Steelers’ Vance McDonald Retires From NFL

Vance McDonald announced his retirement on Friday morning. The longtime Steelers tight end says that he will focus on faith and family in the next chapter of his life.

My family and I are so grateful for everything NFL football has provided us in our life—all the memories both good and the difficult, the relationships and friends we’ve made along the way, the life lessons the game provided both me and my loved ones,” McDonald said in a statement. “It’s always been our dream and mission to leverage the platform given us through the NFL to help serve and uplift others along the way, and we will continue to find ways to serve others as we begin this next chapter of our lives. I am proud to retire a Steeler.”

McDonald first entered the league as a second round pick of the 49ers in 2013. In 2017, the Niners shipped him to the Steelers where he would turn in some of his best performances. McDonald’s signature season came in 2018, when he tallied 50 catches for 610 yards and four touchdowns.

“I am appreciative of Vance’s contributions during the last four years of his career that he spent in Pittsburgh,” said head coach Mike Tomlin. “He was a class act on and off the field, leading many of our efforts in the community while also being a voice for our social justice efforts and the community work during the pandemic.”

McDonald leaves with 181 catches, 2,036 receiving yards, and 15 touchdowns for his career. We here at PFR wish him the best in retirement.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Dirk Koetter Retires From Coaching

Dirk Koetter has retired from football. After 39 years in coaching, the former Falcons offensive coordinator announced that he will move back to Idaho instead of pursuing a new job in 2021.

[RELATED: Falcons Hire Dave Ragone, Dean Pees]

After 39 seasons of coaching football, it’s time to move on to the next phase of my life,” Koetter wrote on Facebook (Twitter link via Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times.) “From 1982 at Highland High through the 2020 season with the Atlanta Falcons it’s been nothing but football year round with not nearly enough time for anything else, especially family,”

Koetter served as the Falcons’ OC from 2012-14, then took on the same job in Tampa Bay. When the Bucs fired Lovie Smith in 2016, Koetter was promoted to head coach. After going 9-7 in his first HC year, Koetter’s Bucs posted back-to-back 5-11 campaigns. He returned to Atlanta in 2019 to serve as Dan Quinn‘s offensive coordinator and stayed on after his fall firing. However, new head coach Arthur Smith has hired his own OC in Dave Ragone.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Coaching Notes: Rams, WFT, Jets, Falcons, Broncos, Steelers

The Rams have found their new special teams coordinator, as the team announced that they’ve hired Joe DeCamillis. The veteran coach will be replacing John Bonamego, who’s transitioning to a senior coaching assistant role.

DeCamillis brings 32 years of NFL coaching experience, including the past four years as the Jaguars special teams coordinator. During his stint in Jacksonville, the team traditionally ranked top-10 in many special teams categories, and in 2019, DeCamillis helped guide punter Logan Cooke and kicker Josh Lambo to becoming the first teammates to lead the NFL in net punting average and field goal percentage.

Prior to working with the Jaguars, the 55-year-old spent time as special teams coordinator with the Broncos, Bears, and Cowboys, and he also spent time on the Falcons and Giants coaching staffs.

Bonamego, 57, joined the Rams last February. He spent the 2019 season as special teams coordinator of the Lions, and he was Central Michigan’s head coach between the 2015 and 2018 seasons.

Some more coaching notes from around the league…

  • Jennifer King is expected to become a full-time offensive assistant on Washington‘s coaching staff, reports NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport (via Twitter). This makes King “the first full-time Black female coach in NFL history,” per The Athletic. The Guilford College product spent the 2020 season as a full-year coaching intern on Ron Rivera‘s staff.
  • It’s looking like new Jets head coach Robert Saleh has finalized his offensive coaching staff. We previously heard about the hirings of Mike LaFleur as offensive coordinator, Greg Knapp as quarterbacks coach, John Benton as offensive line coach, and Rob Calabrese as passing game specialist. ESPN’s Rich Cimini passed along a few names we can add to the list, including wide receivers coach Miles Austin, running backs coach Taylor Embree, and tight ends coach Ron Middleton. As Cimini notes, the staff doesn’t feature a whole lot of experience, with Calabrese, Embree, and Austin serving as first-time NFL positional coaches.
  • The Falcons are expected to hire Charles London as their new quarterbacks coach, reports NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero (via Twitter). It’s a bit of an interesting hire, as London has spent the last nine years serving as a running backs coach with the Texans, Bears, and Penn State. However, the 45-year-old does have experience as an offensive assistant/quality control coach with the Titans and Bears.
  • Mike Klis of 9News in Denver tweets that Broncos running backs coach Curtis Modkins has drawn interest “from around the league as offensive coordinator.” The 50-year-old has consistently served as an NFL running backs coach since the 2008 season, spending time with the Chiefs, Cardinals, Bills, Lions, 49ers, and Bears.
  • Mike Tomlin interviewed Hank Fraley for the Steelers OL coach gig, reports Gerry Dulac of the Post-Gazette (via Twitter). Fraley actually started his NFL career in Pittsburgh, as the Steelers signed him as an undrafted free agent back in 2000. Following a playing career that saw him appear in 142 games (mostly with the Eagles and Browns), Fraley has served as a coach at both the collegiate and professional level, including a recent stint as the Lions offensive line coach.

Giants Sign DE Breeland Speaks To Reserve/Futures Deal

A 2018 second-round pick has inked a non-guaranteed futures contract. The Giants announced today that they’ve inked defensive end Breeland Speaks to a reserve/futures deal.

Speaks was selected by the Chiefs with the 46th-overall pick in the 2018 draft. The Ole Miss product had a solid rookie campaign, appearing in all 16 games (with four starts) while collecting 24 tackles, three tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, and one forced fumble. Speaks also appeared in a pair of playoff games during his rookie season, compiling a pair of tackles.

He missed the 2019 season due to a knee injury, and while sitting on IR, he was suspended four games after violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy. Speaks was reinstated late during the 2019 campaign and landed back on IR, and he ultimately won a ring after the Chiefs defeated the 49ers in Super Bowl LIV.

Speaks was waived at the end of the 2020 preseason, and he jumped around the NFL a bit during the regular season. Following a stint with the Raiders practice squad in October, the 25-year-old ended the season on the Cowboys’ taxi squad.

Speaks will sit on the Giants’ 90-man offseason roster with a non-guaranteed deal, and the pact guarantees that he won’t be scooped up by another squad. Teams are only allowed to use reserve/futures deals on players who weren’t on an active roster at the end of the 2020 regular season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFL Reserve/Futures Contracts: 1/21/21

Today’s reserve/futures deals:

Arizona Cardinals

New Orleans Saints

Tennessee Titans

  • WR Mason Kinsey

Martin Mayhew To Be Washington’s GM

Washington was connected to hires of both Marty Hurney and Martin Mayhew this week, with the former being expected to lead the team’s front office. This structure may not be Washington’s preferred hierarchy, however.

It could be Mayhew in line to become Washington’s GM. The former Lions GM is the candidate Washington will go with as general manager, according to ESPN.com’s John Keim (on Twitter). Mayhew, who was with the 49ers for four years, will receive a second chance in a GM post.

Washington will still hire Mayhew and Hurney, according to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport, but the latter will be part of a Mayhew-led front office (Twitter link). The ex-Panthers GM will serve as a high-ranking Washington staffer. The Panthers fired Hurney in December, ending his second stint as their front office boss.

The Lions fired Mayhew in 2015, doing so despite the former Washington Super Bowl-winning cornerback helping Detroit to two playoff berths after the franchise sunk to the NFL’s basement during the 2000s. Mayhew spent a year with the Giants before joining John Lynch‘s 49ers staff. The 49ers promoted Mayhew to VP of player personnel in 2019 and stand to benefit from Mayhew’s Washington hire.

The NFL’s Rooney Rule changes last year will mean the team that loses a head coach or executive is entitled to third-round draft compensation. Because the Jets hired Robert Saleh, the 49ers’ third-round pick for Mayhew will come in 2023, according to The Athletic’s Matt Barrows (subscription required). The Saleh move will provide San Francisco with third-rounders this year and next. Overall, the haul stands to be three total Round 3 picks for the 49ers, Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News tweets. These selections will come at the end of the round.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bill O’Brien Named Alabama OC

After a tumultuous year and change operating as both the Texans’ head coach and GM, Bill O’Brien will return to the college ranks — for the highest-profile team.

Alabama hired O’Brien as its offensive coordinator Thursday. O’Brien is back at the Division I-FBS level for the first time since 2013, when he was Penn State’s initial post-Joe Paterno head coach. In between his Patriots and Texans stays, O’Brien led the Nittany Lions for two seasons.

Nick Saban has been big on hiring NFL coaches to run his offense in recent years. Bills OC Brian Daboll rebounded while working as the Crimson Tide’s offensive coordinator in 2017, and short-tenured Falcons OC Steve Sarkisian served in that capacity for the past two seasons. Sarkisian recently became the Texas Longhorns’ head coach.

Bill is one of the brightest offensive minds in football, an outstanding teacher and excellent recruiter,” Saban said. “He will strengthen our coaching staff and give our players the best possible chance to be successful.”

While O’Brien took considerable heat for his moves while in the Texans’ GM chair, he did lead the team to four playoff berths in six full seasons. O’Brien piloted Houston to the postseason with Brian Hoyer and Brock Osweiler as his primary quarterbacks in 2015 and ’16, though the Texans went just 9-7 in each season, and had the 2018 and ’19 Deshaun Watson-driven squads in the postseason as well. Houston won two playoff games under O’Brien, the most recent coming in 2019, but was fired early this past season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Colts To Promote Marcus Brady To OC

The Colts are moving swiftly to fill Nick Sirianni‘s position. Frank Reich intends to promote quarterbacks coach Marcus Brady to offensive coordinator, Chris Mortensen of ESPN.com tweets.

Sirianni left after three seasons in this role to become Eagles head coach. Brady, 41, has been with the Colts throughout Reich’s three-year tenure as well. This marks the second promotion for Brady since he arrived in Indianapolis. Reich bumped him up from assistant quarterbacks coach in 2019.

While this will be Brady’s first time as an NFL OC, he served in this capacity for the CFL’s Montreal Alouettes and Toronto Argonauts from 2012-17. Reich works as Indianapolis’ play-caller, but he and Brady will soon be in charge of working with a new starting quarterback. Philip Rivers retired earlier this week, and Jacoby Brissett will be a free agent in March.

During his time as Colts QBs coach, Brady has worked with three starting QBs — Rivers, Brissett and Andrew Luck. The Colts ventured back to the playoffs, with Rivers completing a bounce-back campaign, and surprised most of the football-following world in 2018 when Luck returned and spearheaded an Indy return to the postseason. The Jaguars were also interested in Brady, requesting an interview, but they are set to hire Darrell Bevell for that post.

Falcons Hire Dean Pees, Dave Ragone

Previously rumored Falcons plans came to fruition Thursday. Arthur Smith will bring Dave Ragone aboard as his offensive coordinator, and the first-year Falcons coach has a big role planned for the recently retired Dean Pees.

The former Titans defensive coordinator will again come out of retirement, committing to become the Falcons’ DC. The Falcons are also hiring Marquice Williams as their special teams coordinator.

While Pees and Smith served as Titans coordinators together in 2019, this will be Ragone’s first run as OC. Working as Bears QBs coach for the past five years, this will represent a move up for the ex-quarterback — the first known target for this post.

Ragone, 41, will not, however, have an immediate path to a play-calling role. Smith’s play-calling chops helped him draw interest from all seven head coach-seeking teams this year, and he confirmed he will call plays in Atlanta.

For Pees, this marks unretirement No. 2. Mentioned early as a likely to join Atlanta’s staff, Pees will skip any advisory or consulting roles and jump back into the play-calling fire.

Pees left his post as Ravens DC after the 2017 season but re-emerged as the Titans’ defensive boss ahead of the ’18 campaign. Pees, 71, stuck to retirement for a season this time around — which coincided with a Titans defensive regression — but will return to lead a fourth team’s defense. Pees served as Patriots defensive coordinator from 2006-09 and led the Ravens’ defense for six seasons beginning with their Super Bowl-winning 2012 slate. Of Pees’ 12 defenses, only one has ranked outside the top 12 in points allowed.

Williams has worked as assistant special teams coach with the Chargers and Lions, working in that capacity with Detroit for the past two seasons.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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