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#pounditSunday, February 5, 2023

Football

Ex-Alabama assistant returning to coach in NFL

Todd Grantham at Florida

Sep 28, 2019; Gainesville, FL, USA; Florida Gators defensive coordinator Todd Grantham prior to the game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Long-time coach Todd Grantham, who recently interviewed with Nick Saban and was a top candidate to replace Pete Golding as Alabama’s defensive coordinator, will instead return to the NFL.

Chris Low of ESPN reports that Grantham will join the New Orleans Saints in an assistant role.

The 56-year-old Grantham spent the 2022 season with the Crimson Tide as an analyst. Prior to that, he served as Florida’s defensive coordinator (2018-2021), Mississippi State’s assistant head coach (2017) and Louisville’s assistant head coach (2014-2016). He also had a stint with Georgia as their assistant head coach (2010-2013).

Grantham has 11 years of NFL experience under his belt as well. He broke into the league as the defensive line coach of the Indianapolis Colts in 1999. After three years in that role, he made stops with the Houston Texans (2002-2004), Cleveland Browns (2005-2007) and Dallas Cowboys (2008-2009).

Grantham coached the D-line for each of those teams except the Browns, where he filled the role of defensive coordinator.

With the Saints, Grantham is once again expected to oversee the defensive line as head coach Dennis Allen calls the plays.

Bears could have interesting strategy with No. 1 overall pick

Ryan Poles meets with the media

Jan 31, 2022; Lake Forest, IL, USA; Chicago Bears General new Manager Ryan Poles speaks during a Press Conference Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago Bears hold the No. 1 overall selection in the 2023 NFL Draft but it’s entirely possible they don’t make that pick.

The Bears seem committed to quarterback Justin Fields long-term, which creates an interesting opportunity for them come April. They could stay at No. 1 overall and take whoever their heart desires, or they could trade back and acquire additional picks while still landing their desired target.

But general manager Ryan Poles may take things a step further.

Heavy.com’s Matt Lombardo reports that Poles and the Bears may look to trade back twice in the first round, especially if they can create the illusion that they’re willing to select a quarterback with their pick.

That might be a hard sell now that this report has emerged but it may not stop some quarterback-needy teams from trying to move up anyway.

“There are a lot of variables when it comes moving out of the top spot,” an NFC Personnel Director told Heavy. “Especially thinking about how far you’d be willing to trade back, and how many teams are interested in moving up.”

Lombardo also reports that Poles believes he can move down twice and still potentially land the top prospect on their draft board. That narrows the range of movement and likely eliminates the Bears from swapping picks with teams in the teens and 20s.

Ideal trade partners include the Houston Texans (No. 2), Indianapolis Colts (No. 4) and Seattle Seahawks (No. 5).

Could Bengals trade 1 top offensive weapon?

Zac Taylor on the sidelines

Jan 2, 2022; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals head coach Zac Taylor paces the sideline in the first quarter during a Week 17 NFL game against the Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, Jan. 2, 2022, at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati. Mandatory Credit: Kareem Elgazzar-USA TODAY Sports

The Cincinnati Bengals may have seen their season end in disappointing fashion but their Super Bowl window remains very much open. They sport an impressive roster and will head into free agency with roughly $44 million in cap space. Still, there are some tough decisions to be made and that may include trading away a key piece: wide receiver Tee Higgins.

Higgins will be in the final year of his rookie contract and while owed just $3.96 million, the Bengals may not want to extend him. With several other contracts also coming due, they could decide to follow recent NFL trends and trade him away for a top draft pick.

Of course, Higgins could also report to the team and play the 2023 season as a lame duck, allowing the Bengals to franchise him next year.

All of those discussions will be had prior to the new league year on March 15.

Ultimately, however, if Higgins and his representatives seek something “outrageous” and they can’t meet the Bengals in the middle, Paul Dehner Jr. of The Athletic suggests he could, in fact, be traded. And the potential market would be robust.

The 24-year-old Higgins has appeared in 46 career games, hauling in 215 receptions for 3,028 yards and 19 touchdowns. He’s also gained 28 yards on five rushing attempts.

Higgins’ situation remains fluid and one that will further develop over the coming days and weeks.

NFL talking about outlawing 1 type of tackle

Roger Goodell at a press conference

Apr 29, 2021; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announces the final pick of the 2021 NFL Draft for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at First Energy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL is determined to make the game of football safer for the players, but that has resulted in a plethora of rule changes. Some are applauded and others are heavily criticized.

The league will again be faced with a tough decision this offseason when they review a specific type of tackle. Known in rugby as the “hip-drop tackle,” it’s when a defender grabs the ball carrier from behind and pulls them to the ground while also going to the ground themselves. It’s the same type of tackle that injured Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and Dallas Cowboys running back Tony Pollard during this year’s playoffs.

The tackle has resulted in so many injuries that the National Rugby League in Australia banned it.

“I think it’ll be a very active offseason conversation, to look at the mechanism. Obviously, the ‘hip-drop’ tackle is not the only cause of high ankle sprains. There are certainly other factors,” Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL’s chief medical officer, told the Washington Post.

“We have noted that type of tackle that you mentioned. And I think it needs to be a very active discussion point, again, with the competition committee and others this season.”

As they do each offseason, the NFL’s competition committee will examine several new rule propositions. The elimination of the hip-drop tackle will be chief among them.

For safety purposes, the NFL had previously eliminated the horse-collar tackles and defenders were able to make the proper adjustments. If the hip-drop tackle is also outlawed, there will likely be an early outcry before players simply adapt to the new rules.

Report: Russell Wilson has had 1 big issue

Russell Wilson in practice gear

Jun 13, 2022; Englewood, CO, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson (3) during mini camp drills at the UCHealth Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson had a career-worst season in 2022. He looked like a shell of his former self and some of his antics rubbed his teammates the wrong way.

But in 2023, the Broncos hope to reverse course. Sean Payton will come in and serve as their next head coach, and that’s led to some optimism that Wilson can turn things around. However, there is one glaring problem that is expected to linger.

Jeff Howe of The Athletic reports that Wilson has demanded more and more control of the offense in recent years, both with the Seattle Seahawks and Broncos. He prefers a pocket-passing scheme as opposed to one that takes advantage of his athleticism and mobility. More specifically, Wilson wants to increase the number of downfield shots that are taken and reduce his time spent on the move.

While Wilson does have an impressively strong arm, he may be required to lean more heavily on the run game and short-passing game to get back on track in 2023. That means maintaining a certain level of patience and a willingness to take what the defense gives him.

Wilson will have to ease into a new offensive system and make concessions in order to rediscover himself. If he leaves the gate making too many demands and butts head with Payton and other offensive coaches, his recent string of poor play is likely to continue.

Reporter shares likelihood that Raiders trade Derek Carr

Derek Carr yelling

Dec 26, 2021; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) warms up before a game against the Denver Broncos at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Derek Carr will be changing teams before too long, but the question is will that be through a trade or in free agency. It sure sounds like that will take place in free agency.

The Las Vegas Raiders have until Feb. 15 to either trade or cut Carr before his contract becomes guaranteed. NFL Media’s Jim Trotter reported Friday that the chances the Raiders trade Carr are less than one percent. Mike Garafolo buttressed that point. He said a source told him the Raiders would have to throw Hunter Renfrow and Darren Waller into a trade to make it a one percent chance.

The point is that Carr’s current contract is seen as undesirable and the Raiders would have to throw in some good receiving options to make someone take on his contract.

Carr has a no-trade clause, which complicates things.

In order for a trade to happen, the Raiders would have to agree with another team on trade terms. Then Carr would be allowed to speak with the team. He would have to then approve the trade and possibly work on an amended contract with his new team.

It would be so much easier for Carr to just wait until February 15, at which point the Raiders will almost certainly cut him. From there, he’ll be free to negotiate with teams.

A surprising team may have interest in the 31-year-old quarterback.

Steve Wilks set to interview with playoff team

Steve Wilks in a headset

Oct 2, 2022; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Carolina Panthers defensive secondary coach Steve Wilks on the sidelines in the fourth quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Steve Wilks was disappointed not to get the Carolina Panthers head coach job on a non-interim basis, but there is no shortage of suitors for his services. In fact, Wilks has an interview lined up with a notable team on Monday.

Wilks is scheduled to interview with the San Francisco 49ers for their defensive coordinator vacancy.

The Niners need a new defensive coordinator after losing DeMeco Ryans, who was hired as the head coach of the Houston Texans.

The Niners would be a great landing spot for whomever gets the job. The last two San Francisco defensive coordinators went on to be hired for head coach jobs after enjoying success.

The Niners have plenty of defensive talent, led by Nick Bosa, which makes the job extremely attractive. San Francisco had the No. 1 defense this season.

Wilks went 6-6 as Carolina’s interim head coach after replacing Matt Rhule. He has previously served as a defensive coordinator for the Browns and Panthers. He also was the head coach of the Cardinals in 2018 and went 3-13.

Russell Wilson reportedly had strong reaction to Broncos’ Sean Payton hire

Russell Wilson with headphones on

Aug 13, 2022; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson (3) before the preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys at Empower Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

One of the most important jobs for new Denver Broncos coach Sean Payton will be to try to salvage Russell Wilson’s tenure with the franchise. Fortunately for him, it appears he will have a willing partner in his new quarterback.

Wilson is “ecstatic” with the decision to hire Payton, according to Troy Renck of Denver7. This was backed by Wilson liking a tweet pointing out that Payton has the highest points per game mark of any coach in the Super Bowl era.

The Broncos made Wilson the centerpiece of their team in 2021 and the quarterback simply failed to deliver. He threw just 16 touchdowns to 11 interceptions, and the team went 4-11 in his starts. With those numbers in mind, it is no wonder Wilson reportedly pushed hard for Payton to choose the Broncos.

Payton has always been highly regarded as an outstanding offensive mind, and his New Orleans Saints teams consistently featured near the top of the statistical charts on that side of the ball. One can hardly blame Wilson for being excited about that.

Report reveals how Raiders are handling Derek Carr trade

Derek Carr in a helmet

Sep 13, 2021; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) before playing against the Baltimore Ravens at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

There has been some lack of clarity regarding how the Las Vegas Raiders are handling an inevitable trade of quarterback Derek Carr. It turns out their stance is somewhat nuanced but sensible.

Previous reports had indicated that the Raiders had yet to grant Carr or his agent permission to speak to other teams about a potential trade. This seemed detrimental to getting a deal done, as Carr’s contract may require interested teams to negotiate some adjustments, not to mention the quarterback’s full no-trade clause.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter clarified the situation on Friday. The Raiders have granted Carr permission to speak to teams after those teams agree on compensation with the Raiders.

As Vincent Bonsignore of the Las Vegas Review-Journal explains, the Raiders were never going to give Carr blanket permission to speak to all 31 teams. The franchise simply wants to be sure that they are dealing with a serious suitor before letting Carr speak to them.

The Raiders and Carr will still have to work out whether the quarterback is interested in any of these suitors. They will have to do it quickly, as his contract will become guaranteed on Feb. 15, and Carr has indicated that he will not extend that deadline.

Interest in Carr has so far been kept close to the vest, though there is chatter that one NFC team could be in the running.

Jets rookie recruits 2 top QBs on Twitter

Sauce Gardner with the media

Mar 5, 2022; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Cincinnati defensive back Sauce Gardner (DB14) talks to the media during the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

New York Jets rookie cornerback Sauce Gardner has quickly become a core player and a team leader. If there was any doubt about that, one only needed to see his recent Twitter activity to see the leadership mantle he has taken on.

Gardner sent a pair of tweets jokingly recruiting Aaron Rodgers and Derek Carr to the Jets. Gardner was clearly having some fun, but the message was pretty clear.

The rookie cornerback later deleted the tweets and said he was just trolling.

Gardner may have been doing a bit of trolling, but he would probably love to have either quarterback on the team. At least in the case of Rodgers, the Jets front office might just share that opinion.

While it is essentially certain that the Las Vegas Raiders will move on from Carr, Rodgers’ status with the Packers is less clear. Expect the Jets to keep tabs on both quarterbacks as they search for a new veteran starter, preferably one that will help Gardner’s previous guarantee come true.