Danny Moloshok/Associated Press
Who needs Game of Thrones when you cover the NFL for a living?
This week alone saw a power play in New York lead to the firing of a general manager and vice president of player personnel who had just finished the 2019 NFL draft and the resignation of a trusted personnel executive in Atlanta. Following a season where just one general manager job (Oakland) came open, there are now two NFL jobs available with decision-making power.
We’ll get to that, but this week’s Scouting Notebook is anchored in who will be next to replace the Mike Maccagnans and Scott Piolis of the NFL before looking at some rumors on why the Jets are once again the laughingstock of the league.
Who’s next? That’s a question I’m asked often by coaches, agents, scouts who hope to be promoted and general managers who are worried about their jobs. Because of this, I keep a short list of NFL evaluators who are considered future GM candidates.
If you read this and wonder where Will McClay (Cowboys) and Nick Caserio (Patriots) are, both have incredible amounts of power in their current positions, and neither is expected to leave for a general manager job.
Joe Douglas, Philadelphia Eagles
Joe Douglas is the top candidate for the current general manager openings (and any future ones) as a highly respected evaluator coming out of a winning program—which is where most front-office candidates come from.
Douglas’ ability as a scout has been praised by his boss, Howie Roseman. His work in building the Eagles into a Super Bowl winner after the mess Chip Kelly left has owners eyeing Douglas as the next Chris Ballard-type candidate who will wait and choose his first job wisely.
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That might eliminate the New York Jets from contention, as the ownership structure there is not stable, and the head coach just got his GM fired. However, there are connections between Adam Gase and Douglas from their days with the Chicago Bears. If that relationship is strong enough, Douglas could be willing to deal with the Johnson brothers as owners and the league’s toughest media market to take his first general manager job.
Ed Dodds, Indianapolis Colts
If you ask 10 front-office people around the league who the best scout in the NFL is, chances are you’re going to hear Ed Dodds’ name the most. The current assistant general manager with the Indianapolis Colts, no one in the league is more widely acknowledged as the top scout, which is why Ballard poached Dodds from Seattle and gave him a right-hand seat to his throne in Indianapolis.
Why isn’t Dodds a household name? As I’ve been told, he doesn’t particularly like the attention that comes with being a decision-maker and might not even have the desire to be a general manager. That would be great news for the Colts, but Dodds should start getting calls soon to interview for top jobs.
Mike Borgonzi, Kansas City Chiefs
First it was Chris Ballard as the top scout to leave Kansas City for a general manager job, and then Brett Veach got an in-house promotion. Up next will be Mike Borgonzi, the team’s director of football operations, to take interviews for a GM job.
Borgonzi, like Ballard before him, is known as a very thorough evaluator, but he’s also praised for the type of staff he’ll build. Ballard went to Indianapolis and hired Dodds, but he also added Rex Hogan (New York Jets) and did a great job keeping key scouts already with the Colts instead of cleaning house. Borgonzi is expected to be that kind of thinker who will put the good of the team over his ego.
Daniel Jeremiah, NFL Network
The success of Mike Mayock’s first offseason with the Oakland Raiders has opened the eyes of ownership and NFL power brokers to the idea of tapping into the media for general manager candidates. As one former GM told me this week: “Guys in the media don’t have some of the bad habits scouts develop. You really come in with clear eyes and a fresh approach on how to do the job.”
If that’s the case, the top draft analyst for NFL Network, who has experience as an NFL scout and director, should be getting calls soon. Daniel Jeremiah scouted for the Browns, Eagles and Ravens during his time in the NFL before taking a desk job with NFL Network. In that time he’s rumored to have turned down calls to return to the NFL, but would a GM job be enticing enough for him to jump back into the game?
Jeremiah is ready and certainly qualified. Rumors are already circulating that Jeremiah could join Joe Douglas on a staff if and when he takes a job. That’s a possibility, but Jeremiah might not have to work under anyone if he wants to get back into the league.
Eliot Wolf, Cleveland Browns
Once thought to be a potential future successor to Ted Thompson in Green Bay, Eliot Wolf instead went to Cleveland with John Dorsey’s staff and has played a key role in rebuilding the laughingstock into a contender. Maybe he’s ready to do the same in New York.
Mike Roemer/Associated Press
Wolf—whose father, Ron Wolf, was the architect of the Brett Favre-led Green Bay Packers—might not want the Jets job even if offered. His dad helped select Mike Maccagnan for Woody Johnson as part of a search committee the team hired after the 2014 season. Given Wolf’s age (37), he’s still young enough to let the 2019 season play out and see which jobs (Tampa Bay, Arizona, New York Giants) open before taking one that insiders are already warning is a disaster (Jets).
• When did things fall apart with the Jets coaching staff and the front office? I heard from league sources with connections to the Jets that it was the Anthony Barr deal—not as much the Le’Veon Bell contract—that started the rift.
Barr’s decision to back out of his verbal deal with the Jets and return to the Vikings had Gase privately asking those around him if Maccagnan knew what he was doing—but not in words that polite.
• Gase is now the interim GM of the Jets, which one high-level evaluator with another team said “is the biggest mistake anyone in the NFL has made in years. Gase is crazy. He’s the most paranoid person in the world. This will be like Todd Haley on crack.”
• Scott Pioli’s resignation from the Atlanta Falcons registered as a surprise, but only to us in the media. Folks plugged in to the Falcons and to the happenings of the league said this was somewhat expected with Pioli likely to take the 2019 season off to prepare for his own gig as a general manager or team president. Pioli had been working as the assistant GM of the Falcons since 2014.
John Amis/Associated Press
• The six-game suspension of Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson has been coming for some time—which is why the team used pick No. 33 overall on Byron Murphy out of Washington, according to one team source. The same source also said this makes it unlikely Peterson will be traded. The source added, though, that there are “pissed-off people” between Peterson, his camp and the front office after they refused to adjust his contract to help offset the loss of money from his suspension (over $3.8 million).
It’s never too early to get started on the next draft class, which is what I spend most of the summer doing. Here’s my way-too-early first update on the top-32 big board.
1. Chase Young, EDGE, Ohio State
2. Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama
3. Grant Delpit, S, LSU
4. A.J. Epenesa, EDGE, Iowa
5. Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson
6. Laviska Shenault, WR, Colorado
7. Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon
8. Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama
9. Jake Fromm, QB, Georgia
10. Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa
11. Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson
12. Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin
13. CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma
14. Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia
15. Walker Little, OT, Stanford
16. Dylan Moses, LB, Alabama
17. D’Andre Swift, RB, Georgia
18. K’Lavon Chaisson, EDGE, LSU
19. CJ Henderson, CB, Florida
20. Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama
21. Yetur Gross-Matos, EDGE, Penn State
22. Derrick Brown, DL, Auburn
23. Raekwon Davis, DL, Alabama
24. Terrell Lewis, EDGE, Alabama
25. Albert Okwuegbunam, TE, Missouri
26. Anfernee Jennings, EDGE, Alabama
27. Donovan Peoples-Jones, WR, Michigan
28. Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama
29. Trey Adams, OT, Washington
30. Nick Coe, DL, Auburn
31. Kenny Willekes, EDGE, Michigan State
32. Colby Parkinson, TE, Stanford
5. Members of the Kansas City Chiefs are ecstatic after the team traded a sixth-round pick for New York Jets linebacker Darron Lee.
The linebacker, a 2016 first-rounder out of Ohio State, is another in a line of low-risk moves by GM Brett Veach to add formerly high-ranked prospects. Veach has also added Cameron Erving, Reggie Ragland and Kelvin Benjamin. Not all of the moves have worked out, but Veach’s philosophy seems to be that it’s worth giving up a little to try to rehabilitate the career of a player once deemed a highly valued prospect.
Lee has the athleticism and coverage skills the team needs. Even if he’s only a sub-package or special teams player, there is a lot of potential left on the table for him. Lee fell out of favor with the Jets, but he’ll get a second chance in Kansas City.
4. Keep an eye on Jadeveon Clowney as the slow summer months approach. Clowney still hasn’t signed his franchise tender, and there is talk among league sources that he could be traded. Yes, this is an odd time of year to trade a player, but Clowney will likely ask for $15 million per season on a new deal, and the Texans are not sold on giving him that kind of money.
Matt Patterson/Associated Press
There are obvious fits for Clowney—the Rams have been mentioned, as have the Seahawks, in talks with sources—but it’s likely going to cost three draft picks and then a lot of cap space to get the deal done with him. That’s the major holdup right now, but there’s still time for potential movement on his status.
3. A Husker for Heisman
While he isn’t yet draft-eligible, Nebraska quarterback Adrian Martinez is getting rave reviews from scouts who are doing advance work this spring and summer. Martinez, who started as a true freshman last season for the Huskers, has excellent athleticism and a big arm. He’s also 6’2″ and 220 pounds already.
With the rise of athletic passers like Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson and Kyler Murray in previous drafts, the NFL will surely be watching to see how Martinez develops. Plenty of Heisman buzz is expected to come out of Lincoln this fall as well.
If you wanted to drop some money on a sleeper Heisman winner, Martinez is a great pick.
2. It’s Eason’s Time
After winning the starting quarterback job at Georgia as a freshman, Jacob Eason threw for over 2,400 yards and looked like a future star. He suffered a knee injury in the first game of his sophomore season and lost his job as star recruit Jake Fromm took his place. Fromm is still the starter at Georgia after also displacing Justin Fields (Ohio State), but Eason will now get his chance to start again after sitting out the 2018 season as a transfer at Washington.
Ted S. Warren/Associated Press
Eason has tools that will excite scouts. He has a big arm with excellent pocket mechanics. He’s raw and a little untested, and he may need time to knock some rust off, but Eason is a name to keep an eye on in a shallow crop of quarterbacks for the 2020 draft.
1. Stick to Football
We have three new episodes this week. On Monday, Mello and Connor took over the show with a “Draft on Draft” special featuring all your questions. Wednesday saw Connor and I power-rank every team in the NFL. Friday’s show went heavy on the New York Jets but also looked at the potential return of an NCAA football video game.
Matt Miller covers the NFL and NFL draft for Bleacher Report.