Wed Jan 27 2:28am ET
By MICHAEL MAROT
AP Sports Writer
In this Sunday, Dec. 2, 2018, file photo, Indianapolis Colts assistant quarterbacks coach Marcus Brady is shown on the field before an NFL football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, in Jacksonville, Fla. The Indianapolis Colts made it official Monday, Jan. 25, 2021. Quarterbacks coach Marcus Brady has been promoted to offensive coordinator. He will become the NFL's third Black offensive coordinator, replacing Nick Sirianni who took the Philadelphia Eagles coaching job last week.(AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack, File)
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Marcus Brady takes over an Indianapolis Colts offense in flux.
Quarterback Philip Rivers and longtime left tackle Anthony Castonzo have retired. Brady's predecessor as offensive coordinator, Nick Sirianni, is off to Philadelphia. Passing game specialist Kevin Patullo left another hole when he followed Sirianni to the Eagles, and general manager Chris Ballard still must decide whether to re-sign soon-to-be free agents T.Y. Hilton and Marlon Mack.
Instead of fretting, Brady is digging deep, working hard and adapting to the new reality.
''Every team goes through it, so it is really nothing new,'' he said Tuesday on an introductory video call. ''Obviously, quarterback is a very important position, left tackle is a very important position so we have to address those issues. That's a process we are going to be working on. Chris and his staff do a great job. (Coach) Frank (Reich) and I will put our heads together as an entire group and staff and put the best roster out there.''
For Brady, it's a new challenge.
He's spent 16 years in coaching, with Indianapolis being his only NFL stop. Brady joined Reich's staff as the assistant quarterbacks coach in 2018. A year later, he was named the primary quarterbacks coach. Now, he'll be in charge of the offense, even if he's not calling plays.
Brady has risen quickly through the ranks, even prompting interest from other teams before Sirianni's departure. The 41-year-old Brady now becomes the third Black offensive coordinator in the NFL, joining Kansas City's Eric Bienemy and Tampa Bay's Byron Leftwich the same week the other two made reached the Super Bowl.
''I understand what's going on in the media because it is a topic of discussion - the lack of minorities getting these opportunities,'' Brady said after thanking the Colts for believing in him. ''I understand that I have to go out there and do a great job. It is my responsibility, given this opportunity, to go out there and produce so others get the same opportunities I have been blessed with here.''
Fortunately, Brady isn't starting from scratch.
Indy's other four starting offensive linemen will return and rookie Jonathan Taylor cemented his role as Mack's successor by topping 1,000 yards last season. Zack Pascal, rookie Michael Pittman Jr. and the oft-injured Parris Campbell headline a receiving corps that promises to be solid - with or without Hilton.
Even the quarterback transition seems relatively routine for Brady.
When the longtime Canadian Football League veteran was initially hired, Andrew Luck was the starter. Luck's abrupt retirement in August 2019 forced the Colts to go with Jacoby Brissett. Then last season, Rivers replaced Brissett. With Brissett also about to become a free agent and Jacob Eason the only quarterback under contract on Indy's roster, Brady will likely be working with his fourth opening-day starter in four years.
Ideal? No. But it won't faze the unflappably soft-spoken Brady.
''We adapt well to the players, not just the quarterback position but everybody that we have on the offense,'' he said. ''Once we finalize that position, which is a very important position, we will adapt the offense and tailor it to his strengths.''
Brady has other strengths.
After finishing his college career as the career passing leader at Cal State Northridge, Brady spent seven seasons playing in the CFL, learning the nuances of a different style of football. At age 28, he started coaching receivers with the Montreal Alouettes and one year as the offensive coordinator. In 2012, he took the coordinator's job with the Toronto Argonauts, where he called plays, until joining the Colts.
Brady was part of three Grey Cup championship teams, and now he hopes his experience in Canada will help him put together a creative enough offense - whomever is on the roster - to win a Super Bowl ring, too.
''All the movements and the motions - there is a little bit more variety there in that aspect, so you can get very creative offensively,'' he said, referring to his time in Canada. ''There are a lot of aspects of the game where some of it has been brought down one way or another and some of the RPOs (run-pass options). I've learned a lot from the CFL and I'm able to bring it down here, just little nuances of the game there.''
Interview with a Champ
The Seattle Seahawks are planning to hire Los Angeles Rams passing-game coordinator Shane Waldron as their offensive coordinator, according to a source. Waldron will take over for Brian Schottenheimer in Seattle. This is also notable for the Rams, as they are losing Waldron, Brandon Staley, Brad Holmes, Ray Agnew, Joe Barry and Aubrey Pleasant as assistant coaches this offseason. Head coach Pete Carroll said he'd like Seattle's offense to get back to more of a run-first approach next season, which is part of the reason why they parted ways with Schottenheimer after the offense crumbled in the second half after putting up huge passing numbers earlier in the year. Waldron was the Rams pass-game coordinator for the last three seasons, and he'll work closely with quarterback Russell Wilson to find out why he regressed late in the 2020 season.
The San Francisco 49ers re-signed restricted free-agent running back Jeff Wilson Jr. to a one-year deal on Tuesday. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. The 25-year-old has 974 rushing yards in his three seasons with San Francisco and posted career- and team-highs of 126 carries, 600 yards and seven touchdowns in 2020. He saw more playing time throughout the year due to injuries to Raheem Mostert and Tevin Coleman, but Wilson also played in just 12 games (three starts) due to ailments of his own. He finished with 733 total yards and 10 touchdowns. Wilson could have a bigger role to begin the year next to Mostert, as both Coleman and Jerick McKinnon could leave in free agency. If Wilson is sharing backfield touches only with Mostert, he'll be an RB3/flex with more upside in PPR formats.
Minnesota Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph expressed unhappiness with his role in the offense over the last two seasons and isn't willing to accept a pay cut heading into the 2021 season. Rudolph went from being the team's second- or third-leading receiver from 2015-18 to being an afterthought in the passing attack. The Vikings would gain $5.1 million in salary cap space if they were to release Rudolph, and they are projected to be $12.8 million over the cap. He has three years remaining on his deal, so they could also look to restructure his deal. The 31-year-old played in just 12 games in 2020 and finished the year on Injured Reserve with a Lisfranc sprain in his foot, while fellow tight end Irv Smith finished third in receiving with 365 yards and five touchdowns. Rudolph had 28 catches on 35 targets last season, his lowest output since 2014. With Smith on the rise, Rudolph is off the fantasy radar in redraft leagues heading into 2021 if he remains in Minnesota.
Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores said that Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith's size -- he's listed at just 175 pounds on Alabama's roster -- is not a concern. "If you're a good player -- I mean, you can nitpick all you want about a guy's size -- good players are good players are good players," Flores said. Flores is coaching Smith's national team in the Senior Bowl this week. Smith won't practice or play this week due to a finger injury he sustained in the national championship against Ohio State, but the young pass-catcher is arguably one of the most productive college football wideouts and won the 2020 Heisman Trophy Award. He's an excellent route-runner with incredibly strong hands and could be an option for Miami at No. 3 overall in the draft, although he's expected to go a little later in the top 10 of the first round.
Los Angeles Chargers head coach Brandon Staley and offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi plan to build the Chargers offense in 2021 around second-year quarterback Justin Herbert. But Herbert will also be learning a new offense with a new head coach and offensive coordinator in just his second season. The Oregon product finished sixth in passing yards (4,336), 10th in touchdown passes (31), 12th in passer rating (98.3) and had only 10 interceptions in his rookie season. "He has a skillset that is elite," Lombardi said. "It appears that there's nothing that he can't do. He has an incredibly strong arm, good accuracy and he is very athletic." Herbert's 31 passing touchdowns was the most for a rookie QB. With his arrow pointing firmly upward, the 22-year-old will be a midrange QB1 with upside in 2021.
Teams are already reaching out to the Detroit Lions to initiate trade talks to figure out what it will cost to acquire quarterback Matthew Stafford, according to sources. With a new general manager in place and a new coaching staff for 2021 and beyond, it was reported last weekend that the Lions have mutually agreed to part ways with Stafford, so teams are already reaching out for the 32-year-old. Stafford missed eight games due to injury in 2019, but he was able to play a full 16 games this season despite dealing with multiple injuries. He finished the year with 4,084 yards on a 64.2 completion percentage with 26 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Stafford doesn't have a ton of upside at this stage of his career, but the 2014 Pro Bowler could offer some nice value in fantasy drafts in 2021, depending on where he winds up. Stay tuned.
Los Angeles Rams general manager Les Snead was non-committal on quarterback Jared Goff's future when asked if Goff might not be on the team next season. "Not going to get into specifics on those. That's the beautiful mystery of the future. Jared Goff is a Ram at this moment. It's way too early to speculate," Snead said. The Rams could add a veteran at the position to push Goff in 2021 if he's still on the roster. While Goff wasn't terrible last season -- 67 completion percentage, 20-13 touchdown-to-interception ratio and a passer rating of 90 -- he was too inconsistent in both real life and fantasy. It's unclear who Goff will be playing for in 2021, but if he stays in LA, he'll be a midrange QB2 for fantasy managers unless proven otherwise.
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Nick Mullens (elbow) underwent successful elbow surgery in late December, according to a source. The damage wasn't as extensive as initially feared and did not require Tommy John surgery. Mullens is expected to be 100 percent recovered for the start of training camp. It's great news for the 25-year-old, as Tommy John surgery would have likely kept him out for most, if not all, of the 2021 season. He was forced into eight starts with Jimmy Garoppolo injured last season, throwing for 2,437 yards, 12 touchdowns and 12 interceptions for a QB rating of 84.1 in 10 overall games. Mullens will be a restricted free agent in 2021, but if he returns to San Francisco, he'll continue to hold the clipboard for Jimmy G.
Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith, the 2020 Heisman Trophy winner and one of the top prospects in the 2021 NFL draft, declined to be weighed or measured for height at the Senior Bowl weigh-in on Tuesday. However, he plans to do so at Alabama's pro-day workout this spring. He was listed at 6-foot-1, 175 pounds during the season, and his size is his lone scouting concern heading to the next level. Smith has 9 3/8-inch hands, 31 1/3-inch arms and a wingspan of 78 1/2. The talented pass-catcher injured a finger in the national championship game against Ohio State and will not compete in practices or the game this week. Smith caught 117 passes for 1,856 yards and 23 touchdowns as a senior and is projected to be a top-10 pick in the first round because of his exceptional route-running skills and strong, sure hands.
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was uncertain about his future with the team after the NFC Championship loss to the Buccaneers on Sunday, but chief executive officer Mark Murphy said the team won't let him go. "There's no way in heck Aaron is not gonna be on the Packers," Murphy said. "He's going to be the MVP of the league, might have had his best year ever, he's our unquestioned leader, and we're not idiots." Rodgers is 37 years old and has three years left on his deal after the Packers drafted his expected successor, Jordan Love, in the first round last year. Green Bay won't take on a huge dead salary cap number in 2021, but they could go in another direction in 2022 when his number drops to $17.2 million. After his MVP season, Rodgers isn't going anywhere just yet and will be more expensive in 2021 fantasy drafts as a QB1 than he was heading into the 2020 season.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Antonio Brown (knee) and rookie safety Antoine Winfield Jr. (ankle) are expected to be ready to play in the Super Bowl against the Kansas City Chiefs on Feb. 7, according to sources. Both players missed the NFC Championship win over the Packers. Brown was injured in the Divisional Round against the Saints and played just a handful of snaps in the second half. The 32-year-old had five touchdowns in his last five games and will be a touchdown-dependent fantasy play in the Super Bowl. His return could mean fewer looks for Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Scotty Miller. Winfield was injured in practice late last week and was unable to play on Sunday. His return to Tampa's secondary will be a welcomed addition as the Bucs attempt to slow down KC's high-flying aerial attack with Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce.
Kansas City Chiefs running back Le'Veon Bell (knee) and wide receiver Sammy Watkins (calf) are expected to be ready to play in the Super Bowl against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Feb. 7, according to sources. Both players were inactive for the AFC Championship win over Buffalo. Watkins played in just 10 games during the regular season and also missed time with a sore hamstring and didn't play in either of KC's playoff games. He finished the regular season with 37 catches for 421 yards and two touchdowns and will be a boom/bust dart throw in DFS for the big game. Mecole Hardman will be a much more attractive play than Watkins. Bell had 254 rushing yards in nine games for the Chiefs and will likely see scraps behind rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Darrel Williams against Tampa.
Free-agent WR Martavis Bryant (Raiders) signed with the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League Monday, Jan. 25.
Chicago Bears impending free-agent RB/WR Cordarrelle Patterson is likely a player the Bears will look to re-sign this offseason.
Detroit Lions impending free-agent WR Marvin Jones could be an option for the Tennessee Titans if the Titans decide not to re-sign impending free-agent WR Corey Davis this offseason, in the opinion of ESPN.com's Turron Davenport.
Fantasy Spin: Jones is coming off a terrific season and should receive interest from multiple teams in free agency. He would be a starter if he signed with the Titans and can be at least a No. 3 fantasy receiver no matter where he signs.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers S Jordan Whitehead's (shoulder) availability for Super Bowl LV is uncertain at this point because of the shoulder injury he suffered during the NFC Championship game, according to head coach Bruce Arians.
Baltimore Ravens TE Mark Andrews is one of the players the team will try to sign to a contract extension, according to general manager Eric DeCosta.
Fantasy Spin: Andrews is a big part of the passing game for the Ravens and probably will receive a new deal at some point this offseason. He should be a weekly starting option in fantasy leagues in 2021.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers Defense was shredded by Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill in the first quarter of their Week 12 matchup, as Hill went off for 203 yards on seven catches and two touchdowns. Cornerback Carlton Davis was left on an island with Hill, and it didn't yield pretty results. "We'll help a little bit more than we did in that ballgame," Bucs head coach Bruce Arians said. Tampa's D allowed 462 yards passing to quarterback Patrick Mahomes and three touchdowns. Hill finished with 269 yards and three touchdowns on 13 catches (only 59 yards in the second half). Tight end Travis Kelce had eight catches for 82 yards. With offensive tackles Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz out, Bucs pass-rushers Shaquil Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul must get pressure on Mahomes to have a chance at getting last year's Super Bowl MVP out of his rhythm.
Buffalo Bills wide receiver Cole Beasley (leg) suffered a broken fibula in the Week 16 game against the New England Patriots. Beasley sat out the regular season finale in Week 17 before catching 14 passes for 145 yards in three postseason games against the Colts, Ravens and Chiefs. "It was bad the first game I played but after that, you take a few meds and suck it up," Beasley said with a chuckle. The injury wasn't a full break, but Beasley said it was painful in the wild-card win over the Colts. The 31-year-old veteran hauled in seven of his nine targets for 88 yards in the AFC Championship loss to the Chiefs on Sunday. Beasley set career-highs in catches (82), targets (107), receiving yards (967) and yards per catch (11.8) while visiting the end zone four times in 15 regular season games in 2020. He'll be back as Josh Allen's most trusted third-down weapon in 2021 and will be more expensive in PPR leagues as a result of his career-best season.
Baltimore Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta said that the team could reach a long-term contract extension with quarterback Lamar Jackson this offseason, and the GM plans to speak to the reigning NFL MVP in the next 10 days. Jackson just finished his third season and will command at least $40 million per season on an extension. He's scheduled to make $1.77 million in 2021 on the final year of his rookie deal, which currently ranks 25th among QBs in base salary. "[He] certainly deserves a contract," DeCosta said. Jackson has won more games (30) than any other QB since he took over as the team's starter in 2018 and became the fastest QB in history to reach 30 regular season wins (37 games). Jackson is also the first in NFL history to produce 5,000 yards passing and 2,500 yards rushing in his first three seasons. The young signal-caller has been more effective with his legs than his arm and has won just one playoff game, but Jackson should be locked up long term in Baltimore and will be a top-five fantasy QB yet again in 2021.