lastly, the Panthers have added Brad Obee as their new Midwest scout, according to Stratton. Over 21 years with the Bears and Eagles, Obee has spent time in numerous scouting roles, often focusing on pro scouting. He most recently spent the last three seasons as an area scout for Philadelphia, departing after the expiration of his contract.

NFC Front Office Notes: Eagles, Rosenberg, Falcons, Giants, Panthers, Bears

Jake Rosenberg‘s Eagles exit is now official. After a report earlier this offseason indicated Rosenberg would step down following a 12-year tenure with the team, the Eagles’ VP of football administration made the announcement (via PHLY.com’s Zach Berman). A friend of GM Howie Roseman‘s dating back to elementary school, Rosenberg assisted the Eagles on the salary cap front. The team has frequently been ahead of the curve in this area, as its 2024 offseason reinforced. It is not known where Rosenberg is headed, but this marks another key departure in the Eagles’ front office. Two years ago, four of Roseman’s lieutenants — Brandon Brown, Ian Cunningham, Catherine Raiche, Andy Weidl — left for assistant GM roles elsewhere. Another key piece will need to be replaced now.

Post-draft front office changes are common around the league. Here is the latest from the NFC:

  • Despite not being a Terry Fontenot hire, Tokunbo Abanikanda will rise to a key post in the Falcons‘ front office. The team is promoting the veteran scout to its college scouting director post, InsidetheLeague.com’s Neil Stratton tweets. Abanikanda has been with the Falcons since midway through Thomas Dimitroff‘s GM tenure, arriving in 2012. He will now take a pivotal role in the team’s draft preparation. Elsewhere in the Falcons’ front office, the team’s player personnel coordinator — Brian Zeches — is moving on, Stratton adds. Formerly an exec in Washington and Kansas City, Zeches was named to this post during the 2023 offseason.
  • In addition to adding Chris Snee to their scouting staff, the Giants are making multiple in-house promotions. They are bumping Nick La Testa to assistant director of pro scouting and naming Charles Tisch their football operations manager, The Athletic’s Dan Duggan tweets. Charles Tisch, who had been a football ops assistant, is the nephew of Giants co-owner Steve Tisch. With the Giants since 2017, La Testa had previously worked on the scouting level for the team.
  • A Carolina-to-Washington pipeline formed during Ron Rivera‘s NFC East stay, but the Commanders will now lose an exec to the Panthers. Carolina is hiring David Whittington for a college scouting role, according to Stratton. Whittington had been with Washington since 2009, holding several positions. Most recently, he worked as a national scout with the Commanders. The Panthers are also adding Eric Eager to their analytics department, per Stratton. Eager, a former Pro Football Focus staffer, worked most recently as the vice president of SumerSports, an analytics-based website that also employs Dimitroff presently.
  • The Bears are going through with a round of promotions as well. GM Ryan Poles is elevating Breck Ackley from assistant college scouting director to the director post, while Stratton notes national scout Francis St. Paul will become the assistant director. Area scouts Brendan Rehor and John Syty are also moving to national scouting roles.

Commanders To Add WR Damiere Byrd

A seventh team will sign off on a Damiere Byrd contract. The veteran wide receiver, who spent 2023 with three teams, will join the Commanders, per Bleacher Report’s Jordan Schultz.

Byrd trekked to Washington on Wednesday for a workout, KPRC2’s Aaron Wilson tweets, noting the well-traveled vet joined Martavis Bryant on this audition. Bryant remains unsigned, while it will be Byrd receiving an opportunity in Washington.

While a number of Dan Quinn-driven reunions have commenced in Washington this offseason, Byrd will return to a Kliff Kingsbury-run offense. Byrd, 31, was in Arizona for Kingsbury’s Cardinals HC debut back in 2019. While Byrd’s 2023 journey makes it far from certain he will be on the Commanders’ 53-man roster this season, he will bring some experience in the system Kingsbury is implementing.

Byrd’s original team, the Panthers, reacquired him during the ’23 offseason but released him from IR after an August injury settlement. The Falcons, who employed Byrd in 2022, brought him back after his summer hamstring injury healed. By mid-January, Byrd was in Houston as an emergency option for a Texans team down multiple wide receivers. Altogether, however, Byrd played in just one game last season. He will attempt to rebound from a lost year.

A diminutive target at 5-foot-9 and 175 pounds, Byrd has been with the Panthers, Cardinals, Patriots, Bears, Falcons, Texans and Commanders. Moved from a special teams presence into a more regular receiving role under Kingsbury in 2019, the former Panthers UDFA’s best season came during Cam Newton‘s Patriots starter year. Byrd caught 47 passes for 606 yards in 2020; he has operated as more of a role player since. Byrd did average 20.6 yards per catch with the Falcons in 2022, scoring two touchdowns in a 268-yard season.

Washington has added two smaller wideouts in free agency, with Byrd joining ex-Falcons teammate Olamide Zaccheaus on Quinn’s team. They join the re-signed Jamison Crowder, who goes 5-9, as potential auxiliary options under Kingsbury. The Commanders closed this year’s third round by drafting Rice’s Luke McCaffrey. Holdovers Terry McLaurin and Jahan Dotson lead this Commanders position group

Minor NFL Transactions: 5/14/24

Today’s minor moves:

Cleveland Browns

Los Angeles Chargers

Miami Dolphins

Minnesota Vikings

San Francisco 49ers

Washington Commanders

Commanders To Host WR Martavis Bryant

After getting cut by the Cowboys last week, Martavis Bryant will work out for a division rival. According to Aaron Wilson of KPRC2 in Houston, the Commanders will work out the veteran wide receiver tomorrow.

[RELATED: Cowboys To Release WR Martavis Bryant]

Bryant’s five-year ban from the NFL ended last November when the wide receiver was reinstated by the league. He subsequently caught on with the Cowboys practice squad but never made his way to the big-league roster. He signed a reserve/futures contract with the organization in January, but he was released shortly after the Cowboys added three rookies to the position.

The wideout burst onto the scene with the Steelers after being selected in the fourth round of the 2014 draft. He hauled in 14 touchdowns through his first two years in the NFL (plus another two playoff scores) before being sidelined for the entire 2016 campaign thanks to his second career suspension. He topped 600 yards following his return in 2017, and the Steelers quickly sent him to the Raiders for a third-round pick.

He got into eight games with Oakland before being hit with his most-recent suspension in 2018. Between that initial suspension and his 2023 comeback attempt with the Cowboys, Bryant spent time in a handful of other leagues, including stints in the CFL and XFL.

While Commanders head coach (and former Cowboys defensive coordinator) Dan Quinn didn’t deal with Bryant directly in Dallas, he did get an extended look at him at Cowboys practice. If the 32-year-old catches on with the Commanders, he’d have an uphill battle to make the active roster. Still, the team does lack experienced depth behind Terry McLaurin. Former first-round pick Jahan Dotson and third-round rookie Luke McCaffrey will likely take up two spots, but Bryant could compete with the likes of Dax Milne, Dyami Brown, Jamison Crowder, and Olamide Zaccheaus for a job.

Commanders DT Johnny Newton Undergoes Foot Surgery

MAY 14: Shedding some light on Newton’s latest foot injury, Bleacher Report’s Jordan Schultz confirms it is a Jones fracture. Newton underwent his second 2024 foot surgery Monday. Given the timetable associated with this injury, it will be months before the No. 36 overall pick is ready to suit up again for the Commanders. The team is, however, optimistic Newton will be ready for Week 1.

MAY 12: A foot surgery helped lead to Johnny Newton sliding out of the first round following a first-team All-American season. Another such procedure will be necessary, stalling the second-round defensive tackle’s development with his NFL team.

After undergoing a procedure to repair an injury to his right foot in January, the Commanders defensive tackle will need another foot procedure done — this time to address an issue with his left foot. Dan Quinn confirmed (via ESPN.com’s John Keim) the No. 36 overall pick will be sidelined for the foreseeable future. The latest Newton foot surgery is expected to occur this week.

Newton sustained a partial foot fracture that led to the January procedure; this operation caused a weekslong delay in Newton’s pre-draft preparation. He did not participate in Combine workouts but did recover in time to hold a belated pro day in mid-April. That timeline provides a positive sign the Commanders will have the first of their three second-round draftees available by Week 1, though it is not certain exactly what injury Newton sustained to his other foot.

This draft’s third defensive tackle chosen, Newton did not participate in Washington’s rookie minicamp. The high-level prospect said upon being drafted he was fully healed, making his absence from the Commanders’ weekend workouts interesting. A recent checkup revealed the new issue, and it will produce another run of rehab work. Newton played through the partial fracture during the second half of his final Illinois season, but the Commanders will attempt to have him at 100% by the time be debuts as a pro.

Despite rostering Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne — along with 2022 second-round D-tackle Phidarian Mathis — Washington chose Newton with its second draft choice this year. He produced a career-high 7.5 sacks last season, collecting Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year acclaim — the first Illinois player to do so in 29 years — and first-team All-American honors. While Newton undergoing surgery now will help his chances of debuting on time for the Commanders, a rookie undergoing procedures on both feet in the months before his NFL debut is a bit of a concern.

NFL Workouts: Giants, Bears, Titans, Grant

With NFL rookie minicamps coming to a close, we can take a look at some of the notable names that were invited for veteran tryouts during the rookies’ introduction to the NFL. The Giants were one of the teams with multiple veteran free agents in attendance, as noted by Pat Leonard of NY Daily News.

Two outside linebackers were auditioned this week in New York. Myjai Sanders worked out with the team after playing sparingly in seven games for the Texans last year. A former third-round pick for the Cardinals, Sanders had three sacks as a rookie but, after falling down the depth chart, found himself being auctioned off as a trade candidate before ultimately getting waived.

The other was Shaka Toney, a former seventh-round pick for the Commanders who was waived just before the draft. He’s only played major snaps in one game over his two years, his lone start out of 26 games played, but totes 1.5 sacks on his record.

The third veteran in attendance was wide receiver Jared Bernhardt.

Here are a few other notable minicamp auditions that took place around the league:

  • The Bears also hosted three veterans, even eventually signing tight end Tommy Sweeney. Kevin Fishbain of The Athletic reports that cornerback Parry Nickerson and wide receiver Freddie Swain were the other two veterans in attendance this week. Nickerson entered the league as a sixth-round draft pick in 2018 for the Jets. Since then, he’s bounced around with one season each at in Jacksonville, Green Bay, Minnesota, and, most recently, Miami. Swain had a decent start to his career after two seasons in Seattle but didn’t play in 2023 after appearing in only four games in 2022 between time in Miami and Denver.
  • The Titans were another team to host multiple notable veteran names, namely cornerback William Jackson III and pass rusher Shane Ray, per Aaron Wilson of KPRC 2 and Turron Davenport of ESPN. After playing out a rookie contract in Cincinnati, Jackson earned a three-year, $40.5MM contract with the Commanders but requested a trade that landed him with the Steelers a year in a half into the deal, though he never got to play for them. He hasn’t appeared in a game since Week 5 of 2022. Ray’s absence from the NFL has been even longer. A first-round pick for the Broncos in 2015, Ray hasn’t played in the league since 2018. He joined the Bills last offseason, reuniting with his former Denver teammate Von Miller, but he was cut before the regular season.
  • After attending the Eagles’ rookie minicamp, wide receiver and return specialist Jakeem Grant also worked out for the Saints at their rookie minicamp, per Mike Triplett of NewOrleans.Football. Grant hasn’t appeared in an NFL game since the 2021 season as he’s rehabilitated a torn Achilles and a ruptured patella tendon, but the last time he played, he earned Pro Bowl and second-team All-Pro honors.
  • Lastly, the Dolphins hosted pass rusher Aaron Lynch for a tryout, according to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. Lynch showed promise after tallying 12.5 sacks in his first two seasons with the 49ers but never managed more than three in a season over the next five years. He hasn’t appeared in an NFL game since 2020.

NFL Draft Pick Signings: 5/10/24

Yesterday’s rush of rookie signings continued today. Here are Friday’s draft pick signings:

Arizona Cardinals

Atlanta Falcons

Cincinnati Bengals

Cleveland Browns

Detroit Lions

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Chargers

Minnesota Vikings

  • K Will Reichard (sixth round, Alabama)
  • C Michael Jurgens (seventh round, Wake Forest)
  • DT Levi Drake Rodriguez (seventh round, Texas A&M-Commerce)

New England Patriots

Pittsburgh Steelers

  • G Mason McCormick (fourth round, South Dakota State)
  • DT Logan Lee (sixth round, Iowa)

San Francisco 49ers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Washington Commanders

Commanders Notes: Kingsbury, Stokes, Staff, Newton, Allen, Sainristil

The Commanders did not end up zagging with their No. 2 overall pick. The team received only one offer — likely from the Raiders — for the selection, and the team went with Heisman winner Jayden Daniels. In reaching a conclusion Daniels was the top player at No. 2, Adam Peters kept his circle small. Only Josh Harris, Dan Quinn and advisor/ex-Golden State Warriors GM Bob Myers comprised the new Washington football ops boss’ inner circle, per Fox Sports’ Ralph Vacchiano, who adds OC Kliff Kingsbury was brought in along the way and at least knew which way the new team braintrust was leaning.

Kingsbury, who coached Caleb Williams last year, was believed to be high on Daniels coming in. Many in the organization — including members of Harris’ ownership group — were not informed which player the team was picking until draft day, Vacchiano adds. Much of the front office and scouting department did not learn definitively it would be Daniels until the Bears went on the clock. While Harris was believed to be more involved than expected, the franchise had dealt with considerable Dan Snyder meddling in past drafts. Given the turmoil associated with Washington ownership and front office for much of the past two decades, this buttoned-up approach marked a change of pace.

Here is the latest out of Washington:

  • Retooling teams often make changes after the draft, as continuity in scouting departments is preferred due to the work done on draft classes in the months prior. The Commanders will make a key change. They are not renewing the contract of senior director of player personnel Eric Stokes, InsidetheLeague.com’s Neil Stratton tweets. Stokes joined the Commanders in 2020, following Ron Rivera‘s arrival, and moved to his most recent title in 2021. The veteran exec should land elsewhere soon, with Stratton adding he his a name to watch in scouting circles. This exit comes after Peters retained Rivera-era bastions Martin Mayhew, who worked with the current Commanders FO boss in San Francisco, and Marty Hurney.
  • Peters said earlier this offseason the team is not planning to trade Jonathan Allen, but ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler notes some around the league are wondering if the selection of Jer’Zhan Newton will prompt the team to listen on the veteran defensive tackle. Washington, which disbanded its DE contingent at the trade deadline, still has two high-priced DTs — in Allen and Daron Payne — and has used second-round picks on the position in 2022 and ’24. Phidarian Mathis played 203 defensive snaps last season but has yet to make much of an impact; Newton now joins him and does so as a Peters-Quinn-era draftee. Allen, who said last year he was not eager to be part of a rebuild, has come up in trade rumors before and is due base salaries of $14MM and $15.5MM over the next two years.
  • One of the three second-rounders the Commanders chose, Mike Sainristil is expected to begin his NFL run in the slot. Washington is planning to train the Michigan product as an inside cornerback, ESPN.com’s John Keim notes. He will accompany Benjamin St-Juste, 2023 first-rounder Emmanuel Forbes and UFA addition Michael Davis at the position. The Commanders, who lost Kendall Fuller and Kamren Curl from their secondary, will attempt to climb back from a last-place defensive finish.
  • The team will hire a longtime league office exec to be part of its staff. Dave Gardi will come over after 10 years as NFL VP of football operations to take on the title of Commanders senior VP of football initiatives. In-game management and assisting the coaching staff in terms of compliance with NFL protocols will be among Gardi’s duties in Washington, with the Washington Post’s Nicki Jhabvala offering that Gardi will be on headsets during games and concentrate on the coaching side during the season. That will certainly be a shift for a longtime league office staffer.

Minor NFL Transactions: 5/7/24

Here are Tuesday’s minor moves:

Atlanta Falcons

  • Waived (non-football injury): OL Ryan Swoboda

Green Bay Packers

  • Reverted to IR: WR Thyrick Pitts

Kansas City Chiefs

Minnesota Vikings

Tennessee Titans

  • Waived: DL Shakel Brown

Washington Commanders

  • Waived: LB Brandon Bouyer-Randle, CB D’Angelo Mandell, DE Joshua Pryor