Shaun Herock To Become Raiders’ Interim GM

Reggie McKenzie‘s exit will leave one of his lieutenants in his old role for the time being. The Raiders will promote Shaun Herock to the de facto GM role, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets.

Herock, who followed McKenzie to Oakland from Green Bay in 2012, is expected to receive an interview for the full-time position, Rapoport adds. Herock previously served as the Raiders’ director of college scouting.

Although Herock was a McKenzie hire, Rapoport notes the 47-year-old executive is Jon Gruden‘s most trusted scout, at least among those he inherited from the McKenzie regime. While it would be a shock if the Raiders did go in-house to name McKenzie’s successor, they will use this arrangement for the time being. This may increase Herock’s chances of remaining with the organization after Gruden tabs the next front office boss.

The Raiders may not hire a full-time GM — at least, the new exec may not have that job title — but they are planning to look for a new point person for their front office to work with Gruden. Jimmy Raye, Chris Polian and Mark Domenik are among names to monitor thus far. The Raiders may be looking for someone with experience and fortitude to push back against Gruden, Albert Breer of SI.com notes.

After spending 19 years in the Packers’ scouting department, finishing his Green Bay tenure as college scouting director, Herock relocated to the Bay Area after McKenzie took the Raiders’ GM job. He’s served in the same role with the Raiders for the past seven years. Herock’s father, Ken Herock, was a former Raider who worked with Mark Davis during the process that led to McKenzie’s hiring.

Bills LB Matt Milano Done For Year

Bills linebacker Matt Milano is done for the year, according to head coach head coach Sean McDermott. Milano had surgery for a broken fibula on Monday, which will rule him out for the rest of the regular season and land him on injured reserve. 

Milano, 24, has been a staple of the Bills’ D since entering the league as a fifth-round pick in 2017. This year, he recorded his first sack in a huge upset win over the Vikings and came away with AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors for his performance.

Without Milano, the Bills will likely promote Deon Lacey to the starting lineup, putting him alongside middle linebacker Tremaine Edmunds and strong side linebacker Lorenzo Alexander. It’s a thin unit after that, so the Bills are likely to add another LB this week.

The Bills came out of Sunday’s loss to the Jets with a score of injuries, including day-to-day injuries for running backs LeSean McCoy (hamstring) and Chris Ivory (shoulder).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Raiders, Reggie McKenzie

On Monday afternoon, the Raiders released a statement to confirm the firing of longtime GM Reggie McKenzie.

We are grateful for everything Reggie has done for this organization as a player, executive and member of the Raider family,” the statement read. “The Raiders will immediately begin a search for a new front office executive.”

Curiously, the statement indicates that the Raiders will look “for a new front office executive,” which may mean that the club will not give anyone the title of GM for 2019.

Here’s the latest out of Oakland:

  • Those in the building say that Gruden actually liked McKenzie, even as Gruden picked apart the roster that he built, Albert Breer of The MMQB tweets. Things weren’t outwardly contentious between the two men, Breer hears, and he notes that McKenzie’s decision to set high asking prices for Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper actually paid off. Before each deal, there was speculation that McKenzie was looking to sandbag the efforts, but that does not appear to be the case in retrospect.
  • The Raiders may view executives such as Jimmy Raye III, Mark Dominik, and Chris Polian as candidates to become the new GM or chief of personnel, according to Tom Pelissero and Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). And, despite previous rumors linking Redskins exec Bruce Allen to the post, Pelissero hears that Allen is not “on the front burner” for the Raiders at this time.

Broncos Promote Trey Marshall

The Broncos will waive safety Shamarko Thomas in order to promote rookie safety Trey Marshall from the practice squad, league sources tell Mike Klis of 9News (on Twitter). While the Broncos value Thomas’ special teams acumen, they were compelled to make the move in order to prevent the Cardinals from signing Marshall off of the taxi squad. 

The Cardinals wound up with an open roster spot on Monday when they were forced to place defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche on injured reserve. Marshall won’t turn 23 until February and would have been worth a look for Arizona’s 2019 roster, but the Broncos stepped in to prevent that from happening. He’ll now have a chance to make his NFL debut with Denver after compiling 135 tackles, one sack, and six passes defensed while at Florida State.

Thomas, a fourth-round pick of the Steelers in 2013, will become a free agent if he is not claimed on waivers. He appeared in six games for Denver this year and recorded seven total tackles.

The Broncos are 6-7 after Sunday’s loss to the 49ers, but they technically still have a shot at reaching the playoffs as a Wild Card team.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Cardinals To Place Robert Nkemdiche On IR

Cardinals defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche is going on IR, coach Steve Wilks announced on Monday. Wilks declined to give details on the injury, but he did say that Nkemdiche will require surgery. 

[RELATED: Cardinals Place D.J. Humphries On IR]

Nkemdiche, 24, was a first round pick of the Cardinals back in 2016. His bruising physique had the team excited back then, but he has been unable to put it all together as a pro. Injuries have kept him off the field for much of his three-year career and he’ll end this campaign with just 27 appearances out of a possible 48 games.

Nkemdiche recorded 4.5 sacks this year – including 2.5 agains the Chargers a few weeks ago – but his run defense has left much to be desired. Nkemdiche currently ranks as Pro Football Focus’ No. 102 ranked interior defender out of 118 qualified players.

The Cardinals will have Nkemdiche under contract for 2019 and they’ll have to decide on his fifth-year option for 2020 in May. Last year, the option cost for non Top-10 defensive tackles was $7.154MM. The cost will rise this year, and the Cardinals will have to think long and hard about whether they’re willing to roll the dice on Nkemdiche given his injury history.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Raiders Fire GM Reggie McKenzie

The Raiders have parted ways with GM Reggie McKenzie, according to Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (on Twitter). McKenzie was given the chance to stay on board for the rest of the season, but it sounds like he’ll leave his post immediately. 

Rumors have circulated about McKenzie’s job security since the hiring of Jon Gruden in the offseason. The talk has picked up in recent weeks, though Gruden did his best to throw water on the fire when speaking to reporters on Sunday.

I don’t have any comment on that,” Gruden said (Twitter link via Michael Gehlken of the Review-Journal). “We’re going to build this team back. I know that. We’re going to bring the Raiders back.”

At the time of Gruden’s hiring, owner Mark Davis insisted the two men would work in concert. That’s not how things played out. Gruden, who had control over the 53-man roster, brought in his own scouting staff including Dave Razzano, the club’s “Director of Football Research.”

McKenzie, a former NFL linebacker, worked for the Packers’ front office from 1994 through 2012. After that, he was hired as the Raiders’ GM, inheriting a team with an awful cap situation and depleted draft capital. McKenzie was not perfect, but he did manage to turn that club into a playoff team. Now that he’s on the open market, one can’t help but wonder if a return to the Packers is in the cards.

With Gruden and his own group of hand-picked advisors at the helm, the Raiders overhauled their roster this offseason, including the controversial trade of Khalil Mack to the Bears. The Raiders have lots of picks in the 2019 draft, but they don’t have a lot of 2018 wins after Gruden targeted over-the-hill free agents and benched many of them in favor of younger players.

On Sunday, the Raiders upset the Steelers (thanks in large part to Chris Boswell‘s slip) and improved to 3-10 on the year. If the season ended today, the Raiders would pick third and twice more in the first round (No. 25, 26) thanks to the trades of Mack and Amari Cooper.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Current 2019 NFL Draft Order

With almost 14 full weeks of the NFL season in the books, the 2019 draft order is beginning to take shape. Here’s the rundown of where things would stand if the 2018 season ended today:

1. San Francisco 49ers (3-10)

2. Arizona Cardinals (3-10)

3. Oakland Raiders (3-10)

4. Atlanta Falcons (4-9)

5. New York Jets (4-9)

6. Buffalo Bills (4-9)

7. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-9)

8. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-8)

9. New York Giants (5-8)

10. Detroit Lions (5-8)

11. Cincinnati Bengals (5-8)

12. Green Bay Packers (5-7-1)

13. Cleveland Browns (5-7-1)

14. Washington Redskins (6-7)

15. Carolina Panthers (6-7)

16. Philadelphia Eagles (6-7)

17. Denver Broncos (6-7)

18. Miami Dolphins (7-6)

19. Indianapolis Colts (7-6)

20. Tennessee Titans (7-6)

Chiefs CEO On Release Of Kareem Hunt

Speaking for the first time publicly on the release of Kareem Hunt, Chiefs CEO Clark Hunt admitted the team knew about all three of the running back’s offseason incidents (via Brooke Pryor of the Kansas City Star). The CEO also hinted that the organization was instructed by the NFL to allow the league office to handle the investigation.

We did know about that, yes, we were familiar with all three of the incidents that he had had in the offseason,” said Clark Hunt. “They’d all been reported to the NFL, and the NFL was investigating them.”

At the start of the season, two known offseason incidents involving the running back were known – an altercation at a Kansas City nightclub and the ugly hotel brawl in February. The Chiefs have been long aware that Hunt also allegedly punched a man in the face in June, even though that did not surface publicly until earlier this month. Of course, the Chiefs say they did not see the footage of the hotel incident until it was leaked on Nov. 30, which is why Hunt was on the roster until that fateful day.

I don’t think we were necessarily trying to make a statement, we just felt that the best thing for the Kansas City Chiefs moving forward was for us to part ways with Kareem,” Clark Hunt said. “We were obviously shocked by the video, like anybody who saw it, and we’d had some issues with Kareem not being truthful with what happened that night, and we just really felt for everybody’s best interests we needed to head in a different direction.”

Now a free agent, Kareem Hunt is undergoing counseling for anger management and alcohol use and attending women’s group sessions. It’s unlikely that Hunt will be signed until he is formally suspended by the NFL, but several teams have already reached out to him and will continue to monitor his progress. Ray Rice was not given a second chance in the NFL after video of his assault made international headlines, but league sources expect him to suit up in 2019, according to Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Cowboys Deny Trying To Pull Jason Witten Out Of Retirement

According to Jason Witten‘s ESPN coworker Adam Schefter, the Cowboys tried to pull the tight end out of retirement multiple times this year. However, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones says that’s not true. 

That’s just not correct, period,” Jones said (via Kate Hairopoulos of the Dallas Morning News) after the game. “He misses competing, but he’s got his head down and hands in the dirt, doing the job on ‘Monday Night Football’.”

Of course, no one could blame the Cowboys if they did try to keep one of the most reliable and durable tight ends in the game, especially after an offseason that left them without a true No. 1 wide receiver. But, Jones says it’s not true, and at this point, the Cowboys appear to be doing okay without Witten. The tight ends filling in for Witten came through on Sunday, including Blake Jarwin who had a seven-catch, 56-yard performance against the Eagles. The Cowboys’ offense has also improved greatly since trading for wide receiver Amari Cooper, who caught yesterday’s game-winning TD.

Witten piled up 11 Pro Bowl nods and two First Team All-Pro selections over the course of his career, spent entirely with the Cowboys. Even if head coach Jason Garrett never tried to pull Witten out of the booth, it’s hard to imagine that they’d say no if the 36-year-old had a change of heart.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Injury Updates: Ekeler, Roethlisberger, Jackson, Reed

While Week 14 wasn’t nearly as bad as recent weeks in terms of carnage, there were still some significant injuries to big players today. The Chargers are already dealing with the loss of running back Melvin Gordon to an MCL injury, and may now be without his backfield mate Austin Ekeler for a while. Ekeler aggravated the stingers he’s been dealing with in the team’s win over the Bengals today, a source told Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link). The Chargers play in Kansas City this Thursday night in a huge game for playoff seeding, and Schefter writes that “the short week will make it tough” for Ekeler to play.

Here are more injury updates from around the league:

  • Ben Roethlisberger missed most of the second half in the Steelers‘ loss to the Raiders with a rib injury, but is expected to be fine and play next week against the Patriots, Schefter writes in a separate tweet. Joshua Dobbs filled in for Roethlisberger today, and Big Ben’s absence ended up costing the team the game as they scored zero points with Dobbs under center. The Steelers are just 7-6-1 and in danger of falling out of the playoffs with a very tough upcoming schedule, so they’ll need Roethlisberger at full strength.
  • In the same tweet, Schefter notes that X-Rays on Lamar Jackson‘s ankle came back negative and that he’s expected to play next week against the Buccaneers. Jackson missed the final plays of the Ravens’ thrilling overtime loss to the Chiefs today, and Robert Griffin III filled in. If Jackson’s ankle ends up becoming an issue, it would further complicate the murky situation between him and Joe Flacco.
  • The Redskins have had some of the worst injury luck in the league, and got even more bad news today. Tight end Jordan Reed sprained his foot, Schefter notes, and will presumably miss some time. Reed has been plagued by injuries the past few years, but had been able to stay healthy so far this year. He’s dealt with foot injuries in the past, so this could very well wind up ending his season. The Redskins are looking to finish strong with new quarterback Josh Johnson, and this will make things significantly more difficult for the offense.

NFL News & NFL Rumors