Extra Points: CBA, Seahawks, Lions

Earlier today, union leader DeMaurice Smith reported that the owners and players have struck a tentative agreement on the players’ guaranteed portion of revenues, increases in minimum salaries, changes to the offseason, and a reduction in training-camp contact. The league was quick to throw water on that report, as a memo to teams noted that the two sides still had to tackle a number of issues (via NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero on Twitter).

“A number of important issues remain to be resolved and we remain committed to the bargaining positions reviewed with you at the December meeting,” the memo said. “We believe that the most constructive approach is not to negotiate publicly but to continue the discussions directly and privately with the union, with the active involvement of CEC members and the supervision of the full committee.”

Let’s check out some more notes from around the NFL…

  • Seahawks defensive lineman Quinton Jefferson suffered a standard Jones fracture during last Sunday’s loss to the Packers (via Pelissero on Twitter). Jefferson will undergo surgery, and the eight-week recovery time should have him healthy right before free agency begins. The 26-year-old had another productive season in Seattle, compiling 26 tackles and 3.5 sacks in 14 games (12 starts).
  • The Lions have a number of players who are set to hit free agency, and Carlos Monarrez of the Detroit Free Press takes some guesses at who will stay and who will go. The writer believes that wideout Danny Amendola, safety Tavon Wilson, and safety/special teamer Miles Killebrew will ultimately stick around, while defensive tackle Mike Daniels, punter Sam Martin, and cornerback Rashaan Melvin are projected to bolt.
  • Dolphins quality control coach Matt Lombardi will be taking a promotion with the Panthers, reports Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald (via Twitter). Lombardi was hired last winter and spent one season in the role. We learned earlier this evening that the Panthers had also poached Colts defensive line coach Mike Phair.
  • The Bears officially announced a number of previously-reported coaching moves this evening: the hiring of offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, the hiring of John DeFilippo as QBs coach, and the promotion of Dave Ragone to passing game coordinator. The team also announced a handful of additional promotions, including Brian Ginn as assistant special teams coach, Chris Jackson as assistant wide receivers coach, and Shane Toub as defensive quality control coach (via The Athletic’s Kevin Fishbain on Twitter).

USC’s Austin Jackson To Declare For Draft

USC offensive lineman Austin Jackson is heading to the NFL. The junior announced that he’ll forgo his final season at USC and declare for the NFL Draft (via Ryan Kartje of the Los Angeles Times).

“USC has truly been such a special place to call home for the last three years,” wrote Jackson. “Thank you to the boys on this team. I couldn’t imagine a better group to have played with. It’s been an honor to be a part of this incredible Trojan brotherhood and to go to war with you guys every day.

“With that shared, I will be foregoing my senior year to pursue my lifelong dream of playing in the NFL.”

Despite undergoing offseason surgery, Jackson earned All-Pac-12 first team honors during his final season at USC. This performance helped boost his draft stock, as the left tackle is expected to be selected at some point during the first two rounds. Kartje notes that some scouts consider Jackson a bit of a project, but his size and athleticism will make him a commodity.

Kartje writes that USC is still awaiting word on the status of junior wideout Tyler Vaughns, who’s been debating staying or declaring. Vaughns finished this past season with 74 receptions for 912 yards and six touchdowns.

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Coaching Notes: Barry, Bengals, Panthers

About a decade after leaving USC, Joe Barry had a chance to return to the school. ESPN’s Lindsey Thiry reports (via Twitter) that Barry declined USC’s offer to become their new defensive coordinator. Instead, the 49-year-old has signed a new contract with the Rams to remain their associate head coach/linebackers coach.

Barry served as USC’s linebackers coach back in 2010, but he’s otherwise held NFL jobs since 2000. He had a stint as the Lions defensive coordinator (2007-2008) and Redskins defensive coordinator (2015-2016), and he joined the Rams coaching staff back in 2017. Barry has a Super Bowl ring from his time on the Buccaneers coaching staff.

Let’s check out some more coaching notes from around the NFL…

  • It didn’t take long for Al Golden to find a new gig. After getting canned by the Lions, the 50-year-old has joined the Bengals as their new linebackers coach (via ProFootballTalk.com’s Charean Williams). Golden spent four seasons in Detroit, serving as a linebackers coach and tight ends coach.
  • Colts defensive line coach Mike Phair will be joining the Panthers coaching staff, reports Stephen Holder of The Athletic (via Twitter). Holden notes that the move was mostly thanks to defensive coordinator Phil Snow, as the two have a close relationship. Phair has also had NFL coaching stints with the Buccaneers, Bears, and Seahawks.
  • As the Giants continue to reshape their coaching staff, SiriusXM’s Adam Caplan tweets that Falcons defensive backs coach/defensive passing game coordinator Jerome Henderson could be an option for a similar role in New York. The 50-year-old has also spent time on the Jets, Browns, and Cowboys coaching staffs.

LSU’s Lloyd Cushenberry, Jacob Phillips Declare For Draft

After winning the national championship, a number of LSU players are planning their next move. Center Lloyd Cushenberry III, linebacker Jacob Phillips, and offensive tackle Saahdiq Charles were among the notable members of the squad to declare for the NFL Draft today.

This past season, Cushenberry helped lead a unit that earned the Joe Moore Award for best offensive line. The six-foot-four, 315-pound center started 28-straight games during his time with the Tigers. Thanks in part to the consistency and durability, the lineman could end up being a first- or second-round pick.

Phillips is projected to go around the same range as his teammate. The linebacker had a standout season for LSU, compiling 113 tackles and 7.5 tackles for loss. Charles doesn’t have the same draft stock as Cushenberry or Phillips, but he was still a major part of the award-winning offensive line. He missed six games this past season due to disciplinary issues.

LSU had a number of additional players declare for the draft today: safety Grant Delpit, linebacker Patrick Queen, wide receiver Justin Jefferson and running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire.

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Latest On NFL Labor Talks

The NFL’s collective bargaining agreement expires in March 2021, which means that a labor stoppage could be on the horizon. The owners and players have been talking for months about a new deal and the latest update brings reason for optimism. 

In an NFLPA memo to players, union leader DeMaurice Smith reported that the two sides have struck tentative agreement on the players’ guaranteed portion of revenues, increases in minimum salaries, changes to the offseason, and a reduction in training-camp contact. The owners have also tipped that they’ll agree to “significant modifications” in the league’s drug and disciplinary policies, according to Smith (Twitter link via Mark Maske of The Washington Post).

Of course, in order to get all of that, the union will have to make concessions. Smith confirmed that the talks have been proceeding based on a potential 17-game season with expanded playoffs. To help offset the extra game(s), the two sides are mulling a reduced preseason.

Everything sounds like it’s trending in the right direction for a new CBA, but nothing is final until everything is signed, and we’re likely a long way from that. There’s also this to consider – Russell Okung, who is open to a stoppage and strongly opposed to a 17-game season, is expected to challenge Eric Winston for the union president position.

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Antonio Callaway Joins XFL

The Tampa Bay Vipers have signed former Browns wide receiver Antonio Callaway, per a club announcement. The one-time University of Florida standout is looking to work his way back towards the NFL following his release from the Browns and a ten-game suspension from the league office. 

Callaway was drafted by the Browns in the fourth round of the 2018 draft. He clicked with Baker Mayfield as a rookie and finished out with 43 catches for 586 yards and five touchdowns. In 2019, however, it was a different story. The NFL suspended Callaway for the first four games of the year after violating the substance abuse policy and he’s now looking at an additional ten-game ban.

Callaway was suspended during the 2019 season for four games for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy and, when he returned, he clashed with Browns coaches. The receiver was already teetering on the edge in November when he was hit with an additional ten-game ban for another substance abuse violation, so the Browns cut him. Despite his talent and inexpensive rookie contract, none of the team’s other 31 teams picked him up when he was available.

If Callaway can demonstrate personal growth and perform in the XFL, he might have a chance of someday returning to the NFL.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Kellen Moore To Call Cowboys’ Plays

Kellen Moore will stay on board as the Cowboys’ offensive coordinator and he will be the one calling the plays, head coach Mike McCarthy confirmed. Not everything will remain exactly the same, of course – the head coach explained that Moore will be blending McCarthy’s schemes with the Cowboys’ existing terminology. 

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Between us,” McCarthy said of Moore and himself. “We can take this offense forward another step.”

Under Moore, the Cowboys jumped from 22nd in total offense to first from 2018-19. Another step forward would restore the Cowboys as Super Bowl contenders in 2020, provided that the defense holds up. It’ll be interesting to see how the offenses combine. Under Jason Garrett, Moore ran a version of the Air Coryell offense, which is drastically different from McCarthy’s West Coast philosophy.

Moore had other opportunities this offseason, including an opportunity to return to his home state and manage the University of Washington’s offense. The opportunity to make full use of his headset likely played in a role in Moore’s return to Dallas.

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Latest On Browns, George Paton

4:20pm: Paton may not be as interested in the position as Berry or Ossenfort. The experienced exec does not, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune’s Ben Goessling, have an interview scheduled with the Browns (Twitter link). Paton has been especially selective over the years, so further deliberation would not exactly be a surprise.

2:26pm: The Browns’ GM search will include an interview will include a meeting with George Paton. The Vikings’ assistant GM will meet with the Browns this weekend, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets.

Paton joins Eagles executive Andrew Berry and Patriots front office staffer Monti Ossenfort as candidates. A few more names have been mentioned in this search, but the Browns’ interview itinerary has formed.

In the GM mix for years, Paton would seemingly be a natural fit for a team that just hired longtime Vikings assistant Kevin Stefanski. A career-long Vikings coach, Stefanski has worked with Paton for 13 years. Paton has been with the Vikings since 2007 and previously worked with current boss Rick Spielman in Miami and Chicago.

Paton was in the mix for the 49ers job that went to John Lynch three years ago but turned down an opportunity to interview with the Jets last year. He did the same when John Dorsey‘s ouster created a Chiefs GM vacancy in 2017. The Browns prioritized hiring their head coach first this time around, with chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta overseeing the coaching search that produced Stefanski after Dorsey ran last year’s process.

Saints Add Maurice Harris On Futures Deal

One of the other wide receivers in the Antonio Brown-headlined workout will have a chance to stick with the Saints for next season.

The Saints agreed to terms with Maurice Harris on a reserve/futures deal Thursday, Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets. After failing to make the Patriots’ 53-man roster out of training camp, Harris spent the season on the workout circuit.

Prior to what turned out to be a key Saints audition in late December, Harris worked out for the Lions, Buccaneers and Vikings this season. The Patriots signed him early in free agency, but their steady turnover at wide receiver included placing the ex-Redskins wideout on IR and reaching a subsequent settlement.

Harris, 27, played three seasons with Washington. The ex-UDFA’s most notable work came in 2018, when he caught 28 passes for 304 yards. While at Cal, Harris topped out as a senior with 40 catches for 553 yards and six touchdowns in 2015.

The Saints remain in search for reliable Michael Thomas complementary players and, as their Brown and Dez Bryant workouts showed, are not shy about bringing in help. Ted Ginn‘s three-year contract expired at season’s end, and Tre’Quan Smith caught just 18 passes this season. New Orleans, which employs several UDFAs behind Thomas and Smith, also added two other wideouts — ex-Raven Tim White and 2019 UDFA Emmanuel Butler — on futures deals.

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Panthers To Interview Mike McCoy, Ben McAdoo

After hiring a 30-year-old offensive coordinator from the college ranks, Panthers head coach Matt Rhule appears to be seeking experience for his offensive staff.

The Panthers interviewed former Giants HC Ben McAdoo and will meet with ex-Chargers HC Mike McCoy on Thursday, Joseph Person of The Athletic reports (on Twitter). These two have a combined six seasons’ worth of experience leading staffs.

Neither McAdoo nor McCoy coached this season. The Giants fired McAdoo late in the 2017 season, and the Cardinals canned McCoy midway through the ’18 slate. The Chargers, Broncos and Cards each fired McCoy from 2016-18. McAdoo, a former Packers quarterbacks coach, has not coached since his three-plus-year Giants tenure ended after the Eli Manning benching debacle in December 2017.

Should McCoy land a job with the Panthers, it would mark a reunion. He got his start as a coach in Carolina in 2000, working under George Seifert and staying aboard through most of the John Fox era. McCoy ended his Panthers tenure as quarterbacks coach, working in that capacity from 2004-08. This latest interview may well be for the same position.

Rhule brought in LSU wide receivers coach Joe Brady to be his offensive coordinator. While the wunderkind assistant played a key role in the national champions’ offensive explosion this past season, his highest NFL rank was as an offensive assistant with the Saints. Rhule has said he wants to bring in a mix of college and NFL assistants, and given the route he took with Brady, it would make sense to supplement him with experience.

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