Fri Jan 28 3:17pm ET
By BRETT MARTEL
AP Sports Writer
New Orleans Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis walks the sidelines during warm-ups before an NFL football game against the Titans in Nashville, Tenn., Sunday, Nov. 14, 2021. Even as Saints general manager Mickey Loomis spoke highly of defensive coordinator Dennis Allen on Friday, Jan. 28, 2022, as a candidate to replace retired coach Sean Payton, he also emphasized his desire to thoroughly consider candidates from outside the club. (AP Photo/Gary McCullough, File)
Sean Payton, center left, leaves with general manager Mickey Loomis following an NFL football press conference announcing his resignation as head coach of the New Orleans Saints, Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2022, in Metairie, La. (AP Photo/Derick Hingle)
NEW ORLEANS (AP) Even as Saints general manager Mickey Loomis spoke highly of defensive coordinator Dennis Allen on Friday as a candidate to replace retired coach Sean Payton, he also emphasized his desire to thoroughly consider candidates from outside the club.
Allen is ''qualified. He has experience. He understands our culture here. We just know a lot about him. He's an excellent candidate,'' Loomis said.
The Saints GM did not mention other coaches he intends to consider, but under NFL rules, he is certain to interview minority candidates before hiring a new head coach. Higher profile minority candidates could include Brian Flores, who was recently fired as Miami's head coach and also was an assistant with New England's past three championship squads. Another would be Aaron Glenn, who spent last season as Detroit's defensive coordinator following five seasons as a secondary coach for the Saints.
''We do have great candidates from within the building and yet we also recognize that there's great candidates outside the building,'' Loomis said. ''We want to go trough the full process. That's the fair thing to do. It's the right thing to do for the New Orleans Saints.''
Loomis was not concerned by the timing of Payton's resignation this week, which came after eight other NFL teams - Chicago, Denver, Las Vegas, Jacksonville, Miami, Minnesota, the New York Giants and Houston - already had begun their search.
Two of those clubs have hired new coaches: The Broncos tapped Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett and the Bears selected Indianapolis Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus.
''I don't see it as a significant factor,'' Loomis said. ''A couple guys have been hired already but I'm not overly concerned with that.
''Our circumstances are different. Those eight teams, they let go a head coach and I think their situation is different than ours when you have a head coach retire and you have a lot of really good things in place already.''
Loomis went on to mention that the Saints are looking to preserve some degree of continuity on both the roster and throughout the organization, given the club's relative success since Payton was hired in 2006. During the past 16 years, the Saints have made nine playoff appearances, won seven NFC South titles, made three NFC title game appearances and won one Super Bowl title in the 2009 season.
Some coaches who were on the Super Bowl staff are with the organization now. Many more staff and some current core players were with the Saints' NFC South title teams in four straight recent seasons from 2017 to 2020. Allen was with the Saints when they won the Super Bowl, left to become Denver's defensive coordinator and later the Oakland Raiders' head coach before returning to the Saints in 2015.
Loomis said it is ''correct to assume'' the Saints don't view their impending hiring of a new head coach ''as a wholesale culture change, roster change, anything like that.''
''We've got a lot of good things here,'' Loomis said. ''As Sean said in his press conference: He's leaving with franchise in much better place than when he got here.''
When Loomis hired Payton as a rookie head coach in 2006, the Saints' head coaching job arguably was the least attractive in the NFL. Not only had New Orleans gone 3-13 in 2005, but the city remained devastated from Hurricane Katrina.
Loomis noted there were ''a lot of questions'' about the long-term viability of an NFL franchise in the rebuilding community.
''There were just so many other unique things about that 16 years ago made that opening and that time so unique and such a challenge,'' Loomis said.
''There wasn't anybody ringing my phone 16 years ago,'' the general manager said, referring to head coaching candidates or their agents. ''I was having to ring theirs and it wasn't always positive when I did get hold of someone.''
This time, Loomis said, there are ''a lot of people interested in coming to New Orleans and it's completely different in terms of how we're perceived.''
San Francisco 49ers S Doug Middleton was released from the practice squad on Thursday, Jan. 27. In a related move, the team re-signed free agent S Jarrod Wilson.
Dallas Cowboys impending free-agent TE Dalton Schultz ranks fourth among tight ends in receptions over the past two seasons.
Fantasy Spin: Schultz is coming off a career year, and despite a loaded receiving corps in Dallas, he has proven himself to be one of Dak Prescott's favorite targets. If he remains a Cowboy, he should be a dependable TE1 next season.
Green Bay Packers impending free-agent WR Davante Adams leads the NFL in both receptions (238) and touchdown catches (29) over the past two seasons and ranks second with 2,927 receiving yards in that span.
Fantasy Spin: Adams has proven to be one of the steadiest, high-end fantasy options at any positions the last few seasons, but some of his value is tied to his relationship with Aaron Rodgers. Adams would likely warrant WR1 consideration in any situation, but a continued relationship with Rodgers would be the ideal scenario.
Chicago Bears impending free-agent WR Allen Robinson led the NFL with 71 contested catches in his four seasons with the Bears, and he ranked 19th in the NFL with 293 receptions while working with quarterbacks who combined for the sixth-worst Total QBR.
Fantasy Spin: Robinson has done a lot of the heavy lifting in his time in Chicago and has produced decent numbers despite a lackluster supporting cast. A move to a better offense could instantly vault Robinson back into WR2 territory.
Carolina Panthers impending free-agent LB Haason Reddick's 23.5 sacks over the past two seasons rank fifth in the NFL, and his 728 pass-rushing snaps in that span are fewer than any player ahead of him in sacks in that stretch.
Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Van Jefferson (knee) was able to suit up for practice on Thursday. He was limited during this session, but is on track to play against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday. Last week, Jefferson had two receptions for 29 yards during the Divisional Round victory. It sounds like Jefferson is on track to play this weekend, but isn't exactly the best DFS option. He'll be the third receiving option behind Odell Beckham Jr. and Cooper Kupp.
San Francisco 49ers running back Jeff Wilson Jr. (ankle) was able to get in a limited practice on Thursday. He is recovering from an ankle injury he suffered during last week's Divisional Round. The 49ers are hopeful he can play this weekend versus the Los Angeles Rams. However, Wilson doesn't offer much fantasy value with Elijah Mitchell getting a majority of the carries. There's a small chance that Wilson makes a significant impact, assuming he's healthy enough to play on Sunday.
San Francisco 49ers running back Elijah Mitchell (knee) was able to get in a limited session during Thursday's practice. Fantasy managers shouldn't be alarmed as the team is likely just managing his reps. He doesn't appear to be in any danger of missing the NFC Championship game against the Los Angeles Rams this weekend. Mitchell should be the workhorse back once again on Sunday. He has seen 20 or more touches in seven straight games. He'll be tough to ignore in DFS contests for this weekend.
Jacksonville Jaguars impending free-agent DT Taven Bryan is not expected to re-sign with the Jaguars this offseason.
Kansas City Chiefs S Tyrann Mathieu (concussion) is on track to play in the AFC Championship game.
Free-agent CB Isaac Yiadom (Packers) recently worked out for the Indianapolis Colts.
Kansas City Chiefs RB Darrel Williams (toe) was limited during practice Thursday, Jan. 27. S Tyrann Mathieu (concussion), RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire (shoulder), CB Rashad Fenton (back), WR Mecole Hardman (hip), WR Tyreek Hill (heel), LB Anthony Hitchens (back), DT Chris D. Jones (groin), CB L'Jarius Sneed (knee), CB Charvarius Ward (neck) and OG Andrew Wylie (elbow) fully participated in practice.
Free-agent LB John Simon signed a Reserve/Future contract with the Pittsburgh Steelers Thursday, Jan. 27. Terms of the contract were not disclosed.
Tennessee Titans QB Ryan Tannehill is not expected to be released or traded this offseason, according to Joel Corry of CBS Sports. The Titans would likely incur a dead cap charge of at least $57 million by releasing Tannehill, which would result in an $18.8 million loss in cap space. Trading Tannehill before June 1 would result in a dead cap hit of $28.4 million and give Tennessee $10.2 million in cap savings but leave his next team on the hook for his $29 million base salary for next season.
Houston Texans DT Vincent Taylor (Achilles) went on the Reserve/Injured list after tearing his Achilles in Week 1 against the Jacksonville Jaguars. It was initially believed Taylor suffered an ankle injury in the opener that was going to sideline him six to eight weeks.
Kansas City Chiefs S Tyrann Mathieu (concussion) returned to practice Thursday, Jan. 27.
On Thursday, the Chicago Bears hired former Colts Defensive Coordinator Matt Eberflus to be their head coach. Eberflus took a Colts defense that was ranked 26th and 27th in total defense before he arrived and made them a top-10 unit. The Colts never featured tremendous pass rush rates and blitzed at one of the lowest rates in the league, but the Bears defensive scheme only blitzed 2.4% more and both teams ran a variation of a 4-3 base defense, so it's possible there won't be much change in philosophy. However, the biggest question will be who Eberflus hires as offensive coordinator and what that means for Justin Fields. Since Eberflus spent four years coaching under former NFL quarterback Frank Reich, it wouldn't be a stretch to assume that he soaked up some knowledge in that relationship and will use it to make a hire that's in the best interest of his quarterback's development.
After earlier reports that Byron Leftwich was set to be the next head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars, reports surfaced early on Wednesday that the negotiations were held up because Leftwich wanted Jacksonville to get rid of General Manager Trent Baalke to hire Adrian Wilson, who is Vice President of Pro Scouting for the Arizona Cardinals. Not long after that, Adam Schefter reported that the Jaguars interviewed former Denver Broncos head coach Vic Fangio for their head coaching position. While we don't know where this will end up, Fangio has been a far more run-heavy coach in his career than we'd expect Leftwich to be since Leftwich has learned under Bruce Arians. It's possible that if Fangio were to be hired in Jacksonville, we could see a running back committee of Travis Etienne and James Robinson in the same way Denver deployed Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon this year. It would also potentially sap the upside of Trevor Lawrence, Laviska Shenault Jr., and D.J. Chark, so let's hope Jacksonville does the right thing here.