Hiring season will soon be upon us in the NFL, and there may be a half-dozen or more positions to fill come January.
There are currently four openings (Atlanta, Detroit, Jacksonville and Houston) with Washington using a GM-by-committee. More on that in a bit, but there should be more vacancies coming soon.
League scuttlebutt is that Chicago will eventually fire GM Ryan Pace after six years in large part due to his failure to figure out the quarterback position. Howie Roseman (Eagles), Tom Telesco (Chargers), Dave Gettleman (Giants) and John Elway (Broncos) are viewed as safe according to people I've spoken to.
One wild card -- and a vacancy that would shoot to the top of anyone's rankings -- is Pittsburgh. Long-time GM Kevin Colbert has been operating on one-year deals for the last two years. I'm not reporting that he definitely will or won't stay or go, just simply that people around the league are keeping an eye on what may happen in Pittsburgh once its season is complete.
Carolina's job could very well open up in a few weeks. I'm told Marty Hurney loves it in Carolina, but if team owner David Tepper makes a move, there's strong speculation around the league that GM Marty Hurney could join Ron Rivera in Washington. That'd reunite the two from their time in Carolina along with cap guru Rob Rogers, who spent more than two decades with the Panthers.
You're going to hear a lot of names thrown around in these searches. First of all, it's much easier to conduct a bunch of interviews over video conference than gassing up the jet and flying around the country. Secondly, it behooves a team to give the appearance of a robust search even if it's just for looks.
Below are 30 candidates I've identified through sources as quality personnel men who are ready to take a GM role. I looked for as much diversity in age, race, experience and backgrounds in coming up with what I believe is a list of legitimate names. I've listed them below in alphabetical order.
Kevin Abrams, Giants VP of football operations/assistant GM
Every Giants contract goes through Abrams. For nearly two decades he's been at the right hand of Ernie Accorsi, Jerry Reese and now Dave Gettleman. He served as interim GM back in 2017 and interviewed for the full-time gig that Gettleman eventually landed, and he had previously interviewed for the Lions job in 2016. His time working with a respected and storied franchise will be valued by team owners.
Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, Browns VP of football operations
A former Princeton basketball player turned commodities trader turned NFL personnel man, Adofo-Mensah has the sort of unique background a forward-thinking team should gravitate to. He spent seven years with the Niners in research and development before joining forces with Andrew Berry in Cleveland following San Francisco's NFC championship run.
Mike Borgonzi, Chiefs director of football operations
He worked his way up from a college scout administrator in 2009 to the top of the football ops department for the defending world champs. He took over the role that Chris Ballard once held in Kansas City. A former fullback at Brown, Borgonzi has the playing and front-office experience to lead.
Ran Carthon, 49ers director of pro personnel
A former NFL running back, Carthon worked for four years as a scout before joining the St. Louis Rams as their director of pro personnel for five years. He was instrumental in identifying Emmanuel Sanders last season and Trent Williams this past offseason. His father also played and coached in the league.
Nick Caserio, Patriots director of player personnel
Caserio is essentially Bill Belichick's co-GM. He's been with the team since 2001, and he's been tied to the Houston job for more than a year even though sources say he's cooling on that opportunity.
Ryan Cowden, Titans VP of player personnel
He's helped make deft moves for players like Kenny Vaccaro, Malcolm Butler and Ryan Tannehill in his time in Tennessee. Cowden spent 16 years in the Panthers scouting department before joining forces with Jon Robinson in Nashville, where they've put together five consecutive seasons of 9-or-more wins for the first time in franchise history since Warren Moon was under center.
DuJuan Daniels, Raiders assistant director of player personnel
He spent 13 years in the Patriots organization before joining Mike Mayock and the Raiders in 2019. Daniels official title in New England was national scout, but that organization is infamous for assigning greater duties with lesser job titles. Daniels has experience with the best franchise this century and with helping construct a new front office (amid a move) with Mayock and the Raiders.
Lake Dawson, Bills assistant director of college scouting
A former Notre Dame and Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver, Dawson served as VP of football operations with the Titans from 2011-2015 before joining Buffalo. He was a hot name throughout the 2010s, interviewing for no fewer than six GM jobs but never locking one down. The success in Buffalo should reignite interest in Dawson.
Thomas Dimitroff, former Falcons GM
Dimitroff oversaw the most successful stretch of Falcons football as GM but sputtered with head coach Dan Quinn in their final two seasons. His drafts had big hits and big misses, but he's proven to work incredibly well with folks in the organization and brings outside-the-box thinking to a football program.
Mike Disner, Lions VP of football administration
He's the cap guru in Detroit, after being the cap guru in Arizona, after being part of the NFL's Management Council helping to arrange the 2011 CBA. Disner is already playing a big role in helping the Lions secure their next GM but should get internal and external looks.
Ed Dodds, Colts assistant GM
People around the league respect the (quiet) work Dodds has done over the years. Most GM searches will include his name based on what he's done with Chris Ballard in Indy as well as his resume prior to the Colts. Dodds was part of Seattle's staff that put together those Super Bowl runs, and many feel it's time for him to get the big chair.
Terry Fontenot, Saints VP/assistant GM of pro personnel
He's spent his entire 18-year career with the Saints, and he's essentially had this role for much longer than his August promotion. Fontenot's moves, like identifying All-Pro Demario Davis in 2018, has helped bring the Saints' defense from worst to first in a matter of a few years. Detroit and Atlanta are hot on him with other teams lurking as end-of-year decisions loom.
Brad Holmes, Rams director of college scouting
He hasn't been able to pick a first-rounder in more than four years but keeps hitting on mid- and late-round prospects for the current NFC West leaders. He's been part of Les Snead's robust and forward-thinking personnel department that has created a model for the modern NFL team.
Joe Hortiz, Ravens director of college scouting
Baltimore has had some incredible drafts in recent years, and you could argue they've hit on more first-rounders the last five years than anyone else. Credit to their two GMs, of course, but Hortiz has been there from the beginning too. He started in 1998 with the Ravens organization, just two years after Eric DeCosta.
Brandon Hunt, Steelers pro scouting coordinator
He started as an intern with Pittsburgh in 2004 before moving to the Texans as a pro scout before returning to the Steelers in 2009. Hunt has been instrumental in one of the most consistent franchises in sports, and he's on a very short list of internal candidates who could replace Kevin Colbert.
Jeff Ireland, Saints VP/assistant GM of college personnel
His scouting career dates back to 2004, and he served as Dolphins GM from 2008-2013. Ireland came to New Orleans in 2015 and led the team in its spectacular 2017 draft. There will be questions in his interviews about his Dolphins tenure but he's proven himself to be a great talent evaluator. His Baylor ties and NFC South familiarity could be enticing to Carolina.
Dwayne Joseph, Raiders pro personnel director
Joseph was Philly's pro scouting director when the Eagles won a Super Bowl and he jumped to Mayock's staff in 2019 to build something in the desert. The former Bears defensive back could be a candidate to return to Chicago as its next GM.
Champ Kelly, Bears assistant director of player personnel
He's been with Chicago since 2015 and was key in executing the trade for Khalil Mack. He worked at IBM a couple of decades ago so he brings that business-analytics background to the role. Kelly was thought to be runner-up to Joe Douglas for the Jets GM gig.
Trent Kirchner, Seahawks VP of player personnel
He's been key in GM John Schneider's department the last several years, and Kirchner got interviews a few years ago with San Francisco and Detroit. He spent eight years as a scout in Carolina before joining Seattle to build up their juggernaut at the start of last decade.
Martin Mayhew, 49ers VP of player personnel
He's spent the last four years in San Francisco after being the Lions GM from 2018-2015. A promising start in the Motor City fizzled out, but he's been open about his mistakes (like drafting Eric Ebron over Aaron Donald) and seems ready for a second shot at the helm.
Will McClay, Cowboys VP of player personnel
He's been with the Cowboys since 2009 and has helped put together one of the most talented rosters in the league the last few years, as injuries have hit the group and coaching has failed them. McClay was at the controls when the Cowboys made the best draft-day move of 2020 by selecting CeeDee Lamb at pick No. 17.
Reggie McKenzie, Dolphins senior personnel executive
The former Raiders GM from 2012-18 drafted Derek Carr, Amari Cooper and Khalil Mack but lost the tug-of-war with Jon Gruden. Since joining Chris Grier in Miami, McKenzie has helped oversee one of the most successful one-year tank jobs in recent NFL history. That sort of experience will be crucial in his next job.
Dan Morgan, Bills director of player personnel
A tackling machine at linebacker for the Panthers, Morgan had been in Seattle's personnel department for nearly a decade before Brandon Beane brought him on in Buffalo. Morgan's time as a GM is coming after helping build a consistent winner in western New York.
Scott Pioli, former Chiefs GM, Patriots exec
A good fraction of this list has worked with or for Pioli, which speaks to his influence and a keen eye for talent. A five-time executive of the year with the Chiefs and Patriots, Pioli has been working in media since leaving his post as Atlanta's assistant GM. He has a sterling record on diversity and inclusion, and he'll be able to identify and develop talent in personnel, coaching and roster.
Ryan Poles, Chiefs assistant director of player personnel
One of the hottest names under 40 years of age circulating, Poles linked with Pioli in Kansas City and has since learned under John Dorsey, Brett Veach and Andy Reid. Working in those different, disparate systems and finding successes in them are ideas he can marry when he gets his shot.
Jerry Reese, former Giants GM
He spent nearly a quarter-century in the Giants organization and won two Super Bowls as their GM. Things fell apart in the final years with coaches and failed first-round picks Ereck Flowers and Eli Apple, but time away has been good for Reese's reputation and will be a top name for a team looking for a veteran GM like Detroit.
Joe Schoen, Bills assistant GM
He scouted for the Panthers and Dolphins before becoming director of player personnel in Miami. Beane poached him in 2017 and has been at his right hand to deliver a playoff contender to Buffalo. Schoen played a role this offseason in trading for Stefon Diggs and inking both TreDavious White and Dion Dawkins to extensions that didn't cripple the team's cap.
Rick Smith, former Texans GM
His tenure in Houston looked good in real time, but with what's happened there since he left, it looks incredible. Smith was on the front-end of things like sleep science in the NFL and built a winner in the AFC South. He traded up in the 2017 draft to get Deshaun Watson -- the best thing going for Houston.
Samir Suleiman, Panthers director of player negotiations
Carolina owner David Tepper poached Suleiman from Pittsburgh, where he owned part of the team, to join him in Charlotte earlier this year. Suleiman is adept at navigating the salary cap, which will come in handy more this offseason than others. An analytics-based front office could use him.
Louis Riddick, former Eagles director of pro personnel
The ESPN NFL announcer has popped onto the radar the last year-plus for GM jobs. The Falcons have expressed interest in the former player turned scout who had stints in both Washington and Philadelphia.
After consecutive 11-win weeks, I got a 12-4 Week 14 even though that Texans-over-Bears pick is still gnawing at me. I'm now 138-68-1 on the season and I took the Raiders on Thursday Night Football. That's just another TNF loss for me. My worst day of the week for picking games. But we'll recover. To the picks!
Patriots at Dolphins
Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, CBS
Miami will blitz the hell out of Cam Newton and then take the ball from the Patriots. That's what the Dolphins defense has done all year and it will continue as they lead the league in takeaways with 25. I'll be interested to see what Bill Belichick does to Tua Tagovailoa since he typically handles rookie QBs well and evaluated the Alabama QB closely in the draft process.
The pick: Dolphins
Bears at Vikings
Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, Fox
Chicago's rush defense took care of Dalvin Cook last time, holding him to 3.2 yards per carry. After missing a few games, Akiem Hicks is back for Chicago and handling his business in the middle of the line. Unfortunately for the Bears, Minnesota also has Justin Jefferson. I'm not convinced they'll be able to handle both of those weapons.
The pick: Vikings
Eagles at Cardinals
Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET, Fox
I wasn't surprised that Jalen Hurts provided a spark for Philly. I was surprised that he was able to beat the Saints by running all over that defense. The Cardinals are a tough team to trust, but with one game of film on Hurts and two years of facing Kyler Murray at practice, I think Arizona takes care of business as it claws for the postseason.
The pick: Cardinals
Bills over Broncos
Packers over Panthers
Cowboys over 49ers
Browns over Giants
Colts over Texans
Titans over Lions
Buccaneers over Falcons
Ravens over Jaguars
Seahawks over Football Team
Rams over Jets
Chiefs over Saints
Steelers over Bengals