AROUND THE NFL

Two more jobs are hired as Vic Fangio forms a veteran dream team with Gary Kubiak in Denver while the Browns stick with OC Freddie Kitchens (but Gregg Williams won’t be his defensive coordinator)

 

That leaves three, the Jets, Bengals and Dolphins with the Jets job looking like it will go to Adam Gase.

 

Ryan Wooden of CBSSports.com has these actual odds on who will get the other two:

 

Cincinnati Bengals head coach in Week 1 of 2019 reg. season

Darrin Simmons +250

Todd Monken +300

Hue Jackson +400

Vance Joseph +400

Zac Taylor +500

Bill Lazor +500

Shane Waldron +750

Eric Bieniemy +1000

 

Miami Dolphins head coach in Week 1 of 2019 reg. season

John Harbaugh +250

Kris Richard +300

Darren Rizzi +350

Jim Harbaugh +400

Dennis Allen +700

Eric Bieniemy +1000

Brian Flores +1000

 

All of these openings are compelling on their own fronts, but the name that jumps out here is John Harbaugh as the favorite to coach Miami next season with +250 odds. Harbaugh is still the head coach in Baltimore and is coming off an AFC North championship run with a rookie quarterback installed the last seven games of the regular season.

 

However, people think that the Ravens need to hire a coach who can cater to Lamar Jackson’s unique skill set and Harbaugh is being dangled as trade bait. The former Super Bowl champion head coach is 104-72 in his 11-year career as an NFL head coach and he’s only had one losing season during that span.

 

The DB didn’t know that Darrin Simmons is the Bengals holdover special teams coach.  For those wondering, he would not be a Rooney Rule hiring.

 

NFC NORTH

 

MINNESOTA

When the Browns picked Freddie Kitchens to be their coach, Kevin Stefanski skedaddled back to Minnesota.  Courtney Cronin of ESPN.com:

 

One day after his contract expired, Kevin Stefanski is returning to Minnesota to take over offensive coordinator duties for the Vikings on a full-time basis, the team announced Wednesday.

 

Stefanski, who was promoted from quarterbacks coach to interim OC ahead of Week 15, when the Vikings fired John DeFilippo, was considered a finalist for the Cleveland Browns’ head-coaching position. On Wednesday morning, ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported that Browns OC Freddie Kitchens beat out Stefanski for the job.

 

The Vikings were in a holding pattern over the past few days while Stefanski’s talks with Cleveland ramped up. Sources indicated to ESPN that throughout the process, the former interim OC was in regular communication with the Vikings about the possibility of returning for his 14th season with the franchise.

 

Retaining Stefanski is considered a critical move in helping to build continuity for an offense that put up big numbers at times but struggled to find its identity and finish games during an 8-7-1 season. The Vikings were the only team in the NFL without a fourth-quarter comeback or game-winning drive in 2018.

 

“Kevin is a smart young coach with a bright future,” Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said in a statement. “I’m happy to have him take over the offensive coordinator job. His work ethic and teaching ability have been obvious to me behind the scenes since I came here five years ago. He’s well respected by coaches and players both and I know he’s up to the task.”

 

Minnesota’s offense went through a host of ups and downs during quarterback Kirk Cousins’ first year with the franchise, ranking 20th in yards and 19th in scoring. While the Vikings boasted a top-tier passing game (13th), predicated off the success Cousins had with receivers Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, the team struggled to generate a consistent rushing attack, ranking 30th in yards per game (93.3).

 

“I was thrilled to hear that he’d be back,” Cousins said. “We feel like the continuity is very important, not only for me at the quarterback position but for our entire offense, for the young players learning the system and for our coaching staff to have the familiarity, as well.”

 

Stefanski, 36, earned back-to-back wins against the Dolphins and Lions after taking over play-calling duties ahead of Week 15. The Vikings offense had a season-high 220 rushing yards against Miami but notched just 164 rushing yards in the season finale against Chicago, which was the lowest output of the season.

 

“On game day, he’s riding with all his guys and he plays aggressive,” Diggs said. “He’s not scared of anything, and he believes we can do anything, as far as running the ball well, throwing the ball well, whatever it is, he has confidence in us and we appreciate it.”

 

Stefanski is the longest-tenured coach on staff, having joined on in Minnesota under Brad Childress in 2006 as an assistant to the head coach. Stefanski has since coached tight ends, running backs and quarterbacks before getting his first shot at calling plays in 2018.

 

“When we do get back, we’re going to be 110 percent in for him,” running back Dalvin Cook said. “Everything we’re going to do, we’re going to have fun. But we’re going to raise the bar up to his level.”

 

NFC EAST

 

DALLAS

This tweet on WR ALLEN HURNS, gone from the team but not forgotten:

 

Mike Kaye

@mike_e_kaye

 Hurns wore No. 17 for the victims of the Stoneman Douglas shooting, was universally adored by teammates at Miami and was probably one of the more underrated leaders in the Jags locker room for years. Just an overall good guy.

– – –

Dan Wetzel of YahooSports.com on why there will be plenty of Cowboys fans in the Coliseum on Saturday night:

 

In their lengthy quest to be known as America’s Team, the Dallas Cowboys have featured marketable stars, attempted to dominate their football-mad state and sought every advantageous national television opportunity, including mimicking the Detroit Lions and laying claim to an annual spot on Thanksgiving Day.

 

And then there is Los Angeles.

 

Since 1963 the Cowboys have held 40 preseason training camps in Southern California – 27 of them from 1963-1989 in Thousand Oaks and 13 since 2001, including the past seven, in Oxnard. Sprinkled in have been Lone Star state forays to Austin, San Antonio and Wichita Falls.

 

Part of the appeal was escaping the August heat of Texas (prior to settling on L.A., camps were held in Oregon, Minnesota, Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan). Part of it though was extending their brand and cultivating a fan base in the second biggest city in America, one that also has palm trees and movie stars that mesh with the ethos of the franchise, particularly under owner Jerry Jones.

 

The throngs of fans, clad in Cowboys gear, that descend on the River Ridge Playing Fields, which is literally just some grass next to the Oxnard Residence Inn, prove it has worked. The franchise was always popular, but when the NFL abandoned L.A. as a market from 1995-2015, this was about the only pro football game in town. As such, outside of Texas and the surrounding states, there may not be a stronger collection of Dallas fans anywhere.

 

“We’ve got thousands of fans that are generational there in Los Angeles,” Jones told 105.3 The Fan in Dallas this week.

 

And so now comes an intriguing return on investment – not just in merchandise sales, but a potential competitive factor.

 

The Cowboys play the Rams on Saturday evening at the Los Angeles Coliseum. It’s their first non-preseason game in L.A. since Oct. 25, 1992, a 28-13 victory over the then-Los Angeles Raiders.

 

The Coliseum is massive, with a 93,607 capacity for NFL games. The Rams are still trying to reconnect with Southern California after moving from Anaheim to St. Louis from 1995-2015. There are plenty of Rams fans (far more than the Los Angeles Chargers) but just anecdotally it has been clear all season that visiting teams have enjoyed larger-than-normal support at the Coliseum.

 

And now here come the Cowboys. They always turn out well on the road courtesy of a large national fan base. In L.A., fans should, at the very least, diminish if not eliminate whatever home crowd advantage the Rams, as the actual home team, would normally enjoy.

 

“We’re hoping to see a lot of Rams fans come out,” Rams coach Sean McVay said. “We’ve had great turnouts at home this [season]. It’s been great atmospheres and environments. But Dallas is one of those franchises that travels really well.

 

“Obviously, them having camp out in Oxnard helps,” McVay continued. “If they do have a good amount of fans, then we’re always ready to adjust and adapt. But, we’re hoping that the Rams fans come out and support us and give us that love.”

 

Make no mistake, there will be plenty Rams fans there. The question will be if they are outnumbered. StubHub says ticket sales are brisk on its website, with an average price of $352.

 

“[It] is trending to be one of the best-selling divisional round games StubHub has ever seen,” said Scott Jablonski, general manager for NFL for StubHub. “The Cowboys are consistently the most in-demand NFL team on StubHub at home and on the road.”

 

Additionally promising for the Cowboys, StubHub says some 11 percent of all sales are coming from Texas.

 

Jones is pretty excited to tap into the pent-up demand of California Cowboy supporters, who might see impacting a game of this magnitude as a task they’ve waited decades to tackle.

 

“We do feel very comfortable going to Los Angeles,” Jones said.

 

Jones, 76, was born in Inglewood, although he was raised in North Little Rock, Arkansas, the state where he made his original fortune in the oil and land lease business. He says he still has maybe 30 cousins living in California. “When we’d go to a family reunion, they’d say, ‘Jerry, we don’t sound like you do. You sound a little bit different.’ I’d say, ‘Well, I was raised a little to the east of you guys.’”

 

In 1989, he bought the Cowboys for $140 million and has built it into what is estimated to be the world’s most valuable sports franchise at around $5 billion.

 

Jones says his comfort with Los Angeles is so great that a few years back, a group of fellow NFL owners, frustrated with the league’s inability to make a team work in Southern California, approached him with an offer. Sell the Cowboys and they’d give Jones the larger L.A. market all to himself to start or bring a new team. He obviously said no.

 

 “That is an attractive part of the world out there,” Jones told 105.3 The Fan back in November. “But there is no place [like Dallas].”

 

Yet the ties to L.A. remain despite the Cowboys opening the finest practice facility in the NFL – the $1.5 billion Star of Frisco – back in Texas. Escaping the weather would no longer be a training camp concern, there are both indoor and outdoor fields, a 12,000-seat indoor stadium, a luxury hotel and what is essentially a mall and museum for all things Dallas Cowboys.

 

Considering the team’s local popularity, the franchise could make a small fortune by extending the full training camp there. There is even the private “Cowboys Club,” a sort of country club where the centerpiece activity is watching practice rather than golf. The initial 800 memberships sold out despite an initial fee of $4,500 plus $350 a month.

 

In terms of modern amenities and facilities, it overwhelms the humble grounds of Oxnard, where Residence Inn suites are turned into training and film rooms, and tents are erected on tennis courts.

 

Yet, the Cowboys have stayed in California through 2020 at least. That’s how much Jones values L.A., the fans there … and, of course, the dinners, nightlife and glitz down the road in Beverly Hills.

 

Now it might even pay off competitively for his team. Saturday night the NFL playoffs return to the L.A. Coliseum.

 

We’ll see which team is most at “home.”

 

NFC SOUTH

 

ATLANTA

The Falcons have hired Ben Kotwica to be their new special teams coach.  D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution assesses the move:

 

Ben Kotwica, a former assistant with the Redskins, was hired as the Falcons’ special-teams coordinator Wednesday.

 

“Ben will provide an experienced but new voice for our special teams,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said. “He brings an attacking attitude to our units.”

 

Kotwica, 44, will replace Keith Armstrong, who was the Falcons’ special-teams coordinator from 2008-18. Armstrong agreed to terms with Tampa Bay on the same day. He will join the staff of Bruce Arians.

 

Armstrong played for Arians at Temple.

 

Kotwica was with the Jets from 2007-13, as the coordinator only in 2013.

 

Quinn was not pleased with the return game, a year after the team did not re-sign returner Andre Roberts.

 

Marvin Hall and Justin Hardy took over the return chores. Hall handled kickoff returns and Hardy the punt returns.

 

“It really kind of is the gateway and identity of the team, the speed, the toughness, and we’re certainly going to try to improve in the return game,” Quinn said of the special teams after the 7-9 season. “That’s an area we think we can make some jumps and make some improvement, and we’ll certainly try to do that.

 

“We’ve been really consistent in a number of areas on special teams. If we can try to feature some of the speed that we have in different ways, with the different design, we’ll certainly do that.”

 

The hiring doesn’t appear to be a major upgrade from the widely respected Armstrong.

 

Kotwica has a decent track record in the annual special-teams rankings compiled by former Dallas Morning News columnist Rick Gosselin. In the rankings, the NFL’s 32 teams are ranked in the 22 categories and assigned points according to their standing for 1 (best) to 32 (worst).

 

In five seasons as a coordinator, Kotwica’s units have finished in the top half of the league two of five years. The 2018 rankings are still being compiled.

 

 

NEW ORLEANS

Here’s what that armored truck was doing at the Saints facility.  Frank Schwab of YahooSports.com:

 

By the time you get to this point in the playoffs, you’d assume players would be sufficiently motivated.

 

A little push never hurts though.

 

The New Orleans Saints are the No. 1 seed in the NFC and the favorite to win the Super Bowl. Saints coach Sean Payton wanted to let his team know exactly what three more wins would mean.

 

According to a story from New Orleans bankruptcy attorney Jon DeTrinis, and confirmed by ESPN’s Mike Triplett and others, Payton made a grand entrance into the Saints’ locker room as they prepare to face the Philadelphia Eagles in a divisional round playoff game on Sunday:

 

@JonDeTrinis

 From sources:

 

Yesterday, 4 armed guards entered the @saints locker room, with Coach @SeanPayton wheeling the Lombardi trophy on top of $225k in cash.

 

Coach then said: “Y’all want this???”

 

“Win 3 F’n games.”

 

The locker room erupted. $225k is each player’s SB bonus. #WHODAT

 

Triplett reported that running back Mark Ingram said the story was true, and the players “got a kick out of it.”

 

Nick Underhill of the New Orleans Advocate said the actual sum Payton brought to the locker room was $201,000. Players earn money for each playoff win, and the winner’s share for the Super Bowl last season was $112,000. The sum for three playoff wins this season will be $201,000, Underhill said.

 

It’s the kind of move that can’t hurt. It might fire up the Saints. And if it works and the Saints win their second Super Bowl, the story of Payton and armed guards wheeling in almost a quarter-million in cash and the Lombardi Trophy will reach legendary status.

 

 

TAMPA BAY

There were a few anxious moments for Buccaneers fans on Wednesday as it looked like the Dream Team of Bruce Arians and Todd Bowls might fall apart.  But Jenna Laine of ESPN.com says Bowles will indeed be Tampa Bay’s new defensive coordinator. 

 

Former New York Jets coach Todd Bowles will be joining mentor Bruce Arians as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ defensive coordinator despite a strong push by the Chicago Bears, sources told ESPN’s Chris Mortensen and Josina Anderson on Wednesday.

 

When Arians’ hiring was announced by the Buccaneers on Tuesday, it was believed that Bowles would be joining Tampa Bay, despite no assistants or coordinators being formally announced and Bowles not signing a contract.

 

The hiring of Vic Fangio by the Denver Broncos on Wednesday suddenly created a vacancy at Chicago’s defensive coordinator position. Bears coach Matt Nagy’s father was Bowles’ high school coach, while Bowles played under Arians at Temple and was Arians’ defensive coordinator with the Arizona Cardinals from 2013-14.

 

Sources told Mortensen that the Buccaneers were working out off-set language on Bowles’ contract with the Jets.

 

Arians addressed Bowles’ addition during an appearance on “The Rich Eisen Show” on Wednesday.

 

“He’s like a son to me,” Arians said of Bowles. “We’re really excited to be back together.”

 

Arians also confirmed that Byron Leftwich and Harold Goodwin will be on the Tampa Bay staff.

 

“Byron Leftwich will be calling the plays,” said Arians, who had a number of health-related issues throughout his coaching career. “I’ll obviously have a big hand in it and be on there with him. But I trained Harold Goodwin and Byron Leftwich the last few years to handle that job, and I feel very, very comfortable with them.”

 

Ethan Greenberg of NewYorkJets.com laid out the Bowles-Nagy relationship back in October:

 

Despite a 14-year age difference, Jets head coach Todd Bowles’ has a long-standing relationship with Bears head coach Matt Nagy that dates back to Bowles’ high school football days for the Elizabeth High School Minutemen.

 

“Matt’s dad was my high school defensive line coach from when I was at Elizabeth,” Bowles said. “I watched Matt grow up and go to Delaware and play football after that a little bit. We coached together in Philadelphia. So, I’ve known Matt pretty much his whole life. His dad is a heck of a guy and I’ve known him pretty much, it seems like forever. Outstanding coach, very intelligent.”

 

Bowles said the younger Nagy is a little more strategic and reserved than his father considering his father is “a little crazy in a good way.”

 

“The only thing I ever heard about growing up was about this great player by the name of Todd Bowles,” Nagy told reporters earlier this week. “I got his Topps playing card back in the 90s when he was with the Redskins. It was one of the first cards I ever got.

 

“I got to coach with Todd in Philadelphia. I have all the respect for him. I think he’s a hell of a person, hell of a coach. He’s real good people.”

 

Bowles will not be the first Buccaneers player/coach to come from Elizabeth High School.  It is also the alma mater of Richard “Batman” Wood, a great linebacker for the team (88 straight starts, 855 tackles, 9 INT, defensive captain) who also spent some time on the coaching staff.

 

Maybe Bowles can make a pitch for Wood, who still lives in Tampa, in the team’s Ring of Honor.

– – –

More from Arians.  Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Well before the Buccaneers hired Bruce Arians as their new head coach, the team made it clear that they intended to have quarterback Jameis Winston on the team for the 2019 season.

 

Given the $20.9 million Winston is set to make, they weren’t going to hire a coach who wasn’t thinking about Winston as the starter and Arians is on board with that program. During an appearance on The Rich Eisen Show Wednesday, Arians referred to Winston as the central piece of the team’s offense.

 

“I’ve known him for a long time,” Arians said, via Greg Auman of The Athletic. “We all make mistakes. He’s made his. I’ve made mine. I feel like I’ve got a great feel for him, his excitement for the game. His willingness to work is unbelievable. He’s in the office at 5 o’clock in the morning. I have no qualms about that. There’s no doubt. The whole thing is going to be built around him. I think he can win it all. I mean, he has the intelligence, the toughness, and obviously the arm, ability to lead a team. We have to put the right pieces around him.”

 

Arians has had success with a variety of quarterbacks with a variety of teams over the years and getting more out of Winston would be the best way to make his tenure in Tampa a winning one.

– – –

Arians has hired a veteran special teams coordinator.  Charean Williams of ESPN.com:

 

Former Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter now is the offensive coordinator in Atlanta. Former Falcons special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong now has the same job in Tampa Bay.

 

The Bucs hired Armstrong for the position Wednesday, Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times reports.

 

Armstrong spent the past 11 years with the Falcons but was fired after the season.

 

Armstrong played for new Bucs head coach Bruce Arians at Temple.

 

The Bucs also have hired Todd Bowles as their defensive coordinator, former Cardinals assistant Harold Goodwin as assistant head coach/run-game coordinator and former Broncos assistant Sean Kugler as their offensive line coach.

 

NFC WEST

 

ARIZONA

Of all the hires so far, the one of Kliff Kingsbury is bound to cause the most conniptions in the coaching/media world.

 

Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com with some conventional wisdom:

 

Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury’s reported interest in hiring as his offensive coordinator the new head coach at Texas State University underscores one of the major challenges Kingsbury will be facing right out of the gates.

 

With no NFL coaching experience of any kind and, thus, a limited set of NFL contacts, how will Kingsbury put together an NFL coaching staff?

 

He’ll do it, apparently, by tapping into the network he has developed at the college level, with Jake Spavital the first in a list of names that would strike NFL coaches as something right out of the witness protection program.

 

The Cardinals, who were intent on hiring Kingsbury from the get-go (even though that was news to everyone including Kingsbury until recently), surely were aware of this complication. Perhaps Kingsbury will simply decide to keep some of Steve Wilks’ assistant coaches. Perhaps Kingsbury won’t have much of a choice.

 

Regardless, the success of any head coach hinges largely on the quality of his staff. And that could end up being an impediment for Kingsbury, since he’s at a clear disadvantage when it comes to tapping into a network that he simply doesn’t have.

 

Darren Urban of AZCardinals.com filed this report, filled with hiring day optimism:

 

Kliff Kingsbury has much work to do. He knows there are many who doubt his ability to be a head coach in the NFL.

 

“There’s nothing that I can say today that is going to change that,” Kingsbury said Wednesday, as he was officially introduced as the new Cardinals head coach at the Dignity Health Arizona Cardinals Training Center. “I know that it’s about the work that started (Tuesday) and what we do from this point forward. That’s how I’m attacking that.”

 

It is the coaching staff the Cardinals need first. Asked for his ideal timeline of filling out his assistants list, Kingsbury smiled and said, “today, if we could.”

 

The Cards cannot. But the process is ongoing – starting with the offensive and defensive coordinators – and Kingsbury made clear he will lean upon General Manager Steve Keim as the staff is built.

 

“We will try to get the right guys,” Kingsbury said. “That has been Steve’s mantra when we have sat down. We don’t care if we know them, we don’t know them, let’s make sure we get the right coaches for us right now.”

 

A veteran defensive coordinator would be ideal, Keim said. Keim – and team president Michael Bidwill, for that matter – made it clear multiple times Wednesday that because of the Cardinals’ defensive personnel, the team will be moving back to a 3-4 scheme after trying to shift to a 4-3 under former head coach Steve Wilks.

 

“Just based on our personnel, I think a 3-4 defense fit is what we are looking for,” Keim said. “Certainly with the edge rush that we have, to be able to play man-free on the back end. Again, it is catering to your strengths. There is no doubt in my mind that we have to find a defensive coordinator that can do that.”

 

That comment drew a happy emoji from current defensive end Chandler Jones on Twitter, even without knowing who the coordinator might be.

 

@chanjones55

 

Arizona Kardinals

@AZCardinals

GM Steve Keim says the team thinks a veteran defensive coordinator that runs a 3-4 would be a good fit on HC Kingsbury’s staff. https://twitter.com/i/broadcasts/1lPKqdRanOZxb

 

But the idea of an NFL veteran wasn’t limited to defensive coordinator. Kingsbury will call plays – expected, but he still acknowledged it Wednesday – but said he’d like an offensive coordinator that “will be somebody that will come in and help me mesh some of my ideas with some traditional things that they have done in the NFL.”

 

“(He will) be a great leader of men and be able to handle a room,” Kingsbury added. “Help me install different things.”

 

There were no names offered yet, however.

 

The name Bidwill and Keim keyed on, however, was Kingsbury, who said he first was a fan of the Cardinals back in 1997 because they drafted Jake Plummer.

 

To find their coach, Bidwill said he talked often to long-time NFL GM Ernie Accorsi to aid in his overall coaching search. Bidwill and Keim also employed Ring of Honor member Adrian Wilson, now a scout for the Cardinals, in the interview process.

 

“His insight and participation in the interview process, as a former player, as to fit and scheme was really helpful,” Bidwill said.

 

But Bidwill noted something that was little secret once the hire was made – that the Cardinals wanted a creative offensive mind who, albeit in college, had been a head coach and could hopefully push a moribund 2018 Cardinals offense into something much more.

 

Bidwill waved away the idea he looked for a Sean McVay clone, instead that he just focused on the offensive trend of the NFL.

 

“When you look at the league today, the teams that win the Super Bowl, the teams that win divisions, those are teams with great offenses,” Bidwill said. “We have a lot of work to do with our offense. It’s an offensively-driven league and we needed to go out and get an offensive coach.”

 

The idea Kingsbury can help develop Josh Rosen wasn’t unimportant either, given that Kingsbury has helped tutor guys like Baker Mayfield, Patrick Mahomes, Johnny Manziel and Case Keenum.

 

“He not only developed them but identified them through the recruiting process,” Keim said. “To me (that) was certainly a plus.”

 

AFC WEST

 

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

Chargers DT BRANDON MEBANE will return to the Chargers with a heavy heart on Sunda as he has lost his seven-week-old daughter.  Eric D. Williams of ESPN.com:

 

Los Angeles Chargers defensive tackle Brandon Mebane said that his 7-week-old daughter Makenna died Thursday.

 

“I’m still thankful, and I thank God every day,” Mebane said. “I still pray. We’re taking it one day at a time.”

 

Makenna was born Nov. 12 with trisomy 13. Because of her defective heart condition, his daughter did not have a heart valve, which required surgery to fix.

 

“She just kept having bleeding from her stomach, and then they tried to feed her, it wasn’t good for her liver,” Mebane said, holding back tears.

 

Mebane, his wife Amena and their two children Mahailey and Makai stayed in Omaha, Nebraska, receiving medical assistance after the birth of Makenna.

 

The defensive tackle missed four games this season to be with his family while Makenna was treated for the heart defect. Mebane said his wife and kids are back in Los Angeles, and he intends to play against the New England Patriots on Sunday. He had missed Sunday’s wild-card victory over the Baltimore Ravens after his daughter’s death.

 

Mebane, 33, is in his third season with the Chargers. A defensive co-captain, he has 40 tackles, a sack and a forced fumble in 12 games.

– – –

This from Albert Breer on the Chargers’ travel plans:

 

I asked Anthony Lynn if the Chargers had considered staying on the East Coast this week. And he said … yes. “We did, but it was so late,” Lynn said. “When you get the schedule before the season, you can plan this stuff. But when it happens and you have a week’s notice, the logistics of doing that is really hard. We just couldn’t get it done. But this is a tough football team. We’ll go back to the West Coast, prepare, and we’ll come back to the East Coast and we’ll do it again.” After a little more digging, I found out that the Chargers actually investigated sites near Baltimore and New York. And they felt confident they could get hotel space and a practice site. The real issue? Getting their digital video up and running to where it needed to be, and a full training room going wasn’t feasible on such short notice. The Chargers, you may remember, spent a week in Cleveland earlier in the year ahead of their trip to London. And in anticipation of that trip, they sent their IT people a week ahead to get the hotel wired, so the coaches could hit the ground running when they arrived. That was hard enough. Doing that with much less lead time, as they saw it, invited risk that wasn’t worth taking in a playoff week.

 

Here’s a crazy stat from NFL Research:

 

@NFLResearch

The ’16 Patriots, ’07 Giants, ’05 Steelers, ’00 Ravens, ’89 & ’84 49ers & ’72 Dolphins

 

Only teams in the SB era to win 9+ games outside of their home stadium (incl. playoffs)

 

They all won the Super Bowl

 

The 2018 @Chargers have also 9+ games outside of their home stadium

 

So each of those seven teams, whatever their total count is, it includes the Super Bowl.

 

The Chargers, counting London, are at 9 and will be at 11 or 12 when and if they win the Super Bowl.  They uncertainty is because they could still host the Championship Game as the 5 seed if Indy wins in Kansas City.

 

AFC NORTH

 

BALTIMORE

Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com:

 

“There’s a Bible verse that basically says, ‘Make no oath.’ No one can say what tomorrow’s going to bring, other than God-willing. Deo volente. Those are the two Latin words I know, but those are the two most important ones. We’ll see what God has in store, but I have every expectation and every plan to be here as long as the Ravens want me here, and I believe they want me here. I think that’s been made clear by management to me over the last few weeks.” —Ravens coach John Harbaugh

 

So here’s what I know about this: I know Harbaugh loves the team he coached this year. I know extension talks are ongoing. I know with legendary GM Ozzie Newsome passing the baton to Eric DeCosta, there are changes in the organization. And I know there are teams, two of them in Florida, that have been keeping an eye on it all.

 

 

CLEVELAND

We’re not sure this is the “stat of a lifetime” but it’s a pretty good one:

 

Johnny Kinsley

@Brickwallblitz

The stat of a lifetime: With Freddie Kitchens as OC the Browns offensive line allowed 7 QB hits on Baker Mayfield in their last 8 games.

 

With Hue and Haley they allowed 61 QB hits in the first 8.

 

This is why Kitchens is now the HC.

 

Of course, TYROD TAYLOR might have had something to do with the higher hit count.

 

And, of course, playing Taylor would be part of the reason Jackson deservedly hit the highway (I-71 to Cincinnati to be precise).

– – –

Tom Ley of Deadspin has some fun with the news that DC Gregg Wiliams will not continue on in the Freddie Kitchens regime in Cleveland:

 

The Browns decided today that offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens will be the team’s next head coach. He will be tasked with leading the Browns into what appears to be a promising future, and he will not be joined on that journey by defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.

 

Williams, one of the truest maniacs to ever walk an NFL sideline, started the season as Cleveland’s defensive coordinator and was one piece of the Browns’ deeply dysfunctional set of coaches, which included head coach Hue Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley. Jackson and Haley were fired midseason, and Williams seemingly won the trio’s long-simmering power struggle when he was named interim head coach. Williams certainly believed that he deserved the job, and made clear during his first press conference as the man in charge that just about every NFL team has spent years begging him to be their head coach. At the time he said:

 

“Since I left Buffalo, I had 11 letters to interview for HC jobs,” Williams proclaimed. “Four of them didn’t even have to interview, just show up and sign the contract.”

 

This is a great day for Williams, then. He’s going back into the job market with more employment opportunities than he knows what to do with. That sucks for all the current head coaches who are going to get fired just so their teams can take a shot at hiring this suddenly available genius, though.

 

AFC EAST

 

NEW YORK JETS

Rich Cimini of ESPN.com thinks the Jets are closing in on their man – even as he still lists seven candidates:

 

The New York Jets are moving closer to naming their next head coach, as the first round of interviews is over — or so it appears. The next step is to determine which candidate can lead the franchise out of the Todd Bowles abyss and return it to relevancy.

 

Big job, big decision.

 

As of Wednesday morning, the search appears wide open. Let’s take a look at a pro and con for each candidate:

 

Mike McCarthy — He’s the safest choice because he has the best résumé by far. The former Green Bay Packers coach is interested in only one team — the Jets, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter — although it appears they’re the only team interested in him. The biggest concern with McCarthy is that his offense had become too stale in recent years. Before I’d hire him, I’d need to know how he plans to refresh his philosophy.

 

Adam Gase — Would they really hire a fellow also-ran from the AFC East? The optics wouldn’t be good, and the fan base wouldn’t be happy. The former Miami Dolphins coach is coming off a 7-9 season with a point differential (minus-114) that was actually worse than that of the 4-12 Jets (minus-108). Beyond that, Gase has some attractive qualities. He’s an offensive playcaller and knows quarterbacks, which appeals to the Jets.

 

Matt Rhule — His name won’t go away, which leads me to believe he’s very much in this thing. The Baylor coach is a salesman who believes in tough, disciplined teams. He revitalized Baylor and Temple, but it’s a long way from Waco, Texas, to Broadway. The success rate for college coaches in the NFL is low. What’s more, Rhule isn’t known as an offensive innovator and has no history of developing quarterbacks. You also have to wonder if he’d be able to assemble a strong staff. Nevertheless, the Jets are intrigued.

 

Todd Monken — The former Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator is an aggressive playcaller who would energize Sam Darnold and the offense. Working with journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick and turnover-prone Jameis Winston, Monken orchestrated the NFL’s No. 1 passing attack. But it wasn’t his offense; he ran Dirk Koetter’s scheme. That’s a question mark. Monken has strong leadership traits — he was the runner-up for the Packers job — but his low profile might cause the Jets to shy away. Obviously that shouldn’t matter, but teams like to move the needle.

 

Jim Caldwell — His résumé stacks up with anyone on this list. He made the playoffs as a head coach for two teams — Indianapolis Colts and Detroit Lions — and he’s known for his work with quarterbacks. Do you think Matthew Stafford misses him in Detroit? One problem is that Caldwell, out of football last year, is the ultimate retread and he’s 63 years old. His game-management skills also are a question.

 

Eric Bieniemy — There hasn’t been a lot of buzz about the Kansas City Chiefs’ offensive coordinator, who was the first to interview for the job. He has done a fantastic job this season with Patrick Mahomes and the entire offense, but there are some who believe he’s a one-year wonder.

 

Kris Richard — If this were 2015, when the Jets last hired a coach, he’d be a strong candidate. There’s a lot to like about Richard, a charismatic leader, but his timing is off. Like the rest of the league, the Jets are looking for an offensive-minded coach. Richard, the Dallas Cowboys’ defensive backs coach/passing-game coordinator, is defense all the way.

 

And then on Thursday morning came word that one of the names on that list had emerged.  Rich Cimini of ESPN.com:

 

The New York Jets are expected to hire Adam Gase as their new head coach, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter and Jeff Darlington.

 

The Jets reached out to Gase soon after he was fired by the Miami Dolphins on Dec. 31. He was only 23-25 in three seasons, but he dominated the Jets, winning five of six meetings.

 

Gase would become the Jets’ first head coach since Bill Parcells (1997) with NFL head coaching experience. He would fill the need for an offensive-minded coach, something they haven’t had since Rich Kotite (1995-1996). Gase is also expected to be the Jets’ primary playcaller.

 

It was an exhaustive process that included countless discussions, but sources told Darlington that Jets CEO Christopher Johnson took a phone call on Tuesday night from an especially impressive reference who advocated for Gase: Peyton Manning.

 

With a potential franchise player in Sam Darnold, the Jets wanted a coach with a background in developing quarterbacks. Gase has worked with many, most notably Manning, who set passing records as the Denver Broncos’ quarterback in 2013 with Gase as the offensive coordinator.

 

Multiple sources told Darlington that the Jets wanted to make sure they got the right person to help Darnold, and the QB believes they did.

 

Darnold didn’t impose his opinion on general manager Mike Maccagnan or the team’s ownership, but after speaking with Gase via FaceTime on Monday night, he personally felt like Gase was the right guy, sources said.

 

The Jets’ hierarchy opted for Gase over former Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy and fast-rising college coach Matt Rhule of Baylor.

 

Dowell Loggains is expected to join Gase as his top offensive assistant, barring any snags with his contract in Miami, sources told ESPN.

 

Former Denver Broncos coach Vance Joseph, who served as Gase’s defensive coordinator in 2016, will be a strong candidate for the same position with the Jets, sources said. He is currently a candidate for the Cincinnati Bengals’ head coaching vacancy.

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

THE QUARTERBACK MARKET

Need a QB?  You can shop at Mike Sando’s ESPN Quarterback Market:

 

Five years ago, before the Cincinnati Bengals extended Andy Dalton’s rookie contract, I wrote a column questioning whether NFL teams should pay upper-tier money for middle-tier quarterbacks. That discussion endures today as the league heads into another potentially wacky offseason at the position.

 

Joe Flacco, Nick Foles, Teddy Bridgewater, Ryan Tannehill and Eli Manning are among the veterans who could reach the market. They are current or former starting quarterbacks in a league with more teams than truly exciting options at the position. The picture will evolve as teams hire head coaches, evaluate college prospects and figure out how they want to allocate resources, but there will always be demand.

 

I’ve separated the most relevant veteran and draft-eligible quarterback options into categories, laying out which teams are most likely to seek their services.

 

Two team contract negotiators thought the Minnesota Vikings’ experience with Kirk Cousins — paying $84 million fully guaranteed, then firing their offensive coordinator during the season and missing the playoffs — could hurt veteran free agents this offseason even though Cousins put up good numbers (30 touchdowns, 10 interceptions, 62.0 Total QBR). Both negotiators said one lesson was that it can take years for a quarterback to become a leader in a new environment.

 

Of course, the Jacksonville Jaguars brought back Blake Bortles in the interests of team chemistry and stability last offseason — his QBR was actually higher than Cousins’ in 2017 — and it backfired (not that they were obligated to extend his contract, which they did).

 

The Vikings’ choice was between Case Keenum, who had built strong chemistry with teammates during a storybook 13-3 season, and an outsider perceived to be an upgrade. Teams in the market for quarterbacks this offseason typically do not have beloved in-house options coming off breakout seasons. Their choices are detailed below.

 

Teams most likely to seek new starting QBs

These are ranked in order of most likely to change starters this offseason:

 

1. Jacksonville Jaguars

They have not funneled resources into developing alternatives to Bortles. That could change this offseason after Bortles lost his job.

 

“They have got to do something,” an evaluator said. “I would assume that means moving on from Bortles.”

 

Enter Flacco? Manning? Bridgewater? Foles?

 

It’s too early to have much of a feel. Jacksonville doesn’t even have an offensive coordinator yet. The team will presumably pursue the formula for winning that executive vice president Tom Coughlin has outlined in the past: solid defense and a run-oriented offense with a play-action passing game designed to provide explosive plays.

 

2. Washington Redskins

Alex Smith’s career-threatening leg injury will force the team to line up alternatives.

 

“The Redskins might be one of the most quarterback-needy teams out there just because of Alex Smith’s injury,” an evaluator said. “You almost have to plan as though he is not coming back, worst-case scenario.”

 

3. New York Giants

General manager Dave Gettleman’s noncommittal comments regarding Manning kept open the possibility the team could head in another direction with one year remaining on the veteran quarterback’s contract.

 

“Eli has had some really talented skill players, and it looks bad,” a personnel director said. “The production has not been there. Some of the tape is just poor.”

 

Others have said the Giants’ decision to bypass a quarterback in the 2018 draft was an indication Gettleman thought Manning had two or three years left. If that was indeed part of the thought process, has the thinking changed?

 

4. Miami Dolphins

Ownership has authorized a long-term rebuild, which might not include a seventh season with Ryan Tannehill as the projected starting quarterback.

 

“If I’m Miami, I have a lot of other needs to address, so I do not know if I would trade a pick for a Joe Flacco,” an evaluator said. “At the same time, I would invest in a Flacco if I’m moving on from Tannehill. I would rather pay Flacco than pay Tannehill.”

 

5. Denver Broncos

GM John Elway said Keenum is the starter “right now” and that the team is always looking for “that guy” … a clear indication all options are on the table.

 

“I would list Denver and Miami as equals on here,” an analytics specialist said. “You can move on if you feel like you have upgraded from either one.”

 

One QB who defies categorization

 

Nick Foles

Team: Philadelphia Eagles

Current APY: $14.5 million

 

Foles, Flacco and Bridgewater are three intriguing potential options. Their statistical profiles over their past 16 starts, counting playoffs, are strikingly similar, as the table shows. It’s as though middle-tier quarterbacks are interchangeable:

 

Foles’ future could go any number of directions. He could become a free agent. He could get the franchise or transition tag, although one team’s contract negotiator doubted the Eagles would go that route, for fear of getting stuck with the bill if Foles signed the tender, guaranteeing the elevated salaries that come with those tags.

 

Foles could decide he wants to stay in Philly at a negotiated rate. He could win another Super Bowl for all anyone knows at this point.

 

It’s a highly unusual situation with a range of interesting variables, including what Foles wants for his future and whether other teams think a couple of late-season runs in Philly translate to consistent success over time in another setting.

 

Foles can become a free agent two ways. The most direct route would involve the Eagles declining a $20 million option for 2019. The less direct route would involve Philly exercising the option and Foles then paying back $2 million of his 2018 signing bonus to void the option, as the contract allows him to do.

 

If Foles does opt out, the Eagles could then use the franchise or transition tag to retain control of him, soliciting trade offers or even keeping him. How the Eagles’ ongoing playoff run unfolds from here will play a role.

 

Four notable free-agent QBs

These veteran quarterbacks without contracts for 2019 have been primary starters in the past five seasons.

 

Teddy Bridgewater

Team: New Orleans Saints

Current APY: $6 million

 

The former Minnesota starter and current New Orleans backup has attempted 25 passes over the past three seasons. His Week 17 start in a meaningless game that saw the Saints rest starters did not go particularly well, but Bridgewater’s reconstructed knee made it through the game.

 

If concerns over durability lower Bridgewater’s price tag, he could represent better value than other Tier 3 quarterbacks (he was ranked 23rd and in the third tier in both of my 2015 and 2016 QB Tiers surveys of NFL coaches and evaluators).

 

“Preseason, before he got traded, he showed some flashes, and then the game he played this year for New Orleans wasn’t very good,” an evaluator said. “He is talented. He is young enough to be a guy. I don’t see him as a guy I’m going to sign for the next five years, but I’m saying that as a team that has a quarterback. If I did not have one, I would consider drafting one and signing Teddy as well, with a Tyrod Taylor-type deal.”

 

Bridgewater ranked 21st among 32 qualifying quarterbacks in Total QBR over his 2014 and 2015 seasons with Minnesota, before the injury.

 

Because QBR is scaled from 0-100 and correlates with winning, his 55.9 average carried an expectation he would win about 56 percent of starts with an average supporting cast. That equates to a 9-7 record over one season and 16-12 over the games Bridgewater started. Bridgewater did go 16-12 in those starts. He got above-average support from the Vikings’ defense and special teams.

 

For a team like the Jaguars, whose 38.3 average QBR equated to 6.1 expected victories with average support this season, Bridgewater’s previous production could be worth about 2.8 additional victories.

 

“If I’m Bridgewater, I consider staying in New Orleans to be the successor to Drew Brees, because that is a good position to be in,” another evaluator said. “Or, you can take the money elsewhere, be like Mike Glennon and then a year or two later, maybe you are let go with money that your family has for generations.”

 

Ryan Fitzpatrick

Team: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Current APY: $3.3 million

 

The Buccaneers will be paying nearly $21 million to starter Jameis Winston in 2019, a big raise that will make him the team’s highest-paid player. That could affect how much money they allocate to the backup position. Teams probably will not view Fitzpatrick as a starter in the market based on his age (36) and inconsistency.

 

Tyrod Taylor

Team: Cleveland Browns

Current APY: $15.25 million

 

The Browns traded a third-round pick to Buffalo for Taylor last offseason, then benched him for Baker Mayfield after three starts. The thinking held that Cleveland might get a 2020 compensatory choice after Taylor signed a free-agent deal this offseason. There might not be much of a market for the 29-year-old as a starter based on how things went in Cleveland.

 

Josh McCown

Team: New York Jets

Current APY: $10 million

 

McCown is mulling retirement and would seemingly be a good fit as Sam Darnold’s backup if he does continue playing.

 

Twelve other free-agent QBs

These quarterbacks without contracts for 2019 project as backups.

 

Colin Kaepernick, free agent: Two seasons have passed since Kaepernick’s most recent game, with no indication any team is interested in signing him. His collusion case against the NFL remains unresolved. Kaepernick ranked 29th, atop the fourth tier, in my 2016 QB Tiers survey, conducted before Kaepernick began protesting social injustice by kneeling during the national anthem. Some saw him as a solid Tier 3 quarterback if placed in a system that could utilize his dual-threat abilities.

 

Sam Bradford, free agent: The Cardinals benched Bradford after three starts in 2018, then released him to improve their standing in the compensatory-pick equation and unload his contract.

 

Brett Hundley, Seattle Seahawks: Seattle acquired him from Green Bay for a 2019 sixth-round pick.

 

Nate Sudfeld, Philadelphia Eagles: Completed 19 of 23 passes for 134 yards and a 34.4 QBR in the 2017 finale, his only significant playing time.

 

Trevor Siemian, Minnesota Vikings: Has a 13-11 starting record despite a 41.1 QBR, thanks to his team’s defense playing well — 50 or higher in ESPN’s efficiency metric — in 83 percent of starts.

 

Brock Osweiler, Miami Dolphins: Has a higher QBR but worse conventional stats than Ryan Tannehill over the past four seasons, on more attempts.

 

Robert Griffin III, Baltimore Ravens: Has said he hopes to return as Lamar Jackson’s backup next season.

 

Geno Smith, Los Angeles Chargers: Has one start in the past four seasons.

 

 

Tom Savage, Cincinnati Bengals: Started seven games for the Texans in 2017, throwing five touchdown passes and six interceptions.

 

Mark Sanchez and Josh Johnson, Washington Redskins: Sanchez was an emergency signing after Alex Smith’s injury, while Johnson took over after Sanchez’s benching.

 

Five QBs who could be cut or traded

These five veterans entered 2018 as starters, remain under contract for next season and could plausibly be available.

 

Joe Flacco

Team: Baltimore Ravens

Current APY: $22.1 million

 

The Ravens owned the NFL’s third-best record (54-26) when Flacco was playing on his rookie contract. They rank 15th (50-46) since making Flacco the highest-paid quarterback following their Super Bowl victory. Baltimore’s QBR has remained relatively flat while the Ravens’ offensive and defensive efficiencies have fallen. That suggests the supporting cast has deteriorated, partly because of the resources set aside for the quarterback position.

 

Any team acquiring Flacco by trade would also acquire his contract, which carries an $18.5 million base salary for the coming season. The salaries are higher for 2020 ($20.25 million) and 2021 ($24.25 million), but because there would be no new bonus money involved, the acquiring team could exit the deal without negative cap consequences. Flacco’s new team would be getting him on a three-year, $63 million deal with no guarantees, which would average out to No. 13 among quarterback APYs, same as for Eli Manning.

 

The Ravens could clear between $10.5 million and $18.5 million in 2019 cap space by trading or releasing him, depending on how and when the move was made.

 

Flacco ranked 23rd and deep into the third tier of my 2018 QB Tiers survey. He could be an upgrade for some teams.

 

“He has a strong arm and can throw it,” a personnel director said. “The only thing is, his lack of mobility. If you have a sound offensive line, I could see him being a fit. Miami could make sense. I am not saying they have a great line, but they have enough. Jacksonville would have to get their offensive line solidified and get some more skill players around him.”

 

The Broncos’ hiring of Gary Kubiak as offensive coordinator gives Denver a direct link to Flacco. The two were together when Kubiak was the Ravens’ offensive coordinator in 2014. Flacco posted a career-best 68.6 QBR that season, throwing a career-high 27 touchdown passes.

 

Ryan Tannehill

Team: Miami Dolphins

Current APY: $19.25 million

 

The Dolphins will have a new coach and could change direction at quarterback as Tannehill enters his age-31 season. They could save between $13.2 million and $18.75 million under their 2019 cap if they traded or released him.

 

Tannehill’s 49.1 career QBR is lower than the 55.1 figure for the entire league since 2012, his rookie season. Flacco, Jay Cutler, Case Keenum and Sam Bradford outrank him over that span.

 

“I could see Tannehill maybe being traded, depending on the team, but more likely cut than traded,” an evaluator said.

 

Eli Manning

Team: New York Giants

Current APY: $21 million

 

The Giants have made no public declaration about their plans for the position as Manning enters the final year of his contract. That contract is scheduled to pay $5 million to Manning on March 15, the third day of the league year. The team could save $17 million under the 2019 cap by releasing or trading Manning before that bonus is due.

 

“I always thought they would bring him back,” an evaluator said, “unless [Pat] Shurmur is just ready to move on. It felt like Gettleman was going to play out that contract.”

 

Case Keenum

Team: Denver Broncos

Current APY: $18 million

 

Keenum’s QBR last season (46.9) was about what it was in 24 career starts before a breakout 2017 season with Minnesota made him attractive to Denver. His contract carries an $18 million salary for 2019, including $7 million guaranteed. Keenum could become available if the Broncos can find what they perceive to be a better option.

 

Blake Bortles

Team: Jacksonville Jaguars

Current APY: $17,483,500

 

Bortles has $6.5 million of his $14 million salary for 2019 guaranteed, and another $1 million coming his way if he remains on the Jaguars’ roster on March 17, the fifth day of the league year. He ranked 29th in QBR (45.7) among the 30 quarterbacks with at least 300 pass attempts this season and lost his job to Cody Kessler after 72 consecutive starts.

 

Four long-shot QB options

These quarterbacks aren’t likely to be moved, but keep an eye on their teams and situations:

 

Derek Carr

Team: Oakland Raiders

Current APY: $25 million

 

Carr turns 28 in March and should be entering his physical prime. Raiders coach Jon Gruden seems to like him, but does Gruden love him? Could Gruden fall in love with one of the college prospects or come across a veteran he’d rather build around? Carr’s contract is easily tradable if Oakland decides to go in another direction.

 

Andy Dalton

Team: Cincinnati Bengals

Current APY: $16 million

 

About that contract extension for Dalton, signed before the 2014 season …

 

Dalton has been better than AJ McCarron, whom the Bengals drafted in the fifth round that year. He has arguably outperformed the five quarterbacks selected in the first two rounds of that draft: Bortles, Johnny Manziel, Bridgewater, Derek Carr and Jimmy Garoppolo. Dalton has done it at a lower price in some cases, and his deal hasn’t been a huge drain on resources.

 

Dalton’s relatively low (for a starting QB) salary makes him a potential bargain relative to the prices other teams are paying for Tier 2-3 quarterbacks. Cincy has favored stability over risk when making the most important decisions. Also, Dalton has produced at a high level when the supporting cast was strong, notably in 2015. Those factors make it seem less likely Dalton would be available. He’s signed through 2020.

 

As a general manager put it a few years back, “If you have a guy that proves he is up to winning [with the right supporting cast], no matter if he is not quite what you want, it is damn hard to move on. If you have to play with a castoff guy, all of a sudden you are like, ‘F—!'”

 

Matthew Stafford

Team: Detroit Lions

Current APY: $27 million

 

Most NFL execs I’ve consulted expect Stafford to be the Lions’ starting quarterback for 2019, with some saying they would be shocked if that were not the case. A few think the Lions’ current leadership could consider a franchise reset that would put all options on the table, including a quarterback change. The salary-cap ramifications could be severe depending on the timing of any move with Stafford.

 

Marcus Mariota

Team: Tennessee Titans

Current APY: $20.92 million

 

Mariota enters his fifth-year option season as the Titans’ presumed starter if he bounces back from the nerve injury that ended his 2018 season. The Titans will have yet another offensive coordinator after losing Matt LaFleur to the Packers. While there are questions about Mariota’s long-term outlook both in terms of health and performance, he will presumably be part of the team’s plans in 2019.

 

Five 2019 draft prospects to watch

The 2019 class of quarterbacks is interesting, but there are still several unknowns more than three months away from Round 1:

 

Dwayne Haskins, Ohio State: Likely first-round pick with a shot at being the top QB selected.

 

Kyler Murray, Oklahoma: Two-sport star has options and will have NFL suitors, perhaps early in the draft, if he enters.

 

Daniel Jones, Duke: Association with QB developer David Cutcliffe could help.

 

Drew Lock, Missouri: Physical tools could push him into first couple rounds.

 

Will Grier, West Virginia: Has potential to rise in what is seen as thin QB crop.

 

 

2019 DRAFT

It looks like QB KYLER MURRAY will see how valuable he is as a football player.  ESPN.com:

 

The Oakland A’s expect Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray to declare for the 2019 NFL draft before Monday’s deadline, the San Francisco Chronicle reports, citing multiple sources.

 

Murray, a two-sport star, was chosen by the A’s with the ninth pick of the MLB draft in 2018 and signed a $4.66 million contract in June that allowed him to play football for the Sooners for one final season before joining the A’s.

 

Murray, 21, complicated things by leading Oklahoma to a 12-2 record and a spot in the College Football Playoff, winning the Heisman Trophy along the way.

 

ESPN draft experts Mel Kiper and Todd McShay have noted that Murray could be a first-round pick, and ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported Wednesday that Murray was getting “first-round feedback” regarding the NFL. Last month, an NFL general manager told ESPN’s Adam Schefter: “I really believe he’s a first-round pick, a late first, I really do.”

 

Declaring for the NFL draft would not guarantee that Murray would choose football, and the A’s would retain his professional rights, even if he tried the NFL first.

 

The A’s were told recently that Murray would not be going back to Oklahoma, sources told ESPN’s Jeff Passan. The A’s still expect him to report to spring training in mid-February, and the plan is to keep him in major league camp until mid-March, when they leave for Japan to start their season, sources said.

 

The expectation is to have Murray start his professional career at Oakland’s high-A affiliate in Stockton, California, sources said.

 

Murray’s agent, Scott Boras, told ESPN on Wednesday night that his client “has a baseball contract.” Boras has been steadfast that Murray will play baseball now that Oklahoma’s football season is over.

 

Murray will need to make a decision in the next month. Spring training for the A’s opens Feb. 15, and it seems unlikely he would be able to prepare for football’s scouting combine at the same time as he was attending his first major league baseball camp.

 

Last month, on the eve of the Heisman ceremony, it was clear Murray was torn about which sport he wanted to play.

 

“I’d like to do both, if possible,” he said. “But I don’t know how possible that is.”

 

The Chronicle reported that one source told the paper Murray is leaning toward football.

 

After his team lost to Alabama in the College Football Playoff semifinal, Murray was mum about his future.

 

Several former MLB draft picks ultimately chose to pursue football full time, including Russell Wilson, Jameis Winston and Ricky Williams.

 

And Jeff Samardzija chose to pursue baseball.  According to BaseballReference.com, he has made $83 million in his baseball career.  At the age of 34 in 2019, he still is due $39 million more.