NFC West: Jason Licht
No word yet on if Licht will accept the Dolphins’ invitation.
Licht, who rejoined the Cardinals in 2012 after a three-year stint in New England, was a finalist for the Chicago Bears general manager job last season. He was also pursued by the Jacksonville Jaguars. Licht assumed his current role from director of player personnel last January when current Cardinals general manager Steve Keim was promoted.
Licht also spent the 2008 season with the Cardinals in a personnel executive role.
He assisted Keim in putting together a roster this season that went 10-6 and tied the Cardinals’ franchise record for best turnaround in a season. After head coach Bruce Arians was hired last January, the three set out to rebuild the Cardinals and did so with a slew of free agents and draft picks, and a couple of trades.
Known as a top-tier evaluator, Licht has become a common target when general manager jobs open up. But Licht is in a good place with the Cardinals, especially now that they’re on the upswing, so the likelihood of him taking a job just to take a job is slim.
The result is a contract that will begin counting between $13 million and $16.25 million against the salary cap from 2014 through 2016.
@Jason_OTC of Over the Cap has broken down this deal and several others in the NFC West as part of his "Best & Worst" series on NFL teams.
A few additional thoughts on each NFC West team:
- Arizona Cardinals: The team has moved to unload punitive contracts. Most of the heavy lifting is done. Deals for Fitzgerald, Levi Brown and Daryn Colledge stand out as ones qualifying for potential redress in the future. Early indications suggest the Cardinals have adopted a more strategic, disciplined approach regarding contracts. They have a new management team featuring Steve Keim, Jason Licht and Mike Disner. The latter two worked for the New England Patriots previously. Disner also worked at the NFL Management Council.
- St. Louis Rams: The Rams arguably overpaid Jared Cook and others in free agency, but they did so knowing the team would be stocking its roster with low-cost draft choices over the coming seasons. Trading the second overall pick in the 2012 draft returned high-value picks to the Rams, allowing for some luxury buys in free agency. The Rams under the old labor agreement were too frequently drafting near the very top of the round, saddling them with player-friendly deals with negative cap consequences.
- San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers get high marks for just about all their deals, with one notable exception. Carlos Rogers' contract stands out as one case of the team paying too much. It's obvious the 49ers will want to draft for that position in 2014, especially after losing young No. 3 corner Chris Culliver to a season-ending knee injury this week. The 49ers initiated the process at safety this offseason when they used a first-round pick for Eric Reid after declining to pay a premium for Dashon Goldson.
- Seattle Seahawks: Seattle gets low marks for its deals with Percy Harvin, Sidney Rice and Zach Miller. The team gets high marks for its deals with Max Unger and Kam Chancellor. Those sets of deals were negotiated under different terms. Seattle played retail prices for Harvin, Rice and Miller. Unger and Chancellor were Seattle draft choices. The Seahawks negotiated more favorable deals by approaching both players well before free agency, a tactic the 49ers have perfected. Rice and Miller got their contracts when Seattle had no one else it wanted to pay, frankly. Note that Seattle has a new contract negotiator in Matt Thomas.
Ownership appears to be arming new coach Bruce Arians and new general manager Steve Keim with greater resources overall, including a $4.2 million indoor practice facility now in the works.
The chart shows the 15 personnel evaluators on the Cardinals' staff, with asterisks identifying those new to the team this offseason. That number, which excludes administrative staff, should rank near the top for NFC West teams.
It's tough to know how much money each team allocates for its coaching and scouting staff. Teams sometimes add positions at lower cost. Arians indicated the Cardinals were doing that with a couple coaching positions.
Scouting departments are often in flux this time of year as teams refocus following the draft.
Eastern Regional scout Terry McDonough, Midwestern scout John Mancini and two scouting assistatnts, Glen Fox and Darius Vinnett, are new to the team. Former Denver Broncos fullback Kyle Johnson, who had been with the scouting department since 2010, is not returning.
Mancini spent the last 18 seasons with the St. Louis Rams. He joins McDonough (former San Francisco 49ers intern), Chris Culmer (formerly a Seattle Seahawks scout), Josh Scobey (former Seahawks and Cardinals player) and Vinnett (former Rams player) as Arizona scouts with experience elsewhere in the division.
McDonough comes to the Cardinals after 10 seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars, most recently as player personnel director. One of his brothers, Ryan, is the Phoenix Suns' GM. Another, Sean, is an ESPN sportscaster.
Player personnel director Jason Licht and newly hired director of football administration Mike Disner both have Patriots ties.
The Cardinals announced Disner's hiring Wednesday. They also announced a previously known addition: Debbie Pollom, the St. Louis Rams' director of scouting administration, was hired as executive assistant.
Licht was a Patriots scout beginning in 1999, one year before Bill Belichick's arrival as head coach. He remained with the team and was promoted under Belichick before leaving to join the Philadelphia Eagles in 2003. Licht left the Eagles for the Cardinals in 2008, then rejoined Belichick and the Patriots for three seasons before landing in Arizona a year ago.
Disner had spent two seasons with the Patriots as an intern before graduating from Williams College with an economics degree in 2007. The Patriots hired him as a scouting assistant in 2007. Disner has spent the past four years working on the NFL Management Council, most recently as labor operations manager.
Disner's hiring isn't earth-shattering news in the NFC West. But as the Cardinals continue to remake themselves in the post-Rod Graves era, it's useful to note commonalities among some of the people hired to the front office. The team promoted Steve Keim to replace Graves as general manager this offseason. Licht also received a promotion.
Arizona, after employing the NFL's oldest offensive linemen by average age at points during recent seasons, restocked with young depth through the draft this offseason.
Bobby Massie (fourth round), Senio Kelemete (fifth) and Nate Potter (seventh) gave the Cardinals young prospects to develop. Veterans Deuce Lutui and Rex Hadnot were out.
Hochstein, who started two playoff games for Denver after playing six percent of the regular-season snaps, turns 35 in October. He spent seven seasons with New England, overlapping briefly there with Jason Licht, the Cardinals' player personnel director since May. Hochstein also spent two seasons with Tampa bay.
Hochstein owns 36 career starts, including 16 with Denver over the 2009 and 2010 seasons. He projects as veteran depth and possibly insurance for the Cardinals.
Schneider said so during subsequent interviews, and it makes sense.
Any team seeking to acquire a player wants general assurances it knows what it's getting. And while Dominik would of course put his own team's interests first, a GM might speak more frankly with a counterpart he knows and trusts.
That trust works both ways. A week after getting a late-round conditional draft choice for Winslow, the Bucs acquired their new college scouting director from Schneider's personnel department in Seattle. Eric Stokes, a former Seahawks safety, is leaving for Tampa Bay.
"Most recently, Stokes worked as the Seahawks' assistant director of college scouting (2010-11), during which time he was instrumental in bringing in the likes of defensive standouts Earl Thomas (first round, 2010), Kam Chancellor (fifth round, 2010), K.J. Wright (fourth round, 2011) and Richard Sherman (fifth round, 2011)," the Bucs said.
Personnel departments are largely set. The St. Louis Rams overhauled theirs. The Arizona Cardinals brought back Jason Licht, who had been with New England.
Sadly, that class also included Jeff Alm, who committed suicide following a traffic accident that killed his best friend, and Anthony Smith, who would be charged with murder in 2011.
No one could have anticipated fifth overall choice Junior Seau, 43, joining that second tragic list before taking his rightful place among Kennedy and Smith as Hall of Famers from that draft class.
Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com grew up in San Diego and covered the AFC West during Seau's prime years with the San Diego Chargers. Farnsworth: "I knew of Seau before I ever saw him play. In the fall of 1973, I was working for a newspaper in Oceanside, Calif., and covering the high school football team. Seau played at Oceanside High before becoming an All-American at USC. Just the mention of his name would create a silence of reverence in the locker room, especially from the players of Samoan decent. Whenever coach Herb Meyer needed an example while discussing a current player, he would evoke memories of Seau. Unfortunately, that’s all any of us are left with -- our memories of Tiaina Baul Seau, Jr."
Also from Farnsworth: Michael Robinson's plan to build on a Pro Bowl season.
Brock Huard of 710ESPN Seattle thinks Visanthe Shiancoe would be an appealing option for the Seahawks at tight end.
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic offers thoughts on the Cardinals' front-office changes involving Steve Keim and Jason Licht. Somers: "It's interesting, and I would think encouraging for the Cardinals, that both Keim and Licht were considered for general managers' jobs in the off-season. Keim interviewed in St. Louis, and Licht in Chicago. T.J. McCreight, one of the unsung workhorses in the organization, moved from pro personnel director to a job in the Colts' front office."
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch notes that former Rams kicker Josh Brown has signed with the New York Jets. Thomas: "Brown, 33, was deemed expendable in St. Louis after the Rams drafted Missouri Western State kicker Greg Zuerlein in the sixth round of the NFL draft Saturday. Fisher informed Brown he was being released later Saturday. With the Jets, Brown is expected to compete with Nick Folk for the kicking job."
Also from Thomas: a chat transcript with thoughts on the offensive line, and more. Thomas: "They did add Scott Wells at center, a former Pro Bowler, in free agency from Green Bay. They added G/T Quinn Ojinnaka and C/G Robert Turner in free agency. And they drafted Rokevious "Rock" (or he might spell it "Rok" _ I'll have to find out ) Watkins in the fifth round. Line coach Paul Boudreau is known for being able to develop talent. The belief is he'll get Saffold back up to par at left tackle and can straighten out Jason Smith's technique. For now, Ojinnaka, Turner, Watkins, and returning squad member Bryan Mattison will all be thrown in the mix competing for the left guard line."
Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com offers thoughts on the 49ers' crowded offensive backfield. Maiocco: "As Frank Gore begins his eighth NFL season and has 1,653 regular-season rush attempts, the 49ers finally have some quality depth behind him. It seems likely that Gore's play time will decrease this season with more players capable of filling in. ... Anthony Dixon played just 52 snaps of offense last season. Dixon must convince the 49ers' coaching staff that he's as serious about his football career as the other running backs on the roster. As the offseason begins, Dixon clearly has the most ground to make up in the battle to win a roster spot."
Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News offers thoughts from current and former 49ers on Seau's passing.
Licht, last with Arizona as a personnel assistant in 2008, has worked extensively for the Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots, two of the more successful organizations during his years with those teams. He was a finalist to become the Chicago Bears' general manager, a job that went to Phil Emery.
The Cardinals made room for Licht by promoting Steve Keim from player personnel director to vice president of player personnel. Keim has been with Arizona since 1999. He remains second in command to general manager Rod Graves, but we probably shouldn't get too caught up in the titles. Graves has never thrown around his power. The Cardinals seem to work collaboratively, with input from coach Ken Whisenhunt, president Michael Bidwill, Graves and Keim, primarily.
Licht is rejoining the team in a role more significant than the one he held in New England (director of pro personnel). He sought advancement with Chicago and found it with Arizona.
Licht has worked for the Miami Dolphins (1995-1996), National Football Scouting (1997), the Carolina Panthers (1998), the Patriots (1999-2003), the Eagles (2003-2007), the Cardinals (2008) and again for the Patriots (2009-2011).
"NFL scouts who worked with Licht in Philadelphia say his personnel reports are 'concise' and convincing," Jeff Dickerson wrote for ESPNChicago. "He was considered one of the rising stars in the Eagles organization before being pushed out in 2008."
With Licht, the Cardinals should have a good feel for New England's personnel when the teams play in Week 2. That won't necessarily make stopping Tom Brady much easier, of course. But any edge is welcome.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
T.J. McCreight's hiring as the Cardinals' pro personnel director fills the void created when Jason Licht went back to the Patriots after one season in Arizona.
The Cardinals, who announced McCreight's hiring Thursday, also interviewed former Broncos general manager Ted Sundquist. McCreight spent the previous four seasons with the Browns after an eight-year run with the Ravens.
The Browns fired McCreight in January before hiring George Kokinis as general manager. McCreight worked with Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt in Baltimore in the late 1990s. In theory, their familiarity could assist Arizona in finding players who fit Whisenhunt's player preferences.