Reports: Packers interviewed Saints assistant head coach Ryan Neilsen for defensive coordinator

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The New Orleans Saints manage to thwart attempts from LSU to hire away assistant head coach Ryan Nielsen to serve as their defensive coordinator last month.

Now they have a direct competitor taking a run at him as well.

According to multiple reports, the Green Bay Packers have interviewed Nielsen for their vacant defensive coordinator position. The Packers are searching for a replace for Mike Pettine, who was not retained by the team after the NFC Championship. Per Amie Just of NOLA.com, the interview with Nielsen was on Tuesday.

Nielsen was set to leave the Saints for the coordinator job at LSU before the team informed him his contract prevents him from leaving for such a position. The team gave him a new deal and added the title of assistant head coach following Dan Campbell’s departure to take the head coaching job with the Detroit Lions.

Per Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com, the Packers also intend to interview, or have interviewed, Wisconsin defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard, Cleveland Browns defensive line coach Chris Kiffin, Eagles defensive line coach Matt Burke, Chargers defensive passing game coordinator Joe Barry, Washington Football Team defensive backs coach Chris Harris, Los Angeles Rams safeties coach Ejiro Evero, Falcons senior assistant Bob Sutton and their own defensive backs coach Jerry Gray for the role.

Nielsen has spent the last four years with the Saints after 15 years at the collegiate level.

Jay Valai set to join Eagles coaching staff

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 07 Georgia at Vanderbilt
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The Philadelphia Eagles have made another addition to the staff of new head coach Nick Sirianni.

According to Mark Berman of FOX 26, Jay Valai is set to leave the University of Houston after a very brief stay to the join the Eagles coaching staff instead.

Valai had signed on with the Houston program last month to serve as a cornerbacks coach for the school. Instead, he’ll be heading to Philadelphia to work under Sirianni. His Linkedin profile reflects his new role with the Eagles as well.

Valai played safety at Wisconsin and ran a training facility after his playing days before transitioning into coaching. He spent two seasons as a quality control coach at Georgia before joining the Kansas City Chiefs in 2018 in a similar role. He coached at Rutgers in 2019, Texas in 2020 and was set to join Houston’s program before the move to the Eagles.

While his position hasn’t been specified, the Eagles have a defensive backs coach in Dennard Wilson. Valai could presumably be taking on the assistant defensive backs coach role with the team.

Source: Peyton Manning receives his official Hall of Fame notification

Denver Broncos vs. against the Oakland Raiders, NFL Week 2
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The Pro Football Hall of Fame has done a great job of keeping the identity of the new class of Hall of Fames secret for the last two weeks. In four nights, the names of up to eight new Hall of Famers will be revealed.

At least one of them already has received official word of his enshrinement. Per a league source, Hall of Fame president David Baker has informed quarterback Peyton Manning that he has qualified for the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. The news came at a party in Peyton’s honor. The event was filmed, and footage undoubtedly will be released once the official announcement happens on Saturday night.

It’s no surprise that Manning got in. The presentation from Mike Chappell of FOX59 and CBS4 in Indianapolis latest seconds. No debate ensued. Manning undoubtedly received the necessary votes to secure status as a finalist and eventual enshrinement.

It will be interesting to see whether other names of other Hall of Famers emerge over the next few days. It’s amazing that it took two weeks for the first one to get out.

Jared Goff “hopeful” trade is “so good for my career”

Los Angeles Rams v Seattle Seahawks
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Jared Goff is proud of what he accomplished with the Rams.

The former No. 1 overall choice went 42-27 in the regular season and 3-3 in the postseason. He produced a winning record in each of the past four seasons. He started a Super Bowl. He made two Pro Bowls. He passed for 18,171 yards and 107 touchdowns.

“Unfortunately, it ended sourly,” Goff told Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times on Tuesday, “but it still doesn’t take away from all those times we had.”

The Rams traded Goff, a third-round choice in 2021, a first-round choice in 2022 and a first-round choice in 2023 for Matthew Stafford. The trade will not become official until the start of the league year March 17.

Goff characterized his initial reaction to the phone call informing him of the trade as “difficult” and “disappointing.” He isn’t sure exactly when the Rams decided he wasn’t their quarterback of the future.

“That’s the tough part right now is trying to figure that out, when did that happen?” Goff said. “Those are all conversations that I may or may not have, and try to figure it out. That’s the conversation to have.”

Now, a few days after the trade, Goff is excited to move on.

“You don’t want to be in the wrong place,” Goff said. “It became increasingly clear that was the case. [The trade] is something that I’m hopeful is going to be so good for my career.”

Are Raiders plotting to trade Derek Carr, pursue Deshaun Watson?

Jacksonville Jaguars v Oakland Raiders
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The quarterback carousel is spinning, and one of the riders has a perpetual scowl on his face.

Vincent Bonsignore of the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports that “several NFL insiders” expect the Raiders to field calls regarding a potential trade of quarterback Derek Carr. Bonsignore suggests that the expected demand for Carr could result in a three-team trade that would result in the Raiders trading Carr and acquiring quarterback Deshaun Watson from the Texans. (Presumably, the Texans don’t want Derek Carr, perhaps because of its experience with his brother, David.)

The story suggests that the Raiders could get two first-round picks for Carr. That seems a little high, frankly.

The sourcing for the report seems confusing, to say the least. Are “NFL insiders” coaches, team executives, media members, agents, players, or some combination of those categories? (As used in the industry, the term “NFL Insider” typically refers to someone in the media.) In Carr’s case, “insiders” suggest the possibility of a three-team deal. And an “NFL Insider” applied the potential price tag of two first-round picks onto the transaction.

Frankly, this feels like an effort — either gratuitous or subtly requested by the team — to kick-start a potential trade market for Carr, and to introduce the concept of the Raiders being a potential suitor for Watson. After all, G.M. Mike Mayock said last week that Carr had an “exceptional” year, while also repeating the notion that the team is always looking to upgrade at every position.

Carr was good last year, but he wasn’t a Pro Bowler. Carr finished 14th in completions, 11th in yardage, 11th in touchdowns. He ranked 10th in passer rating, 10th in completion percentage, and he finished in a three-way tie for fifth in average per attempt.

As to the original nugget reported by Bonsignore, that the Raiders are expected to field calls regarding a potential trade for Carr, that’s not a surprise. In the offseason, General Managers always talk and always inquire about the availability of players, regardless of whether the player officially is on the trade market. Given that the Raiders have seem to have a perpetual attitude of ambivalence about Carr, any team looking for a quarterback would be wise to see whether the Raiders are willing to move him and what the Raiders would want.

If the notion that Carr is available takes root, maybe the calls will come more quickly and more frequently. Maybe the Raiders will get an offer that they won’t want to refuse for Carr. Regardless of whether that leads to making a run at Watson, the Raiders possibly regard Carr’s fringe top-10 performance of 2020 as an opportunity to sell high.

Jason Pierre-Paul has had a long nine-year wait to get back here

NFL: JAN 03 Falcons at Buccaneers
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Jason Pierre-Paul is one of only six players on the Bucs’ roster with Super Bowl experience. He won a Super Bowl ring in 2011 as the Giants beat Tom Brady‘s Patriots.

Pierre-Paul, who was traded to Tampa before the 2018 season, now is on the same team with Brady and back on football’s biggest stage for the first time since then.

He has warned his young teammates about taking this Super Bowl for granted as none of them are guaranteed of a Super Bowl return.

“Take everything in. Tomorrow is not promised. Super Bowl is not promised for next year,” Pierre-Paul said, via Fred Goodall of the Associated Press. “It took me nine years to get back to this point. Every year I played well. I played great. I put up numbers. I do exactly what I need to do to be a great player, be elite. But that’s not going to get you to the Super Bowl.”

Pierre-Paul, who made 9.5 sacks this season to earn a third career Pro Bowl nod, has rebounded from a 2015 fireworks accident that took an index finger and damaged the thumb and middle finger on his right hand and a 2019 car wreck that caused a fractured neck.

“I been through a lot and the things I go through, I just stick with happy thoughts,” Pierre-Paul said. “My father was blind at age of 30, 31 and me being born and he having to look after me when my mom was working. He never quit. To this day he’s still happy and joyful, and happy I am in another Super Bowl.

“To those people who are facing something — six years ago I went through a hand injury, fireworks injury. Last year I had a broken neck. People say you can’t do it because they can’t do it. But you put your mind to it, you can do whatever you want to do in life. It’s easier said than done, but I never quit on anything in life. I am going to give everything I can until you can’t, knowing you can’t.”

Jalen Hurts doing what he needs to do to “take off” in 2021

New Orleans Saints v Philadelphia Eagles
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Carson Wentz started 12 games in 2020. Jalen Hurts started the final four.

So who starts the season opener for the Eagles in 2021?

Hurts had a diplomatic answer when asked that question Tuesday.

“That’s a great question; that’s a great question,” Hurts told CBS Sports HQ, via Reuben Frank of NBC Sports Philadelphia. “I’ll tell you that I’m putting the work in on my end, trying to build those relationships with my guys. I’m excited for this offseason, just excited to take that next step, so regardless of what’s what, I’m challenging myself to be the best quarterback I can be. Learn from my mistakes as a team, learn from my mistakes from last year personally [in] those four games that I got my opportunity to get my feet wet in and take off next year.”

The Eagles may not even know who their starting quarterback will be in 2021. Hurts, though, likely is in the conversation and in the competition.

For now, all Hurts can control is getting better this offseason.

“One thing that I do – and I always have done – is just try to keep the right mentality,” Hurts said. “I control what I can. I’ve always been that way, and I always will be that way. So the main thing I can control is my work ethic, my effort, where my head’s at, the relationships I have with those around me and just building. Building as a man, building as a player, always being rooted in my faith.”

Raheem Mostert remains on Team Garoppolo, too

Super Bowl LIV - San Francisco 49ers v Kansas City Chiefs
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Multiple 49ers players continue to believe in 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. Even if the 49ers don’t.

49ers tight end George Kittle spoke out in favor of the embattled Garoppolo on Tuesday. 49ers running back Raheem Mostert did, too.

“Hey look, that’s my quarterback until otherwise, you know, and that’s who I’m going to ride with,” Mostert said Tuesday on SiriusXM NFL Radio. “And that’s how the players feel. . . . When it comes to the business side, a lot of players don’t have the ins and outs. They don’t know anything. And that’s the case for me right now. I don’t know whose future, you know, is going to be in jeopardy in San Francisco. I don’t know if we’re going to make that trade for Deshaun [Watson], who knows, you know? The only people that know are the front office and the G.M. and the owner and the head coach, you know? But this league is changing and it’s crazy, man, to see, you know, all the mobile quarterbacks out there. But hey, like I said, I’m still riding with my quarterback and that’s number 10. He’s going to get the job done for us, and that’s what we believe in.”

The organization clearly seems to feel otherwise, given that the 49ers pursued quarterback Matthew Stafford and in light off the ability of the 49ers to move on from Garoppolo at a minimal cap charge.

Where the 49ers go from here remains to be seen. A trade for Kirk Cousins? A trade for Sam Darnold? Development of Josh Rosen? The 49ers seem to have, at least for, an “anyone but Garoppolo” vibe. Even if players like Kittle and Mostert want no one else.

Report: Matt Ryan is expected to remain in Atlanta in 2021

NFL: DEC 29 Falcons at Buccaneers
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The Falcons have a new General Manager. They have a new head coach. They have a new coaching staff. They will not have a new quarterback.

Tom Pelissero of NFL Network reports Matt Ryan is expected to remain in Atlanta in 2021. The team has had no trade conversations about either Ryan or receiver Julio Jones.

That is not unexpected.

Ryan, 35, would count $49.9 million in a dead-cap charge if he is traded before June 1. Ryan has a cap hit of $40.9 million in 2021.

Jones would count $38.6 million in dead cap space if he is traded before June 1. He will count $23 million against the cap this season.

The Falcons, under new coach Arthur Smith, will run a version of Kyle Shanahan’s offense that helped Ryan win the MVP award and reach the Super Bowl in 2016.

Jets hiring Mike Rutenberg as linebackers coach

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The Jets continued filling out their defensive coaching staff on Tuesday by hiring a linebackers coach.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that Mike Rutenberg will fill that position on head coach Robert Saleh’s staff.

Rutenberg worked with Saleh on the 49ers staff last season and with the Jaguars earlier in their careers. He was their defensive pass game specialist. He was on the Jaguars staff from 2013-2019 and Saleh worked in Jacksonville from 2014-2016.

The Jets also hired safeties coach Marquand Manuel and senior defensive assistant/cornerbacks coach Tony Oden on Tuesday. Oden was also on the 49ers staff during the 2020 season while Manuel worked for the Eagles.

Ryan Fitzpatrick: Last two seasons re-lit my fire, I still want to play

Miami Dolphins v Las Vegas Raiders
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Ryan Fitzpatrick was not available for the final week of the regular season after he tested positive for COVID-19 and that meant the Dolphins couldn’t call on him in relief of Tua Tagovailoa in the Week 17 loss to the Bills that kept Miami from making the playoffs.

With the Dolphins out of action, Fitzpatrick moved a step closer to free agency in what’s shaping up to be one of the wilder quarterback markets in recent memory. The 38-year-old said on The Pat McAfee Show Tuesday that he wants to be right in the thick of that market because he plans to continue playing.

“This offseason, we already saw it with [Jared] Goff and [Matthew] Stafford obviously,” Fitzpatrick said. “Who knows what’s going to happen with Deshaun [Watson]. There’s rumors everywhere in the quarterback market, but there are a lot of teams looking for a new quarterback or new quarterbacks. For me, personally, I have to take every offseason and reassess. These last two years have really re-lit that fire under me and I still want to play and I enjoy being out there playing.”

Fitzpatrick was benched in favor of Tagovailoa after Week 6 and he said during the season that it hurt despite the fact that he knew Tagovailoa came to Miami to become the starter. The Dolphins could be one of those teams making a play for Watson and a return to Miami may not be in the cards under any circumstances, but Fitzpatrick wants to keep playing and it seems likely he’ll find a seat somewhere before the music stops.

NFL won’t let Buccaneers fire their cannons after touchdowns on Sunday

New Orleans Saints v Tampa Bay Buccaneers
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When the Buccaneers score a touchdown at Raymond James Stadium, cannons fire at Tampa’s pirate ship-themed home field. But not at the Super Bowl.

NFL officials told Jenna Laine of ESPN that they will not permit the cannons to be fired after Buccaneers touchdowns at Super Bowl LV.

The reason is that the Super Bowl is supposed to be on a neutral field. This year’s Super Bowl happens to be on a participating team’s home field for the first time in NFL history, but that doesn’t change the NFL’s efforts at neutrality. The Buccaneers are considered the home team because the NFC is always the home team in odd-numbered Super Bowls and the AFC is always the home team in even-numbered Super Bowls, but that only applies for issues such as getting to choose their jersey color. Everything about the stadium, including not only the cannons but also the painting of the end zones and other elements of the field, will be treated as neutral.

So while the cannons will fire during pregame introductions, they will go unnoticed for the rest of the game — unless a player throws a football into a cannon, in which case some lucky bettors will profit.

Brett Veach on Sammy Watkins: If there’s a way to make it work, we’ll try

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Sammy Watkins is a pending free agent after signing a three-year deal with the Chiefs in 2018.

He restructured his contract last spring to bring down his cap number, making a base salary of $9 million. But his production was once again lackluster. Watkins caught 37 passes for 421 yards with two touchdowns in 10 games. Watkins hasn’t played in the postseason while nursing an injured calf.

Earlier on Tuesday, Watkins said returning to the Chiefs would “definitely be something to think about.”

Tuesday afternoon, General Manager Brett Veach said keeping Watkins for 2021 is a possibility.

“Sammy is a big part of this offense. When he’s healthy, we’re better,” Veach said, via Adam Teicher of ESPN. “If there’s a way we can make it work again, we’ll certainly try to do that. I love having him around.”

Watkins was a significant part of Kansas City’s Super Bowl run last year, making 14 catches for 288 yards and a touchdown in three games.

But the problem is, Watkins isn’t often healthy. He’s played in 16 games only once, back in his rookie year of 2014 with the Bills. He was healthy through the either 2017 season with the Rams, too, but the club chose to rest its starters in Week 17.

Watkins will be 28 in June. He’s reached 1,000 yards receiving only once — back in 2015 with Buffalo.

Broncos waive five players

Denver Broncos v Kansas City Chiefs
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It will be a bit before newly hired Broncos General Manager George Paton can really put his stamp on the team’s roster, but he began the process on Tuesday.

The Broncos announced that wide receiver Fred Brown, defensive end Joel Heath, safety Alijah Holder, tight end Jordan Leggett, and tackle Darrin Paulo were all waived off of the roster. Any of them can be claimed by any of the league’s other 31 teams, but the move would not be processed until after the Super Bowl.

Holder appeared in eight games this season and recorded seven tackles. Brown appeared in one game this year after catching two passes for 21 yards in 13 appearances during the 2019 season.

Heath opted out of playing due to COVID-19. Leggett and Paulo spent the season on Denver’s practice squad.

Mark Ingram: I can still play at a high, high level

Dallas Cowboys v Baltimore Ravens
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The Ravens waived running back Mark Ingram after they were eliminated from the playoffs last month in a move that became inevitable once Ingram fell out of the team’s offensive plans over the final weeks of the season.

In an interview with Chris Simms on Tuesday, Ingram said it was “difficult” to go from playing a prominent role to being on the inactive list but that he tried to be a supportive teammate through the end of the team’s run. Now that he’s a free agent, Ingram said he’s “excited about the opportunities I have” and confident about his ability to perform well in the future.

“Obviously my role wasn’t what I wanted,” Ingram said. “Good thing about it is I’m healthy, I’m fresh. I know I can still play this game at a high, high level for a long time.”

Ingram turned 31 in December and teams can be skittish about bringing in backs around that age. Ingram cautioned them to watch his tape rather than “my birthday,” but there wasn’t much of it after the midpoint of the 2020 season.