After compiling a 13-19 record during his first two seasons in Carolina, Ron Rivera's future with the Panthers was less than settled at the start of the 2013 season. Following a 12-4 season and a NFC South title, Rivera's future is now much more secure.
The coach and the Panthers agreed to a contract extension on Tuesday. His original contract was set to expire at the end of next season, but his deal now runs through the 2017 season.
Rivera came to Carolina with a reputation as an excellent defensive coach. That expertise wasn't on display early on, with the Panthers finishing 27th in scoring defense in his first season and 18th in his second. Things, however, came together last season. Carolina finished the year with the No. 2 defense in both scoring and yards, trailing only Seattle.
That improvement was a big reason why the Panthers were able to secure the No. 2 seed in the NFC and return to the playoffs for the first time since 2008. Rivera made headlines for changing his approach on fourth-down situations, earning the nickname "Riverboat Ron."
Although the deal will likely keep Rivera in Carolina for at least a few years, James Dator of Cat Scratch Reader wrote that there is still a lot of work to be done:
Rivera gets high marks for leading the team to a NFC South win in his third season, but now the hard work begins. The plan has always been to build sustained success, and the team must remain competitive in 2014. The Panthers need more offensive weapons and a revitalized secondary while also adding pieces to an offensive line that combined aging reliability with young mediocrity.
This is the first season is a while were major upheaval wasn't taking place. Carolina is picking at the back-end of the first round, while much of the team's focus will be on retaining the pieces currently in place rather than be splashy in free agency.
The Browns' search for an offensive coordinator continues and former Washington OC Kyle Shanahan will interview for the job in Cleveland on Wednesday. Shanahan spent four seasons in Washington, coaching under his father Mike. He received acclaim for his work with Robert Griffin III in 2012. He also spent two seasons as the offensive coordinator with the Houston Texans.
Cleveland interviewed former Houston head coach Gary Kubiak before he was hired by Baltimore. The Browns also have an interview scheduled with current Raiders quarterback coach John DeFilippo. Whoever the Browns hire, one of the first tasks will be solving the issues at quarterback. That could mean working with a rookie, something Shanahan was very successful in doing two seasons ago when Griffin won Rookie of the Year.
Chris Pokorny of Dawgs By Nature said he would be intrigued to see how Shanahan would fare with a young roster like the Browns.
Julian Edelman will become an unrestricted free agent this offseason and if the Patriots are going to keep him, it's unlikely they'll do so with the franchise tag. Edelman signed a one-year deal to remain in New England last offseason. He figures to draw more interest this season, after catching 105 passes for 1,056 yards.
While he played a significant role for the Patriots, it would cost New England an estimated $11.5 million to use the franchise tag on him. That is likely much more than what the Patriots would prefer to invest in Edelman next season, even coming off his 2013 season. That doesn't mean Edelman's tenure with the Patriots is over, as the two sides could work out another deal that doesn't involve the franchise tag.