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Byron Leftwich Is Out, but the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Changes Are Just Beginning



Todd Bowles is taking a sledgehammer to his offensive coaching staff. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will have multiple new assistants after a disappointing 8-9 season, with offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich the most notable name served his walking papers.

The Tampa Bay Times first reported Bowles’ decision to fire Leftwich. The newspaper also reported that as many as five offensive assistants and two more on defense are expected to be gone in the coming days and weeks.

Byron Leftwich Fired As Tampa Bay Buccaneers OC

The sweeping changes come after a wildly disappointing year for the Buccaneers, who only made the playoffs because they played in the historically bad NFC South, and who proved they had no business being in the postseason with their 31-14 beatdown at the hands of the Dallas Cowboys.

It’s hard to state how hard it is to rank last in yards per carry (3.4), 25th in both points (18.4 per game) and yards per play (5.1), and have a negative EPA per play (-.03) with a roster that included Tom Brady, Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Leonard Fournette.

But the Buccaneers pulled it off.

And Bowles — who managed to keep his job despite the terrible product the Bucs put on the field in 2022 — had seen enough.

Leftwich’s termination completed a jarring fall from grace.

Two years ago right now, he was helping the Bucs win a world championship. One year ago this month, he was deep in conversations with the Jacksonville Jaguars to be their next head coach. (Leftwich ultimately pulled his name from consideration.)

Now, he’s looking for work.

Leading Candidate To Replace Byron Leftwich?

Bowles presumably made the move with a replacement in mind.

After inheriting a coaching staff that was a bunch of leftovers after Bruce Arians’ shocking retirement last March, Bowles can now put his guys in place.

The list of “his guys” apparently includes Todd Monken, who, according to NFL Network, is a name to watch.

MORE: Top Offensive Coordinators Available for Head Coaching Positions

Monken, 56, is fresh off his second-straight national title as OC of the Georgia Bulldogs. Before then, he called offensive plays for two NFL teams: The Buccaneers (2016-2018) and the Browns (2019).

In their three seasons with Monken as OC, the Buccaneers ranked 20th, 18th, and 12th in scoring.

What’s Next For Tom Brady?

Whoever takes the job will likely do so without a firm grasp of the team’s quarterback position. Right now, the only Bucs QB under contract in 2023 is Kyle Trask.

Tom Brady is a free agent and might retire. But even if he does return for a 24th season, there’s little reason to believe he’ll do so with the Bucs, particularly if he doesn’t have a history with the new play-caller.

MORE: Tom Brady’s Decision To Unretire Aged Poorly

Brady gave no hints to his thinking after Monday night’s loss to Dallas, saying only this when asked about his future:

“I’m going to go home and get a good night’s sleep, as good as I can tonight. … [There] has been a lot of focus on this game, so yeah. It’s just been one day at a time — truly.”

But longtime friend and former teammate Julian Edelman believes Brady is done in Tampa.

“If he has another season, it’s not gonna be in Tampa Bay,” Edelman said on Showtime’s “Inside the NFL.” “And, just because, Tom’s a businessman. Tom’s a smart guy. He’s gonna do exactly what he did when he left New England. He’s gonna go to the best situation that helps him win. If he wants to continue his playing career. I don’t know.”

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Division 2 NFL Draft Prospects Led by Caleb Murphy and Quinton Barrow




Division 2 players face a steep uphill climb toward the NFL draft, but the 2023 East-West Shrine Bowl offers them a chance to prove their mettle against heightened competition. Here are the six DII prospects participating in this year’s Shrine Bowl.

Division 2 NFL Draft Prospects at the 2023 Shrine Bowl

Caleb Murphy, DL, Ferris State

As soon as Shrine Bowl activities kick off, all eyes will be on Ferris State’s Caleb Murphy. The 6’4″, 245-pound edge defender earned the Ted Hendricks Award in 2022, given to the top collegiate defensive end in the country, regardless of level.

If that isn’t impressive enough, it marked the first time in the award’s 20-year history that a non-FBS player received the honor. Last season’s winner? Michigan EDGE Aidan Hutchinson — aka the No. 2 overall player selected in the 2022 NFL Draft.

MORE: Top DL at the 2023 Shrine Bowl

Murphy incinerated his competition this year, breaking the NCAA record for single-season sacks (25.5) and leading all divisions with 39 tackles for loss (tied for the most all-time). As a one-man wrecking crew, Murphy helped lead Ferris State to back-to-back DII championships in his tenure.

He leaves the Bulldogs with 40 sacks, 60.5 TFLs, and eight forced fumbles on his two-year résumé after transferring from Grand Valley State. Murphy’s explosiveness and raw strength pop on tape, but it will be essential to see it consistently vs. Shrine Bowl opponents.

Quinton Barrow, OL, Grand Valley State

While Murphy will receive most of the fanfare, deservedly so, five other Division 2 prospects also require attention. At 6’5″, 330 pounds with long arms, it will be hard to miss OT Quinton Barrow in Vegas.

The left tackle recorded nearly 40 starts since 2019 (the 2020 season was canceled due to COVID) for Grand Valley State, earning all-conference honors each season. On top of displaying the durability and reliability NFL teams covet, Barrow flashed footwork and athleticism you wouldn’t expect from a man his size.

PFN’s own Tony Pauline highlighted Barrow earlier in the season, stating, “Barrow displays excellent awareness and blocking vision, and he’s always looking for someone to hit. He’s a nasty offensive tackle who works to finish off blocks and bury opponents.”

Although scouts Pauline spoke to listed the GVSU lineman as a late-round pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, Barrow could play himself into the mid-Day 3 range with a solid showing at the 2023 Shrine Bowl.

B.J. Wilson, OL, Quincy

B.J. Wilson committed to Quincy as a tight end, but after redshirting his freshman season, he began to transition to the offensive line. Now standing 6’6″ and 320 pounds with three years of all-conference recognition under his belt, it’s safe to say Wilson has caught the NFL’s eye. Entering the 2022 season, he already had interest from the Bears, Vikings, and Rams.

MORE: Top OTs at the 2023 Shrine Bowl

Basketball was his first love, and it’s easy to see in his ability to box opponents out of the pocket. With the sheer amount of EDGE talent at the Shrine Bowl, Wilson has his work cut out. But if he can hold his own and demonstrate improved play against speed rushers, he’ll shoot up draft boards.

Ethan Evans, P, Wingate

Punters are people, too! In 39 career games, Ethan Evans proved to be one of the most prolific special-teams players in the Division 2 circuit: 186 punts, 43.2-yard average, 72-yard career-long, 47 fair catches, 89 punts inside the 20, and 53 punts of 50+ yards.

He also served as the team’s kickoff specialist, booting 213 for a 62.1-yard average and 120 touchbacks. His 45.7 yards per punt in 2022 ranked second in DII football, with only 11 punters across all NCAA divisions owning a superior average. Evans even handled field goals and extra points this season, converting 10 of 18 FGs (long of 41) and 43 of 44 PATs.

Jacky Chen, OL, Pace

Jacky Chen won’t have a hard time earning name recognition at the Shrine Bowl, but doing so with his play will be more difficult. The 6’6″ and 310-pound left tackle was a three-year starter at Pace, garnering first-team all-conference honors in 2022.

If you can find Pace film, which is about as difficult as it sounds, Chen exhibited patience in pass protection with the lower-body quickness to open his sets. There’s also evidence of him working to the second level as a run blocker and operating in space. Still, NFL scouts will want to monitor how he fares against bull rushers in Vegas.

Brent Laing, OL, Minnesota Duluth

A likely tackle-to-guard convert, Brent Laing has been a stalwart on Minnesota Duluth’s offensive line at right tackle. His 6’4″ and 295-pound build is better suited on the inside due to his middling length, but Laing’s tape will have OL coaches salivating.

He plays with sought-after vigor and viciousness that rarely veers out of control. But what stands outs most about Laing is his suffocating grip strength, halting pass rushers in their tracks and burying defenders into the dirt. But that was against DII opponents — does he have the anchor and upper-body solidity to maintain his success at the Shrine Bowl?

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Did Will Levis Miss an Opportunity, and Is Aidan O’Connell the Top QB To Watch?




The scouting process for the 2023 NFL Draft kicks into full gear over the next seven days as four days of Shrine Bowl practice in Las Vegas are immediately followed by three more days of practice at the Senior Bowl. As players start to descend upon Vegas, all eyes are on the quarterbacks this draft cycle, most notably Aidan O’Connell at the Shrine Bowl and Will Levis, who is expected to be absent from each all-star game.

Why Purdue’s Aidan O’Connell Is the Top QB at the 2023 Shrine Bowl

Most focus on the here and now regarding the NFL draft, especially the order players fall off the board. And usually, the biggest conversation centers on the quarterback position.

Most feel Alabama QB Bryce Young will be the first QB selected in April, though a few believe Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud will ultimately prevail to the top spot. While that makes for a good debate, NFL decision-makers always want to come away with the best quarterback from the class, which is not necessarily the first QB selected.

So which prospect will be the best quarterback from the 2023 NFL Draft three years from now? Many believe it will be Young, based on his incredible mental acumen at the position. Others point to Stroud or Kentucky QB Will Levis based on physical gifts. Some believe it will be Florida’s Anthony Richardson.

Yet, a growing number of people I’ve spoken with from the scouting community believe Shrine Bowl quarterback Aidan O’Connell of Purdue will prevail as the top signal-caller from this year’s class.

MORE: Top 10 Quarterbacks of the 2023 NFL Draft

The reasoning is simple: O’Connell combines the leadership skills and field vision of Young with many of the same physical gifts Stroud and Levis bring to the game. They point to his two-year stewardship as the Boilermakers QB, in which O’Connell accrued 17 victories and a trip to the Big Ten title game. Scouts love the poise, maturity, and leadership O’Connell brings to the field.

They feel he’ll hold up much better than Young, as O’Connell is four inches taller and 20 pounds stouter than the projected top-five pick. They also believe he’s much more NFL-ready than Stroud, Levis, or Richardson and comes with a fraction of the bust factor those quarterbacks possess.

The fact O’Connell didn’t miss a game after the untimely death of his oldest brother Sean is something scouts tell me teammates at any level would rally around.

Time will ultimately tell who will be the best quarterback from the 2023 NFL Draft, but little by little, opinions from scouts say it won’t be a signal-caller selected in the top 10, and it could be O’Connell.

Did Will Levis Miss an Opportunity To Attend the Shrine or Senior Bowl?

As of this posting, it seems clear Levis will not be participating in either the Shrine Bowl or Senior Bowl, and scouts believe that is a huge mistake.

An injured toe will prevent Levis from participating in the January scouting events. And while his toe is injured, it was misdiagnosed as turf toe when, in fact, his toe was actually broken. Scouts are not happy Levis will not at least show up and try to compete over the
next week.

While many on the outside grade Levis as a potential top-10 pick, the feeling in the scouting community could not be any more different. Talk to scouts, and they’ll tell you Levis is a big-armed athlete with great size who’s still far from being a complete quarterback. As they say, he’s more of a thrower than a passer.

Given the long history of quarterback success at the Senior Bowl with prospects such as Mac Jones, Daniel Jones, Carson Wentz, Philip Rivers, and, I dare say, Tim Tebow, cashing in on the success of great practices, the decision is a bit head-scratching.

One league insider called the decision by Levis not to participate at the Shrine Game “occupational suicide,” considering the Atlanta Falcons, who own the eighth pick of Round 1, and head coach Arthur Smith oversees the East squad.

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Highest-Paid Running Backs in the NFL in 2023




We saw the shape of the highest-paid running backs in the NFL shift a few years back, but since then, the market hasn’t moved all that much. Entering the 2023 NFL offseason, who is the highest-paid RB in the NFL, and who sits among the top 10 when it comes to the average annual value (AAV) of their contract?

The Highest-Paid Running Backs in the NFL

There are several different ways to determine the highest-paid players at each position in the NFL. We could use the total value of the contract or guarantees, but both can be heavily influenced by the length of the contract. Therefore, we’ll use AAV to set the list for the top 10 highest-paid RBs in the NFL entering the 2023 league year.

T-9) Leonard Fournette, Tampa Bay Buccaneers | AAV: $7.0 million

After playing on one-year contracts in 2020 and 2021, Leonard Fournette agreed to a three-year contract worth $7 million per year ahead of the 2022 season. He joined another free agent in 2022, James Conner, at the bottom of this list, with the pair tied for ninth-highest-paid RB. In 2023, Fournette is set to count for $8.47 million against the cap, with a dead-money number of $5 million if the Buccaneers move on.

T-9) James Conner, Arizona Cardinals | AAV: $7.0 million

James Conner made the most of a one-year opportunity with the Arizona Cardinals to earn himself a three-year contract during the 2022 offseason. Despite missing three games due to injury, Conner was a solid performer for the Cardinals and should lead the backfield again in 2023.

As it stands, his cap number for the 2023 season is $10.445 million, but releasing him would still leave the Cardinals with $9.75 million in dead money.

T-7) Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals | AAV: $12.0 million

There’s a big jump in AAV among the highest-paid RBs when we move into the top eight players on the list. The 2023 season will be the third year of Joe Mixon’s four-year, $48 million contract extension. The guaranteed money is finished, and the Bengals could move on for a dead-money number of just $5.5 million.

Given some of Mixon’s struggles in 2022, we could see Cincinnati decide he’s not worth a $12.791 million cap number in 2023.

T-7) Aaron Jones, Green Bay Packers | AAV: $12.0 million

Aaron Jones’ contract is somewhat eye-watering heading into 2023. The original terms of the deal were four years at $48 million with $13 million guaranteed. However, restructuring the deal last year means Jones currently has a $20.013 cap number in 2023.

MORE: Will Aaron Rodgers Retire?

The Packers now have a decision to make. Do they restructure the deal again and push more money into 2024 and the void year in 2025, or do they release Jones, saving more than $10 million in cap space but leave a $9.552 million cap dead-money number?

6) Nick Chubb, Cleveland Browns | AAV: $12.2 million

Coming in sixth on the list of highest-paid running backs in Nick Chubb. The Cleveland Browns RB signed a three-year extension worth $12.2 million per year. His cap number is due to jump to $14.85 million in 2023, so it will be intriguing to see whether the Browns choose to restructure the deal this offseason.

5) Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans | AAV: $12.5 million

The 2023 season is set to be the final year of Derrick Henry’s contract with the Tennessee Titans. The deal was originally a four-year contract worth $12.5 million per year. However, the contract now contains two void years and is set to void in February 2024.

With a cap number of $16.368 million in 2023, could we see the Titans either extend Henry’s deal or push more money into those void years?

4) Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings | AAV: $12.6 million

Heading into 2023, Dalvin Cook still has potentially three more years on the five-year, $63 million contract extension he signed in 2020. His cap number for 2023 is currently set at $14.101 million.

MORE: Will the Vikings Re-Sign Alexander Mattison? Minnesota’s Options at RB in 2023

The Vikings do have some options and could even release Cook with no more guaranteed money remaining on the deal. Doing so would leave behind $6.203 million in dead money and a huge void at RB.

T-2) Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints | AAV: $15.0 million

It’s been a rocky few years for Alvin Kamara, with his performances dipping off and a court case hanging over him heading into 2023. As it stands, Kamara’s contract has three more years remaining, plus a void year in 2026. The five-year contract extension he signed in 2020 was worth $15 million per year. However, a restructure in 2022 has left him with a $16.034 million cap number in 2023.

That value does not match Kamara’s recent performances, but the Saints are somewhat stuck. If they cut him, they would incur a $19.372 million dead money charge for 2023. One option could be a post-June 1 release designation, which would spread that dead money over 2023 and 2024.

T-2) Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys | AAV: $15.0 million

Ezekiel Elliott’s six-year, $90 million contract is not looking pretty for the Dallas Cowboys. The contract is set to keep Elliott with the Cowboys through the 2026 season, and his $16.72 million cap number in 2023 is not reflective of his performances in the past couple of years.

The problem for the Cowboys is that between the signing bonus, an option bonus, and a restructure, releasing Elliott would leave $11.86 million in dead money.

It will be intriguing to see how the Cowboys approach Elliott’s contract this offseason. With a $10.9 million base salary making up a big chunk of that cap number, the Cowboys may hope Elliott is open to a pay cut. The last thing Dallas would want to do is a further restructuring of the deal, with $6.04 million in dead money already for 2024.

1) Christian McCaffrey, San Francisco 49ers | AAV: $16.0 million

While Christian McCaffrey sits atop the list of the highest-paid running backs in the NFL, the cap situation for the 49ers is pretty clean. With McCaffrey having been traded during the 2022 season, he will count for just $12 million against the 49ers’ cap in 2023. None of that is guaranteed. There is a further $18.352 million counting against the Carolina Panthers’ 2023 cap as dead money.

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