Here's a look at some of the top rumors for Tuesday, Jan. 5:
What do Johnny Manziel, Robert Griffin III and the Dallas Cowboys have in common? All three have ties to Texas, and all three constantly operate under a spotlight. Well, perhaps we need to consider the possibility of two of those spotlights merging. Yahoo's Charles Robinson reports that both Manziel and RG III "would love to end up in Dallas" and that "there is a real possibility (or hope) that team owner Jerry Jones will make that dream happen." Jones' fondness for Manziel is widely known after he reluctantly passed on Manziel in the 2014 draft to take guard Zack Martin, while a few fans at AT&T Stadium were wearing custom-made RG III Cowboys jerseys on Sunday. It sounds like this could be more wishful thinking or dot-connecting than true interest from the Cowboys, but there's no doubting that Dallas could use a more productive option as a backup quarterback, and both former Heisman Trophy winners would offer significant upside off the bench. Both quarterbacks have had issues with the teams that drafted them, and it's possible that both will become available this offseason. If so, this situation will certainly merit a close eye.
It's fair to say Monday night's bombshell news from the Indianapolis Colts -- the re-signing of head coach Chuck Pagano and extension of general manager Ryan Grigson -- was the biggest surprise of the offseason so far, and it got even more interesting when news broke Tuesday about the Colts' pursuit of New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton. ESPN's Adam Schefter reported the Colts "had some level of interest in Payton" before re-signing Pagano, while the Terre Haute Tribune-Star's Tom James reported the Colts were in negotiations with Payton's representatives but talks broke down. James' report, however, has been contested by CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora, who says that no contact was made between the Colts and Payton, or his representatives. La Canfora adds that Payton's situation with the Saints is "still in flux." NFL Media's Ian Rapoport also refuted James' report, adding that it's down to the 49ers or the Saints for Payton. At the very least, the Colts were interested in Payton, which implies that Indy wasn't entirely sold on bringing Pagano back. Also, it appears that Payton is indeed available on the trade market, but Rapoport's assertion suggests that the pool for his services may already have dwindled to just one outside team in the 49ers. We heard yesterday that a second-round pick might be the price to acquire Payton from New Orleans.
There wasn't much buzz early on Monday surrounding one of the hottest head-coaching candidates around the league -- Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson -- but that changed later in the day. NFL Media's Jeff Darlington reported Monday evening that the Miami Dolphins have requested an interview with Jackson, while NFL Media's Mike Silver reported the San Francisco 49ers have done so as well. For Miami, Jackson is another name to add to an extremely long list, as the Dolphins seem intent on conducting a thoroughly exhaustive search. As for San Francisco, NFL Media's Albert Breer suggested that Jackson would be the Niners' top target, if they can't get Payton, due to Jackson's connection with GM Trent Baalke -- the two were both with the Washington Redskins in the early 2000s. The Bengals' inability to get a first-round playoff bye may hurt Jackson's opportunities a bit, as he won't be able to interview with any teams until at least Sunday, and only then if Cincy loses at home to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Saturday night. If the Bengals continue to advance in the playoffs, the earliest Jackson could interview with a team would be the final week of January, after the AFC Championship Game. UPDATE: The Cleveland Browns have also requested permission to interview Jackson, per Schefter. UPDATE: The USA Today's Tom Pelissero reports the Browns will also interview Bengals defensive coordinator Paul Guenther next week. Under league rules, Guenther would only be allowed to interview with teams next week if the Bengals lose on Saturday, but it sounds like an interview will take place at some point.
As for another top candidate out there, Adam Gase is drawing interest from yet another team. Rapoport reports the New York Giants have requested permission to interview Gase for their head-coaching position. Rapoport adds that New York also plans to interview coordinators Ben McAdoo and Steve Spagnuolo for the job, as expected. Gase already has interviews planned in Cleveland, Philadelphia and Miami.
One team that won't make any changes at head coach or GM this offseason is the Buffalo Bills, but Rex Ryan and Doug Whaley shouldn't get too comfortable. Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News reports that owner Terry Pegula has issued an ultimatum to both men, telling them their jobs depend on the team making the playoffs in 2016. Whaley has just one year remaining on his contract, but Ryan is only one year into a five-year deal ($27.5 million guaranteed) signed last January. It's clear that Pegula is determined to end the team's league-high 15-year playoff drought, and anything less will guarantee a serious shakeup. Running an NFL team is a high-pressure job to begin with, but now it seems there is no mistake in Buffalo: Whaley and Ryan both know that their jobs depend directly on the team's performance next season. UPDATE: In an interesting twist, Jeremy White of WGR 550 Buffalo reports that the Bills "are finalizing the language on a multi-year extension with Whaley." That would be an extremely odd move if Pegula indeed told Whaley that his job would depend on making the playoffs in 2016. We'll have to wait to see how this one plays out.
The Tennessee Titans have set their sights high in their search for a new GM. Breer reports they are targeting Baltimore Ravens assistant GM Eric DeCosta, who has been a huge part of the Ravens' tradition of success through the draft. It's an admirable target, but DeCosta has turned down the overtures of many teams in recent years and is widely considered the future successor of GM Ozzie Newsome. Perhaps the allure of building around a top QB talent like Marcus Mariota could change DeCosta's thinking, but every sign from recent years would suggest he'll again pass on the opportunity.
That's not to say DeCosta is the Titans' only target. As ESPN's Paul Kuharsky noted on Monday, Tennessee has a list of 14 general manager finalists and 10 head-coaching candidates to work from. According to La Canfora, one of the GM candidates is Giants college scouting director Marc Ross, who will interview for the position. La Canfora adds that Ross is under consideration for several positions around the league.
We mentioned yesterday that Carolina Panthers offensive coordinator Mike Shula won't rush the chance to become a head coach, but defensive coordinator Sean McDermott seems to be taking a different approach. Appearing on 97.5 Philadelphia on Tuesday, McDermott affirmed that he'd be interested in being the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles. He added, "I love the Philadelphia area, and quite honestly, it’s been tough to watch the last several years, having grown up in the area and worked there for 12 years." McDermott was with the Eagles for the entirety of his NFL career (from 1999 to 2010) prior to joining the Panthers, including two seasons as defensive coordinator. He didn't hesitate on Monday to say he'll take any interview opportunities that come his way during Carolina's bye this week. UPDATE: Rapoport reports the Browns will interview McDermott on Thursday for their opening.
Speaking of the Eagles' job, Fox Sports' Alex Marvez has another name to throw into the mix as a potential candidate: Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter. Koetter's name has appeared on the periphery of a few head-coaching vacancies in recent years, in no small part because he has head-coaching experience at the college level with Boise State and Arizona State. His success with Jameis Winston in Tampa Bay and Matt Ryan in Atlanta before that certainly make him an attractive option for teams looking to develop a quarterback. From the Buccaneers' perspective, the team would probably hope to keep Koetter around if possible, as Winston's progress in his system over the course of this season was extremely promising.
As for another member of the Eagles, it sounds like safety Walter Thurmond III doesn't expect to be back with the team next season, suggesting the team won't be able to meet his contract demands. "They only have $17 million in cap space," he told reporters, including Bob Grotz of the Delaware County Times. "Economically it doesn’t make sense for them. I would love to be here. I love playing here. But that’s the way it is." The Eagles still have to decide what to do with quarterback Sam Bradford, and useful linemen Cedric Thornton and Vinny Curry are also free agents. But the team isn't so cap-strapped that they couldn't find space for Thurmond, if he's willing to negotiate. Thurmond had a quality season after changing positions from cornerback, but his play tailed off late in the season according to Pro Football Focus. PFF had Thurmond as its seventh best safety in the NFL over the first half of the year, but that ranking fell to 22nd by season's end.