Biggest 2019 offseason needs for all 32 NFL teams – WABC-TV


Several NFL teams are in the process of hiring a new coach, while others need to find new quarterbacks. What do all 32 teams need most this offseason? We asked NFL Nation reporters to assess each situation.

Scan through all 32 teams by division, or click here to jump ahead to your team:

After the trade of Cordy Glenn and the retirements of Eric Wood and Richie Incognito last offseason, the Bills’ once-formidable offensive line sank to 30th in Football Outsiders’ rankings this season. Coach Sean McDermott already has fired offensive line coach Juan Castillo, while general manager Brandon Beane could replace as many as four starters this offseason. Center Ryan Groy, right guard John Miller and right tackle Jordan Mills are all scheduled for unrestricted free agency. — Mike Rodak

Miami has waited seven years for Ryan Tannehill to be the guy to lead its franchise out of mediocrity, and it seems the Dolphins have finally seen enough to move in a different direction. They have been scouting quarterbacks ahead of the 2019 draft, and it’s likely they will draft a QB or find a stopgap before picking one in 2020. With a new coach on his way, the Dolphins are headed toward somewhat of a rebuild. An exciting, talented quarterback will give this team legitimate promise and a certain future — two things Miami has missed for the past decade. — Cameron Wolfe

This could have easily been a vote for adding more explosive options for Tom Brady because that’s equally important. But in the big picture, there is a one-to-four-year window for the Patriots to discover and develop the quarterback who could eventually take the reins from Brady. New England is operating with some margin for error because the 41-year-old Brady is still capable of leading a team to the Super Bowl, and he has said he’s committed to playing in 2019 and beyond. The draft is the most likely avenue to fill this need, with the hope that a Jimmy Garoppolo 2.0 might be available. — Mike Reiss

The Jets took care of the quarterback issue last offseason, but now they need someone who can lead Sam Darnold and the rest of the team back to relevancy. The losing culture must be eradicated, and it will take a strong personality to accomplish that. Ideally, they can find a coach with a history of developing quarterbacks, because Darnold is the key to the future. — Rich Cimini

The Ravens produced 57 plays of 20 yards or more, which ranked 24th in the NFL. Baltimore has to add more explosive talent around Lamar Jackson, whether it’s a young wide receiver or a dynamic running back. The Ravens can’t count on marching down the field on 10- and 11-play drives. Baltimore needs someone to generate chunk plays and take pressure off its new franchise quarterback. — Jamison Hensley

The offensive line needs an upgrade as well, but the linebacker play was among the worst in the league this season, and that showed against high-powered offenses like the Saints’ and Chiefs’. The Bengals need to make drafting a linebacker a priority. It’s clear that Vontaze Burfict can no longer be relied upon, and middle linebacker Preston Brown didn’t get to show much due to injuries. The entire group needs to be overhauled in 2019. — Katherine Terrell

Whether it’s a run-stuffing defensive tackle — the Browns ranked 28th in rushing defense — to go with Larry Ogunjobi or an impact linebacker, Cleveland needs a defender who can change a game. Adding one more piece to what is already on the defense helps the team. Close second? A big-play wide receiver to give Baker Mayfield more help. — Pat McManamon

The Steelers must decide whether to keep Brown or find a willing trade partner before his $2.5 million roster bonus is due March 18. Despite Brown’s greatness, the team seems to be over his antics, making his $22.165 million salary-cap number expendable. Getting a high pick in return will be crucial in trying to replace Brown, so expect the Steelers to hold out closer to mid-March. — Jeremy Fowler

The Texans need to make the O-line an offseason priority after third-round pick Martinas Rankin was the only significant addition to their front in 2018. Quarterback Deshaun Watson was sacked 62 times and under constant duress all season. Not all of the sacks were the fault of the offensive line, but Watson needs more time to stand in the pocket so DeAndre Hopkins and a healthy Will Fuller can make plays down the field. — Turron Davenport

The Colts had one of the NFL’s most surprising units this season, finishing 11th in total defense, and had the league’s leading tackler in Darius Leonard (163) but didn’t have a player reach double digits in sacks. Pairing an elite pass-rusher with Leonard and the rest of the team’s young defenders will help the Colts take another step defensively next season. — Mike Wells

The Jaguars will likely start fresh after making the decision to move on from Blake Bortles. That could be signing a free agent such as Tyrod Taylor or Ryan Fitzpatrick or potentially Nick Foles, going the aging-veteran route with Eli Manning or Joe Flacco, or drafting a quarterback in the first round. The price for Foles likely skyrocketed after the wild-card games, and the Jaguars might have to part with more than they would like if they were to try to trade up in the draft from the No. 7 spot. Execs Tom Coughlin and Dave Caldwell and head coach Doug Marrone will have to decide if they’re willing to give away part of their future draft capital to end up with the quarterback they believe will get them back into the playoffs in 2019. — Mike DiRocco

The Titans fielded one of the best league’s scoring defenses this season despite registering only 39 sacks. Rookie outside linebacker Harold Landry has a promising future and will begin to see double-teams, so the Titans need to get an edge rusher who can consistently beat one-on-one matchups on the opposite side. Pro Bowl defensive lineman Jurrell Casey is an established player who needs someone to help him collapse the pocket from the interior. — Turron Davenport

Case Keenum has just one year remaining on his contract, and the Broncos have no quarterback they drafted on their roster, so that puts them in the growing crowd of teams looking for a long-term solution. The coaching change likely means the team will line up with its fourth different playbook on offense in a four-season span. It is difficult to consistently find the right personnel if the team is constantly cycling through playcallers. — Jeff Legwold

It’s reasonable to believe that of all of the defensive backs who played for the Chiefs this season, only cornerback Kendall Fuller might remain by 2020. The Chiefs need some long-term solutions at both safety and corner, and the time to get started on that is now, with the Chiefs holding three picks in the first two rounds of the draft. — Adam Teicher

With Denzel Perryman, Jatavis Brown and Kyzir White out for the season due to injuries, the Chargers are thin at linebacker and should look to add depth to that position group, either through the draft or free agency. The Chargers have done a nice job of making up for the lack up healthy bodies by playing safeties Adrian Phillips and Jahleel Addae at linebacker, with good results. L.A., however, needs bigger bodies at the second level for defensive coordinator Gus Bradley’s Cover 3 scheme to be most effective. — Eric D. Williams

Sure, we know the Raiders plan on playing in Las Vegas in 2020, but with no lease for a home stadium for next season, the Raiders are literally in Parts Unknown even as they have been linked to San Francisco; San Diego; Reno, Nevada; Santa Clara, California; London; and, yes, even Oakland. The NFL wants to know by early February, at the latest, where the Raiders plan to call home, and you can bet that free agents also would like to know where the Raiders will be playing this fall before signing with the franchise. Tick, tock. — Paul Gutierrez

It’s not that the Cowboys have not made an effort to play to Prescott’s strengths, but can they do more? The only quarterback to win more games the past three seasons has been Tom Brady. Prescott will not challenge the passing leaders in the league, especially with Ezekiel Elliott’s success on the ground, but the Cowboys can do more with Prescott on the move and getting him on the run. No team would want to expose its quarterback too many times to big hits, but Prescott knows how to take care of himself on the field. Jerry Jones has said the Cowboys need to be “Dak-friendly,” but he was talking mostly about personnel. They don’t need to completely change their offense, but they need to be more “Dak-friendly” in terms of using his skill set. — Todd Archer

It’s the most important position on any team, and the Giants need to set in motion a plan to succeed Eli Manning. All these weapons will mean nothing if they don’t find a quarterback sooner rather than later, whether it be via the draft, free agency or trade. Manning is 38 and might not even return for 2019. Kyle Lauletta is a fourth-round pick who was buried on the depth chart as a rookie. The draft appears to be the Giants’ best avenue to Manning’s long-term successor. They have the No. 6 overall pick, and none of the five teams ahead of them is likely in the QB market. — Jordan Raanan

The Eagles could use a speed receiver and a running back, but this team’s strength is derived from the offensive and defensive fronts. With defensive end Brandon Graham set to become a free agent, the Eagles need to either find a way to re-sign him or sign a veteran who can help fill the void. — Tim McManus

There’s uncertainty surrounding Alex Smith’s future because of the compound spiral fracture in his right leg, and it could be some time before the Redskins and Smith know if or when he might return. Washington must plan for life without him, but the question is how? Smith’s contract makes it difficult because he’d count more than $40 million in dead money if cut this offseason; the Redskins have only around $20 million in cap space now. Their options include signing or trading for another veteran quarterback — but they’ll have to be creative. They could draft one to team with Colt McCoy and possibly Josh Johnson, though it’s not considered a strong or deep draft class. Still, if there’s a quarterback they like, they need to pounce. The Redskins expect to have nine picks after the compensatory selections are announced, so they’ll have options. Coach Jay Gruden remains confident in McCoy, but the veteran backup must prove he can stay healthy and also that he can reward that confidence. — John Keim

The Bears probably can’t keep Cody Parkey — even if they wanted to — after he missed the game winner in Chicago’s playoff loss to the Eagles. He missed 11 total kicks this season after the Bears signed him to a four-year deal that included $9 million in guaranteed money. The Bears have struggled at kicker ever since they released the franchise’s all-time leading scorer, Robbie Gould, who coincidentally will be a free agent after making 82 of 85 field goals over the past three seasons for the Giants and 49ers. — Jeff Dickerson

The Lions need better pressure against opposing quarterbacks, and with Ezekiel Ansah unlikely to return next season, this becomes their No. 1 need, much like it was a season ago, even when the team had Ansah. They’ll have multiple options to fix it, either through free agency or the draft, where pass-rushers are plentiful in this class. If Detroit wants to build a stellar defense, that’s the biggest hole to fill. — Michael Rothstein

Hiring the head coach was just the first part of the solution. Now, it’s up to the offense-minded LaFleur to mesh with Rodgers. LaFleur has built-in credibility working with Matt Ryan and Jared Goff, two quarterbacks whom Rodgers respects, so that should help.— Rob Demovsky

The same storyline that haunted the Vikings throughout 2018 is one that remains the top priority this offseason. After surrendering a league-high 227 pressures, Minnesota needs to upgrade the offensive line, particularly its guard spots. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Vikings completely overhaul the line and move on from the likes of Tom Compton, Mike Remmers (who has no guaranteed money left on his deal), Brett Jones, Danny Isidora and Rashod Hill. Minnesota has several ways it can create the cap space needed to go after a lineman or two in free agency, but it also needs to use a chunk of its draft capital in the higher rounds to begin to fix the problem. — Courtney Cronin

The Falcons need to find a seasoned coordinator to pair with Matt Ryan, Julio Jones & Co. Former Tampa Bay coach Dirk Koetter, who previously served as Atlanta’s offensive coordinator, appears to be the top choice after interviewing Saturday. Koetter knows how to play to Ryan’s strengths and bring his playcalling expertise to the zone scheme head coach Dan Quinn wants to keep in place. Once the coordinator is hired, the Falcons can focus on beefing up the three spots on the offensive line outside of center and left tackle. — Vaughn McClure

If this question had been asked in early December, an edge rusher would have been the easy answer. But with quarterback Cam Newton being shut down for the final two games because of a sore right shoulder that has limited him in practice much of the past two seasons, a backup quarterback who could replace Newton has to move to the top of the list. An edge rusher still is important; this defense thrives off pressure from the front four and it didn’t get that consistently this season. But Newton’s shoulder makes a reliable backup even more of a priority. — David Newton

This was an area of need even before veteran starter Benjamin Watson announced he is retiring at the end of the season. The Saints need depth at the position, and they could especially use another reliable pass-catcher to go with receivers Michael Thomas and Ted Ginn Jr. and running back Alvin Kamara. It should be a draft priority, but it might be a big enough need to address it in free agency, especially since the Saints don’t have a first- or third-round pick this year. — Mike Triplett

In a week since firing Dirk Koetter, the Bucs interviewed four candidates: Eric Bieniemy, George Edwards, Bruce Arians and Kris Richard. Who can get Jameis Winston on the right track and best relate to the 25-year-old quarterback? Who can resuscitate a defense that showed signs of life after Mike Smith’s firing but still has major work to do? Who can restore order in a locker room where, according to Jason Pierre-Paul, players “didn’t keep it real with each other”?— Jenna Laine

Update: The Bucs arefinalizing a deal to make Bruce Arians their next coach.

For a multitude of reasons, Steve Wilks didn’t work out, going 3-13 in his only season with the team before getting fired Dec. 31. This time around, the Cardinals need to get it right. Not only have they missed the playoffs the past three seasons, they have seen their roster depth diminished and now have the No. 1 overall pick in the draft. They do have a young quarterback to build around in Josh Rosen. Cardinals execs said over and over during their end-of-season news conference that they were going to keep their search close to the vest. As reports of interviews trickle out, however, it’s clear Arizona is focused on finding an offense-minded coach, which should immediately help Rosen blossom in Year 2. — Josh Weinfuss

Update: The Cardinals hired former Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury on Tuesday.

The Rams added Dante Fowler Jr. in a midseason trade with the Jaguars, but he’s a free agent this offseason. A solid edge rusher is crucial to the success of defensive coordinator Wade Phillips’ 3-4 scheme. Before the addition of Fowler, the Rams were unable to consistently apply pressure from the edge. — Lindsey Thiry

The 49ers have tried to add an outside complement to DeForest Buckner since Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch arrived, but they haven’t had the spot in the draft to select one, and the top outside rushers haven’t hit the free-agent market. An attempt to trade for Khalil Mack also came up just short. The Niners know what a top outside pass-rusher could do for their defense, and they’ll explore every avenue — especially with the No. 2 overall pick — to make it happen. — Nick Wagoner

The Seahawks have a handful of young building blocks and still have an All-Pro middle linebacker in Bobby Wagner, but there are holes to be filled. Seattle’s No. 30 ranking in yards allowed per rush (4.95) and No. 18 ranking in yards allowed per pass attempt (7.51) highlight the needs for another run-stuffer to play alongside Jarran Reed, another edge player to complement Frank Clark and perhaps an upgrade at safety to team with Bradley McDougald, assuming Earl Thomas isn’t back. The Seahawks also will need to determine how much linebacker K.J. Wright, an impending free agent, can continue to be an impact player with his troublesome knee. — Brady Henderson

(Copyright ©2019 ESPN Internet Ventures. All rights reserved.)



Ranking 49ers needs in 2019 NFL draft – Niners Wire


The 49ers’ future and the tenures of head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch could ride on how well they do in the 2019 NFL draft.

San Francisco’s roster reconstruction under the new regime badly needs an influx of starting-caliber talent to supplement their depth. Getting a starter or two in this year’s draft, plus a quality depth piece or two could be the difference between them making and missing the playoffs next season.

There’s a long ways to go until the draft, but these are their top five needs as the NFL postseason nears its close.

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

We’re cheating and putting all three OL positions in one. This isn’t a dire need for San Francisco, but they could use the type of depth teams typically acquire early in Day 3 of the draft. Another young player to work in and compete for a roster spot on the interior, or to possibly groom as a future starting tackle wouldn’t hurt the 49ers in the short or long term. There’s a chance offensive tackle becomes their biggest need after next season if Joe Staley retires. Then they can attack the position early in the draft. For now it’s worth a look, but not a spot they need to use premium draft capital on.



'Damn, that's a nice jump': How Matt LaFleur went from Ashland to NFL – Green Bay Packers Blog- ESPN – ESPN


GREEN BAY, Wis. — On a winter night in Mount Pleasant, Michigan, Matt LaFleur and Robert Saleh thought they were invited to a party at the home of their boss, Central Michigan University football coach Brian Kelly.

Turns out, they weren’t on the guest list.

They were on the worker list.

“We shoveled the snow and parked all the cars,” Saleh said. “Then, at the end of the night, we had to go get the cars again.”

And then they went back to the tiny apartment they shared as graduate assistants and stood around their kitchen table — the one without any chairs.

“We decided that when we’re in that position, we’re never going to treat people the way we got treated,” said Saleh, now the San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator. “And Matty’s lived up to it.”

Matt LaFleur, second from left, and Robert Saleh, third from left, reunite at Lambeau Field in 2008 with friends from Northern Michigan, where Saleh played and LaFleur coached. Courtesy of Robert Saleh

And Saleh’s not surprised.

Nor is he shocked that 15 years later, the best man at his wedding landed the Green Bay Packers’ head-coaching job last week. At age 39, LaFleur became the first Packers head coach under the age of 40 since Curly Lambeau coached the team in 1921 at age 23.

The story of LaFleur’s rise isn’t merely how he got one of the most coveted jobs in sports but rather how he got to the NFL in the first place.

From Ashland to the NFL

It was Saleh who opened the NFL door for LaFleur, who went from grad assistant at Central Michigan (2004-05) to part-time quarterbacks/receivers coach at Northern Michigan (2006) to offensive coordinator at Division II Ashland University (2007).

“Basically, he’d only been a full-time college coach with me for a year, and I’m getting a call from the Houston Texans head coach (Gary Kubiak) saying he wants him to be an intern with offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan,” Ashland coach Lee Owens recalled.

“I’m thinking, ‘Damn, that’s a nice jump.’ I was still a little upset he was leaving after a year, but I guess I can justify that,” Owens added with a chuckle. “He’s always been a man on a mission with unbelievable focus and ambition. But he produces everywhere he’s been. He’s really a bright guy, good at what he does, an unbelievable communicator and engages players — particularly quarterbacks — in a very unique manner.”

Saleh and LaFleur embarked on separate career journeys after CMU. Saleh reached the NFL first as a quality control defensive assistant with the Texans in 2005. He kept telling LaFleur he should attend the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis, where he could make contacts with other coaches in the league. Two years later, when the Texans played the Browns in Cleveland, LaFleur made the short drive from Ashland to attend the game as Saleh’s guest.

“He’s like, ‘Hey, come up, I’ll introduce you to some of the guys,’” LaFleur said. “I did that. I went to the combine, met some guys and went up to Cleveland and met them again. So I started to become somewhat of a familiar face.”

Later that year, Texans offensive coordinator Mike Sherman, the former Packers coach, took the Texas A&M job and brought one of the Texans’ offensive quality control coaches with him. That’s when Saleh once again brought up LaFleur’s name.

“All of a sudden I got a phone call from Gary Kubiak,” LaFleur said. “I’m like, ‘Hey man, heck of a job, Rob.’ So the rest is history. I accepted the job and I drove down to Houston the next day.”

Little did LaFleur know at the time, but Saleh’s first thought was to go for that job himself.

“I wanted to go to the other side of the ball,” Saleh said. “I played tight end [at Northern Michigan] and was like ‘This is my chance to get to the offensive side of the ball.’”

His mind, however, wandered back to that snowy day in Michigan and everything that his good friend had been through.

“I thought about it, I said, ‘Shoot, I can get Matty in here,’” Saleh said. “So I decided to not go to the offensive side of the ball and I went in and told Kyle, ‘This guy’s unbelievable. He’ll be awesome. Just stop looking.’ I guess I sold him well enough. Him and Coach Kubiak hired him.”

The McVay-Shanahan connection

That’s when Shanahan entered the picture.

The son of accomplished NFL coach Mike Shanahan, Kyle took in LaFleur and taught him the offense. LaFleur’s job in Houston was to hand-draw the Shanahan offense, play by play.

“He was the run-drawer the first year I was the coordinator,” Shanahan said. “Then the second year he drew the passes for me.”

Then Shanahan went to the Redskins in 2010, where his father had just been named head coach.

“I knew I was going to bring Matt because he was my guy,” Kyle Shanahan said. “I didn’t know whether it was going to be as a quality control coach or a quarterbacks coach, and then as I thought about it, I ended up making him the quarterbacks coach. He was that for four years. The first couple of years, I was more involved but then quickly turned it over to him. And he was awesome there.

“And then after that, after we all got fired, he went to Notre Dame for a year, I went to Cleveland. It was really my only year without him. Once I got out of there and went to Atlanta, I knew I was going to bring him back right away.”

LaFleur worked as Matt Ryan’s quarterbacks coach for two years in Atlanta until Sean McVay, who worked with him in Washington, became the Rams’ head coach. McVay brought LaFleur to Los Angeles as his offensive coordinator in 2017.

Together, they helped turn Jared Goff into a playoff-caliber quarterback. After just one season, LaFleur went to the Titans, who gave him the opportunity to call plays, which McVay did with the Rams.

The big risk

It was a risky move to break from the Shanahan-McVay coaching tree.

“I thought it was an awesome move,” said Kyle Shanahan, the 49ers’ head coach. “I thought it was something that was big for him. Is your only goal in coaching just to get a head-coaching job or do you want to be the best you can when you get that opportunity? I always thought Matt would get an opportunity whether it was at 39 or it was at 50. But the key is to be as good as you can be when you get that.

“I thought it was really important for Matt to go out on his own, to be away from us. That’s why I thought it was important for him not to come to San Francisco. That’s why he went to L.A. And then I thought it was important for him to go out on his own. I think a lot of people thought Matt was crazy, but it shows that Matt was confident and ready to be on his own. He went from a great situation offensively with Sean to not the easiest one, and he is so much better because of it. He might be in the same spot, but I know he’s better from doing it.”

When LaFleur left Ashland, he made barely $30,000. Owens helped LaFleur’s wife, BreAnne, land a job in her field of physical therapy. Of course, that seemed like a life of luxury compared to the sparse apartment he once shared with Saleh.

“There was no furniture, just our beds and a table but no chairs,” he said. “We had this table that we picked up from Goodwill and in hindsight we should’ve bought the chairs, too. But we pretty much ate standing up.”

Now LaFleur has a seat at the head of the table in Green Bay, where he’ll never have to shovel anyone else’s snow.



What life as an NFL practice squad player on the move *really* looks like – SB Nation


The moment that Treyvon Hester, a defensive tackle who started the 2018 season on the Philadelphia Eagles practice squad, reached up and snagged the edge of the ball Bears kicker Cody Parkey had just sent towards the uprights, sealing his team’s playoff win, he became a very particular kind of hero. Instantly, Hester was the star of a familiar, irresistible NFL narrative: the underdog player who scrapped his way onto the team and wound up indispensable.

The NFL players who still haven’t had their primetime breakthrough rely on that narrative, too. “You hear all those undrafted success stories … I mean I was in Seattle, so I had a bunch of examples right in front of me,” says Tyvis Powell, an undrafted safety who has played for five different teams in two years since spending his rookie season with the Seahawks. “I was like, ‘I’m going to be the next one to do that.’ Things just haven’t worked out that way, but the good thing is that I keep getting opportunities.”

The price of taking those opportunities, though, is much steeper than fans might imagine. Players at the bottom of the roster and on the practice squad have to be prepared to move across the country at a moment’s notice, for reasons that may have nothing to do with their own performance: a player in a different position group gets hurt, so suddenly adding depth there takes priority.

Those moves are only partially subsidized by teams, cutting into what are already comparatively modest practice squad salaries. Powell, who moved from the Niners to the Jets and back again during the 2018 season, estimates in his career he’s spent $15,000 just on relocating to play. “It’s unfortunate, but it is a job,” he says. “I’ve come to learn it’s better than nothing.”

There were 447 additions to NFL practice squads after Week 1, when teams sign their first 10-player practice squad. Though a number of those transactions account for players moving on and off of the practice squad of the same team, it suggests that the majority of NFL practice squad players had to move at least once mid-season — meaning the squad’s instability affected a wide swath of NFL players.

And even if their checks look substantial from the outside, if you account for taxes and the fact that they’re meant to sustain players over the course of the entire offseason, it’s clear the money is not enough to support the flexibility the position requires. It’s a journeyman lifestyle, but often without the active roster paychecks that make that path worthwhile.

Rees Odhiambo, a guard who moved four times during the 2018 season, shared what’s become an all-too-familiar routine. When a team calls, you get on a flight; if you’ve just been cut from the active roster, that call generally comes just after you clear waivers at 4 p.m. on Tuesday. There’s no time, really, to pack or deal with any of the logistics of moving. You arrive that night, the team picks you up from the airport and hands you a copy of the playbook to start studying. The next morning, you go through a series of physicals, sign your contract, and get on the field.


Rees Odhiambo plays for the Seattle Seahawks in a 2017 game against theTennessee Titans.
Getty Images

The team pays for a week in a hotel, during which players are expected to find their own housing. “You’re in a brand new location, and you’ve gotta learn the whole playbook that everyone else has had for the past few months,” says Odhiambo. “Outside of that, you have to cover finding a place to live, getting a car to drive, all the essentials. Even just getting a ride to the team facility — the team only covers you for the first day and after that you’re on your own. You start working at six in the morning and you’re back at six at night, and then you eat and study, and after that is the only time you have to find a place to live. That in-between time.” Plus, the place you find needs to accommodate the fact that you might have to leave at any time. A lease is a huge liability.

There are a number of solutions to this conundrum, most of them with considerable drawbacks. When Powell first joined the Niners practice squad in November 2017, he stayed in an Embassy Suites hotel near the facility that wound up costing him $7,000 for a month and a half. “It was the middle of the season and the team was 0-8, so they weren’t going to the playoffs,” he says. “So I decided to just do something temporary. I didn’t know anybody [in the area] or what else I could do.”

He was back with the team for training camp in 2018, and elected to rent a furnished one-bedroom; Powell lives with his girlfriend and dog, so getting a roommate wasn’t really an option. “I went fully furnished, because it was month-to-month, and being on practice squad it’s a ‘here today, gone tomorrow’ type of thing,” he says. That set him back $4,400 a month.

“It’s unbelievable,” he says, laughing. “That’s that California stuff. When you stay in expensive cities, the rent is really high so the majority of your money is going to rent —you’re not really saving any money.”

When the Niners brought him back as a member of the active roster for the last two weeks of the season, he stayed at Richard Sherman’s house. Now, staying with family back in his native Ohio, Powell can joke about it: “I refused to pay any more money,” he says.

For rookies, navigating the logistics is even more challenging. Richard “Dewey” Jarvis, a linebacker who graduated from Brown in 2018 and went undrafted, thought he had it made when he was on the Atlanta Falcons 53-man roster after training camp. “I saw a big paycheck and a little bit of a future there, so I got a six month lease — which I still have,” says the Massachusetts native, now home for the offseason. He’d also paid to ship his car from New England to Atlanta.

But Jarvis was cut the day of the Falcons’ first game, when a long-snapper injury meant the team needed to sign one off the practice squad. Having already traveled with the team to Philadelphia, he wasn’t even allowed on the field; Jarvis had no choice but to watch the entire game from the locker room. “I just never thought it would be like that,” he says now.

He was on the Falcons practice squad for a few more weeks before being cut from the team altogether. When he was signed to the Jacksonville Jaguars practice squad, Jarvis took a more cautious approach. “I had a different mindset, because I’d seen how quickly you can move,” he says of his choice to remain in the extended-stay hotel where the Jaguars had initially put him up. “I was paying a little bit more, but the minimum leases available were for three months, and at that point, I didn’t think I was going to be there for three months.”

When he was cut from that practice squad after three weeks and moved to Buffalo, Jarvis took the same approach: staying in a hotel, but with the added expense of renting a car — he left his car at the apartment he’s still paying for in Atlanta. Even in the inexpensive cities of Buffalo and Jacksonville, staying in a hotel cost him around $2,000 a month.

“If you look back at it, yes, there were ways to save money,” says Jarvis of the money he’s spent trying to accommodate practice squad life’s unpredictability. “But the problem is that you can’t predict the future.” On the practice squad, trying to predict the future gets you in trouble. Some players who enter the league with no money to get settled — after playing on national TV for three or four years without getting paid — take out loans from their agents. It’s a strategy that can backfire if they don’t do as well in the league as promised.

The pressure to perform when you’re on a team’s fringes is immense: maybe the media isn’t hounding you the way they do with some of the NFL’s stars, but you’re always a day away from getting cut. Moving midseason means not only learning a new playbook, but ingratiating yourself with a whole new group of players and coaches with the hope that they’ll keep you around — essentially restarting the process of making it onto an NFL team Hard Knocks-style but with a heavy handicap, since the vast majority of the team has already had much more time to get into a rhythm.

On the most basic level practice squad players do more work during the week as they’re expected to take reps on offense and defense, moving around the field to mimic a team’s next opponent. But for those who are really pushing to make the team, there’s even more work involved. “You’re trying to prove yourself, get on the coach’s good side, and gain the trust of your teammates to try to get off of the practice squad,” says Jarvis. “That entails doing extra things like staying after practice and getting extra reps, because you’re not really the focus during practice.”

In addition, some NFL teams task their practice squads with extra workouts. Powell says that the Niners have a special practice squad lift session early in the morning that active roster players aren’t obliged to participate in. “One of those hardcore, wintertime, back-at-college lifts where you’d say to yourself, ‘There’s no way you guys are gonna make me lift this and then go to practice today!” he says. “But somehow, some way, we did.”

According to Odhiambo, for offensive players learning the playbook alone can take two weeks. He’s had to learn four different ones over the course of the season. “It’s exhausting to have to sit there and cram almost every night,” he says. “[When you’ve been with a team for a while], you already know the playbook and you’re cramming for the team you’re playing against that week. But I had to learn an entire playbook as well as what the team is doing in the next game, so that when I go to practice I know what’s going on.”

“But you’re being assessed from the moment you get there,” I say. “Basically,” he replies, laughing. “And they don’t care.”

Powell and Jarvis have both also been asked to change positions repeatedly as they’ve moved from team to team, adding an extra layer of difficulty to making a roster. Powell has been between corner and safety over the entire course of his NFL career — whenever he’s gotten comfortable at one of them, he says, he’s been asked to switch, or cut and sent to a different team that wanted him to switch.

“It’s a gift and a curse,” says Powell. “The versatility is what keeps you around, but it’s kind of like … I just want to master one thing. But whatever helps the money keep coming in, you have to do.”

There are other hidden liabilities to moving teams mid-season when you’re on the bottom of an NFL roster. Despite the fact that cuts are so often situational and have little to do with a player’s ability or performance, NFL resumes are treated like those outside the league: bouncing around too much is a red flag.

“The more you travel from team to team, the more you have kind of a stigma,” says Odhiambo. “Teams think that either you’re injured, or you have something wrong with you mentally, or you’re a troublemaker.”

He says coaches often ask him questions to try to suss out why he’s moved so much. “They ask about whether you’re drinking a lot or partying,” he says. “It’s like being re-evaluated from a draft perspective.”

During the draft and after, teams also sometimes ask players if they have a wife or girlfriend — any family that might impact a player’s ability to move freely from team to team.

“From the outside, it’s so simple — you just show up and play football,” says Jarvis. “But on the inside, there’s just so many moving parts.”

The uncertainty can be disillusioning. “The one quote that I’ve heard about a million times since I’ve been in the league is, ‘You have to control what you can control,’” says Powell. “As true as that is, you can do everything you’re supposed to do right and sometimes the numbers aren’t there. That’s been the whole thing with me — it’s just a numbers thing, there’s not space on the roster. Like, y’all need to figure out the numbers! Because it always seems to be me who gets cut.”

“I thought once I made the team, I would have a lot more stability,” says Jarvis. “But I didn’t realize how quickly people are rotated in and out of each team. That was really eye-opening.” Though he says he truly enjoyed his first season, and was amazed by the positive energy in all the locker rooms he’s been in, Jarvis is thinking about what will make life in the NFL worthwhile going forward. “Personally I’d rather have a home, put some roots down,” he says. “Next season I have to ask, ‘What are the chances? How stable is the next gig going to be?’”

There are some straightforward solutions that might make the unpredictable life of practice squad players more sustainable. One is requiring teams to provide housing for practice squad players, or a housing stipend. “That’s something that I think we’re looking into for our union deal,” says Odhiambo. “It’s one thing to go to Arizona or Texas, where it’s easy to get housing. But in cities like New York, San Francisco, or LA, guys have an impossible task as far as finding a place to live within the same week of having to report to work and be focused on this job.”

Another option would be expanding the NFL’s 53-man roster, which could reduce turnover and promote player safety by reducing pressure on injured players to stay in the game. Compared to college teams, who have no limit on the number of active players they can compete with — and who mostly play 13 games a season, max — NFL rosters are stretched remarkably thin. Sean Payton, Sean McVay, and Dan Quinn have all spoken this year about increasing the game day active roster, currently at 46 players — if it were larger, that might have a ripple effect and increase overall roster size.

“It might help with the numbers thing they keep telling me about,” says Powell. “That might save people like me.”

In the meantime, practice squad players will keep grinding — moving where the work is, and trying to get another one of those elusive opportunities.

“I always wonder how it feels to walk in the locker room and not have to worry, to be like ‘I know I’m gonna be here,’” Powell adds. “But then again, I don’t know if anybody has that feeling in the NFL. It’s such a cutthroat business.”



Colts GM: Brissett offer must 'blow me away' – NFL.com


Jacoby Brissett enters the final year of his rookie contract, but the Indianapolis Colts have no intention on shipping Andrew Luck’s backup out of town unless they get a treasure-trove in compensation.


During his season-ending press conference on Monday, general manager Chris Ballard said he’d have to be bowled over by an offer to trade Brissett.

“It would take somebody doing something that would blow me away, and it has to be the right thing for the kid, too,” he said, via George Bremer of The Herald Bulletin.

Ballard’s refrain echoes owner Jim Irsay’s comments from August, when he declared the Colts wouldn’t trade Brissett for a first-round pick.

Irsay’s comments came before Andrew Luck played in a single regular-season game in more than a year. After Luck’s MVP-caliber campaign, carrying the Colts into the playoffs a year or two earlier than most pundits expected, the situation is altered slightly. But the Colts want to keep Brissett around as insurance given Luck’s injury history.

With few obvious teams looking for quarterbacks this offseason, it’s likely Ballard won’t get a game-changing offer that would make him reconsider sending Brissett out of town before the season. Tides can change, however, over the course of a summer, as we saw with the Sam Bradford trade from Philadelphia to Minnesota three years ago after injury struck down Teddy Bridgewater.



Kristian Fulton announces NFL Draft decision – 247Sports


(Photo: Matthew Emmons, USA TODAY Sports)

More good news regarding the 2019 NFL Draft flowed LSU’s way on Saturday when starting cornerback Kristian Fulton announced he had some unfinished business in Baton Rouge.

Sources tell Geaux247 several NFL teams had the 6-foot, 192-pound junior as high as a potential first or second round draft pick. However, the allure of a college degree plus the opportunity to play for a championship on what will be a deep and talented LSU squad in 2019 pulled the former five-star prospect back to school.

After missing his sophomore season and playing in just three games as a true freshman in 2016, Fulton emerged as one of the top cornerbacks in the SEC. He started and played in 10 games before a lower leg injury against Arkansas that required surgery ended his season.

Playing opposite of Greedy Williams, Fulton picked off one pass and broke up nine others. With Williams foregoing his last two years of eligibility to enter the draft, Fulton gives the Tigers an experienced corner to mentor 247Sports’ No. 1 cornerback in the country Derek Stingley, who signed with LSU in December and enrolled in classes in January.

Ranked the No. 3 cornerback and No. 22 prospect overall in the industry-generated 247Sports Composite’s ’16 class, the Archbishop Rummel product made national headlines when the NCAA handed down a two-year suspension for tampering with a urine test that was eventually reduced to just one year shortly before LSU opened the 2018 campaign.

As a result, Fulton took the field against Miami in the season opener and never relinquished his hold on the starting spot.

At the time this article was published on Friday, LSU got good news from defensive prospects  Breiden Fehoko, Rashard Lawrence and outside linebacker Michael Divinity – along with Fulton.

Butkus Award winner and All-America linebacker Devin White had still not announced his intentions though that could come at any time with Jan. 15 the deadline for college players who are underclassmen to enter the draft.

Part-time starting nose tackle Ed Alexander had previously announced his intentions of entering the draft after knee problems plagued him since him high school.

LSU finished 2018 ranked No. 7 in the country in the AP Top 25 Poll, marking the program’s highest-ranked finish since 2011. The Tigers ended UCF’s 25-game win streak with a 40-32 victory in the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl with a depleted defense.

Defensive coordinator Dave Aranda’s unit finished No. 25 in the country in total yards allowed at 338.7 a game and 26th in scoring at 21.8 points a contest.

With as many as eight starters back, nine if White returns, the Tigers should be a force to be reckoned with on that side of the ball. The defense will complement an LSU offense that also returns eight starters and will make the Tigers a likely preseason top-10 pick in many of the publications and polls.