2019-01-13 by W.M.
NFL Rumors: Latest on Antonio Brown Trade Buzz, Coaching Searches, More | Bleacher Report
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Forget the MLB hot stove, with baseball teams spending the winter offseason, well, not spending. The NFL may still be in the playoffs, but the coaching carousel and the potential availability of one of the league’s best playmakers has all the hot rumors you need.
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Pittsburgh Steelers wideout Antonio Brown is not happy with his team. He missed practices and meetings ahead of the team’s Week 17 finale against Cincinnati (which he did not play in) after a dispute with Ben Roethlisberger, per Gerry Dulac and Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
The rift must be bad, because even though Brown is one of the top wideouts in the game, Pittsburgh appears ready to move on. Team president Art Rooney II said aside from releasing Brown, “all other options are on the table,” per Dulac. If a trade is in order, it could happen well before activities for the next season get underway.
According ESPN’s Chris Mortensen (at the 23-second mark), the Steelers are reportedly expecting to trade Brown by early March, before he is due a roster bonus.
Players of Brown’s caliber simply do not end up on the open trade market, at least not when they are 31 years old and have made 686 receptions for 9,145 yards and 67 touchdowns over the last six seasons.
As Bleacher Report’s Mike Freeman reports, a huge chunk of the league will be interested in Brown’s services if he becomes available:
mike freeman @mikefreemanNFL
Teams are telling me the potential trade market for Antonio Brown is huge. Teams interested in Brown also tell me (and I know this will shock you) they believe once Brown got into their program they’d be able to control him.
Very few teams could justify not taking a look at Brown. The league’s top offenses, like Kansas City, New Orleans, or Los Angeles Rams can say no thanks, let’s spend the cash we would spend on Brown on our defense.
Other squads that have dominant, high-usage top wideouts, like say Atlanta (Julio Jones), Houston (Deandre Hopkins), or Minnesota (Adam Thielen) may not have room for Brown in the offense, though he did co-exist just fine with Juju Smith-Schuster (111 receptions, 1,426 yards), until it all fell apart in the last week of the season.
Beyond that, which team couldn’t use a player like Brown, assuming they can pay his salary? He’s a Hall-of-Fame talent and though he may be at the end of his athletic prime, he just posted a career high in touchdowns (15). Most teams will be willing to bank all he needs is a change of scenery to put up another couple of 100-catch seasons without any team-chemistry issues.
It would be a wide-open market for Brown, so yea, he will probably somehow end up on the dynastic New England Patriots as a sort of Randy Moss redux, leading to pure anguish for fans of the league’s 31 other teams.
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It doesn’t look like Gregg Williams will be getting any head coaching jobs this year. Despite taking over as head coach of the Cleveland Browns after Hue Jackson’s firing and guiding the team to a 5-3 record as the man in charge, the team parted ways with him at the end of the regular season, opting to hire Freddie Kitchens as head coach.
One might think Williams’ role in lifting the Browns off the league’s doormat would get him head-coaching looks, but it appears the longtime defensive coordinator will be sticking to play-calling duties (it’s possible his role in Bountygate still lingers).
CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora noted Friday that four teams are looking at Williams as a D-coordinator, including the New York Jets and Washington.
The leading contender appears to be the Jets, who just hired their own new head coach, per NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport:
Ian Rapoport @RapSheet
New #Jets coach Adam Gase is on the verge of a big hire: Former #Browns interim coach Gregg Williams is in talks with Gase to become their new defensive coordinator, sources say. Things are progressing in this direction, and those involved believe it’ll get done.
The Jets finished 4-12 and at the bottom of the AFC East. They were 29th in points allowed and 25th in yards allowed per game in 2018. The Browns actually weren’t all that much better, ranking 21st in points allowed and 30th in yards, but they did do a fine job of forcing turnovers, ranking second with 31 takeaways. The Jets were tied for 16th with just 20 takeaways. The team is undergoing a change at the top with Gase, and Williams’ experience should be helpful in charting a new path forward.
As for Williams’ replacement as coordinator in Cleveland, Rapoport has an idea of who they are honing in on:
Ian Rapoport @RapSheet
The #Browns are working on a deal to hire former #AZCardinals head coach Steve Wilks as their defensive coordinator, sources say. A strong hire to work with all that talent as new coach Freddie Kitchens builds his staff.
Steve Wilks coached the Arizona Cardinals for just one season, going 3-13. He has spent most of his career as a position coach, but did serve as defensive coordinator for the Carolina Panthers in 2017, as well as a D-coordinator in college.
The Miami Dolphins fired Gase, who as noted above, already has a new gig with the Jets. It appears the team is close to finding his replacement, apparently zeroing in on New England Patriots linebacker coach Brian Flores, per Rapoport:
Ian Rapoport @RapSheet
Sources: The #Dolphins have narrowed the focus of their search to #Patriots defensive play-caller Brian Flores as their new head coach. No deal yet, nothing official. But that’s their target.
ESPN’s Jeff Darlington provided some context for their interest: