Wed Feb 8 8:58am ET
By DAVID BRANDT
AP Sports Writer
FILE -Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Gardner Minshew (10) in action against the New Orleans Saints during an NFL football game, Sunday, Jan. 1, 2023, in Philadelphia. If all goes according to plan on Sunday, the only time football fans will see Kansas City's Chad Henne or Philadelphia's Gardner Minshew during Super Bowl 57 is on the sideline, holding a clipboard, talking on a headset or offering encouragment to teammates. But this is the NFL. Sometimes actually, lots of times things don't go according to plan. (AP Photo/Rich Schultz, File)
FILE -Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Chad Henne (4) passes against the San Francisco 49ers =1 an NFL preseason football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Saturday, Aug. 14, 2021. If all goes according to plan on Sunday, the only time football fans will see Kansas City's Chad Henne or Philadelphia's Gardner Minshew during Super Bowl 57 is on the sideline, holding a clipboard, talking on a headset or offering encouragement to teammates. But this is the NFL. Sometimes actually, lots of times things don't go according to plan.(AP Photo/Jed Jacobsohn, File)
PHOENIX (AP) If all goes according to plan Sunday, the only time football fans will see Kansas City's Chad Henne or Philadelphia's Gardner Minshew during the Super Bowl will be on the sideline, holding a clipboard, talking on a headset or offering encouragement to teammates.
But this is the NFL. Sometimes - actually, lots of times - things don't go according to plan.
That's why the backup quarterbacks for the Chiefs and Eagles could be some of the most important players on their team's roster heading into Sunday's showdown at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.
''You put your ego aside,'' Henne said. ''Every time you walk into the room, even though you want to be the starter, you've got to understand your role. There's only 32 starting quarterbacks in the league and they're pretty darn good.
''If you can be the next guy in line, that's pretty good, too.''
In a lot of ways, it's been the year of the backup quarterback. A total of 68 QBs started at least one game during the regular season, an average of more than two per team and a record for a non-strike year. Thirteen teams needed three quarterbacks.
Then there were the poor Arizona Cardinals, who cycled through four QBs in four weeks.
The 37-year-old Henne has been in the NFL since 2008 and was a starter at various points earlier in his career with the Dolphins and Jaguars. He's been the Chiefs backup for the past five seasons, starting just once since 2014.
Henne has already proven his worth in this year's playoffs. Kansas City starter Patrick Mahomes left the team's AFC divisional round game against the Jaguars with an ankle injury in the second quarter and Henne entered, completing 5 of 7 passes during a 98-yard touchdown drive.
Mahomes returned after halftime, but those seven points proved crucial. The Chiefs edged the Jags 27-20.
''To come in a hostile game, backed up to your 2, go 98 yards - that just shows the type of competitor he is,'' Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce said.
It wasn't the first time Henne has saved a Kansas City season. In another divisional game two years ago, Mahomes was forced into the concussion protocol and Henne guided the Chiefs through the second half of a 22-17 win over the Browns.
Henne joked that he wished Mahomes would give him more opportunities to shine, but even if he never touches the field in a meaningful fashion this Sunday, he'll be ready.
''You just go about it like a regular week,'' Henne said. ''You prepare like you're the starter. If you do that, you set yourself up for success on Sunday.''
Minshew is in his fourth season in the NFL out of Washington State. The 26-year-old first gained fame for his signature mustache while leading the Jacksonville Jaguars to some surprising wins in 2019.
He's been the Eagles' backup for the past two seasons.
Minshew started two games late this season when starter Jalen Hurts was dealing with a throwing shoulder injury. The Eagles lost both contests, but Minshew was productive, throwing for 355 yards against the Cowboys and 274 yards against the Saints.
''He's played a lot of good football and you want that experience that he has,'' Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said. ''He's given us some good minutes, some good time. He got to start two games this year and played really well in the Dallas game.''
Sirianni said Minshew's resume with the Jaguars was a big reason the team pursued him a few years ago. He was 6-6 as a starter during that 2019 season, throwing for 21 touchdowns and six interceptions.
''That's why we wanted him here with us,'' the coach said. ''We know how valuable he can be.''
Super Bowl Preview
ESPN's Alaina Getzenberg writes that the Buffalo Bills should be looking for help along the interior of their offensive line this offseason. Rodger Saffold III, David Quessenberry, Greg Van Roten and Ike Boettger are set to hit free agency next month, so adding young talent up front to help protect quarterback Josh Allen should be a priority. It will also give the Bills a better opportunity in the running game earlier in the season. Buffalo's pass-block win rate for both the guard and center positions ranked in the bottom half of the league in 2022. Draft expert Jordan Reid thinks Florida guard O'Cyrus Torrence could be a first-round target, and Alabama's Emil Ekiyor Jr. and USC's Andrew Vorhees could also help in the middle rounds.
Draft expert Matt Miller thinks that wide receiver needs to be a first-round focus for the New York Giants and general manager Joe Schoen in this year's draft. Ohio State's Jaxon Smith-Njigba is a dream target if he's available. The Giants have nine projected draft picks in 2023, so Schoen and head coach Brian Daboll can find receivers while also making additions to the cornerback and linebacker groups early in the draft. New York's offense leaned heavily on the legs of both running back Saquon Barkley and quarterback Daniel Jones, who are both free agents next month. Darius Slayton led the Giants in receiving in 2022 with 46 catches for 724 yards and two touchdowns. There's a lot to like about Wan'Dale Robinson's future, but the G-Men need a bona fide No. 1 wideout moving forward.
One of the Dallas Cowboys' biggest offseason priorities should be to sign wide receiver CeeDee Lamb and/or cornerback Trevon Diggs to long-term extensions, writes ESPN's Todd Archer. Lamb and Diggs will be eligible for extensions this offseason, and both will be expensive. But if Dallas fails to sign either player, they will be treading water on the salary cap for years to come. If one or both of them are signed long term, the Cowboys can then work on deals to keep players like Tony Pollard and Leighton Vander Esch or add free agents on the open market. Lamb had career-highs in catches (107), receiving yards (1,359) and touchdowns (nine) in 17 regular season games and has become one of the safer fantasy receivers at just 23 years old.
ESPN's Field Yates expects the Buffalo Bills to re-sign impending free-agent Pro Bowl safety Jordan Poyer this offseason. He continues to play at a high level, and both sides have been interested in a contract extension for some time. Poyer will be entering his age-32 season in 2023, so this will be his best shot at one more big contract. He had four interceptions and eight pass breakups in 12 games this year and has played a significant role in Buffalo's defensive rise recently. If Buffalo chooses to go in another direction, the first-time Pro Bowler should have plenty of interest on the open market. In addition to Poyer, linebacker Tremaine Edmunds is another impending free agent on the defensive side of the ball for Buffalo that they will probably want back.
ESPN's Nick Wagoner writes that the San Francisco 49ers will likely focus on re-signing cornerback Emmanuel Moseley (knee) this offseason. He was playing like a No. 1 cornerback before he tore his left ACL in October. It won't be easy to bring him back, though, after he had five pass breakups and an interception in the first five games in 2022. If the 49ers can't re-sign him, cornerback will suddenly become a pressing need for them ahead of the 2023 season. The 26-year-old could be out until training camp this summer, which could lower his cost on the open market. The Niners defense was one of the best in the NFL yet again last year, but defending the pass was one of their weaknesses.
Football Outsiders' Aaron Schatz predicts that the San Francisco 49ers will sign All-Pro pass-rusher Nick Bosa to a new long-term deal this offseason. Bosa is due almost $18 million in 2023 in the final year of his rookie deal, so an extension would serve to lower his salary cap hit next season while also guaranteeing him more total money and securing him for the long term. Bosa led the NFL with 18.5 sacks in 2022 and is still only 25 years old. The three-time Pro Bowler also added 51 tackles (41 solo), 19 tackles for loss, 48 QB hits and two forced fumbles in 16 regular season games in his fourth NFL season. Bosa will absolutely be one of the first defensive lineman off the board in IDP fantasy drafts.
ESPN's Jeremy Fowler expects the Cincinnati Bengals to re-sign safety Jessie Bates III this offseason. Cincinnati will also have to consider extensions for quarterback Joe Burrow and wide receiver Tee Higgins this offseason, but Bates has made far too many plays for the Bengals secondary to let him go, including five interceptions in the last three seasons. In order to retain him, Cincy will have to spend near the top of the market for safeties. The 25-year-old finished the 2022 campaign with a career-low 71 tackles but also had a career-high four interceptions in 16 regular season games while playing under the franchise tag. The Bengals will have an estimated $44 million in salary cap space entering the 2023 season.
It is a consensus that Las Vegas Raiders running back Josh Jacobs will receive the franchise tag from the team this offseason. The former first-rounder won the rushing title in 2022. Jacobs and the Raiders have yet to start long-term extension talks, but he's made it clear he wants nothing to do with the franchise tag. "I'm not going to lie; this is where I want to be," Jacobs said. "I've grown a fan base here, I'm deep into this organization, I've broke records, and I've built a home here. This is where I want to be, but at the same time, it's gotta make sense," Jacobs said. The 24-year-old finished with a league-high 1,653 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns, adding 53 receptions for 400 yards through the air. It would be pretty surprising if he's not back with the black and silver in 2023, and he'll no doubt be a high-end RB1 in fantasy.
There was some doubt as to whether Los Angeles Rams All-Pro defensive lineman Aaron Donald would return in 2023 after the regular season ended, but Donald has since clarified that he will return for his 10th NFL season. The 31-year-old pass-rusher hasn't played a football game since November due to an ankle injury, but he looks to be in excellent shape physically. He missed six games last season but still had five sacks and 10 tackles for loss and earned another Pro Bowl selection despite playing in only 11 games. IDP fantasy managers that invested in Donald in 2022 were obviously disappointed in the end, but he could easily bounce back with better health in 2023 as one of the top D-lineman in the league.
Dallas Cowboys impending free-agent running back Tony Pollard is expected to receive the franchise tag from the team this offseason. Pollard had over 1,000 rushing yards and nearly 400 more through the air in his fourth NFL season in 2022, and he was the team's most dynamic weapon on offense, totaling 12 total touchdowns (nine rushing and three receiving). Meanwhile, folks believe that Ezekiel Elliott, who is scheduled to make $16.7 million in 2023, will take a large pay cut to stay with the team as the No. 2 to Pollard. Since he signed a six-year, $90 million deal back in 2019, Elliott's production has fallen off. Dallas could also cut him and pay $11.8 million in dead money. The last two years have proven that Pollard is the better, more explosive back for the Cowboys, so even if Zeke sticks around, Pollard should have the bigger role moving forward.
Dynasty | The expectation is that the Giants will re-sign Saquon Barkley before free agency begins Dynasty Analysis: The Giants are walking the cap tightrope with their two primary offensive pieces, Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley, both free agents. Barkley is certain to be the top running back asset available if he were to reach free agency but the position doesn't possess the premium it once did and he and the team are expected to find common ground. Doing so would allow the team to focus on retaining Daniel Jones, either via contract extension or via the franchise tag. As for Barkley, DLF's RB4, he rushed for a career-high 1,312 yards and 10 touchdowns while also producing 57 receptions for an additional 338 yards. Turning 26 tomorrow, the once-top back picked a fine time to reclaim his luster.
Dynasty | According to one NFL executive, a third-round selection could get a deal done for Derek Carr. Dynasty Analysis: While their asking price is modest, the belief is that the team will still be forced to release the veteran quarterback shortly. Carr, who still has a no trade clause, would have to approve the deal and rework his contract, something he's not expected to do. The Saints have emerged as the only interested team according to reports, and they remain $60M over the cap. In short, there's little way that Carr will approve the trade and potentially take a lot less money than what he could garner as a free agent. As previously reported, Carr's contract will ultimately prove to be a "tipping point" between what quarterbacks with mediocre track records can expect and what teams are willing to pay in the quarterback-hungry market that is 2023. He's listed as DLF's QB19.
Dynasty | Ezekiel Elliott may be willing to restructure his contract to remain with the team Dynasty Analysis: Elliott looked like a shell of himself last year rushing for less than 4.0 ypc. for the first time in his career, though still remained productive. His time-share role with Tony Pollard was effective for limiting the workload of both runners. Even cutting Elliott would amount to an $11.8M dead-money hit, so if the veteran wishes to remain in Dallas, taking a decrease in pay is likely the only option to remain with the team. He's listed as a premium laden RB29 on DLF's running back rankings and with Tony Pollard expected to receive the franchise tag for 2023, Elliott's role and value should diminish notably.
Dynasty | Tony Pollard is expected to receive the franchise tag Dynasty Analysis: Application of the franchise tag is seemingly a near certainty unless the team plans on adding a high profile name such as Bijan Robinson during the draft. Pollard has been on an upswing over his past two seasons, eclipsing the 1,000-yard threshold for the first time in his career in 2022 while adding 371 yards as a receiver as well, scoring a total of 12 touchdowns. 2023 will be Pollard's age-26 season and the torch has been passed from Ezekiel Elliott. He's listed as DLF's RB15 and will enter the discussion as a potential RB1 candidate in 2023.
Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay said on Tuesday that the team's decision on hiring a new head coach is "coming in days not hours." "We said, as an organization (Colts) the coaching search would be an open-minded and a thorough process and the final decision would be strictly based on what is best for our franchise's success and best for our fans," Irsay tweeted. The Colts have conducted a lengthy coaching search this offseason, which has included Jeff Saturday, Eric Bieniemy, Shane Steichen, Rich Bisaccia Aaron Glenn and Don Martindale, among others. They fired Frank Reich nine games into the 2022 season and replaced him with the inexperienced Saturday, who went 1-7 down the stretch.
The Tennessee Titans hired Tim Kelly as their new offensive coordinator on Tuesday, while Atlanta Falcons quarterbacks coach Charles London will become their new passing-game coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Meanwhile, on defense, Chris Harris was hired to be the pass-game coordinator and cornerbacks coach. Kelly spent last year as the team's pass-game coordinator. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill seemed excited about the news of Kelly's promotion. Before working for the Titans, Kelly had several different coaching roles in eight seasons with the Houston Texans. Harris spent the last three years as the defensive backs coach for the Washington Commanders. Tennessee also promoted Jason Houghtaling to offensive line coach.
The New Orleans Saints invited Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr for a visit and the Raiders have granted permission, according to sources. The plan is for the Saints to visit with Carr on Wednesday. Carr has a no-trade clause and is doing his due diligence with a trade imminent. Saints head coach Dennis Allen put Carr into the starting lineup as a rookie when he was the head coach of the Raiders in 2014. The Raiders benched Carr for the final two regular season games and are preparing to move on from him heading into 2023. If the veteran QB isn't traded a few days after the Super Bowl, Las Vegas will be forced to release him. Carr would be an upgrade over Andy Dalton and Jameis Winston in New Orleans, and although the receiving corps would be a downgrade from what he had with the Raiders, second-year wideout Chris Olave would be a nice No. 1 for Carr to work with.
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Matt Ryan mentioned that he is open to returning for the 2023 campaign. The 37-year-old is due $12 million next season, but the Colts can save that money by cutting him before March 17th. Ryan has said there is still good football left in him, but the stats show a different story. The veteran signal-caller threw 13 interceptions and had a season-high 15 fumbles last season. It's tough to imagine him finding a starting spot somewhere after that horrendous season. Although, it's possible he takes a backup job just to continue playing in the NFL.
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers plans to take a retreat before making any decisions on his future. The 39-year-old signal-caller is likely going to drag this out for quite awhile. He recently mentioned he doesn't want to play for the 49ers, but hasn't given much information outside of that. He could return to Green Bay, play elsewhere, or retire altogether. It seems like football fans are going to have to wait a few more weeks before Rodgers gives us anymore information.
The Carolina Panthers currently have quarterbacks Matt Corral, a third-rounder from last year, and Jacob Eason, a fourth-rounder in 2020. ESPN's David Newton thinks it's doubtful that the Panthers will make a run at a high-priced veteran QB such as Derek Carr with the team ranked in the bottom half of the league in salary cap space. It means Carolina will probably focus on a signal-caller in the draft, even if it means trading up from No. 9 overall into the top three. New head coach Frank Reich and general manager Scott Fitterer agree that the best way to build long term is to draft a QB and build around him. There's a chance that Corral will enter the 2023 season as the starter under center, but it also depends on which quarterback the team drafts. There's also the possibility the team re-signs Sam Darnold as a short-term solution at the position.