Bills hire Sean McDermott as head coach

Bills hire Sean McDermott as head coach

Update: 5:26 p.m.

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Bills reached an agreement on Wednesday to hire Sean McDermott to be their next head coach.

The deal was reached shortly after the Bills interviewed McDermott for a second time in eight days. The 42-year-old has no previous head-coaching experience and spent the past six seasons working as the Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator.

McDermott replaces Rex Ryan, who was fired two weeks ago. He becomes the team's ninth head coach since 1999, when Buffalo last made the playoffs under Wade Phillips. The Bills went 7-9 this past season, extending the NFL's longest active playoff drought to 17 years.

McDermott has 18 seasons of NFL experience, spending his first 12 years with the Philadelphia Eagles. He started as a scouting coordinator for two years, then mentored under late defensive coordinator Jim Johnson. He eventually succeeded Johnson in 2009.

He takes over a team in Buffalo that featured the NFL's top running attack but an underperforming defense in two seasons under Ryan.

The Bills defense finished 19th in yards allowed two years straight, and was particularly porous against the run. Buffalo allowed 200-plus yards rushing to opposing running backs three times this season, including twice against Miami's Jay Ajayi.

The offense was inconsistent at times under second-year starter Tyrod Taylor.

Owner Terry Pegula grew so dissatisfied with the defensive meltdowns, he fired Ryan in the week leading up to Buffalo's final game. Ryan was replaced by offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn, who served as interim coach in a season-ending loss to the New York Jets.

Lynn was one of three other candidates to interview for the job besides McDermott.

Lynn was considered an initial front-runner to take over on a permanent basis, before the Bills began leaning toward McDermott, who was the first candidate the team interviewed. The Bills also interviewed Arizona Cardinals offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin and Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator Kris Richard.

The Panthers enjoyed four straight seasons of being ranked in the NFL's top 10 in fewest yards allowed before taking a step back this season.

Carolina finished 21st in yards allowed, giving up 500-plus yards three times. The pass defense particularly suffered a drop-off following the loss of star defensive back Josh Norman, who signed with Washington in free agency. Carolina's defense was also weakened once star linebacker Luke Kuechly missed the final six games with a concussion.

The Panthers still finished sixth against the run and ranked second with 47 sacks.

In 2015, McDermott oversaw a unit that forced an NFL-leading 39 takeaways and ranked second in yards allowed. The Panthers team went 15-1 and lost to Denver in the Super Bowl.

It's uncertain whom McDermott will hire to oversee Buffalo's offense.

Another major question is McDermott's plans for Taylor.

The Bills restructured the quarterback's contract in August, giving him a five-year extension while retaining the right to opt out of the deal by March.

Potentially complicating matters, Taylor had surgery last week to repair a sports hernia. Next season's portion of the contract, worth about $30 million including bonuses, is guaranteed if Taylor is unable to pass his physical in mid-March, when the deal kicks in.

The Bills also face a potentially significant roster overhaul with 24 players eligible to become free agents this offseason. The group includes cornerback Stephon Gilmore, linebackers Lorenzo Alexander and Zach Brown, and receiver Robert Woods.

NFL Notes: Rams' All-Pro Aaron Donald skips OTAs amid contract talks

NFL Notes: Rams' All-Pro Aaron Donald skips OTAs amid contract talks

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- All-Pro defensive lineman Aaron Donald has skipped the Los Angeles Rams' first day of organized team activities while he negotiates a long-term contract extension with the club.

Rams general manager Les Snead says the team knew Donald wouldn't be at their training complex Monday.

Snead acknowledged Donald's absence is because of their contract negotiations, which are reaching "the serious part." The GM is confident Donald will be a long-term fixture on the Rams' line.

The Rams exercised their fifth-year option for 2018 on Donald last month. He will make nearly $7 million next year. Snead has repeatedly said the Rams plan to sign Donald to a long-term deal.

Donald is a three-time Pro Bowler and a two-time All-Pro in his three-year career.

Vikings: Zimmer takes time off after latest eye surgery
MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer finally relented, taking some time away from the team to allow his right eye a proper recovery from his latest surgery.

Better in the spring than during the fall, he realized.

As Zimmer departed Monday for some rest and relaxation at his vacation ranch in rural Kentucky, general manager Rick Spielman said the organization anticipates a return by Zimmer "in a few weeks." Players will take the field Tuesday for the first of 13 scheduled offseason practices, including the three-day mandatory minicamp that runs June 13-15.

"We all agree Mike's health is the priority, and we believe rest and recovery are in his best interest for the long term," Spielman said.

Zimmer directed a free youth football camp Saturday at team headquarters. He revealed to reporters that he underwent an eighth procedure on the eye last week, a trying seven-month stretch that has included several unplanned operations (see full story).

Jets: Former 2nd-round pick Smith waived
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Wide receiver Devin Smith has been waived from the injury list by the New York Jets.

A second-round draft pick from Ohio State in 2015, Smith rarely saw the field for the Jets. He tore his ACL during the offseason workout program after he appeared in four games last season. He started that season on the physically unable to perform list while rehabbing from another ACL tear suffered in December 2015.

If Smith clears waivers, he would revert to the Jets' injured reserve list.

"It's bad luck and bad timing because the kid worked so hard to get back," coach Todd Bowles said last month during the NFL draft. "He has to persevere and adversity will help him get stronger. But unfortunately in this game, over my course of time playing and coaching, you see these types of things. Some of the best athletes get hurt and don't get a chance to get on the field, and it's just bad timing, bad luck."

The Jets also re-signed wide receiver WR Deshon Foxx on Monday. Foxx originally signed with the Jets in January and was waived May 9. The Connecticut product first signed with Seattle 2015 after going undrafted and was waived/injured with a hamstring injury that August.

Buccaneers: TE Howard signs rookie deal
TAMPA, Fla. -- Tight end O.J. Howard has signed his rookie contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Howard, who was the 19th overall pick in last month's NFL draft, signed a four-year deal on Monday that includes a team option for a fifth season. He is the first of Tampa Bay's six draft picks to sign.

Howard, who is 6-foot-6 and 251 pounds, was a third-team Associated Press All-America selection last season. He started 12 of Alabama's 14 games last season and had 45 receptions for 595 yards and three touchdowns.

The drafting of Howard and signing DeSean Jackson in free agency should give Jameis Winston more options in Tampa Bay's passing game.

The Buccaneers also announced that defensive end Jacquies Smith has signed his restricted free agent tender.

Doug Pederson: Dak Prescott knew he didn't have to win by himself

Doug Pederson: Dak Prescott knew he didn't have to win by himself

For the most part, Carson Wentz had a pretty successful rookie season. 

Sure, the Eagles finished with a 7-9 record, but Wentz did enough to continue the franchise's belief that he is indeed the quarterback of the future. 

Another guy in Dallas did the same thing with the Cowboys. Actually, Dak Prescott had an even more impressive rookie season, leading the Cowboys to 13 wins, while winning the Offensive Rookie of the Year award. 

Prescott, a fourth-round pick, had a great year but didn't try to do too much. And that's what impressed Eagles head coach Doug Pederson the most. 

"[Prescott] understood this right away, that he didn't have to win the game for them," Pederson said on The Doomsday Podcast, hosted by Matt Mosley and Ed Werder. (Pederson also talked about running the Rocky steps). "He knew that he had a good defense, a tremendous offensive line, a great runner, he had some veteran players that he could rely on and he learned that early. As soon as he had the opportunity to play and that was early, from Day 1. 

"That's something that a young quarterback, sometimes it takes them a while to figure out the game that way. That's the impressive thing, that he learned how to handle that business that well, utilize the people around him and understand that he didn't have to go win the game."

While Prescott had plenty of help during his rookie season, it was pretty evident Wentz was lacking in that area. 

Prescott had a great offensive line, Dez Bryant, Ezekiel Elliott and others. Wentz had an offensive line that was missing Lane Johnson, an often-injured Ryan Mathews and receivers like Nelson Agholor and Dorial Green-Beckham playing serious snaps. 

So it made sense when the team went out this offseason and signed Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith, and recently LeGarrette Blount, as free agents, finally getting Wentz some real help. 

"We had opportunities to get those two guys and it was obvious last year, we were young at the wide receiver position," Pederson said. "We needed some leadership, some veteran presence there and we went out and got that with Torrey and Alshon. We still want to build through the draft, we still want to acquire young talent. 

"LeGarrette Blount now is a guy that gives us that big back, running back, that can come in and compete and hopefully he does everything he did at New England the last couple of seasons. He had 18 rushing touchdowns for over 1,000 yards and we just expect that same level of performance here."

Maybe having weapons will allow Wentz to do what made Prescott so impressive to Pederson in 2016: not too much.