The Patriots are set to bring longtime personnel executive Michael Lombardi into the fold, with a league source saying on Thursday that it’s “essentially a done deal” Lombardi will be joining New England’s personnel department.
It is not known what Lombardi’s title will be.
Lombardi, who was replaced by the Cleveland Browns as general manager this week after just a year on the job, is a longtime confidant of Bill Belichick, and hiring him now formalizes the relationship the two had for years before Lombardi went to the Browns.
The relationship goes back to the mid-1990s, when Belichick was coach of the Browns and Lombardi served as director of player personnel.
After brief stints with the Rams and Eagles after his first tenure with the Browns, Lombardi spent almost a decade with the Raiders, working closely with late owner/GM Al Davis.
Let go by Oakland in 2007, Lombardi went into media, eventually working for the NFL Network, but all the while he was in close contact with Belichick, consulting on personnel matters and game plans.
Lombardi was influential in particular during the Patriots’ 2010-12 drafts, which have proven to be more successful than the two or three draft classes immediately preceding that period.
There was other Patriots-Browns news on Thursday, involving Josh McDaniels.
After the Browns fired Rob Chudzinski as coach last month, Lombardi, team CEO Joe Banner (who also is now leaving the team), and owner Jimmy Haslam quickly turned their focus to McDaniels as their new hire.
McDaniels was interviewed by the three in Foxborough on Jan. 4, during the Patriots’ playoff bye weekend.
A league source said Haslam came away from the interview enamored with the Ohio native, who showed he truly had learned from his brief and difficult tenure as Broncos coach in 2009-10.
Haslam and Lombardi wanted McDaniels, though Banner remained skeptical. However, McDaniels told them within a couple of days that he was withdrawing his name from consideration, citing his happiness with his job in New England.
But reports out of Cleveland said McDaniels withdrew because he found out that he was not the front-runner for the job.
The Cleveland brass continued to interview candidates, but none impressed Haslam more than McDaniels, the source said.
McDaniels did talk to Haslam, Lombardi, and Banner a second time, before the AFC Championship game, and the trio was prepared to offer the job to McDaniels — but he again said no thank you, which ultimately doomed Lombardi with Banner.
When McDaniels rebuffed the Browns, Belichick called Haslam to talk about his friend Greg Schiano, who spent the last two years as Buccaneers coach but was let go at the end of the season.
After a protracted search — they also interviewed Ken Whisenhunt, who spent last season as the Chargers’ offensive coordinator, and Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn — the Browns hired Mike Pettine, the Bills’ defensive coordinator in 2013, as head coach. With Lombardi out, the team promoted assistant GM Ray Farmer to general manager.